Archive | April, 2012

Playa Hater’s Ball

27 Apr

We typically like to keep things positive here at Dan Swanky’s.  Everyone’s having more fun when the Schlitz is flowing, we’re having some chuckles, and we’re all celebrating the things we love.  But the way we celebrate and enjoy one thing we love – NBA basketball – was abruptly altered in 2008.

A cruel series of events and power players came together about four years ago to wrest away the Seattle SuperSonics from the city, and as lifelong fans of the Green & Gold, we were left with an empty place where our fandom’s passion had once been.  Without a team – and the bastardized former Sonics team that became Oklahoma City is not our team- but still harboring a love for all things NBA, we were faced with an unwanted and difficult decision.

Would we simply turn our gaze to the rest of the league and go shopping for a new team, as if we were looking for a new car?  This is easier said than done.  While there are several likeable franchises out there that would be easy to root for, the deeply felt connection we had with our hometown squad would never be duplicated for a flavor-of-the-month team from across the country.  We would simply be bandwagon fans – tourists who would be unable to remain dedicated or interested for very long.  This would just be an unsatisfying way to lie to ourselves.

So if finding a new team is out, what is the other option?  Where in the NBA landscape do we take the energy from our misplaced passion for the Sonics and the frustrated outrage from their departure?  Well, we find solace and an outlet in the process of actively rooting against other teams and players.  It’s still the only halfway-satisfying way to let our bottled-up, Sonics-less demons be exorcised when the NBA playoffs come around.  We have become sports Haters.

Being a sports Hater, as with being a Hater in other parts of life, is a lot easier if you don’t think about it.  If you just put your blinders on, take everything at face value, never give up grudges, and follow everything those radio hosts squawk, then you can quickly build up some solid irrational animosity towards most of the teams in the league.  And all of a sudden, you have an instant rooting interest against all of those teams.  You’ve got some emotional investment back into the NBA equation.

It seems like problem solved – we’re back to being full-blown NBA fans.  But it’s not that easy.  Since we’re thoughtful fellows at DS, we have to come to grips with the ugliness of our Hater status.  We need to make sure we can separate the personal and non-personal aspects of our feeling towards the game, and always be aware that we are being mostly irrational fans.  That this is just a game.  That the players we are vigorously rooting against are actual people off the court and have their own sets of lives and families.  We have to be able to shut off the the hating when the final buzzer sounds, or else we’ll just be miserable dicks at the end of the day.  So, that is what we strive to do, and our general success at this striving is what allows us to be okay with the negativity we can engender while in full-blown sports Hater mode.

How did it come to this?  Where we’re justifying being irrational sports Haters?  It all starts and ends with the painful theft of our hometown Sonics.  There was how the team left, and then more importantly, there was everything that went with them on their way out of town.

Let’s start with a quick rundown of why we got here, and why so many emotions are involved.  The first source of the anger and the fount of the sports hate comes from the way the whole Sonics move played out.  The guys behind the great documentary “Sonicsgate” do a much more detailed breakdown of the whole sordid ordeal, and we suggest you check them out here for more info.  But basically, trouble started in the form of Howard Schultz.

Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, had owned the team for six uneventful years and like any canny businessman, was looking to unload his investment at a hefty profit.  The problem for Seattle fans was that the highest offer for the team came from Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett.  Bennett pretty clearly intended to move the team from Seattle to his home state of Oklahoma and Schultz was thus presented with a choice: sell the team to a group of local investors who would keep the Sonics in his Hometown, or go for the big profit and essentially give away the team.


Savvy Mr. Schultz heeded capitalism’s call and sold to Bennett.  And for the next year and a half, Bennett went through the motions of ‘working’ towards keeping the team in Seattle.  It was a total farce.  See, the terms of the deal said that Clay had to make a “good faith effort” to keep the team in Seattle.  So good ol’ boy Clay proceeded to make several empty public promises, and in the process engendered the hatred of pretty much every sports fan in Seattle.  And when fans thought they could turn to the reliable institution of the NBA for some help in keeping our team from the hands of these carpetbaggers, Villain No. 3 reared his jowly face.  Commissioner David Stern made some general announcements about working with Clay’s ownership group to keep the team in Seattle, but in the end that all turned out to be bullshit too.  In emails from the time period that surfaced several months later, David and Clay share glowing pledges of support to each other that literally read like two girls texting friendship affirmations to each other from separate slumber parties.

In the end, the Inevitable finally occurred and Bennett announced he was moving the team to Oklahoma City.  I had pretty much seen the writing on the wall for quite some time, but had still held out a shred of hope, desperate for this infuriating situation to just go away.  The announcement was like a heavy gut punch – not a sharp sudden pain, but one that resonated deeper and hurt for longer.  I was disgusted, angry, and deeply saddened all at the same time.

All of these deeply invested feelings and emotions for a simple sports team, that could never even come close to reciprocating?  Yes.  I don’t expect many to sympathize or understand, but this team meant more than just providing a source of entertainment and distraction.  Which leads me to the second source of the sports Hate flourishing today.  What Schultz, Bennett, Stern & Co. took away from Sonics fans when they stole the team.

