Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kick 'em When They're Up, Kick 'em When They're Down. Etc.

It’s not nice to dogpile. But sometimes it’s necessary.

There’s quite a furor building over Dallas Morning News music critic Mario Tarradell. He has long championed cookie-cutter modern country artists as well as MOR cheese rock, though he should receive credit for championing rock en Espanol, I suppose. This hasn’t bothered me because a) I don’t read the Dallas Morning News anymore and b) I really don’t care about music critique, music journalists or 95% of music that’s being discussed or reviewed these days. It’s hard to get worked up over something that essentially doesn’t exist in your world. I actually thought that Thor Christensen was still writing for DMN, if that gives you any idea of how out of touch with the paper’s entertainment section I am.

So apparently our buddy Mario wrote a little rant about how Gywneth Paltrow introduced Radiohead as “one of the most influential artists of all time” at the Grammys last year. If there are two names that make me doze off while driving and drift into oncoming traffic almost instantaneously, it’s “Gwyneth Paltrow” and “Radiohead”. I liked Radiohead a lot up to OK Computer. They’ve lost me since. I still stand by my assertion that the Radiohead/Spiritualized show that I saw at Fair Park Music Hall in 1998 was the best concert I have ever attended. I think they are a little too critically exalted these days but I can’t deny that, for better or for worse, they do seem to be a huge influence on today’s music. I have nothing to say about Gywenth Paltrow other than her hair always looks very shiny.

But Tarradell’s Radiohead comments unleashed a shitstorm on the DMN website, with commenters overwhelmingly defending Radiohead’s honor. Then Mario’s fingers found the strength to type this:

The Beatles are one of the most influential bands of all time. The Eagles are one of the most influential bands of all time.

And then also…

The Eagles?!?! Oh, I dunno, try EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY ARTIST AROUND NOW. They pretty much ALL list the Eagles as an influence. And that's just for starters.

I have never gone from half-heartedly nodding in agreement with a maligned rock critic to hoping that they experience a lifetime of incontinence and night terrors so quickly in my life. If you are serious about those two statements, Mario Tarradell, then you are the problem. Let me try hard here to not mince my words.


*(Except for Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good”. That song rules)

I wanted to be in your corner, buddy. Well, maybe not but I could at least see where you were coming from with the “C’mon guys, Radiohead aren’t THAT amazing!” bit. Then you mentioned the Eagles and did not also mention the words “bland” or “contrived” or “obnoxious” or “inflamed anal fissure” in the same sentence. And now you are the enemy. Saying that the Eagles are the biggest influence on modern mainstream country is like bragging that pestilence-carrying rodents were the biggest influence on the Bubonic plague.

You say that the Eagles influenced every country artist around today? Therein lies your problem. I couldn’t have said it better myself, actually. I have often wondered when country music took the 90 degree turn to Pro-Tools, studded bandana wearing purgatory. When did country artists stop trying to sound like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings and Bob Wills and Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn and Hank Thompson and Buck Owens? If what you say is true and modern country artists are in fact influenced heavily by the Eagles, I think I have my answer.

Music taste is subjective but please, Mario Tarradell, do you really think that the current crop of mainstream country artists (you mention that Shelby Lynne and Brad Paisley were two of your favorite concerts last year) are something to write home about? Artistically innovate? Anything but Pro-Tools, spray tans, southern accents and 19-piece backup bands? I have no problem with entertainers that exist purely for entertainment. That’s what anyone from American Idol is. I also don’t have any problem with you knowing your readership and playing to them. We’re in Dallas, Texas after all. I mean, it would be nice for a Dallas newspaper to instead give props to artists who are true to the roots of country music, as so many of those roots are right here in Texas. But I long ago realized that was too much to ask for.

But really, Mario Tarradell, you have a forum upon which you can do one of two things. You can either use your allotted space to explore and critique music outside of Top 40 modern rock radio, modern country or Tina Turner. Or you can serve up the KFC Famous Bowl of rock journalism that you whip up each week. Patton Oswalt calls the Famous Bowl a “failure pile in a sadness bowl” and I now know that your music leanings can be classified as much the same.

I would like to end with the most astute commentary on the Eagles and the skid mark of a legacy that they have left on the underpants of modern music, courtesy of a DMN commenter:

Posted by Brad @ 12:55 PM Thu, Feb 12, 2009
People who like the Eagles...have kids who like Nickelback.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson died an hour or two ago. Let me get this part out of the way...

It's sad when ANYONE dies. And especially for the family and friends they leave behind. And he was suspiciously young to go out on a cardiac arrest. And I really do hope that all his superfans are gonna be ok.

Now, for the rest....

I have never liked Michael Jackson's music. Even when I was a kid and he was mega popular. Then came all the allegations and charges, of which he was found not guilty. I thought he was a severely developmentally stunted boy-man who clearly was not too mentally sound. But I'm not here to talk smack about a man who has just died.

