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8/14/2014

Remembering Robin

I may be late to the races with this one since many others are chiming in, but I’d be remiss not to offer my thoughts and feelings on the passing of the late Robin Williams. 

Normally, celebrity deaths don’t affect me at all.  I will admit to being emotional this year when the Ultimate Warrior died, mainly because he was such a huge part of my life.  In spite of his flaws, it seemed like he’d received closure on life in wrestling.

Robin Williams, however, received no such closure.  At least not the kind that you’d want for him after knowing his struggles.

Anyone who lived through the 90s has to know that Robin Williams just about owned that decade on the silver screen.  After he broke big with Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987, it was off to the races for him.  He turned out several memorable performances during that time, and for many kids, his voice and energy was a staple of their youth.

I remember very clearly going to see Hook around Christmas, and Mrs. Doubtfire years later.  In college, the first time I really hung out with my main circle of friends was when we went to see What Dreams May Come at the local movie theater.  Every girl in our circle was crying her eyes out afterwards, and with good reason.

Robin Williams had the ability to appeal to a range of emotions.  He could be goofy, juvenile, and outright silly.  But at the same time he could be earnest, heartfelt, even somber.  There wasn’t a single feeling on the spectrum he couldn’t bring out of an audience. 

And although he’s most known for his comedic roles, he wasn’t afraid to go dark.  His guest appearance on Law & Order: SVU a few years back is evidence of that.  You felt genuinely unnerved watching him on the screen, and his performance was nothing if not convincing.

I’ll openly admit to not loving everything he did.  I hated Patch Adams, I loathed Flubber, and when I saw him advertised for his most recent sitcom on NBC, I cringed.  I just remember thinking, “Man, he’s been reduced to this?  He’s so good when he wants to be!  He’s better than this.” 

And yet in spite of the recent lag in his career, I feel an unquestionable void when I think about his death.  I feel that way because even at his worst, there was no denying that Robin Williams was something special.  He had tremendous depth as an actor, and apparently as a human being.  Countless colleagues have commented on his loving nature, his warmth, and his generosity. 

Sadly, we now know that there was severe turbulence beneath that warm exterior. 

It hits hard to know that someone so seemingly warm and vibrant could harbor such troubles.  And yet it comes as little surprise.  Most comedians and comic personalities deal with inadequacy and depression at some level.  Laughter is an easy tool on the road to love, and anyone who’s made an audience laugh will tell you that there’s no greater feeling than hearing that sound. 

I’ve dealt with depression myself, and I’d be lying if I said that darker thoughts hadn’t entered my head at times.  It’s undeniably scary, but I was fortunate enough to avoid self-harm of any kind.  But I’m not naïve enough to think that just because I’m lucky, it’s easy.

It’s not easy.  And there are a lot of people right now talking about how they hope Williams’ death will increase awareness of depression and suicidal thoughts.  It might me trite to just jump on the bandwagon, but yes, there’s no question that it’s an issue.  A big one.

It’s more complicated than just a disorder, it’s not really disease, and it’s not an act of selfishness to do what he did.  It’s hard to process unless you’ve been through it.  And even then it’s hard to articulate what it feels like.  There are no easy answers, and solutions take time.

It’s an ongoing process.  I hope that in his passing, Williams revealed that we are all works in progress, we all have fears, and we all struggle.  Sometimes, some of us struggle worse than others.

I have one phrase repeating in my mind.  The infamous scene from Good Will Hunting in which Sean Maguire tells Will over and over again, “it’s not your fault.”  No matter how much Will protests, he never stops.  “It’s not your fault.”


I want to be able to say that to Robin Williams now.  I want to say that to him three days ago.  And if anyone out there is struggling on this level, please remember, it’s not your fault.  Hang in there.

8/06/2014

Requiem For The Rock

Sometimes in life, a part of our history comes to an end, and we feel drastically affected.  Naturally, we all hit critical milestones that can result in strong emotions; graduating high school, college, losing a loved one, moving away from home, etc.  But every once in a while, something seemingly trivial comes to an end and we wind up feeling strongly about it.  It might not seem like much to others, but in our hearts, it feels like a little piece of our being was torn away.   

This is my story of one such institution.  And there is nothing trivial about it.       

On August 1, 2014, Hartford said goodbye to one of its longest running and most beloved radio stations.  WCCC, popularly known as “The Rock” in its heyday, closed its doors forever.  While the building and call letters remain, the Christian contemporary format on the 106.9 frequency indicates that the WCCC of old is dead and gone.  And fans of the station couldn’t be sadder. 

WCCC has a long and storied history, both in terms of its local impact and its status as one of the benchmark hard rock radio stations of the last 30 years.  Founded in 1959, the station switched to a progressive rock format in the 1970’s.  Eventually, it would be the first mainstream home to the most famous radio personality in history, Howard Stern.


As famously chronicled in Stern’s book and subsequent film, Private Parts, WCCC was Howard’s first foray into a major market.  He had not yet found his now-famous voice of irreverence, but it was the springboard for him to future success.  It was also where Stern met friend and colleague Fred Norris, who remains on the air with Howard to this day.  It’s no surprise then that WCCC became Howard’s syndicated home in the state of Connecticut in 1996.

In 1999, WCCC embraced an edgier format by going the road of “active rock.”  For the uninformed, that translates to more metal, hard rock, and even up-and-coming acts as compared to just blasting “All Right Now” by Free five times a day.  Hartford was a very competitive market at the time, with not one, but three rock-based stations.  In addition to The Rock 106.9, there was also 105.9 WHCN (a classic rock station), and an alternative rock station known as Radio 104. (WMRQ 104.1)  WCCC and WHCN had a long-standing rivalry dating back to the Stern days, and on-air personalities were known to bounce back and forth between the two stations.  Radio 104 competed more aggressively by countering Stern with a morning show hosted by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.  They also promoted their own day-long festival called Radio 104 Fest, which was highly popular at the time.

