Artists Pay Back (The Blog)

January 15, 2011

Off-Key Songs of Obligation

When the new year started, I made four resolutions:

1. Write more

2. Write more

3. Write more

4. Use more redundancy-based humor

My original thought was to write at least an hour a day. That hasn’t worked out to plan exactly, though I did do a blog post last week so, you know, small steps. I decided that if nothing else, I would at least make a new blog post every weekend. I have very dedicated readers (hi, mom!) and I would like to reward them (her) by putting crappy stuff up more often.

So, even though I really have nothing insightful or humorous to say in particular, I thought, why should that stop me? It never has before. Besides, writers write, right?

Last weekend we made a trip to a nice little local place where they have karaoke on Saturdays. Now I love karaoke. That’s not to say I’m a good singer. I think I’m adequate and I’ve gotten compliments from time to time. I have a limited range that clearly does not include Peter Gabriel (this was found out recently when I Abu Ghraib’ed “In Your Eyes” – I am awaiting a trial on war crimes. I will plead guilty.) It’s more about stage presence (which is really about alcohol) and how comfortable you are belting “Love Shack” songs in front of strangers. See, there are certain rules. Like, don’t sing “Love Shack” songs. Ever. (More on that in a minute.)

Before I get into what’s important to know for singers, allow me to talk to the Karaoke DJ’s or hosts or KJ’s or whatever you call them, for a moment. I know it’s your equipment. I know you’re a fantastic singer (in the same way that toddler pageant mother’s are great parents). I know you want to play along. But you’re not allowed to sing UNLESS no one has the stones to sing and you’re trying to get the party going or you’re in a singer rotation of three or fewer people and want o break up the monotony. Otherwise just play the songs and let the paying customers live out their Carrie Underwood fantasies (I just realized that means something TOTALLY different for guys).

Karaoke nights generally run for 4 – 6 hours depending on the bar. This means you’ll get about 10 singers in an hour. You should not be one of them. In a typically crowded bar, 40 o-60 songs means that the people there will sing three or four songs for the night. You’re getting paid to be there, and though I know your interpretation of “Send In The Clowns” always kills, we don’t want to hear it. I’ve seen some KJ’s put themselves into the singer rotation which is astounding to me. It’s like the ride operator at Disney World taking a solo turn on Magic Mountain every hour. You’re there to run the show for us, not play along. If you must, give yourselves a couple of songs (early in the night) and then turn it over to rest of the people. I’m even okay with maybe doing the last song of the night.

Okay, and now on to you, the singer. Here are five things to remember the next time you’re ready to rock up on the mic (and subsequently wish to rock the mic right):

Rule #1 – Song selection – It’s important to note that song selection matters but only if you want to get the people involved. If you just want to sing your Toad The Wet Sprocket tunes and enjoy yourself, then don’t worry about what the rest of the bar thinks. Just do your thing. But if you really want the high fives (see rule #4) or just the fun of getting people singing along with you, then you’ve got to pick the right tune. There are some obvious choices that will almost always work (note that none of them are ballads, this is key):

Then there are the songs that should really be eliminated from every bar in the country. You’re guaranteed to hear at least one at least once in any bar yo go to and they are invariably shout-sung by the worst singers. They may seem like crowd-pleasers but they aren’t and they really just tell us all we need to know about you:

  • Love Shack – Yes, when it’s time for “tin roof – RUSTED!” everyone will sing it with you. This is not validation, but rather some sort of Pavlovian obligation. No one wants to hear this song sung by the shouting girl who managed to get her reluctant boyfriend/gay buddy onstage with her because it would be “SO AWESOME!”

    Rockin' the mic right

    Yes, You Will Survive. Us? Not so much.

  • Summer Lovin’ – This one usually results in 8 – 10 people crowding the stage with a bunch of bubbly co-eds “acting out” the lyrics while the guys play along with faces that read “this better get me laid.” Though there will be one guy who misses high school drama. He’s the one that holds the mike and really emotes those last few verses (falsetto!) while the rest of the guys lean away, teetering ever close to falling off the stage as the song progress.
  • I Will Survive – Though I’m sorry your marriage ended, I’m beginning to understand why.
  • Mony, Mony – Yes, yes, I know why you’re singing it and, we as a crowd, will oblige with the hidden refrain. But we’ll hate ourselves for it after.

Rule #2 – Know the lyrics – Okay, I know it’s starting to sound a little Simon Cowell-esque here  with the first two rules, but they are important. AI is after all just televised karaoke and these rules are universal. It never fails to amaze me how several people in any given karaoke bar will sing a song that they apparently have never heard before in their life. If you have to stare at the screen, you probably shouldn’t be singing. This is especially true if you want to rap. Rap opens up karaoke to people who won’t actually sing. Rap lyrics move fast and if you lose your place (or, often, have no rhythm at all – you know who you are) you just end up awkwardly shouting the last word in each line a second too late (much like the one guy in every rap group who awkwardly shouts the last word of each line a second too late and who is likely the lead rappers cousin).

Bad singers are fine and understandable in a karaoke bar, people who don’t know the words to the song that THEY CHOSE. Flubbing a line or two or missing a mark is fine, but if you’re staring at the screen like it’s scrolling Sanskrit while you laugh nervously and spread your hands at the audience you will get things thrown at you.

Rule #3 – Pander when necessary – This really just an extension of rule #1, but it applies to people who REALLY want the bar to notice them. The right pandering song will garner you some good will and, when you go to sing your next song, people will take notice. This allows you the chance to sing something that maybe won’t go over as well, but the vibes from the previous song will carry you through. This is sort of the same way that Matt Damon picks movies, mixing a crowd pleaser with a ‘prestige’ piece. For every Bourne Awesomeness he puts out a Syriana.

Rule #4 – Seriously, this isn’t American Idol – Most likely when you sing the rest of the bar will be doing any number of things, what they probably will not be doing is paying attention to you. If you can hit rule #2 and 3 successfully, you can probably get their attention, but otherwise, the crowd will be:

  • Talking
  • Picking their next song from the catalog
  • Drinking
  • Watching TV
  • Ordering more drinks
  • Eating
  • Playing pool/darts/foosball
  • Walking past you to go to the bathroom
  • Walking past you to ask the KJ how much longer till it’s their turn

Basically this is how dinner theater performers feel.

Don’t let this bother you and just go with it. You’re not there to be discovered (oh, and that guy is not a talent scout, I don’t care how nice his business card is). Unless you’re really good (you’re not) or really bad (a distinct possibility), no one cares other the people you came with and they only sort of care and want to make sure when it’s their turn that you sort of care too. You’ll get the applause at the end and, in the true sign of a good performance, high fives on the way back from strangers. When others are singing, just make sure you applaud at the end.

Rule #5 – Know your talent level – Really this means to not take yourself too seriously. Chances are you’re not as bad as you think…or as good. Most karaoke singers fall into a comfortable middle ground. You’ll circle around the right notes and pitch, though probably be a little flat. You’ve (hopefully) heard the song enough to stay on tempo and verse, and it’s time to just get up there and tear it up. You’ll always get your “if things had gone right, I’d be on tour” singers who will actually make you stop thinking about your next song or how many more shots it will take to get your boyfriend to duet with you on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (three, by the way) and take notice. And of course you’ll get the “my parents/guys who want to sleep with me, always tell me how great I am” singers who destroy some Britney Spears song and leave the stage to thundering applause from the single guys (ironically, Britney Spears herself is in this category.) For the rest of you, don’t take yourself so seriously. If you are closing your eyes from the power of the emotions, or making sweeping hand gestures, or (god help you) putting one hand to your ear, you better make it ironic. Smile when your voice cracks and throw your hands up in triumph at the end. Make sure we know that you know that we know.

