It was the hardest call I’ve ever made.
Tuesday November 24th 2009, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Believe it or not, you will always be a part of me.

–Reid.

Comments Off on It was the hardest call I’ve ever made.


New BTTM Iowa Training Film: How To Iron A Shirt
Monday November 23rd 2009, 4:10 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

A crisply ironed shirt says, “Hey World, I’m an important enough person to wear an ironed shirt!” Iowa Training Films would know.

Hurray, another video with me in at last! Aaand I’m headed out to NYC soon to shoot some more. Huzzah!

This latest entry into the Iowa Training Films series was directed by Paul Syracuse (in fact, it was the first BTTM sketch Paul shot on his new hi def ultra camera 9000), edited by Paul Syracuse and me, Reid Levin, with visual effects by me, still Reid Levin. Matt and I came up with this one afternoon in July when I was visiting The City. We wanted to do something quick, and we did. We shot it in my hotel room.

We (Paul) also ran to a nearby store to buy a brand new shirt ’cause I didn’t have one. We proceeded to attempt to burn the shirt with the iron, but we couldn’t get it to burn well enough to look funny on film, only badly enough to never be able wear the shirt again. Though I suppose it might be funny to wear around if it wasn’t thrown away. We also had some mishaps with some chocolate cupcakes getting into the iron somehow… hmmm. Good times.

Normally, Matt runs these through a VCR to give them a sort of intentional crappy fuzzy blurry noisy look. This time, though, I wrangled control of the video away (through mostly non violent means) from those folks in NYC at the last minute so that I could tighten it up a bit, tinker with the audio and work on the “visual effects.” Then there was no time to get it to Matt. I don’t consider not crappifying the video a huge loss.

I am happy with the visual effects, but I will state right here, right now, for the record that Paul thought they were distracting. If people comment about that, this is an admitted confession that it was my doing and that Paul did everything he could do to deter me from adding smoke and stuff. Paul has an incredible knack for picking up on things people will complain about. I, on the other hand, have little sense and just like tinkering with composting.

I need to specifically thank Ballard for holding my hand through exporting this video and for giving some good input on how to keep two men’s dream about making a sketch comedy video about ironing alive. Even when he’s not involved with a BTTM video, Ballard’s involved with a BTTM video. I think we’re better off for that. Thanks, BCB!

Enjoy your sharp, crisp, warm new look and make sure to check http://bttm.net next Monday for a brand new sketch comedy video!

–Reid.



Cosmic Alignment vs. Leukemia
Friday November 20th 2009, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Friends, Leukemia

I just watched last night’s episode of The Daily Show. The guests were from the band Jack’s Mannequin, whose lead singer/songwriter/pianist, a guy who is only a year older than me, was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia while mastering an album in 2005. While he was in the hospital, he added to and rewrote the album. That album, The Glass Passenger, was released in September ’08, which, given that he is a survivor of the same kind of cancer I have, would mean it was released at about the same time his chemotherapy treatments ended.

I downloaded the album, which is really quite amazing. I am particularly moved by a phrase from the song “Swim”:

There’s no shame in drifting
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark
Yeah you’ve gotta swim
Don’t let yourself sink

“Drifting” is exactly what I feel like I’ve been doing, and it is something I punish myself for all the time. It is something about which I feel very ashamed. It is really quite something to hear a song like this that is inspirational anyway–but is also so very specific about a thing to which I can so completely relate. Like the Guitar Man says, I’ve “found myself a message and some words to call my own”. I feel a lot of connection to the whole album, which makes a lot of sense.

While I was waiting for the album to download, a message appeared in my inbox from an old friend from another life. An old SV friend who wanted to make sure he was giving a gift to the right hospital this year to “thank them for keeping me alive”. My eyes teared up, just like they’re doing now that I’m writing about this. I am moved in a way that I can’t put into words. Thanks, Keep.

A truly amazing cosmic alignment of understanding, heart, friendship… these are the things that give me strength when I feel I cannot possibly have anymore left.

–Reid.

—————-
Now playing: Jack’s Mannequin – Swim
via FoxyTunes



Equality: Prop 8 to Be Reviewed, BTTM Pro-LGBT Video Attacked
Thursday November 19th 2009, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Better Than The Machine, Liberty!

Today I was excited to learn that a federal court will be reviewing California’s Proposition 8, which bans homosexual couples from being married in the state of California. While this is indeed great news and while I hope dearly that Prop 8 is struck down, I think we have a lot farther to go than many might think.

