Monday, November 28, 2005

Triple Venti Loser

I honestly didn't think it could happen. After seeing the movie Supersize Me, I thought to myself, after seeing the scenes with the guy who eats several Big Macs every day, "I will never see or hear about a bigger loser than that as long as I live."

I was so very wrong. I opened up my newspaper today and there was an article about this guy who is trying to visit every Starbucks in the entire world. No, really. I'm not making this up. Fucking Starbucks. This guy's dream in life is to visit every Starbucks on the planet. When asked why, he said it had to do with his "collector’s instinct" and he mentions that he collects comic books, coins, and cards. So basically this guy would have already competed for the title of biggest loser in the universe without the Starbucks thing. He has been to over 5000 since 1998 I guess. Of course he has a website. And a stupid name he calls himself, Winter. He claims that is his name and only name, despite the fact that the Boston Globe found and printed what his real name is, Rafael Antonio Lozano. Go ahead and look around his little site and see just how big of a loser this guy is. In his travel log entry from a few days ago he talks about going to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and then waiting outside a Starbucks in Maryland until it opens. What a party animal. I should mention that he's 33 years old. And he's a software developer, which I imagine goes without saying. Worst thing to come out of the 90s is dipshits with loads of disposable income but completely void of imagination or any real interests. He has spent thousands of dollars to go to Starbucks all over the globe. I mean, try to wrap your brain around that. Starbucks is not a destination when you travel, it's a place you pop into on your travels because of their liberal public restroom policy (be sure to bring a little pack of Kleenexes though, you can never be sure if they'll have any TP since they let anyone and everyone use their toilet). Shit, the guy has pictures on his web site of the stores he’s visited. This could be mildly less loser-like if he had any great memories or experiences on his travels, but he doesn’t even have that. He confesses that he doesn’t really remember individual stores because he’s rushing around trying to get to all of them, and also because they are Starbucks and THEY ARE ALL THE FUCKING SAME! It’s not like he’s visiting different buildings by a great architect or something. This isn’t really any different than trying to visit all the Wal-Marts or McDonalds in the world. They are supposed to be the same because people will always recognize them wherever they are. Whenever I’m in Manhattan and I have to piss I start looking around for the green and white circle. So I suppose there is comfort in that.

I guess there are some things that one might want to see every one of in the country or world. My mother-in-law has a thing about going to every Disney and that also makes sense. First, it’s fucking Disney and there are rides and shit (and everybody knows Space Mountain kicks ass). Second, there are like five of them. And, except for Orlando and Anaheim, they are in pretty cool places. Make a goal to see all the Disney Worlds and you end up in places like France or Tokyo or Hong Kong. And there is only one in each town, so you can do lots of other cool things not just keep running to the next Disney across the street or on the next block. And there’s probably no danger of them opening 10 or more new ones a week in shitty places like Paducah, Kentucky where you really never want to go for any reason. My wife’s mother is in no danger of her life becoming about going to Disney World.

I do think I’ve figured out what this is really about for our dear Winter. See, there is a guy from Nebraska that has decided to make a documentary about him going to all these Starbucks. And think about that by the way. The guy who finds this interesting enough to make a film about it is from Nebraska. I’ve racked my brains trying to think of something cool from Nebraska and all I could come up with is Johnny Carson and that guy that is the Bright Eyes. But anyway, the film site has a couple of trailers and when I got my first glimpse of Winter my gaydar went to Def-Con 5. It was so obvious he’s a big old queer. But then there are scenes of him going to a strip club and getting a lap dance from a girl, or him pointing out a hot chick in, where else, a Starbucks. And it became so obvious. This is how his suppressed homosexuality is manifesting itself. I’ve seen repressed gays do some destructive shit before (like marry women) but this is the worst I’ve ever seen. Talk about self inflicted punishment. If you don’t believe me check it out for yourself. There are other clues too. In travel log he actually writes about someone else being the first customer in a new store and he uses the phrase “grrr…” to express how he feels. In the section of his site where he lists his “interest” he has put down “hot chicks”. But that actually comes later on the list than “Tradewinds Tea”. Tell me I’m not right. And what straight guy, outside of Bono, gives himself a one word name? The one name thing is so Morrissey.

So come on Winter, get yourself out of that closet and stop this destructive, internalized homophobic behavior. Think all the money you’ve wasted that could be spent on better things, like gay cruises and Streisand concerts. Just stop the madness and face who you are my sister. Stop running from the truth and toward the Frappacinos. Happiness is within you, not at the bottom of a triple half-caf vanilla latte.

