Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Weird radio jingle from the past

Every city in America has it's own unique brand of entertainment: the local commercial. The best among them are truly unforgettable. One radio jingle in particular has stuck with me since I was very young. I've sought audio files of this commercial for years without success, even going so far as to contact the local radio stations of the day to see if they have an old cart of it lying around. No luck.

While I can't recreate the magic of hearing this commercial, I can, to the best of my recollection, provide a transcript of it, so that future generations might appreciate its brilliance.

I give you The Starn's Has Song.

(Guy, spoken) Hey kids, want to sing the Starn's Has song?

(Kids, spoken) Yeah!

(Guy, spoken) Okay, when I wiggle my nose, you sing, "Starn's Has." Ready? I'll take the first one.

(Guy, singing) Starn's has big boneless hams (spoken) Your turn.

(Kids, singing) Starn's has

(Guy, singing) Orange juice in cans

(Kids, singing) Starn's has

(Guy, singing) Sandwich bags and Corn Flakes, icing for your cupcakes

(Kids, singing) Hot dogs and hamburgers, too!

(Guy, singing) And big red apples for you.

Needless to say, this was the butt of many a crass, sophmoric gag. Please feel free to make your own below! Corrections are also welcome.

The best rock song ever written

A '59 Gretsch shatters the silence with a lone A chord, backed by manic stabs at a processed Lowery Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ. Thirty seconds later, another A chord explodes from the guitar, paired with thunderclap drums, and an earth-shattering note from the famous Frankenstein bass. Thus opens the greatest rock song ever written, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who.

Forty-three seconds into the song come the lyrics. The song depicts the potential fallibility of the democratic political system. The first verse describes political unrest and protest as it becomes increasingly violent. In the second verse, those in power are ousted in favor of the revolutionaries, but the lightning-fast changes expected by the protesters do not come as quickly as expected. The bridge foreshadows the third verse, in which our revolutionaries find out that their leaders are just as lacking as those they cast out, and that in the end, nothing gets changed.
The frustration at this situation builds through the guitar solo, then into a quiet, reflective, fifty-five seconds of organ stabs. The chords build in intensity, culminating in one of the best drum solos ever recorded, which in itself builds to the crescendo, the final release of all the tension created in the song through a soul-rending scream.

The lyrics finish off with a reminder that in the end, everything is same old, same old, and the music ends with powerful, angry chords ripped from the guitar, matched in intensity by the bass and drums.

Is it any wonder I get goose bumps every time I see the open to CSI: Miami? No, it's not Emily Procter and Khandi Alexander that do it to me, it's Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon.

The most enjoyable rock song ever written

Okay, so previously we've established that The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" is the greatest rock song ever written. As great as it is, there are times when it's just not what I want to hear. Some songs, however, fall into that category in which they are welcome at any time, when I'm in any mood. They're not guilty pleasures, because I'll shout from the rooftops that I like these songs; I feel no guilt about liking them. Still, no one would argue that they're on par with the best works ever written. Songs on this list of mine include Reel Big Fish's "She Has a Girlfriend Now," Greg Kihn's "Jeopardy," Madness' "Our House," the J. Geils Band's "I Do," and numerous others. One song stands out from this list, though.

"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" by Meat Loaf.

I'm sure most of you just read that and incredulously asked, "Meat Loaf?" Yes. Meat Loaf. It's just a great song. While at first it seems a simple rock and roll song, the complexity of the instrumentation takes several listenings to register. This is to say nothing of the fact that the musicians play both rock and funk incredibly, they play both large and small moments perfectly, and they create drama and suspense in the midst of a fun romp of a song.

Lyrically, this song is right in my wheelhouse. I love a song that tells a story, and the story of Paradise is about as universal as can be, no matter which side of the exchange you're on. Even more, I love songs that have lyrical twists, so when the last movement of the eight and a half minutes arrives, putting a completely different spin on the entire song, I can't help but smile. Plus, it's got Phil Rizzuto! How can you not love a song with a Phil Rizzuto call in it!
When it's over, I get a feeling of satisfaction, as if I'd eaten a perfect meal or finished reading a great novel.