Growing up, I hit the impressionistic sports age right when the Sonics were the coolest team in the city.  This age is marked by kids finally being able to be competitive in their rec league sports, while also beginning to identify with those otherworldly athletes seen on TV and in magazines.  At this age, I happened to love playing basketball, and being in Seattle I was able to hear and see the heyday of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.  In my humble adolescent opinion, these two were the baddest motherfuckers in the sports world.

First up, there was Shawn Kemp, who despite his later troubles was a raw force of dunking power as a young player.  Play-by-play man Kevin Colabro’s gleeful shouts of “The Reign Man with another tomahawk jam!” would echo in my head as I wheeled about and abused the 6 ft. tall Nerf Hoop on the back of my bedroom door.  I definitely rocked the Shawn Kemp shoes to school every day for well over a year, delighting in the deranged zebra-striped style that were an excellent encapsulation of the Reign Man in his prime.

And who fed Shawn the rock before his monstrous dunks?  Gary ‘The Glove’ Payton, the nasty little bundle of stifling D and slick handles who could shit-talk anyone out of the building.  GP was the heart and soul of the Sonics and to this day is a revered figure in Seattle sports legend.  And just as Colabro’s exultations about Kemp still stick in my head, so too does the Key Arena announcer’s introduction of GP:  “You can’t spell Glove without Love.”  And you really couldn’t.

These two stars, along with a rotating cast of memorable supporting players, captivated Seattle sports fans for a long stretch of successful seasons in the 90s.  The team was never able to get all the way to a championship during this run – they reached the ‘96 Finals but met the unstoppable force of Jordan in his prime – yet they were good enough to captivate a budding sports fan like myself.  I can’t count how many times I spun around on the empty backyard hoop, quieting the imagined crowd before re-enacting another Gary Payton or Detlef Schrempf buzzer beater.  And interviewing myself afterwards.  They were my heroes.


Beyond being just another absurdly cool team to root for, the Sonics were also able to take on more meaning to kids like me.  Basketball games were one of the first common interests I could share with my dad growing up, and we quickly developed a routine of going to several Sonics games every year.  For the first few years, this was simply an exciting chance for a young kid to go downtown, eat junk food, catch a free T-shirt, and watch my sports heroes up close.

As the years went on though, these yearly games gained a bit more weight.  It was still great to watch the basketball, but it also became a constant between my dad and I.  Petty parent-kid fights, stresses at school or work, family issues – any life strains that came up couldn’t deter the Sonics games from happening, year after year.  The Sonics were something to be shared, and that’s why they felt like they belonged to me in a way that other sports teams never did.  My team.  And when I moved away to go to school, I could still look forward to following Sonics games and keeping the hometown pride alive from thousands of miles away.  They represented where I came from.

So when I had to watch as smiling executives toyed with and eventually took the team away, it felt like watching someone ransack my valued possessions while I sat tied up and helpless.  The frustration and vitriol that arose in me when the Sonics were moved was probably irrational in a lot of ways.  But it came from a true place.  It came from having to watch a beloved piece of my young life in the city be taken away.  It’s hard for me to fully explain my feelings about the Sonics to other non-Seattle fans without sounding like a bitter, jilted lover.  And that comparison rings true in a lot of ways.  But my fellow Sonics fans can appreciate the rough feelings, and we can still commiserate.  And we can turn the still-raw anger and pain into sports Hatin’, particularly when the NBA Playoffs roll around.

Coming into this year’s postseason, the top of our Hating List is the displaced former Sonics team, that team with an awful name from the most unfortunate state in America.  This team is a virtual representation of the whole sordid saga, and it is a uniquely unpleasant experience to watch them do well in front of an adoring home crowd.  If we’re continuing the jilted lover comparisons, then watching these games is like watching your Ex hook up with someone else, over and over again, while thousands cheer them along.  So as the Playoffs come around, we will be on pins and needles the entire time that OKC is still in contention.  If this team won the Championship, for that city and that owner, I would be legitimately bummed out for quite some time.  We here at Dan Swanky’s may need to shut the lights out and just stare at our vintage Kemp posters in silence for a few days, sighing loudly and often.  This cannot happen.

While OKC will most definitely be getting our unwell wishes, the one thing about sports Hating in the NBA is that once you do it, it’s hard to turn it off.  So we will also be rooting against the preening duo of LeBron and Wade on the Heat, the insufferable underbite scowl of Kobe on the Lakers, and the flailing, flopping histrionics of Parker and Ginobli on the Spurs, among others.

Is this negative?  Yes.  Is it totally unrealistic, unfair, and bitter?  Sure.  But we’ve still got a lot of issues to work out with the NBA, and we’re going to do it this way until we can get another team to fill the basketball-sized hole in Seattle’s heart.  And at the end of the day, having something to cheer for, even if it is for someone to lose, just makes the playoffs that more exciting.  Home team or no, there is a crazy amount of talent on the court this year, and the title race is as unpredictable as it’s ever been.  The Championship is wide-open.  Just please, basketball gods, don’t let OKC get there.  We’re not ready for that.  Just bring on an early round exit this year, so we can dust off the furs and throw another joyous Playa Hater’s Ball.

