Saturday, November 25, 2006

Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow

Friday marked another trip to the venerable Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA. This time, to see the venerable Gov't Mule. I have been going there for concerts for about 30 years, and other than upgrading the seats, the place is exactly the same as it was when I saw Gentle Giant there in 1976. There aren't too many things in our lives that we can say haven't changed in 30 years.
I'd guess I've seen almost a hundred shows there, and while I was waiting for Mule to go on, I found myself pondering the great music I've heard there. The mystical part of me figured that somehow, it was still vibrating around in the walls; but the cynical part of me figured that the walls have been painted at least once, which would negate the vibrating music part.
Nevertheless, I did get a little nostalgic for the old days, which were easy to imagine with the place still looking the same as when I saw Van Halen's first tour there or heard The Pretenders (twice) before the deaths of Pete Farndon and James Honeyman Scott. Other than waiting to see another great Mule show, I sat there with a feeling that I had left a lot of myself in this place, and had some great experiences, almost all of them good.

I tried to sort through the emotional part of being in such a place of great personal history without getting saccharine or sounding like one of those people who lives too much in the past. But, the past defines our present sometimes, and I wouldn't give up those days for anything. It would have been easy to let myself drift back to the old Genesis show or the Styx concert, or even that awful time that Television opened for Peter Gabriel - what were they thinking? What brought me back to earth was the fact that most of the people that were in the building wouldn't have the faintest idea what I would be talking about if I tried to explain myself, as you may not now.

I have rarely encountered a thought that I couldn't over-analyze, and this one was no exception. I caught myself in mid-longing just in time to realize that the past is gone, and while the memories are sweet, the only thing that really matters is the present and the near-future, which continue to meld into each other, much as we may try to stop it.
People are often criticized for their "live for today" attitude, but really, what else is there? I can no more go back to the DEVO show than I can re-live any other event in my life, as much as I may like to.

Just before the lights went down and the band came on stage, I figured that I had better enjoy these moments, because they are fleeting. Someday, I will find myself longing for the good-old days when Gov't Mule played the Tower, just as I longed for the good-old days today, and I may have to stop myself then as I did now.

I think Carly Simon was right. These are the good old days.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Just Like Clockwork

There are certain days of the year when it isn't necessary to turn on the local TV news to see what the "top story" is. Around here, it's generally a fire or some huge traffic accident. Some days, however, are no-brainers for the folks at the local TV stations, and even the gang at CNN.
Today was one of those days. It is Black Friday. They write songs about it, and people start standing in line right after they finish their Thanksgiving dinner. Why? You tell me. I just watch 'em on the TV.
My impression of the gangs of people waiting around at 5am for the doors to open is that they are a pack of nitwits, led around by the short hairs by the lure of advertising, that promises Door Buster savings. Little do the stores know that the doors will almost truly be busted by the stampeding jerks who break through the barrier before the clerk has the key out of the door. You saw them today, I'm sure. It doesn't matter where you live, asshats populate the planet.For what, exactly? A $20 television set or a break on the price of a computer? Trample your fellow man in the spirit of the holidays.

As for me, I'd rather listen to the song and do my shopping on Cyber Monday:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bust a Cap in Santa

Merry Christmas, kids ... where did Santa leave the bullets?
That's the question lots of kids will be asking as they open their presents under the new tree ornament being sold by the crazy nuts at Urban Outfitters. The ad goes like this:

"Bust a cap in your tree with this super-glittery ornament in the shape of a handgun, complete with a satin ribbon for hanging"

And, it's only $6. But, hey -- it includes the satin ribbon. Steal some money from your parents and run to your local store and pick one up.
Click here for the full article from this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Correct me if I'm wrong (and I don't think I am) but the marketing people at Urban Outfitters are college educated, semi-sophisticated people working for a company (headquartered in Philadelphia, I'm ashamed to say) that pulled in $828 million in revenue last year. These genuises had all sorts of options for Christmas goodies and settled on a little gun to hang from a tree.
Much like the stupid idea for O.J.'s book, I wonder if will it ultimately be pulled from the catalog due to public backlash - including that of the Governor of Pennsylvania, through his spokeswoman Kate Philips, who called it "twisted". Good one, Kate.
Here's the company's official spin:

The "Glitter Gun Ornament" is one of several "dark humor items" the company is selling this year, it said in a statement. There are devil sock monkeys and light-up skull ornaments - a roguish companion to the light-up Jesuses - and shiny cheeseburgers. "This specific 'Glitter Gun Ornament' is by no means condoning the violence that we face in our city, or any city, for that matter, and is not meant to celebrate guns or gun violence," the Philadelphia-based company said in a statement. "It is meant only to ironically celebrate the holidays."

