Monday, June 30, 2008


The Gallagher interview is on lock for Tuesday. This means we won't have to go with our back-up plan, which was to interview a watermelon about what it's like to be the foil to Gallagher's act. I'm strangely, uncomfortably nervous, especially after receiving this from his publicist today.

Please Remember:
1. check out Gallagher's website at

If you'll recall, Gallagher and his brother had a big dust up over the rights to the Gallagher name. If you don't recall, you should watch more E! True Hollywood Story. If you click on that No. 2 link, you will be taken to a Web site of bizarrity and confusion. The No. 3 link takes you to a YouTube user who has no videos posted. This could be the best interview of my life.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why Not More Serious?

Driving back from the beach yesterday, I did a double take when a car passed me headed into Palmetto Dunes. I swore it had a bumper sticker that said "Heath Ledger" in big, curly-q letters on a bright yellow background. I pulled up closer and took another look. My eyes had not lied to me. It said: "Heath Ledger: Gone But Not Forgotten."

I was surprised to see that someone cared enough about Heath Ledger to bedeck their car with a semi-permanent message. But I was more surprised that it was such an unprofessional, silly looking tribute to the dead actor. It could easily have been an advertisement for Signe's Heaven Bound Bakery or one of those wretched bumper stickers that inform other motorists of the perils of driving faster than their angels could fly. You'd think something more somber and reserved would be appropriate.

The only other thing adorning this SUV was one of those Jesus fish. So the two causes in this person's life that they care passionately enough about to warrant brandishing on their vehicle are a) the son of God and b) Sir William Thatcher from A Knight's Tale.

Here's the only thing I could find on the interweb of a Heath Ledger bumper sticker. Maybe this person was just part of the extensive viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight. Regardless, I'm getting more and more damned excited for this movie by the day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Your Poncho Is No Match for Flying Watermelon

If you had approached the 8-year-old me and told me one day I would leave the following voice mail message, I would have thrown my Man-E-Faces at you and told you to get your lying ass out of my couch fortress before you bring down the blue cushiony Walls of Solitude with your deception:

"Hi, this is (my name) and I was calling to set up an interview with Gallagher."

Yes, that's THE Gallagher, not Gallagher II or even Liam Gallagher. The watermelon smashing, long-haired stage hound who put the prop in "prop comedy" long before Carrot Top was even a Carrot Seed. For whatever reason, his TV specials dominated VH-1 in the late 80s and early 90s, apparently before they discovered they could pump out cheap programming by filming people wistfully reminiscing about things that happened TWO EFFING YEARS AGO. ("Oh hey, remember the iPhone? What a crazy fad that was! People back then were so silly!")

I was a huge fan, because I was 8, and because I loved the idea of a grown man on stage spraying an audience with fruit bits, cleaning products and cake for 20 minutes while the squares in the front row held up their plastic sheeting. "Not me," I'd say to myself, envisioning the day Gallagher finally came to the Toms River Community Center or something. "Only wimps would bring plastic." To me, this was the equivalent of wearing one of those cheap plastic ponchos when going down Splashwater Falls at Great Adventure. Um, hello? The entire purpose is to get wet. Embrace it! Love it! Treat the squishing of your sneakers as a badge of honor as you wolf down your $10 cheeseburger next to those squeaky clean youth group members whose leader won't let them ride the "Devil's Flume."

The poncho wearers were the kinds of people I wanted to follow to the parking lot and spray with a gigantic fire hose just as they opened their car door. "Goddamnit, Esther!" the frustrated dad would say, "I told you these stupid ponchos were a bad idea!" Then a kid would cry, and I would squeak away in my sneakers, contented with another day at the amusement park.

I haven't heard back from the Gallagher people yet (also: Gallagher has people? Who knew?) so I don't know if I will actually get the interview. But if I do, I expect great things, mainly because this interview with The Oregonian went so well. From Wikipedia, which, as you know, is always accurate:

In January 2005, the Oregonian’s entertainment section printed a short interview with Gallagher where he gave scathing reviews about many of the top comedic performers in America. He criticized stand-up performers including David Letterman, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, and Michael Keaton. Gallagher expressed frustration over Hanks and Keaton’s success, remarking that they were millionaires while he was renting a condo. While criticising Jay Leno and Letterman, he expressed surprise that they never invited him to appear in their shows, citing that Johnny Carson never liked him, but still booked him.

