Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[31 Holi-Days Related] Set Your Goals!

I am right now, at the onset of this project, stating my goal to surpass WALK A PLANT DAY as the number one Google result for the search term "31 Holi-Days" (and no, Google, I do not mean "31 Holidays") by the time 2012 arrives.

What can I tell you?  I'm a dreamer.

New DAILY series for December: "31 Holi-Days"

It's the most wonderful time of the year!  Well, at least some of the time, and that's what this new, daily feature here on Turned on Its Ear will be taking a look at beginning tomorrow, December 1st.  I've always been of two minds about the holidays: on the one hand, I'm a true sucker for friends, family, food and presents, and the absolute magic that you can smell on the Manhattan air this time of year.  On the other hand, I'm just as big a fan of the irreverent and the absurd in December as I am throughout the rest of the year.  Accordingly, this series should be all over the place in a good way: expect to unwrap as many Hallmark moments as Nelson Muntz-style point-and-laughs, as well as some posts that have a nice mixture of both.

The series will also be completely free-form.  Posts will likely range from photos with one-line captions on the spartan end of the spectrum to lengthy stories/rants on the more verbose side of things.  It's my Christmas (Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, substitute as appropriate) gift to you all, dear readers: new content every day from now until 2012.  It's also part of my celebration of the spirit of the season...

...and a good excuse for me to shoot my mouth off at the Holidays.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

[31 Holi-Days Preview] But What About the Sanity Clause?

Dear Cablevision / Optimum Online / News 12:

The Santa Clause is a bad movie starring that guy from Home Improvement.  Father Christmas spells his name just like the singer from the Scorpions, except with a "C" instead of a "K" at the beginning.  In case that's too many links for your fevered heads to handle, Kris Kringle's alias is spelled CLAUS.  No "e".  Thank you for playing.

Merrily yours,
A. Holiday Pedant

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

As God is my witness, this is as much a Thanksgiving tradition for me as stuffing and Black Friday gas.  Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

PLEASE Run it Over. Now.

"Rap" follow-up to "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" to be released.

Seriously, how many of you ever asked Santa for a terrible idea for Christmas?  If you need me, I'll be the guy hiding in the kitchen, trying desperately to puncture my eardrums with the turkey baster.  Especially if I have to hear it in any sort of proximity to that Kohl's/Rebecca Black commercial.  (Link provided for evidence only - do not click on it if you value life at all.)

Outside of a Random Small Shop on My Block, Noon-ish Today

The picture's not great, since I had to grab it and run, but this is a stack of Borders distribution boxes, all sealed up with that company's famous security tape ("stop tape" in the parlance of the stockroom), being delivered to a random little store at the top of my block around mid-day today.  That's kind of strange, right?  Where did they come from, nearly two months after Borders honored its final coupon?  What sort of dregs and detritus could possibly be in them?  Why are they being delivered to an image printing/blueprinting store?  I swear there's a mystery novel waiting to be written from this photo, were someone so inclined.

Also in this photo: my thumb, in the upper-left corner.  I will find a way to blame that on my mentally deficient phone, and edit this post accordingly.  Maybe after dinner.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My new favorite Craigslist ad

Man, this guy is a barrel of laughs.  "You're doing God's work.  Let me kick the devil out of the details for you" had me snickering, and the stuff about The Muppets and the bit about paying in stolen rolled quarters towards the end nearly had me off my chair in hysterics.  If I needed something looked over, he'd be the first email I sent out...

,,,although, admittedly, I'd be emailing myself.  Yeah, folks, sorry 'bout that: this post is nothing but a shameless plug for the home proofreading business I'm trying to get off the ground.  I wasn't kidding about being sick of all these go-nowhere job applications, and I've been threatening to get something like this going for some time now.

I wish I could offer Turned on Its Ear readers some sort of discount, but honestly I'm already doing this as cheap as possible just to get things rolling.  Mention this blog and you'll get pushed to the top of the pile, though: that I can offer/promise you.

