Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Open Letter to Geeks

Dear Geeks-

Please first understand that I am one of you. I have a house full of comic books, trading cards, and sci fi movies on dvd that i've purchased about 4 times now either during a format upgrade or because the newest version has a different commentary. I collect records and Pez, and if I'm watching television, 8 times out of 10 it's animated. I have a clay pinch pot full of 12 and 20 sided dice, and a collection of autographs. My wedding ring is engraved with my wedding date and "I Know", a reference to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I know that Kryptonite comes in red, gold, and green, and that the moon left the Earth's orbit September 13th, 1999. My small silver car has a license plate of BDBDBD, and I've spent time thinking about the choice I would make were I faced with a Kobayashi Maru scenario.

But there is one thing only a few of us geeks seem to have learned. You know your favorite actor/artist/musician? The one you think owes you something for your being such a loyal fan? Well, they owe you nothing. You see the movie, buy the album, read the comic, trade the card, and then your transaction is done. They did something, you saw it/bought it, now you're done. They don't owe you anything else, and contrary to your belief, you don't pay their salary. Granted, the cost of your movie ticket or the amount you paid to buy their book or album contributes to the living they make, but because you spent $8 seeing a movie or $15 buying an album or $20 buying the trade paperback doesn't mean that you now own their soul and as a fan they must bend to your will and satisfy your whims. As a fan, I would think you would respect the person you admire a little more, rather than thinking you can own them in some way.

If you want an autograph from an actor and he's at dinner, then too bad. If you notice him going into a bathroom, use a different bathroom if the temptation to ask for a signed photo with the one hand he's not using is too great to bear. If he's on the street in Chicago with what you can only assume is his granddaughter, you just smile once you realize who he is and you keep walking. I don't care if it's Dustin Hoffman, he's having family time and deserves to have that time. And if Jerry Seinfeld happens to be in your hotel, just let him be. He's there to rest, not to be bombarded with people who have to tell him that they too are the masters of their domain.

If you meet your favorite musician, try to avoid telling them how you like their old stuff better. You don't sound cool and old skool to them, you just sound like an ass who hasn't given any of their recent work a chance because they just want so badly for the world to know that you were into the band way back when. And also, it's not nice to berate the rest of an audience because they don't happen to own the Australian import only album that's been out of print for 5 years.

If you commission a piece of comic art, understand many say that the cost for original art in any other medium is based on time, studio costs, size, materials, etc. So that $200 you spent on an 11"/17" Dr. Doom is a most likely a bargain. And, if the artist reminds you that they have a paying job that may very well be for a company with whom they are under contract and that job comes first, commission second, don't start emailing asking for your piece a week later. Especially if they tell you it may be 4-6 months. 4-6 months means 4-6 months, so don't start whining about where your piece is 3 months and 29 days after you commission it. And, if you want to art direct to the point where every square inch is meticulously scrutinized to the point where you request a do over, draw your own damn Batman. And you're not going to speed anything up if you threaten legal action because it's taking longer than you expected for your $100 drawing. Keep in mind that you'll pay more in legal fees than you did for the piece, and you never got it in writing that it would take a week, so try proving that one.

Keep in mind, assault is still a felony. And assault is a broad term. So is harassment.

And it's not cool to try and weasel your way into the business through a 5 minute chance meeting. Ridley Scott doesn't want to read your script, Weird Al can't use your idea for a parody, and that comic book artist you like so much? He can't draw your character for you for free only to have you use it as the cover of your self published comic. Remember too that actors aren't going to pass along your script or student film on dvd to their producer friends, and that writers aren't going to take your short story to the next meeting they have with their publisher.

Some of you need to remember that these are people, and these are businesses. There are professional and unprofessional ways of doing things, and you almost always fall into the latter. And several of you seem to forget that you are fans of people, not robots. They have jobs, families, and require food to stay alive, so it's not cool to bug them while they're eating or trying to spend time with said families. I'd say think of how you'd feel if you were interrupted during your time away from work that you chose to spend with your spouses and children, but I think several of you are too selfish to have been able to forge any sort of meaningful relationship with another human being, so I shouldn't ask much from your empathy skills.

So the next time you think it's appropriate to post on a newsgroup that some actor should never work again because he wouldn't sign your stuff, or that a writer should be fired from a series because the book is later than you thought it would be, or that you'll never buy another album by a band because they wouldn't play your request, say your thought out loud. Maybe once you hear it, you'll be able to tell how thoughts like that make you seem like an ass.

Thank you.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Kids these days....

