Is This Music Spoiled?

Y’know how you buy ground turkey at the supermarket and you take it home and you put it in the fridge for, like, four or five days, and then you suddenly remember it and think it would be a brain-meltingly good idea to probably cook it or something? Then, y’know how, while it’s browning in the skillet and you’re desperately trying to ignore that funky smell, you daydream some sort of makeshift recipe featuring tamarind rind and blue cheese to hide the off flavor and gray color of the so-called meat?

Well, sometimes I think music is like that.

Don’t get me wrong. I listen to A LOT of music, like, ALL the musics (except country) ALL the time. I can appreciate classic rock and punk and disco and jazz and big band and alternative and such (as long as it isn’t country…did I mention I don’t like country music?). But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my likes have limits and most of them are based on expiration dates.

I was on my way back to the office after lunch today and the radio station I was listening to happened to play a clip of a new Bruce Springsteen song. If I hadn’t been busy shooting heroin directly into my eyeball at that very moment, I would’ve yelled to the heavens for The Boss to please stop. Look, I like Bruce Springsteen. I do. He’s a fine American. He has a solid sense of humor about himself. And he’s had some classic songs. I never would’ve made it through the summer of seventh grade cutting my grandmother’s lawn without the fine strains of “Glory Days” pulsing through my shitty Walkman headphones (or “Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive…but that’s another story entirely). But enough is enough. You proved your point.

Some artists don’t know when to stop. Paul McCartney is a great example. Fuck him and that goddamn Christmas song of his. The Rolling Stones? Another PERFECT example of this phenomenon. I refuse to hear anyone who disagrees that nothing after “Sympathy for the Devil” matters.

And please don’t confuse my staunch opinion with struggling to hang on to my youth by blasting musicians far older than me. I take equal offense to groups like Two Door Cinema Club and Local Natives and Mumford & Sons whose second efforts were pale, distorted shadows of their debut albums. Granted, the sophomore slump rule comes into play here, so let me delve further into my own vast music library with more measured examples…

Jane’s Addiction: First two albums are amazing and brilliant and inspired. Ritual de lo Habitual, however, falls off the rails somewhere in the second act. At least I think that’s where it happens. I always fall asleep when “Three Days” comes on.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Going strong through albums 1-4 and then getting a little too self-aware with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I liked it, but they lost me after that.

Depeche Mode: Everyone, even Dave Gahan with his drugged out hallucinations of three-headed babies, wooden puppets, and garbage monsters, knows that this group peaked with Violator. Half of Songs of Faith and Devotion was likeable. Ultra had two passable songs. But “John the Revelator” was the only redeeming thing about Playing the Angel. I’ll give them credit at least for a slower, more dramatic flame-out.

U2: This is one of the few bands that has ridden the wave (see also: Nine Inch Nails and/or Beastie Boys). They hit all-time highs with The Joshua Tree, dipped into borderline irrelevance when they became smarmy caricatures of themselves for a few albums, and then resurfaced strongly with All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and held on by their toenails with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. There is abolutely no excuse, however, for that fucking song on No Line on the Horizon about log-ins and Myspace chatrooms. That said, I will still probably buy their next album because I hate myself.

I know I can’t be the only person who sees this? Pearl Jam, Weezer, Afghan Whigs, Oasis, Liz Phair (I used to be sooooooo in love with her), The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Elton John, KISS (hahahahahahaha), fucking Madonna…they’ve all hit a certain level of peak musical importance and then kept going to disastrous results. It needs to stop.

At first I thought it was just me being grumpy, tying life events and locations to certain songs, and feeling indifferent about new music. But it’s not. I LOVE new music…WHEN IT’S GOOD. The 1975? Awesome. The latest from Santigold? Good stuff. Tegan and Sara’s new one? A bit poppier than I’d prefer, but a solid group of songs nevertheless. But Vampire Weekend’s third album? Like bad weed…two hits and a buttload of MEH.

My plea to everyone: Either STOP MAKING SHITTY MUSIC or else please put a sticker on your best album so we all know, definitively, when we should stop listening.

Advertisements

My Amazon Addiction – 2013

Saw a post on Gawker this weekend where someone detailed all the things they had purchased off Amazon in the past year and thought it might be an interesting experiment for me. There was a point where I was spending $40-50 every two weeks or so on books and DVDs and things that mostly went unread and unwatched as they piled up at an alarming rate.

The wife and I made a trip to IKEA (our third in the past month) so we could buy some more shelves and it finally hit me that I’m an idiot. Well, I mean, I already KNEW that, but still.

I actually stopped buying things, other than gifts and Kindle apps for the kids, sometime around Labor Day. Granted, this coincided with a necessary shift in funding towards beer for the college football season, but it also had to do with the fact that there was a stack of a dozen books on my nightstand with a quarter inch of dust accumulated on them. I’m fairly certain my 3 year-old scrawled “REDRUM” on top of them with her strawberry jelly tipped fingers.

