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10/27/2006

Every once in a while, a catchphrase comes along that induces mania and nausea in equal doses. Normally it is conveyed through some movie, show, commercial or song. Past examples include the gut-wrenching “drop it like it’s hot,” the ever-irritating “Yeah, baby” from the Austin Powers film series, and the classic “Axis of Evil.”

Oh, wait, that last one never caught on, did it? Sorry.

While novel at first, these little sayings get old faster than day-old milk. As a bachelor living on his own, you learn these things quickly. Point is, there’s a phrase going around right now that makes me want to take the perpetrator and play a game of tag using soldering irons. That phrase, you ask?

“I’m bringing sexy back.”

This has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. First off, no one is bringing sexy back, alright? Sexy was never missing to begin with, so it doesn’t need to be brought back. It’s asinine in its concept and needs to be scrapped entirely.

And for the record, if sexy was somehow suddenly missing, I’m willing to bet that Jessica Alba would be the one to bring it back. At least before she hits the wall.

Furthermore, my greater, much more substantial gripe is the fact that anyone who says this was never sexy for a day in his/her life. Take a look out there… with the exception of Timberlake, is anyone saying this even remotely sexy? When someone with a cocked eye and a harelip tells me they’re bringing sexy back, I feel like telling them I’m bringing polka back, because I think that I’m a much more likely scenario than their claim. It’s like the pic of the 300 pound kid wearing the shirt that says “I FUCK ON THE FIRST DATE.” It’s a whopping fat oxymoron sitting right there in your face, larger than life and twice as ugly.

More than anything you just wanna slap the person in the face and tell them that they can’t bring back what was never theirs in the first place.

Sexy’s not goin’ anywhere, people. If you wanna bring something back, stick to 8-tracks, Pop Rocks and the Gremlin. There’s a reason those items are not around anymore… they were all useless in their conception. Sexy is far from useless and far from gone. There will always be beautiful, alluring, completely unattainable people in the public eye for men and women alike to drool over. So please, next time you decide to quote a song lyric, pick something from “The Humpty Dance,” will ya? I’d rather hear about your exploits in a Burger King bathroom than your arrogant proclamation of a skewed self-image.

So drop this phrase like it’s hot, get jiggy with it and talk to the hand before you get served, alrighty then? Word to your mother.

Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.

10/26/2006

OK, I’ve worked in marketing for nearly two years, and have studied it closely for the last six and counting. Overall, I generally like the field that I’ve chosen for myself. I’ve always had a keen interest on an idea becoming a reality. It’s the same reason I enjoy writing as much as I do; I get to see my thoughts and beliefs put down on paper, transposed from intangible to realization. It’s dang cool if I don’t mind saying.

However, I have been aware for a long time about the ethical matters surrounding my area of expertise. I don’t think you can every deny the fact that business, regardless of it’s area of specificity, orbits around profit. I grasp that and accept it. Right now, I’m fortunate enough to have landed a position with a responsible, morally fit company that I can say I’m proud to work for. That’s saying something as we approach 2K7.

And in keeping up with market trends, it’s hard to bite your tongue when you see something like this

Now, unless I missed my guess, this highly caffeinated, highly absurd energy drink is named after a pretty destructive narcotic most often consumed by high rollers and rock stars. I actually remember the first time I heard about it… I was leaving the gym just a couple weeks ago and bumped into my cousin. He was talking to the kid at the desk, and he said they were chatting about a new energy drink on the market. When he told me the name, I thought he was joking. When I heard about it again a week later, my jaw almost dropped. I’d like to say that after 25 years on this pebble, the overwhelming ignorance of the general public can’t surprise me anymore. I’d like to say that.

Normally I’d ask myself, “What are these people thinking?” But in this case, I already know what they’re thinking: image equals dollars. There’s no question that tapping into a deviant lifestyle can yield ginormous profit margins. One need look no further than a Spencer’s Gifts to verify that. The boatload of sleaze contained in those little mall-stops is enough to fill up two arcs.

And yeah, those shops can be good for a briefly sustained, heavily innuendo-laden chuckle. That’s OK, they make no bones about it. That’s why you’ll see those funky looking leaves everywhere to realize this.

So maybe, just maybe, this new drink belongs in that sort of outlet and not the average corner store.

Obviously when you release a product of any sort, especially a food or beverage item, you want it to be largely accessible to people everywhere. That’s a given, and convenience stores seem like a natural fit (especially for energy drinks). However, there comes a certain line of responsibility with any product, regardless of the medium. It’s the reason that Playboy magazines are poly-bagged. Same reason the GTA games have an M rating.

(An aside… I’ll hearken back to my early LSS days where my first full-length post was about current trends in the video game market. I have to say that the watering down of San Andreas due to the “hot coffee” module is absurd. Look, any way you cut it, these games are rated M for a reason. It says pretty clearly on the package 17+. Any 17-year-old can get into an R-rated flick and see more vivid sex scenes than what was portrayed in the glitch. Besides that, the overwhelming amount of violence in the game is as good a lightning rod as any for the right-wing pundits to assault, yet they chose scenes depicting carnality between humans. This is really, really stupid. It reminds me of when South Park: BLU and Team America were forced to downplay language and similar scenes in lieu of ridiculously depicted blood and guts. These conservative shamans should seriously get their shit together and prioritize their asinine gripes. Maybe then they’d step out of the negative light that the Bush Administration has cast upon them all. We now return you to your regularly scheduled post…)

So this company has now, for all intents and purposes, crossed that line of responsibility into the realm of “just don’t give a fuck anymore. We want money, now.” It’s one thing to be suggestive with your product or promotion. Big Johnson is a great example. It’s clear what they were implying even though they weren’t outright saying it.

(Another aside… I remember a kid in my high school who wore a Big Johnson shirt weekly and switched it up with a Co-ed Naked shirt on a regular basis. Nobody said boo to him. When did we get so bloody uptight in this country?)

Cocaine, however, is just plain overt in its self-designation. No one’s even trying to make any apologies. I understand the cognition behind it – drink this and it’ll feel like you’re on a massive energy high, and you’ll be able to stay up later, party longer, work out harder. OK, I get it. Does this mean I have to inhale this carbonated cocktail nasally?

Promoting a lifestyle is one thing, promoting a narcotic is something altogether different and frickin’ dangerous at that. Anyone in business really should know where to draw the lines of responsibility, and those that fail to do so typically fail miserably.

This is the thing about controversy that you will find in any and all cases: controversy for the sake of thought is a good thing. If it gets people to unwrap their heads around the mundane nature of daily life and try to come up with a different line of thinking, then there’s no problem with it. Controversy for the sake of controversy is not a good thing. It’s cheap heat any way you slice it, and when you go for the easy way out, it has short-term effects often forgotten after a very brief period.

Why do you think Anna Nicole Smith keeps doing all these crazy, nonsensical things? It’s the only way she can keep in the public eye as she really has no redeeming value as a person.
Similarly, it’s dangerous for any outlet to carry such a touchy product on their shelves as they themselves face the consequences as much as the creator and owner of the intellectual property. Kudos to 7-Eleven for putting the kibosh on this sucker early and not even taking the risk. Risk has to be calculated, folks, never blind. Plain and simple.

But then again, this is sleaze marketing at its finest. You think these guys don’t already have Plan B lined up? I guarantee that “Cocaine” was never intended to be their primary name. They probably have some other generic, less flashy name floating around in their demented little think tank that they’ll unleash like a Red Bull in a China shop after the heat really pours on thick. Which it no doubt will. They’ve made a name for themselves, and sure enough people will be gassing up at their local Mobil on the Run, perusing the aisles to attain a lottery ticket and some impulse buys, and they’ll come across The-Energy-Drink-Formerly-Kno—nah, on second thought, I’m not gonna resort to the old “Prince” nomenclature hitch. Too cliché. I much prefer a pseudonym. How about CardioSplode? ‘Cause if this thing touts itself as sporting 350 percent more caffeine than Red Bull, someone’s heart is bound to detonate upon consumption.

(Yet another aside, more relevant than the previous two, though… I heard tell that the real reason legislators were up in arms about this drink was not because of the name or the lifestyle it promotes, but because of the insane caffeine content and possible risks in drinking it. While I have no argument that this is a concern, I hope it did not overshadow the obvious.)

So, someone sees a can of CardioSplode and thinks, “Oh yeah… that’s the controversial drink that had to change its name. Hmm, wonder what it’s like?” Impulse buy turns into curiosity buy. If these wizards can generate enough curiosity buys to give them a chunky piece of the pie, I’m sure the thinking is that they will have a solid boost in a rapidly growing, increasingly crowded segment. The second part is key simply because competition is incredibly fierce right now, and it’s getting harder and harder for these drinks to differentiate from one another. What better way to differentiate than with a catchy, taboo new name?

