Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Nostalgia Of The Day

Careful, Philippe...that's a web spun by a very rare Prop Spider.

When I was 9, Halloween was on a Sunday, which was pretty cool because you basically had all day to celebrate (on top of a Friday school parade and party).

And even though most parents bended the school night rules regardless of what day Halloween fell on, they pretty much threw them out altogether on Sunday.

Which meant that when I got back from trick or treating that year, most of the parents in my neighborhood were still kicking it outside, drinking wine, and making the most of our yearly block party.

My Old Man, not ready to call it a night, suggested that we go inside and find a scary movie to watch.

The next thing I knew we were sitting on the couch, him with a Bud (those old torpedo shaped bottles), me with one of my Mom's TABs (disgusting, but hey, I took what I could get in those soda-free days), and my bag of candy in between us, watching Vincent Price in the 1958 B&W original, The Fly.

It was campy, a bit creepy, not really scary, and the perfect movie to watch with your Old Man on Halloween night.

Every year I think back to that night and I smile.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Nostalgia Of The Day

San Diego college boys confuse KISS with firefighters, Halloween '94

College was a low point for me when it came to Halloween. The holiday I had loved as a kid was now a bit more confusing, consisting more of beer and sexy maids (or sexy devils, or sexy baseball players, or sexy -insert any occupation you can think of here-) than ghouls and creepy graveyards.

Not that I had a problem with beer and sorority chicks with extra cleavage. But for me anyway, Halloween had always been a day of mystery and horror. And, well, at San Diego State there's always beer and cleavage, so for me it mostly just meant the loss of my favorite holiday.

One year I even decided to sell out and pander to my not-so-clever classmates, and dressed up like a kook - pink dolphin shorts, UGG boots (this was 1992 and sheepskin was in between eras), visor on backwards, etc. - and used electrical tape to create the Greek letters of a rival fraternity on a white sweatshirt. At my frat party that night, I was a star. Thing is, I knew that heckling a fraternity was about the lamest idea for a costume ever and, after almost getting beat up on the way home after getting in a dorm elevator with about 5 members of that aforementioned rival fraternity who didn't think my costume was funny, I decided I was going to boycott Halloween until I grew up and had kids of my own.

That is, until the summer of 1994 when I discovered the band, KISS. Okay, I didn't discover them. But I didn't really re-discover them either (like when you pull out your old Van Halen albums and go, "Damn, I forgot how good this shit is!" and listen to Women And Children First nonstop for a week).

See, KISS had pretty much jumped the shark by 1980, when I was only 7. After that they were pretty much a joke without an audience. So while I vaguely remembered them from the 70's, the memories were mostly visual...and kind of vague. White and black Kabuki makeup, blood, fire...the kind of stuff that freaks out a 5-year old and gets burned in his brain.

Which is why in the fall of 1993, after seeing Dazed and Confused in the theater for the 2nd time, I suddenly started having all these KISS flashbacks - the commercials, the comic books, the posters, the album covers at the record stores. And if you know anything about The Colonel, I dove in head first. It started off with a greatest hits tape I bought used at Music Trader, but then almost immediately mushroomed into vinyl albums, CDs, books, video tapes and posters. I was obsessed.

And just like some jock in 1978 with Rock And Roll Over hidden under his mattress, I had to hide it. In short because nothing was less cool than classic rock in 1994, and even amongst classic rock fans in 1994, nothing could have been less cool than KISS, the lamest of the lame. So I pushed my Pearl Jam and Green Day CDs to the front, and hid Love Gun in the back.

But then I had an idea. What if my roommates and I were KISS for Halloween? No one else would be doing it (I don't think anyone had dressed up like KISS for Halloween probably since before they took off the makeup live on MTV in 1983). It was a great group costume. And we could take credit for resurrecting an old school 70's band - a skillful argument on my part as the 70's revival was in full swing.

It worked. My roommates bought in and I went shopping. Without going into all the production details, it started with a trip to the SDSU Theater Department which made extra cash by renting out props for Halloween (I still have my receipt which reads, "4 punk outfits") and ended with a trip to Home Depot where I bought an 8-foot long 4x6 which I had the dude cut into 8 1-foot long blocks. See the picture above and try to spot the lumber.

2 weeks later we strolled into Winston's, a one-of-a-kind reggae bar a block from our house in Ocean Beach (Sllloooooowwww B, as our Mission and Pacific Beach brethren called it) for an October 30th test run. And what happened? The band STOPPED PLAYING. That's right, they fucking stopped in mid-song. The lead singer then said, "Um, holy shit, I think KISS just walked into the bar."