I can think of a thousand different ways to celebrate the holidays, ironically or not, that do not include gun ornaments for the tree. My question to the folks at Urban Outfitters: Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?
How does anyone think, in even their bleakest moment, that a little gun hanging from a tree is an appropriate ornament? If it doesn't condone violence, what does it condone? As far as I can tell, a gun has one purpose: to spray bullets on something in a violent fashion. Further, if Christmas is for kids, then what is a glittery gun ornament hanging from the tree telling them? That guns are OK, and appropriate as decorations to show around the house and, if you're so inclined, load with bullets and shoot a squirrel - or your neighbor.

OK, so maybe I'm taking it a step too far, but if there's a home in America where a tree is decorated with gun ornaments, and there are children in that home, then perhaps parenting is not the first priority of the people in charge of the children.

I am at a loss to attempt to explain the absolute idiocy of any company to market a tree ornament that would trivialize the violence inflicted by guns, regardless of whether it is a Christmas ornament or a cigarette lighter. Guns are serious business, and unfortunately, Urban Outfitters does not take its business seriously.

So, I will take my business to American Eagle Outfitters, Eddie Bauer, Lands End or whatever other company that I believe takes itself and its responsibility as a corporate citizen of this country seriously enough to market products that do not trivialize violence or even ridicule religion, for that matter.

Whether it is a Glitter Gun or a light-up Jesus, a company that is responsible for selling products should not take that responsibility lightly, lest we decide to take our business elsewhere.

Lovable Losers

Just so you’ll know, we are losers here in the greater Philadelphia area. We are reminded on a daily basis by newspapers, television and radio that the losing has reached epic proportions. Never mind that property values are sky-high, the weather has been unseasonably warm and we live in an exciting part of the country where there is an abundance of art, history and entertainment - we are losers. Our sports teams lose, and we lose with them. We are losers by association, or so we are told.

The whining has also reached epic proportions, as the “woe is me” refrain has become as old and tired as the losing. The football team that two years ago was near the top of the world is now being subjected to cries of “fire the coach” and “get a new quarterback”. In true chicken or egg fashion, I don’t know whether the fans begat the media or vice versa. Whatever the answer, the local sports media is feeding the frenzy by enabling the loser mentality.

This past Sunday on our local Comcast Sports channel, they aired a piece that detailed a sting of losses that the local sports teams went through over the weekend. It started with Friday after-midnight Sixers and Flyers losses and included the Eagles humiliating defeat at home against the Titans. However, they seemed to go out of their way to include the Phillies’ “loss” of free agent Alfonzo Soriano, who signed with the Cubs, even though they never really had him to begin with. Can you lose something you never had? It struck me that, in order to make a point, Comcast went to a lot of effort to emphasize something that did not warrant emphasis. The Phillies no more “lost” Soriano than they lost other free agents who signed with other teams before Sunday, but it fit in with the “loser” theme, and was included. Piling on, as it were.

Last Wednesday, the Philadelphia Daily News published an entire section devoted to the fact that it has been 23 years since a team has won a championship, and interviewed local personalities, asking who would be the one to break the streak. The focus of the section was not on the successes of the winners, but on the gloom of losing, and to remind us that it was the 1983 Sixers who gave us our last championship.

The bigger issue, I think, is that in some strange (dare I say, sick) way, Philadelphians enjoy the losing. The city that former Eagle and current radio/TV host Garry Cobb termed Negadelphia, for our penchant toward the downbeat, wallows in its own defeats as to glorify them to the point that they define who we are. Nobody enjoys losing, but here, we have come to embrace it, and we have even allowed it to seep into the culture.
We make it part of that blue-collar city spirit that we cultivate here. As though losing makes us tougher and emboldens our city pride when we can say that the jerks who live in towns like Dallas and New York don’t understand what it’s like to want. They are spoiled and reviled for having the nerve to win while we appear needier and as such, deserve something more.
Scratch a Phillies fan and you’ll uncover a Yankee and Met hater. Scratch an Eagles fan and you’ll uncover a Cowboy and Giant hater – as well as a few others. It isn’t merely because New York is a bigger city, it’s partly because they win and we don’t.