So yeah. This is the kinda stuff that does make me ashamed to say I’m in marketing sometimes. It’s hard to say whether or not it’s the norm with all companies and their products, but I think few would result to such underhanded methods. Although to be fair, we have come a long way. Remember subliminal messages in various mediums? Those went the way of the dinosaur eons ago. And in an ironic twist, it’s interesting to note that Coca-Cola used to actually contain cocaine in its earliest incarnations. Now just promoting the word alone is subject to crucifixion, never mind the actual content. Nice to know that some progress has been made. Now if only I could clue in everyone else…

Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.

9/26/2006

Been a while. It's also been a good summer. Did you think I was bound to stay indoors writing the entire time?

Dolt. On to new business…

There's a term I use amongst a select group of friends to describe individuals who are unruly, uncouth, and unnecessary, especially in the context of the professional realm. That term is "toolkit." Now a "tool," in the vernacular, is, according to Wikipedia, "someone who is being used by an establishment willingly (as a sycophant) or unwillingly (as one who blindly conforms)."

A toolkit is a tool to the 10th power. These are the type of people that upon meeting, I instantly
wish that their mother had received some sort of debilitating kidney punch that rearranged their interior anatomy during the course of pregnancy. Of course, that might be a moot point if such an assault were the cause of their offspring's behavior. Recently I encountered a prime toolkit at my office in the form of an ostentatious twerp affectionately known as "Punch the Intern." He was deemed such by some of my co-workers, because they always stated that they wanted to "punch the intern." Eventually it just sorta segued into a full-blown clandestine alias that is fitting in both aesthetic and physical manifestation.

Whether or not this kid was a sycophant or blind conformist has yet to be determined. But he did make me "syc" to my stomach, he was blind to the fact that everyone around him hated his guts, and I found him easily molded into an obedient little lapdog. In short, whatever his major malfunction, I (and everyone else) found him more obnoxious than an Amway rep on cocaine.
Now Punch, as I mentioned, was not a full-time employee. He was an intern on borrowed time (thank God), here for the better part of the summer before going back to school.

Of course, being that this is my company we're talking about here, we're talking about another "brilliant" Ivy Leaguer. Only in this case, instead of being the average wet-behind-the-ears-greenhorn-grad, this "brilliant" Ivy Leaguer was a below average wet-behind-the-ears-greenhorn-undergrad.

This does not translate to a good experience. No sir. See, at that stage, you feel ready to take on the world, full of p!ss and vinegar, unfazed by the world outside your collegiate bubble. And, since Punch was still actively attending, he was still perhaps a little overconfident in his supposed abilities.

Now, if you take that last sentence and replace the word "overconfident" with "cocky," I think that'd be a more accurate assessment. That being said, it is entirely possible that Punch is just naturally conceited; it may have nothing to do with his overpriced/overrated education. That's hard to determine without really spending a great deal of time with him, something that I didn't feel up to doing. Whatever the impetus behind his Dom Deluise-sized ego, the fact remains that he was a Grade-A toolkit, possibly the biggest I've encountered to date.

I'll spare his university the embarrassment of acknowledging it by name, because I would be downright ashamed to have such a monstrous a$$hat attending my hallowed halls. So I'll christen it with the pseudonym "Asshat U." As it turns out we have two other full-time employees, both recent grads of Asshat U.

This is important… please remember this.

In any event, Punch started and immediately proved himself to be outright irritating. I'm not sure if it was the six inches of hair that was gelled upward into an absurd top fade, the ridiculous colored shirts he wore that screamed "I am either metrosexual or I just enjoy clubbing so much that I have to wear the same effete color combination every day of my life," or the fact that he always wore a tie.

Let me clarify something… I have worn a tie twice since I interviewed here. Once on my first day, and once again when I had a meeting afterwards for another organization. If you want to put a silk noose around your neck, turn the reins over to me and I'll gladly find some silk rope for ya. This offer is only extended to Punch, as he deserved some good mangling.
Anyway, fashion (non)sense notwithstanding, Punch also proved himself to be the illegitimate hybrid of a concubine and an encyclopedia.

A fucking know-it-all.

This was complemented, naturally, by the fact that he really didn't know what he was doing. I'll give him this much, he showed zeal and passion for the job (which really led me to question his sanity), but that enthusiasm gave way to a cocktail of carelessness and cockiness. He impressed his superior by virtue of his dedication, but in turn rubbed all of his co-workers the wrong way by being pushy and abrasive.

Case in point: one of my co-workers was on the phone with a vendor when he stormed into her office and began asking her questions while she was still talking. Screw business etiquette, that's common sense. Just wait until their done and come back in a few minutes, right? Apparently the laws of rationality don't apply to interns with spiky hair.

There was also the silver incident in which a vendor sent coins to us that were priced higher than what was initially paid for on the order. He raised a huge stink about this and actually read the fine print on the back of the order itself over the phone (quite loudly, no less). Normally I'd see no issue in quarrelling with such price shifts. However, anyone who follows the precious metals market must know that the cost of silver has fluctuated wildly over the last year and will probably continue to do so. We have never had a problem signing off on invoices when it comes to coin prices; it's an unstable market at best. But rather than query one of us about it, he jumped the gun, chewed out the vendor and then blabbed to his manager like a good little stoolie. I wanted to put his face through a wall, because when someone sets a precedent, everyone has to follow. Now all price discrepancies must be documented in writing (not that anyone has adhered to this).

Then, the ultimate atrocity… Punch wound up training his own replacement. Green as he was, barely 21 years old and not even here for three consecutive months, he was still entrusted to educate his successor. Go figure that one out, kids, 'cause I'm still lost. In any event, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, Punch didn't know anything about the job when it came to brass tacks. So how do you think his replacement felt when she found out a week later that everything she learned was a fallacy? I remember commiserating with a co-worker of mine about how we should have intervened and told her well in advance not to listen to him.

But that's not even the crown jewel on this legacy of idiocy. See, it just so happens that Punch and his replacement share the same surname. Now in order to protect the innocence of his ill-fated understudy, I must go against all standards I have set at LSS and give Punch a second alias. To further complicate matters, I've chosen to use his pseudo alma mater as his namesake, and therefore designate him as Johnny Asshat. His unlucky (yet fortunately unrelated) replacement will go by the name of Janie Asshat. I feel bad calling her that since she is anything but an asshat, but for the sake of posterity, we must maintain consistency here.

So this is the capper, the granddaddy of 'em all, the coup de grace in this rapidly growing legacy of absurdity… Before leaving, he stuck his nameplate next to hers outside her cubicle. This led to Sempai Mike and I referring to them as the "Wonder Twins," and frequently quoting SuperFriends. To Janie's credit, this failed attempt at a joke lasted all of one week as she pulled his plate down herself. Bravo, Janie. Buck the system and your mock etymology.

The last item on that hitlist is really what convinced me that he is a prime example of your average toolkit. Aside from being equal parts arrogant and ignorant, he also assumes the role of "that guy" by coming up with lame jokes that only he finds amusing. Even Janie didn't crack a smile at his gag.

Then again, I don't think many people cracked a smile at him during his entire tenure. I think everyone agreed that they'd much rather crack his ribs first. Preferably with a wrench, just to offer some ironic accentuation to the whole "toolkit" title.

"Poetic justice is a wrench to the ribs." Sounds Zen, yet prolific. I like it.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

7/06/2006

I fell in love with a sweet sensation,
I gave my heart to a simple chord.
I gave my soul to a new religion.
Whatever happened to you?

Whatever happened to our rock 'n' roll?
Whatever happened to my rock 'n' roll?


I have to say that for all the bitching I do about the people I work with, for all the ridiculousness and absurdity that comes with the territory, I have been able to make pretty good friends with a handful of folks, the least of which not being my former boss Mike. While we no longer work with together, he's only down the hall, and we still continually share our musical finds with one another. Mike, like myself, is a music junkie. Not an aficionado, not an enthusiast, a junkie. There is no 12-step program for us, and if this is a disease, please keep the remedy to yourself. We want no part, our ailment is glorious, and we hope it's contagious.

In any event, Mike is the main reason why I had to turn in Kilgore for his 60 gig cousin, as my beloved iPod was near his full capacity of 30 gigs. Mike's collection is far more extensive than mine, and his knowledge of the scene and music history unquestionably puts me to shame. I have no trouble admitting this fact; he is the Sempai, I am the Kohai.

I've learned a great deal from Sempai, but one thing that sticks out is how much contemporary rock n' roll, for the most part, sucks.

Note I said "rock n' roll." The blues on speed. 4/4 beats. Two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. I'm excluding progressive mind-benders like the Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria. Melody-heavy alt-rockers like Comes With The Fall and Dredg should also be excused before passing judgment.

Dirty, sexy, crunchy style rock n' roll.