Comic-Con 2007 - The long and long of it all

So I'm back from Comic-Con International in San Diego. Every year this show gets larger, with more to see and do. I try to cram it all in, but it's just not possible. Here's what I did manage to do over the weekend. One caveat: the weekend is all a bit of a blur, so if I've forgotten to mention something or someone, please let me know and I'll edit this blog. All artwork mentioned has been posted on http://www.mxyzptlk.com

Wednesday

After checking traffic.com and sigalert.com, I left late in the morning on Wednesday for the drive down the 5. Even with the advice from the web and KFWB, I couldn't avoid traffic in East L.A. and in the Encinitas area, so a drive that should have taken 2 hours took 3. Upon arrival at the Hyatt, I checked in very quickly and started to unpack. At this point I found that the mental checklist that I went over repeatedly had one flaw. Though I thought I'd packed socks, I had not. At this point, the show was about 3 hours from opening; so of course I had to go get in line. After getting my badge, which was a much faster process than in years past, the line seemed really short, so instead of standing around for hours waiting, I headed out to Horton Plaza to rectify my dearth of socks. From there, I headed back to the hotel to drop them off and returned to the con, where the line still wasn't very long. I thought that Preview Night might be lightly populated. I was wrong.

It was a complete madhouse. I don't know where the people came from, but the floor was packed the whole evening. Preview Night isn't usually a big night for artists' alley, so I walked the floor looking for some of the books and other items I wanted to procure. The comic dealers I tend to frequent don't really offer any deeper discounts as the weekend goes along, as they start off their prices at 50-70% off. So I started filling some of the slots in my checklist right away. Though I normally don't care about the quality of a physical comic, there was one book that I wanted to get in the best possible condition I could find: Iron Man 118. I spent a lot of time going from booth to booth comparing the prices and qualities of that book until I found a copy I was happy with.

My bag now already quite hefty, I moved on to the other side of the floor, and visited with Andie, Allison, and Adam at the Adam Hughes/J.G. Jones booth. I don't get to see them often, so it's always a pleasure catching up. I also picked up Adam's new sketchbooks, and watched as a guy skirted the one-per-customer rule on Adam's new, limited-edition, color sketchbook by sending his daughters--perhaps 8 and 6 years old--to buy copies after he had bought one for himself. I expect to see these on eBay within the week.

I spent the rest of the abbreviated evening locating some of the booths and artists alley tables that I would visit later in the show. Every year, companies seem to compete to hand out the dumbest freebie bag. Eventually, 100,000 people end up walking around with these ridiculous sized bags, usually smacking the hell out of everyone else with them. On Preview Night, the winner had already become clear. Warner Brothers gave out Smallville bags that can only be described as ridiculous. The bags were made of some sort of fabric, and were roughly the size of a large sofa cushion, but with no depth. I mentally made the joke that they were big enough that you could make a dress out of them. By Sunday, someone had done so. Honest. A woman behind me in line was wearing a Smallville-bag dress. But I digress.
I left Preview Night about twenty minutes before closing, so that I could get back to the hotel and then head out to dinner before the crowd flooded out of the convention. After a quick bite, I went back to my room to plan and to rest up for the next day.

Thursday

I got up a little later than I would have preferred, but nevertheless, I ended up in line just before 8 o'clock, which meant I stood outside for only a few minutes before they let us in to wait in the air conditioning. I listened to an episode of Comic Geek Speak and watched some of my video clips on my iPod as I waited in line. 10 o'clock rolled around pretty quickly, but the doors didn't open right away. I know this because the moron in line behind me kept yelling out time updates every minute on the minute, as if someone might possibly be getting in before us.

Once inside, I began the process of setting up sketches. Throughout the day, I requested sketches from Sergio Cariello, Dick Ayers, Freddie E. Williams II, J.G. Jones, Chris Moreno, Dave Kellett, Ethan Van Sciver, Cat Staggs, Andy Runton, and Jonathan Hickman. All of them were kind with their time. I enjoyed talking again to those I'd met before, and introducing myself to those I hadn't. In particular, I spent quite a bit of time talking with Freddie E. Williams II, and Jonathan Hickman, neither of whom I'd met before. Freddie provides art for Robin from D.C. Comics, and his art just amazes me. Jonathan is the creator of the book The Nightly News from Image, which from every standpoint (story, art, design, etc.) blew me away. For my friends who don't read superhero comics, the recently released collection of The Nightly News would be worth your while to seek out. It's an amazing story.