I suppose I should thank you. Your craziness just makes the rest of us seem a little more normal. The next time my honey is starting to think I’m just a little too dorky when I’m dragging her to my 20th Wilco show of the year, hogging bandwidth on the computer to download a Robyn Hitchcock show from 2000 at the Largo that includes his famous Kung-Fu Fighting/Sound and Vision/When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman medley, or going giddy over the special year-end double issue of Trains magazine with pictures of Portland’s MAX light rail system (including map!) I can just point to you and say “it could be worse Honey. It could be worse.” So thanks, crazy closeted-gay coffee guy!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fill The Cup Yourself Senator

So baseball has gotten tough. They went and got themselves a new steroid policy that will suspend player for 50 games on first positive test, 100 games for a second, and a lifetime, Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose type ban for a third positive steroid test. I know I've written about this before, but I have just a couple of things to say about this.

So why the sudden all the tough drug policy from MLB? Especially one that includes testing for amphetamines, which have been said to be used by well over half of the players in baseball since about the 1950s. Did they finally decide to be a better example to children and get cheating out of baseball? Well no, not exactly. You see, Congress threatened to pass a law that would force all major sports to do random drug testing for steroids and a bunch of other performance-enhancing drugs. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jim Bunning (R-KY, 224-184, 3.26 ERA over 17 seasons. Elected to Hall Of Fame 1996) had crafted a bill they were about to introduce to the Senate. So baseball got off their asses and did something. Now you may be thinking, "Who cares? A bunch of millionaire athletes have to pee in a cup a few times a season, this doesn't affect me in any way". But beware people, they have caused a precedent here that is very dangerous and very much in line with the way of thinking among these conservative-activist, corporate-shill judges that sit on the Supreme Court (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts) or will sit on the Court (Alito). Now, this time the person who's arm Congress twisted was the brainless and ball-less Bud Selig, so it looks like they won't pass a law to force Major League Baseball and the other sports to do this since Bud groveled like a little girl and did what they told him to do. Let me remind everyone that these sports leagues are private businesses just like GM or Microsoft or every other corporation out there. So what this law was doing was telling an entire private industry that they have to drug test their employees. And remember we are talking about people who throw/hit/catch/kick a ball or puck for a living, not people who fly planes, drive busses or control our nuclear arsenal.

If they had passed the law, there's a good chance that one of the leagues or players' unions would have challenged the law and it would have ended up in front of the Supreme Court. Then what would have happened? Well, we don't for sure. The Supreme Court in the past has allowed businesses the right to drug test their employees, a decision I personally find ludicrous, and has led to things like that asshole owner of Weyco I saw on 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago who drug tests his employees for nicotine and fires them for testing positive for smoking cigarettes on their own time and away from the office. But this would be a whole different ballgame (nyuk nyuk). This would not be the government telling companies they can drug test, it would be them telling companies they have to drug test. A sane person would think that this is ridiculous and there's no way the law would be upheld. I'd like to think so, but with certain members of this Court this is a completely Constitutional idea. Remember that people like Scalia, Thomas and Alito don't believe there is such a thing as a right to privacy. It is their main argument when saying that Roe v Wade was "improperly decided". In the recent ruling that overturned Texas' (and every other state's) sodomy law, Scalia and Thomas were both in the minority (thank god) in claiming that the law was Constitutional. (This is the case of the two men who were arrested in their own bedroom while having sex. And as it is impossible to make love as a gay man without committing sodomy, they were violating Texas law.) Scalia went so far as to say, in his dissenting opinion, that not only does the government have the right, but they also have a legitimate interest in outlawing anal and oral sex between two consenting adults. Especially homosexual ones. And new Chief Justice Roberts said in his confirmation hearing that he believes there is a right to privacy in the Constitution, but that could be an outright lie just to appease the Democrats on the committee. We won't know the truth about that until his first case involving privacy issues comes up. Once they decide it's OK to do this, other privacy issues are in danger as well.

Even on a practical level, does anyone really want them to be able to do this? If Congress can force drug testing on one business, they won't have to stop there. And do you really want them to make it so your boss just can come up to you at the office and give you a cup to go piss in? I mean, you show up on time, you do your work, you get outstanding reviews from your boss, never call in sick, never made an ass of yourself at the office Christmas party but you still need to be drug tested? You weren't using that pride and dignity anyway, so they'll just take that right off your hands!