January 8, 2011

The Ways in Which I Have or Have Not Loved A Woman

Filed under: Advice,Love,pop culture — artistspayback @ 1:22 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stamp of (Love God) Approval

When I tell you to think of the great lovers of women, who comes to mind? Casanova? Sure. Don Juan? Fine, if you like swarthy. Fabio? Lindsay Lohan? All fine examples, but I’m talking about an absolute authority on the subject. Someone who not only has mastered the art of loving women but could teach a class on it to those not as adept at loving the fairer sex. You know who I mean, right? Think pasty, pock-marked Canadian. YES! Bryan Adams, he of the hit song Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? (And make no mistake that the title is indeed a mocking indictment of your own prowess, I get the feeling he thinks you have not really, really loved a woman. Bryan is a cruel teacher.)

I myself was under the impression that I had loved a woman, maybe even more than once, until I went through Mr. Adam’s masters course on the subject. Herewith a detailed breakdown in the ways I have loved a woman (yay! me) and ways in which I have clearly missed the boat.

To really love a woman…

You gotta know her deep inside – Um, okay, uh, yeah. Deep, check, like the deepest, you know what I mean? MOVING ON!

Hear every thought – See, he says ‘hear’ which is important, because I have heard I think a passing percentage (let’s say 82%) of every thought. Now whether I ‘listened’ and obeyed/reacted/implemented said thoughts is another matter and one which Bry-man never covers. So I’d say another check goes here.

See every dream – I’ve heard about the dreams. Sometimes I’ve gotten in trouble for the way I’ve acted in her dreams. But actually seeing them. I’m not even sure that’s possible outside of Leonardo DiCaprio movies (and those weren’t even invented when this song came out) so either Bryan has future sight (quite possible), or he’s loving on a level we can barely even imagine (well, duh). Either way I have not really loved in this sense.

And give her wings, if she wants to fly – I bought her a Red Bull once or twice, so checkity-check.

You find yourself lyin’ helpless in her arms – Okay, yes, and I’m not proud of this. And though I hate to disagree with Master Bryan, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a turn on for her either. Maybe it is integral to really loving her, but I don’t recommend going fetal in her lap while a ruffian hovers nearby and she laughs derisively. Um, allegedly.

Tell her that she’s really wanted – Yeah, I’ve done this. Nothing wrong with letting her know how important she is as a part of your life. I can get with that as a necessary part of a true loving relationship.

Then tell her that she’s the one ’cause she needs somebody to tell her that it’s gonna last forever – Okay, now you’re just being a pussy.

Let her hold you ’til you know how she needs to be touched – I’m not sure that I’ve done this. There seems to be something logistically amiss about the logic though I can’t put my finger on it. And I really don’t want her putting her finger on it.

You’ve gotta breathe her – Oh yes, at night while she sleeps. What? It’s romantic. Right?

Really taste her ’til you can feel her in your blood – Oh, Bryan. When have I not?

You can see your unborn children in her eyes – This one seems a little creepy to me. Not sure visions of floating ocular feti (er, fetuses) is something I really want to witness. And the fact that I might just reinforces my belief that I should never move my eyes above her breasts. Ever.

You got to give her some faith – Sweet Jesus. Religion. I’m in trouble on this one.

Hold her tight – Oh yes, Bryan, hold her tight I do. Very tight, so tight she will not escape. The real, manly-man-of-power kind of tight from which she can barely move. Tight, yes, and because it is so masculine it is with not even a hint of tenderness.

A little tenderness – Aw crap.

You gotta treat her right – Man, he really preloads the hard stuff doesn’t he.

And it’s just that simple. Quick and easy path to good old woman loving. If you’ve done all of this, Sir Bryan assures that ‘She will be there for you, takin’ good care of you’

Though I fall short in a couple of categories, I think I did okay. Sure I’ve got some things to work, but it feels good to know that I am on the path to hardcore loving. With tenderness. And babies in the eyes. Or maybe I should check with that other paragon of lady-lovin’ for a second opinion. Speaking of, where is Scott Baio these days, anyway?

August 14, 2010

List-less #1: Alternate Tiles for “The Expendables”

Filed under: Celebrities,Movies — artistspayback @ 10:43 pm
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The Expendables opens this weekend and it is THE GREATEST MOVIE STARRING THE GREATEST ACTION STARS OF THE LAST THIRTY YEARS ALL TOGETHER!!! But, of course, you already know that. And if you are a middle-aged man/boy and Ed Hardy aficionado, chances are you are in line somewhere right now with a box of popcorn and a boner. (On a related note, if your last name is Seagal or Van Damme, you are most likely still waiting by the phone in a puddle of your own tears. There’s always the sequel, boys.)

Me, I’ll probably wait until it hits Netflix.

Interestingly, The Expendables was not the first choice for the title of the movie reuniting Reagan’s Brute Squad. Herewith are the rejected titles:

1. The Irrelevants

2. Grumpy Old Soldiers

3. The HGH Group Discount Getters

4. Stop, or My Grandpa Will Shoot!

5. The Straight-to-Videos

6. Cocoon 3

7. N.R.A.A.R.P.

8. The Ex-Bankables

9. It Was This Or Rocky 7

August 1, 2010

Pop Culture Conversion Chart

I have a twelve year old daughter. Thank you. Her worldview is like that of any preteen which means that she is under the false impression that the experiences of her generation are completely original. Music, movies, fashion, personal tastes – the whole sphere of pop culture surrounding her demographic is like nothing no others have seen.

It is therefore my job to let her know that in reality her entire generation is ripping off my entire generation (who, incidentally, DID do everything original. Pipe down, mom.)

It always fun to deflate her arrogance with a “yeah, we did that first.” In her defense, the big reason that I can do this is because my generation is pretty much running the pop culture machine these days and if there’s one thing my generation excels at, it’s being narcissitic. So the people making movies, TV shows and music are regurgitating our childhoods to the people buying movies, TV shows and music. Because of this, the younger generation has no choice but to feed on our reheated leftovers. (A quick look at the multiplex confirms this, eh, B.A. and Perseus.)

Recently, she was throwing out what she deemed originals of her generation and I countered with the equivalent from mine. The following is a simple “Your generation’s THIS, was our generation’s THAT.” It’s a handy conversion chart for anyone who either needs to counter their own budding brainiac or for those who are a’scared of the new generation and think that you can’t relate. Come on now, we unleashed Boy George on the world, surely you can handle Adam Lambert.

And that’s as good a place as any to start:

1. Your Adam Lambert was our Boy George

2. Your Spongebob was our Flintstones

3. Your Jonas Brothers were our Bee Gees (or maybe Hanson for the slightly younger)

4. Your High School Musical was our Grease

5. Your Twitter was our AOL Chatroom

6. Your 3 month wait from movie theater to DVD was our 3 YEAR wait from movie theater to broadcast TV (edited with commercials, yay!)