Anyway, tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell your dumb boss by way of passively insulting him or her.  Oh, and if you wanted to flag it for "best-of Craigslist" and get it seen by discerning stoners everywhere, that'd be heartily appreciated.

Outside of ShopRite, Midnight Last Night

Because, hey: nothing says CHEER like a good "Cemetary" Piece!  (Or, for that matter, maybe even a Cemetery Piece.  Seriously, folks: hire a proofreader.  Preferably me.)  It's the perfect thing for when a re-gifted fruitcake isn't quite middle-finger enough.

Speaking of Christmas miracles, could it be that my not-so-smart phone actually managed to take a decent, in-focus, text-legible photo?  Hallelujah!  It's not enough to get me to renege on my stated intention to become a big old hypocrite and get an iPhone once this job stuff is settled, but still: credit where due.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Job Search Blues

Are you looking for a way to feel demoralized, disheartened and just plain depressed?  Is this your time to feel like nothing more than another sheep in the flock?  Have you always dreamed of going to sleep feeling like you've been digging ditches for the past twelve hours AND ALSO feeling like you've accomplished less than nothing?  Think that paychecks are for suckers?  Then the fast-paced world of job searching in a bad economy may be just what you've been looking for!

A bit over the top?  Probably, but damned if job hunting isn't worse than even the worst job I've ever had in my life.  I'm sick to death of online applications, résumé scanning software, Craigslist, "work-from-home opportunities", going to a place of business to check on my application only to end up in the "oh, did you fill out an online application yet?" endless loop, et cetera.  Don't even get me started on the psychological profile part of the online applications: I am not a thief, I have well-developed people skills, I am equally comfortable working solo and as part of a group, I've got whatever you're calling "leadership potential" this week, I promise to keep my emotional meltdowns at home, and I don't think that it's "mostly alright" to steal office supplies.  There you have it: it is possible to sum all of that up in a single run-on sentence instead of a 150 question quiz.  Who woulda thunk it?

I am tired of the endless babble parade of résumé speak.  Really, is anybody going to say "I'm not very dynamic, and I only intend to do the minimum possible to keep my lazy keister out of the unemployment office"?  Not hardly: we are all team players, looking to enjoy the challenge of a fast-paced work environment where there are no problems, only opportunities.  So, for the next however-long this takes me to write, allow me to do away with it.  In real-world terms, this is who I am:

I'm completely dependable.  I don't care if I have to take three buses, a train, and a carrier pigeon to get in to work. If I tell you that I'm going to be there, I will.

I have excellent time management and planning skills.  I'm happiest going into a project with a good idea of what really needs to be done, how long it is going to take, and whether or not I'll need help.

I'm also living in reality, and realize that flexibility is a must.  The great thing about plans is that you can always make more of them anytime the weather forecast calls for the sky to fall within the next hour or so.

I write real good-like.  Do you think they give these blogs out to just anybody?  Seriously, though: I know when to use your and when to use you're, I can write a great business letter, and I promise that yours will never be the business with "FOWARD" painted in large letters on your window with me on your staff.

Computers are no problem.  I'm sharp with most of your common office software, but I'm not going to lie and tell you that I know everything about every application on your desktop.  I can assure you that I've rarely met a bit of software I couldn't tame given a small amount of time to figure it out.  Even PeopleSoft.  I've also got an uncanny knack for fixing printers.

I really do like learning new things.  Sure, I know it sounds like résumé speak, but I'm that guy who wants to learn how to do it all.  There is nothing in the world wrong with saying "I don't know", provided you then go and educate yourself.

I've got a knack for working things out between co-workers.  Regardless of the job, I've generally found myself in the problem-solver's seat.  I'm not the kind of problem-solver that moans about it constantly, either ("oh, god, do I always have to fix everything?").  I find it gratifying to help things run smoothly.

