Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 End of Year Media Power Rankings

This is the time of year for year end lists. Otherwise they'd be too early or too late. I've always liked the idea of ranking everything that came out over the year, but I've never been the kind of person who took in that much media group any given year. I'm usually listening, watching, or reading the same things I have for years. Not to say that a rookie can't find their way into my heart throughout the course of the year, but by and large im rewatching the same things I've seen a hundred times. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Everyone gets all crazy about all this new stuff, but there's something to be said about media that not just captures your hear, but then occupies it for a good portion of your life. So I don't do an end of year ranking of new media, I do an end of year media power rankings. Some of these books and movies have been out for years whereas some were just out this year. They're ranked on how much I enjoyed them over the course of 2014. This was a tough year, and and some that were ranked highly didn't even make the list. Like every year though I just appreciate everyone who competed. I assure you the process to determine this was both fair and incredibly scientific. 

(I decided not to include any standup, because if I read one more non-famous comedian's analysis of a famous comedian's special I will probably blow my brains out.) 

TV Division

1 (Last year's ranking: 5) How I Met Your Mother 

With the finale of Breaking Bad 2013 was the year of the crime drama. 2014 saw the close of one of the best sitcoms that's been around for a long time. How I Met Your Mother was in it's day just about the funniest thing that was on TV. The past few years were defineitely not the prime of this show. The last season was hit and miss. The finale was mostly miss, but finally sitting down to watch this show that I'd spent so much time with was satisfying even though the last episode was anything but. Also there is something to be said about a finale that pisses you off. It means you've invested so much time and energy in it that, good or bad, it really means something to you. So I choose not to focus on how much better the last season could've been, but how much I truly loved the first four seasons. 

2 (Last year's ranking 2) Firefly

Last year Firefly was number 2 because it's a great show. Firefly remains a great show so it remains number 2. If you don't like it then you're probably a bad person. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. 

3 (new to the list this year) Game of Thrones

This show went from something I was sick of people talking about, to something I promised I'd check out, to something I becasme obsessed with, to something people around me were sick of hearing me talk about. If it continues being this awesome then I don't think I'll stop talking about it anytime it then talk to me about it please. 

4 (new to this year) 24: Live Another Day

When I heard this was coming I'll admit I was pretty nervous. Yes, I loved and still love most seasons of 24, but it's been a while. I wasn't sure Jack Bauer would still have what it takes to be at his bad assest. Luckily there was no need to worry. This wasn't the best season by a long shot, but goddamnit it was good. Usually if 24 is gonna suck it's gonna happen in the second half of the season. Live Another Day fixed that by just not having a second half the season. The writers played the same tricks the've played and over played throughout 24's run, but when they do it well who gives a shit. 

5 Star Trek: Voyager

I watch some incarnation of Star Trek a lot. It's probably the media franchise I've spent the most time and money on throughout my life. Voyager isn't my favorite among them, but it's not awful. If you pick and choose what episodes you watch and when you begin to realize how great this was when it was on it's game. It's hard not to watch the show and wonder what could've been. Janeway deserved a better show, but there are still some great episodes in there. You should watch them. 

Movies Division

1 (not ranked last year) Guardians of the Galaxy

This movie is nothing but fun. Why doesn't that happen too much anymore? Why can't you just go and have fun at the movies. I'm sick of sitting down to watch a movie and having it be a gritty portrayal of real life. I'm familiar with real life. I often find it plodding and redundant. As much as I loved the most recent Batman movies you'd be hard pressed to label them as fun. Guardians puts a smile on your face in the first ten minutes and makes it stay there for the next two hours. Plus Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon should get all the Oscars this year. That's not hyperbole that's a cold hard fact.

2 (not ranked last year) Blue Ruin

I really only watched this movie because I kept on seeing the poster on my Apple TV screen saver. I was curious, it seemed to have good reviews on Netflix so I watched it. One of the most tense movie watching experiences I can think of. Even though there's not a whole lot of dialogue I spent the whole movie genuinely worried. When it was over I was relieved that I didn't have to be in that world anymore. But there's something to be said for a movie I wasn't really invested in to pull me in that completely. 

3 (not ranked last year) Django Unchained

If this list was the most bad ass movies I saw this year then this would be number one. I don't think this will end up being my favorite Tarantino, and the scene where he tries to act was almost bad enough to bump it from this list entirely, but what's good about this movie is fucking great. 

4 (last year 4) Serenity

I think every year that Firefly is on this list Serenity will also be. It's hard to watch one without watching the other. Particularly since the show was cancelled without much notice this serves as a perfect sendoff for a great show. 

5 (last year not ranked) Star Trek: Generations

I didn't much care for this movie when it came out. It's not the best Star Trek movie that's been made. It's not the best Star Trek movie with the Next Generation cast in it, but it's a lot better than you remember. A good sendoff to the TOS crew, and a great start to what I thought was going to be a great run of Next Generation cast moives. It didn't work out that way, but it's still a much better movie that I admitted until this year. 

Books Division

1 Y: The Last Man - Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

I'm not the type of guy who cries a whole lot. Nothing wrong if you're the kind of wuss who does, but that's just not me. When I first read Y: The Last Man I wept like a baby while reading the last book. Having read it a second time and knowing what to expect I assumed I'd handle the ending better this time around. I did not. It's hard not to immediately be carried away into a world where all the men on Earth have died suddenly died except one. Even if you're not a fan of comics I can't imagine anyone not just loving all ten books in the series. Check it out, you'll thank me. 