I am here to say that I find it ironic, hypocritical and almost insulting that MTV is wall-to-wall Michael Jackson videos right now. Even as a non-fan, I will admit that they might owe their very existence and success to him and his early videos. However, MTV hasn't cared about music in at least a decade. In fact, I'm pretty sure that MTV joined Leno and Letterman and all the other media that were so happy to report all of his troubles and failures. So now MTV has time-warped back to 1985 like they're not the network that has forsaken music videos for The Hills and Paris Hilton's BFF?

I like seeing videos on MTV. I do wish they were videos by an artist I dug but it makes me nostalgic for my childhood. I guess it just bothers me that the guy was the butt of a million jokes for the past decade and a half and the moment he dies, the same media that clowned him so hard are getting ready to carve his likeness on the moon with a laser beam.

Rest in peace, Michael. I wasn't a fan of yours and hearing your music exclusively for more than an hour has already driven me to the land of Tivo but you were a troubled soul and I appreciate that. For everyone else, please don't make me listen to "Don't Stop" on an endless loop for the next week.

PS - My friend Adam in London just made a really good point. "We got at least 2 weeks of this. The Iranian leaders are gonna be able to do whatever they want now!!!" I guess Neda and a potential revolution in a volatile Islamic country tired of tyranny and oppression by religious zealots just isn't as sexy as "Dirty Diana".

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Those Crazy Tehran Nights! AKA: Today's Guest Blogger...My Mom

Backstory: My mom's family lived in Tehran when she was a child. They fled (in the middle of the night in a van, no less) when the Iranian people were becoming increasingly resentful of the Shah. So growing up, I always saw all these photos of my mom's "normal" childhood in a house/compound surrounded by 10 foot walls. And you can barely step in any direction in my grandmother's house without one foot on a Persian rug.

So in light of what's happening in Iran right now, I asked my mom a bunch of questions about the Tehran she remembers. I also asked her (being a history major and all) to dumb down the exact chronology of the Shah/Ayatollah deal. I knew the basics but was a little rusty. I thought I would pick tidbits from my mom's response and use them. Then I realized that my mom is far more funny, educational and interesting than I am. So please welcome the Old-School Iranian Blogging Stylings of My Mom:

First a set up.

After WWII Britain was awarded Iran as a protectorate. They proceeded to suck all of the oil out of the country and it made the Iranians mad, go figure. Britain left but that put the country in turmoil. They briefly had a president who wanted to nationalize the oil industry but then Eisenhower was president and saw an opportunity to spy on U.S.S.R. However, the Iranian government was a little suspicious of colonial powers and weren't too hot on the idea of just trading one oil sucking protector for another. So, the C.I.A. engineered a revolution to put a pro American in power. Hence, the Shah and Americans in Tehran.

Colonial powers brought in schools, roads, clean water, hospitals, etc. They also brought a challenge to theocracy and traditional ways. This set up the society for division. Young people, especially rich young people who were educated abroad, saw the opportunities that westernization brought with its freedoms, art, and secularization etc. This was a challenge to the less educated, less wealthy who remembered the foreigners with their money and immodest ways. They were supported by the religious right who lost power with the Shah who wanted to limit the number of wives, bring in western technology and in general challenge the power they held.

When the shah was ousted the extreme right took over. Theocracy reigned. If you want a comparison think medieval Europe during which they had kings (Ahmadinejad) but the real power was the Pope (Ayatollah). Europe during the Renaissance struggled over who was going to be top dog, the king or the Pope. The king ruled but he could be excommunicated by the Pope. Most law was cannon law drawn up by the Catholic Church (Shari'ah).

You now have several factions and coalitions. There are not just two groups who hate each other but several groups who have agendas that cross age and religious lines. Young people who appreciate western freedom and technology. Young people who want to control their own destiny without foreign interference. Older people who remember the days of the protectorate and remember it fondly and those who remember it not so fondly. There are always the fear mongers among the religious right who lead the less educated and ignorant into believing that if they allow a more secular leader in power all their daughters are going to start running naked down the street, their women will start talking back and driving cars, drugs and alcohol will be running in the public water supply (which would actually be an improvement in the water supply)and Britney Spears will bring her tour to Tehran.

So, in answer to your questions as to whether Americans are loved or hated the answer is yes. It just depends on who you talk to. When we were there some people would shout curses at us and some wanted to live with us. It was one extreme or the other. There was a reason we had 10 foot high concrete walls around our houses and dogs to patrol the compound.

Walls were necessary because people would steal everything. One maid tried to steal Wayne (her little brother/my uncle). There was little police protection and some people were desperately poor. Also, there was hostility to foreigners. The only thing that protected foreigners were walls, dogs and the Shah. Probably the dogs were the most effective for keeping us safe since the "unclean" dogs scared them more than the Shah or the police.