But neither station was able to measure up to The Rock, neither in quality, nor in fortitude.      

WCCC was not afraid to promote guerrilla marketing tactics.  Fans posted WCCC stickers over competitive station’s stickers on street lights and stop signs.  Many concerts were rife with chants of “CCC!  CCC!”  No matter who the main promoter was.  Even DJs were unafraid to take matters into their own hands at concerts where multiple stations were present.

The Rock tapped into a renegade mindset that mirrored the product.  The music reflected a rebellious spirit by embracing the fringe mentality present in heavy metal and hard rock.  This was the station that was not only going to play a variety of Metallica songs as opposed to just “Enter Sandman,” they were also willing to play the bands that traditionally didn't get airplay.  Pantera, Tool, Korn, Slipknot, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, the list goes on and on.  Whereas mainstream Top 40 stations stopped playing Seattle grunge after Kurt Cobain’s death, CCC was still a place where you could hear Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and even lesser known bands like Mad Season. 

If you were a fan of harder music, this was #1 on your preset dial in Connecticut. 

The veracity of WCCC’s fan base ultimately became the deciding factor in the three-way dance for supremacy.  Fans felt connected to the station personalities.  So much of this stemmed from the fact that the station was not corporately owned, and was willing to push the envelope more.  Every DJ came off as a fan first and a personality second.  At concerts, they were omnipresent, hyping the crowd, and ready and willing to meet and greet their fans.

And lo and behold, they emerged on top.  The first major shift in the landscape of the Hartford landscape came when WHCN switched formats in 2002, shifting from classic to soft rock, and now known as “The River.”  WCCC celebrated the victory by going under the pseudonym, “The Lake, 106.9.”  Later that year, Radio 104 dropped Dee Snider in favor of syndicating Tampa’s resident shock jock, Bubba the Love Sponge in an effort to more aggressively compete with Stern.  While Snider’s show never topped Howard in the ratings, it still had a loyal fan base locally.  The move was met with revile from listeners, and ratings declined.  By the fall of 2003, Radio 104 switched to a hip-hop format.  Snider himself appeared on WCCC’s “Picozzi in the Afternoon” to celebrate what was a moral victory for him, and a definitive victory for The Rock.

While WMRQ returned to its traditional alternative format in 2009, the victor had been established.  From that point on, WCCC’s popularity with fans sky-rocketed.  They continued to differentiate themselves from other radio stations by offering free shows for fans and wacky programming. 

Mike Karolyi worked the late morning/early afternoon shift, and quickly became WCCC’s stalwart DJ.  A presence at the station for 28 years, he endeared himself to fans with his memorable voice, affable personality, and extensive knowledge of all genres of rock music.  He eventually partnered with local promoter Jimmy Koplik to discuss upcoming concerts in Connecticut. 

Picozzi’s afternoon show featured such enjoyable tropes as “Dumb Ass Wednesday” in which Rube the intern was typically subjected to some form of low-grade torture, “Ultimo Destructo Thursday” in which the staff destroyed something on the air through a variety of creative means, and the annual visits from a local witch named Moray.  Moray was dubbed “the WCCC Witch,” and popped in the studio annually to communicate with spirits using a Ouija Board.  During these visits, she purportedly communicated not only with friends and family of the on-air staff, but also notable musicians and personalities including Kurt Cobain, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, and baseball legend Thurmon Munson. 

Slater became the popular host of the night shift, and was noted for his distinctive voice and frenetic personality.  He became famous for the he would dismiss failed callers in search of concert tickets.  The magic number was six, and if you landed anywhere between callers 1-5, you were greeted with, “CCC… Caller Number One!”  This was immediately followed by an abrupt hang-up.  Caller Number Five always received the loudest, most unintelligible send-off.  Eventually all the dismissals turned into gibberish, but it was part of his comedic appeal.

Even Craig the Porn Star became a favorite at concerts and on the air, due at least in part to a station ID that was just a guttural repetition of his nickname over and over again.  I’d try to imitate it here, but text would never do it justice.

More than the fun, WCCC became known for showcasing new bands and stripping down popular songs.  Mike Karolyi played a large part in the success of the band Staind when he played a non-single from the Family Values live album.  That single was Aaron Lewis’ acoustic duet of “Outside” featuring Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit.  The station’s investiture extended to other bands like Shinedown, Soil, and Zakk Wylde’s pet project, Black Label Society.

The station also became the conduit for unique and memorable performances at a recording studio in Hartford called Planet of Sound.  Over the years, WCCC hosted a number of bands there, conducting in-studio interviews and giving the bands the venue to strip down their best sounds and offer up acoustic renditions.  Numerous acts provided memorable performances, including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Cold, Fuel, and notable frontmen such as Sully Erna of Godsmack, Aaron Lewis of Staind, and Ed Kowalczyk of Live.  The intimate recording space brought out something special in just about every performance.

But none as special as Zakk Wylde’s rendition of “Stillborn.”  Long famed for being Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist in the late 80s and 90s, Zakk branched out on his own, eventually forming his own metal band called Black Label Society.  WCCC promoted the band at City Limits in Waterbury in the early 00s, and were never afraid to play his crunchy style of metal on the airwaves.  A veritable virtuoso, Zakk is famous for his pentatonic solos and pinch harmonics.  BLS’s first major hit came in the form of “Stillborn,” which featured supporting vocals by Ozzy himself. 