7. Your Rob Thomas was our Peter Cetera

8. Your 24-hour Cartoon Network was our 8am-12pm Saturday Morning TV

9. Your Adult Swim was our Heavy Metal

10. Your American Idol was our Star Search

11. Your Lady Gaga (desperately wishes she) was our Madonna

12. Your Michael Jackson was our Elvis (oh, we had a Michael Jackson too, though you wouldn’t recognize him)

13. Your Eddie Murphy is (nothing AT ALL like) our Eddie Murphy (seriously, not even close)

14. Your Selena and Demi was our Tiffany and Debbie

15. Your Glee was our Fame

16. Your Kesha was our L’trimm

17. Your Mac was our Commodore 64

18. Your iPod Touch was our Walkman strapped to a Game boy mounted on a Commodore 64

19. Your Peyton Manning was our Joe Montana

20. Your Wii was our Atari

21. Your Seacrest was our Kasem

22. Your Silly Bandz were our Jelly Bracelets

23. Your So You Think You Can Dance was our Dance Fever

24. Your emo was our new wave

25. Your Sia was our Sade

26. Your texting was our passing notes

27. Your Wikipedia was our Cliff’s Notes

28. Your Nick At Night was our local UHF channel

29. Your Yo Gabba Gabba! was our The Electric Company

30. Your UFC was our WWF

31. Your Beyonce was our Janet Jackson

31. Your dance “Jerk” was our “Cabbage Patch”

32. Your Gossip Girl was our 90210

33. Your Pixar was our Disney


34. Your ‘beast’ was our ‘gnarly’

35. Your ‘meh’ was our ‘lame’

36. Your ‘hella’ was our ‘totally’

37. Your ‘tight’ was our ‘rad’

38. Your ‘OMG’ was our ‘no way’

39 – 41 submitted in comments below

42. Your Monster Energy Drink was our Jolt Cola

43. Your World of Warcraft was our Dungeons & Dragons

44. Your Annoying Orange was our Max Headroom


That’s the list off the top my my head. If there’s anything I missed (or perhaps got wrong), I’d love to hear it.

June 11, 2010

Movies of the 80’s That Should Be Remade

Did you hear about that new movie? The Karate Kid. Man, there’s something familiar about that title.

Yes, it’s just the latest (and not anywhere near the last) in an avalanche of movies being adapted from the cinematic wellspring of my youth. The summer movie season has already seen remakes, er reboots, uh, I mean reimaginings of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Clash of the Titans (and this doesn’t even take into account TV show reboots exploding on the big screen) and there are many more on tap.

Now, it’s not that I am anti-remake. Not at all. Though I do think a little more time should pass between original and redo (I’d say 40+ years is a better timeframe) and you should only remake movies that need remakes. For instance, The Breakfast Club does not need a remake, the original holds up well-enough today that any modern tweaks would only be pandering. (Really, do we some crappy script that just throws in references to sexting and “OMG’s.” Thankfully an intended remake appears to have fallen apart last I heard.)

Also, for a movie to need a remake, the original should be something that is horribly dated to the point where it’s hard for an audience to get past it to focus on the story. To me, the best movies to remake are ones that either never got the attention they deserved or ones with a great story to tell that were botched in the execution.

Of the three mentioned above – Karate Kid, Titans, and Nightmare – none really fall into these categories. The stories are universal enough that any dated references won’t overpower the core story. Sure, Titans is high-grade cheese filled with lame effects (though you gotta love Harryhausen), bad dialogue and worse acting but it is a beloved movie almost because of those things rather than in spite of them. Besides in the case of the new Titans, it wasn’t really a remake so much as it was the same title and mostly the same characters and some familiar setups, but it deviated from the script enough that it really could have used a different title. Karate Kid appears to suffer from the same disease. Look guys, if you’re going to use the title then just remake the movie. I get why they want to name the cake and eat it to, the all important “brand recognition” factor. But the bottom line is, if you don’t have faith in your movie, focus more on the script and don’t just rely on the associations of the words gracing the cover.

As for the Nightmare† reboot. Sorry, Jackie Earle Haley, I think you’re a fantastic actor, but you, sir, are no Robert Englund.

But that’s not to say there aren’t some movies that should be remade. If they’re going to lazily stroll through the 80’s looking for films to dredge up, there are better options than the ones we’ve been given. For starters, stop going after the ones that were highly successful, those that still hold up well or ones that are largely considered cultural touchstones of our collective youth (this means you sure-to-be-horrible upcoming remake of Red Dawn) and start combing through the noble failures.

And if you’re going to use the title then remake the movie.

Below is a completely personal list of movies I think would be much better options for remakes than what we’ve been getting.

One note: When I sat down to write this, I decided to pick the movies first and after finishing I would check to see if any of these are actually being remade. Any notes to this effect can be found at the end.

• Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins* (1985) – This is one of the poster children for “Under-watched Gems.” I subjected my twelve-year-old to a viewing and she really liked it. I think the ending suffers from some bad editing and the climax is mostly on the “anti” side of the coin, but it’s still a fun, enjoyable movie. And I always appreciated the ballsiness of the title. Announcing an intended sequel right there in the name of a movie takes guts (or, in the case of something, like Leonard, Part 6, an unhealthy amount of delusion). You would probably need to get Joel Grey to play Chiun again because he nailed the role (though if I remember correctly there was some grousing about him playing a Korean man, jeesh.) My fear is they would try to get some comic actor to take on the role and completely misread what was great about the humorous character. The Statue of Liberty scene (which is still impressive) would of course need to be altered, but the framework of the movie is strong. Get a better villain and a good sardonic leading man and you’ve got what could actually be the beginning of more adventures this time.

Electric Dreams** (1984) – I always liked this oddball little movie about “Moles” and his computer that gains consciousness. It’s part Cyrano, part Short Circuit and part Fatal Attraction as he and said computer both develop feelings for the sexy girl in the building. Some of the computer stuff was fairly advanced for the mid-80’s with a computer-controlled home wired into a central hub. But with such a strong focus on what should be cutting edge technology, an update is necessary at this point. However, the central conceit of a man competing with a wired-in suitor for the attention of a woman is quite relevant in our social media obsessed world of today. Who hasn’t felt like they were sharing someone’s affection with a tech item? (And often, losing the battle.)

• Dragonslayer (1981) – This was a well-done and admirably dark (in many ways) movie that has been largely forgotten. I remember it being a pretty big deal when it was released. It was a good story that developed a real sense of dread. I rewatched this six or so years ago and thought that it held up well all things considered. Most surprising, I found that the dragon effects aren’t embarrassing as I thought they might be. In fact, it looked better than some other CGI-reliant movies that have come out since (Dragonheart, please step forward). It’s a good story that could use a little tightening but would do well with some carefully done state-of-the-art production work (as long as they don’t overdo it with the CGI). Nerd-blasphemy alert: I’d rather see Peter Jackson take on this than the Hobbit.

• The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) – Sure everyone remembers Conan, but do you remember all of the other Dungeons and Dragons type movies that came out in those days? The glut of low-budget, high-gore, mystical sword-and-sandal flicks that probably helped define the term “straight to video?” For me, the greatest of them all was The Sword and the Sorcerer. Now if everyone gave a collective “huh?” to the title I would understand. But if you watched cable TV circa 1983 and I said the words “the movie that had that three-bladed sword that could shoot the blades out” now you know what I mean, don’t you? Yeah, you do. It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen this one, but rather than slap out yet another Conan, how about the studio instead give this one a redo. It was fairly well done and I remember it having a sly sense of humor about itself among the buckets of blood that Conan lacked. And of course, that awesome sword.

• Silent Rage (1982) – Chuck Norris battles an unstoppable, raised-from-the-dead killer. This was one of the first movies I snuck in to see and since they’re treading on the corpses of all of the other 80’s slasher flicks with pointless rermakes, why not this one? It’s got a nice paranoid take on the old “doctors playing God” scenario that is relatable today with all of the genetic advancements and superdrugs and it all begets an raging (but mute, hence the title) killing machine. And, you know, Chuck is still around and ready for a comeback so you really just have to roll the cameras.

• Manitou (uh, 1978, close enough) – Oh, the spirits are angry in this one, my friend. It’s about a woman who finds out that she’s about to give birth to an ancient Indian Demon thing. It starts as a suspected tumor. On her back. And give birth she does. From a giant lump. Still on her back. Only a witch doctor can save her and the world from this creature. A hospital ward gets frozen. Her hospital room ends up in outer space. Why is this not already filming?