Anyway, here’s a list of all the things I bought for myself on Amazon in 2013, with appropriately sad commentary…

JANUARY

Busy Monsters – William Giraldi
Gun Machine – Warren Ellis
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
Truth in Advertising – John Kenney

Yep…right off the bat, the unread pile of novels begins. I was so excited for each of these books, in its own right, yet haven’t managed to even crack the cover on any of them.

One Trick Rip-Off/Deep Cuts HC – Paul Pope

I’m a HUGE, like, completely GIANT-SIZED Paul Pope fan, so this was a no-brainer. However, it just sits on the shelf, unread. I’m a Pope completist to the point of spending hundreds on old posters and dealing with Mr. Pope himself to secure some things I couldn’t track down otherwise. I have a bit of Batman Year 100 preliminary artwork and the pre-press digital proofs of his Pulphope book. Hell, I even named my cat after him.

The Prince of Cats – Ron Wimberley

Speaking of cats, I heard this was a pretty cool comic book hip-hop retelling of Romeo & Juliet. Maybe one day I’ll actually read it.

I also bought the Die Hard 25th Anniversary Collection on Blu-Ray, because it was on sale and also because…DIE HARD.

And I bought a book that I already owned, but this was partly Amazon misleading me in the description and partly me being lazy. Luckily, my dad was more than willing to take the copy off my hands.

FEBRUARY

The Rules of Attraction [Blu-ray]

I have this instant gratification slash nostalgia thing where I have to have something that I just watched on TV because it reminds me that I watched it at some other point in my life on TV and I need to be able to relive that experience whenever I want (even though I just relived it and I’ve never thought about reliving it prior to that…nor will I think about it again now that I own it on Blu-Ray).

We Live in Water: Stories – Jess Walter
The Miniature Wife and Other Stories – Manuel Gonzales

I decided, prior to writing my third novel, that I was going to get into short stories, little bursts of fiction that I could sate myself with while I tried to squeeze out my own scribblings. The Jess Walter book was beyond amazing (leading me to buy Beautiful Ruins…and, subsequently, not read it yet). Oh, and lest it remain unsaid, I haven’t read The Miniature Wife either.

MARCH

Imperial Bedrooms – Bret Easton Ellis
Lunar Park – Bret Easton Ellis

Obviously, seeing Rules of Attraction made me think about my past love of Ellis and how I was missing a few of his books. Of course, the reason for this is that I had outgrown his writing (both content and style). But I never let that stop me when I’m bored at work and trolling Amazon. I still haven’t read these either.

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon TPB

Read it as soon as I took it out of the box. Love me some Hawkeye.

The Shade TPB

Loved James Robinson’s Starman…or at least what I read of it. I have all 7 hardcovers, but trailed off reading them somewhere around four or five. I was very excited when this Shade project was announced. So excited, in fact, that I took this out of the box when it arrived and promptly shoved it atop my bookshelves for 10 months. I moved it last week when I put the new bookshelf together. I like to think of the dust as a protective cover, like Gorilla Glass.

Great Pacific Volume 1: Trashed! TPB
The Unwritten, Vol. 7: The Wound TPB
The Massive Vol. 1: Black Pacific TPB

I read two out of three. Finally stopped collecting The Unwritten after purchasing but not reading the last 5 trades. It’s a good thing Scalped ended with 10 volumes, otherwise I’d still be buying those.

Numb – Sean Farrell
Battleborn – Claire Vaye Watkins

If ever there was a book that made me hate myself for even pretending to be a writer, this is it. Simply put, it’s a beautiful, effortless collection of stories that had me alternately chuckling and cursing its uniqueness.

Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors – Andrew Shaffer

Pretty good bathroom reading. Writers are a mess.

Samsung BD-E5400 Wi-Fi Blu-ray Player (Black)

Is there any other color? I think I bought this while we were on vacation at Disney World. No idea why. Was it on sale?

APRIL

Slow month. That Disney trip really fucked with our bank account.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation – Michael Pollan

Absolutely LOVED In Defense of Food and enjoyed most of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Saw him on a speaking tour too (as well as Anthony Bourdain). I got really into food politics and cooking for a while when I was writing my first novel. Still enjoy cooking, but reading about food has fallen down my priority list. Haven’t read this one.

SUPERMAG – Jim Rugg

Street Angel is an amazing comic. Jim is a super nice guy. We met when I owned my comic book store. This book is sitting in a drawer in my nightstand, paged through but never really read.

The Rockford Files: Season One DVDs

Blame Matt Fraction. He kept comparing his early Hawkeye run to the Rockford Files. I was aware of the show from growing up in the 70s and 80s, but never really watched it. Decided to buckle down and watched the whole season in one weekend. Totally hooked.

MAY

Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

People still buy CDs?

The Paleo Slow Cooker: Healthy, Gluten-free Meals the Easy Way
You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack: Cartoons – Tom Gauld
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas For Shacktown
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Old Castle’s Secret

Two volumes of Fantagraphics’ amazing Carl Barks Library. I bought an Uncle Scrooge volume when I was in New York in 2012 to meet with my agent. I love me some ducks.

