Monday, January 30, 2012

7 things you may not know you’re not supposed to do in a bar.

1) …plop your coat / bag on the bar and leave ‘em there. This is a workspace. You are creating an impediment.
2) …help yourself to anything out of the garnish tray. If you desire another lime, ask for it. If you want a snack, order something off the menu. The olives are not all for you.
3) …assume that your drink will still be there if you wander off for more than five minutes and don’t say anything or give some sign (like the ol’ bevnap on the glass) that you’re coming back. I’ve had people leave a drink on the bar, then return a half an hour later asking where it is.
4) …think that the straws / stirrers are your own personal stash of chew sticks.
5) …assume that your spilled drink will be replaced at no charge. If you drive a car off the lot and crash it two blocks away, do you get another car for free? The bartender might cut you a break, but then again, he might not.
6) …leave a giant tip right off the bat. It makes the drinkslinger uncomfortable because the implication is that you’re now expecting special treatment (and a good bartender doesn’t show anyone special treatment).
7) … assume—especially if it’s busy—that the bartender remembers which tab is yours. It’s not too hard to just say “The tab is under [last name here].”

Thanks for your attention. Oh, and don’t ever call Jameson “Jaymo.”

7 things that bands are doing at any town on any stage in any club in America... that you should take issue with

1. Playing a Beatles cover. A#1 rule - don't cover the Beatles. Ever. Never ever. Never. Just never.
2. This is a snobby one, but I like to see classic guitars - Fenders, Gibsons, Gretsches and Epiphones. Dont settle for anything "off."
3. A band thats says things like "Here's another shitty one" or "We suck, but we'll keep playing" - not only is it annoying but it's false modesty so it's a LIE. Dont give them the opportunity to do it again.
4. Drummer with a mic*. I've seen too many bands where the drummer gets a mic and gets way too chatty. Cut it off at the pass.
5. Not tipping the bartender - bands are big on this for some reason. I'll never understand why.
6. "Somebody buy me a shot!" - How about the bar will be there when you get off stage so you can get it yourself. Grow up, Peter Pan.
7. Generally too much talking. Just play your songs. No one is there for anything else.

*with the exception of Levon Helm. That man could sing and he was "no bulls**t" with the mic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

7 ways to judge a book (read: "person") by its cover

I worked in a record store for a long time - not unlike our fearless leader, Pops. Now, despite my inclination and desire to tell you that the "record store stereotype" is trumped up or insensitive or even inaccurate... it isn’t. And I’m no liar. So - with that in mind I give you both my admition that I am a criminally judgmental clerk and 7 of the moves I make to get to that warm happy place of impassioned loathing and (potential) ignorance.

1. Shoes
In my humble opinion the fastest way to pick a winner from the lot is their shoes. It’s a game of trial and error (much like the perfect ratio of scoops to water in the mr. coffee machine) before you can get it right. Many ins and outs. But on the day you determine that the d-bag you’ve been arguing with wasn’t worth your time because he is a grown man in a pair of bright blue Skechers ("It’s the S!"), you'll remember this entry and think "Damn, that a**hole on 7-NOW was RIGHT!"

2. The "Man Blouse"
I don’t feel like explaining this one other than to offer THIS. also - its not the SEINFELD joke about the puffy shirt.. it’s an actual problem.

3. Colored jeans
Jeans are blue. They are also allowed to be black. I look at it this way - if I wouldn’t write a letter or sign my name in that color... I wouldn’t wear denim pants in that color either. This one really only applies to men, though. Women can get away with more.

4. The CD booklet
This one is a bit more personal AND a bit more specific to my past life as the resident Rob Gordon. I don’t have a problem with the CD book/wallet/what-have-you – what I have a problem with is the discarding of the jewel case (and in most, but not all cases the LINER NOTES) and the inherent disrepair of the ancient wallet as it gets on in years – thereby forcing the discs into disrepair as well. There are only a few ways to tell this one. Not a whole lot “got my Irish up” in the store as much as when some clown came in trying to sell me their CD collection and handed me a Case Logic full of scratched up Phish CDs. Really dude? My line was always “would you buy this?” and that sent them away. That’s a pretty specific instance though. I find it more now as the CD has begun to fade away and as friends of mine are discarding their old ones only to reveal that they “got rid of that stuff a long time ago” in regards to the companions to the actual discs. A quicker less specific way is this: if you get into someone’s car, and they have a CD wallet and its super dusty, potentially ripped up and the booklets are torn frayed and jammed in with the CDs – run. John Waters has a line that is something like “if you walk into someone place and there are no books… don’t f**k that person” – same principle. Walk away.