Somewhere in the 80's, rock took a real ugly turn down Hair Metal Blvd. All those bands that have wound up on numerous mail order "Monsters or Rock" compilations took the absolute worst of SDRNRU (Sex, Drugs & Rock N' Roll University) and put their own dipshit spin on it. As AquaNet and Covergirl stock skyrocketed, the genre known as rock was on life support at the hands of its own retarded offspring. This led to a string of one hit wonders, over-saturation on radio and MTV, and the upheaval of college radio and the indie scene. If nothing else, the one good thing that came of this sad point in time was the musical counterculture of the early 90's.

In fact, the only new band to emerge out of the 80's that actually "got it" was Guns N' Roses. No one can deny the raw bad-ass nature of Appetite For Destruction. Many took to calling them the next Rolling Stones, and few fans or critics were hard-pressed to disagree. Sadly, Axl's ego took center stage. It wasn't long before people were talking more about the no-showing madman behind the mic and less about the music.

Straightforward rock n' roll really hasn't been the same since.

Now I grant you, over the past few years, a handful of old school hopefuls have emerged and at the very least turned a couple heads. A few bands like Buckcherry have gone the full-blown trashy route in attempts to channel the spirit of their most beloved SDRNRU alumni. Others, such as the Strokes, have made an attempt to go about things in a more understated manner, musically speaking. Then there are those bands like Jet who draw heavily from their favorite forefathers and make sure their tunes are short, memorable and above all else, hook-heavy.

However, no one has seemed to leave a lasting taste in our mouth beyond the scope of a year or two at the most. Tried and true veterans like Aerosmith, AC/DC and the almighty Rolling Stones themselves have managed not only to maintain a significant level of public interest, but they've also been fairly consistent as far as releasing new material.

This might not be saying much, though. Their last releases, while enjoyable, did not stack up to their all-time classics. Then again, not much does, so it may be unjust to compare Honkin' On Bobo to Rocks, Stiff Upper Lip to Back In Black, or A Bigger Bang to Beggar's Banquet. Still, these purported torchbearers of ye olde rock have been relegated by mainstream radio to the same treatment as most other bands. You'll hear their new single for anywhere between five months and a year before you never hear it again. Soon it becomes just another memory, another half-assed notch in the gun belt terrestrial radio.

This may be the central problem. Rock is not supposed to be mainstream. Rock n' roll was founded on the precept that this was "the devil's music," and those damned long-haired hooligans would blast it until the wee hours of the morning, waking the neighbors. Once upon a time, Elvis Presley couldn't shake his hips on TV. Nowadays, that sorta stuff is so tame, it's laughable. Heck, even in the heyday of hair metal some twenty-odd years ago, 10 seconds of any given video was more risqué than Presley's memorable swagger.

It's hard to derive the origins of this juxtaposition from counterculture to the norm. I suppose a good chunk of it could be attributed to classic rock radio and its seemingly daily play list. I used to enjoy New Haven's 99.1 WPLR. Nowadays, I get nauseous just thinking about it. If I have to hear "All Right Now" by Free one more freakin' time, I'm liable to unload several rounds of buckshot into my car radio. Perhaps another part is the fact that so many of these grizzled vets just refuse to throw in the towel when their time has come. There are a few exceptions to the rule (see the artists just three paragraphs prior), but seriously now, there are some guys playing clubs who are overweight, bald and easily past their prime. A pal of mine and me saw Blue Öyster Cult several years ago at Toad's in New Haven (a couple years after the memorable "cowbell" skit on SNL), and to say that it was laughable would be the equivalent of saying current gas prices are "a little expensive." It's hard to take a genre seriously when it's clear that so many are yearning to cling to their former fame so feverishly. Beyond that, it's just flat out over-saturation… a turn of phrase that has come with the aging of those blasted Baby Boomers. Hair metal definitely had a major hand in underground credibility, and I'm sure MTV probably had a hand in there somewhere as well.

Point is that rock just doesn't feel… Well, that edgy anymore. It's become overblown and overexposed. Think of when Blair Witch hit and it was this huge indie success. Stupid as it was, the phenomenon became so popular that it spawned a sequel. A real crappy sequel. Now imagine if the filmmakers just kept churning out sequel after sequel. That's kinda what rock has become. And anyone who has had any affinity to anything ever considered "underground" knows what it feels like when the masses latch onto your beloved obscurity. You feel like it's not that cool anymore (for reference, see ECW. See also, Metallica).

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel. A handful of bands have come to my attention that really keep the good flame alight and put a smile on my dirty dog face. There seems to be two schools of thought right now: those who stand as a new generation of straight ahead rock n' roll, and those who are unabashed about their status as "throwbacks." Both parties seem to be doing quite well. The former classification consists of bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (who are quoted at the opening salvo of this piece), the White Stripes, the Duke Spirit and Nine Black Alps. In the second lot, you've got the obvious culprits like the Darkness and Silvertide, but also lesser known contingents like Damone and Wolfmother. And I'm sure there are many more that have yet to be unearthed.

Now that's not to say that the aforementioned bands and whatever other newcomers may trot down the pike are going to overtake the current musical landscape and give birth to a rock n' roll renaissance. Quite the contrary, I think mainstream music is only going to stagnate further, and true music addicts are going to have to work harder for their new tunes. That's alright by me, I'm up for the challenge. It's fun, and you never know quite what you'll unearth along the way. And again, because of that aforementioned underground mindset, part of me really doesn't want things to change right now. There's enough slick production out there to ruin what could be scores of really great albums, and unfortunately most cats are so young and inexperienced (or just plain wowed with stardom) that they don't know enough to say "no" to someone trying to overtake their product. Having said that, I'll stay in the subterranean passageways of music for now. If nothing else, I'm just happy that solid rock does exist and hasn't become a Waterworld-inspired myth along the wavelengths of dry land.

And as I mentioned, I'm sure there's more to come, some of whom may even reach that delta into the mainstream, plunge in headfirst and come out on the other end with some integrity intact. I look forward to seeing it happen someday. So, for those young bucks out there interested in breaking ground, here are a few lessons you may want to take heed of. Granted, I'm no musician, but even so, I like to think that I've squandered enough money on CD's and enough of my spare time drifting along melodious currents to have something of a grasp on the situation here. Strap in.

- Take from your influences, don't copy them directly. It's one thing to try and get a taste for a band's flavor as opposed to outright ganking copyrights. Seriously, Buckcherry fell flat real quick because they're just a cluster of haphazard Aerosmith wannabes with no real balls to 'em. There's not a lot of originality to their music or to their lyrics, so without daring to be something different, they were destined to peel out, because simply, they're just a carbon copy.

- Know your blues. Blues is the basis for all music, especially rock n' roll. Blues begat country music, which then discovered drugs and gave birth to rock. Blues also made love to Latin music and birthed jazz. Did we mention that the blues' bastard lovechild, rock n' roll, also got aggressive and angry, transforming into metal? And yes. Blues developed a beat, and fathered funk, disco, R&B and hip hop. Blues is everything in music, especially rock. Know your pentatonic scales, and for the love of Christ, listen to Robert Johnson.

- Know your punk. Punk is another offshoot of a blues offshoot… more accurately, it was a response to an offshoot, taking aim at overblown rock n' roll and telling it to kindly p!ss off. The one element of rock that punk took with it was simplicity. The best songs, and in many cases the most memorable songs, tend to be of a simpler nature. No need for elaborate solos or orchestration. A few chords, some catchy riffs, and a good dose of rebelliousness. A lot of the bands I mentioned above carry traits of both the blues and punk in equal doses, and they seem to blend it all well.

- Leave the mistakes in. Don't be a damn perfectionist. Perfection is boring, don't go into something all crazy strong-style thinking you've gotta be dead-on. Rock isn't supposed to be this pristine little evocative snapshot of artistry. It's supposed to be down and dirty, loud and bawdy. So quit with the overdubs and massive production already. So you hit a raw note. Leave it in. Get visceral for fuck's sake. Let it all flow out and have fun with it. Even Eddie Van Halen laments about how "Eruption" could've been better, and every time he hears it, he always thinks about that one mistake. And how many people love it for what it is? Besides, you may just stumble onto something really slick, and then you have every right to trademark it vis a vis your stupidity.

- If you're gonna be a throwback, be unabashed, but not retarded. I think it's safe to say that groups such as the Darkness and Wolfmother have proven that it's OK to be somewhat kitschy with the music while having a sense of humor about yourself. To paraphrase This Is Spinal Tap, it's really such a fine line between stupid and clever. It's OK to have fun with it, but the second you try to put on the façade of being a "serious artist," the game is up. I just remember that VH1 special about Velvet Revolver from when it was just the guys from GN'R doing auditions, and the band was known simply as "the Project." One guy brought in a demo of a song that he called "Stripper Girl." Now if you really think for one split second that anyone is gonna take a song seriously with that title, the Behind The Music gods have clearly passed you up hoping you'll go to rehab before your first gold record.

