please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Leather Opportunities and Waffle Packages

The Oregonian, as always, has just provided me with the most wonderful ten minutes of my day. In their mad rush to remain culturally relevant, they just had to sound off- in the most parenthetical of ways- on the unending controversy surrounding the disappearance of Manliness.
Or, to put it another way: they republished something from Popular Mechanics. It is a pointless little list regarding "25 Skills Every Man Should Know".

"Odd that 'cunnilingus' doesn't appear anywhere on here," said Bee. She's right. And neither does: 'learn to cook your own damn food and do your own damn dishes while you're at it', or 'have at least one joke on hand that you didn't acquire from movies, television, bumper stickers or baseball hats'.
Or even better: 'learn to express your disapproval of things without violence, shouting or generally bellicose, childish bullshit'.

What PM had to say on the subject was fairly predictable. The Oregonian noted that after all this is Popular Mechanic's take on what is important (and therefore very different from what the Official Journal of the National Speleological Society would say, for instance), "And the magazine's editors admitted these are equally valuable skills for women." Whew! Got that one out of the way!

A lot of the items could very easily be compressed into one listing. To wit; "Patch a radiator hose", and "Change oil and filter" are basically "Learn to maintain your own car". And "Protect your computer", "Back up data" and "Extend your wireless network" all seem to fall under "Learn how to use a computer".
Other items are a bit specialized to be something 'every' man should know how to do. "Rescue a boater who has capsized" and "Mix concrete" raise questions along the lines of: "Wait a minute; what do I do if I have capsized, during my endless hours on that boat I apparently own?" and "To be sure, mixing a small amount of concrete is roughly speaking the same process as adding water to a packet of instant cocoa. But if I needed a new driveway or something, why shouldn't I call someone who does that sort of thing for a living?"

"Build a campfire" is indeed something I think everyone needs to know how to do. I'm a little surprised that "Grow your own food" isn't on here somewhere. "Retouch digital photos" strikes me as not only inessential and easy as hell, but shall we say a bit fey for a list such as this? "Frame a wall"? See my response to the concrete thing, above.
Some are things that can save lives, ala campfire building or, "Maneuver a car out of a skid" and "Perform CPR". Perhaps "Navigate with a map and compass" falls into that category, maybe not.

"Clean a bolt-action rifle"? Why only that one kind of firearm? Is that the only thing I need to know how to clean? Do I need to know how to fire this weapon? "Paint a room"? You mean correctly, or just splash paint all over? "Fix a dead outlet"? You fix it!

Matter o' fact, how do I score? On this virtual Honey Do list that Mechaniques Populare has prepared for me, I can accomplish fifteen of them, if certain things are understood in the individual cases. Like "Sharpen a knife": I can, and I have, but it's not like I'm fantastic at it. Room painting? Same thing.
Above all else, I just hate that whiny shit about masculinity being hunted to extinction. It's not even somewhat true, and is largely used to market shitty products. I'm a man anyway, get it? Matter of fact, I may just be more of a man because I refuse to categorize myself in any of the ways that I'm constantly being reminded are acceptable.
And "Hook up an HDTV" is just fucking stupid. Read the manual, dummy.

** ** ** ** **

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, which is to say, fall fashion week at Nike.
Or whatever it's called. In true form, this event has some strange name that I currently don't remember. But in any case, fun is there to be had, for those willing to have some.
Every fall (and on a much smaller scale, every June), Nike flies all of their sales reps in to Beaverton for a week, sometimes month. Doling out what must be incredible amounts of cash for transportation, lodging, food and a shit-crazy amount of booze, the only purpose here is to show everybody who works for the company what they're going to be attempting to sell next year.

So they put on a multi-venue trade seminar/fashion show, achieving what must be the world's largest tax write-off for 'business expenses' while doing something that could just as easily have been done by mailing a bunch of catalogues to their people.
This is all achieved by hiring a bunch of ancillary AV geeks, union stagehands, and at least two outside production companies that I know of, all of whom do not come cheap.
And the product of all this brainstorming? Last year, it was the Michael Vick line of clothing and shoes. They put a ton of effort and money into that particular guy/marketing campaign. And look where they are now!
I mean, there's really no way that anyone (at Nike, anyway) could have seen his someday getting busted for torturing and abusing dogs, but on the other hand...I dunno, you guys got a research department, I bet, right?

