Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Last Cup.


Okay, so... I guess this is closing time.

Get yer' refill, pack up your notebooks, and for god sakes, would you please put the chess pieces back where you got them?!. C'mon, now... it's bad form to hang about when we're putting up the chairs...

I know. "Not with a bang, but a whimper", huh?

Remember: November 18th. http://www.denver.decider.com/

Oh, and, HEY! Check out this blog that I... um... like.




Sort of like Douglas Coupland meets Douglas Adams. At Denny's. And then they co-write some Justice League fan fiction together. Or something.

Thanks everybody, for continuing to stop by... even when you knew damn well I wouldn't be posting anything!

Love Ya'!

k/i/t

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Social Networking is the New Porn"

I cannot stop thinking about that headline, and the endless variations of it popping up on news feeds all over the internet - and not just because it reads like a misguided, “didn’t-quite-hit-the-mark” joke you’d find in a community college’s satirical newspaper.

It’s just really pretty amazing, if you stop to think about it. In 1996, it didn’t matter if you were a horny teenage boy or a rabid anti-porn feminist - within 10 minutes of typing http://www.yahoo.com/ (“Hey! 'WWW'! That means ‘World Wide Web’!” you’d exclaim proudly) you started a-wonderin’ if there were nekkid people out there on the ‘tubes. Now - in an age when you can stream hours worth of naughty directly to your lap(top) in real time, people are opting instead to search for old flames in an attempt to get some real, live action in the real, live world. This, fellow citizens of Cyberia, is Progress.

Me, I’m basically over the whole facebook / myspace thing. I’ve found all the friends, acquaintances, old girlfriends and random hook-ups that I’ve ever wondered what I would say to if we got in touch, and with a few exceptions, the answer has been “not a whole hell of a lot”. (And in a couple other instances, the answer has been “You’re voting for –frickin’ – who!!??") Seriously, I’m famous for recognizing some second-period classmate from high school, only to find myself 5 minutes later trying to wrap up an entirely inane conversation about what I've been doing for the last 18 years. It’d have to be a seriously inspired, completely out of left field guest appearance on the The Ted Campbell Show (36 seasons and still going strong!) for me to really get excited about one of those sites again.

Of course, as someone who makes his living supplements his income acquires coffee and gin and tonic money by knocking out snarky little anecdotes about the businesses, artists and musicians around D-town and Boulder, I'm always keeping a skeptical, resentful eye on sites like yelp. After all, if every wannabe Candice Bushnell or David Sedaris can garner a following by waxing clever on a website that doesn't pay them a dime, where does that leave a guy like me, and all the other hipster / crypster (or in my case "poseur") types who play taste maker for "alt newsweeklies" all over the country?


And so, it's with great anticipation and trepidation, that I prematurely introduce to my 3-4 readers to The Decider ("prematurely" because the Denver "edition" won't be online until mid-November; that link'll whisk you away to the windy city's version.)


The Decider is sort of the "third branch" of The Onion (the second being The A.V. Club. It's the events and entertainment section in back of the paper. No, it's not satirical. What's that? You only read the headlines? Wow. I've never heard THAT before.) The A.V. Club will continue to focus on national events (touring musicians, Hollywood and "indie" films, etc.) whereas the local stuff will now appear under the auspices of The Decider.

The good news is that the site will showcase THREE features / articles / blogs PER DAY, meaning the potential for a lot more exposure (and money) for me (VS. the two or three a month I currently have appear in print). And from those, the city editor will still pick a couple per week for the print edition.

The tricky part is that we'll have to focus on making the public understand that we AREN'T just some "social networking" site. I'm a writer, dammit! I know more than you! I'm still the tastemaker! (Heeyyyy... "The Decider". Now I get it...) And I say "we" above even though I'm just a freelancer, because I've got a lot at stake in this thing. I'm no dummy - there's no shortage of ronin-bloggers talking about what's happening in Denver, or Portland (or Tuscon or Spokane or Glenwood Springs, for that matter) peppering their words with references to late 70's Star Wars ripoffs and comic books. The secret, as I see it, is to get yourself affiliated with a clan, a tribe, a posse.

As far as that'll take me, anyway, I think I got a purty good one.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life!

Ugh. Not really. I’ve interviewed 4 (four) different DJs in the last 3 (three) days for a feature I’m working on. And last Friday, Scooterdad and I went out to Lipgloss to hear Happy Mondays founding member Paul Ryder (brother of lead singer Shawn ("It’s Dare!”) Ryder) spin a set. (Not that he actually spun – he just sat on the floor of the booth and told Tyler and Michael what to play).

So perhaps a more appropriate song for me right now would be –





No, no, they’re all great, and I think the feature will be pretty cool. I like that I get to have some exposure to new music this far out of my 20s. When Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” is used to promote a shoe store’s “Buy One Get One” sale, I know that I’ve been out of the loop.

I’m just running on fumes at the moment. I finally coughed out a feature on cupcakes that I’ve been trying to get throught for the last month. Then, I helped our commercial producer out w/ a spot on Wednesday (eating away 10 more seconds of my 15 minutes of fame)






...and yesterday morning, I snuck out of work for half an hour to interview with an advertising agency. That last I probably shouldn’t even be bringing up, seeing as I’m wicked superstitious when it comes to letting people know that I'm applying for new jobs. But I just can’t help myself… in so far as I’ve had any “plan” at all in my life, my plan has been to translate my "traffic coordinator" experience into an agency setting; then to see where I can go from there.

That, and to make a cool million from the comic book (what with all the tee-shirt sales and everything...)

Wish Me Luck!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Starbucked.


Some people absolutely loath Starbucks; they consider it an abomination, everything that’s wrong in America, condensed into a tall green cup, and served at several thousand-convenient locations across these United States . Other people take Starbucks at face value; an okay product that’s easy to find, even in places in the country where 15 years ago you’d be lucky to find a fresh-brewed pot at a 7-11.

But nobody, not no one, “loves” (“luvs”… “looooooves”) Starbucks these days. It just doesn’t inspire that sort of passion anymore; in a few years, I doubt it’ll still even be trendy to hate it.

I still go there sometimes - if I’m in a hurry, or if I get a craving for a Frapuccino (yes, yes… commence with the taunts, all you coffee coinsures, with your $400 grinders, and oh-so-delicate palates. Yeesh.) On a particularly busy morning last week, I was sitting in line at the drive thru, waiting to order my “Grande Coffee with an Extra Shot” (I let them repeat the whole“Shot in the Dark” thing, if they’re so inclined. As cutesy café-lingo goes that one is pretty painless, but still). The talking head manning the register, cinched into their two-way headset, launched into this big, ungainly-and-unbecoming sales pitch: “Would you like to try one of our YUMMY breakfast sandwiches today?!”

Hoo boy. Now, set aside for a moment all the arguments about whether a company that built their reputation on serving great coffee should be selling Egg 'Buckmuffins at all. Consider instead that this was an up-at-the-crack-my-ass early morning. Yes, that's the time-frame that maybe you would consider eating such a product. But c'mon - nobody wants a carnival barker pitch crammed down their gullet before their first cup of the day.

And it’s not just some well meaning, goody-goody college girl, working there to save up money for her semester abroad. Every single employee says the exact same thing. “Yummy!”, like they’re talking to a schnauzer about “Snausages”.

What that means, obviously, is that this ridiculous push has been mandated from on-high. The words cackled over the speaker are printed on a checklist (written by the some member of Starbucks brass, no doubt) to be recited by the hapless employees verbatem, or suffer the dire consequences.

Now, if you follow http://www.starbucksgossip.com/ at all, you know that these sandwiches were actually removed from the menu not so long ago (“Bad! Bad sandwich!”), around the same time that every location in the country closed so they could teach their employees how to make, y’know, coffee. Now, they’re back – GLORY, GLORY! (“MMMMM!~ Yummy Sandwich !”) When I pulled up to the window on that fateful day, I was handed an invitation for some sort of welcome back / coming out party for the damn things.

