The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007:Your Pal In Review

So ends the most tumultuous year in my life, and the changes have not ended yet. I've lived in DC, Iowa, Texas, Maryland and it looks like I'm going to be living in Arizona before the end of next month. I finally finished the book I've been talking about for 8 years. I would love to write about the news events in 2007- the most "W.T.F.!" year in my lifetime, but The Onion has done a much better job.
My favorite posts:

Pretentious and pretentiouser
Obama for President
The Lonesome Bass Player
My Dad and The Shoney's Waitress
Is Being Bald THAT Bad?- This was my most popular post and like a lot of my popular ones it was written very quickly. It got featured a few places and people still find it when they look for pictures of a bald Natalie Portman (which it turns out happens a lot).
What I've Learned- My attempt at a Esquire-esque list of life lessons.
Muppets Vs. Disney
What I've Learned ....About Pop Culture
The McJob Dilemma
No Seriously, Is Being Bald That Bad?- a sequel to my then most popular post, that-after being featured on dwarfed the popularity of the first post and for a brief time I put the "temporary" in contemporary blogging, getting thousands of hits from all over the world. For three days.
I Love Passover!
The Worst Best Man Speech Ever!
Childrearing Tips From A Childless Bachelor- Surprisingly, I got a lot of positive responses from actual parents, and that made me feel good.
15 years of "Baby's Got Back"
You Damn Kids!
Secret Language of Musicians
Ways Men Call Themselves "Asshole"
The King Of Kong and America
Territorial Pissings
Reasons Why Guitar Hero Is Better Than Playing Guitar

Friday, December 28, 2007

Things I Hate About Getting Older.

Don't get me wrong, I love being older -for the most part. The silliness of being twenty-something is much more fun to watch than experience first hand. But it isn't all knowing laughter and VH1 retrospectives on my childhood, there are a couple things that make me feel every millisecond of thirty-seven.

1.Not being able to stand for long periods of time.
My dad took me to see one of my favorite bands, The Replacements, in Philadelphia in 1991. My dad tried, but couldn't stand the whole time. I should have looked to this as something to look forward to, but I didn't see it coming until I saw Ted Leo recently. I spent a good bit of the second part of the show trying to shake the feeling back into my legs, and I'm five years younger than my dad was at The Replacements show.

2. Not being able to wear boxer shorts.(WARNING, T.M.I. ALERT!)
Underwear in the latter part of my life had gotten a bit complicated. I used to love boxer shorts, and it was a surprisingly popular gift choice for my platonic female friends to give me. Then I started getting intense pains in my malely bits, my taint in particular. It turns out that my boys needed support, which is now provided by boxer briefs; they're comfortable, but I miss swinging freely. Before, as long as my underwear was covering my naughty bits up front and my dirty bits in back, I'd have no reason to throw them away. Sometimes just a couple slender threads were the only thing keeping my boxers from becoming a full-on skirt, but now I have to throw away a pair when they wear out of their original level of abutment.

3. Grey nose hairs.
As it is already, I have the most insidious nose hairs of anyone in my age group. As much as I root around with my battery powered nose hair trimmer, it's just a couple days before I see hairs bending out of my nostrils, longer than ever and taunting my efforts. Making them grey just makes it seems like I groom them with a high lighter rather than blades designed to cut them into submission.

4. Feeling like a dirty old man.
Even though she's 20, I still feel like a perv for digging Ellen Page.

What's a cracker to do?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Retail Christmas Song

I wrote this on Christmas Eve Eve night(the 23th) to entertain my co-workers after the store closed on Christmas Eve, but I liked it so much I wanted to share it with you. This song celebrates the short time when the retail worker can maybe actually enjoy the Christmas season: from when the store locks up on the 24th to when it opens on the 26th. Spread the holiday love!

The Lyrics:
Doors are locked/ nobody died
Where's the booze?/our nerves are fried
Looks like we made it/ though there were some near misses
There's been a ceasefire/ in the war on Christmas
Chorus: But we love Christmas/oh yes, we do
And not just cause Jesus wants us to
We love Christmas/but the best part of the day
Is knowing it's a whole 'nother year away
Second Verse:Returns are coming/ they can't be beat
Disappointment and lost receipts
But that's tomorrow/ to deal with that aggression
Now I've got my greatest gift/ A day without stupid questions
Chorus again add
since it's a leap year it's an extra whole day away

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Surviving Retail:The Blog!

In an attempt to get some interest generated for my first (non-fiction) book Surviving Retail, I've created a separate blog where I'll post news and excerpts from it, along with any other retail related things that might come along. It's at if you'd like to visit. To regular readers of my blog, some entries may be familiar, but many new morsels of retail goodness will be posted.

In related news, it seems like Karl Rove is having problems selling his book, too. That's where the similarities end; after all, mine is non-fiction.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Love My Life.

I love my life, I really do. Yesterday a congressman came in to the store, but not just any representative,but Iowa's Fred Grandy. My fellow pop-culture geeks will recognize the name, but for those who don't, he played "Gopher" on The Love Boat. I watched that show every Saturday mainly because my TV only got three channels, though I must of liked it on some level. It ruined a lot of my early relationship though, I thought you could just say "I love you" because people who just met each other were saying it on that show all the time. It took a little while for me to learn what a mistake that was because I believed my soon-to-be-ex girlfriends when they told me that wasn't the reason they were breaking up with me; "No, I think it's sweet." Right.

It still figures prominently in my day-to-day life; I sing the "Love Boat Theme" ALL THE TIME. When I see someone I'm happy to see, sometimes I'll sing their name in the place of the word "love" live, "John Dimes, life's sweetest reward, let him float, he floats back to you!" Conversely, to crack up my co-worker Lizzy I sing it in a German accent, "DAS LOVE BOOT!"

So any way.... The other day in the Toy Store, I looked in our notebook where we keep customers requests and saw his name and went to my boss "Is that Fred 'Gopher from The Love Boat' Grandy?"
"I don't know," he said, which didn't surprise me; he's had a life. It was. When he actually came in, I was still bleary from the cold I had spent the previous day battling so I didn't notice it was him until halfway through ringing him up. I could just barely contain my geeky excitement. If I knew where he was from I could have told him about about my recent Iowa adventures or regaled him with a verse of "DAS LOVE BOOT!" but my discretion -thankfully- proved successful and kept everything on a professional level.

He was a nice guy, by the way.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I need a job and a place to live.

My temporary situations on employment and habitation have been going for a while and I would love to be able to get into something more permanent. If any one knows of any opportunities, please e-mail me at


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Videos, Videos, Videos!

I'm a bit out of the loop, so I don't know how wide spread these are. Excuse me if I'm being redundant.

The whisper at the end of Lost In Translation REVEALED! Spoiler

I got hooked on a British show in Austin called The IT Crowd It's 2 seasons, 12 episodes total; yep, it's English. This is part of one episode, all the others are available on Youtube.

Do you want to see something about Larry the Cable Guy that's actually funny? Here's Larry using his real name Dan Whitney "the Freight Train of Comedy"

Recognize this guy? this is a 1982 commercial for the first video game I was ever nightmare-inducing obsessed by, Pitfall.

Another "before they were semi-famous" moment:

This is probably the most wide spread of these vids, but I still talk to people who haven't seen it, so..

You're welcome!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Awesome Power Of Oprah

Much has been made over Oprah Winfrey's stumping for Barack Obama, as well it should. The woman has genuine pull that I have seen the effects of personally. This is from my book Surviving Retail (which is still without an agent, by the way, the scene is about 8 years ago when I worked at a Sharper Image, merely the best example at the power of "O", not the only one:

"I was eating a late lunch and watching the Oprah show and they were having a 'Oprah’s favorite things' show. One of her absolute fave raves was a corkscrew that we happened to sell. It was honestly the world’s best, there are tons of commercials on now for the Houdini Corkscrew, this was the first, expensive version of that. Ms. Winfrey demonstrated this wonderful product, but twisted the cork out by hand. I joked at the screen, 'Oprah you're doing it wrong, just press the lever again!' It cost about $130, more than the combined total of all the wine I had ever purchased-especially if you only count bottles with corks -so it was usually only sold around the holidays when it makes the perfect gift for the wine consumer that couldn’t justify the expense for themselves.

After my lunch break I told Javier(a co-worker) about what I had just seen and he said, 'That was probably why we just got two calls for it.' That was just the first 10 minutes, by the next day we had fielded about 3 dozen calls about them with most people going,”$130? Figures Oprah wouldn’t mention that part!” But a surprisingly large number resulted in actual purchases, and we ran out within a couple of days. It seemed like the company wasn’t aware of the upcoming big “O’ shoutout, because most of our stores ran out and we had to get as special shipment to replenish from the company."

I call her my "Favorite Billionaire" because even though she is a bit pompous and self-righteous at times; compared to how bad she could be, she's downright humble.

Let's just hope she only uses it for good (or for awesome)!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Checks and Balances in the 21st Century

When you look at history through today's politically correct lens, the founding fathers fall far short and it has been popular to bash them for this in recent years but that's one of the truths of human history: it's often made by Assholes.

One of the things you can't deny is that they were political geniuses. When they were crafting the Constitution, they couldn't have foreseen all of the changes that have occurred since but they knew one thing: one branch of government cannot run everything. The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments because George Mason (among others) were afraid that future governments would not honor certain basic rights unless they were legally obliged to.

