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!

Friday, February 29, 2008

When Artistic Bankruptcy and Corporate Synergy Collide

A lot of the very nice rejection letters that I have gotten from literary agents talk about the huge amount of books that get published every year. When I see the kinds of movies and TV shows that get made these days, it makes me think I should do that kind of writing and a couple of things I've seen recently makes me think that it's only going to get worse.

Universal has struck a deal with Hasbro to make movies based on board games. Finally the excitement of Candyland in a $9 movie. Hold on, I'm not done:
Monopoly: Like There Will Be Blood with Jersey real estate and Steve and Edie. The big catchphrase will be, "I Eat Your Buffet!"
Battleship: A epic naval battle where the ships don't move at all, unless someone cheats. The catchphrase: Could it be anything else? They'll have to shoehorn it in but we'll hear "You sunk my battleship!"
Ouija: The message the board is sending is undeniable, spelling out over and over, "All of these movies are gonna SUCK!"

I saw a commercial for a new dating show that MTV is casting for a new dating show inspired BY A DORITOS FLAVOR! That's right, they were looking for "sweet and spicy" young men and women to match their new "sweet and spicy" new salty snacks.

Speaking of trashy MTV dating shows, there's a new one featuring a cast-off on the god-awful Tila Tequila show called "That's Amore". Check this out:

It's a little Night At The Roxbury, no?

It's a testament to how desperate people are to get on TV when they'll tangle with a dozen other women to catch the eye of the kind of dude they have to shake off of themselves any weekend at the eurotrash disco.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beatles or Beatlesque?

(Commercial Message: The book that I blanked out my life to write, Surviving Retail, has it's own blog where I post excerpts from it. You can get there here)

As I have said, I love the Beatles. I was watching something on the TV on and there was a feature about popular music combo Panic At The Disco, who I have made it clear I hate. The story was about how "Beatlesque" their new songs are. I had heard their song and it was OK- although the frontdouche's mugging that he does in all their videos makes me turn the channel before I hear too much- but it didn't strike me as sounding like The Beatles.

This got me thinking about inspiration vs. influences; when musicians put up ads to gather other musicians, they say who their influences are. Then they put some of the same ingredients as their favorite bands, both the kind of instruments they use and the way the songs are structured. But the factor that is missed 99.95 percent of the time is actually being good or at least good in the same way their "influences" are. It's that spark that so many musicians chase; every guitarist can play the G and C chord, but not everyone can write "Every Rose Has It's Thorn".

Being inspired is another thing. You can take elements from what moves you to make music that tries to move the listener the same way. This is by no means a guarantee that you'll be successful at it, mind you.

So using trumpets and descending chords-like the Panic lads- might make you sound "Beatlesque", but it won't give listeners the impact that the Beatles still provide after more than 40 years.

Just ask Oasis.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Tried Out For Last Comic Standing Today

Regardless of the egalitarian aspect shows like American Idol or Last Comic Standing approach, not everyone is truly created equal.

I went to the auditions today with the impression that everyone was going to be put under the same decision process as everyone else, but was not surprised when it wasn't.

I only have the right to say so much. Some of the people there had waited since Sunday to try out, but I got to audition a lot sooner than those people because I had answered a Craig's List ad for "Wacky People". This is a recreation of my audition Polaroid:

The people that got to wait the shortest were actual comedians, who looked at this as more of a networking opportunity than one of national exposure. I got a little intimated talking to comedians who had been working for years, I felt the impulse to stop saying, "I've only done stand up one other time 4 and a half years ago to saying, "I've been doing comedy for 4 and a half years."

The cool thing: Talking to so many cool people. I met all kinds of folks. I talked up Surviving Retail, of course and one guy said he had heard of it. I don't know if he actually had, but he definitely thought he did.

The Bad Thing: I've done a few of these cattle calls before and hopes can be dashed in an instant, but mine got dashed after about 45 seconds. I'm really proud of the song that they wouldn't let me finish, so I've posted it here: NSFW

Monday, February 25, 2008

Three Things I had To Learn The Hard Way.

