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!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Your Pal vs. The Latter Day Saints

I was sitting one lazy afternoon a few years ago when I had a couple of Mormon missionaries came to the door. As is their reputation they were friendly and engaging, in immaculate white short sleeve dress shirts and black ties. They wanted to talk to me about the Church of Latter Day Saints. Now this has happened to everybody, I know, it's happened to me a few times as well. But this time was different.

For the past few months I had been dating a woman (lets call her Jane Doe for this story) who used to be a practicing Mormon and had even spent a year and a half doing missionary work in Canada, just like these two gents were doing now. But now,she was a Mormon no longer. She credits the church with guiding her through some very difficult times in her childhood and early adulthood, but she had some philosophical differences that she could no longer ignore.

We started dating right about the time of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the Post was running a couple stories about the Mormon religion that I would ask her about later.
"Did you wear 'the garment'?"
"Of course!"
So I learned quite a bit about the Latter Day Saints(none of the really secret stuff), but that didn't make me smart enough to say the right thing when the pair at my door asked if I know anything about their faith.
"I do, in fact, I'm dating an ex-missionary."
"Really?" one asked, his demeanor changing instantly to knitted brow consternation, all of his friendliness gone in a wink. "What's her name?" he asked.
"JANE, who?" getting twitchier by the syllable and circling his hand in the universal sign of "come on, more info!"
"Uh, Doe?"
This startled him slightly, "Of the Utah Does?"
I said, "No, the Florida ones."
No longer concerned about my soul, he had to lead this lost lamb back to the flock.
"So she no longer practices?"
"No, she drinks coffee and everything," I said with a knowing smirk.
And with that they were gone.
I had forgot to tell Jane about my encounter until some time after our break-up. She said, "Funny, I was wondering why I started getting mail from the church all of a sudden!"

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Depression Soundtrack

As I've been wading through my most recent existential funk, I got to thinking about the songs that make me think of funks past and present.

Depressed Teenage Pete-The Smiths
The Smiths, baby, all the way. You'd think maybe the Cure, but they dealt with a more died-in-the-wool (intentional misspelling) sorrow; one that you were more than welcome to carry into adulthood. My depression stemmed basically from being the only one in high school that wasn't getting laid. Once I got what I wanted a couple times I couldn't sing "Please let me get what I want, lord knows it'll be the first time.", could I?
The Pete Anthem "How Soon is Now?"

Depressed Twenty-something Pete
Sebadoh, oh yeah! I listened to them for a while just 'cause, then I went through a break-up so bad, I moved to DC(not that I'm complaining). Lou Barlow's songs went from casual listening to striking me straight into my emotional center so hard, it took a while before I could listen to them without breaking down.
This was the best Sebadoh vid I could get, since I couldn't get the real anthem, "Homemade" from Bubble and Scrape. This still an amazing song,"Spoiled"

Depressed Thirty-something Pete
I've been listening to a lot more violent noisy music this time around. It some how comforting, almost like a frustration relief valve. I've been prone to singing along to my ipod since I got it, but when one of these three bands come on I can't help but but clench teeth and fist and nod along the the brutal rhythms of:
Shellac, This one is "My Black Ass"

Death From Above 1979, This is "Blood On Our Hands"

Mclusky, This is "Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues"

"Everywhere I look it's a darkness."-Mclusky "Without MSG I'm Nothing"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cover Songs that are Better than the originals

My beloved Onion happened to run a feature about this same subject recently, but I swear I thought of doing it before! Really!

Surprisingly (or not) none of my choices made it to the Onion list.

"Hurt" -Johnny Cash (Nine Inch Nails)
The song itself is brutal, the video is easily the most moving one I've ever seen. I tried to describe it to my Mom and I started crying like a mental patient. I thought a lot for the covers he did of modern songs were a bit gimmicky but he owns this one. I was going to describe it, but watch the video and let the man show you.

"Hounds of Love"-Futureheads (Kate Bush)
Stripped of the bombast and histrionics of the original but keeping the fear and longing and adding their trademark urgency, the Futureheads created a fantastic brokenhearted anthem. I'm talking about a live version from Reading(this one isn't as good, but I couldn't find that one).
"I don't know what's good for me/But here I go"

"Killing Floor" Jimi Hendrix (Howlin' Wolf)
To be fair, I've never heard the original, but the way he rocks this is undeniable. This is the best example of what he did best, strapping the blues to a paisley rocket and riding it to the ionosphere. There have been many imitators, but in my opinion, no one has even come close.

"I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" White Stripes (Dusty Springfield and others)
This is a great example of Jack White's underrated arranging skills. Keeping Meg's cavewoman drumming and his own atomic guitar at bay until it the last possible second, it's almost like a musical version of the stages of grief until the last strum of acceptance.