The Rockford Files: Season Two DVDs

Yeah, that’s right…

JUNE

The History of Vegas – Jodi Angel

Another short story collection. Gave up on it about three stories in. Didn’t like the voice.

This Is Portland: The City You’ve Heard You Should Like – Alexander Barrett

My wife and I took a trip to Portland at the end of July. This cute little book actually helped us out quite a bit.

The Rockford Files: Seasons Three through Five DVDs

The ‘rents gave me an Amazon gift card for Father’s Day. These box sets are still in the original wrapping. I never finished Season Two.

JULY

Soludos Men’s Dali Shoes, Color: Charcoal, Size: 44

I bought espadrilles for the Portland trip. Comfiest shoes EVER.

Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon  – Chuck Palahniuk
I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains – Chuck Klosterman

Unwritten rule: I never fly anywhere without taking at least one book of essays by a person named Chuck.

AUGUST

Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe – Tim Leong
The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air DVDs
Wonder Boys DVD
Get Shorty Blu-Ray

Nostalgia, pure and simple. Dennis Farina had just passed away. The Get Shorty Blu-Ray was less than eight bucks (Unrelated to Farina, I think the Wonder Boys DVD was six).

SEPTEMBER

The Iron Giant (Special Edition) DVD
WWE: Legends of Mid-South Wrestling [Blu-ray]
WWE Presents: The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA DVD
The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling DVD

Decided I needed to do some research for Book #4. Can you tell it may have something to do with professional wrestling? My dad and I just watched the WCCW DVD on New Year’s Eve (only 3 months after buying it!). The others? Unwatched to date.

Oh, I also finally bought an HDMI cable for that “new” Blu-Ray player I got in March. I’m on top of things.

OCTOBER

Nothing! See? Beer money.

NOVEMBER

I got some birthday cash, so…

Cards Against Humanity

I have no friends, but if I did, this would be a fun game to play with them.

The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling – David Shoemaker

Excellent book about mostly dead people. “Memory/All alone in the moonlight/I can smile at the old days/I was beautiful then…”

Redken Clean Brew Extra Cleansing Shampoo for Men, 8.5 Ounce

Beer shampoo!

Motorola Moto X, Black

New smartphone!

DECEMBER

Nothing (for me personally).

And that’s that.

I’ve made a conscious effort to try to catch up on those dusty bedside books, while also reclaiming some sort of workout regimen, cooking more, caring for my three children, satisfying my wife, and (somehow, somewhere, at some time) returning to a regular writing schedule.

I figure, with enough distractions (and illegal internet downloads), I’ll stop buying everything forever!

Beastie Boys: The Unstoppable Three, A Eulogy

The poster that hung on my bedroom wall for many years.

I’m 40 years old. When I was in sixth grade, the Beastie Boys released an EP called Cooky Puss that would eventually change my life. I don’t want to get ahead of myself though.

Sixth grade meant leaving the comfort of the elementary school that I walked to every day for 5 years and moving on to junior high. At the time, our school district had five or six elementary schools that funneled into three junior highs. This meant that my little circle of friends, tight-knit and loaded with inside jokes and unspoken vows, was about to explode.

It wasn’t an easy transition, but I eventually found one guy that seemed to be everything I wasn’t…bigger, athletic, unfazed and indifferent. His name was Todd (and he might actually be reading this). Todd, and his older brother Scott, introduced me to Judge Dredd comics. He played Dungeons & Dragons with us. He took me out late at night with a new group of friends to roam the neighborhoods and cause trouble. He taught me how to make unflattering nicknames for everyone I met. But, most of all, he brought me music.

Before Todd, I was firmly entrenched in Top 40 radio. My biggest music purchase was a Queen album. I knew Billy Idol and Naked Eyes songs by heart. I can’t say for sure that I would have never discovered different music, but when your friend is dumping stuff in your lap by Redd Kross, GWAR, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Corrosion of Conformity, The Cult, Big Black, Bad Brains and endless others, you can assume your life has changed permanently.

When we reached eighth grade, I got a cassette from Todd that included Cooky Puss, Rock Hard, Beastie Revolution and She’s On It. That was it. That’s what I had been waiting for. I knew about rap. My sister’s boyfriend had taught me some basic breakdance moves. I used to ride my bike to a neighboring development and face off against a group of Hawaiian brothers on a piece of cardboard in their driveway. I wore parachute pants rather proudly. I knew how to Rock the Bells with LL Cool J, I acknowledged Eric B is President and I wore My Adidas every day like Run-DMC.

But this was different. Sure, the Beasties were white. That was something. I mean, it made them more identifiable to me. At the time, I only knew one black kid. That wasn’t everything though. The Beasties were only a couple years older than me. They were crazy. They did what they wanted. And eighth grade was a time ripe for revolution.

Our school district was so screwed up, that they then funneled three junior highs into two high schools. And they didn’t do it by any reasonable means. That meant, in 1986, that I said goodbye to seeing Todd in class every day and was introduced to a whole other group of new people. This was the same year that the Beastie Boys released License to Ill.

