Sunday, August 30, 2009

Salt-N-Pepa's recipe for success

With an act titled "Salt-N-Pepa," one might assume that this is a duo. However, anyone who's looked into the so-called duo will realize that it is actually a trio that features Spinderella as the mix-mastering DJ.

Some guys like Salt. Some guys like Pepa. But I prefer Spinderella - the band's unsung hero, literally.

In all honesty, I do not know that much about Salt-N-Pepa, except for my attraction to Spinderella. I also have heard the band's songs titled "Shoop," "Whatta Man" and "Push It."

I am uncertain of the intentions behind "Push It," but considering the song was released in 1987, I suspect it is a commentary on how the Cold War became unnecessarily intense between the USSR and U.S. By singing "Push It" and then gyrating, Salt-N-Pepa were pointing out how ridiculous a nuclear holocaust would be if Reagan or Gorbachev pushed that dreaded red button in their bedrooms.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Texas teaches belt buckles

As many of my close friends know, I recently completed a four-city spiritual journey. The trip went from Tahoe to Austin to Portland and concluded two weeks ago in Cleveland, my homeland.

I consider myself an eclectic and elegant Renaissance man, and I have brought back elements from each city to my current home in Long Beach, Calif.

In my entire spiritual journey, perhaps the most critical thing I learned came from Texas: the importance of donning a classy, yet subtle, belt buckle.

You see, while ladies accessorize frequently and often resemble gypsies because of all of their jewelry, heterosexual men find accessorizing more difficult. In Portland, I found the perfect buckle that melds cutting-edge style with pragmatic business sense - a metallic cassette tape.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My personal True Hollywood Story

Many of us have parts of our past that we want to keep concealed. Maybe we're embarrassed by what happened, or we just want to forget a certain episode of our lives. For me, that certainly is the case, when I was in a two-man band that lived like an episode of an "E! True Hollywood Story."

When I moved to L.A., I got in a two-man band in which we both played electric guitars. We had a drum machine and really rocked out. One thing I learned about myself was that I'm more of an entertainer than a musician. I thrived with introducing songs, and typically, I'd introduce a song for about two minutes, then the song itself would only be about 15 seconds.

We were uncertain of our band name, but I assumed it was Pope Urban 20,000. (I had already been in bands called Pope Urban II and Pope Urban 2000.) So, I eventually discovered that my band-mate was more interested in having drinks, watching TV and even walking his dog than creating our unique blend of rock, and so our band spiraled out of control, like a True Hollywood Story.

As for our sound, we had the same reaction after every song. We would nod our heads and say, "That was excellent, man!" Then, one of us would say, "It was great. ... But, again, it sounded too much like the Miami Vice."
  At the time, I could not figure out at all why every song sounded like the theme to Miami Vice, no matter how hard we tried to escape it. It was only years later that I realized the drum machine gave us that sound. Though both of us are Caucasian, it's safe to say we were the Crockett and Tubbs of rock.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Smokey criticizes 'Oso rotten' depictions of bears

About a week ago, I received this text message from Smokey Bear: “WTF? Ur a EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE. EXPLETIVE U.”

I responded: “Pls stop this.”

Soon after that, one of Smokey’s publicists called, apologized for the bear’s text and suggested having another interview in which Smokey could clear up misconceptions that arose from our first interview. For that initial interview, please see the Aug. 2 interview on Snooze Button Generation titled “Celebrity Bear on Fire.”

I agreed to another interview, but shortly after that, Smokey’s publicist said mentioning any past relationship (obviously, a reference to Chloe Sevigny) would be off limits. I still said OK.

Snooze Button Generation: It’s good to see you again.

Smokey Bear: Yeah, it’s good see you, kid. I like the new name thing here. Snooze Button Generation – it has meaning. A good ring to it.

SBG: Thank you, Smokey. … Anyway, some of the things you said in our previous interview caused a stir. Is there anything you said that you regret?