Can you guess why I'm bringing this up now? Look at what's happened in this country with unchecked power? Now it's the Iran NIE and the "destroyed" interrogation tapes being the latest things that will "bring down" the Bush Presidency; but they won't. I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I hate the political system in general, I'll sure I'll say the same thing when the Democrats are in power and make their eventual fuck-ups. The Democratic Presidental Canadates are mainly good at not being George Bush and not much else (although I do still like Obama) and calling the Democratic Congress impotent is an insult to people that suffer from erectile dysfunction.

But let's be honest, what would the GOP do if a Democratic president had:

had shadowy ties to some of the most egregious examples of corporate wrongdoing in history?

not caught Osama bin Laden six years after 9/11? And attacked a country that wasn't responsible for it?

Left an American city to rot two years after it was destroyed after a hurricane (especially since after 9/11 we were suppose to be better prepared for things like this)

a senior member of his staff that exposed a CIA operative to a journalist?

Regardless of what they might say neither party is truly about freedom or morality, it's about their version of politics as usual. It's a little like being a sports fan, you love the players until they're wearing another uniform. I'll explain: both sides love say how much they value integrity when it's the integrity of the person on the other side being called into question, but downplay it when it's someone on their side.

But this time around it's a Republican Administration that wants us to trust them without being worthy of it. They're the ones that love to say that people who don't support the Iraq War don't support the troops but then don't give them enough armor or give maimed soldiers a bill.

But regardless of what happens or who gets elected it's still politics-as-usual. People love to say that 9/11 changed everything, but it didn't. 9/11 excused everything.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


The hysteria of "dangerous" Chinese toys is a bit like the last scene in the original Invasion of The Body Snatchers where the protagonist realize he's too late, THEY'RE ALREADY HERE; and they have been for decades.

I'm back working at the toy store (where I worked before I left to finish my book)for the holidays and I have a fraction of the stress that I've had in previous years. Here's a post I wrote about it last year. I put the credit to my boss, who has made sure I haven't worked too much, but also a more zen way of being. But this whole China fear has put a new wrinkle in things. The people that are concerned about it -about 3 or 4 a day- cannot be reasoned with.
Customer: "Is this dangerous!"
Co-worker: "No, besides it's for a 9-year old, they don't put stuff in their mouth."
Customer: "So that means it's OK to buy something that will poison her?!"
Stuff like that. This by no means should be read as my not caring about the welfare of children, I'm just a big fan of keeping perspective. These recalls are happening even if there could be a threat and a very small percentage of toys have been affected. It's done wonders for my TV screen time, ABC and CBS have both been in the store in the past week to shoot stories; if you see (or have seen) a bald guy ringing up toys recently, it's me.
The problem is EVERYTHING is made in China, and has been for a long time. When I worked at The Sharper Image, people would come in and ask, "What do you have that's not made in China?" and I'd say, "You're in the wrong place." The thing that people (some one!) should be concerned about as the INSANE amount of money being poured into the (Communist)Chinese economy. Do you know what happens when so much economic growth happens in a system not designed to handle it? I think we're about to find out.

But the consumer needs to understand their own role in this. For years, people have made it clear that they'll shop where the price is lowest, they're even sacrifice customer service and get packed into "big box" stores for the privilege. Have you had problems finding a certain Lego set? Thank Target and Walmart, to keep up their required stock supply and keeping prices low they move a lot of their production to Mexico. The entire first run were defective and had to all be scraped; a year and a half later, they still haven't recovered. This is merely one example of hundreds of companies being forced overseas to keep their prices down.

In a way, it's a bit like this video, just think of the American Public as the girl and Corporate America as her parents:

Corporate America:"Isn't this what you wanted? Cheap prices? What did I do wrong?"
You've found out what the Paparazzi and Catholic Priests already know: fuck with the kids, and all bets are off.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rejection, Rejection, Rejection!

I've been trying to pitch Surviving Retail: Anecdotes and Observation from a Life Working Retail to literary agents, who will in turn sell it to publishers. Theoretically. I've sent out query letters to about a dozen agents as of yet, and gotten about 4 letters of rejection. As much as I have a issue with rejection, this doesn't bother me at all; I am so proud of what I've done I see it as their loss-or at least I do now. But after reading how writers often behave towards their agents and the wording of the rejection e-mails, it suggests that writers in general must be really twitchy. But I'm cool with it, there's nothing like being musician to get used to being rejected. This is the typical theme:

We say no for many reasons -- because of changing trends in the market; because we already have something similar on our list; because we know of similar published or forthcoming books; because something isn't right for us; because although something may be strong and even publishable, we didn't fall in love with it.

Try to keep "No" in perspective. All it takes is one "Yes." Editorial opinions are, of course, subjective. There are many authors whose manuscripts have been rejected, and have then gone on to find the right publisher for their work. In fact, you might say this is a time-honored publishing tradition, and we hope that it will be the case for you.

Ain't that something? It's really the very best way to be rejected; this agent has shown me more emotional sensitivity than some of my girlfriends.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Post-Party Apology Form E-Mail

Standard Form
(Check all that apply)
Dear _______ , I would like to apologize for the events of last night:

< > I was slightly too drunk.
< > I was WAY too drunk!
< > I was under the influence of drugs
< > I was on A LOT of cough syrup

Thus resulting in the:

< > General obnoxiousness
< > Destruction and/or stealing of property
< > Attempted Hook-up
< > Successful Hook-up
< > With your significant other
Rest assured, this is out of my character. I hope this incident will not influence your decision when considering me for future:

< > Party Attendance
< > Friendship
< > Hook-up



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reasons Guitar Hero is better than really playing guitar.

I've been playing guitar for 22 years and playing with other people in bands almost that long, but this means nothing when I strap on the guitar controller for the wildly popular Guitar Hero videogames. The first song I played was "You Really Got Me", which I know on the regular guitar; I tried to do what the game required to truly "ROCK OUT!", but my finger muscle memory moved my fingers to a G to A riff instead of red button to green button. This resulted in strangled strings, almost instantaneous booing from the audience and disapproving head shakes from my bandmates. Brutal. Affectations like pointing the guitar skyward and hitting the whammy bar are ways to earn points in the game; with the real guitar playing it just makes you look like a member of Ratt or knock your guitar out of tune(respectively).

I don't have any problem with Guitar Hero as a musician, although I'm sure that some do; it's easy to imagine a nation of 9-year olds kicking the asses of their "real" guitar playing relatives. It's based on guitar playing like any "fact-based" movie that's "Based on a true story"; The good stuff has been tarted up to the point of being almost unrecognizable and the boring stuff has been eliminated. Trust me, being a musician has A LOT of boring stuff; The onscreen avatars in the game even reflect this, throwing and spinning their guitars more than actually strumming them.
Anyway, on with the list:
1.Practice, Practice, Practice. In GH there is none, thankfully. There is the practicing of the instrument itself, with me there in the writing of the song as well; then there is the practicing with other people, which is it's own kind of nightmare. When a band really gels, there is nothing like it, but if things aren't going well it's almost like an amplified bout of constipation that lasts 2-3 hours.
2. Logistics of the gigs. Loading in gear, loading out gear, getting the shit there, getting YOU there; I could tell countless horror stories about all of those things, not to mention what to do if your shit doesn't work or gets stolen in the process. In GH, you just fire up the 'ol console. Another advantage: you can use your intoxicant of choice without arguing who's going to drive home.
3. You don't have to listen to other bands. One of the most unfortunate things about bands is that there are more cool ones than good ones. My aversion to lying once led me to say to a band, "You guys travel light!"
4. Built-in audience. I spent a lot of my time when I played in a band promoting; getting shows, printing and distributing fliers and networking at every opportunity. This let to many people recognizing my band's name, but not to people actually going to our shows. GH audiences are always stacked, packed, and racked (as my nightclub promoter boss used to say). The is a price to be paid for their availablity though; thank God I never played for an audience as expecting of perfection as in this videogame, I would have booed off many a stage.

5. The money. As in, there is none. At least with Guitar Hero, you aren't expecting to get any.
Rush-guitar hero style:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Official, They Think We're Idiots!

I saw this on Keith Olbermann last night and thought I might have dreamed it, but no!

The GOP treats us who pay attention to the news like the boyfriend getting caught cheating and then saying, "It wasn't me!" Unfortunately, too many of us have been too in love to look beyond the obvious lies and insults to our intelligence. Congress pushed for the vote to war? I believe Karl Rove is the only person with balls big enough to even say that out loud.

I wonder what his book is going to be called since Lies (and the Lying Lairs That Tell Them) has been taken.
My suggestion?:Cracker, Please!

Texas Never Whispers

As you may or may not know I'm back in DC after a sojourn to Iowa and Austin, Texas (to finish my first book Surviving Retail). I thought I would share some Texas observations with my loyal readers.

1. Texas is BIG. No, really. It's big like the Grand Canyon is big, no description of it's vastness can prepare you to experience it first hand. You get a bit spoiled living in the Northwest, and DC in specific, where a two hour drive can get you to the mountains, the beach, Norfolk, Philadelphia and back and forth from Baltimore. A two-hour drive from Austin gets you... an hour from Dallas. It's hard to not notice how many of the flights at the Austin airport go to cities that are still in Texas.

