Friday, December 28, 2001

THE HOLIDAY SEASON
As a freelancer, the six weeks or so between Thanksgiving and early January are a complete write-off. Nobody's doing anything. Phone messages go unanswered and if you get someone on the line, they get perturbed if you don't demonstrate the proper Christmas spirit and leave them alone. People who I might talk to everyday in October suddenly dissapear for two months as if they got locked up for a speeding violation in Mississippi.

It reminds me summer vacation. Everybody went away for ten weeks and came back to school completely different. I think that's why my friend Chris acts like such a Scrooge during the holidays. He's on a constant buzz and wants to be in motion, working morning noon and night. That's what mnakes him happy! But everyone is suddenly busy with family and parities and gifts and more. Being pushed to shut down for a couple of months leaves a bad taste in the mouth when you're hurting for creative contact.

So if a freelancer you know seems a bit anxious during the holiday season, cut them some slack. If you've got one laying around, throw him or her an assignment. If nothing else, return their calls and discuss work down the line.

As for me, I'm going to Naples to see if my family has gotten any less crazy in the past few months. Personally, I doubt it. But in any case, I'll see you in next year.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

CLASSIC ROCK
I am becoming a cranky, old man. I can tell by my taste in music. I'm constantly pissed off when listening to new stuff because...well, because it sucks. When I rage in my head about the suckiness of this music, I sound like every old bastard I've ever met who was pissed and bitter and taking it out on my music. That crap isn't music! When I was your age, we had songs with words that meant something and melodies, or at least guitar riffs you could hum!

And so, resigned, I point my finger at the car radio and punch the button for Classic Rock. I know, Classic Rock Radio sucks too. They distill entire careers down to three-song rock blocks. The DJ always scats like a hip insider, but his soulless commentary betrays the fact that he's 22 and would rather be spinning Korn. Oh, how I long to hear the authenticty of a geezer windbag like Scott Muni. At least he got stoned with John and Yoko and told a few good stories.

Whatever its flaws, most of the stuff on Classic Rock Radio was played by real musicians. There's a feel and vibe there completely lacking on most anything released by the 'N Backstreet Rage Against the Korn Creed alterna boyband mafia. I now find myself willing to give a chance to bands I once wrote off with a New Wave smirk. YES is suddenly cool, as is Led Zepplin, AC/DC, the James Gang, Steve Miller, Black Sabbath...oh Jeeze, the list goes on and on. Sure, they could be pompus, but at least the were reaching for something other than a marketing plan. (BTW - Styx still sucks, as do Journey, REO Speedwagon and all those lame ass hair bands. God how I hated interviewing those idiots back in the 80s).

Much like the fasionability of thin ties,every musical trend eventually reappears to be absorbed into the Classic Rock juggernaut. Right now, it's New Wave. I hear more Cars and Blondie on Classic Rock Radio than I ever did on regular radio when they were current. And to its credit, that New Wave stuff still sounds pretty weird next to "Keep On Rolling" and the soft folk anthems of late-period Eagles ( Soft Folk - no strident political messages or harmonica solos, just the smooth strumming of cute boys with broken hearts).

Maybe I've just heard too much music. My friend Jon is a professional soundman and I don't think he's enjoyed music for over a decade. He burnt out sometime in the mid-1980s mixing five bands a night at the old Right Track Inn in Freeport. Many soundmen will tell you the same thing - too much music makes you hate it (actually, it's more like too many pompus wannabe rock star assholes makes you hate music). Whatever, am I asking too much for Creed to have one, just one recognizable guitar hook in a song instead of that white noise wash they so love? Would it be possible for the alterna-nation to stop whinning and blaming other people for their lack of a life? Can everybody just send the dancers home during the next video shoot?

Having said all that, I must admit I love the crap dance pop of Britany Spears. She's got killer songwriters (even if English is their third language), over-the-top production and a perfect staring-out-from-under-the-eyelids pout not seen since the heyday of the Bangles' Suzanna Hoffs. Sure, she's a vacant teen lap dancer who got a boob job at 15 and will likely have a horrible decline and fall (you can bet my VCR will be recording that VH1 Behind The Music). But for now, she understands the world wants sex wrapped up in a high school girl who can dance and she's ready please. Hear that thumping sound? It's Debbi Gibson banging her head against a wall. Doooh! So that's how you have a career!

So, beside Britany and maybe Pink (her new song is hot), is anyone out there hearing something great on the radio?