From noon to 2 pm (!)

Probably not the time you’d be a-hankering for one, but you could stomach the pitch better, anyway

Now, as you can imagine, I don’t have much money. I have no idea what it would be like to create a big, successful business, loved by millions – then have it all start to fade; fall out of favor in the public's eyes. I’m sure it probably sucks.

But man, this crap is just re-freaking-diculous. Starbucks is in full-on freefall. “Sandwiches? We got sandwiches! Hows about a burger? Can we rotate your tires for you, ma’am?” Been up for so long, they have no idea how to act when they're down; like the Hillary Clinton of the retail world. Did it REALLY never occur to the shareholders, the folks who had their trailer hitched to Starbucks’ wagon that it couldn’t go on forever? And, hey, it’s not like they’re stuck w/ a share of “Crocs” or anything (anybody who made a plumb nickle from those things - who wasn't smart enough to pay off their mortgage, buy their golden retreiver a new bandana, then stuff whatever was left safely away, anticipating the day that people would stop buying shoes made from Play Doh - gets zip from me, in the sympathy department.)

But that's the way it always goes, isn't it? I've worked for coffeeshops that said "If we can't be bigger than Starbucks, we don't want to be in business at all." And they couldn't be... so they're not. Nobody's as big as Starbucks anymore. Not even Starbucks.
It's like it's not enough to have a successful business; everybody wants to rule the world. So Starbucks dilutes their brand, appealing to the lowest-common denominator in order to achieve global domination, so they start selling 14 different flavors of milkshake. Then, when the economy tanks, the customers who still their product is some "high-end luxury" (i.e., the people who, 5 years ago, were sucking down "Taster's Choice" at home) start buying their iced coffee at McDonalds or Duncan Donuts.

And now I've got new options for when I'm slumming for "comfort coffee". Anybody wanna go get a Java Chiller from Sonic?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Frugal Cineaste Returns!

When I was a young’un - somewhere between the innocuous appearances of Superman and Batman promoting the “letter of the day” on Sesame Street, and the astounding, mass-geek awakening that was the explosion of the first Death Star - I was introduced to the Marvel-brand superheroes. Right away, I recognized the subversive nature of these characters; from The Falcon - an African-American hero without the word “Black” in his moniker (a la “Black Panther”, “Black Lightening”, “Black Vulcan”, etc.) to Thor - with his hippy-fied golden locks and no shirt-sleeves. As a kid, I wasn’t a strict Marvel Universe fundamentalist: I collected both Marvel and DC titles in the cardboard longbox in my bedroom (filed separately, of course), but as an adult, I find myself much more interested in the former.

That, however, doesn’t mean I’m a fan of their entire roster of heroes. How could it? Sure, it’s a shared universe, with exciting, even iconic characters, but for every Spider Man and Professor Xavier, there’s a title that ties into some barely-remembered pop cultural phenomenon. Micronauts, or Rom, anyone?

And then there’s The Hulk. I never could get into The Hulk. After a few weeks of waiting 45 minutes for Bill Bixby to get angry enought to turn into Lou Ferrigno, I pretty much never tuned into the show again. Even in the comics, where he interacts with some of my favorite characters, he’s always sort of gotten on my nerves. Like, how can you make a guy who goes raging berserker when he stubs his toe part of an elite team like The Avengers? Isn’t that the kind of thing that shows up pretty clearly in the pre-employment screening? Plus, a handy little rule of thumb: Superheroes wear boots and snazzy costumes. Raging, Unstable Monsters – barefoot and stretchy purple fat-pants, like the lady down the street who works in her garden with an ever-present beer in hand.

That said, The Avengers = The Awesome, so when I heard that Tony Stark turned up at the end of The Incredible Hulk to extend the offer made to him by Nick Windu in "Iron Man" - I was there, baby!

Eventually, anyway. Mere weeks after it’s first run release, "The Incredible Hulk" is showing for a buck 'n' a quarter at the Tiffany Plaza Six - the Original Hamburger Stand of movie houses. The convoluted movie review system I laid out a few entries ago would be put to the test; the discount price I paid would be weighed against not just mediocre reviews, but my ambivalence toward the jolly green behemoth himself.

Now, I knew the film was a re-boot from the last cinematic incarnation. And I get that: make with the “Hulk Smash!” and you'll appeal to a wider audience. But I didn’t realize they were abandoning the first film’s continuity altogether. For me, that was a mistake: of all the recent superhero films, I don’t think "The Hulk" was one that merited a full-reboot, like they did with "Batman Begins", or they SHOULD have done with "Superman, the Roofie-Kissing Stalker, Returns" If all they were going to do was feature a FLASHBACK of his origin, they could have simply alluded to Ang Lee’s interesting failure / seriously flawed masterpiece. By appropriating the TV series origin instead (which had something to do with getting super powers from a dentist’s chair) the audience is left out of the loop on a major part of the story.

Anyway, once the film gets to the actual here-and-now plot, it fares a little better. Bruce Banner is chillin’ out in Rio de Janeiro, searching for something with a little more “oomph” than valium, to cure his hulkyness. He works a sweet job bottling Mexican soft-drinks, and in his spare time he meditates, just trying to get his head together. I once read that fairy tales - all the way up through Star Wars and Harry Potter - tap into a shadowy adolescent fantasy, in focusing on orphan protaganists, whose guardians have suffered some terrible fate. BB’s work-live situation is an aging male Gen-X variation on that theme: every 30-something guy in America wants a couple months “off the grid” in another part of the world, so they could read some Nietzsche and work on their abs.

Of course, the government (William Hurt as General Ross; Tim Roth as his "you-know-he’s-gonna-get-monstrified" lackey) comes after him, chasing him down in a not-too-bad action sequence (how they could have looked at the labyrinth of rooftops in Rio, and NOT choreographed a grade-A, boot-to-the-ass, parkour laden chase scene is way beyond my ability to comprehend) Bruce has been chatting online to some doctor who thinks he can "cure" him. The mysterious internet-stalker requires some of Bruce’s research, or his health insurance card or something, which means he’s comin’ back to ‘merica.

In a scene that’s only slightly more convincing than Christopher Reeve marching, sans powers, from Metropolis to Antarctica, Bruce hitch-hikes his way to the States. And of course, hitchhiking and the Hulk means only one thing – the schmaltzy, plinkity-plunkity love theme from the 70’s series! Is anybody really getting a geek-gasm from this stuff? It’s not like it’s the Indiana Jones theme or anything. You’d think Dr. Banner was a veterinarian on his way to put down Benji or something.

Of course, returning from an extended leave and visiting old haunts always means you’ll run into an old ex. Where Supercreepy Returns had Lois Lane married to a stable, gainfully-employed nice guy who always puts the toilet seat down, Betty Ross (the general’s daughter, played by Liv Tyler, who, as an actress, is pretty hot for a skinny woman) dates a boring milktoast who vanished from the movie while I was in the john.

SO – Bruce gets his mcguffin, the girl, and – at long last - turns into a raging monster a couple times, beating off the military. Y’know, it’s funny, because the best Marvel movies are on their A game when the characters are in their civilian identities (The X-Men musing over prejudice in the world, Iron Man dealing with the consequences of his actions, Spider Man facing the trials of adolescence) – which is ironic, in that we finally have the special effects to fully realize these characters, whereas, in the 70’s, you’d have to wait nearly a whole hour for a fleeting glimpse of Spider Man, with those silly little spaghetti colanders on his mask. The not so good Marvel movies (Daredevil, Fantastic Four) are the ones where you’re waiting for the overblown action sequences. At one point, Bruce hid a microchip (or something) in his mouth, and my son leaned over and asked me “is that going to make him turn into the Hulk?”