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Working For The Weekend

26 Apr

Dan Swanky’s old pal and resident Steed recently reached the summit of the Job Search mountain and has been rewarded with a shiny new executive job at a towering skyscraper downtown.  The opportunity to hear Steed’s unique perspective on the business world is one we didn’t want to pass up.  So we gave him a pocket notebook, some Walking Around Money for his troubles, and then sat back to await the results.  His dispatches did not disappoint.  Prior WFTW: One, Two.

Fellas.  So, ah, I guess last we left my epic executive journey I was grappling with the monkey on my back known as Kenneth.  Well, I was all set to pull some emotional and mental strings to resolve the situation.  But Kenneth’s short (heh) fuse beat me to the punch.

I guess there was another employee in my department, Stephan, who had been here for several months before me, and who had been harboring his own Kenneth anxieties this whole time.  He was a pretty quiet dude, so I didn’t even know he had these issues until last week, when we were all in Kenneth’s office getting Busy Work assignments.  After getting a particularly absurd project, Stephan’s self-control just said Fuck It, and he responded to Kenneth’s request by muttering something we didn’t pick up at first.

Kenneth’s head cocked slightly at Stephan’s comment, almost like a cobra, and the room got quiet as he calmly asked What Was That.  Stephan looked him in the eye and repeated that He Would Rather Not.  Kenneth must have been having a bad day or something, because this just kind of snipped something in his head and he went ballistic.  He started yelling, throwing papers, and finally leaped at Stephan like a spider monkey.  We all cleared the room to let them grapple it out, and eventually one of the secretaries called security to come break it up.  They were both marched to HR Lady Sally, and the last I heard was that Kenneth was being placed on administrative leave for exhaustion.  Problem solved for now, but I’ll keep my eyes out in case that go-getter returns with a chip on his shoulder.

So that little hurdle was cleared, and now I can put my energy towards the Power Climb here.  Rumors are there’s a manager spot opening up soon in my department, and as far as I’m concerned that’s mine to lose.  I did some recon on the hiring people behind this position, and after greasing some palms I was pointed to H. Frackens, a cheery little V.P. who seemed to like me from the start.  I headed over to his office yesterday for a little schmoozing, and things took a bit of a turn.

It was about 1pm when I strolled into H.’s corner office, and he was just polishing off a large snifter of his personal Scotch bottle.  Right away I saw we could speak the same language, and after an introduction I took a seat on his couch and started socializin’.  It might have been the missing half of the Scotch, but H. was loving my jokes.  Before I knew it he had poured the rest of the bottle into two glasses, one for each of us.

Several rounds of Cheers and Prosts later, we had somehow switched positions, with H. laying face-down on the couch and me leaning back in his chair, wingtips up on the desk.  I was enjoying the buzz of new power friendship and warm Scotch when all of a sudden H. let out an Oh Shit and threw his phone across the room.  Before I could ask what was up, he slurred that he had forgotten the time and really needed me to do him a solid.  Seeing a chance to score some Cred Points, I couldn’t say Yes fast enough.  Then I got to hear what the deal was.

Turns out H. was assigned to guest-speak at the Intern Training program that day, a program that started in fifteen minutes.  Seeing as how he was speaking to the coat rack when trying to talk to me, H. was not going to be able to make that guest appearance, and he wanted me to take his place.  He had some notes on Business Communication that he tossed at me before passing out, and then it was all on me to get my game face on.

At that point, I ran down to the garage and burned down my Emergency Spliff to get my head straight.  That had a little bit of an unintended reaction with the Scotch, so I don’t much remember the elevator ride up to the Intern conference room, or the first few minutes of my introduction talk.  I basically blacked back in standing in front of 30 college kids with my shoes off and the words THIS IS REAL written on the white board behind me.  I had apparently been in the middle of a story, but totally lost my train of thought when consciousness had returned.  As we all stared at each other not saying anything, I had a sudden flash of insight and realized I would just impart my personal Comm. Mantras to these kids and then drop the mic.

I quickly turned, fighting off the urge to pass out, and furiously scribbled my Power Comm. Advice on the board:

1.  Enter a room listening

2.  Keep both feet on the floor

3.  Silently repeat the other speaker’s words

4.  Act as if everything is hilarious/brilliant/interesting

5.  Alert power posture, at all times

By the time I was done, I was sweating through my slim-fit and seeing double.  I started a slow-clap for myself and left as it was starting to build.

It was a Wednesday and I took the next two days off, since I had done more than enough work for the week.  Pretty sure that promotion is mine, and that I may have a chance with at least a few of those interns in there.

Steed’s Business Ethics 101 continues on the next installment of Working For The Weekend…

Personal Soundtrack

22 Apr

 

The Song

Lazuli by Beach House

“Lazuli” has Beach House’s trademark sonic ingredients – chiming piano, shimmering guitar, entrancing beat, angelic vocals – all mixed together in a hypnotic song that lulls you into a reverie before taking off behind expansive guitar and piano runs.  Beach House is releasing their new album Bloom on May 15, and from the sound of the new tracks, it appears their excellent brand of dreamlike pop/rock is back in full force.