This is an incomplete list, I have a couple that are too obscure for youtube.
But I will say Kelly Hogan does a version of "Rubber Duckie" from Sesame Street that is on a compilation called "the Bottle Let Me Down" of kid's songs that Bloodshot Records released a little while ago. It is coyly sexy and must be heard to be believed.

The McJob dilemma

As you my have heard, the McDonald's Corporation has taken umbrage at a definition in the Oxford English Dictionary of the noun "McJob" as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector." The mighty Wikipedia adds to that a bit: "but is used to describe any low-status job - regardless of who the employer is - where little training is required, staff turnover is high, and where workers' activities are tightly regulated by managers." I can understand how this would not be the most flattering was to be come part of the modern lexicon, but saying it's inaccurate does NOT make it so.

I am writing this post using the my own experiences, but I have eaten at McDonalds countless times and working at Mickey D's was my first ever job when I was 16. The psychic scars still remain; even after two decades of life and drug use, I still have the occasional nightmare about being back at the wrong end of the fast food counter. I never last more than five minutes before I wake up.

An article written by someone who obviously had never worked there, reads like he's an unpaid apologist of the McDonalds corporation, mentioning that such illuminaries as champion runner Carl Lewis and Jay Leno used to work there, but without saying how long or how fondly they remember coming home smelling like a french fry.

I stole one of the little standees that they had in the center of the table trying to get new employees and made a little joke for each side.
Mother with 2 young kids:"A job with flexible hours"
In other words:" Yes, I will flip burgers to get away from these brats."
Elderly Gentleman:"A chance to share my experience with new people."
In other words: "I get to bore a new group of people with my stories!"
Young woman: "It gives me experience for the future."
In other words:"for my dream job at Applebee's!"
Young Man:"A employer whose helpful, supportive."
In other words:"Don't ask, don't tell"

I never had the feeling that I was being served by a future world leader or captain of industry on my many, many visits to the Golden Arches. I usually get served by people who seem to have had their soul sucked out of their eyes from being treated with the lack of respect that's reserved for the earners of minimum wage.

A place mat that I saw on a tray on a recent visit was calling for employees said(I paraphrase), "From here, you can go anywhere!" Because there's nowhere to go but up.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I've been watching a lot of TV these days as I wait for inspiration to write. The funny thing is about inspiration is it could come out of anywhere, even places you don't want. Like commercials.

For all the bitching that the Geico Cavemen do, we've never once seen them in a cave! In fact, it looks like they live better than I do. They are merely hairy dudes.

Were the angels in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese ads roommates before they died?

If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas does that include STDs?

I found this parody looking for a Vegas commercial on Youtube after I wrote this, hilarious!
I know it seems cool to be attacked by women like in the Axe and Tag body spray ads, but let's be real: not only is that not going to happen, but women are going to eventually identify that scent with those commercials and at that point you might as well spray yourself with vinegar and water, because you have identified yourself as a douchebag.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What I've learned... about Pop Culture

I put in a post a little while ago saying that Pop Culture is a whore running at the speed of light, if you try to chase it you'll die of exhaustion; the best you can hope for is that it runs you over. This is far from the only lesson I've learned all this absorption of everything Pop.

The more non-creative people are involved in a creative process the more likely it will suckle on the hind teat of mediocrity. You realize that when you hear about a movie, TV show, whatever coming out and seems like a bad idea, it's a bad idea dozens of people had to agree on to put it in front of you.

That being said, some of the most horrendous things ever created in movie (Travolta's Battlefield Earth,Kevin Costner's The Postman, Marah Carey's Glitter), and music (Garth Brooks' Chris Gaines experiment, and does anyone think the new Guns 'n Roses will be any good?) happened when an artist's success creates more "yes" men than "No" men and they fall head-first into the THE REALM OF THE ILL-ADVISED!. Not even your credibility can escape!
But with out this, the world would be without the amazing "Trapped in the Closet" Video.

If you've never seen this, this is only part 1-5; it goes up to 12 parts!

When an musical artist says they're retiring or playing for the last time, we need that in writing. It would be reassuring to know if Celene Dion retires, we could sue her if she changes her mind.

If you're a band, be careful what you record. In a story that echoes through the stories of MANY one-hit wonders: In 1969 the band that was to be known as Steam was recording the b-side of their debut single. They chose an old throwaway song and purposefully recorded it specifically so to make unlistenable and not take away from the A side. The B-side? "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" as in, everybody now! "Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye" The A-side? Exactly.

More Later

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Books that have recently kicked my ass.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell- I recently sat down with this book and devoured it in about 3 hours. Someone came up to me and said that he tried to read it in one sitting and nearly went blind; I've been such a human behavior nerd since I started writing my book in earnest, I couldn't help myself. This book has both inspired me and validated a lot of my thinking about the social choreography that we all involuntarily follow.