That right there was the ultimate fault of the movie – they didn’t really deliver on the “Hulk Smash!” that was the whole reason they did a remake (as opposed to a sequel) in the first place. If I’m out with my son on a Saturday afternoon, sitting in a theater w/ the same molded beige plastic design aesthetic as the AMC theaters of my youth, paying sub-matinee prices, I want professional-wrestling worthy monstro-e-monstro action. I want to see drop-down, drag out fight, with all the ridiculous trappings of Jet Jaguar beating on Megalon – but with a multimillion dollar budget. The showdown between Hulk and “The Abomination” was okay, I guess; but at the very least, they could have had it take up the last half of the movie. Maybe have ‘em knock over the Great Wall of China, and then Hulk could rebuild it with his brick and mortar vision.


So, Robert Downey Jr.’s walk-on at the end, looking all dapper, in a manner befitting Tony Stark? Yeah, that was cool (“You always wear the nicest suits.” Heh heh) But then, he tells the General “We’re forming a team”. I know it wouldn’t match comic-book continuity and all, but, couldn’t he have just gotten Spider Man’s email address instead?

Using my $1 movie algorithm (percentage of savings vs. first run price (68%) divided by two (34%) plus the average percent rating among top critics on www.rottentomatoes.com (58%, in this case) means the movie gets a… 92%. Gotta knock it down a letter grade for running over an hour and a half, but still... wow.
I guess I liked it more than I thought I did...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Frugal Cineaste



So here we are, poised at the boiling-hot, ass hole end of summer (the “Ring of Fire” – to quote the late, great Johnny Cash entirely out-of-context) and not only have I had no vacation to speak of, but I’ve barely even seen any of this summer’s ubiquitous crop of blockbuster movies.

Oh, sure, I caught “Mutt Williams and the Over Long Moniker of Awkwardness”, which was, on the whole, pretty lame (except of course for the cameo appearance by Harrison Ford as none other than – SPOILER ALERT! – Mutt William’s DAD! Shhhh!) and a couple of weeks ago, while my folks had the kids, the wife and I got to see “Iron Man”. Which – undeniably, unequivocally - rocked cock. Iron Man packed in enough gee-whiz factor to not only pay for it’s OWN its own ticket price – but made up for the 8 bucks that I shelled out for each episode of the prequel trilogy. (And the teaser at the end of the credits, with Sam Jackson as one-eyed superspy Nick Fury, made up for what I paid to see Super-Dead-Beat-Dad Returns)









“The way they make shows is, they make one show. That show's called a pilot. Then they show that show to the people who make shows, and on the strength of that one show they decide if they're going to make more shows. Some pilots get picked and become television programs. Some don't, and become nothing.

I starred in one of the ones that became nothing.”




There’s a lot of poppy, whiz-bag genre entertainment out there nowadays; the sort that I would have salivated-over, inhaled, then regurgitated and continually obsessed about when I was younger. On TV, shows like Lost, and Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica are not only hits, but they’re garnering reviews that were unheard of back when “Star Trek” was on the air. Entire religions have grown up around dudes like Joss Whedon (whose acolytes will no doubt turn up on my doorstep any minute now - dressed like Jon Bon Jovi in the “Blaze of Glory” video, “Serenity” DVD in hand - when they read that I’ve never seen a single episode of either “Buffy” or “Firefly”)

It’s not like I don’t have ANY free time on my hands. I’m not out there teaching indigenous cultures to grow wheat or anything. But I do have a limited amount of time to invest in following the labyrinthine mythology of these shows, and “Phantom Menace” all those years ago taught me a cruel, cruel lesson about investing too much anticipation into such things. On top of that, my first-run movie going budget is often earmarked for those bastards at Pixar, who insist on coming out with a new movie EVERY DAMN YEAR. Yes, yes, “sincerity”. Yes, yes, “built from the ground up”, “genius”, “heart-felt”, “heart-warning”, yada yada. But really, with those computer-animated movies I feel kinda like my mom, circa 1982, after watching “Tron”. It hurts my eyes. I’m all about the big, flashy, garish entertainment, I just like it when it has, you know, real flesh and blood actors, and real world locations and stunts. (Yes, George Lucas, I’m looking at you. Again.)

Beyond that, do I really want to spend the remainder of my entertainment dollars on something that isn’t tried and true? I can just stay home and watch the “Eliminators” VHS I picked up last year for a buck. Because it’s hard to beat a movie that features time-travelling, ninjas, “man-droids”, and the always sexually ambiguous Tasha Yar of “Next Generation” fame.




All right, all right, I admit it: it’s neither a lack of time, nor the law of diminishing returns in the “Star Wars” franchise; I’m a chronic cheapskate. I own one pair of jeans, one pair of work slacks (Target and Goodwill, respectively) and I seriously can’t enjoy anything that I didn’t get one heck of a deal on. Luckily for me, I’ve recently re-discovered the $1 movie. Or, more succinctly, the 1.25 movies at Tiffany Plaza 6. Last week, Number One Son and I caught a matinee of “Speed Racer”, and I can tell you the bargain basement price tag greatly increased my enjoyment of said film.

I’m working on an algorithm that will compute one’s pleasure-threshold for dollar movies. “Sturgeon’s Law” (attributed to science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon) states that “90 percent of everything is crap”. He was speaking specifically of literature, but it’s intuitively true for precisely everything: music, books, movies, people living on the planet today, etc.

Now, $1.25 is one-eighth (12.5 %) of the average movie ticket price of 10 bones; meaning, for every 10 movies you see first run, in a cozy, stadium-style seat, you’ve spent 90 dollars on crap, versus the 11.25 spent on crap seeing 10 movies a circa 1979 style dollar-plex. That’s a difference of $78.75.

Now, because we’re talking about crap, we are of course starting from a negative – so I use completely arbitrary means to divide that number by two, to get (roughly) $39.35. Now, that number is (again, roughly) 34 % of the $90 spent on first-run crap.

What that means, then, is if you go to the dollar theater to see Speed Racer, which received a “36%” from Rotten Tomatoes critic-meter, the grade is automatically raised 34%, for a total of 80%!! I hereby declare Siskel and Ebert’s “Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down” movie rating system obsolete!

So, the movie itself… what do you want, anyway? The lead character/film’s namesake is played by an innocuous Emile Hirsch, who looks a little like Corey Feldman, but without the gawkward snarl that was later perfected by Christian Slater. Like the Watchowski Brothers, he can think of nothing but Mach-a-go-go-go! Other than that, there’s not too much point in mentioning the cast; if you’re looking for Oscar caliber performances, you’re in the wrong theater. But do you like “chubby-kid and monkey” humor? Spritle and Chim Chim have got you covered! Seriously, any delusions I may ever have had about being a thoughtful, intelligent movie-goer were destroyed when I caught myself laughing – loudly - at Chim Chim’s Paul Frank-style “boy” pajamas.

Even better than the physics-defying car races are the ridiculous fight scenes, which were manic and frenetic, just like the scenes from Speed Racer that were exorcised for delicate American audiences. Like the chop-socky in “The Matrix”, but without all the “iconic” fetish-wear modeling.

The only real problem with the movie (assuming you’re the type of person who can sit back and enjoy mindless entertainment) was the length. The movie’s villain, nowhere NEAR the final act (as the cliché would dictate) describes his plan to Speed, and explains how car racing has been a crooked sport since the beginning of time. I’m guessing maybe there’s some level of historical truth the filmmakers were alluding to, there. And if the average NASCAR fan found that particularly unwieldy pile of exposition to be interesting, good on them; but jeez, did it make the movie sag.

Of course, there’s all the subjective criteria which go in to grading, not just the film itself, but the film-going experience. Hungover, custody-sharing dad asleep next to his daughter? Minus 6%. Not listening to your spouse calling out from the computer-room “you rented what?!” ? Plus 10%. Fossilized catsup stains at the condiment stand, and busted hand driers in the restroom? Minus 7 %. Skinny version of Christina Ricci as Trixie? Minus 5%. The nearly-always brilliant John Goodman as “Pops” Racer? Plus 10 %. The fact that John Goodman starred in “The Flintstones”? Minus 5%.