Listening to Beach House often feels like you’re floating gently along in the clouds before hitting a huge updraft and taking off, in sync with the soaring vocal and instrumental surges of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally.  The duo are experts at creating peaceful background music and fading off in your subconscious before locking into a groove and snapping back to your attention with expansive and theatrical melodies.  They’ll suck you in before you even realize they’ve got you, and at that point there’s no way to resist.

The Activity

It’s finals season, and that Anthropology 101 class you took as an easy elective has turned out to be much more difficult than you expected.  You let things slide all semester and now you find yourself needing an A on the final to keep your grades up.  You have pretty much no idea where to start on your marathon study session, so you enlisted the help of your lab partner.  She seems to know what’s going on, and it doesn’t hurt that you’ve been harboring a crush on her ever since the first lecture session.  For now though, as much as you’d love to get to know her better, you’re facing a daunting pile of notes on human evolution and this is set to be an all-business study session in your apartment.

You always study better with music on, so after you guys go over a few flash cards, you throw on some peaceful Beach House to help with a bit of textbook reading.  Everything’s quite studious for a several minutes, but a subtle vibe is slowly building in the air.  Neither of you notice the energy in the room until you come to the book’s section on the sexual proficiency of those deviant bonobos.  Sidelong glances turns into accidental eye contact and shy smiles as you both struggle to stay focused.  Just then, Victoria Legrand’s soaring vocals sync perfectly with the shimmering melody behind her, and the losing battle with self-control is finally abandoned for good.  Textbooks go flying, hands get busy, and the Beach House study break is in full effect.

Friday Relief

20 Apr

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: 2012 belongs to Channing Tatum.  He’s already headlined two Number One movies in The Vow and 21 Jump Street, and added the solid Haywire for good measure.  But the coup de grâce is coming in the form of Magic Mike, partly based on Channing’s real-life past as a male stripper.  Just a quick run-down:

1)  Channing is a male stripper named Magic Mike

2)  His mentor is Matthew “David Wooderson” McConaughey

3)  This is all directed by Steven Soderbergh

So, yeah.  Let this trailer take you to the weekend.

Doing It Live: Swanky Summer

19 Apr

Now that the first weekend of Coachella has come and gone amid a smokey haze of holograms and light shows, the 2012 music festival season has officially gotten started.  Stretching throughout the summer, the festival scene has been around for decades, but U.S. fests experienced a surge in popularity several years ago that took things to a whole different level.  While there have been several one-and-done fests that have failed to make an impact, a few well-planned and organized festivals have built up loyal followings in their respective regions and have even expanded to draw music/party lovers from all over the world.  Coachella, Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Outside Lands are spread out over the country and have become destination dates that fans circle on their calendars months in advance.

Even though they are beloved by many, the festival scene is obviously not for everyone.  It’s easy to find vocal critics of pretty much every fest out there, and these skeptics do make some legitimate points.  So, before you jump into a major festival for the first time, you should know some things.

Yes – there will be tons of hipsters (although that term has become far too ambiguous and now gets thrown around haphazardly by people who should try harder, but for lack of time and space we’ll go with it for right now), there will be anxiety-inducing crowd sizes, there will be people on drugs doing things like rolling around on the grass looking at light shows or jumping up and down while hugging and looking at light shows, there will be people spending the entire festival on their smartphones taking and posting Instagram pics, there will be said pics all over your social network feeds the following week consisting mainly of vintage palm trees/city skylines/sunsets/pretty lights/Ray-Bans, there will be beautiful girls in bikinis followed around by huffing dudes wearing tattoos for shirts, there will be $10 beers and only $10 beers in the beer gardens.

There will be all of this, but there will also be amazing artists doing potentially once-in-a-lifetime kinds of things in surreal environments.  If you find the right acts at the right venues it will be an incredible experience in your musical life that you’ll hold on to for a long, long time.  So, if you feel like some amazing musical experiences are worth a little griminess, exhaustion, and lack of personal space – then summer is your time to shine.  And here at DS, we don’t want you going into this Swanky Summer without a little preview on what’s in store.

Coachella Weekend Two [April 20 – April 22]

– We’re still sneezing out glitter and desert dust from last weekend, so it seems a bit strange that everyone out there will be doing it again in a few short days.  It will be interesting to see how the festival organizers and the acts approach this new second weekend – a lot of the excitement with Coachella comes from the unexpected, either in regards to what set list your favorite bands will play, what special effects they’ll bust out, or what surprise guests will emerge mid-set.  A perfect example is the Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg show.  The Tupac hologram loses its HOLY SHIT feel when you know its coming, and so do the appearances by Eminem, 50 Cent, etc.  Will they just do the same show all over again and pretend the first one didn’t happen?  Will the guests even show up again?  Will the artists lose some of their fire from the first week?  This will be an interesting experiment, and hopefully it won’t have disappointing results.

– Parents of young daughters going to Weekend Two and any future Coachellas: Stay away from the Sahara Tent.  Stay far, far away.  You won’t sleep for weeks afterwards.

– M83 was great the first weekend, and should not be missed this time around either.  Their music is perfect for the dreamy, ethereal, outdoor feel of the Coachella side tents, and they played a passionate set.

– SBTRKT was also great, and played a much more high-tempo set than was expected from their somewhat muted (but great) recent album.  Don’t miss the dance party.