I got "blogtagged" by my good friend Lonnie. I don't know if this a new phenomenon or not, since I'm generally behind on such things. Anyone it's a challenge to post on a subject that gets past around like a chain letter, except that nothing will happen to you if you don't do anything. Besides, didn't you ever think it was weird that a letter knew what happened to the people that didn't pass it on? Anyway this is what I had to learn the hard way.

1. Talent means nothing.

I will freely admit that I think I'm a talented motherfucker. I also realize that I may be the only person with that opinion. I've recorded an awesome CD that I hope I will crush with the awesomeness of my next one. I've written a book that is a good editing away from being a total monster. I don't normally say (or write) stuff like that out loud, I let my ego hide away where it won't embarrass me when I've got company. Having every creative thing I've done rejected by everyone but a devoted few has gone a long way toward keeping my ego in check.

But this isn't about me, believe it or not, this about all the people who deserve a lot more attention than they've received. THEY are most assuredly talented motherfuckers.
Actors: Jeffrey Wright, Nathan Fillion, Joel McHale, Judy Greer (I'm sorry I'm getting tired of linking, forgive me)
Comedians: Doug Benson, Kristen Schaal, Charlene Yi, Craig Robinson
Bands: Jeez, where to start? Where to finish? The Smugglers, Squatweiler, Cry Baby Cry, Menthol, The Dirtbombs, Anne Summers, The Five Maseratis, Lee Harvey Keitel Band, Jurassic Five, Blackstar, Boss Hog, The Chubbies, Brainiac, Cornershop, Bad Brains, The Damn Personals, Delta 72, Electric Six, The Figgs, The Friggs, The Interpreters,The Makers, Outrageous Cherry, The Pooh Sticks and many others that I can't think of right now.
For talent hasn't been enough. As I often say, pop culture is a whore running at the speed of light; you can't catch it, you can only hope it runs you over.

2. It's not what you say, it's what they hear.
I've been as honest and straightforward as I can be most of my life. But if a person only chooses to hear one part of what I've said or has chosen not to believe me outright, it doesn't matter how honest I am. Some of the most sincere apologies I've delivered in my life have been rejected mainly because it was easier for the person to swallow that I was being insincere. You are only responsible for half of someone's opinion of you, people filter everything that happens to them through the filter of their own beliefs, experience and prejudice.

3. I will never understand women.
I didn't learn to understand women the hard way, I learned that I would NEVER understand them the hard way. It started when I was a kid and I thought that if you liked a girl, you were nice to them. I thought that my bad luck with girls was just me not being attractive- not that I'm totally ruling that out. But I was talking to some girls from my high school and they said flat out, "I like it when a guy treats me like shit."
"Yeah, nice guys are boring."
In a less explicit and perhaps more subliminal way, this has been a hallmark of my romantic life. I wrote a post about this called The Nice Guy's Burden

I think the most basic disconnect is even recognizing that there is difference between Men and Women. Some of the women that I've talked to about this refuse to believe that there's any difference other than our reproductive processes, like that wasn't enough to have us disagree until the end of time. Women tend to look at the observation that they are emotionally driven and empathic than Men like it's an insult. It's not, us men need the balance that women provide, it's no coincidence that some of the most stunted societies on the Earth are the ones that most severely subjugate their women. There are differences between us, but they aren't so severe that a woman shouldn't have any job she's qualified for, even President.

But you can't have it both ways, you can't say that you don't want to be identified by the perceived shortcomings of your gender and then blame something like- say people supporting Obama- on sexism. If the dream of the true level playing field for all people comes true, these excuses are going to seem even sillier than they do now.