But sitting in an icy-cold movie theater with your car-crazy 8 year-old, while the weather outside melts the polar ice caps? PRICELESS.

This weekend – THE INCREDIBLE HULK! Roar!

Friday, June 27, 2008

RATSHIT!

“RAT-shit! BAT-shit!

Dirty Old Twat!

Sixty-Nine Assholes, tied in a KNOT!

Hurray!

Lizard-Shit!

FUCK!”




George Carlin, 1937 - 2008

I have a co-worker who keeps me up on the latest celebrity gossip; Lindsey, Britney, Brad, Angelina. You know, The Gang.

Now – I don’t actually seek out these little jewels of information; I just overhear as she muses about their latest antics with our other co-worker, both of them speaking in a casual tone which suggests they know these people personally.

Working for a news station, we occasionally get some minor, D-list celebrities who drop in: sports figures, that local comedian / veterinarian who had a reality show a few years back ("Kevin" something-or-other). A Wayans brother breezed through last year to promote whatever plague he was inflicting upon mankind in the name of “comedy”. Almost always, my co-worker could be relied upon to herald their presence with an exuberance that could only be more pronounced if it was preceded by the exclamation “WUXTRY! WUXTRY! Read all about it!”

ALMOST always.

Last year, on some random Friday, she nonchalantly mentioned “Oh, did you know that George Carlin was here today?”

Up, pricked my ears, tuning the conversation in from the dull buzz I usually keep it at. I turned frantically to the ruthless, mocking wall clock that watches over my hunched figure, day in and day out. Alas, our morning show had finished an hour earlier.
Ladies and Gentlemen… George Carlin had left the building.

“C____,” I said, in the contained, lifeless monotone I wear to work every day, over my actual personality, “if ever George Carlin ever happens to swing into the building again… lemme know, m’kay?”

Not to get all “Negative Nelly” or anything… but I’m pretty sure that’s not gonna happen.

****************************

Today is my other co-worker’s last day. She was the VERY FIRST PERSON hired at this station, 26 (that’s TWENTY-SIX) years ago. I remember when this station first came on the air: old “Marvel Superhero” cartoons in the morning, reruns of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (featuring disco-action Gil Gerard and the transcendently-hot Erin Gray) in the afternoon. And, as an added bonus, on Sundays (when the FCC was at church, apparently) they showed almost entirely uncut “R” rated movies – a real boon for an early 80’s pre-teen without cable. Now THAT, my friends, is “Must See TV”.

All that said; even if we were still that station, with the inspired, low-cost syndicated programming and the trademark UHF-brand censors-be-damned attitude - I cannot, for the life of me, imagine working here for another 24 years and 7 months. (give or take a day)

I mean, don’t get me wrong; this is, without a doubt, the best job I’ve ever had – the mythological “day job” that pays my bills and gives me benefits, while still allowing me the sanity required for my creative pursuits while I’m off the clock. (And to think, it only took me 17 years of searching to find it. Time well spent!)

But the other day (in what is, in retrospect, a textbook example of Jungian-style synchronicity) I lost my “badge”; that ace-of-spades size piece of plastic that all the corporations use as a placeholder, until R&D perfects a way to install microchips under all their employee’s eyelids. Now, at this point, you’re probably imaging me as the sort of sad-sack who spends most of his life misplacing these sorts of things. And in fact, you’d be right – in my natural “uncarved block” state, I am PRECISELY that sort of person. But the thing is, I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life reverse-engineering my chronic ADHD, to the point that the mundane necessities of my life are generally handled with a level of precision worthy of a Zen Buddhist monk who’s trained extensively with the navy SEALs. So when I DO manage to lose one of those ridiculous little things -cell phone, work badge, appointment reminders- those little mcguffins that the world attaches so much value to (but that I myself would like to throw straight on out the window) - I risk becoming positively un-hinged.

COULD NOT find it at home. COULD NOT find it in my car...

********************
INT. KALADI BROS. COFFEE, DAY

A MAN, mid 30’s, walks up to an attractive, twenty-something female BARISTA standing at the counter.

MAN
Hey, uh, I know this is a long shot, but has
anyone found a work badge lyin’ around here
with my ugly mug on it?

BARISTA
(LAUGHS)
Oh, no! Did you lose your identity?

FIN


****************

Yech.


And you know what the real tragedy is? The real tragedy is that, in a world that’s become a parody of itself, we’re losing all our great satirists. George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, Howard the Duck’s Steve Gerber (don’t hate, he had nothing to do with that heinous 1986 movie). Somebody’s gotta step up to provide a little context to our daily perceptions of the world. Call out all the hucksters and charlatans and gurus... and that idiot who shows up to protest Pridefest every damn year with a video camera in tow (for - you know - research...) Someone to remind us that the way we think the world "is" says more about us than it does the world.

Alright, I admit it... I want to do it. I want to be that sooth-sayin' seer, the 21st century oracle.

How much does a job like that pay?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

TK421! I'm not reading you!

With mammoth publishers like DC and Marvel Comics located deep within it’s iconic skyline, New York City is the default Comic Book Capitol of the world. And high profile, well-respected imprints such as Dark Horse and Oni Press make Portland, Oregon fecund breeding ground for indy comics. Denver? We got… four professional sports teams! And… 17 percent less oxygen than those ocean-side suckers! But 2 Denver creators are looking to fill the mile high city’s funny book void with their super-powered, high-heeled crime fighter…

Wha… huh…?

Ooh. Sorry about that. My “voice” got stuck on “Onion-mode” there for a minute. I’ve been busy with a bunch of features lately; which, of course, is why I’ve been neglecting the ol’ blog (but you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

Keeping with my tradition of un-timely (timeless?) blog entries, here’s a photo from May 3rd, 2008, when number 1 son and I took part in “Free Comic Book Day”.







“TK421! I'm not reading you!” Ha! Ha Ha!

(whew) Man, I crack me up.






(All you non-geeks can Google that yourselves. The fact that I got beat up constantly in elementary school for my encyclopedic knowledge of pop-cultural ephemera means I don’t have to do your work for you)


See, the boy – while he’s over that stage of being SCARED of having his picture taken with an iconic licensed character, he’s now moving into that stage of being TOO COOL to have his picture taken with an iconic licensed character. Which means that’s me (or at least my shirt) posing with the leg of one the most feared foot soldiers in the galaxy. Alas, my son's aim is about on par with that of the average trooper. (Now, if *I* was going to plot to take over the galaxy and declare myself Emperor, I’d probably build my clone army from a guy who didn’t have severe stigmatism. But that’s just me.)

Jeez. Free Comic Book Day. Probably 4 of the greatest words in the entire English language. Add “boobs, coffee, and” to the middle, and you’ve pretty much described my own personal afterlife, if I’ve been really, reaaaally good. And what a boon for a frugal geek like me! While I’ve rediscovered and embraced my inner dork, I’m still pretty cheap (as my wife will attest, every birthday, anniversary, and Christmas). I generally get my fix of Alan Moore and Jack Kirby’s oeuvre from the public library. But not on the first Saturday of every May, baby! I came out with 27 issues worth of dead tree! Sure, there were some duds, but stuff like “All Star Superman” and “Love and Capes” make it worth all the comic shop-hopping.

Of course, I'm not just a geek. Oh, no - those books were collected and studied in the name of research. For I am an aspiring professional after all.


It's kind of weird, the first answer I gave as a kid to that dreadful question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was "comic book writer"... who would have thought that all the anwsers I gave since then were so wrong?


Just what am I talking about? Nope! Sorry - TOO SOON! There are still rights to be secured, major motion picture franchise deals to be inked. But soon, dear reader... SOON, the whole world will know of the genre (and gender) bending tale of derring-do that I'm bringing to life (co-created with the help of the brilliant artist (and good friend) Michael Payne)

Until then, here's a little, itty-bitty sneak peak...