Sunday, December 23, 2001

CROWDS, GLORIOUS CROWDS
Everyone complains about crowds and the fight to stay sane during that frenzy of last-minute Christmas shopping. I am the complete opposite. I love the crowds. To enjoy them fully, I delay my shopping until the final week before Christmas (if possible, the final weekend or even Christmas Eve). The mixture of desperation, toy store havoc and frayed nerves allows me to recede completely and wander around as if I'm filming the event instead of participating. Sure, some stuffed animals get trampled in the process, but the holiday crush are some of the few hours when I really feel the excitement and anticipation of the holiday as if I was a little kid again.
.


For extra thrills this weekend, I headed out to Flea World, one of Florida's largest flea markets. This place is more than big - it's row upon row upon row upon row of crap. A city of crap, complete with street maps and addresses. On entering, I saw a booth with nothing but sharp blades - knives, swords, axes, pikes, broadswords, everything. With all that's going on in the world, I had no clue there would be an extensive market for six-foot pikes. Within a half hour, I found another five booths in the flea market selling the exact same mix of sharpened weaponry. That's how big Flea World is - it has the room and foot traffic for a half-dozen dealers of swords and pikes.
.


The customers at Flea World wear black shirts proclaiming Hell Yes! Number 3 Will be Remembered Forever! Smoking is not only allowed, it appears to be encouraged. A full set of teeth on any one person is a rarity. The place was packed to the rafters, stacked full of junk and I loved it all. It was a hotbed of capitalism, with recent immigrants manning booths full of wooden carvings, belts, black light disco balls and 27 kinds of Jerky. I am constantly amazed at the courage of people willing to move to this country. I bought two belts from a Chinese woman who could barely say more than Good quality and Two for ten dollar. Could we ever go to China, set up a booth in a market and make a living selling leather belts to the locals in a language we don't speak? I doubt it. But these people do, probably so their kids can grow up in a country where the big problem is the service fees charged on Britney Spears tickets, not civil war.
.

One little booth at the front of Flea World was marked by a large Confederate flag across which were printed the words Heritage, Not Hate. The rest of the booth was stocked with similar stuff -- Confederate flags, bumper stickers, coolie cups and more, each making a claim that the flag was about heritage, states' rights or remembering #3, not about blacks, slavery or refusing to admit the Civil War was lost. The booth was manned by a middle-aged couple who looked like they needed sleep. The woman was wrapping a remote controlled race car for a gift. They were alone, except for the occasional walkby who stopped at the booth's edge, read the various flags and moved on.

Considering the many t-shirt shops printing These Colors Don't Run and other patriotic slogans, the Confederate Flag shop was hardly the sole political voice in the place. Still, it felt weird and stranded. While I support their right to speak, I also felt oddly satisfied knowing that every time they opened shop, they were surrounded by a veritable United Nations of merchants who had more important things on their minds than issues of a war which ended 137 years ago. That reality said more about the situation than any protest could.

Friday, December 21, 2001

NO WORDS LATELY


Jake's been sick for the past two days and my dog Tesla spent most of last night huffing, wretching and throwing up. Such a fascinating life I lead, no? I took Jake to Publix this afternoon and the nice lady behind the counter gave us free cheese. That's cheered us up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

EVENING SKY FROM MY GARDEN


Man, I love this digitial camera. That reddish streak on the middle right side is an airplane.
HAVE ISLAMIC MILITANTS INFLITRATED MICROSOFT?
Every time there's a disaster somewhere, a slew of terrorist groups rush to claim responsibility for the act; our only surprise is that it took this long for one of them to claim responsibility for Windows. And that concludes this edition of "Cheap Shot Theater."

As the Apple Turns. Man oh man, I do so love this web site - all rumors, all Mac-friendly. If you check the link after 5:00 pm, Thursday, Dec 20, search the archives for this story.
THAT LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS
Coming home from lunch today, I tuned into a conservative radio talk show (is there any other kind?). The subject was liberal bias in the media and folks were trashing some academic who had called in earlier. One guy insisted that CBS anchor Dan Rather was completely liberal and as unambiguous, incontrovertable proof, he offered this observation - On election night in 2000, when Gore won a state, Rather said the state goes to Gore. But when Bush won a state, Rather said the state falls to Bush.

Wow. Convincing stuff, huh?

I know I'm risking a shitstorm of flack from my conservative friends here, but this needs to be said -- there is no liberal bias in the media. Are their liberals in the media? Of course. But numerically and in terms of demographic reach, they are hugely outnumbered by openly conservative commentators, media owners and editorial writers. Liberals are are also nowhere near as loud or virulent in their comments as conservatives - I defy anyone to show me the on-air, liberal version of Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Ollie North or Bill O'Reilly. And if you think the left loves big media, keep in mind that much like the hardcore right, hardcore liberals despise corporate media and regularly issue lists of stories ignored by the TV networks and mainstream newspapers.

