When I was younger, one of my favorite hobbies (when I could be bothered to roll out of bed early enough) was to go to garage sales, yard sales, and flea markets. I loved these things. I was the man for whom everyone else’s junk was a veritable treasure. To this day I have trouble driving past one without pulling over just to see what they might have for sale, even though I never carry cash anymore and my wife would kill me for bringing home anything anyway.
My biggest weakness at these things was my inability to walk away. As soon as I started to negotiate something, regardless of what it was, I was going to buy it. I think just about every seller figured that out and took ruthless advantage of it, because I bought a lot of stuff for way more than I should have (or maybe I just have a lot of pent up buyer’s remorse.) I’ve learned since that the secret to doing well in any sort of negotiation is being willing to walk away, and not just as a tactic, but really meaning it. At some point you have to be able to say, “there is no way I am going to get what I want here, and I am wasting my time by negotiating any further, so I’m going to walk away.” Not only does this work as a powerful tool to get the result you want, it also saves you from buying things you don’t want or need at prices you can’t afford.
I mention all this because I want the guys and gals in Congress to understand that I get it. I really do. It’s hard to walk away from a deal, especially when you’ve been working on it for weeks, months, maybe even years. It’s even worse when the problem isn’t you, or the guy you finally got to come around, or even the other 48 obstinate but well-intentioned folks you had to get on board, but this one last obstructionist jerk who is standing in the way simply because he can’t see how what you’re proposing is so very right for all of America. And there’s so much at stake! It’s not just re-election (although that’s in there somewhere, right?), and it’s not just that there’s a little something in there for your home district or state (but the folks back home do stand to gain a little something, I mean why shouldn’t they), it’s that this is what’s right for the people!
The problem is that a deal isn’t unilateral, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. And even if I set aside all of my cynicism for a moment, hard as that is to do, and assume that all parties involved are honestly doing what they believe is best for their constituents and for the American people as a whole, that only makes things worse, not better. Because sometimes what one guy believes is best is completely and totally at odds with what another guy believes, and there is no compromise, there is no middle ground, there is no resolution to be had, and that’s the sad reality of it. I would actually almost prefer a cold political operator of old, who has his eyes on the prize, willing to cut back room deals to make sure everybody gets a little piece of the action and walks away with something they want rather than these wild eyed zealots on both sides who refuse to compromise on anything because they know, THEY KNOW they are right, and history, or better yet the next election cycle, will prove it.
But the observant reader will note that I said “I almost prefer”. There’s a reason for that. While these tin pot tyrants and modern day Neros fiddle away, the rest of us are finally getting a look at what politics really is, and more importantly I hope that the wider class of Americans are starting to get a sense of the real cost of government. Not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of choices. Because the truth is there are no free rides. For every up there’s a down, for every plus there’s a minus. Even if you’re okay with taxing the rich into oblivion to pay for everything, sooner or later you have to admit it won’t work, because there’s just not enough to go around. Even if you’re fine with gutting every social program in existence, sooner or later you have to accept the consequences of those choices. And the longer our so-called leaders give in to the temptation to go back and forth over their unlikely “deals” and never-happen “compromises” that do nothing but make for good TV, the more we end up paying for things we don’t need and can’t afford. The can gets kicked down the road for another year, the problem gets pushed for another election cycle, and nothing ever really changes.
Do us a favor, oh elected high and mighty. Take a real stand for a change. Take a stand against your own party, your own interests, your own re-election. Take a stand against everything that’s been tried before, and maybe even consider, I dunno, reading some of those endless policy papers you guys always ask for and always say would be “too costly” or are “too impractical.” Offer a new idea instead of a tweak, a rehash, a change at the margin.
And the next time someone, on either side of the aisle, offers you the same old thing in a new wrapper, walk away from the deal.Other posts you might like:
There are some bands, some performers that utterly transcend the genre of music, who go on to become legends. Time after time, album after album, they continue to produce world-changing music that inspires generations of listeners to either become performers themselves or, if not, to at least seek to their own form of achievement in whatever field suits them.
Sadly, these are not among those few.