2 The Stand - Stephen King

I'd never read anything by Stephen King. I had heard of the guy of course, but I guess I always just dismissed him as not for me. I was a fool and I'll admit that now.  I don't really know why I decided to finally read one of his books, let alone the longest book in his catalog. I opted not just for The Stand, but the extended version. I guess King thought the original 800 some page version was just wasn't enough so he beefed it up to just shy of 1200. Well holy shit. There's something to this King character.  One of the most unsettling, scary, funny, readable books I've ever come across. Even though the last third doesn't quite deliver the same punch as everything else, it still instantly became one of my favorite books. 

3 World War Z - Max Brooks

By no means a new entrant. I've read this book a few times, and now that I've read it another time I already can't wait to read it again. I've never been a huge fan of the zombie genre. After having read World War Z I thought I'd get more into it, but the opposite ended up being true. Max Brooks paints such a realistic, far reaching, relevant, and vivid picture that shows like Walking Dead just seem silly. The fact that Walking Dead is a bad show doesn't help though. 

4 The Night In Question - Tobias Wolff

I love Tobias Wolff. He's probably my favorite author. He's at least the author I've read the most. His catalog isn't huge, but I generally read something by him at least once a year and have for the last bunch of years. He's written novels and memoirs, but this book is a collection of short stories. All his protagonists are so flawed, but relatable that it's hard not to immediately see yourself in his characters. The last story in the book, Bullet in the Brain might be my favorite thing that's ever been written. It's what made me buy this book to begin with. I heard Wolff read it on an episode of This American Life. I went out that day to buy this book. I read that and then bought the rest of them right after. 

5 Devil in the White City - Erik Larson

Another new entrant to this year's list. My wife had told me a hundred times that I'd love this book. Turns out she was right. He made a nonfiction that reads like a novel. Using what must have been a shitload of research Larson tells the stories of the folks who built the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as well as a monster who used the pandemonium surrounding the fair to murder a whole lot of people and a number of other folks who helped shape and were shaped by Chicago as it entered a new era. 

Music Divison 

1 (Last year 1) Adele - 21

 2 (Last year 3) The Beatles Abbey Road

3 (Last year 4) Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

I keep on waiting to get sick of these three albums. Hasn't happened yet, don't know if it ever will. All three remain bunched up at the top and I gotta tell you I don't see that changing any time soon. I have weeks worth of music in my iTunes library and still I listen to one of these three just about everyday. I sincerely hope I find something to usurp these, but they ain't gonna go down without a fight. 

4 (Last year not ranked) Hozier - ST 

A new entry to the end of year power rankings. I don't know if this is a passing fling or if Hozier is here ot stay. Regardless, music is generally what I'm the most closed minded about. I almost never seek out new stuff. When a friend is insistent about me checking something out I will, but I won't be happy about it. If I'm out and hear a song I like I'll check it out. Usually that'll result in me listening to it a few times and then forgetting about the band forever. I downloaded a Hozier song assuming that it would be same with this character, but I listened to the whole album and it was real solid. So I kept on listening to it, and I plan on continuing to listen to it for the foreseeable future. Rest of the list, you've been warned. Hozier just fired a warning shot across your bow. 

5 (Last year 2) Jay Z - The Black Album

Down a few spots from last year, but I wouldn't hold that against old Hova. He had two spots in last year's power rankings plus Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped with a shit ton of fanfare so there was bound to be some backlash in this year's rankings. Given that there's only five spots, so to be awarded any position is extremely difficult. Don't let his position on this year's list fool you, Jay's looking to make another strong showing in 2015. 

Congratulations to everyone who made the power rankings this year. If this is the second year in a row that you've made them then extra special congratulations are in order. There was some fierce competition this year. Lorde made a strong push to be a newcomer to the music list. Meat Loaf again was a close number six. I felt sick leaving him off, but that's just how the chips fell. Prison Break should've made the TV list given how much I watched it, but I had to take some points away due to the fact that it wasn't a very good show. Enjoyable, but not very good. That being said it was a fun year for new and old media alike, I hope you enjoyed reading about it half as much as I enjoyed taking it in. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FIGHT MIC! 2014-2014

Six months ago I was a man with a dream. A dream born on a bar patio. I had a dream to run a show. Not just any show though. A comedy show where, before comics performed, they would box each other. That may seem a little sadistic to uninitiated, but nothing could be further from the truth. The idea was born when I was hanging out with some comic friends and thinking about how great it would be to watch them all get punched in the face. If only there was a place that would allow such a thing.
Either a promotional flyer or evidence. 

Due to some good fortune, and some terrible decision making on the part of Rebecca Trent of The Creek and Cave I was able to make that dream come true. FIGHT MIC! was on. For two whole shows my dream came true. During those shows I learned a lot. Though many were very excited to talk matchups they were much less interested in actually taking part. I learned that some people are reluctant to punch their friends in the face. I also learned that some people are all too eager to punch their friends in the face. Both of these facts should have given me pause. Neither did.

There were some great matches those two shows. But there was one big challenge that FIGHT MIC! just couldn’t overcome. That was the fight with common sense. You see FIGHT MIC! was a great idea. And like most great ideas it was actually a really bad idea.

Kurt Cobain said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” before he proceeded to burn himself out. And that’s what FIGHT MIC! has done. For two glorious shows FIGHT MIC! burned hotter than any show could ever be expected to, and now it’s time for it to rest.

So to FIGHT MIC! and to everyone who made it possible, I say goodnight and good luck.

FIGHT MIC! 2014- 2014.

Special thanks to: Rebecca Trent for enabling. Andy Sanford and Bob Hansen for being accomplices. And to the brave warriors who made it possible: Benel Germosen, AJ Thompson, Robbie Collier (a lot stronger than he looks), Chelsea Hood, Chelsea Taylor, Evan Jones, Evan Davis, Chris Waelti, Nick Naney, Peggy O’Leary, Lauren Vino, Owen Straw, Justin Flanagan, and Brett Osinoff. You’re all champions. Unless you lost. Then less so.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bus Got Your Tongues?