This has been a topic of recent emails between my friend Warren and I. Below is a slightly edited response I wrote to him when he asked Do you really think there's a shortage of left-leaning commentators? Don't the three major network anchors count?

I can't think of any full-time news show hosts who openly identify themselves as liberal except maybe some on NPR and those slightly less conservative than my-co-host suckers who cower opposite conservatives on the tag-team shows (Hannity & Colmes). Network anchors rarely comment on the news - they read scripts written for them. I think they (as well as CNN) attempt to be painfully evenhanded. In the end, they offend both sides of the line because nobody likes it when their POV isn't the lead. But the fact is, these people work for major corporations and are very rich. Their interests don't lie with WTO protestors, although they see the news value in covering such actions.

I've been amazed at the stuff Conservative news people get away with on the air (ie: some MSNBC anchor openly calling Ossama a scumbag in a report). Much of that is due to the nature of 24/7 cable news. There's so much space to fill that editorializing and personal opinion gets mixed up with the news. That's suppose to be a no no in journalism, but Conservative journalists have turned it into a litmus test. If you don't get personal and demonstrably pro-American on the air, you must be un-American. Since the major anchors don't actively call the bad guys scumbags on air -and they dare to do things like have a camera crew covering inside Tehran during the Gulf War - they must be liberal weasels. Sorry, but reporting both sides of a story or editorially backing a Democrat doesn't make you an insane liberal.

I don't mind conservative commentators who identify themselves as such. It's a bit like the English system where newspapers are known as being Tory or Labor. But when obviously conservative organizations like Fox proclaim an un-biased position, I can only snicker. Even my father has joked their motto should be "We distort, you decide."

I know this is hard to believe, but "Liberal Media" is a myth concocted by conservatives basking in the warmth of perceived victimization. The conservative viewpoint has always been well-represented in corporate media, especially in the op-ed sections of American newspapers (particularly our largest daily paper, the Wall Street Journal). I get a kick when newspapers attempt to expand their editorial viewpoints by hiring blacks or women, and (surprise!) those people turn out to be even more conservative then the white males with whom they work. The left is best represented in alternative media and specialty outlets like Mother Jones. But when you consider religious (ie: Christian) programming, the conservative viewpoint virtually owns TV and radio news/talk shows.

Granted, that's how it sounds from here and NYC. In CA, you might be exposed to a few more liberals on the air, but I can't imagine any of them have the national impact of a Rush Limbaugh. And probably none of them will be as far to the left as a G. Godden Liddy is the right, when he advised his listeners where to shoot ATF agents should them come a-knocking.

Funny, isn't being fearful of government agents suppose to be the domain of the left?
WHEN YOU MARKET MUSIC LIKE SOAP, DON'T BE SURPRISED WHEN AUDIENCES LOSE THEIR PASSION FOR IT
Music industry in the pits! This excellent Salon.com article details many, many reasons why the music industry is falling apart and audiences don't care. I particularly liked the details on how a $49.50 Britney Spears concert ticket was further inflated with $26 of service fees.

For $76, I expect a lap dance.
.



THESE THINGS ALWAYS HAPPEN IN THREES
R&B legend and world's oldest teenage Rufus Thomas died in Memphis. To the end, he remained pissed off at Sam Phillips for dropping him from Sun Records post-Elvis even though Rufus gave the label its first hit (Bear Cat). In documentaries, Thomas came off as something of a bitter, goofy nut job. But a lot of that was an act. His place in rock and blues history is secure and even though that might not have made him rich, it did make him respected.
DISNEY ACTING LIKE DISNEY
The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century In his latest installment, AccordianGuy rants about a Disney executive who proclaimed there is no right to fair use. Fair use is a defense against infringement. Oh really? This a cool blog to investigate.

As my friend Warren explained to me years ago, Disney is only interested in one thing - making more Disney. Someday you won't drink a glass of water, you'll drink a glass of Disney (NOTE - Warren informs me the "glass of water" line actually came from a friend of his, Maria, whose Dad created the TV series, Batman. Cool, huh?)
CHRISTMAS PICKS AND PANS
Despite my rants about big business and consumerism in the wake of our national tragedy, I have been hard at work bucking up our economy by making several purchases disguised as Christmas gifts for myself (actually, let's call them Christmas gifts from my wife, since I'm billing them to the family plastic). We've been frugal most of the year, so we thought it a good time to splurge a bit. In case you're considering any of these goodies, I thought you might like a report.