While they each have managed to go beyond the level of “one hit wonder” in my own personal estimation, in the pantheon of music greatness they will never rise above the level of once-was or might-have-been. That’s not to say they didn’t make more than one album, just that they never managed to make another album I could get behind. They never quite hit it, they veered off in the wrong direction, or they petered out almost before they started, but at least each one managed to leave behind one album I could love forever before vanishing into the night.
Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite: Despite having produced one of the most execrable earworms of the 90s (“Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” – it’s stuck in your head just reading the name, isn’t it?), this was actually a fantastic album. The sound was something fresh and jazzy, a welcome change from both the pop ballads and the grunge invasion that were vying for control of the airwaves. The lyrics on this album tend toward to be sharp and clever, although sometimes a bit too clever for their own good. My personal favorite song is (arguably) the title track “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues”, from which the line “I’ve got a pocket full of kryptonite” originates. Other great tracks (that haven’t been overplayed on the radio) are “Forty or Fifty”, “Refrigerator Car”, “How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me?)”, and “Shinbone Alley/Hard to Exist”.
Martika – Martika: O.K., true confession time. I was first drawn to this album because I had a huge crush on Martika back when she was on the kid’s show Kids Incorporated (I was a kid myself at the time). When I found out she was all grown up and had an album out, of course I went out and bought it immediately. I listened to it over and over, and fortunately for me I was at exactly the right age to enjoy it, considering the album was basically an average teen pop album and I was a teenager who liked pop music. Listening to it now, it’s pretty good for teen pop music; Martika has a strong voice, and the production values are pretty good. I think most of the enjoyment I get out of it is nostalgia, although actually hearing a good alto in pop music is so rare I’m almost ready to take it at any cost. If you decide to give it a try, I would suggest her big radio hit “Toy Soldiers”, her cover of Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move”, and “You Got Me Into This”. If you don’t like those, you won’t like the rest.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – God Fodder: I don’t really remember when I first heard this album; it was sometime in high school and I just fell in love with it. Everything about it just says punk to me in a way few other bands do, especially bands that explicitly proclaim themselves punk. Maybe it’s the extra bass. What I love most about Ned’s is that they do what they do without being just like everyone else: the guitar lines are power-driven without being the standard “power rock” lines, the drums are hard hitting without feeling like the drummer is coked out, and the lyrics are rebellious and strong without needing to be screamed or merciless. There’s a beauty here that belies the notion punk has to be ugly in order to be raw. For a taste of what I mean, check out “Kill Your Television”, “Less Than Useful”, “Grey Cell Green”, “Capital Letters”, and “What Gives My Son?”
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes: This is the one I expect to get the most pushback (read: blast of shit) from my friends about, but I’m not going to qualify it in any way. The simple fact is, this is a great album, and as far as I’m concerned the Femmes never lived up to it ever again. They had a few songs I liked after this, but it was never the same or even close. That having been said, when you set the bar so high on your freshman effort, it really is near-impossible to live up to it on any subsequent try, although their drift to different sounds (notably in country and deep alternative direction) didn’t help any either. All that having been said, it takes nothing away from the stripped down, severe beauty of this album, and if you haven’t taken the time to enjoy it in its entirety I strongly recommend doing so. Most of the songs on this album that are most worth listening to have become radio standards, so I’ll pick out the ones that tend not to get airtime that I think are worth extra attention: “Please Do Not Go”, “Prove My Love”, “To the Kill”, “Ugly”, and “Gimme the Car”.Other posts you might like:
About a week ago I was going through my Dad’s old movie collection, packaging it up and selling what I could, disposing of the rest. It made me realize something: my Dad and I had very different tastes in movies. Not that he had bad taste, mind you, just very different. James Bond, for instance. I like Bond films well enough, and I’ve seen all of them since Octopussy, but Dad had seen and loved all of them, and he had them all on DVD (and more than a few on VHS). As for John Wayne, he had more than a few collections, and he had most every John Wayne film ever made on DVD… all 169 of them. I never really understood his appreciation for John Wayne, but then I’m not sure he ever understood my appreciation for Tim Curry, so fair’s fair.