With a number of sketches underway, I decided to walk as much of the floor as I possibly could. I worked my way over to the small press area, looking at some of the books I would later pick up, then moved on through the fan area, the retailer area, and back through to the independent and webcomic area, just seeing where everyone was situated for future reference.
Following that, I broke one of my rules about comic conventions. I stood in line for an autograph. I never do that. However, I have a very limited series of books that I'm trying to get autographed by the twelve creators who worked on them, two of whom were at the show. Today it was Darwyn Cooke. I waited about an hour to get his autograph. More about Darwyn later.

I headed back to artists' alley, where Sergio Cariello had already finished a gorgeous Lone Ranger sketch for me. I took my sketchbook next to Steve Lieber. Steve does wonderful artwork, and is the artist of one of my favorite comic stories ever, Whiteout (starring Kate Beckinsale, coming soon). Then I returned to the webcomics area, where I found my friend Dave Kellett, who does the webcomic Sheldon (http://www.sheldoncomics.com), which is totally awesome-sauce. We talked for a while, and I picked up a shirt and promised to come back for his new book on Saturday. By then, the time approached six, so I left the show early to drop off my day's purchases at the hotel and get cleaned up for the Comic Geek Speak dinner.

Dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery was fantastic. Though I didn't get a chance to meet all thirty-plus people who attended, I did get a chance to visit with some old friends and make plenty of new ones, including Brian Christman, one of the hosts of Comic Geek Speak, and Matt, who flew in all the way from Australia for the show. After dinner, about a half dozen or so of us followed Dave Dwonch (creator of the book Special Education) out to a bar called Maloney's for some of the largest beers I have ever seen. I swear they could have come with a diving board. We all talked life and comics for several hours, and by 1:30am, I started to fade. I took my leave and walked back to the hotel, turning in for the night.

Friday

When my alarm went off at 5:45am on Friday morning, I almost threw it out the window. I re-awoke around 7am, which left me with enough time to wake up, clean up, and get in line just as it was let inside for the wait for 10am. I had more planning to do this morning, so the line was actually a welcome thing.

Once inside, I headed toward the Hero Initiative booth. The Hero Initiative is a great charity, providing needed assistance to older comic creators, who worked when companies offered no benefits, health insurance, pension, nothing. Darwyn Cooke was there doing sketches, so I waited an hour and a half in line for a sketch, and when he got to me he asked, "Do you want a sketch right now, or do you want the best possible sketch?" Of course, I took option 2. His allotted time was up, so he took my sketchbook and those of the people behind me with him, and did our sketches elsewhere when he had time. Returning to the Hero Initiative booth to check on the sketchbook would be a leitmotif for the remainder of the convention.

After a quick bite of lunch, I spent the better part of the day visiting the booths of people I'd met previously, and picking up books I couldn't find anywhere else. I went through the small press area, picking up a couple of books, including Bushi Tales. Then I hit up the MAW booth and bought the Jetta series and said Hi to Martheus, Janet, and Kitty, who I'd briefly met at dinner on Thursday. I dropped by the Bloodfire studios booth and picked up the Utopiates. Up next was the First Second booth, where they were having a three-for-two sale on trade paperbacks, so I took advantage of that. Then I hit the Ape Entertainment booth, where I bought a few issues I'd been missing, and re-introduced myself to Steve Bryant, one of the creators of Athena Voltaire. We were both in a bit of a hurry, so we agreed to meet up later at his booth in the Small Press area.

Then it was time to wait in line again. This time, for Paul Pope. Again, I waited about an hour to get his autograph.

Finally, I made my way back to the small press area to talk with Steve Bryant again, and there I met Jim Heffron, creator of Territory 51. I had a great time talking with both of them for about an hour, and I picked up a collection of Territory 51 and a page of original art from Steve.
Before I left for the day, I made my way back to the Hero Initiative booth to check in for the first of many times to come. I was told to check back the following morning. I should note at this point that I wasn't bothered in the least by this situation; I merely didn't want Darwyn Cooke to have to lug my sketchbook around with him any more than necessary.