I got to share my new “cool” factor with some like-minded friends. When my buddy Paul was on crutches, I rode down in the school’s elevator with him and recited all of Paul Revere in the two-minute journey.

Summer of ’89, the Beastie Boys released Paul’s Boutique. It was a shocking departure from their previous stuff. More sample-driven, more esoteric. It was perfect timing. I was about to begin my senior year of high school. I was ready to expand my horizons.

Paul’s Boutique did so much name-dropping that I was constantly busy researching the references. I found new music, new movies and new idols from listening to Car Thief, Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun and B-Boy Bouillabaisse. I bought Hey Ladies on vinyl. I got the Pollywog Stew EP, a collection of the Beasties early hardcore punk work, on cassette. I learned about drug references and the difference in tone from East Coast to West Coast.

In April 1992, Check Your Head hit the shelves. It would be the last cassette I would ever buy. I was in my sophomore year of college and couldn’t afford the extra three dollars for the CD. However, I was firmly entrenched as the co-host of our college radio station’s weekly hip-hop show. The new Beastie Boys album brought me some comfort. It reminded me of home. And it had some kick ass songs on it too. The Beastie Boys were grown up and I felt like I was getting there as well. Hell, I even had my own hip-hop group back then…props to Grimm and Kelsey and the rest.

From there, it gets a little blurry for me. I have to admit I took the Beastie Boys for granted. Like a long-time friend, I just assumed they’d always be there. Ill Communication came out the same month I graduated college and started on the next phase of my life. Hello Nasty debuted three months after I moved out to Las Vegas to begin a new career among a group of strangers…dragging my then-girlfriend-now-wife along in an all-new experience for both of us. Sounds of Science was released six months before I got married. To the Five Boroughs came out as I struggled to start my own business. Every single album coincided with some important time in my life.

Last year, the Beastie Boys released Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. I saw the video for Make Some Noise, with Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandon as the parents coming home after the Fight for Your Right video, and I felt like everything had come full circle. I was back in my hometown, happily married for 11 years that month, secure in my job, and raising three kids just itching to start their own rebellion.

When MCA passed away last week, I lost a real friend…even though we never met. I saw him once, on stage in 1992 in Miami. I had backstage passes. My girlfriend and I were standing there behind the drum set, watching the Rollins Band perform. I looked to my left and there were MCA and Ad-Rock, just chilling and watching too. Later, I bought a tour t-shirt and scrambled around for autographs. I got Ad-Rock, DJ Hurricane and Money Mark Nishita to sign the shirt. I cornered Mike D in his dressing room and got his autograph. I even surprised Ricky Powell by asking him to sign as he chatted up a couple girls. But, ironically, I never found MCA. And I guess I never will.

There are a lot of people I could thank for my musical tastes. Todd (and his brother Scott) clearly started me down a path. The radio station, WVUM, allowed me to share my tastes with the public. And my wife deserves thanks for letting me play hip-hop at untold volumes in the house and car when I know she doesn’t really like it.

But, most of all, I’d like to thank the Beastie Boys.

And it seems like it’s been so long since he shined
But I’m sure it was only yesterday

Rest in Peace MCA. Namaste.

On Bad Hip-Hop, Musicals, D&D and British-Like Humour.

Every once in a while, I go through my CD collection and wonder why I bought two-thirds of the stuff I have. I spend more time trying to choose what music to listen to while I work out than I do actually working out. I keep thinking I should choose a CD that I know all the songs on, but as I peruse the endless shelves of jewelboxes I realize that those gems are few and far between. For the most part, my collection is filled with albums purchased because I liked one song…or I liked other groups on the same record label…or I read something about the group that intrigued me.

Well, yesterday I decided to drag out the boxes of actual vinyl that the wife and I own. I was completely blown away by our combined resources. If you sat this collection in front of a total stranger and asked them to describe its owner based solely on the contents within, I can’t help but think that the stranger would describe us as “weird” and/or “possibly deranged.”

My wife’s part of the collection is filled with respectable stuff like The Smiths, The Cure, Black Flag, Sex Pistols and The Replacements while my shitty contributions include The Village People, Queen, Flock of Seagulls and ridiculous amounts of horrible hip-hop singles like this:

FUN FACTS: The K-9 Posse featured Eddie Murphy’s younger brother Charlie, best known for getting bitch-slapped by Rick James. And the only good thing about this song is the Eric B & Rakim sample in the chorus.

I also own this on vinyl:

The song opens with a pretty cool sample of dialogue from West Side Story and a great bassline, but after that it’s all downhill. The flipside of “Play it Kool” was titled “Ugly People Be Quiet” and the follow-up single was called “Find an Ugly Woman.” How did these guys not hit it big?

I don’t know why I got off on this strange tangent, but now I’m laughing my ass off. I miss the days of Whodini and Steady B, Mantronix and the Boogie Boys, MC Shan, Davy DMX, Original Concept. I could go on, ’cause that’s how I roll…or used to…sort of…alone in my bedroom.

And now I just lost every single reader of the blog because you’re all sitting there thinking, “Cracker, please!” Maybe you’re right. Let’s talk about things white people like. How about musicals? Goofy white people love themselves some musicals.