I MAY have some big news tomorrow, I'll let you know.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Whole Life Is A Bit

There are many impulses that I have that I cannot truly explain to people who don't know me. I've grown out my hair and beard for Halloween, most extensively to be Sean Connery. Right around this time, I did stand-up comedy for the first and, to date, only time. Even though I joked about this during my act, one of the other comedians said afterward, "Have you thought about shaving your head and beard?"
Yes, I'd been doing it for the better part of a decade, in fact. It's not just a joke, it's my life. My whole life is a bit.

When I was packing to move to Arizona, I successfully fought an impulse to take my fez; the one in my myspace profile picture. I thought, when would I need a fez? Well, I need it now. For what? I don't want to say right now, just trust me that I need a fez. My whole life is a bit.

I've thrown away a lot of clothing and furniture with all my moving, but I won't throw away my 3-D glasses. There have been too many times that I've needed them and not had them. But I have them and today I needed them for this Trailer:

This is the reason why my life is a bit. In my life, 3-D glasses are much more important than a dresser.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why all the Obama hate?

I have made no secret of my support of Barack Obama. I saw my first "Obama for President" sicker shortly after his star-making making performance at the 2004 Democratic Convention and I was quite skeptical. I had a lot of the some of the some concerns that so many people voice now about him. But I learned. But it's not just that he had shown me so much since then, but how bad things have gotten in this country. The eight years under Bush have pitted Americans against each other. Look at what conservatives have done to John McCain, smearing a true American Hero because he's audacious enough to have his own opinion. We identify ourselves as our political affiliation and act like the folks on the other side are destroying America. But we humans are more alike than we're different, no matter what our affiliations are. The thing that makes America so great are the balance between our conservative and liberal impulses and Obama is the man most likely to restore that balance. But after hearing all of the same criticisms, I felt like I needed to respond.

1. "He's Inexperienced!"
Three words: George. W. Bush. People seem to forget that his only experience with elected office was the 5 years he spent as Governor of Texas. Or that Bill Clinton was the only the Governor of fricken' Arkansas before assuming the Presidency. Or that both made a big deal about their "inexperience" when they ran, because it afforded them "outsider" status.

I think it's telling that some of his biggest supporters are people that have worked with him in the Illinois and U.S. Senate that have seen his skills bringing people together first hand.

2. "He's all style!"
When has having good oratory skill such a crime? Don't we want a non-boring president? He's the only president in my lifetime that I will actually look forward to hearing from and that can talk for 20 minutes and still hold my attention. And do I really need to bring up our current president and his skill at public speaking?

3. "He has no substance!"
Of course he doesn't seem that way, if you don't look hard enough for it. The man himself has all of his policy plans on his website here. You may not agree with them, but you can't say that he hasn't given some of the most pertinent problems facing us some real thought.

4. "How is he going to pay for all his programs?"
How are we paying for them now? The common cliche are that Democrats are "Tax and Spend" while the Republicans since Reagan have been "Charge and Spend".

Don't get me wrong, I think all of the Presidential front-runners would do a better job than our current administration. But when I vote for Obama, I'm voting FOR someone instead of voting AGAINST someone else, and that's what you're suppose to do.
Update: Hilzoy breaks it down better than I do here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yes, More Videos!

Since these video post are kinda like cheat blog-writing, so I'm going to try to post these on the weekend only. I'll try to make them every weekend for the people who don't surf at work. I reserve the right to post videos during the week, but only if it's illustrating a point. I also apologize if you've seen these before.

From a less politically correct time. To be on the safe side- NSFW

That's right, that's Casey Kasem as Adolf

This quickly goes from self-parody to icky really fast. NSFW

This reminds me of my nephew Adien going after my niece Alex.

This guy must be seen to be believed. NSFW

This is all over the place, but if you haven't seen it you need to. It's just so damn cute.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The LONG Reach of DC Bureaucracy

Trying to put the figurative tent stakes down here in the PHX, I went down to the DMV to get my Arizona License. I knew that I'd probably have to take a driving test of some sort since my Maryland license expired a year and a half ago and, riding a bike to work and taking advantage of public transportation to avoid DUIs, I didn't have any need to get a new one.