5. Books
This one is easy AND universal! If I see you on the PATH train reading a book of a new popular movie AND your copy of the book is the movie tie in with Julia Roberts’ face plastered on the cover… I can tell you that not only do I not want to be your friend… but you most CERTAINLY don’t want to be mine.

6. Band T-Shirts
Very few band t-shirts are allowed over the age of 16. VERY few. Here are a couple of ground rules:
•  No solo artists ever (even under 16). There is nothing cool about a shirt with some dudes name on it. There is no such thing as a “cool” Bob Dylan t-shirt.
•  Allowed: the Clash, the Ramones, Black Flag, Motorhead, the Sex Pistols (sparingly), the Rolling Stones (from 71-78 ONLY… pushing it but OK).
•  Oversized? Over done. If it doesn’t fit – donate that shit. You’ll get more pleasure seeing it worn by some homeless guy in 8 months than you will by wearing it EVER.
•  It has to be a standard short sleeve tshirt – none of THIS (see: number 2 as well)
•  Black is probably your best bet. Grey is OK too. Avoid any other colors.
•  Serious DON'Ts: Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Hootie & the Blowfish.

7. Cigar smoking in public
This habit pervasive and sorta disgusting – it doesn’t bother me if you smoke cigars in private. In fact that can be relaxing. I take issue with the old dude walking around town puffing away in his fleece vest and NY Jets baseball hat letting his engine fuel Cuban waft into every store front he passes by. That guy is a d**k. Everyone knows it. He should be publicly punished. I recommend something like The Lottery. Anyone else?

That’s all I got. This list at times felt forced. At times felt a little weighted. And at times felt very specific to my experiences… but screw you if you don’t like it – IT'S MY LIST.

Here’s to more a confrontational internets.

Billy Alpha’s 7 Favorite Mysteries of the Unknown

There is a lot of weird stuff out there in the world. Have you ever pointed a wire hanger shaped like an ancient Egyptian symbol at Stonehenge, felt a surge of energy in your arms and woken up 8 hours later not sure if it was all in your head? Neither have I, but because of the Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown series of books (which were published from the late 80s to early 90s, and advertised during the 3-5pm cartoon block after school) I always wanted to. So here are my 7 favorite Mysteries of the Unknown that I have culled from years of personal research. Coincidence? I think not.

1. Dyatlov Pass Incident -
A team of nine Russian athletes and scientists go cross country skiing in the mountains, and never make it home. After the thaw, they are found naked, without tongues, and bathed in radiation. Its like a real life documented Blair Witch Project with some Soviet era Cold War intrigue thrown in.

2. Underground Bases at Dulce, New Mexico -
Deep underground Dulce, New Mexico, are massive black budget military bases. This one has it all, alien-human hybrids, hyper-spatial Nazi scientists, black helicopters, firefights between CIA operatives and Greys, and eyewitness testimony with government documents as evidence!

3. Mothman and the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Pt. Peasant, West Virginia -
Mothman shows up and bad things happen, including the collapse of the Silver Bridge, a horrible documentary, and a sort of awesome Richard Gere movie.

4. Travis Walton -
Did you ever see Fire in the Sky? The part where they stick the needle in his eye? Yeah that might have really happened.

5. Black Eyed Kids -
This one is a fairly new phenomena. So you’re kicking back, maybe eating some za, and firing up the xbox to take out some dragons in the Rim, when there is a knock at your door. So you get up expecting UPS, but its not. Its some kids with pitch black eyes asking to use your phone. At first you think its some local juggalos, but before you can reach for your spray bottle you realize these kids are staring into your soul, and igniting your fight or flight response. The worst part is there are only stories of folks who did not let them in.

6. The CIA’s Project Stargate, and Remote Viewing -
The United States government spent around 25 million dollars on a project that trained people to mind travel to anywhere. They did, and it worked...maybe.

