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, May 30, 2008

Brushes With Greatness:Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez

I saw all kinds of political-type celebrities and some music people that are famous to me. I've been able to keep my cool and not get too geeky, but that went out the window when I saw Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez. If you don't know who they are, this is them in their band together, Boss Hog.

Also, Jon Spencer is in the awesome Blues Explosion(formerly called The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion).

As a couple, they were kinda like a Nineties indie rock Brangelina. All of the guys in my old band (The Milk-O-Matics and I listened to both bands A LOT; going far enough that Damon- our guitarist- and I would scream "Blues Explosion!" at our own shows.

In a Blues Explosion song called "Flavor", Jon proclaims "The Blues is Number One in Kansas City, New York City, Albuquerque" and so on. I co-oped that into one of our songs that "The Milk Is Number One" in various slight burgs throughout Wicomico County," In Fruitland, Willards, Pittsville." Damon said that me saying this might make us seem arrogant, and I asked him if he felt the same way when Jon Spencer said it.
"No," he said, flatly.

However, when they were at the toy store she was just some dishy chick who looked like she was from New York-which she is- and Jon was hiding behind a ENORMOUS beard that he latter turned into some killer muttonchops. I couldn't find a picture of them, sorry.

They had been in the store for about 40 minutes and were almost out the door when I did something I've never done before: A full body geeky fanboy, "OMIGAWD!" I collected myself quickly and said I was a huge fan. Cristina introduced herself, but I knew exactly who she was, I had seen Boss Hog twice-awesome- and I actually stood next to her at a Blues Explosion show in Baltimore. Jon was a bit shy until I told him that the Baltimore show I just mentioned was the best one I had ever seen and he seemed very touched.

They would come in every once in a while, usually visiting family in the area and always go out of their way to say "Hi" and were always super nice. If my 27 year old self knew that this would have happened, I would have plotzed. Cristina especially has an amazing presence, she once turned my head when I was looking in the opposite direction.

They were saying good-bye once when I told Jon that I was going to the upcoming Blues Explosion show and he said that he would put me and a friend on the guest list. I thought that was pretty cool.

Subtlety trying to impress my friend, Hilary, I sidled up to the ticket window, "Yes, I'm on the guest list." I wasn't a dick about it,I was just enjoying my fleeting moment on the catbird seat.
The ticket person said,"Who put you on the list?"
By the authority granted me by the truth, I said, "Jon Spencer."
A minute later, we had our tickets.
We were still in the 9:30 Club lobby when Jon came in the front door, shaking off the cold. When he saw me, he looked shocked.
"I forgot to put you on the guest list."
He had forgotten to put me on the list, but I got in anyway. I am a really bad bullshitter, but when I don't know I'm bullshitting, I'm fucking brilliant!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Your Pal's Movie Cliches:Action Edition

I posted a set of Rom-Com cliches a little while ago that I thought hadn't quite made Roger Ebert's Movie Glossary and I have a few dealing with action movie- a cliche laden genre if there ever was one. Quite a few made the Ebert list, but some didn't (at least I couldn't find them). I'd been wanting to post this for a while, but after seeing the new Indiana Jones movie- or more accurately, how I've seen it written up. People talk about it's implausible situations or obvious CGI like it's the first movie to ever have those things. Indy's not the only thing that's aged 19 years, action movies themselves have been building up bigger, louder and independent of logic ever since those quainter days and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is merely the latest example. For the record, it was much closer to the tone and quality of the earlier Indiana Jones movies that the Star Wars prequels were to the original trilogy.

The Physical and Mental villains- It happened in a lot of 80's action movies, I'll use Die Hard as an example: Alan Rickman was the mental villain, Hans. The mastermind and leader of whatever nefarious operation that has the plot set in motion. Any sort of physical confrontation, however, would be over quickly. This is where the physical enemy comes in, Alexander Godunov in this example. This gives opportunity for a spectacular fight scene where either the bad guy dies spectacularly or is presumed dead only to pop up to get shot dead when every one least expects it. Or both.

The Magic Gear: During a race or chase, when everybody seems to be going as fast as they possibly can, something motivates the hero to shift to a heretofore unused magic gear for them to catch up.

The "at first" superfluous skill: Any skill that any character shows that seems pointless at first will come in conveniently handy at some point.

The "Why?" script: Another big 80s thing: The hero has been given the challenge or task that they will spend the rest of the movie trying to accomplish, they invaribly ask,"Why me?" and the answer is almost always, "Because you're the best."