First, there's my favorite toy, the Canon S110 digital camera. In short, this sucker is amazing. It's tiny, takes incredible pictures and offers plenty of controls as well as solid automatic function. As a bonus, it even takes short movies with sound (perfect for a quickie flick to send the folks via email). The accompanying software is equally intuitive and cool. My favorite program is called Photo Stitch, which allows you to take many shots of a wide object or landscape and then stitch them together seamlessly in your computer. No shit, it really works. The output can can be a panoramic image or a Quicktime VR.

Downsides? The camera offers only 2.1 megapixels of resolution, which is good but not great. It makes excellent 5x7s or smaller prints and okay 8x10s. There is no manual focus, so shots taken in low light can be tricky. The zoom is a meager 2x and it comes with an 8 meg CompactFlash memory card, which is useless. An extra 64 meg card is mandatory and costs about $30 - $50. On the plus side, this works great and is beautifully designed. I'll use it a lot.


Next up, the Canon S630 Color photo printer. Since I got the digital camera, I had to get a new printer (my rock solid HP laser is black & white only). The half-dozen prints I'm made with this have been outstanding. I've always thought low-end color printers were a joke, but this has changed my mind completely. On glossy photo paper, the output of S630 looks like a photo lab print. Installation and set-up on my Mac was quick and stress-free. Though printing is quiet, the act of pulling in a paper sheet into the printer is loud. Also, Canon skimps and doesn't include a USB cable. Be sure to order one online with the printer or grab it cheaply at Costco, unless you want to get reamed for $25 at CompUSA.


And finally, after six months of shopping, I bought a Sony 53" big screen TV. I'm not yet knocked out. It's big and bright and DVDs look great and I'm glad I went with a 4x3 ratio screen instead of a 16x9. But the problem is the quality of the signal from my cable - it doesn't look great, particularly on the digital cables channels (FYI - digital channels are compressed to 1/4 the size of analog channels). The simple fact of big screen TVs is that they blow up whatever they're given. So the stuff that looked marginal on the 27" tube set can now look grainy and nearly unbearable. It doesn't help that the settop box required for digital cable appears to degrade the signal somewhat (avoid using it if possible).

Hope awaits in the form of a manual service adjustment on the set and the arrival of a High-Definition set top box from Time Warner Cable. Although the Hi-Def box offers only 6 channels in true hi-def format, it also provide YPB compsite outputs, which should improve the picture all around. Amazingly, TW provides expensive hi-def boxes free of charge, but you have to request them and prove that you have a high def-ready TV.

Installation of the high-def box is set for January 9. I probably won't ever need to leave the house again after that.

Monday, December 17, 2001

BIG COUNTRY LEAD SINGER FOUND DEAD
The mysterious, month-long dissapearance of Big Country lead singer Stuart Adamson has been resolved -- he hung himself in a Honolulu hotel room

I interviewed Adamson 15 years ago and was a genuinely nice guy -- skinny as a pencil and unabashedly passionate about music. I asked him What will you do when it's over? He and fellow BC guitarist Bruce Watsons promised that even if the band failed, they'd happily continue playing music in tiny clubs somewhere. Tomorrow (December 18), Bruce has a gig scheduled at the BeIn Inn in Glenfarg. Tickets are £10.
THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS, (PART I)


An eight-foot tall light display of Santa in a helicopter (center above...follow the circle). Next year, that goes on my roof. Or perhaps the Santa in a golf cart to the right. Hmmmmm...choice, choices.
CUT AND PASTE FUN

Celebrate
We Are Family
Love Shack
Play That Funky Music
Who Let The Dogs Out


Christmas is here and that means countless lame office parties held in bland hotel conference rooms. People dress up, get drunk and stuff themselves with trays of chicken filets, pasta salads and beefy slabs from the carving table. Hotel decorations includes tablecloths, brownish walls and flower centerpieces big enough to let one side of the table ignore the other. The dance floor is a fold-up job that's taped down around the edges and comes equipped with DJs who play Christmas songs and ballads during dinner. When enough booze is consumed, the DJs switch to the crowd pleasers listed above (what are your favorites?). Finally, a few ladies go up to dance by themselves. Like sirens of mythical historical fiction, they sway and tease and eventually lure the fat guys in suits onto the dancefloor. After a few more drinks and Motown favorites, it's a sweat fest as everyone lines up to grind hip to hip as they Get on That Party Train. Yo ho ho.

