Monday, August 30, 1993

Answers to a Man Named Alias, A Week Gone by, A State Fair Performance Review and Much More

"I'm not saying they should be censored, but it would be nice if there were some kind of quality control. A lot of stuff out there is just not meaningful. The record companies shouldn't be involved, but maybe the artist should be made to sign a contract asking, 'Do you mean it?'"
-B. Dylan (the same fella who once said he didn't like watching women rock stars perform because they just "whore themselves."

"I was sitting home alone one night, in L.A. watching old Cronkite on the seven o'clock news..."

The man finally acknowledged his audience Friday, despite being shrouded in darkness. "It's always nice playing in my home state... Thankewe everybodeeeee!!!!"

His performance was neat. I especially enjoyed Tangled Up in Blue, Boots of Spanish Leather, You Gonna Quit Me, and God Knows. Dylan's vocals, guitar and harmonica playing were most excellent.

Of course, just about anything would have cheered me up on this evening. A few nights before I was called a "scrawny little wimp." (I'm sure it was only meant in the most positive sense of the words.) My softball career resumed? and the team's best player was batting when one of the other players said to me, "In high school he used to be your size, just a scrawny little wimp." Meanwhile I went ohfernine and made two incredibly dumb plays in the field doing my best to immitate Jeff Reboulet. All this sans my softball partner extraordinaire.

True or false? Can one skinny dip without removing one's clothing? Reminds me of a staff meeting we had at the state once, where a former supervisor began the proceedings by asking us, his beligerent minions, what the definition of "in" was. Putting aside our dirty thoughts, what his question referred to was why no one was using the "in/out" board. If you weren't at your desk were you in or out? A few weeks later he was laid off which meant he was out I guess.

So I got home and had a scare. I though Max might have rabies. Turns out he had just gotten into a container of Kool Whip.

I endured. Survived. Sang along with all the other Santana fans I found myself surrounded (and touched by) dancing, singing/chanting "Oye como va" and imagine the delight of all: a live version of Black Magic Woman! So when the other scrawny little Minnesotan finally hit the stage sometime after nine well my heart went pitter patter and a smile worked its way on my face and it didn't matter that there was an audible come down from the dancing Santanites and the merry, peppy musical world tour he had led us on.

Answers? Stevie Wonder never sang Cats in the Well. Neil Young who never carries a light bulb, or sings a Ballad in Plain D, but still needs a Shot of Love and as proven Friday, Bob is still among us like his Twin Peaks namesake.

Monday, August 23, 1993

The Moral Majority Rules

Was it lbsen that once wrote something to the effect that the majority of the populace can never be right? That the person who stands most alone always holds the moral truth?

I was traveling with my old car pooling partner awhile back, when we got into a "discussion" about who had more influence during the 1980's, Ronald Reagan or Bill Cosby. Surely, I argued, Cosby had a larger audience, thus had the ability to reach more people. Besides who among us still believes in the power of any politician? Haven't we become too cynical for all that?

Currently, there is a debate raging among the intellectual community in our country (or in other words, the people with way too much time to waste i.e. our Congress); that being-has television become too violent, too dirty for the young impressionable minds of this once great country

To state that television is an evil force in the downfall of our society isn't exactly the most controversial stand to take. Conservatives attack the liberal bias of Hollywood while Liberals bad mouth the conservative corporate dominance of the current network structure. But it is important to remember that Socrates once warned of the dangers of the written word, and the printing press was once described as the single most corruptive invention by the Catholic Church, before one condemns television as de debbil in our society. Technological advances are almost always feared. What has to be questioned however is the determination and acceptance that violence and sex are somehow equal and that television is solely responsible for the downfall of our moral fabric.

The argument goes something like this: Network TV over stretched the boundaries, and children these days are exposed to sinful, corruptive ideas way before they are ready. Violence may not lead to violence, but it desensitizes us all. Exposure to sex leads to lustful, promiscuous behavior,

But how can anyone possibly measure densensitivity7 I watched more than my share of television as a child. My brother and I used to play cops and robbers as well as its now politically incorrect cousin, cowboys and indians. Neither one of us is a mass murderer to my knowledge; in fact, these days I can't stand to watch any type of pop culture created violence. I recently saw the movie Cliffhanger and could hardly stomach the violent scenes. There is no entertainment value in watching another human endure any kind of physical suffering.

It's true that television takes the easy way out whenever possible by entertaining us with violence. But to place the blame on TV while all but disregarding current gun control laws, or spousal, child, or drug abuse, and the hopelessness of inner city living, is a simplistic view to take. Does anyone actually believe the increasing rate in violent crime is mainly due to watching too much television?