The bad news?  No college degree.  At least not yet, and I'm not comfortable lying to you about it, either.  I'm very interested in finishing it off in the next few years, though.  In fact, the only thing holding me back from doing so is the need for a dependable source of half-decent income.  It's a catch-22: need the decent job to afford the schooling, need the schooling to get a decent job.  Still, it's worth the leap of faith on your part: think about how much money you can save in the interim by hiring a college-quality guy who made a few questionable decisions a decade-plus back when he was young, "brilliant" and invincible.

Look, I'm a smart, funny guy just dying to care deeply about your store, office, publishing house, adult bookstore, political campaign, or what have you.  That's no lie, and it's no résumé -speak, either: I do throw myself whole-heartedly into whatever I take on.  In no time flat, you will wonder how you ever got along without me, and I will marvel at the idea that there was a time before I knew you.  I'm based just outside of White Plains, New York, and I'd certainly consider commuting to New York City for the right pay/opportunity/preferably both.

Thank you for your consideration.
(and thank you for letting me blow off some steam.  I feel much better now...seriously.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"This is hard to dance to."

I can't stop watching this.  It's absolutely mesmerizing.

I'm old enough to know better.  I don't care.

EDIT: Embedded video changed to crappy camcorder job after the good quality one was Viacom'ed off of YouTube.  Bastards.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Re: 11/11/11

Sorry, couldn't resist.  We all need an attitude, indeed.

Seriously, though, if this day holds a particular magic for you, far be it from me to rain on your parade.  If, on the other hand, you believe that tomorrow, the next day, and so on hold the same potential for magic as today, then you are well and truly on my wavelength.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Dethroned Kings and Un-Smooth Criminals: Final Thoughts on Michael Jackson and Conrad Murray

Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor, has been found guilty.  This is a good thing, as I believe that he is.  Murray's primary defense, the notion that Jackson injected himself with the lethal dose of Propofol, never made much sense to me.  Jackson hardly seemed like a prime candidate for suicide, at least not in 2009.  He liked the lights too much to off himself, and the problem with post-mortem adulation is that it's difficult to bask in once you've relocated to a pine box in the ground.  Had Jackson died in the immediate wake of the first round of child abuse allegations, I'd have thought that suicide was a possibility.  By 2009, Jackson was looking for his comeback.  Which he ultimately got, of course, but I strongly doubt he was looking to dirt-nap through it.

I'm sure Murray never meant to pull the plug on the King of Pop.  It was hardly in his best financial interest to do so; after all, corpses no longer have much need for highly-paid personal physicians.  The picture painted of him in Jackson's last hours by the prosecution is a chilling one: a man too distracted by cell-phone calls to his various girlfriends to notice that the most famous living human being on the planet was dying right in front of him.  How much of that is the result of dramatic license is certainly open to conjecture.  Only two people know the truth: the corpse, who isn't giving out as many interviews as he used to, and the accused, who clearly wouldn't think twice about bending the truth.  Et voila: the perfect villain.  Jackson's family and many fans finally have someone to well and truly blame for his death, and that will hopefully move them a good distance closer to closure.

There is one other thing to consider here.  Had Murray's negligence not killed Jackson, I'd still have had a hard time imagining him making old bones.  Jackson was destined to die of being Michael Jackson, of being Elvis Presley, of being a guy whose fame took him so far past the outer boundaries of any available map that there was simply no way back.  This doesn't absolve Murray, mind you, who should absolutely have to pay the price for being at best a quack.  Were it not for those pesky abuse allegations, Jackson would be a completely sympathetic figure, a guy who by all accounts probably never lived a "normal" day in his life.  A man who lived his entire adult life stuck in childhood as the result of never having one of his own.  You've all heard it all before.

