Saturday, April 1, 2017

Talking and saying nothing, man. It is an art I have not mastered.

I've decided that this will be my last blog post here. There are a number of reasons for this.

It has been obvious to me for a while that I really have nothing interesting to say here. I'm not being dramatic or fishing for compliments, I'm just stating the truth. This blog has always been my release, my journal. I don't want to keep complaining about my personal life. You know that story. I don't want to keep complaining about my job or my financial situation. You know that story, too.

So what topics does that leave? Music? Tried that. I'm too old for the crap you hear on top 40 (except Fall Out Boy, natch) and I'm too young (and too liberal, apparently) to join in the music discussions on the blogosphere. 

Politics? God, no. I'm trying to get away from that shit. We're all too entrenched in our partisanship anyhow. There was a well thought out (and frankly necessary) ESPN article about this issue as it pertains to Colin Kaepernick. Naturally, both sides missed the point.

I've been quite fortunate lately, in that I haven't had to encounter my in-laws (or my own "sister" and her husband).. but that luck will run out soon. Niece's birthday. Easter. Other niece's college graduation. Brother-in-law's birthday. All in the next two months. My only hope is that by then we'll be able to chant "Lock him up!"

I do enjoy talking and writing about sports, as you know. Part of the reason why I feel the need to cast aside this blog is because baseball season is about to start, and the hockey playoffs will soon follow. I'm sure I'll discuss those things on my other blog "The Collector", which was created in large part so that you all wouldn't have to slog through content that doesn't interest you.

I wish I could discuss books I've read or movies I've watched.. but the last movie I saw was Catching Fire last weekend. Yes, it was just as enjoyable the fourth time - and on basic cable with commercial interruption. I watched it while sorting a pile of sports cards and munching on Girl Scout cookies. Good times.

When I was in Connecticut I started reading Confessions of a Dumb, White Guy by Matt Shifley aka Mr. Shife. It's probably the first book I started in two years. I'll read more of it over Easter weekend (and hopefully before then.) Perhaps I'll post again when I finish reading, but I'm just as likely to comment on his blog or leave a review on Goodreads.

A few weeks ago I saw commercials for a movie called Before I Fall. I knew this was based on a YA novel, and I knew I had a copy of said novel.. but nothing about the film looked familiar. How long ago did I read the book? Did I ever finish it? Is the movie drastically different? Or did the story simply not resonate with me enough to recognize it when I saw it? I honestly have no idea.

There are a lot of books in my collection that would probably be better suited for teenage girls - though anything by John Green and possibly even the Divergent series supersedes such classification. Fortunately I have two young daughters who will be teens far too soon and might be interested in what will (by then) be two decade old literature.

I suppose I could share more about how unsatisfying and lonely my family life is, and how I can never get my girls to listen, or put away their toys, or put down the tablet, or eat their dinner. But those difficulties are hardly unique to my life.

The only other subject I enjoy writing about is my crush - whoever it happens to be at the time. But the four of you have heard much more than you ever wanted to about which women interest me, and why. I really should stop publicizing my juvenile thoughts. I don't want to seem like a psycho.

(that's her xbf, btw)

Andso I figured this was the best time to just slink away, while everyone's attention is focused on the alphabet blogging challenge, or the Final Four, or the actual start of spring in this part of the world (forget what the calendar says.)

I'll still comment on blogs as often as I can, and I won't delete this blog or any of the posts. Not yet. But I don't see a reason to continue writing here.

Thanks for reading this, everyone. I'll talk to you again soon.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Custom Card Crush

Sometimes I wish I had learned Photoshop.. or maybe not. 

I've met a couple of sports card collectors on the blogosphere who have a talent for creating custom-made trading cards. Once such blogger is Corky, author of the blog Pack War. He fulfilled nearly my whole wish list of custom cards. Most of them were female athletes who are fairly well known but have few if any actual collectibles (women's sports aren't exactly in high demand in the collectibles market, unfortunately.) 

If you're interested in some of the sports stars Corky customized I shared them on my other blog.  

Because I'm still very much a teenage boy at heart, I had also requested some custom cards of my favorite female celebrities (i.e. non athletes) Corky came through with this gem:

Awww yeah!

I gave the option of this "Color TV" design from the 1955 Bowman baseball card set, or a more modern Hi-Def flatscreen style. Corky opted for the classic look. Excellent choice.