- If you're gonna do a cover on a record, make it obscure. I can think of very few covers that surpass the original. Part of the problem is that so many bands seem intent on taking on well-established staples of radio or popular music. You can't reinvent the wheel kids, so leave that part to Mr. Goodyear. Thing is, covers are kind of essential in a way. Lots of the best bands ever to play made legit hits out of cover songs. The Stones, Zeppelin, Cream, Aerosmith, the Doors, cripes man, even the damned Beatles made big time hits out of little known tunes. Most people to this day haven't the slightest idea that "All Along The Watchtower" is a Bob Dylan original, not a Jimi Hendrix creation. Chew on that for a while. If Hendrix had tried "Like A Rolling Stone," I'm willing to bet that while it would be fiery as Hendrix could be, it still would pale in comparison to its basis. Even though they fall under the umbrella of nü metal, we can still see the logic with Korn and how everyone up and groaned when they did "Another Brick In The Wall."

- Don't believe your own press. Please. That ruins the experience for everyone. Egos ultimately don't do much good in the world of rock n' roll, so as much as you can, try to stay humble. I know it's gotta be tough with people offering you all sorts of free stuff, booze, broads, narcotics, firstborn children, stock options, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc. But once you adopt the attitude of "I'm better than you," you're automatically putting yourself at a plateau above that of a fan. In essence, a fan is a music lover. All musicians should be music lovers. If you put yourself on any level higher than that, I guarantee you'll lose touch with everyone. The fans, your bandmates, and likely yourself as well. It's bad for business, no two ways about it. Then people give you the reputation of being "difficult" and refuse to work with you… Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen, Dave Mustaine, and of course, the granddaddy of 'em all, Monsieur W. Axl Rose. All are incredibly talented individuals who systematically bought into their own hype and meticulously obliterated their bands starting at the foundation. Reputations in all circles were tarnished, possible beyond repair. Just stick to what you love doing and you'll be good.

And that's really what it's all about when you look at the big picture. Like any genre, the face has changed dramatically throughout the years, but at the end of the day, it's still good ol' rock n' roll, and it's still lurking out there. Hail, hail, we salute you.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

5/23/2006

Ladies, we gotta talk.

Now look, I adore the fairer sex. I think you gals are aces, and life sure would be dull without ya, for better or worse. Despite the hell that some of you have put me through over the years, I bear no grudges. For serious.

Moreover, I'm a modern sorta gent, and I believe in equality amongst the sexes. So I'm all for you X-chromosome types goin' out there and gettin' corporate. Lord knows enough of the world has been destroyed by ignorant, greedy white men that we could probably use some capable, intelligent females in power to counteract such stupidity on our part.

However… something happens to some o' you ladies when you don that business garb and get a position with just the slightest shred of power. It's the type of transformation that I don't think even Robert Louis Stevenson could've envisioned when penning Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I'm not one to throw around the term alpha bitch, but dang, there are some women out there who that phrase most definitely applies to in the workplace.

Guys, get over here with me, come sit by the campfire and let's roast some goddamn S'Mores, I think this is one topic that we can all agree on. Doesn't matter what sect of the male species you fall into… stud, nerd, playa, nice guy, scumbag, manwhore, whatever. Every red-blooded heterosexual male will agree with me on this post.

Heck, there are even some females that will agree with me on this. My mother has worked in HR for 18 years, and has stated on numerous occasions that she would rather work with men than women, because too many women just get obscenely power-hungry when it comes to titular advancements and authority.

Not to get all 5th grade on ya, but my mom thinks I'm right. She also tells me I'm cool. And if Penny says so, then by God, it must be factual!

But I think even outside the scope of HR, anyone out there that works in any sort of professional environment will have to concede on this one… I've seen it a great deal over the last year and change I've been at my job. When my new boss got transferred over to our division, she immediately clashed with my then-program manager. It wasn't so much like oil and water as it was like wicks and sparks… downright volatile. Within 6 months, my program manager was essentially ousted. About a month later, the only other female on our team transferred to another team. Since then, our group has been all dudes with the exception of the boss lady. For the most part, we's cool, but like every boss, once in a while she manages to get on your nerves. Just how it goes.

But she is not the impetus for this post. No, true believer, much to the contrary, this was prompted by one of my coworkers… well, two actually, but one seems more an accessory and the other the instigator. Although it may be uncharacteristic, I am reluctant to divulge any details about either individual. Far be it from me to ever hold back, especially when it comes to those whose ego cups runneth over, but lets just say that I'm subscribing to the old "discretion is the better part of valor" motto.

So this is basically the breakdown: a couple weeks ago, one of my coworkers arranged a lunch with one of our regular vendors as an outing and break from the monotony of the day to day grind. Two of my other coworkers were not invited to the affair, simply because they almost never say yes to anything of the sort. So it was more of a logistical thing than anything else. I probably would have invited them anyway, but that's me. I'm not the one planning, I'm just happy to be here, ya dig?

Word got back to one of the ignored individuals, who just happens to be of the female persuasion. Immediately, she began grilling someone who works under her, asking if we talked about her at all during the meal.

Come again?

That's right. I shit you not, dear reader. She wanted to know if anyone was talking about her or the other uninvited party during our outing. Well… no! Why would we have any reason to? Just because you don’t get the in doesn't necessarily mean you're the hot topic of conversation. There was just so much ego involved, I was on the verge of wretching.

She then lamented (translation: whined) that she felt the snub was incredibly "unprofessional." The ultiamte irony of this situation is the fact that these lunches are a very covert operation that we are really not supposed to engage in… so her absence from the affair is actually a shimmering act of professionalism on her part. But nay. Nay, I say. Not in the eyes of ye green-eyed she-demon in 5" heels. To her, there is a free lunch, she was left out, and come hell or high water, she will make it known.

Then to boot, she threatens to withhold business from the vendor who hosted the affair. Well, how professional of her. Nothing like sacrificing good business at the expense of your own petty vendetta. I love it. The capper to it all (at the time) was the fact that she engaged her aforementioned associate in an e-mail exchange in which she finally ended the conversation with (and I'm quoting verbatim, mind you), "Whatever, I don't want to talk about it anymore. They can all go to hell for all I care."

Mature.

But wait, it does get better. She then took to the oh-so "professional" habit of scowling, sneering and just looking plain disgusted when passing the folks that organized the affair.

Also mature. And reasonable, too.

I won't get into the ugly details that followed (the e-mail war between her and another co-worker, the correspondence that was passed around to other folks in the division and our sister division, the horrid picture from her college days that was retrieved with a quick Google search, etc.), but needless to say she has not earned many friends, and has essentially isolated herself from most everyone in the company.

What's my point? My point is simply this would not have happened with a guy. The average dude would abide and not let this become some over the top 90210-stylized high school drama. His attitude would've been, "If they don't like me, screw 'em," and that's it. There would've been no little e-mail fracas, no dirty looks in the hall, no unnecessary 'tude, none of the above, mon frere.

Reason being? Most guys don't get off on power trips.

Yeah. I said it. Take it for what you will, accuse me of stereotyping, but I'm telling ya, my experiences with some women in the business world are akin to my experiences with some women in the dating world: ugly, painful, and oftentimes gut-wrenching. What is it about a title that gives you ladies such an inflated opinion of yourself? What is it about authority that makes you believe you have the right to talk down to and demean other human beings? Is it a chemical imbalance of some sort? Is it the overwhelming urge to break out of the 1950's Donna Reed mold that so inaccurately portrayed your finest capabilities? Is it the years of existing in a predominantly patriarchal society?

If is the latter, let me say on behalf of men everywhere, we're sorry! If we had any idea the way you'd react, we never would've made those decisions at the meeting! Please back off, we made a mistake!

Seriously, gals, y'all need to chill out. This individual in question is the same one who is dumping a week's worth of work on her associate while she's away rather than working to get ahead of herself before leaving (like most of us do). I'm not saying she's an accurate sample of the population by any means, but this sort of self-opinion seems to be typical of a lot of my experiences in the workplace, from waiting tables right on up to the executive post… never had a problem with another guy, though… even the ones who preferred to wear high heels themselves.

Look, let's make a pact… we'll put the toilet seat down and cook dinner once in a while, and you spare us the dragonfire when cubicles ajoin. I think it's a fair trade.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

5/09/2006

So last night at the gym, I couldn't help that the eyes of many cardio-heads were glued to the flatscreen monitors in front of them, airing David Blaine's latest inane stunt on ABC.

Let me set the record straight: I don't care about David Blaine. But I've come to three rock solid conclusions about the man.

1 – He is not a magician. He's not even an illusionist, for Pete's sake. The scenarios he cooks up are out there, I grant you… but there's no hint of "magic" in them at all. Look, if it were Harry Houdini cooped up in that oversize snow globe, he would've amazed the audience by pulling one of his trademark nigh-impossible escape routines. That was the beauty of his shtick… it came off as a sort of magic even without card tricks or optical illusions. Blaine just cooks up zany ways to destroy his body stunt by stunt. That's not magic, that's stupidity.

