Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Head Facebook guy Mark Zuckerberg was recently asked why he wears the same clothes all the time. He responded, "I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life."

Tech dorks, bums, and business writers/CEO flatterers across the nation applauded this bold statement which reminded me of a phrase I heard a lot in college: "I dress for function, not fashion."

Bullshit. You know who dresses for function? Old-school monks. Circus pinheads. That might be about it.

And even their functional dresses had some flowers or polka dots on them.

If you really dressed for function, you'd wear a bedsheet or a diaper. Come to think of it, you'd dress like you were in Funkadelic, which would be a much more styling look for our dorky tech overlords. You would think that with the piles of money, influence and chance to wear whatever they wanted, those dudes would ditch their nerd uniforms and influence a generation to dress with more flash and flair, as seen in this photo of 1980s outer space dandies, Jonzun Crew:

If Apple CEOs dressed like this, I would buy everything they sold.
But no, each morning as they pick out another boring grey t-shirt, they think, "Puny hu-mans with your vanity and foolishness. While you wasted two minutes picking out a shirt, I have already figured out ways to sell your private information to advertisers or perfected an app that will destroy your ridiculous job or sweep away your frivolous real-world interpersonal interactions."

And it's not like they're curing cancer or designing rockets or anything. Zuckerberg's big contribution to the world was a way to waste time at work and stalk exes. And if I remember that movie correctly, those creepy rowing twins had a lot to do with it anyway.

I have a closet full of shirts that basically look the same, but I don't pretend that that's some noble act. I also don't act like it's a chore to pick one out to wear to work in the morning. No, I let my freak flag fly proudly, and when our tech overlords try to fit me in the grey shirt uniform, I'll blow some minds by puffing out my chest and showing my shocking plaids or confounding stripes. And that's not even getting into the dazzling mustard yellows or scandalous guayaberas that will bring about the revolution.

Who's with me? Down with our tech overlords! Reject the lame grey shirts, brothers and sisters! Waste up to two whole minutes each morning and let your freak flag fly!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Is Your Television Running?

I like running right when I get home from work. Well, I used to before daylight savings time turned 4 p.m. into midnight. Lousy farmers.

I was able to increase my mileage through the summer, even if it looked like I fell in a pool by the time I got home. Now the temperature is more pleasant, and I barely look sweaty at all when I return, and my shirt doesn't feel like chain mail clanking against my skin.

I have a running mix I play occasionally; it's full of '80s punk and hardcore where teenagers scream about Reagan and the cops, along with heaviness and screaming from all eras. I don't always use it, in fact now that running isn't so much of a chore, I'm more inclined to put the iPod on random and see what pops up.

The past few weeks, however, I've been playing Television's "Marquee Moon" at least once a run.

I'll pop it on after I've gone about two and a half miles, where the little aches and pains from the beginning have faded away and I've gone through Avondale with one of the parks on my left. The sun is starting to set, and I've seen other runners, old people walking dogs, and cats just hanging out on yards. The clouds are turning orange and purple and the 10 minute plus song is halfway over.

I'm feeling good - limber and relaxed with a sheen of sweat coating me and cooling me off. I start to think, "Hey, I could do this for hours. Maybe I should run a marathon. Or double marathons."

If I've timed it right, that whole chimey, intertwining guitar part at the end is building to a climax while the skies get brighter and more picturesque, and that bass line is reminding me not to go too fast, to sort of hang around and watch the skies. 

Plus, the thing's so long that it takes up a good portion of both my run and the sunset.

After that, I'm running back through Murray Hill in the dark, now listening to whatever else comes up, or maybe replaying it to get me back home.

It's funny that the song I now associate with nature and exercise and the awe-inspiring Florida sunset was probably written in some horrible filthy NYC junkie pad, but I guess you have to take your inspiration however you find it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Beast in Me

Occasionally while employing ancient Himalayan meditation techniques to probe the deepest recesses of my psyche to recall some funniness I can write up so you'll have something to use to waste time at work, I am struck by two blinding revelations.

One, I can write a mean run-on sentence.

And two, I was a terrible, shitty person during my adolescence.

I can take solace in the fact that most adolescents are terrible people, and for the most part, I didn't really hurt anyone.

Also, I am now a responsible adult, a pillar of the community, and generally follow society's rules, even the stupider ones, and I feel my many years of law-abiding have overshadowed my crappy past.

But sometimes, like Nicolas Cage driving out of his way to gaze at convenience stores in Raising Arizona, I can sense the devil whispering on my shoulder, reminding me just how much fun it felt to commit stupid, pointless acts of badness.

Sure, there's the everyday daydream that you know you'd never actually do in a million years, like when you think about just how easy it would be to slip that bored security guard's gun out of  his holster and drive away with the bank truck parked in front of the grocery store and start a new life somewhere.

No, the recurring bad daydreams I have are more mundane but more easily realized if I don't rigorously guard my behavior. Most of these occur while driving, mostly because like Gary Numan, I feel safe in my car, and I know I can make a quick getaway after my funny.

