I remember exactly three things about preschool. One, those uncomfortable cots we were forced to sleep on during naptime. (Whatever kid wetted their cot first promptly ended our afternoon siesta.) Two, this obnoxious curly-haired boy who always tried to body check me anytime I wasn’t paying attention to his whereabouts. Hated him. Three, our drawing hour. Everyday, our preschool teachers – Ms. Pretzel and Ms. Cookie, though I have my doubts those were their real names – would arrange all the tables lengthwise and have us kids draw to our hearts’ content. Once during one of these sessions, the kid to my left tapped me on the shoulder and shyly asked, “What do you think of my drawing?” Upon a few moments of quiet reflection, I answered, “That’s not a drawing. That’s just scribbles.”

I’ve always had a discerning eye for art. Whether it’s the newest acquisition to the Art Institute or my seven-year-old nephew’s latest masterpiece, I will say exactly what I think about said creation. Granted, I never took a single art history class in college, but whatever, I know good art when I see it. Likewise, I have seen many, many duds in my time.

Yet I try to give the benefit of the doubt. This became standard practice during my Columbia College days. From my first class to my last, I was watching student films of various… appeal, let’s say. Though most of them were not intended to be experimental pieces, usually I was at a complete loss as far as what was going on. But they were my classmates. I wanted to support them, so at the very least I would offer up a sincere “great camera work” or “loved the sound design” even when I couldn’t retell the storyline had a gun been put to my head. Plus, who was I to judge? I certainly wasn’t cranking out cinematic perfection. In fact, my first film came back from the lab completely black. Whoops. Needless to say, I felt a little hypocritical when critiquing others’ work.

But I like to judge, and I think we should judge. That’s how we figure out what’s good and what’s not. Granted, critiquing art is about the most subjective thing on the planet, but why does everyone tiptoe around what they really think? If you don’t like something, just say so. As an artist, it’s totally unrealistic to think that everyone is going to love what we do all the time, but that’s exactly what we want. We encourage people to sugarcoat their opinions, coddling our sensitive egos so that our creative fire isn’t doused or some other equally pathetic metaphor. Thing is, you don’t see that much in any other profession. When a doctor amputates the wrong leg, I doubt his patient pats him on the back and says, “It’s okay. You meant well.” Sure, watching a bad movie isn’t the same as losing a perfectly functioning limb; it’s worse.

It’s like that ridiculous trend of giving every kid at a sporting event a trophy. No. No. No. That’s not how it works. If little Timmy crosses the finish line last, then by definition he is not as good as the kid who crosses first. Period. She deserves the praise, not him. Yet now the general consensus is that every child should get a ribbon to keep his or her self-esteem intact. Know what? It’s a cold, cruel world out there. The sooner little Timmy finds out that running the hundred in thirty seconds is really pretty awful, the better. Plus, kids don’t care about winning if they’re rewarded the same after losing. I promise you they’ll happily let someone else blaze that trail of glory if they’re still guaranteed a new video game no matter if they finish first or fifth.

The bottom line is that it’s okay to be critical. Sure, it should be done with tact and hopefully some positive reinforcement of how to do better next time. It’s not much help when someone says, “Anna, your trailer was worthless.” (True story.) But the fact that Mr. Tough Guy Behind A Computer Screen didn’t dig my trailer isn’t in and of itself a tragedy. Just inspires me to do better next time. Likewise, not every one of these blog posts is gonna have them rolling in the aisles. I’m not gonna be batting a thousand every week. Not every piece of coal can be turned into a diamond. I can keep going like this forever…

You get my point. Is Michelangelo a genius? Absolutely. Did Shakespeare write some pretty amazing stuff? Of course. Am I even close to that kind of artistic perfection? Not a chance, and that’s okay. For now. But Mr. Stuart Smalley’s mantra of being good enough isn’t good enough for me. It shouldn’t be good enough for you either. Remember… Goonies never say die.

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Vacations are the best, right? Nothing beats the pure joy felt as you cheerily wave goodbye to your jealous coworkers and walk out the door of your soul-sucking job to experience if even for a few days what it’s like to be an actual human being once again.

Though I’m a city gal in most regards, my favorite destinations are those that take me away from the smog and congestion of LA. I love getting my Thoreau on in the great outdoors, and it’s during these trips that I typically have some grand epiphany about my life and what’s been missing from it. Quite the “Aha!” moment was had earlier this year upon visiting Yosemite for the very first time. The internal dialogue went as follows: “I love nature! This… this is what life is all about! I’m going to come here every year! And I’m going to hike El Capitan next spring. In fact, I’m going to hike it every spring. Every single spring!

Hand in hand with these life-changing revelations is my newfound scornful eye of modern society. Suddenly I have an urge to read all those issues of National Geographic collecting dust on my bookshelves. I drive through the city bemoaning the once pristine land that has been sacrificed to the strip mall and office tower gods. A single tear falls from my eye upon hearing that a half-dozen area beaches have been closed due to some unfortunate industrial waste spill off the Pacific coast.