That night, I hadn't made any dinner plans, so after a shower and a change of clothes, I hit the Gaslamp for dinner, and an ice cream at Ghirardelli's. Yum. Then I stopped in to watch the Eisner comic awards. Steve Bryant was nominated for the Russ Manning newcomer award, and I wanted to see if he might win. I stayed through his category (David Petersen won), then returned to the hotel to find a few familiar faces in the bar there, and sat talking with them until about 1am, when I retired to get some sleep.

Saturday

Saturday was supposed to be the biggest, craziest day of the show, so with some trepidation, I brought my camera. I spent the morning taking about 100 photographs of the various booths and people in costume. Hopefully I'll have them developed and posted soon. The crowd, though, was surprisingly light. I imagine that the supposed insanity of the day scared off a lot of the crowd who were coming for the whole weekend. I know some of my friends said that they were just going to hang out by their hotel pool and skip the show. At the DC booth, I met up with Brian Christman again, and we discussed our experience at the show so far, and our wait for our Darwyn sketches (he was two behind me in line). After I'd exhausted five rolls of film, I took the camera back to the hotel.

I returned to the show and retrieved my second sketchbook from Steve Lieber, who had done a wonderful drawing. I took it over to Kim DeMulder, who had an opening, and agreed to do a Johnny Thunder sketch for me. Then I hit the Bloodfire booth again, and met Josh and Kat, the creators of the Utopiates, which I'd bought yesterday. We talked for quite a while about the show, and about our work. Then I visited the booth of David Quiles, who I'd met the previous night at the hotel bar. He had a great Darth Vader piece for sale, so I had to take it home with me. After that, I hit the autograph area, where I got an autograph from Tim Thomerson, an actor from a bunch of movies I've enjoyed, most of which are out of print...or so I thought. As I was there, he mentioned that a booth downstairs had his Trancers series of movies back on DVD. I headed down and got myself a copy.

After that came another check-in at the Hero Initiative (come back tomorrow, followed by many unnecessary apologies). Finally, I grabbed a few more back issues I'd been seeking. I checked out a bunch of art in artists' alley, but didn't buy anything. I did retrieve my second sketchbook from Kim DeMulder, though, and was amazed at the sketch he did for me. Finally, the day nearing an end, I headed out to get cleaned up and get dinner.

I followed dinner with a bit of a pub-crawl. I went to four different bars, stopping for a drink in each. Then I headed back to the Hyatt and found a bunch of people there, including Steve and Jim. We grabbed a couple of tables and sat for a while before they had to go. After a while most of the others I had been sitting with left as well, so I decided to check the bar on the other side of the hotel to see what was going on. In the lobby, I found Steve and Jim again, and we ended up talking for quite a long time with several people, including Tom Cohen of Marvel Films, and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, creator of The Last Sane Cowboy and Other Stories.
The hour got late, but I couldn't rest without pizza for some reason, so I headed back into the Gaslamp and got a couple of slices--just what I needed to cap off the evening.

Sunday

Everything that was said incorrectly about Saturday was true of Sunday. It was insane. People everywhere. The day was short and flew by. I did attend the one single panel at the show the whole weekend, and that was the CBLDF live art jam/auction. I spent most of the remainder of the day trying to squeeze those last few back issues out of the retailers and checking on sketches. At the very last minute, I finally got my sketchbook back from the Hero Initiative, with a great sketch by Darwyn Cooke in it. J.G. Jones somehow managed to squeeze my sketch request in at the last second, and Chris Moreno was doing two sketches simultaneously, trying to get to all his requests. It took right up until the last minute, but all of them did beautiful work, and were so kind and fun to talk with. I said my goodbyes to Andie at J.G. Jones' booth and headed out again to get cleaned up for dinner. After dinner and a stop at Ghirardelli's to pick up a gift, I returned to the Hyatt, where I once again found Steve and Jim, and was introduced to Molly, who edits Athena Voltaire. We spent the night trading stories about the con and about writing for comics and films. As they left, Dave Wachter, one of the creators of Scar Tissue and I sat down and talked about all sorts of things for an hour or so before I headed off for some sleep before Monday's drive home.

That was the convention in total. I had a fantastic time. I was very happy to meet and talk with everyone, and greatly look forward to doing so again!