There was an unforeseen problem, though, the DMV lady said there was I had an issue with the District of Colombia that needed to be resolved before I could even try to get an Arizona license. After racking my memory for what this could possibly be, I came up short. I mean, Christ, I haven't even driven in over 2 years!

After calling the District to find out what this "issue", I was told that I had paid a traffic ticket 2 days late IN 2001! I remember the ticket, and remembered paying it on time since it was a sizable ticket to begin with. I don't recall ever getting any notice that entire time telling me about this and they didn't say anything to me when I got a car registered in Maryland the next year. Most of that time I could have easily afforded the $95 reinstatement fee; but now, not so much.

Now, one of the main reasons I never bothered to get a DC license (or plates for my car) was to avoid the legendary clusterfuck of DC Bureaucracy. But it still got me, and good!

It reminds me of one afternoon working at the toy store when a customer was marveling at how efficient we were (we got that a lot). I said, "Yeah, we're not like the government at all."
Another customer listening took umbrage, "Hey! I work for the government!"
I clarified my position, "I'm sorry, I was talking about the DC government."
"That's who I work for!"
"Then you know."
"Yeah," she said with a hint of resignation as she slinked out of the store.

Patterns of The North American Hipster

One of the many differences between Phoenix and D.C. is the relative lack of hipsters. I would have thought that this would be a positive thing, the North American Hipster can be quite a loathsome beast. It has a pack mentality and code of conduct designed to denigrate others animals sense of coolness while simultaneously affirming its own.
The lack of Arcade Fire shows and visits from McSweeney's contributers cannot provide the supply of irony needed to sustain large packs of hipsters.

Unfortunately, because of this, groups of earnest alterna-rockers and the type of angsty downtuners that were thought to had gone the way of Korn flourish in numbers unknown in other parts of North America.

So the choice is: people who are too cool to exist or people who are too sad to stop screaming. Hmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

F@*k Valentine's Day!

Seriously, f@*k it in whatever orifice is available. I mentioned my aversion to it last year and nothing has changed. The newest objectionable commercial is the one where a man hypnotizes his significant other with a diamond necklace, "I am a good husband, I am a good husband". It should be called "Avoiding Female Emotional Landmines Day" because, let's be honest, no woman I've ever heard of has spent time in the doghouse for fucking up her Valentine's gift to her boyfriend. We, as men do our best- emoting is not something we're all that great at to begin with- but regardless of our attempts, a wrong step and BOOM!!!!. Does it sound like I may have a personal problem with it? Congratulations! You are absolutely right!

It's all a part of my ironic life; I liked girls from a very young age-like 6, but I was almost out of high school before I had my first real girlfriend. You'd think a sweet, thoughtful guy such as myself (if you don't know me personally, just go with it for the sake of argument) would have have some decent Valentine Day stories, but I don't, not even the few ones when I actually had someone to share it with.

1. 1989- I was at a difficult time in my life, I was kicked out of my house and living with my friend Karen. I had just started a job that I had yet to get my first paycheck from when Valentine's Day rolled around. I had a very specific gift that I wanted to give my fiancee (don't even get me started on THAT!) that required money. I gave her the lyrics of a song I had written for her-admittedly handwritten and on notebook paper- but that wasn't good enough to stop everyone around her from hammering me for not getting her something more substantial. This lead to my romantic rival for her- her male best friend- to give her a bouquet of flowers to make up for my shortcomings. It got to be so much, I borrowed money to get her what I wanted a week later: 2 dozen roses and a red tambourine, which was symbolic for us. She loved it, but the damage was done. Did I mention that her gift to me was sexy (not explicit) pictures taken by said best friend, that I found out that she was cheating on me with through most of our relationship?

2. 1996- If V-day fell at a better time in the relationship I was in at the time, things might have turned out much better. I was actually about to break up with her; we spent so much time together when we got together, we kinda burned out. Plus her long-distance boyfriend had just found out about us. I didn't want to break up with her on Valentine's Day, but I've always had a hard time hiding my feelings and this was no exception. We broke up the next day, but got back together soon after and about 6 months later she broke my heart so badly I moved to Rockville.