It's equally puzzling how one can lump violence and sex together into one corruptive category. I'm no expert but maybe the blonde from my past, CJ, was correct when she called me a pervert for complimenting (the one time I ever did it in my life) her choice in fashion. When did making love become equal with blowing someone's head off (no pun intended)? How can anyone possibly equate the two?

That's not to say television doesn't influence us. While house sitting two kitties, I find myself addressing them in an accent similar to the one Carroll O'Connor uses as the southern sheriff in The Heat of the Night (don't ask why, I only know it's really annoying). But to say the reason anyone acts the way they do is because of the values they learned by watching television is hard to believe.

Because something is popular doesn't automatically mean it is devoid of value. It's too easy to criticize the biggest target available without looking for the actual root of the problem. To impose an atmosphere of unilateral self editing, or governmental control of ideas is truly a dangerous step to take. A parent can always tell the child to shut the TV off. We don't need Donald Wildmon for that. Censorship is much safer than risky artistic expression. While not all pop culture can hold some type of (if any) moral value, the risk in restricting that far out ways the chance in losing a creative, unique expression of the human condition.

Truth or Dare

Midway through Madonna's Truth or Dare, Warren Beatty sits looking a bit bemused and annoyed and makes the statement taht Madonna doesn't exist when the cameras are turned off. He can't believe she is allowing every moment of her life to be filmed and at the same time criticizes her for manipulating the people and events around her. A bit later on one of her dancers points out that all Madonna is looking for is someone who can be "real" with her. That duality is what makes Madonna one of our greatest cultural entertainers, and makes the movie worth watching.

More often than not, a documentary produced by the subject is something to avoid. Who wants to sit through someone else's vanity project? What makes Truth or Dare different is Madonna's attitude toward the film. She knows the camera is there, she knows people will watch, and what she wants us to see is the very purpose behind the movie. We're not only to jduge her as a performer, but as the person filming what we are watching. Her act after all, is based on its shocking theatrical merits.

None of the events of the "Blind Ambition Tour" are particularly entertaining or unique. Madonna herself shows us just about everything, but by now we are quite used to the exposure. Moments that might come across as shocknig for any other performer are nearly dismissable because they are about Madonna. The titillation, the frank sexual overtones seem almost mundane and at the very least, expected.

Yet what makes the movie intriguing is the juxtaposition between seeing someone who has to perform, and someone wh seems to crave teh need for someone to accept her for who she "is." Madonna's strength is clearly the way she maintains her power in an atmosphere which has led others down the path of self destruction. She has sometimes been compared with Marilyn Monroe and there are scenes where the self abuse is combined with the overwhelming need for the love from others. Though she claims she doesn't care what others think about her, her sole purpose seems to be shaping and "mothering" what everyone around her thinks and does.

Beatty himself gives perhaps his best movie performance since Bonnie and Clyde. He can't believe Madonna is allowing the cameras to film what he obviously has come to accept. At the same time, he can't seem to detach himself from the entire scene either. He is clearly uncomfortable, and yet he sees himself as the "sane" one amidst a sea of troubled performers.

Perhaps we are supposed to be shocked and admire the frank tone of the movie. Yet nothing comes across as spontaneous, it all has a staged feel to it, as though we are supposed to emphasize with what Madonna feels her essence truly is. The moments that might have held some emotional power, like when she lies down on the grave of her mother, are a bit too contrived and sterile. The emotional punch comes from the musical performances themselves. "Live to Tell," "Vogue," and "Oh Father" express deep rooted emotion, and Madonna proves she is someone who can never be totally dismissed. The dancing and what the "show" means to her, is touching.

She doesn't come across as particularly likeable. Yet her popularity is undeniable as is her value as an entertainer. What makes Truth or Dare better than the average rock documentary is the strength of Madonna's personality. You don't have to like this person, but there is no denying how she got to where she is. She has become famous for shocking us sexually, although that part of her act is the part that will eventually, if it already hasn't, wear thin the fastest. But take that away and intriguing aspects remain. The way she is attempting to incorporate her life into her art, the way she expresses her soul through presentation is fascinating.

There undoubtedly will be more projects, more scandals, more outrage. The value behind Truth or Dare isn't in the glimpse of a single moment, a single tour, but in its explanation in defining the process of one artist's work.

Monday, August 16, 1993

To Dee Dee with Love

When Loni and Burt filed for divorce, it sent a warning to my cholesterol burdened heart. Theirs seemed to be a marriage made for Hollywood. If they couldn't work it out, who among us could?

The news struck a little too close to home. These were nearly my in-laws after all. My nearest brush to fame, my very first "girlfriend" (way back in kindergarten) was a young Dee Dee Haselberg. Deidra, of course is Ms. Anderson's now married daughter.

Burt and Loni proved relationships are fragile things. Even the healthiest can disappear overnight. Which brings me to my domestic associate, Max the Cat. Currently, we are house sitting my sister's mansion in Lake Elmo. The place is huge and is occupied by Max's cousin, Mr. Ralph.