Like if I'm driving somewhere, sort of bored and not really paying attention to the music or podcasts I'm playing, I think how hilarious it would be just to start flipping people off.

"Hey, check out that dude in the Affliction shirt and ugly tattoos waiting for a bus. I'll bet he'd lose his shit if I just gave him a big ol' grin and a bird."

"I wonder what would happen if I just stared at the person in the car next to me til they were forced to look over and I just busted out with a musical Little Richard-esque "Whooooooo" and upraised middle finger."

Or I'll look at a bag of trash in the seat next to me and ponder how funny it would be if I just opened the window and threw it all out behind me on the highway instead of taking it home to my trash can like a responsible citizen. Sure, I'd make a noble Native American shed a tear, but for some reason, just the thought of a bunch of trash bouncing down the highway starts cracking me up.

And yes, I realize that now I'm a square middle-aged man, all my crazy, rebellious fantasies deal with junior-league stuff like littering and flipping people off, but what do you expect? I'm reformed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Put a Bird on It

We had heroes back in my day; heroes who didn't talk about perfume lines or personal brands, but  who did things like jump canyons in rocket sleds or transport trucks full of Coors across America or hunt Bigfoot. Sure, some of these things could be considered foolhardy or stupid, but that was what made them so incredibly cool.

And they knew how to flip the bird.

And lo, these traits were passed down unto the children, who, even if we couldn't jump a canyon or be fitted with bionics, we could at least flip the bird.

These were simpler times, yet birds were deployed with panache and style. From the "read between the lines" gesture, to the "my thumb has a little crank that deploys the finger" move, as seen in this year's Guardians of the Galaxy, to that weird Italian-looking thing where you'd slap a hand on your inner elbow and raise your bird proudly in the air, these motions had thought and care behind them.

The target of the bird would respond in kind, or perhaps recite some of the era's taunting verse, like the fight-provoking, "Your ass is grass."

Not only did we pick these gestures up from adults, children's entertainment also provided role models like the foul-mouthed kids from The Bad News Bears or any movie where the action took place around a summer camp.

So what else were we to do, when all of our culture was encouraging us with these gestures? Sometimes the only logical response, especially if those rich kids from across the lake totally cheated in the big boat race, was a proud, defiant middle finger given in a overly complicated way coupled with a witty saying like, "Eat it."

Today we are more likely to respond to snooty waitstaff with a devastating Yelp review than with a "I'm just scratching my nose" hidden bird. And we're usually in too much of a rush to do that weird Italian gesture.

I myself, no stranger to more intricate bird maneuvers, generally result to a halfhearted display while running or biking (seriously people. Turn signals. Complete stops. It's not that hard.) instead of a more stylish "turning the raised hands around" move.

But we can change that.

My artisanal bird flipping service will bring you the handcrafted care we used to give rude gestures for the low price of $50 per move. Even the esteemed "Can you hear this, or should I turn it up" move will be showcased to the client of your choice. Authentic period sayings like, "up yours" are available at no extra cost.

You will be the envy of your kickball league, cassette trading circle, or mustache wax enthusiast party when moves such as the "Nasty Italian" are displayed. Sure, you can continue with your boring road rage "angry hand," but why not show some craftsmanship in your gestures?

If you don't do it for yourself, at least consider the children. Let them see the craft, the loving care that went into the gestures that once made this country great.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Computer Blue

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love that I can track down and download a song from some obscure band's 7" I heard once in 1986. I love the fact that I can find the answer to whatever question has been bugging me in a matter of seconds.

However, I have the tech skills of your grandma. I had to buy a replacement for my five year old phone recently and I had to listen to all sorts of stuff about coverage and 4G and 5G and Warren G and holy crap, I don't care anymore, here's my credit card just give me a phone.

That's how most technical conversations go with me. Just like when someone's giving me directions, after about the second sentence my mind checks out, except for a nagging thought saying, "Hey, dummy, you better pay attention to this, it's important," which luckily I can distract pretty easily.

Not only am I barely functional, technology-wise, but I have a deep distrust of our robot overlords, probably formed through my childhood exposure to science fiction stories where whatever it was that promised to make our lives easier was really going to enslave or eat us.

I don't think technology is going to enslave me, but I do think that my devices and websites have somehow learned just enough about my personality to understand how to send me over the edge.

Last month I was looking through my Ipod. Somehow I noticed that I was missing two songs, "You Got to Move" by the Rolling Stones, and everything but one song off that second Arcwelder album. This kept me searching for hours, wondering what else had disappeared. And these were songs I ripped from CDs I owned, not borrowed from work or ̶s̶t̶o̶l̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶n̶e̶t̶  totally paid for. Luckily, I still have the physical CDs, so I was able to rip them, and probably go months without thinking about them again.

I've also been having problems with Shelfari, this page that keeps track of the books you read. Since I read pretty fast and have a terrible memory, it's a good way to keep track of what I've read so that I don't pick up something interesting at work, take it home, then realize I've already read it. When entering what I've read, it also hipped me to the fact that I'll read just about anything about shipwrecks or people having to survive in shitty conditions, which I had never really noticed before.