Life is good...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Electric Cafe!

All right, New Wavers! Pop Quiz Time!!

Pictured below is...

A) A Korean-produced knock off of The Blue Man Group

B) "Tron Live!" The latest Disney remake on Broadway; directed by Albert Pyun, with choreography by Twyla Tharp.

C) A new group of Qwest customer service reps helping subscribers jack into The Matrix.

D) The seminal electronic music group, Kraftwerk

If you spent your youth listening to the electro stylings of Depeche Mode or Front 242, or raving to Moby on the stage at Rock Island with a whistle pursed between your lips, or you're a coke-snorting gangster from a mid-80's movie scored by Georgio Morodor, you better answer "D", or risk getting punched in the back of the head by the pop music Illuminati.

On Wednesday night, thanks to fellow blogger (and now friend-4-eva*) Brando, I got to see Kraftwerk perform at the Filmore Auditorium, in one of only 3 U.S. appearances (!)




(though their android doubles will likely continue on until the last Twinkie on earth goes stale)





There weren't any heavily choreographed dance numbers, or spontaneous, free-form jazz saxophone solos... but - sporting a production design inspired by the database at my work, the German post-fab four rocked out the Power Point presentation like NONE OTHER!

(I concur with Ricardo Baca from the Denver Post; part of the fun was trying to figure out when they were actually playing, and when they were downloading the music directly from Limewire and checking their email.)

Now, I was always a clubber, more than a concert goer (which probably has a lot to do with the music I listen to) but I felt right at home, with just my tentative knowledge of the band's music, gleaned from watching Dieter on Sprockets and Turbo's Fred Astaire-inspired dance from Breakin'. Plus, some of my favorite bands of all time worship at the altar of Kraftwerk. But who cracks me up are the concert-heads, the poor souls who never got over Jerry Garcia’s death, who are just looking for another band to groupie-up to. I mean, not that you have to look like a prisoner of the Phantom Zone to go to a Kraftwerk show (kudos, though, go to the 7 foot dude in fetish gear and scuba mask) but watching these cats do the rhythm-less jellyfish out on the peripherals of the stage felt like watching a bunch of Klingons storm the set of Logan’s Run.

Speaking of robots, and computers, and "networking" (clumsy, lumbering segue, there) I’ve been trying to expand my social and professional circle lately - doing things like meeting up w/ people I hardly know at concerts and such: I'm happy to say that it's paying off handily. As such, I'm currently hard at work on a comic book with a really fantastic artist I interviewed for the A.V. Club last year. So, next time you're thinking I'm just slacking off on my blog, keep that in mind.

'Cause, y'know, I may be busy slacking on that comic book, as well. I only have so much free time to slack. Jeez.


*Contrary to what some of our fellow concert goers thought, we are just friends. Seriously. **


**But he does have great hair, and a very nice smile. Just sayin'. ***


*** NOW STOP THAT!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Everything I Ever Needed to know about Coffee...

I learned from reading “Google News”

I got to my son's school too early to drop him off this morning; as the teachers and staff all prefer that parents don’t let their young’uns roam the halls before class like a gaggle of pre-teen Sweat Hogs, we hit up the Starbucks across the street in order to kill some time. The boy has an unexplainable affinity for those unstable little shortbread cookies that dissolve into silt as soon as you bite into them. He also thinks “Transformers” is the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. 7 year olds are such dumbasses.

I got a venti cup of the heavily-advertised “Pikes Place Roast” that they’ve been brewing. Honestly, it’s not bad. From what I understand, Starbucks marketing overlords polled their customers about what they wanted from their morning cup, and the overwhelming majority stated a preference for coffee that wasn’t roasted to the consistency of volcanic ash. I don’t know that it has the “nutty tones” (sounds like a mid-90’s neo-ska group) that Starbucks is boasting about on their website, but it doesn’t taste like Dr. Peyton Westlake’s charred remains after an industrial fire, either. (Which is a pretty amazing feat, considering the temperature of the average cup of Starbucks coffee is roughly equivalent to that of an atomic blast.)

Other changes being made, in their continued effort to recapture that mythological “coffeehouse experience” of yore include -

- training the staff how to make espresso drinks

- a new dress code, which requires all baristas to wear Doc Martens with their long underwear and cut off shorts

- signing all surviving artists from the “Singles” soundtrack to the Starbucks record label.


In addition (for the time being, at least), Starbucks is going back to their original brown logo from the 70s. While I’m ecstatic there’s no more grating “Way I See It” manifestos printed on every cup, demanding my attention with all the urgency a fatal car accident, this “classic” look was a new one on me; I’ve been referring to Starbucks as the “Big Green Label” for so long that it never occurred to me that they could have ever had a different logo.

A quick Google search reveals that the original mascot has been a source of controversy for some time; when they re-introduced it in Seattle in 2006, one elementary school to required all their teachers to cover their cups (due to the clearly visible mermaid mumblies.)

Now, I’m sure you’d expect me to get all up in arms about this sort of thing, but I can TOTALLY see where they’re coming from. It’s a historical fact that mermaid-nips are freaking hot; many dedicated seamen * have paid the ultimate price for falling victim to those slutty mermaids, with their dreaded mer-mams. And how about that yoga stretch, like she’s waiting for the marine gynecologist? Sexy!

Starbucks has decided to placate critics by forcing the mermaid to grow her hair long, in order to cover the offending area. In addition, they will electrocute any mothers who attempt to breastfeed at their US locations.

I sent the following email to Howard Schultz, as an alternate solution.

Dear Howie,

I understand that your classic logo is the source of great controversy, among untold millions of breast-o-phobes. Since you’ve displayed an affinity for 1970’s iconography, may I suggest the following image as an alternative…


Because nobody, not no one, knows "Starbucks" better than Starbuck!


Think of it – this is the ultimate in corporate synergy! Battlestar Galactica is the hottest thing going on the TV, what with all the space-faring bomber jackets and feathered hairstyles. Instead of “The Beverage You Are about to Enjoy Is Extremely Hot”, you could totally have it say “Red Alert! The Lords Of Kobol Have Charged This Drink With The Heat Of A Thousand Supernovas!” (which is way more accurate, anyways)

…and HELLO? – can you say “frak-uccino”?


Plus, Dirk Benedict's agent won't return his calls, and he could totally use the cash.

Your Pal, Ted


Still haven’t heard back, but I hear Howard’s pretty busy.

In other (Google) coffee news, java has been shown to prevent dementia. Unless you drink catshit coffee at 50$ a cup. Then there’s no hope for you.

*heh heh.

Friday, March 28, 2008

HA ha!

Best Hair on a TV Personality — Male (2008)
Leland Vittert Channel 31



"How do the managers at Denver's Fox affiliate keep finding so many on-air dudes with great 'dos? Could they have a deal with the devil — or maybe Paul Mitchell? Whatever the case, Leland Vittert displays hair heroics in the glorious tradition of such predecessors as Phil Keating and Jeremy Hubbard, sporting a pillowy coiffure that floats over his cranium like the sort of brown cloud not even the Environmental Protection Agency would dare oppose. And while his hair looks soft and pliable, it stays put no matter the climactic condition — as if the gods themselves wouldn't dare mess with such perfection. Hmm, maybe Fox does have a deal with the devil."

From 2008 Westword - Best of Denver

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Yes, We Better.


So, this morning, surfing the tubes, I learned that Dunkin Donuts drinkers support Hillary Clinton, and Starbucks drinkers support Barack Obama. Isn’t the free press great?

This, to me, goes so far beyond whether the media is “liberal” or “conservative”: it’s an example of why the news media is pretty much completely irrelevant. I mean, yeah, I know this isn’t something that turned up on the front page, but, come ON! This is the sort of half hearted post I’d do on my blog after I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. Even if there are folks who fall squarely into one of these two categories, even if they’re playing for snark, isn’t such a premise pretty ill-concieved?

