Sunday, August 31

Cotton Candy Sweetie Go

The Terror Alert Banana (over there on the right) is something that's been a part of this site literally for years now. He's always there, dancing (supposedly) in the name of homeland security -- keeping the beat with the music in my headphones while I edit posts and check comments, letting me know in his own special way that everything is ok.
It would be hard to imagine this site without him.
But if a day ever came where I did need to find a replacement, I'm pretty sure I could do a lot worse than this little gem that Rich over at fourfour cooked up the other day:
But then I was thinking, you know -- that's not really fair, especially considering how many good times the banana's given the site.
Which means there's really only one way to solve this:
With a mother*%#@ing walk-off.
I mean sure, Brad's a big name and all, frickin' Tyler Durden and everything -- but he's got all those kids running around; how do we really know he's gonna be there when we need him? Besides, just because the banana's got a lot of mileage under his belt doesn't mean some new guy can just walk right in and steal his thunder, does it?

No. We settle this the right way. On the field of honor. Blood for blood -- Eye to eye. Maestro, music if you please:

                  It's Peanut Butter Terror Time!

War is hell.
[Listening to:  Aerial Tribe"Common Ground" ]

Saturday, August 30

I My Me Mine

Polysics rocks your face. That is all.

[Listening to:  Kanye West"Good Morning" ]

Friday, August 29

The Friday Hot Sheet

For a guy like me, political conventions are usually about as exciting as a root canal. Drumming up the constituents is cool, but in my opinion the real fight won't get going until after all this other grandstanding is done. We'll rev our engines, you rev your engines -- everything's really loud and impressive, but until that green light goes on and you're racing side by side (read: debating), we really don't know what you're working with.

At the same time, pre-season football is the television equivalent of those times when you really need to go to the bathroom but when you get in there and sit down nothing happens. You were all excited when you showed up but then a few minutes later you're just sitting there wondering why you even bothered.

And as great as the convention looked and as cool as it is to finally see football on TV again, if the biggest decision you have to make all week is between pooping or getting your teeth drilled -- then we've still got a long way to go.

So before my fantasy football draft starts up -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
I'm not really mister politics or anything, but that was awesome. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not much for McCain (or his party in general), but I love the way this guy fights. The timing of the announcement? The fact that no one saw it coming? This isn't the work of some old fogey with 7 houses and no idea what's going on -- That's the kind of move a guy who was locked up in a bamboo cage for 7 years pulls out. Honestly, it was like Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker he was his father -- because now Obama, the guy that everyone thinks is so cool and balanced has to spend the next six months taking political swipes at a wife and mother. My vote hasn't changed, but I was among the many who were glad to have all the nastiness from Hillary wars finally be over, and now ol' man John has dragged us all right back in. Well played, Palpatine -- that was truly one for the ages.
Even with McCain's move this morning, there's no denying the feeling you get when someone you want to believe in delivers a monologue like Barack Obama did last night. I still have my quiet questions, and he's still a politician, but there's no doubt that the man can flat-out flow, and it's hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all.
The OlympicsApparently they're still going on.
Is it just me, or is the hype for nerdball sorta down this year? Once the season gets going I'll probably turn right back into that same obsessive loser I always do -- but if I hadn't gotten the email alert reminding me of the draft, I might have forgotten all about it. Last year at this point I was making pre-season trades, talking trash, the whole nine yards -- but so far this year it's just been kinda meh, and I'm not really sure why.
Endo Exo's
New Sexy
Speaking as someone who's always had a thing for hot lady bartenders, the simple truth is that any monkey can hire a great body, put it in a low-cut blouse, and tell it to stand back there and take orders -- but that doesn't mean she can actually mix a drink. In fact, one of the worst things you can have is some cookie-cutter hottie who banks totally on her looks and doesn't know what the hell she's doing -- because then you're forced to ask yourself, "How did she get this job?" and the answer that usually jumps to mind speaks badly of all female bartenders (not to mention women in general). Luckilly, the new girl is not only a cutie, but she makes a mean caucasian as well.
The Sexy New
So let me get this straight -- You're the reason she got this job. Not her skills, training, or experience -- but your good word to the owner? How nice of you to say. And what's that? You're in the movie business too? You worked on The Matrix? You were part of the team that created the trailer for the Lord of the Rings? How utterly ..believable. So why, exactly -- if you have Tony Hawk and Bam Margera on speeddial (like you say you do) are you stumbling around a bar in downtown Jacksonville on a Tuesday night?
Kanye West's
"Good Morning"
It seems like only a few days ago I was giving Kanye props for sharing my love of Takashi Murakami's work -- which made it even cooler when I discovered the brand-new video Murakami made on for his new track, "Good Morning." Peanut butter in my chocolate? Chocolate in my peanut butter? Whatever -- the results are awesome, and have been in heavy rotation all week.
Knowing Your Superpowers        It always made me mad as a kid when Superman didn't open up every fight with the heat vision. If you've got something that always works, then why the heck aren't you using it? Like if I were Voltron and you were a ro-beast I would say, "Hi, are you the bad guy?" and you'd say yes and then I'd be all like "Flaming Sword!!" -- Game over, sign some autographs, go get some beer. But all these heroes in the movies hold that big gun all the way to the end, and it just drives me nuts. -- Why can't we find a superhero who knows what their strengths are, and uses them right away?

-- Technically safe for work, but not by much.

[Listening to:  Jane's Addiction"Mountain Song" ]

Thursday, August 28

Thursday Thunderdome: Guilty Pleasures

You all know how this works; two things enter, one thing leaves.
We'll start off with something easy: Godawful music.
I think everybody enjoys music -- but the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of people out there who only really enjoy it on a surface level. That is, they base their preferences off things like -- How do the lyrics make me feel? Does this song has a good beat or not? Can I go to jail for acting like a groupie with the three whiteboys with afros singing the Disney song even though I'm 30 years older than they are?

Thinking that tends to drive the rest of us batty trying to figure out how some of these ultra-popular songs actually end up that way.

Add to that sprinklings of other factors like "being a musician" or "wanting good music to actually feel authentic and special" and it's easy sometimes to think that you're the only one on the planet who has the clarity of vision to clearly see that Jimmy Buffet is indeed the devil, and that anyone who listens to his music and enjoys it is clearly being influenced by agents of evil.

See, there comes a point in life where those of us who choose to elevate our love of music into an unhealthy obsession passion separate ourselves from those who simply let their emotional responses tell them what they like and what they don't.
In other words, you aren't born a music snob -- You have to grow into it.
Which means at some point or another you were just another little kid cabbage patching to every song with a beat that came out of the stereo in your mom's living room.

Honestly, we've all liked bad music at some point in our lives. What's more -- living in this modern world means that not only you, but most of the people you've ever known and loved have grown up enduring endless albums, movie soundtracks, ladies nights, and school dances featuring music from what might just be the worst couple of decades of bad music that history has ever known:
The Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties.
Disco. Rap Metal. Pop Country. Hair Bands. Screamo. White Rappers. Tori Amos. The list goes on and on. Even some of the music that you yourself love ends up being the type that other music snobs hate. It's a vicious circle of over-animated singing, self-indulgent guitar solos, lame political commentary, and fake teen angst that we all must navigate on our way to the musical promise lands we seek.

But the sad thing is, no matter how "evolved" your musical tastes become -- you'll always be a victim of your times.