So this year, it's Shoes specifically marketed to Native Americans. This has already started folks talking. It would seem that...N.A.'s? What's the acceptable terminology of the moment? Anyway, Those People have wider and taller feet doncha know, so let's make lots of those types of shoes that maybe those who live on those rural slums we call reservations might one day buy them/kill each other over them, ala urban slum dwellers, a.ka. Our African American Brothers and Sisters of Color.
It says here that they are only to be distributed to Native Americans...Which shoe police will be enforcing that one, I wonder..."I don't write the laws, boys!" screams Shoe Cop, levelling his riot gun at the white, affluent teens that want wider, taller shoes.

And of course, my favorite thing of all is the Attempt Toward Cultural Sensitivity:
" The design features several “heritage callouts” as one product manager described it, including sunrise to sunset to sunrise patterns on the tongue and heel of the shoe. Feather designs adorn the inside and stars are on the sole to represent the night sky."

As to 'heritage callout': that's the weird code these people speak in. For instance:
Your base layer is called a 'waffle package'. Possible material options for a shoe include 'leather opportunities' ("Who wouldn't want one of those?", an employee asked me, last year). The design of the shoe is called the 'story'.
I sat through a week worth of this drivel last year, only because I had to. Up in the AV booth, supplied by Guckenheimer's Catering Services and given all the Starbuck's Coffee I could drink, I kept hearing statements like, "It's a really neat story...", and expecting to hear a story, when what they meant was 'the design story', which is really just a relatively straightforward description of a shoe.
They also kept on making reference to 'shoedogs', which I guess are teenage boys who are so fanatical about athletic shoes that there's even magazines that cater to them. I wonder about that, though. There's magazines that cater to everything, for starters, and the idea of a shoedog mag strikes me as something that some big brain came up with at Nike.

Anyway, other readers' comments include:
"It's just really fucking presumptious. They probably brought in a Native consultant and heard what they wanted to hear, which is that Native Americans like sunrises and rainbows and feel real connected to the earth and the night sky and stuff. This brand of "multiculturalism" makes corporations feel like they're being understanding and respectful when all they're doing is draping their ignorance in a brightly colored cloth."-la foi

"i am part native american and i do indeed have wide and tall feet. i have always had problems finding shoes that fit well. but there is no way in hell i would put those ugly plain mainstream atrocities nike calls shoes on my feet. i think these shoes should be marketed towards people with wide tall feet not specifically towards native americans. by making these shoes so ugly are they insinuating native americans have bad taste?? these are about the ugliest shoes i've ever seen... thanks nike for your special consideration."-drunk injun

"WHAT??!??? SERIOUSLY? Of the scores of people who were likely involved in the design, manufacture, and advertising of this shoe, not one decisionmaker thought twice about it?"-wha???

With the last note being my point: for all their effort, they remain, like lots of organizations, too firmly rooted up their own asses, and somewhere in there, the idea of Oversight gets lost. Just about any of us could assess this thing for what it is, but these are people who spend years only surrounded by other weirdoes muttering shit about waffle packages, pampered/borderline psychopathic professional athletes and yer marketing types, who hope that Just This One More Time, they can manage to reinvent The Shoe.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Going Urban

Keith Urban, last night at the Garden. As the man chose to do an extra thirty to forty minutes worth of show, I had the opportunity to go stand in there, surrounded by the magic, wonder and easy enthusiasm of a big arena concert.

I don't normally do this. Regardless of how stellar the performance, people like me generally hang out back in the Media Center, wishing like hell the damn thing would just get over with, and we could all get cracking with load out, sending us all home at some relatively sane hour.

This vantage point gave me the answer to the question I think we all had on our minds, which of course is: who exactly attends a Keith Urban show? As always, if asked, "Do you get to see these shows?", my response is that always-inevitably-the show is someone that I have no desire to see, and yes, of course I could stand there and watch it.

So I stood there and watched it. The folks around me were enjoying the hell out of themselves, which I tend to view as a good thing. But; this is arena rock, and I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone take it upon themselves to voice their lone disapproval of an act, amongst the thousands as they are. The crowd loved it, and the crowd also would have probably loved a six-foot-tall animated column of squirrel vomit.
Which is not to say that Keef is that, exactly. He is competent, and technically proficient, which is at least partially due to the fact that he has chosen a genre that is notoriously simple to perform. Just in case his ability to play three-chord rock fails to amaze, there is also that lengthy medley of songs that everyone knows and can sing along to (Steve Miller to Billy Joel!) that for some reason he dips into at the end.