A few years ago, Better Than The Machine made a video satirizing the widespread and totally nonsensical fears over gay marriage. Recently, this video has been the target of incredibly intolerant, indignant and lewd attacks against LGBT folks. Imagine saying that people should die just because they want to be given the same economic, social and happiness rights as everyone else.

The video is in the style of a 1950’s newsreel and is fittingly called “Gay Marriage Propaganda”. You can check it–and the attacks on it–out here.

The offensive comments below that video make me quite certain that there are many people who will not be happy until all LGBT’s are completely dehumanized. Better Than The Machine’s way of fighting that is through comedy. I hope we can help make a difference.

–Reid.



New BTTM Video: Hipster Hitler
Monday November 16th 2009, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

A documentary about the last clone of Hitler. What’s he gonna do? Live it up in Williamsburg, drink lots of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and hate on all the stuff you think is cool, you poser. He’s not just a hipper hipster Hitler–he’s Hipler.

This was Carlos’ brainchild. He’s wanted to make some sort of hipster documentary for many, many years. Somehow, it turned out that Paul as Hitler was the missing ingredient, and that mixing Hitler in was just what it took to get Carlos’ hipster documentary sketch made. Looking back on it, it was so obvious! They say every sketch comedy group has to have a Hitler sketch. Or is it that “every bad sketch comedy group has to have a Hitler sketch”?

Well, I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that I’m really happy with how it turned out. Ballard worked his magic in the directing and editing departments, and I think I caught a glimpse of Christina and her boyfriend Alex making cameo appearances. It all came together very well.

Now, let’s just hope that it creates lots of controversy, and, in turn, lots and lots of hits!

–Reid, laughing a megalomaniacal laugh!



It’s All Over Except The Leukemia
Monday November 09th 2009, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Family, Health (Not Cancer)

Today, for the first time in a long time, I’m really feeling quite excellent. Consider this an official announcement that the unidentified vicious mutant H1N1 clone fluey cold H2Reid3+ virus disease that has been plaguing me for a month is, at last, dead.

Unfortunately, my dad just tested positive for H1N1.

Fortunately, I just called the clinic and was able to reserve an H1N1 vaccine.

Unfortunately, I won’t be protected from H1N1 for up to three weeks.

Fortunately, I am feeling quite positive today–I think I’m gonna be okay.

I’m off to get inoculated!

–Reid.



New BTTM Video: The Best Friend
Monday November 09th 2009, 12:52 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

Who says men and women can’t be best friends? Better Than The Machine officially does, if you are to believe all my other controversial postings of this video. “But what do you think?” I say, in an attempt to reel people in to post responses to our video. Check it out (the video, not my pitch)!

I find this sketch to be just totally and utterly and completely and delightfully awkward. I really can’t put it any other way–and believe me, I’ve tried. I really have to give actor Carlos some super credit for his amazing acting in this sketch, because, like, you can totally feel the character Carlos’ emotions like he’s actually been through this before. Which is amazing, because this situation would never happen to the real Carlos in a million years.

This is the third of four sketches Better Than The Machine created to be a Jim Beam Bourbon ad, and the third of four Better Than The Machine sketches that Jim Beam did not air. It was delightfully directed and edited by Ballard C. Boyd.

Make sure to check bttm.net next Monday for a brand new video!

–Reid.



A Harder List, Filled With So Much Anger And Sadness
Thursday November 05th 2009, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Family, Friends, Health (Not Cancer), Liberty!, NYC

1) Good news to bring light to a dark day that really needs it should definitely come first. Raquel and James Bedell are the proud new Aunt and Uncle of a beautiful baby girl, who James’ sister gave birth to several days ago. Congratulations to both of you and especially to James’ sister’s family! This is truly joyous, wonderful news! I am glad I found out about it today of all days. Thank you Raquel.

2) Reports on television indicate that the leader of the shootings at Fort Hood was a Major Malik Nadal Hasan. I have few words with which to express the horror and sorrow I feel about this horrendous act of violence. Unfortunately, the 24 hour television news networks seemingly have even fewer words. With no further information available at the moment, news commentators seemingly have nothing else to do beside dancing around this man’s heritage. “I know we should be PC but…” and “I know we shouldn’t speculate about his name, but…” and worst of all, “I know we should wait for more facts, but…”. We get it: he’s Arab. He’s probably Muslim. So what? I fear the tide of racism rising. Whether that wave be visible or under the surface, we must not allow one man’s (or two or three men’s) actions, no matter how horrific they may be, to define an entire group of people.