I only got to go to Isfahan, Persepolis, Mount Damavand and the Caspian Sea. There were no Holiday Inns so traveling was difficult. The only hotels were in Tehran. There weren't many small towns. It was either city or deserts, rural Bedouins living in tents and herding sheep. The rural people were very scared of the foreign "devils" with the exception of a few who were fascinated by the unusual. Ask your grandmother about being stranded in the desert over night. (Note: this was after crash landing a US Army plane that my Army pilot grandfather and nurse grandmother were using to fly to a little romantic weekend getaway in the desert while experiencing mechanical problems. Ah, the old days!)

The weirdest thing in my mind was the ancient ruins of Persepolis, the 2500 year old capital of the greatest empire of the world at one time, just sitting in the middle of the desert without a soul around it. No fence, no guards, no museum. It felt a little like being an alien visitor to a dead planet.

Women did not drive, vote, and only the very elite women were educated. For the most part in public they wore chadors. The Shah's wife did not wear a chador but covered her head a lot like young Iranian women now. Exceptions were for children and foreigners. My mother never wore a chador. In their homes women wore whatever they wanted and some could afford very expensive Parisian fashion.

The Shah tried to limit men to 4 wives and encouraged only one. He divorced his first wife to marry the second. That didn't go over well but some educated in the West were monogamous. Ironically the poorer and less educated the more likely there were more wives. Some of this had to do with the snowball effect of being poor, marrying and having children, needing to marry again for another dowry and another person to work to earn money for wife number one and the children. Wife number two having children so the need to marry again, etc. This was the cycle the Shah was trying to break.

The foreigners were more than just oil workers. There were ambassadors and their staff, oil executives and workers, importers, exporters, military, assorted consultants, engineers, teachers, medical staff, etc. Foreigners were encouraged by the Shah and welcomed by those who supported the Shah but hated by those who hated the Shah.

The American school was large and included not just Americans but also the children of any English speaking parent and a native or some natives who worked for American companies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Neither Big Nor Clever

(This picture was actually one of the first Google image search results for the phrase "neither big nor clever")

One of my favorite sayings or phrases of all time is “neither big nor clever.” I’ve never heard an American use it and it’s a damn shame that there’s not an American equivalent to it. It's almost exclusively used to describe behavior when drinking or the next day. I first heard this phrase when a dear friend of mine in the UK used it to describe his behavior while drinking and the repercussions of said behavior. This friend was the drummer in a band who, for a brief period of time, ruled the world. Well, maybe not quite. But they had sold millions of albums and were on constant MTV rotation and EVERYONE knew their song and they were being transported to venues via helicopter. Then that all kind of went away and my friend was left in the uncomfortable situation of wanting to live every night in some sort of bacchanalian fashion but his appetite for vice quickly overtaking his professional success and fame. He was a mess. In fact, the first time he ever used the phrase “neither big nor clever” was to describe a night which started with some drinks and ended up with him falling face first on a stone floor and paramedics rushing to the scene. That was clearly neither big nor clever.

Let me state something as an absolute fact: I like alcohol. I like a drink. Or more than one, even. I have done embarrassing, violent, illegal and awful things when I have had a few too many. This is not some puritanical rant from a teetotaler. But I feel as if I am reaching my tipping point for celebrating and enabling the destructive behavior of the over-served. It’s, for a lack of a better term, neither big nor clever.

Maybe this whole thing started with my dislike of the movie The Hangover. I really didn’t like that movie. I found it to be incredibly predictable. When people balk at the fact that I didn’t like the movie (seriously, there HAS to be someone besides Tom Gribble who agrees with me!), I try to explain why I didn’t like it. The jokes weren’t that bad but the whole setup is so self-congratulating. I understand that a lot of people dig the movie because of the commiseration they feel with the characters over having to piece a night back together or doing the walk of shame or trying to find out where exactly you are. But if you think that kind of stuff makes you unique, interesting, dangerous or rebellious, you are sadly mistaken or you are under the age of 24.

In a search for old pictures which I feared may have been long lost, I ventured back to the Land Before Time AKA Friendster the other day. I created my Friendster profile when I was 21 (tweaking it occasionally to reflect how hip and ironic I thought I was). Now, I didn’t go to college but I consider my Friendster profile to be a document of my “college years.” One of my first professed interests was “booze” and, rough estimate here, 80% of the comments (sorry, testimonials) had some reference to drinking or something that was brought into our vernacular through drinking. I was screaming to the world about how awesomely badass I was because me and my friends, we were sassy! And we could drink a lot! And it made us do silly/stupid things! Check us out!

I cringed when I read all of that, like how people cringe over the fashion choices of their youth. I reminded myself that I was in my early 20’s, a period of time in everyone’s life in which you were put on the earth solely to drink and make mistakes. If you’re lucky, you retain enough memory from those mistakes to tick them off the Great List of Mistakes that are an initiation rite for all non-Mormons. But then it made me realize that I knew a lot of people who had crossed that threshold and still considered the bruises, sloppily signed receipts and car dings to be badges of honor. If not badges of honor, at least something sort of cute.