Not sure where he found this pic (edit - it was her video for "Change It Up") but the colors really pop. This is why I'm glad I never learned Photoshop - if I knew how to make things like this, I'd never do anything else.

If I'm ever able to procure a physical copy, I might just send it to Taryn for an autograph. People send her things sometimes (such as SpongeBob undies) and when I first became a fan I stumbled on her Patreon page, in which she offers to send you a signed (and defaced) headshot if you contribute to her creations.

Speaking of creations.. many thanks to Corky for combining two of my favorite things: classic baseball cards and Taryn Southern. This absolutely made my day :-)


Friday, February 10, 2017

Love, Taryn

This isn't going to make much sense if you haven't read my previous post..and I don't usually post on back-to-back days, but...

As a rule, I do not comment on things (other than blog posts). I don't tweet, I don't do Facebook, and I never comment on news articles. I try not to even read other comments because it stresses me out. When I feel like I have something to say, I say it here or I bother D with it because the last thing my life needs is a flame war with a total stranger.

Even when I have something positive to say, I bite my tongue.  I am still the incredibly awkward boy I was in school. Constantly worried about being misunderstood, or ridiculed. When I met a girl I liked, either in real life (Angela) or online (Joy) I tried desperately to be cool, before quickly realizing I don't have the first clue how to do anything but overreact and overthink. I spared myself a great deal of humiliation with one, I completely f*cked up with the other. Andso I keep my mouth shut. 

Except...I didn't follow my rule yesterday. I poured my heart out to a girl I like. 

I commented on Taryn's video.

I really enjoyed this video. It might be an ad, but IMO it's more effective at selling Taryn Southern - and I'm already a loyal consumer. The fun, silly videos are great (and I miss them - please do more!) but this sort of summarizes what you're all about - taking risks, following your own path, being your own boss. Not to mention all of the charitable work you've done, with Tribe of Good and VR-related projects. Keep being that strong, defiant, kind-hearted woman we all love. (And throw us an 80's cover once in a while ;-)

She does reply occasionally, though it's often first-come, first-serve. I was not expecting a reply, nor was I going to worry myself over the lack of one. I had lots of other stuff on my mind.

But while I was opening a package of baseball cards I acquired in a trade with a blogger, this notification popped up.

Taryn Southern replied to your comment

Taryn Southern
1:49 PM
This is the sweetest message Chris!! Thank you so much.

At this time I would like to announce my retirement from the world of YouTube commenting. 

This might just be enough to get me through the awful day that awaits me tomorrow.



Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Job Mojo

Hello! Yes, I'm still here. Not hibernating (as I've been known to do) just really busy. And sick. I caught a pretty nasty cold/sinus infection around the holidays that just started going away this week... and there was some other major distraction that ended up being a non-event (more on that later) so free time has been scarce. But I didn't mean to go away for a whole month. Honest.

Hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season. My holidays were predictably painful, though I did get to sit out one or two family functions due to illness. The girls got a truckload of presents and they don't play with them nearly as much as they should because they're either watching videos on the tablet (which we're trying to limit them on) or they're watching Nickelodeon. Sometime around Christmas, my 7 year old started watching shows with actual human actors - instead of their old animated favorites like SpongeBob and The Loud House. So now my girls watch Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn and School of Rock. I've watched a couple episodes of each and here are my thoughts:

Nicky, Ricky, etc is about 10 year-old quads with very different personalities. Their mother is played by Allison Munn, who played Amanda Bynes' bff on What I Like About You. I was sooo in love with Amanda back in the day. Sigh...I am officially old.  

The parents own a sporting goods store, which is interesting to me, and their dad is as dopey as every other adult male on Nickelodeon. At first I thought it was a Dan Schneider show.. but there's not enough slapstick. 

I don't know how old you were when you started to actively notice and pursue people of the opposite/preferred sex, but I was definitely older than 10. That said, Dicky is my dude cause he's always macking on the ladies and talking about junk food. 

I'm less familiar with School of Rock, which seems to be about kids who attend some type of learning facility that focuses on some type of music. I'm guessing the show is a take-off on the movie of the same name, and I'm also guessing that it would be funnier with Jack Black. 