– Swedish House Mafia and Radiohead showed the great potential behind the Event-level spectacle of the Main Stage – definitely not to be missed.

Sasquatch! [May 25 – May 28]

–  There’s a special place in my heart for this festival for two reasons.  One, its located at The Gorge Amphitheater, which  is the most beautiful venue in the country.  Two, this was the first music festival I ever attended, way back when it was two nights and I had no idea what I was doing.  And it was awesome.

– Being located in the great Pacific Northwest, the weather can be a bit more unpredictable (read: cold) than some other festivals, so come prepared with blankets or cuddle buddies.  Even with the sketchy weather, though, it is again a beautiful place to spend a weekend, and if you have any kind of chance to catch a set on the main stage while the sun is setting, then you better take it.

– Pretty Lights definitely stands out on the lineup, especially because they aren’t part of the main group of artists making the typical festival rounds this year.  Pretty Lights’ main stage set on opening night will be amazing, with their grooves echoing out in the night over the Columbia River.  Find somebody to dance with/hold you.

– The northern locale of Sasquatch lends to its general atmosphere being more laid-back than some of the other major festivals, and that will be a welcome thing when Days 3 and 4 come around.  The quirky vibe of the fest is reflected in the huge variety of acts playing this year.  Definitely worth the trip.

 

Bonnaroo [June 7 – June 10]

– Although started roughly around the same time as Coachella in 2002, Bonnaroo has always felt like the O.G. show that started the recent festival revival.  It’s maintained a mystic feel to it – to someone all the way out on the west coast, the swampy Tennessee locale seemed like a mysterious place where revelers danced about to lawless jam bands.

– There have been some amazing images and scenes from Bonnaroo over the years, which have added to its mystique.  The first thing that comes to mind with the festival is My Morning Jacket’s 2004 set, in which the mighty rockers played through a storm and cemented their status in live show legend.

– For the 2012 lineup, there are definitely some interesting choices that stand out as different from the other fests.  The Beach Boys could be great or could be disappointing, but it will be awesomely weird either way to see them in the Bonnaroo setting.  It’s good to see The Cave Singers get some love here too, and their brand of folksy, rough-hewn jams would seem to fit in perfectly out in the Tennessee woods.  And on the whole other side of the music spectrum, Ludacris and The Roots look primed to bring the the beats.

– Final word of warning to any Bonnaroo attendees planning on checking out Skrillex this year – his ‘special guest’ at Coachella last year was Korn.  So….

Lollapalooza [August 3 – August 5]

– Out of all the other big U.S. fests going on this summer, Lollapalooza seems to have the most big ‘name’ bands in their lineup.  The acts going on underneath the headliners go pretty deep as well – maybe because this fest locale is the closest of them all to the musical hub of NYC?

– The festival is set right in downtown Chicago, which offers up a distinctly different atmosphere than the more rural venues like Bonnaroo and Coachella.  This doesn’t mean there won’t still be ample ways to get sweaty and dirty, if that happens to be your thing.

– Regardless of the reason, amazing bands like Washed Out, War On Drugs, Tame Impala, Bear In Heaven, Star Slinger, Toro Y Moi, Little Dragon and Macklemore give Lolla an incredibly strong undercard.

– Black Sabbath is taking the stage in Chicago this year, and it is probably smart to temper expectations for an old Ozzy rockfest.  But if they can still bust out a 12 minute long “War Pigs” then it’s definitely worth a watch.  Get a glimpse of the pit, circa 1970.

Outside Lands [August 10 – August 12]

– Outside Lands is similar to Lollapalooza, in that it’s set within the big city – in this case San Francisco.  In the right place at the right time though, Golden Gate Park can feel like a world away from any city, which gives this fest a distinct mix of urban and outdoor flavors.

– The festival is bringing in some classic rock flavor this year, with Jack White’s vintage shredding, Metallica’s thunder, and Neil Young’s bluesy riffing.  And if all that gets too loud for your tastes, Stevie will be there to gently soothe your soul.

– Outside Lands has a bit smaller profile than the other fests on this list, but it’s been able to thrive by keeping things a bit simpler and more local.  It has a distinct SF feel, which is a good thing.

– I’ve spent some time at Outside Lands before, but unfortunately it was the year that Black Eyed Peas stumbled into the headlining spot.  It was disquieting to see that many people at one time go wild for the Peas and led to some soul-searching – but I have faith in the festival that they won’t go down that frightful road again.

Working For The Weekend

12 Apr

Dan Swanky’s old pal and resident Steed recently reached the summit of the Job Search mountain and has been rewarded with a shiny new executive job at a towering skyscraper downtown.  The opportunity to hear Steed’s unique perspective on the business world is one we didn’t want to pass up.  So we gave him a pocket notebook, some Walking Around Money for his troubles, and then sat back to await the results.  His dispatches did not disappoint.  Prior WFTW: One.

