Monday, September 27, 1993

Trouble with the Police

A young, Midwestern lad was dropped off at a small, Midwestern liberal arts college. He arrived at his dorm room where his two roommates were already busy unpacking. On the stereo played the Police's "Roxanne. " The young lad noted that one of his roommates had a slight resemblance to the members of the rock group (he had the hair).

For the next few months, the young lad endured many an evening watching his roommates and their friends crank up "Roxanne," and had the pleasure of witnessing a room full of burly freshmen air guitaring along with the Police. This was the ritual of his college initiation. At night, he attended dinner with these people, listened to their conversations which consisted of alcoholic tales and grading and commenting on the anatomy of various young (nubile?) co-eds at the college. On a good evening the two topics became one, as the young lad learned they certainly weren't mutually exclusive.

Occasionally the young lad would come back to his dorm late at night only to discover one of these young women in his room, enjoying herself with one of the judges. Always in the background were the sounds of the Police (although nothing illegal or illicit was happening, as these same occurrences played out at various colleges throughout the continental U .S. (for who knows how long.)

Cut now to this same young lad's junior year at this college. Next door lived a sometimes emotional, sometimes insecure acquaintance, who's ideal man happened to be Sting (the bass player, singer/ songwriter of the Police). This young woman eventually reaffirmed in the young lad that love was different than what he witnessed in his freshman year, and in gratitude he ended up naming a newsletter after her.

The relationship between the two was often strained. The young lad's roommate was even heard to mutter, "One of you is always mad at the other." One could tell when things were not flowing right when the two students would be isolated in their own rooms, one playing Sting (who the young lad thought was pretentious), the other cranking McCartney (who the young woman thought old), as if a musical war was better than a war of words. In the end, the rift grew too large and the differences broke the relationship apart.

Many years later this young lad, now graduated, was working at a local record store where the entertainment was provided by a free jukebox- thus the same ten songs played over and over throughout his eight hour shift. Among these songs was Sting's "Russians." Each time it played it cut like a dagger, a sensory reminder that made the young lad a little sadder. Everywhere he turned she was still sort of there.

Now days, this same lad is sometimes able to look back at all those days without a grimace. Still, music is the most painful reminder and when a Police song is played, the hidden emotions sometimes creep back from their buried place. Time may not heal all wounds but it does change us. Recently, the young lad made a tape for a friend. The second song he put on the tape was none other than "Russians" surely Sting's most pretentious effort. The prominent placement of this song perhaps suggests a step forward, perhaps a step backward, but a step nonetheless. Although he probably would not admit it. the lad now likes the song. I guess we can say he has been "Stung."

Monday, September 20, 1993

Talk is Cheap

If you’re anything like me, a young, amiable, male (YAM), you probably are eating up this late night talk show fest. But there are only so many late hours in a day, and only so many of us insufferable insomniacs to enjoy them. So here for your convenience, is a guide to what you should watch and what you can let pass:

The Arsenio Hall Show: The best thing that can be said about this man is that he is a black Merv Griffith. The worst thing that can be said about him is that he is a black Merv Griffith. It’s as if he didn’t experience the 80’s and the breaking away from conventional talk show structures. He schmoozes with his guests and if you happen to be an attractive young starlet, or a heroic young athlete, watch out because the sugar level will kill a diabetic. On one appendage, the show is rooted in self-promotion and self-indulgence. Does Arsenio realize his guests have absolutely no importance, and thus neither does he? That it’s only show biz? On the other appendage, being so steeped in the culture of Southern California gives the show its appeal; it’s the show to watch if you want to keep up with the kids. Hip, trendy and fashionable.

Late Night with Conan O’Brien: He is trying so hard to be funny that at times it is painful to watch. He needs to lose the gum and the giggle (a young Rupert Pupkin?) Like Letterman, his references are steeped in recent pop culture; both mocking it and giving worship to it. Already we’ve heard jokes about the Flintstones, Gilligan, the Partridge Family and Hogan’s Heroes. Many of the bits from the first week were simply not funny. He opened with "Small Town News" an old Letterman bit, the twist being the stories were made up. But it wasn’t absurd, unrealistic or silly so it was just plain dumb. The same problem exists with the sidekick, Andy. He seems to be there to mock the role Ed McMahon played, yet he only makes one appreciate the durability of Johnny’s partnership and how watchable those two men were together. What’s needed is a caricature like John Candy’s Edward B. on SCTV’s "Sammy Maudlin" show. Conan did come up with the funniest moment last week: his duet with Tony Randall on "Edelweiss".