Then I started thinking about another friend of mine. He lives here and works at a bar at which we all congregate. He has been sober for nearly a decade. He didn’t go to jail or anything. He just stopped drinking. Again, I’m no fan of the wagon but this guy always manages to be fun and loose and interesting and non-judgmental despite the fact that he’s drinking Sprite. He tells tales often of the kind of things that he used to do when he would drink. I think I remember one story where he slept on a neighbor’s lawn only to be woken up by a water hose as the neighbor watered his lawn on a sunny Saturday morning. And I kind of realized that everyone’s got great “man, I was so drunk…” stories and they’re fun to tell and fun to hear. But there’s some point where the scale tips from “funny” to “sad” or even all the way to “pathetic”. It’s a delicate balance.

I started thinking about the drinking stories that I used to hear when we were younger and the ones I hear now. I’m usually the baby of the group and my social circle have generally all turned the corner to 30. Oh, how we used to regale each other with tales of making out and dancing on apartment roofs or having impromptu swimming parties. And we were young and that seemed fun and harmless and I still generally regard it as such. But now the drinking stories have gotten darker. Someone got hurt, someone had to go to the hospital, someone’s got a DWI and lost their license. Stuff with serious consequences and repercussions. And then it becomes like when a stand-up comedian comes out of the gate with decent material then slowly starts bombing before your eyes and all you can do is let out a nervous laughter of pity and slight disgust.

I don't want to sound as if I am being judgemental and I stress that my list of mistakes and blotto moments is comprehensive. But I guess I just don't wear it as a badge of pride and it bothers me when others over the age of 25 do. It's as if their poor behavior is somehow performance art because they are intoxicated. If I have a few too many and behave poorly (which I am wont to do), I couldn't imagine waking up and wanting to proudly regale others with my tales. I can't imagine being strangely self-satisfied with the sordid details of my behavior.

In a search for a better context or definition of the phrase “neither big nor clever”, I came across this:


It expresses everything I feel about the subject. Britain has allowed some drinking establishments to serve alcohol for 24 hours straight. No last orders. No closing. Luckily, they have regulated who can and can’t stay open indefinitely. Which is why a city like New Orleans repulses me. I sent my friend in New York a postcard from my one and only trip to New Orleans that was a detailed list of why the city of New Orleans should fall off the map and drift far into the Gulf of Mexico, never to be seen again. And this was pre-Katrina! As photographic proof of why I dislike the city so much, I submit to you this. Scroll down to the “after the show” pictures to see exactly what I mean:


And there it is. It’s my closing credits for The Hangover. See? And guess what? It’s truly neither big nor clever.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today and This Summer in General are Taunting Me

I woke up this morning missing a dear friend of mine terribly. I think about this friend all of the time. When they're around but moreso when they aren’t. I miss this friend. I hang around others but that just makes me remember how much I miss my one true friend. That friend is football. And today it’s really bad.

I guess because the NBA season is over, I now know that the worst part of the year is dead ahead of me. It’s going to be 100 degrees for the next few months and the only option for entertainment I have is base…YAWWWWWWWN…ball. I don’t want to turn this into another rant about why baseball bores me to tears. Different strokes for different folks. Horses for courses. Etc. Instead, I want to write a love letter to my distant and faraway friend, football.

Dear football,

How are you? I have been trying to keep up with you but it’s hard when you are so far away. I hear little bits and pieces here and there about you. I heard your OTAs went okay. You did them in the stadium at the school where my mom teaches. She sent me excited emails that she saw you the day you showed up. She even offered to try to take her camera outside and get some pictures of you for me. She’s not that into you but she knows how dear you are to me, so that was sweet of her. I know the draft wasn’t really much of an event for you, as far as the Cowboys were concerned. I have to confess that all the coverage of the George Strait show at Dallas Cowboys stadium was bittersweet for me. I obviously did not attend the show nor do I forsee myself being able to attend a Cowboys game at the stadium. But when they talked about how big that HD screen is and how George Strait had them open up the retractable roof halfway through the show, I started thinking about how much more amazing that would have been if you were around. I get a little sentimental sometimes but I know that you are well(ish) and I will get to see you again. I just wish that it wasn’t so long until you come back.

I don’t know if you heard but I was hanging out with basketball earlier this year. I mean, I know that you know I have always been friends with basketball. And we had some fun this spring after you left. Of course, I don’t ever expect much from basketball. I mean, I am loyal and everything but I always know that basketball will frustrate me and kind of just disappear abruptly sometime in early May. So, while I enjoy our time together, I am never too surprised when it’s over. And honestly, once it is over, I am usually to the point where I needed a break from it anyways. I have told people that before and they immediately point out that you have been a far bigger disappointment to me and how could I continue to care about you so much? I don’t really know how to answer that.

Even when you kick me in the teeth and steal my wallet and take my keys and drive my car headfirst into a cement wall and then piss on the burning wreckage with a middle finger in the air (Eagles 44 - Cowboys 6), I am still sad to see you go. Even if I am disgusted with you and I tell everyone that you are a puss-filled blight on all mankind, I still want you to hang around a little while longer. It’s not like that with me and basketball. By the time basketball goes away, I think I will enjoy seeing it again next year but was glad it didn’t overstay its welcome. My friend Manny (he misses you too!) and I were talking about developing a debilitating narcotics habit which would cause us to be unconscious for most of the summer, so we didn’t miss you so bad. Then we could go to rehab and emerge healthy and happy and ready for your return. Then we decided that was probably too extreme.

