Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wasted Material

The Portland Mercury, a free alternative weekly paper, comes out every Thursday. It's mostly full of trivial, vapid and useless information, but I dig it and I especially like the column titled "I Anonymous" found on the last page of paper, right next to the comics. Basically, this space is reserved for people to mouth off about somewhat common, yet obnoxious behavior that the writer has experienced and that hopefully the rest of us can relate to. And it can all be done in complete anonymity, of course.

It's a lot like my blog. But people actually read it. 

A recent incident I endured last week was so perfect for the paper's column that I refrained from recounting it here, and instead, submitted it to the Anonymous editor. My plan was to wait for it to be published and then post a link to it here. Well, today is Thursday and my rant wasn't published. And since I'm way too impatient to see if it ever gets published, I'm just going to post the entry here. 

"To the dude who sat next to me at the Stumptown coffee bar on Southwest 3rd avenue the other morning and proceeded to sing along to every word of Beck's "Mutations" playing over the cafe's stereo system, are you fucking kidding me? Were you trying to demonstrate your mastery of having committed these very catchy lyrics to memory. Or perhaps you thought the rest of us would be so taken with your glorious rendition of "Bottle of Blues" that we would hang on each mellifluous note to emerge from your mouth? I know you think you were singing quietly and to yourself, but this is neither your car nor your shower and when I come to the coffee shop and sit alone with my computer to get some work done, the last thing I want to be distracted by is some pretentious douche butchering what used to be one of my favorite albums."

For more I Anonymous rants, click or just pick up the paper - it's free.
(Hey, what do you know - my submission was posted on their site under the title, "Public Singing Ban," but the version above is modified and better).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jodeci hates me

Another oldie, but goodie that was specifically requested by a reader (see comments under the iLife post).

Back in the day, before I had a mortgage and a kid's college fund to feed, I wrote music reviews for the free weekly rag. It was cool. I got into all the shows, I knew some cool people who seemed like they were mildly famous and I could work in my skivvies from my home office. Making ten cents a word wasn't that cool and ultimately, I felt hollow criticizing other people's creativity rather than developing my own. So I quit.

As a weekly music reviewer, I mostly wrote previews for upcoming concerts, rather than reviews, which almost always got coverage by the big daily newspaper in town. Without having seen the current tour somewhere else first, previews are forced to rely upon the album said artists may be promoting and what you know about their past performances.

So when the Notorious B.I.G. came through Portland to play the Coliseum
(yes, this happened a while back), he was billed to perform with six or seven other acts, all of the "urban" persuasion, most of whom I didn't know much about. I'm a huge Biggie Smalls fan and while the other acts didn't quite appeal (Junior M.A.F.I.A, Mary J. Blige...) I was just psyched to pimp Big Poppa's visit.

And then I learned he wouldn't even be headlining. Instead, some new school R&B act, called Jodeci would hold court. Biggie playing second fiddle? It made no sense.

I did my job and gave Jodeci's CD a listen. They were
horrible. They were everything that's wrong with hip-hop - overproduced, synthesized poop with dudes harmonizing about "bitches" and their "gats". This was an injustice to pop music at the time. And I said as much in my column. I criticized the promoters for not understanding their audience and for not spotlighting the true talent of the night.

The article was submitted to my editor, the paper came out a week later and the show didn't take place for another five nights after that. I had all but forgotten what I wrote.

I came home late the night before the show and ran to answer a ringing phone.

"Hello," I said.
"Is this Geoff Abraham?" The man barked from the other end.
"Ummm, yes"
"I said, is this Geoff Abraham, motherfucker!"
"Not sure."
"Yo, bitch! You ever seen a Jodeci show?"
"Uhh, no."
"Well then, what the fuck are you talking all this shit about when you don't know shit about it?"

At this point in the conversation I tried to explain the bit about how we're a weekly publication and so we write previews instead of...

"I don't give a fuck about none of that."
"Well, what would you like from me," I asked.
"We know where you live."
"Are you coming here?"
"I said I know where you live motherfucker."
"I'm sure you do - I'm listed in the phone book. Are you coming here? Because
I'm leaving if you are."

And then the nice man hung up.

I went downstairs and checked my caller I.D. (high-tech at the time) and it read "The Mallory Hotel." I called the Mallory and asked if they had a band called Jodeci staying there. They refused to give out that information and then I explained my predicament. They still wouldn't give me the name of the group, but they did admit that a musical act, made up primarily of African Americans with a very large entourage was staying at the hotel.