"What is this? Karaoke?" I asked my fellow stagehand next to me.
"I dunno, but he's goin' into penalty, here."
I looked at him, wondered if he was being metaphorical: see, it turns out that a tax shall be levied against the obviously untalented when they have chosen to go thirty minutes overtime, and spend said time covering "You May Be Right", which as everybody knows, Garth Brooks owns.
Nope. Turns out that (in the perhaps incorrect information supplied by my often stupid fellow stagehand) the noise ordinance in this town, which demands that all loud music be ended or significantly hushed by Ten P.M., also applies to arena stage shows...This strikes me as being patently untrue: the Rose Garden is nowhere near a residential area, and I'm pretty sure the immense concrete walls (lined with lead?) would prevent the sound from getting much further than the parking lot.
Anyway, if he was right, that means that Keef paid thousands in fines for going overtime that evening, not to mention spending the time so unwisely.

One of the three giant confetti cannons went off about ten feet in front of me, sending a column of heart shaped foil paper twenty feet or so into the already mephitic air in there. Then, it settled into cloud of pure cute evil that was inexorably heading our way. My fellow hands retreated to the nearest vom to avoid it. By the time I got there, it was already too late, and I was covered with the contents of said cloud. I felt diseased.
"We're all gonna die," I said to a volunteer, who laughed. He had been told, no doubt, that black slacks and a nice white shirt were what would best compliment the red vest he would be forced to wear, making him look like a Farrell's employee who had misplaced his styrofoam "straw" boater hat, or a pokerkino dealer in, say, Elko.

** ** ** **

In other things 'urban', isn't it sort of grating that the word 'urban' is marketing-speak for 'black' now? A movie that is a comedy starring and largely regarding black people is an 'urban comedy', while the same movie starring people recently off the boat from the Ukraine, for some reason, isn't.
Hey, you know who's urban? S. Renee Mitchell, columnist for The Oregonian.
She's mostly known for cliched little homilies about the importance of community and the cultural relevance of her dreadlocks, but recently waded into the important realm of racial insensitivity on Starbucks' chalkboards.

If you don't really feel like reading this story (oh, but why wouldn't you?), the overview is this: S. Renee (but her pals just call her 'S') walks into a Starbucks in downtown, and...Wait, no. She is for some reason sent a picture of a chalkboard in said Starfucks, and goes into a righteous tizzy.
The image on the chalkboard depicts an employee at that location, who is white and sports an enormous red afro. Whether or not he also has the chops and a big walrus moustache depicted in the drawing, I no longer remember.
Next to the drawing, the legend reads, ""I LUBS ME SOME Breakfast Blend," and then reflects, ""It's the juice that gets me goin.' "

So, it's an idiotic- though not racially insensitive- thing the likes of which have been in popular cultural use for some time, particularly in advertising and on chalkboards of bad coffee shops. It is also time for S to spring into action, of a sort.

She starts charging around all of the Starbucks in downtown Portland (and there are, of course, lots of them), trying to get at the provenance of this thing that pissed her off:

"I'm looking for the artist," I said.

"Is this like a scavenger hunt or something," he asked.

After this, she writes, "I was not amused." Probably not; I'm not certain that the barista wasn't actually being totally serious, either.

Well, so she goes into this lather about this highly important issue, and makes sure to load the rhetoric by noting in advance that it may not seem like a big deal to the likes of you, you awful people, so that anyone who might step in here and say-wait a minute; aren't you that lady who found evidence of racism in a petri dish last week? -are only another part of this insidious plot to make S. feel angry and small.

Then, we get the comments. A big, hearty Thanks, Asshole goes out to the person who wrote,"I hope your satisfied you rotten Jeri curled untalented bitch.": indeed, I'd like to personally congratulate you on making all the rest of us look Like You, since we disagree with S's take on this.
The response story (and the responses to the response) is here, and is pretty worth reading, as far as tempests in teapots go. (Have you noticed that I haven't hit any of the really bad puns here? As in "of course, there's a latte of Starbucks in downtown Portland", and "tempests in airpots"...But of course, there's always that bad segue involving the word 'urban', so...Sorry.)

And then-it turns out that the employee who did the original drawing
has been fired because of the aforementioned articles. At this point, Starbucks, being what we all know they are, is rightfully terrified of the rising tide of indignation garnered by the cultural and intellectual heft of S's well-respected writings, so they fired Hilary Barnes, the aforementioned employee.
Actually, the responses to S's article are overwhelmingly along the lines of, "you're reeeeally overreacting here...", but just to be safe, Starbucks canned a somewhat older barista.