I don’t have the highest expectations of you when I see you again at the tail end of summer. I feel certain that you’ve gone downhill a little. I know you have that new big house. Too bad about your other vacation home getting blown down by the storm. You really should always check out your contractor. But I guess you don’t need that lecture from me, huh? I expect that when I see you again this year, you will have put on some extra weight and look a little older than you really should look. I heard that money is tight right now for you. It’s tight for all of us. But I have faint hope that you know how to make a dollar stretch in rough times. You know that everyone’s gotta come together, especially in tough times.

And that should be a little easier since I heard that you finally had a malignant tumor removed and sent to Buffalo for testing right after you left. I was so relieved to hear that. I kept telling you that thing didn’t look right. I know that you are stubborn but…Jesus, I can’t believe it took you that long to wake up and realize that thing was dangerous.

When I was a little kid, I used to make my own countdown calendars for every beach vacation my family took. And I would cross off each date with a big fat marker and write little slogans over the dates like “Hooray!” or “Almost beach time!” or “Beach, here I come!” I was thinking the other day about making one for when you return. I still have those Cowboys plates I bought two years ago when you left after the game against the Giants. They were on clearance. I said last year that I would hang onto them until the Super Bowl but they still sit there unused. I don’t want to put undue pressure on you. But I think it would be fun if we ate off those plates this year. Either way, I miss you. Be safe and hurry back soon.

Have a KAS! I know mine will suck without you.


PS - My iTunes just randomly played "Patience" by Guns n Roses as I was typing this. I teared up a little.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Great Flood of 2009 Wasn’t That Great, Actually

For those of you that don’t live in Dallas, we had some storms come through yesterday/last night/today. And with them came what meteorologists call “literal assloads of rain” that poured down for hours and hours. For those of you that live in Dallas, you already knew this. And you can even comment about it once your power comes on. Mine is still off. My mom’s is still off in Richardson. My grandmother’s is off in Garland.

This is inconvenient when, say, you need to wake up in the morning for work and you rely on an alarm clock-type device to wake you up. Usually I have a backup in the form of trusty Mr. Blackberry. But Mr. Blackberry’s battery died sometime in the night. If you’re wondering, yes I do need two alarms going off to get me out of bed. And I set them for an hour before I actually need to be up because I hit snooze for an hour. When people go, “I’m not a morning person” I sometimes contemplate explaining to them the bartering with God and Satan and Buddha that I try to do each morning if they will just allow me to sleep for another hour. But instead I usually say, “Yeah, me neither” and shrug. I hate mornings. I want to dump mornings body in a wooded area where no one will find it. I want to give mornings a tainted Tylenol when it has a headache. I am not a morning person.

Add to that the fact that violent thunderstorms are like Ambien to me. Minus the somnambulism and sleep eating and sleep driving and stuff. So this morning, at the hour when I would normally be cursing the heavens for making me wake up and get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7am, I was instead enjoying the nicest little bit of sleep I have had in months. Thunder was shaking the pictures on my bedroom walls and lighting actually hit the tree outside my bedroom window. All of which made me pull the covers up and smile and turn over and nestle deeper.

Then I figured out that I hadn’t finally tricked the universe into letting me sleep as late as I wanted to with no repercussions. Power out. Oh shit. Still managed to take a shower but then realized that all my clothes are dark and, ironically, so was my bedroom. The only candles I have are those Mexican/Catholic prayer candles which give off a nominal amount of actual light. So I dressed by candlelight this morning. Which explains why I am wearing a blue sweater, black pants (with something that looks like pink icing on the knee?) and yellow argyle socks (cleverly disguised by my knee high boots). I’m lookin’ gooooood.

Then I try to pull out of my driveway only to find that there is a car that does not belong to anyone who lives in my house parked in our driveway and blocking me in. Then I notice that a car that does not belong to our neighbors is parked in their driveway, blocking them in. Neat! I get to off-road through the yard to get around Captain Asshole in the Lincoln Towncar. I get onto Peak to drive to work from the East Dallas/Junius Heights area to Turtle Creek which normally takes about 10 minutes. 15 minutes at absolute maximum. But it’s pouring buckets so I figure this drive might take me 20 minutes. Somewhere just after I cross Ross Ave, I am stopped by yellow Do Not Cross police tape. Not that unusual a sight in the Ross Ave. area. But just beyond the tape, I see a minivan turned the wrong direction (Peak is one way) and submerged up to mid door in water. Ah, so you’re saying I should not go that way? Right.