Every few months or so, I get one of these emails about how kids today will never know about things we had as kids blah blah blah. These annoy me for several reasons. Not only do these come out more often than significant technological changes happen (magazines or bloggers do these every 6 months or so and they aren’t many new updates so it’s the same crap over and over again), but it also infers that people are only aware of the things that came into existence after their birth. Meaning no one ever learns anything historic. And if this is the case, we’re all screwed.

I will admit, I am defensive about this. As a kid myself I had quite a sense of history regarding culture. I watched a lot of silent movies and listened to a lot of classical music. I also was aware that things came before me. I also have a bit of a chip on my shoulder from my previous life as a record store employee. Many customers who noticed that I was younger than them were so shocked to find out that I was aware of bands that were from the past. I took it a little personally, and perhaps too personally, that someone would think that no way would a 30 year old know who The Ink Spots are. First of all, I’ve listened to the radio more than once in my life, and second of all, I did work in a record store with stock beyond the Top 40.

If a kid today has no idea of culture prior to their date of birth, I’m taking the Ooompah Loompah stance here and blaming their parents. Parents who have such a short attention span that all they ever do is jump on cultural bandwagons will most likely have children with no sense of history regarding their culture. My personal bias is that they probably aren’t big readers, either, but now I’m just being mean.

Where are the “when I was a kid” stories? And do households with children really have no records or VCRs still in them? I suppose that is what surprises me most. I can’t imagine that every household with children comes home and immediately throws away their old systems after buying a new one. Heck, even my friend with a 2 year old still has vinyl records in the house! Sure, I don’t expect anyone to still have a PC Junior or original Macintosh with the handle on top, but I would think that some of this would come up in family conversation at one point.

I could just be living in the past myself, keeping my records and cassette tapes. I just like my music and don’t feel the need to spend the money to replace it all at once. Maybe others either have replaced everything they wanted, or just got rid of it all before they had kids, I don’t know. But I just don’t get the idea that young people have no idea that anything existed before they were born.

So here is my rebuttal to the most recent one of these that I’ve seen, which I found at I’m assuming this list refers to kids now at the age of 16 (in the year 2009), which would make their year of birth 1993. I deleted the statements that reference something that is truly nothing that anyone has dealt with in decades. And to be fair, there were several deletions. For example, I do agree that no one has dealt with Super 8 film outside of film school for the last 20 years.

Here goes….

There are some things in this world that will never be forgotten, the moon landing, for one. But Moore’s Law and our ever-increasing quest for simpler, smaller, faster and better widgets and thingamabobs will always ensure that some of the technology we grew up with will not be passed down the line to the next generation of geeks.
That is, of course, unless we tell them all about the good old days of modems and typewriters, slide rules and encyclopedias …

Inserting a VHS tape into a VCR to watch a movie or to record something.
Come on, these kids would’ve been 5 in the year 1998. If they ever wanted to watch movies at home as kids, I’m sure the first ones they watched were on VHS. Kids were putting the movies in themselves by age 7, if the kids I babysat are any indication.
Now I can buy that these kids may not have recorded anything. Kids that age don’t get record privileges, and if they wanted to “tape” anything, mom or dad surely set it up for them.

Playing music on a tape using a personal stereo.
I owned a 2003 model car with nothing but a cassette deck and radio in it. Granted, many companies stopped making cassettes in the early 2000s, but the ones who kept up with them longer were companies like Sony Wonder, AKA kid’s music labels. Cassettes for kids made sense since they could be handled by grubby fingers that do not know their own strength and survive way better than CDs can. This is of course not to mention that books on cassette were still widely found in libraries and bookstores until only a few years ago.

See what happens when you give a Walkman to today’s teenager.
You probably just get a kid scoffing and saying “Um, where’s my iPod?” Again, a teenager now was a child in the 90s, and I’d bet most kid’s music they remember listening to was heard on cassette.

Vinyl records. Even today’s DJs are going laptop or CD.
Bullshit. Vinyl records are readily available in many indie record stores, and on It’s the indie record stores that are going extinct, not vinyl. Granted, the Mac Book Pro has made DJs different kinds of spinners, but the ones I see have 2 turntables and a Mac.

Scanning your radio dial and hearing static between stations. (Digital tuners + HD radio b0rk this concept.)
Right, everyone has nothing but Sirius or XM. NOBODY has regular old FM radio anymore. Cars don’t come with radios anymore. Um, okay. I can see this in maybe like 20 years when the FCC requires radio to be completely digital or satellite like they did with television, but not now. The fact that people can still buy FM transmitters for their iPods proves my point on this one.

3-D movies meaning red-and-green glasses.
When you buy a 3-D movie on DVD, do you know what comes with it? Folded up red and blue 3-D glasses.