Tipping

Most of my family has at one point or another worked as a server in a bar or restaurant. Hearing their horror stories has made me somewhat sensitive regarding leaving tips. Yet the more I eat or drink outside of my own home, the more I notice that tipping skills seem to be on a serious decline.

For those who need a refresher course, here's a great website I found today, which provides tipping guidelines for many situations, not only dining: http://www.tipping.org/tips/us.html. For those who feel their tipping and behavior--particularly in restaurants--is immaculate, double-check yourself against this part of the site: http://www.tipping.org/tips/waitressgripe2.html. Though I try not to be, I think I might be guilty of a couple of those offences.

That page also features some of the silly questions customers have asked servers, as reported by the servers themselves. They're pretty funny, and at the same time a little sad.
Anyway, it's the weekend. Go out. Have fun. Just remember that the fun you're having is in no small way due to the service you receive from others. Tip them accordingly!!!

Seattle - 2007

Seattle is a unique city, to say the least. Of course you have the well-known attractions like the Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Pike Place Market, and the Fremont Troll, but it's the lesser known sights that are truly amazing. I'm not one to notice architecture normally, but the designs found in downtown Seattle are stunning. Neither description nor photographs can do justice to the amazing Public Library, Art Museum, or the Rainier building, to say nothing of the beauty of the older buildings surrounding Pioneer Square.

The art scene is the largest I've seen outside of New York, with a gallery on every street. Everything from writing to painting to music to blown glass can be seen throughout the city. Likewise, there is a strong love of the arts evident on nearby Bainbridge Island. Just a short ferry ride away, Bainbridge has a wonderful shopping/walking district full of book stores and galleries.

However, the guidebooks fail to mention the hills. The streets of Seattle are STEEP!!! You have to be in shape to live there, that's for sure. After I work out and get myself in shape for it, I hope to get back there someday soon.

Comic-Con 2007 Wrap up

Okay, so in my last blog, I posted a detailed description of my weekend. Just in case that hasn't already plunged me deep into the depths of utter dorkdom, here's a complete list of what I brought home with me.

Minis/Sketchbooks: Einbahnstrasse Waltz, Flytrap 1-3, Family Reunion, The Hard Knock Life of Knuckles McGee, J.G. Jones sketchbook vII, The Good The Bad & The Fugly by Amanda Connor, Thongs You Know by Heart by Adam Hughes, 2007 by Adam Hughes
DVDs: Beginning Coloring v1 by Brian Haberlin, Trancers I-V box, Ultimate Guide to Low-Budget Production v1-6 box

Comics: 2 issues of Action Comics, 3 of Adventure Comics, Athena Voltaire issue 4, Bare Knuckled Fighter, Billy Bangs, Bushi Tales 1, Demon's Mercy, Genius J's Technicolour Almanack, 17 issues of Iron Man (including 1-4!), 3 of Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa, MidKnight 1, Pantheon red & blue, Rob Hanes 10, Scar Tissue 5, SubCulture 1, Steve Bryant sketchbook, 5 issues of Superboy, 8 of Superman, 1 Superman Family, 5 of Lois Lane, 3 of Jimmy Olsen, Utopiates 1-4, 3 issues of World's Finest, White Picket Fences 1

Collections: 62% More Awesome by Dave Kellett, American Born Chinese, the Ballad of Sleeping Beauty, Black Diamond Detective Agency, Chips Wilde, the Damned, the Dick Ayers Story v1&2, the Girls' Guide to Guy Stuff, Hard-Bullied Comics, Korgi, Leading Man, The List, Owly v2&3, the Professor's Daughter, PS238 v1, Queen & Country v2, Starslip Crisis v1, Strangers In Paradise v16-19, Territory 51, Totally Spies-I Hate the 80s, Wasteland v1 (and issues 7-10)

Toys: Vanishing Bugs Bunny exclusive, Owly doll (guess who that's for, Roger), Grimace exclusive toy.

That's it! Now when the hell am I going to read all of this?!? Oh yeah, right after I finish Harry Potter!

Vernon, Florida

In the early 1980s, Errol Morris directed a documentary entitled "Vernon, Florida." He first became interested in this town because of its unusually high number of dismemberment insurance fraud cases. The resulting film depicts the glorious, homespun wisdom of the town's residents. I first saw this film a decade later, and became fascinated by the people it featured. A few years later still, I would find myself living in Tallahassee, Florida, with an occasional need to visit Pensacola and Panama City. I would always make a point to drive through Vernon on these trips, even though it would be slightly out of the way.

