Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy birthday, Mr. Westerberg

Ah, New Year's Eve is a time for champagne, fun and reflection. Today's New Year's Eve, though, should have special meaning to many in the Snooze Button Generation because it also is Paul Westerberg's 50th birthday.

Yeah, that's right. Westerberg turns 50 today. Holy crap! We are getting old.

I stumbled across the Replacements in high school. Being from Cleveland and in the Snooze Button Generation, I really didn't think music beyond classic rock, hair bands and pop existed until well into high school. The Replacements are a pretty darn good rock band that isn't really considered "pop." I have always liked them. Almost all of their albums are excellent, and it's a toss-up between "Let It Be" and "Tim" as their best album.

I have been revisiting the Replacements of late and Westerberg's newer solo stuff. Not to put down his drunken Replacement bandmates, but his solo stuff has helped me realize how talented he is and how much authentic emotion he puts into his tunes.

Wow. That was a solo performance at the Warsaw Room in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 26, 2002.

I'm so!
I'm so!

I could watch it a million times, still be enthralled and feel what he's feeling every time. The Snooze Button Generation thanks you, Mr. Westerberg. ... Welcome to 50!

This next clip is from two years ago, and all I can say is, yeah, I agree. Thanks for understanding. "Everyone's Stupid."

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Polish eagle: Fierce and sophisticated

Back in college, I took a creative writing class with a guy named Mike, who I had known from a previous class. Because of that prior experience, we sat close, chatted and were pals. The only problem with him was that after a year of friendship, I realized his name was "Rob."

I briefly argued with Mike/Rob about what his name was. I thought he was joking about me getting it wrong. I also blamed him for me calling him the wrong name, saying "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

Well, a similar thing has happened with the country of Poland. As a man of 100 percent Polish roots, I should know that the bird on the flag is a white eagle and not a falcon. But for most of my life, I have referred to the cool-looking bird as "The Polish Falcon." I even have a friend who I nicknamed "The Polish Falcon." Egads, sorry, national symbol of Poland.

This comes up now because as I spend a week in Cleveland to celebrate the holidays, I went to Slavic Village (a Polish part of town that is becoming increasingly economically depressed) with a couple friends and the World's Most Sophisticated Man.

Both the Most Sophisticated Man and I purchased Polish flags at Seven Roses, a restaurant and deli that is among the top places in Slavic Village. It was even featured earlier this year in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Anyway, I plan on displaying my Polish flag in a prominent place in my Long Beach, Calif., home, perhaps over the fireplace in the room I've dubbed "The Ski Lodge." The flag will be a reminder of Slavic Village, Poland, stuffed cabbage and fresh kielbasa.

I am going to try to refer to the Polish bird as "The Eagle," although part of me still wants to call it "The Falcon." Apparently, the fierce and sophisticated bird has staying power. It first was seen on Polish currency in the year 1000. I have the utmost respect for that bird; it is a bad ass.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Ale puts problems in perspective

I have found the Great Lakes Brewery's Christmas Ale. In other words, I have made it back to my homeland of Cleveland.

Because I grew up in Cleveland and have many friends and family there, I feel at home most in this beautiful and gritty Northeast Ohio city.

However, I must say that my time here comes with a price as difficult questions arise. When will we play Texas hold 'em? Should we go to the Browns game or watch it on TV? What will we do if the game is blacked out?

Although it may not be proper to escape these hard questions with liquor, the Great Lakes Christmas Ale offers a way to put these queries into perspective with a beverage that is 7.5 percent alcohol.

Some people apparently have a hard time finding the Christmas Ale because of its enormous popularity. But in certain suburbs, Brecksville included, it appears to be easy to get.

Earlier this month, the Plain Dealer ran a story about the brew, and I learned that the Christmas Ale accounts for 20 percent of the Great Lakes Brewery's sales, even though it is only sold for two months. Dortmunder is the most popular with 35 percent of the sales, and I think I like Burning River Pale Ale the best.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Atari: Way better than gift cards

The best Christmas gift is one the receiver wants but does not realize he wants or can get. Christmas also is the best kids holiday.

Therefore, I look back on Christmas 1981 as the time when my brother and I received our greatest present ever - Atari.

Of course, I wanted Atari, but I did not think it was obtainable. In my 8-year-old mind, I envisioned Atari costing $1 million and, thus, thought it was too expensive. When my brother and I unwrapped it, shock and awe overtook us. No way. Atari!

In retrospect, obtaining Atari started the video age for me, and perhaps other members of the Snooze Button Generation went through something similar with Colecovision, Intellivision, the Commodore 64, Apple II or Nintendo. Some of this happened at approximately the same time "Beta vs. VHS" was a relevant conversation.