I hate hotel Christmas parties. They make me sad. I know, somebody spent time putting things together and they mean well, but these parties are just so damn boring. I can't decide if they're boring because I'm married, sitting in a room of married people who don't really know each other but are trying to be on their best behaviour (except for the dancing) or because there's no sense of surprise. A good party should have surprises. When I was younger, surprises meant lots of interesting girls to hit on (and be hit on by). Being married, I think something different is in order now. Cash prizes? The inclusion of children? Setting the party at a mini go-kart track and letting everyone race around all night? Whatever is it, I don't think convention hotels offer it.

Sorry, just my kvetch of the day.

Friday, December 14, 2001

THE BIN LADEN TAPES EXPLAINED
The media has fallen flat on its face trying to explain the strange out of order sequencing of the recent Bin Laden tape. If you watched the whole thing, you know what I mean. It starts with a segment of Bin Laden and a small group of men in the middle of a conversation. Then they eat. Then there is a half-hour of junk footage - kids playing with destroyed military hardware and singing in the desert. Finally, the tape ends with a 15 minute segment of Bin Landen entering the meeting with the men and beginning the conversation.

The misorder of the segments has caused great headscatching among cable news vidiots while Arab pundits have pointed to this lack of continuity as proof that the tape is a fake.

Pay attention. Here's the explaination:

1) The tape was first used to record the kids playing with junk and singing.
2) Ossama's here! Let's tape the meeting. Do you have any blank tapes? No? Stick this one in camcorder and hit RECORD.
3) The tape they used wasn't new. There was only 15 minutes left on the reel.
4) When the tape ended, they pressed REWIND and took it back to the start
5) At the top of the reel, they hit RECORD again, taping the final 20 minutes of the meeting/dinner at the start of the tape.
6) A big chunk showing the kids in the desert remained because that wasn't recorded over at the meeting.

Got that? Okay, good. Now let's get back to bombing this guy into dust.
FAKE VS REAL


Growing up Christian and suburban, this was the annual question for our neighbors - does Christmas mean a fake tree or a real tree into the living room. My family? Fake all the way. It was packed away in a big box up in the attack. The "trunk" was two 1"-wide, green compressed wood rods which screwed together in the center. The branches were heavy guage twisted wire painted green and threaded with plastic shreds standing in for Fraiser Fir needles. Each branch terminated at an L-shaped handle that slotted into holes on the trunk. Ho, ho, ho.

I think the desire to own a fake tree (which, btw, my folks still use it) can be sourced to my parent's working class, coal country roots. Like Elvis, they grew up believing all things new were good. Old things were bad. Antiques? Forget about it. That was junk to be sold at the garage sale in order to pay for something plastic or chorme. A fake tree made of metal and petroleum byproducts was a perfect way to reject West Virginia and embrace Long Island. Ever see Graceland? Old bad, new good.

In our house, real trees were not for the indoors. In fact, my Mother appeared to have a dislike of all things natural. She believed animals were made for eating, not domestication. Trees were made for the sides of the freeways, not to be brought inside her freshly cleaned living. Deep down, she probably felt a real tree would release bugs or small animals into our carefully manicured tract home.

Nowadays? One of things I love about Natalie is that she was into real trees for Christmas. December has always meant a purchase that makes our car and house smell like pine for weeks. Yeah, the needles fall off, sap gets all over my arm when I bring the thing home, and there's something absurb about those lovely trees from North Carolina being sent to die in the sweltering heat of a Florida Christmas.


But screw it. I have crossed over and joined the other side. As long as tree farms grow Christmas trees, I will strive to own one for three weeks each year. Rather than recalling Christmas as the time of the year when Daddy pulls the big box from the attic and builds the tree, my son will associate December with those glorious hours spent trolling around Target's Garden Department or the Lowe's parking lot in search of the perfect height, branch spread and needle texture. He will know the scent of pine fresh from the tree rather than the aerosol can. He will remember brushing the dried green needles from his presents on Christmas morning.

And when he grows up, he'll probably resent how he was raised and buy a fake tree just to piss me off.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

HA! THEY SHOULD LISTEN TO PUBLIC RADIO!
An NPR commentator says blogging is boring and compares the trend to an 18th century book, "Diary of a Nobody." Needless to say, he misses the point completely. Check it out here, although you'll need a RealMedia player to hear it.
BE AMERICAN, ORDER AN APPETIZER
Restaurants Trying to 'Help America Turn the Tables' National Restaurant Association reported that places where people dine and drink lost about $1 billion in sales in September and October in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The association is undertaking a marketing campaign meant "to communicate how essential restaurants are to the economy and to people's lives." (from today's NY Times).