The killing of the henchman script: Ebert's glossary mentions how bad guys often assert their badness by offing an incompetent henchman, but it doesn't mention that the script for these scenes tends to be exactly the same.
Doomed Lackey: "I'm sorry boss, it'll never happen again."
E-vil Guy: "I know"

The most basic action movie cliche can be described in 4 words: Bad Guy, Bad Aim.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thoughts, I Think

If you watch Last Comic Standing tonight, you might see footage of my failed attempt to get on the show. DO NOT watch it for that alone (not that you would) because I might not be on it, but they definitely got footage of me. oh, and I'm 38 today. At my brother's wedding a couple of months ago, I said I was 37 and my dad said, "But he's going to be 38 real soon!" Like I don't have a whole year to be 38!

Why do they call them ski masks? Nobody thinks you're going skiing when you wear one, they think you're going to rob them. Yes, I believe in starting off strong! No that was not one of my Last Comic Standing jokes, I did about 40 seconds of this song:

I think Angelina Jolie is easily one of the most beautiful women on the planet. You may not agree with me but at least you may agree with that she is beautiful enough that if they don't mention it in her movies it's an instant plot hole. Are we to believe that all her movies take place in a universe where she's just normally attractive? Where she doesn't leave behind a wake of snapped necks and people saying "Who. Is. That?"

This is an ad that's been running a lot around Phoenix for Interactive Male

I just don't think is gay enough, honestly. Some guy's going to think, "Hey, I could use more dude friends!" Next thing they know, they're in a fiction bro-mance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I'm Sorry, But You're Being F*#king Stupid

One of the biggest problems I have with today's society is how people treat their opinions like facts, in fact it's a basic rule of humanity in my oft-plugged book. That doesn't mean that I don't do it myself, it just means I'm hard on myself when I do it.

I'm a pretty "live and let live" kind of guy. I think of myself as left-leaning politically, but I recognize the importance of the balance that the right wing provides. I'm an atheist but I'm not mad about it, I recognize the need for the spiritual fulfillment that religion provides. But then there's just stupidity, things that flat out people of reasonable intelligence shouldn't honestly believe. But that's just my opinion, of course.

If you think that Barack Obama is a Islamic "Manchurian Candidate" you're just being fucking stupid. Didn't you hear the whole crazy CHRISTIAN preacher thing that the pundits wouldn't shut up about?

It's O.K. to not like same-sex marriage because you don't like the idea of gay people getting married. I don't agree, mind you, but you're entitled to your opinion. But if you think that it homosexual unions denigrates hetero ones, you're being fucking stupid. Do I really have to get into the many way we straight people do that already? Are they afraid that they might make capricious decisions and get married to someone and it doesn't last? How incredibly precedented.

If you believe that Hurricane Katrina was New Orleans punishment for it's sinful way, then you're REALLY being fucking stupid. If I believed in God, I'd think He'd done a better job. The first places to open after the storm were the same sin palaces that were suppose to be it's undoing. If this was God's modus operandi, why isn't Europe facing His wrath like Louisiana did? Why is Vegas- Sin City after all- still standing? It's a city build out of Legos in the middle of the desert, it wouldn't take much.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities: Part 2, L.A.

I made my first trip to Los Angeles the weekend before last, my first real trip anyway. About 4 years ago I drove to Long Beach then to Malibu, driving through L.A. both ways. I saw the Queen Mary, the Hollywood Sign and THE mall that spawned the "Valley Girl", but nothing else. Both L.A. and N.Y.C. are centers of the very popular culture that pollutes my mind so I can't remember the correct way to perform CPR. But the sheer pervasiveness of the entertainment business in Los Angeles makes it impossible to avoid.

On the way back from the airport, my friend Anna and I got breakfast at a Silverlake diner. Driving back to her house, we passed by the place where the cover photo from Elliott Smith's Figure 8 was shot, a studio owned by the Black Eyed Peas, the place where the finale of Grease was filmed, the street from the end of No Country For Old Men
and Eric Stoltz's house from Pulp Fiction. Mind you, we didn't make some special trip to see these things, this was just the way home.

I went to Grauman's Chinese and The Kodak Theatre right next to it were the Academy Awards are held and right next to THAT was a mall, all in the same block. It was a nice outdoor one with a huge courtyard, but it's still a mall. I'm sure the employees of the Virgin Megastore get Oscar night off.

Winding through the courtyard was a ribbon of Hollywood related anecdotes attributed to various anonymous sources, and I was shocked how honest some of them were. Some, flat out, did not have the happiest of endings and some were like: "I tried to be a director, but more people complimented the food I made for my release parties than my directing, so I became a caterer." The ribbon led to, I shit you not, a monument of a casting couch.