“It’s been a solid two weeks in the Working Game, and even though some of the shine has come off, I’m still fired up every day.  The thing that makes the early morning wakeup call worthwhile is the power struggle here, both inside and outside the office.  Like I said before, I usually craft my life philosophy around the laws of the Animal Kingdom, and the drive to make my way up the authority chain here is where all of those Laws come into play.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with the downside to the entry-level working life – I keep getting pulled away from my power moves to do ‘actual’ work.  I totally understand that I gotta pay my dues, but my goal is to pop out a couple spreadsheets every day for the right people, and then get back to the serious task of building up my own personal brand.  Once I get a couple more positions up from here, I’ll be able to safely hand any ‘work’ off to an intern or something, and I can fully focus on the rise all the way to CEO-status.  Until I can get there, however, I need to deal with my Kenneth problem.

Pretty soon after I started working, I took the lay of the land to see who I had to report to, who I had to be afraid of, and who I had to impress.  My goal was to figure out how to best deal with who I reported to directly – do I need to buddy up to them, do I need to be firm with my authority, do I need to just avoid them at all times?  Whatever it took to prevent them from monopolizing my time with actual ‘tasks,’ so that I could focus on impressing the right people.  Well, my direct supervisor is Kenneth, and this has been an issue.

Kenneth is a fellow of short stature who occupies an office pretty close to my open-air work desk.  (It’s not a cubicle, and regardless, it’s temporary).  He oversees a couple other people in my department, and once I saw that he was not interested in joshin’ around, I figured I would just avoid him and let the others fall on the Busy Work sword.  I’d buy them some brews at happy hour to make up for it, y’know?  But that little sprite Kenneth has been on my ass from day one with things to do, and he is not letting up.

This guy is totally out of control.  He’ll call me into his office whenever he sees me socializing (aka working) and then proceeds to go on brutal sprees of assigning project after project to me.  It’s impossible to avoid him while I’m around my desk, because he lives in his office.  His eyes glint with a terrifying spark of delight when Overtime is mentioned, and he seems hell-bent on continuing this habit of always keeping me busy.  Even when I think he’s not around and try to take some down time at my desk, he uses his short height and fleet feet to pop up when I least expect it.  I often barely have time to hit the minimize button on my browser, and just yesterday there was a tense moment when he snuck up and clearly saw me looking at The Top 10 Hottest Engineering Majors in the Pac-12 on Bleacher Report.  We just stared at each other for a few seconds before he cleared his throat and asked me to finish up the reports he had given me that morning.  I had to spend the next two hours typing up those damn things.  That’s valuable power move time wasted!  This cannot last.

I’ve spent the past few nights brooding over my Schlitzes about what to do, and I think I’m ready to take this situation into my own hands.  I really need to get all of my energy back on the Power game, because I’ve been hearing that clown Curtis from down the hall yukking it up with some of our execs all week.  He’s been speaking out a lot more at our department meetings, and if there’s a promotion coming up soon he’ll be my biggest competition.

But anyways, back to Kenneth.  Lately I’ve been reading some books about power and seduction, just to brush up, and their ideas about quietly displaying authority gestures to disrupt a situation are great.  They say that things like crossing your arms or facing away from someone will illustrate that you don’t respect the situation, and this got my mind working.

What if I drive Kenneth up the wall with my subtle anti-authority postures, while at the same time use some of my patented charm to butter up the HR department?  Then, when Kenneth finally loses his cool on me, I’ll have the support of HR in my back pocket, and I’ll put in a request to transfer out of this toxic work situation!  Bingo, bango, bongo.  I’m going to play this situation like a goddmaned fiddle, and I can’t wait to see Kenneth in my rearview.  I’m off to go drop some passive-aggressive one-liners, guys, I’ll update you with the good news next week.”

Steed’s Business Ethics 101 continues on the next installment of Working For The Weekend…

 

Personal Soundtrack

10 Apr

 

The Song

That’s Alright by Kindness

One recurring element in 80’s music that is often missing from contemporary releases is a love of the saxophone.  Often laid over manufactured back beats, the brassy sax tones were used by artistic titans like Wham! and Oingo Boingo to bring a sophisticated, soulful funkiness to their tales of wild parties and lost love.  That Auto-tuned sax sound slowly faded along with other remnants of the Neon Decade, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not necessarily a good thing either. That’s why it is refreshing to hear Kindness bring back the funky potential of the sax sample with his new track “That’s Alright.”

There’s a little sax freestyling in the song’s intro that offers a taste of what’s to come, but it doesn’t fully prepare for the high energy sax-synth sample that arrives gyrating wildly over the rest of the song.  And just in case the sax wasn’t retro enough for your dancing tastes, Kindness quickly introduces us to a nasty little breakdown beat right out of Paula’s Straight Up School of Music.  “That’s Alright” sounds like someone put a hit 1980s dance single through a blender, and then used the tech tools of 2012 to splice everything back together into a catchy neo-retro hybrid.  In all, the song has a party-loving element that retains a bit of a freaky edge at the same time – the repeated, bass-heavy refrain that “The beat is Bad” rings quite true.

The Activity

You’re not sure how you’ve gotten here, but you’ve found yourself in the middle of a dance party seemingly staged for some kind of music video.  There’s a synth- and sax- happy mix of ambiguously 80s music pumping over some unseen speakers, and girls in tight spandex onesies are flying around performing synchronized dance moves.  There’s no discernible entrance or exit, and you’ve just kind of shown up in the middle of the dance floor – which in a detached way, you just kind of go with.