I had planned to talk about all the obscure movies that I found in Dad’s collection that I loved, but the truth is most of the ones we had in common were either well known (like Rocky II) or I’ve already mentioned (like Excalibur). So I’ll take this opportunity to cover a couple I did find as well as a couple I think Dad would have liked.
The Name of the Rose (1986) – Based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco, this film stars two of my favorite actors, Sean Connery and a young Christian Slater (somehow I only seem to like a young Christian Slater). It’s the story of a Franciscan monk and his apprentice who investigate a series of strange deaths at a monastery. Call it a period mystery, if you will. I can’t really go into much more description without giving away lots of the plot, but the best part of this movie for me is the depth of characterization and world building. Apparently a lot of that derives from the source novel (which My Not So Humble Wife loves, although I’ve never personally read it), but the acting is top notch as well. While Connery drives the majority of the action, I want to give special attention to Ron Perlman as Salvatore; it’s a difficult role to play with empathy and he does it exceptionally well.
The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) – This was probably the first (and for a long time the only) western I ever really liked, let alone loved. I think this film gets a lot of grief for both deserved and undeserved reasons. There’s a certain amount of unrealistic expectations, in the same way that any iconic pop culture figure will have that any departure from established traditions will only exacerbate. That having been said, there’s also a certain amount of heavy-handedness: in the attempts to make the bad guys truly evil, to make Tonto more than a stereotype (and in the process making every other Native American in the film a bigger stereotype), and in the attempts to make John Reid into a larger-than-life hero. With all that having been said, I still believe this movie largely succeeds at being greater than its flaws, and if approached with an open mind and in the spirit of a western dime novel or “gritty remake” of an old radio show, it can be very appealing.
The Searchers (1956) – I had to watch this movie for a film class I took a few years ago, and I’m glad I did. After I finished, I immediately called my Dad and said, “Hey Dad, I take back everything I ever said about John Wayne. You were right.” He asked me what movie I watched, and when I told him, he wasn’t in the least surprised. “You started with the best.” The conversation went on from there, and we must have talked for an hour just about this movie and how amazing it is, and why. I could lay it all out for you here, but you should really just watch it for yourself. Not only does John Wayne give one of the most fantastic, nuanced performances I have ever seen, but the entire film is full of great performances, amazing visuals, and a stirring and poignant plot. If you only watch one western in your life, this should be it.
Cat Ballou (1965) – Now, if you’re going to watch two westerns in your life, may I make another suggestion? I remember watching this movie as a kid with my Dad and My Not So Humble Sister and it made no sense to me whatsoever. Why were people singing? In a western? (Bear in mind this film preceded Paint Your Wagon by about five years.) Isn’t that Nat King Cole? And I’m pretty sure that’s Jane Fonda. Wait, why is that gunslinger drunk? What in the world is going on here? That was basically my reaction to this movie the first five times I watched it. It took me a long time to realize (a) this was a comedy and (b) there was a plot, I just wasn’t following it. Once I got it all straight, I learned to stop worrying and just go with it, and it actually turned out to be a pretty funny little film. Not the greatest comedy or western ever but enjoyable, and Lee Marvin puts in an Oscar-winning performance, so it has that going for it. And hey, Nat King Cole.
While I’m more of a stay at home kind of guy, I do enjoy listening to the travel adventures of my friend Keri from Heels First Travel. So much so, in fact, that I’ve even considered traveling myself at some point (for those who know me, this comes as a truly amazing revelation). When I asked Keri for her top suggestions to take the edge off my travel concerns, she offered the following excellent advice.
I’m an avid traveler. And by avid, I mean crazy. Like spending 25 hours in Alaska because a cheap fare came up and I really wanted to see it but couldn’t take time off work. So at this point I’ve made almost every mistake with my flights, hotels, and tours you can make. And far from ruining my trips I’ve actually found it freeing. Because now “the worst” has happened and I no longer have to worry about what I might have forgotten and can dare to be impulsive, spontaneous, and last minute.