A couple months back I turned over this space to a lady named Angry Bus Lady. She was a lady that I saw on a Chinatown bus who was very angry. Well, I took another bus ride and as luck would have it I got to meet another fucking lunatic who I'll call Crazy Bus Guy (CBG). When traveling by bus you have a number of options. Megabus is usually the best in terms of the caliber of the people you’re going to find yourself traveling with. Not great, don’t get me wrong. There are still a bunch of losers running around. You don’t have nearly as many options with them though. So if you need to make it across the country, you don’t have a bunch of money to blow on a plane ticket, and you don’t mind it taking a week and a half to get where you’re going then you gotta go Greyhound. The best passengers are the ones you don't notice. Take only pictures leave only a weird smell. Take only naps leave only fart smells. The thing Angry Bus Lady and Crazy Bus Guy have in common is that they were very noticeable. Angry bus lady was very noticeable, but to her defense she at least passed out. Also she was a few rows a head of me which helps. But at least she didn't bring god into the whole thing.

Enter Crazy Bus Guy. CBG was a gentleman I encountered on my most recent Greyhound trip to Detroit who was crazy. Things seemed pretty normal at first. He was dressed like a dirt ball, but who doesn’t when they prepare for a trip on the Greyhound. You have to dress for comfort. It's not like flying on a plane, it won’t be over soon so you should dress accordingly. CBG was wearing ESPN pajama bottoms and a paisley thermal shirt. Short hair no weird shapes or things shaved into his head. As a regular bus rider I've gotten pretty good at being able to spot potential wild cards. I saw thing guy and thought nothing of sitting right behind him. It was a packed bus, so I didn't really have too many other options, but it seemed to be a safe bet.

CBG in all his glory

Things started falling apart a couple hours in. I was sitting there reading my book like a normal person does on the bus. He was sitting right in front of me staring straight ahead like a crazy person does on the bus. I stop reading for a second, look up, and realize the guy is looking at me. Don't think too much of it, but then he says "what do you want from me?" I just assumed that he thought I had said something. So I said "oh, I didn't say anything." He says, "no, what do you want from me?” I was starting to realize that I was dealing with a crazy person. So I said "nothing, buddy." Then he said "you know I will NEVER be like you." So I decided to end the conversation by saying “Oh cool you take care then.” I said take care like I was walking away from him. Not continuing to sit two feet away from him for the next dozen plus hours. After that I tried to not pay attention to him while paying a shit load of attention to him so I was prepared for when he went fucking nuts. He then muttered something about how he's a stronger person than me, then kinda shook his bible. Which was the only thing he had with him from what I could tell.

Our bus driver
From there he spent a lot of time just muttering things under his breath. It was hard to make out much of what he was saying. I think a fair amount was about Jesus. I kinda wanted to put my headphones on, but at the same time I knew he was gonna say something nuts that I'd want to hear. Because I like listening to crazy people. It makes me feel better about my own mental state. I might be hanging on by a thread, but at least my thread is a shit ton stronger than CBG's thread. I shouldn't take too much solace in this, but oh well. Life is all about these little victories so find yours where you can and quit judging me. 

Next outburst was him raising his fist to the air and yelling “this is my sword. I came here not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” I remember this quote. It's a Jesus quote. I'm pretty sure at least. I've never read the bible of course, but I used to listen to this Christian talk guy named Bob Dutko. He was fond of that quote. I'm sure he knew more stuff from the bible, but he really mostly focused on the passages that talked about how awful gay people were and that whole sword thing. Though in Bob Dutko and CBG’s defense I've never read the bible maybe that’s all that it is. Just "all gays and no play make Jesus a sword wielding maniac." for thousands of pages. That would explain a lot about this character. 
89% of Christian radio stations are also called "The Light."

Then a few hours after that we were treated to the dude actually speaking in tongues. Listen, I'm not one to judge people for believing in religion. I'm not a religious person, but I've always kind of envied people who are. I wish I had the certainty that comes with a strong belief in god, but it’s just never been something I’ve had stick. If you have that thing that pulls you towards religion, bully for you. I took a bible studies class in college. I read the chapters that were assigned. So I’m not very religious nor am I a Bible expert. THAT BEING SAID, whatever you think is in there that tells you to speak in tongues is wrong. That's not what they're saying. 

The gloved sword of CBG
Multiple times he broke into rounds of tongue speaking. It's one thing to be in a group of people all cool with the tongues, but not when you're shattering the quiet of the bus with the shouting of your gibberish. It's just not cool. Lots of people believe in god, not everyone are using that belief to freak everyone out. Whatever chapter that says that in the bible is some horse shit. Don't buy it. If you're into that religion, for god's sake I implore you that a quieter religion will be much more likely to get you into heaven.

Real live audio of CBG speaking in tongues and the bus driver telling him not to.

The bus driver had to put his foot down. when we stopped and had to ask the guy if he was gonna be cool for the rest of the ride. He told him no more praying, and then crazy guy had to tell him that he was gonna pray. They went back and forth about the issue of praying, until finally they came to a compromise. The guy was allowed to pray, he just had to do so at a level that was only audible to himself and god. That seemed fair. 

CBG all tuckered out at the Cleveland bus depot.