During his Planet of Sound session, Wylde was accompanied by fellow BLS axeman Nick Catanese for a number of songs along with an interview by Mike Karolyi.  Saving the best for last, the two guitarists turned a 3-minute gut punch into a haunting 7-minute epic.


It should be noted that Zakk has played“Stillborn” acoustically several other times, both for other notable hard rock stations and also for iTunes.  However, WCCC’s version stands head and shoulders above any other performances.  There’s just something about it; the echo of the strings resonates in the listener’s ears powerfully.  Every note is hit clean and without error.  And Zakk’s gravelly wail sounds tormented and anguished.

It’s a thing of beauty.

For me, as a fan, WCCC was part of my annual summer routine.  While staying with my parents during grad school, I frequently attended the concerts they promoted, typically with my friend Matt.  Once in a while, I’d venture to the Webster Theatre solo for a weeknight show in the fall or winter.  But once summer rolled around, it was concert season.  And concert season always culminated with the annual celebration of heavy metal known as OzzFest.  These all-day festivals were attended by rabid fans, and never once disappointed.  The high water mark for us as fans came in 2004, when Hartford was the first stop on the annual tour.  This was marked by Judas Priest performing their first set with Rob Halford on U.S. Soil in 12 years.  We had the opportunity to rub elbows with Zakk, members of Lacuna Coil, and Phil Anselmo of Pantera fame.  It was a night that simply could never be duplicated.

Between 2001 and 2005 I listened religiously, even when I was the victim of Slater’s merciless “Caller Number Five” banishment.  When I moved to Southern Connecticut in 2005, I listened a little less than usual.  I still tried to catch Howard in the morning on my way to work, but would eventually have to switch to K-Rock in New York when the signal got too weak.  But on my sojourns back home to see family, I always tuned in. 

Alas, in radio, nothing is permanent.

Over the years, the station took a hit financially after the economy went south in 2008.  Many of the more beloved personalities such as Stephen Wayne, Slater, and Holden Johnson departed.  But The Rock pressed on to the best of its ability until early 2013, when it was announced that the station would be switching formats from active rock to classic rock. 

I remember Matt texting me, lamenting that the Rolling Stones were being played on a station that was famous for its love of Tool.  Eventually I myself experienced the change when Cheap Trick made it into the rotation.  Groups from the 70s were suddenly the predominant flavor, and fans were not happy at all.  Online petitions and protests outside the studio (famously nicknamed “The Asylum” due to its simple stone exterior and location on Asylum Avenue in Hartford) were fevered and passionate.  I imagine many fans unconsciously felt, “Hey, Radio 104 changed back to the old format, so can WCCC.”

But despite the vitriol and even internal disagreements by station personnel, the format change was a ratings success.  Many wonder why, but the simple answer is that the Rolling Stones and Cheap Trick are more easily accessible to the casual listener than Disturbed and Stone Sour.  Moreover, Hartford had been without a classic rock station since WHCN changed formats more than 10 years prior.  The nearest outlets for that were WPLR (91.1 FM) in New Haven, and I-95 (95.1 WRKI) in Brookfield, both of which are 30 miles or more away from Hartford itself.

Alas, there was one more final blow to listeners that would leave an irreparable void in New England radio. 

Last Wednesday, it was announced that WCCC had been sold to EMF Broadcasting, and that its final day as a rock station would be Friday, August 1.  Effective 5:00 PM, the station would be the home to Christian contemporary music under the guise of “K-LOVE.”  This was the final nail in the coffin, and the saddest of ironies considering The Rock’s slogan was once “Sinners Wanted.”  The station that was at one time the home of Howard Stern would now be a bastion of “positive, encouraging” music.

To say that fans were devastated would be an understatement.

Not only was the station now destined to be a relic, but the remaining staff who had hung in there over the years were now going to be out of jobs. 

Thankfully, upper management made a classy decision by letting station veteran Mike Karolyi go out in a blaze of glory.  Between 12:00 and 5:00 PM last Friday, WCCC was The Rock of old, firing off favorite tunes that had been absent from their frequency for more than a year.  The five-hour celebration kicked off with a call from Howard Stern himself.  Howard spoke to Karolyi for nearly 20 minutes, and sang the praises of not only the station, but the city of Hartford as well.


Karolyi steered the ship on its final voyage by connecting with several members of the WCCC family, past and present.  It was the reunion and energy that fans had missed for over a year.

With nothing to do that day, I drove to Hartford and parked around the corner from the Asylum.  I had no idea that Karolyi had invited fans to come visit, so I circled the block on foot, taking a few pictures of the old building and the actual rock outside bearing the classic station logo.  At the bottom of the rock, a small note on scrap paper, boasting the old catchphrase, “Sinners Wanted!”  




I streamed the broadcast on my iPhone as I meandered back and forth, listening to the old guard reunite for one last goodbye.

At 4:45 PM, I headed back to my car and turned the radio on.  For whatever reason, I felt it was important to capture the station's final moments.  Several days later, it still hits home hard:


After the recording, I started the engine and turned the radio back on, listening to “Walk” play out the merry band of misfits into the sunset.  It was a hard pill to swallow.  As much as I wanted to be in or around the station for the swan song, I wanted to make sure I had this moment saved forever.  My own little goodbye.

As I drove home, I changed the presets on my car radio, and did a double take when changing to Radio 104 and hearing the acoustic rendition of “Stillborn.”  I had no idea that Holden Johnson had jumped ship years prior, and came to find out he played this as a tribute to his former home and friends.  A day later, I-95 also acknowledged the format changed and wished everyone luck.