What about all the repentant Nader voters, sitting at Bauhaus in Seattle, who would sooner toss a chair through Starbucks’ window than drink one of their coffees? For that matter, what about my career-military, uber-religious cousin, who won’t ingest any beverage NOT in a cup with a little green mermaid on it? Doesn’t this just regurgitate the tired meme that Democrats are lazy welfare queens - until, of course, we have some extra cash in our pockets, at which point we become Frappacinno-huffing Hollywood starlets, with no sympathy for the common man?

I’m not particularly a political guy, and in so far as I am at all, I’m not terribly vocal about my politics. But the average two-time Bush voter makes me have to be political, and like the proverbial snake asleep on a rock, poked with a stick by a bunch of redneck campers, it pisses me Right. The Hell. Off.

I’m not adverse to a careful, thoughtful approach toward “welfare reform” (particularly as it relates to, y’know, large corporations that expect the feds to bail them out when the de-regulation they’ve fought so hard for doesn’t work out for them) and I (like - say it with me now - EVERY OTHER PERSON living on the planet today) believe in the ideal of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” (especially as it relates to C students becoming Presidents of the United States, based solely upon their connections). Yeah, just call me a “fiscal conservative”. I’m a hard core social (but not political) libertarian who laughs, hard, when a political party that wins elections based on stirring up a bunch of religious zealots mentions “Republican” in the same breath as “libertarianism”. I firmly hold that my wife of 11 years and I have the right to decide for ourselves whether or not we want to conceive, gestate, and be responsible-for any more children, thankyouverymuch. I’m against “special rights” (to marry, to raise children, to worship as they like without being chastised mercilessly by the media for it) for straight, white Christians who rail obsessively about perceived special rights every chance they get. While I’d like to believe that America could simply write off any and all oppressive regimes; countries that don’t hold our ideals in how they treat their workers and citizens, I know that the world is too small and it’s resources too few for us to hide behind the Rodenberrian ideal of the “Prime Directive”. I feel if the country INSISTS on some racist, hard-line approach to illegal aliens, we should give the death penalty to anyone guilty of employing them, thusly eliminating the “demand” rather than the “supply”. I’m not a gun owner, but I mostly think a responsible person should be able to make that decision for themselves (regardless of how I feel about the paranoid maniac whose vote at the ballot box is based solely upon “My guns! My guns! EVERYBODY’S TRYING TO TAKE AWAY MY GUNS!”) As a person who doesn’t need a lot of clutter in his life, I nevertheless think people should be able to decide for themselves how much is “enough”, insofar as it doesn’t cause excessive harm to our planet - and I find it the absolute pinacle of irony that a bunch of “Book of Revelation” groupies with a collective boner for the end-of-the-world scoff at the very idea that mankind could be responsible for causing just such an event.
And, oh yeah - I’m open to ANY workable solution which would allow me to search for work without being bootstrapped to the promise of a health insurance plan that can be modified at my employer’s whim.

In our two party system (and, yes, it is) I voted twice for Bill Clinton (enthusiastically) once for Gore (begrudgingly – this was the defective, no “oomph” year 2000 model, after all) and once for Kerry (pinching my nose at the ballot box). I was entirely smitten this year with John Edwards, after I saw him give a nothing-to-lose interview, where he said he completely fought against Kerry’s non-handling of the Swift Boat liars. But alas, his honesty was no match for the collective rockstar personalities of Hillary and Barack.

While I’m consistently annoyed with Clinton for her Kerry-like need to appear “moderate” to a bunch of people who will never, ever vote for her. I will nevertheless vote for her if she somehow winds up on the ballot, regardless of how she gets there. I won’t be HAPPY, but there are bigger things at stake. Nothing is more important than preventing Bush’s third term in the man of John McCain. That joke just isn’t funny anymore.

Which brings me to Obama. The Senator from Illinois had my initial, enthusiastic support – right up until he allowed some ignorant gospel singer at one of his events to drone on about being “cured” of his gayness. I won’t give this claptrap any more words than it deserves, other than to say I was sorely, deeply disappointed and offended.

Since then, Obama’s gone a long way toward regaining my trust, and in effect, my support. Particularly between the two remaining candidates; he being, as they say, the “lesser of two evils”. I was in no way obsessive in my support, but I was proud of "my candidate".

But now, the “Reverend Wright” controversy – as it’s displayed all over the news stations, with all the high-res graphics of a Superbowl commercial for Cool Ranch Doritos – has changed all that. I have sipped of the cool-aid, I have taken the oath – I have a deep, profound amount of man-love for Barack Obama, and I will follow this brilliant, strong, even visionary man into the next era of this country.

Every day in the last eight years, my head has been rife with thoughts every bit as negative, and even - yeah, I admit - hateful as the garbage that pours from the likes of Rush and Ann. Some may even think my words above are a reflection of that, but trust me, what goes through my sinister little noggin is much, much worse, which is why I generally keep my trap shut. But with his speech yesterday, Obama didn’t just move forward, he hurdled – gracefully – above the fray, in a way that other democrats seem inexplicably incapable of doing. He could have thrown his pastor over the rails like some political liability; he didn’t. He could have (rightfully, and, of course, in vein) pointed to the fire and brimstone preachers who are actually part of the other candidates campaign (nope). He could have ignored the mess for the sort of diversionary, and ultimately racist, attack that it was (nada).

Instead – he delivered a speech that HE wrote (he, him, himself. Barrack Obama) telling NO ONE to “get over it”, but challenging EVERYONE to “move above it”. He spoke with honesty and candor about the fears of the very people who are confused enough to try and derail his campaign. And in effect, he raised an even bigger challenge to his most ardent supporters – a challenge to view our enemies with respect, as fellow human beings.

Whether or not they drink Starbucks.

Will it be hard? ...

… Does John Hagee hate Catholics? (HA ha!)

But watching the next leader of the free world in action – yeah, I got the "hope".

Friday, March 07, 2008

Awesomeness.


Just Awesomeness.

That is All.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

VIVA BARISTA!


The first coffee job I ever had was at a kiosk in the Tabor Center, operating under the completely generic name “Espresso Cup”. Sort of an antiquated idea, the espresso cart, now that there’s any number of corporate chains conveniently ghettoed on every corner. It’s kind of like how the net café was made obsolete by the laptops on every table at those same coffee shops, or CDs being replaced by MP3 players, or cargo pants being edged out by those super-skinny girl jeans that all the hipsters wear. (I’m still bitter about that last one.)

Every day I came in at 7 am and - between reading books bought with the “tips” I got for giving away free drinks, and eating all the éclairs that our baker brought us – I made RIDICULOUSLY over-priced, absolute crap espresso drinks on a machine that was nothing more than a high-end home model. There are still folks in Denver who swear by their Folgers Crystals, due to the milk-scalded nastiness I had the audacity to serve under the auspices of “latte”. I was an angsty, directionless 19 year-old, too fat (what with all those éclairs) for it to even come off cool and disaffected.


Tired of dealing with all of the passive aggressive street people and other assorted loons who wandered in off the 16th street mall, I eventually displaced my anger onto the unfortunate Pacific Northwesterners who found themselves in our fair city, just looking for a serviceable cup of joe. I eventually went so far as to put a message on our menu board which read “The Espresso Cup Guarantee: Our Coffees Will Always Cost Less Than a Plane Ticket to Seattle.” Har-dee-har. What a prick.

A few of those folks braved my ire, pissing me off even more for the fact that it was obvious they wouldn’t get anything better, and were clearly just spoiling for a fight. And every single one of them, to a man, had one word on their lips, spoken with the reverence of Charles Foster Kane, longing for the innocence he lost along with his beloved sled, Rosebud:



“Starrrr…buuuucks.”

"Starbucks is coming”

“Starbucks will show Denver The Way”

“Starbucks will make you a ligit, world class city, and people from the coasts will never taunt you and your bumpkin ways again!!”