When my parents bought Atari for my brother and me, they had the presence of mind to also purchase Space Invaders. The machine came with the game Combat, which did not quite have the depth of Space Invaders.

Eventually, we obtained many games and stacked them neatly next to our TV. By the way, I recently ran across a list of the top 10 selling Atari games of all-time, and some of them surprised me. Here's the list 1) Pac-Man, 2) Pitfall!, 3) Missile Command, 4) Demon Attack, 5) E.T., 6) Atlantis, 7) Adventure, 8) River Raid, 9) Kaboom! and 10) Space Invaders.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blog entry replaces Christmas cards

The Snooze Button Generation released its holiday greeting card in the form of this blog today in the hopes of spreading goodwill to all.

"Make sure everybody knows how much I care for them and that this blog is not just me being lazy with Christmas cards," Snooze Button Generation founder and CEO Joe Stevens said. "I'm still pro-Christmas card, but this seems so much easier and more enjoyable."

Symbolically released on a Sunday, when the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver Christmas cards and is therefore not as efficient as this website, this greeting is to let everyone know that Stevens and his girls are doing well and enjoying the holidays.

"Anyone who knows me well knows these past two years have been quite a transition," Stevens said. "A new living situation, a new job, yeah, there's been a lot of change. But isn't life just one big constant change? Is that deep? No, it's probably lame. Wait. Why are you writing? Please don't put that in there."

Stevens will be spending some holiday time with his girls in Las Vegas, then will be going to Cleveland for more festivities. This upcoming year, he hopes to keep enjoying his daughters, loving teaching and having fun.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Mele Kalikimaka.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deaf, dumb and embarrassing

Love is deaf.

Actually, I don't know if that's true. But I do know what it means to be "politically correct," and even mentioning that the word "deaf" exists might be risque by some standards.

I am no prude. Believe me. In fact, I tend to be the politically incorrect guy who is forced to apologize to others for his crassness. On the other hand, I am a bit worldly and am in no need of sensitivity training, especially considering that sensitivity training has nothing to do with tickling and/or one's tickling threshold.

Anyway, the other day, I saw a commercial that was hilarious. It probably was offensive. It attempted to use fake deaf people to sell jewelry. Or if they were actually hearing impaired, how did this commercial sneak into a commercial on ESPN?

In theory, the commercial was meant to make the viewer feel romantic or heartfelt and then run to a mall to purchase jewelry. Read my lips: This commercial is hysterical. The only way I can think of improving it is to pump out Boston's "More Than a Feeling" at the end.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Memento named top film of decade

The Snooze Button Generation released its top 10 films of the 2000s today with Christopher Nolan's "Memento" edging "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Lost in Translation" for the top spot.

Seriously, "Memento" (2000) is a tour de force that flips over conventional storytelling and brings up various critical philosophical ideas. It is the Snooze Button Generation's favorite film of the past decade and is part of an answer to the numerous newspapers, magazines and websites that are coming up with their lesser lists of the decade's best films.

Paste Magazine did a solid job with a top 50 of the 2000s, and the SBG agrees with many choices. But the following, with "Memento" in the top spot, are the real top 10.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The idea of compartmentalizing good and bad memories might seem like a smart idea. But aren't they all connected? What a concept, and, man, this movie made me cry. ... Obviously, on this list, I lean heavily toward originality and strong writing over action, adventure and Hollywood conventions.

3. Lost in Translation (2003)
Ever have a friendship, or acquaintance, that means so much to both parties, but is unconventional and hard to explain? Hell, I do.
4. You Can Count on Me (2000)
What a killer final scene! I loved the acting by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo because I never once thought they were acting.

5. Wonder Boys (2000)
Hey, I'm kind of a writer guy, and I relate to this film. Michael Chabon is among my favorite authors, and I think I should probably crank out something like this when I have a free weekend.

6. Half Nelson (2006)
As an unfortunate rule, movies about teachers are fake. But not this one. Ryan Gosling is probably the top male lead under 30 out there, and he also deserves a shout-out for his role "Lars and the Real Girl," which also is a pretty darn good film.

7. Mulholland Drive (2001)
David Lynch is da bomb, and weirdness and suspense fill this film. Toss in a lesbian scene, and forget about it. This one's a winner.

8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Hey, Wes Anderson is a winner, and any film that helps me discover Mr. Ree is also a winner. 

9. American Splendor (2003)
This pick also is a shout-out to my homeland of Cleveland, where it was filmed. There's a little bit of Harvey Pekar in all of us. Isn't there?