Sometime after all this this went down a lady got a phone call. She answers and says “Hell… Just on the bus… no it's fine.” I'm sorry this is fine? You are locked on a bus with a guy who's referring to himself as the sword of god, who's been screaming in gibberish for the past hour. I don’t know how many more years phone lady has in bus ridership than I do, but I do know I have to find another way to travel before I find myself describing that trip as fine.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Getting Down To Small Business Saturday ™

Hope you’re all out there enjoying your Small Business Saturday ™. Which people say is a holiday. I guess not so much people as just one company that says that. American Express likes to remind you to think small this holiday season. Think small while racking up thousands of dollars at 20% interest.
Some that are far too cynical had the gull to question the intentions of American Express in founding and pushing this holiday. Sometimes a large multinational financial services institution just looks at the runaway consumerism and disconnect and has nothing to do but shake it’s head. So American Express did the noble thing. They thought it would be a good idea if people used their American Express cards not to pad the bottom line of large multinational corporations, but of smaller brick and mortar retailers. So American Express came up with the idea of a day dedicated to patronizing smaller local brick and mortar stores. Presumably local brick and mortar stores that then have to fork over untold millions in transaction fees. Then American Express immediately trademarked the idea so nobody could profit off of the idea but them.

A company that took in 33 billion dollars last year urges you to shop small

Even though I think we all have to applaud American Express for their efforts (which are of course no way crass or disingenuous) to combat how removed we’ve gotten from what we buy and from where it comes. Despite their best efforts though, Small Business Saturday isn’t really a holiday in any real sense of the word unlike it’s big brother Black Friday. 
The time these people spent in this line has negated any savings they would've enjoyed. 

Now there’s a holiday. I know because my phone automatically corrects me when I forget to capitalize it. Black Friday is unique because unlike every other holiday that exists there was no meaning behind it before it became a holiday. Every other day had some significance before we decided to go nuts and buy shit for it. Not Black Friday though. This was just a day where we, as a people were going nuts and buying a whole bunch of shit some day in November. This kept on happening year after year so eventually they decided to give it a name. Now it’s on the calendar. 

What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?  - Some asshole
I like to think that it’s going to be the reverse. Generally a holiday has a great deal of importance then slowly we forget what the original meaning behind it was until one day you’re punching in the teeth of some jackass at a toy store so you can buy your ungrateful kid’s love on Christmas morning. Slowly over time the holiday just gets more and more perverted until it has no meaning aside from the commercial. Black Friday is the opposite of that. It’s never had any meaning. It started out as what most holidays end up like. So I’d like to think that it’s going to go the opposite direction. Where in the future where every holiday has become a sick excuse to waste money and trample people to death that in that future one holiday will have a solemn feel to it, and it’ll be black Friday.

Black Friday: All gave some. Some Gave all.
I have to tell you I don’t see that happening though. In the years I worked retail I was always struck by the amazing disconnect between people reporting on it and what I was experiencing myself. I heard countless stories on my way into the Best Buy I worked at about how we were changing as a society. Black Friday wasn’t going to be like it has in the years past. You see there’s been a movement of people who’ve decided not to degrade themselves by coming to a shitty store hours or days in advance to save a little bit of money. We’re wising up as a people. Those would be the stories I would hear on the radio. Then I would get to work and be warned about the risk of being trampled by animals in search of a moderately discounted Blu-ray player. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A (True) Story About A Guy Named Mitch

I went to high school with a guy named Mitch. Mitch was a cool dude who did cool things. Drugs mostly. Drugs wasn’t the only thing Mitch was ahead of the curve on though. Mitch used to be into listening to shitty music pumped up to high volumes through oversized distorted bassey headphones. Just like the kids are into these days.

Mitch used to listen to his music really fucking ear blisteringly loud. People (nerds) used to wonder what the point of listening to music that loud. “Hey MItch” the nerds would ask. “Arent’ you afraid of hearing loss?”

“Nah.” Mitch would answer.

“Oh, well maybe you should be. Because that’s currently happening.” The nerds would say like a bunch of stupid nerds.

Then Mitch would give them 250 db of cool cranked up to eleven. “Nah, man. I ain’t worried about hearing loss, because fuckin’ I want to loose my hearing.”

You see Mitch was an ideas man. And like a lot of ideas men Mitch had an idea. Mitch loved music. He loved listening to so much that he didn't want to listen to it using his ears anymore. He wanted to get his other senses involved in the process. So his plan was to deafen himself. That way he would only be able to feel the music. Seriously. I imagine even if feeling the music is as great as Mitch thought it’d be,  there is going to be a serious hangover period in regards to phase two. The part where he has to go through only feeling what once he was able to hear.
And he want on to...
That was the only conversation I ever had with Mitch, and I never found out what became of him. Sometimes after high school you’ve found you’ve drifted apart from the people you care about. Sometimes as in the case of Mitch, you really just don’t give a shit what happens to people. That being said I have wondered what happened to him. I wonder if he ever made his dream of losing all his hearing come true. I also wonder that if he died shortly thereafter because he wasn’t sufficiently able to feel a fire alarm.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I made a venn diagram about what's been keeping people busy on the internet this week.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

All Aboard The Train(ing Seminar)!

Quick note before the real meat of this week's blog starts. One of the things that really excites me as an occasional blog poster is the chance to give life to stories that weren't good enough to be jokes. Sometimes for whatever reason a story just isn't good enough to live as a joke. Usually that reason is it's not funny enough or has too many words. Luckily those aren't problems in the medium of blogging. So here's #1 in this series. I hope you enjoy it more than anyone who ever saw me tell a version of it on stage did.

I’ve mentioned it numerous times, but I worked at Best Buy for a number of years. Three and change to be inexact. It wasn’t my first choice in jobs, but it was the only job that wanted me to work for them so I did it. I spent most of my time at Best Buy selling TVs. And most of that time I spent doing that poorly. I don’t really have that salesman personality. I have nothing against salespeople. I’ve worked with and for many. Some are great people some are real sacks of shit. Just like any other profession. I myself just don’t have that salesperson thing in me. I don’t have it in me to fight tooth and nail to make a sale. Some people are just built with that. I would have trouble doing it to begin with, but at a place like Best Buy I found it damn near impossible. Retail sales is a tricky business, because unlike a normal sales job there’s no motivation to try harder. Some guys would go crazy to make sales then spend the day bragging about how much better they were at selling the warranty plan. That always just seemed nuts to me. I would always offer the people the horse shit stuff like the warranties and the hundred dollar HDMI cables because if we didn’t we’d get hassled. I don’t like being hassled. Whether or not they’d buy the jacked up cables or the warranty didn’t really bother me one way or the other.