A group of guys in matching Flock of Seagulls haircuts is grooving near you, and you begin to chuckle at their ridiculousness before realizing that you too have the feathered coiffure you had never seen in person, until today.  As you’re starting to wrap your head around this, your attention is yanked over to the appearance of a cartoon cat doing some kind of dance routine with who appears to be Paula Abdul.  You want to stop and ask someone if that’s normal here, but you’re doing the running man uncontrollably and can’t catch your breath to speak.

You try to think what song this music video could be for.  There’s not a specific reason that you can point to for the music video explanation, except for the fact that this expansive space seems like a sound stage, with the walls and ceiling a vague grayish color that reminds you of The Cosby Show.  And speaking of the Cosbys – there’s Bill and Co. themselves, off in a corner doing some carefree grooving.  Bill catches you watching him do an air sax solo and gives a big thumbs up before going back to his jam.  What the hell?  Your head’s going to explode.  And then, just as George Michael steps on to a stage that you could have sworn wasn’t there 30 seconds ago, you jolt awake in your present-day bedroom, covered in sweat.  Just some weird kind of dream about an era you weren’t even old enough to remember…but why is that soulful sax sound from outside your room getting louder?  And why can’t you stop dancing?

Letters From Lyle

7 Apr

All of us feint and parry with new adulthood in different ways, and for some, that involves staying in the warm embrace of the parental household until the mid-20′s.  When you’re finally ready (or when Dad’s tired of you blacking out on his $700 Scotch) it is a momentous occasion, filled with peaks and valleys of emotion.  Our friend Lyle is currently beginning such a move, taking the carpool lane straight from his parent’s basement to his own place.  We asked him to write us with updates and reflections, like a Lewis & Clark of the YA set.  His dispatches are presented here, somewhat uncensored.  Earlier letters: One, Two.

[Note: The photo above is a dramatization and is not the actual Lyle and Panda.  They are much sexier.]

Separation Anxiety

Dear Dan,

Good sirs.  It has been one hot month since I broke the seal and ventured out into this big bad world we call adult independence.  I gotta say, it was a bit touch and go at first.  But I have warmed up quite a bit, and am now rocking the quarter-hundo young adult lifestyle at full-speed.  Like I was born to do it.

When it comes down to it, it’s the little pieces of freedom during the day that I am loving the most.  Y’know – like having a pants-free sandwich on the couch without getting that look of pure judgment from Dad.  Smoking my medicine without having to run the shower and then blow the smoke out through fabric softener sheets.  Pushing the levels up on my progressive House mixes and Untz Untz Untzing without Mom losing her shit.  Just doing me, when I damn well please.

But speaking of Mom – there has been a little bit of turbulence from the new lifestyle that I wasn’t totally expecting.  Namely with the mother.  There’s been what Panda [Ed.’s Note: Again, Lyle’s pet name for his girlfriend is Panda] has been calling ‘separation anxiety’ between me and Mom.

Basically, I’ve been stationed out of home base pretty much my whole life.  I went to college only 20 minutes away, and even though I lived at school, I’d usually stay at home a couple nights during the week to get some detox and chocolate milk.  And then when I graduated, I just slipped right back into my basement palace.  So being out of the house for good has been a bit of a shock for everyone.

Over here at HQ, my problems with the new separation kind of came to a head all at once two days ago.  Things had been simmering for awhile with Mom, and Panda had been getting the worst of it from both sides.  From my mother, it had been in the form of twice-daily phone calls to check in on me – if Panda answered the phone there would just be icy silence on the other end until I finally came and picked it up.  And this has also been paired with several unannounced ‘drop-ins’ by Mom – because she was usually armed with some General Tsao’s Chicken or my fresh drycleaning, I wasn’t complaining about these at all.  But Panda was never in a good mood after one of these visits, and this most recent drop-in happened to come right after I had mentioned that Panda’s chili didn’t have the same snap that I was used to.

Right after I had dropped that piece of info, the doorbell rang and Panda opened it to find my Mom standing there with some of my now-clean dress shirts.  To say shit hit the fan, my friends, is doing the verbal sparring that ensued between these two lovely women a disservice.  I kept my distance as they went back and forth about who really knows what’s best for me, and when it finally seemed as though all the venom had quieted down, I did my best to clear the air.

I told Mom that I would always be her Little Man, but that she was going to have to let me do some of my own things now.  And I told Panda that I loved both of them equally as much, and that there was room for two women in this heart.  By the end, we were all a bit wet-eyed, and all was good on both homefronts once again.  Growing up ain’t easy, you know?  But if I can survive stuff like this, I’ll be all good.  Until next time dudes.

 

Warmest Regards,

Lyle Gans

Friday Relief

6 Apr

It’s Good Friday, which means it’s also G.O.O.D. Friday.  Throw Kanye’s newest crew cut on at your family Easter/Passover party and ride it out.

What says the holidays like “Something about Mary, she’s gone off that molly/ Now that whole party is melting like Dali”

Mercy, Kanye.