Pete Wentz appeared on an episode of School Of Rock, and I didn't see it because my daughters weren't watching it at the time. I'd feel silly watching the episode On Demand without them asking for it but if it doesn't re-run soon I might have to YouTube it. 

Also, Jade Pettyjohn is a future cutie. Much too young for me, obviously (my last Nickelodeon "crush" was Victoria Justice) but it's good to know that the Nick pipeline keeps pumping out pretties. nasty cough and congestion caused me to miss two work days - one voluntary and one mandatory, when one of the attorneys sent me home early on a Monday and told me not to come back until I saw a doctor. I was tempted to use that as motivation to never, ever see a doctor and thus never come back to the firm.. but I had another idea instead.

I've been checking job listings on and off for years, and I had planned to apply for jobs on the three-day weekends of Christmas and New Year's. There was only one that I was able to apply for, but it was a good one. And for the past week or two I didn't want to mention it to anyone because I didn't want to mess with the mojo. You see, every time I apply for a job that sounds good, I tell my mother. And I get her all excited like I'm going to get a better job, move up the corporate ladder, make more money, and be less miserable. 

Never happens. I never get a call back, and I almost never even get an e-mail. It gets old telling her that I didn't get the job, andso with this one I simply didn't tell her about it. I haven't talked to her since before I applied because.. mojo.

Sure enough, I got a call back. They wanted me to come in for an interview Friday afternoon. Normally this would not be a problem - my wife has Fridays off, and I get home around 1pm. Except, because my boss made me stay home on a Tuesday, my wife had to stay home and take me to the doctor. Which meant she had to make up the time...on Friday. Which meant that I had to ask them to reschedule the interview for this past Monday. 

The woman I spoke to said her boss wanted to wrap up the interviews that week, but she put me on hold and asked someone (her boss?) if I can come in Monday. He/they agreed. And so I spent the weekend working myself into a frenzy because I absolutely had to nail this interview. It is practically impossible to find a full-time job in my town that I'm actually qualified for - all the want ads are for food service or accounting. 

So I went in for the interview on Monday. I nailed it. There were three people, none of them the big boss (though I think one was the boss's son) and it went really well. I'm never one to feel confident or optimistic, but I did. And sure enough, that evening I got a call back for a second interview. They wanted me to come in at 10am the next day, but I had to ask for yet another reschedule because I work until 2pm on Tuesdays and I don't get home until 3pm (because my office is four towns away and I have to ride the bus for 20 minutes and then walk for 30+ mins - which I would never have to do again if I got this job.)

Interview #2 was with the bossman, in his office (which was basically a shrine to Italian soccer.) He said he wanted to meet "everyone" who got a second interview and get to know them, but it felt like he did a lot more talking than me. He went over compensation, perks, duties, etc... basically if I got the job I'd be directing calls to other people instead of handling issues myself like I do now (yass!) I thought the second interview went well, though I didn't quite have the same positive vibe afterward. Bossman said he'd let me know either way by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, I still had to show up at my current job and do a passable amount of collection calls. It was quite a struggle to prevent myself from acting like I had one foot out the door - especially when our biggest client was getting on my case. I had to take a phone call from this annoying woman when I should have been preparing for interview #2. Really, really wish I could have quit on the spot, Scarface-style (warning:F-bombs)

..especially on Friday when I wandered about the office bored out of my mind and I heard the sounds of a live broadcast emanating from the front of the office. Our receptionist was watching the inauguration. You have got to be f*cking kidding me I muttered. But I soon realized that this made sense --the last time she was listening to a live event at work it was a World Cup soccer match between the US and Germany. I was watching the gamecast on my computer screen (without sound) and the instant that Germany scored I heard her shout and celebrate. Whose side are you on, lady?

Color me shocked that a 60 year-old German woman is supporting Drumpf. Unfortunately she's the one with the knockout figure so #conflicted. (not really!)

Actually I'm more conflicted about my "work mom". She had to deal with the annoying client too, and our boss is a lot harder on her than he is on me (or maybe she's more sensitive?) And when I had to leave early on Tuesday for my interview she was the one left to deal with those MFers.