2. Texans love Texas, it's almost like Texas is it's own country.Drive down any residential street and there are almost as many Texas state flags as their were American flags after 9/11. I think that Texas would be the best state in the union to have Alzheimer's in, you would at least know what state you were in at all times; everything mentions Texas from beer cans to the national commercials("Ford, Texas tough", "Dairy Queen, that's what I like about Texas!").

3. They are INSANE about football! They televise high school games, ferchristsakes! If you flew in to Austin not knowing a thing about The University of Texas Longhorns, you'd probably figure out by the writing on the t-shirts you'd see that the local college football enjoys a healthy amount of support. Soon after you'd realize that the Longhorn head logo that IS FUCKING EVERYWHERE also was a show of support for the 'Horns and you might become a little concerned. At some point it would come to you that burnt orange- this:

is their official color and you realize you're in the non-UT supporting minority. The color is so identified with it (legend has it that that was the only color uniform available when the UT football program started) that often shirts are just burnt orange with no writing or logos at all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Movies that should never be remade (but if they did)

Hollywood had made no secret of their longtime creative bankruptcy, updating old properties- some that weren’t all that popular to begin with (the Wicker Man?). Nothing seems to be sacred these days from the long knives of revisionist cinema. Since disapproving Internet flames do no actual damage; nothing can stop the ill-advised remakes. Nobody ever listens to me, much less Hollywood types, but this is what I think should NEVER be remade. But if they did….

Blade Runner- Few Science fiction anything from that era have aged as well as Blade Runner, funny considering that it didn’t take place that far into the future. I think it worked so well because the Sci-Fi elements were necessary to serve the story, not stuck on instead of a story. You could create the right sets, have the right story and miss almost everything that makes that movie great: The grimly claustrophobic feel, Rudger Hauer, and Harrison Ford. It still feels futuristic as well, something that the Star Wars movies cannot claim.
But If they did they would probably cast:
Decker (Harrison Ford)-Dane Cook. He wouldn’t be the first choice-that would be Jake Gyllenhaal , he’s just the first one that would say yes.
Roy Batty (Rudger Hauer)- Vin Diesel. He actually would be the first choice when a joke at the development meeting for the project gets taken seriously.

Annie Hall- I think this one, like the Godfather movies, are un-remakeable until at least everyone who would object to it would be dead. It’s absolutely the perfect romantic comedy right down to the ending, where they don’t end up together. I was going to stay Spoiler Alert, but if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you deserve to be spoiled.
But if they did they’d probably cast…

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen)- Zach Braff, he’d be perfect! Not as nebbish (close) but much cuter, which is much more important these days than when the original was made.

Annie Hall (Diane Keaton)- Oh, Anne Hathaway, why not? She’d look great in that tie and vest ensemble that Diane rocked with a vengeance!

Apocalypse Now- Arguably the most accidentally great movie ever made, if you don’t agree I suggest you see the documentary Heart of Darkness. It has all the makings of a total disaster: One of the stars (Martin Sheen) has a serious heart attack at the beginning of shooting, almost constant rewriting, filming in a police state (the Philippines), the general insanity of Marlon Brando. Add to that the nagging doubts about the abilities of Francis Ford Coppola, most notably from Coppola himself, who is convinced that he’s making the worst movie of all time. Out of all this, he actually made one of the best films of all time; my Vietnam Vet uncle Steve said that it certainly captures the isolation and dehumanization better than he’s ever seen in a movie.

Possible cast:
Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando)- Nicholas Cage or Val Kilmer. Cage seems to be on the very short list when they want someone to play crazy who is actually crazy, now that Nick Nolte is too old. I read a story about Val Kilmer that made me think he might do a good job if only because he seems to be as focused in his insanity as Brando. Whouldn't you like to see the slap-fight that those two would have over this role?
Willard (Martin Sheen)-Christian Bale. All kidding aside, he would be awesome in this. It still shouldn’t be remade, though. Seriously. Don’t do it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The HD Dilemma

As I have posted before, the future ain't what it used to be. All the "futuristic"-sounding new wave music from the 80s doesn't sound like 2007, it sounds like 1984. One of what makes old science fiction so unintentionally hilarious is this future world of 2000 still use technology that was made obsolete seconds after filming, like tape reel mainframe computers and dot matrix printers. I watched some episodes of the old school "Battlestar Galactica" and on one, the crew of the Galactica discover a spaceship that contained some humans in suspended animation. They surmised that the only thing they could figure out about them was that they were obviously far more technologically advanced. I was going to have to take their word for it; after 25 years of my slow-building cynicism, if you've seen one set spray-painted silver, you've seen them all. The only thing that they seem to have was Disco rope light technology. Don't think this has stopped because we have all these wonderful gadgets that make our lives that much sweeter, even something as recent and forward thinking as The Matrix is starting to show it's age.

The thing that I always notice now are the displays; from the painted screens of "Star Trek" to the monochromatic picture tube displays of almost every sci-fi movie from the late 70s-early 80s, it crushes the "illusion" of the future that made it so easy for me to get lost in when I was younger. It doesn't help that one of the most enduring elements of old sci-fi is that font that everyone used that made it seem like everything in the future was going to be written out using pocket calculators. Like this:

Even though it could have been easily done, George Lucas didn't screw with the starship displays when he redid the original Star Wars trilogy and that, to me, clashed jarringly with the stuff that he did digitally "enhance".

This, believe it or not, leads me to HD TV. I had my first real taste of big screen HD this Sunday when I went to a friends house to watch football. It was like the first time I saw color TV, it made me see familiar things in a whole new way. The most striking thing was the contrast between programing made in HD and things that aren't. I realize that they don't make Plasma TVs to make the old way of broadcasting look good, but the HD stuff looked positively three dimensional, nearly to the point of distraction. You get caught up with watching the blades of astro-turf and not all the beefy football dudes falling all over it.

But, as you might have heard, not every one is excited about High-Definition. The Porn industry has never met a technological advance that it couldn't ride to a multi-million dollar bonanza-from VCRs to the internet and almost everything in between, but HD is another story. Every stretch mark and ingrown hair is now in clear and unflattering focus in High-Def. From what I saw from my football-filled Sunday, is that may be good that they're showing some restrain in that area. But, they're far from the only objectors, and it was obvious to me why people in front of the camera would be concerned. The amount of make-up shellacking that everyone from Beyonce to Terry Bradshaw is subjected to is really obvious in this format. Beyonce has the advantage of being a beautiful woman, but Terry looks like a pink-frosted face on Mount Rushmore.

HD is real (or more real) and TVs and movies are not about the real. As anyone who has worked on a movie or TV set can tell you, if you don't see it in the shot, it probably doesn't exist. With the ease and wide spread use of digital effects, seeing it doesn't make it real; be it a Transformer to the dead celebrities that dance with stuff that didn't exist while they were alive. But clogged pores pose a bigger challenge to maintaining the illusion of perfection that make regular people feel bad about themselves.

But now we as viewers have made it clear want the HD, we want the real. It's just a little more real than Hollywood has learned to cover quite yet; it might just take an extra layer of shellac to get us there.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fun Facts About Islam

The problem I often have with these “Fun Facts” posts is I’m not sure whether people already know the things I talk about. However seeing other people’s “Fun Facts” that I thought everyone knew made me realize that I shouldn’t worry about it too much. Still I hope I’m not wasting anyone’s time.

1.One of the biggest misconceptions people have about Muslims is that they always refer to God as Allah, but they only do this if they’re speaking Arabic (or one of the other Middle Eastern languages). If they’re speaking English, they say God. Using Allah outside of that context suggests that the Muslim God is different than the Christian God; they all worship the “God of Abraham”.
2.Jesus is an important figure in Islam (as is Moses), but he has seen as a prophet, not as the Son of God. This is why many Muslims consider Christianity a polytheistic religion.
3.Islam was created as a return to the true word of God after what was seen as the subverting influence of Man on the Christian and Jewish religions. This is part of the reason why many fundamentalist Muslims take such a literal and dogmatic approach to the writings of the Koran.
4.Even though there are Muslim clerics, no one is considered closer to God than anyone else; anyone worshiping at a Mosque can lead prayers.
5.Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s ”, which many (myself included) see as a call for a separation of church and state, while the Koran specifically forbids it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Adventures in Daytime TV

In the process of writing and finishing Surviving Retail (it's getting copy edited right now), I've been watching an embarrassing amount of daytime TV. The qualifier "embarrassing" is a bit varied amongst people I know, most think that anymore than what peeks out when switching channels is officially too much; I watch A LOT more than that. Like all the "fourth meal" ads on at Stoner o' clock or the super late night phone sex ads, the commercials seem to be reading the collective mind of its audience. The ads are almost all career colleges, with the occasional fast food ad sprinkled in. I seriously considered a career in HVAC or Nursing, but instead it drove me to start watching from behind my computer writing, so when they guy on the commercial says, "You're sitting there on the couch..." he'd be wrong. They try to seal the deal by showing happy ex-graduates and have them say things like, "If I can do it, you can too!" which -in my experience -is the most untrue cliché since "The customer is always right". Let me break them down:

1. The Greg Behrendt Show- Sadly, this show has been canceled. It was a good show and far and away the least soul-stealing to watch. I guess being part of the solution does not make for compelling daytime TV. It shouldn't have worked as well as it did; an aging faux hipster dude who became famous writing He's Just Not That Into You . That makes him qualified to be Captain Obvious, commander of the S.S. No Shit, not a daytime talk show host.