In other words, you can be the world's foremost expert and connoisseur of 18th Century Opera and it still won't do you a lick of good at Karaoke night, where every asshole in the place is just dying to be the one to jump up on stage and belt out Billy Joel's "Piano Man" or anything Neil Diamond ever wrote. Songs you can't stand, but still somehow know the chord changes and lyrical hooks to.
Bad Music exists.
Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. You can feel it's force all around you; here, between you, me, the tree, and the rock -- and sometimes, regardless of how much you want to resist -- it sticks to you. We call these songs guilty pleasures. The songs you like that you really wish you didn't. The ones you'll sing in the car, but only when you're driving alone.

But as we all know -- sometimes a popular song is a force too strong to resist. Sometimes you're put in situations where you have no choice but to get used to a crappy song. A long elevator ride. A job with piped-in muzak. A sexy blonde who really likes a particular band, and even though you might hate them -- going to that concert might just be the ticket that gets you somewhere else.
Horniness leads to dancing. Dancing leads to the impression that you
kinda like this song too. That impression leads to a phone number.
A phone number leads you to front row seats at the friggin' Dave Matthews Band!?
So the question before you is this: Which of the two songs listed below would make you more likely to pretend you didn't know me? Which awful song from my past that I used to kinda like (and probably still have on a CD or mixtape somewhere in my collection) is so utterly horrible to your ears that you'd rather claim temporary friendship amnesia than be associated with the dork who actually knows all the words to these songs??

Jane Child: Don't Want to Fall In Love

Dokken: Dream Warriors

Here are the rules: First, you can only pick one song. If you hate them both, you have to pick the one that you hate the most. If you kinda actually like one of them, feel free to say so -- but understand that you'll be standing up on that wall with me when the axe comes down.
But don't worry -- we won't be going alone.
Because the final and by far most important rule of the game is this: In order for your vote to be counted, you must also name one of your own awful horrible songs first. That is, when you comment on what a complete loser I am for liking "____________" you have to give us the name one of your guilty pleasure songs too.

It's gonna be like group therapy, Yakusa style. There's gonna be a lot of shouting, sake drinking, and then we'll all slice the shame of liking these bad songs away like pinkie fingers lopped off in dishonor.
Bring the pain, bitches.
[Listening to:  Social Distortion"Bad Luck" ]

Wednesday, August 27

The Old Man in That Book By Nabakov

The other day I was picking up a couple of things at the local Red Dot Boutique when a voice called out behind me in excitement.
"Mr. Luft!!"
Next thing I knew, one of my former students came running over and gave me a big hug. She was one of my first years -- a girl who sat in the back of my worst (yet most beloved) class -- a group I still lovingly refer to as 4th period.
I taught 8th grade English for almost three years and had lots of
4th period classes -- but trust me: there was only one 4th period.
This particular student also had the distinction of being one of my drama club kids. The school I was at had almost no extracurricular activities that weren't related to sports, and being an ex theater bum myself it only made sense to start up a troupe. It started out as almost 300 kids who couldn't believe they were being allowed to have fun on school grounds, but it eventually whittled down to a tight group of the schools misfits, goth kids, and class clowns that became my weekly sanctuary from what ended up being one of the most turbulent periods in my recent history.
God, I loved those brats.
We did improv games, stage combat, teacher impersonation skits -- it was a blast. We even cobbled together a little show at the end of that first year that started out as a complete comedy of errors but ended up being a half decent thing that I think the kids were really proud of being involved with. The show I did my last year there was a million times better -- but that inaugural bunch who stuck with me while I did my best to try and figure out how to run an after-school theater program with essentially no budget or support from the administration -- those kids were my warriors.
And this particular girl was their stage manager.
For those of you who've never done theater -- the stage manager is your hammer. They call the cues, they manage the backstage area, and they lay down the law while you're out front with the walkie trying to keep the kid working the spotlight on track while you whisper line cues to the actors who freeze up on the stage. A stage manager (especially in kids theater) is part anal retentive schedule keeper, part cheerleader, and all bitch.
And she rocked it.
But now, years later she's standing before me -- a taller version of the kid I used to know; telling me about her life, her struggles, her boyfriend, her plans. Anyone walking by could have imagined it as two old friends catching up -- and in a lot of ways that's exactly what it was, except maybe for the age difference.

For the record, she's doing well. Getting ready to graduate high school, looking on to bigger and better things.

The only thing about the conversation was that she kept going back to this whole "Now that I'm 17, I'm beyond all that stupid drama.." type of thing. And immediately there was a part of me that was just dying to look her in the eye and say,
Honey, if you thought the first 17 years of this roller coaster
were hard -- just wait until you hit the part with all the loops.
But there's this other thing. This part I'd kind of forgotten about in the years I've spent away from the classroom. This look that these kids get in their eye, even when they're whiny little zit-faced 8th graders. This look that says like no matter what happens, things are going to happen for me. It's all gonna fall into place. I don't know how, I don't know what -- but once I can get out of school, everything I want will be right within reach, and all I have to do is grab it.
Do you remember that feeling?
When you teach kids, especially kids who are within reach of the world past their parents -- you kind of swim in that water every day, and although sometimes the pressures and stresses of being an adult are hard to get past, that naive sense of invincibility starts to seep in. It's one of the secret reasons teaching is the greatest job, and one of the reasons that so many people stick with it regardless of the pay, the benefits, or the idiot administrators you've got to deal with on a daily basis.

Corporate America doesn't have tons of that. Corporate cubicle life is much more infected with a lot of people who have been through their own private Vietnams, and now they're just happy to be anywhere but canopy jungle. Which is perhaps why the overwhelming optimism of a child that hasn't been spit out by the world is a drug that you never really want to quit once you get a taste for it.
So I bit my tongue.
I'm not saying that optimism dies, or that hope is a lie -- because it's not. But there's a difference between the dedication it takes to hold on to your dreams through all the slings and arrows that the world wants to throw at you, and the shiny new car that is the star in the eye of a kid who believes that nothing can ever stand in their way.
To know that perhaps in some way I was a little part of that is a good feeling.
..But it's still a little weird to be called Mr. Luft.

[Listening to:  Cornelius"Gum" ]

Tuesday, August 26

Ich Bin Ein Bloggerer

Is there anyone else out there who is quietly worried that the day might come where you get a chance to shake Obama's hand -- which you'd totally want to do because he seems larger than life right now and you're excited about the things he might be able to do for the country, and he asks you what your name is, so you tell him -- and then he'll be like,
"Oh yeah, I was reading your twitter page the other day --
that thing about jonesing for Muffins? That was awesome!"

[Listening to:  Jimi Hendrix"Stepping Stone" ]

Monday, August 25

5 Jobs Guys Think Will Get Them Laid That Women Will Never Admit to Sleeping With

I think one of the bigger misconceptions that most guys hold in this world is that Certain jobs = Sex.
Unfortunately the reason most guys think this is because there are certain jobs in the world that actually do seem to work that way. Trouble is, most of those gigs (Rock Star, NBA player, former Democratic VP nominee hopeful) are pretty hard to come by -- but the standard male mind is a big subscriber to something called "The law of diminishing returns," which for most of us translates into,
"If NFL players can really have any woman they want 24 Hours a Day -- then there must
be some kind of gig I could land that would put me in the ballpark say, twice a week?"
Of course, there's little to no evidence available to suggest that women's minds work in a similar way, wherein they're just biding their time dating schlubs like you and me while waiting for the day when the bass player from Buckcherry shares a cab with them after a busy day of leading Amnesty International rallies and grooming quarterhorses wearing a half-unbuttoned pirate shirt -- but to be honest, most times you try to share any of your convoluted guy-ideas about "the way things really work in this world" with a woman they tend to shoot it full of holes using things like "logic" and "common sense" -- so the majority of dudes tend to keep their various conspiracy theories to themselves.
But that doesn't mean you can't catch us at it.
For example, if the man in your life seems to get unexpectedly edgy when you call him on the phone from the airport to say that you we're lucky enough to meet one of the pilots for your upcoming flight, and get this -- he pulled a few strings and got my ticket upgraded to first class! --- that's a tell.