For the past year or so, she's been quietly complaining to me that she's miserable there, that everyone is miserable, and that the firm isn't nearly what it used to be. The lawyers are more stingy and nasty, the atmosphere is toxic... and she can't leave because she's got a mom with Alzheimer's who needs constant care. More than a few times she's encouraged me to look for another job, a better situation, and I hadn't been looking for quite a while. I can't even remember the last time we had that conversation... before this week

On Wednesday she came in to my office to vent about how our boss was awful to her after I left. I apologized for leaving and said I had an appointment, but after she restarted her speech about how much she hated our office and wanted to leave she asked if I was looking for another job. Don't tell her. Don't say a word. Remember your mojo.

Now you might be thinking that this "mojo" business is silly. Random things don't dictate results that are beyond your control. And that's what I said... on Election night. Every damn poll said Hillary Clinton was going to win. I was cautiously optimistic, but even at her worst she had never been behind in any poll. And when she started losing states everyone assumed she'd win I had an impulse to change the mojo: Sit somewhere else. Take your hat off. Go upstairs. Eat something. Don't use that cup, that's a loser cup. Until I realized how ridiculous that was and common sense told me that nothing I did would influence the results in any way (not even voting!)

And so I sat in the same seat, left my hat on, didn't eat, and didn't go upstairs.

I'm sorry, America.This is all my fault. Whatever happens in the next four years is because I stubbornly defied the mojo.

And I know it works because last Sunday I was watching the Packers-Cowboys game at the in-laws and guzzling cans of Mountain Dew while the Packers were winning. I had finished my fourth when the Cowboys started rolling and eventually tied the game. 

I. Hate. The. Cowboys. Always have. And while I'm a little pissed at Packers fans lately, I still love the team. So when I got the impulse to drink a fifth Mountain Dew - and initially told myself that was too much - I knew I had to take one for the team.

You owe me one, Cheeseheads.

Back to Wednesday. I could have - should have - kept my mouth shut about going on an interview. But for some reason, when she pressed me about applying for jobs I held my index finger to my mouth. You did? She whispered. Is that where you were yesterday? I nodded. Still technically didn't say anything...but then she asked questions, and I had to answer. I gave up the game. I defied the mojo.

I told her that they were going to let me know by the end of the week if I got the job or not. I didn't hear anything on Thursday, and I wasn't expecting to. When I woke up Friday morning I immediately felt sad. I knew it was going to be a shitty day when I realized that Barack Obama was no longer our president. The job thing probably wasn't happening, either.

I left my phone on at work, just in case I got "the call". Work Mom asked me almost immediately if I had heard anything. Not yet. I replied. She asked again three hours later. Still nothing.

It's at that point that she started her sad story about how miserable she is at work and at home, and how she can't take it anymore.. and I nodded sympathetically. But in the background I could hear the coronation of King Donald.. and then I remembered that during the election she co-signed on our bookkeeper's comment that Hillary Clinton should be in jail. 

And as Work Mom continued on about how we have to get out of here and she's praying for me to get this job, blah blah blah... I'm looking at her like You voted for Trump, didn't you?

A short time later I finished off the water in the water cooler. It is customary for the one who empties the water jug to refill it, but in that moment I was thinking you're all self-reliant Republicans, you do it. Besides, receptionist lady and bookkeeper bitch are both in better shape than me, and I don't subscribe to antiquated gender roles. 

But of course, when work mom asked in her sweet, pleading voice if I could please refill the water cooler jug I acquiesced. Because I don't have it in me to be a heartless jerk.

It's bad mojo, after all.

Not that it mattered. Friday came and went without a phone call. I had a faint hope that they might consider Saturday the "end of the week" since their office is open until 1pm.. but no call came Saturday, either. Maybe I'll hear from them on Monday but if not I'll call them to follow up, and to make them tell me the bad news. To confirm what I already suspected.

I'm never going to get a better job, I'm never going to move up the corporate ladder, I'm never going to make more money, and I will always be miserable. 

At least Work Mom is stuck here with me.


Sunday, November 20, 2016


It all started about a year and a half ago...when I first put on a VR headset I was in a really challenging place in my life..waking up feeling depressed or anxious most days..and I realized, when I put on the headset, it was the first time in months where I felt transported to a totally different world..where all of my negative thoughts had  melted away...


It always amazes me when someone who seems so perfect shares the same afflictions as someone as unremarkable as myself. She's intelligent and talented and stunningly beautiful...she gets to travel the world and make videos for a living...she has a thousand friends and a million followers. What could she be have been depressed about?