Gallagher reserved special wrath for Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time, where he was listed as #100, just below Janeane Garofalo. Gallagher insulted the list as a whole, stating that when reading it he “was trying to find anyone I ever heard of.” He went on to claim that he had invented the concept of the one-person comedy show on cable television.

Either way, Gallagher will be here July 5. Leave your plastic at home.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Get an extension cord for my plug"

I plan to watch as much of this George Carlin marathon as possible this week, even if it means calling out sick tomorrow, as I was once informed by Carlin that You (meaning me) Are All Diseased. But well done HBO; this is a pretty excellent tribute.

Watching this makes me miss my dad something terrible. It has something to do with the common cultural touchstones my dad and I shared in the old living room on Cable Avenue. "Married With Children" has the same effect on me these days. And this should pretty much explain everything you need to know about my upbringing.

Then, one of the last Christmas presents I got for my dad was this book:

Again, this about explains our father-son relationship pretty well.

At Least Bob Woodward Knows My Name

When you're in the newspaper business, you have to deal with a certain number of people who have, let's say, special qualities that distinguishes them from the average iteration of humanity. They might be someone who was wronged years ago and has dedicated their life to fighting for their cause, which somehow inevitably involves e-mailing a local news reporter upwards of 19 times a day with long diatribes. Or they might be a person who sits at home counting the dew drops on their windowpane and gathering evidence for the Suburban Crisis Discovery Revolution Squad she fears is plotting to steal her rhododendron bushes and turn her cat gay.
Or they might just have a case of what we like to call "The Bat Fucking Shit Crazies."

I'll let you figure out in which category this character resides. Suffice it to say our entire newsroom, as well as Bob Woodward, the newsrooms of the Washington Post, the USA Today, the New York Times, Fox News, Bill O'Reilly, Rupert Murdoch, and seemingly every member of Congress have been bombarded by e-mails by this guy. Here is where I would normally try to summarize his supposed gripe, if, that is, I had any success at deciphering his ramblings and getting at his actual issue. It has something to do with being arrested for driving a car and spending time in jail, then apparently a bunch of white people were racist against him, though it has never been made clear how or why. I have been instructed by my bosses I'd best ignore his e-mails, or else he will just get more riled up. But today's is classic because he's e-mailing the Rev. Al Sharpton, comparing me directly to Don Imus's latest racial foot-in-mouth. Finally, the big time.

I would just cut and copy the text of the e-mail here, but you really need to see an image of it to get the full stylistic fireworks display of fonts and colors. This all started when I asked why he was attacking Shanda, probably the quietest and most non-threatening copy editor on an already pretty quiet and non-threatening copy desk. I also was trying to figure out exactly how he had been the subject of such vehement racism by white people when he is (and he is) a big white guy. My fault for trying to get a straight answer out of a big mess of crazy pie I guess.

This is all one continuous e-mail. Click on the images to read the whole thing. Some names have been removed to protect the innocent.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Riddikulus Diagnosis

What I learned from a visit to a new doctor this morning: I may be dying from a disease found only in the fictional world of Harry Potter.

I complained to the doctor about this weird thing I've had for a few weeks now that makes me feel like there's something interminably stuck in my throat, or maybe that there's some sort of lump there. He poked and prodded and asked a few questions, then took out his pad and started writing something down.

"I hope this isn't too offensive.." (always a good way to start) "but this is what I think the case is. You can Google it."

This is what he wrote down: globus hystericus.

My first reaction was to look towards the door, as I assumed he was instructing me to banish an approaching boggart by turning it into a basketball.

This was, sadly, not the case, which was just as well as my wand is in the shop. But I looked it up when I got to work and, truth be told, it is real:

The sensation of having a lump in the throat when there is nothing there. Sometimes simply called globus.

Globus hystericus is a symptom of some physical disorders such as reflux laryngitis as well as a psychosomatic disorder characterized by a change or loss of physical function (such as blurred vision or paralysis of the legs) that suggests a physical disorder but instead is an expression of a psychological conflict or need.

The "lump in the throat" sensation that characterizes globus pharyngis is usually due to the inflammation of one or more parts of the throat such as the larynx or hypopharynx.

Here's the kicker:

It may also be caused by hysterical neurosis or anxiety disorders.

Merlin's beard! Here I expected to find out I had some inflamed tonsils or a gigantic wedge of tofu blocking my esophagus, and instead I'm informed I've finally pitched myself over the edge and descended into hysterical neurosis. If it is anxiety, I wonder what could be causing it?

