Monday, December 12, 2005

Can't I Tell Them About the Amazing Thing?

There are a few things that I can count on every December. One of them is that TV meterologists will editorialize cold, wintry weather as being bad. This is a subjective OPINION, not an empirical fact, and I would thank them to keep their summer-lovin’ prejudice to themselves. It’s gonna be cold? Excellent! It’s gonna snow? Hooooray!! As if it’s not bad enough that their predictions are wrong more than half of the time.

Another thing I’ve come to rely on is that my annual Christmas Video Party will yield another tale of humorous debauchery. Last year it was Mike O’s expletive-filled commentary on It’s a Wonderful Life. This year it was Johnny Hanlon’s climbing down the fire escape and over the backyard fence to crash the party my neighbors were throwing. See, we were watching them in the courtyard and marveling at the amazingly hideous holiday sweaters. In this very grainy photo, there’s a triangle of lights in the middle: that’s a light-up tree on a sweater.

The debate raged as to whether there was any irony present, so John, loaded up on sugar and alcohol, took it upon himself to investigate. Turns out, there was a contest for worst Xmas sweater.

Meanwhile, the rest of us feasted and fawned over the deleted “Sheep” scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Santa in Animal Land, a Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Guy Under the Seats: Christmas Under the Seats, the Spirit of Christmas, an SCTV Christmas, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Elf. A big whopping load of Holly Jolly.

Despite being a fairly raging Atheist, I do truly love Christmas. Maybe it has to do with my obsession with childish things (which I never put away). Maybe it’s that I’m overly nostalgic (to a fault). Maybe I just really love snow, pretty lights and egg nog (oh, how I do). I tend to extrapolate that whole “good will towards men” bit more than making it a celebration of the birth of ol’ JC. I won’t go so far as to make any comparisons between myself and the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge, mostly because I haven’t had the epiphany they shared that gave them a selfless love for their fellow man 24/7, 365.... But I do feel different this time of year. As giddy as a drunken man, making a perfect Laoco├Ân of myself.

Merry Christmas. Etc.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Again with the Connelly

What a strange night at the bar last night. For one thing, the opening act was the very first gig for Miss Alexa Joel, yes, daughter of Billy and Christie Brinkley. And yes, Dad did come to support his progeny. Oh, he snuck in the back door and was hiding under an oversized hoodie, which may not have been necessary. I don’t think my bar is overrun with Billy Joel fans. Hey, if people left Frodo alone, they’d probably give the Piano Man space. I only got to see a few minutes of Alexa’s performance, but she definitely takes after Dad more than Mom. Interpret as you will.

But what happened at the very end of the night was even more bizarre. My Thursday night barback, Neel (Hoboken’s most beloved Indian bartender) was chatting with some friends of his as the topic of Celebrity Hotness came up. The issue of “who would you bang” naturally followed, and I was a bit taken aback by Neel’s answer: “Kiera Knightly.” Hell, I don’t even know to SPELL that and don’t feel like bothering to check! Neel! She’s a CHILD! A forgettable speck on the roster of unattainable pulchritude! Shoot higher! Neel’s young friend professed a desire for Charlize Theron, which is much better, but when I offered up my eternal impossible selection, the reaction shocked me.

“No contest, Jennifer Connelly,” I said, confident that everyone would concur.
“What are you, FORTY?” Neel’s pal said with a slight scowl.
“...Actually, yes, I am,” I responded, far less offended by the dig at my early middle age than the notion that Jennifer Connelly isn’t lustworthy! We’re not talking about Angie Dickinson here, Connelly is in no way past her prime...


Kids these days. Wouldn’t know Hot if it bit ‘em in the Britney.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wood Tick Was Crawling...

So, the latest DVD project is Twin Peaks. I have the first season box, but it looks like there’s still a ton of red tape preventing the Pilot and Season 2 from coming anytime soon and since I have them all on VHS, a-dubbing I will go.