Talk about instant celebrities. People flocked around us, buying us drinks, and asking who we were under the makeup. I (Gene, of course...c'mon, it was my idea so I got first pick) even stuck out my tongue a few times and the place went crazy.

After that it was two days of parties, culminating in a costume contest at Club Tremors in PB (which might even still be there), where we got 3rd place in front of like...I dunno, the place was packed and there was a line around the corner. And the only reason we got 3rd was because some guy showed up in, like, the actual prop from Predator with crazy crab jaws and all, and some dumb chick showed up with a black dress on and pigtails and walked around all night without smiling. So when Wednesday Adams stood on stage next to us while we preened and mugged and air guitared, she gave everyone her best poker face, didn't move a muscle, and well, how the hell can you compete with that?

But the amazing part of it all was the reactions we got from people. We had cops running up to us telling us how much they loved KISS when they were teenagers and how this brought back great memories. Chicks screamed for the tongue. Dudes grabbed their buddies and pointed and flashed us devil horns. Crossing Garnet St. in our 6+ inch boots, we practically caused an accident.

And then, lo and behold, what happened? Garth Brooks, the Gin Blossoms, and a dozen popular rockers released a tribute album. Weezer wrote a song. KISS reunited on MTV Unplugged, re-donned the makeup for the '96 GRAMMY Awards (appearing on stage with Tupac!) they re-formed, and they've been massive ever since.

I'm still awaiting a royalty check. Or at least a "thanks for sparking the re-interest and resurrecting our career" check.

Anyhow, Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

TV Show Of The Day

Believe it or not, it's just Jack from Big Wednesday

The Greatest American Hero was one of those shows that was incredibly popular, that I loved, and yet never really watched.

The problem was that it aired at 9 PM on Fridays, directly opposite Knight Rider. And as much as I loved the theme song, there was no contest.

So now it's just one of those old, forgotten early 80's shows that I think back to fondly, but can't actually recall any of the episodes. Kind of like The Fall Guy (which also had a kick ass theme song).

Speaking of theme songs, my son's new favorite song is "da moon and nordic city"...better known as Arthur's Theme by Christopher Cross.

A chip off the old block I guess, with the same guilty taste for schmaltz.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Movie Of The Day

In 1999, Hollywood finally got it right. And they never did it again.

The biggest cliche in Hollywood is that every waiter and bus boy is actually an aspiring actor or director. Which is why most films do a pretty good job of showing what it's like to work in a restaurant or to be a courier or to schlep stuffed mushrooms for a catering company.

But pretty much to a man, no filmmaker (past, present, or aspiring) has ever worked in the corporate world. It just doesn't happen.

Which is why almost every film ever made that takes place in a corporate setting is total crap. From Wall Street to Match Point, and every Albert Brooks and Chevy Chase Vacation picture in between, they get it wrong every time.

The other day I caught the first 30 minutes of this instantly forgettable Jennifer Aniston movie where, in 1997, she travels to San Francisco to track down this guy she thinks is her father (Kevin Costner). He's a dot com guru and is speaking at some convention. Everyone is dressed in suits. They carry briefcases and stand around shaking hands and drinking scotch.

My first thought was, "Wow, I'm glad we have a 2nd TV upstairs." But my second thought was, "This is so off base that it's obvious these filmmakers have never been to Northern California, never been to a convention, and never met anyone that actually works for a Silicon Valley company."

But that's par for the course. I mean, if movies were your only source for insight into the corporate world, you'd think that everyone walks around in 3-piece suits, carries briefcases circa 1955, eats at Spago for lunch everyday, has a corner office with a view of the Hudson River, has a secretary who "holds calls", and spends their afternoons in large board rooms pointing at graphs with sticks.

Which is why Office Space was so fucking awesome. The first completely realistic look at REAL corporate America.

When it came out, I WAS Peter Gibbons. I worked for a company called Accrue Software, which might as well have been called Initech. I had the same commute, worked with all the same people, had the same cube, got the same shocks on every doorknob, went to the same awkward birthday "parties" with the same bad sheet cake from Safeway...hell, we even had the same motivational catchphrases and banners up on the walls - "What have you done for Accrue today?"