It's so easy to believe that everyone else has it easy, but we are only looking at a tiny sliver, a moment, in everyone's lives.

Point taken. But it still doesn't answer my question.

My last heartbreak, which happened as my “adult self” was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through. I had been positive that he was “the one,” that we would get married and have kids within the next five years. It’s a hard thing, to lose someone, but to also lose the happy future you imagined together. Coming out of that relationship made me question everything in my life. Despite the tremendous pain I felt after my last breakup, it’s inspired shifts in my life that previous breakups didn’t. I really re-assessed a lot of my choices and what makes me happy, and I think those changes will produce everlasting results. So yeah – hard to believe I’m even saying this, but I think some of the most painful stuff can also produce the most good.

...which explains the world travel and charity work and passion for virtual reality technology. Got it.


I've had the privilege of documenting some amazing stories...people like Shirley McClure, who is a 72 year-old who was finally able to see her lifelong dream of driving a professional race car come true. I traveled to Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, where I got to see how their child care specialists have pioneered the use of VR technology to improve the quality of life for kids with life-threatening illnesses. I've also taken my 360 headset into hospitals and senior homes and homeless shelters... and more recently I've been stopping by the neuroscience lab at universities like USC and UCLA to learn about how VR can positively impact depression, anxiety, PTSD...

Well, don't I feel like an asshole. She's thought of all these amazing, life-changing ways to use virtual reality technology; all I'd use it for is to transport myself into her world.


When you realize that your life is spiraling out of control, you can do two things: you can end it - or as MFFG often says, you can "choose life*".

*This often refers to being anti-abortion, but in her context it's about finding ways out of the darkness. 

How many times have you seen or heard or read inspirational stories about people who had reached a low point in life and felt lost, hurt, heartbroken? Addicts who chose the path to recovery and worked hard every day to stay clean and sober. Cubicle dwellers who broke free of the rat race and started their own small businesses doing something that inspired and fulfilled them. People with disordered eating habits who changed their diet and adopted a fit, healthy lifestyle that resulted in an improved physical and mental state, compliments from friends and family, and maybe even a new career as a personal trainer or nutritionist.

It happens all the time. Even if you're young and fit and attractive and not ensnared in addiction or a dead-end job... you can still hit rock bottom, and you can still find your way out. And maybe it's easier for them, to latch on to faith or fitness or future tech. Maybe because they have money or connections or a support system that encourages them. Maybe they can take risks in their lives because they don't have a spouse or children who depend on them for stability and that meager paycheck that's somehow enough to keep a roof over their head but not enough to afford a gym membership or a therapist. 

I have come to the conclusion (much too late, it seems) that I am in dire need of such a change. And I have discussed this many times with my wife. But either she doesn't get it or she cant help me, and trying to convey the urgency of my need is futile. I can fight her, but she'll always win. She can say "NO" a million times, and I'll have to back down. What am I going to do, divorce her? Who else would want me? 

And I couldn't possibly afford child support. Plus, I love my girls. I really do. They stress me out sometimes (because I'm already frazzled from work and my physical/mental health is in freefall) but I know that right now, today, I'm a better father to them than my father was to me. Admittedly a very low bar, but still...I have his genes. I could have easily repeated his destructive behaviors. I have a steady job (though it's only part-time), but I've never had ambition or a useful skill set. I am an addict, if not an alcoholic. I have anger issues, and the only reason why I'm able to control them is because I hit a kid with a hockey stick when I was 14 and nearly got arrested. Lesson learned. 

I can't move back home. My mom is elderly, and she will have to leave the house I grew up in soon - either due to eminent domain, or because she'll have to enter an elderly care facility. She's losing the ability to walk. Right now, she's able to get around on her own in short bursts. She wanted to go to an HRC rally, or an anti-Trump rally...but she cant stand/walk long enough. We went apple-picking last time I was in CT, and I had to help her up and down the small but steep hill to the orchard. Then, after a few minutes of watching her grandkids pick a hundred apples (we've still got two bushels full) my mom had to sit on the dirty, apple-stained ground because there were no benches.

I'm deathly afraid of getting old. I've never been in any real physical pain, never had a major illness or disease - or even a minor one. I guess you could say I've been lucky, but I know I'm way overdue for bad luck to happen (as in the Bundy Curse), and I tease fate by failing to address my issues. I recognize the warning signs - and dismiss them.