The doctor's prescription for this? "Well, the more you think about it the worse it gets." So stop thinking about it? You try cramming a wool sock down your throat and see how easy it is to stop thinking about it.

I should have gone to see Madame Pomfrey instead.

Kanye explains the Bonnaroo incident

It was Pearl Jam's fault! It was the sun's fault! It certainly wasn't Ye's fault.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"I am vengence. I am straight-to-DVD promotional release."

Well, this alone significantly improves the Freaking Awesome rating for the week by itself (a week sorely in need of a Freaking Awesome improvement, in case you didn't know):

It's a clip from the new Batman: Gotham Knight DVD that will be released on July 8 and will be in my DVD player shortly afterward, assuming I get away with my plan to call out sick from work that day with a case of the joe chills. It's six animated shorts that take place in the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, written by some pretty big deal screenwriters (including Josh Olson, who wrote A History of Violence) and put together by anime directors. Very similar to the whole Animatrix thing, though hopefully it hypes up, um, a good movie and not an overly convoluted and unsatisfying sequel.

The best part about this DVD is that Batman is voiced again by Kevin Conroy, the man who I will proudly argue here is the best actor to be attached to the Caped Crusader. Conroy helmed the Batmouth for an impressive 14 years through every incarnation of the Batman animated series, right up through the recent Justice League series. His voice has the appropriate range of bubbly bachelorism needed for playboy Bruce Wayne to the angry gruff growl needed to surge fear through the cowl, a spectrum neither Michael Keaton nor Christian Bale ever achieved (Bale, who is a very good Batman, don't get me wrong, sounds more like he's growling through a dirty sock when he's Bat-voicing).

They brought in a different bat voice for the new DVD release Justice League: The New Frontier, and it didn't click. It was like hearing your older brother try to do Bruce Willis' voice. Oh, and the guy they brought in? Jeremy Sisto, who you might remember as Elliot from Clueless. Roll with the homeys on out of here, please.

Conroy was also part of what many critics (not just geeky fanboys with blogs) consider the single best Batman movie made, 1993's Mask of the Phantasm. "But, that's an animated movie!" you say, fingers stuck to your mouse in horrified disbelief. Yeah, an animated movie with heart, not to mention mystery and intrigue and some damn fine acting to boot. It's practically a tear jerker by the end. That movie captured the essence of the tortured, conflicted nature of Batman, while Joel Schumacher was in a closet somewhere attaching nipples and codpieces to the Batsuit.

And through all of the animated serieses, Conroy is acting opposite Mark Hamill as the voice of the Joker. What more can you ask for?

Here's what Conroy looks like, and the squareness of his jaw should be enough to convince you to never commit another crime again out of fear for what lurks in the night:

Oh, also, that new animated series The Batman Cartoon Network is campy and terrible. Why do we keep going back and messing with things when they were already successful to begin with? I suspect George Lucas is involved.

PS: Warner Bros, please feel free to send me a free copy of the DVD for the selfless promotion mentioned above.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Your Verbal Tricks Shall Not Pass

Case File: Why Newspaper Writing is Starting to Get Frustrating

The original version of a story about the opening of a comedy club on Hilton Head (with some cheesy puns, but hey, at least I'm trying):

So two guys who want to open up a comedy club on Hilton Head Island walk into Town Hall. The third guy moves out of the way.
Thank you, ladies and germs. And for our next act, John Biddle, a former amateur touring comedian and comedy club owner who came to Hilton Head this spring to open up what will be the island’s only full comedy club. After an approval from a town board Monday, he’s on track to open the Hilton Head Comedy Club in Pineland Station, possibly as soon as next week if the rest of the construction wraps up on schedule, just in time for the peak of tourist season. And hey, why’s it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them anyway?

Other venues on the island such as Stages nightclub, the Shoreline Ballroom and the Hilton Oceanfront Resort feature touring comedy shows, but this could be the island’s only dedicated spot for comedic acts, unless you count the Sea Pines Circle on a Saturday in July.
Biddle, who owned a comedy club on Sanibel Island, Fla. for six years, said he’s not bringing amateur hour to Hilton Head — he said he has some national acts lined up to appear, including Ron Shock, a frequent guest on The Tonight Show and other television comedy showcases, and A. Whitney Brown, who appeared on Saturday Night Live and was one of the original correspondents on The Daily Show. At least one of the comedians he mentioned, Pat Godwin, a guest on nationally syndicated radio shows like Howard Stern and the Bob and Tom Show, has listed an appearance at the new club on his Web site.