Office Space nailed every aspect of cube life, right down to the joyless lunches at bad chain restaurants. It was so perfect I actually didn't like it the first time I saw it. Ever heard the guys from Aerosmith or Judas Priest say they hated Spinal Tap the first time they saw because it was too close for comfort? Same deal.

Over the years though, especially once I got OUT of that lifeless cube farm, I came to not only appreciate Office Space but fucking LOVE it.

Sure, a few films have come close. The Big Kahuna with Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito was an underrated film that really captured the quiet desperation of the sales side of the corporate world. But it was far from dead-on, and illustrated its point in an exaggerated made-for-the-stage Glengarry Glen Ross kind of way. Old School had some good moments ("Let me have your drink tickets"). She's Having A Baby had one classic scene in which Kevin Bacon gets a reality check from his boss, played by the always spot-on Dennis Dugan.

But that's about it. Office Space stands alone as the one painfully accurate slice of life in corporate America.

PC Load Letter? What the fuck does that mean!?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Forgotten Single Of The Day

"Heatseeker" from AC/DC's completely forgotten 1988 release, Blow Up Your Video.

Holy shit I forgot how much that song rocks. I finally got my stereo hooked up in my office and tried to pull something totally random out of my CD collection. Found that, put it on, and cranked it up until the windows were rattling.

You can't tell, but I'm holding up devil horns right now.

All hail.

Vinyl Of The Day

This is Bad Religion's very first record, a 6 song self-titled EP from 1981.

Self-produced, self-recorded, and self-distributed, this is not just the Holy Grail of Bad Religion vinyl, it's also the very first release from Epitaph Records (courtesy of a loan from Brett Gurewitz's father), making it a hugely important slice of vinyl across all of Punk-dom.

I found it at some record store and paid, I think, around 10 bucks for it. Even at the time (mid-90's) that was quite a deal for a bit of punk history that I've never seen before or since.

But it gets better.

The label is actually a misprint. Well, not really a misprint really, it's actually the wrong label altogether...on both sides. It's for some band called Suffer!, which is a fantastic coincidence since Bad Religion's best album, released 7 years later, was called "Suffer". The fine print is actually in German, which leads me to believe that either Suffer! was some German punk band who had a record being pressed in the same factory, or that this is actually a German bootleg which got mixed up with another printing.

Either way, it's a great little DIY fuck-up.

Add in clear red vinyl and the fact that it still plays beautifully, and this is by far the coolest record in my collection. I don't have a clue how much it might be worth since I've never seen another one, much less one with a misprinted label.

Greg Graffin and the boys have come a long way. And since I'm feeling nostalgic, here's an interview I did with BR bassist and founding member, Jay Bentley, just a few weeks before I graduated from SDSU.

Image Of The Day

"Write It, Ride It" Harley Giveaway, Yahoo! Headquarters, Sunnyvale, 2004

Juxtaposition is a word that art critics like to throw around. It basically means "things that are close together", although it's usually used in the context of opposites or things that are seemingly contradictory.

"Ah yes, the artist here is using the juxtaposition of light and dark to show the dual sides of human nature...further illustrated here by these two naked women holding an apple."

Anyhow, I love this picture because it's me (in flip-flops) flanked by three of the richest men on the planet. David Filo and Jerry Yang on the left (Jerry is the...never mind), Terry Semel on the right, and a pikey worker bee in the middle. It's a great juxtaposition of the powerful (Terry flies home to Bel Air every week in his private jet) and the not-so-powerful (the Colonel has a 3 year old Elektra cruiser bike with rusted surf racks).

It gets even funnier when you realize what's going on - they're presenting me with the cheapest Harley Davidson motorcycle that Harley makes, adorned with a homemade Yahoo! sticker. It had been sitting in the lobby for 3 months, whipping the entire hive into a frenzy and encouraging them to write an essay on why Yahoo! is so freakin' awesome. The cleverest worker bee would be presented the keys during a special assembly in front of the entire company.

So here's the clever Colonel, getting those coveted keys to that coveted black Harley, as 3 billionaires smile in their faded jeans, utterly thrilled that six thousand measley bucks worth of American made steel, chrome and leather, has just exhilarated 3,000 employees and reinforced a corporate loyalty steeped in gold stars and purple t-shirts.

For the record, I was laid off six monts later along with my entire department.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Gross Trick Of The Day

When I was in 1st grade there was this kid in my class named Charlie. He was the kid who would do just about anything if you dared him and provided him with an audience. In most cases that involved eating things.