I guess by now everyone knows that there’s going to be a Spider-Man musical. And that the guys from U2 wrote the music for it. And that the plot involves Peter Parker twirling and running away from other bouncy dudes in leotards. You remember that part of Spider-Man 3 where Tobey Maguire got all emo and had a stupid(er) haircut and danced and sang? Yeah…it’s gonna be like that, except with wraparound Bono shades and a bunch of hungry African kids singing the background parts.

The latest word is that Green Day are creating a musical based on their “theme” album American Idiot. I guess that’s a better idea than basing it on Dookie, which was all about drug use and masturbation. However, I can’t help but feel old thinking about Green Day staging a musical. You know how the Rolling Stones continue to tour even though they all died over a decade ago and are kept alive solely by draining the lifeforce from their audiences? I don’t want to live in a world where Billy Joe has to suck upon the souls of the Hot Topic crowd.

Oh wait, yes I do. I can’t stand those fake goth weirdo kids.

On a completely unrelated note, the other co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Dave Arneson, passed away after battling cancer for years (Gary Gygax, his former business partner, died in 2008). I guess he failed his saving throw. ZING!

This makes me sad. First of all, he was the same age as my father. Secondly, he was one of the people responsible for helping me “protect” my virginity for years. And thirdly, the dude that created Pokemon still breathes the same air as me. That’s just not fair.

You know what else isn’t fair? The fact that ABC will probably end up canceling Better Off Ted. Is anyone else watching this brilliant show? Yeah…that’s the problem. The show is shot in a single-camera format and the main character constantly breaks the “fourth wall” to talk directly to the viewers. Take the funny parts of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and imagine them making love in a sweaty threesome to The Office and a live-action version of Futurama and you still won’t begin to understand what I’m telling you.

Better Off Ted is about one of those companies that makes things no one realizes they need. Like BASF and 3M and NASA and Apple. Ted is the head of Research & Development at Veridian Dynamics. And the plotlines of the episodes revolve mostly around an “item of the week” that has been created by the company…from cow-less meat to weaponized pumpkins to itchy office chairs to racist motion detectors.

There’s a level of humor here that isn’t comfortable for typical American audiences. There’s no one getting tagged in the nuts. Nobody falls down. Not a single instance of men belching or commenting on their own clichéd laziness. I like to call it humor with an extra “u,” as in the British style of humour where you actually have to think for a second instead of just blindly laughing like a drunken hyena.

And that’s why it won’t last an entire season. Americans don’t like to think. That’s why we continue to buy Jonas Brothers albums and Uggs. It’s why things like the Carls’ Jr. Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger exist.

Two Charbroiled All-Beef Patties, Two Strips of Bacon, Two Slices of Melted American Cheese, Crispy Onion Rings and Tangy BBQ Sauce on a Toasted Sesame Seed Bun.

Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? Well, believe me, it makes your ass water afterwards too.

I don’t really have a point to make today. But honestly, how many of you read the title and thought I was going to have any sort of cogent discussion on all of those disparate topics? I’m only human (and a white guy (and American))!

I Once Got Busy In A Burger King Bathroom.

Fame, as they say, is fleeting. And yet, infamy (which is like fame’s evil eyepatch-wearing soap opera twin) is forever. Our society’s constant drive for immediate satisfaction does not excuse failure easily. Slip up and you will be trampled by the endless herds of sheep trying desperately to grasp the mythical golden ring.

My wife and I were talking about my career the other day, which easily led us to the topic of failure. Funny how the conversation just naturally turned that way, isn’t it? Anyhoo, I was telling her how I didn’t understand what happens to people who spend their entire adult lives in one specific career, then get caught beating their kids or embezzling from the charity they work for or publicly cheating on their wives or whatever. I mean, those people don’t get a second chance. Once there’s a photo of you being led out of your office in handcuffs, the job search becomes infinitely more difficult.

Then I started thinking about the redemption allowed of certain celebrities. We humans, as a people, have a deeply rooted desire to help other humans. However, that desire only extends to people who we see as better than ourselves. The people who provide our entertainment and who we live vicariously through are afforded a certain level of immortality when it comes to failure. People are inherently forgiving. They’re also inherently stupid.

Look, how else can you explain the fact that sane women still attend Michael Jackson concerts and pass out from over-stimulation when he takes the stage? Why does Britney Spears still have a career. And, even though it’s been long rumored that Richard Gere may have enjoyed an occasional rodent in his rectum, the fact is that he’s still a respected actor, activist and father.

Here’s what I’ve figured out: there are two types of famous people. First, there are the people who achieved fame through their work. Whether they were artists or actors, celebrated authors or captains of industry, their fame was accumulated over time and with a genuine sense of accomplishment and a definable amount of talent. Think of Tom Hanks or Ron Howard or Stephen King. Even if you aren’t a fan of these folks, you have to admit that they are famous because they worked hard to earn that fame.