The Chevy Chase Show: One either likes Chase’s smugness or can’t stand it. I happen to like Chevy’s "Saturday Night" personae, the clumsy self-depreciating everyman. But he lacks Letterman’s wit, Len’s observational humor, and Arsenio’s ability to establish a dialogue with his guests. What does Chase add to this genre? Slapstick? Chaplinesque comic ability? This show can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be the "Tonight Show" or "Saturday Night Live". Dennis Miller did it better.

Tonight Show with Jay Leno: He is a great stand up comedian, yet his nightly monologue has taken the edge off his comic focus. Still Letterman’s decision to lengthen his monologue plays to Len’s strength. Jay is better at that part of the show. At the same time, Dave has always gone for the one liner, the joke even if it’s at the expense of his guest; Jay’s approach is much more sheepish and thus he is not as entertaining an interviewer. Leno has gotten better, more relaxed, more "himself" since becoming the permanent host, but Johnny’s shadow still lingers and Len’s decision to be a "kindler and gentler" host has been detrimental to the show.

Late Show with David Letterman: When he started off eleven years ago, his show was an anti-talk show, a mockery by example. The sarcasm, the not knowing if he was putting us on, whether we should take him seriously, what was real and what wasn’t – gave the show its innovation. Over the year’s Dave’s personality has become more of the focus and thus the show has become the talk show it strived not to be. Yet Dave has developed as a performer, mixing his dumb hut style effectively with a biting skepticism and he is the most skillful host among the lot. So far the "Late Night", doing far less prepared material. Instead they have relied on taking the camera outside and seeing what Dave can make fun of – and thus the show seems more and more glitzy and conventional. Still, Paul is my favorite late night bandleader and having been at it the longest, Dave seems to know what he wants to accomplish.

It’s nice to find out I wasn’t the only kid in America tuning in every night to Johnny, thinking to myself, that’s what I want to do. So what if all those others have their own shows and I do not. As Conan O’Brien said, "My friends told me, Conan, the day you get your own talk show is the day there will be peace in the Middle East." Anything is possible.

NEXT WEEK: Phil and Oprah, Geraldo, Sally Jessie, Maury, Faith, Jenny Jones, John and Leeza, Regis and Kathie Lee, Montel and much much more!

Results of last week’s football picks: Jason S. went 5-9 to make his season total 14-14. David went 7-7 to make his season total 17-11. A three game lead! Can the youngster catch up? Or is the wily, grizzled prognosticator too much to handle? We welcome Jason Mock to the club. Stay tuned…

BOB’S QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Music can save people, but it can’t in the commercial way it’s being used. It’s just too much pollution… My feeling is that the guy who’s taken up modern music is what you hear in Wagner. Wagner, to me is like one of the archcriminals of all time. Like Beethoven would be the antithesis of Wagner, and Beethoven you didn’t hear very much. Wagner makes you feel gloomy and depressed, but he’s popular too and he dictates the music of the day whether you like it or not?

Monday, September 13, 1993

The Uncomfortable DJ

You're responsible for providing music for the masses. How do you select the samples you are limited to? What is appropriate in store music?

I was asked to make a hold tape for the business information lines to the Secretary of State. This music is heard by over 700 people a day. How did I make the best tape I could for my audience? What was my selection process?

Initially I wanted to make the cliche hold tape, full of muzak. I myself am starting to dig elevator music. Last week I heard a killer version of Dylan's Bucket of Rain back to back with an instrumental interpretation of Madonna's Papa Don't Preach. Whew, talk about being lifted to another place! Imagine my excitement when I learned this muzak was provided by a company whose job is to play background music for various offices across the land. Where do I sign up?

Think of the challenge: the music has to be pleasant, a background sound, catchy without being too sugary and annoying. That's a hard order to fill. For my tape I originally thought I might try all classical music. But I wanted to give our office a more hip, more up to date, image.