However, he did have one non-food related trick, and that was his ability to turn his eyelids inside out. I'm not sure why, but they looked orange on the inside.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Forgotten Singles Of The Day

We're going with a "children of legendary rock stars" motif here, and I've got two doosies for you.

Julian Lennon's "Too Late For Goodbyes" (1984) and Jason Bonham's "Wait For You" (1989).

Lennon's was by far the bigger hit, cracking the Top 10 while I think Bonham's peaked around #38 or #39, but they were both played endlessly on rock radio. It was like every disc jockey in the country was sitting around moping, begrudgingly spinning new music, killing time until 5 PM every day when they could Get The Led Out, when they were miraculously handed a lost single by Zep and the Beatles and suddenly every other song got pushed back a few rotations.

I actually remember sitting in my room one evening, trying to find something on the radio, and scrolling through KSJO (92.3), KOME ("Don't touch that dial, there's KOME on it!"), KRQR (the ROCKER) and KFOG (Fogheads, unite) and ALL FOUR of them were playing Jason Bonham's sour, tuneless tribute song. Clearly it was the closest thing Weird Old Uncle Frank had to a new Zep tune, so he and the rest of the Bay Area DJs played it endlessly, for MONTHS.

I think our brains just blew a few fuses when it heard something that sounded kind of like a new Zep tune. And the fact that it was by Bonham's pudgy kid, well, I guess it's no one's fault. Or maybe we can just blame Dennis Erectus?

Same story goes for poor unloved first child, Julian, who sounded almost exactly like his old man. And the fact that he also wrote a song that sounded exactly like the kind of watered down MOR his dad might have written were he still alive in 1984, well, it too made every Beatles-jonesing DJ go mental as well.

We had no choice but to like it - "He sounds just like his dad, man!" - but it's still Lennon lite, and was probably closer to the stuff John and Yoko were scribbling out in the Dakota, circa 1979, whilst preferred younger sibling Sean ran amuck, diaperless, hucking his tea and toast out the windows.

Anyhow, stay tuned. I'm expecting Francis Bean to hit #1 any day now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Misused Word Of The Day


I think I actually get to blame Alanis Morissette for this one.

You see, back before little miss Canadian sunshine hit the bigtime with her little tune about irony (which actually wasn't, which actually is ironic), I never heard the words "irony" or "ironic" outside of the classroom.

I even remember my high school English teacher announcing one morning that he was going to teach us about irony and that 75% of us were not going to understand or retain the concept.

So it's not like I don't appreciate that it can be a tough nut to crack.

But one day it's the sole domain of lit. classes and Cliff's Notes, and today, thanks to creepy Alanis and heaps of media coverage proclaiming my generation to be the first American generation to embrace irony (just look at the now dead trucker hat craze), the word is everywhere.

Not 10 minutes ago I caught a bit of Desperate Housewives. The creepy redhead chick walked into a motel and announced that her 17 year old daughter was in one of the rooms. The guy looked at the registrar and said, "Oh yeah, she's in room 17. How's that for irony?"

Um, no. How's that for a coincidence?

What's wrong with poor coincidence? Why is everyone giving it the cold shoulder? Not hip sounding enough? Not dripping with intelligence?

Like it or not, it's the right word 95% of the time.

A quick high school English refresher course:

Irony (noun): incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.

Coincidence (noun): the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.

Your daughter is 17 and also happens to be staying in room number 17? That's a coincidence. You and your boss both skip work and bump into each other surfing? Coincidence. You and your roommate both date girls named Betty Lou Manischevitz? Co-inky-dink.

Fly in your Chardonnay? Shitty Chardonnay. Rain on your wedding day? Shitty luck.

Your job is to counsel people who are afraid of flying and you die in a plane crash? THAT'S ironic. The world's best athlete dies of a heart attack? Irony. You call the fat guy "Slim"? Congratulations, you're being ironic.

One is about synchronicity (that would be a coincidence) and one is about the opposite of what's expected (irony).

Here endeth the lesson. Pass it on.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Image Of The Day

Bruce McCandless Jr., Februrary 1984

This guy is actually my cousin (well, my mom's cousin...which makes him my 2nd cousin).

This picture was a big deal at the time because he was the very first astronaut to walk in space, untethered to the ship. That chair thing he's sitting in is called an MMU, a Manned Maneuvering Unit.