S, for her part, spends much of that article castigating Starbucks for being so mendacious and easily terrified. She also, for her part, is now way downplaying her part in said firing. It's the damn corporations, huh? What can ya' do?

I'm assuming that this will go on and on and on. I lubs me some S. Renee Mitchell, and look forward to yet more simple-minded whining on this subject. Better still, maybe some of the truly racist frequent commenters in the O (I'm looking at you here,Dan Neils) will do an 'In My Opinion' piece, in which they point out that heyyy! Come onnn! I's fuuunnny to make the fun of the blap peeple!

So yeah, she sucks, but at least she's no Margie Boule.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Having A Nice Day

"You could prosper in the field of entertainment."-a fortune cookie fortune, 9/10/07

Yup, right about the time that I was preparing to finally conclude that last post, I happened to go have Thai food, and the universe spoke to me. I do indeed prosper in Entertainment World, and did have a Juliette Lewis sighting. I was talking to somebody when I noticed a disturbance in my periphery. It was a jittery, tiny woman with too much eyeliner, and strange little (applied, intentional) pink squares under her eyes proper. Juliette. She looked like shit.

The last post veered entirely off course during its writing/completion. I wasn't really hoping for a Brushes With Greatness post, nor the Breathy Travelogue of Homes of the Famous (and if you are looking for that kind of thing, something named Taylor Clark who apparently lives here has written something on the subject for Slate. Enjoy.): I think my point was Fame Is Stupid, or something. Don't know. Funny thing is, I also wasn't setting out with the goal of writing/completing a post about How Important My Job Is, either.

I'm a'goin' back to work for PICA again tomorrow, for the first time in
two years. All of us working on this (annual) citywide art type thang got together the other eve at a bar in Old Town to receive our instructions, then sit and catch up. And drink.
Thing is, it was kinda like a class reunion of old theater techs, and as we all got more and more lubed, the talk kept coming back to why we do what we do, and why we love it. I almost never get sick of that topic.

"Threatening to withdraw may harden something that we are trying to soften."-Gen. David Petraeus, 9/11/07

It is nice, as always, to see some genuine wit among the speechwriters. That was followed up, by the way, with the masterful line, "So there's a very, very real issue-a feel for what we think might happen in that case." That's right up there with George Herbert Walker Bush's "You can't put-I mean, un-put things." (Can't git' th' shit back in the cow?)

I don't have much to say here on the subject of Yesterday that hasn't already been said, ad infinitum, in many other posts. I liked how, as usual, The Oregonian feels this overwhelming need to turn everything into a Triumph of the American Spirit story. They profiled five people who refused to react to 9/11's events with "fear and hate", and instead decided to help others. One, an Air Force transport pilot, responded by going on being an Air Force transport pilot.
In the interest of Fairness and Equal Time, I was hoping that they were going to spend 9/12 telling the stories of those in these U-nigh Stays who did respond with fear and hate. There were, I recall, a lot of them, and they are every bit as accountable for what followed as were both a complicit press and terrified/opportunistic political class.

But then, this is the paper that garnered itself a Pulitzer for the (month-long?) story on The Kid Born With A Fucked Up Face. It has caused me to wish to form my own prize: The Tom Hallman, Jr. Prize for Gratuitous Pseudo-Journalistic Tearjerking. (With a special category for best use of Vonnegut-esque One Sentence Paragraph of Immense Emotional Impact:

"It was another day for Joe.

Another terrible day.

For Joe.

Who was born with a fucked up face.")

Yeah, instead, what do I get? Nothin' much, really. Well, except for overwhelming love and support for Chris Crocker, whose most recent rant concerning his overwhelming love and support for Brittany Spears may be found here.
On the Mercury's Blogtown, I responded to this video by saying,

"Oh my dear sir; you simply must be joking.

But let's assume for a moment that he isn't. For one thing, he may very well be, as many of my gay friends are, talented at the satire there. BUT-if I've noticed anything at all, it's that folks of his age market are woefully lacking in irony.

So this leads us to a discussion of Brit's performance itself. There is nothing especially egregious about it: her entire career up until this point is the egregious part. She just looks bored and kinda untalented, which she has always been.

She no longer looks like an animatronic puppet though; this has caused more than one person to make unkind comments. Still-the blame is still to be lain at the feet of Brittany. This is what she has chosen to become, and all the hilarious fifteen year-old boys huddling under blankets going from tantrum to threatening tones aren't going to change that.

If she had any class, she'd be pulling a Garbo right about now."

(He's right, you know.)

Hey: go look at this.

Happy Twelfth, mah bromides!