3. 2004- My then-girlfriend and I had a bumpy and trying relationship. There was a lot of love there, but I was her first real boyfriend and had to navigate around her fears and concerns about being in love. Add to this the fact that we lived far away from each other through a lot of it. But things were looking up, we were making plans to move in together that fall and I had cleared- I thought- the last emotional hurdles. Since we had had a pretty lackluster Valentine's Day the year before, I wanted to really give her something that expressed my love in a way that she would never have another reason to doubt me. Even though we couldn't be together, V-Day itself was pretty good. But little did I know, I was setting myself up for the break-up less than two weeks later. It wasn't because I did something wrong or we didn't love each other, that's the fucked thing. I did too well, she started freaking out about how we were on the fast track to marriage and how she wasn't ready for that, even though I had absolutely no plans to ask her. This still stings me obviously; I wrote about this in last year's post, too. I can't even say what I gave her, its very memory makes me feel like an idiot. It just epitomizes so much of my love life; the harder I tried to make the women in my life feel special and loved, the stupider and more powerless I feel when it's not enough.
So, fuck Valentine's Day.

Today In Schadenfreude!- The Hottie And The Nottie

I wasn't going to say anything about this, but I couldn't help myself. Many of you might have read the "New Low" reviews for Paris Hilton's new movie The Hottie And The Nottie, the kind of film you'll never see but know exactly what happens in it (I bet the nottie becomes a hottie too!). It only made about $25,000 TOTAL its first weekend out, or a dollar for every bad review. I don't think that amount covered the Cristal and Cocaine for the release party!

But, keep in mind, Meet The Spartans made enough money to make another stupid-as-shit movie. So we, the moderately intelligent, might have won the Hottie And The Nottie battle but we're still losing the War Against Stupidity overall.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Writers Go Back To Work Today!

I haven't written much about the Writer Guild strike, which officially ended Tuesday. I don't know the particulars of the deal; it doesn't matter much, it's not like I wasn't getting writing work because of the strike. I supported the writers- in my own ineffectual way- as I do all people in the creative part of the creative arts. As unfair as the music business often is, songwriters are pretty well taken care of, assuming that they're on top of their performing rights. The way the movie and TV industry are so star, focus-group and opening-weekend driven, it seems like they forgot long ago that writing is the foundation of everything and their reluctance to deal with the WGA dealing with "New Media" was proof of that.

No, I might not be a "real" writer, but I am a real fan and I'm psyched that this is all over. Besides the headlines that all the Law and Orders can be ripped from have been piling up awfully high.

The Good News:
1. Among many other shows, The Daily Show and Colbert Report are now going to be at full strength. Not that they've been bad lately, Colbert especially has used this opportunity to display how gifted a performer he really is, it just hasn't been the same.

2. Great, now The Oscars can go off with out a hitch! Is it wrong to say I don't care? I didn't care about the Grammys either, though I love that Barack Obama and Flight of The Conchords won.

3. All of the production assistants can get back to work, too. These folks where the ones that people tended to have to most sympathy for in all this because they just regular folks that weren't striking, but they weren't working either. The thing is, most of those people belong to unions too and should have some idea how collective bargaining works. Not that I don't have compassion for them as well, but the effects of striking should an assumed risk in this union-driven industry.

The Bad News:

1. Now the seasons are shorter. This affects some shows more than others, but for a show like 30 Rock that's had a hard time finding an audience, loss of momentum could prove fatal. That would be a flat-out crime, it's becoming dangerously close to my favorite live-action sitcom ever. This world would be so much easier to live in if I liked According To Jim.

2. If the shows come back at all. Unfortunately Battlestar Galactica might be one of them. If you've followed that show, you know how devastating that is; they were only halfway through their last season before the strike started and it's possible that it won't be completed. Sure, folks on the internet will protest, but-as Firefly and Snakes On A Plane proved- that might not mean anything.