The Prophecy (1979, yeah that counts) – Ah, speaking of ‘science is evil’ movies, let’s talk about the Prophecy. I’m sure with the newly oil-enriched Gulf of Mexico we can probably expect a renewed interest in “we’re screwing with nature and nature is going to start fighting back” type movies. This one is about giant bear thing that was mutated by some careless industrial waste and it rampages through a park killing everyone. Yes the effects are terrible, the acting is bad, the script is worse, but the setup is fine and the monster was appreciably unpredictable and out-of-control. It was actually scary and not just because it was so bad. It just needs a better production budget.

• The Last Starfighter (1984) – This was the hardest one to put on the list and truth be told I’d probably be offended if it was being remade (and it will not be a popular opinion). I don’t know anyone who saw it that didn’t like it. Ideally, I’d like to see the original movie gain an appreciation again but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Though it didn’t do much in the theaters it had a great life on video/cable, yet it’s not one that still permeates pop culture and doesn’t get replayed often as far as I can tell. With video games even more realistic and the controls more complex, the central conceit that a race of aliens uses a video game to recruit a pilot would work even better now. The performances were all good, it had humor, heart, action and oddly-foreheaded aliens – in short, it had it all. If they simply upgrade the special effects (and don’t try to go overboard with some reimagining or effect overload) and stick to the same ‘small town kid does good’ setup, this could be a real crowd pleaser again.

• Uncommon Valor (1983) – This may be my favorite “war movie” of the 80’s (okay, wait, sorry, Red Dawn first, then this, then Missing in Action: Part 2.) It’s been in rotation on HBO this month and it was great to see again. The cast is excellent – Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, Fred Ward, the reliably crazy Randall “Tex” Cobb, the underappreciated Tim Thomerson. I suppose the remake would want to bring it into the modern day by having it relate to the middle east somehow and as long as that’s the only real change, I could let it slide. Leave the rest of it alone and get the damn team back together.

• Used Cars (1980) – Some have called the recent movie “The Goods” a remake of this because it centered on used car salesmen, but it wasn’t (and an insult to even suggest upon viewing both). I’m sure someone, somewhere tried to get the Used Cars name slapped on that one but they thankfully didn’t. Used Cars is a very funny movie and one of Kurt Russel’s best comedic performances. In general I’m not a fan of comedy remakes, because unlike a dramatic situation, you can’t recycle comedic moments and have the same effect. So you then have to either change all the jokes (thus negating a need for a ‘remake’) or you use the same material and let them suffer from either familiarity – which is comedy death – or an unfair comparison to what will surely be considered the superior original. Still, having said all that, some of the situations in this movie are just too good to not be funny again if handled with care. And other than the horribly retro apparel, there’s not a whole lot that would need to be updated.

• War Games*** (1983) – “Shall we play a game?” Yes, it’s a beloved movie that was a fairly sizeable hit in the 80s and there’s not a whole lot that can be improved in regards to acting, story or production. So it pretty much contradicts my “reasons to do a remake” list. Oh, but my aren’t those computers horribly outdated. Modems play a big part in the story for god’s sake (and if you say “what’s a modem?” then my point is proved). I know there was some had-to-be-horrible sequel thing that was crapped out a few years ago. It was so bad, I don’t even think it went ‘straight to video,’ they probably just shipped the master disc straight to TBS. So let’s just go with a remake. They can even get Matthew Broderick to play the reclusive genius who built the killer program. But don’t you touch Ferris Bueller, dammit.****

• The Black Hole***** (er, 1979, last one, I promise) – Man, I loved this movie when I first saw it. Man, is it hard to sit through now. The comedy falls totally flat. The special effects are atrocious. The dialogue and acting is bad even by 1970’s live-action Disney movie standards. It was hard to get either of my kids to sit through a viewing of this one and once the mocking began I just had to take it. So please remake this one but there are some iron clad things that shalt not be changed. V.I.N.C.E.N.T. was and still is cool, keep him the same. The Cygnus was a nice looking ship, again, not broken so don’t fix. You gotta have the ‘former crew members being turned into lobotomized drones’ storyline. And above all, do not change anything, ANYTHING, about Maximilian. He was, hands down, the coolest robot bad ass ever to grace the screen. Gort couldn’t hold his jock. And nothing from even my beloved Star Wars trilogy could face up to him and his deadly helicopter hands. And no crappy CGI for him either. Build the damn thing life size, no excuses.

*Remo’s adventure may indeed be beginning again. Last July there was chatter about some producers looking to get a ‘Destroyer’ movie on track. ‘The Destroyer’ is name of the series of novels the character came from.

**Well that’s two-for-two. Apparently Electric Dreams is also in development. The best outcome for this would be that maybe I can actually get the original on DVD now. Though the tagged article is a couple of years old, there is a listing for it on IMDB as well.

***Apparently this one is in the works with Leo himself trying to get it rebooted.


*****Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. The good news is that they appear to be adhering to at least two of my commandments thus far. The Cygnus’ design will remain the same and Maximilian will be back with in all his spinning blade glory. The plan is to make this one a little more serious and scientifically sound, and that may not be a bad thing.

†The Nightmare on Elm Street situation does bring up one distinction when looking at remakes. When you making a movie about a specific character or group of characters, you can get way with using a familiar character in a new story and avoid being an outright remake. For instance, on its surface The Dark Knight was a movie about Batman squaring off against the Joker but it wasn’t at all a remake of 1989’s Batman even though that movie had the same central conflict. In this respect, superhero movies can be churned out from now until the end of time without one ever needing to be a “remake.” Sometimes, however, a character and actor are too intimately linked making the extension of the character in a new adventure difficult for audiences to take. (Would anyone else be accepted as John McClane? Did Terminator: Salvation ultimately fail because Arnold had only a token cameo? My answers would be “not any anytime soon” and “yes, but among many other reasons.”) But, as James Bond has proven time and again, even a seemingly irreplaceable actor ultimately takes a back seat to the character if done well.

March 12, 2010

The Unsettling Case of Nick Schuyler

Nick Schuyler’s recently released a book detailing his harrowing experience of being lost at sea with his three good friends, Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith and Will Bleakley. The story made national news as soon as the men were reported missing due to the fact that two of them were professional football players. He has said that the point of the book is not at all about capitalizing or profiting from the tragedy, but to shed light on what really happened and how he was able to survive the ordeal. It was, without a doubt, a terrible and tragic incident and he is very lucky to be alive.

My first thought when Nick was rescued (and admittedly cynical in the worst way) was, “well the unknown kid just hit the jackpot.” But I remember hearing soon after that he had no interest in book deals and promotions. He just wanted to be left alone. I believe he did one interview with a local newspaper (the St. Petersburg Times, perhaps) to set the record straight. Then, a few months later, he appeared on Real Sports to set the record straight (again.)

Then I heard about the book, and thought, “There it is.”

There have been some questions, and justifiably so, about the fact that he is putting out what is likely to be a bestseller. His defense of the book during his current ‘no media stone unturned’ promotional blitz has been along the lines of “there was some misinformation about what really happened and I want to set the record straight.” That may be an admirable stance to take, but there is still so much about the whole ordeal that leaves me feeling a little uneasy about his motives.