2 – This is not entertainment. I've read some quotes by people who have stated that his exploits are representative of the human spirit and it's resilient, oftentimes unbreakable nature. I beg to differ. I hardly find a man's repeated attempts to kill himself humorous in any way… I find it sad. The only thing I find sadder is the infatuation that people have with this guy. Sure, I know there's no doubt that he's going to draw attention to himself like the class clown… the only difference is that he's moved up from whoopee cushions to feeding tubes. Pardon me if I don't feel inclined to give the baby his bottle on this one.

3 – The man is a masochist. Seriously, why does he do this over and over? Is fame really worth that much damage to your body? How many people do you know who wake up in the morning and think, "Gee, what could I possibly do to damage my liver this week?" This might be the most disturbing thing about his popularity to me… the mere fact that everything he does seems to find him in the hospital for a number of weeks following the spectacle. Not only that, but the lengthy amounts of time he spends involved in these bizarre concoctions severely prolongs the pain he inflicts on himself. I'm truly convinced that the man just has no love for himself and genuinely wants to do extreme harm to his being.

Either that or he'll do anything for a buck. I haven't quite decided. So, taking these three items into account, the question begs to be asked… People, why in the name of God are you paying any attention to this genetic defective?

This goes beyond dumbass reality shows that are phonier than a politician's smile. There are people out there cheering a man who is trying to kill himself. There is something seriously wrong with the human race when this sort of demented tomfoolery could ever be regarded as entertainment.

Maybe it's me, but I really don't think we should be encouraging him like this... unless he finally manages to off himself, then I'm all for it. The less of this rot on TV and in the public eye, the better. Why can't more "celebrities" have death wishes?

I just might have this cat figured out all wrong… Shit, I hope he becomes an inspiration to self-loathing public figures everywhere!

Natural selection, people. I'm justified here.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

5/02/2006

So Mission: Impossible III is upon us. Be still, my heart.

Hey, sorry… I just don't like too much John Woo in my diet. I prefer, y'know, plotlines and the like.

In any event, what's captured my interest about this undeniable cinematic stinkbomb isn't the fact that they made a sequel to M:I2. I pretty much learned that after they made a sequel to the first installment that they'll spin anything off for a few dollars more. No, what has grasped my attention is the fact that the antagonist is portrayed by Academy Award Winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Rewind and read the last eleven words in that paragraph.

Hoffman has been doing an amazing job as the requisite character/supporting actor for-freakin'-ever now. Didn't matter whether he was in Cold Mountain or Almost Famous, whatever film we're talkin' about was immediately improved tenfold just by virtue of his presence and performance as soon as his unmistakable mug was featured on the screen. The guy knows his stuff and it shows.

But now, having won an Oscar for Capote (which I have yet to see but am looking forward to tremendously), he's reduced to your standard issue action film bad guy cliché, which, incidentally, no one has been able to duplicate since Alan Rickman was featured in Die Hard. Period.

On the opposite end of the genre spectrum, but similarly bad-looking, Robin Williams's latest vehicle RV opened this weekend (see what I did there?). Watching the previews for that makes me dread the day I have children, as I'm sure I'll have to sit through many, many horrible family films, much like I forced my parents to do. And Disney not being what it once was, I'm not looking forward to that day…

It should also be duly noted that Williams is another of those select thespians to receive an Oscar.

So is Robert De Niro. Didn't stop him from making Showtime.

Jodie Foster has an Oscar under her belt. But she still made Flightplan.

I won't even get into Jon Voigt's career.

At this rate, I'm waiting for Meryl Streep to catch top billing in Breakin' 3. The Oscar has long been touted as the highest honor in cinema… yet at the same time, it has also proven to be something of a kiss of death for said honorees. I can't for the life of me figure out what it is about that much-coveted Oscar that drives so many people to accept such horrible roles.
I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the individual, no question. Some people (especially celebrities) exercise less discretion when planning their career moves than most. That being said, I have to give Cali credit for having the best drugs available, because that's the only reason I can think of Susan Sarandon having anything to do with Elizabethtown. I have to say that when it comes to mass mediart, we are in a major lull, here, people. I'm dead serious. I think contemporary film, music and television, by normal standards, is not only disappointing, but downright repulsive.

I think a recent text message courtesy of my buddy Vas, intended solely to break up the day and catch a laugh, says it all:

"There's motherfuckin' snakes on the motherfuckin' plane!"

They made a horror move about snakes on planes. It doesn't get much better/worse than that, ladies and gentlemen. We are officially an honest-to-goodness teenage wasteland awash in our own fecal matter and bile, because we pay to see this rot. And when we don't shell out the $8.50 in the theaters, we gladly head over to the local Blockbuster for a lazy Friday rental. One way or another, every movie, no matter how bad, is gonna make money somehow.

White Chicks made money. Think it over.

Now I realize that you have to work yourself up the ladder no matter what your path in life. Even Renee Zellweger was brandishing those Oscar-worthy chops in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, and nominee Jake Gyllenhaal was Bubble Boy long before even Donnie Darko opened the door for him to break out the cowboy hat and spurs.
But when you reach the top and retrograde as bad as some of the films that I've mentioned in prior paragraphs, I personally feel it's time to reexamine your career path or just exit gracefully altogether. Personally, I don't think I'd be able to degrade myself like that, no matter how much debt I'm in.

There's such a fine line between artist and whore, isn't there?

Now I understand that for some, there comes but one highwater mark in life; one opus that stands apart from everything else, and you're left with nowhere to go but down (for reference, see: Appetite For Destruction).

(See also: Alexander, Jason, Louis-Dreyfuss, Julia and Richards, Michael.)

Well, maybe it's me, but I feel that once you reach that pinnacle of artistry, the very least you could do is stick to it and try to make sure that your work is of a similar caliber if not superior to all things prior. But paychecks talk and critics balk, so at the end of the day, I'm sure plenty of these acting types are just thinking about their next car, jet or private estate, isn't that right, Mr. Jamie Foxx, Academy Award-winning star of Stealth?

It's the same reason that Kiss has been on tour forever. Because there's big money in it. It's too bad the music sucks.

Much like the scripts.

And the motherfuckin' snakes on the motherfuckin' plane.

Now if they decide to take Academy Award-winner Jon Voigt and Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx and make those snakes anacondas and that plane a stealth bomber with a mind of its own… Now you're talkin' quality entertainment.

Just don't bill it as cinema, 'kay?

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

4/13/2006

So in my travels last weekend to the ever-glorious metropolis known as Chicago (now officially one of my favorite cities anywhere), I couldn't help but notice in the various newsstands and bookstores in Bradley, Pitt and O'Hare that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has finally been released in paperback with just about a month to go before the movie drops.

I think it's pretty safe to say I'm a reader, and if you've read this sucker for any discernible length of time you'd know this. That being said, I have somewhat mixed feelings about this phenomenon. For that matter, I have mixed feelings about any literary phenomenon, save maybe the Harry Potter books as they've proven to be a major source of inspiration for the young'ns to start reading. There's nothin' wrong with that, as I certainly don't think I wouldn't be delving into Vonnegut and Auster were it not for being weaned on the likes of Dr. Seuss and the Berenstain Bears series growing up (all of which my mother was thoughtful enough to hang onto for my eventual offspring, bless her soul).

But I think with any other sort of mainstream book becoming "the next big thing," there's a sort of misleading nature about the whole ordeal as these books are rarely the true crème de la crème, so to speak.

First off, let me offer the following disclaimer: I have not yet read Da Vinci. I had waited a near eternity for the blasted thing to be released in paperback as I find the cost of hardcover books to be outrageous. Leave it to the marketing geniuses at whatever publisher released the sucker to wait until the release of the film was in sight to do so, just to give sales and interest that one last spike before the opening box office weekend.

Then again, having an MBA in marketing, I shoulda guessed this'd be the case, so shame on me.

But in any event, I finally bought a paperback and Da Vinci and I'm only about 100 pages into it. I want to read it before the movie hits, because as we know, the film rarely trumps the book, plain and simple. In preparation, I flew through the famed prequel Angels & Demons in under a month's time. For what it's worth, I enjoyed it. I think Brown is very talented at researching his topics and managing to interlock history, fiction and conspiracy theory. I laud him for it.

However…

Herein lay the trouble with so-called literary phenomena and the like… while the story may be engrossing and enjoyable, at the end of the day, I don't find myself harkening back to it at any real point in time. That is to say, I fail to see what the underlying themes are, other than a really cool thriller peppered with heavy doses of imagery, actual fact and clever execution. Now for most, that may all be fine and dandy.

Clearly I'm not most.