But, neo-mullet and wallet chain notwithstanding, I've always thought he was a talented stand-up comedian and he had more than enough charisma to make it work. In many ways, Greg's was the anti-Springer show actually trying to solve people's problems instead of televising them after they've festered into hair-pulling fury. He still worked in the obvious, but I've learned-from body odor to the truth- what should be apparent to you is often much clearer to everyone else. When a woman comes on with an emotionally distant boyfriend, he'll say, "Break up with him, you're an awesome woman, don't you think you can do better? I do." He may not give away stuff like some of the other talk show hosts, but he will somehow get back the ring that a girl's scrub boyfriend stole from her that was a keepsake from her dead mother.

2. The Maury Povich show- I got used to Maury's disingenuous concern for people when he was host of tabloid show A Current Affair when he would come out of some muck-raking celebrity story saying, "Leave them alone!" like he wasn't responsible for any of it.

It's nice that he occasionally helps people (not without a certain amount of exploitation), but he has far more shows about cheating. Sometimes cheaters are exposed by massively flunking lie detector tests that nearly every one is convinced they've passed. I've watched quite a few of these shows and only a fraction have ever passed and almost all of them have been women-who only make up about 10 percent of the people tested.

They precede the test results with a look at the relationship in question; The boyfriend treats them like shit, disappears for days, gets caught in bed nude with another woman and says that they were "talking" and- on one recent show- prostituted himself. It makes you wonder why they're waiting for the test results to decide whether to end the relationship. Unfortunately, as the show updates illustrate, even the fact that their boyfriend has kids that they didn't tell them about or that he slept with her sister end up to not be the dealbreakers you'd expect then to be.

Then there's the DNA testing shows; lie detectors can be inaccurate, but DNA is not. Sometimes the paternity comes into a question because of cheating, a truth that the "father" finds out about the same time the studio audience does. Sometimes it's as many as 3 different men being tested for one child; one woman even had 12 men tested in a (thus far) futile attempt to find the father. More often, it's two people who might have been in love- or in lust- at one time but are now on national television saying the most horrendous things about each other. The men especially look bad, using excuses that don't even make the most basic biological sense: they only had sex once, the baby doesn't have his birthmark, he only has one testicle. They also claim that the woman slept with dozens of other possible fathers, even if they were in a relationship at the time of conception.

But all of the insults and innuendo mean nothing when the results finally come out. Regardless of what story either party is sticking to, nothing guarantees any result. A woman can say that she's "a thousand percent" sure the man is the father and be wrong; the man can claim he never even slept with the woman and be the father. After the results, the party that was right gloats in a way that suggests that they are every bit as classy as you may have thought, while the wrong one runs backstage; so many people have run back there it's almost as well appointed as the front. But once in a while the right person will stop gloating and will reach out to the other person in surprisingly tender ways, but you can't predict or expect that outcome either.

The thing that brings it all home for me is when they show the child whose paternity is in question grinning sweetly backstage. Unfortunately, like the lie detector tests, regardless of the results, it's already obvious that a lot of these kids are screwed.

The Jerry Springer show- In the past, I may have lingered on this show only to flip past after a couple minutes, but not in a very long time. Since it's been out of my attention, it has morphed into a show where the slightest sliver of civility it may have had got destroyed when two sweaty redneck brothers (who don't have a full set of teeth between them) crushed it as they fought over the meth addicted prostitute that one of them is married to.

Instead of trying to buck the perception of being the trashiest of the trashy, The Springer show seems to have taken that as a challenge; they have the technology, they can go lower, sleazier, and they can go MUCH trashier.

They've been showing some older episodes which lets me know that my memory serves me correctly. Fights used to break out occasionally, usually after someone does something to instigate it; now, when anyone comes out, they're swinging. Sometimes even people from the studio audience get in on the fisticuffs. The only rules are women and men can't hit each other and no cursing, although the former is probably because the resulting beeping would be mighty distracting to the viewer at home. Instead of the occasional boob flash from a shame deficient female guest, audience members are more than happy to lift up their shirts for "Jerry Beads"; I saw a mother and daughter team do it yesterday. There may have been some constructive comments from the audience in the past directed at the guests, but if someone dared do that now, they get shouted down by everyone else in the crowd with a chant of "Go To Oprah!"

Ah yes, the chants: there's "Jerry, Jerry" of course, but there's a guy whose job on the show seems to be starting chants. This is based on a pretty strong assumption; all chants begins with one guy with the same voice yelling, "We Love Whores!" ,"You Are Gay!" or "Get On The Pole!" whatever the situation requires. Did I forget to mention the stripper pole? The great thing about the pole is that it's an equal opportunity pole; men, women, cute, or nasty, all are free to shake their respective moneymakers.

Some of my favorite episodes feature the Reverend Schnor, a boozy "Man of the Cloth" who- God help me- performs the occasional wedding during the show, usually after the bride and/or groom had their clothes torn off by brawling with someone who decided not to "forever hold their peace". Getting married on the Springer is the ultimate prenuptial agreement, you're agreeing before you get hitched that there is no fuckin' way this is going to work out.

The pole and the good Rev. may have been there for a while, but there is a feature to the show that I know is brand new: Kenny. He seems to have no body at all from the waist down; he just randomly walks across the stage on his hands or crawls up a ladder to look over the show from a catwalk over the stage. Other than handing Jerry an envelope once, I have literally not seen him do anything else.

But hey, what do I expect? It's THE FREAKING JERRY SPRINGER SHOW! I once saw a little person with a baby fetish in a diaper and bonnet who wouldn't stop screaming, "Stop making fun of me!" Dude, if you want understanding, go to Oprah. It's kinda like Britney forgetting to wear undies after the first time the world saw her va-jay-jay; you'll only get sympathy if you don't know any better. And Jerry's been doing this for a long time.

Pete's final thoughts: As much as I don't believe in the concept of the "Guilty Pleasure", these shows could never be anything but. I guess we all need to be falsely superior to someone, and after an afternoon of these kind of shows, I feel like Donald Trump. But with better hair.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why I Let Music Destroy My Life: The Beatles

My first favorite band was the Beatles, they happen to hold that same space today. I’ve heard quite a few more bands since then and from day to day any of the other could have the space temporarily. But if I was only able to pick one band’s work to listen to on a desert island- a situation that happens more in drunken conversation than in real life- my choice would always be the Beatles.

They did so many fantastic hours of work, innovating almost accidentally with an undeniable timelessness that I still love. I have run across a couple folks who just don’t like the Beatles, and it’s always weird. These people are certainly entitled to their opinion, but it’s a little like when somebody freaks out when you let it slip that you smoke pot; you run across so few of those people that you never get used to it. These aren’t people that just haven’t realized that The Beatles did more of the songs they always have heard on the radio, but didn’t realize who did them, these are people that have weighed all the evidence and still said, “Nope, I don’t get it.” I may gasp, but I ultimately understand.

My first favorite song -that I remember at least- was “Dust In The Wind”, but thankfully the lesser works of Kansas held no similar pull. In one of the most significant musical experiences in my life, I saw Yellow Submarine on TV, broadcast to lower Delaware from one of the Philadelphia stations. The cartoons were the key to me listening to the songs, which I loved one after the other. A trip to my Grandmother’s house stopped me from seeing the rest of it, but in her basement full of my uncle and aunt’s forgotten records, I found something more valuable, The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Not the most acclaimed release by them, but perfect for my 9 year old self to soak into.

My parents bought me a couple more albums and they didn’t to be able write a song that I didn’t like, with the exemption of “dead dog’s eye” part of “I Am The Walrus.” Having so many aunts and uncles growing up in that era made every visit to relative’s houses meant discovering and listening to everything Beatle related in their collections. Every song I discovered was a great in a new and exciting way as they often were. I heard everything stripped of it’s context in rock history or it’s place among the other music I was familiar with at that age. The songs were what got me, although I didn’t intellectualize it that far for a VERY long time. The movements within the songs and experimental instrumental arrangements that flavored their later work were all fine and good but they still had amazing songs at the core; written by a band where even the third best songwriter -George Harrison-is still an all-time great.

I loved seeing Beatlemania through old footage with the freaking out teenage girls, sparking my own desire to make music; The desire to have girls chasing me through town in a jaunty fashion was as much of a motivation as actually making music. Having the all-time biggest band of all time as a favorite band provided me with quite the embarrassment of riches; on top of the many albums of great music, all the movies and the vivid news footage that would make their way onto our T.V. from time to time.