  • Why the need for a writing assist? –  Jere Longman helped write the book. He wasn’t there that day and, as far as I can find, had no direct connection to any of the men involved prior to signing on to write the book. So why is his name gracing the cover? Well, of course, publisher William Morrow/HarperCollins wants to move some product. Longman is an established writer with many successful books to his name and presumably a sizeable following. Nick has said that Longman’s involvement was just to help him sort out his thoughts and shape it into a narrative. I don’t quite buy that. Sure, he probably helped in that regard but his job was more so to amp up the prose. To work in some powerful metaphors and make the dialogue pop. And really, if he’s not there to make it a better reading experience, which would necessitate some form of embellishments, then why is he involved at all? If the book is “in Nick’s own words” then Jere is an unnecessary component.  But he is involved so the words and thoughts expressed in print cannot be fully trusted. And the motives behind his involvement are questionable.
  • How can we trust Nick’s version in the first place?It’s a legitimate question, but not one I’ve heard come up yet. Hypothermia, sleep deprivation, no food or water, burning sun, endless hours, death – all of these things can cause the strongest mind to drift from reality. By the accounts of both experts and Nick himself, unavoidable delirium and in some cases outright hallucinations were experienced, so how is Nick’s version even the “truth” to begin with? Can we believe that this is, as he says, “what happened?” This doesn’t have to mean he’s lying (not intentionally, anyway) but it does have to call into question the validity in anything he says. He may be the only one who “really knows what happened” but that doesn’t mean his recollection is accurate.
  • How about giving the family the face-to-face treatment – This maybe the most unsettling aspect of all. Nick’s own family has asserted that he has barely spoken openly with them about what happened. Presumably because it is difficult to say it to them directly. Fair enough, but why then has he been able to speak to the media ad nauseum. It’s bothersome to know that he has discussed what happened for about one hour (minus commercials) longer to Oprah than to Marquis Cooper’s own wife. If, as he claims, it’s hard to do it face-to-face, maybe prepare a private video directed at each family. Maybe even let them prepare some questions that you can answer to allow them some measure of relief in the final hours of their beloved sons and husbands.
  • The only people who need the truth are the families, and they can get it for $29.95 – Just kidding, surely they got free copies. Right? His whole “the record needs to be set straight” agenda is admirable on the surface. There was rampant speculation, accusations and even vitriol directed at the men for being inexperienced boaters and for the assumption that they were heavily intoxicated. It bothered Nick that the event could on any level be portrayed as a comeuppance for some guys who were in over their heads due to ignorance and/or arrogance and that it cost them their lives. This characterization is probably unfair at best and unnecessarily cruel at worst and Nick wanted to expose it as unjust. They made mistakes in the heat of confusion, but it was not, he asserts, due to alcohol or blatant incompetence – just an unfortunate and ultimately tragic string of events that, yes, could have been avoided in retrospect. But ultimately this information needed to be related to those directly involved. Taking rumors and doubts out of the public consciousness (not to mention, the internet) is like trying to take pee out of a pool. If the families were told the truth and were able to find peace with it, no one else’s opinion really mattered.
  • A blog don’t cost a thing – Need to tell the truth? Want to hinder any other books from hitting the marketplace, ones that might add more untruths to the equation? Want to prevent anyone from ‘cashing in’ on the tragedy? Then all you really need is an email and the ability to type “” It’s over. A free online account, directly from the person most qualified to explain what happened that day would have derailed any other publications attempts to make money. Why pay for some third-party retelling when the survivor himself was had already detailed the story for all to see? And, again, for free. Since one of his justifications for signing on to do the book (and for doing it so quickly after the fact), was that a book was inevitable and “if I didn’t do it someone else would.” Here is your chance to destroy that possibility. And also, I’ve heard him remark to his detractors his resignation that “people are going to believe what they want to believe anyway and I can’t change that.” If that’s the case and he’s come to terms with that truth, why write the book at all?
  • If you have to go on TV, then don’t write the book, and vice versaHe went on Real Sports last August for the first televised interview to detail his story and of course “offer what really happened.” Okay, he could have still done Oprah, fine. She has a larger audience and a different demographic. But much like the blog option, a couple of TV stops to “tell what really happened” could have also negated anyone else’s attempt to really cash in. Or at least it could have put the truth out there so he wouldn’t have to worry about misinformation. But the book and the TV blitz? The word is his publisher is making him do all these appearances, but in reality if he had decided against this type of promotional tour then he could have nixed it from the start. In reality, he probably agreed in writing to make appearances as part of the terms to sign the deal, so his down playing it as some necessary evil that he wanted no part of and would rather avoid all together is insulting. Why not let the ghost writer do the tour if it’s so hard for you talk about and you don’t “want to be in the spotlight?” And speaking of not wanting to be in the spotlight, perhaps rename the “Nick Schuyler Foundation” to something a little less eponymous.
  • Where does the money go? – I’ve tried to find information online about how exactly the profits form the book will be disseminated. I’ve seen vague mentions of “profits being split among various charities” but have yet to find anything concrete (if you know, please send me the information.) Now, the real question is “does Nick have a right to profit from it?” The answer is of course, yes. He is writing about his experience and therefore can use that experience in any way. Does that make it unseemly to do so? Perhaps, but I would leave that up to the other families involved. What he doesn’t have the right to do is be sanctimonious or offended when people call him on any profiting from the ordeal. If this is at all about cashing in, he needs to own it. If it’s not, then and only then, can he be righteous in his indignation.
  • This became the Nick Schuyler story by default – There is the sense among many that he’s trading on the fame of Cooper and Smith. After all, this story didn’t gain national attention because it was “four men lost at sea,” no it was “two NFL players are missing along with two other companions.” This is why it was the top story on ESPN Sportscenter. This is why news organizations, with focused coverage in Oakland, Detroit and especially Tampa (where the boat left from and where Cooper and Smith once played for the Buccaneers) followed the story with fevered coverage. Nick, of course, was the survivor, which then turned the story to him. But would it have garnered the same attention without Smith and Cooper? Would there be a book? (Perhaps.) Would he be on the Today Show and Oprah? (Doubtful.) How about Jim Rome and Real Sports? (Not a chance.) Undoubtedly this is one (of many) reason why the Cooper family in particular has a problem with Nick’s actions since their son’s death. Without Cooper and Smith there would be no “Nick Schuyler.”

In fairness, I haven’t seen all or read all of the interviews. Perhaps some or all of these concerns have been adequately addressed. If so, then I would love to hear it.

My point isn’t that Nick Schuyler doesn’t have the “right” to do what he’s doing. He was there, he lived to tell the tale and that’s what he’s doing but there is a shaky line of ethics here, that he may have crossed depending on your point of view. To me it comes down to one of my favorite expressions, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” And to add to that, if you do then you’ll have to deal with the questions that will inevitably follow.

To me, the best way to sum it all up was said by Marquis Cooper’s widow Rebekah. She opined that “if (Marquis) had walked away from a tragic experience like the one that took his life, authoring a book and having it on the shelves within a year and financially exploiting the deaths of others would never have been a consideration.”  She also was incredulous that “Mr. Schuyler has enough recollection and material to write a 256-page book, yet he has never sat down with our family to tell us how Marquis died.” Her anger runs deep for Nick and perhaps it could have been avoided by dealing with her privately face-to-face. Reportedly she just wanted to know what her husband’s final hours were like and if he had anything to pass on to his family. Would it have been so hard for Nick to sit down with her and simply say, “he fought out there, fought hard because he kept saying how much he couldn’t wait to be back with his family again. He loved you all and his thoughts were with you. I’m so sorry he didn’t make it, but he never gave up, he fought to the last beat of his heart.” Even if it weren’t really true, it would be the best thing in the world for her to hear. Much has been made of Nick’s statement that he was able to survive because he couldn’t bear the thought of his mother crying at his funeral. It’s a beautiful poetic statement and, intentionally or not, it manages to elevate him beyond the other three by sheer will and love for his family. He’s saying he refused to die. But what does that say about the others? It implies that they did not have that reserve (they also did not have as much clothing and did not spend as much time on the overturned hull and out of the frigid waters, but I digress.) If you’re going to hang that statement out there like that, true though it may be, at least have the decency to try and paint the others with the same determined brush and be sure to acknowledge that those thoughts along with other acts (some on Nick’s behalf on the part of the others) were just as important in his survival.