But there are those pesky abuse allegations, and they do make Jackson's legacy more difficult than it otherwise would be for me.  I've never been completely convinced of Jackson's guilt; quite frankly, there were few celebrities riper for blackmailing than the Most Famous Man In The World, especially given his penchant for eccentric behavior.  On the other hand, I've never been one to jump on the MICHAEL WAS FRAMED bandwagon, either: there was enough smoke surrounding him to suggest fire.  The very fact that he felt it appropriate to share his bed with pre-pubescent boys was creepy as hell, even if he was not actually guilty of any untoward conduct.  And then there was the petting zoo, and the alleged Jesus Juice, and so on.  Even if all of Jackson's actions were completely on the level, anyone not blinded by hero worship would have to admit that the whole scene looked a bit off.

So what, then, is Jackson's legacy?  For me, it's Off the Wall.  That's a hell of an album, regardless of how whacked in the head the guy on the cover may have been.  I love the same Jackson 5 hits that everyone else with a pulse loves, I admire Thriller even if over-exposure has rendered much of it stale for me, and the rest is hit and miss.  As for the man himself, perhaps he should be seen as a golden opportunity for us to instill in our children a healthy understanding of the difference between the performance and the performer, and how it's perfectly fine - healthy, even - to enjoy the former while having your misgivings about the latter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Obligatory Kim Kardashian Post! (act excited, wouldya?)

"So who in the hell is Kim Kardashian?"
                                                - My father, this morning.

Honestly, I didn't have a good answer for him: "this annoying chick who I've gotta tune out for a couple of minutes before The Soup comes on E!" didn't really help him so much.  Really, though, that's about all I've got.  Years ago, before Moonstruck established her as an actress to be taken seriously, music critic Dave Marsh described Cher as being famous for being, rather than doing.  It's a concept that applies nicely here.

Alright, I'll fess up.  I do know a bit more than that.  She's an annoying chick who got married ten weeks ago, and sensationally filed for divorce on Halloween.  I'm aware of that because the stupid hours-long special derived from the ill-fated wedding takes up nearly all of the time on E! not already allocated to either The Soup, or Chelsea Handler and Joan Rivers appearing on different shows as a sort of sunrise, sunset version of the same mouthy, occasionally amusing-in-spite-of-herself harpy.  Quality programming over there - although, seeing as they've now got some time to fill where that wedding special used to live in their schedule, I'm no less talented than anyone I've already mentioned in this piece save for Joel McHale, and I do need a job.  Just sayin'.

Back to my point, if I indeed had one.  Oh yeah: Kim Kardashian marries, divorces ten weeks later, gossip and exaggerated moral panic ensue.  I don't truly understand why people give a damn in the first place about the personal lives of celebrities, even ones who have careers that have actually amounted to something more than being.  Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, the Royal Family?  Yeah, don't care, unless they're all so crazy in love that they want to share it with the world and thusly agree to bankroll my wedding.  In that unlikely scenario, sure, I'll at least send a thank-you card.  Otherwise, who can really be bothered with any of it?  Gossip-hounds, that's who, and maybe just normal, smart folks who need a diversion as well.  As I type these words, my fiancée's People subscription is calling me a curmudgeon.  So be it.

The other half of this equation is the one that interests me a bit more: the exaggerated moral panic.  It's demeaning to the concept of marriage!  No, no it's not.  It's a drunken mistake at best, a calculated, cynical publicity stunt at worst and likeliest.  It would be demeaning to the concept of marriage if you, o moral crusader, as someone who firmly believes in its sanctity, married some bozo on TV and then dumped the creep before the holidays.  It would also be demeaning to the concept of marriage if I, who am no moral crusader nor fan of religion but rather just a guy who believes heartily in saying and doing what I mean in my heart, did the same.  These, however, are just dumb people on television, no more real than Eric Cartman or Stewie Griffin no matter how much the continuance of their "reality" shows depends on them desperately attempting to convince you otherwise.  If you dig the plot of what they're selling, that's fine: a bit of mindless entertainment never hurt anyone, says the guy with Bait Car playing on mute behind him as he types this.  Just remember that the fantasy/reality line is your friend, and be grateful for those among your family and friends who aren't mindless idiots, televised or otherwise.