However, it was a different being a 9 year-old Beatles fan in 1979.
“I like that song of theirs ‘We Don’t Need No Education’,” one of my classmates said when I told him I liked the Beatles
I didn’t know who did that song yet (Pink Floyd) or what that song was really called (“Another Brick In The Wall (part 2)”) but I knew for sure it wasn’t MY Beatles. For most of my other peers, 1979 was all about Van Halen, and why not? Listening to Van Halen now makes my classmates devotion seem justified. There was no band that scratched the collective itch of American youth quite as hard as Van Halen’s first five albums. It’s a place that few bands have occupied as THE band you HAD to listen to to be accepted in certain social circles, like Led Zeppelin before them or Metallica later. If the band had broken up when David Lee Roth left, it would have been the most perfect breakup since The Beatles. But instead -for better of worse- they got Sammy Hagar; they were just different enough not be the same band. I don’t even remember if I even got to hear much Van Halen back in 4th grade, but I do remember seeing David Lee Roth’s bend backward in a hairy chested arc in the gatefold of their first album and realized that it wasn’t something I would be interested in quite yet.

We had a older music teacher named Mrs. Baxter who favored the tweed dress suits, jeweled broaches and cat-eye reading glasses that were straight outta the early fifties. She would occasionally make interjections about the changing social mores going on in the late 70’s: “I think Feminism is terrible, men don’t respect women anymore!” Sometimes it to give kid-buzz killing proclamations about the holidays we were looking forward to : “Halloween is disgraceful, it’s just organized begging.” Ouch! If we had time at the end of class, Mrs. Baxter would let us play a song from a single or an album we’d bring in from home. I was still under the mistaken assumption that all it would take would people to hear the music that I love for everyone that listened to it would love it, too. Sadly, I would hold on to this falsehood for another decade at least. I finally got the opportunity to play the Beatles song for my music class:”Help”.

I don’t remember Mrs. Baxter making any comment after any body played their selections (Queen, Bee Gees,Elvis) but she had something to say about mine.
“Completely overrated, you could easily find four students at the local high school who could sing better than them.” I was completely blown away, I still don’t understand why she saved her venom for my beloved Beatles.

I spent my teenage years stretching out a bit, INXS and Simple Minds played a big part before I got the disposable income to buy all the albums that the record guides that I won from the local radio station trivia contests told me to buy, leading to my High School obsessions with The Replacements and Husker Du.

I never had that moment of embarrassment that seems to come from so many things that I loved from back then, like “Knight Rider” and “Buck Rogers” or Frankie Goes to Hollywood, for that matter. The love songs that the Beatles wrote are still some of my favorite love songs. The rock songs they did rock me to this day, dozens of the most effortlessly brilliant pop songs ever written came out of six years of activity.

If you really want to get some idea how “Out there” they were for their time, keep in mind that the “long” hair that they had on their historic- in my opinion the most significant event in Pop music history-Ed Sullivan Show appearance made people think they looked like women, sideburns notwithstanding. Albums were seen as a way for the music buyer to re-buy singles by packaging songs from 45s and pack it with filler until the Beatles used the opportunity to use the format to create full length masterpieces. They were one of the only popular bands of the era to actually write their own songs.

You don’t have to like the Beatles for them to have affected the music you love.

By the way, I’ve never seen the Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper movies , nor do I plan to.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Territorial Pissings

“There’s two kindsa people in this world...”, Is how the cliché goes to be followed by some insightful human dichotomy. One of the few that I can actually relate to is:” Dog people and cat person.” I myself started out as a cat person. When I was a kid cats just seemed cool. Dogs are clumsy, they can knock things over with an errant swing of the tail. But cats are graceful, even when they go from 0 to freaky in 2 seconds and HAVE TO BE IN THE NEXT ROOM RIGHT NOW!!! . I could handle their moodiness. The cats I had as a kid loved to hang out and be petted, but when they were done with you they expressed it with their claws in typically subtle cat fashion.
The tide turned around my mid 20’s. My roommate at the time had three female cats that constantly were in heat. Their human like moans outside my room crept into my subconscious as I slept that turned into dreams of a kitty conspiracy against “the bald one”: ME! They didn’t do much to make me think otherwise when I was awake,either. They became strangely silent when I walked past, and took swipes at my leg from under the couch. I stopped calling myself a “cat person”.

Dogs, on the other hand, lobbied so much harder for my affection. I became softer to their brand of unconditional love. “ You're OK by us, Pete, the occasional butt scratch is all we ask in exchange for our absolute devotion.” is what dogs seem to say to me and I started to listen. Dogs started to fascinate me, especially when I started working at the toy store. Both children and dogs need consistency in guidance, so they don’t get unruly when they get older. The child has to learn communication, but dogs know how to communicate instinctively. The growl, the bark, we relate to those because we have our own human versions of this. But the way they communicate with their bodily waste never fails to fascinate me. We wash our scent away, but it is the dog's very identity.
I don’t think I would have noticed how important this was if I hadn’t know two very alpha female dogs in my life. Casey was the terrier mutt of my ex girlfriend, Vicki. When we started dating the dog made it quite clear she dug me. She hunkered down between Vicki and I when we would try to get close. She would get amazingly dense when we’d try to pick her up out of our way. Whenever I had played with another dog before I got to Vicki’s, Casey would give me a quick whiff and a snort and I was busted. She’d spend the rest of the night glaring at me with the gaze of the betrayed. When I would take the pooch out, she would sniff out the road ahead with a intensity I’d never noticed in the other dogs I had come across. I would call this “reading the papers” because that’s how she got information that was important to the dog in the city. “The big dog next door was at this tree about an hour ago, and he recently got in the trash and ate something that didn't agree with him.”

The dynamic changed considerably when Vicki got a puppy she named Ollie. Ollie was a pitbull mutt who scared everyone that spent less than 5 seconds with him. Any fear he may have struck with his inherited tough looks were severely blunted by his ears. The left one flopped over his eye while the other one stuck straight up, making him look constantly confused. Ollie quickly grew larger than Casey, but attempt to mount her or any other show of dominance was met by furious anger.
Around the end of Vicki and my relationship, my old roommate Shawn and his dog Samantha moved in with me in Rockville. I had lived with Shawn and Sam in Salisbury before, but now I understood Sam’s behavior much better having learned from Casey. When Sam shit on my bed when we first lived together, she was establishing dominance in the house. I thought dogs stuck their heads out of the car because it was fun, because I tried it and it was. But they’re taking in all the smells that are undetectable to us scent insensitive humans.
When I’d take her out, Sam is all business. Laser focused, she lingers over evidence of another dog on the ground for a few seconds before giving a look that says, “ Oh no, that bitch didn’t !” and give her own urinary rebuttal. She’d often lift her leg up in the fashion that was more associated with male dogs to insure that every tree, sign post or whatever she could make into a musk dispersing broadcasting tower.
Every trip outdoors covered another Samantha perimeter. Either she went to the right or left of the road that went by our apartment building or around our parking lot. She would go just as far as we would take her and she often had to be pulled a couple times on her leash to turn back. The aromatic cherry on top was when we’d walk passed the entrance to our parking lot and she would stop and assumed the undeniable position of dropping doggy bombs. No one said love would be easy.

After rainstorms she’d whine until we take her outside to remark her borders. so there is nary a second of doubt to any interloping canine that this is Sammy Country.

Informally studying the role that scent plays in doggy communication didn't mean that I would use foresight to keep me safe. I horse played with Sam before we went over to our friend Rob’s house. You see, after I had moved from Salisbury, Rob took my place at the house. He had a huge male rottweiler named Lou, who was sweet but dim and humongous; when he lived at my former abode, he was Sam’s “boyfriend”.
And I smelled like her.
As we sat on Rob’s couch, Lou sat there on the edge staring at me with a gaze that equal parts lovelorn and confused. He was big enough that when we both sat we were almost eye to eye. If he was suddenly granted the ability to speak, he most assuredly would ask, “I’m really confused, but I pretty sure I want to have sex with you.” He fidgeted about as he surveyed me evenly with his eyes, like maybe I was hiding his girlfriend in my jacket.

I remember watching Sam asserting her alpha bitch status to Lou when we would go over to where he and Rob lived. He was playing with a huge stick, until Sam decided to have it. She just went up to him and threw a little aggressive growling and it was hers. Never mind that the branch was too big for her to play with, that wasn’t the point, it was about the alpha bitch asserting her dominance. When she lost whatever meager desire for the huge stick, Lou would try to get it back, only to have Sam snap him away.

So here was me in his master’s basement, scented to inflame his instinctual desire, with none of the establishment of dominance that was Sam’s forte to keep him in check; I was defenseless. I came back from a trip to the backyard to be met in the hallway on the other side of the door by a Lou that was done being polite, he wanted booty, he literally wanted me to be his bitch. His massive body was blocking the hallway, making sure I couldn’t make my way back to Shawn and Rob. He growled that playtime was over then he put his front paws up on my shoulders pinning me up against the back door.
“ ROB! your dog is trying to rape me!”

I realized that Sam was starting to get older when a bulldog moved into one of the other apartments; other dogs had come and go, but this was different. I’d take her out by the bulldog’s building and her nose would catch what was certainly another dog’s piss and she’d shudder like she didn’t like it, but she just walked away instead of squatting it away. She had finally met her match.