Andso I'm fascinated by the stories of people who can not only make a positive change in their own lives, but in the lives of others. It all seems like fiction to me, but it warms my heart regardless.

I can acknowledge that a certain someone has certain physical features that I find appealing (while tacitly admitting that an "average looking" person with the same qualities might not have found their way onto my radar) but I'm not writing thousands of words about a woman I've never met (and never will) simply because she's slender and sexy. That stuff just opens the door. What she does with those built-in advantages determines whether or not I want to stick around.

I can't afford a VR headset, but I can watch her videos. I can dream. I can transport myself to a totally different world, where all of my negative thoughts melt away... for a few seconds. 

And then... 

Fade to black.


Monday, October 24, 2016

15 Minutes of Fame

I was in a melancholy mood this morning, trying to feel the things I love about Autumn while living in this weird headspace wherein I am far too aware of my failures and limitations to allow myself a dream escape. 

At some point during the thirty minutes I have to myself (after I reluctantly awake but before I even more grudgingly get ready for work) a thought formed in my mind, as I scrolled through Go Pro Bro's Instagram while listening to "Life In Technicolor"...

I don't do Instagram. I don't do social media. Y'all know that. I lie to myself and say it's because I don't have a smart phone, when in reality it's because I have nothing interesting to share with the world. I don't go anywhere. I don't do anything. I don't know anyone. 

The picture at the top of this post was taken at least three years ago (you can tell it's not current because the trees are bare) and only about five minutes from my house. I haven't done any sightseeing since that time - just the necessary walk home from work three times a week. 

Walking used to be a thing I did to clear my head and relieve my stress. Now I just take naps. It's not that the great outdoors doesn't interest me anymore, it does... I guess. It's just that I've grown tired of the surrounding area and I can't get to anywhere interesting.

Go Pro Bro is a professional photographer. He takes pictures of some incredible natural wonders. 'Tis his job, after all. And for a moment at least (perhaps even two moments) I wasn't envious of his surfer boy looks or that gorgeous girlfriend of his...

I sat at my computer wondering what it's like to travel, to see the world, to have something to share with friends and strangers alike.

This is GPB's. I'll take it down in a day or two.

That feeling had started to creep in last week, when I peeked thru Taryn's Instagram. She's in Germany now. No idea why, but it seems like that girl has the perfect life. How does one make enough money in visual media to travel the world on a whim? I always say it pays to be attractive - but it also pays to be creative. And I am neither. 

My high school bff and I used to be baseball buddies. We'd talk for hours about every team, every player - even the CGI players on his baseball sim. For years we were inseparable - and because we had similar interests and similar builds, at least one guy thought we were brothers. Which led to me henceforth refer to him as my "Brother From Another Mother."

But last summer he moved to California without saying goodbye, just as our high school friend Nirvana John had done nearly 20 years earlier. Frickin' Cali, man. They've got my two favorite girls (three including Jennifer Lawrence) and my two best high school buds.

I feel a California playlist percolating in my head...maybe next post ;)

Anyway... every now and then, Wifey will report on what my friends are up to, since she follows them on Facebook. And my "Brother" travels a lot for ComicCons and whatnot. It's his life now. I'm not even sure if he likes baseball anymore.

My mom kinda laughs at a grown ass man in his early-to-mid 30's playing dress-up when he should be looking for a wife (or some such nonsense). But... he's famous. Seriously.

Google "McThor." Go ahead, I'll wait. 

Yep. That's him, being all famous and shit. He's even got a small role in the new Thor movie. Very, very small. Microscopic. But still... He's in the new Thor movie.

And he's not the only one of my (almost) famous friends...

My only remaining friend, my lifelong bff since we were ten years old, was in a band. 

Big deal, right? Lots of kids are in a band. And yeah, I went to a few of his shows when he was 15, playing in front of twenty of his closest friends at the local meeting halls.

Then a few years ago he joined an established band... and toured Europe... and recorded an album for a real record label. They're on and everything. Check it.

Last time I saw him he lamented that he was falling behind in life, that he hadn't accomplished anything. His twin brother smacked some sense into him right quick. 

You were in a band. You played shows in f*cking Europe. You lived your dream. 

