Archives for February 2011

Car Horns Are Worse Than The Hydrogen Bomb

I can always tell when it’s Friday. The building that houses my office is on Varick Street in New York City, a couple of blocks from the Holland Tunnel, so every Friday at about 4pm, the sound of horns honking in backed-up traffic gets louder and more frequent and more insistent, reaching a fever pitch at about 5, a chorus of pointless noise pollution.

I always wonder what people think they’re accomplishing when they honk their horns in traffic. Especially in a situation like this, where everyone can clearly see cars backed up to the horizon line. When you can’t even see the bottleneck, how is honking going to help? Whatever is causing the blockage can’t hear you, and I have a feeling that whoever is at the front of this line is just as eager to get to Jersey City as you are. As is everyone else in this long line, a line with no end and no beginning, a line of desperate souls stuck in the last place they want to be. Nobody wants to be stuck in traffic, and everybody would like to forget about how inconvenient all this is.

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The Huffington Post Is A National Disgrace

I recently made a decision that has changed my life for the better. This is not a big, earthshaking choice like giving up alcohol or having a child; it’s more like I removed a constant annoyance from my daily routine. It’s like that old joke: Man raises his arm and tells his doctor, “It hurts when I go like this.” And the doctor says, “Don’t go like that.”

In this case, “don’t go like that” means “stop visiting The Huffington Post.”

I don’t mean to say that I would go to the site and come away hopping mad or with my blood boiling. I agree politically with probably 80% of what’s published there. But in all media, tone is everything and I can’t stand the misleading, tabloid-style headlines, the 80-point fonts, the celebrity bloggers… I hate the tone of this website, and I can’t take any more. It’s over, Huffington Post.
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Lindsay Lohan Should Get The Death Penalty

I have worked as a bartender in a very popular bar in New York City for the last eight years, and one of my greatest pleasures in the job can be described like this:

Pretty girl comes up to the bar. Orders something at the upper scale of the price range (Grey Goose cosmo. Grey Goose dirty martini. Grey Goose is very popular with the type of person I’m about to describe). I go to make the drink, and when I return the girl will have busied herself with something: looking at her phone, digging through her purse, something like that. She will completely avoid eye contact with me as I stand there looking at her, waiting for my opening to tell her she owes me eleven dollars. Sometimes, when the bar is busy and I have other customers waiting, I will leave her to finish her business, serve someone else, and then come back to her. By now, she will have let her guard down, and I lean down on the bar, as though beginning a conversation, and say quietly, “Can I ask you something?”

“What’s that?” she’ll reply conspiratorially, probably expecting me to offer her a shot or ask her where she’s from.

“Do you have eleven dollars for that drink?”

Her face falls. Obvious annoyance registers in her eyes. She comes close to actually shaking her head as if to say “Can you believe this prick?” but doesn’t. She can’t believe she is being asked to pay for what she ordered.

There are more egregious variations on this scenario. More often than you’d think, some pretty girl (usually not as pretty as she thinks she is) will announce (not ask for, announce) that she wants a free drink or even a free round of shots. I cannot tell you how much I love to tell this person “Absolutely not.”

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Super Bowl XLV: Night of the Yellow Pants

I hated all the Super Bowl ads last night (except for the Darth Vader kid, which I loved because that is exactly where my 4-year-old son is at right now. It’s amazing how expressive he is even when he has his Iron Man helmet on and we can’t see his face.). Every ad was so totally, transparently gimmicky– every single commercial I was just waiting for the “turn” when it was going to go for its watercooler moment. When you’re waiting for that to happen, it doesn’t even work when it does happen. And every ad is so obviously trying to top the others (without knowing what anyone else is going to do), they’re working backward from “be outrageous.”

For example: when the cowboys start singing “Tiny Dancer” (in whatever ad that was, I don’t remember. Bad sign, ad guys, bad sign) I’m not thinking “Oh that’s so clever!” I’m thinking a) “That’s the best twist they could come up with?” and b) “What took so long to get to it?”

And what is with all the ads with people getting clocked with Pepsi cans? In the first place, they were obviously CGI, which takes me out of every cinematic moment, whether it’s comedy or drama or whatever. If I’m thinking about computers, your film isn’t working. Secondly, it’s not really funny even if it does look real (which it doesn’t). And thirdly, repeating a joke, as every ten year old eventually has to be taught, doesn’t make it funnier.

I was never particularly a fan of Eminem, but it was still a little sad to see him in two (2) different commercials. Just like that, old Marshall turns in his chips. It would have been better if they’d been in reverse order, and the Detroit car ad had come first. At least it would have read like he was a hometown boy trying to save his city. Instead, the claymation Eminem explaining why he always turns ads down because he hates the products, only to reveal that he gave in to the flavor of Lipton Brisk Iced Tea, was unspeakably depressing. Next year: Rage Against The Machine bobbleheads for Snickers!

But all of that was just prelude to the awful, awful spectacle of the Black Eyed Peas’ halftime show. I have never been a fan, or even more than passingly familiar with the Black Eyed Peas — I knew Fergie was in their band, but I couldn’t have named any of their songs. I bartend a couple nights a week, and last night I learned that all those crappy songs that I can’t stand that the DJs play every Friday and Saturday night and I don’t know what they are? Yeah, those are all Black Eyed Peas songs. (Okay, to be fair a couple of them are Katy Perry.)

Where to begin with this trainwreck? The costumes were awful. Fergie made history as the first drag queen ever to headline a Super Bowl halftime show, and’s helmet made him look like a black Max Headroom (not a compliment). The moment they hit the bare stage armed with nothing but microphones, I feared the worst, but I couldn’t have imagined what a flat, crappy-sounding performance they were about to give.

The Super Bowl is no stranger to sound challenges. The last few years have seen the Who, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Prince at the fifty yard line. These are all complex productions with dozens of mics and instruments to mix, and whatever you thought of their performances, all of those acts sounded fine when they had their turn. The Black Eyed Peas had five signals for the sound guy to contend with: the four “vocalists” (for lack of a better word), and the prerecorded track they were “singing” (for lack of a better word) to. And yet, the track was barely audible and except for the autotune they drenched with, the vocals were totally dry (meaning no reverb or echo to smooth it out), making the whole thing sound like karaoke. Bad karaoke.

Oh wait, I guess the sound guy had six channels to mix– I forgot about Slash rising out of the stage with a sequined top hat to play “Sweet Child O’Mine.” Fergie really outdid herself in this section, warbling like she was doing an Axl impression (never a good idea) for sixteen bars before Slash disappeared back into the stage, presumably to make an angry call to his agent.

Worse than the sound or their terrible voices, though, the “band” (for lack of a better word) seemed totally disengaged from the biggest gig of their lives. It was awful, a total disaster, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed it. For the first time ever, I wished I was on Twitter, so I could keep up with what I assume was an avalanche of hilarious remarks about the debacle. I still haven’t signed up for Twitter, but I did start a blog, which is a start, I guess.