But it took quite a while for me to initially get into travel because I was afraid of messing up and not knowing what I didn’t know. So I’m here to spare you my paralysis. If you want to travel, start booking! Are you going to get things wrong? Yes! And is it the end of the world or will it totally ruin your trip? Probably not.
Things I’ve learned:
- Eventually you will oversleep and miss your flight. You will be able to rebook and/or afford a different last minute ticket.
- You will not hear your flight announcement and miss your flight even when you’re in the airport. You might do it twice. Or more. This is why they have airport hotels.
- No matter how much research you do, the place you most want to see, in my case the Louvre, will be closed, in my case on strike, the whole time you’re there. Think of it as a great opportunity to see the lesser known, hopefully just as awesome but less crowded, sites in the area.
- You will show up at the hotel only to discover you had one more page to go before your reservation was confirmed, you booked for the wrong dates, or the hurricane that swept through New Orleans over Labor Day left your hotel without power. This is what Hotwire and Priceline are for.
- Or you show up to discover the pictures on the website had caught that hotel at its absolute best, never more to be seen again. That just makes for a better travel story. J
- Public transportation is unreliable (2 hours wasted on a 36 hour stay in Sydney Australia) and cabs are far more expensive than you think ($200 to the airport). Just roll with the punches and think about it as investing in colorful memories.
- Sometimes the $5 mini bar snacks are better than wandering an unknown city at night for 45 minutes looking for a 7-Eleven.
- You will repeatedly forget and re-buy phone chargers, laptop chargers, deodorant, and toothbrushes. If you’re averaging forgetting one thing or less every trip you’re doing great!
Some consider me an expert at travel, but I’m not afraid (although maybe a little embarrassed) to admit I’ve already re-experienced 4 of the things on the list above since the year started. So if a so-called travel expert can make these mistakes, you’re totally off the hook.
For more on Keri’s adventures and travel tips visit www.HeelsFirstTravel.com.
One of the funny things about going through the dustbin of your own history is that you will occasionally discover odd synchronicities that you had never been aware of before. There are three great bands with three great albums that I never realized all released in the same year, although considering everything else that failed to happen in that year, I suppose it’s not surprising I didn’t notice all the great music that was going on all around me at the time.
Wheatus – Wheatus: Anyone over a certain age knows the song “Teenage Dirtbag”, which is almost a shame, because I think that’s what doomed this fantastic band. While it’s not unusual for a band to be a one-hit wonder (particularly when their one hit is nothing like the rest of their music), Wheatus got doomed for the opposite reason. Their one hit was too clever by half; it seemed like there was no way the rest of their music could possibly be that sharp, could hit that same note of teen angst so accurately, with just the right blend of sympathy and gentle poking of fun. Truth is, the rest of the album may not be in the same character of “teen angstyness”, but it is sharp, witty, and powerful. Lyrically the tracks range wildly, and the music varies between alt-rock and just this side of experimental in some places. Some of the songs may sound like typical pop fluff on first listen, but there’s a lot of substance underneath, and the album is worth more than a few listens. I highly recommend “Sunshine”, “Hump ‘em N’ Dump’em”, “Leroy”, “Love Is A Mutt From Hell”, “Punk Ass Bitch”, and the awesome cover of “A Little Respect”.
SR-71 – Now You See Inside: Okay, so I’ll be honest, I have no reason to be proud of discovering this band earlier than most folks did. It’s not like I knew them back when they were Honor Among Thieves, nor did I ever go see them live even though they were right up in Baltimore (which isn’t all that far away). So what pulled me in? The song “Right Now”. Yeah, I was that shallow. Or rather I’d at least like to establish that, at the time, I was very much between relationships and… you know what, I can’t even defend this one. Yes, it was sad that this song is what grabbed my attention, but I didn’t pick up the album until after I heard “Politically Correct”. That was the song that made me realize these guys were more than a one trick pony. The lyrics were just as clever on both songs but went in totally different directions. The music was the sort of solid rock I had been missing for a long time, with driving rhythms, strong guitars, and a lead vocalist who has what I can only describe as an acid-washed whiskey voice. IN addition to the two I mentioned above, to get a good sample of the range on this album, I would suggest checking out “What a Mess”, “Last Man on the Moon”, “Fame (What She’s Wanting)”, “Non-Toxic”, and “Paul McCartney”.