Or if you text a guy you're seeing to let him know that you and your girlfriends are at a minor league baseball game -- and he suddenly starts grilling you with questions like, "Wait, you're there by YOURSELF?" or "Since when do YOU like Baseball!?" -- there's your hint.

Never mind the fact that dollar beer night at the ballgame is a regular weekly stop for you and your girls, or that the airline pilot is a 50-year old homosexual -- there's an association there; a deep-seated linkage between occupation and fornication fueled by the set-ups to every action flick and lame porno movie we've ever seen that has convinced every man alive that no matter what --
You never ever leave your lady alone with a British Secret Service Agent.
And sure, there's a underlying sexism to the whole thing that assumes that no matter how educated, self-assured, or independent the women in this world might be -- they are all still just hapless victims waiting to fall when faced with the sheer seductive force that is Shirtless Caribbean Resort Parasailing Instructor -- but I think part of the reason that this sort of objectification still exists comes from the fact it seems like most women would never really admit to being with one of these types of guys -- even if they actully have.

Why, you ask? -- Because even though we've progressed to a point where society finally understands that women have the right to be sexual creatures with their own desires and needs, there's still nothing in this world that carries the same kind of shame and destructive power than when someone is labeled a slut.

And I could try to go on for hours here trying to act like I completely understand how women think or that I know everything there is to know about the differences in gender attitudes about sex, but the simple fact is that I'm just as much of an idiot about it as everyone else is.
But what I do know is that few women take pride in admitting they've slept with a drummer.
I know lots of girls have done it -- but I also know that when their friends find out about it they usually never hear the end of it, and that in the last decade alone we've seen more than our share of professional women's lives torn apart from the foundations once it's found that they we're someone's mistress, or that they were doing things considered inappropriate for their given profession.
It's the double standard that trumps all double standards.
On top of all that, there's no doubt that women are all very aware of how fragile men's egos are when it comes to their morbid desire to know about their lover's past sexual history, even if they don't really want to know it at all.
So you don't tell us.
It's probably something women find annoying about guys -- the way we're such fragile babies about crap like this, but it's become part of the eternal dance. But what you gals don't realize is that when you get into that sort of cycle -- most guys will imagine the worst anyways.
Especially when you let little things slip.
You'll be sitting there watching football with your girlfriend some Sunday, and some highlight will come on that prompts you to blurt out, "Goddamn Matt Leinart, you call that a screen pass?" And she'll be like "Matt Leinart? -- You mean Matt Leinart who played for USC?"
"Ohmigod, I know him -- he's a total sweetie!"
"What? ..How do you know Matt Leinart?"
"Well, I don't really know him ..I sorta hung out with him once."
"Hung out!? When was this?"
"Back in college, before I knew you -- his team was in town for a bowl game and on their off day they came into the restaurant I was waitressing at, and I kinda screwed up his order so we had to go through all this stuff to fix it, and he ended up staying late just talking and stuff"
And then at that point, it doesn't even matter what really happened. Not because we think you're some kind of slut, but because he's Matt goddamn Leinart. USC quarterback. Media darling. Millionaire 1st round draft pick pro football player who shows up on more often than he's on ESPN.

Now before we go any further here and I dig myself into a hole with the opposite sex that I'll never be able to get out of -- what you might not understand here is that in a backhanded way, all of our assumptions and accusations are actually kind of a compliment.

Because it would be one thing if you were ugly as hell and spent 15 hours serving chicken fingers to one of the league's most eligible bachelors --
But what we're really saying when we have our little mini-freak outs is that you're not.
What we're saying in our own guy-mind sort of way is that to us you're exactly the kind of hottie Matt Leinart would try to get over on, and we don't like the idea of that manwhore sniffing around your henhouse -- even if it was 5 years ago.

But a freak-out is still a freak-out -- So you don't tell us. Even when there's nothing to tell.

And it's not just famous people, either. Ladies -- here's a little experiment. Next time you're dating someone, tell him you're planning a Caribbean cruise with your girlfriends, but make sure it's one where he can't or wouldn't want to go on (it's a scrapbooking cruise -- are you sure you don't want to go?). But then make sure to read the website to him -- you know the part about the private massage tables and the salsa party on the main deck?

See how that goes over.
Never mind the fact that your guy will call you on the phone to complain about it while waiting for the second round of beers to show up at his table at the strip club (because that's, you know ..different) -- if you're gonna spend 3 days and 4 nights on the Love Boat with Captain Steubing and Issac, it's pretty much game over as far as we're concerned.
Because, you know -- Cruise ship guys. In uniforms. Salsa dancing. With you.
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that when a lot of ordinary guys go to Hooters and can't seem to get any real attention from the waitresses, it always frustrates them to a point where someone starts up one of those conversations. The ones where you lower your voice because you know you're being a pig and when say something like,
"You know what it is -- it's because I'm not one of those biker guys with
their racing jackets and stupid helmets. Those guys get all the chicks!"
So here, in no particular order is a quick list of the jobs that most guys think instantly get people laid that hardly any women out there would ever admit to having slept with (because it only makes us think we're right about stuff like this):
  1. Limo Drivers -- Now if you've ever actually spent any time talking to a real limo driver -- you quickly realize that the majority of them aren't just limo drivers, they're also co-owners of some pressure washing business that brings in extra cash while they're waiting to finish up their Real Estate licensing classes at the learning annex. Limo Drivers in real life are kinda skeevy. But that doesn't mean that whenever we see some dude in the suit and the hat holding the door of a stretch Hummer open for the increasingly wobbly members of some bachelorette party we don't all sorta hate him inside.

  2. UPS Guys -- In every corporate office I've ever worked at regardless of the type of industry or company name, there's one thing that never changes -- and that is that shit shuts down when the UPS dude in the bicycle shorts shows up. Ladies who ten seconds earlier were complaining about the way their shoes were hurting their feet will turn into Usain Bolt if they get that secret signal from the girl at the reception desk announcing that the delivery truck has arrived.

  3. Pilates Instructors -- Your ass might be the size of a house, but if you should come home one day and announce that you've signed up for a private Pilates class with the best teacher in town -- prepare to hear your man immediately start telling you just how much he loves your turbo booty and doesn't want you to lose it. Because personal trainers, spinning teachers, Yoga guys? -- Those dudes rake.

  4. College English Professors -- You'd think this sort of thing would carry for all college professors (male or female) regardless of subject, and maybe it does -- but when it comes to the king of guys you don't want your girlfriend spending private office hours with -- it's this dude. And being a guy with an English Degree from a big liberal arts school who used to hang out with a couple of guys like this, I can personally attest to the fact that whatever the mojo behind this is -- whether it be the charisma, the intelligence, or the ugly sport coats -- it friggin works.