So, Dad, I guess I can answer your question now: Kim Kardashian is a bad actress.  And, speaking of calculated, cynical publicity stunts, she is now also a way for me to get a bit of that Google random-hit love at a time when I'm looking to transition my blog back to the 50/50 music/non-music ratio that I inadvertently got away from somewhere around the time Charlie Sheen stopped self-destructing so publicly.  Thanks, Kim, you're a doll.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trick Tuesday: Auf Wiedersehen!

Goodnight now ladies and gentlemen, goodnight now ladies and gents.  That's the end of the show, now it's time to go.  Indeed: the albums have all been dissected, the compilations all complained about, and the solo albums briefly remembered and dismissed once again with a shrug.  What have I learned from it all, now that we've been there and back?  I've learned that, in the best possible way, none of it really matters.

Let me explain that a bit: putting on the critic's hat is fun.  Explaining why Heaven Tonight is a better album than The Doctor probably doesn't really need to be done; after all, anyone with functioning ears should be able to figure that much out for themselves.  It's enjoyable - it must be, for me to have indulged in it for the past five months - but it's also largely unnecessary.  Discussing why there are times when the truly devoted among us might voluntarily choose to queue up "Man-U-Lip-U-Lator" instead of "On Top of the World", though: that's where the heart of this entire exercise lies.  I've had several great email exchanges about just that sort of thing with various readers over the course of this series, and I'd like to pause here a moment to thank everyone who took the time to check in.  This may sound corny, but it's 100% true: great bands tend to attract great fans.

Fans, and fandom, have been the crux of this entire series.  It's important to remember that criticism is just a fancy word for a resume or a by-line; if we are to call it what it is, the word we'd be looking for is opinion.  Case in point: one of the emails I received was an impassioned plea that I re-evaluate Busted, long my pick for the absolute nadir of the Cheap Trick catalog.  The letter wasn't a "you jerk, how could you" type of thing; instead, it was more of a "please don't deprive yourself of..." sort of tone.  I went back and listened to it again, hopefully.  After all, what a great little dramatic turn that would have been: reader sets blogger straight!  'Twas not to be, alas: I still don't care much for about 75% of that album.  I am glad, however, that this particular reader disagrees with me: I love Cheap Trick, and I'd rather that their worst album be loved by someone than loathed by all.  To put it another way: I'm more of a fan of the tightrope walkers, whereas this gentleman prefers the elephant show, but we both really love the circus and, at the end of the day, that's what counts.  Criticism would only be truly useful if the quality of music were quantifiable in some way; personally, I thank god that it is not.

As for the future of Cheap Trick themselves, we'll see what develops.  There are some rumors: a possible new album and a possible Cheap Trick museum to be established in Chicago or Rockford lead the pack.  There are also some questions: will Bun E. ever return to touring, or has he left the building for good?  Will they ever be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame?  Will they ever bring the Dream Police show anywhere even vaguely near New York?  (Okay, so maybe that last one is only being asked by me.)

Conjecture is fun, and it's great that myself and other folks like me still care so much as to indulge in it.  The truth of it all is much more simple than any of that, actually: if it all ended tomorrow, if Cheap Trick announced their retirement effective immediately, I'd be very sad.  I'd also be left with hours of great music, tons of irreplaceable memories, and the absolutely perfect soundtrack to the last twenty-three years of my life.

Really, what more can you possibly ask of your heroes?

Occupy! ( what?)

T-Shirts now available!  Sign of successful capitalist media saturation or total, utter irrelevance?  You be the judge!