I called the police who took my information. As I provided it, the other line rang. I clicked over.
"Yo, you get the cops involved and we're gonna beat yo ass down."

I clicked back over to the police.
"Thanks. I got it all settled, no need to bother."

My roomate and his girlfriend walked in the door right about then and I told them the whole story. They didn't believe me. And then the phone rang again. It was another call from the Mallory hotel. My roommate answered.
"Uh-huh. Uh-huh. No Geoff's not here. I'll let him know."

My roommate hung up the phone, grabbed his girlfriend and headed for the door.
"We're gonna crash at her house tonight. We'll leave the dogs with you. You should be fine."

I followed them out the door, with the dogs, and spent the night at a friends house.

Nothing ever came of all this excitement. But about a week after the show, which I sadly could not attend, a friend who did go, ran over to me at a local club.
"Dude, were you at that Biggie show last week?"
"Nah, was it any good?"
"You weren't there? Dude! Jodeci took the stage after Biggie rocked it. They took the mic and in front of a packed house, opened with, 'Yo! Fuck Geoff Abraham! And fuck Willamette Week!'"

I must admit, I was touched.

Ed. Note: My roommate at the time just reminded me, and would like it to be included here, that shortly before we evacuated the house, we all crouched down below the window line, hoping that the trajectory of potential gun fire would simply pass over our heads. I'm pretty sure that's standard operating procedure in a drive-by.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Not living the iLife

I bought my first Apple product, an LCIII in 1987. Ever since, I've been a staunch supporter of the brand. User-friendly interface. Kick-ass design. A hipster status symbol for nerds. And while these products might require a greater financial commitment from users, we all know, cool will cost you.

I'm ok with this. So much so that those early iPhone buyers who complained of getting ripped off to the tune of $200 ($100 after the good faith rebate) simply for purchasing the device in the first two months of it's release, never got my sympathy vote. There's a premium on
being the first kid on the street with the fresh new toy, which may be easier for me to say, as I was not a victim.

Here's where I believe the apple went rotten, and I'm surprised there isn't more talk about this:

My brand new MacBook came with the iLife suite pre-installed and a 2-month free trial of a ".mac account," which plays so nicely with the software. Dot mac makes it so you can share personal photos, videos, and all other kinds of media online with some very simple, intuitive clicks. Awesome, right?

Wrong. First, Apple pretty much won't let you start up your new computer without registering a .mac account - the two months of free service are just enough to whet your appetite before they stick you with the $90 annual bill to keep things running (they constantly remind me how many days I have left before it's not free anymore). Remember, this is a web site, that allows you to use APPLE products, which you've just purchased from APPLE.

I could begrudge a fee for this service if I didn't own a mac (.mac accounts would work with PCs, just not as fluidly). I could even forgive them a few bucks if I needed more online space than the introductory amount allotted. But if they want me to continue buying their iTunes, and iPhotos and all the other iCrap that I've long been a disciple of, then give me some iSpace so I can spread the gospel.

Until such time, my blogs will appear here - not at .mac - and my online photo galleries will have to be posted to rival, Snapfish, who will host my pictures for free, in hopes that friends and family will purchase a few images while they're there.

I recently likened this greedy corporate behavior to Starbucks. The coffee giant sees themself so vital to the world wide cafe-goer, that they can charge customers a per minute fee to use wi-fi in their stores, a practice virtually unheard of elsewhere in the industry. If you've taken a gander at Starbucks stock in the last year or so, this is just one business model that is not working for them. And from what I hear, it's about to change.

Mac seems to think that customer rewards are simply the release of more life-changing products for us to spend more life-changing disposable income on. Why should they actually "reward" us with incentives for buying their glorious things? Oh, and curiously, Apple shareholders aren't exactly going ahead with that second home or 40-ft. sea cruiser at the moment, either.

Note: It has not been lost on me that this post deviates from my blog's theme in that, my opinions/ actions haven't actually pissed anyone off,
inadvertently. Quite the opposite. The intent of this rant is to totally and, advertently piss the apple executives off.

I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I don't heart today

I don't heart the greeting card industry.
I don't heart those chalky heart
I don't heart the patron saint of love.
I don't heart the little old lady at the gift shop that just conned me out of $10 for a crappy balloon.