  5. Foreign Accent Guy -- While not technically an job, there's nothing American men wish they could get in on more than that whole "I'm from Britain/France/Jamaica" thing. Because for whatever reason -- women looove to swoon over foreign accent guy. It doesn't matter if he's a dance instructor, a guide on one of those European bus tours, or even just a waiter (or worse yet, bartender) at some local dive -- you just know ol' Jean Valjean's over here always has that card to play, and that it's never failed him.
And I know there are probably women reading this saying, "You're full of crap on this one, Dan -- I'd never sleep with a limo driver." But that only proves my point more -- because if you say you wouldn't ever do a limo driver, that means there are reasons that you don't want to be be paired with that sort of guy. That in your mind there would be some sort of fallout either personally or professionally if someone found out about a tryst between you and the guy in the 30-foot PT cruiser. Which means that if circumstances somehow arose to where you actually did get with one -- you'd never admit to it.
Which only serves to perpetuate our silly theories about that job's ability to attract the ladies.
And make sure you understand something here -- if you've gotten your freak on with a UPS guy or have one or two Foreign Accent Guys notched on your belt, I'm not calling you a slut.

What I'm saying is that in general it doesn't appear to be the kind of thing women boast about the way men might if they ever found a way to get lucky with say a Hooters Girl, a Hot Lady Bartender, or a Supermodel.

Because believe you me, if that kind of thing ever happened to one of us we'd have it printed on T-shirts as soon as we possibly could.
..And I'm just not sure that women think that way.
I mean, if a girl was able to bed Johnny Depp I'm sure she'd tell everyone she ever knew (and who could blame her, it's Johnny freakin' Depp) -- but if you were to wake up one morning in bed next to the Captain Jack Sparrow Impersonator you met while visiting Disneyland, would you go shouting that from the rooftops?
You know, the way he did?

[Listening to:  The Roots (ft. Erykah Badu)"You Got Me" ]

Friday, August 22

The Friday Hot Sheet

The other night I had a dream that the storm knocked the power out, and the only thing to do was sit huddled around a candle and play board games with Aldous Huxley -- who kept saying things like "I told you so!" to the point where when he wasn't looking I pulled out my cel and text messaged my five about what a pain in the ass he was being.

I mean sure, it's one thing to question the ultimate fate of the human spirit in a world where so many of our needs, wants, and desires are given to us in an instant -- but think for a minute about what it must have been like during the latter end of the dawn of civilization where cavemen had learned to create and harness the energy of fire for cooking, warmth, and protection -- until that one night where heavy rains and high winds keep the hearth from staying lit, and all the cavemen kids are saying, "How am I supposed to see Miley's cave drawings now!?"

So before the storm washes me completely away -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Yeah, I'm pretty much over it. The weather bulletins, the trees in the road, the power outages. It was a little scary at first -- but just like every other year, you're just Talkin Loud and Sayin' Nothin. It was a fun couple of nights, Fay -- but all this nagging and clingy behavior is starting to make me think you're wanting this to be a lot more than we originally felt at last call the other night. -- Get to steppin'.

of my
First of all, where's a brother got to go to find a decent Martin clip on the web these days!? -- Regardless, the few videos I was able to find did give me pause to remember a time back when I was dating my ex-wife, and we got into a regular habit of showing up at her parents house to mooch dinner hang out in the afternoons, which usually turned into my ex arguing with her mom about something or other while her father and I did our best to tune them out while watching re-runs of The Fresh Prince, Living Single, and Martin. The old man had his doubts about me (and considering how things played out, maybe he was right..) but I'll always treasure those afternoons I got to share laughing with one of the coolest guys I ever knew, who passed away long before his time.
So what were the two biggest stories/controversies to come out of the Olympics this week? Reports that international athletes living in the Olympic village are hooking up left and right, and outrage over the Chinese girl gymnasts being underage.

-- I'm not pointing fingers, but is anyone else seeing a connection they kinda wish they hadn't?
Ok, what the hell is going on with Ernest Borgnine? When I was a little kid he was in literally every movie on TV. But then, like most actors from that era he sorta seemed to fade away (save for a brief voice-over gig on that Lord of the Flies episode of The Simpsons). To be honest, I sorta thought he was dead. But now suddenly he's back, promoting a new autobiography -- and dude is on happy pills or something. Am I just too young to realize that he was always this nutty -- or was Johnny Carson just lucky not to be around when the guy gives these kinds of answers to people who ask him how he manages to stay so upbeat at his age?
George Lucas,
To no one's surprise, The Clone Wars is a complete dud, but that doesn't mean people aren't still talking about it -- or more specifically calling foul over a villain named Ziro the Hutt, who many people feel projects a negative gay stereotype. Even more scandalous is the news that not only was giving the character a voice like Truman Capote's not an accident, but the brainchild of George Lucas himself -- who overruled the director's original vision. Did Lucas really think Capote's voice was sorely missing from kids cartoons these days, or is it possible that even he knew this movie was a steaming pile, and adding in a little Jar-Jar type controversy would keep it in the papers for a few more weeks?
Miller ChillIf I was in charge, I probably would have called it Miller Affordable. It's ok, I guess.
Neighbor's Hurricane Party
She's a college-aged co-ed who waitresses at some local place; kinda cute, seems nice enough -- but like most college kids, her friends appear to be really pretentious douchebags who think they know everything. -- Which is probably why on the worst night of the recent tropical storm, the majority of them spent most of their time standing on the front porch smoking, drinking PBR, and talking loud enough to be heard through the door of my place. It was like Fox News Channel and High School Musical had a baby, gave it a pack of smokes -- and then told it to go stand in the rain and explain the government.
Jason Friedberg
and Aaron Seltzer         
Talented black actors and musicians have been dropping like flies during the last few weeks, but the two a-holes behind Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Disaster Movie are walking around healthy as horses. Am I the only one who sees a problem with that? -- Look, no one loves Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplaine more than me -- but those films actually had jokes in them. Until you screws can make a movie that can actually hold up for a month after it's released or has a scene as classic as this one hiding in it somewhere -- STFU.

[Listening to:  Kanye West"Get 'em High" ]

Thursday, August 21


So the other day I'm perusing Kanye West's blog -- which you might think would be just another celebrity self-promotion machine filled with concert dates and appearance information, but is actually pretty cool.

Of course I have no real way to prove that Kanye himself is the author of this thing, but if he is -- it only serves to feed into this whole conundrum I have about the guy. First of all, I'm about 40/60 with his music. My tastes in hip-hop (such as they are) tend to lean more towards the Public Enemy end of the spectrum, and as talented as Kanye clearly is -- his work generally lives more in the pop and dance world.
That being said, the Kanye songs that I like are more like songs that
I love -- the kinds of tunes that I will probably never get tired of.
And I think that's an important distinction -- especially now when there's so many different kinds of media, music, and art available for people to enjoy that it becomes literally impossible for a large part of it not to become kinda disposable.

In other words, there are songs that you hear and you love right now, but then you sort of wear out on them and eventually skip them whenever you hear the first couple of beats of it on your iPod. Summer songs that become really annoying when you're in a blue winter mood. High-tempo numbers that you love to listen to in the gym, but can't stand anywhere else. Classic rock favorites that you feel are really important to have in your collection -- but you've heard so many times that you don't really want or even need to listen to anymore.

But then there are the songs that instantly become part of your personal soundtrack. The ones that sound new every time you play them. The ones that pop into your head without any sort of external prompting.
The song that first made you want to pick up a guitar.
The song that you can't really listen to without crying.
The song that once got you laid, or was playing that one night when things got a little
freaky -- the one you can't hear without thinking and almost feeling that exact same way.