And imagine the effect on other industries if they have to fire employees for failed drug tests. There won't be enough philosophy professors left to fill all college positions. Try this little test: Go in to your local indie video store (no drug testing) and start up a conversation with the clerks about who the better director is, Jim Jarmusch or Lars von Trier, or ask them if they have the latest Hal Hartley movie. Then go do the same at Blockbuster (drug testing), and see if they even recognize what language you're speaking. Ask yourself then if video stores would be better off without potheads working there. I think not. And Jesus, what the hell are we going to do with no bike messengers?

You can bet there'll be one job protected from this type of screening: Congressman

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blame Him

So I'm sure everyone has heard about the kid in Pennsylvania who shot his girlfriend's parents and then ran off with her to Indiana. A big tragedy, right? Of course. 18 year old boy runs off with 14 year old girl after killing her parents and the cops still aren't exactly sure if the girl had something to do with the murder. So what the hell happened? How could these seemingly normal kids get caught up in something like this? Now, the parents of the world will be looking for someone to blame, because kids don't just do stuff like this. After Columbine they blamed Marilyn Manson. Two kids kill themselves with shotguns and there was a Judas Priest album on the record player, so it was their fault. Hidden messages in the music you know.

So who should be blamed for this? A tragic situation like this has to be the fault of someone besides the kids themselves. You have to look for the signs. Too many posters about one thing on the wall, always bringing the subject up in conversations, and letting it run your whole life are just some of the things to look for. Using these simple methods I have come up with the culprit. I know who's fault it is.

It's fucking Jesus' fault.

It is so absolutely true. Police have discovered these kids' websites/blogs on myspace and some other personal pages hosting site. Boy let me tell you, these kids need help. They are just obsessed with this Jesus guy. On her personal profile on her page the girl, Kara Beth Borden, list her personal interest as "JESUS!!", "church", "my youth group", and "hugging". And she signs off on most of her posts with "God Bless". Hugging?!? Fucking sick. She's only fourteen years old. See what he's teaching our children? And a girl that spells his name with all caps and not one, but two exclamation points has got some serious idolization issues that can be really unhealthy. Ask any of those groupies from the sixties and seventies. And really, aren't Jesus, church and youth group just listing the same thing three times? This girl was just screaming for help.

And the boy who did the shooting? He is said to be a big fan of a Christian rock band called Pillar. My grandparents were wrong, it's not the devil bands that are destroying youth, it's the Jesus bands. I'll bet he was listening to some of that evil shit right before he pulled out his gun. The members of Pillar will have to be pulled in for questioning as possible accomplices. And while they're at it they should see if there are any hidden backwards messages on their albums.

And rumor has it that both of these home-schooled kids were in possession of material said to be written by, or containing the messages of, Jesus. Something called a "bible". This demon work doesn't even try to hide a lot of its message, just lays it out for the world to see. Sex, slavery, bigamy, prostitution, and stoning. This thing is just full of filth. Hell, it's even where the word sodomy comes from. This is in the hands of maybe millions of our children. And if you read it backwards and it tells you to kill Jews and homosexuals.

We've got to get this guy off the streets and his book out of the libraries and bookstores. There's no way of knowing how far this could go. One of the members of his cult is already on TV every week granting "wishes" to unsuspecting families. It all seemed harmless when this Charles Manson looking, long-haired, smelly hippy just had a dozen or so followers and all they did was roam the desert smoking peyote looking for the next drum circle. But now he's got our kids under his spell. How many more have to die before we wake up America?

Oh yeah, this is all Jesus' fault. We need to take that fucker down.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


They say marriage is hard work. I never really quite understood this. What exactly is hard about it? Before I got married last year I figured there were about three things I had to remember: Say "I love you" fairly often, don't smack her around, and don't fuck other women. None of these really seem like hard work to me. In fact, smacking her around and sleeping with other women seem to me they would actually be harder work than just not doing those things. And if telling your wife you love her is hard work, well, maybe you didn't marry the right person. I don't know, maybe my wife is not as high maintenance as other women. I don't make shit for money, and I spend too much of that money on CDs or concert tickets. I constantly complain about living in Boston. I talk to/scream at the news on TV. But she still comes home every night. No divorce papers yet. So I have never seen this whole marriage thing as work.

That is, until recently. You see, I had to buy a new toaster.

