Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Special Halloween Excerpt From "The Overly Friendly Neighbor", An Unfinished (Or Was It Ever Really Started) Essay

Then there was the Halloween party plan. He told me about it as we walked down the stairs, having accosted me while I was heading down to my car. The Halloween plan was for people in the building to dress up as a superhero AND to also decorate their apartment as the superhero's lair. Sounds like a lot of work, I said. It'd be a lot of fun, he assured me. (Parties with themes outside of: keg with Old Dutch Rip-l chips and French onion dip are rarely that much fun, I have found out over the years.) You guys have fun, I said, and by the look on his face I knew I had let him down and likely killed the party planning committee's momentum. The party never went down.

(A dissertation: How many superhero lairs are doable? How do you make your apartment look like the Batcave? Do you have to hire an Albert? Assemble a Batmobile in your living room? What is Superman's lair? A phone booth? As to Marvel, how do you recreate the upper floors of the Baxter Building? Is Spider-Man's lair his bedroom in Aunt May's house? Iron Man's lair would be Tony Stark's office, right? How do you recreate that? You you try to make S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters if you dress as Nick Fury? What do you do if you dress as Thor or the Silver Surfer. Stupidest Halloween party idea ever, further proof that this "holiday" should be left to the kids, they can do so much just using their imaginations …

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Seaweed - "Go Your Own Way"

I hear that voice on my answering machine still, fifteen years later. The voice of a man trying to maintain a steady confidence, the voice of a man wanting to make a sale, but suddenly not sure what goods he had to offer or at what price he could sell them.

“Bill? Hi, it’s Mitch. I heard that you had been offered to come back and do the payables job, but turned it down. Just want you to know that we think you should come back. It’s a team, here. Gotta think of the team.”

The phone call was an odd one to be placed. Mitch worked at a company where I had just finished up a temporary accounting gig. I had been let go during a staff shuffle, and a short time later my temp agency called and said the company would like me to come back and handle the payables job as that person had left. I turned it down flat as I didn't want to handle payables, which is one of the least enjoyable of accounting duties. You field phone calls from people looking for payment, and generally people who feel they are owed money aren't very pleasant.

Mitch's boss had called my agency with the offer. The agency called me, and then the agency called Mitch's boss back with my decline. That was the chain - company management talked with temp agency management and vice versa. So when Mitch, a staff accountant, called me at home about my work situation, I was chagrined. And it wasn't just the invasion of my privacy and going outside the normal chain of the temporary staffing game that stuck with me; I think it was invoking "team", which by that time in my mind had become a foul word.

I've been self-employed for thirteen years now, so I need to reach back to that mid-nineties era to cough up the proper bile I had for the "team" concept:

This is that “whole is greater than its parts” or “team” crapola that fronts phony community in the workplace in an attempt to suck the individuality out of you. The word “team” was appropriated from the sporting world, where greed and winning at all costs drive things. (They drive things in Corporate America, too, but management will lie and tell you otherwise.) If you are on a sporting team, then by all means synergize. That way you can win your league championship and get tons of bonus money and endorsements and fame. If you’re just a regular ol’ working stiff, this team stuff at work is bogus. Unless you think work is fun, and you enjoy that wacky workplace humor and can’t wait until the next office potluck. Then the team thing is okay, because your much brighter team members will end up doing your work and covering for you. If you’re bright (and I know you folks out there are) you’ll think of yourself. Thinking of yourself is what capitalism was built on. Your boss and coworkers will disdainfully say you’re “not a team player”, but you’re too good for the junior varsity, aren’t you?

Yeah, that's how much I hated the word "team" being applied to the workplace. Things are so much better these days of self-employment. The hours are better, the coffee is better, the people are damn swell. Teams are something I see on TV in brightly-colored uniforms.

(Note: Tip of the pen to my pal Turk for coming up with the "junior varsity" line back in '91.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
Crowded House - "Weather With You"

You know you're old when you're in the frozen foods section of Rainbow Foods, hear a song on the PA, and say to yourself: "Hey! That's a catchy song! When I get home I gotta download that one!"

But then you don't actually know what the song is are what artist did it, so you end up googling "wherever you go take the weather" and find out it's Crowded House, and that brings back memories of their first album and a failed romance in which that album didn't really play a part but for some reason is associated with it (don't let girls check out your album collection, dude) and you know what? You took a lot of crap from your hard rock buddies for having a Crowded House album and it was actually solid pop music and you liked tracks off their second album when you heard them on Cities 97 during that time when some thought - including you at times - you were on your way to adult- and career-hood …

Anyway, this song isn't from either of these albums but you absolutely adore it anyway. You should use it to taunt the weather addicts in your life someday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Tuneage
The Kingsmen - "The Jolly Green Giant"

Kingsmen fans of the "their earlier stuff was sooo much better" ilk probably don't favor this one as it was recorded after original vocalist Jack Ely - the same dude who tried to start singing a verse too early in their classic "Louie Louie" - was forced out of the band by the drummer's mom (I'm not making this up) in a contentious power move.

Kingsmen purists also probably say: "This song is sooo commercial." Well yeah duh, it's dang close to being a commericial for Green Giant products, with one of the band members shouting "artichoke hearts!" and "brussel sprouts!" during the song. "Eat your vegetables from a company based in a valley in southwestern Minnesota" may be a weird subtext coming from a Portland band, but the commercialization was just a cover for the real purpose of this tune: A sly comment on race relations in America, 1964. Some gal wouldn't date the Green Giant. Because he was too tall? No, the gal was an Amazon. She thought he was disgusting because he was the wrong color. Booooo.