Here we go again - another business lobbying group trying to make people feel un-American if they don't spend as lavishly as they did pre-September 11. All this sleeze makes me want to take a shower.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

NEXT, WE BAN ABORTION TO STOP THE TERRORISTS
Rafe states the case short and sweet in Questioning Ashcroft. How dare he attempt to make people feel ashamed for criticizing the government.

Good to know I'm not the only one bothered by John Ashcroft's vision of US government. And he's a musician too! I'd love to get a mixed tape from him. Rumor has it the working title of Ashcroft's new CD is Pure American Songs That Only Bin Laden and Evil-Doers Like Him Could Hate (And If You Don't Love This CD, You're Just As Sick, Evil and Un-American As Those Terrorist Scumbags) - Volume I

Monday, December 10, 2001

NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRY...
Every sand sculpture I build turns out to look like a pair of breasts.

NOTES FROM A WTC RESCUE WORKERS FOOD STATION
I thought I'd stumbled into Hogs & Heifers. It was 5:30 a.m., but Matchbox 20 was blaring from loudspeakers, and policemen and volunteer women were hanging out at the cappuccino bar, laughing and joking. It was low-ceilinged and dark. At a table, one woman was having an intense head-to- head conversation with a police officer in a bulletproof vest. To Serve and Flirt Near Ground Zero

More groundbreaking investigative work from the NY Times. Guys in uniform are hot and the women of NYC want their piece. Never let it be uttered that the ladies of NYC don't know how to say thank you.

Friday, December 07, 2001

ASSHOLE



College Park is a neighborhood near my house. It must also be home to some community officials because cops have set up speed traps all over the place. Luckily, the cops are cool. I've been pulled over a few times for doing 34 mph in a 30 mph zone. I'm nice, the cops are nice. My papers are in order and they let me go with a warning. They seem to be targeting speeding high schoolers and I'm not going to argue. I just drive slower and pay attention. My days of being pissed off at polite cops doing their jobs are long over.

Anyway, this afternoon, there was a wreck on I-4 as Jake and I drove home from school. The back-up went for a few miles and traffic was crawling along. Suddenly, an ambulance appeared in the rear view mirror. Drivers pulled off left and right, trying to clear a path -- all except one old fucker in a Caddie who sat right in the middle lane, oblivious to everything.

Becuase of the old guy in the caddie, the ambulance swung behind me and passed on the right in the service lane. Close behind was a white convertible slip streaming through traffic on the siren of the ambulance. I know, I shouldn't have cared, but I got pissed. Maybe I was pissed because the convertible was bypassing traffic and I wasn't. Maybe I was pissed because he was driving recklessly and I had Jake in the car (having kids does that too you - every transgression becomes a perceived attack on your child). Ultimately, I was determined not to break traffic laws myself because those cops have been nice to me lately. So he drove on through traffic and I muttered a curse, which Jake repeated again and again. No I tried to tell him. I was saying Shoot! Jake didn't buy it.

Three minutes later, we crested a hill and - Oh Happy Day! - the bastard in the convertible had been pulled over by a state tropper who hopefully wrote out a big, big ticket. I snapped the above picture as I drove past and shouted HA! out my open window.

Jake repeated HA! again and again all the way home.
JAKE EATS LUNCH
Speaking of Jake,here's what lunch looked like.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

BUT LOU SAYS ARTISTS WILL GIVE YOU THEIR PANTS
The good stories keep on coming. This one's from the lovely B Bob, who's worked for the past few months as a volunteer at the WTC Ground Zero. It's nice to hear New Yorkers are coming out of their shells. She writes:

Last night after a volunteer shift downtown I went to a firefighter party at a pub nearby. Rumor was any woman who attended this party could walk up to the firefighters, tug at their tee shirt collars and they'd have to give up their shirts to her. As I walked in, the firefighters were all stripping top naked.


Yum.

Tees flying everywhere.

Excellent.

Many MANY happy women.

I asked a fire fighter from Vancouver-- a bunch just arrived in NYC to support the FDNY -- about this rumor. He looked bummed and said "I just gave away my teeshirt to that lady over there! But here, you want my dress shirt?"

He then insists on giving me his official blue Vancouver FD dress shirt. Stripping down he says "You ask a Canadian for the shirt off his back, we will give you it!"

He looked amazing shirtless under his fire department dress coat. A very hot new look . Of course I had to choose the 6'4" firefighter to ask about the shirt rumor. His shirt goes down to my knees like a cocktail dress. But i gotta say it looks great on me. What an incredible sight it all was. What an awesome night.