But before I even got on the highway, I received a Facebook notification that my friend Darren had invited me to a group called “WCCC – The Rock Years.”  Not even thinking twice, I accepted the invite and immediately posted the video I took of my car radio. 

That was Friday afternoon.  As of this writing, my silly little video has been shared more than 600 times by both fans and former on-air talents alike.  I've received unexpected expressions of thanks from both "The Reverend" Don Steele and Mike Karolyi himself.  To say that I've been overwhelmed with the amount of activity over this would be an understatement. 

But the more I think about it, the more I can’t even say I’m surprised.  This was the level of connectivity between the fans and the station personnel.  As Karolyi mentioned, they were the fans, and there was no wall between the DJ’s and the listeners.  This type of relationship is beyond rare in radio, especially in this day and age.  Normally, on-air talent at most stations serve as vapid talking heads without authenticity.  That was never the case at 106.9.  Even after the format change, the talent always maintained a genuine connection with the fans.  It’s one of the things that made this station special. 

It’s also one of the things that makes this such a massive loss.  Sadly, it’s “the new normal” in terrestrial radio.  Despite surviving the onslaught of satellite radio, traditional stations have had to compete with the popularity of streaming radio stations like Spotify and Pandora, not to mention the advent of podcasts as a popular talk medium.  Just a year before the original format change, WFNX in Boston changed formats despite being one of the driving forces behind alternative rock in the Northeastern United States in the 90s.  An attempt to live on as an internet radio station lasted less than five months, and WFNX shut its doors shortly after WCCC went classic.  In his goodbye call on Friday, Howard Stern favorably compared WCCC to other legendary rock stations like WBCN in Boston and WNEW in New York, both of which fell victim to unceremonious format changes.

The Rock was the last man standing.  And I truly wish it could have been the sole survivor to carry the flame.

Call it sentimental, but I will truly miss this station and its personalities.  Maybe it’s my time in college radio that drives my passion for the medium.  Maybe it’s the fact that the station connected in a way that no other could.  Maybe it’s just the fact that there’s so much awful music already out there, that I crave a prominent mainstream station that’s unafraid to go a different route.  Whatever the case, this is the first time in over a decade that 106.9 FM is nowhere to be found on my station presets. 

It’s honestly a void that just can’t be filled.  And as much as I miss the station I once knew, I’m not naïve enough to think that anyone will ever come close to matching what they did.

Thanks for the memories, guys.  Good luck to you all.

The Rock is dead.  Long live The Rock.

12/16/2013

Here's One For The Ladies...

Hi ladies.  We need to talk.

I gotta tell ya gals, I've been single for a bit now.  I've tried various methods of meeting single women, and I've had more than my fair share of first dates.  In most cases, it simply boils down to a matter of chemistry (or lack thereof). 

But I've noticed some very alarming trends with a lot of you out there.  It used to be the minority.  But it seems to becoming more and more prevalent out there, and it's time to address some things with you all.

First off, disclaimer.

I consider myself a nice guy.  I appreciate family, education, honesty, and would like to think I can be funny.  I'm also insanely loyal.  Moreover, I'm not the average jerk who's just looking to get laid. 

Having said that, in spite of what I think are some pretty good qualities, a lot of you have treated me like some second-rate citizen, either before or after meeting.  I know dating is tricky, and I can understand that because of the enormous number of assholes out there, you might be a little gun shy about opening up to someone even if they do seem like a decent human being.

But that doesn't excuse you from basic human decency.  Especially if you really are dealing with a good person.  So, here are some basic tips for dealing with a nice guy.

  • Be honest.  You don't have to pour your soul on the table, but don't hold your cards so close to the vest that the other person doesn't even know if you're aware of what cards you have.  I'm not saying to give yourself away at all, but if you get the impression either before or after meeting a guy that it's not gonna work out, say so.  We're adults.  Personally, I get it if there's no spark.  And I would honestly say that it's about a 50/50 break on how many times I've been on the receiving end of that talk or the initiator.  Don't drag things out.  Just be genuine.  Don't fabricate stories or make up excuses.  Just be honest.  You didn't feel a connection.  You're not ready to date again.  You've met someone else.  These are all valid.  If you're dealing with a mature man, he'll get it.  He may get bummed out (I do sometimes), but he won't try to force it.

  • Keep an open mind.  I've had people cut things off before meeting.  And sometimes that's alright.  If you've talked over the phone a few times and you don't feel there's anything there, then be polite and honest.  But if you barely know this person, give it a chance.  Seriously.  I had someone pull this with me one time, and I questioned it.  She ultimately admitted she had met someone (this ties into what I said about being honest), which is a different story.  And I told her so.  But had she simply stuck to her original line, I really would have questioned it.  I wouldn't have fought her on it, but I would have made it clear that I don't get it.

  • Communicate.  This one is baffling.  I don't get why some people are adverse to communicating.  We live in a society where we have thousands of ways to reach out to one another.  I get that we're busy adults.  We have careers, personal lives, interests, etc.  But it takes two seconds to send a text.  Two.  If I write you to ask how your evening is going, don't wait until the next morning to write back.  Unless you see it very late and don't want to wake me up, just write back whenever you can.  If you disregard my attempt to reach out to you for that long, you're disregarding my interest in you.  What does that say about you?  As a person, as a woman.  Women wonder why they get bad reputations sometimes.  It's shit like this, ladies.  Straight up. 