Smokey: Regret? Hmm. I don’t regret anything. But I do want to be clear and say that I am 100 percent behind the U.S. Forest Service and its mission. I am completely against forest fires and wildfires.

SBG: Last time, you mentioned the word “exploited.” Do you feel exploited by the U.S. Forest Service?

Smokey: (long pause and cough) Not at all. Listen, I’ve lived a charmed life. How many bears do you know who are celebrities? Of course, there are Pooh Bear, Paddington and the Berenstain Bears. Y’know, a lot of superficial bears. At least I was behind an important cause and have interests other than things like honey.

SBG: Are you calling other celebrity bears superficial?

Smokey: Don’t twist my words, kid. I’m just saying that, by comparison, my work with the U.S. Forest Service is commendable. By comparison, I’m certainly not exploited.

SBG: Would you say other bears are exploited?

Smokey: That’s a tough question, kid. The word “exploited” takes it a little far. I just believe that the depictions of bears in the media are way behind the times. A lot of people think we’re one big joke. When you see a bear in the media, think "S.O.S." We’re “Scary Or Stupid,” and, obviously, that’s not how we are. There was a bear on the loose in the Will Ferrell movie “Semi-Pro,” and I’ve seen no Oscar nominations for any bear ever. This is all what I call "Oso rotten."

SMG: What would you like to see happen with depictions of bears in the media?

Smokey: I just want directors to analyze what they’re doing. For example, if you look at the portrayal of the Charmin Bears in their recent commercial, anyone can see how offensive it is. You have a bear who gets toilet paper stuck to the fur on his buttocks. And that’s acceptable? … And I’m here in this interview apologizing to the U.S. Forest Service. That’s crazy. I’d like to see an apology from Charmin.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Living off the grid

I claim to care a lot about education and the environment. But unless action is taken, I believe those so-called claims are unfounded.

That is why I am teaching high school in Lynwood - to put into action my claim that education matters. I am not sure if I am truly "making a difference," but at least I'm trying.

I also believe the environment is important, but beyond recycling, using less shopping bags and proper battery disposal, I hardly am making much of a difference... That was until this past Sunday, when I made a commitment to "live off the grid."

First of all, "living off the grid" is extremely difficult, near to impossible, in Long Beach, Calif. We take for granted electricity, running water, indoor plumbing and even the Internet. So I applaud anyone who can consistently eschew that stuff for lanterns, well water, outhouses and the game of slap jack.

To give "living off the grid" panache, several celebrities, including Daryl Hannah who is best known for playing a mermaid in "Splash," actually are living that way. They should be lauded.

Anyway, I must confess that I fell into "living off the grid" by more of an accident than choice. I accidentally left my cell phone in my car's glove compartment, briefly forgot where it was, then was too lazy to retrieve it until a whopping six hours later. Luckily, I had just one missed call - from my mom.

So what did I learn from having my cell phone in the glove box for six hours and, thus, living off the grid? Well, I learned it's hard to be environmentally conscientious nowadays. After a while, I really wanted that cell phone back and, thank God, got it.

I also learned that we, as individuals, can make a difference. A cynic might say that six hours without a cell phone is no cause for celebration. But I don't see it that way. I look at it as a start and a reassurance that we can accomplish anything if we just put our mind to it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yearning for Bugle Boys, Z Cavariccis and Hammer Pants

For many days, I have been conflicted about which pants from my past I miss the most - Bugle Boys, Z Cavariccis or "Hammer Pants."

For the record, I have only owned Bugle Boys, but that doesn't mean I can't respect, and/or miss, Z Cavariccis and Hammer Pants. Curiously, I am not sure I know anyone who wore Hammer Pants, other than Hammer himself.

I could not find any Z Cavaricci videos online and do not recall ever seeing one. However, Z Cavaricci print ads exist. Apparently, when obtaining Z Cavariccis, one is also obtaining a life of style, love and hipness:
In contrast to the lack of Z Cavaricci videos, Bugle Boy videos are easy to find:

Love the sentiment. Who needs a ride in the desert when you got the right pants?