He's the very Swedish-looking bassist in the above video. And it's not like they were super-famous or anything, but still. He got to create something, and travel the world, and share his talents with thousands of people. He did indeed live his dream. For two years.

My two best friends - my only two friends - have had their fifteen minutes of fame. 

Shall I mention that my ex-gf published a Harry Potter companion and my college crush was in a Microsoft Windows commercial? (side note: I crushed on her when she was 20, she did that commercial seven years ago... and she just turned 30. my God, where does the time go?)

I really don't know that many people. Honest. I don't even follow people on social media. Just Taryn, really. And she's already famous - in a 21st century sort of way - so she doesn't count in this case, because I've never personally interacted with her. I don't even like leaving comments on her YouTube videos because I feel like I'm trying to impress her and grab her attention - and my fragile ego could not handle yet another failure.

Are you famous? Do you have any famous friends? Have you ever been on the news, or in the local newspaper? Ever performed in front of a crowd, or traveled the world to share your talent? Share your "fifteen minutes of fame" story in comments!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hall Pass (or "Let's Debate Something Fun like Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame candidates")

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame announced its list of 2017 Nominees earlier this week.

I'm a Hall of Fame junkie, specifically sports Halls of Fame. I'm fascinated by who is elected, who is considered, and how each Hall of Fame has their own criteria and selection process. None of the Halls of Fame get everything exactly right; if they did there'd be nothing to debate. Baseball comes the closest, its eligibility requirements and voting process are the simplest and most transparent. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the most confusing to me - which is why I seek a better understanding of the criteria.

I've been to both halls, having visited Cooperstown in 1991 and 1999 and Cleveland in 2004. I have three issues with the Rock and Roll Hall, though two are minor cosmetic things.

When I visited the Baseball Hall I was allowed to take pictures of anything and everything - and when my aunt died last year, one of the things I asked my mother to find was our pictures from Cooperstown.

When I visited the Rock and Roll Hall in 2004, I took a lot of pictures outside - and none inside. Photography was not allowed, as a "courtesy to the artists". I can take a picture of Babe Ruth's bat but not Michael Jackson's jacket? Not cool, rock stars. I assumed that this ban was most likely lifted when the iPhone was invented - because you can't stop people from using their phones - but maybe we just ran into the wrong exhibits:
Can I take pictures and videos?
Yes! Just turn off your flash and don't grab a photo in the Foster Theater (where photos unfortunately aren't allowed) or near any exhibit with a "No Photography" sign.

Still, I don't remember seeing any such signs anywhere in Cooperstown:
Photography and Video
Flash photography and video recording is encouraged throughout the Museum.

Which leads me to my second issue... the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the village of Cooperstown, New York. This is not close to the city. This is not close to any city. And yet, every year the induction ceremony is held in this quaint little village. The living legends of baseball all come to Cooperstown to welcome the newest members of the hallowed Hall. Induction ceremonies often attract tens of thousands of fans - more than the population of Cooperstown.

The Rock Hall is in Cleveland, Ohio - a major American city with an airport and everything. There are three pro sports teams in Cleveland - including the NBA Champion Cavaliers. Yet the Rock Hall induction ceremonies take place in... Brooklyn, New York.

This makes zero sense to me. Brooklyn is an eight hour drive from Cleveland (I know because we drove to Cleveland in '04.) Is there a reason why the induction ceremony has to be held there? If Quicken Loans arena (aka the "Q") is good enough for LeBron James and the Republican National Convention, it ought to be good enough for Hall and Oates.

The third issue I have with the Rock Hall is their (s)election process. The easiest part to understand is thus: an artist becomes eligible for consideration 25 years after their first recording. From there it gets a little tricky - there seems to be no limit to how many times an artist can appear on the Hall of Fame Ballot, or why some artists appear on the ballot one year and not the next - and, in some cases, re-appear some years later.

In baseball, if a player fails to reach minimum vote totals (5% of the vote by the Baseball Writers association) that player does not appear on any subsequent ballots. There are over a dozen players that the Baseball Writers have legitimately missed (you can read my post about this on my sports card blog) but - as in the game itself - once you're out, you can't come back in.  