So if you see a bunch of shirtless firefighters walking around NYC or elsewhere, now you know why. Maybe they all do this? Try it, Ladies...and let me know.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

LOOK! DADDY BOUGHT A DIGITAL CAMERA FOR XMAS!



Here's a lesson I've learned - if you want to shoot pictures with a new camera on Christmas morning, make sure you get it early a learn how it works.
THE SPREAD OF PINK LADY & JEFF
The Pink Lady infection continues. Steve from Orlando, another pop culture maven, sent in this.

Oh, man ... man.

"Pink Lady and Jeff."

Oh, Jesus.

Just when I thought I had wiped that show from my memory. As Wolfman Jack once said to Felix Unger, "You brought me down. I haven't been this down since 1956."


Maybe it's not you. Maybe it's just the fact that I also remember an even-more-obscure detail about this show, which I will now pass on in the form of an annoying trivia question instead of just sharing outright.

Q: What was the name of the addled prizefighter Jeff Altman played as a recurring character on "Pink Lady and Jeff?"

SUPER-TOUGHIE BONUS QUESTION: In which famous movie did this prizefighter
claim to have appeared, and as what character?


Any answers out there? I'm pretty sure I know the first question, but not the second. Perhaps if you nail both, Steve will send you a present. Or not. BTW - don't bother trying www.jeffaltman.com. Turns out someone's hijacked the URL and it leads to a gambling site and pop-up window hell.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

BRINGING BACK BAD MEMORIES
Reading about Pink Lady & Jeff sparked this memory from Mr. Bauman:

I have a vivid, unexplainable memory of watching the Pink Lady show in its first and only run. At least, one episode of it. Much like the oft-questioned-yet-really-happened Star Wars christmas special of 1977, I guess this too wasn't just a bad dream.

BTW: I've been told that Kim's Video in NYC has bootleg copies of the Star Wars Xmas special...anyone looking for an Xmas gift for me, that's the one. Chewabacca has turkey dinner with family of wookies.

Dear God.


Ooooo..the Star Wars Xmas Special . That brings a tear to my eye. It is hard to explain this mess but someone who tried is Matt of x-entertainment.com who wrote a scathing review of the show complete with several audio clips and Quicktime movies (unfortunately, the one with Chewy's wife watching a cooking show and trying to follow along, appears corrupt and doesn't play). As Matt writes Calling the Holiday Special bad is just about the textbook definition of an 'understatement'. It's not just bad. It's not even just laughably bad. It makes tv shows like Herman's Head and The Tortellis seem like genius brainstorms.

It is good to know that for enough money, even George Lucas was willing to sell his soul. Makes him a bit more human, no?

Monday, December 03, 2001

FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING
My good friend, former band boss and pop culture maven Otis Ball has uncovered a gift that just keep on giving. What it gives I'm not quite sure. It is the Pink Lady & Jeff Boxed Set. Rather than explain this myself, I give you the enthusiasm of Mr. Ball, who wrote this email under the subject heading I'm About To Vomit From Entertainment

"I, just minutes ago, received my 3 DVD set of all 6 episodes of the Pink Lady and Jeff series from March and April of 89. It is holy. Some of the guests are Jerry Lewis, Sherman Hemsley, Jim Varney, Sid Caesar's dog, Alice Cooper and Byron Allen. Altman introduces each episode and there are tons of extras."

"For those not aware, Pink Lady and Jeff was a mid-season replacement series in Fall of 80 starring Pink Lady, a Japanese pop sensation who didn't speak a word of English, and Jeff Altman, a comedian who basically acted as their interperter. Needless to say, that dog didn't run. But Rhino just released them on Vid and DVD. Highly recommended."


I questioned Otis in an email and he replied:

"The girls have clearly memorized their lines and Altman knows he's alone on that stage. But somehow they have given the girls similar personalities to Dawn, in that one is nice to Jeff and one hates him. You can smell Altman's fear. And the Japs are just happy to be there. One of them just said Sermen Hermzee and the other said Brondie. It'a very similar to what you would expect a Furbies and Jeff show to be like. It's really amazing the things the Furbies are capable of and they're mildly entertaining. And when Jeff gets to do his stuff, it's pretty funny."

"Then the Furbies do a Fleetwood Mac song. Then the Furbies do a nostalgic musical number with Bert Parks. Then they do one of those Sonny and Cher deals where a song intercuts with quick blackouts and musical numbers. For the end, the Furbies get in bathing suits and bring Jeff, in his tux, into a hot tub with them."

This may be one of the coolest things I own. I think it's safe to say it's a desert island DVD."


