Monday, June 28, 1993

Dino Fever!

Do I have Dino fever? You bet jurassic! And after the events of this past week, it’s a good thing! The week began with some hoodlums/gangsters/punks/n’er do wells breaking the passenger side window of my beloved car. What angered me most was they didn’t even take anything! It was just a random, senseless act of destruction!

But that was fixed. Later in the week the back end of the one-two punch landed when someone stole the bike out of my garage! It was an old Schwinn, which weighed more than I do, complete with those ugly curly handlebars, but the real value was purely sentimental. (Just think of all the places we traveled together!)

So how did I handle the setbacks? How did I work through the anger and loss? I tried thinking like a dinosaur! Such things seem rather trivial and insignificant when you are facing extinction! How would a dinosaur have handled this past week? I figured they would have watched a couple of movies. (Old movies of course!)


Someone somewhere in Hollywood saw the success and acclaim "Rain Man" achieved. Thus the germ of an idea-another movie about a "handicapped" person teaching a "normal" person a lesson in life-was born.

Although Robert DeNiro’s performance isn’t as effective as Dustin Hoffman’s, and Robin Williams’ isn’t nearly as good as Tom Cruise’s, "Awakenings" nonetheless has its charms. The movie is based on a true story about a doctor who finds several patients residing in a mental hospital afflicted with similar symptoms. Rigidly staring off into another world, behaving like statues (the clinical diagnosis), their days and years drift away.

The doctor, played by Williams, researches the medical backgrounds and discovers each patient was a victim of Encephalitis, "sleeping disease", never awakening from the inflammation of their brains. He treats them with an experimental drug and awakens them from their slumber. DeNiro plays one of the reborn and his ensuing journey makes for the essence of the movie.

Directed by Penny Marshall, the movie isn’t as effective as it could have been. (What is the state of Hollywood when two of its most powerful directors were one time known as "Meathead" and "Laverne"?) The movie never captures the spirit of the re-awakening, the miracle that these people are still alive after all the years gone by. And the crux of the story- that DeNiro teaches the sad and lonely Williams, who is a victim of a self inflicted isolated and pointless existence, what the miracle of life is really about-is never achieved. Williams doesn’t seem that bad off and never seems to appreciate what is happening to DeNiro’s character.

Yet, the movie does contain an undeniable impact. More than one tear fell at the conclusion of the story (and it wasn’t a crocodile’s tear but rather a dinosaur’s).


A couple of years ago, James Earl Jones played an integral role in "Field of Dreams". That movie was an overly romantic look at the game of baseball. Based on WD Kinsella’s wonderful book, Shoeless Joe, "Field of Dreams" captured some of the wonder but none of the sense of wonder of the journey into a mystical thread of the American landscape.

"Field of Dreams" didn’t want to be realistic but went over the edge of credibility. Who could believe that Kevin Costner’s wife, played by Amy Madigan could smile and say "sure honey" when Costner decides to ruin his farm by building a huge ball field, drive cross country with a radical stranger in search of a dead ballplayer" Some wives might be wonderful and supportive but Madigan’s love is stuff movies are made from.

Jones’ most recent role is in a follow up movie, "The Sandlot". This movie is one boy’s look back to the days when the events at a neighborhood sandlot were larger than life. Baseball was the center of the universe for the group of kids that gathered every day at the sandlot. The wonderful secret of the movie (no it isn’t that the girl is really a man) is about the monster dog behind the field that eats all the balls hit over the fence, or boys that dare to venture behind it.

Like "Field of Dreams", the events are silly and absurd, but "The Sandlot" doesn’t take itself too seriously and thus succeeds better. This is supposed to be fun and nostalgic and it is. The only flaw is the casing of Jones as the player who know the Babe, the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, as "George Herman" and who could have been an even bigger legend had he not been blinded. The issue of baseball’s black eye, its long time color line, is not addressed and the glaring omission seems to be almost deliberate. Even baseball isn’t as simple as it seems.

Still "The Sandlot" is one of the few "Baseball" movies that succeeds in capturing the spirit of the sport. Even Barney can appreciate that: this movie gets three scales off his tail…

But seriously what did get me through a most difficult week? Well, it was nice being recognized for a year’s worth of work. And to top it all off, one of my favorite young artists, gave me her latest drawing and poem which will appear in these pages soon. Smiles all around…

What is the definition of a neighbor? This weekend, my favorite family of four moved into a house a few blocks from my apartment. Do they qualify as neighbors or technically speaking, are the other dwellers in my complex my only "true" neighbors? I had a caller ask me where "approximately" the Secretary of State’s office was located. Snidely I responded (although it was a reflex, honest), "Forget approximately, I can tell you exactly where we are." The remark wasn’t appreciated.

My answer to last week’s Fridley rap question: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Hammer, and Vanilla Ice.

The final installment of "Late Night With David Letterman" was wonderful. I only wished Hawkeye hadn’t lost his sanity.