But eventually those tree-hugging warm fuzzies begin to fade away. Life resumes its former shape and my Leslie Knope enthusiasm gives way to Ron Swanson cynicism. Nature is still cool, but only when it doesn’t get in the way of my life.

I like to run, and because I consider myself a nature-loving child of the earth, I choose to run outside. You will never find me in some soulless gym surrounded by exercise zombies going nowhere on their treadmills and elliptical machines. Give me the fresh air! Give me the many purple and yellow blooms that speckle the neighborhood trees! Give me the white puffy clouds that look like white puffy kittens and puppies! It’s all so beautiful and magical and wonderful… until I have a run-in with one of the many creatures that also loves the great outdoors. What was initially a leisurely jog turns into an impromptu hurdles race or all-out sprint upon encountering the numerous raccoons, possums and skunks that are my neighbors. Have you ever seen one of those things up close and personal? They are some scary mofos. I’ve seen raccoons as big as baby horses. And the possums? Not all play dead. Sometimes they prefer to chase you.

Nature also gets on my nerves when, instead of an alarm clock, I’m woken up by a sneezing fit. Perhaps Chicago has its minus zero wind chills and multiple feet of snow, but at least I never suffered months of raging allergies because of them. Los Angeles on the other hand… Not cool. Not cool at all. Those precious little flowers I love so much when running? They’re not quite as appealing when I’m trying to write but am distracted by the tears and mucus clouding up my vision and ruining my keyboard.

So there you have it. I hate nature… No, not really. I just wish it wouldn’t hiss at me. Or give me rabies. Or force me to stick tissues up my nose because I’m lazy and don’t want to blow it every five minutes. Is that too much to ask?

Image: Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’m a pretty decent driver. Never have I received a moving violation. Never do I change lanes without first looking over my shoulder. Only once have I sideswiped someone and taken out his side view mirror. Though due to these self-proclaimed superior skills, and as many a passenger has noted, I am a wee bit condescending – or all out hostile – toward other drivers on the road. It’s not pretty. You know how sometimes a lane is blocked off, and even though you made sure to merge early on, there are one or ten cars that expect to get in at the very last second? I’m the jerk who won’t let them. “No cuts, no butts, no coconuts.” You don’t get to zoom to the front of the line and then cut in. Not on my watch.

So, yeah, I’m definitely contributing to this whole road rage thing. Though lately I’ve been noticing that this driving-induced fury isn’t confined to merely those who are driving. All around me people who aren’t even behind the wheel are flipping out. Or maybe I’m just realizing that everybody in LA is crazy…

I was about a half-dozen cars behind at the intersection of Venice and National, trying to make a left-hand turn. That’s when I saw him: Nutty McNutterson. Presumably this guy was waiting at the bus stop, but he wasn’t so much waiting as having a full-on Falling Down moment right in the middle of Venice Boulevard. Saying he was mad does not suffice. He was enraged. So angry in fact that Mel Gibson would have been taken aback by his behavior. This dude was screaming. He was waving his arms. He was even pseudo kicking each car that drove past as if it personally offended him to see others with their own means of transportation.

Apparently the bus was running late. While the other poor would-be passengers were occupying themselves in any way possible to ignore Nutty, I was totally entranced, and it only got better when he spotted the bus barreling down his way. Many people at that point would have calmed down a bit. Not Nutty. He took it up a notch and actually walked into the street while gesticulating to the driver in a not so friendly way. I wondered if I was about to witness the final moments of this man’s angry existence… Alas, no. He got out of the way just in time for the bus to roll right past him. Didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow down. Yay! I was so excited to see what this guy would do next, but that’s when my fun was rudely interrupted by the lame-o behind me who wanted to get a move on.

Yet this was actually the second time that day where I was reprimanded for enjoying the scenery a little too much. Just minutes prior, I was honked at while hanging out at another stoplight. (This accounts for at least half the drive time in LA.) Initially I noticed an “Open House” sign on the corner with a few perky balloons tied to it. I then saw Batty McBatterson waiting on the same corner for the light to turn. Much to my amusement, one balloon in particular wanted to be friends with Batty and kept flying into her face. Though instead of simply taking a step away from the balloon and ending her predicament right then and there, this chick began to punch it. For every punch, each one more violent than the last, the balloon only became more desperate for love and was virtually suffocating her with butterfly kisses.

It was awesome. And just as I became totally lost in Batty’s battle against rubber and helium, she too completely forgot that she was trying to get somewhere. Only the impatient car horn behind me was able to finally snap us both back to reality. For her this meant a furtive glace around to see who had been watching her little meltdown. For me it meant gunning the gas toward Venice and National where Nutty was waiting to impress me with his Christian Bale impersonation.