The song that no emo band or beer commercial better never ever remake
unless someone wants to lose an eye like Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill II.
You know the songs I'm talking about -- the ones you sorta put on every mix CD you make, regardless of who it's for or why. The kind of song you hear on the radio and suddenly have to call that one friend you haven't talked to in years..
..Those songs.
The Kanye songs I like fit into that category. I blame j for this -- because she was the one who refused to hear my complaints about Kanye's media personality and insisted, no flat out demanded that I actually listen to his music before writing him off.

And while I can't tell you that I really love every song he does, and can absolutely say that if I never hear "Goldigger" again I'll be just fine (regardless of how much I loved it when it first came out) -- the simple fact is that Kanye West is one of the most intruiging and exciting artists working in pop music today.

But here's the thing -- to me, there's the Kanye that does magazine interviews; you know, the same guy that does speeches at the VMA's -- and then there's the Kanye that you see in candid photos playing backgammon with Beyonce. The guy that sort of emerges from the shadows when you start to get a feel for his blog.

It's sorta like when I started realizing that as much as I loved listening to Public Enemy's music -- there was a certain point where I was really more interested in Chuck D's social and political commentary. Not because I always agreed with all of it (because I didn't), but because the man that began to appear behind the words was the kind of guy that I really wanted to get to know.
Sure I love his music and respect his opinion, but what would be cooler
than sharing a flight with a guy like that and talking Knicks basketball?
It's the same way I felt during a short period in the mid-90's when Prince experimented with blogging on his NPG website, and he was posting things like "Have you seen that Serena Williams? Dayum!!"
And part of you is like, "Wait, did ..Prince really just say that?" -- but the rest of
you is saying, "I know, right?! And those really short skirts she keeps working?"
It's like you feel connected. Like you've bridged some sort of gap (even if you really haven't). As if you've tripped over some sort of secret entrance that has put you face to face with the real person behind the name, the song, or the movie.

Kanye's blog is like that a bit for me. Mainly because even if the majority of his songs don't reflect it -- we seem to have really similar tastes in music and art. His blog was one of the first places I was able to get more information about Takashi Murakami, who's work I first fell in love with when I saw it in person at MoMa, but seemed at the time to have woefully little information available about him available on the web.

It's kind of the trap that comes with the cult of personality that surrounds celebrities, especially larger-than life ones like the Kanye's, Missy Elliots, or Jay-Z's of the world.

The day I found out that Jada Pinkett was not only a Slipknot fan, but was lead singer of a touring metal band featuring the original drummer from Fishbone -- I felt as if I'd made a little connection with her.

But when you get right down to it, Jada Pinkett is a millionaire Scientologist who lives in a completely different world than the one I know. I love her to death because of the little things I've read about her -- but if the opportunity ever did present itself where Jada and I had a chance to actually sit down and wax poetic about how much better Iowa was than The Subliminal Verses (and of course she'd agree with me) -- how long would that conversation really last?
And really, once we got past that tangent -- what would we talk about then?
So even though I find myself scrolling through Kanye's blog and thinking that we seem have all these things in common (modern art, Japanese electronica, a deep-seated desire to see Gabrielle Union naked), it's impossible to ignore the fact that Kanye's blog -- like all blogs -- represents only a part of who the author really is as a person.

It's the sort of thing that we deal with all the time -- especially when it comes to public figures. We want to know who they really are, but we treat the process of trying to find that out the same way we do the guy who sits next to us at work, or the waiter that has the pretty-boy haircut and the nose ring who can't seem to be bothered to refill your drink in a timely manner.

Think for a minute about Barack Obama and John McCain. Think about the way we need them to have real stances on the issues, but in the end their successes and downfalls almost invariably come from our personal impressions of who they are as people.
Is George Bush ever gonna be thought of as anything more than stupid?
Is Bill Clinton ever gonna be thought of as anything more than horny?
I hate typing this, because I really don't like what the guy stands for -- but it is scientifically possible that at least one moment in his life George W. Bush maybe knew what he was talking about or was able to make a business or governmental decision that was pretty good.

Of course this simple fact will never be enough to replace the absolute mountain of stupid-looking things he's done on TV or the executive-level ideas and platforms he supports that I personally disagree with -- but does that really give us enough information as a society to conclude that the guy is incapable of tying his own shoes?
The fact that Dubya's kind of a dolt makes it a hell of a lot easier to dislike him and doubt his effectiveness as a leader, but I'm pretty proud to say that I thought the guy was an asshole long before I ever started to suspect he was an idiot.
Which is what makes this upcoming election so tricky. I really like what I'm hearing from Obama about his policies, but to be honest -- I'm kinda having to dig a little to find it. No doubt I think he's a lot more likable and progressive than McCain could ever be --
But honestly, how much effort does it really take in this day and age to make a
handsome African-American appear cooler than some crotchety old white guy?
So yeah, if I'm picking a kickball team or looking for a table to sit at in the lunchroom, then Obama is the one. But we're picking a President here --
And we really do kind of need to get this one right.
I know who I'm planning to vote for -- but honestly, I think the coolness war has already been won, so if it's all the same to you I'd really like to start hearing a little bit more about your plans for education and healthcare rather than see you taking shots at a rich guy who doesn't know how many houses he owns.

Because here's the thing. Just because I'm gonna vote for you and want you to be our next president doesn't mean that I'm always gonna agree with everything you want to do. But I do feel like if we can have discussions and debates about your platform there's a better chance for dialogue and possible compromise than there ever would be with the other guy.
Or to put it another way -- just because you look cooler than than someone else
doesn't mean that you can't still get your ass beat when shit starts to go down.

[Listening to:  Jemapur"Maledict Car" ]

Wednesday, August 20

Tropical Storm Fay -- The Musical

Even though the actual effects to the area have been minimal (so far), the approach of Tropical Storm Fay has prompted area schools, city offices, and a number of local businesses to close their doors until the possible dangers have passed. It's a pretty regular process in this town during hurricane season -- developed after years of experience dealing with dangerous weather systems that have the potential to cause very serious damage.

Unfortunately, it's that same depth of experience that has taught many people the difference between a serious storm that could bring real damage and smaller tropical systems that pose more of a threat to lower lying areas of Central and Southern Florida and frequently only bring heavy rains and strong winds to us.
It's sort of like the level of nonchalance that a lot of Californians give to "minor" earthquakes.
In other words, I know these storms can become dangerous -- but I also know that most of the time they turn out to be a lot of noise over nothing. The power might go out, some tree branches might get knocked over, and a few coastal areas might flood a little -- but unless the storm escalates past a certain level, it's more of an annoyance than anything else.
But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like a free day off of work for it.
The problem is, my bosses are north Floridians too -- equally jaded and unimpressed by the real dangers of this tropical storm, to the point where even with the announcements about the schools and city offices closing -- there had been little to no talk at all of closing our own doors as well.

It's one of those weird situations where you know the risk of real danger is kinda low, but you're hoping that your corporation's fear of liability lawsuits is ultra-high, which will lead them to err on the side of caution.

Still, late into the day Wednesday there had really been no official word -- So eventually (trying not to look too eager), I went to my supervisor's office and asked him if they were gonna close the plant down on Thursday or Friday, to which he replied:
Which sorta sucks, because I was really hoping to spend the time like this:

[Listening to:  The Union Underground"Trip With Jesus" ]

Tuesday, August 19

Meine Dispatcher Says There's Something Wrong with Deine Kabel

Me: So, are you the guy who's testing this thing to make sure it works?
Engineer: That's right.
Me: Nice to meet you, I'm the guy who's been trying to break it.

