7.27.2005

Tom Cruise is Nuts

Sometimes it amazes me how such an inspired and talented actor can be completely off his rocker. While I enjoy films staring Tom Cruise, I can't stand seeing his public apperances. His rants annoy me (as well as a good many in our population) but I do like listening to him if he is playing the part of someone other than himself.

So to my surprise, I found a true gem while web surfing. There is a whole website devoted to Tom's insanity. Check it out in my links to the right. Enjoy. And laugh, laughter is good for you, it's like exersize on the inside.

Costello buys a computer from Abbott

The posting this following sketch is for my father-in-law, IT guru and perpetual computer junkie. I'm not sure who wrote it, but it is quite funny, and being a former computer salesman, this is a conversation I could easily imagine happening.

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.

ABBOTT: Mac?

COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.

ABBOTT: Mac?

COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: For my office?

ABBOTT: Yes.

COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?

ABBOTT: Word.

COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "w" if you don't start with some straight answers. OK, forget that. Can I watch movies on the internet?

ABBOTT: Yes, you want Real One.

COSTELLO: Maybe a real one, maybe a cartoon. What I watch is none of your business. Just tell me what I need!

ABBOTT: Real One.

COSTELLO: If it's a long movie, I also want to watch reels 2, 3 and 4. Can I watch them?

ABBOTT: Of course.

COSTELLO: Great! With what?

ABBOTT: Real One.

COSTELLO: OK, I'm at my computer and I want to watch a movie. What do I do?

ABBOTT: You click the blue "1".

COSTELLO: I click the blue one what?

ABBOTT: The blue "1".

COSTELLO: Is that different from the blue w?

ABBOTT: The blue "1" is Real One and the blue "W" is Word.

COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: But there are three words in "office for windows"!

ABBOTT: No, just one. But it's the most popular Word in the world.

COSTELLO: It is?

ABBOTT: Yes, but to be fair, there aren't many other Words left. It pretty much wiped out all the other Words out there.

COSTELLO: And that word is real one?

ABBOTT: Real One has nothing to do with Word. Real One isn't even part of Office.

COSTELLO: STOP! Don't start that again. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

ABBOTT: Why not? THEY OWN IT!

(A few days later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on "START".......

Spin's top country & folk

Oops, I forgot about yesterdays entry. Life gets kinda hectic with a family, a new dog, a real job, and pathetic attempts to get back into shape. (my wife's a good cook, I like to eat... more on the new dog later) Anyways, to days list is a short one. There hasn't been much innovation in country and folk music lately. Country artists are singing about the same broken hearts, crummy bars, pick-up trucks, ex-spouses, and farm equipment as they were 20 years ago. As a whole country music is what it is, those that try to change it get ignored. But you never know, with interests renewed in bluegrass and roots music, and interesting collaborations between people like Willy Nelson/Wyclef Jean, Nelly/Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney/Uncle Kracker, and rockers going hillbilly i.e. Kid Rock & Ryan Adams, maybe the next 20 years will be better.

Lucinda Williams ranked at #9 with her 1988 self titled album. Lucinda was (and still is) difficult to market. She's too rock & roll for Nashville but too country for the rest of the world. Some record stores will have her albums filed in country, others will file her in pop/rock. Her music is alternately captivating and grating. But she's achieved a lot during a career that has spanned a quarter century, not easy for a female musician whose had to do most every thing on her own with little label support. Her entry on this list is well deserved.

The only other folksy entry into the top 100 is 1994' Grace by Jeff Buckley. He faced comparisons to his father but strayed toward classic rock inspired folk. Grace was the only full length album released prior to his tragic death 1997. This album barely scratched the surface of what Jeff was capable of and his post humus album Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk showed pure musical genius and raw talent, emphasizing what we will miss without him here to make more music.

Well that's it for today, more still to come.