Each time I passed through the town, I would notice something different about it. The first time through, I noticed the town bar, the Cat's Eye, which was situated just outside the city limits proper, as if to keep the residents' vices at bay across the small bridge over Holmes Creek. The second time I passed through, I decided to stray from the main road, turning west from Main Street. There I saw something I'd heard about, but had never seen before, and have never seen since. Down this side street, off in the middle of nowhere, a man sat on his front lawn, and as I passed, he waved at me. I had never seen someone simply sitting and waving to passing cars before. It struck me as odd that the gentleman waved to a complete stranger. I wondered to myself if the enjoyment of his day rested upon the number of cars that would happen to randomly choose to turn, and thereby cross his path.

The last time I passed through the town, I decided to stop for a while, which I'd never done before. On each previous trip, I'd noted a small diner on Main Street, the name of which escapes me. I pulled into the gravel driveway, entered, and found a seating area consisting of no more than a half dozen tables, of which most were available. I sat and had a very tasty hamburger, listening in on the bits of conversation around me. Off to my left sat an elderly woman having a bite of lunch as she talked with the owners of the diner. It was her birthday. She finished her meal, and a minute later, I finished my own. The woman waited at the counter to pay, and I got up to follow suit.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I have a crippling degree of shyness. It's not that I fear speaking to strangers, but rather I feel they would have no reason to want to speak with me. Thus, I almost never initiate a conversation. This has served me very well in both my current career and the second career I've been trying to launch, both of which depend so heavily on "networking." Nevertheless, in this case, I couldn't help myself.

By the time I reached the counter, she had paid and was starting to walk away. "Happy birthday," I said from behind her. She stopped in her tracks, turned around, and looked up at me. With a surprising amount of strength for a woman who looked so frail, she reached out and grasped my left arm with her right hand. As she raised the glasses that dangled around her neck up to her eyes, she pulled me downward so far that I ended up bent nearly in half, my face right in front of hers.

See looked me over for a long time, and with a bit of sadness she let go of my arm, saying, "I'm sorry, but I just don't recognize you."

"You shouldn't. We've never met," I replied.

Her face lit up with a smile as she exclaimed, "Thank goodness! I thought you were one of mine that I had forgotten." I honestly didn't know what to make of that statement.

Upon seeing my perplexed expression, she explained that she had been the town's English teacher for decades, and thought that I might have been one of her students. We spent the next few minutes talking about her career. The diner owner/cook joined in, warmly reminiscing about her importance to the town over the years. She gave me a hug as we said our goodbyes, and as I proceeded onward up Route 79, I couldn't help but be amazed at how much my life had just been enriched by spending a mere half of an hour in Vernon, Florida.

The Plight of the Zippers

No, this is not a story about my "frank and beans."

Since the Squirrel Nut Zippers got back together and began playing live shows again earlier this year, I've wanted nothing more than to go see them. I'd only had one opportunity to do so before, at the 1997 KROQ Weenie Roast at Irvine Meadows, which is just about the worst venue at which you could see this type of band. Over the July 4th weekend, they played nearby, but a wedding pulled me out of town, so I missed that opportunity. I thought for sure I'd missed my chance altogether.

However, a couple of months ago, they released some new tour dates, including one right here in L.A.! I bought a couple of tickets, and eagerly awaited the night of the show. During the wait, life went a little haywire, and I got pretty stressed out and saddened. Just about the only thing I had to look forward to was the concert.

Though I had two tickets to the show, my work schedule was such that I wasn't one hundred percent certain that I could even go until the night of the concert, which was Tuesday. So I couldn't invite anyone else, which wasn't that big a deal, but wasn't exactly optimal. The doors of the El Rey Theatre opened at 8pm and the show was supposed to start at 9pm. I arrived at 8:30pm, hoping that the band would take the stage somewhere around 9:30, and I could see the show and still make it home for a decent night's sleep, the concert again being on a Tuesday.
I walked in the doors and thought, "Wow." I'm used to being an outsider, but this was amazingly not my crowd. It was like I'd stumbled into a party full of the cool kids. Everyone was dressed to the nines in swing-era style. Still, I'm an expert at doing the wallflower/blending in with the scenery thing, so I stood around feeling out of place, waiting for the show to begin. Looking around the theatre, I noticed the mixing board. I moseyed on over to check out the equipment. There I noticed the night's schedule. Not only was there one opening act, there were two! If the show ran on time, the band still wouldn't take the stage until 10:40pm!!!