That there was a time before ‘reality TV.’
When was this? Documentaries about families with multiple children or families suffering through the addictions of a loved one have been on television for decades. So have game shows. There was a time before the label “reality TV”, but these kinds of shows have been around since the Indian’s head.

Wires. OK, so they’re not gone yet, but it won’t be long.
Thanks for fessing up to this one. Again, kids in their teens now started playing video games as young kids, and everything up to the Playstation 2 had standard wired controllers. Wireless ones you had to buy separately. Besides, everything still has to plug into the wall.

Counting in kilobytes.
I’m being nit-picky here, but I still get emails less than 100K on occasion. Kids know what a kilobyte is, I guarantee you. Programs in kilobytes, sure, that’s gone the way of the dodo.

Blowing the dust out of a NES cartridge in the hopes that this time it will load.
Oh yeah, this takes me back. But I’ll bet kids today did the same thing when they were young with the cartridges for the N64.

Recording a song in a studio.
What? Not everyone just uses GarageBand for their music recordings. The process may have changed, but you can still find a music studio to go into to record your record.

Doing bank business only when the bank is open.
Banks still have banking hours because a lot of things must be done in person, like opening accounts and such. Thank you very much, Patriot Act.

Shopping only during the day, Monday to Saturday.
If you need something right now, as in you can’t wait for it to ship to you from an online store, you have to visit a brick and mortar store. Major retailers, such as Whole Foods, Target, Macy’s, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Hallmark, Limited Brands, and about 1000 others are not 24 hours as of yet. Granted, the hours are later and these places are open Sundays, but still, the 3 dimensional world isn’t completely 24 hours yet.

Phone books and Yellow Pages.
Well, these still get delivered, but I can’t guarantee that everyone uses them.

Carrying on a correspondence with real letters, especially the handwritten kind.
Christ, even Hot Topic still sells stationery!

Waiting several minutes (or even hours!) to download something.
Um…. RapidShare isn’t always all that rapid. The thing is that if you want it fast, you have to pay.

Putting film in your camera: 35mm may have some life still, but what about APS or disk?
I’ll bet a lot of teenagers today have APS baby pictures.

Sending that film away to be processed.
Baby pictures that had to be sent away to be processed.

Having physical prints of photographs come back to you.
Fickr, Picasa and Shutterfly all have services where you can order prints. People don’t have their wedding albums online only.

Fax machines.
Faxes are still pretty common. Sending efiles is slowly becoming the norm, but there is a long way to go.

Vacuum cleaners with bags in them.
Dyson hasn’t taken over the world just yet. Not if Oreck has anything to say about it.

Taking turns picking a radio station, or selecting a tape, for everyone to listen to during a long drive.
No, but all the kids have to agree on a movie.

Not knowing who was calling you on the phone.
Privacy blocker keeps us still in the dark about who’s calling.

Actually going down to a Blockbuster store to rent a movie.
Well, maybe not the Blockbuster, but actually going to the RedBox is still pretty popular.

Toys actually being suitable for the under-3s.
So, babies just have no toys? No stuffed animals? No blocks? No xylophones?

Neat handwriting.
This is still graded in school.

Starbuck being a man.
Dirk Benedict knows Kara Thrace could kick his ass.

Swimming pools with diving boards.
I haven’t been to the pool in a while, but isn’t diving still an Olympic sport? Or is this one in reference to diving platforms rather than those springy boards? Like the one that almost killed Greg Louganis?

Hershey bars in silver wrappers.
Last time I checked, it was brown paper over a silver wrapper. Not sure though, I don’t eat chocolate anymore.

Having to manually unlock a car door.
When keyless entry batteries die, this is what we do.

Writing a check.
My piano tuner doesn’t take credit cards, and neither do Girl Scouts when the come to collect for their sweet, sweet cookies.

Roller skates, as opposed to blades.
Roller skates have made a big comeback. Blades are not nearly as hip as they once were.

So far, still the preferred currency of vending machines, drug dealers and even Auntie Annie’s pretzel stands in shopping malls.

Spending your entire allowance at the arcade in the mall.
I think it’s even easier to blow your allowance at Dave and Buster’s. And with Hot Topic and Sbarro still in almost every mall, I’m certain the wallets of young people don’t stay full long after a trip to the mall.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Unlikely Romance

Often in movies, there is an underlying romance between characters who are part of the main conflict of the story. Sometimes this conflict is quite severe, and people wind up dying during the course of the story. I was watching such a movie the other day which was of course complete with the happy ending of the romance flourishing. I wondered, do people who get together under such circumstances stay together? Do they get married? Does one have to comfort the other after one of them wakes up in a cold sweat after having nightmares of their ordeal? And if they do stay together, what do they say at parties when someone asks them how they met? This got me thinking, and I came up with some scenarios of possible answers that may be provided by these characters.

