Creative Goofing Off

Outside of writing, I’ve been having some uptick in creating stuff. Nothing grand, but a good start on the journey. And what a journey. Where’s a Samwise Gamgee when you need one?

First of two that I’ll share tonight is a video that I put together a few weeks ago of my friend testing his amp. One of the songs he played was “In The Pines”, a song popularized by Lead Belly and Bill Monroe. My friend’s version leans heavily towards Lead Belly’s, come to think of it, with a hint of the Nirvana version. So I recorded it and, a few days later, opted to give the recordings a listen. Suddenly, I felt a nudge, walked around the neighborhood, and shot some video. Then, using some video editing software, I came up with this.

Considering it’s my first hack at video editing in years, I think I still have some of ‘it’.

And the last are just two silly images I mocked up. They’re sort of absurdist hacks on classic video games that I’m thinking I’m going to continue doing so long as I feel the yen. I’ve been sharing them on social media under the #retrogaming hashtag. Below, the guy in Karateka has a strange interlude. I ask that it be known that I agonized for several moments over whether to give the Pac-Man ghosts shadows. I opted not since they’re ghosts and they just don’t have’em. This is the struggle of the artiste!

karapac

And in the second, Leisure Suit Larry goes Bezerk.
LSLbezerk

If you enjoyed these and wouldn’t mind seeing more of what I do, let me know in the comments.

Observations From The Perspective of a Convenience Store Clerk

  1. People will literally throw money at you.
    This isn’t hyperbole. I work at a busy convenience store with a gas station and it’s not uncommon for someone to come in and throw at $20 bill across the counter and mutter a pump number. Some will even cut in front of others to throw dollars at you. Because, y’know, they’re important or some shit.
    Another favorite is the person who will, as you’re scanning items, just hold out their credit card or dollars towards you like they’re feeding a rabid goat.
  2. People will buy piddly little shit with $50 or $100 bills.
    A pack of sunflower seeds? A candy bar and a soda? Anything that comes to $2 or less? Why not pay it with the largest bill possible. I mean, heck, it’s only money, right? Never mind that, because of security, we can only keep a small amount of change in the drawer. But seriously, go ahead and buy those Tic Tacs with a Benjamin.
  3. A robot can do my job.
    Automation is the current watchword for a lot of places. I worked for one company in the past that spent beaucoup bucks to update their master control and control room, only to have another company “merge” with them and run master control ops out of another facility. And I’m sure the day will come when our convenience stores will be implacable kiosks, vending machines, and fluorescent lights. As it is, the general clientele for where I work are confounded enough by paying at the pumps so it looks as if my job is safe for the time being!
  4. Yes, we have no public restrooms. Sorry. We didn’t build this place.
    Trust me, I get this. I’ve been the “Whaddya Mean No Public Bathrooms?” guy. And I know it makes our convenience store less convenient. Yeah, there’s a bathroom for employees but to let you use it would be a security issue and one of us would have to sit outside the door while you spend a penny. And since our bosses are cheap and usually only schedule two or three people on shift (and we are a busy place), it makes it nigh impossible to do that for everyone. While I have a lot of sympathy and can direct you to other places that do have facilities, lecturing me or my coworkers on how irretrievably stupid it is that we don’t have public bathrooms won’t make one spontaneously appear.
    Also, yes, it would be helpful to have signs that say NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS. I’ve been told that printing decals for our doors is cost prohibitive and that making a sign in Word to tape on the door is tacky.
  5. If we seem surly, it’s for a reason.
    Very few wake up and pursue convenience store work as their ultimate goal. While yes, it’s important to bring passion to a job, much of our enthusiasm is rung out because we have to put up with piddly, nonsensical rules thought up by the corporation. We also stand for up to 8 hours a shift and — in my state — are not allowed breaks. The majority of our training is done on the job and it’s piecemeal at best. We also get paid very little and most of my co-workers are on food stamps, even the ones that work 40+ hours a week.
  6. Being rude is no excuse.
    The corporation will always insist that the way to handle bad customers is to kill them with kindness. I prefer to use a blunt object, myself. Y’see, they only say that because they care only that you spend at their convenience store. In that sense, you are more important only because of the money you have in your pocket/bank account/food stamp card/etc. So if you’re being a shithead asshole to us because we have a hard time finding your obscure brand of cigarettes on our Wall of Tobacco and we lose our cool at you, be satisfied in knowing that we’ll get written up for it. Because assholes win, apparently, and we’re all at-will employees.
  7. …but we do try to be friendly.
    At least, those of us that don’t have that dead-eye look. I believe in giving good customer service, so I tend to be as cuddly and upbeat as I can because I often see people, as Charles Dickens put it in A Christmas Carol, to be “fellow-passenger to the grave.”
  8. We get tired of cleaning up after you.
    Our store has several trash cans, some located right next to the roller grill and coffee machines. It’s a little frustrating that you can’t be arsed to throw away your straw wrappers or plastic wraps, or even be bothered to wipe up spilled coffee or sugar. While a messy store does leave a bad impression on the customer, the fact that customers treat the place like a walking garbage dump just makes us resent you more.
  9. Yes, I did say resent.
    As the tagline for Clerks put it, “Just Because They Serve You… Doesn’t Mean They Like You.” Now, you may look down on us because, to you, we’re just cash register jockeys maxing out our low skills. For some of us, this is a first job. For others, we’ve been through college and have had a bad set of luck. We also have to deal with co-workers who don’t want to do their job and a corporation that expects a store to run smoothly on skeleton crews. Most of us have a bit of a chip on our shoulder already. When you treat us like shit, we’re probably not going to think very favorably of you. I know empathy and compassion is hard in this day-to-day reality that we’re all stuck with but maybe try not to be an asshole to the folks who have to work weekends and holidays so you can get that 24-pack of pisswater beer. But we’ll still try to out-friendly the fuck out of you because that’s what the corporation wants.
  10. It’s just a job.
    As my therapist would tell me, “A job is a job is a job.” For many of us, job stands for “Just Over Broke.” As I said in #5, no one wants to be a convenience store worker. Some of us may be stuck there for a long time, others may see the job as a temporary landing pad to other things. And look, no one wants to be in a crappy convenience store in a slightly undesirable neighborhood, so let’s just take shit easy and no one has to get hurt.