The second group of famous people belongs primarily to the newer generations. Their fame has been accumulated through internet shenanigans, staged events, reality television and pure irony. While they may have exhibited some modicum of talent at one point or another in their lives, the general population recognizes them more for their recognition alone. Sadly, this segment of the famous has become a rather unwieldy list populated by the likes of Paris Hilton, Perez Hilton, Steve-O, Lindsay Lohan, P. Diddy, Kim Kardashian, and the entire cast of The Hills. If you’re “famous” for stapling your balls to your leg and appearing on a televised dance contest, the longevity of your “career” doesn’t look very rosy.

Through extensive scientific research (or ten minutes of random thoughts while waliing the dog this morning), I have determined that subjects from Group 1 can easily move to Group 2, but the vice versa is nearly impossible.

Take, for instance, the comeback of one John Travolta. He had been a rather popular television actor in the late 1970s. He appeared in a few relative hit movies. And he was featured on the covers of various teen-themed magazines. To put it bluntly, Travolta was “the tits.” One movie about aerobics and a couple baby voiceover flicks and his career was in the tank. When Tarantino resurrected Mr. Travolta, his performance was well-met with cheers and kudos.It didn’t hurt that he was kind of fat and didn’t try too hard (see also: Val Kilmer’s guest spot on Entourage).

But then he decided to go all “follow conspiracy theory as a religion” and “dress in uniform and fly my own jumbo jets” and “appear in any role that lets me grow a creepy goatee” and pretty soon he was relegated to Group 2…the rubbernecker side of fame. Others who have fallen into this irredeemable pit of bad choices and overexposure: Madonna, Tom Cruise and the Backstreet Boys.

Like I said, making the jump from Group 2 to Group 1 is nigh improbable. As far as I can remember, no cast member from any season of The Real World has gone on to win an Oscar. Or an Emmy. Or a Tony. Or the lottery. Or a court case. Or even a free scoop at Baskin-Robbins.

I’d put together a detailed analysis of Group 2 to try to explain their fame, but I really can’t stand thinking about those people for any length of time. Bad fashion sense and vocorder sampling shouldn’t be substitutes for humility and integrity, Kanye. All I’ll say is that paparazzi are like vultures…they start circling when they sense the end. And it doesn’t really help matters when you call them up and tell them where you’re going to be doing your grocery shopping that day.

As faithful readers are aware, two of my favorite actors working today are Paul Rudd and Sam Rockwell. How often do either of them show up in the tabloids? Either they have horrible publicists who don’t own calendars or phones, or they let their work speak for them. Both gentlemen have eked out respectable careers that will keep them gainfully employed for years to come. And both men are humble and funny.

Now that I think about it, almost every comic actor working today is absent from the daily barrage of celeb newsploitation. Seth Rogen is not out clubbing all night. Steve Carell has not been arrested for cocaine trafficking. Will Ferrell isn’t beating up prostitutes. Neil Patrick Harris (another miracle comeback whose new bulletproof status even has him widely accepted as a gay man) does not throw furniture out of hotel windows on a regular basis. The only reason Jim Carrey gets media attention is because he’s dating a former Playboy model/trainwreck. Hell, even the boisterous Robin Williams could only get a few TMZ.com mentions in the face of total heart failure!

Maybe if there were more naturally funny people in the entertainment business, then we wouldn’t need all the Group 2 people that we laugh at for other reasons.

But alas, where would we be as a leading nation without the pure earnestness and pathos (and raging STDs) of Rock of Love Bus?

The Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Band.

With a new season of American Idol in full swing and the so-called music channels showing nothing but dating shows that are little more than hour-long warnings against herpes, I thought it might be a good time to get back to the basics. Does anyone else remember when rock bands were full of ugly bastards that no one ever wanted to see on television (I’m talking about you, Lou Gramm)? Do you remember when we all sang along to Air Supply in our cars on the way to the mall to pick up some fresh new duds from Chess King? Ahem. Yeah, me either. Do you remember the first time you saw Duran Duran on stage and wondered who did their makeup? Do you remember the candy called Bonkers? That stuff was awesome.

Where was I?

Oh. Right. Bands.

There’s a tried and true method for anyone to become a famous rock star. It has been perfected over decades of debauchery, excess and downright absence of talent. And there’s no amount of on-screen graphics, temperamental judges, fickle public outcries or studio sleight of hand that can change the truth behind these simple steps. I will now reveal the secrets of rock-and-roll success for all to learn. I’m sure I will receive death threats from whoever it is that puts out those awful Now That’s What I Call Music compilations and whoever coordinates appearances for unknown hipster rockers on late night television shows. But I don’t care. I’m tired of trying to ignore soulless pop music and repetitive R&B. Manufactured radio is the bane of my existence. I am the modern day incarnation of Don Quixote and FM call letters are my windmills. Let’s tilt, bitches.