Still, something in me says I miss Hammer Pants the most. I also miss the phrase "Hammer Time," and for the immediate future, I plan on replacing "Hello" with "Hammer Time" when I answer the phone.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Real Classy Event

I recently hosted a "real classy party." That decision was difficult because at first I thought we'd have a "classy party." But after much convincing from The Most Sophisticated Man (Codename: Viper), I realized that a "real classy party" was more desirable than a "classy party."

Class oozed from guests at the real classy party. I was impressed. The only class question that arose was when my friend Craig drank a 40-ounce bottle of Miller High Life. Even though "High Life" was in the title of Craig's beverage, I am uncertain the drink is actually classy. Beware of titles of classy items. Many people believe the magazine "High Society" is classy, but that may not be the case.

Anyway, as part of the fun of having such an erudite affair, some guests and I made a list on my children's dry erase board of things we deem classy.
My first choice of something classy was "proper battery disposal." But I soon learned that pick is simply environmentally sound, and not necessarily classy. I then changed mine to "writing a letter on someone's bare back in bed with a quill," just like in the classy movie "Dangerous Liaisons." I later realized that is better categorized as sexy.

Thank goodness, some guests had extremely classy selections. One was Audrey Hepburn, who after being the top actress of her generation become a globe-trotting humanitarian (I believe her later life made her even classier.).
Another response that affected me was "baccarat." Oh, yes, that is quite an exquisite game. I concur with that selection. I've often heard the argument that we in the Snooze Button Generation (TM) have less class than our predecessors. If Audrey Hepburn, baccarat and martinis have been traded for Paris Hilton, Texas hold 'em and Bud, we may have a problem.

But who am I to judge? I like hold 'em, don't mind an occasional cheap beer and have never personally met Paris Hilton.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kirk Lazarus: Our Generation's Greatest Actor

It takes a lot for me to be "blown away" by a movie and/or actor. But I was simply blown away by Kirk Lazarus' performance in last year's "Tropic Thunder." Here is a clip of Lazarus on the set of Thunder:

For those who haven't seen "Tropic Thunder," Robert Downey Jr. plays Lazarus - an acclaimed Australian actor who undergoes a controversial skin colorization procedure to play a black soldier. I have a friend who came in midway through "Tropic Thunder" and did not realize that Downey was the actor.

Downey was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the role and lost to the posthumous Heath Ledger. I loved Downey, 44, so much in this film that I think I can say this: He is my favorite actor under 45. Other top actors I like, including Johnny Depp (46) and Sean Penn (49) are too old to get that distinction.

By the way, Robert Downey Jr. is not related to Morton Downey Jr., the deceased talk-show host.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Most Sophisticated Man

A lot of conventional thinking nowadays points to the "Dos Equis guy" as the most sophisticated man in the world. I have done Internet research, though, that shows he is actually the most interesting man in the world, while my Cousin Steve (Codename: Viper) is the most sophisticated man.

How do I know this? Well, I know this from a mixture of anecdotal and scientific evidence. Wherever Viper goes, people yearn to know more about his elegance and style. Whether it is Jo-Ann Fabrics or a Long Beach night club, ladies flock to him in search of fashion and lifestyle tips.

What also sets Viper apart from other sophisticated men, who are actually only semi-sophisticated, is his ability to ooze class and understanding in all situations. When we attended a kiddie park, for example, he had a baby Bjorned, yet still made an array of social plans through cellular phone calls.
Now, Dos Equis' most interesting man has sophistication, but his sophistication is not nearly as layered as Viper's. I can not picture the Dos Equis man with a baby Bjorned or figuring out bead configurations in Jo-Ann Fabrics. But I can say that both Viper and I have respect for the most interesting man in the world:

In all seriousness, Viper took part in a 17-day visit with me, and my girls and I miss him tremendously. I am not sure if I know a kinder, more caring human being than him.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dishwashers: Impossible Riddles of the Midwest

I don't believe a spiritual journey truly ever ends for human beings, AKA "the thinking mammals." So even though I am back in Long Beach, Calif., the journey continues. What am I looking for? I don't know - probably the same thing you're looking for.