One thing is certain, as long as this is the end of it, then perhaps he is being truthful. If he is sincere in “just wanted the truth to be out there” then this will be the end – he wrote the book, did the promotions and had his say. He’ll finish up his promotional tour and try to return to what, of course, will never be a “normal life” (again, I don’t for one minute doubt that the emotional and psychological scars will always run deep for him). And I’ll do my best to believe his intentions are as pure as he says they are as long as I don’t ever hear the following phrase:

‘Movie deal.’

February 24, 2010

The Final Word on Super Bowl Ads

Why is this the “final word?” Because it makes a better title than “Super Bowl Ads – I Should Have Written This Two Weeks Ago.”

Anyhow, I thought I’d put together a quick breakdown of the Super Bowl ads from this year’s contest between the New Orleans Saints (THEY WON!) and the Indianapolis Colts (WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!) Surely you watched the game because, as you may have heard, the Super Bowl broke a TV viewership record that had stood since the dark days before DVR’s (we did have -shudder- VCR’s with timers!), before cable (well, okay there was cable but we didn’t have it yet), before the internets (which meant before accessible porn) and before puberty (well, okay there was puberty but I didn’t have it yet). Back then M*A*S*H* was the most watched show ever (SPOILER ALERT – the chicken was a baby).

So, back to the Super Bowl ads. I have been in the field of Advertising for nearly twenty years and I work on the creative side of the biz, so I do have some authority in this area. Here is my expert analysis:

They sucked.

Okay, yes, the Betty White one was a pleasant surprise and I liked the little kid slapping the dude over his bowl of Doritos (though the production values and off-beat editing bothered me at the time, I later found out it was a “viewer-submitted” ad – who is their agency again?). The Letterman/Leno one was also fun, but really the rest? Lame.

I’m not the only one who felt this way. I heard lots of grumbling about the lack of “good ads” this year. But here’s a little truth. They mostly sucked last year too. And the year before that. And so on. In fact, they really haven’t been great in many, many years (and even then, it’s not like there weren’t more than a few clunkers, but the ratio was better). There are probably numerous reasons for this, but not the one that you’re most likely thinking – that the creative types have lost their mojo. That may be a valid thesis if not for the fact that great/entertaining/stunning/poignant ads debut all year long.

Part of it is that, with expectations so high and with the unattainable fantasy of previous years to live up to, failure is almost inevitable. But there are additional reasons they fail that have nothing to do with heightened expectations and everything to do with laziness. Here are a number of ways they go astray all of which can be avoided.

Why They Failed

  • GET ME AN ANIMAL – Yes, for a certain segment of the population the math is simple. Monkey In A Suit = Hilarity. Or maybe just get some sort of rodent, rodents are funny, right? People love dogs, lets put a dog in there. Sure there have been some great animal-centric ads in years past (cat wranglers is one of my personal favorites) but it shouldn’t just be lazy shorthand. When you have a crappy ad concept and you throw in a monkey, do you know what you get?  A crappy ad. With a monkey.
  • DEJA VU – Or “Hey, it worked last year, let’s do it again.”, Go Daddy, any of the Budweiser Clydesdale ads are all just variations on a theme in the worst way. I don’t expect much from the first two, but come on Bud, you’re better than that.
  • GUYS ARE EMASCULATED DORKS – Much like the “get me an animal!” line of lazy thinking is the whole “let’s just do something where some doofus gets reamed.” I’m not saying that most guys aren’t idiots, I’m just saying that the basis of comedy is surprise and you’re not going to catch anyone off guard with this tired angle.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT, HIT SOMEONE – Yes, slapstick is funny. This is especially true for men (known in scientific circles as the Three Stooges Phenomenon), yet somehow it’s become such a crutch in so many ads that it’s no longer guaranteed to work. The idea is to use it as an exclamation on a funny concept (see: Terry Tate Office Linebacker), but not always as the joke itself.
  • JOKE, JOKE, JOKE, BLAH… – At some point it became almost mandatory for ads to go for the comedy (which is why we see so much of what’s listed above with a heaping helping of desperation sweats). But it doesn’t have to be the case. Look no further than at what is often considered if not The Greatest Super Bowl Ad Ever, at least the ad which kicked off the whole “I watch the Super Bowl for the ads” craze in the first place. Apple’s 1984 spot. Was it funny? No. Was it memorable? Well it was 25 years ago and it’s still mentioned every year. And, that kids, is the whole point of advertising – creating a memorable impression.

How They Can Succeed Next Year

But I’m not just here to complain, I’m here to help. As I said, it’s not that the creatives have no idea how to put together good commercials, they just seem to follow the same over-traveled roads above as soon as someone says, “okay, Super Bowl ideas…GO!”

There are good commercials out there and they’re currently airing in heavy rotation. If you’ve been watching the Olympics like me (yes, I even enjoy curling) you may have noticed something. There are some really good ads running. In fact, there are three in particular that are better than anything produced during the Big Game. They’re not all funny. They don’t have a need for some doofus guy. And, thankfully, there’s not a monkey in sight. They’re just well thought out and nearly pitch-perfect for their respective companies.

These four ads highlight areas where the Super Bowl ads failed and how they can succeed in the future.

  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE FUNNY – It’s okay to put together an ad that’s serious if it really nails the target. Advertising can be emotional and even in a male-dominated event like a football game this can still work. My favorite spot running during the Olympics is the P&G “Always Be Kids” ad. This one nails the emotion, the set up is great and the tag line is true. And it all is in perfect sync with the brand. It should be noted that this ad has faced some criticism both mostly valid (hint: the kids and the snow have have the same predominant pigment) and mostly moronic (what about dads, huh?) but I still stand by it as a great commercial.
  • COOL VISUALS ARE A PLUS – I love the Nike ad “The Human Chain.” It takes a unique visual approach, adds the perfect song (which has extra heft what with LT’s appearance and his subsequent release) and furthers Nike’s eternal Just Do It campaign. Technology makes almost anything possible and let’s not forget this is a visual medium – take advantage of it.
  • USE CELEBS PROPERLY – Hire a big name for your ad and the rest takes care of itself, right? Wrong. If you’re going the celeb route, make sure it works. Sure snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler isn’t a household name, but she resonates with the Olympic crowd (especially those “hip young viewers” advertisers crave) and she’s starring in a memorable AT&T ad. Okay, so the ad may not exactly say “AT&T” (full disclosure, I couldn’t remember who it was an ad for) but I remembered it and that’s a good start.
  • WHEN FUNNY WORKS, IT REALLY WORKS – The best ad running on any TV anywhere right now, is the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad. THAT is how you do funny, people. If you’ve seen it, you’re nodding in agreement. If you haven’t click the link. Okay, back at me. I’m on a horse.

August 13, 2009

Fashion Help: Selecting The Right Ed Hardy Wear For Your Special Occasion

Filed under: Advice,Fashion — artistspayback @ 6:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s a big day for you. You’ve been waiting for this event for months.

Or no, perhaps this is some last minute occurrence that is your best chance to make a great impression. Something that may catapult you into the next level of your life.

Whatever the case, there is one thing for sure – nothing will suffice other than the finest clothing. Clothing that screams for respect. Screams for attention. Screams for recognition. And perhaps just screams period. 

That’s why God made Ed Hardy clothing. (And by ‘God,’ I mean of designer extraordinaire Christian Audigier {and by ‘designer extraordinaire’ I mean the dude who just takes Ed Hardy’s designs and prints them on hoodies and shoes and crap}).