My wife loves toast. Just loves it. She has toast every day. If we were on the Newlywed Game and they asked me what her favorite food was, I would probably say toast. So it was a serious thing when our toaster went on the fritz the other day. So I told her I would buy a new one since I'm working near a local mall. So on my lunch break I went to the Sears to buy a toaster. Now when I was single and my toaster broke I would just go to Target or KMart and find the cheapest toaster I could and try to find one for less than $10 if at all possible. And that would be after about six months of using the oven when I wanted toasted bread. But I'm not single anymore. I'm toasting for two now. And I had only one instruction from the better half - no white toasters, which of course seem to be the most common color these days and all the cheap ones seem to be white.

I'm standing there at the toaster section looking at all my choices and having the hardest time picking one out. I'm drawn to the four-slice models. My family never had that kind growing up and I always wanted one. Just imagine being able to toast four things at a time! But not only do we not have room in our shoebox apartment for that, it could also send the wrong message to my wife about my thoughts on reproduction. So I'll stick with the regular two-slicers. So I'm looking at them and trying to decide metal or black. There are more choices among the metal variety, so I decide I'll stick with that. But then there's the choice between two kinds of metal, shiny or dull/brushed-look. I'm trying like crazy to figure out which one will "go" with our kitchen, and I can't even believe I'm having that thought. When the hell did I start caring that my kitchen matched? And I think the answer is when I decided that my goal for this shopping trip was to get the perfect toaster for my beautiful wife so she'll be happy. This is not a completely unselfish act of course. The thing I probably hate more than shopping is returning. So I'm trying to avoid that as much as I can and it all hinges on this decision. If she doesn't like what I choose I'll be back here tomorrow and nobody wants that. Not that she would get pissed about it or anything. That's more like growing up with my mother, who would fly off the handle over a bad a small appliance purchase without hesitation. No, my wife would say it's fine even if she didn't like my choice, but I would be able to tell if she hated it and would take it back.

So I narrow it down to a cheap looking $25 no brand name kind, or a $65 Cuisinart. Yeah, 65 bucks. For a toaster. And the Cuisinart has all these extra buttons on it that I can't figure out what they actually do. I mean, it's a toaster. What the hell else is it supposed to do? So at this point I've been standing in front of toasters for about a half an hour and should just grab one and go. But do I do that? No, I decide I should go over to the Filene's and see what choices they have. And they are basically the same except the Cuisinart they have is slightly different and called a "classic" style. But I can't tell exactly what the difference is so I go back over to the Sears to look at the one there again. Seems to be a difference in the shape of the knob more than anything. Of course this becomes an internal argument over which of the two knobs my wife would prefer. After about twenty more minutes of thinking about it and going back and forth between stores one more time I go with the dull metal kind at the Filene's that cost a total of $63 (on sale, reg. price $83). The metal seems like it will match our sugar and flour canisters so that clinched the choice. Seriously, I actually made a conscious decision to match an appliance.

So I go home with a toaster that cost about four times what I thought I would ever spend on a toaster. Of course when she saw the receipt she said that I didn't need to spend that much on a toaster and could have gotten any cheap thing. But I know she likes it. I could tell she was pretty darn impressed with the matching I accomplished. So it was well worth it.

Boy, marriage is hard work.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween In Dresden

So the lovely wife and I had a great Halloween here in Boston. We attended the final show on The Dresden Dolls current tour, before they finish work on their new album. And what a night it was. Started off by walking through our neighborhood and looking at the costumes and decorations on the rich people's houses on the ritzy side of Beacon Hill. Got to see Theresa Heinz Kerry passing out candy. Well, she was out talking to people, the maid may have been doing the actual candy passing. It seemed like this year every other high school/college girl (and a couple of guys) went as slutty French maids. Maybe it's that way every year and this time I just noticed, I don't know.

So anyway, we make our way over to the Fenway neighborhood for the show. For those of you not from Boston, yes this is where Fenway park is. A line of clubs are on the opposite side of Lansdowne Street from the famed "Green Monster" wall in Fenway's left field. It appears that these were crappy warehouse spaces years ago that were turned into clubs when it became a more expensive/trendy neighborhood. They still look like a row of crappy warehouses.