  • Don't become a ghost.  Quick story.  I was supposed to meet someone for a first date.  We'd been communicating for nearly a month, and we were looking forward to it.  However, the weather was less than friendly, so we had to cancel and reschedule.  But before that could happen, this girl went dead silent.  Everything changed.  Short answers.  No affection in the communication.  And eventually, no communication.  I don't know what changed, because I didn't do anything.  And if I did, she didn't say a word to indicate that something was amiss.  Remember what I said about communication?  About being honest?  Consider this a dotted line to those bullets.  Do you want to know how you look when you suddenly just "shut off" like that?  Not good.  You look like an ice queen.  Or a coward.  Maybe even dishonest.  Before you go all monastic with the silent treatment, ask yourself if you want to look like any of those things.  You pull this stunt, and I guarantee you will have guys thinking they know exactly why you're single.

  • Give and take.  This is just a rule of thumb.  It has to be balanced.  Remember that there is another person at the table with you on that first date.  That person also has interests, hopes, dreams, and stories to share.  Don't monopolize the discussion.  A few years back, I went on a first date with a girl; drinks only.  I kid you not when I tell you that this girl had more stories than Aesop.  Every story had a subplot.  Every subplot required exposition.  That exposition led to another story.  She dominated 85 percent of the conversation.  There was a point where I had to go to the bathroom.  Bad.  Cross your legs bad.  I couldn't find a way to interrupt her verbal onslaught without being a jerk.  I waited 15 minutes (I'm not exaggerating) for her to complete this never ending story (cue the song) before I could finally excuse myself.  It ranked in the top five pees I've ever taken in my life.  Look, we all have lives and tales to spin.  But don't make it all about you.  Make sure it's justly laid out and not one-sided.  Show a guy that you actually care about things like his career, his family, his interests, and you'll be more likely to become one of his interests. 

  • Be sure you're ready.  This is for those of you who are coming off a recent split.  Either a long-term relationship, or a divorce.  Heartache sucks.  We all know that.  Especially if the last person was incredibly difficult.  And there's no timetable on how long it takes to get "well enough" to throw your name back in the dating hat again.  So for God's sake, take your time.  Don't force it.  Reconnect with the people in your life first and foremost; your family and friends.  Be with them, get your head on straight, and if you need professional counseling to get through the hard times, there is zero shame in that.  An objective third party helps a lot.  There are bound to be conflicting emotions of a wide variety swimming through your head and through your heart.  It's OK, really.  Take care of them before you prepare to mingle again.  Rebounds do not work.  If it's been a month after a two or three-year relationship detonated in your face, you probably shouldn't be on match.com.  Take some time and figure things out.  Then, when you're comfortable, get back out there if you see fit.  You'll be less likely to find yourself in another complicated situation, and much less likely to impact an innocent bystander just looking to meet a nice girl.

  • Know what you want.  Take stock of your values.  Does religion matter to you?  Do you want a family?  Are you willing to move?  Would you change careers if necessary?  These are all valid questions that you should ask yourself.  And y'know something?  Whatever your answers may be, they're right.  It's your life.  You have every right to feel the way you do about the things you want.  Unless you're completely out there and insist on working in a traveling sideshow or something bizarre, there is no wrong answer to any of the above.  Just be aware of how those answers might affect your ability to meet and be with another person.  But know them going in so the risk of surprises and misunderstandings is minimized.  You'll avert disaster every time.  Promise. 

  • Be guarded, but don't be in a shell.  Like I said, it's OK to be cautious.  Guys are jerks.  We've all been burned.  So don't go bearing your soul off the bat.  But don't keep your guard up so high that the guy you're with can't see your face.  If a guy thinks you're not willing to open up after a reasonable amount of time, he's gonna try harder to get you to open up.  Guaranteed.  Sooner or later, you have to.  Because if not, problems are going to emerge in one way, shape or form.  And if a guy thinks you're "turtling up" way too much, there's gonna come a point where he considers leaving you that way, because there's little he can do.  And if he does, I'm sorry, but it's on you.

  • Don't be cold.  Seriously gals, do not be frosty when you're dealing with a guy.  Short, one-word texts, snarky responses, dodging questions, all of this adds up.  And all of it is unappealing.  For the love of Christ, show some warmth once in a while.  Throw in a smiley face, an exclamation point, a friendly comment.  If a month has gone by and things are going well, take initiative once in a while.  I'm not saying cook a three-course meal or something like that.  Once in a while, you be the one to say good morning.  You be the one to say "I miss you," or "have a great day."  Show a guy you care.  Show him you're interested.  Show him his efforts to get to know you and make you happy are appreciated.  It'll go a long way.

  • Don't be hyper-aggressive.  This is in contract to my previous statement.  There's a happy medium here.  If you're too forward, a guy will definitely run.  I went on a first date a few years ago that was pleasant.  Attractive girl, good conversation, things were looking decent.  I go to the bathroom.  She texts me from the bar, and says, "I like you," punctuating the statement with a smiley face.  How am I supposed to react to that having spent a mere two hours in this girl's company?  It's one thing to like someone, it's another to come on too strong.  When I got back to my seat, she asked me if I got her text.  I'm not making this up.  This was just too much.  There was no second date, and I was polite, but honest in explaining why I didn't want to see her again.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so be careful about what you're willing to share.

  • Don't be a social media crybaby.  I've seen some girls on Facebook who constantly bemoan their lot in life.  Or they post these cryptic messages about trusting other people, or how happy they are, etc., etc., ad infinitum.  Girls, here's a tip: keep your private stuff private.  If you're not willing to spill your guts to a total stranger, don't spill them all over social media, either.  Say you meet a nice dude.  You go out a few times and become Facebook friends.  If he sees you're forever posting this kinda stuff, he's going to start wondering two things: 1. How stable is this girl?  And 2. How long before I become the subject of one of these posts?  You're only as good as how you're willing to portray yourself.  So don't pin the blame on everyone else and don't go sounding off like that every other day.  Massive turn-off.