Me and the six or seven cars behind me started doing a very awkward pas-de-deux (pas-de-sept?) of fifteen point turns to try to find side streets to escape onto. A couple of us choose some random neighborhood street. Bad call on our part. It eventually leads us to Washington. At the corner of Whatever and Washington, I see a shopping cart swim by my car. Normally, I am not one of those people who gets tweaked about a shopping basket hitting my car in a parking lot. For some reason, this morning I was swearing and threatening a painful and slow death to this shopping cart if it hit me. I may have even told the inanimate shopping cart that hitting my car would be the last thing it would ever do. Luckily, it took a last-minute stroke slightly northward and missed my front bumper by inches. It was at this point that I noticed that when I got into my car this morning, I had enough gas to get me to work under normal, non-Biblical End Times conditions. But with all this reversing and cart dodging and East Dallas sightseeing I had been doing, I was about to run out of gas.

Cut to the scene of me pumping $4 worth of gas as lighting struck all around me and a furious little debris stream cascaded between me and my car. Alright, surely this was enough punishment for sleeping in today, right? Get back onto the road and resume my slow crawl to the office. Because no one can see if they are even in a lane because of the downpour, the roads looked more like one of those baby races where they line up five babies in five lanes and then let them go but they end up crossing over into other lanes or just stopping in their own lane or eating grass or crawling on top of the stationary babies. That’s what Lemmon Ave. looked like at approximately 11am today. An extremely slow ADD-riddled infant race.

At this point, it had been 30 minutes since I first got in the car. I was on the last leg, the usually simple left turn onto Turtle Creek. Except Turtle Creek the road and Turtle Creek the creek had become indistinguishable. The two had become one and intertwined in a violent embrace. It was then that Turtle Creek decided to try to get my engine in on the party. My engine had been doing well up to that point. I kept promising it that oil change I have been meaning to get it if it could just put on some water wings and get me to work.

But then the asshole that is Turtle Creek got all up in it and….stall. As I sat in my car, pondering whether or not I was about to be donate my car to the Turtle Creek CAN academy, I hit the gas one more time. And somehow, my little Honda Accord That Could found enough strength to slowly pull us out of our future of spending the rest of the day filing an insurance claim and towards relatively drier ground. We were in the shit and that little Honda came through for me. Thanks buddy! Guess who’s getting some 40W for the summer?

After a few blocks of sputtering and coughing, the Accord finally shook off the shackles and righted itself completely. And then I got to work. Only to find out that everyone else was late and no one even noticed I was. So 48 minutes after I left my house, here I was. Sitting at my desk. Then I realized I was hungry and went to lunch.

The End.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Brett Favre,

Hi Brett Favre! How’s it going? I hope you are recovering well from your super-secret surgery you recently had. It is to be expected that a career of being pummeled by linebackers would leave one’s body in desperate need of some corrective surgery. But the fact that you had the surgery brings two thoughts to mind. The first one is about how a man of your age is probably not as resilient as you were a dozen years ago. You probably know that already. It obviously takes you longer to get up when you’re knocked down now. And you probably feel the soreness for more than just the next day after a game. But you’re older and you have earned that creakiness.

More importantly, you’ve achieved great things and this is the part where you retire gracefully without tarnishing all you accomplished. It’s not the part where you do a Jordan and decide to play minor league baseball. It’s not the part where you hint at coming back (AGAIN) to play *just one more* season of professional football. It’s when you sit on a beach in Mexico (now with less swine flu!) with your arm in a sling and the other hand holding a daiquiri with umbrellas and exotic fruits spilling forth from the souvenir glass that is so large it is an affront to God. This is where you spend the fall watching football from your overstuffed naugahyde recliner and calling Tony Romo queer when he gets sacked. This is where you shoot all those animals you love to hunt for and spend your weekdays chewing Red Man and making friends at the taxidermist’s.

You have more money than God. If God had ever played as a pro quarterback in the NFL. Your family is taken care of for life. Your wife has her foundation to run and her charity work to do so it’s not like she’s going to be in your hair all the time, asking you when you plan on cleaning out the rain gutters. As far as I know, you are not the center of any major ongoing litigation for which you would need to earn money to finance. I don’t think you have an army of secret kids for which you must pay monthly support. You gave up all the fun drinking and drugging habits that you used to have which can be a drain on the bank account. You could probably afford the nicest pontoon boat any Mississippian has ever seen.

But instead, you hint that you might come back for *just one more* season to be the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. America collectively rolls their eyes. It’s not that we don’t want you to play. We just think it would be, ummmm, better if you didn’t. You have a distinguished career. Or you did until you came out of retirement the first time to play one lackluster season with the New York Jets. You know, when people who previously thought you had gracefully retired at the height of your success, going out when no one could touch you. Then we saw you getting picked off and chased down by younger and faster guys. And all the sudden, you went from being Green Bay’s own Silver Fox to the Old Guy on the Jets.