We got to the show about an hour after the first opener started which was probably a good thing. When we walked in there was a woman kind of yodeling or falsetto screaming through some sort of circle with material stretched over it just finishing her set. So I was OK with missing most of that. If you've ever seen The Dresden Dolls something like this wouldn't be surprising. See, they call themselves "Brechtian Punk Cabaret", and they try to do a whole theatrical type experience at their shows, ala 1930s Berlin cabaret. But on acid. They perform their shows with their faces painted white and Amanda, keyboards and vocals, wears black and white striped stockings with garters and the drummer Brian usually wears black trousers without a shirt and a black derby. At their shows they also recruit "performers" to entertain pre-show and between sets. Now this is a good idea in theory that doesn't always work out in practice so well. A lot of them tend to be performance artists in the worst sense of the label. It can come across as bad, under-rehearsed mime work. Guys in white face who peel imaginary bananas or give invisible flowers to girls. Yawn. On this particular night we had, at the most interesting end of the spectrum, a girl with pale face and dark lipstick doing the glass ball balance thing on her hands, much like David Bowie in Labyrinth. Not real interesting after a while, but she was committed to it and had great concentration and skill. At the stupid end of the spectrum you had a girl with a Rosie O'Donnell body with very little clothing on doing a little bit of pseudo belly dancing or hip shaking with some other S&M wannabes. On the real annoying end there were those couple of guys and girls doing the freeze posing in pretentious, overly dramatic positions. A lot like those guys you'll see in the tourist areas of every major city who stand there like statues until someone puts money in their bucket and then they'll dance around for ten seconds. You know, those guys you really want to walk up to and push over. And imagine if they were really really bad at it and never practiced. And wore bad drag. Then after a real opening act, DeVotchka (who were way too cool to go into with any justice, that's a review for another time), we had to stand through a performance of Amanda's alma mater Lexington High School drama club. It was a bunch of girls doing weird writhing movements and amateurish images of consumption and purging and devouring, etc. I leaned over to my wife and said I thought it was one of those things that we would find out was supposed to represent a vagina or something like that.

But then the show finally started. And wow. Fucking wow. I can't think of another band that could get away with doing a cover of Science Fiction/Double Feature from Rocky Horror Picture Show. And that was how they opened the show. And we were hit with beautiful renditions of their songs from the first album, like Girl Anachronism, Coin-Operated Boy, and Bad Habit (which has my favorite line "sappy songs about sex and cheating, bland accounts of two lover meeting, make me want to give mankind a beating) along with new songs from their upcoming album. At one point an acrobat performer showed up on stage and did a Cirque du Soleil style curtain hanging/flipping/repelling show. Absolutely stunning to watch, especially since it was done to better music than the normal new-agey boring stuff done at Cirque.

The highlights of the evening though, was the five cover songs they did. They completely solidified my belief that this is one of the greatest new bands on the scene today. The artists they chose to cover are as varied as the Dolls influences themselves. First there was the previously mentioned opening number from Rocky Horror. Later on they did a kick-ass rendition of I Love Rock And Roll with Amanda on the drums and singing and Brian wailing on the guitar. The most rocking part of the night, people even started doing that 80s fist throwing to the beat thing that was so popular with the Headbangers Ball crowd back in the day. Later on in the show Brian left the stage to Amanda alone and she played a song by herself. She prefaced it by saying something along the lines of she doesn't really know what's cool and that a lot of people think this guy is cool and others don't but that this is what she's been listening to recently. She then did a spectacular rendition of Bright Eyes' Lua. To me it was the most beautiful moment of the show.

For the encore we got another huge surprise. They came back out dressed kind of weird and we weren't able to figure it out right away, with Brian in drag with a long black wig and Amanda wearing trousers and a sort of flat wide-brim hat. After they sat back down at their instruments and Amanda said "Isn't my sister sexy?", that I realized they were dressed as The White Stripes. They then kicked into a smoking cover of My Doorbell.

And they wrapped up the evening with The Flesh Failures (Let The Sunshine In) from Hair! after inviting DeVotchka and the other openers on stage. And not the Aquarius combo version either, the original whole song from the musical by itself. It was a raucous beautiful end to the night. Not many bands could get away with it. Only The Polyphonic Spree comes to mind as another who could. When it comes to the Dolls theatrics, when it works (party sing-along of a 60's musical number) it's fantastic and fabulous, when it doesn't (bad high school mime feminist theatre, statue people) it is hokey and embarrassing. But the moments that do work are worth it.

And everyone knows I really don't like Boston very much, but that last song at the end of a tour for a rising star band in front of the hometown Boston crowd full of their friends and longest-time fans was just fantastic.

They have a live DVD coming out on Nov. 22nd.

Live clips and videos here.

Song samples here.