In the 1990s, then again in early 2000s, the island was home to a Coconuts, a chain comedy club that operated most recently out of the Quality Inn. Biddle’s club is located in the former sites of a University of South Carolina Beaufort branch and the Lowcountry Center for Photography, a location he said will avoid the chaos of the south end bars and help draw more locals. (How do you find the locals on Hilton Head anyway? Shout “O-H!” and see who doesn’t answer.)

Biddle first visited Hilton Head two years ago and saw lots of things for golfers to do (like tell their patients they’ll be in “surgery” all day) but the nightlife was lacking.
“They really having nothing to do at night except hang out at bars,” he said. Biddle, who worked as a food and beverage manager in Las Vegas, and his partner, former Las Vegas entertainment writer Michael Paskevich, both have connections in the comedy business through their time in Sin City. So they decided to trade “life in the fast lane for life in the bike lane” on Hilton Head, Biddle said.
Tickets will be about $10 or $12 and the owners plan to keep drink prices reasonable to make sure the club stays full. Food will also be served. Biddle said he’ll be able to book national acts because he’s selling the Hilton Head show as a vacation gig. A. Whitney Brown, for example, likes to bike, so they’ll give him a rental and point him to the bike paths, he said.

“We’ve been working night and day to make it happen,” he said. And you can expect to see Biddle on stage warming up the crowds at the new club. “I’ll be the human sacrifice,” he said.

The edited version:

The owner of a planned comedy club on Hilton Head Island got final approval from the town Monday to open his business.
John Biddle, a former amateur touring comedian and comedy club owner, is on track to open the Hilton Head Comedy Club in Pineland Station, possibly as soon as next week, if the rest of the construction wraps up on schedule.

Other venues on the island such as Stages nightclub, the Shoreline Ballroom and the Hilton Oceanfront Resort feature touring comedy shows, but this could be the island’s only dedicated spot for comedy acts.

Biddle, who owned a comedy club on Sanibel Island, Fla., for six years, said he’s not bringing amateur hour to Hilton Head. He said he has some national acts lined up, including Ron Shock, a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show” and other television comedy showcases, and A. Whitney Brown, who appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and was one of the original correspondents on “The Daily Show.”
At least one of the comedians he mentioned, Pat Godwin, a guest on nationally syndicated radio shows like Howard Stern and the “Bob and Tom Show,” has listed an appearance at the new club on his Web site.
In the 1990s, and again in early 2000s, the island was home to a Coconuts, a chain comedy club that operated most recently out of the Quality Inn. Biddle’s club is in the former sites of a University of South Carolina Beaufort branch and the Lowcountry Center for Photography, a location he said will avoid the chaos of the south end bars and help draw more locals. Biddle first visited Hilton Head two years ago and saw lots of things for golfers to do, but the nightlife was lacking.
"They really having nothing to do at night except hang out at bars,” he said.
Biddle, who worked as a food and beverage manager in Las Vegas, and his partner, former Las Vegas entertainment writer Michael Paskevich, both have connections in the comedy business through their time in Sin City. So they decided to trade “life in the fast lane for life in the bike lane” on Hilton Head, Biddle said.
Tickets will be about $10 or $12, and the owners say they plan to keep drink prices reasonable to make sure the club stays full. Food will also be served.
Biddle said he’ll be able to book national acts because he’s selling the Hilton Head show as a vacation gig. A. Whitney Brown, for example, likes to bike, so they’ll give him a rental and point him to the bike paths, he said.
“We’ve been working night and day to make it happen,” he said.
And you can expect to see Biddle on stage warming up the crowds at the new club. “I’ll be the human sacrifice,” he said.

Sigh. My editors said they didn't get it. No slight against my editors, whom I respect and admire and trust for their journalistic opinions more often than not, but I worry that sometimes we're afraid to take risks, or to at least try to break out of the mold and make news slightly more interesting. Example: last year I wrote a story about Hilton Head's approval of a $93 million budget. Pretty dry stuff, so I compared the budget to the cost of the first Lord of the Rings movie to help people conceptualize the amount. When I opened the paper the next day, none of that made it in. My boss said "People who read those stories just want the facts. No one else is going to read it." My other editor privately told me he thought some other readers might actually have taken an interest in the story if the LOTR reference stayed in.

This picture seems appropriate, though I'm not sure which character is who in this situation.