So... I added some jazz to the mix. Couldn't be too far out though, had to be plain enough where people wouldn't notice. I also looked for some "soft' rock that everyone could enjoy. College? MOR? Blandness is an offense in itself.

Another idea then crossed my mind: how's about an all Minnesota artist tape? No way. Somehow a mixture of Dylan, Prince, and the Mats probably wouldn't be acceptable to the vast majority.

Sifting through my clunky collection was a chore in itself. I pulled various records and CDs off the shelf. The next problem was somehow mixing the different genres into a cohesive whole. McCartney ended up next to Mozart, Coltrane next to Sinatra. Perhaps the key was to provide as broad a selection as possible, pleasing as many different people as I could. Depending on when you called, you would hear a piece of great music. No one could complain, no one could find fault with the quality of music. I had created the best damn hold tape ever!

Or so I thought. But I should've known better. You can't please everyone. I was surprised by the first complaint- against a Rachmanioff piano concerto. A classical piece and not a rock song? The next dissenting voice was against the "crying geese" soundof Coltrane and Miles Davis. And not a word about John Hiatt. How do you figure?

So having compiled my version of the best hold tape in the state (296-2803), my next project was a traveling tape for my new car pooling partner. Another hard to know what to include task. Her's is an opinion I value so just a tape of my favorite tunes would not suffice because my choice in music has driven more than a few away. The tape I made for my last car pooling companion was filled with nasty messages, or so she was convinced.

So rather than trying to make a tape for my new driver, I didn't compromise my soul this time; I made a tape I liked and hoped she respects me enough to like it too or at least appreciates the thought that went into the selections. It's good music darn it.

Monday, September 6, 1993

Continuing Saga of Blackjack Davey

As me and the Mrs. Get ready to send Mandy and Melissa back to school, (can you believe lil’ Mandy is all ready to start the third grade!?) I am reminded that some of our finest citizens are former food service employees from Iowa.

Seriously, the summer flew by so fast! Where did the time go? I don’t know if any of you have heard but there is a new show on at 10:35 PM that is worth catching. It’s called "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol." We get to follow the fuzz, as they perform their ever-entertaining duties. Last week, we got to see them bust a woman who had a few ounces of cocaine on her person. As the camera leered at her, we got to hear of how the man she was living and sleeping with gave her the dope, but she hardly knew him, therefore she shouldn’t go to jail. She didn’t, as our heroes let her go with a mere warning. Riveting. The mixture of reality with TV didn’t confuse me too much. TV like most modern conveniences makes things more clear.

Speaking of modern conveniences, it occurred to me I’ve come full circle. When I began at Cheapo many, years ago, it used to be a running gag between me and my co-workers, about my discomfort in answering the phone. A member of our company’s hall of fame, former Cheapo East Manager Brian Haws, used to spend hours mocking my resistance to that part of my job description. But I did have a legitimate reason for my phone phobia.

So now it’s a bit ironic that I spend my workday answering the phone for a living(?). Among the thousands of faceless callers, I’ve had the pleasure to meet a handful of people (the most interesting encounter happened right here at Landfill, where I met Steve from the Department of Revenue; he didn’t know I knew it was him, but it was quite obvious from his voice and personality). This past week I finally met PG, a long time caller and one nifty person to boot.

Mixing reality and fiction, finally being able to put a person, a face behind the voice was a disjointing. It was like finding out that TV’s Richard Anderson, Oscar Goldman on the "Six Million Dollar Man" is the voice of either Beavis or Butthead.

Do the voices I hear all day long in my head mean I’m insane? No. Is my job? Good question.

Another phone call. I’m in the process of a major personal purchase, a personal computer. Knowing little of what I should be looking for, I ordered a specific piece of equipment only to find the company I ordered it from installed inferior hardware. So the question is, were they trying to rip me off or did they make an honest mistake? Wouldn’t it be good customer service on their part to alleviate that question by offering me something in return for their mistake? It’s an inconvenience at worst, a distraction at best. But eventually it will make our newsletter, "Bigger, Better, Faster…"!

Special thanks to Scott for offering me tickets to go see that feisty, festering rivalry between our fighting Twins and those ever intense Indians. Instead of enjoying those festivities, I endured another night of softball where I accomplished the nearly impossible – grounding into two double plays! Woo!