I do heart my kid, though. And she digs the balloons. So I'll be the butt of this stupid joke they call a
But I won't heart it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Don't txt me

It has not yet been stated here, but I'm a cheap bastard. Not cheap like the guy who won't throw in enough when you're out for dinner with a big group - I tend to overcompensate in those situations. But cheap like, I wasn't about to add text messaging to my phone plan for $5 a month.

It was explained to me by the very helpful service provider that I would be charged a quarter every time someone sends me a text if I don't sign up for the plan. I could block texts from coming in, but I kinda figured, as a 30-something, married guy, with child, I wouldn't be tapping out "where r u"s and emoticoms to find out what my "BFF"s were up to, and most people I know would feel the same.

Apparently somebody's missed the High School Musical express and there's hefty tariff on becoming obsolete.

First it was the occasional text. I wasn't about to change my plan over a quarter. Then I started getting 4 successive texts from a single person, which caused my sphincter to inadvertently clench every time I heard the text tone from my phone.

Then I did something stupid. I voiced my resentment to anyone who would listen. The result: a barrage of text messages from everyone I knew, including a few who were sitting right next to me, just to see what it would take to get me a plan. The messages ranged from "what r u listening to?" to "pls pass the remote."

The quarters turned to dollars and in a matter of hours, that five dollar upgrade to my plan would become a $30 dollar value.

I got a plan - so don't bother texting me because I'll never hit my 500 limit. But I got it at no benefit to me.

$60 a year to feed an industry I've unwittingly entered. Ain't technology awesome?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Death By Baby Grand

Digging into archives again, this one was recounted over dinner last night with friends who thought it worthy of this hateful blog. And somehow I avoided being demonized this weekend so this will have to suffice.

About six months into our new home search my wife, daughter, real estate agent and I enter a home that was almost ours - for some unknown reason, the owner, who had never even met me, refused our full-price offer.

As we make our way up the front steps, we pass two less than capable looking piano movers. One guy is pushing his mid-90s. The other appears to be on a steady diet of Big Macs and Tivo. The truck outside is emblazoned with the name of the company, something like "Barely Capable Piano Movers" and a caricature of two guys struggling with an oversized piano.

The house was empty, minus the baby grand just inside the entrance. Somehow, my agent, wife and daughter proceed to the rest of the house while I stay behind, checking out the main room. The two men grunt and heave under the instrument, uncomfortably nearby.

As the elder gentleman complains of a bad back, they ask if I wouldn't mind giving them a hand hoisting the piano onto a roller. It seemed simple enough. I didn't want to be a jerk. And before I know it, I'm pinned against a wall with the weight of the piano against my chest.

As my realtor and wife walk by, I look to my realtor, a strapping man of 6'2 for some help getting me out of the situation. I went so far as to ask him if I should even be there from a liability standpoint, to which he simply shrugged and walked to another room. I can understand how frustrated he was with us as clients - we'd been incredibly indecisive with him - but that should have been my cue to find alternate representation.

Luckily, my lovely and very charming wife bails me out with a simple, "what the fuck are doing? Get out of there!" I look at the piano movers, push my way out and give the same shrug/walk away that my agent had just given me. They respond with a very sincere, "thanks, dick." And just so we're clear at this point, my name is not Dick. So I'm the bad guy.

A few moments later, from down in the basement, we all hear a large crash. We give each other some furtive looks and quietly escape out the back door with my agent making the "call me" sign holding his pinky and thumb up to his mouth and ear, as we split for our respective cars. We drive away with the windows down, and I'm pretty sure I heard something about a punctured lung through the wails of the two grown men.

Don't you hate when you refuse to help piano movers and one of them perishes as a result? And, we didn't get the house.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hate the fist bump

What ever happened to the high-five?
It wasn't pretty. There was a lot of room for error. But it never tried to be anything it wasn't.

Then, sometime around the mid-90s, every suburban white kid was throwing knuckles around like they were Sammy Friggin' Sosa rounding third.

Well I ain't having it. And I'm not afraid to leave someone hanging when I see it coming, either.

So last night I got roped into playing for the company bowling team due to a shortage of players (not because I'm super awesome on the lanes). And after showing up 10 minutes late - which didn't win me a whole bunch of favor to start - I was quickly instructed on the team's celebration moves. Strikes or spares get high-fives all around and anything else gets fist bumps, which was explained to me as our team's way of saying, "better luck next time."