There is one thing that the Rock and Roll Hall does that no sports hall has attempted (to my knowledge anyway.) On the Rock Hall website you can vote for up to five artists that you want to see inducted into the RRHOF. The top five vote-getters will appear on a "fan's ballot" which will be submitted along with the ballots from official voters:
Ballots are then sent to more than 600 historians, members of the music industry and artists—including every living Rock Hall inductee—and the five performers receiving the most votes become that year's induction class. Beginning in 2012, fans were given the chance to vote for the nominees they'd like to see inducted into the Rock Hall. The top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots.

That's right, music fan - you have a say in who gets elected to the Hall of Fame. How cool is that?

With that in mind I thought I'd review each nominated artist and share my thoughts - and my ballot. Here are the 2017 Rock Hall nominees:

  • Bad Brains 
  • The Cars
  • Chaka Khan 
  • Chic 
  • Depeche Mode
  • Electric Light Orchestra 
  • J. Geils Band 
  • Jane's Addiction 
  • Janet Jackson
  • Joan Baez 
  • Joe Tex 
  • Journey
  • Kraftwerk
  • MC5 
  • Pearl Jam
  • Steppenwolf 
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Yes 
  • The Zombies 

I'm going to be honest with you - I have no idea who some of these artists are. Perhaps that means they are not significant enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame... or perhaps it means that my music knowledge is much more limited than my sports knowledge. Either way, it took me about ten seconds to cut the list in half. 

Bad Brains and MC5 were the first two cuts - never heard of 'em. I'm vaguely familiar with Chaka Khan (Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan) and the only Joe Tex song I know is "I Gotcha", which was featured in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. J. Geils Band, Steppenwolf, and Yes had their share of hits but I don't think it's an oversight to exclude them from the Hall. 

There are four acts that have been eligible for a very long time, much longer than the Baseball Hall of Fame would allow. At some point you have to ask yourself: if Chic and ELO and Joan Baez and The Zombies have been passed over more than a dozen times, why should the committee members change their minds now? When a (retired) baseball player sees his Hall of Fame vote totals increase he often wonders why. I don't have any more hits now than I had before. 

Maybe there are some new voters who aren't very familiar with these artists (like me) but you've got to draw the line somewhere. That said, Chic's Nile Rogers should be inducted for something. Same for Perry Farrell, whose contributions to music as founder of Lollapalooza are as significant as anything he recorded with Jane's Addiction - though neither seems worthy of induction on its own.

That leaves me with seven quality candidates:
  • The Cars
  • Depeche Mode
  • Janet Jackson
  • Journey
  • Kraftwerk
  • Pearl Jam
  • Tupac Shakur

Two artists jump out at me immediately: Pearl Jam and Janet Jackson should be slam-dunk selections (not sure why Janet isn't in already). Hip-hop fans revere Tupac Shakur the way rock fans revere Kurt Cobain - and Nirvana was a first-ballot selection. That tells me Tupac will be as well.

You probably know that I'm a huge Depeche Mode fan. This is the first time they have appeared on the Rock Hall ballot, and I'm absolutely voting for them. I'm not terribly optimistic that they'll be selected, though. I keep reading about an anti-80's bias amongst the committee; U2 and R.E.M. are in but many popular New Wave and Modern Rock acts such as The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, and Duran Duran are rarely nominated and often overlooked. The committee is more likely to go with The Cars

Journey is a tricky one. They have the name recognition, the longevity, and the iconic hit songs. I could see them getting in eventually, just as Chicago did last year. They may have to wait a while longer as the committee often selects at least one backlogged artist from the 60's and 70's - ELO perhaps?

Kraftwerk has been overlooked for a different reason. Everyone knows "Don't Stop Believin" but can you name even one Kraftwerk song? The Man-Machines weren't exactly radio-friendly hit makers (at least not in the US) though they are far more influential than most of the other nominees as pioneers of electronic digital music.

I've been a Kraftwerk fan for many years and I'm voting for them. They invented a genre, which has got to be worth something to voters. But are they more essential to the HOF than Journey, The Cars, or Depeche Mode? I can't say for sure. My gut tells me that they won't be selected this year... but don't be surprised if they're inducted in the next year or two.

To summarize, I think these five artists should be elected:

Depeche Mode, Janet Jackson, Kraftwerk, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur

However, I think these five artists will be elected:

The Cars, ELO, Janet Jackson, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur

Which artists would you consider worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? Do you agree with my analysis? Am I overlooking an artist you would vote for? Let me know in comments!