However, Shelfari will occasionally drop books from my list for no real reason. To me, this means that if I caught one or two, there's probably more that I've missed. So I'll think of authors or titles, and spend hours trying to fix my list.

Then recently Facebook decided to drop people off my friends list. I had no beef with these people, but after I noticed we weren't friends any more, I figured the problem was with me. I understand I'm sort of an acquired taste, and some squares just can't handle my telling it like it is.

Once again, I spent hours entering friends' names, wondering who else got dropped, only this time having to deal with the anxiety of wondering if they think I hate them now.

Look, I realize that we're moving into a post-ownership world, where everything is going to be on the cloud, and the simple joys of looking through a friend's music, movie, and book collection to silently or not so silently) judge them will soon be a thing of the past. That's probably a good thing, in that it cuts down on plastics and hurt feelings.

But for those of us with just a tetch of the OCD and who like repeated assurances that our stuff (or data) is still there, it can be a trying time.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Echo and the Bunnymen

When I started this foolishness, I had a simple goal. I wanted to document some of the stories that had been getting laughs or gasps from astounded listeners for years before the ravages of time left me unable to pass these tales on to the next generation.

Along the way I discovered my destiny - to bring a divided nation together through the power of story. While you might not have had the same exact experiences, you likely had something similar happen, and through that we can drop our differences, mellow out and groove together, discarding our hangups like I threw away my suit and tie from my square, plastic nine-to-five gig.

Which is why it always feels so strange when I find what I thought were universal experiences are anything but.

For example, for years I've thought that everyone had the same experiences falling asleep in the car as a kid. You'd be in the backseat, fighting to stay awake, and as you get sleepier and sleepier, the songs from the radio would get bassier and more echoey. Certain songs can still recall that feeling, like "Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh, "American Trilogy" by Elvis, or "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits. Apparently my parents' car had a faulty bass speaker or I was making my own dub versions, because every time I try to explain this phenomenon, people just look at me weird and walk away puzzled.

It wasn't just the songs, although those were the main catalysts. Sometimes it would be my parents gossiping on the way home from a family event or the TV set from the other room. Either way, things would get all deep echoey and bassy and I'd slowly fall asleep. Just like Dire Straits, the theme from "The Bob Newhart Show" will get me feeling sort of sleepy and spacey, especially there in the little breakdown when the organ starts. Hey, for a square psychologist, Bob Newhart had a pretty funky theme song, huh?

While this was a pretty cool effect for the few minutes I could keep consciousness, it's one of the reasons I don't like falling asleep to music or TV now. My dub versions are relaxing, but in the back of my head I feel the struggle to stay awake which can be distracting and a little stressful.

So I put the question to you, loyal readers. Was this the universal experience I thought it was, or was this just a weird little kid who was somehow channeling Jamaican record producers, and if so, why didn't I make any money off this phenomenon?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Turn On Your Heartlight

What follows is a work of creative non-fiction. This conversation happened many times throughout the '90s, a decade when I was notoriously dumb. The setting could be a car, a room, a bar, anywhere I interacted with people. The other speaker can be male or female, or a group of both. Neil Diamond's hit "Heartlight" is playing.  Let us proceed:

Person: "Hey, the E.T. song!"

Me: "Ha, yeah, it's the E.T. song. Hey, wait. You're serious."

P: "Yeah, it's about E.T. Everybody knows that."

M: "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

P: "Are you insane? It's right there in the lyrics: "Gonna take a ride across the moon?" "Turn on your heartlight?"

M: "Yeah, he loved E.T. so much he wrote a song about him. You're thinking of Michael Jackson.
 Neil Diamond was a grown-up. And that stuff is just metaphors and shit. He's in love so he feels like he's riding across the moon. And the heartlight know, like, love and feelings and stuff. In his heart."

Exhibit A. Although I'm not sure which side this helps.
P: "Did you not see E.T.?"

M (agitated): "Of course I saw E.T. ! And I cried when those astronauts turned him into Grey E.T. But that doesn't mean I think every '80s song is about E.T."

At this point, if the other speaker was male, I might affect a humorous "dumb guy" voice to drive my point home. For example: "Duh, all songs are about movies. 'Back in Black' is about Star Wars. 'Purple Rain' is really about The Color Purple. Duh huh huh."

As a gentleman, I would not employ the dumb guy voice if the other speaker was a female. In that case, I would employ a high pitched "lady" voice, as follows: "My name is (arguer's name). I looooooove Neil Diamond and E.T. I think about them all the time."

This argument was repeated many different times throughout the '90s, with many different people. I'm not sure exactly when I realized that the rest of the world was right and I was wrong, but I remember an overwhelming feeling of shame and embarrassment when the scales finally fell from my eyes.

I mean, it's right there in the song! Turn on your heartlight! How could I have missed that?

I'd like to think that by now I have apologized for everyone I argued with. If I missed apologizing to you in person, please accept my humble online apologies at this time.