Well, almost all of them. I seem to missing one volume, the penultimate episodes leading to the frustrating non-conclusion that left Agent Cooper stranded in the Black Lodge. No matter.... while those episodes are not on DVD, they ARE available on (what I hope will not be copy-protected) VHS, available at used prices through Amazon. Phew.

Yes, I’m going to pay money for videotapes merely to transfer them to DVD-R. I wish I could say it will be the first time, but that honor goes to A Very Brady Christmas (but more on that in a week or so).

There are a number of incredible things about Twin Peaks as I watch it now, 15 years later. One is the gloriously slow pacing of the thing. Prime example: the opening of the second season premiere, with the dottering hotel waiter bringing the warm milk to Agent Cooper, who lies on the floor bleeding from a gunshot wound. The old man says over and over, “I heard about you!” and flashes the “thumbs up” sign, blindingly oblivious to Cooper’s plight. Cooper, ever the zen master, accepts the futility of trying to get the waiter to call for help, signs for the milk (including gratuity) and returns the thumbs up.... the first two times, anyway. Then he shoos the old man away, waiting for the giant to appear and tell him three things.... It’s agonizingly slow, and I mean that in the best way.

Another thing I love is how all those clues... all those tiny bits and pieces that my friends and I obsessed over... the “R” under Laura’s fingernail... Hank’s domino... “The Owls Are Not What They Seem”... they all meant NOTHING. While most fans either refused to accept that fact or became angered at the sloppy bow that suddenly tied up the Laura Palmer murder (no doubt at ABC’s insistence), once I realized that everything David Lynch and Mark Frost concocted was merely to create MOOD, that there was no logical explanation for the horse in the living room or the more mystical elements of the show... it opened my mind about storytelling (much the way Hitchcock’s MacGuffin theory did).

But boy, did my friends and I obsess. My then-girlfriend (now ex-wife) Erin, my brother Ken, my roommate Stacey, our friends Lou, Cindy, Amy and Dave.... we dissected everything from how Harry said “Wait... WHERE?” when hearing of the dead body... wrapped in plastic... instead of asking WHO? to the real reason that Andy cried so much....

We’d have Twin Peaks parties and buy donuts and drink coffee and freak out every time Killer Bob popped up. And all of us, male and female, lusted after those Twin Peaks babes (then and now, to me, Audrey was the hottest). There was so much excitement over that show, who cares if all that speculation turned out to be pointless?

It’s also funny today to see a 15 year old Alicia Witt (with a severe Elmer Fudd speech impediment) as Gersten Haywood and then later, Heather Graham as Annie (where’s ANNIE?!”) and of course David Duchovny as the transvestite DEA agent Dennis / Denise Bryson.

For me, running my little indie record store added to the excitement. I had a close relationship with the Warner Bros. Records alternative marketing dept., and they were doing a ton of promotion for the show, the soundtrack and Julee Cruise’s sister record, Floating Into the Night. I got posters, CDs (including the rare donut-promo of the Twin Peaks soundtrack), a copy of the pilot on VHS, featuring Julee’s video for “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart” and best of all, a signed letter from David Lynch, thanking me (personally!) for listening to Julee’s record. Sure, there were a bunch of them personalized for indie record stores across the land, but that didn’t make it any less cool to me.

On November 11, 1990, the night after it was revealed that Leland killed Laura, nine friends and I saw Julee play the TLA in Philadelphia after an in-store signing at Third Street Jazz (RIP) and the show was red and eerie and perfect.

Twin Peaks was a cult phenomenon that, pre-internet, bound Peaks Geeks together with a red ribbon and a big sheet of plastic. It was pervasive. And so much damn fun.

And I’m sure that as soon as I finish burning those DVDs, they’ll announce the second season box. Darnit.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

the Olive Juice Shortage

So, here’s the latest thing that’s annoying bartenders across the land: Dirty Martinis. They seem to be the trendy drink right now, and while they’re certainly less esthetically offensive than an Appletini or a Cosmo, there’s one problem with the Dirty Martini: Unless a bar has an incredibly large inventory of olives, they’re going to run out of the ingredient that makes it dirty: Olive Juice.