7.25.2005

Brit pop & Brit Rock

This is the first post of several reviewing what Spin thinks should be the best albums of the last 20 years. And what I think about what they think. Brit pop is up first because that's where spin placed the #1 record. (boy was I surprised)

The top spot goes to Radiohead. 1997's OK Computer, according to Spin, is the best offering in the last 20 years. And they're not joking. They received another entry on the list with 2000's Kid A at #48. I have a slight problem with this. There are plenty other album much more deserving of #1, Why OK Computer? It's not a terrible album but definitely not as good as Kid A and far from their best. The song Karma Police was an aggravating single, like fingernails scratching a chalk board everytime it came over the radio. Howie Day did a much better rendition of the song acoustically, without the endless droning feedback. What Radiohead was trying to do on OK Computer was accomplished on Kid A and therefore Kid A deserves a higher ranking, however both albums feel overly ambitious and will prove vocalist Thom Yorke's need for therapy once the novelty wears off. Both are good, but not great, and neither compare to their first record.

The Smiths showed up at #5 with The Queen is Dead from 1988. Not as good as Louder than Bombs from a year earlier but still a worthy entry. The Smiths were an essential part of the 80's musical landscape. Along with The Cure, they made passionate laments that would have sounded like whining if done by any other band. Morressy's continued success post Smiths testifies to to the power of their music.

Next up is Oasis's 1994 offering Definitely Maybe at #28. Why Spin chose this instead of 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory defies logic. The latter of the two was the breakout album that gave the Gallagher brothers worldwide recognition. These two albums are the only ones in Oasis's history that mattered, Liam and Noel's constant fighting overshadowed their next album Be Here Now and every release since has been nothing but lackluster. While Definitely Maybe's songs are not as memorable as Morning Glory's, it did open the door to a flood of artists from the UK and renewed American interests in British music.

Pulp hit # 73 with 1995's Different Class. One of their better albums, though not their most popular. The band has been around forever, well since the late 70's, and they never seem to go away. Frontman Jarvis Cocker often dances that fine line between genius and insanity. I'm not much of a fan, but the do make great music.

Next up is Stone Rose's self titled 1989 debut at #78. Don't have a lot to say about them, their only lasting impact is the other bands they influenced, i.e. Charlatans UK, Oasis, Blur, etc. Those bands have achieved greater success and will have a more lasting impression, but owe part of their identity to Stone Roses.

After listening to the eclectic trip-hop band Gorillaz it is hard to imagine the groups creator Damon Albarn fronting a successful rock band, especially one like Blur. Blur's 1994 breakthough album Parklife, #87 of Spin's top 100, garnered moderate attention here in the states, but it was their 1997 album, Blur, that everyone began to take serious notice. By '97 inescapable tracks like Song 2 would take you by surprise and hit you over the head with a 2x4. Blur's punkish leanings were a brash contrast to the poppier tunes from their British peers. After that Blur got artsy and faded to obscurity. Now we have the indescribable Gorillaz.

Conershop finishes today's list the Brit pop from Spin's 100 best. This one truly puzzles me as they were nothing more than a one hit wonder, and not even a good one. If there was a need for a British one hit wonder, I would have gone with Space Monkey's Sugarcane, but I don't work for Spin. Brimful of Asha was the only single from 1997's When I was Born for the 7th Time (#98). The song did not make any sense, less when reading the lyrics. The rest of the album was equally confusing, sonicly bland and filled with eastern religion and reverse racial ideology. The only rational conclusion I can find to put this horrible album on the list of best albums from the last 20 years is that Spin was bored. You will find this to be an ongoing theme as I put out more posts. If Cornershop is the best we have to offer, we live in a sad world.

Tomorrow we will look at rock, or maybe punk. We'll see.

7.23.2005

Whatever happened to Rolling Stone?

The magazine, not the band. I know what happened to the band: they got old (really old) died then mummified themselves so that they could continue performing.

But the magazine?! Rolling Stone used to be a respectable magazine, essential reading for aspiring musicians and writers, and for anyone with even a passing interest in music. The monthly publication served as a backdrop for Cameron Crowe's stellar Almost Famous in 2000. There was an element of naivete and wonder that kept a mysterious edge to the rock and roll lifestyle. Most importantly, it focused on the music. You could tell that the people who wrote the articles were fans themselves.

Those days no longer exist. Gone is the mystery as Rolling Stone now takes a tabloid approach to the lives of its subjects. There is less focus on music and more on fads with more emphasis on what's cool for the moment, catering to the teeming masses. The pages are filled with sexual sleaze and political slant. The cover photo is less provocative with musical innovators and more so with shock value. From the cover to the feature story, phenomenal musicians and movie stars are transformed into sex objects as how they look becomes more important than what they've accomplished.