So not only is this gesture being bandied about by non-professional athletes and non-hip-hop artists alike, but now I'm supposed to do it even when nothing good happens. When I get a 7-10 split, I'm supposed to fist bump. When I get gutter ball, I'm supposed to fist bump. I just got pink eye. Let's fist bump!

Honestly, I'd prefer a light pat on the ass, a head nod in my direction, or this

So I told my team as much.

I don't think they truly understood my stance. But I think they were just so happy to have enough players to make up a team that they humored me, and offered up elbows after every bad ball, instead.

For more on the history of looking like an idiot in public:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My bitter introduction

Why blog about being angry? Frankly, I have nothing better to offer the blabber-sphere. And if Larry David can make millions pissing people off, I should at least get a little social therapy out of it.
The funny part is, I have no reason to be angry, really.
I grew up in a nice home. I met a nice girl. She agreed to marry me and now we have a real nice little daughter. I even have a nice job.
But for some reason, I can hardly leave the house without developing some kind of rift. I never instigate the problem, but before I know it, things start pouring out of my hate-hole and that really cheeses people off.
And for whatever reason, when I recount the stories to those few I can still call my friends - people who know my crustiness all too well - I somehow provide as much amusement (my wife withstanding) as I do scorn, created by the incident itself.

A few recent examples:
  • I tried to procure the services of a handyman who came highly recommended. He seemed to have a tough time scheduling me in so I said, "if you're too busy, I can try to find another handyman." He replied, "go ahead and find one then," and hung up on me. I clearly upset him, but how? I was trying to be sensitive to his time. Was he upset that I thought someone else might be capable of drilling some holes in my wall? Or did he feel that I wasn't patient enough with his very busy handyman schedule? What I came to learn later from the person who recommended him, is that handymen, don't appreciate being called "handymen." Who knew?
  • My coworkers and I decided to go out for some "team-building" drinks. The head of our department started a tab and it was mutually understood that all cocktails ordered would be covered by the company. Very nice. However, the drinks were being poured like it was the great depression and after three thimblefuls which left me sober and thirsty, I asked the bartender if that was her typical pour. She grabbed the drink out of my hand. I thought she was going to pour more in. Instead, she poured the contents back into the little stainless steel shot measuring device to demonstrate the accuracy of her pour. It still didn't measure up, even with the freshly melted ice contributing to the booze. I pointed that out as nicely as possible, and she asked me if I was complaining about drinks that someone else was buying for me. I replied "yes, as a matter of principle, I was." She didn't 86 me, but she didn't pour me another one of her shitty drinks, either.
  • This last one happened a while back, but it seemed to define this era of discontent. I was in New York City on the first hot day of summer. I was only in town for a few more hours and craved a slice of pizza, so my buddy and I walked down to his corner Rays. A large, hairy man, wearing a white wife-beater tossed dough in the front of the shop. So you knew it was good. The young gal behind the counter flirted with the pizza-maker while she took my order - a slice of plain cheese and a bottle of coke. She threw my slice in the oven to warm up (unnecessary, but thoughtful) and grabbed my coke out of the fridge, glistening with drops of refreshing condensation. She walked up behind the big, hairy pizza maker and wiped my bottle of coke across the nape of his neck to cool him off. She proceeded to place the bottle and slice in front of me and ring me up for the three dollars and 75 cents. I in turn, asked her for a bottle of coke that didn't have dude's sweat on it. Both the bottle and the slice were removed from the counter and I was asked to leave the establishment with a look that clearly said, "if that pizza maker's sweat isn't good enough for me, then neither is his pizza."
So I often ask myself, why me?
Is it because I'm an only child and the whole, "doesn't play well with others" thing? Or maybe it's because I moved around a lot and never learned the importance of relationship building. Or did I just listen to way too much Billy Joel as a kid?

I'm just the guy who says out loud what everyone else thinks in their head. Which is just another way of saying I have no tact.  But instead of having one big nervous breakdown at middle-age, I figure, I'll experience a whole bunch of mini-breakdowns everyday, entertaining a few friends along the way.
So in this vein, I will post each cringe-worthy incident as it comes up.
I imagine you'll be hearing from me again soon.