Podcasting into the void

I made my podcast debut last week (well, first time I was invited in, at least) on the PopCast, and fail miserably in the audition process while getting eviscerated for also being named Tim. But at least I managed to eat up a good chunk of time prattling on and on about Bonnaroo, which surely no one in the newsroom is tired of hearing me talk about yet. This went better than my radio debut on WMUC when I dropped in on Barry Schwartz and Paul "Scoop" Vivari and blindly launched an F-bomb, causing the FCC to chase me down with helicopters and beat me with wooden reeds. Ah college.

Listen to the PopCast here, or find it on the iTunes. If you listen, you will be responsible for doubling the average weekly audience.

(don't click on this image. It's only for show)


George Carlin, dead at 71.

One of my favorite Carlin lines, from Al Sleet, the hippie-dippie weatherman ("here with your hippie-dippe weather, man"):
"Tonight's forecast: Dark.
Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely-scattered light towards morning."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flood Waters, continued

Facebook status update: Tim is being hit from all sides this week.

Still reeling from the aforementioned company woes that signal worrisome things for this industry we still love, even if it doesn't love us back, things outside the newsroom have been rough. A and I kinda broke up the other night, something that was in the tea leaves from the first day she got back for the summer. But I say "kinda" because the edges of this situation are still too fuzzy to form a coherent picture.

The nut of this whole situation is that she's moving to San Francisco at the end of the summer with some friends from college, without a plan or a place or a job or any sort of guidance beyond their own survival instincts and an internal compass pointed West. This news came to me the first day she was back in town, us lying on my dark blue comforter and her face contorting into a frail, nervous smile when she told me, betraying her excitement to be plunging her car into the great American frontier, mixed with a vision of me waving goodbye, my legs stuck by an invisible cement to the East Coast.

So for a few weeks we talked about it and play acted like we were staring at a positive recovery instead of a terminal prognosis. I don't know if I had planned to stick through the summer with an attempt at blissful ignorance until the cold winds of September reality came around, or if my brain was overworked trying to put together a plan of action. After I returned from Bonnaroo, we took a walk outside the apartment and she forced the issue in the calm heat of a June evening. After lots of talking and an about-face into pragmatism, I said I think we'd be better just walking away from the situation now. The alternative was trudging along awkwardly until an inevitable messy conclusion at the end of the summer.

That sucked. In my head, I had the words all lined up and ready for a march out of my mouth, but I choked on them each time I tried. Finally I yanked them out, and the words hung over us for a few seconds until they were carried away on a summer gust into the full moon.

It'd be different if we were breaking up for a concrete reason, something cliched like infidelity or disrespect or just general douchebaggery on my part or hers. But breaking up because of situational inconsistencies hardly seems fair. Particularly after we had just held on for eight months of a long-distance relationship while she finished school.

I don't blame her for going to SF. In fact, part of me is more jealous that she was able to commit to a big plunge. There was a 21-year-old version of me that envisioned the same blind trek west after graduation; then an internship and final credits and the ho-hum first legs of the career ladder popped up and were tempting in their own way, I guess.

This whole thing between A and I, of course, was my first foray into the LTR (previous record: three months. Yes, I am aware I am lame now, but you should've saw me in high school) so I'm far from an expert in this kind of stuff. The age difference between us was never was much of an issue, especially since she acts more mature and responsible than I do most times. But the era of post-graduation is pretty intense, when all the tailwinds of four years of higher education rush up behind you and you feel you could be carried around the world just on your ambition. Those are some big forces to compete with.

We talked again the other night over a grilled cheese sandwich and Yuenglings and she said, Of course I was going to jump at an opportunity to do something when it came up.

That opportunity arose after months and months of hearing me reiterate the phrase "I don't know" every time the question of what I'm going to do next came up, so much the words wore deep, tiresome ruts into the walls of my apartment. She thought I was just going to wait around here for some opportunity to pop up; I thought if nothing popped up, whatever direction her life spun in might be the magnet that pull me away from here. We apparently never communicated this to each other. And there's the rub.

I found myself saying things I hadn't realized were in my head, like that in this time of newspaper implosion, family crisis and borderline insanity from the thought of being stuck on Hilton Head any longer, she was really all I had. Maybe that just wasn't enough.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Flood Waters Just Burst Through the Door

Facebook status update: Tim is having a rough go of it after returning to the island.