So what’s the deal? Why are we all so angry? When people are taking out their frustration by abusing innocent balloons, there’s a serious problem. But I’m a hypocrite. Most likely my attempt to school others in the fine art of driving isn’t always successful. I’m probably just pissing people off, thereby causing them to be nasty to the next driver they encounter. Although neither Nutty nor Batty were the direct recipients of my road rage, regardless I feel somewhat responsible for their craziness because we all impact each other in some way. Maybe I cut off that bus driver ten minutes earlier and he decided to hell with it; he’s not picking up any more deranged passengers. So I vow to do better. From here on out, I will be the very definition of driving graciousness… Unless of course someone is doing twenty in a forty. Then I will angrily dart out from behind and yell a few choice words while passing by in a blur of blue metal. Dad, this means you.

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Here you go, folks! A preview of what will hopefully be the first of many shorts coming your way on the chicago dispLAcement… Enjoy!

Starring: Shannon Altland, Shannon Evans, Adam Grimes & Steve Madar

Music: “Showdown” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com); licensed under Creative Commons ‘Attribution 3.0’


As a kid, I never really appreciated how awesome it is to catch a game – baseball, basketball or otherwise – in your own town. To experience the splendor and storied history of Wrigley or Soldier Field. To be surrounded by thousands of other fans screaming for the Blackhawks or Bulls. To have your father pay for everything.

Though I’ve long since accepted the smog and gridlock that come with living in LA, I have yet to embrace the Lakers, Dodgers, Kings or that red-headed stepchild called the Clippers. Never gonna happen either. How can I support a city that doesn’t even have its own NFL team? Puh-leeze. I’d sooner become a Cheesehead. But sometimes it does kind of blow to cheer for the away team.

I never considered just how odd it would feel to be odd man out until I attended a Blackhawks-Kings game a few years back. To go from the United Center where usually one walks out with a disconcerting ringing sensation in the ears and sandpaper throat to the Staples Center… It was weird. Be vewy, vewy quiet. That’s all I kept thinking; no one was making a peep. Even when the Kings scored, there was barely a ruckus, and I live for the ruckus. Sometimes back in the day I even had other Blackhawks fans shoot me none-too-friendly sideways glances in our very own stadium. (I have been blessed with the ability to scream quite high and loud for all the wannabe kidnappers and rapists reading this. I also have a sweet left hook so don’t get any ideas.) You can imagine my conundrum. Throughout the stands sat many other Chicago fans, but it just wasn’t the same. From the moment I could actually hear the national anthem being sung, I was bummed. It all went downhill from there. No cheering. No Tommy Hawk. No fun.

Fast-forward to this week. The Cubs were in town for a three-game series against the Dodgers, and I was going to one of them with about eighty other Columbia College alums. Dodger Stadium wasn’t new to me; I’d been to the venue for a few baseball outings already. Definitely better experiences than my bizarro world Staples Center debacle, but a lot had changed since my last time there. In particular, the police presence. Like most everyone else I know, I was deeply saddened and shocked to hear about the Giants fan beaten by those whom I refuse to call baseball fans or even human beings. More like animals. Definitely cowards. Anyway… I’ll admit that I was a wee bit nervous. Eighty plus Cubs fans all together in one section? Were we putting ourselves in a Wild Kingdom situation here? You know, where the sweet, unsuspecting, perhaps slightly dim gazelles are trying to quench their thirst from a peaceful little pond when all of a sudden they’re viciously attacked by a pride of lions? Sure, we’ve bravely weathered a hundred years of verbal abuse from pretty much everyone else on the planet, but I’ll gladly be on the receiving end of a few “Cubs suck!” as opposed to having actual broken bones.

However, I shouldn’t have been so worried. For one, there truly is strength in numbers, and maybe that’s what I needed all along. I just have to make sure that whatever game I go to in Los Angeles, there are at least a couple dozen other Chicago fans with me. Because it really is all about your friends. That’s what makes going to a game so much fun. The camaraderie. The laughter. The way you can make a fool of yourself and it’s not even slightly embarrassing because everyone else is acting like a fool right along with you. Plus it didn’t hurt that we had the most perfect night weather-wise and all-you-can-eat nachos!

For the most part, the Dodger fans were gracious as well. Maybe because they risked arrest if they weren’t, but so be it. I once heard a story about a White Sox fan getting a Budweiser bottle to the forehead at a known Cubs bar, so we’re not perfect either. (Though perhaps not the smartest move on his part to patronize an establishment called The Cubby Bear.) We did hear a few “boos,” some of which were directed at a father and his young son, but there are classless idiots no matter where you go. However, they do seem to love the sporting arenas. Hmm… But best of all, the Cubs won! So as the Dodger fans began to file out before the game was over – can you really be considered a fan then? – we Cubbies cheered and held high a huge ‘W’ flag. Yes, someone actually brought a Cubs Win Flag. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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