[Listening to:  Element Eighty"Rabies" ]

Monday, August 18

Sheena Is a Punk Rocker

I'm a guitarist. And as a guitar player living in this modern age, I can't even begin to tell you the number of hours I've lost watching guitar videos on YouTube.
I'm starting to think it's physically impossible to watch just one clip on that site and then stop.
Part of the reason is that the clips are usually short, so it's easy to turn watching one into watching three -- and then the "related videos" section somehow includes a video that's not really related at all but still looks fascinating -- and the next thing you know you're off on some sort of tangent where there are 10 videos listed that say they're "Stairway to Heaven" -- but the first nine you saw were made by people who clearly had no idea how to play the song at all, and now you can't stop until you've heard at least one decent version of the thing lest the entire song find itself ruined forever.
But the real problem has to do with the pathology of the guitar player.
I could easily spend 10-20 pages discussing all of the things that turn a normal person with an interest in music into the unique sort of a-hole that is the modern "guitar guy" -- but luckily I don’t have to, because everything you need to know about this particular species of human can be summed up using this old joke:
How many guitar players does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Ten -- One to do it, and nine others to stand around watching him like this:
Guitar, especially rock guitar -- is a very "look at me" sort of activity. And when you get a whole population of people who all want you to look at them, they tend to get really bitchy when people look at someone else. So within the community of guitar players on YouTube there's an awful lot of backbiting and nit-picking going on at any given moment.
Essentially, if you're not Jimi Hendrix and post a video where you try to play something by Jimi Hendrix -- you'll always suck.
No matter how good it is, no matter how close (or better) your version might be than the original, you're still not doing it right. Your vibrato is too erratic, the notes are too choppy, your sound is all wrong -- there's really no way to win at all.

There are tons of videos by kids who clearly haven't been playing that long hacking their way through some Metallica song saying, "Hey, look what I can do" --followed by comments from guys with screen names like StringDemon, Shredder8946, and GuitarRoKKer telling him how much they stink.

The other side of this equation is that if someone posts a video where they do a decent job playing something, 10 other guys will post the exact same thing to show just how much better they are at it.
It was this particular YouTube trend that first turned me on to my latest obsession
-- a guitarist known to the world only by their chosen screenname -- 17586063:
One minute I'm browsing videos featuring longtime personal fave Paul Gilbert (who absolutely shreds) when I notice a link to what looks to be Japanese kanji script wrapped around the title of a particularly difficult Paul Gilbert track next to a picture of two very sexy legs wrapped up in thigh-high stockings and a vintage Gibson SG -- and the next I've watched like 15 videos of this girl ripping her way through all sorts of classic heavy metal standards all filmed from the same low angle that not only shows off her skill on the guitar but also features a variety of short cropped schoolgirl and geisha-styled dresses that tend to give you just enough of a look to start to enjoy the clips on an entirely different level.
It's live, it's raw, it's damn good -- and did I mention that I've always had a thing for Asian women in fishnet stockings?
But here's the thing -- no matter how much you want to be distracted by the garter belts and the gams -- as a guitarist it's impossible for me to ignore just how much girl flat out rips some old-school metal.

Seriously, she's covering tracks by Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, and Joe Satriani -- all heavy hitters in the guitar universe, and she handles each one as if it's no big deal at all.

What's more -- There are enough flubs and added-on improv licks to let the casual listener know that what you're seeing on the screen is actually what happened, and not the result of camera trickery, air-guitar, or anything like that -- Which is important, because in the dog-eat-dog world of guitar videos on YouTube -- few things bring more calls of fakeness or cheating than when you actually do a really good job of playing a song.
Especially if you're a woman.
Regardless of the strides we've made as a society towards gender equity, there's still something unexpected about seeing a girl who can really shred. It shouldn't be this way, but even with the rise of things like the Lilith Fair/Riot Girl movements and even the popularity of video games like Guitar Hero -- playing lead guitar is still largely (and incorrectly, btw) considered a man's domain.

So any girl who shows any level of proficiency at it is a) Initially revered as some sort of weird yet totally awesome mutation of the female species and celebrated in the same way that animal lovers get all excited about white tigers and albino snakes -- and then b) feared as an imminent threat to our all-dude treehouse of guitar superiority, which leads to widespread doubting of her abilities and questioning of even the most infinitesimal flaws.

It's like that in a lot of realms that are thought of as all-guy worlds, whether it be surfing, race car driving, or whatever -- where the idea that a girl could actually be good at something is so foreign that it's hard for some men not to question it.

The truth of the matter is that there is a long list of fantastic female rock and roll guitar players -- ranging in the modern era from Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, and Lita Ford all the way up to Jennifer Batten, who continues to be one of the most in-demand session players happening today.

Which is fine if you're famous -- but isn't really any help if you're just some anonymous shredder.
Which is where the twist comes in.
Perhaps it was in part fueled by the fear of a woman being a better guitar player than a guy. Perhaps a big part of it comes from the fact that she's Asian, or that her screenname and profile (clearly by design) offers little to no insight into what her personality might be. But when all of this is added to her habit of never showing her face in any of her videos and an observation made by many commenters regarding the relative size of her hands -- a suspicion began to surface.

And before you knew it, a lot of people began speculating that the sexy Asian girl in the videos, Miss 17586063 herself
Was actually a dude.
Discussions shifted immediately from "Wow, you play pretty good for a girl," to "You homos are all drooling over a guy!" and much, much worse. The comment threads for each video posted suddenly turned into a veritable Maury Povich episode filled with cross-dressers, discussions about man-hands, and out and out gay-bashing.

The problem with all of this is that as a reader I can see the hateful attitudes for what they are and be outraged by them -- but I couldn't help but at least consider the question for a moment or two myself.

And even though I have come to my own conclusion that it really is a girl who can play circles around me when it comes to old-school Ozzy songs -- a girl that I still find really hot;
I can't seem to shake that little seed of uncertaintly that got planted there along the way.
Not so much that I would lose respect her/him as a guitar player if it really did turn out to be a dude, but that I would suddenly feel a little weirder about my own attraction to the videos, especially when it came to the less-than musical aspects of the thing.
The world is strange that way.
I mean, so what if it's a guy in a dress? I used to be a huge Kiss fan -- is there really any difference there? Hell, lets not even get started about the fact that I grew up in the 80's being a huge fan of several hair bands that I still have lingering questions about -- including Heavy Metal's worst kept secret, Rob Halford -- who spent 20 years prancing around stages in leather chaps as the lead singer of Judas Priest before coming out of the closet in the mid 90's.

I guess the real issue in the end isn't so much what gender 17586063 turns out to be (assuming we ever find out, or that it really matters in the first place) -- but that if it does turn out to be a man,
Why the deception?
I mean, it's not a situation where a homosexual makes the uncomfortable choice to conceal their lifestyle in order to avoid discrimination at a particular workplace or social situation, a choice made out of a desire to lessen certain kinds of conflict -- this was a conscious choice to not only appear as a woman, but to use that appearance as part of the appeal, which is a theatrical idea as old as Dionysus -- but somehow feels different here.

I mean, I still look at it and feel pretty confident that 17586063 is a girl. But is it because I honestly think that's what I'm seeing --
Or is it because I'm not so sure how I feel about the alternative?