1. NAME

The most important thing for any new band is the name. Band names always fall into one of three distinct categories: EPONYMOUS (Van Halen, Madonna, Jack Johnson), DESCRIPTIVE (Iron Maiden, Village People, The Oak Ridge Boys) or COMPLETELY NONSENSICAL (Toad the Wet Sprocket, Everything But The Girl, Vanilla Ice). The only ones who use an eponymous name are power ballad hair bands, overly earnest singer-songwriters who crave anonymity, bubblegum popsters and rappers. It’s best to steer clear of that category. Descriptive names are boring, but easy to conjure. All it takes is a simple adjective-noun pairing with bonus points thrown in for numbers and locations. No, the angle you really want to pursue when creating a new band is the nonsensical name. These monikers let people know that you’re unique. They also let people know that you’re more likely to urinate on stage, put out wacky concept albums or die in horrible tour bus accidents on the icy slopes of Romania. The best band names are clever while also being serious…like the perfect in-joke with your college buddy. You know what I’m talking about. Everyone has that one dude in their lives that they can whisper cryptic messages to and then laugh hysterically for 20 minutes. It’s even better when you can just look at each other after someone says a key word and you both just lose it. Yeah, band names should be like that.

Here are a few freebie suggestions (feel free to give me credit in the liner notes of your multi-platinum chart topping album): Satan’s Bake Sale, Truck Stop Jesus, Polymoronic, Rhymes With Thursday, Orange Elephant Panties, Bruce By Four.

2. INSTRUMENTS

We have suffered through years of processed sounds, ridiculously choreographed group dancing and general non-playing of instruments. Long gone are the days of shredding guitar solos, inappropriate mid-concert drum solos featuring octo-toms, and even dueling pianos. If you really want to make an impression on talent scouts and fans, learn to play something. I don’t care if you specialize in the bass fiddle or the harpsichord or the keytar. To be quite honest, it doesn’t even matter if you can actually play the instrument or not as long as you look good trying. Some of the best musicians in the world are complete buffoons when it comes to music. Here’s a little known secret: Kenny G has never actually played a real saxophone in his life. Nope. Clarence Clemons actually pre-records all of Kenny’s concerts and then Mr. G just acts them out on stage. Now THAT’S talent! In fact, if you’re unsure of your instrumental abilities, the best thing you can do is join a professional karaoke band. You know how they have an annual Air Guitar Championship? Well, you can do the same thing with other instruments. Just pretend to play drums or keyboards or harmonica or whatever. And then gather some folks to play the other parts and pretty soon you’ll be good enough (or at least FAKE good enough) to start a real band!

3. STAGE PRESENCE

I’ve already mentioned urinating on stage. The best bands in the world always do something unexpected when they parade themselves out in front of thousands of screaming fans. The real pussies throw sweat-drenched towels to screaming women or give lame high fives to guys wearing backwards baseball caps and fraternity letters. That’s no way to earn a reputation. No, you need to do some things that make you stand out and/or get you arrested. The Red Hot Chili Peppers earned street cred by walking out on stage wearing nothing but tube socks over their…uh…tubes. But you can do better than that. Dive off the stage and punch that pregnant woman talking on her cell phone. Drink until you vomit, then drop to all fours and lick up your own sick. Make out with your drummer while he’s spinning out over the crowd in some sort of metal torture contraption AND drumming. Get one of those t-shirt cannons, load it with kittens and fire it into the front row of your show or into your own face or at the cops who will inevitably swarm you by the first chorus. Better yet, don’t even show up for your shows. EVER. You’ll quickly gain a reputation as a real rapscallion. People will line up around the block just to see if you’ll make an appearance. The ultimate show of rock star stage presence is to die before you even put out a record. Preferably while eating lunch. Or having sex (but only when you’re either alone or in a large group). Unreleased tracks are instant collectibles! Unpredictable = $$$!

4. PUBLICITY

Hire a good mouthpiece for the band. Someone who is clinically insane. Someone who doesn’t even know who you are and can’t form a coherent sentence without using the word hullabaloo. The way gossip sites and celebrity tabloids work, just having your name associated with the batshit insane is a perfect way to gain notoriety. Credibility is overrated. Bonus points if he’s a really bad dancer but insists on dancing ALL. THE. TIME.

————————————————————————————

Boom! That’s all there is to it! As long as your new band has these four topics covered, you can’t fail. When you catch the latest performance by Rugged Caveman Trousers and they’re playing xylophones while suspended by helicopters over shark-infested waters and their publicist is standing on top of a moving limo while foaming at the mouth and mumbling about dog food, just remember that it was all my idea. I accept Grammy Awards as payment. And really, what else are you going to do with those useless things?

87 Things That I Don’t Care About (with some links).

You ever have one of those days where nothing really interests you? A day when no matter how many magazines you read, conversations you have or websites you visit, you just can’t find anything that makes you emote in the least. This day is just a dull, bleak monotony with no end. Even sleep is boring to me right now. Not one single dream.

The sad thing is, my chosen profession puts me in a position where I’m supposed to stay abreast of pop culture and current events so that I can weave these touchpoints seamlessly into my writings. Our clients strive to be relevant. They want to be on the top of everyone’s mind. While the perks of such a profession can be enriching (tax write-offs for comic books and concert tickets under the auspice of “research”), the downside is a barely uncontrollable urge to just hide in a dark corner and weep.