(For no other reason other than the fact I couldn't find a better place to fit it, I offer a brief parenthetical aside/critique regarding Da Vinci based on what I've read thus far… I will try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible. What I've noticed about it more than anything else is that it's basically a carbon copy of Angels & Demons; only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Bizarre murder gives way to a major crisis sparked by an antagonistic clandestine society, and intellectual everyman Robert Langdon must team up with an attractive female counterpart who is seemingly has more balls than he does. A combination of religion and conspiracy drive the story to unravel startling revelations that stand to rattle the very foundation of the Catholic Church. I'm pretty confident that by the end of Da Vinci, I'll feel the same way I did after watching Escape From L.A.: "I liked this better the first time around… y'know, when it was called Escape From New York. We now return you to your regularly scheduled diatribe…)

Now maybe it comes from a long history of reading comic books and watching old school sci-fi, but I always try to look for central themes and undercurrents to any story regardless of the medium. This also comes in large part due to the education I received under Douglas Glover, Kathryn Davis and Steven Millhauser at Skidmore. If you haven't heard of them I can't say I'm hugely surprised. Not a one of them is a New York Times bestseller list mainstay, and despite incredible critical acclaim (including the 1996 Pulitzer for fiction awarded to Millhauser for Martin Dressler), it's quite clear that none of them will ever "push units" like a Dan Brown, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

In fact, with the exception of Millhauser, I have yet to find either Glover or Davis's published works in any major bookstore chain.

I think what I'm getting at is the notion that literary booms focusing on one book should not be taken as representatives of the entire literary population at that given point in time. Maybe it can be compared to huge blockbuster films being all the rage when it's more than likely the small change indie films getting all the praise. I don't know, it's kinda difficult to classify. There's just something about me that feels this sorta hype is misleading in a way.

There's also the fact that said hype typically gives way to massive marketing and crossover into every medium imaginable. The example I offer is an oldie, but a goodie: Jurassic Park.

I remember being about 11 years old when the book was booming big time. I recall clear as a bell walking through the old Naugatuck Valley Mall (how's that for a flashback for all you native Waterbury folk?) and seeing a huge promotional display for Jurassic Park, well before the film came out. Shoot, this was well before I even knew a film was in the works. All I knew was that this book had a tyrannosaurus skeleton on the cover, and being a major dinosaur fanatic from the time I was about 5 years old, I was curious to say the least. Ultimately, I received the book from a cousin and read through the entire thing in a couple weeks. Again, this is still well before the film came out.

Being only 11 at the time I read it, I think I viewed it as everyone else did: a wicked cool story involving raptors. I doubt I could've grasped Michael Crichton's underlying "Frankenstein" theme of man playing God with science and genetics at that age. Turns out he was about he was nearly a decade ahead of his time when it came to the ethical issues of genetic cloning. But still, I was very taken with the story, and naturally went to see the flick when it was released in that memorable summer of nineteen-naughty-three.

By now, I was 12. Still young, but even I was able to figure out that they couldn't possibly fit everything from the book into a two-hour time span. What I don't think I could have prepared myself for was the blitzkrieg of marketing marvels that was to follow: toys, games, apparel, books, tampons, etc. Anything that a price tag could be placed on had the Jurassic logo on it.

As if the initial homerun wasn't enough, a sequel wasn't only expected, why it was downright mandatory, I say! Enter 1997 and Crichton's half-baked The Lost World. This time around, all themes of chaos and science gone berserk went out the window in grand Hollywood fashion. Even the title of the book was a direct tip of the hat to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic silent film which first exposed dinosaurs to the movie-going masses. In short, whereas the first book was just a book that hit big, the second installment was essentially a blueprint for the movie. And not only was the book a far cry from its literary predecessor, the film was a far cry from the book it was based on, making for one really, really atrocious blockbuster. Mission: Impossible III looks like freakin' Scorcese next to this dud. I won't even begin to go into the third film, which Crichton wasn't even attached to. Apparently a fourth film is in the works. Nothing like milking a cow until it's dead and its udders are spewing dust.

Not only was the sucker a major hit, but it seemed like any book Crichton wrote was bound for the silver screen from that point forward. After two prior film ventures in the 70's (The Andromeda Strain and The Great Train Robbery), anything the man wrote went to the big screen in the 90's. Congo, Sphere, even the post-JP penned Timeline all made it to theaters, all of which really, really sucked.

I guess what I'm getting at is that there's a snowball effect when this sorta thing happens, and commercialism totally overtakes whatever relevant artistic or intellectual value is inherent within the book to begin with. Now I grant you that dinosaurs are a far more marketable commodity as opposed to religious conspiracies, so you probably won't be seeing action figures bearing the likeness of Tom Hanks any time soon. Even so, you'd better believe that there will likely be a third book in the life of Robert Langdon, and at least one more flick. If you think the film is gonna bomb, I fear you're way, way outta touch, dear reader. The money is there, and it will probably be the easiest work of Dan Brown's life, because at this point in time, he could basically wipe himself on a sheet of Charmin, and that would go straight to the top of the bestseller list.

Meanwhile, the thing that bothers me the most is that there are infinitely better books languishing in limbo right now that are probably being overlooked by the general populous. Now granted, one could always argue that exposure to such fanaticism could offer a sort of floodgate effect and create scores of readers from whence there were none. Lord knows I didn't start flipping pages incessantly until I was introduced to Crichton's work. However, it wasn't until I read Slaughterhouse 5 and The New York Trilogy for a class in postmodern literature that my tastes really transformed and I adopted the style of writing that I employ now. Prior to that, my literary world was limited to Crichton and Dean Koontz. Again, stuff simply tailor-made for Tinsel Town.

Now that's not to say that Dan Brown's work is bad by any stretch. As I've said, he's certainly very well read in religious and iconographic history and has been able to parlay that knowledge into something really huge. More power to him, I wish I could do the same thing. And I think we can all agree that personal taste is a purely subjective thing and no two people will entirely mesh with their personal preferences. If nothing else, I'm glad that people are actually reading the dang thing as opposed to "just waiting for the movie." There's no term I loathe more than that. But at the same time, I just can't help but feel that no matter what, the bottom line is that a lot of misconceptions may be drawn about the literary world because of the hype here. Like a lotta people say, they're reading this book only because of the buzz. Shoot, that's why I'm reading it, only because it's become such a pop culture cornerstone for the new millennium that I would be remiss if I didn't at least become casually familiar with it.

I guess there's just something about me that cringes when I realize the guy has sold more copies than The Great Gatsby or Fahrenheit 451.

And lastly, to anyone that is just waiting for the movie, I hope you realize that A) the paperback is cheaper than your ticket, and B) it lasts a helluva lot longer. You go munch on your popcorn; I'm gonna chill in the coffee shop. Thank you for leaving.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

3/21/2006

I think it’s high time that I unleashed an Yngwie Malmsteen-esque fury on a particular sect of academic luminaries who seem to hold themselves in too high an esteem for my liking. It gives me great pleasure to burst their self-righteous little bubble and fill them in on a couple of truths that they are long overdue on learning.

Ivy leaguers. Sit down. You an’ me are gonna have a li’l talk…

See, my company has this bad habit of hiring Ivy League grads and putting them in quasi-middle management positions. They do all the legwork of a regular assistant like myself, but have a bit more hand in the developmental process.

Whatever. This is me not losing any fuckin’ sleep over it.

Now, within the last month, two assistant managers have parted ways with the company. One of these individuals happened to be my boss. If you want a glimpse into the relationship I had with her, see the above paragraph. It pretty much sums up my feelings regarding her departure.

In any event, it did not take long for the interoffice grapevine to circulate, completely nabbing my nuts in a vice grip in the process. See, a couple of the Ivies began to wonder who I’d wind up working under. As in which one of them was gonna be my new boss.

It should be duly noted at this point that I actually have been there longer than all of them, and while I may technically be the low man on the totem, I still have seniority over them. In my mind’s eye, that makes me no one’s bitch.

And it’d appear that my company agrees as I’m basically working under the program manager right now. In short, we just cut out the middleman on this one, and I couldn’t be happier with my current role.

That said, I’m more than a little indignant that some of these Ivy motherfuckers thought they had the right to claim me as their assistant… like I’m just some human baseball card available to be traded around for a Ted Williams rookie in mint condition. What makes me even more irritated is the fact that when the second assistant manager in our division announced her departure today, the same old song and dance ensued, only this time regarding her own assistant. Who again has been here longer than the rest of the damned Ivies.

Now to be fair, I’m only talking about roughly 75 percent of the Ivy grads in my division. I’m cool with some of them, and know they would never condescend to me or my coworker behind my back like that. Hell, at least one of them, a Yale alum, has the goddamn good sense to remember that when he was fresh out the box and green as Ariel Sharon must be right now, he would typically come to me for help and I’d offer him whatever info I could. He hasn’t forgotten that, which is why he didn’t get caught up in such nonsensical gossip.

The others clearly haven’t followed suit.

