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Like My Grandpa Used to Say…I Feel A Draft in Here! April 27, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, Sports.
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I love metaphors. They’re my crutch, my go-to. When I’m in need of a pithy point or skewed view of our pop culture universe, I embrace them like the last girl at the bar after they’ve given last call (Wow…you see that..using a metaphor to describe my love of metaphors..We’re through the looking glass people…)

On Saturday and Sunday, the 32 teams that comprise the NFL will have their version of a debutante ball, only the women in frilly dresses that look like inverted tulips are replaced with tall, often shapeless large men in designer suits of all colors of the rainbow. It is every teams chance to wipe away the mistakes of last season and give a young lump of clay to chance to mold himself into a future black of iron that they will describe in slow motion with the big booming voice of the NFL Films guy. You can patch up the holes that riddle your team like a 1920’s Mob car post gangland battle with human Bondo. And men will watch it like a real, live event, knowing that even though there will be no score, some man with fabulously coiffed hair will give you grades (which matter about as much as the questions on Press Your Luck.)

Now, many people have used metaphors, AKA my one true love, to discuss the draft. They’ve even used the draft itself to act as a metaphor for other things in life (Mike Golic and his Dandy Doodles spring to mind). Yet I find the draft too big for metaphor. The NBA Draft is two rounds long, meaning you get two choices, maybe three if you can bribe the Grizzlies to trading with you (They’re like the Life Cereal’s Mikey of the NBA…try it..they’ll like it.) Two choices make it all the more important. Even the best marksmen in the world can’t hit the mark perfect with only two shots. But if you give them 12 shots (the number of NFL draft rounds) even they can hit a target. No, the NFL draft is a metaphor amongst itself. One big, lumbering bowl of metaphor. Every pick, every angle, every time they utter the words, “The next team is on the clock.” They even use metaphor to describe each pick. Think about the term “on the clock.” You think ticking time bomb. You think sweaty, overweight movie second banana wondering which wire to cut. And each pick is a wire…you take the flashy wide receiver…blue wire…BOOM, your team implodes like an abandoned warehouse full of cocaine. You take the mammoth defensive end with the soft spoken family and the dad who is a preacher…red wire…wipe the sweat off and bask in the accolades.

Now being that the Draft is one big metaphor, each pick is like a tiny little metaphor amongst  itself. If the whole draft is a big Whitman’s Sampler of Metaphorical goodness, each pick is the chocolate collection. The first pick is the mountaintop. You’re the emperor, with everything in front of you. But do you act benign and choose wisely. Or do you make a mistake and wind up like a French King, head on the chopping block wishing you didn’t suggest the cake. The second pick is the porter at Studio 54. Sure, you may not be the sexy shirtless bartender or the decadently coiffed member of the disco set. Heck, you’re not even the well-endowed coat check girl. You’re second-class, but the perks are yours. You get to rifle through the couches of everything left behind. Sure, you may find a used prophylactic or prick yourself with a needle but there are far more vials of drugs and left over coke ridden wadded up hundreds for you to scrounge up.

The metaphors roll blindly on. The third pick is the socks at Christmas. They’re not flashy and the gifts you really wanted have gone to the other kids. But socks can be amazing. Ask the grunts of Vietnam. Ask the Eskimos in the dead of Alaskan winter. Heck, ask Jim Henson. Pick four…the kid in high school that everybody likes but no one finds attractive. Pick four is who he’s taking to prom. Sure, the hot girls are all going with their quarterback boyfriends and even that somewhat attractive goth girl is going with the soccer jock (It may or may not be because of a wager…still checking on that…). But you can still get somebody to go with you. There’s still plenty of fish in the sea. But who do you take? Do you take the girl who will give you a sure “good after party” or do you take that girl you’ve been secretly composing songs about on the guitar you found in the “cool uncles” basement? Choices..choices. Pick five…well that’s the four cards to a flush. You can bet and scare everyone off or you can bet big and scare everybody. But you might get called…who knows?

Which now brings us to pick six. Pick six is scientifically proven to have no metaphor whatsoever. It is because of this that the team sitting at pick number six is in the luckiest spot in the draft. They probably don’t have that glaring of a list of needs. Picking at six meant your team went, what, 6-10. Two of those tough losses with the mysterious fumble or “jobbing you hard” holding calls go your way and you may be in the playoffs. And the major picks are all gone. You can actually survey the landscape. Plus the odds are that somebody has already reached for somebody who just didn’t deserve to be that high. You can go many ways and the kicker is, you don’t have to pay that all that much. Sure, it’s the NFL and the salary will probably be able to buy most of the town of Green Bay, but in relation to the 70 jillion the high picks are getting.  It’s a win-win. And there’s no metaphor. Though you’re still on the clock. And that bad boy is ticking.

So watch this weekend. Sure, it’s the male version of the Oscars (ooooh, what is Brady Quinn wearing?….I love Calvin Johnson in that suit…) but if anything it provides hope. Just know this…no matter how many names you see this weekend and how many metaphors fall like rain, half the picks will disappear. Half will be arrested. And half of those will wind up starring in a movie with Tia Carrere. So, nothings a sure thing. Except metaphor.