I have no grand statements to make of my four-legged spiritual journey (Tahoe, Austin, Portland, Cleveland the Homeland), but have realized several truths during my voyage. Here are a few of them:
1) Don't discount the power of a shiny, classy belt buckle (Austin).
2) Siete Tres is a better drink when the ingredients are not disclosed (Portland).
3) Emptying a dishwasher at 1 a.m. in Cleveland following a party of 27 proves to be not only baffling, but most likely impossible.
With my two beautiful daughters in my homeland, I attempted to make up for lost time by visiting with relatives and friends as much as possible. My mom even had an open house, where 27 people attended. After this event, the X Man and I played some pool and discussed our wide-ranging philosophies.

These sessions of pool and philosophy prove to be enjoyable for both the X Man and me because we have many similarities when it comes to both pool and philosophy. Then, when we finished this particular session, we noticed a seemingly innocuous site - clean dishes in the dishwasher.

By the power of Greystoke, emptying this dishwasher turned out to be one of the most difficult tasks I've run across in the past 20 years. Where were all those forks coming from? Who in the world has an infinite supply of silverware? How can all this fit in one drawer?

The X Man and I tried our best, though we seemed to make obvious mistakes during the emptying process. We may have broken a drawer by cramming the silverware into it. ... In the morning, my mom explained that there were multiple drawers for the silverware. In retrospect, that fact makes perfect sense, but at the time, X and I were locked in some sort of unsolvable Rubik's Cube of silverware.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hey Little Dipper, prepare for defeat

I consider myself a sophisticated fellow - an elegant gentleman, if you will. Therefore, I am extremely excited, and perhaps giddy, to be taking my two daughters, ages 4 and 2, to tackle the oldest running steel roller coaster in North America tomorrow.

We will be going to the Memphis Kiddie Park in Brooklyn, Ohio, and we plan on defeating the Little Dipper. I hear this all-steel roller coaster has been around since 1952, and it's the oldest in North America. It's also for kids. Joy!

We will put a metaphorical spear through the heart of the Dipper, then take out the Dipper's heart, chew it and kick it through a goal post. Of course, that assumes a goal post is nearby. If no goal post is nearby, we will simply play hacky sack with the Little Dipper's metaphorical heart.

However, if the girls deem the Dipper too antiquated and/or scary for defeat, we will move onto the next ride. I'll be cool with that, but that does not mean my intention is not to put a spear through the Dipper's heart, take out the heart, chew it and then kick it through a goal post.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

At least we're not Detroit!

I may be taking a week-long hiatus from blogging because I will be going on leg four of my spiritual journey — Cleveland, my homeland. I am uncertain if there are computers in Cleveland. But at least we're not Detroit!

Apparently, this video has become blase in Cleveland, but I still find it funny:

Actually, because of my extremely strong research techniques, I found this other video done by the same guy, Mike Polk, that is even funnier:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Hughes, R.I.P.

The startling news of John Hughes' death today made me, and I would imagine many members of the Snooze Button Generation (TM), reminisce about his superb body of work. To recap, these are some John Hughes films: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful.

Now, Hughes also wrote Vacation, AKA National Lampoon's Vacation, and is also responsible for Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck and an array of crap. However, those aren't exactly "John Hughes films," by any logical definition because they do not have teen relationships as their focus.

Anyway, despite the ridiculously insensitive and stereotypical depiction of Long Duck Dong, which seemed perfectly fine in the '80s to me, I am a huge fan of John Hughes films. While I pay my respects to Mr. Hughes, I also would like to take a moment to question a few plot issues I always found problematic.