I, as surprised as you may be to hear this, have never played professional football. So it’s fairly easy for me to say, “I’m too old for this shit. I have enough money to buy all the monster trucks I could ever want. I’m widely hailed as one of the best quarterbacks of the past 20 years. I would prefer to wake up on Monday mornings not contorted and bruised. Thanks anyways though. Deuces!” I guess there’s some deep love of not just the game but playing the game that you can’t get out of your system. Maybe you’ve got some David Carradine-esque desire to tempt death for thrills. If those two things are true, play some tag football in your front yard with your old college buddies or drive around without a seat belt on or eat raw oysters from the Chinese buffet or wear an Obama t-shirt to your next NRA meeting. But don’t add another ugly black mark to your legacy.

Also, Minnesota is full of people that talk funny.


Monday, June 8, 2009

This Year's Juno

A quick jog of your memory: I HATED the movie Juno. A lot.

For a long time, I wondered if I would ever want to leave a theater more than I wanted to leave when I saw Juno. It was almost like a masochistic desire to be able to top that miserable experience with an even worse one. Last week, I saw Anvil and it was like the anti-Juno. I didn’t want the movie to end. I didn’t want the experience to be over which is pretty monumental considering how much I hate the movie-going experience.

But then yesterday, I finally got to match, if not top, my Juno-watching misery. I went to see The Hangover yesterday. It’s taken me over 18 hours to regain the ability to express my distaste for this movie outside of angry growls and exasperated sighs. What you need to keep in mind is a) my love and admiration for Zach Galifinakis has been very well documented here and b) Old School, also directed by Todd Phillips, is one of my Top 20 funny movies.

It’s easier for me to point out what I liked about The Hangover. I thought the Zach Galifinakis’s line about “Do you know if Haley’s Comet is tonight?” was pretty funny. I thought that Ed Helms’s “BOOM!” line towards the end was fairly amusing. That’s really kind of the sum total of high points from the entire movie for me. And those weren’t nearly high enough to redeem the staggeringly low points that took up 90% of the film’s running time.

The rest of the movie was made up of pratfalls, dumb physical comedy, “look at that hairy/fat guy’s bare ass!” shots and scenarios that manage (miraculously) to be both predictable and nearly impossible.

Congrats, Juno. You’ve been released from Joke Jail for time served. We’re gonna need your cell for The Hangover.

I Typed All This While Wearing a Monocle and Boy, is My Good Eye Tired!

Oversimplification and synopsis: a musicologist/professor from Cornell wrote a big diss piece on the soon-to-open Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. He talked about his personal distaste for the actual architecture of the building. He also expressed his distaste for the entire landscape and city planning of Dallas. Then he talked about how this center would play host to rich oil guys in their Stetsons and their big-haired wives who drive in from the suburbs in their gas-guzzling automotive behemoths. The Dallas Observer’s Unfair Park ran excerpts from this essay. Then the gates of commenting fury were flung open as people rushed to defend their city from a snotty, big-city East coast librul. Ok, now you’re caught up.

There were only two things in the essay that vaguely insulted or annoyed me.

#1. That he took the “oil guys in Stetsons/big-haired wives” route. Rich Dallas society wives have caught up to at least the mid-90’s, style-wise and any glimpse of the charity gala pictures in D Magazine or Dallas Morning News would reveal that straight hair is the new curly hair. Sometimes their rich husbands wear cowboy hats but that seems to be a waning trend.

#2. That he the essay is drenched in condescension and essentially scoffs at the notion that Dallas, TEXAS could have a genuine appreciation for the arts and specifically something as hoity-toity as opera.

I hate that he used those two tired old tricks in his essay because he is essentially right. First off, the building and surrounding areas are not particularly attractive. It’s like half Nortel off-site IT training facility, half space-age hog rendering plant. And Christ on a cracker, it’s flat. It doesn’t help counter the criticism that Dallas likes everything to be sprawling, big, flat and wasteful. But architecture is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

When he complains about the Stetsons driving in for the opera in their oversized vehicles, he’s right. It’s not an aberration. Dallas’s suburban sprawl combined with the general unpleasantness that is downtown Dallas has guaranteed that anyone heading into the Arts District will be there solely to do that and then get back in their vehicles, which stand a better than 50% chance of being an SUV or truck, and get the hell out of Dodge and back to their respective safer, better lit, cleaner communities. And I say this as someone who lives in East Dallas and enjoys opera tremendously. I am the minority and I know that. But I also realize that those rich, oily suburbanites are often the patrons and board members who bring operas, collections and exhibits which I highly enjoy to town.

This brings me to the often hilarious tug of war that I see happen monthly between local and national publications. I laugh and then shake my head when I read local publications and their coverage of the Dallas music scene, the Dallas restaurant scene, the Dallas arts and culture scene. There is ALWAYS some achingly desperate reference to a restaurant having a more exhaustive wine list than any comparable establishment in Chicago or New York. Or there’s a jab about the Dallas Museum of Art having a more comprehensive hinge collection (someone please tell me you got that joke) than even the Guggenheim or Getty Museums. It always feels a little like the younger brother at a family reunion trying to top his much more successful older brother’s professional achievements by reminding everyone that he IS next in line for the assistant manager’s chair at the Arby’s at which he works.