Mr. Ralph is a big cat. A fat cat. He is the only cat who makes Max (who is no mite himself) look minuscule in comparison. Mr. Ralph gets to roam the huge acre of a yard that lies behind the mansion. He chases deer, dodges eagles and kills an occasional gopher- all experiences my friend, the declawed Max can only dream about.

I let Mr. Ralph out in the morning allowing him to roam while I go to work. (We're too far away from the nearest neighbor to worry about Mr. Ralph bothering them.) I'm sure Max watches him intently (and dreams) from a window above. When I get home, Mr. Ralph often comes around front to greet me and comes into the house with me. Poor Max watches us and probably thinks Mr. Ralph and I have spent the whole day frolicking in the wilderness together. Can cats feel jealousy?

Max watches as I scratch Mr. Ralph's stomach, and slowly, sadly walks away. I'm beginning to believe that when Max and I are back home in our apartment, he thinks I go cheat on him and play with Mr. Ralph (since the Lake Elmo mansion is the only other place he has ever seen me at). In reality, I'm off at work earning the money to keep us going.

I feel bad for my cat. Mr. Ralph and I go back a long way, but he's only a friend; Max is my pet, my buddy. We are supposed to be &dung on some similar characteristics. Being neurotic isn't something I want to pass on.

I can say all the right things to Max, I can make it appear he's the only cat in my life, but it's useless unless I convey the accurate attitude. That's a difficult thing to do. I spend more time with Max than Mr. Ralph when I'm at the mansion, yet I can't let Max outside other than our infrequent walks. I know he wants to join Mr. Ralph-it's in his blood. Talking doesn't work, because it's not the words so much, it's the tone of voice which I can't conceal. This is a lesson that can be applied to the workplace.

Last week, three consecutive phone callers apologized to me after asking a question. Apparently my voice was coming across too harshly, making me sound impatient and grumpy. That wasn't what I was feeling at the time (one of the rare occasions in my life) so I was a bit taken back by the apologies. I was tired, and I conveyed the wrong attitude even though my words stated a different meaning altogether.

That the way you say something can be more important than what you are saying, isn't exactly an exclusive, earth shaking revelation. But it is an important thing that is easy to overlook.

So just like my talks to Max, if I send my condolences to Burt and Loni, I have to make sure I use the proper tone of voice.

We can only hope that all is well with myself and my domestic associate. And we can only pray that someday we will be able to deal with the sad break up of Burt and Loni. They seemed so perfect. ...

Sleepless in Pseudoattle

The thread that ties together real estate, starting a new business, and being a successful baseball pitcher is, location, location, location. So a few years ago when I gave up on being a major league pitcher, and I wasn’t experienced enough to be a good entrepreneur, I decided to look for the proper place to live. My experience in the southwest wasn’t what I had hoped for so my Midwestern roots took hold and plopped me back to where I began.

Last year, I considered looking to live elsewhere again. I went east. That didn’t work out. Al suggested Seattle, where his wife’s family is located. My own father was born and raised out there so when my family visited the area, I went along with thoughts of a different type of relocation dancing in my head. The way Al described Seattle, it seemed ideal to me. The climate is legendary with its frequent rainfall. I enjoy rain; damp cool, dark weather is my ideal idea of a place to live.

During my visit it was hot and muggy, a period of an unusual dry spell. I was impressed by the city’s ambiance but upon my return I fell back into the same old routine.

I like the Twin Cities although certain aspects can be annoying. This area has long been hampered with an inferiority complex; there seems to be the feeling that the Twin Cities doesn’t get the credit it somehow deserves-that the rest of the country doesn’t properly appreciate who we are. Seattle is one city we have often been compared with. Ask people on either coast where they would rather live and I’m sure the majority would choose the Upper Northwest. So, Money Magazine’s yearly ranking of the best cities in which to live (see previous page), will no doubt swell the collective ego of our great metropolitan area.

Still, you might have noticed, this has been a terribly rainy season for us. Maybe we have been cursed because we sought to be more like Seattle. Maybe this is a sign that it is better to remain who we truly are. Despite my fondness for this type of weather, even I am getting a bit weary of all the precipitation. All we need are coffee shops springing up every block and we will get our wish to be just like Seattle. If I wanted to experience that type of living, I would be in Washington right now. They do have mountains, an ocean and a better indoor baseball team to enjoy.

On the bright side, this weather is ideal for doing business. And it is equally ideal for the music retail industry since people are spending more time indoors. I myself have tired out some of my collection of music. That’s fine but I just bought a brand new mountain bike, and it is either going to get rusty, or dusty and I didn’t lay down good money for that.