Snake River Conspiracy – Sonic Jihad: Possibly the only time I can remember MTV doing anything for me since the mid-1980s (and this is not because of me, this is because I can’t stand “The Real World”), I accidentally turned on the falsely named Music Television one day when they left an intern in charge and he (or she, I won’t be sexist) and this fool unknowingly played music videos. I was so stunned I actually sat and watched them for the whole half hour they were on before cooler heads prevailed and put on a three hour marathon of Road Rules: Say Goodbye to Good Taste. In the midst of this accidental bonanza, I saw a video for Snake River Conspiracy’s cover of “How Soon Is Now?” by the Smiths. The secret to a good cover is to find something in the original that you can reference while making the song your own, which SRC does beautifully here. They take the lush, deep, symphonic sound of the original and bring the tempo up just slightly to make it feel a little more rushed, a bit more like a dance tune. Tobey Torres’ vocals strike a unique counterpoint to Morrissey’s somber tone from the original, and they go in a playful direction where the original goes more serious and (dare I say it) full of itself. They bring this same fun, playful energy to many of the other tracks on the album, including a great cover of “Lovesong” by the Cure, although there are more than a few harder, more industrial-influenced moments as well. Overall there’s a lot to like here, including “Breed”, “You and Your Friend”, “More Than Love”, and “Somebody Hates You”.
Other posts you might like:
I watch Netflix about as much these days as I do regular TV, and here’s why: when I can actually get the service to work (thank you Verizon), I can watch entire seasons of shows at once, without having to wait a week at a time, without having to sit through reruns, without having to “choose” between two shows in the same time slot (like I really watch either of them when they come on anyway, it’s called DVR folks), but most of all because I don’t have to sit through commercials.
Unfortunately, I usually have to wait a few years for a single season of a show to hit Netflix, assuming it ever does. I assume this is because they want to make sure to get their money from the first run, the reruns, the syndication, the DVD sales, the syndicated DVD sales, the reruns of the syndicated DVD sales, and whatever all else they do. It’s not until they have a given season running on at least three basic cable channels (or they’ve been passed up by five) that they “stoop” to leasing the rights to Netflix, and even then I’ve seen some shows yank the rights back (I got about five episodes into Babylon 5 before they did this to me).
Why? What do they really think they’re getting out of this? Is there some rabid ocelot in a back room that flails around on a Twister board and they interpret these signals as decisions? Here’s a little clue for you, Oh Great And Powerful Television Executives: the people who bother to watch syndicated television are not the same people who watch Netflix or similar streaming services. Not even close. There may have been, once upon a time, a cross-over audience between those who bought entire seasons of TV shows on DVD and the streaming audience, but that’s a dying trend, too. Only the truly rabid fan base is going to care that much and they will still be there for you (probably wearing a handmade costume piece from their favorite character that you sent a cease and desist order about).
As I see it, there are three primary audiences “second run” television should be aiming for. The first is the hardcore audience, the folks who love a show enough to want everything about it. These folks will buy the entire season on DVD/Blu-Ray, especially if it comes with extras like cast interviews and commentary. The next audience would be the “catch-up” audience. This is what I envision as the folks who only heard about the show from friends well after the season (or the show itself) started and don’t want to jump in halfway through. They want to binge, catch-up to the current storyline, and watch all the first run episodes from there. These are the folks who will watch all the back episodes on a streaming service (small revenue source) and then become more eyeballs for the new episodes, you know, the ones with the most expensive commercials (big revenue source). Finally there’s the casual viewers who like the show well enough to leave it on but don’t consider it “must see” television. This is where you get your syndicated television dollars.
In an ideal world, I envision the lifecycle of a show would be this:
- First run, including all reruns in primetime slot. Season ends.
- As soon as season ends, entire season is available on DVD/Blu-Ray and streaming services. DVD/Blu-Ray includes bonus features.