My point here is to illustrate the fact that there was a time, back before all the Safeway and Target locations, before Frappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches, that the little green label was viewed with respect and admiration by even the most discerning Javaheads. I saw an old post on William Gibson’s blog the other day, about how he can count on Starbucks for at least a decent cup of coffee, when he’s travelling through Podunk towns on a book tour. The guy certainly has a point; I remember on my honeymoon, it was the best cup I could find in Las Vegas, not exactly a bastion of coffee culture (or any other kind of culture, for that matter) and even in San Francisco last year, I found myself drinking more bad cappuccinos than good.

So last week, after my initial eye-rolling at the news about Starbucks closing every store in the country early in order to re-train their baristas, I have to admit I was intrigued. Aside from being a brazen (albeit brilliant) marketing meme that would naturally coast it’s way across the blogosphere, I couldn’t help but wonder: are the flat, too-hot drinks served from the Drive-up window in the last few years just the result of poorly trained employees, and not because of the much maligned, fully automatic espresso machines?

On the Wednesday morning after the training, I went to the Starbucks across the street from my work. I walked through the door, past the corporate approved sign reading “The Neighborhood’s Best Espresso” (gag). I must say, the employee I asked about the training at least gets points for attitude: she was sincerely excited about the push to become a respected brand again, and hopeful for the future. 30.2 seconds later (or however long the training manual deems appropriate) I was drinking my dopio from a porcelain demitasse.

The Verdict? It landed somewhere between ok (lower case) and good. Just short of the syrupy consistency of a great shot, and not quite strong enough - a shock, seeing as they roast the sweet bejeesus out of their beans. But it was at least the level of quality that Cayce Pollard would be happy to count on, after a transatlantic flight to Paris, or London, or Tokyo.

Contrast this, though, with the Mountain Regional Barista Competition last weekend. Bean Jockeys and Italian-Soda Jerks from all over Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho came together in Thornton (which heretofore shall be referred to as “Ground Zero in the Coming Javapocolips!”) to display and hone their skills.

After their slot was up, competitors manned an espresso machine off in the corner. I got a fantastic macchiato made by a barista from Salt Lake City, who informed me she was disqualified for taking too much time. I can’t speak directly to her experience, since I wasn’t at the event for very long (I was with my 7 year old son, who I’m sure viewed somebody making coffee for a panel of judges as being only slightly more exciting than the “Galactic Senate” sequences in The Phantom Menace) – but I was a little put off by that. In a world where the most recognizable coffee brand in the world is trying to make the best espresso they can from a machine whose primary function is maximum efficiency - I'm more than happy to wait a few extra minutes for something truly special. If there's any readers out there who participated in the event, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

In the end, watching these folks do their thing and seeing them root for their peers was truly exciting – it made me remember why I started this blog in the first place (hint: it wasn’t to talk about Starbucks). I have to admit that I felt pangs of jealously for the outright camaraderie these professionals showed for one another, and the passion they had for their craft. And while I was a little disappointed to see that nobody from Denver slid into any of the top three spots (two of which went to Heidi Bickelhaudt from Trident and Nolan Dutton from Conscious Coffee - both Boulder shops) I think it's awesome that the guy who took first place is kickin' out wicked shots and stickin' it to the man from the back of a conversion truck.

Hm. Maybe the coffee cart isn't such an obsolete idea after all.

Friday, February 29, 2008

NOW READ THIS!

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m always on the lookout for the next big blog idea to exploit. I mean, it was this blog you’re reading right now, with a (supposedly) single theme that got me to thinking seriously about writing again in the first place. And now that I’ve meandered off all to hell and back, as far as “topic” is concerned - and now that I know a lot more about how a new blog goes about attracting readers (like, yeah, writing on a daily basis. Touche.) I think it would be cool to come up with that golden, one-in-a-couple-hundred-thousand idea that would land me up there as a “blog of note” on the blogger main page.

Because, c’mon, it’s not like that stuff happens in some completely organic fashion; like, trying to guess which band member is the leader by their press photo just happened to be your hobby. And let's face it, you don’t land a sweet-ass full-time blogging gig for ABC by reviewing your mid-eighties comic book collection half-assed. The widely-recognized blog doesn’t just happen; it’s flowering is the result of a combination of hard work, and a hot, steamy one night stand with a Greek muse. Like Xanadu, but without all the roller skating.

Remember how in the 90’s, everybody used to say “in the future, everyone will have their own television station”? It’s weird; maybe it’s because I get most of my boob-tube-style media nowadays through the internets - or maybe it’s because the nature of mass-media celebrity nowadays is more akin to a cancer that one tries to avoid at all costs – but I look at those “bloggers of note” as being superstars in their own right; pioneers of a medium that’s just beginning to discover it’s potential.

So, it’s not like she needs any more readers, but with all the hook-y, theme-ready blogs out there, I think today’s blog of note is particularly inspired. How cool is that? In a world where 1 out of every four adults didn’t read a single book all last year, where the hoytie toytie look down from behind their spectacles at the book selections of potential readers, here’s someone who’s celebrating something that should be one of the simplest pleasures in the world, whether it’s great literature or pulp fiction, holy book or maniacal rantings of L. Ron Hubbard. And it all takes place in San Francisco, where readers sit drinking coffee and perusing their books on Zen Buddhism and Paradigm Subversion for Dummies among the ghosts of Sam Spade, Mardou Fox*, and Chevette Washington.

As an ADHD’er and borderline dyslexic who’s raising the greatest little boy in the world, whose face flushes red with pride and exhaustion every time he finishes struggling though a book – I thought this was pretty freakin' awesome.

All right, whistle’s blowing – time to go. I’ve got a date w/ Dr. No tonight.

*full disclosure: I don't think I ever finished The Subterranians. My beatnick phase never really took.

MONDAY: A Coffee-Related entry!! Fo' Sho'!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Take this, all of you, and drink it...

I’d been searching lately for a few new coffee-related drinks to feature, in a half-hearted attempt to maintain my title as (one of) Denver’s greatest coffee blogs, but the products I turned up were mostly uninspiring. At the Valero gas station by my daughter’s day-care (purveyors of fine, Javalero brand coffees), they have “Stok” which is the semi-truck driver's equivalent of an “add shot” at Starbucks, served in those little containers that they put creamer in, that for some odd reason you never, ever have to refrigerate. Ass. I was ecstatic when I saw the giant tarp up at my nearby 7-11, advertising the “Slurpuccino”. Yes, I should probably be embarrassed to admit that, but I’ve been dreaming of just that sort of frozen sludge since my hazy-minded, munchie-addled early 20s - a $1.50, 40 oz. high-octane alternative to Peaberry’s Frozen Bear. Of course, you don’t really expect much from something that’s squeezed from the rear corner of an urban convenience store - but you'd expect it would taste, at least vaguely, like, y’know, coffee. I’m sorry to report, my fellow junk-food junkies, that the Slurpuccino is a Slurpee no-no. It tastes, more than anything, like an innocuous cream soda. If I was a maker of such decisions, I would market a Blak Slurpee and be done with it.

(And, please, don’t talk to me about “cost of product” – I’m sure the Coca Cola exec. who gave the okay to mass-marketing a $2 a bottle coffee and cola concoction has barrels of the syrup in his basement as part of his severance package)

Then, a few weeks ago, I discovered a new Mecca for myself: a new international market to satiate (but just barely) my well-documented, insatiable (and untented-to) wanderlust. H Mart in Aurora is a screeching, steel-twisting, no-reported-survivors car-crash of Asian cultures and goods, where Korean, English-as-a-second-language-speaking cashiers work amiably alongside the Spanish-as-an-only-language Mexican immigrants who bag your groceries. There are a couple of different food stalls, one of which sells the second best boba smoothies in town (next to, of course, Lollicup. Sorry “Boba & Crepes” – but, hey, thanks for playing), along with two dollar bags of popped rice cakes (which are blasted loudly from deep within the bowels of this massive steampunk looking contraption) and fish-shaped Korean Waffles on a stick(!?) For five bones, you can get a 40 minute, non-erotic massage (this is A-town we’re talking about here; so, yes, the clarification is apt). It’s from one of those high-tech chairs, as opposed to an earthy, associate’s degree wielding 23 year old hotty, but still. (If they ever manage to manufacture a chair that DOES give erotic message, sign me right the hell up!) On my first visit, they even had a flat screen TV set up in the front of the store, where the customers could sing karaoke (I don’t think that’s a regular thing: when I returned the following week, I psyched myself up to see if they had “Peace, Love, and Understanding” by Elvis Costello, but the whole set had up and vanished.)