Monday, June 21, 1993

Searching for Variety

They killed off the variety show with Ed Sullivan, leaving only a trace of Topo Gigio. Others have since tried to revive the format; everyone from Carol Burnett to Howard Cosell, from Jeff Altman and Pink Lady to Mel Tillis and Susan Anton. But the conspiracy runs deeper than anyone in the know is willing to admit.

Do you expect me to believe we can put a man on the moon, we can even televise our putting a man on the moon (although there is the belief the footage we witnessed was really staged on the sands of Kingman Arizona) but we can’t successfully televise a rock concert?

We’re not exactly in the "Golden Age" of television anymore. The days of "Sheriff Lobo", "BJ and the Bear", and "Hello Larry" probably will never be repeated, achieved or matched again thus there is plenty of air time for a weekly concert or two. The expenses would be minimal, slightly more than a newsmagazine like "Hard Copy" and quite frankly probably would make for better TV than most

"But the conspiracy runs deeper than anyone in the know is willing to admit."

Sporting events. Aren’t made for TV movies a drag? Yet each network seems to have plenty of time for those.

Last week FOX broadcast live Paul McCartney’s final concert of his North American Tour. Although there were major flaws in the presentation (enough to suspect sabotage), it was better than an evening of "Down the Shore" and "Herman’s Head." Having seen pretty much the same concert in person here in the dome, it must be reported that Paul’s energy wasn’t captured very well on the small screen. But perhaps that was intended.

McCartney is a master at "pacing" his show into a thematic whole. The necessity to include commercials during the live

"We’re not exactly in the ‘Golden Age’ of television anymore."

performance, threw the balance of the show off kilter. It’s not coincidence nor a simple twist of fate that the man juxtaposes "Looking for Changes" with "Another Day" (a song about the traps of routine, the hum drum monotony of every day life) or strings together an alliteration of song titles, "Lady Madonna", "Live and let Die", and "Let it Be." This is the musician who created musical jeopardy by posing a question, "how many people" long after he provided the answer, "too many people." (This is something you might try in your spare time, find an artist who answers his own questions in song. It’s fun if done in moderation.)

In person the show was an adequate reflection of McCartney’s magical musical tour. As shown on TV, it seemed more like a Beach Boys’ Las Vegas nostalgia act. It was down right sacrilegious to run the credits through "Hey Jude" and cut the song off right as the "Nah Nah Nahs" were beginning.

The proletariat is crying out for the showing of more live concerts. Even through the commercial interruptions, subpar performances, annoying banter, glimpses of inspiration are bound to appear. That’s something lacking elsewhere on TV and perhaps the reason variety (and Ed) are dead.

Monday, June 14, 1993

One Year Anniversary

This week the newsletter celebrates its one-year anniversary. To all that have written, commented, participated- tres bien! Keep it up! I look forward to hearing more from everyone in the next year. I would also like to thank Al for his support. We pledge to keep striving to improve, and obviously we have lots of room to meet that goal. Someday we will obtain legal newsletter status.

Here is a look back at the past year:

May 1992 – A notice is posted in the back room of the St. Paul Cheapo announcing the opening of editor for the company’s newsletter. Already working seven days a week, I decide that’s exactly what I need, more work.

June 1992 – I interview with Scott, getting some idea of what will be expected. I leave thinking it will be a monthly effort for the Cheapo stores.

June 19, 1992 – The first issue appears. My biggest fear is a memory of "20/20’s" debut on ABC. The show started with two co-anchors and goofy graphics. After one episode, the show is yanked and remodeled to reappear with Hugh Downs as host. Fiasco or competence? I really don’t know.

June 25, 1992 – Al tells me not only does he want it to be a weekly newsletter, but it is for the Applause stores as well. A bigger readership-a definite plus despite more pressure.

July 14, 1992 – We begin to settle into a determined format.

July 15, 1992 – We run out of original ideas.

September 1992 – Our "Dylan" issue wins awards, demonstrates the editor is loopy.

December 1992 – Highlight of brief history as many participate in year-end edition.

March 1993 – Attend newsletter seminar. Plenty of ideas presented. Enthused and itchy to implement some of them.

March 1993 – New look, same newsletter.

April 1993 – Approval from Washington DC.

May 1993 – Our "McCartney" issue draws groans.

June 1993 – The big "Sinatra" issue is planned but postponed for purely personal reasons.


# of sausage egg biscuits consumed by newsletter staff over past year – 58

# of breakfast burritos consumed over same period – 46

Typographical and grammatical errors made over past year: 634, leading to a game more popular than "Where’s Waldo", called where’s the errors?

Words most frequently mentioned over past year: "Max", "chafing", and "I’m sorry".

What's in a Name?

Last week, Prince caused a minor ripple (even my Mom and Dad commented) when he legally changed his name to the @ symbol (actually he didn’t change it to that symbol but the one he chose isn’t featured on this keyboard).