The Max Headroom Incident

Almost thirty years on and it still remains unsolved. On a November 1987 night in Chicago on WTTW-TV, the Doctor Who episode, “The Horror of Fang Rock”, was interrupted by a signal hijack and for the next few minutes, local Whovians gazed upon the disturbing, low-res insanity of this guy.

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Imagine to yourself the sort of sick fear that this might have temporarily injected into many young people of the day. This was the second signal hijack after WGN’s Nine O’clock News got intercepted. But that was the boring old news. You’d expect to unsettle the stodgy news viewers. This was targeted at Doctor Who fans, ones who might have a slight awareness of who Max Headroom was as both a character and commercial pitch… construct.

Newcoke_maxheadroomIf you’re unfamiliar with the Max Headroom universe (and shame on you if you are), let me try to give enough context. First seen in the 1985 British film, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into The Future, Max is a computer-generated artificial intelligence created from the brain waves of Network 23’s star reporter Edison Carter. In the movie and in the US TV series that soon followed, the Max Headroom construct quickly takes on a life of its own and, when threatened with deletion by the network’s boss, he escapes to be a free-spirited, unhindered commentator on media, capitalism, and all points in between. One second you’re watching a nice home shopping channel and the next Max pops up to mention that it’s the one true network because it’s dedicated to nothing but selling things.

The Chicago incident is the same thing, only in a more chilling and perverse fashion.

Granted, it’s not biting commentary or even really related to Doctor Who. But it is an exact replication of what it’d be like if some loose cannon AI infiltrated our communication networks with light kinkplay. In other words, an intrusion on their personal form of media consumption, like the world’s most obnoxious pop-up ad. For the first time ever, we lost the comfort of the familiar and were dropped into a world such as Max’s where an entity could interrupt our regular programming for whatever reason. And much like the TV series, the Max Headroom incident was a direct thumb-to-eye for the FCC and others who consider our airwaves to be sacrosanct. It was also just a really good hack.

 

We’re All A Little Bit Twisted

WeAreTwistedFuckingSisterLast week, I took a chance on a little known US/German 2014 documentary on Netflix called We Are Twisted Fucking Sister. In case you aren’t aware, it’s a movie about the heavy metal band Dokken Twisted Sister and charts the history of the band’s creation, rabid Sick Mother Fuckers fanbase, and hardcore work habits that dominated the New York-area clubs in the 70’s and early 80’s.

Clocking in at two hours and sixteen minutes, the film is a non-glamorous, nuts-&-bolts look at the rock’n’roll lifestyle.Produced by Andrew Horn, who won awards ten years earlier with his documentary on avant garde singer/performer/alien Klaus Nomi, WATFS lays it all bare as to how these guys became the best rock’n’roll of their time.. From the fan drinking contests held on stage to lead singer Dee Snider berating *anyone* looking like they weren’t having a good time to their utter hate for despicable disco music, the development of their satirical gender-bending style, the brutal work ethic of Snider and band creator Jay Jay French et al… if you weren’t a TS fan before this movie, you might just find yourself humming “I’ll Never Grow Up Now” by the end of it.