Well, death and taxes too, but that’s what English cases call an idiom. And idioms work better in the MLS draft. They don’t deserve metaphor yet.

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The Pen: Now About as Mighty as a Butter Knife April 20, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Music, Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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I know they’re out there. I mean, they are millions of students across this nation who are majoring in English right now. How could you not? English involves two major facets: reading and writing. Both of those are taught slightly after you learn how to pee. It’s major that doesn’t get much harder. Math involves learning more elaborate theories and precepts as you go deeper in school. Science involves more knowledge of different experiments and the like. But English? If you can read a book your Senior Year, you probably could have read the exact same book your Freshman year. Books don’t get harder (save for Ayn Rand. I truly believe there are a few eighty year old professors in the Midwest who have said, “Screw it…this Fountainhead…Where’s my Matlock DVD?”) I know…you get it…it’s easy. Like I said, though, I know they’re out there. With your English degree, you probably want to be a writer. Well, then, where the hell are they?

They ain’t in the movies. Because Hollywood is too busy making films written by Philip K. Dick. Now don’t get me wrong…I am not ripping on the late Mr. Dick. Besides having the second greatest porn sounding non-porn name in history (How could anybody ever beat DICK BUTKUS?), he was a very prolific and quite often prophetic writer. His stories are rife with interesting characters, amazing scenarios and good vs. evil scenarios. But, he’s gone. He’s done writing. And we’ve exhausted him now. Take the movie “Next.” I’m sure it’s rife with all Dick is famous for, but look at the Taglines. “From the writer behind “Blade Runner” (okay, this might work…great movie and Daryl Hannah’s boobs), “Total Recall” (okay..Cool special effects and the beginning of Ahnold’s “understandable” phase and THREE boobs) “Minority Report” (all right, the official last movie before Tom Cruise officially signed his “Crazy Card” and if you pause it just right, Samantha Morton’s boobs are okay) and “Paycheck.” Whoa, wait, hold up. He wrote Paycheck?

And that should say it all. When somebody sits a room and says, “Let’s make that movie before we make “Next,” you have a problem. Stephen King, who has some weird pact with Hollywood that requires him to be behind at least three movies or eight-hour miniseries per year, knows not to release all of his work to the movies. And he was hit with a car, for Chrissakes. At some point, no matter how amazing a writer may have been, you hit the bottom of his barrel. Even Shakespeare companies know not to break out “Troilus and Cressida.” But apparently Hollywood will continue to scrape that barrel clean. Because, for the love of God, where are the writers?

Are they in TV? Nope. And not just because of the reality shows/. I mean, you need to have endured 16 hours of English poetry to come up with the idea behind Joe Millionaire, right? Reality shows need writers. But I think they’ve left us now. Because the shows are getting both out of control and so mundane, it’s scary. Kristen Cavallari (she of MTV, a Maxim magazine, a Stuff magazine and I think she was in an FHM) has a new reality show in development. Will she be starting a sitcom, a modeling agency, her time in college? No, she will be deciding whether or not to get LASIK. You read that right. They are developing an entire show around a decision on eye surgery. An event that may (GASP) make you go blind if done incorrectly. A writer didn’t come up with that. Ms. Cavallari is obviously trying to get free LASIK and thought this would be a great way to do it. How could you sell a show based on a procedure that maybe blinds, what, three people a year? More people lose their sight staring at the sun than getting LASIK. (One thing, though…that’s my idea and I’m claiming it here first, just in case….Vanessa Minillio in “Sunstroked”) Writers wouldn’t stand for that. But they’re not around.

Maybe they’re in music? Nope. They used to be everywhere in Hip Hop. Gone now, replaced by beats and repetition. And they’re nowhere else. Rockers are groaning and scraping their throats to re-enact the magic of Eddie Vedder. Only they’re not saying anything of importance (unless you feel moved by knowing that the “girl shouldn’t go cause it’d be bad.”) And you CANNOT rhyme a rhyme a word with itself. Nope. Not allowed. If you must, it had better be a line of such meaning, importance and gravitas that kids use as their yearbook quote for the next twenty years. And a writer could pop one of those out. Only they’re not around.

So where are they? I’ve been looking. They’re not in cabins in Montana. They’re not on “Find themselves” trips in Europe smoking hash and reading Sartre. And they’re not hanging out down by the shore, listening to Ween. I’ve checked. This is a call to all of them. Please come do what you were trained to do. Because the industries that need you are dying. Maybe you’re all bartenders like me. Please, America, the next time you order your Cosmo, ask if the bartender is a writer and if they answer in the affirmative, send them out immediately. Tell them to leave their job and give the bar world the kiss off and come back to the written word!

But tip them. And tip them well. Because that would be rude.