There seemed to be a great deal of hostility towards his actions; just another celebrity doing something absurd for extra publicity. But hey, at least he chose something better than say, "Sting" or "Dylan".

For the past year we have been searching for the appropriate name for our newsletter. Thanks now to @, we not only have to sort through millions of words, but now we have just as many symbols to consider. Arrrggg. We do like the Soul Man’s suggestion to change the name to some type of odorless gas.

@ is to be applauded for his decision. Most of us can recognize his voice, his music, his face (we’ve seen just about every part of his body), why label the entity with such a restrictive word as "Prince"?

As part of my phone job, I am required to answer, "This is David." 40% of the people respond by saying, "Hi Steven…" Either I have an enunciation problem or people just don’t listen very well. Nonetheless do I offer any less customer service with the name "Steven"? I don’t think so. By giving my name it makes the call more personal, yet in essence my name could be Regis and the answers, and tone of call would remain the same.

Indeed, I don’t like a caller who keeps referring to me as "Dave". It’s like a used car salesman/newly found friend, who puts his arm around me and pretends as if they really care about me, the wife and the kids. My friends can call me what they want but is it right for a complete stranger to assume it is proper to converse on a first name basis?

For the past few years I have talked to some individuals pretty much on a daily basis. We share stories of our lives (they love to hear about Max) and it takes the edge off the pile of work we all face. A couple of these people, I don’t know the names of, and it seems silly at this late junction to ask them what their names are. That’s my loss; not only are they to remain faceless to me, but two days after I leave the job, they will evaporate into the wind. For people that have made my job, and thus my life easier, that’s too bad. They deserve more.

Employees of this company are supposed to wear nametags. This is a good idea in retail since it identifies you as an employee at the same time as allowing the customer the opportunity to put a name with the person. People seem to respond to this type of contact.

In a way that’s an unfortunate aspect of human nature. What difference does it make what we call something? Why are we so dependent on labeling things? Why do we need definitions in life? That’s one of the points to my favorite "British" comedy (ok itself a label I know) "The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin". Al turned me on to this show several years ago and it has stuck with me deeply. The show is about a businessman who gets fed up with the routine of everyday life, fakes his suicide, only to come back to live the same life over again. His wife meets the new incarnation and to the astonishment of her daughter says she is willing to go along with her husband’s strange behavior. What difference does it make if we call him Reggie or Martin Windpipe (Wellborne)? If he’s happier with one name, why not accept the change? Precisely.

NEXT WEEK: DM reveals his new name!

Monday, June 7, 1993

Conan Maeda's Retail Tips

Conan Maeda’s Retail Tips

During the 1937 Major League All Star Game, the great Dizzy Dean, one of the memorable members of the goofy "Gashouse Gang" was struck on the toe by a line drive.

Ol’ Diz continued pitching even with the bad toe, but changed his pitching motion to compensate for the pain. As a result, he hurt his arm and was never the same player.

Dizzy then became a radio broadcaster where his colorful anecdotes were told in his equally colorful but butchered version of the English language. So poor was Dizzy’s English that there was actually a

"I discovered over the past week I have the aversion to saying ‘good morning’ to people."

Protest by a group of grade school teachers complaining that the youth of America was picking up on his vernacular and we were raising a generation of country talkin’ verbally stunted children.

This past week I watched the NBA Western Conference Finals with one of the announcers being Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Magic was of course the leader of the great Lakers teams of the 1980’s. He was forced to retire after contracting the HIV virus. Like Ol’ Diz, Magic has a charismatic personality. Like Diz, Magic’s use of the English language can leave a purist gaping.

My biggest linguistic pet peeve is adding the suffix "ness" to a word to make it a noun. Magic has come up with a couple of these that are beyond my tolerance level. Describing Shawn Kemp’s ability to be around the ball at the most opportune times, Magic used the word, "activenness." Describing what Tom Chambers brings off the Phoenix bench, Magic labeled it, "veteranness." Arrggg.

As Rush Limbaugh says (dittos from the newsletter), like it or not, we are judge by the way we speak. So some of us (and Rush is not one of these) try to say as little as possible.

I discovered over the past week I have the aversion to saying "good morning" to people. I don’t know how I developed this among my many neurotic traits but I find myself trying to sneak to my desk without speaking to anyone else. One’s first words are the most important after all.

This brings to mind a recent episode of "Star Trek: TNG" where it was shown one of the Federations’ most difficult missions is first contact with a new species. It is important to build trust from the beginning.

My last roommate and I used to greet each other in the morning with a grumble. That greeting continued for me to everyone I saw until about 9:00. That may work in a big bumbling bureaucracy, but it does not work in a business. One of the new trends in retail is placing someone at the front of the store just to greet incoming customers. I personally don’t like this, makes me edgy.

I don’t appreciate it though, when I bring some merchandise up to a register and get no kind of interaction with the employee. This is the place contact of some kind is necessary even for the most aloof among us "Politeness" and "humanness" are a requirement here.