Members of the classic lineup such as Mark “The Animal” Mendoza, Eddie Ojeda, and the late AJ Pero (who died last year) are in it, as well as earlier members.

Twister_Sister_-_Stay_HungryIt ends just at the release of the album that would shoot them to MTV-worthiness, 1984’s Stay Hungry. That album spawned several rebellious videos such as their classic anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock“, classic music montages that featured TS fighting back at conformity and unchecked authority personified by Mark Metcalf’s über-tyrannical recreation of Douglas Niedermayer’s from the movie Animal House. These videos sliced a vein to bleed a non-compromising and antiauthoritarian cavalcade in a way that not even Mötley Crüe could touch with their “worthless and weak” video for “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” remake released the next year. I mean,yeah, Michael Berryman was creepy as hell in that video but he wasn’t even in the same galaxy with the Blind With Power Rage embodied by the man who would later play the Master in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Stay Hungry. That album. That album cover. What my parents must’ve thought finding that sitting on top of the stereo back home in Cheviot, Ohio. But it still holds up, as does most of the TS catalog. Sure, KISS might’ve been the more popular band but you cannot convince me that they were anywhere near the best compared to TS. While Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley might know a thing about marketing, they’re overrated pompous buffoons compared to French and Snider. TS never went disco (Dynasty) or got rid of their own image (lick that up) to produce weaker music (anything after Love Gun). Did Gene Simmons stand up to the PMRC? Hellzno. But Dee did.

</end rant>

So let’s just say that I’m all in for this documentary. Sure, two-plus hours might seem a long time to cover a band’s trajectory up to their biggest album, and that will surely disappoint some, but the joy in this movie is discovering that the band we know from those music videos actually were pretty fucking awesome beforehand. You discover that they were a well-kept secret before MTV airplay. And you’ll feel really jealous about it.

So enjoy it. I give it a definite thumbs up. Stay twisted, you sick motherfuckers.

Mucking. Muck.

Bonjour, pebbles amongst the avalanche of a crumbling society. Bear with me, I’m doing battle with a nifty little rhinovirus (aka, a cold), so the usual brilliance we serve in this blog has been replaced with Folger’s Crystals. Let’s see if you can tell the difference.

I changed the view here. I like this much better. It speaks to me. Purple and black are two of my favorite colors. Vous? Non? Oui? D’accorde!

The old brain is a jumble right now. The seconds are ticking by and I’m still staring at the menu wondering what the fuck I’m going to choose. Do I take the debt-ridden convenience store clerk route or maybe try combining whatever fuck skills I have into something interesting? And if I chose that, where do I start, who do I contact, what’s a path? It’s one thing to have an idea where you’re going but the psychic compass I got is spinning like a dervish on cocaine in zero-gravity.

Pardon the dust, folks. There’s a sense of confusion and being overwhelmed here and it’s making my anxiety skip around. Simplify, that’s what I need to do. Follow my passion, or maybe just do a job and take the passion with me. Meta-career advice. The thing is, I’m impatient. Maybe impetuous. Although, I also exhibit a tendency towards indecision. I don’t know what I wanna do but I’m going to do it NOW!

Beat the Reaper.

The drawback to all of this anarchic and archaic mishmash is that it leaves me spinning my wheels. It’s hard to contextualize your career path when you get so caught up in What If’s and What The Fuck’s and especially Wherefore To Head’s? It’s not an enviable position when you’re in your 20’s, and it’s even worse when you’re doing it in middle age. In fact, it’s totes worse. All the totes!

So here’s a list of things that I enjoy doing:

  1. Writing.
  2. Video/Audio Editing.
  3. Learning New Things.
  4. Learning, relearning, and utilizing coding skills.
  5. Sitting on my ass pontificating about shiznit whilst consuming heavy doses of media.

I mean, those have to be marketable skills somewhere, right?

Another question scritchy-scratching in the back of my brain is Why Do I Blog? I suppose it’s the easiest way of getting published, but outside of it just being a general journal, I really am not sure what benefit there is… beside the whole writing muscle.

Maybe I’m being too much the artiste in this tortured search for relevance, enjoyment, and overall purpose.

I just blew my nose. You might think it’s gross, but it’s snot.

Yeah, I’m going to end on a gross pun. Good day!