George Caldwell and Hilly Burns at a party, describing their meeting to a friend.

Friend-So Hilly and George, you two have been married for 8 years! Congrats, but, how did you two meet?
Hilly-Well, it's quite a story actually!
George-Yes, QUITE a story! I started out looking to relax, and THAT for sure didn't happen!
Hilly-Oh George, people will get the wrong idea if you say it like that! What he means is that he decided to take the train from Los Angeles to Chicago to have some down time. We met on that trip, on the train!
Friend-On a train? How romantic!
George-Yeah, at first! I met Hilly who was on the train with her boss at the time.
HIlly-Yes, he was working on a book about Rembrandt, and his new research was causing quite a stir.
George-Yes, enough to get him killed and thrown from the train.
Friend-What the hell?
Hilly-Oh yes, it was terrible. He was being pursued because of what his book would reveal. And poor George got caught in the middle of it all. The killers tossed him from the train too.
George-Oh, I was on and off that train so many times....
Hilly-What was it, dear, like 3 times?
George-Sounds right.
Hilly-That's how you met Grover, right? One of those time you were off the train? Grover was our George's best man.
George-Yep, Kansas City I think. He helped me get back on the train. Well after stealing my wallet of course.
Hilly-Grover, such a card!
Friend-So why didn't you just go to the police?
George-Well, no one believed me about what I saw, about the murder that is. Except for Hilly, of course.
Hilly-Of course! I knew George could never hurt anyone.
George-Then the police printed a fake story saying I was the killer so I would be found and taken in, but when Grover saw the newspapers, he disguised me so I had no idea anyone knew what was going on and was looking for me until we were like 200 miles outside of Chicago.
Friend-So what happened? Did you ever get back on the train?
Hilly-He did! He rescued me, in fact! The police had this plan to stop the train before it got to Chicago, but the mastermind of this band of killers....what was his name, George?
Hilly-Yes! Devereau! Devereau had taken me hostage and held a gun to the conductor to keep going and not stop after a shoot out at the train station.
Friend-Oh my gosh!
George-It was very wild west, I must say.
Hilly-Oh, it was a nightmare! Devereau knocked out the conductor and made sure the engine was going full blast so nothing would stop it, but George detached the cars so we were safe.
Friend-So what happened to Devereau? How did the police catch him? Is he in jail now?
George-Well, he looked out of the window just as another train came by, and he was beheaded.
Friend-I think I'm gonna be sick...
Hilly-Oh, it was awful. Poor George had nightmares the first 2 years we were married.
George-To this day you won't find me with my head out of a window. It's dangerous anyway!
Hilly-So we spent a week or so in Chicago, then went back together to Los Angeles, and have been inseparable ever since!
George-We flew back to LA, of course.

Joan Wilder describes how she met her husband, Jack T. Colton while at a book signing