I bought a Best Buy shirt at a thrift store  when I was fifteen. I knew I was destined for greatness. Also those headphones aren't plugged in. I just thought they looked cool.

The fact that me, and a bunch of people like me, worked there ended up being a problem. Best Buy’s business models involved selling a lot of things, and we weren’t selling enough things. If you’re a company and need to motivate people to do something you have a few options. You can pay people the amount necessary to get that effort. This is tricky because it’s hard to know what that amount is. It could take years of trial and error to come to the right amount and that was time Best Buy just didn’t have. So they did not go this route. Another motivational tool is trying some non monetary compensation. You can try to make the work experience so great that people will forgo a higher wage to keep working their. Best Buy also did not go this route. Or at least if they thought they were they were failing. The third option is by tricking people. This is what they decided to go with.

The sales training attendees from my store and our "professor." This is what the future of a Fortune 500 looks like. 

They sent us to a sales training program where we were told that what was acceptable behavior in the past just wasn’t gonna cut it anymore. They needed to whip us into shape and make us put out the kind of effort that a professional sales staff would. But they didn’t want to put out the kind of money that would take. So at this training where it was explained that we’d have to put out some big money effort without big effort money, BUT this was a good thing for us! You see in the process we would be getting skills. Skills we could use to get better jobs once we got sick of working at Best Buy. We needed to sell a 32” Panasonic like our lives depended on it, because one day we’d have jobs where we’d have to try that hard. So we better start practicing now. Seriously.

I wasn’t happy about doing the sales training. I wasn’t too crazy about working there as of about two weeks in, and this was three years after that. So I was pretty fucking sick of it at that point. I didn’t much want to be there, but now I had to get trained to be there for the long haul. It’s like going to counseling for your marriage that you only agreed to so you get a green card. So when I was told I needed to attend this training seminar I wasn’t thrilled, but at least got to spend the week away from customers. Also if I bitched about it I might get hassled, and as I said earlier I’m not a fan of being hassled.
One of the customers I was happy to be getting away from. Some asshole wearing a flak helmet. Not pictured is his stupid razor scooter. Go to hell buddy. 

People there fit into one of a few different groups. There were the people who didn’t take it seriously because they thought they were better than this shit. That group included myself and a couple other folks. There were also the people taking it very seriously to better their Best Buy career. There was only a few of them, but they were annoying well beyond their numbers. A big part of the sales training was learning how to read off a “sales experience worksheet.” The worksheet was really just a script we were to read so we didn’t accidentally say anything too dumb. Learning how to read these things involved a lot of role playing with each other. Getting paired up with the people taking it seriously was always a pain in the ass because the company had spent money to send them here and goddamnit they were gonna get that money’s worth! Not only did they want to get better, they wanted to make sure I was getting better too. So during these role playing sessions they would not just pretend to be customers, but they would pretend to be really shitty customers. They would really be a tough sell and give me trouble over every single product I was supposed to be selling them. Keep in mind that these are all just pretend products. I’m not actually selling them anything and they’re not actually buying anything. No money is changing hands. This is all just make believe. And that being the case they would talk about how money’s tight lately (probably because they work at Best Buy) so they don’t think they can afford a new TV these days, unless of course I could spend more time convincing them. This was an everyday thing. Luckily there weren’t that many of these assholes.

The largest group were the idiots. These were the people who had no business being employed anywhere. Some of the standouts included a couple who spent most the week snuggling. They found a nice desk in the middle of all the action and decided they were going to take this opportunity to get some spooning done. Nobody seemed to think this was odd except me. There was the gentleman who wore his Best Buy blue shirt which he made his own by rolling up his sleeves all the way to reveal a giant pot leaf over flames tattoo. My personal favorite though was a grown man who went by the name “The Wolf.” He would answer to Wolf, but preferred it when you included the “the” before Wolf. They were easier to work with. They certainly didn’t make you work your ass off in the role playing but looking at them seriously depressed the shit out of me. Because we were all in the same place. As superior as I thought I was, I wasn’t. We were at the same company working the same jobs blowing off the same the sales training seminar. I realized that I had to make a change and quick. I either had to start taking this job seriously or else just leave.

Professional salesperson.

To help us do our job the way they wanted us to we were told we needed to live by our new company values. Company value number one was “have fun while being the best.” The fun having part was a challenge, but of course we were the best. Our team included The Wolf. Ain’t no Wolf rocking second best that’s for damn sure. Company value two was “learn from challenge and change.” When he told us that I couldn’t help but think of the manager who, upon my hiring, urged me to opt out of the 401k program so I could invest all my money in Best Buy stock. I’m pretty sure she will be changing after that challenge. Company value three was “unleash the power of the people.” If it was good enough for ending the Vietnam war then goddamnit it’s good enough to sell reasonably priced electronics. Company value number four was supposed to be the least insulting, but sounded the worst. The final company value was to “show integrity, respect, and humility.” On the surface that’s not all that shitty. I mean respect and integrity are both good things to be showing I guess. Do they really need to remind people who work at Best Buy to go in everyday and be humble? There’s nothing more humbling than working a job where everything is designed to make you know how replaceable you are.  The whole retail experience is designed from the top down to let you know that if you’re gone nobody will notice. That being said, you are not allowed to call out. Everyday you will show up dressed like a hundred some odd other people, you will all say the same things that we’ve read off identical scripts. That seems like a shitty thing to drive home. “Hey, you in the blue don’t you dare be thinking too highly of yourself, we can’t function in a place where people recognize their self worth!”