Okay, let me say up front I am not interested in owning this DVD set . I'll watch it if you have it, but I don't want the responsibility of owning such a thing. I saw the original. That said, it is a pleasure to hear someone like Otis of rave about a pair of hot Oriental women whom he equates to Furbies. BTW, Otis has one of the largest media collections I've ever seen outside of a Virgin Megastore. He knows of what he speaks.
BLAH, BLAH, BLAH
Nothing much raging here on the home front today, just a lot of yard work, attempts at selling my Jeep and pondering what I'd like for Christmas. Sad but true. As I get older, the gift portion of Christmas becomes less about being surprised and more about shopping for myself. That's what I get for being interested in computers and electronics. It doesn't help that Natalie comes from a family where presenting detailed lists of desired gifts is common practice. Oh, forget the list, I'll get it myself - because I'm shopping to support America!

Adding to the mayhem is my desire to get everything for a rock bottom price. For that, props go to Dealnews Coupons, a terrific online resource that gathers many online coupons in one place. Need something at buy.com? Surprise, they've got a $25 coupon listed at Dealnews. If you web shop, you must check this out. Many of these coupons are not listed at the retailer's site and as Christmas gets closer, the coupons tend to rise in value.

That's my tip for today.

WINTER PARK CHRISTMAS PARADE
The Winter Park Christmas parade was last weekend. Hey, we just came here to see Santa and go home, what's all this crap? It turned out to be a two hour extravaganza, complete with presentations by BMX bikers, the Vespa Club and marchers from every church and scout troop in town.

Church groups admirably tried to meld religion with the commerce on display. Flordia Church groups are not embarrased about making public statements that go way beyond strict readings of the Bible. Updating Biblical lessons makes them relevant to modern society. Usually, that leads to weirdness. Natalie's favorite banner was carried by the Calvary Church's Boy Scout troop which broadcast a warning along the lines of "Teach your children about Jesus or else!" The banner was split into two with one end displaying images of good (the sun, an Aryan-looking child, various white birds) and the other end showing all manner of evil (satanic and heavy metal symbolism surrounding the snarling mug of Gene Simmons).

Kiss has relied on such free advertising for years. That banner probably sold another 50 cds for them. BTW - should you wish to find out what evil does during the day, it turns out Gene (more likely someone he's hired) keeps a detailed blog about the endlessly fascinating life of Gene Simmons.

EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING POINT
One last thing. On Saturday, we spent a lovely evening with our friends H & C - drove their boat around the Winter Park lakes, ordered pizza and watched Florida lose to Tennesse on the big screen. H. was the guy who last week acused me of being a whipped liberal. I love him because he speaks his mind. After reading my blog about "AMERICA IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS," H. wrote me a long email about how important commerce is to the economy, that people have to keep shopping post-Sept 11 and that I was misguided and didn't understand business.

But after a few drinks, H. confided this little story. He was on Park Ave. in Winter Park and saw a store there with this written in huge letters on its front window SUPPORT AMERICA - BUY SUNGLASSES! Despite previous comments, even H. agreed that was going too far.

Saturday, December 01, 2001


Link and Think is an observance of World AIDS Day in the personal web publishing communities. The project involves hundreds of webloggers, journalers, diarists and other personal website publishers, each linking to resources about HIV/AIDS or publishing personal stories about the AIDS pandemic on December 1st.

Rather than getting weepy about dead people, I prefer funny stories about the dead. It makes for happier memories. My story involves a guy named Dave, a waiter for the catering company where I worked as an assistant chef. This was around 1986 or 1987. Almost all the waiters were openly gay and it was the first time I was working around a lot of gay men. I didn't mind at all, especially since I was tired the egomanical straight jerks in advertising and recording studios.

Before evening gigs, it was common for the catering staff to share a meal. Dinner with 10 gay men was usually a chatty and funny event - more like Madonna-esque game of Truth and Dare than Sunday with the folks. That evening, the question on the table was "When was your first sexual experience?" One by one, each staffer told his tale - about the straight jocks who got away, the early (misguided) attempts at girlfriends, random club pickups. I shared the moment when I "lost control" while staring at an early 1970s Playmate centerfold who wore nothing but a green baseball hat, socks and spikes. And she carried a bat. The guys like the bat detail.

This brouhaha of teen friction and lust went round and round boisteriously until someone mentioned that Dave hadn't yet spoken. The circle grew quiet as Dave swallowed the last piece of his grilled chicken breast, held a fork in the air and paused.

"I don't remember the first time I had sex," said Dave. "But I do remember the first time I went shopping."

In a Greenwich Village restaurant a decade later, I ran into another waiter from the crew. He told me that Dave died of AIDS in 1993.