In the newspaper business, we've become pretty used to the steady drum beat of bad news. It's about as common a fact of life now as the accusations of left-leaning bias (this is true, by the way. Thanks to seismological factors and unbalanced weight distribution from the construction of our new press, the building does in fact lean slightly leftwards. The advertising department tends to lean northward, the parapets tilt south and the minarets vote Republican) and opening up my inbox the day after writing a story about immigration to find several people accusing me of smuggling Guatemalan refugees in the back of my Ion. Slashed Christmas parties, rapidly shrinking news hole, eliminated columnists, smaller annual raises, decreasing resources, etc. etc. on until morning. It's all a wild and woolly experiment in minimalism, and I'm excited to be a part of it.

But this week came the biggest wet slap of bad news to hit the company yet, and I think it resonated with everyone like the start of a particularly nasty terminal cancer diagnosis. Layoffs of about 1,400 employees (10 percent of the total workforce) throughout the company would be needed to help tamp down the mounting debt and other financial problems that are crippling the newspapers, which, according to Corporate, has nothing at all whatsoever in any way to do with the purchase of Knight Ridder in 2006. Why would you even ask that?

So we lost a reporter and an ad person at our paper, relatively minor compared with the 200+ people cut from the Miami Herald. I returned from Bonnaroo on Tuesday and the newsroom had a somber, funeral parlor vibe. Hannah made "At Least We Still Have Our Jobs" cupcakes to try to cheer everyone up, which, I might add, is more than any of the bosses did to raise morale.

Everyone's whispering in the corners of the newsroom about what their plan Bs are, and whether there will be more cuts, which seems inevitable since these aren't even expected to make a significant dent in the shortfall. Waiting tables and professional derby girl seem to be the lead options right now.

The underlying sadness of all of this is not the loss of a few jobs, the lack of overtime pay or any of that other day-to-day stuff. That's all just a faucet dripping into the 500-year flood problem we're facing: as newspapers die, so does a key part of the nation's curiosity and public conversation. New media still have yet to step up and fill in the crucial investigation, public affairs and general broad information-finding role of newspapers. And the worst part is, the public seems perfectly content to remain uninformed. David Simon (Terp!) put it best in his brilliant op-ed for the Post: "Isn't the news itself still valuable to anyone? In any format, through any medium -- isn't an understanding of the events of the day still a salable commodity? Or were we kidding ourselves? Was a newspaper a viable entity only so long as it had classifieds, comics and the latest sports scores?"

There was a time in J-school before graduation when everyone talked about the big metro dailies they'd end up at, the years of papercuts and ink stains and harassment by city editors we'd suffer along the way, all with very little concern for our own financial prosperity or even public recognition. The rush was in the thwack of a newspaper against the front door in the morning containing the latest break in a case, the scandalous truth about public folly or just the power of storytelling that forced people from disparate communities to relate to one another through shared experience. The rush is still there for those who charge after it, but the people in corporate offices or on the street who have the power to protect and foster it are getting washed away in the flood.

UPDATE: Despite the fact that Orage Quarles is among the most awesomest of southern names that exists, this pretty much underscores the whole point.

If You Can't Take the Heat, Get Your Ass off the Main Stage

(As originally appeared in The Guide, 6/20/08) — You will never, ever hear anyone say the following sentence: “I just returned from a summer music festival and the temperatures were absolutely amenable. I kept a light shawl by my side at night and sipped cocoa at night under the stars. I smelled lovely each day.”
If you meet this person, punch them, as they are lying to you.
Summer music festivals are required to be hot. This is, I’ve come to learn, because the festivals are actually organized and run by a secret underground joint cabal of bottled water and Port-A-Potty companies, who have been lining their pockets with your sweaty cash since the first Woodstock.
More likely, you’ll soon cross paths with one of the 80,000 people who attended Bonnaroo in rural Tennessee this past weekend. They’ll be easy to spot, as they’ll be wearing a tattered Ratdog 1996 tour T-shirt (RIP JERRY!), most likely because they sweated through half their wardrobe last week, using the other half to wipe mud off their wineskins, treat injuries suffered while twirling in a circle for three hours straight and repairing hula hoops.
The heat is as much a staple of summer festivals as the overpriced food and the collective and potent crowd fragrance, commonly referred to as “Eau d’Pleaseshower.” Case studies from my own personal files:

1. Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, 2004: Average temperature: 101 degrees. Lesson: the way to get free water is to pass out on the grounds from heat fatigue, as our friend Ally did.
2. Austin City Limits, 2005: Top temperature: 108 degrees (seriously). Consequences: The parched earth turned against the festivalgoers by the last day, kicking up a dust storm that led some to walk around in medical masks like the park was the scene of a SARS epidemic. Lessons: Texas has a beer called “Lonestar” that somehow tastes better when mixed with dirt.
Bonnaroo — which started in 2002 and initially focused on jam bands and other Grateful Dead wannabes but has since expanded to include indie, mainstream and folk acts and is quickly turning into the king of North American fests — is designed to ensure you are the dirtiest hippie that has ever lived by the end of Day One. The festival scoffs at your attempts at preparedness: “Oh, young professional with a salary, 401(k) and iPhone, you think you’re better than Patchouli McHempants here? Well, take this! 98-degree days without a shower in sight! Then, a torrential downpour during the act you really wanted to see (My Morning Jacket)! Now, walk five miles back to your campsite through the mud and don’t come back without a bandana, hippie.”
So with all of this heat, copious free samples of Eau d’Pleaseshower and the general endurance test that is four days of rock festival, it’s understandable why the Kanye West Incident turned into such a low point for all the Boos in Bonnarooville.

The Kanye West Incident, if you missed Page 3, involved the Higher-Education-Hating One’s failure to take the stage until the absurd hour of 4:30 a.m., precisely the time the sun comes up in Tennessee and all the guys dressed like spacemen and the girls in cat costumes turn back into pumpkins.
The show was decent, but Kanye never addressed the crowd: not an apology, not a thanks, not even a “What’s up, Bonnaroo?” (and then he skimped on an encore). The spawned a sizable anti-Kanye movement the following day, which continues unabated on the Internet to this day.
That says a lot. The masses can handle the heat, the mud, the sub-civilized living conditions. But we’ll take the heat over an unchecked ego. At least the sun comes back for an encore.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Do anything than Kan like

Kanye West is an hour and 15 mins late already and it's 4 am. You should be honored by his lateness.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Northward, ho

Hell of a day to be driving 600 miles. Four dollar gas doesn't go as far in the heat, fyi

Monday, June 9, 2008

Let's take this RV to the Drive In

In the course of a few meager months I will have finally quenched several long-standing desires of my childhood: 1) attending a drive-in movie theater and 2) traveling in an RV. Apparently I secretly desired my youth to be significantly more white trash than it actually was, but I'm OK with that.

The drive-in movie eluded me for years as a child, seeing as there were no drive-in movies within driving distance of my home in New Jersey, which was unfortunately ironic since the drive-in theater, like so many other things in your life, was actually invented in The Jerz. I had a chance to go outside Baltimore once with this girl, but rains kept us away.

Then in October, in Atlanta, I finally lost my drive-in-ginity thanks to this guy and his lack of ways to entertain four visiting South Carolinians. Unfortunately, we saw "We Are Marshall," which was an OK movie I guess if you like wondering how multiple people can claim to be the same person named Marshall. It made me fall asleep and snore loudly in the back seat, though that could have, um, also been due to the bottle of Jack Daniels we were passing around in the car. Then we drove through the screen behind us showing the latest Ben Stiller abomination and we (OK, I) rolled down the window and screamed "IT'S THE SAME CHARACTER! HE'S PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER ALL THE TIME!!" Hopefully someone took heed.

I can't help but feel some connection between the inevitable fate of the drive-in theater and the sad doom facing the American newspaper. Both once held a very intrinsic connection to the American way of life and both are now treated as relics of pre-digital age that are being outpaced by the wheels of time and technology. So it was with great respect, and a sense of purpose, that I returned to the Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort (pictured above) this past weekend on the 75th anniversary of the first drive-in movie theater, which opened in Camden, N.J. in 1933 (pictured below).

The theater didn't do anything in honor of the anniversary, except for possibly holding some sort of "two mullets for the price of one" special that I was unaware about. Eight-year-old me would have been proud, because it was a hot stinking good time. The snack bar food is decent and comprehensive, the beer we brought was cold and satisfying and the bugs were surprisingly merciful, except for Shapiro, whose hand got bit by one of those ants from Indiana Jones and his hand swelled up to the size of a novelty ball-park hand.

Here's Wired's story on the drive-in anniversary, and its slow march towards extinction.

But this week I get to dive head first into the longing that's been with me ever since watching the first season of Road Rules, and probably before hand actually. I'm traveling by RV from Maryland to Tennessee for Bonnaroo, which I understand is some sort of Christian youth group festival and basket weaving camp. There's something about being able to travel in a mobile house that always fascinated me, causing me on several extended family vacations to try and pretend our Dodge Caravan was actually an RV. This led to me hopping from seat to seat in the back and trying to sleep on the floor, until my dad pulled over in mid-Georgia and told us to sit the hell still or he would personally stab Donald Duck to death when we arrived in Disney World. I went back to reading my choose your own adventure books and pretending the Caravan was a Conversion Van instead.