7. John Titor -
So back in the early aughts John Titor shows up on Internet message boards claiming that he was a time traveler from the year 2036. Titor explained that the United States had been devastated by civil war, and that our future society will sort of mirrored life in The Hunger Games. Titor wrote that he traveled back to 1975 to pick up an IBM 5100 computer, which could be used in the future to help translate some old code. So he takes a pit stop in November of 2000 for a few months to visit some family, explain time travel, and warn us all about what’s to come. Titor’s out was always that he was from a similar, but not the same timeline as us, and thus things could be different here. The really eerie thing is how current physics multi-verse theory jibes with what Titor was saying. Just ask Michio Kaku.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Seven From 2011

Not a great year for culture, pop or otherwise, nor even a particularly coherent year. The event of 2011 was Occupy Wall Street, which addressed the tough problems of how we now live in a way that no art seemed capable of doing. As the internet continues to erode even the concept of mainstream entertainment, we may be in for more years like 2011, in which everything seems deeply personal but still marginal.

This in addition to the fact that I am perpetually catching up (favorite thing I watched this year? Mad Men. Finally.) makes it difficult for me to judge the best of any given year. Despite all that, here is a list of seven things from 2011 I liked:

1. The Book of Mormon
As great as everyone says. It has so many awesome parts.

2. Congress of Animals by Jim Woodring

3. Louie
Both the man and the show.

4. Moebius Trans Forme
I traveled all the way to Paris to see this career retrospective of one of my favorite artists. I suspect it was a once in a lifetime exhibit, but here's hoping that I'm wrong.

5. Paying for It by Chester Brown
Brown’s essay in the form of a memoir is either a study in denial or a provocative argument for a new way of living.

6. Portlandia
Marginal by design, almost to the point of being a mission statement, but every episode features something that makes me laugh out loud and there’s no show I look forward to watching more.

7. Tree of Life

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pops' Twenty-Eleven Seven

2011 was an odd year, pop culturally… almost nothing moved me to the point of “love” outside of things to which I was personally attached (see #1). None of the four superhero films in ’11 were great, some of my favorite TV shows let me down and as for comics, well… So, rather than post a list of seven “best” things from the last year, here’s a list of my seven “big” pop culture events.

My NSO (that’s notarized significant other) spent much of 2011 writing and recording her debut EP as Big Lake, a personal passion project that I’d think was great if I weren’t living with the artist. Beautifully evocative, it begs for close listening and portends a great future for my new favorite band (aw).
2) HABIBI by Craig Thompson
Craig Thompson freaks me out. He may well be the greatest living cartoonist today (not just of his generation). His sense of storytelling, design and his lush, intuitive brushwork are all the works of a true master. HABIBI is another amazing accomplishment in an already legendary career.
3) DC COMICS' NEW 52 Reboot
On the other end of the comics spectrum, the much ballyhooed relaunch of the DC Comics Universe was, to my mind, a short-sighted, ill-advised attempt to draw new readers while shitting on a vast (admittedly mixed) 75 year legacy. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a purist who misses Superman’s red shorts. Initial strong sales are one thing, but I’ll be shocked if they can maintain the momentum. For me, it’s not even the same world anymore.
4) DEXTER Disappoints
Since I discovered DEXTER after the second season, Showtime’s serial killer drama has been my favorite show. This past season promised to be a doozy, with Dexter dealing with a religious fanatic and his own crisis of (lack of) faith, but the writers seemed too scared to truly tackle such a hot button issue as religion. In addition, too many unbelievable character turns and a lot of loose plot threads just left the whole season feeling like a pale shell of a once great program. Even the enormous shock at the end of the finale seems like a bad idea.
One of my favorite rock bands of all time toured in celebration of the 30th anniversary of its first LP, and the shows proved that its groundbreaking, incendiary punk poetry is as vital and exciting as ever. I saw two of the shows, in Asbury Park at the Stone Pony and in Hoboken at Maxwell’s, and was in punk rock heaven both nights. My only regret is that I didn’t see them again.
Easily my favorite show of the year couldn’t garner enough viewers to get renewed, despite a hearty online effort to save it. Alderman Roland Gibbons languishes forever in a holding cell, waiting for a trial that will never come...! Boo.
7) My Stuff
In a year where I couldn’t afford to do a lot of consuming (this is within context), I actually had a lovely time obsessing over my collections… remaking DVD covers, reorganizing bookshelves, consolidating, compiling, re-reading, re-viewing and all that stuff that makes my ilk full of nerdy joy. And if all goes as planned, hopefully a year from now, you’ll all get what I mean.