The day after it was taken it was on the front page of every newspaper in the world. I brought a copy of the San Jose Mercury with me to Palo Verde Elementary School the next morning and got to be a bit of a celebrity for a day (or, for you cynical Hollywood types, a 5th grade star fucker).

A few weeks later, a signed glossy of this same picture arrived in the mail with my name and his signature on it. I guess he sent one to every kid in the extended family. It stayed on my wall until I finally replaced it in 7th grade with some chick in a bikini.

Sorry, Bruce.

Viral Film Of The Day

TiVo is Aliens!!!

Who knew?

Personally I'm a big fan of the BOD feature (Beer On Demand). Fingers crossed they're including it on the next release.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Soundtrack Of The Day

In December of 1980 I was 7.

It had been six months since The Empire Strikes Back had come out. And while maybe we weren't frothing at the mouth quite like we were at the end of 1977 (screaming at our parents for Star War toys, who screamed at underprepared licensee, Kenner, who in turn shipped out empty cardboard boxes for Christmas, promising they'd have action figures in stores by spring), we were still jonesing for anything on celluloid resembling space ships or laser battles.

Enter Flash Gordon, a fantastically campy homage to old timey comic books done in full 70's technicolor disco excess, and the only thing resembling an action packed science fiction romp for the holiday movie season. The problem was, no one (except for hipsters in the Castro) really got it. So instead of adults flocking to the theaters to witness this fantastically kitschy space opera, they rolled their eyes and dropped the kids off instead.

So there I was, in 2nd grade, seeing Flash Gordon for the 2nd time at a 2nd birthday party in as many weeks. And even though we didn't get it, the ambiguous sexuality and miles of skin tight latex going in one pupil and out the other, we did know one thing: the soundtrack fucking ROCKED.

Composed entirely by Brian May and performed by Queen, the Flash Gordon soundtrack is hands down the weirdest entry in their catalog. Packing every groove with tacky albeit atmospheric synth arrangements, with the silliest dialogue in history left IN ("Flash I LOVE you, but we only have 24 hours to save the Earth!"), it was actually released as a full length Queen album. And while I'll be the first to say that most of it resembled the music from my favorite (and still woefully underrated) video game, Vanguard, Queen also managed to rip out some of the most blistering rock they'd ever recorded.

The scene where the Hawkmen (i.e. fat, hairy Brian Blessed stuffed into black latex lederhosen and hanging by a wire) dive bomb War Rocket Ajax (a plastic toy on a string with a sparkler sticking out the rear) is hands down the cheesiest battle in movie history. But set to Brian May's absolutely smoking guitar work on "Battle Theme", it had us going completely fucking apeshit in the theater, literally leaping out of our seats to cheer Flash on as "Biro's been hit, I'm going in after him!"

And even now, 26 years later, I still get goosebumps when I hear "Football Fight", remembering Flash ("Quarterback, New York Jets!") kicking the shit out of Ming the Merciless' henchman with his own brand of intergalactic Kill the Pill.

If you're a Queen fan, you need to own at least the aforementioned tracks, not to mention the title track and the absolutely killer, "Hero" (essentially "Battle Theme" with lyrics). If you're around my age, saw Flash Gordon in the theater and have even the slightest recall of telling your friends at school how "this robot guy falls on these spikes and his EYEBALL POPS OUT!" during Monday recess, then you need to get the whole album.

Flash, you've saved your Earth. Have a nice day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Single Of The Day

"Knights of Cydonia" by Muse.

I went to the Surfer Magazine Surfer Poll awards a few weeks ago. In general I was fairly disgusted with the whole affair, especially given the fact that it's an awards show voted on by the READERS of the magazine, and yet not a single pro surfer or industry rep made a single reference to anyone outside of the Bro/Brah Network.

However, there was one bright spot and that was the opening montage featuring clips from all the year's best surf movies, set to...duh..."Knights of Cydonia" by Muse.

It's a rip-roaring anthemic tune with more melodrama than a Survivor/Rush co-written Rocky theme song circa 1984, and it's fucking great.

Download it, transfer it, burn it, crank it up. And watch out for cops.

Quote Of The Day

"You can't have a lollipop until you finish your cookie."

Yes, my wife actually said that to our son yesterday. We didn't even realize how pathetic it was until after she said it. Then we laughed for about 20 minutes straight.

It is AMAZING the things that start to come out of your mouth after you have kids. My friend Todd shared this one with me today. Also true...and spoken without a hint of irony.

"We don't cut our friends."

Parenthood. Join us if you dare.