This is What I Bought?…This Is What I Bought?….This is What I….This Is What I…This is Me Vomiting April 7, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Music, Pop Culture Rants.
2 comments

No person on this oblongated spheroid on which we live has ever heard me utter the words, “I identify with hip-hop culture.” Yes, I drank Cristal once because the bar was out of PBR cans. Yes, I own several Notorious BIG albums, mostly purchased during my reckless “Fill out my CD collection days with that whole “10 cds for a Penny” thing.” My pants often fit way too well (Thanks 99 cent burritos!) And the only time I ever watched a TV in a moving vehicle was on a road trip with my family. And it was not Scarface, but rather the under appreciated “Lost City of Atlantis,” featuring Michael J Fox in his new role as voice over extraordinaire (The shaking adds gravitas to his voice.) Yet just because I don’t identify with the culture does not mean I don’t understand and see its’ merit as one of the most important music and art forms of the last century. It is a combination of self-expression, musical rebellion and street poetry and metaphor that rivals the folk rock movement for its ability to move an entire group of disaffected culture.

But though I may not identify with it, I do identify with pop culture and that major pop culture watershed moment where a medium just doesn’t care anymore. They’re phoning it in; they’ve sent the managers home and the interns are running the office. And while it is true that needs to happy every once in a while, the real problem lies when the under talented begin to outshine the talented. And even while people complain or say something, we still buy it. Heavy Metal had the hair bands.  Disco had Rick Dees. Rock and Roll had Leif Garrett. And now hip-hop, which despite all its’ detractors, still maintained an air of relevancy. Meaningful hip-hop, may I introduce you to your killer? His name is Mims.

The song “This is Why I’m Hot” is the first of what will now be many songs that will inevitably lead to the downfall of hip-hop. Why? Is it something he said? No, it’s because of precisely what he doesn’t say. Anything. Not a single meaningful word, phrase, catchy metaphor or even P. Diddy groan that lets you know the track has merit.

The song is a bravura track, which is a staple of hip-hop. I’m better than you and you’re worse than me at its simplest form. Yet, nobody ever came out and said that without some sort of metaphor. I mean, would you rather nod your head and quote “I get lots of women” or “I get more butt than ashtrays?” The song’s chorus is so simple that I am positive I wrote it in someone’s yearbook in fifth grade next to the heavy set girl with a penchant for Hello Kitty paraphernalia who wrote “2 cool + 2 be = 4gotten.” It goes, and please, please, please correct me if I’m wrong “This is why I’m hot….This is why you’re not.” And while there is more, my brain is too busy contemplating the depth and ferocity of such an amazingly powerful disrespect that I lost track of everything else.

Now lyrics alone do not a song make. You need a beat, a melody or a backing track (or in P. Diddy’s case, the entire “Best Guitar Licks of the 70’s” catalog). Sampling, once frowned upon, is now a completely acceptable way to provide music for your grandiose words. It gives people the chance to go, “Wait, where’s that one from? I know that.” But to sample a song that samples a song is well, scientifically impossible. It’s like the movie Multiplicity. A copy of a copy of a copy can boil down until you have a retarded Michael Keaton. And “This is Why I’m Hot” samples not a classic riff or contains a perfectly crafted beat (which if you believe the people at Coors Light is done in the back of airplanes with a single well placed spotlight on the Moog machine). It contains samples of Kanye West and Dr. Dre. So not only are the words nothing to write home about, the music is someone else’s who didn’t even own it to begin with.

But I’m not just here to complain about the song. I could take several albums I’ve e purchased from the back of sedans in front of Tower Records and write novels on their issued. But the reasons wouldn’t have merit. Because other than me and a few friends, nobody bought those albums. “This is Why I’m Hot” was the bygone Number one song in the COUNTRY! Meaning more than enough people thought, “Wow, that’s good…Let’s buy that and listen to that. And then tell our friends about it.” And it is because of this that I say Mims will be forever associated with the death of hip-hop as we know it.

For something to be successful and gain number one status, everybody needs to get into it. And if Mims’ song, despite its complete lack of lyrical prowess and musical merit, is as popular as it is, it only opens the door for others to follow in its trashy and underdeveloped footsteps. Hip-hop was for many the light at the end of the tunnel. If you lived a life of struggle and despair, your words could be your ticket out. But the only ones to achieve success were those who worked hard and displayed talent. This now may no longer be the case. And if anybody can string together a juvenile chant with somebody else’s music, soon there will be more. Oversaturation can kill a genre faster than anything. Just ask Disco Duck. He’s in the corner, parking cars.

Hip-hop is dead, claimed Nas. And he may have been right. Early, but right. Mims has made people believe they can succeed without talent and skill. And he has also made a whole group of people who may have no idea about hip-hop’s real purpose and it’s ideals.  With every spin of that record at a club, Hip Hop dies a little more each day. It means that soon it will become mass produced and no longer valid. We all may laugh at Vanilla Ice, but everybody had to have bought that album at least once. And he alone has made it impossible for a white hip hopper to be taken seriously again.

So while we can’t fix it, we must start preparing. Hey, Fitty, can you play the harmonica? Bluegrass is coming. It’s gonna be huge.