Likewise, national publications love to remind everyone of how Dallas really isn’t a real city and regardless of how much culture they try to import or fancy fusion cuisine joints they open, they will always be the big dumb oil city. In their eyes, nothing that happens in Dallas is actually credible, arts-wise. It’s Dallas after all! Real culture happens in New York and Chicago and (really?) Los Angeles. Dallas is just a two dimensional city full of adulterous Stetson-wearing rancher playboys and their game show hostess wives.

Dallas needs to stop trying so hard to be something it is not. Face it, Dallas as a city is merely the hub for a vast, sprawling network of suburbs. And in many ways, that’s Dallas’s own fault. They knock down anything that isn’t protected by a plaque and the National Registry of Historical Places so that we can have one more block of condos, sandwich shops and dog groomers. They have done everything they possibly can to suck the life out of downtown by failing to address a near-pandemic problem of homelessness in the area. They offer no incentives to anyone, specifically young people who could breathe life into the corpse, to move downtown. A few months ago, I wrote this piece about Victory Park and the failures therein, of which there are many. In it, I mentioned that the development could be saved by bringing in hipper or more youth-oriented retailers such as H&M, Marimekko, Urban Outfitters or even my personally-despised American Apparel. Well apparently the city of Dallas thought that was a good idea, but instead of Victory Park, they want to bring it to downtown. It might be a step in the right direction. My first instinct is to worry about parking for such an expansive retail plaza. But that’s what garages are for. Maybe this would be the first step in getting something going downtown. But it does at least tell me that someone somewhere is trying.

Which means that it’s officially tired and lazy for people outside of Dallas to use suburban sprawl, oil money or the unpleasant presence of George W to immediately write off the city and its inhabitants entirely. Yes, I think the Arts Center is kind of ugly. And yes, I was angry that Dallas lost the new Cowboys stadium. But it does say something when the city devotes as much time and budget to building an Arts Center and trying to bring in artists, conductors and exhibits from around the world.

In conclusion, please take note:

People of Dallas – Please stop doing things like leaving comments like these about a story on war protester Cindy Sheehan’s planned protest at George W’s house. Because here’s a quick sit rep on that: George W. Bush is still widely hated around the country and around the world. And it’s therefore assumed that people who would defend his failure of a presidency would be angry, dumb rednecks. Ergo, when you leave poorly spelled and vaguely threatening comments like those in defense of the most hated contemporary president of our times, you give them (“them” being stuffy East coast/northern liberals) more fuel for the fire. Please proceed to STFU.

People Not of Dallas – Might I remind you of the following things: The New York Post and New York Daily News, Staten Island, Long Island, bridge and tunnel people, Times Square, the Freedom Tower, the new Yankees stadium, Howard Stern and everything in Los Angeles other than the Griffith Observatory and the Getty Museum.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Slap Bracelet of Online Social Networking

I said I wasn’t going to be one of those cynical old bats who bitches about whatever new website or widget or thingamabob on the internet the kids love these days. But I was lying. I said that because I decided to get on board the Twitter bandwagon. I have now log-rolled off of that bandwagon in a spectacular fashion. It’s official: Twitter is dumb and pointless. I thought that since EVERYONE was talking about it and EVERYONE had one, there had to be something to it. There had to be some sort of appeal or practical use for the thing. Turns out there isn’t. I suspected that someone would have to be pretty darn chuffed with their own cleverness (or perceived cleverness) to be a habitual, hardcore Twitterer. Maybe there’s some exceptions to the rule but the fact that there are now sites like this one dedicated to outing the more obnoxious Twitterers out there.

Again, no one has yet been able to explain to me why I would want to Twitter or why I would be interested in other people’s Twitter. I get that it’s just a huge stage where people can tell the world how awesome they are. I get that it’s a way to constantly update the universe on what you are doing AT THAT EXACT MOMENT. But as this guy can tell you (in 140 or fewer characters, no less), if you are actually doing what you claim to be doing in your tweet while you are tweeting, you are probably putting yourself in some danger of sustaining an injury. Which is why when people tweet about “Swimming in the ocean right now…vacations rule!” or whatever, I think “Wow, you have a waterproof phone and/or laptop?” The only 100% true and honest tweet would be, “Am on Twitter right now, typing a tweet.”

I am so sick of hearing about Twitter. I am so sick of being assaulted with offers to follow people on Twitter. I am only slightly bemused when objects, buildings and fictional characters have a Twitter. I am annoyed that all news about or statements by celebrities, athletes or anyone famous is issued forth on Twitter. I am just annoyed by Twitter’s existence at this point. I just don’t see a future where Twitter is an established means of communication. It has a distinct Friendster smell to it.

And then I read this statistic in the elevator at work today:

Study: Top 10% of Twitter users do 90% of the tweeting

So I am not alone. The great wall of white noise that is Twitter is not, as I had feared, a mass exodus of humanity towards the rocky, jagged cliffs of 140 character or less human interaction. It’s basically just two or three people standing around screaming at the top of their lungs. I feel better.