To oversimplify, "Blink" is about going with your gut, albeit a well conditioned gut. It takes apart, scientifically, the conditioning of the subconscious to make more accurate snap decisions. It also shows how too much information can actually be harmful, if you actually want to make the right decision. I actually refer to a similar thing in my book called "Crossing the TMI line" when I've tried to sell somebody something and I go from educating someone to irretrievably confusing them in an instant.

Among other examples if what Gladwell refers to as "thin slicing" there's an amazing psychologist who devised shockingly accurate way to tell if a marriage will last if he just sees them interact for a few minutes. Even more shocking is after reading this, you think you can too. We think we're too smart to fit in the unconscious ways that this book illustrates, but we're not.

"Killing Yourself To Live" by Chuck Klosterman- Chuck and I have a lot in common, we love Music and pop culture(and the unpredictable weight and impact both can have), interesting(and difficult) women and pot. It was our differences that kept me from enjoying his writing at Spin, mainly his adoration of Metal and sports, but I LOVED "Killing Yourself..".
Chuck goes on a cross-country extravaganza, visiting the sites of the deaths of both rock stars (Kurt Cobain, the road where two members of the Allman Brothers Band died a year to the day apart) and those who loved them (Nancy Spungen, the poor bastards who died at the Great White show fire).
That side of the story was plenty interesting, but another part of the book had a bit more emotional resonance. Along the way, the logical and final conclusions come to three different relationships, both past and present.
For Chuck, there is Lenore, Diane and Quincy, who he breaks down into how they relate to members of Kiss; for me it's Helen (not her real name), the woman I've been in love with for the past few years. For me, it's been like one long spin on a rope swing, exhilarating but with nauseous after-effects that make you feel silly.

He tells anecdotes about each that echoes in my own experiences with Helen, but in one passage, he breaks it down: "If Diane is Dolly Parton's Jolene and Lenore is a fusion of the Big Bopper's libido . . . Quincy is akin to the girl in Ben Folds Five's Kate, multiplied by the woman described in Sloan's 'Underwhelmed,' divided by the person Evan Dando sings about in the Lemonheads' slacked up, Raymond Carver-esque dope ballad, 'Buddy.'" Change the dope to alcohol and you've got Helen.

All the laser-point insight, startling humor, intimidating beauty and also all of the emotional unavailability that seems to always come along with it, like fries with a cheeseburger.
These things are as doomed as they are beautiful, both Chuck and I have had to learn that lesson.
Fuck it, maybe I'll write a book about THAT too. I've got the time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Muppets vs. Disney

There's a deleted scene from Pulp Fiction where Mia tells Vincent about there being two kinds of people (as there often are) Beatles people and Elvis people. To paraphrase: you can love both, but only one can truly have your heart. At the toy store during my final days, I came up with my own theory: There are Muppet people and Disney people, and I am most assuredly a Muppets person.

By the way, Disney actually owns the Muppets now, so they get paid from either person.

Disney, inarguably, have created many, many classic movies that I, for one, grew up with. But nearly everything Disney touches has the sticky layer of cloying earnestness that occasionally makes a non-diabetic reach for the insulin. I mean, if I say some thing's "Disney-fied", you know exactly what I mean.

I LOVED the Muppet Show when I was a kid and I love it now; like Looney Tunes, it has that magical cross-generational appeal that eludes most children's programming. A collection of songs from the show and the various movies got regular rotation in the toy store CD player. A used to have a lot of adults that didn't seem to notice that I worked at a toy store on purpose would ask, "How can you listen to that music ALL DAY?" Little did they know that countless times during my toy store tenure "Mahna, Mahna" was the only thing that was keeping me from going "Mahna, Ma-nuts"!

Out of all the things at the toy store that didn't quite pass politically correct muster (Charlie Brown, the original Annie movie,other stuff here)nobody ever said a word about the Muppets. No one seems to notice that at it's heart, the Muppets have an interspecies couple (I'm not even gonna mention the hypnotic effect Gonzo has on chickens)that's the most abusive this side of Andy Capp: Miss Piggy and Kermit the frog . Piggy is constantly threatening Kermit with physical violence if she doesn't get her way, though Kermit is far from the only one to be on the business end of one of Piggy's "HAI-YA!"

A co-worker of mine said that when she was a kid, she wanted to be Miss Piggy. As she got older, she changed to wanting to be Tina Turner, only to change back after she saw What's Love Got To Do With It.
"So," I asked,"You'd rather dispense the beatings instead of take them?"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm in the sexy finals!