 

The Keg’s Back There

4 Apr

With American Reunion hitting theaters this week, the various faces of East Great Falls Class of ’99 have been popping up on TV and billboards all over the place.  There are probably many out there who hit American Pie fatigue shortly after the credits rolled on the second one, and the sight of Jim, Finch, Oz and Co. with a few years’ of mileage on them is not really a welcome one.  But personally, while it is a bit disconcerting to see what a decade has done to Ms. Suvari and Ms. Reid, the familiar images  of these characters strikes up a fondness normally reserved for old friends.

I’m sure most everyone has a few pieces of pop culture that happened to come about at a particularly important or memorable point in their lives – be it a movie, book, song, etc.  And for whatever reason, that slice of entertainment paired with a fond memory and never really escaped you after that.  The artistic merits of your personal cultural talisman can be questionable, and that’s not the point.  There are plenty of other deeply felt and profound films or songs that can be cherished and pointed to as truly your ‘favorites’.

You can put as many high-minded books and foreign films on your shelves as you want – the more prominent the better when that intriguing new neighbor stops by looking for some eggs.  But when it comes down to it, there is often a faded DVD sitting around somewhere on your shelf that has been carried along to every apartment you’ve ever lived in – waiting to be played in the case of a truly shitty day or just because you hadn’t seen it in far too long.  Here at Dan Swanky’s, one of those discs happen to be American Pie.

The original Pie found its way into my cinematic heart due in large part to its release coinciding with my stumbling transition from bright-eyed elementary school kid to hormone-fueled teenager.  I remember distinctly the first day I saw the movie, which is not something I can say for a lot of other films.  It was some weekend when I was 12, and while over at a friend’s house, he surreptitiously mentioned that he had a VHS copy of American Pie.  For a kid still grappling with the parental units over access to anything past a PG-13 rating, this was akin to someone sliding a Playboy and a pack of Camel Lights across the table.  I had heard of the movie’s raunchiness through various schoolyard networks, and being able to watch it was a thrilling rush in that manner unique to forbidden childhood activities.  On the drive back home in the family car afterwards, I felt as though I had just done something wrong – and I wasn’t in the least bit sorry.

The movie definitely did not disappoint when it came to offering up a theretofore unseen world of high school parties and sexual misadventures.  The casual depictions of hooking up were both entrancing and confusing – I knew I wanted to take part in all of this consensual fun, but I also had no idea what was going on at many points.  Of course, in the prideful chest-puffing way of adolescence, my friends and I loudly laughed at every part to show that we ‘got it.’  But I was definitely not entirely clear on the whole chain of events leading to scenes  like Tara Reid shouting out her arrival plans while Courtney Love growled along on the soundtrack.  All we knew that it looked fun, edgy, and grown-up.

As someone poised on the doorstep of high school and its teenage experiences, I was in a bit of impressionistic state, to say the least.  And American Pie arrived with a bundle of impressions, offering up an idealized image of high school full of debaucherous keg parties and sexually adventurous foreign exchange students.  I didn’t entirely buy into this image, but I bought in enough that I was mildly disappointed when high school did not, in fact, turn out to be like East Great Falls High.    That disappointment didn’t taint the movie, however, and as high school realities carried on, Pie became a familiar and welcoming reminder of the idealism and exciting newness of that 12-14 year-old range.  We were all looking forward to the nonstop fun awaiting with high school parties and their attendant high school girls.  The movie has come to represent a simpler, stylized vision of high school that never, and could never have, existed; it is still enjoyable to live the dream vicariously through Jim and the crew.

Set apart from my own personal experience and looked at on its own merits, there are several other reasons American Pie has remained an enjoyable movie for this long.  By using Jim’s viewpoint to tell the story, the creators presented a character that was easy to sympathize with as he endured some pretty universal high-school experiences.  In the original movie, Jim just wants to get laid, and he’ll do what it takes to get there.

The “Nadia” sequence, in which Jim falls all over himself to hook up with the beautiful foreign exchange student, is a great visual example of his endearing, misguided quest.  (The scene is also a visual time capsule of the late-90s teen experience: chat rooms, Blink-182 song AND cameo, bleached tips, puka shells, Shannon Elizabeth, Perfect 10, etc.)  He’s awkward, sincere, and ultimately doesn’t really go through any groundbreaking transformation at the end, like a lot of other fictional protagonists.  His story feels natural, and by extension, the movie resonates deeper than most of the other teen sex comedies that have come along since Pie.

As with many other movies you can have an unabashed soft spot for, there are of course some unfortunate aspects of American Pie that there’s no getting around.  The acting in the original is all over the place, ranging from high points like Seann William Scott’s career-launching Stifler performance to the Mena Suvari/Chris Klein blank stare contest.  That’s the price you can pay for having a bunch of relatively unknown teens headline your movie.  And the franchise has not had the greatest aging process – the raunchy edge of the first movie seems a lot tamer by now, and there have been some significant cases of diminishing returns with the sequels.  The spate of Band Camp spin-offs also don’t help with the franchise’s reputation for just being another major studio cash cow.

But all of that goes by the wayside when the first funky strains of generic porn music open up the first scene of American Pie.  At that point the smile goes on and doesn’t come off for the next two hours.  Sometimes, that’s all you’re looking for in a movie.