3) My cousin is in Fort Hood right now. We are awaiting news from her. My thoughts and my prayers are with you, Kristina. Please be safe.

4) Psychological care for the men and women of our armed forces is in pathetic shape. To anyone that knows someone who has been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, this is not news–this is one more in a long list of failures to help those in need of psychiatric help. While today’s slaughter has been far worse than anything we’ve seen at a base in the United States, there have been issues of spousal abuse, issues of the inability to readjust to normal non-military lives and too many issues of suicide among soldiers for many more years than many will want to admit. These are people who risk their lives for us, and today, we have truly failed them.

5) “Absolutely despicable” is the only way to describe Wall Street institutions getting the H1N1 vaccine to inoculate their employees while high risk people across the country are still unable to so much as find somewhere to wait in line just for a chance to get vaccinated. Absolutely despicable.

6) Even as a staunch left-wing, commie, pinko, Jewish, fag-loving, liberal, progressive, Democratic, part-time New Yorker, I would prefer President Obama serve only one term and ensure health care for all Americans, ensure equal rights for all Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Americans, enact measures to ensure the future health of our planet, and ensure that our soldiers get the psychological care that they need–rather than have him serve two terms and miss enacting even one of those four things. No more bullshit about needing 60 votes to do anything. What is needed is the courage and the wisdom to do the right thing, which might mean “the thing that makes you lose your next election”. Step up, Mr. President and step up, Sirs and Madams of the United States Congress. It is long past the time to put your responsibilities to the citizens of this country before your own personal interests.

–Reid.



Friends, Memory and A Clone Of H1N1 So Convincing, Even Its Mom Couldn’t Tell The Difference
Wednesday November 04th 2009, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Friends, Health (Not Cancer), Leukemia

In list form so I don’t need to worry about things like segues or making sense.

1) Close New York friends Tucker and Sarah are getting married! Wonderful news that really brightened my day when I found out today. It turns out I could have found out several days ago if only I’d answered Tucker’s call! In my defense, I had no voice that day with which to answer.

2) Yesterday I met with a neuropsychologist and underwent testing for about four hours. I’ve been having memory problems throughout my treatment that go beyond chemo brain (a side-effect of chemotherapy, which I’ve discussed here before). I have had growing concerns about my memory issues basically since I got out of the hospital last year. Yesterday, for the first time, I felt a true sense of relief after meeting with the neuropsychologist. Not only because she felt confident that I am not going to be a lifelong amnesiac (though I’ll admit this was good news), but especially because I felt like I finally have someone who is not only responsive to my concerns, but someone who can actually help me. I look forward to meeting with her again.

3) My faux flu, which seems to mimic H1N1 in every way (except, of course, for giving me the antibodies to fight the real H1N1 off), has me feeling very discouraged. I keep feeling like I’m finally getting better, only to get much worse that night and the next day. For every step forward, I am stumbling two steps back. Not being able to do things in Denver because of this thing really makes me think of all the many things I couldn’t do anywhere anyway. It’s very frustrating, and very hard trying to keep myself from succumbing to total self pity, a feeling I’ve found myself replacing with anger. Anger at this virus, anger at cancer, anger at not be able to do what I want to be doing. At least it’s a more active emotion.

4) I’m making a very strong effort to reconnect with friends who I have not spoken to for years. Getting responses has given me a sort of a magical feeling, temporarily pushing away all the negativity and actually feeling the way I want to be feeling.

–Reid.

—————-
Now playing: State Radio – Uncertain
via FoxyTunes



Was Better, Am Now Worse
Monday November 02nd 2009, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Health (Not Cancer)

What the hell, mutant non-H1N1/H1N1 mutant clone variation H1N2reid? We had a deal! You got two weeks, and then you were supposed to leave, not let me get a bit better then come back in full force! This wasn’t part of the deal!!! I’m going to fight you the best way I know how:

I’m going to sleep!

–Reid.

P.S. Also, I’m going to the doctor tomorrow and he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress. So I hope you’re gone by then, for your sake. He is not as forgiving as I am.

P.P.S. Sleep is where I’m Darth Vader!