They have done the final eliminations and are now doing the final polling for the "Best DC blog by the sexiest hetero male". Unfortunately my old friend Lonnie got eliminated under rather harsh circumstances, but those of us who know him well know how sexy he truly is. You can vote here.
I had a comment yesterday saying that I should show why I'm the sexiest. I'm not sure how I'm suppose to "show", I hope that doesn't mean photos of a sexy nature, that will NOT help me;but I am willing to talk about why, but first:
Why I'm NOT sexy
1. Two words: back hair. Justin might have brought sexyback, I'm bringing hairy back

2. I'm not the tidy one, you can check out the fotos on my myspace profile. This is a worst case situation, but there's no future in frontin' and it's never been a (verbalized) problem with the women that I've entertained.

Why I am sexy(in my humble opinion)
1. I'm comfortable with myself. I think basically I'm sexy the same way boxer shorts can be sexy.

2. I'm an AMAZING dancer for a heterosexual man in his mid-30s.

3. I'm a witty motherfucker, or at least I crack myself up. Funnier than my blog would suggest.

4. I LOVE WOMEN! I refer to myself as "Inconveniently heterosexual"; I would have been great to be bi in a town like DC, but men disgust me. I don't know how or why women are attracted to us, but thanks to whatever higher power for it. On the (admittedly rare) times that a woman gives me the gift of herself, I always make sure that she knows she's truly appreciated. As many times as the time will allow. That might be a good lyric!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I hate to admit it...

There comes a time in every relationship where, regardless of affection or history, it just seems over. That time seems to have come to some of my favorite TV shows.

The Simpsons- It's a heavy heart that has to admit this about what is easily my favorite show of all time. It has been in a downward slide for quite a while, but there was still the occasional brilliant episode among the increasingly mediocre ones. Such treats are starting to become rarer as the premises get stretched tighter than a snare drum. I mean, Grandpa marrying Selma? Cracker please! But it will have to be put to sleep because I still can't stop watching, it's still MUCH better than War at Home! Those who say I can just turn it off don't know me very well. Incidentally , I will probably see the movie.

Family Guy-I am all for vulgar comedy as long as it's funny, and most of the recent episodes have fewer laughs and more "that's going too far" moments. South Park still has plenty of both in proper balance which still makes it watchable. South Park had a couple of episodes a little while ago where the boys discovered that FG's brand of non-sequitur humor was the result of Manatees lobbing around balls with ideas written on them, and lately that's been hard to disagree with. I made the mistake of watching the one last Sunday where Lois sleeps with Bill Clinton and to make things even Peter sleeps with her mother, (or was suppose to, I turned the channel) with my Mom, she'd occasionally shoot me a look like, "Is that suppose to be funny?" It was.

Adult Swim- This break-up is more like the one were it happens to be the person your dating when you move away and you don't want to keep it going. Everyplace I'm going to live in exile won't have the Cartoon Network, but most of the shows that justified so many of my bleary-eyed mornings are either gone or way past their prime (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, anyone? No, I probably won't see that movie). The new stuff (Morel Orel, Squidbillies) is unwatchable. I do like Frisky Dingo and the Venture Brothers, but I can wait until the DVDs come out

That is the great thing, the old DVDs will still always be awesome.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Your Pal in Exile

After a week in Austin, I am now in Phoenix visiting my family, mainly chasing my niece and nephew as they oppress me with their cuteness and adorability.

View at your own peril! You have been warned!

It was funny though, I sat down to write this very morning and the AZ local news reported about a bus crash in, of all places, Montgomery County, Maryland(where I lived for 8 years). The news person said, "the area is already known for it's unusually aggressive traffic." I'd be lying if I didn't feel a slight swelling of pride.

Friday, March 09, 2007

What I've Learned

The problem with being as utterly obscure as I am is that I'm never asked to do any of these talking head pop culture shows that seem to mostly be on VH1. I have opinions on Knight Rider too that need to be heard Goddamitt!
The latest thing that my phone hasn't rang for is a series of interviews in Esquire where they ask various celebrities what they've learned called, fittingly, "What I've Learned". The thing is, especially with notoriously ego driven dudes like Robert Evans, the things a lot of them have learned are mostly just useful to them.
But like my post where I answered James Lipton's famous questions with him having to ask, I'm going to use the soapbox that is this blog to share... What I've Learned

The only valuable thing I learned in college was if you don't fully know your opponent's side of an argument, you don't know your own.

Every intellectual is a pseudo intellectual, there is more to be ignorant about in this world than anyone could possibly know.

It's a testament to the range of humanity that things as constructive and life-affirming as love and faith can (and are) used as deadly weapons.

There is always as catch. I've mulled over getting a tattoo of a asterisk to illustrate this point.

A relationship isn't defined by the good times, it's defined by the bad times. Even all of the couples on Jerry Springer had good times once.

At most, you are only responsible for half of someone's opinion about you.

Our flow of information has far surpassed our ability to handle it.

There is no such thing as normal.

Out of all the things people say are in shorter supply now than in the nonexistent "Good Old Days", like trust, courtesy, and honor, one of most damaging is humility.

On that note, just because I've learned it doesn't mean that I'm right