For the rest of the time I lived with them, Sam gave up her territory except for the lawn in front of the interloper’s building in an passive-aggressive attempt to usurp the territory of the bulldog. That’s the funny thing, this was a war fought purely with smells; I made sure that I never took her out when the other dog was out, so she never got muzzle to muzzle with him. I wasn’t stupid, Sam with the sweetest dog possible with other humans, but with other dogs, she was a real bitch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Secret Catholic Life

My maternal Grandmother suffered from Dementia. One of the common symptoms of this disease is the sufferer sometimes reacts as if they are living in different eras of their life from one moment to the next. This was especially poignant when she would ask me, “Who are you?” when I visited her after she suffered a heart attack. How could I explain to her that I was her son Tom’s son when she thought she was living in a reality where she hadn’t even gotten married, much less had my father; the fourth kid out of seven.

One of the unexpected byproducts of her mental state was the unearthing of a secret from when I was born: while she baby-sat me, she had me baptized in the Catholic church without my parent’s permission. My parents had resisted my relatives attempts to indoctrinate me to religion, with Bible comic books and babysitting gigs filled with stories from scripture. But we didn't find out about this until I was almost 30.

It wasn’t at all like when I found out I had ADHD, where the separate clues in my life suddenly bound together as one reality. There was no, “Ah, HA!” moment with Catholicism, I spent many a Catholic Mass or ceremony lost in the choreography of the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Marys.
“And also with you.” Missed that one too! That came out of nowhere, why couldn’t I remember to say that when the priest said, “Peace be with you?” I was always the last person to stand up and sit down. I looked around and everyone else is lock step like they had rehearsed it, and I guess they did, every Sunday.

That’s the problem that I have with the Catholic Church- the Church, not Catholics personally- they’re so caught up in ceremony and seeming virtuous that they’ve lost sight of the fact that they have lost their moral authority. You could site examples of the questionable behavior that the Catholic Church was both active in(the Inquisition) and more passive (the Holocaust). Even discounting those historical examples, the Priest sex abuse scandals and the network of denial that kept them going as long as they could is more than enough to lose the needle on the moral compass. From my own perspective, the only people surprised by the Catholic priest scandal were non-Catholics and Catholics in blinding denial. But now there is no denying what had been going on; if my grandmother hadn’t died, this surely would have killed her.

I think that child abuse is one of the most dangerous and damaging things ever. It’s almost like the Amway of crimes; Robbery victims don’t typically start robbing people afterward, but children that are sexually abused often go on to abuse many other children, and so on.

I think the sin of the Catholic Church is pride; I guess that’s to be expected when Jesus starts your church. Dogma allows the Catholic Church to change and update sins and getting rid of Limbo altogether. They can always hold the afterlife over us because they’re much better at the great unknown than the great known. They only have us by our faith, and that is often more than enough.

Of course I can say all of this, I am Catholic after all. That’s the benefit of my Grandmom’s clandestine water-splashing, which I’ve never held it against her, by the way. Because of this one ritual, according to Catholic Dogma I’ll eventually land in Heaven; after a long detour in Purgatory, I’m sure.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Madonna-Indie Rocker?:How The Music Industry Screwed Itself

It was big news (to me)that Madonna recently dropped her record company in favor of a promotion company following similar moves by Nine Inch Nails and Oasis. I admit that all three have past their commercial peak long ago, but Radiohead still has a sizable loyal following and has gone around their record company to offer their record online for a price of the downloaders choosing. It's a interesting experiment, and it's likely to have one result: they'll make more money doing it like this than if they released it through their record company. In fact, if someone pays more than $1.50 for it, Radiohead makes more than if you paid full price at your local retailer. Maybe.

I realize that calling Madonna an indie rocker is similar to calling George Lucas an indie filmmaker; true in definition, if not in spirit.

In a system first developed to take advantage of musicians eager for stardom at the dawn of the rock and roll era, artists are responsible for paying back all costs involved with the recording and promotion of an album to their record company before they make a cent, everything down to the gold records. Some of the most biggest artists make make all their money from touring and merchandise, those expensive videos take their toll.

With all of the old school major labels getting stuck together into unwieldy monsters, highlighting to problems that occur when art meets the bottom line. Old school majors certainly had their problems, but it was more a game of blackjack; you win some, you lose some, but overall hopefully you'll come out ahead. Now it's more like playing slots; they throw money that they made from the last flash-in-the-pan to find the next one. Even if -as an artist- you get some glimmer of success, the slightest downturn in your popularity will leave you persona non grata at your label, and damaged goods to any other label.
It's telling that major labels are requiring new artists to give them a piece of their touring and merchandise money too.
Then came the internet and downloading;it takes away one of the biggest advantages being on a major label, distribution. Downloading democratizes distribution so that even someone who records music in his bedroom (me, for example) can use the same channels as the biggest multi-national conglomerate to get their music out into the world.

What else could the majors offer, promotion? Tons of indie artists, like Arcade Fire, The Shins or The New Pornographers make appearances on TV shows that used to be the domain of major label artists.

Someone once said, "The future belongs to those who see it coming" and clearly the major labels didn't. They tried to stop an unstoppable technology;regardless of what ever copy protection they use, someone could just plug their CD player in to the audio jack of their computer to create mp3s. It's what I refer to as "the Pandora effect": when something as revolutionary as downloading pops out of the box, it does no use trying to fight it directly, you adjust or die.

I remember something that was printed on a lot of records and tapes in the Eighties, "Home Taping is killing music" that wasn't true then, and the whining about downloading killing it is wrong too. Music can't die but poorly run companies drunk on their own ego can.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Brand New Music Fun Facts

What do The Velvet Underground and The Grateful Dead have in common? The both went by the name The Warlocks early in their careers.

What do ELO and Black Sabbath have in common? Drummer Bev Bevan, who played on almost all of ELO’s hits but none of Sabbath’s.

What do Vanilla Ice and Swanssinger Michael Gira have in common? They both dated Madonna, if Thurston Moore is to be believed. This is The Swans BTW

What do Thin Lizzy, 80’s new wavers Ultravox and Band Aid have in common? Guitarist Midge Ure, who was briefly in a late-period Lizzy and co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

What do Spinal Tap and The Left Banke(“Walk Away Renee”) have in common? Guitarist Michael McKean who joined the back after they had their hits.

What do Pearl Jam, 10cc and The Lovin Spoonful have in common? Their names were all inspired by semen. Pearl Jam had come up with some differing stories about their name, but honestly, do they strike you as guys that would admit that they’re named after jizz?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Why I Let Music Destroy My Life: The Lonnie Years

When I started playing music, it was on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware. In DC, if you go to see a show, depending on the venue, the band is going to play original music. On the Eastern Shore it was assumed that you played covers, where a band might let a few "originals" slip in, bring them closer to being a real band.

Thinking that you had to have three sets of your own songs to be a true original band(mainly because every original band I knew had that many songs) it felt like a milestone I would never reach with my current output of songs, which was about 2 or 3 a year.

Once I realized that most bands weren't required to have more than 45 minutes. I had put together a band with friends from bands around Salisbury: Dale played drums, I had played with him in my last band,Actionman. Joe played bass, he was the only other person to stay in the band until we broke up. Lonnie Bruner played guitar, he was the only one that I wasn't sure of musically, but I was sure of personally. I gave him a rough recording of some of my new songs and when we got together to practice them, I immediately realized that Lonnie was truly musically talented and added the simplest suggestion or arranging idea and it made everything sound better than it did in my head when I wrote the song.

We hit the ground running, playing an open mike show in Rehoboth Beach after less than a week. Our saving grace musically was our rhythm section, Dale and Joe provided an ultra steady backbeat to Lonnie and my increasingly noisy guitar shenanagans. I was playing guitar in a band for the first time, having just playing bass before, I was going to make up for the noise I wasn't able to make before.

Lonnie and I quickly adopted a policy to play as many shows possible shows with what we referred to as "The Cinderella Factor", from a article I had read about when Jon Bon Jovi discovered hair-metalists Cinderella. Jon signed them because he saw them in front of 20 people, but they played like they were playing for 20,000.

Don't get it twisted, we weren't fans of Cinderella and we certainly didn't think that Jon Bon Jovi was going to pluck us out of our ennui if we did our rock star raindances at our shows, we just knew that going fuckin-a bonkers as we played was funner than not doing it. Some of our most fun chaotic shows were in front our smallest crowds. Lonnie embodied the kind of foolishness and enthusiasm that I had always loved about playing rock and roll.

One guy took me aside and said,"Your guitar player looks a little silly jumping around when there wasn't that many people around." That was true, but I loved it and wouldn't have it any other way. The most interesting thing about that set he was talking about was Lonnie interacting with the four people who were completely into us and danced while everyone else lined the walls of the bar. Things got so out of hand that all our new fans were kicked out by the middle of the set.

This actually proved to bite us on our rock and roll asses on occasion. The night before we played one of our biggest shows at a college festival, we played a last minute show that concluded with Lonnie and I scrapping our guitars against our feedbacking amps. It's a ritual whose sheer joy can't be explained, it only be experienced first hand.

We cleaned up afterward and Lonnie noticed that rowdiness led him to lose one of his guitar's tuners. He took one off his banjo and just hope it held. The next day when we played, Lonnie's guitar cut out in the middle of the first song. When I looked at him in between singing, I saw him take his guitar off and slam it as hard as he could onto the festival's temporary stage. I understood his frustration, but it make it a bit difficult to get someone to lend us a guitar so we could play. Someone did take pity and we limped through the rest of our set.