This left me with two options: I could stand around for two hours and maybe see twenty minutes of the show before having to leave to get any decent amount of sleep, or I could leave immediately and not waste that time for so little reward. I left, quite perturbed that the main act would be on so late on a Tuesday. Friday, I get, but Tuesday?!? I guess the cool kids don't have to be at work the following morning.

I arrived back at home quickly, and logged into MySpace to vent my feelings on the matter, only to find that two of my top four friends, including the Squirrel Nut Zippers, were gone!!! I thought I'd been hacked, and quickly took steps to fix the problem and re-add the friends that the hacker had deleted. When I searched for the band's page, it was completely gone. I realized that I hadn't been hacked, which was even more depressing.

For almost as long as I'd planned to go to the El Rey concert, I'd also joked that I would fly out to Las Vegas to see the band play for free at the Red Rock Casino on Friday and Saturday. I hadn't seriously considered it, though. On Saturday, I had to attend a memorial service, which took place one quarter of the way to Las Vegas. Once the service was over and the family had left, I was left with nothing to do, so rather than just go home and be miserable, I continued onward to Las Vegas to try to see the show on Saturday night.

So after months of anticipation and one failed attempt, I did get to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers play live, and in an appropriately small lounge, too. It was a great show, with the band playing all their best songs, and mixing in a couple of new, solo tunes from their lead singer. The show ended with the band playing along live to a cartoon they had created, entitled "The Ghost of Stephen Foster," which was amazing, and a brief encore.

After the show, I was exhausted from the drive and all the emotion of the last two weeks. I hope I'm able to see them play again some day, under far better circumstances, and far sooner than another decade.

Global Warming - The Answer

Our planet's global warming crisis has become a center-stage issue in the public debate over the last year or so. Every day brings a new manner in which we can reduce our individual "carbon footprint," from hybrid cars to halogen light bulbs and so on. While effective on a small scale, these simple steps can't bring about the reversal of climate change needed to cure the situation quickly enough. Far more drastic measures need to be taken.

The primary reason that the solutions offered so far fail is that they don't work on a large enough scale. While I can drive a hybrid car and feel like I'm saving the environment, in the lanes next to me will be a guy driving a '65 Mustang with lousy emissions, a soccer mom in a Hummer, and a tractor trailer spewing filth into the air. Any one of us can do our part, but until the masses all work toward the same goal, nothing will change. However, the majority of the population has little desire to change their ways, even to save the planet. Clearly, then, the masses are the problem. They must be eliminated.

However, in removing the masses from the planet, we can't use our conventional military methods. Our current military complex uses the very vehicles, chemicals, and fuels that have caused the problem. No, we need to exterminate large numbers of people with a method that has the smallest "carbon footprint." The solution is clear: nuclear war.

Nuclear war not only rids the planet of massive amounts of people with minimal effort, but it has a side benefit that will further help our crisis. Scientists have theorized that even a small-scale nuclear war would result in a "nuclear winter" during which the sun would be blocked from the Earth by massive amounts of soot, smoke, ash, and dust. This would rapidly cool the planet, essentially resetting the thermometer back to a safe level.

We could help the situation even further by choosing the best targets, areas with the biggest "carbon footprints." Even a cursory amount of research clearly shows that the states of California and Texas have the largest overall carbon footprint (even though California has only the 46th highest per capita carbon footprint). So for the U.S., we should destroy these states. The loss would be insignificant compared to what we have to gain. Besides, we already have the 48-state flag ready to go.

Each of the countries that fall within the top five in overall "carbon footprint" should likewise have to decide on an offensive territory or two that need to be removed. Were we all to cooperate on this, the climate change we've caused would be reversed in no time. In the words of Wilford Brimley, "It's the right thing to do."

Problem solved.

