Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Patting Myself On The Shoulder After Fifteen Years

I woke up this morning realizing that fifteen years ago today was my last day at a salaried job in Corporate America. I thought of that beautiful quote from Office Space:

"Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements."

Later I walked over to the coffee shop and treated myself to a sandwich and chips. I was going to write, but instead I keep skimming through my first zine and find myself back in those heady days of 1996, when I quit my job and was temping:


I didn’t get to explaining the nuances of how do to the things I was famous for ... like how to make it through the day when you’ve got a huge hangover, paying absolutely no attention in meetings but still have an answer when the boss calls on you, using the warehouse for your napping enjoyment, etc.


Things I miss about work: that wonderful coffee; being one of the nine percent in the office who doesn’t feel above making that wonderful coffee; talking about boring sports like professional football; hearing people say how cool it would be if we had rules like those countries where they cut your hand off if you steal; hearing phrases like “team”, “quality” and “empowered”. Whenever I end up working again, my motto could be “employed, empowered, embittered against corporate fucking gurus who come up with idiotic buzz words.”


The HR Mgr. shows up and she’s the most gorgeous gal I’ve seen in weeks. We got into the conference room to meet with one of their accountants and of course she sat next to me and she had on a miniskirt and as I was saying “debit, credit, balance sheet” I was trying not to stare at her crossed legs. I got through the accountant’s questions okay and then the dolly started asking me the typical “what are your strengths and weaknesses” questions and I hate to say it, but I said the usual bullshit about how I’m an “effective communicator” and can “manage multiple priorities” while at the same time all I could think about is her lipstick on the coffee cup...


This place has a “business casual” dress code, which basically means that you don’t have to wear a tie but still have to iron your clothes. (Then again business casual kinda bites because the babes don’t wear miniskirts and pumps.)


This company is staffed almost exclusively by ladies my mom’s age who leave me alone so I don’t have to make much small talk. The owner’s son has the office next to me and he takes lots of naps.


And it’s not like things aren’t challenging. Trying to not get busted for looking at the legs of the manager of the contracts department when she walks by is tough work. It used to be easy because she never looked in my direction anyway as she’s suburban ice personified with her medium-length black hair, serious demeanor and business attire complete with the matching skirt and jacket and pumps. But last week we ended up riding in the same elevator at the start of the day and she was talking to the new cutie intern (yes!) about the horrendous traffic and while she’s talking during our four floor journey, I’m sneaking peeks and constructing an elaborate fantasy where I’m cleaning the pool - like that new Levi’s commercial - or delivering groceries at her Edina home and she’s pouring me some iced tea and talking about how her husband doesn’t keep her satisfied and why doesn’t a handsome young man like me have a girlfriend and then SUDDENLY “did you notice that?” she asks me, we’re back in the elevator and it’s her first words to me ever and she’s talking about the traffic. “Yeah, it’s like New York City.” I say and she nods and goes back to talking to the intern. I ride the bus, what the fuck do I know about traffic?


The phrase I truly love these days is “real job.” As in “when are you going to get a real job?” This, of course, is an euphemism for “career.” Or “when are you going to join the rest of us in Corporate America so we can put one of those convenient labels on you?” Real job - hmmm... okay, but along with a real job comes real meetings, real bosses who change their minds after you get your stuff done so you have to redo it, real whiners, real people with their real boring conversations, real bad coffee that only a few people don’t feel above making, the real copy machine that only a few bother to feed with paper, the real voice mail, real - actually phony - team spirit (corporations love teams unless workers form the biggest team possible - a union - then a team is a bad idea), real parking spaces, real (nonpaid) overtime, real assholes on the phone, real doublespeak from management worthy of 1984, real bad jokes, real office politics, real corporate bureaucracy and red tape, real cost-of-living increases, real company gatherings where we’re all supposed to pretend we’re a family or something, etc. Anyway, if I get one of those real jobs then the next step is to buy those materialist goods that go hand-in-hand with such career choices. The nice car. The nice house. The nice furniture. You get the point. I actually had a friend tell me recently I should look into getting a cellular phone because they and their airtimes are coming down in price. Uh-huh. Let’s see, I barely answer the phone at home, so why would I want to carry one of those things around with me? Anyway, I’m in this whole work thing solely for the money, not for an identity or some feeling of a job well done.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
Red Shadow - "Understanding Marx"

First of all, a tip of the pen to Chuck and Joel at the Cosmic Slop podcast for turning me onto "Understanding Marx." It's a rare song I actually enjoy because of the lyrics, though the tune, talking vocals, and background singers are a direct lift from Ray Charles' "Understanding." Red Shadow billed themselves as "The Economics Rock & Roll Band," and among other things, Karl Marx was an economist. In this tune, Red Shadow plant their tongues firmly in their cheeks and yet still manage to relate three little vignettes about reading Marx, Lenin, and Mao and finding such truths as: "Now I've come to realize that as long as I have to sell my labor power to the boss, I work for his profit and not for myself or my fellow humankind."

Or as The Common Man might tell you on KFAN: "They make more money off of me than I make off of me, and I'm me."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Pretty Things - "Blue Turns To Red"

The Pretty Things formed in the UK in the mid-sixties, are named after a great Bo Diddley song, and are noted for (among other accomplishments):

- Being considered in their formative years to be like the Rolling Stones, but - pick your descriptor - "more raw" or "more raunchy" or "nastier."