Most bars keep garnish trays containing just enough limes, lemons, cherries, olives et al to get them through the shift. And while bars usually buy olives in large bulk jars, there’s still only a finite amount of juice in there. And you have to keep some in the bulk jar to keep the olives fresh. So, for the most part, any bar that you patronize is likely to have enough olive juice to make a mere handful of Dirty Martinis. After that, the olive juice has run out. You can have a dozen olives in your Martini if you want, but you ain’t getting a dirty one after that. But try explaining that to the trendy drinker (oh, and note to Soledad O’Brien: There’s no such thing as “Martini Mix”.... stick to offering opinions on BABIES, since that seems to be the extent of your expertise).

People are utterly predictable at a bar. Bartenders can almost always guess who’s going to order the bad light beer, who the Guinness drinkers are and who’s gonna ask for some double-entendre-named shot that belongs in a house with Greek letters on the outside. Underage kids who attempt to get served almost always show their hand even before they order. First they stand about six feet away from the bar and carefully survey the scene while they try to work up the nerve to ask for their illegal drink. Then they walk to the bar and usually do one of two things: nervoulsy sputter out a too-sweet drink order that screams “I should be drinking milkshakes!” or, much funnier, order with a jaded vocal inflection that intimates that they are just so OVER IT: “Yeah, man, just gimme a beer,” the kid with the sprig of facial hair and the carefully held cigarette will say, not making eye contact with the bartender. He’s so world-weary and casual in a bar that he doesn’t even care about what BRAND of beer he gets. Kiddies, listen up: You’re not fooling anyone.

Now, when you ask the underage kid for ID, they have three options (four if you count offering a fake one): Pretend they didn’t bring or lost it (the usual tack), honestly admit that they’re not old enough (almost never happens), or (my favorite) SHOW the ID that proves they’re NOT old enough to legally drink and then PLEAD THEIR CASE. I’ve had this happen a dozen times. “C’mon man, it’s only a few months!” as if the law is flexible and the bartender’s prerogative. Or, even better, since I work in a rock club, “But I’m in the band!” as if the law is, You Must be 21... or in a Band.

Jesus, as if we don’t have enough crappy bands already!

Oh, and on an unrelated note, another thing to add to the list when I rule the world: The failure to properly cap a felt-tip marker, causing it to prematurely dry out, will be punishable by a hefty fine or imprisonment of up to two months per Sharpie killed. There’s just no excuse.

Friday, October 28, 2005

FOUND A JOB (no, not me)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m an archivist. I’ve been recording stuff off of the tee vee for decades. I first sat a portable Panasonic tape recorder in front of the set to record skits from Saturday Night Live, old Bugs Bunny cartoons, episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati.... when I got a VCR, I started videotaping. For the most part, I haven’t taped too much in the past years, but that may change now that I got a DVD Recorder.

Since the beginning, I’ve labelled my TV compilations “Found a Job,” after the Talking Heads song on their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food. "Found a Job” is about a couple, Bob and Judy, who write for television (“Judy’s in the bedroom inventing situations / Bob is on the street today scouting up locations / They’ve enlisted all their families / they’ve enlisted all their friends / it helped save their relationship / and made it work again”)

I’ve spent too much time over the past few weeks putting together the latest incarnation of Found a Job. At first, I was determined to just keep the cream, no-brainers like I, Martin Short, Goes Hollywood, Steve Martin’s 1980 NBC special, Comedy is Not Pretty and Good Grief, Charlie Brown! A Tribute to Charles Schulz, which aired on CBS the night before he died.

But as I was digitizing sometimes fuzzy video, the relative permanence of the DVD format got to me. I’d be fast forwarding past something I didn’t think I wanted to keep anymore.... like the Saturday Night Live 15th Anniversary Special.... and I’d suddenly realize that I wanted to save Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi’s angry, poignant introduction to the John Belushi tribute from that special. Watching a few minutes of Wilco on Hard Rock Live from 1996 reminded me why they used to be one of my favorite bands.