1) The Breakfast Club — If one smokes marijuana, runs around a library, then enters a smoke-filled room and yells, it seems unlikely -- perhaps impossible -- that a glass door will shatter.

2) Weird Science — There's a magnificent scene in a bar, where the phrase "she's into malakas, Dino" is delivered. Wouldn't Anthony Michael Hall and "Wyatt" at least get carded in the bar? Or at least, shouldn't the idea of them being underage by addressed in passing? (Strangely, I have no problem with the idea of two teens birthing a model, but I have a problem with this.)

3) Vacation (again, not a John Hughes film, but written by Hughes) -- I do not believe it is sexy and/or becoming to gawk at a pretty girl while kissing a sandwich. The fact that "the dog wet on the picnic basket" is pretty much irrelevant because of the absurdity of the sandwich kissing.

He actually bought a boat!

I can’t believe he did it. My cousin bought a boat!

Now, here’s what makes this so crazy. He’s visiting California for two weeks from Cleveland, hardly knows anything about boating, but still, he went for it. I guess it’s a nod for spontaneity over caution.

Steve says he got a great deal on "The Malibu," but I say he got a fair deal. He wonders how he’s going to get it back to Cleveland, and that should be an adventure.
The one thing I’ve heard about boats, though, is that the best day of ownership is the day the boat is bought. The next best day of boat ownership is when the owner gets rid of it. We shall see how this works with my cousin.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Snooze Button Generation

Many years ago, I coined a phrase called "The Snooze Button Generation" (TM) to describe my generation, or people born between 1965 and 1979.

Of course, the common term for this army of people is Generation X. However, I am partial to calling us The Snooze Button Generation because it embodies our apathy and how we have watched technology grow exponentially — and slightly bonkers — in our lifetime.

You see, the snooze button on alarm clocks did not become ubiquitously used until my generation. Heck, I remember when getting a VCR was a big deal. Those are gone now. I also remember when getting a cordless phone was a game-changer. Landlines are practically gone now, too. Somehow, we still have gas-guzzling automobiles. ... Cool!

I do not really remember having an alarm clock without a snooze button. Thus, waking up at a certain time for me has always been more of a suggestion. Today, I regularly employ one snooze, and sometimes two, before I rise on a work day. Does everybody still do this?

The ramifications of the snooze button go deep. Apathy, selfishness, laziness, sleepiness and/or general confusion became commonplace FOR AN ENTIRE GENERATION.
By the way, I don't remember much generation labeling since the "Generation X" talk of the early '90s. (UPDATE in 2019...) However, this generation talk has gotten much, much bigger in recent years. Millennials (born 1980-1994), who sometimes don epic beards and listen to Steely Dan, have made their mark on the world and typically love text messaging.

Generation Z (born 1995-2010), who psychologist/author Jean Twenge calls "iGen," have lived their whole lives with iPads and smart phones close by. I actually prefer iGen to Generation Z as I prefer The Snooze Button Generation to Gen X. But, eh, what's in a name?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Confrontations brew during visit

During my cousin Steve’s 17-day stay in California, a lot of difficult situations have arisen. Now, some people might say a 17-day visit is too long, but I don’t think so. We’re officially “cousins,” but we’re more like brothers. So I welcomed his stay.

An awkward moment came up when Steve insisted on drinking “the cheapest caffeinated coffee possible because they’re all the same.” I, however, prefer more gourmet coffee, such as Seattle’s Best, Tully’s and Starbucks.

We overheard this conversation when he brought home a two-pound canister of Maxwell House.

Tully’s: Oh my Lord. He is so big.

Seattle’s Best: I would say he’s fat. Why does he have to be so big?

Maxwell House: Hey guys. What’s going on?

Tully’s: (whispering to Seattle’s Best) Can you believe this guy? Look at his wrapper. I bet a machine put that on him in some factory.