  • Be mindful of how you represent yourself.  Selfies.  Gang signs.  Duck faces.  Red Solo cups.  Scantily clad photos.  If your match.com profile or Facebook page has nothing but the above images plastered all over the place, it is a turn-off for a nice guy.  Maybe you'll attract some juiced up meathead with a million dollar body and a ten cent mind who's just looking for something quick and easy.  If that's what you want, fine, I guess.  But if you're serious about attracting a nice guy with values and ethics, think twice before you post all those pics from your Vegas trip with the girls.  And if every pic is taken from an upward angle looking straight down at your well-displayed cleavage, guys are gonna make assumptions.  Just or not, they will.  Oh, and please smile.  A permanent puss is such a turn-off, no matter how "sexy" you think it looks.  (And if you're wondering why I put that in quotation marks, just stop reading right now.)

  • Be mindful of the fact you're dealing with another person.  This is the golden rule, plain and simple.  Unless a guy proves himself to be an outright piece of garbage, don't treat him like an afterthought.  For that matter, don't treat any decent human being like an afterthought.  Karma exists.  It'll come around and bite you in the ass sooner or later.  Here's a little tip about nice guys: they have hearts.  Some are sensitive.  Don't treat him any differently than you would like to be treated, no matter what the situation.

And if you really want to know what a nice guy is looking for, I'll tell you.

A warm personality.  Strength.  An open mind.  A love of family.  A sense of humor.  Self-respect.  Dignity.  Honesty.  Loyalty.  The willingness to compromise.  And maybe a dash of affection from time to time. 

If I'm looking at a match.com profile, I take notice of a girl who smiles.  Maybe she posts some pictures of her and her girlfriends, but there are also shots of her with her family.  Parents, nieces, nephews, hell, even pets.  I like it if she has more than a paragraph written about herself and what she's looking for.  I like it if she's a little goofy in some of her pics; no one wants someone to take themselves too seriously.  These are the facts.

Remember gals, it's a big world out there, and there are lots of fish in the sea.  But despite the metaphor, that doesn't mean you should treat them as a fisherman would by gutting them or throwing them aside if they don't fit the bill.  Treat a man with respect, and he will respect you, even if it doesn't work out. 

When in doubt, ask yourself, "how would I want to be treated?"  Be fair, be genuine, and don't play games.  Because when you fail to meet any of the above bullets, you're officially doing just that, whether you realize it or not.  It doesn't look good, ladies.  Never. 

And before you go trampling us with that one big unified chorus of "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)," hold back on your battle cry and remember that a guy will gladly put a ring on it if he feels you're the right match for him.  Trust me.  I'm all for feminist beliefs and empowering women, but that does not equate to diminishing men. 

So please, be thoughtful.  Show us you deserve to be cared for, and wooed, and above all else, loved.  Because many of you do.  But if you put the wrong message out there, it's going to be a while before your single days are a thing of the past.  And I'm sorry, but that's no fault of mine.

12/14/2013

One Nation, Under The Gun...

I try to add a sense of acerbic humor to my entries here.  I try to temper my opinions with a little bit of rough laughter in hopes of making this a more engaging read, and also lightening the mood a little bit.

This is not going to be one of those entries.

One day short of the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting in my native Connecticut, and a mere eight miles away from Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, the news pages were again graced with the sad, senseless news that another school in our country fell victim to a shooting.

It doesn't matter to me that there was only one innocent shot as opposed to the 26 who perished in Newtown.  There is no way to quantify these incidents.  There's no scale to "measure" tragedy.  It's tragic.  It's senseless, painful, and heart-breaking.

I'm not going to get into a debate about gun control here.  Let me say that.  I have heard impassioned arguments from both sides of that argument, and I can see reason to both sides.  I've read heated Facebook posts which I swear could have led to fisticuffs and broken friendships.  Not only that, I don't know all the fine points about this issue, so I'm not even going to pretend to be an expert. 

This is not a political statement.  This is a musing about the world in which we live.

I heard a newscaster yesterday compare this situation to Columbine, saying the two were not similar in that minformation was quickly dissiminated regarding the Arapahoe shooter, whereas Columbine was more chaotic.  I respectfully disagree.  They were similar enough for my tastes.  One unstable individual with a gun with the intent to hurt innocent people in an educational institution.

I want this to end.  I want to never hear about this again, in any city, in any state throughout this country.  I hope and pray I never have to endure watching another reporter interviewing shaken students and parents mere hours after their world was violated in such a heartless, mindless way. 

I'm not a parent, but I hope to be one day.  And I can't even begin to fathom what this kind of situation does to one with children.  Even if you're miles away from where the story breaks.  How can you feel comfortable sending your kids to school?  How can you feel OK leaving them alone for eight hours a day or more?  How do you ever stop being scared?

And as someone who lived through it, how do you recover?  How do you move on and sleep comfortably at night? 

I didn't know anyone affected by Sandy Hook personally.  What I know is how I felt when I heard the news.  Driving back to work from my lunch break, I had the radio on a local AM station to hear the latest.  I remember somber, serious voices reporting the news.  I remember feeling violated that this happened practically in my backyard. 

And I remember crying.

And it's not just our schools.  Ever since April 20, 1999, public shootings throughout our nation have become all too prevelent.  Don't believe me?  Ask Gabby Giffords.  Or the folks in Aurora, CO who just wanted to catch a midnight showing of that hip new Batman movie. 