- Recording S.F. Sorrow, one of the early concept albums.

- Also being known as Electric Banana, which recorded stock music that ended up on soft-core and horror films. (And not to be confused with The Electric Prunes or Kevin Arnold's Electric Shoes.)

- Being on Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label for a time in the seventies. (This doesn't seem like that big of a deal when you consider the prior entry. Electric Banana!)

As for "Blue Turns To Red," it's from their 1999 album Rage Before Beauty, which is one of those aging-heavyweight-still-packs-a-punch affairs. It's a tasty tune with a killer chorus, sweet backing vocals behind Phil May's gutsy lead, and is pretty much flawless in my book.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My 2010 Top Ten Netflix Movies That I Had Not Seen Before

1) The Long Goodbye - Robert Altman reimagines the private eye genre with Elliot Gould brilliantly wisecracking his way through the film as Marlowe.

2) Up In The Air - While not a comedy, I had to hit pause and leave the room as I was laughing so hard:

Ryan Bingham: You know that moment when you look into somebody's eyes and you can feel them staring into your soul and the whole world goes quiet just for a second?
Natalie Keener: Yes.
Ryan Bingham: Right. Well, I don't.

3) Crazy Heart - "Son, I'll play sick, drunk, divorced, and on the run." I now want to watch everything that Jeff Bridges has ever made.

4) Shutter Island - You know Leonard DiCaprio is a pretty damn good actor when Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley are in the same movie, it's directed by Martin Scorsese, but DiCaprio's performance is the thing that sticks with you most.

5) Anatomy Of A Murder - If you're facing a murder charge that's being prosecuted by George C. Scott, you want James Stewart as the small-town attorney defending you. Fun fact: The judge is played by the real-life guy who said "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" to Joseph McCarthy.

6) The Last Detail - Looked into this one after hearing Mulder reference it in a smart remark thrown Scully's way in an episode of The X-Files. Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, and a road trip. And lots of Schlitz!

7) Moon - Sam Rockwell. And Sam Rockwell. What more could you ask for?

8) Big Fan - If you've ever referred to the sports team that you cheer for - but have never played for - as "we," then you have to watch this one.

9) Hot Tub Time Machine - Funnier when you pour yourself a couple of drinks while watching it. I love that the characters' assumed knowledge of time travel all comes from time travel movies. ("I write Stargate fan fiction. This is my bread and butter, man!") And that it references The Drive in its butterfly effect.

10) Sexy Beast - Ben Kingsley is terrifying. I wanna drink beer with Ray Winstone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
The Ventures - "House of the Rising Sun"

So this week's tune came up on my iTunes jukebox recently and I thought it would be fun to write about it. Easier said than done. I typed the header above and then got to the year and realized I didn't know what year it was released. Big deal, I thought, I'll just go to and do a search. Problem is that searching by the song brings up every artist who has recorded "House of the Rising Sun", which is like a hundred thousand and searching through Ventures albums isn't the answer as they have released a couple million of those (and that might be if you include anthologies.)

Such needle-in-the-haystack wishes weren't good enough for me, and being the private detective-in-waiting that I am, I thought of a better way to figure out the release date: I dug through all my old cassettes, where I knew I had a Ventures anthology bought in the discount bins at Target in the late eighties. I found the tape, looked up the label info and what year it was released (Tridex Records, 1980) and cross-referenced this info against's listings. Bingo! Allmusic listed a Greatest Hits, while my cassette was titled The Best of the Ventures. My cassette is simply a stripped-down version of Tridex's Greatest Hits. So by clicking from this Allmusic entry, I was able to find out the release year of this Ventures tune. Which is the same year as the hit Animals version, which I should have been able to make an educated guess on with The Ventures - a band known for doing instrumental covers of current hits.

All I remember from this Ventures Target-bought tape was that 1) It was a hell of a lot of fun to listen to, and 2) "House of the Rising Son was my favorite tune on it by far. As my component tape deck is no longer in use (it's still there physically, sitting on top of the receiver with the turntable on top of it; but audio-wise I used its inputs on the receiver for the Roku box) I may have to play this in the boombox I use in the bathroom for its radio ... what better music to sing along with in the shower than an all-instrumentals collection?

As for why we should care about The Ventures, Jean Charles Costa in The Rolling Stone Record Guide sums up their albums the best: "Rejoice in the fact that they all sound the same ... Stiff snare and cymbal sound, pulsing bass and metallic guitars spitting out popular melodies through a wash of echo and vibrato."

In that book The Ventures are listed immediately after The Velvet Underground. After tonight's mini-adventures, I am more intrigued with The Ventures than I think I've ever been with the Velvets. Go figure. As for my late-night Tuesday Tuneage detective work described in great detail (sorry) above, the case is closed and I should be able to get some shut-eye before Writing Wednesday. But I am desperately resisting the urge to track down what I can find about the Tridex label...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tuesday Tuneage
J. Geils Band - "Cry One More Time"

Just got back from vacation today and have been busy with work, so this week is a rerun of sorts. I first wrote about Geils' "Cry One More Time" back in '06, though I fell in love with the tune many years before.