Their album and movie reviews are awful. The current writers have no interest in movies or music and it shows in the way that they give every new movie and new record a horrible review. (Unless of course the subject of review is also their cover story, in which case they have to play nice) The people who review horror movies prefer romantic comedies and those that review romantic comedies prefer non-stop action flicks. The same in music. The writer who most hates rap music is the one who write reviews for rap albums. And the country albums are given to those that can't stand country music. You will never get an accurate description of anything new because there is no objectivity, the cardinal sin of media.

And worst of all, politics dominate every issue. Small human interest stories have been replaced with pages and pages of liberal propaganda, enough to make Michael Moore seem conservative by comparison.

Rolling Stone is not the leading music magazine it once was. It is now a publication of what's wrong with the world today, peppered with eye candy. I just can't take it any more. It's been over three years since I've bought an issue. Periodically I'll thumb through an issue at a newsstand to see if there's been any improvement, part of me hoping there is. I want the old Rolling Stone back, but I fear it is gone for good.

Now I turn to Spin, Rolling Stone's irreverent little brother, for my reading enjoyment. Spin throws a wrench into to system by shunning the spoiled starlets that constantly grace the cover of that other magazine. They poke fun at themselves and pop culture and give attention to artists, musicians, books, and movies that would otherwise go unnoticed. Their editors care about music, and that in itself is refreshing.

The latest cover of Spin boasted the 100 greatest albums of the last 20 years with Dr. Dre, Bono, and Beck standing side by side, dressed in black. I couldn't resist picking it up. Being in my mid 20's, this is the music that I grew up with and the music that helped define my generation.

I have an opinion as well. So, over the next couple of weeks I will be picking apart Spin's choices for the top 100. I will be doing one of two things, validating those choices or ripping them to shreds. Like I said, I have an opinion, this is MY music.

7.20.2005

just go with it

My father has come to the conclusion - if you can't beat the cubicle, joint it... or improve it... or um... something. Here are his ideas.



Dang good idea if you ask me. If I had an office like that, I'd never leave. Then again, maybe that isn't such a great idea. My wife might not like that.

7.18.2005

Now, about those TPS reports...

It was an 'Office Space' type of day today. I work at Inetech.

The last few days, I've been running around my department, making sure that our agents are caught up on the new promotions and teaching them how to use a new tracking system. This software isn't replacing anything but is an addition to the multitudes of DOS, Adobe, Java, and internet based programs all ready in use. Not only do I get to train its usage, but also (to an extent) enforce that usage. Fun.

So, while typing an e-mail to send out floor wide stressing the importance and necessity of the new system, I had an epiphany of sorts. My place of employment is a clone of Inetech, Office Space's fictional programming company. Granted, my coworkers are not software programming gurus, rather they are customer service phone representatives.

However the needed elements are here: the confining and impersonal cubicles, the evil copy machine/printer that never works, constant seating rearrangement and relocation, new agents that are enough to make you second guess hiring standards, frequent requests for overtime, and of course...the TPS reports.

And the characters. These characters are prevalent in everyday life, and I’m assuming in every occupation. Peter Gibbons: the slacker who gets ahead. Bill Lumburgh: giant tool. Lawrence: the half-wit neighbor. Joanna: the muse. Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton: the everymen. Milton Waddams: the oppressed and ready to explode loser. Brian: the overachiever that no one likes. Stan: the guy that never should be given any power or authority but somehow gets it anyways. Drew: the jerk who thinks he's cool. Tom Smykowski: the dreamer who will never get there. And finally Steve (Orlando Jones is brilliant): the post tragic failure and closet savant.

Most of us wish to be Peter. The man thinks his girlfriend might be cheating on him, hates his job, and his employer is downsizing. Suddenly he decides he's not going to go to work anymore, but when he does he's late, dismantles his cubicle, guts and cleans fish on his desk, and blows off his boss. While this is happening, he falls for a beautiful and delightful waitress, and gets a promotion into management while everyone else is getting laid off. Human nature wants something for nothing and Peter defines that desire. "I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be."