Not only that, but they’re getting their wish. My co-worker has not been as fortunate as I, and has gone from having one boss to three “bosses.” Known amongst the office as the Sorority (or as I prefer to call them, the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), they are each taking equal share in overseeing my co-worker’s programs, and to boot, they are pretty much letting it be known that they now have more authoritah.

Having not made it to an associate level yet, I would like to think that should I ever get an assistant, I would never walk all over them or rub my title in their eye. I don’t know that their combined attitude is intentional, but at the same time, even it weren’t, I refuse to believe such inconsideration or lack of discipline would wholly justify their behavior.

And to boot, my company basically bends over backwards for these Ivies. Occasionally they get an ace like my former program manager. Other times they don’t. The term I typically use in regard to a couple of these Ivies is “I weep for the future.” And I do, because if employers are willing to pay top dollar for names and not ability, then we really are in the fuckin’ Twilight Zone, people.

‘Cause that’s basically what you pay for with an Ivy League school. A name. It’s brand equity and not necessarily education that’s gonna carry you if you get accepted. Plain and simple. And it’s a known fact that if two individuals, one an Ivy, the other not, with equal qualifications, experience and ability apply for the same position, the Ivy will get it. The other sap doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell, because on paper, an Ivy looks more impressive.

I’d like to offer the notion that despite impressive credentials, not every Ivy is worth the investment. I’m willing to wager that a good number of them might be book-smart, but not have an ounce of street smarts to their name. The latter can go just as far as a degree when you get right down to it.

Put it this way… one Ivy, a Harvard alum, marveled at the fact that our fax machine can send more than one page at a time. I’m seriously not making this up. I couldn’t if I wanted to. I felt like I was watching Legally Blonde 3: Not As Good As Advertised. I wanted to vomit in my hat and then make her wear it… How does someone conjure up that sentence in their head and then actually have the lack of good judgment to spit it out? For that matter, how does one such individual get accepted into what is supposed to be one of the most prestigious schools in the world?

Said prodigy later went on to state that she believed herself to be smarter than many of her co-workers. On paper it may appear that way, but if you were to meet this girl, you’d think she were straight outta the escort section of the Yellow Pages with an IQ to match.

I refuse to believe these people are smarter than me or my fellow grunts.

All the money in the world isn’t gonna change the fact that they are still human, hence imperfect, and therefore have no frickin’ right to place themselves on a higher rung than anyone else.

Again, I realize there are exceptions to every rule. Tragically, I just don’t happen to work with many of them. What’s worse, they are giving a bad name to their alma maters. If they’re any indication of the byproduct of such institutions, I’ll gladly squander my unborn children’s college fund on red wine and He-Man box sets.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna drive to Greenwich to christen a yacht. With kerosene and a blowtorch. Hopefully that’ll put a good dent in mummy and daddy’s college fund and I won’t have to deal with their pampered nimrod asshat of a child in my workspace wondering when I’m gonna start working for their 21-year-old green ass.

Goodnight, and have an enlightened tomorrow.

3/16/2006

Alright you Scientologist twits. It's go time. I'm done with the kids gloves. I'm ready to drop trow and pinch one right on L. Ron Hubbard's grave.

I didn't really care much when you brainwashed Cruise. Or Travolta. Certainly didn't give a shit when you mindwarped Kirstie. Shoot, I don't even care if you reached down and plucked cute li'l Joey from Dawson's Creek. Less I see of any of those committed Thetans, the better. Heck, with the mere exception of Top Gun, Pulp Fiction, Cheers and Batman Begins, I could do without their cumulative canon of thespian work. It could all go bye-bye and I wouldn't bat an eye.

But now it's personal. You have claimed the last good and decent soul in this entire godforsaken world.

Isaac Hayes.

You took Chef. You took Shaft (sorta). You took the Duke of New York, A-Number-One. The man has contributed so much to our society, and in one fell swoop you snatched him up and converted him to a card-carrying mental deficient.

For those of you who don't know, or are just plain uncultured, Isaac Hayes quit South Park due to his Scientologist beliefs. I've kept a tight lid on my feelings for a while regarding this so-called religion, but personally, I, like most folks who don't live in L.A., think it's a load of horseshit. Sci-fi writers do not create legitimate religions. If that were the case, I would be a Born-Again Bokononist by now.

And if you don't pick up that reference, you are not well-read, you heathen bitch.

But seriously… Matt Stone brings up a real good point here. How many episodes have lampooned not only Christians, but Jews and Mormons as well? Apparently Scientology doesn't preach religious tolerance, otherwise the once Mighty Mr. Hayes would've packed up shop a long time ago.

Now far be it from me to criticize anyone else's faith… but it has to be a legitimate faith, 'nuff said. I think we're all hip to the fact that this is about as real as Lisa Rinna's lips (and why I even know who she is bugs the frag outta me). By now we're all aware that touting different and controversial religions is just another cool Hollywood trend for the average celeb whose career is slightly flagging. And if ain't Kaballah bracelets, it's Dianetics, not to be confused with Diabetics, though I wouldn't argue with such a confusion as both are synonymous with "lifelong illness."

And I know that the average film star has a remarkably soft brain, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that anyone would be retarded enough to believe this tripe. I don't care how lost you are in life, you gotta be really feeble-minded to buy into this crew.

And y'know, I've gone real easy on my Scientologist friends. I've been quiet for a long time, simply because no one was listening to their moronic ramblings. I could care less if Katie Holmes disappeared for 16 days and then reemerged as a bona fide Thetan. I really don't mind if these high-ranking Thetans are trying to pull a Patty Hearst on a few useless starlets. The fewer the better. After all, they seem pretty much confined to the left coast, and me being all over here on the east, I'm fairly confident that whatever contact I have with these Hubbard-ites will be limited if not totally non-existent.

But when you start to swipe my most beloved Blaxploitation icons, you have just crossed the line. It's clobberin' time.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

3/02/2006

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot…

So Warner Bros. is gonna be releasing the comic-to-film translation of V For Vendetta this month. Those who have read my blog for a while should know me to be a comic fanatic, and a fan of comic-based films in general. I’m always leery, however, when independent comics or those of a lesser known stature (read: not Spider-Man or Batman) get optioned. There’s more room for the themes to get misconstrued, and typically these are the books that are pretty detailed and substantial. However, with more “serious” comics getting translated over the last few years (Road To Perdition and A History Of Violence to be specific), I’m actually on the whole quite happy that such diamonds in the rough are able to see the light of day on a grander scale.

Now with the release of V, my curiosity has piqued higher than in quite some time. See, this is another Alan Moore masterpiece. Moore’s work speaks for itself. Beyond just the regular superhero-based stuff (such as Batman: The Killing Joke and Animal Man), he brings strong literary sensibilities to the game and really pushes the envelope to make the reader think. I remember reading The Watchmen some ten years ago, and looking back, I can say that experience may have been the first really pivotal moment in shaping my social and political opinions. If you’ve read it, you know why. If you haven’t, you should. Plain and simple. Hell, they teach college courses on this book… Time Magazine even rated it as one of the 10 best books ever published. Go fuckin’ get it, now.

Having said all this, I’ll spare you all a lengthy diatribe in which I extol the often-overlooked thematic undercurrents ever-present in many a comic. I think many of the old clichés and misconceptions have finally begun to fall by the wayside, in that respect.

Now V is one of the few works in the Moore canon that I have glazed over. So recently, at a trip to a Barnes & Noble, I picked up a copy and began to read through it a bit. It didn’t take long before I was entranced, very much in the same manner I was when I first picked up Watchmen. Rather than be a bum and peruse the sucker right then and there in a crowded bookstore (I just don’t wanna be “that guy”), I ordered the book online (I may not be “that guy,” but I am price-savvy, dammit) and read through it in a week’s time upon delivery.

The basic story tells of a fascist England in the not too distant future, and the twisted terrorist vigilante known only as “V” who strives to bring balance to the virtual prison state by implementing the two most powerful, offsetting weapons at his disposal: anarchy and chaos.

He does this all while presenting an homage to Guy Fawkes, replete with cape, boots, conical hat and Harlequin mask depicting Fawkes’ visage. Fawkes, of course, is one of the major players in the “Gunpowder Plot” which took place on November 5th, 1604. The limerick atop this post is famous in England for referencing the historic undertaking and is also quoted early on in V. As a member of a Catholic conspiracy to overthrow the Protestant rule of England, he was the one that lit the fuse to the explosive agents intended to blow up Parliament and kill King James I. Fawkes was hanged for his rebellion just over one year later, but did live to see bonfires being lit on the one-year anniversary of his storied escapade in commemoration of his deeds.

People celebrating anarchy. Think about that.

Then again, until 1959, it was illegal to not to celebrate the anniversary of Fawkes’ arrest in England. Even today, he still exists somewhere between lowly traitor and revered hero.

What am I getting at here?