If it's not a problem, then why do I know the names Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho, Jared Lee Loughner, James Eagan Holmes, and Adam Lanza?  How sad is it that I only needed Wikipedia to jog my memory on less than half of those names? 

I don't know what the answer is.  I don't know if there is a way to succinctly, accurately address this trend.  But we have to admit that it is a trend.

We fixate on stupid stuff in this country.  We focus on Miley's twerking, Kanye and Kim's racy new video, how awful Homeland has become, and Bob Barker turning 90 years old.  Hell, I'll admit probably 90 percent of the stuff that I've written about on this blog is beyond trivial. 

This is serious.  If it's not already an epidemic, it will be if we don't start having serious, sensible, and above all else bipartisan dialogue about what needs to prevent these kind of incidents from happening again. 

I remember a story about a student who attended Virginia Tech during that shooting who was actually a graduate of Columbine High School and lived through that tragedy.  Think about that.  One girl had to endure two shootings that left people dead in the double-digits.  What are the odds?

In this country, not that bad, apparently.

I'm not saying it's easy.  It's not.  But it's important.  I hope we wake up soon.

12/11/2013

So Much For Retirement...

Now I am well aware it has been nearly four years since I wrote in this damn thing.  And in all honesty, while that annoying thing called "life" has taken precedent in that time over writing and expressing my opinion, this blog has never been far from my heart.  I still visit it every once in a while and look back on my old posts, pleasantly reminiscing about what an angry young man I could be at times.

In truth, it takes a lot to piss me off these days.  You could say I've mellowed quite a bit.
But sometimes, dude's gotta rant.  This is one of those times.  Strap in...

There's a cancer that has been plaguing pop culture all year long.  It's been poisoning my eyes, ears, and permeating my fucking soul.

Miley Cyrus. 

It's been ages since an entertainer infuriated me to this level.  No matter where I turned, there she was this year.  Ready to shamelessly self-promote her "adulthood."  And from the end of August on, it seemed like this bitch was completely unavoidable.  Not only was she all over the damn place, but every media outlet with a pot to piss in was all too ready to report about her every move.  Her "twerking" (for fuck's sake, that's not really twerking), her media appearances and performances, her controversial music videos.

Enough.

Dear members of the mainstream media, I know it's your job to report the news, and that is sometimes a subjective thing.  We as human beings in the 21st century are drawn to controversy like a moth to a flame.  We love it.  We get hard thinking about it.  But there reaches a point where it's overkill.  We passed that point two months ago.  Time to stop.

Speaking of time (how's that for a segue, kids?), I found out today that Time magazine nominated Miley Cyrus as one of their candidates for Person of the Year.

Let that sink in.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Barack Obama.  Pope Francis.  Gay rights activist Edith Windsor.  Miley goddamned Cyrus.

I won't pretend to know much about the current sociopolitical landscape these days.  I'm not gonna try to make like I intimately know the works and efforts of any of the names listed above.  (Although some are certainly more prominent than others)  But to even consider listing her name with these others is criminal.  I don't care that she didn't win.  She was nominated.  She didn't even get nominated for a Grammy (rightfully so), but you're gonna consider her a contender?  Don't you people realize you are validating her? 

Enough.

Has she fought for gay rights?  Has she tried to amend the reputation of the Catholic church?  Has she attempted to make changes in health care? (For better or for worse.)

No.  None of the above.  Not even close.  She's gone onstage with her horrible tattoos, her Tinkerbell haircut, and she's winked, stuck out her tongue, and wiggled her sorry excuse for a posterior back and forth while attempting to sing.

OK, let me backtrack a bit... I'll retract the "attempting to sing" comment.  If pop music has proven anything over the last four decades, it's that talent is optional.  Sure, sometimes you get a genuine entertainer out of the fold like a Justin Timberlake.  But by and large, it's a mixed bag.  For every ultra-successful JT, there's a pitiful reject from 98 Degrees we used to think had a decent singing voice.  So let us immediately put talent aside.  How sad is that?

With that said, let's get a few things out of the way right now.

1. I didn't used to have a problem with this child.  Back in her days as Hannah Montana, I knew she existed, but could care less how popular she was.  It was music for kids, and it was what it needed to be for that demographic.  Upbeat, bubbly, and cute.  No harm, no foul.  But...

2. This attempt to be "adult" is as transparent as her wardrobe.  Trying to pass off her attention-grabbing performance at the MTV VMA's as artistry, or a call to adulthood is laughable.  Say what you will about Lady Gaga and her appearance.  The woman is A) talented and B) genuinely artistic.  There's always a method to the madness.  What Miley did was simply an attempt to get everyone's attention and say "look at me."  Stupid ass us, we gave her just what she wanted, and she hasn't turned back since.  Because in that time, we've been exposed to...

3. Her tongue.  Bitch, stop it.  Gene Simmons's tongue doesn't see the light of day in a single KISS concert as much as yours does in a single TV performance.  It's not attractive.  It looks ghastly.  Stop it.  Now.  Along with...

4. The "twerking."  It's not legitimate twerking.  It's sad that I even know what constitutes "legitimate twerking."  This is really just a sorry wiggle of a sorry ass.  Oh, by the way...

5. You don't have a knockout body, so stop showing it.  I'm not trying to be chauvinistic here, but I know an attractive feminine form when I see one.  This is what drew people to Britney Spears back in her earliest days.  Girl had a bod.  Miley does not.  She doesn't have a great ass.  She's fit, for sure, but there are far better looking female bodies out there, in music, and in other forms of entertainment.  Hey, y'know what else many people have that's better than what you have?