We have caught and passed Seattle. It’s time to slow down because next on the chain is a city that made the bottom ten of Money’s list: Davenport Iowa.

Monday, August 9, 1993

Eulogy for a Dear Friend

My favorite section of the newsletter (the part where we get the most participation and voices- the part where you can actually learn something about the people in this company) is Al’s column, "What did you Learn This Week?" I was going to answer the question this week with a lesson my brother in law told me. We were talking about his father who a couple of years back suffered a mild heart attack. "Part of his heart is dead," my brother in law said. I learned you could live without part of your heart. I chose not to use that answer however. I’ve noticed my answers usually are on a completely different plane than everybody else. I’m not really in the ozone, just act like it sometimes.

The universal lesson I do relearn every week is that the nature of most people is they want things/life to be as easy as possible. In the past, people were told they should believe in the absolute benefits of technology. Technology would make life easier, more efficient and more pleasurable. So we put a man on the moon, and invented remote controls (clickers) so we didn’t have to leave our chairs.

People also used to believe that pop culture icons had some messiah-like abilities, that if you listened to the words, the message, you could be saved. Well, I don’t see anyone playing their CD’s backwards or at different speeds trying to find clues to the greater puzzle.

Recently, a kindergarten teacher stopped into the store to look for children’s records. "Can barley keep ‘em still to listen," she said referring to her restless students. Should we blame the shortening of our collective attention spans on technology or on MTV? Or could it be we are no different these days than those in the past?

I’ve noticed a pattern with people I converse with every day on the phone. Each is looking for someone to solve their problems for them. They don’t realize that information can be used towards figuring a possible direction, but rarely will that be enough to completely satisfy their situation. It usually takes a little more work than that.

The curse of being quiet, bespectacled (and Asian?) is that people assume you know more than you do. They assume your depth is greater than it actually is. I couldn’t convince a former associate I was "but a simple country boy"; she thought I was just trying to be secretive, enigmatic and distant. But there is no reason to try and read between the lines. There’s nothing there.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. I once rode my bike up the hill, pedaling as hard as I could, using all 21 speeds and the only message relayed by the great guru I tried to reach, is that life is what you try and make out of it. You can spend all your time whining about that which has beaten (and kept) you down but it won’t get you anywhere. And often you will miss out on opportunities you’ll later regret you didn’t see, or didn’t appreciate, at the time.

Monday, August 2, 1993


I seem to have this strong, natural rapport with children. Kiddies just can’t seem to get enough of my natural charisma. That said, I must admit I don’t know how to handle certain situations that occur here at Landfill every now and then. So perhaps some of you seasoned retail professionals can help me out by offering your advice and expertise.

How do you handle a situation where someone brings into the store a couple of screaming, young, playful banshees, who tear around the premises like there is no tomorrow, while their parents remain seemingly oblivious to the public display of unruliness by their young munchkins? Where does your responsibility as a sales clerk come together with having to be someone else’s’ babysitter? At what point do you approach the child, or the parent and ask for a little cooperation? My blood pressure nears boiling point every time a child walks in here and I don’t think that is a good thing.

How do I currently deal with the above? I think one of the best ways to handle any situation is to try and look at it through the other side’s position. In this particular instance, it’s easy to apply that philosophy since kids seem to react and relate to my own maturity level. I am a kid at heart.

Many kids these days grow up at the mall. I was no exception. The mall of my choice, the place where "I came of age" was Rosedale. I actually enjoyed Brookdale more because they had cherry slushies that gave you headaches if you ate them too fast, but that hangout was a bit too far away.

Going back to Rosedale now days is like a walk down memory lane (or is that Penny Lane?). The sights, the sounds, and most of all, the smells bring me back to my youth. Except for one thin: down in the new Dayton’s wing is a wig place.

"Kids seem to react and relate to my own maturity level. I am a kid at heart."

Whenever I walk by, there is someone trying out in all seriousness the most hideous attachment to their head, assisted by a salesperson who herself has a big fluffy thing atop her noggin. It’s beyond absurd, beyond a David Lynch movie, beyond an overload of the senses. Whenever I walk by this place I shudder and mutter to myself, "This is a good old fashioned creep out."

Lest anyone think I’m being sexist, I respond the same way whenever I see a commercial for the Hair Club for Men. Besides Frank Sinatra’s hair transplant, we have yet to come up with a suitable replacement or addition to actual human hair.

But we digress. The point is that the world out there can be very frightening and dangerous for a child. Things can leap out, or tumble down at every moment. Adult supervision is a valuable part of growing up. Where one child might see your store as a big playground, another might see it as a torture chamber where every corner is sharper than a dagger. While you can’t keep an eye out for every possible, potential disaster that might occur, perhaps someone knows a good checklist to prevent catastrophe before it happens?