None of us wants to be Milton. The one who's always left out and pushed around, stepped over and about as volatile as a Molotov cocktail. Being looked down upon and treated like trash is humiliating. Enough pent up frustration after years of professional abuse will lead to destructive behavior.

But somehow, none of us end up at either extreme. Neither Peter nor Milton. We end up (or become) someone else. Preferably the friend who would do anything for another friend like Samir and Michael. Or even Steve, making the best out of a life that is less than what you always hoped for.

Inevitably some of us will become Lumburgh or Stan. It may be greed that gets us there, or maybe we're doing all the wrong things with good intentions. Some of us become Drew and Tom. Despite being annoying, the American workplace would be boring without them.

And, if worse comes to worst, we could be Brian and show off our "flair."

Above all, we need people like Joanna and Lawrence. Someone who challenges us and someone who makes us feel better about ourselves.

Here are some classic lines from the movie. Or maybe I just heard one of my coworkers complaining.

"What if we're still doin' this when we're 50?" A common thought throughout pop culture, media, and real life. I.E. Michael Rappaport's lament about Pete, Rizzo, and Sammy in Beautiful Girls.

"He was laid off five years ago and no one ever told him, but through some kind of glitch in the payroll department, he still gets a paycheck." Ah, logistics and payroll... The problems you can’t live without.

"We're bringing in some entry-level graduates." Keyword: entry-level. A call center is a great job but it's not for everyone, especially if it's your fist job. If we're trying to lower attrition, maybe hiring a bunch of high school kids whose only short term goals are to start school in the fall and no longer continue their employment after a couple months is not such a great idea.

"They've moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels." I have moved five times since last September and will be moving a sixth time later this week. For a while, I didn't even have a desk because it was given to someone else.

"I can't believe what a bunch of nerds we are." How true.

"Sounds like a case of the Mondays." We all get the Mondays, please don't make it worse.

"I believe you have my stapler." As cheap and easy to replace as they are, staplers are a valuable commodity and magically disappear from people's desks. I keep mine hidden and deny its existence.

"Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses." Unfortunately, as long as people need technical support, have difficulty reading bills, and want to order something from one of those infomercials during a long night of insomnia, there will always be multiple bosses, useless forms, and cubicles.

If you want to know what Office Space character you are, there is a random personality quiz on the web somewhere. (I was Stan, my wife was Milton) Google it.

Savage Chickens

I found this on my yahoo. Apparently, it's an on-going thing. It comes from a blog. Check it out, some of them are absolutely hilarious (I.E. the Star Wars series) http://www.savagechickens.com/blog/

7.11.2005

a mattress, a stairwell, and 2 stupid kids

During the 80's, my family lived in an old two story white house on 80th Street in Marysville Washington. The house was filled with character, hardwood dining and living room floors, huge picture windows that spanned two walls in the south west corner, a deep dark basement, and an endless maze of halls and rooms that had no purpose. My parents used the downstairs parlor as the master bedroom, there was a studio apartment directly behind the house (two or three steps from our back door) that we rented out to people who needed a place to live. The back yard was more of a dirt patch. There was a basketball hoop at the end of the driveway, and we had a problem with stray cats.

That house holds many memories for me. I dumped vegetables down the furnace vents because I didn't want to eat them and my parents wouldn't let me be "done" with dinner until I had a "clean" plate. My walk home from school was fairly short, but after a few inches of snowfall one winter, it took me over an hour to push home an ever growing snowball. It fit in my fist when I left school and taller than I was by the time I finally arrived home, waving to my worried mother. It was a funny story that later was written as an editorial in the local newspaper.

5407 80th St NE was a special place where I learned to ride a bike, played tag and soccer in the field across the street, and celebrated some of the happiest Christmas' in memory. I lived there at the ages where everything still seemed magical and wonderful, especially the stairwell leading to the 2nd floor.

The staircase was unique to most homes. It was steep and narrow (the exact width of a single size mattress). At the bottom was a door that separated the 2nd story from the rest of the house. My brother's room and my room were the only bedrooms up there, so we had plenty of free reign to play as we wanted.