I understand there are certain professions where being humble is a necessity. If you’re a priest you have to remember who you’re there for or you’ll go mad with people throwing all those Hail Marys your way. You may start thinking you’re God. Same with the being the president. You probably have to work to keep yourself grounded so you don’t start developing a king complex. When you work at Best Buy you are never once at risk of letting that power go to your head. The second you put that blue shirt on every ounce of pride in who you are as an individual will evaporate. Also in working retail you’re not serving some greater purpose the integrity of which that is in need of protecting. It’s just some stupid big box store. The second you start thinking that this is an institution that you need to be humbled at the foot of that’s the moment you’ve lost all sense of perspective. From then on I knew I had a choice. Either get the hell out of there or keep working to the point where I'd humbled myself into thinking I belonged there. At that point I would claim my place alongside The Wolf, pot leaf guy, and the seminar snugglers.

I quit shortly thereafter. I got a job walking dogs. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Adam de Sokol: Democracy In America

Tuesday is election day. I urge you to vote. Statistically speaking you probably won't though. And really that’s fine too. I used to spend a lot of time caring what was going to happen on election days. When I wasn’t worrying about upcoming elections I was worrying about what happened last election cycle and how it was affecting my day to day life. If people were in office that I didn’t care for I’d spend 2-6 years just angry at them for being in there. The thing is my day to day life was the same. They weren’t in there passing anti-Adam Sokol legislation. Elections are very important events that can dramatically change the direction of the country over the next couple years, and with that in mid I urge you not to spend too much time caring about it. It’s important don’t get me wrong, but there are too many people who spend too much time caring about what happens. They spend all the time between election cycles being miserable, and if it doesn’t go well they get even worse. Worse yet sometimes you have to spend time with these people they’ll make you miserable as well. Part of the problem stems from the fact that people just don’t understand our system. So, as a holder of most of a political science degree from a real university I will give you some things to keep in mind about our democracy.


Listen, it can be tough. I understand that. You feel very strongly that the world should be one way, and it’s not. You’re sure that you’re right and if only everyone would see things your way then the world would be a better place. Thing is, everyone thinks that. You don’t have a monopoly on conviction. When you’re at the dinner table try to remember that sometimes people vote differently because they’ve had different experiences and have different values. This happens sometimes. It's okay. Your dad wasn’t bought and paid for by the the Koch brothers and your daughter wasn’t brainwashed by her liberal professor. So how's about you just say "fuck it" and talk about something else. Instead of blaming each other for the miserable state of everything why not just ask about movies or talk about baseball.

That politician you hate is probably a better person than you think.

Regardless of who you voted for both of these guys are probably pretty nice

There’s been a trend over the past while where you can’t just not vote for someone you have to think of them as the enemy. There are a shitload of pundits who make a handsome living whipping you into a frenzy. When really that politician who’ve been told by either Rush or Maddow to hate because they're destroying the country and must be stopped at all costs is just some asshole who’s trying. You might not agree with them and that’s fine, but they’re not trying to destroy the country. They’re doing what they think is best so just try to think of them as just another person who’s trying. They put their pants on one leg at a time. Then they go to work and help destroy the country.

The politician you love is probably a shittier person than you think.

Regardless of who you voted for both of these guys are horrible blood sucking monsters

People running for office are generally egomaniacal assholes. You vote for the one you vote for because that’s the one who’s lies resonate with you. I don’t want to get all Ralph Nader on you, but both parties are run by jackasses who really don’t give a shit about  you or your stupid problems. If you vote for whatever party you vote for because you think they care about your issues, you are very much wrong and should grow the fuck up. Also Ralph Nader is also an egomaniacal jackass who doesn’t give a shit about your problems either. He’s just not successful so folks think that he has integrity.

I view my major party vote as a protest against this assholes like this

Maybe this isn’t the country for you.

America was founded on people who didn't care for how a country was ran so they left it for another one. This happens. You have no control over where you’re born. Your parents lived here and now you do too. America has had a pretty specific economic and political system for a while now. I’m not one of those “love it or leave it” assholes, but if you find yourself jealous of countries with strong-arm dictators or bemoaning the fact that America doesn’t have a parliamentary system perhaps you’d be better off living elsewhere. Just for your own sake. It might lead to a lot less heartache. Instead of trying to get this country remade the image of Uzbekistan why not just move to Uzbekistan! There's nothing wrong with choosing another country that you find preferable. Which leads into my next point…

There’s a good chance you’re wrong.

No offense, but this does have to be addressed. I mean who the fuck do you think you are? There are only like four people on the planet I will just assume are right. You sure as shit are not one of them. A lot has been written about how efficient large groups are at decision making. Often when a number of people independently reach the same conclusion, the prevailing answer is the correct one. Even though this isn’t always the case if you find yourself on the losing side of every ballot initiative and political race (probably while longing for a nice refreshing Josta) then maybe you’re just not correct. Everything you believe. The values you hold dear. The way you look at the world is just plain wrong. People are wrong a lot. Groups are usually good at making good decisions. But you’re not a group. You’re just a person. A person who’s wrong. 

Sorry, it's science

For fuck’s sake, RELAX!

The question you’re supposed to ask yourself whenever elections roll around is whether or not you’re better off today than you were however many years ago their basis of comparison is. You may or may not be, I don’t know. That’s a shitty question though. The question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you’re really naive enough to believe you’d be that much better if the other asshole was in there. Things would probably be largely the same. Unless you’re in the military or an abortion provider who the President is or who the Senate Majority Leader is won’t really mess with your day to day life. 