I’ve got a number of themed series. In addition to the catch-all Found a Job, there’s Comic Book TV, a Christmas Comp (which will make the Xmas Video Party so much easier this year), NRV (which stands for “Noisy Rock Videos”) and a few collections of shows that don’t seem destined for DVD, like Dr. Katz, really old Late Night clips and the remainder seasons of Larry Sanders.

Of course, making the covers for these things takes almost as much time as dubbing them. God forbid I just jot the track listing on a piece of paper and stick it in the case. That just wouldn’t do. At least I’ve come up with a template that I’ll re-use, saving me a lot of time (no, really, that’s not just a rationalization....).


Anyway. Another distraction. Here we go. More later. Happy Hallowe’en.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I am Seymour

Man, some of you people took that “goddamn ball player” thing personally. Which I guess was my point. Derek Jeter may well be the finest man to ever walk the face of the Earth. He means nothing to me. On the other hand, while I am well aware he is a fictional character, Superman... well, Superman matters (in case you hadn’t noticed). Feel free to mock yer socks off.

My point is, sports fanaticism is not only tolerated in our society, it’s encouraged. It’s normal. Being a comic book fan is still and always something that’s barely tolerated, more often outright scorned and ridiculed. That’s why I took the mocking of “Kal-El” personally. Let’s move on.

A PERTINENT EXCHANGE from the movie GHOST WORLD:
ENID: You are like, the luckiest guy in the world. I would kill to have all this stuff.
SEYMOUR: Please. Go ahead and kill me.
ENID: Oh, come on. What are you talking about?
SEYMOUR: You think it’s healthy to obsessively collect things? You can’t connect with other people, so you fill your life with stuff. I’m just like all the rest of these pathetic collector losers.

The collector in me has resurfaced lately, and I’m not happy about it. I blame it on disposable income combined with a lack of responsibilities and that disconnectedness Seymour mentioned. But I think I’ve shaken it off. Except for recordable DVDs (oh, yes, the day has come).

I will cop to being really bitter and angry lately, though. I’ve waded knee-deep into serious nihilism and it’s a chilly, fetid swamp (as opposed to the warming waters of my usual cynicism tinged with hopefulness). I don’t like it in here. I’m going to try to find my way out. In the meantime, hide yer kids, dogs and wimmens (there’s shrapnel flying).

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kal-El. Lorelai. Johnson. Fun.

So, I received quite a few e-mails and text messages from friends, all chuckling over the big celebrity news this week. Yes, Nicolas Cage named his son Kal-El. Yes, ha ha, the kid’s gonna get beaten up at school (as if the son of Nicolas Cage is going to go to public school instead of some private school with other overprivileged kids who will no doubt have stupid names and too much money as well). But y’know what? I think it’s fine. It’s better than “Dylan” or “Madison” or naming your kid after a goddamn ball player. I’d rather name my kid after Superman than Derek Jeter any day. Not that I’m ever going to have kids... but that’s another issue.

Speaking of Superman, the season premiere of Smallville contained more than one element that warmed geeky cockles. The Fortress of Solitude was one (although did anyone else notice the lack of John Williams music that’s accompanied every other aspect of Smallville that related to Superman: the Movie? I’m guessing Superman Returns has that music all locked up). Chloe’s talk with Clark about him being “more than a hero” where she said, “If more people were like you, the world would be a much better place” summed up why I love the character. It’s a good time to be a Superman fan, even one who doesn’t read the comics anymore.

And, as long as I'm pluggin' WB tee vee shows, here are three reasons from tonight’s episode of Gilmore Girls why that show is NOT a “guilty pleasure,” but just great television:
1) They made extensive fun of Riding the Bus with My Sister.
2) There was a scene about Lorelai’s and Rory’s lack of religious faith (kinda ballsy in the current climate).
3) “Davey is more accessible. He’s the Dandy Warhols to Martha’s Brian Jonestown Massacre





Whoops, make that four reasons (see left).