[Listening to:  The Cure"Burn" ]

Saturday, August 16

Going to the Rexall for Some Batteries

So last night I headed out to this bar downtown called The Gas Knob to knock back some whiskey and listen to some friends of mine play Irish drinking songs. It's a nice bar, only been open a little while -- with a cherry location right across the street from the minor league baseball field and right next door to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

So I pull in about 11, park nearby and as I'm walking by the concert hall I notice that people are starting to filter out the doors. I hadn't realized anyone was playing tonight, but whatever -- there are plenty of shows that go on in that hall that I don't really have any interest in as a listener.

So I get to the bar, order up a shot and start singing along with Spade McQuade and the All Stars when suddenly the floodgates opened up and an endless sea of asshats just started pouring into the place.

Older guys. Teva sandals, khaki shorts, and hats that say PING. Cigars in their mouths and cell phones pouches on their belts. Just pushing and shoving and completely ignoring all ideas of decency and etiquette when it comes to standing in line at an understaffed bar. One minute I'm standing there trying to explain all of the ingredients that go into a Colorado Bulldog, and the next there's some dude interrupting me demanding that the bartender get 4 bottles of Bud Light and for him and his boys.
Annoyed, I lean over to the guy on the other side of me and ask,
"Where did all these assholes come from?"
"Next door, probably"
"Who was playing?"
..Oh no.     
Oh hell no.
For the life of me, I've never understood Bruce Springsteen (and I'm not just talking about his mumbly-shouting style of singing, either). Honestly, white people look at him as if he were some sort of god -- and for what?
Born to Run??
I know everyone says he hit superstardom in the 80's with all that Dancing in the Dark/Born in the USA crap -- but people were talking about his ass way before that, and whenever you'd listen to his music all you could really think to say was,
Am I missing something here?
I've always sorta harbored this theory that every generation has an artist that fits perfectly into a moment in time, and resonates with the experiences of people in that time. I think to a large extent Sinatra was like that -- because in his heyday he represented an ideal of what a lot of people aspired to be at the time.
The difference is, Sinatra had talent.
Unfortunately for the rest of us who weren't there in whatever particular moment it was that Bruce snuck in, it leaves us scratching our heads as to what the big fat hairy deal was.

To me, Bruce Springsteen is sorta like what Jimmy Buffet would be like if he couldn't swim. He's a billionaire who makes a living telling you what he does on his vacation, and you eat it up like he's describing Shangri-la. And I know lots of people love "Margaritaville" and all that mess, but really -- when you sit down and examine all those songs, it's like he's singing the same thing over and over:
"Gee ain't it great to be a bum."
You wanna dance to unemployment? Get yourself some Sam Cooke.
That's a brother who knows what it's like to eat government cheese.
Besides, the guys that were clogging up the floorspace at the Gas Knob Saturday night wouldn't know a steel mill if it came up and hit them in the face. These were upper management/vacation house up in the Hamptons types. Guys who have had it easy for so long that they actually romanticize what it's like to have to work your ass off just to put food on the table.

And not for nothing, but that one Springsteen song "I'm On Fire" (which would play all the frigging time at the radio station I used to work at) is flat-out creepy. I think it's supposed to be a love song, but only if you're the kind of guy who's worried about running into Chris Hansen and a Dateline NBC camera crew when you arrive at the girl's place.
Hey little girl is your daddy home
Did he go away and leave you all alone?
I got a bad desire
I'm on fire

Tell me now baby is he good to you
Can he do to you the things that I do
I can take you higher
I'm on fire

Sometimes its like someone took a knife baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley
Through the middle of my soul

At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head
Only you can cool my desire
I'm on fire
Seriously, ladies -- do you really want that guy to buy you a drink? Are you really looking for someone like this to raise your kids?
Or are you like me and already filling out the paperwork to make sure he
stays at least 500 feet away from you at all times under penalty of law?
I don't know -- maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just not from the right generation or time that would help me to get it -- or maybe I'm just too much of a jaded music snob anymore to be able to open my ears and discover his appeal. Not that I'd really want to, if it means I'd have to hang out with people like the ones that clogged up the bar like a fat guy's artery the other night -- but perhaps just to understand why so many people enjoy listening to music like that, instead of songs that I think are fantastic
Like this one:

[Listening to:  Dead Kennedys"Terminal Preppie" ]

Friday, August 15

The Friday Hot Sheet

Christ, is it Friday already? When did that happen? Feels like just yesterday I was telling people that Pineapple Express was gonna tank, and LOOK WHO'S CRYING NOW, APATOW?

Of course I also said the Olympics were stupid and that no one would watch or care, which clearly hasn't really been the case at all. Here I thought we'd all be glued to the utter genius that is MTV's new reality hit From G's to Gents -- but no, it's speedo shark week on NBC, and really -- who wouldn't want to see that all day every day in glorious high definition?
So before I go blind -- here's the risers and fallers from this week, and the buzz as it looks from here.
Remember like 4 weeks back, when you'd kinda lament about your love handles, and all the women in your life would all be like, "Don't worry about it -- Most girls actually prefer a man to have a little belly on him. It's better for cuddling, and to be honest -- skinny guys don't really do that much for us." Remember that? Yeah well here we are two weeks of staring at Michael Phelps' naked abdominals later, and where the hell did all of that go? Right to the bottom of the pool along with the dignity of the Spanish Basketball Team, that's where.
To say it was a bad movie sorta defeats the point, doesn't it? I mean seriously, was anyone really expecting this to be any good? Still, my son (who is a huge Star Wars fan) was really jazzed to see it, and he'd never been to the usual madness that is a SW premiere, so we bought our tickets and headed out to the midnight show. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a lot worse than it actually was -- but that's not really saying much. I will say this though -- Christopher Lee is clearly the most loyal actor in Hollywood. He really didn't have to lend his voice to this (almost none of the other original actors bothered), but there he was -- slugging through his lines without missing a beat, and kicking ass in every scene.
Clone Wars
By my count, of the approxamately 50 people who showed up for the premier screening, 5 of them bothered to dress up or bring lightsabres. I gotta be honest here, I was really dissapointed in the geek turnout for this thing. I mean, I know everyone already kinda knew the movie was gonna suck -- but there's a full garrison of local dudes in this town who regularly dress up like Stormtroopers and march in parades (and I should know, one of them is my bartender).  Last week I seriously considered giving this site a brickbat, because despite the fact that I love their approach to article writing and enjoy the discussions that follow -- it was hard to ignore the fact that lately things were starting to get a little ..bitchy. Recent personnel changes in the editing staff and what seemed to be a growing rift between cliques of commenters led to almost every article turning into some kind of flame war, rendering the site less and less entertaining as a whole. But during the last week editors and readers alike seem to have gotten back to the business of having a good time, even when they were locked in firece debate.
America FerreraI've never seen a second of Ugly Betty, and it will be a cold day in hell before I even begin to give a crap about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants -- but if this clip is any indication of what you're really like when the cameras go off (or perhaps better said, when you forget they're still on) -- then you're cool with me.
Your arm is tired. Your arm is tired? Well gee, I guess it's time to retire then.
Rage Against
the Machine
@ the RNC.
Part of me wants to know where the hell were you guys four years ago when we really needed you, but I'd be straight up lying if I didn't say it was good to have you back.

[Listening to:  Nonpoint"Hive" ]

Thursday, August 14

Suckers Never Play Me

I suppose part of it comes from the fact that part of my youth was spent in a pre-internet world, but I've always loved the radio.