A guy threatened to fine us one because Lonnie scraped his guitar along the entire dance floor guard rail in lieu of an actual guitar solo.

He got a couple of nicknames for his flexible, gangly acrobatics, "The Cricket", "the Rubber Man". When we'd play and I'd lose sight of him in my peripheral vision and knew it shortly before take-off and Lonnie would hurl himself onto whatever empty surface was in front of our stage and writhe around like a guitar playing, well cricket, actually.

Like all good things, it wasn't to last. Other interests led Lonnie to other things besides music, although we are obviously still friends.

The most vivid memory I have about my playing days with Lonnie was a show we had at Phantasmagoria in Wheaton, Maryland. During one of his solos, I took of my guitar and put it around Lonnie's neck right on top of his guitar. He started playing the solo on my guitar as I reached around him and played a one handed version of my part on his guitar until a drums and bass breakdown in the song gives us an opportunity to put our own guitar back on and indluge in a little feedback before playing the rest of the song.
It wasn't planned or talked about at all before. It was just a spontaneous part of our show that we never did it before and never did it again.
Us and the 2 dozen or so members of the audience already saw it, why do we need to do it again?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Love Means ALWAYS having to say you're sorry

I'm almost done with my book "Surviving Retail". It's taken about eight years(although I've been working on it in earnest the past year and a half) and it's weird to have something I've put so much energy into be so close to completion.
I have been so obsessed with it lately that I haven't felt like doing any other writing- song, blog, whatever- at all. But, I'll try to do right by my loyal fans, who number in the ones, and try to unclog all the excess material after I get through my rewriting.
The rewriting process has been nothing short of a revelation and reading it straight through-as opposed to the piecemeal way I wrote it- makes me sure of one thing: That I'm going to be very proud of it. That is the way I try to approach all of my "Art", though I feel pretentious calling it that.
I was proud of my CD as well and now I have 800 extra copies of it, but this is a little different. I have been a life-long music listener, but I knew that I could contribute nothing new. I think this book is honestly providing a neglected viewpoint in a new way. But who knows? I'm not as knowledgeable on literature.

Anyway, thanks for your understanding and thanks for your support. And if you know of anyone who could help me publish it, holler at a cracker!
Your Pal Pete

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say!

We, as a nation, need to calm the fuck down! It seems like every other day someone says something that other people won't shut up about until something is done. I whole-heartedly support their choice not to STFU, the problem is they feel they're justified to bitch; citing the precedent of the last few things people wouldn't STFU about.

The latest: (please watch the point/counterpoint afterward too-I'm sorry I couldn't embed it, I will when it hits You Tube)

Kathy Griffin:her time on the J-list

This illustrates the problem with Our Twitchy Nation: It's a joke, not in the best taste, but a joke nonetheless. The best humor often is these days and I don't think that's a coincidence.

When people started becoming more politically correct around the beginning of the 90s, I thought it was great; I was still overburdened with the faith in humanity that working retail would eventually beat out of me. I couldn't have foreseen that instead of sensitivity for everybody, it would be sensitivity towards the person willing to go too far to prove their point.

The asshole in the video who got offended by Kathy-who has every right to be pissed at her, just like I do him- used his opportunity to reiterate some of the "controversial" things that caused the media shitstorms to fall in the past to justify his "double standard" argument. So why is this guy not going to get into the same trouble as those other people? Context. Kathy said Jesus had nothing to do with her award to parody nearly every other award winner that thanks Jesus or God in their acceptance speech; I'm amazed someone hadn't made that type of joke already. But that was her context, if she had made a similar joke about Moses or Mohammed-like the Catholic dude said- it wouldn't have made any sense.

So let's go through his points:
Was that remark more offensive than Don Imus'? I don't think so, humor is always at the expense of something and I like to believe Jesus can take a joke. But that doesn't matter, I thought what happened to Imus was dumb too. I thought what he said was ignorant, but he shouldn't have lost his job over it. What was suppose to be a wake-up call for how African-American women are treated in society ended up with a guy gets paid to say controversial things getting fired for saying something controversial.

More offensive than Michael Richards dropping the "n-bomb"? I thought the n-word part of his tirade was incidental to everything else offensive he said. That it made the great Paul Mooney-a close friend of his-stop using the n-word in his act, that's pretty significant.

More offensive than Isaiah Washington's "F-Bomb"? This is the where PC thing really started getting out of hand; Rehab for using the word "Fag"(remember-context!)?

This brings me to how ultimately damaging this truly is: If that was the only thing that Isaiah did wrong(reports vary) after everything that's happened since, do you think he likes Gays more now? Did you notice how quick the Catholic League guy on CNN dropped the N-word, now that he had the context to do it without incident? I've known many openly bigoted people in my life and not one ever came around when all of these controversies happened, it just made their feelings seem that much more justifiable.

This is by no means excusing true racism and bigotry, it's just that I feel there are other ways to approach it: Pick your battles carefully and realize that true sensitivity goes both ways. Another way being PC fucks up true forward movement in society it that it creates an atmosphere where no one can talk about anything for fear of offending someone. A some liberal friends of mine have identified themselves as "colorblind"; Which is pointless, like D.L Hughley once said, "If you don't see Black, then you don't see me."

This point goes beyond bigotry, into drug use and abuse, teen sex, abortion and nearly every other contentious thing we like to argue about. We have to be honest with ourselves about the realities we face and not try to force the world into a idealized version that simply cannot exist. Only then, will we,as a nation, take a fucking joke once and a while.

I feel like I must say this: Where do Catholics get off feeling oppressed over this? She didn't say anything about Catholics specifically and Hollywood couldn't hate Catholics more than a lot of ex-Catholics do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Great lost You Tube videos

You Tube is awesome. This is something everyone knows, of course, but I have found some of the lost TV memories of my childhood there. The Replacements on Saturday Night Live, Husker Du on the Joan Rivers Show along with all the viral videos that I’m just as contagious to as anyone. There have been a few videos that I have looked for fruitlessly or were once there and are no longer.

Spinal Tap’s “Rock ‘n Roll Nightmare” -This is a heartbreaker. I just found out just a little while ago that this even existed. The principles of Spinal Tap(Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer) recorded a video for the ABC show Midnight Special for a song called “Rock and Roll Nightmare”. After I learned of it’s existence, I went to You Tube to see if some intrepid soul had posted it. Someone had!

For Tap fans- The song and video are an interesting bridge between “Listen to the Flower People” and “Sex Farm”.

I’d love to embed it, but the only person that had it on You Tube has had the video pulled for, as they put it ”violation of the terms of use”.

Seth Green n Mad TV- Like IMDB, You Tube is fantastic to prove a point and is just as close as any internet available computer. I futilely try to describe this to people and I’ve never seen it on You Tube. A frequently rerun episode of Mad Tv on Comedy Central has Seth Green dissing series regular Michael McDonald for calling himself a co-star with Green in the Austin Powers movies. Seth never seems to realize that he is no position to criticize with what he’s wearing: A leopard cowboy hat, see through shirt, faux fur jacket and black patent leather pants. It’s an outfit that if there were such thing as fashion police, Seth Green would be the first person sentenced to death.
When McDonald makes the unavoidable comment about his get up, Seth insists that he’s ”keeping it real.” Compared to what?

T.V. Funhouse- This was a puppet based comedy show from the legendary comic writer and creator of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog that ran shortly on Comedy Central. It possessed such a scatological whimsy that it quickly became my favorite show for the nanosecond it was on. Considering all the DVD fetishisation that’s occurred over the past few years, it’s criminal that this show remains unreleased (The State is long overdue as well).
There used to be parts of full episodes up, but no longer. There are bits of this you can still get on You Tube, but it’s mostly the cartoons from the episodes; never as funny-sadly-as the puppets and real animals humping or all the dogs having the same indeterminable accent as Triumph.

Elvis’ blowjob-I saw an Elvis documentary a long time ago on Cinemax that showed a lot of between show action like E harmonizing with his entourage on a gospel number in the limo post show and proving that when they said, “Elvis has left the building” he actually just did.
I know that I saw one backstage scene where Elvis says to any one that’ll listen, ”Man, there was girl last night at the hotel that gave the BEST head!”
After one of his dudes points out that a camera is capturing his recollection, he shrugs it off: “What can I tell ya, man? She gave good head!”
I’ve only seen this once and never again, I’m not even sure I didn’t dream it and I’ve never found it on You Tube.

Tylenol commercial- You know, the one where everybody that works for Tylenol talks about how much they love working there? I wanted to use that in a post where I ask you to imagine they’re talking about Trojan condoms instead of Tylenol; It adds a layer of funny when they say things like, “I never forget that what I’m making goes into someone’s body” and “We put a lot of love in there!” Can’t find it on You Tube.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Fuddrucker's Aliases

I love, love, LOVE Fuddrucker's Hamburgers! Sucker that I can be for routine I went there at least once a week for quite a while. My plan of condiment and topping attack streamlined from the first time I ate there, where I practically had to unhinge my jaw like a python to eat my overstuffed burger.

One other tradition that developed from my many visits were all the different ways my name was misspelled on my order receipt. This was what would happen: After the order they ask," What's your name?"
I'd say, "Pete", of course.
Be it the ambient noise or a good old fashioned misunderstanding, it would often be spelled:
DAVE(by this one smart assed cashier that thought I looked like comedian Dave Attel)
Steve and Keith are one thing, but wouldn't you assume a name to be one you had actually heard of before? But, who knows? Maybe they had an Uncle Reet.

