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!

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.