Well, for starters, I don’t feel that anarchy is necessarily a bad thing… under the right circumstances. I would never be one to just up and say, “Hey! Let’s overthrow the government and break out some Twister!” But as V notes in the book, anarchy does not equate to a lack of order, just a lack of government. And under nominal circumstances, I think that could be a good thing.

In fact, follow me if you can, as my logic is like most things in my life: just a little twisted.

See, ancient democracy was founded on the principle that a society could be governed by the people. This is why we elect government officials who are essentially hand-plucked from the cities and towns of our great nation. However, as time has progressed and we have distanced ourselves greatly from the teachings of the ancient Greeks in every sense, and I believe that government is no different. This is not by virtue of the people per se, although I do think that the modern politician has gone to great lengths to separate himself from the plebeians that schlep this pebble.

This is accomplished, naturally, while said ubiquitous politician attempts to make it known that he is “a man of the people.” In some cases, “for the people.” Dear reader, we both know that this is normally bullshit, so why sugarcoat the obvious? These leaders aren’t really about people. Most of them led pampered lives, went to private schools, were born into wealth and were probably pretty pampered from conception up to their mid-30’s or later. Not only are they not men of the people, but they’re mostly out for themselves. Even the cleanest looking, most seemingly trustworthy candidate often proves that no one is exempt from the pitfalls of the power trip. Indulgences in this case run the full gamut of sexual deviance, bribery, white collar crime, cheez doodles, etc. I know that there are exceptions to every norm, but I think that you’ll agree with me that this is typical of most political sorts, regardless of their party affiliation. I may be registered with the Democratic party, but I’ve come to realize that everyone’s guilty (I’m way beyond the excuse of “nobody’s perfect”).

So when you take all this into account, it would seem that the principles of our political system have been pretty well shat upon, and maybe it’s time to mix up our game a bit. Don’t ya think? At least a li’l?

Let me clarify for those of you who are going to see the movie and/or have read the book: I’m not condoning V’s actions. He’s a terrorist, plain and simple… he makes no bones about it, and he feels the means justify the end. I don’t know that I would take it that far in this ideology. I’m not that much of an extremist.

That being said, there is some twisted logic to V’s beliefs, even if they do drive him to dangerous levels. The state of the U.K. as depicted by Moore is so brutally Orwellian, so harsh and so overbearing that his actions in this case are justified. When you live in an environment in which the government is omnipresent and power-hungry, I don’t think revolution is such a bad idea.

Now I don’t for one second believe that our country is anywhere near as bad as 1984. But I could see where there would be potential for such obsession on the government’s part. I can definitely shades of control and paranoia in such bits and pieces as the Patriot Act, the FCC’s massive censorship push, and let’s not forget our current foreign policies and international landscape which, if not handled correctly, could paint our nation into the corner of being wholly isolationist for our own protection. It may sound like a bit much to you, but to me, I can see where this may happen.

I doubt we’ll see this day anytime soon, but for a long time, I was genuinely convinced that there would be some kind of countercultural revolution the likes of which we last saw in the late 1960’s at the height of our involvement in the Vietnam War under Nixon. Call me nutty, but I really did believe that this was gonna happen. And I maintain that the potential still exists for such social upheaval. I refuse to postulate as to the probability of such rebellion, although I think that in some small ways, the seeds of restlessness have already been planted.

At the core of such dissatisfaction (which, as we can all agree, is not just born of my own personal feelings, but largely shared by roughly half the populous) is the belief (I said “belief,” not “fact,” don’t lynch me yet) that our current administration is… well, less than competent in their actions and policies. There are quite simply a great many people out there who really feel as if the current political landscape is Quadrophenia’s hypothetical teenage wasteland amplified to match the age of the individuals involved, but not quite their maturity/intellect. The belief amongst such people is that the administration has made a lot of very, very bad decisions, and many are looking forward to the day when they are no longer at the top of the D.C. Totem.

You can take that any way you want. Me, I happen to agree with this group of people. Proudly, at that. You don’t have to like it.

So this is where my take on V’s anarchistic undertones comes into play…
If the officials we elect as “representatives” of the people clearly fail to provide the people with what they want and/or need, is it not just of us to devise a different system under which we can run our society? Perhaps the anarchistic mindset of a government-less civilization is not without its merit. Since we can’t seem to develop a third party in this nation worth a shit, it stands to reason that perhaps anarchy might lend itself to genuine democratic ideals in that the people govern, and not figureheads (read: elected officials circa 2006 A.D.). And to boot, there is no trust whatsoever amongst these elected officials in reality, and that is well illustrated in Alan Moore’s original story. How can the people trust the ones they elect to run the nation when the elected can’t even trust one another? Simply put, the worst part of politics is the politicking. ‘Nuff said.

Perhaps the main reason that the story appeals to me so much is because the character of V is as much an artist as he is a radical… equal parts Fawkes and Rembrandt, he appears a genuine Renaissance man that is versed in music, poetry, theater, etc. So it’s an interesting dichotomy regarding this apparent lunatic who seems intent on overthrowing the establishment who is also able to play the piano and appreciates the classics. It seems to imply that such passions are now considered more than just indulgences and just might be illegal in this hypothetical future Moore has crafted. Hey, with all the hysteria about censorship and indecency, with books, movies and DJs receiving threats of exile due to “suggestive content,” the alternative doesn’t seem half bad to me, folks. It’s like V says in the graphic novel: “Ideas are bulletproof.”

I kinda like the notion that free thought is just that: free. And unless it harms a lot of innocent people, I don’t see why it should be regulated in any way shape or form. And if there ever does come a time when such policies are put into effect, you better believe that the revolution V incites will be nothin’ compared to the live show right in front of your face.

For the time being, I’m looking forward to the movie, and can only hope it will be a faithful adaptation of the book. I also hope it’ll at least get the brains of a select few peons moving enough to look beyond the fact that it’s just another action flick by the dudes who did The Matrix trilogy. God willing they’ll actually be able to get the message across this time around, because it really is worth the extra effort.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

1/09/2006

I have wondered, especially over the course of the last year, if it is at all possible to make a great political album and still have it matter.

What prompts this, you ask? OK, strap in.

Green Day are an excellent band. Simple, pull no punches, pretty much devoid of bullshit. I like that in musicians. I haven’t always dug their stuff, mind you… but I loved what they did with American Idiot back in ’04. A sharp, witty, surprisingly intelligent concept album that has good hooks, melodies, and a mainstream nicety that is oftentimes lost on me. Bravo, boys.

Having said that, I’m more than a bit perturbed at the fact that every hit single off the album has somehow found its way into the sad commercialism that is the American culture. I remember several months ago seeing “Holiday” featured in ads for Sprint’s ringtones. I remember “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” being used in the trailer for Lords Of Dogtown. I’m also pretty sure that at least one song has been used during previews for The O.C. And somehow I really doubt all of this is what Billie Joe Armstrong had in mind when he penned this baby. Wouldn’t you agree?

Admittedly, I’ve always had somewhat of a problem when it comes to music being used commercially. It absolutely drives me mental when I hear Aerosmith, Zeppelin and Hendrix being used to advertise automobiles. And I was none too happy when Michael Jackson used McCartney’s “Revolution” to peddle Nikes. I realize that to some extent it’s almost unavoidable these days, lord knows some artists (such as Jet and their iPod stint) have used music to kickstart their potentially limp careers. I understand that exposure is key when it comes to longevity, so it may be something of a double-edged sword. And Green Day are certainly no strangers to having their material used beyond the music world. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” has been used in God-only-knows how many final sitcom episodes (most notably the last episode of Seinfeld), so it’s not like this is something new for them.

However, it’s an altogether different story for me when it comes to songs of a political nature. This bastardization and seemingly endless barrage of adverts peppered with songs against the man is seriously beginning to piss me off. And it’s not just the ear-friendly tones of Green Day that are getting watered down in the monetary current of the mainstream. Put it this way… when the title track of one of the greatest albums ever gets used to sell Jaguars, something is very wrong. I’m glad Joe Strummer isn’t alive to see “London Calling” being defecated on like this. The one that really blew my mind, though, was seeing the trailer for The Fantastic 4 for the first time and hearing “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums” by A Perfect Circle being played in the background. Now APC isn’t much of a commercial band, certainly not to the level of Green Day or even the Clash. And eMOTIVe is about as politically charged as it gets. So this had me worried.

Then again, should I really be all that surprised? Shit, Rage Against The Machine’s music was being used in freakin’ Tony Hawk video games years ago. Similarly, Megadeth’s “Peace Sells” has been used in both the Grand Theft Auto and True Crime game series. Christ, how many U2 songs have you heard in commercials and film trailers?

Sadly, as long as artists are writing catchy lyrics and solid hooks, commercialism is always gonna be aching to eat up a few tunes for the sake of promotion. It’s just a shame that the political messages intended will be lost on everyone while they’re watching The O.C.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant New Year.