In order to temporarily stave off the dreadful power of creative burnout, I’m going to talk about all the things that I don’t care about. Some of these things will be described in sarcastic detail. Some will be appended with evidence of my nonchalance. And all of them will be promoted by my non-promotion of them.

Yes, the irony is not lost on me.

Anyway, here are 87 Things That I Don’t Care About (with some links):

  1. LOST – I haven’t cared about people stranded on islands since the days of Gilligan. Smoke monsters and polar bears are just updated versions of Wrongway Feldman and Dr. Boris Balinkoff. Look it up, youngsters!
  2. Bluetooth headsets – You just look like a tool when you’re walking in a crowded shopping mall talking to yourself about tee times. Seriously. Is your life that important that you need to be in constant contact with someone? Will the world economy collapse if you take an afternoon nap?
  3. Harry Potter
  4. Miley Cyrus
  5. The Cleveland Browns – Win something, then we’ll talk.
  6. Free credit reports
  7. Amy Winehouse
  8. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  9. Turkey – The country, not the animal. Turkey, the animal, is delicious. It’s especially delicious when it’s sliced thinly and piled on a hard-crusted bread with watercress, Havarti and a smear of mango chutney. I’m not kidding. It’s superb.
  10. Superpoke
  11. Super Unleaded gasoline
  12. Superchunk
  13. “Super Duper” – Used as an adjective, especially in the lyrics to “Puttin’ On The Ritz” by one hit wonder Taco.
  14. PlayStation 3
  15. Lifetime television channel
  16. People who play the bassoon
  17. Ted Turner
  18. Professional wrestler The Blue Meanie
  19. Truck stops
  20. Preteen chick flicks about vampires
  21. This guy
  22. That new Star Trek movie
  23. Anything made out of gold (silver is less pretentious)
  24. Cash4Gold
  25. Kanye West
  26. Quilts
  27. Quilting
  28. Magazines about quilting
  29. Magazines about rock climbing (but not rock climbing itself)
  30. Pecan sandies – fuck those things.
  31. Songs about women riding horses
  32. Billy Baldwin’s film career (except for Fair Game…that’s a classic)
  33. Stores that sell $350 jeans
  34. Sporks
  35. Traveling anywhere by bus – Didn’t we outlaw torture in the US?
  36. Paintings of fruit
  37. Furniture that you’re not allowed to sit on
  38. People whose pet peeves encourage them to correct other people’s grammar
  39. Paddleboats
  40. The Colorado River
  41. The difference between bologna and salami
  42. Comic books about people who hate their jobs
  43. Coup d’états
  44. The Little Rascals
  45. Country music – Except for stuff that only sounds like country music but really isn’t…like some Neko Case and Jenny Lewis songs. However, I have extra contempt for stuff that is country music but pretends not to be. I’m looking at you, Wilco.
  46. Greeting cards
  47. Bumper stickers
  48. Department store changing rooms
  49. People who ride scooters just to be clever – I’m on to you.
  50. The bullriding monkey
  51. Umbrellas
  52. Scratch and sniff stickers – For my money, they could never nail down the smell of chocolate. It was always too sweet.
  53. Ukulele songs
  54. Small dogs – If I can accidentally step on it and kill it, it is not a pet.
  55. Flightless birds
  56. Electric can openers
  57. Kites
  58. The Canadian Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center – That’s just lazy.
  59. Trilobites
  60. Galactica 80 – Wow. That was just awful, wasn’t it?
  61. Hair dryers
  62. Shorthand
  63. Nicknames for basketball players – Let me guess, it’s going to have something to do with him being tall.
  64. Kentucky
  65. Superstitions based on weather
  66. Blue food – Not counting that funky milk stuff from the first Star Wars movie
  67. Origami
  68. The jackass at every Halloween party who shows up dressed as “himself”
  69. Cannibalism
  70. Commercials for life insurance
  71. Dancing With the Stars – Not only does the premise bore me, but they blatantly abuse the word “Stars” with apparent glee and relish
  72. Banana peels
  73. Organ grinders
  74. Mushrooms
  75. The Rolling Stones (except Paint it Black)
  76. Whooping cough
  77. This car
  78. Abstinence
  79. Staying up until 2am on a Thursday to watch The Pope of Greenwich Village, because I was under the impression that it was one of those underrated great movies of my generation. Instead, it was just sort of boring. And it was difficult trying to rectify both Eric Roberts’ perm and Mickey Rourke’s face in today’s celeb-centric world.
  80. Clothing for pets
  81. The new Beyonce album that Amazon seems to think I’d be interested in, based on me adding the upcoming Hold Steady live album to my Wish List. Correlation?
  82. Basing my entire workday around the latest announcements from Apple
  83. Deep sea fishing
  84. Balloons – What’s the point?
  85. Tricycles
  86. People who only want to talk to me about what they did today. Sometimes it sucks being a great listener. Might as well be a eunuch.
  87. Not winning the lottery.

Wow, I thought that would help me feel a bit better. But it didn’t.