Our local sports-talk radio station (WIP) would probably tell you that there is a spike in callers and a slight increase in their ratings on the Monday following an Eagles loss. It starts with the post-game show and does not let up until the next game time on Sunday, when a completely new set of analysis starts, depending on the outcome. Generally, though, it seems that the emphasis is on something negative – even in victory. Mike Schmidt expressed it nicely when he analyzed the post-game mindset this way: “The thrill of victory, and the agony of reading about it the next day”. Winning is bad for the sports talk radio business. Who wants to listen to a bunch of happy people? Misery does indeed love company.

One of WIP's station breaks goes: "Sharing the agony with the Philadelphia Sports fans". Great. Thanks for the confidence boost.

Where to now? The Eagles season is presumably over. The season ending [career ending?] injury to quarterback Donovan McNabb, combined with their 5-5 record have caused fans and media to write-off the season and look to the next one. The Sixers are dismal, and the Flyers, having recently fired their head coach, are still struggling to score goals. It is virtually guaranteed that the losing will continue into the spring, when the Phillies will carry the torch through the summer to what we all expect will be another season of almost good enough baseball, as it has been since their last playoff appearance in 1993.

It’s Philadelphia, where losing is an epidemic and talking about it is fun. I'm not sure what the fans in this city would do if a team actually won something.
Maybe soon, we'll find out.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Some Good - and Bad Ideas

Almost anything for a buck.

After a firestorm of criticism, News. Corp. said Monday that it has canceled the O.J. Simpson book and TV special "If I Did It." "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," said Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."
A dozen Fox affiliates had already said they would not air the two-part sweeps month special, planned for next week before the Nov. 30 publication of the book by ReganBooks. The publishing house is a HarperCollins imprint owned — like the Fox network — by News Corp.

Finally, someone came to their senses. But why did it take a "firestorm of criticism"? Can't reasonable-thinking, intelligent people make those kinds of decisions for themselves, without the backlash of the public? No? Well, we are talking about Murdoch and News Corp. -- which should explain a lot.

Over at the U.S. Mint, they are replacing an unpopular dollar coin with another unpopular dollar coin [pictured above], only this one will be a "collectible", like the little quarters that more people save than spend. Can George Washington and Thomas Jefferson succeed where Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea failed? No. Unless you make them collectibles and encourage large numbers of Americans to put them on cardboard coin boards.
Washington, Jefferson and Adams will be the first presidents on the new dollar coins, scheduled to start appearing in soda machines and METRO kiosks in February of 2007.
They say they would save $500,000 if the government stopped printing paper dollars and changed to coins. Phooey. Those folks at the Mint have no idea what this is going to do to the strip club business. Ever try putting one of these coins in a G-string? There's only one place they will fit, and I ain't going there without rubber gloves!
How about coin condoms? Get the guys at the Trojan factory on that one.

And finally, a really good idea...
If you believe there is too much killing in the modern world, you might consider shedding your clothes and engaging in passionate sex on Friday, December 22. It's worldwide Orgasm Day ... mark your calendars.
Think I'm kidding? Click here and see for yourself.

Mark your calendar and get your dollar coins ready.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sit Down First

Oh -- you're already sitting down? OK, here's some news I'm sure will shock and amaze you:

CAMARILLO, Calif. - Gas prices are on the rise again, just as Americans hit the highways for Thanksgiving. Gas prices rose about 5 cents per gallon nationwide compared to two weeks ago, industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday. The national average for mid-grade was $2.34, while premium was $2.44 per gallon. The lowest average price in the nation for self-serve regular was in Houston, where a gallon cost $2.05.

Of course, that doesn't mean that any of us want to go to Houston, merely for the gasoline. But don't ya think that someone somewhere would make the connection between the rise of gasoline prices and the increase in travel? Airlines, oil companies, travel agents and hotels screw consumers over the same time every year, and we just bend over and take it. I guess we get what we deserve.

So, to take your minds off your misery, here's a video about a woman who has a man trapped in her basement, lets him out only to bury him in her back yard, then hoses him off and chases him around for a minute or two.

It's a bit old now, but no older than that Bob Seger song; but sometimes, stuff gets stuck in the CD player and you can't get it out. That's why there's YouTube