It added a bit of embarrassment when I'd pick up my order and the person goes,"Are you Meet?"
Opinions vary.

I never complained about it, I would just thank the cashier for the rare times it got spelled right, to which they ask,"How else would you spell it?"


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My Pet Peeve Collection

The pet peeve holds a special place in the life of the retail soldier. In my personal life, I have a peeve that I've mentioned before of being compared to famous bald people, but that only happens maybe once or twice a year. Retail peeves often evolve from irritations that are almost guaranteed to happen constantly, especially if you deal with a lot of people everyday. When I worked at a dollar store (where everything, everything, is a dollar) my pet peeve was people asking me,"How much is this?" which happened dozen of times a day, everyday.
(An aside to the blogreaders, if you have an exception to the frustration I feel over the pointlessness of this question or anything else in this post, trust that I address that in the chapter in the book devoted those jobs. One more reason for you to buy the book !)

At the toy store my pet peeves almost killed me, the chief of which was people constant asking me to take the price tag off a gift exacerbated by the fact that about half the time people either:
1. Didn't ask until the gift was already wrapped.
2. Looking right at me when I took it off,
or 3. Both
I'd like to ask my former co-workers who happen to read this blog to comment with how I'm not overstating my ire on this. Much.

At some point during my toy store days, people started to make a deliberate point of putting change directly in my hand when I rung them up. Eventually, we found that this was because that someone (Oprah, I suspect. Her power is real) said that it bugs cashiers to have to get the change from the counter. The funny thing was, nobody had ever asked me directly what got my goat. If they had, people not giving me change directly maybe close to the end of a very long list of things that peeve me more, right before not saying, "bless you" after sneezes.

It was after this that I started an informal collection of pet peeves amungst people that I know and the occasional question asked for research.

Starbucks: They really hate it when you pour your excess coffee into the trash can, especially since they usually ask if you want "room" of cream and you said no. If you think that they have special trashcans and liners or trashed napkins to make taking out a trash bag with liquid in it any less a disaster than when you do it, you're wrong.

Used book stores: No, they don't have any idea when a certain book is coming in. The inventory is dependent on what people bring in to sell them, there's no way to know for sure unless you have a copy of the book to sell them.

Sexy undie shops: Sorry, strippers do not receive professional discounts. Does your coke dealer give you a professional discount, Cinnamon? Harsh, I know! That wasn't me, that was the person who worked at the store, honestly!

Post Office: They really hate it when you don't use the extra 4 numbers of the zip code. With the problems I've had with the postal service, I'll admit I don't use 'um either.

Concert Doorman: If the show says "sold out" and you don't have a ticket, don't wait in line to get in. At a sold out Hold Steady show at the Black Cat, with signs posted everywhere about it, even taped to the guy checking I.Ds chest, people were still trying to buy tickets.
I asked the dude how after it happens and he said, "All the time, but especially tonight for some reason."

Guitar store: Don't play the first song that you feel like playing when you try out a guitar, unless it's suitably obscure. By some cosmic coincidence, everyone tends to play the same songs. Wayne's World was dead on with the guitar store that had a "No 'Stairway To Heaven'" sign. My friend Ron who worked at a music store told me years before that was almost every single person in the store that tried out acoustic guitars played "Stairway" first. I'm sure that other songs have supplanted it. My own trips to music store are sometimes dependent on what kind of music is popular or else I get to be treated to half a dozen or more versions of faux Limp Biskit riffs.

Universal to every retail situation: If the store is closed, leave. Please. We were open all day and part of the night, where were you?

Monday, September 03, 2007

The King Of Kong and America

Last weekend I saw an extraordinary documentary which I highly recommend called The King of Kong . It Is the latest in the long string of extraordinary documentaries- Why We Fight, Dig, The Devil And Daniel Johnston, Super Size Me among many others- that I have seen over the past few years. For the traditionally poor box office that they do, docs tend to be much more consistently entertaining than the “regular movies.”

I realize that most blog writers usually strike the second before the iron is fully hot and that this movie has already been written about extensively, but it took me a week (and many discussions about it) to fully map out all the elements of the emotional and allegorical effects this movie has had on me. One reviewer (I forget who) hit it right on the head by saying this movie has more emotional involvement than any movie about playing Donkey Kong has a right to be.

I just want to take some time to say that Austin is a fantastic town for the movie lover, thanks to the local Alamo Drafthouse. On top of packing their calendar with special events and movies so obscure, they had to tell me that they existed, they have little twists based on the movies they show; like the free old school Donkey Kong game in the Lobby and the retro videogame commercials they showed beforehand- a real tiptoe through the Your Pal Pete tulips. They have taken this to the next level by staging special screenings like Goldfinger at Ft. Knox, Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Devil’s Tower and Deliverance in rural Georgia.

Anywho, The King of Kong’s surprisingly complex story starts off simply. Suburban Washington state, regular guy Steve Weibe decides to try to beat an almost two decade old world record Donkey Kong core. As the details of his life start coming through, the filmmakers paint a picture at first of Steve as a classic underachiever, failing in attempts at a career as a baseball player and musician. Like most of us underachievers, Steve has undeniable talent, determination and focus, just not always in the right direction. The “also ran” label begins to wear away the more the viewer sees the reality of Steve’s life; He has a job that he loves as a science teacher, He’s got his Master’s Degree in one year while helping parent 2 kids and a massively understanding wife, who seems to realize what she got into by marrying him.

So, he sets up a modified Donkey Kong Junior arcade game that also plays original recipe Kong in his garage and plays it constantly at every available moment-and in at least one hilarious recorded instance, some not so available moments. It’s a process that obviously appeals to the way his mind works as he breaks apart the strategy and patterns to finally video tape himself beating the high scores of both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., though the movie only concentrates on Donkey Kong. Steve sends the videotape to the recognized authority on high scores: Twin Galaxies.

This is where to movie gets rolling. Steve had unwittingly entered the world of retro gaming, chockfull of people that have seemingly traded any normal semblance of a social life in exchange for proficiency at arcade games that most us forgot about when we got the original Nintendo.

At the center of this clique is Billy Mitchell, a videogame champ from the era when video arcades were nearly everywhere back in the early 80’s, and the original record holder of 5 original arcade games, including Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. I realize that the problem with documentaries is that often they use footage out of order and quotes out of context but it’s difficult to see the context where Billy wouldn’t come off as a rusty douche nozzle. Even the comments provided by Billy’s friends and family, while ultimately loving in nature, provide unexpected ammo for the douche nozzle argument. He stops just short of talking about his records and achievements in God-like terms but not by much, an attitude enabled by the other members of this subculture, who consider him their king and speak of him breathlessly.

Steve’s attempts to have his scores recognized is beset at all sides by personal grudges and paranoia that have nothing to do with him, deception and Billy Mitchell’s Machiavellian attempts to stay the “King of Kong.”

I won’t say anymore about the movie itself. I know I could just say “Spoiler Alert” but it doesn’t work for me and I want you to see what I mean for yourself.

The first thing that hit me hard from a personal stand point were the silly-and in my opinion unethical- roadblocks put in Steve’s way. It reminded me of a few memories of my own childhood when I would get good at something and the kids around me would change the rules until someone else was better at it than me. It’s been hard, even as an adult to not take things like that personally, even though the reasonable part of me says I shouldn’t. And it’s not hard to relate to the impenetrable clique concept after years spent trying to get my non-hipster band shows in DC.

But upon scrutiny, the aspect that was really unveiled was the allegory of the playing of the game of Donkey Kong as the American Story: how it’s suppose to be against how it often is. Steve is the American as he’s supposed to be: Self motivated, hardworking, honest, full of personal integrity and “can do” spirit. Billy is American reality: letting his bluster and ego do all of the work and hoping that’ll be enough. He’s never wrong. Why? Because he says he’s not.

Billy’s habit of putting “USA” as his high score initials and wearing of American themed neckties at work got me to go even further with this thinking and made me think about the Bush Administration. For all of Billy’s talk about fairness and standards for excellence(or Bush’s talk of freedom and safety), it’s obvious through their actions that they have a pathological desire to maintain a status quo that they themselves have created, hypocrisy be damned, and have surrounded themselves with the right people for it .

For readers that know what this blog is called (myspacers, it’s called “The Underacheiver’s Progress“)- you might have picked up on why Steve Weibe is such an engaging protagonist. Even though I don’t think he’s called an underachiever outright, that’s a term that was nonetheless put on him, and a term that society puts on you first, when you don’t reach what it has established as being your full potential. But the fact is that we are told to strive for excellence in a society that often has no place for it to flourish. The children that have the most trouble in school are usually both the slowest and the smartest. We’re supposed to want the best, but still happily settle for mediocre. It’s a hallmark of the lives of truly exceptional people to have their stories peppered with people who tried to tear them down and discourage them along the way, for little more than jealousy and reverence to the status quo.

Thank god for Steve Weibe, and the rest of us who seek to carve out our own way.

Update: Because I have extremely limited access to the internet, I didn't realize that many of the points I've made have actually already been made by a few movie critics. I can only claim ignorance.