It is time to acknowledge the smelly, drum-beating elephant in the room.  On its non-music side, this blog hasn't generally shied away from looking at New York-centric political topics, and I'm very aware that its lack of any discussion at all of Occupy Wall Street sticks out like a sore thumb as a result.  Honestly, I'd been holding off until I formed a real opinion of the protests; at this point, it's nearly two months into the thing, and I still haven't shored up my thoughts on it.  Since that's not likely to change, let us instead spend a few minutes taking in the cognitive dissonance of it all, in a nice, well-organized list format.

* Regardless of anyone's personal opinion of OWS, it has a right to exist.  A constitutional one, actually: the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances is a phrase that should at least ring a bell for most Americans.  Mayor Bloomberg needs to cease the vague threats and generator confiscation.  It's hardly surprising that he seems threatened by OWS; in the parlance of the thing, he is certainly the 1%, and it is his old buddies that are being targeted by the protest.  His instinct to protect them is either laudable or despicable, depending on your perspective.  My vote is for "both"; sorry folks, but the world is a confusing place like that sometimes.

* There is no doubt in my mind that there are sincere people camping out at Zuccotti Park.  Hard-working, well-intentioned people who are simply at the end of their rope with being un-/under-employed through no real fault of their own have every right to be angry, and good on them for taking it public rather than sobbing in their pillows.  I'm job-searching myself at the moment.  I'm not a dumb guy.  I'm not afraid of hard work, I have plenty of experience with a lot of different things, and I am a fast and eager learner.  I'm also over-qualified for Nathan's, and under-qualified for the great, lofty corporate boardrooms.  There are times where I end my job search for the day with the thought that I'm only a severe distaste for camping out and the smell of Patchouli away from grabbing a tent of my own and hangin' downtown for a while.  Bear in mind that I'm a guy whose feelings on groups and movements are much more Groucho Marx than Woodstock '69.  People - myself very much included - are frustrated and angry with where America's economic drift has landed them, and they are right to be.

* There is no doubt in my mind that there are plenty of jackasses who consider protest a viable alternative to productivity camping out at Zuccotti Park.  Hard to avoid it, sadly: wherever there is protest, particularly a high-profile one, there will be a squadron of dorks who never miss the opportunity to stick it to the man, man and show up to protest whatever,  thusly avoid doing anything that might actually help push us as a people towards a different, brighter future.  You know the type: moccasins/sandals, hackey-sack, really into the Dave Matthews Band and hemp.  The media will always fixate on these cretins, because it is far easier to present a cartoon than it is to deal with anything of substance.  All others involved would be better served if these types would simply dry up and find somewhere else to crash, but it ain't gonna happen in this lifetime, unfortunately.

* Sorry fellow progressives, but anarchy just doesn't work, and OWS is the ultimate proof.  We are approaching the two month mark of the protest, and one of the most commonly cited responses to it is "what, exactly, is their goal?"  That is a major failure for such a high-profile movement; it is unquestionably a major squandering of potential.  The reason given for the lack of stated objectives generally goes something like this: "We don't have a leader!  We are a group of diverse people, each with our own views and feelings!"  That's great, but then what's the point, exactly?  Learn your history, folks: all successful revolutions, not to mention successful corporations, involve an articulate, charismatic, driven leader  - and you, OWS, will need one too if you are really interested in actualizing the tremendous potential lying stagnant in your ranks.  The question, then: are you?  Or is this just a bunch pseudo-anarchist hot air?

* No matter what its follies and failures, OWS must be addressed with substance by any serious 2012 presidential candidate.  This is true of all of them, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, but it is truest of Barack Obama.  Mr. President: forget for a moment about the cartoonish "professional protesters" and listen to the good, honest people I spoke of above.  These are the people who voted for you.  They are the people who believed in your promises of change and reform.  These same people now have a message for you that could not be clearer: they no longer believe that you have the drive, desire or ability to enact economic reform in a meaningful way.  You must address them, and you must do so forcefully for a change, through actions rather than rhetoric.  Or, to put it in business terms, these are seriously disgruntled customers, and yours is about to no longer be the only line of products available.