Fan-Oh, Ms. Wilder, I just love your stories! You must have had such a romantic life to write such tales! But sometimes, such terrible things happen to your characters. Why do you do that?
Joan-Well, sometimes stories with happy endings don't have happy paths to start out on.
Fan-But my goodness! What your characters go through just seems so out there sometimes! I mean, when Jesse climbed that flat wall to fight an alligator, I was on the edge of my seat but still, that's pretty fantastic.
Joan-Do you want to hear something crazy? That actually happened.
Fan-Come on. To who?
Joan-To me. And my husband, Jack.
Fan-You're kidding!
Joan-Not at all. I met Jack in South America when I went to pay a ransom so to speak for my sister.
Fan-Oh my goodness, what happened?
Joan-Well, I apologize in advance, this is a gruesome story, but her husband was an antiquities dealer, and was murdered after coming into possession of a map to a treasure.
Fan-A treasure map? Are you for real?
Joan-Real as you and me. Anyway, he tried to get the man who killed him off his tail, he mailed the map to me in New York, but he was killed anyway, and my sister was taken hostage by another band of criminals who wanted the treasure as well.
Fan-Was the map the ransom?
Joan-It was supposed to be. I was supposed to deliver it to her kidnappers, but the man who killed her husband got to me before they did then sent me on the wrong course. I didn't speak the language and had barely traveled, so when he helped me I thought he was just a resident being kind. So I got on the wrong bus which went way the hell out of my way, and the bus was later ambushed in the jungle by the private army of this murderous fiend.
Fan-So how did you get back?
Joan-Well, during the ambush, Jack who was living in the jungle at the time, got caught up in the drama. That's how I met him. He promised to get me back on track if I paid him $500, so he helped me through the jungle.
Fan-$500? Wow, not exactly chivalrous, was he?
Joan-Well, I bargained with him and got the cost down to $375 in traveler's cheques.
Fan-So what happened with your sister?
Joan-Well, Jack had the idea that we should find the treasure rather than deliver the map, you know as a way to have the upper hand. But after we found it we got separated and when we were supposed to meet up, he'd been captured instead by the man who killed my brother in law.
Fan-Oh no!
Joan-He was fine, but when it came time for me to drop the map for my sister, her kidnappers and her husband's killer were going head to head to find the treasure. Which by the way was this enormous emerald.
Fan-So where does the wall and the alligators come in?
Joan-Oh yes. Well, in the course of everything, after taking the emerald away from Jack, the man who murdered my brother in law had his hand bitten off by an alligator. His name was Zorro or Zolo or something, I try to forget him. While his army was fighting my sister's kidnappers, she and I ran up to the roof of one of the ruins, and he followed us, intending to kill us too. I yelled for Jack, and the only way he could reach us was to scale the walls of the ruins.
Fan-How did he do that?
Joan-They weren't very flat walls, they had some chunks missing from the masonry so he said it was like climbing one of those scaling walls.
Fan-Did he get to you in time?
Joan-He didn't need to. Zolo, I think it was, that sounds right, had me pinned and I grabbed a piece of wood and smacked him right on his stump where his hand had been. He'd tried to do a tourniquet for himself with his cravat, but he was losing a lot of blood. He recoiled in pain, tripped and fell on a lantern, then into a pit filled with alligators. He didn't get up after that.
Fan-So what happened to your sister's kidnappers? Is your sister okay?
Joan-She's back home in New York now, and is still in therapy. But she's doing fine considering all she's been through. The police came and arrested everyone, but Jack left before they got there, and I never thought I'd see him again.
Fan-How did you find him?
Joan-He found me. He'd always wanted to get enough money saved to buy a boat and sail around the world, and when he did it, he showed up in front of my apartment, with the boat if you can believe such a thing.
Fan-Oh, that is so romantic! See I knew your life had to be full of epic romance! Where did he get the money living in the jungle?
Joan-Well, he found the alligator that ate Zolo's hand, and the emerald was in his hand at the time the alligator attacked, so when the alligator died, basically from being unable to digest a 9 pound emerald, Jack had him skinned and made into boots, and kept the emerald.
Fan-Ms. Wilder, that is the grossest and most romantic story I've ever heard! I met my husband in high school, such a boring story! Did he sail around the world?
Joan-We did, and it was beautiful. We had some troubles, though. When a man goes from fending for himself in the jungle to just floating with his romance novelist girlfriend, he tends to bore easily. We decided to take some time for ourselves, and I went to do a guest appearance in the Middle East, where Jack and I eventually married. I've always had fans in unexpected places.
Fan-The Middle East? Wow, sounds like you could've had worse trouble there than in South America!
Joan-Oh, I did, but trust me, no one wants to hear that story.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Talking to the mirror

John Hughes, the man who basically shaped my musical mind, has died at the age of 59. Tonight, in his memory I watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and am in the process of making a playlist for my iPod. Since many of his films did not have soundtrack albums, over the years I've collected songs on my own from other collections, Napster, iTunes, etc. There are a lot of things I want to add, but I need to convert then from vinyl records. Specifically "Turn to the Sky" by The March Violets from the soundtrack to "Some Kind Of Wonderful".

Anyway, it will be nice to have a good playlist, as I love all of this music. I was checking his IMDB listing to make sure I was getting the best from the best movies, and learned that he wrote the story (screenplay was someone else) for "Maid in Manhattan". I'm not so embarrassed to like that movie anymore.

And I think it's ironic that his death occurred the day before my class reunion. It's like the fates needed to bring it home that my childhood is GONE.

Way to take someone else's tragedy and make it your own, Xan. Dork.

I'll be rocking out to some of the best music of the 80s and quoting for the next week or so. And I'll be talking to myself in the mirror, I'm sure. I'll start now with the quoting:

Kenny'd talk. Alex? Alex would be okay, but Kenny, Kenny'd talk, he'd crack.

They don't close Florida, Clark.

Sweets? You couldn't ignore me if you tried.

How about a nice, greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?

Only the meek get pinched, the bold survive.

You beat my face!
You grabbed my nuts.
That you?
Yeah, "that me".

You're completely full of shit, and she knows it.

You look good wearing my future.

I washed all my major crevices including in between my toes and in my belly button. Which I never did before, but sort of enjoyed.