Seattle’s Best: (whispering to Tully’s) Look what the wrapper says. Master Blend? That is so ghetto.

Maxwell House: Come on, guys. Give me a chance. I’m good to the last drop. If you put me in a coffee maker, don’t I brew?

Seattle’s Best: Hey, listen, we’re open-minded. Some of my best friends are mild coffees.

Maxwell House: (surprised and smiling) Really?

Tully’s: Yeah, I’m cool with large coffee canisters. We don’t mean to judge you. We don’t even know you.

The three coffees then engaged in a group hug.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Joe Stevens: The Apocalypse, 2010

I am uncertain what genre of music I will perform, but I have my first album planned. The name of the album will be “Joe Stevens: The Apocalypse, 2010.”

These will be the tracks on the album:

1. Da Bon Bon (I’ll take a chance on Rome)
2. The Dealer
3. (EXPLETIVE)? Hey, Chica, I’m A (EXPLETIVE)
4. Bombs Over Toyko
5. Siete Tres (My Spanish lullaby)
6. Damn, This Coffee Is Tasty
7. Rio *
8. Baby Gambling
9. Howl At The Sun
10. The Dealer: Reprise
11. Michael Stanley, Where Are You?
12. The Last String Cheese

*-song written by Duran Duran

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Celebrity bear on fire: Snippy Smokey refuses to address relationship with Sevigny

The Snooze Button Generation scored an interview with celebrity/activist Smokey Bear, and we recently met up with him in a West Hollywood eatery. Smokey will be turning 65 on Aug. 9, and he has been active of late. In particular, he has been trying to curtail wildfires as he promotes his relatively new slogan – “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

Smokey was especially popular in the '50s through the '70s, but he seemed to “go away” in the late '80s and '90s. The Snooze Button Generation caught up with him to see what he was up to during those down years.

Snooze Button Generation: Wow. Smokey the Bear. This is truly an honor to interview such an icon.

Smokey: Thanks for the sentiment, kid. But just to set you straight. My name is “Smokey Bear,” not “Smokey the Bear.” Am I gonna call your blog thing Snooze the Button? I don’t think so. Do I say George the Bush? Do I say Howard the Johnson? No. Do some research.

SBG: Well, actually, I did some research, and I found a bit of a gap in the '80s and '90s, when you were hardly in the public eye. I could not find a record anywhere saying where you were or what you were doing. Could you shed some light on that anomaly?

Smokey: Talk to Julian Schnabel.

SBG: Excuse me?

Smokey: You heard me. Talk to Schnabel.

SBG: Are you referring to the New York director and artist, Julian Schnabel?

Smokey: Hello! How many Julian Schnabel’s are there in the world? Listen, kid, I’m flattered you’re interested in my whereabouts when I was in New York. But anyone who’s anyone in the downtown art scene knows exactly where I was.

SBG: What do you mean?

Smokey: Do you know what it’s like to be hanging out in forests all your life? Do you know what it’s like to be a part of corporate America, exploited, expected to put on a smiley face and yammer on about forest fires??? Do you? Huh? Do you???

SBG: Well, no. I guess not.

Smokey: So you say I wasn’t in the public eye, but I still was. It was just a different scene – my scene.

SBG: Wait a second. That rings a bell. You’re talking about your foray into the downtown New York art scene. Right?

Smokey: Of course. It’s where I finally felt alive. It’s where I did my best work.

SBG: Yes. I remember hearing some rumors about that. You went by a different name and changed your look . Right?

Smokey: All I can say is that wearing an ascot goes a long way.

SBG: Oh, and what were those rumors about you and Chloe Sevigny?

Smokey: Listen. I don’t know why you think it’s appropriate to ask me about her. I will say that Ms. Sevigny is a fine young lady, a superb actress. That’s all I have to say.

SBG: Is your relationship with her over?

Smokey: OK. That’s it. F this. This interview is done. Peace out, buddy.