The sign that the guy is standing in the way of says, "The Road to Hollywood- how some of us got here."

I walked about 6 blocks or so and in that space I saw three separate crews filming and somebody that sounded A LOT like Alicia Keys practicing at S.I.R. studios (She actually played in L.A. the next day, so...)

Anna I went to see Jeanane Garofalo at the World Famous Improv, but not a lot of other people showed up. We had a great time and I actually ruined one of her jokes; she asked "Who was the Rock Of Love guy?"
"Bret Michaels," everyone said.
"Who's the Attorney General?"
I said, "Mukasey."
"I wasn't ready for that, usually I hear crickets when I say that."
The only other famous person I saw was the guitarist for The Plimsouls, if you saw the movie Valley Girl as much as I have that's kind of a big deal.
Oh, and I finally got to sing Pulp's "This Is Hardcore" karaoke. I was awesome.

Despite the attempts to change the aspects of their cities that are less than positive to potential tourists, all the commercialization and gentrification in LA and NYC are a lot like those "One Day Install" bathtubs where they're just putting a new facade over the mildew of it's true nature. That might seem like a harsh metaphor but I mean it as life that exists regardless of any attempt to cover it up and that's what I love about both cities.

I almost forgot,if you've never been frightened by Scientology before, you will be after you visit Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Tale of 2 (American) Cities, Part 1: NYC

I apologize for not writing, flat out, I've been too creatively stunted from depression to post. I actually update my Surviving Retail blog pretty regularly, it's easy to do when I've already written the whole book.

After my weekend trip to Los Angeles, I realized that only good things can happen if I do productive things that I love as much as I can. Writing is at pretty much tops on that list. So I'm going to talk about my experiences in the two iconic American cities: New York City and Los Angeles. Today, New York; Tomorrow, Los Angeles.

I first went to NYC about 10 years ago, basically for just a few hours. The glow as I approached Times Squares started a few blocks away and steadily grew into a nearly blinding brilliance. At 10:30 at night. A gossamer banner of Uma Thurman hung down the entire length of a nine story building advertising her upcoming blockbuster, um, The Avengers. After the deafening thud it would make at the box office it would be gone, a 90 foot Uma Peel merely a happy memory.

The second time I visited was just a couple years ago when I went with a team of friends to try out for The World Series Of Pop Culture. I got a better taste of the city this time, getting to travel in it's famed subway and drink at a honest-to-god Lower East Side dive. The actor that played Zed in Pulp Fiction happened to be there. We found out after my friend Fred, who was a small town boy making his first trip to THE big city, ran into the man he associates with brutal sodomy waiting for him to get out of the tiny men's room.

The next time I went was solo to try out for the pop culture edition of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire". I decided to walk from the Port Authority to Peter Jennings Boulevard, where the audition was, by way of Times Square. The afternoon sun rendered the overbearing lights useless but it still was visual overload.

But the people are the real sight to see in this citiest of cities. Of course there are many attention seekers vying for you,like this guy:

but that's not what I mean. I'd go into some of the stores along the way and all of the retail workers in the studio stores all had the same look on their faces, basically saying wordlessly, "This job isn't NEARLY as cool as I thought it would be." I walked by the MTV studios during the famous TRL, but it was during a commercial or something. When they'd get the signal they would all go completely apeshit; but as I walked by they couldn't have looked more bored if they had showed them Woody Allen movies. If it wasn't for the barricade and extra police, I could have passed them without knowing they were there. I got a look at some of the signs that these girls were waving- or would when told to- and they looked awfully similar, same size, same writing just different messages: "Marry Me, Justin!", "John 3:16" or whatever.

The juxtaposition of Central Park's greenery with the rest of the city stopped me in my tracks, but just me. The thousands of people fast-walking their way through the city mostly kept their heads down. They may have been once wide-eyed like me, but their wonder had been blunted by the numbing of repetition. That's why New Yorkers are so famously blase; if you can get bored there, you can get bored everywhere. Some try to find the perfect coffeehouse or bookstore to soak up bits of obscurity before the rest of America ruins it for them.

For them the magical power that New York City has on me is a natural result of my touristness. So be it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I'm Going to LA!

I'm going to LA this weekend to visit my friend Anna and we're doing stuff that is cooler with more people, like karaoke (I'm finally going to sing "This Is Hardcore" by Pulp!). Anybody in that area that wants to be a part of the fun e-mail me at