The fact that a single mattress fits perfectly in that stairwell is important. Both Aaron and I slept on double mattresses, but lucky for us, there was a spare single mattress leaning against the wall in the loft at the top of the stairs. I don't remember if it was his idea or mine, but to this pair of brothers, mattress + steep stairs + a door to stop us at the bottom = hours of fun.

Now, you must remember, this was back when I still liked the taste of Pepto Bismal, Ziggy was my favorite comic strip, and New Years Eve was the only day in the year that I was allowed to stay up past 8:30.

There was just enough space on either side of the mattress to avoid friction with the wall and still allow us to swiftly slide down without bouncing between the two walls. One of us would hold the mattress at the top of the stairs and let go as soon as the other jumped on. If we were feeling adventurous, we'd both ride down head first together.

I can't begin to imagine what that sounded like to anyone below us, even now that I have a teenaged elephant living above me. But, for a few hours after school, Aaron and I had the house to ourselves, freedom to destroy the house, and hope no one noticed. Our mother finally put an end to our fun after unexpectedly coming home from work early one day. Boy, I miss those days.

I'm surprised we never broke that door.

7.07.2005

I'm so mean

As a general rule, I wake up long before my wife does. I'm not much of a morning person, however, the precious time I have while Bekah's still asleep in bed is well used. I watch the news for a little (probably the only chance I'll have to do so all day) catch the weather forecast to help decide what I want to wear that day, and try and center myself before I go to work.

Well, this morning, Bekah needed to wake up early and get out about the same time I did. I got up with the alarm and let her sleep through a couple pushes of the snooze button so that I could still get my ME time. Power on the TV in time for non stop coverage of the bombs in London's transit system.

The time comes when I have to wake up my wife, and she's usually difficult to wake up. So, I crawl back into bed with her and as she starts to stir I say "There's been another terrorist attack." I pause as her eyes snap WIDE open then continue. "In London."

It worked.

Seriously though, this morning's attacks to our British neighbors are cruel and tragic. My deepest sympathies go to the families who lost a loved one in those London blasts. As the UK mourned with us after 9/11, we owe them our regards.

7.06.2005

Fourth of Boo-Hoo

My wife and I have very different takes on holidays. To me it's just another day but for her it is a momentous occasion and cause for celebration.

The Christmas before we started dating was interesting. I had Jack-in-the-Box for Christmas dinner and spent most of the day in a recording studio with two of my best friends, Tommy and Steve. After that we went to the theater and watched a movie. (going to the theater on Christmas was my only Christmas tradition until the last couple years)

Thanksgiving? Let's go bowling. Father's day? Wouldn't have noticed if my wife didn't remind me. Birthdays? Don't ask me to remember your birthday, I have a hard enough time remembering how old I am.

There are two holidays I do enjoy. Halloween (my wife's least favorite) and the Fourth of July. Those days are about having fun more so than tradition or football games. Bekah on the other hand enjoys the rest. I would prefer spending holidays with friends, she prefers family. This Fourth of July, Bekah got her way.

Not that family is a bad thing, I like my family. Its just that with family there's certain impossible expectations. The whole day is spent running back and forth between home and the grocery store (because there's always one more thing that we forgot) making apple pie and homemade ice cream, barbecuing hamburgers, trying to keep the cats (kittens) from escaping and chasing them down when they do escape, negotiating a TV show that eight people can agree on, and trying to figure out which fireworks show we want to watch. By the time you get around to setting off your own fireworks, you just don't care any more and everyone is feeling anti-social. That's no fun.

On the plus side, my parents got to come visit (I haven't seen them since the last time I was in Seattle) and my six year old nephew from Cheyenne came with them.

I'm scared though. An old friend of mine was obsessed with holidays and she would decorate her apartment and throw parties for all of them. Including the random ones like Arbor Day and Secretary's Day and National Quit Smoking Day and... you name it. I went to the parties, had fun playing nerts and poker with everyone else, but I just don't want to be married to someone like that. I'm afraid that Bekah will turn into that type of person and we will be continuously celebrating yet another holiday, trying to remember where we put the St. Patrick's Day decorations after last year's party.

In other news, my six year old nephew is a sports prodigy and thinks I'm fat. (but not as fat as his daddy)