So what do you do? You want to impress but is this a ‘skull with eagle’s wings protruding from it’s fiery visage’ moment or more of a ‘menacing jungle cat preparing for attack’ situation? Should one have prominently displayed cartoon cutlery or not?

What exactly is a well meaning douche to do in this situation?

Relax. I’m here to help.

Here is your situational guide to Ed Hardy clothing:

Baby’s First Day at the Beach:


It’s a momentous day in the life of your little pride and joy. So what better way to commemorate the day than this jaunty yellow number inscribed with the timeless toddler sentiment: “Love Kills Slowly.”

No worries of drowning here, your baby will be cool as an iceberg and we all know icebergs stay (pretty much) above the surface.







Wedding Day (Female):


Something old, something new, something borrowed, something KICK ASS!  Thats the motto for the modern blushing bride. Sure, you can go out and buy a “wedding dress” and get a “veil” and look all “pretty” for your “special day” – or you could tell the world who you really are.

Think about it, you may only get married three or four times in your life, do you really want to do it in some fusty old gown? Hell no, you want this to be truly special and you want everyone to know that you are dedicated to the one you love by wearing this bridal dress that boldly declares you are “Dedicated To The One You Love.” (And note that the non-specific pronoun allows you some wiggle room. You’re welcome.)

And, it’s bejeweled for that extra helping of class and elegance.




Wedding Day (Male):

BeautifulGhostThere she is, the beautiful woman who bore your illegitimate child standing next to the father who told you to get your ass up there and don’t even think about trying to back out on this again. As they begin walking down the aisle and the ushers close and bolt the doors behind them, you smile.

You know what else is smiling? The entrancing skull gracing your fashion-forward bicep-enhancing Ed Hardy wedding tee. Why is your skull smiling? Maybe because it pukes lightning. Or it could be the joy of pink, flower-festooned hair that gracefully cascades and ensconces its bony features.

Why are you smiling? Well, because, uh, actually, that’s a good question. Why are you smiling?





Baby’s Birth:

PantherBirthYou’ve got your cigars. You’ve attended to your wife/girlfriend/chick-you-knocked-up-because-condoms-are-for-pussies every day and night for nine months (as long as it didn’t interfere with a major sporting event or wet t-shirt contest.) And now, you are ready to witness the miracle of your child being born. And Ed is there to wrap you in his comforting, 100% cotton embrace.

Naturally, you can’t wait to greet your baby sporting your Panther Collage shirt. This retina-numbing assault of awesomeness has a tender image at its heart – which is an actual heart gripped in eagle’s talons with an arm jutting out of  the superior vena cava promoting, um, peace from, uh, panthers…okay, maybe the symbolism escapes me but your baby will ‘get it’ (and will subsequently be crying harder than most.)

Even better, if you get any afterbirth on you, it will either blend in seamlessly or work to enhance the overall look. You, your baby, Ed Hardy – you three peas in a pod of lifetime responsibility and badass imagery.



Day In Court (Restraining Order):

BattleThey can restrain you. They can tell you that 200 yards is your “court-enforced distance.” Certain public places may be off limits. Fair enough. But that doesn’t mean you can’t show up for your day of reckoning rocking a bold vision of pure unrestraint.

The battle for independence that rages on your back is one even the mightiest gavel cannot silence. The eternal struggle of the righteous eagle (the symbol of all that is good and God fearing plus flight!) pitted against the evil viper (slithery, satanic, deadly, lisping) as they writhe and grapple over a tongue-wagging, eye-bulging skull that can only represent one thing – eye strain.






Bar Mitzvah:


Today your nephew becomes man. Big deal, every day when you leave the house you become THE man! Still you are ready to celebrate the youngster’s achievement resplendent in your Ed Hardy finery.

And there is no finery finer than a crazy-eyed tiger fighting his way through a baptism of flame, er, maybe a bris of fire. Why is that tiger so wild eyed? Well, fire hurts and he’s pissed.

But you’re not. Sure, your shirt may depict an endangered species engulfed in flame, you will only be showered with adoration.

So who’s the man now, Mordechai?

5 Reasons To Avoid* Twitter

Okay, first off a little admission. I’m on Twitter (Follow me!) and I don’t think it should be avoided.

Well, not anymore anyway. I first had to go through the requisite Seven Stages of Twitterification to arrive at the emotional state in which I currently reside:

1. Disregard (“Oh yeah, I heard about that thing. Sounds kind of silly.”)

2. Mocking (“Oh boy, I’m having eggs for breakfast. I better ‘tweet’ all my ‘followers’ so they can get through their day.” – Complete with air quotes, of course.)

3. Contempt (“I don’t care who is Tweeting. It’s pointless. LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU ZEALOT!”)

4. Hunger (Really has nothing to do with Twitter per se, but these steps take some time and a fella needs to eat.)

5. Intrigue (“Hmmm, I wonder what noted TV star John Larroquette is doing right now.”)

6. Embarrassment (“What? No, of course I’m not on twitter. It’s like all stupid and awesome, uh, I mean awful. So awful.”)

7. Acceptance (“Of course I’m on Twitter. It’s awesome. You’re not? You have to sign up, RIGHT NOW!”)

And that’s where I currently am – Acceptance. I have been baptized in the information stream and accepted Twitter as my Social Media Lord and Savior. I fully understand that it is a viable (and entertaining and fun) tool in the not-at-all-made-up field of “Social marketing.”

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its flaws. There were some issues I had prior to joining and others I’ve discovered as a proud member.

So what’re my problems with Twitter? I’ll break it down (and in as many damn characters as I please…actually let’s start there.)


1. The 140 Character Rule Is Further Debasing Language

I like language and I like words. They’re fun and useful. In fact, I like them so much that I have been trying to turn them into money for years.

But Twitter puts a limit on these wonderful words. Now, in and of itself, this isn’t a problem. It is entirely possible to write coherent statements on Twitter within these constraints. (And even ones which contain no numbers/symbols in place of words. I know, right?) Except a lot of people don’t do that. They compose statements that don’t just mangle language, it’s more akin to grammatical genocide.

I know this didn’t start with Twitter, it’s just the next outlet in a string of technological terrors that have slowly conspired to turn our written communications into playgrounds for ‘tards. It began to fester in quickly dashed-off emails which begat message boards which begat IM’ing which begat texting which begat Isaac which begat Jacob and so on…

Sure, @Biz would have you believe the limitation “fosters creativity” when in reality it simply 4-ces U 2 rite like a Prince song title. Or it makes people spout gems like these actual Tweets:

“live n the j…whats good with u..i might need to stay there for like a week or two…i need a apt and job n the h..”

“16xs we knew how 2 keep each other goin I thnk it was cuz it was da 1st time u knw how u try 2 impress each other “

Um, really, Biz? That’s your creativity being fostered?


2. It Makes People Want To Be Funny

I know you say funny things all the time. You are constantly cracking up the girls in Accounts Receiving with your wry take on the most recent Vanessa Hudgens nude** scandal. You’re always quick with a joke or to light up a, er, fart.

But in reality, it’s not easy to come up with comedy nuggets when you have lots of words at your disposal. But on Twitter, you have to contend with the character limit in which to promote your underappreciated comedic talents. Sorry folks, but not everyone is Stephen Colbert or Aziz Ansari or Rainn Wilson. Believe me, I know. I’ve got clunkers stinking up my stream like dead salmon.