So vote on Tuesday. Then forget about it, go out, and live your stupid life. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bad Advice

I don’t often write about doing comedy. I kinda figure if you really want to hear about the comedy experience of someone you haven’t much heard of there are about a million blogs covering some jackass’ “process” as he was writing that huge fisting closer. If that doesn’t quench your thirst then right now at this very second there are roughly 47,000 podcasts out there waiting for you all of which will go into mind numbing detail about the trials and tribulations of being a comic. I’m not trying to say that it’s all unnecessary or it’s all horse shit, I’m just saying the vast majority is. So I’ve always steered clear. Until now that is. This one is mine though, so that means it has merit and isn't just another act of navel gazing horse shit. Also I'm a hypocrite.

Don't worry all 8 million plus are adding something valuable to the discussion 

If you do standup more than zero times in front of people then chances are you’ll be approached afterwards and be given advice by some of these people. We comics have a word for advice like this, we call it “shitty.” This advice is almost always wrong. It’s not the advice giver’s fault usually. They’re not bad people it’s just that more often than not someone who spends time doing comedy is going to understand doing comedy more than someone who’s never done comedy. Also, most of them are bad people.  

I do a joke about the prevalence of the n word on internet comment sections and message boards and how that's not cool. If you haven’t heard the joke or been on the internet in a while, I’ll let you know that there are a lot of people tossing that word around. Something about the combination of being both anonymous and white makes folks pretty comfortable tossing it around. Not just a little, but a whole lot. A lot of sites employ auto-filtering software. So if you type the n word it will automatically be removed or replaced with stars or something like that. You’d think if that’s the case then that would eliminate the problem right? WRONG! People who routinely throw around the n word don’t let that stop them. They employ inventive spelling like using three Gs, numbers, or symbols anything really to get their shitty racist voice heard loud and clear.

The joke I have about this is very funny. I was telling it at a show and people were laughing at it. Everyone was happy. I had thought that tell joke, receive laughter was going to be the extent of our interactions for the evening. That was not the case, because after the show a gentleman came up to me to give some patented “shitty” advice that strangers at comedy shows are famous for. He was telling me that he thought it’d be a good idea if I pepper that joke about the prevalence of the n word with liberal use of the n word. I’m paraphrasing but he was saying “you know that joke where you talk about white people being way too loosey goosey with the n word, well what that joke needs is you, a white person, to say the n word a lot. You’re welcome.”

This, of course, is a bad idea. What’s worse it that’s not the first time I’ve gotten that advice. Other time I got that advice was also from a white guy. No offence to these particular dudes. They were nice enough to go see comedy and were pleasant afterwards, but the only thing worse than a comic who runs around shouting the n word for no reason is some random dude who runs around trying to convince other people to say the n word. Then to better make his point he said “even if it goes terribly, who cares?” I do. I care. I know every set isn’t going to go swimmingly, but I’ve got enough problems in this business without being known as the white guy who just assumes he’s got a pass to say the n word. He then asked me what’s the worse that could happen. I can think of a few shitty that can, and in all likelihood, would happen.

What could happen is that I would probably piss off a bunch of people. I don't know if either of these guys have ever spoken to black people about how they feel about white people just assuming they can use it, but from what I've gleaned most are decidedly in the anti camp. I don’t really give a shit if in telling a joke some easily offended jackass takes umbrage. There are a lot of people with no sense of humor who spend time at comedy shows. But there’s a world of difference between stepping on the toes of someone who goes out of their way to be offended and running around trying like hell to piss people off. There are white comics who can get away with it. Either they’ve developed the kind of fame and reputation where they’re given a pass or the joke they’re telling is one that needs to use it in order to make people really question race, society, the power of words, and language as a whole. This joke ain’t that. It’s a fine bit don’t get me wrong, but it’s not “subverting the paradigm” good. White comics should always ask themselves a question before employing racist language. That question is “you sure about this?” Then if the answer is yes they should ask themselves another question. “Really sure?” The answer to that is usually no. By following this guy’s advice I could really piss some people off. What’s more I could piss some people off to the point where they want to kick my ass. I don’t like that prospect. That is something bad that could happen. I consider that a downside enough to not follow this advice.

Dr. King says "not cool bro."

What’s worse is I could piss off the wrong people. There have been numerous instances where a joke has been taken out of context, some blogger in the audience posts some shitty diatribe about what a shitty person the comic is, and a media shitstorm ensues. That’s not even the worst case scenario though. I think the absolute worst thing that could happen is that I end up in front of a bunch of people who are really into it. As shitty as it would be offend someone by being a white guy who goes around saying the n word I think it’d be more detrimental if I ended up resonating with some blogger. I’m not too picky about people liking me. Please do. But I guess I’d rather not wind up winning Stromfront’s comedian of the year. That would really fuck up my Google results. I guess I could use just about any press at this point, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my days touring with Michael Richards doing benefits for the Donald Sterling legal defense fund.
Oh, you were just trying to be edgy? Our mistake carry on!

So Mr. hipster looking advice giver in Brooklyn last week, those are the worst things that could happen, and yes I care about them happening. But I didn’t tell the guy any of that. I told him what I tell every lunatic who wants to give me advice. “Yeah, maybe I’ll try that sometime, excuse me I have to go to the bathroom.”