Things I plan to do in the RV:
• Drain the battery by roasting several chickens at once
• Watch the Robin Williams movie "RV"
• Strum a guitar thoughtfully in the corner while talking to a film crew about my band's journey
• Sleep in that compartment above the cab that I will refer to as "Batman Awesome Perch Fortress"
• Sneak attack other cars with toilet water

Other things from my childhood I have yet to accomplish: driving a tank in the Seaside boardwalk tank-shooter game (now defunct); go camping (thanks for nothing, Boy Scouts); have a birthday party in an arcade; mount a Beachwood-wide watergun war.

At this rate, I should have all of these accomplished within a year. Now taking applications for soldiers in the watergun army.

EDIT (via Facebook)
Jonathan Cribbs (Savannah, GA) wrote
at 12:51am
We didn't see "We Are Marshall." That's a movie about that football team that died in the plane crash or whatever.

We saw "We Are the Night," which was about two brothers facing off against each other on either side of the law.

Friday, June 6, 2008

PETA hates this vegetarian

I was initially much more excited when I walked into the newsroom yesterday and heard that PETA had written a letter to the editor attacking my lobster game story as a harsh joke on all of lobster kind. I thought maybe they were coming after me for glorifying this bar-based blood sport in print, or our video for the cruel and unusual use of the B-52s. Sadly, they were actually just issuing what reads like a form letter they send off to any time this particular item of offensiveness surfaces around the country:

It seems silly to have to point this out, but the Lobster Game that is turning up at local bars is needlessly cruel ("Love lobster? Here's a game that lets you grab one for yourself," May 24).

City officials in Key West, Fla., pulled the plug on a Lobster Zone game (similar to the Lobster Game) at a restaurant there, and police officers shut down the game at a restaurant in Irvine, Calif. As Officer Dennis Ruvolo explained, these games subject lobsters "to unnecessary, inhumane treatment."

PETA urges readers to stick to stuffed animals, not live ones, in their crane games. Turning an animal's death into a game has no place in a compassionate society.

Paula Moore

People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va.

It is still mildly ironic that the only vegetarian on the news staff here would generate a letter of chastisement from the nation's biggest animal rights group. Oh PETA, if only you know it was your muckraking, thoroughly gross videos that drove me into life as an herbivore in the first place eight years ago. In fact, it was eight years ago this month that ate my last bits of meat (on purpose, at least). Scallops, at the Ground Round in Toms River, N.J. They were gross, and that was about it. But that's what I get for eating at the Ground Round I suppose.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Know Your Onion

The Nation's Leading Satirical Publication: A Better Career Path than Newspapers?

Save the Clock Tower

Somewhere, a newspaper headline that says the clock tower was destroyed in a fire is fading and changing into this story. Whew.

Fire spares Back to the Future clock tower

Raiders of the Master System

This museum-worthy piece of art, titled "Nobody Wants to Play Sega With Harrison Ford," comes from Brandon Bird, the artist responsible for such modern masterpieces as "Lazy Sunday Afternoon" depicting Christopher Walken tinkering in the workshop on what appears to be a prototype of Optimus Prime; and "King of the Cage" demonstrating Lincoln's true strengths used in keeping the Union together.

There is, I think, a deeper truth spoken through this work in light of the release of the wholly unnecessary fourth Indiana Jones movie, the one filled with the grumpy, tired old man who resembles the Harrison Ford of old. Nintendo, you see, was always the company that stuck with the beloved and tested pillars of video gaming that translated into success from Donkey Kong to Wii Fit. Fun, reliable play that was good to return to over and over again. Sega was the company that tried to come in and shake things out a bit, add fancy new devices and trendy gimmicks that tried to capture the diversions of the day. You abandon that sense of wonderment and fun that Nintendo clung to and it will only get you so far.
So it went for the latest Indy movie, somewhere between the CGI gophers and the travelogues through the part of the Earth where physics cease to exist and spills down several gigantic waterfalls don't result in any damages to person, vehicle or momentum. Really people would have been happy to be back to basics all along.

Then again, if Harrison Ford walked up to me and asked me to play Altered Beast with him, you bet your ass I'd werewolf down in a second.