From the nighttime DJ's that used to play requests (prompting me to spend hours on end either on hold or pushing redial praying that I could get through the lines at that exact right time so my request could go out over the air) to the myriad of wacky morning shows that came and went over the years in my hometown -- there was nothing I loved more than listening to the voices and the music you could find on the FM dial.

In that regard I was kinda lucky, because for whatever reason Jacksonville, Florida is the town where a number of radio's more infamous personalities cut their teeth before moving on to bigger and better things. The Greaseman got his start here. Howard Stern spent part of his formative years on our airwaves.
It's just one of those markets that tends to attract talent looking for
exposure, but isn't lucrative enough to keep them around for very long.
Still -- between the shows like these and the local staples that I grew up with, I caught the radio bug.

I had my FCC license by the time I was sixteen, started hanging out around one of my favorite local rock stations after I graduated high school -- pestering anyone who would listen to see if they'd let me work there, started lugging equipment to and from remotes for a little while afterwards, which eventually led to me putting in a number of years after college doing on-air shifts and production work at an adult contemporary station out of Tallahassee.

I might have stuck with it had I not gotten married so young, but my fortunes took me in different directions -- and I had to let it go.
But I still love it.
I got into radio because I loved music, and back in the day radio was really the best place to find it. But even as the times have shifted to the point where radio is essentially the last place you want to go for new tunes, there's still a lot of great stuff to be found out there.
In fact, some of the best shows on radio don't feature any music at all.
I'm not talking about talk radio, which is it's own little world -- separate and strange, filled with judgmental a-holes and ex-athletes that like to hear themselves talk. I'm talking about all these new "variety shows" that have taken the place of the old "Morning Zoo" and "Ride Time" slots that so many stations used to live and die by -- shows where one or two people used to try and cram a variety talk show around blocks of music, where they'd have silly little contests, take requests, and then tag the station call letters before launching into a rock-block, or a Tuesday two-fer, or the five o'clock free ride.

Shows like that still exist, but more and more what you find are stations that feature 3-4 hour long talk based shows where hosts cover the news of the day, do pre-planned comedy bits, and answer listener phone calls to give relationship advice or whatever without ever playing an actual song at all.

It's kind of odd, because there used to be a day when you wanted the DJ to shut up and just play the music -- because 30 minutes ago he said they were gonna play the Black Crowes, and now I'm not gonna make it through the day unless I hear "Remedy."
Almost like they planted a seed in your ear that drives you nuts waiting for the song to play.
But now with most radio playlists becoming homogenized to the point where someone says they're going to play Green Day (so you know it's gonna be "Time of Your Life"), Radiohead (which means they'll play "Creep"), and a classic from the Black Crowes (which means they'll probably play "Remedy" ..again, like they always do -- God, who ever decided that horrible song was any good!?) that to be honest, the only seemingly unpredictable thing left on radio anymore is the morning shows.

Even when they tell you what's coming up after the break, there's no telling exactly what's gonna happen -- which means you have to listen to all of it or you might miss something. Which in turn means you're more likely to sit through ads waiting for the show to come back, which means the station can charge more for those spots when they sell them to local businesses.

Or to put it another way -- you can't really guesstimate what kind of person listens to rap music anymore. How old they are, what gender they tend to be. You can't really forecast how many people actually pay attention to the radio station that the boss plays over the intercom system at work and how many of them put on their headphones and tune it out.
But there's really no question who listens to Tom Joyner.
It's clear who tunes into Opie and Anthony. It's easy to map out the ages, income levels, and spending habits of the people who like Adam Carolla, and what makes them different from those who tune in to Wendy Williams.

What's more -- if you can track the demographics of a show like that, and then hire a bunch of local screws to put together a new show that's sorta like the national one that fits your station format and desired demographic for half the price -- then you can have the best of both worlds, can't you? A show that caters to local interests (and advertisers) but also shares in the mass appeal of the big boys coming out of Westwood One, Premier, or Clear Channel.
When you look at it that way, it means that even though we're all tuning into different stations --
We're all sort of listening to the same show in the end.
But here's the thing -- No matter how funny it was. No matter how thought-provoking, inspiring, enlightening, or interesting a particular bit on your favorite radio show might be:

If you try to explain it to someone who doesn't listen to that show -- they won't get it.

I could spend an hour each day recapping the funniest bits from local favorites Lex and Terry, but because you don't listen to that particular show and have a feel for it's pacing and supporting cast with all their various back stories -- the explanations tend to fall flat.

Think about those times when a local station switches shows. When they decide to stop buying The Rise Guys and switch over to the Zoo Crew. That first week you get kinda pissed, like "Who are these clowns? What happened to the Rise Guys?" But then a few weeks later you're driving to work and the Zoo Crew doesn't seem that bad. And then a little while later they're actually pretty funny.
But when you think about it -- what does the Zoo Crew actually do on their show?
They make fun of people in the news and discuss listeners issues. They interview celebrities. They get girls to say kinda dirty things on the phone. They pull pranks on local businesses, and they play a lot of wacky sound effects.
..Well guess what Lex and Terry do every morning?
It's almost like the real truth of the matter is that the appeal of radio shows these days doesn't so much have to do with content as much as it does with comfort. About the way we approach people, about the things we look for in a friend, especially when it comes to conversation.
What kind of person do you prefer to share that kind of relationship with?
Ever notice that there's really not that many shows out there that are hosted by just one person anymore? Even if the show focuses on a main personality, it always seems like they're working with someone else; bringing the news guy into the fold, talking to the producer or the board op. For all the personality and insight that Howard Stern is supposed to have -- it's been literally 15 years since he's done a show where there weren't like 7 other people in the room with him.
Do you have any friends that are great in a group (as long as they're
leading the conversation) but are kind of a pain in the ass one-on-one?
For that matter, do you have friends that you like to talk sports with, but are useless when you have a relationship problem and just need someone to listen? If you're not a morning person -- does it help to have someone funny around to kind of lighten your mood and ease you into a mental space where you're ready to deal with coworkers or customers? Or are you the kind of person who wants to hear the news of the day first, and then doesn't mind joking about it later -- maybe around noon or so?

Especially in this age of podcasting and Internet radio -- our choices are a lot more open in this regard. But what I find really interesting is that even with all these choices out there, the process is still essentially the same. We still have to find a certain level of comfort with a show before we can grow into it.
It's a lot like the way people choose blogs to read.
The blogosphere is a vast landscape. People all over the world taking advantage of available technology to talk about endless streams vapid, self-aggrandizing bullshit the things that are happening in their lives, whether they be issues in the news, personal triumphs or tragedies, or how far you have to fast forward through a feature film DVD before you can see Marissa Tomei's boobs.

Each site it's own channel on the dial, broadcasting into the air -- looking for listeners. Someone to read and react. Someone to hear and understand.
Someone to connect with.
We discover them in all sorts of ways -- clicked off a blogroll, misspelled something in a Google search, saw their comment on another blog we read on a regular basis -- but there's a big difference (especially on the web) between finding something and staying with it.

I can't even begin to imagine the number of blog sites I've looked at for a minute or so and then never returned to. The colors were too bright. The commentary seemed too short, too long, too whiny, or too angry. The person wrote in a beautiful way, but they never really seemed to say anything. It could be anything that drives you away or douses your interest.
..But what makes you stay?

[Listening to:  Lifer"Ugly" ]

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