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!