- Over off-season, previous season reruns in primetime slot.
- After new season starts, last season enters syndication immediately.
The benefit of this system for the viewers is obvious. The benefit for the studios is a little more subtle, but what it means in the long run is less pirating and more eyeballs for first-run content. When people don’t have to feel 2-5 years behind the storyline (unless they feel like coughing up a couple hundred bucks for a show they might or might not like), they’re more likely to get invested. And more invested fans means a higher percentage of rabid fans, which means more DVD sales. The syndicated episodes aren’t going to be hurt any, because the folks who weren’t willing to pay for streaming services are still going to be there, and the ones who did? You grew your audience for those episodes.
The fact that Netflix and Hulu are coming up with their own original programming is just going to hurt these guys even more. Now there are even fewer reasons to be attached to networks and their ridiculous scheduling. I understand once upon a time the system was rigged in such a way that it was winner take all and pitting the best shows against each other meant you had the best chance of crushing the other guy and getting all the money, but here’s a thought: maybe people don’t watch TV that way anymore. Maybe (and this might even date back to the advent of the VCR) people expect to be able to watch ALL the shows they like, not just one or two. Having them all in the same time slots and on the same schedule just seems… well… dumb. But if you have to continue playing that game, at least give yourselves the best chance at a second chance, and stop holding back last year’s episodes until nobody cares anymore.
Back in the mid-nineties, I was obsessed with collectable trading card games like Magic: The Gathering (this is not a fact I take pride in). I ended up spending far too much time and money on several of these games, but the one I played the least and enjoyed the most was one called Illuminati: New World Order. The basic premise of the game was that there are several secret societies vying to take over the world, and each player takes the role of one of these groups.
There are a lot of reasons I loved it so much, but the biggest reason of all was a little quirk in the incredibly byzantine rules that made it ever so much fun: unlike all the other games I was playing at the time, if you didn’t claim an advantage you were due, tough shit. You were also under no obligation to inform another player of any bonuses or other benefits they were overlooking. It was every man for himself, and it was (and remains) a complex system. Particularly when you have several people with differing agendas involved at the same time, things can get crazy very quickly, and it’s easy to overlook something even if you know what you’re doing. Oh, and it’s perfectly acceptable to lie to other players (it’s right there in the rules) as long as you don’t get caught.
While all of this makes for a fun night of treachery and backstabbing at the game table, it does very little to make me feel good when I think about our law enforcement and judicial figures doing what amounts to the same thing, only with people’s lives. By not informing suspects of their Miranda rights, such as in the case of bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the police are effectively saying “tough shit, you’re on your own”. The thin veneer of an excuse that I have heard from some directions that “he still has his rights” holds about as much water as saying I have a right to an inheritance I know nothing about. Here we have a complex situation with many people who have different agendas, almost none of whom have the suspect’s interests at heart, and yet we’re supposed to assume that his rights will in no way be violated because he will of course be given the time to compose himself and request a lawyer, he won’t be put under undue pressure to speak, he will naturally be fully aware that he even has rights in the first place.
To further add to the concern, police can and will lie to suspects under normal circumstances, and it is perfectly legal (Frazier v Cupp). So now what should we believe: that a person who has been hunted down and arrested, who may be told anything and everything except his Constitutional rights, will be aware enough to make an informed or even rational decision? Or perhaps it is more likely that he will say something, anything, no matter how fabricated or distorted, to ingratiate himself in that moment? I don’t know, but that’s the point, isn’t it? We don’t know, and we can’t know. All we do know is that torture doesn’t work, so that’s out. Considering the alternative being interrogation that can take days or even weeks, how long are we comfortable denying someone something as basic as the reading of their Miranda rights? Or have we reached the point where there is no sacrifice too great, no cost we are no willing to pay in the name of “security”?
“But he’s a terrorist!” That’s the reasoning that drives this latest abridgment of rights, although frankly I am beginning to wonder if every act of violence will soon be labeled “terrorism” simply to get around the few protections we have left. “Innocent until proven guilty” seems to be the first to have gone.