Miserable Beach

In the aptly named Awesome Anthology, Matt Kindt's contribution included several stories from The Misery Index--stories that friends had told him of truly miserable times in their lives. The tales range in emotion from the truly tragic, to the painfully regretful, to the oddly comical. This is my story of Misery.

Miserable Beach

During my childhood, my dad (my stepfather, but still my dad) had weekend visitations with Brian, his son from a previous marriage. Because I usually had my dad all to myself, when those weekends came around, I felt a little jealousy toward my older stepbrother for taking some of my dad's attention away. One day, this envy nearly cost me my life.

Brian had come down to South Jersey in the middle of the summer for a weekend visit. Being the dog days of August, the whole family decided to hit the beach. Though the sun shone brightly and temperatures soared, a brisk wind blew across the shore. As my mom set up camp and my dad removed his tee shirt and put his glasses back on, I checked the water, refreshingly cool as always. My dad and Brian started wading into the waves while my mom applied some sunscreen.

"Be careful," she cautioned. Naturally, I listened.

I crashed into the ocean, letting the waves break over me as I ran deeper into the water. I always loved the feeling of waves crashing all around me, whether while bodysurfing or just standing in the sea. That day, thanks to the wind and the tide, the waves rose larger than usual. By the time I had caught up with the boys, they had passed the shore break, and had reached the point where I could stand safely between waves, but each peak of an incoming swell lifted me too high to keep a footing. In my youth, I found it hard to put my head below water without holding my nose, limiting my swimming repertoire to treading or dog paddling, neither of which kept me from being slowly swept out to sea by the strong undertow created by the large waves.

Dad and Brian seemed to be having a fine time as I struggled not only with my feeble swimming, but also with trying not to let them know I was literally in over my head. I didn't want to be seen as the baby, as something less than Brian. Soon a whistle began to blow, rather urgently. The perceptive lifeguards noticed me having a spot of difficulty and waved us all inward. My dad pulled my arms around his neck and draped me, exhausted, over his back.

"We better move in a little, huh, son?" he asked with that calm, joking, reassuring tone. Then he turned toward the shore. Away from the waves. The larger than normal waves.

Almost immediately, a huge swell hit us from behind. Though I enjoyed it, I wasn't the one wearing glasses. The wave washed my dad's glasses clean off of his face. Knowing how much a good pair of glasses costs, my dad panicked and did what came naturally. He dove under the water, with me still attached to his back and my arms still in his hand. Having neither skills at submerging nor any warning, the move caught me totally by surprise, and I inhaled a deep breath of water.

We burst upward again, my dad still without his glasses. I began coughing and spewing water all over the place. By this point, the lifeguards had seen enough, and brought a rowboat out to take me to shore. A lifeguard grabbed me and started to take me from my father to the safety of the boat. However, without his glasses, all my father saw was a strange man trying to take his son. So dad socked him.

Fortunately for the lifeguard, my dad's aim matched his vision, so dad only hit him in the arm. Then he saw the rowboat and realized what was happening. He let them row me in as he and my stepbrother swam back in themselves. After a little more coughing, I enjoyed the ride into shore.

As we neared the beach, I could see my mother standing thigh-deep in the ocean, unsure if she should be rushing in to save me, her shorts and shirt tail soaked. Many a time have I seen the look of misery on my mother's face, usually caused by one of the males in our household. This look had to be in the all-time top ten. Adding to her outrage, a woman not far behind her had been watching the whole incident, laughing hysterically. Mom thanked the lifeguards for rescuing me, and turning back to our stretch of beach, scowled at the other woman, who had by then wet herself from laughing.

Soon after this incident, we moved into a new house--with a pool.

Skid Row - Jan 12

On a whim, similar to the one that took me to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers a few weeks ago, this weekend was spent on a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas to see Skid Row. Yes, Skid Row.

I've never been a fan of the band. Their monstrous hit, "18 and Life," was so overplayed when it was released that it ruined the band for me, and I paid no attention to their other songs. Now, some twenty years later, I end up in a club the size of my living room hearing them play "Youth Gone Wild," "Monkey Business," "I Remember You," and others. The strange thing: they were really good!

Sure, they have a different drummer. Sure, the singer isn't Sebastian Bach. Still, the band sounded great, the singer did a fine job, and the show was fun for all. If you have a chance, I'd recommend seeing them.