Yet a quick perusing of self-appointed Twitter tags on tells me that there are:

• Over 8,000 people who are listed under ‘funny’

• Over 1000 ‘comedians’

• 260 who go the extra mile into ‘hilarious’ (and one trailblazer of ‘hilariosity’)

However, by my unscientific accounting (yes, I carried the one and everything) I came to approximately 347 genuinely funny Twitterers. And, no, you are not one of them. Sorry.

(On the positive side, Twitter is a tremendous resource of unintentional comedy.)


3. Let’s All Be Honest, It’s Not Revolutionary, It’s Not Even New – It’s Essentially A Message Board

When I first checked out Twitter last fall, I laughed. (Seriously, that intro video is great comedy.) Then I realized it was serious. Then Ashton Kutcher got involved and I was back to thinking it was a joke. Sadly, that too was serious.

But it wasn’t until my wife was telling me about the Tweet Up (her words, never mine) she was engaged in that I realized what Twitter really is – it’s a chat room.

Yes, the great cutting-edge social media leader that is changing how information is distributed is really just a glorified chat room. Well, I suppose it’s more like a bunch of private chat rooms that you log into at once.

So, private chats. That’s it.

Real time updates? Chat room.

Worldwide connections? Chat room.

People trying to be funny? Chat room.

People pretending to be someone else? That’s right, chat room.

So why are they getting so much credit? 


4. It’s More Masturbatory For Its Users Than YouPorn

You know what one of the hottest topics on Twitter is? (Besides AT&T which is always reappearing on the Trending Topics list.)


People on Twitter LOVE to talk about Twitter.

Twitter promotion. Twitter validation. Links to Mashable articles about Twitter. What’s wrong with Twitter? What’s right with Twitter? Who’s on Twitter? Who isn’t on Twitter? What are people saying about Twitter? How do I get more followers on Twitter? How can I use Twitter to get celebrities to give me money? What will I do if Twitter ever goes down again and I can’t talk about Twitter on Twitter?

Twitter loves itself some Twitter and if you don’t believe me, just ask someone on Twitter.


5. The God-Awful “Twitter-Speak”

This may be the most offensive for me. The words, THE HORRIBLE CUTESY WORDS!!  I’m talking about: tweet, tweeps, tweet up, twitterverse, twitmigo, twugs, twitterection, twelp, and all the other horrible “tw—-” words that have been and that ever shall be.

Though I have begrudgingly come to terms with using “tweets” (and, shamefully, I even used the phrase ‘sweet tweets’ once with utter sincerity) I really can’t bring myself to employ any of the others. I used to have a hard enough time at Wendy’s ordering a “Biggie fry” with my “Biggie Frosty” without my testicles reascending into my body. (Not fun, but really, square burgers! How can I say no?) 

This is the internets dammit, it’s serious business and we have no time for cutesy.

And no, you cannot has cheeseburger.


So there you have it. Five legitimate reasons to avoid Twitter. 

But all that pales in comparison to one fantastic reason to love Twitter.

And it can be found here.


Are you or is someone you love (and/or have incriminating photos of) a big Hollywood star? Great, then send them here.

* Full disclosure: This article was originally titled 5 Reasons to Hate Twitter but I changed it partly as a regrettable inital urge to be “confrontational” which is admittedly lame and largely because I’d rather people actually, you know, read the whole article rather than just the title before dashing off derogatory postings.  

** Yes, that was a shameless stab at SEO. Still, I’m glad you’re here, you creepy creepy bastard.

July 31, 2009

Twitter: The Reckoning

So I joined Twitter. I’d seen the news reports, the tales of fierce rivalries for the most “followers” that raged between people like Ashton and Kanye and, uh, okay just those two mostly. I’d heard how Shaquille O’Neal himself was known to interact with fans at an almost unprecedented rate. I figured it would bring me closer to Hollywood types. I needed to get some kind of closeness, I needed to follow them without actually becoming a stalker (which I’m told is generally frowned upon.) So this my recourse, not stalking – eStalking. Big difference.

So I signed up. Logged in. And promptly began doing the “@FamousNameHere” thing. And since that first day, something magical has happened.

I’ve been routinely ignored.

Yup. Not a tweep, er peep, ah whatever…from a celeb in response to my responses. They make a joke, I make a witty rejoinder and my words just die in in the ether. Apparently in celebrity cyberspace, no one can hear you tweet.

Now, it’s not to say that I’m foolish enough to believe that I’d have Matthew Perry or Jason Segel or even Michael Ian Black LOL’ing at their keyboards and rushing to retweet me. (And bless Mr. Ian Black, so desperately is he pimping out his wonderful new show on Comedy Central he has taken to Twitter like some dude with nothing better to do with his life than constantly interact with the twittering masses. Uh, no offense, Ashton.) Honestly, did I actually believe that within a week or so with one or two responses that I’d be touched by one of the golden Gods from Mount Hollywood?

Uh, yeah. Actually I did. 

Yeah, I’m kind of an idiot, er optimist. No wait, I had it right the first time.

I’m not the first person to make the “high school is just a microcosm of life in general” analogy, but it’s never been more crystal clear than when I joined Twitter. Here I am, the quiet kid in class jockeying for a chance to get the popular kids to notice me. I laugh at their jokes which are not always funny, I try to get them to acknowledge mine which often are. But much like Larry Ford taught me in eighth grade as he would do his hack routines in Algebra class, something is always funnier coming from someone popular. And vice versa.

Now granted, some of these celebs must be getting hundreds or even thousands of responses to their every post and they may or may not be looking beyond the first one or two responses when they deign to check their “@” in-box. They probably scan whichever ones are on screen and pick one or two to respond to. This gives them an air of accessibility without really having to expend much effort. And quick scan of their Twitterings shows that they are busy indeed as their days are fairly consumed with (a) watching TiVo, (b) getting off/on planes, (c) eating, or (d) tweeting about watching TiVo, getting on/off planes and eating. 

So my being ignored is surely nothing personal, but it’s still frustrating. Though it also has its amusing aspects particularly when you look closely at who does get a celeb response. Perhaps there is more to it than just picking a couple responses off the top of the list as most respondees largely fall into two camps. Other celebrities (even those that can be considered marginal, we’re talking the back-half-of-the-alphabet-lister here) and hot chicks.

Tell me this isn’t high school.

Especially the male celebs. It’s fun to watch the sometimes not even remotely amusing or witty or insightful musing garner tons of fawning responses. Some of which are neither amusing, witty or insightful themselves. But they get responses because it’s from another celeb or hot chick. Though I have fallen prey to the fawning over less-than-stellar celeb musings in hopes of getting “noticed” and perhaps my retorts weren’t what one would call ‘inspired,’ I have thrown out some rather clever rejoinders aaaaand…nothing. (For instance, I’ve tweeted a couple of pithy bon mots at the lovely and talented Elizabeth Banks with, sigh, nary an “@” back.) Some of these celebrity brain droppings are of the “Man, ice is really cold. Amiright people…” variety and suddenly #ice is trending.

Ah well, still I try. I’ve done the witty approach, the direct approach, the casual approach, the help-a-brother-out approach and have yet to stick the landing on any. Here I wait to see if Seth Rogen will offer advice to an up-and-coming writer (yes, me) or how Kristen Bell’s reshoots are going on COUPLES RETREAT (opening this October at a theater near you) or perhaps if John Mayer has clicked my link to the script I wrote about having problems peeing in public. (Seriously, John, it’s EXACTLY related to your tweet and it’s only like 20 pages long. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.)

Yes, class is in session at Twitter High and, as always, the cool rule the school. Maybe I’ll get that first response soon. After all, I need to get noticed eventually if I’m ever going to get a date to the prom.


Want more Twitter insight, check out the 5 Reasons To Avoid* Twitter.

Or perhaps you need some fashion advice, check out these great selections for special occasions.

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