Anyhoo, along with some frozen-ated coffee pops (mmm… like Mr. Brown on a stick) I got a couple of other Asian soft drinks, such as.........................




“It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.” Nigel Tufnel.


And that’s just how it tastes. Blacker that black. Like burnt charcoal basted in motor-oil. Like goth-poop. Yeah, I noticed that The Black Boss has some distinctly Anglo features, too. I’m thinking that maybe they mean it in the “deep, dark” underworld sense. Or the makers just aren’t giving it as much thought as I do. Or they’re just screwing with my mind.















Yes, yes, “What’s a Pocari, and why doesn’t it just get some damn antiperspirant?” Ha ha, you cheeky monkey. But all told, this stuff isn’t really so bad. You know in the 70’s how your mom, when she was doing Weight Watchers, she would drink “Fresca”, which - like “Tab” - was a diet soda with no non-diet analog? Well, this is it; Pocari Sweat is like Fresca, but with your garden variety, not good for you white-refined sugar, instead of the outright deadly poison that is saccharine. And it’s flat. So, it’s like non-diet Fresca, but left on the counter, with the cap off. Since 1976. So, no, it’s not actually “good”, per se, but it won’t kill you. Jeez, what do you people want from a soft drink named after an odorous bodily function?

Anyway, yeah, that’s how I’ve been spending my weekends. Sorry for the completely amateurish pics. Thank G-d The Onion just got a photo intern on staff – I am ass at taking pictures.

Maybe the H Mart offers a class.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Depeche Mold


Ever since I was laid off from the cable company last year, I’ve toyed with the idea of downgrading to plain ol’ antenna-powered broadcast TV. I’m pissed off that they keep cutting back on what comes with our package (no more Something Weird and second season Facts of Life episodes on demand for free – the greedy bastards!) I don’t really have the time to keep up with the demanding, multi-layered story arcs that cable series are famous for - and besides that, it’s not as if I have all this extra money to burn. But the thing is, the wife and I (being the urbane sophisticated folks that we are) have this weekly ritual, where we sit down to watch two solid hours of public access programming every Friday night. It’s even better since the radical teenagers from Denver Open Media took over the programming last year. They’re like the 21st century, punk-rock Little Rascals, firing up their mid-grade digital video equipment and shouting “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a motherf**king show!”
Seriously, this stuff is pure comedy gold; uncut, uncensored, and usually unintentional. There’s this one program, VlogTV, where these two kids sit in front of a laptop and show clips off of youtube. It’s sort of like “Homemovies” that used to air on KBDI in the 80s, except everything is viewer-requested, so nobody reviews the content beforehand. There’s always this breathless, nerve rattling moment while the hosts wait to see if they’ve been duped into downloading hot MILF action.

Then there’s the “Chuck and Linda Lee Show” - Linda Lee is a new-ager of the “angels talk to me” variety, who talks all about creating your reality, while she herself pantomimes drinking a cup of tea. Chuck’s reality consists of getting the smackdown from Linda Lee anytime he opens his mouth to say something. And playing guitar.

The other thing I love about public access is that anytime I watch it, I’m sure to see someone I know. The wife - she used to do naughty with a guy that had a speaking part in Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds”. Me – I watch channel 57 and see Rebecca, an avant guard artist who went by “Becky” back when she was cheerleading at dear ol’ Northglenn High School.

Last week, we got the kids to bed early so we could watch the monthly live broadcast of the “First Friday” event on Santa Fe. Right there on stage, belting out "Roxanne" in front of a group of middle aged guys, was a girl that I used make out with on a semi-regular basis.

You know how you have those paradigm shifting revelations about your own life? And you know how they don’t generally occur when you’re actually meditating, or hiking to the top of one of Colorado’s many 14,000 foot peaks?. Yeah, I had one of those, right then. A clear, cognizant reflection of my own reality; not one I’ve so much created, as one that’s a product of my advancing age.

Do you know how old I am?

I am old enough to actually know people who play in cover-bands. (!)

**********

I kid, of course. I kid, because I love. And because I can relate. Who am I to knock somebody for whatever it is that gets them through their eight hours of day job? And really, she effectively re-created that early to mid-nineties college rock growl. I mean, it wouldn’t be unheard of if they garnered some measure of success for mimicking their influences.

I remember, there used to be this band in Boulder called “Fluorescent Echo”. The lead vocals were handled by a dude who was a dead ringer for Erasure’s Andy Bell. The keyboardist looked like Jane Childs, and the bass player was Flea, just like every other bass player on the planet in 1991. While most bands Northwest of Denver were known for approximating The Grateful Dead, Fluorescent Echo effectively channeled Depeche Mode in order to achieve their 15 minutes of fame.

And it’s not as if they were the only ones – In the late 80s / early 90s, you couldn’t hock a loogie without hitting a sack full of Yamaha DX7s, all programmed to mimic the Mode. After some quick Googling, I realized that no one yet has put together a list of those bands. And you know what that means - - it's time to get bloggin'!

To wit:

RED FLAG






Now, these guys were just flat-out brazen. Not only did they recreate the Mode's sound, note for reverberating, hammer-striking-anvil note - but the lead singer had the audacity to raid Martin Gore's closet as well. But these guys knew who they were ripping off - you had to give them that. Their first album was like 10 songs worth of "Strangelove" - and their remix album, "Naive Dance", had tracks produced by Paul Robb of Information Society. So that's like a double dip of synth-y goodness.

MODE-O-METER: FOUR STARS




CAMOUFLAGE

Sure, I could have gone the easy route, and just put up the video for "The Great Commandment"; but I had a dream JUST like this one time. I was watching a government controlled TV network in Germany back before the Berlin Wall came down, and Matt Damon was wearing some Z Cavariccis and doing the Molly Ringwald side-to -side. Besides, I thought the hardest working band in Eastern Europe deserved some of the spotlight. You think it's easy to produce that kind of techno-pop when the commies in charge only let you use a conventional drum set? RESPECT, yo.


MODE-O-METER: 5 STARS


7 RED 7


Seven Red Seven (myspace page)

Okay, so I couldn't find any youtube clips for these guys. Which means nobody had a video camera at the Sacramento mall opening where they performed their triumphant live show. But listen to that music on their myspace page, and just try not to feel nostalgic.

(if you can do it, just leave me alone. You're dead to me.)


MODE-O-METER: 3.5 STARS


CAUSE AND EFFECT


To be perfectly honest, this track always kind of bugged me. I mean, sure, it has a good beat, and you could do the new wave "sweep a penny" dance to it; but the best Depeche Mode songs were always about longing, obsession, need. "You Think You Know Her" is a dark, haunting ode to taking some "me-time", in order to really be sure what you want out of life. And while that may be good advice for the average 17 year old who listens to this kind of stuff, it's doesn't exactly fit a grinding dance track. And what's up with their monicker? Do you think they go on couples spiritual retreats with Hall, Oats, Milli, Vanilli, Captain, Tenille, Big, and Tasty? And that hair - dude, didn't you get the fax that sportin' it like Rico Suave is no good for your alternative-radio street cred?

MODE-O-METER: 3 STARS


So there it is, folks - my comprehensive list of bands rockin' it in The Mode.

Why? Why not? This is how I get through my eight hours of day job.