3. According To Jim Is Coming Back.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I'm Sorry Paris, I'm Going To Have To Deny Your Myspace Friendship.

Hello, Paris, is it? I know this is probably not your real name, but this is the name that comes up when you've E-mailed me or friend requested me through Myspace. BTW, you may want to change your name, there's a famous woman of questionable virtue with the same name and you don't want to confuse people. Or do you? You are a complicated woman.

It started off you feigning ignorance with how Myspace works and wanting me to chat with you online. I realized that you were just being coy when you sent me 6 more e-mails with your picture from other accounts like: Sexyparis, Sexxxyparis, or Sexiparis, so you obviously know your way around Myspace.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very flattered- and calling me "Cutee" certainly appeals to my vanity, but you're coming on a little strong; especially when you started sending me more than a dozen e-mails a day for months, with you in various stages of undress. Another tip: wording all of your e-mails the exact same way makes me question your sincerity. The thing is I'm more attracted to a Tina Fey-type woman, that's just me. Also, the fact that your job seems to consist of performing livecam sex shows is also a bit of a dealbreaker for me.

I'm using this blog as a forum to talk to you because my marking your every correspondence as "spam" has not stopped your advances. I even tried to chat with you to threaten legal action against your harassment, but you were too busy preparing for your livecam sex show to chat.

Please just stop, don't make this any more more difficult than it already is.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Fear of Flying

The few times I flew in a plane as a kid, I really loved it. You couldn't get me away from the window, watching the people and cars get smaller and smaller. We got so high up, the clouds looked like they were coming out the ground in huge billowy columns. Before the knowledge of the amount of school I'd have to have killed the desire, I wanted to become an astronaut; I'd look up at the darker shade of blue sky up there and wondered how far I was from outer space.

For whatever reason, I didn't fly from the time when I was about 11 to about 25, when I flew back to the East Coast after my mom and brother moved out to Arizona in 1996. I made sure to have the window seat and I was beyond psyched, it looked like I was going to have the whole row to myself.

Right as the stewardess tried to shut the door, two late-comers pushed through the door- a mother and child- and guess where they were sitting. The mom was a bit, quite a bit, overweight and her 3 year-old had more than the standard share of precociousness. Despite his mother's timid protests, the boy wouldn't keep his seatbelt on and kept putting the tray table down. Anyone who has flown knows what a big no-no this is, even if we don't know why. Only after gaining the ire of the stewardess did the mom get him to settle enough to bounce away, strapped in his seat.

Once the seatbelt sign turned off, the mom asked if he wanted to sit on her lap. Since she was sitting in the center seat, her perching him on her ample girth created a wall of flesh that sealed me off from the rest of the plane. I angled myself toward the window to pay more attention to the majesty of this great country and less on the squirmy and increasingly musky mass next to me.

I started writing a letter to the now-defunct 'zine Ben is Dead about their exclusion of Some Kind of Wonderful in one of their "Retro Hell" issues. This movie had been the quite bone of contention with me and my friends, mainly due to the "Lea Thompson vs. Mary Stewart Masterson" debate (I wrote a post about it here). Basically, I thought with all the attention that Eric Stoltz paid to..... holy shit, what's that unholy shaking? I realize now with many flights under my belt that I was lucky that my plane trips before were exceptionally smooth, but this one was weathering a fairly robust amount of turbulence that my young rowmate thought was hilarious. The fact that we were seated next to a wing only made the situation more terrifing, the wing looked like it was moving independently of the rest of the plane, making it seem like we were riding on a ungainly metal bird.

The anxiety didn't ease when we approached the safety of the ground as my ears felt like they'd explode. I tried to muster a dry pressure equalizing swallow, having drank the last of my water long ago. But I landed and survived, of course.

I have flown many times since- about seven times in the past 12 months, in fact- and I haven't recaptured that magic feeling I had as a tyke, but I have landed and survived everytime and that's the more important thing.