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Star Trek: The Final Insult

I’m a fan of Star Trek which means I’m a fan of heavy handed allegory. Star Trek gets a lot of credit for its progressive views on gender and race. I think a lot of it is well deserved. A lot of it is horse shit too. Star Trek featured the first interracial kiss on American TV between Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura. Which really just proved that no matter how progressive our society gets men will use positions of power to get sexual favors from subordinates. Plus this amazing kiss occurred after a whole bunch of inter-species kissing. So even utopian think we’ll accept blue people before we accept black people. I’m glad they’ve spent time addressing these things, but I think the view of the show as being so progressive is tad overblown. There’s still a shit load of hate on the show it’s all just transferred to aliens. We haven’t progressed as a species we’ve just shifted our scapegoats. Klingons are cruel and violent, the Romulans are arrogant and sneaky, the Grizzelas are lazy, and don’t even get me started on the Breen. They're the fucking worst.

In 1960s America this was more acceptable than being black
So for the most part all races on Earth started to get along when new people came around to hate. There’s no longer any white privilege it’s all just human privilege. But regardless of why it happened we’re getting along swimmingly in the future. All the races on Earth decided to start putting their hate resources outside our little neck of the Alpha Quadrant. Whites and blacks get along. Europeans and Eurasians get along. Asians and people from the Indian subcontinent get along. They were even able to write decent lines for more than one female by the third series. And the Native Americans are probably getting along with whatever or whomever is on the planet we shipped them off to. In the future everyone is living happily ever after. What’s that again you ask? We did what in this future utopia? Not just a little bit away like to Mars or somewhere close and neat, but a whole shit load away. Hundreds of lightyears away near a stretch of space controlled by a rather surly group of aliens called the Cardassians.

Can't be treated any shittier than the planet you're coming from
You get to find this out in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called Journey’s End. Of course in the episode The Federation decided to give that planet away via treaty. Seriously. Because god forbid there be any subtlety here. This is also some pretty goddamn lazy writing. Not only do Native Americans have to have the same old story thrown back at them, but they don’t even get a cool alien to represent their plight. Star Trek has a long tradition of having aliens represent groups on Earth. Every other race and group gets to have their plight told with a thinly veiled alien who obviously represents their plight. The Ferengi have been seen as the Jews, the Bajorans represent the Jews, the Zeons represent the Jews, and the Eskosians represent Nazis and their persecution of Jews. So they’ve had all kinds of very spot on political commentary throughout the years. Even Deep Space Nine was brave enough to pull out all the stops by condemning sixties era racism thirty years after the fact.

Really Chief, this is really your own fault for not expecting this. 

But Native Americans don’t even get that, what they get is just an exact retelling of their story, BUT THIS TIME IN SPACE! But then to top off the great insult that is this episode. The whole thing ends before it’s even begun and we get a shitty resolution to an arc of the shittiest character in then it comes in and decides to resolve a Wesley Crusher arc that sucked from beginning to end. So not only did they take away the cool alien stand-in for their plight that the Native American people so rightly deserve, but they also had the balls to steal half the time that should’ve been devoted to the climax of this story.

Miss me?

So in the episode where Star Trek is trying to show how shitty it’s been for the Native Americans having things they deserved taken away from them at the very end they made an episode where they just took the end of the episode away and gave it to Wesley Crusher, a white man (of course), who managed to make a guy controlling space and time as boring as humanly possible. Meanwhile all the American Indian actors were left sitting around watching with a single tear ran down their collective cheeks.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guest Columnist: Angry Bus Lady

I was out of town last week. I took a Chinatown bus to Philadelphia, which was pretty neat. The Chinatown bus is a weird way to travel because you leave in Chinatown and then you arrive in another Chinatown. So part of you gets off the bus and looks around and says “I’m pretty sure this is the same place."

It's only $10 because this happens 30% of the time. 

It was a fun trip. I was hoping something crazy would have happened so I could write about it, but unfortunately it was pretty mundane. Luckily there was someone on my bus who was having trip enough for the both of us. She was so riled up I decided to turn this space over to her this week. So please welcome guest columnist Angry Bus Lady with her thoughts from the trip.

Maybe New York. Maybe Philly. Maybe China. Who the fuck knows.

I had to run across the whole city. I ain’t got NO breath!
4:01 To nobody in particular

Don’t you dare kick my seat. 
4:05 To the lady behind her

Don’t fucking kick that seat anymore. We are civil here you fucking asshole.
4:10 To the lady behind her again

I’m telling you for the last time about that seat. This is America. 
4:30 To the lady behind her for the last time

How bout YOU move YOUR fucking elbow!
5:00 to the gentleman who was her seat mate

NO! NO! NO! 
5:05 to the gentleman sitting next to her

5:07 to the gentleman sitting next to her.

You people hearing these headphones? I mean how we supposed to be hearing our headphones when this dude’s headphones so loud. I mean, shit. Right?
5:15 To everyone else on the bus. Though I don’t think she realized that someone yelling about headphones was a lot more disruptive than the headphones themselves.

Someone best be switching seats with me. How about you?
5:17 I don’t know who she was talking to. I didn’t want to look up on the off chance she was talking to me.

(Loud Snoring)

Don’t be taking all day in that bathroom.
6:15 to the person in the bathroom

You out that bathroom yet, I mean come on!
6:15 & 1/2 to the person in the bathroom

That’s it, enough of these fucking games. Get out that fucking bathroom. I GOT to use it now. 
6:16 to the person in the bathroom

About fucking time!
6:18 to the recently vacated bathroom

You mean I gotta put up with this the whole way to Philly?
6:30 - To ? Re: ?

I mean the WHOLE way to Philly?!?!
6:35 To ? Re:?

I mean, seriously. 
6:45 To ? Re: ?

Finally! Thanks for nothing asshole.
7:00 to her seat mate upon the completion of a successful trip to Philly.

And with that she was unleashed on the unsuspecting people of The City of Brotherly Love. I don't know what became of her. Maybe one day I'll run into her again, and will be able to share her thoughts with you a second time. But just in case I took the train home instead. Thanks ABL!