Speaking of Brian Jonestown Massacre, could it be that they really don't know that more than half the people who go to see them do so for the trainwreck, not for the music? They couldn't be that clueless, could they? Hm.

I manned the wood last night for the MC Chris show and felt 100 years old. I can’t stand Aqua Teen Hunger Force for the same reason I can’t watch Family Guy. I don’t care how funny it is, if the animation’s ugly, I cannot watch it. And AQTF is one butt-ugly cartoon. I did enjoy Chris’s anti-hipster rant, however.

But the crowd of young’uns brought up another sad example of apathy / ignorance that I encounter a lot at the bar. Whenever a bartender looks at a questionable ID, he or she usually asks a question to test the bearer’s validity. I like to ask, “Who was the president when you were born?” Only too many cries of ignorance have now made me realize that a lot of people don’t know the answer to that question. Sheesh. All the more to crankicize me (Johnson).

I was once called, “Mr. Anti-Fun” by a friend of mine. And she’s right. I was thinking about it last night as I stood behind the bar with too much time to think. I can’t remember the last time I had “fun.”

Hey, you know another TV show I love?..... sigh.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

With "Cold as Ice" still stuck in my head...

I went to a screening of Capote the other day. The movie was mesmerizing, and all of the gushing praise you’re going to hear about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as Truman Capote is well earned. He’s incredible. But what may be more incredible was the comment made by a woman in “the biz” who was one of a whispering triumvirate behind me. After the movie, we shared a lobby waiting for the elevator and this snappy showbiz maven stated between raves, “I had no idea he had that affectation~!”

Ah, yes. Truman Capote’s little known fey voice and mannerisms. I just wish she’d have had the balls to admit, “I’d never heard of Truman Capote before!”

It was a day of free goodness in Manhattan as I then went to a taping of The Daily Show, passing a hammertoed (ew) Kathleen Turner on the way.

I love The Daily Show, it’s literally what gets me out of bed in the morning (I refuse to DVR it so I'm forced to be up by its 10am EST airing). Jon Stewart is a hero of mine. But I gotta say, this is the second time I’ve been to a taping and I’m not sure it’s worth the three hour wait in line. Paul Mecurio’s warm-up is great, Jon does come out and say hello before the taping, but you have to endure stage management cajoling louder cheers out of you, you can’t hear half of what’s said, the cameras block your view and it’s all over too quickly. Not to mention having to listen to all the would-be comedians in the audience who have no idea that the poor staff of the show has heard their wacky comments a thousand times already.

But then again, I’m an asshole. Case in point: Yesterday, I went to a little known coffee joint in town and as I was waiting for my Pumpkin Spice Latte (Yes! Summer’s OVER, BITCH!), the young lady at the register yawned. I suggested that she partake of some of the life-giving caffeine surrounding her and she said, “I can’t. I’m pregnant.”

Now, a normal person would probably respond with a “Congratulations!” or “Oh, that’s wonderful! When’s the little bundle of joy due?” But not me. Without even thinking, I said… OUT LOUD… “Yeesh, one more reason to never have kids...”

She didn’t think I was funny. But the saddest part is, I wasn’t trying to be funny. That’s where I am right now. Maybe it’ll pass. But for now, I’m a hyper-cynical prick who will gladly kill that squirrel if I get the chance. Sorry.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Just to make my life easier...

I decided that rather than bother with the tedious archiving on my own site, I'd let the fine folks at Blogger do it for me. After all, if it's good enough for Miss Tanya and Johnny Hanlon, then by Gum, it's good enough for me. Besides, I deleted my MySpace account today (after a whopping two weeks) because, well, I found the ability to spy on others a tad creepy. Call me old-fashioned. No, go ahead. Original TGlobs will appear both here and at Toughguygoods.com, but the archiving stays here.

POSTSCRIPT, September 2010:
Blogging and the internet as a whole have changed a lot since I started archving my blogs on this site in 2005. As of this month, I've split my art and writing into two different identities, with this (renamed Pops Gustav) being the primary home of new writing and blogging. Which means I have some editing and deleting to do!