6. Tattoos.  I don't have a problem with ink in general.  I don't own any, but if you do, go for it.  But by God, these are some of the worst tattoos I've ever seen.  What kind of idiot gets "ROLLING" tattooed on the bottom of one foot, and "$TONE" on the bottom of the other?  And for the record, this is one of the most unforgivably ugly pictures I have ever seen in my life.  (Incidentally, why is this "outrageous?"  Disgusting, yes.  Stupid, of course.  Outrageous?  Not so much)  Nothing says "sexy" like a closeup of the browning bottom of someone's feet.  Yeah, that's what gets me going.  But here's the thing that really bothers me...

7. The drugs.  Miley-poo clearly has no problem lighting a joint in public.  (By the way, how calculated was that?  I'll say this much, as scummy as this broad is, she knows how to market herself.  Don't think for a second that anything she does is "just because."  Everything is to generate a buzz.)  But she also doesn't mind endorsing the use of psychedelic drugs.  This legitimately upsets me.  Miley's fan base is mostly comprised of 20-something girls, maybe even younger.  This is a highly impressionable age.  My dad's goddaughter is a freshman in college, and I know she digs Miley.  But it concerns the ever-loving shit out of me when I read something like this, because while she is assuredly a smart girl, anyone can be susceptible to the ringing endorsements of figures in pop culture.  And while this is the most egregious item on this list, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention...

8. The giant kitten.  What the shit?

Look, I'm not even going to pretend that I dig on modern music.  I can't turn on the radio without hearing the same song eighteen times over.  And it's always a shitty song.  It's almost never listenable by my standards.  And it pretty much always makes me angry.  You know what two albums have been on endless rotation for me since the end of August?  No joke.  "Master of Puppets" and "Reign in Blood."  Yup.  The two greatest thrash albums of all time, both of which are 27 years old.  They have become my "go-to" albums in 2013.  And it's not just Miley that singes my ass.  Every time I hear that goddamned "Roar" song, I immediately want to stab my radio repeatedly.  So I'm not gonna say that she is the sole offender of awful music in this day and age.

But she is certainly the most visible.  And the most shameless.  And the most widely covered. 

And by far, the least respectable. 

You have musicians out there who, regardless of talent or merit, have been vocal advocates for gay rights or anti-bullying campaigns.  Then you have cats like Bono who champion every cause under the sun and work to genuinely raise awareness.  What has Miley Cyrus done in 2013 for anyone other than herself?  Seriously.  Everything she has done has been with the intent to raise her own stock and line her own pockets.

Enough.

Y'know what I want for Christmas?  Santa, I hope you're listening.  I've been very good this year.  I've given to the homeless, I've moved furniture for people, I even gave my favorite dog some meat from my plate.  I think I deserve something nice, since I never ask for much these days.

I want a time machine.  That's right.  I don't care if it's a phone booth or a DeLorean.  It could even be a cardboard box like in "Calvin & Hobbes."  I'll squeeze in.

Why?  Because I want to save the world from this cancer.  I want to go back in time and prevent Billy Ray Cyrus from procreating.  Oh, I'll let him keep his life.  Maybe I'll even be magnanimous and perform a chemical castration as opposed to using a tetanus-infused penknife.  But he cannot breed.  He cannot.  I won't allow it.  For the sake of all mankind, his achey-breaky ass must not be allowed to have children.

Once again, proof positive we should have listened to Bill Hicks.   That cat was onto something.  For that matter, so were the cats at South Park.

And y'know what?  Shame on Billy Ray.  Shame on him for allowing his daughter to sink this low.  Shame on him for even letting his daughter get into entertainment in the first place.  He should have known better.  He should have heard enough of the cautionary tales to know what was possible. 

I hope he's happy.

I hope he's happy that his precious little girl is now the most visible female in the public eye.  I hope he's happy that her every little move is scrutinized, analyzed, and dissected to the point of absurdity in the third degree.  I hope he's happy that for as much money as she earns the Cyrus clan, she is widely criticized and reviled by pundits across the board.  And above all else, I hope he's happy that she's handling her fame so poorly. 

I hope he's happy, 'cause I'm not. 

I'm not happy that a dimwitted little trollup who proudly sings about partying, drugs, and being a cocktease is getting more notoriety than women like Malala Yousafzai.  I'm not happy that this insipid little tart is still grabbing headlines mere days after the passing of Nelson Mandela.  I'm not happy that this child has made a name for herself in the name of being sexy when she is, in fact, anything but. 

I made a comment on Facebook a few days ago about how I was happy that Miley Cyrus wasn't nominated for a single Grammy Award.  I don't normally agree with conventional definitions of what makes "good" music.  In fact, I'm still resentful over Jethro Tull topping Metallica in 1989 for "Best Metal Performance."  But I'll say this: the Grammy's made the right call.  There is nothing special about Miley's music.  More than that, we should not give her any further attention.  She's gotten more than enough. 

I sincerely hope in 2014, we move on.  I hope we forget about Miley's nonsense, as we have with so many other prominent media whores.  And look, we know the climax is coming.  It's a matter of time before she hits the wall and has some kind of public meltdown. 

Don't acknowledge it.  Don't sensationalize it.  Don't feel sorry for her, because she will have brought it all upon herself.  And if she really is an adult, she will have to deal with it like an adult.  Plain and simple.

Just let her go.  Let her become a distant, unpleasant memory.  Let her slip into the deepest recesses of our collective mind.  Let her go out not like a wrecking ball, but like the crying kitten she is. 

And if you like her, soak it up while she's still around.  'Cause it's gonna be a very ugly wreck.