10. Superbad (2007)
It's hard to find "Superbad" on any top 10, or even top 50, list like this, but its dialogue is way more realistic than other teen movies, including "Juno." Both hilarious and real, "Superbad" edges "No Country for Old Men" and "City of God" on the Snooze Button Generation's best of the 2000s list, though those are excellent films, too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Teacher Happy Hour: Tricky and treacherous

I'm only human. Of flesh and blood, I'm made.

Yeah, a lot of cliches swirl around the idea of being human. To err is human, etc.

Those are the thoughts I cling to when I consider what happened on Friday evening, when I attempted the impossible.

As a second-year teacher in a high school, I am learning a lot about what it takes to succeed, and one critical lesson is how to finesse something called "Friday Happy Hour."

Last year, I realized that "Friday Happy Hour" can be problematic because, many times, teachers will hit the Happy Hour shortly after the 3 p.m. bell. Man, that's early.
On this past Friday, something in me told me to stay out past Happy Hour with a friend, continue having cocktails and look for ladies known as "cougars." Later, I was told I actually was looking for younger ladies referred to as "bobcats."

Regardless, I attempted to consume cocktails from 4 p.m. to midnight. That was a recipe for disaster, for I am only human. Another major mistake was switching from beers to martinis at 8 p.m.; that was ridiculous. Somewhere amid all of this, I also text messaged approximately 20 friends and told them to come to my home the next day to watch pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting, which is extremely violent, and play poker, presumably no limit Texas hold 'em.

By the time my friend had three lovely ladies meet us in the evening, my vision and speech were blurred. I wanted to sleep and was incoherent. Luckily, the friend was capable of driving me home, and I thank him for that.

You live and learn. I believe it is impossible to go out for a teacher's Happy Hour and then stay out all night.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top Chef: Excellent, but entirely scripted

Regardless of the b.s. I view on "Top Chef" and "Project Runway," I will enjoy those shows. The truth is that I like sophisticated food and high fashion, and so I watch those shows, even though I have to put up with the genre of reality TV.

But let's get serious. Although I cook daily and subscribe to "Vogue," sophisticated food and high fashion can be boring if not packaged with reality TV.

Earlier this week, Michael Voltaggio was crowned the sixth Top Chef. I predicted he would be the winner, and I pretty much predicted every elimination this entire season because of this reason: THE SHOW KEEPS THE CHEFS WHO ARE THE MOST INTERESTING.

Hands down, Michael Voltaggio, the younger of the two Voltaggio brothers on the show, was the most intriguing personality on the show. He's got a sleeve of tattoos, hardly has a formal education and tries a lot of wacky stuff with food. Plus, the other two in the final, Bryan Voltaggio and Kevin Gillespie, were flawed.
Bryan Voltaggio is a solid chef, but he's married with a kid and does not nearly have the rock star potential as his younger brother. Kevin Gillespie is a fatty.

During one night of many drinks, I met a producer for "Gene Simmons Family Jewels." The following conversation occurred:

Snooze Button Generation: What do you mean the entire show is scripted?
Producer: It's all scripted. Every single scene.
SBG: You mean even the ones that look like candid interaction.
Producer: Yes, even those. Every scene in reality TV is scripted. You didn't know that?

I guess I was naive to think it was "real" with ad-lib moments. Still, I like "Top Chef" and "Project Runway," but there will never be a time when an endearing contestant is kicked off prematurely. Hence, the lengthy stay of Fabio Viviani in the previous Top Chef contest. He lost right before the final three, and I believe Top Chef producers wanted him to be the winner. But his skill level wasn't close enough to the others to justify him winning.

My theory about Fabio might be spot-on as evidenced by this scathing restaurant review in the L.A. Times that came out a week after this post.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ladies still love Lloyd Dobler

Pretty much any desirable lady that a man of the Snooze Button Generation meets will either consciously, or subconsciously, compare that guy to Lloyd Dobler.

Dobler was a mediocre student and aspiring kickboxer who wooed Diane Court, the valedictorian of her class. He held a boom box above his head with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" blaring in a classic movie scene that is endearing, cute and frequently referenced.

Let's face it. The 1989 film "Say Anything..." has been critical to relationships to those in the Snooze Button Generation. Has there ever been a more romantic scene than the one in which Dobler, aka John Cusack, hoists his radio above his head for Ione Skye and all the world to see and hear?

To be in love means to be vulnerable. Being in love is cheesy, illogical, and there are inside moments in which only the two people involved know the significance. Cameron Crowe wrote and directed "Say Anything...", and this needs to be said to him:

Boo-ya! You hit so much on the head in one poignant - and cheesy - moment when Lloyd Dobler does the radio thing. Thank you. ... The only downside is that chicks everywhere constantly compare dudes to Dobler. Thanks a lot.

Apparently, this year marks the 20th anniversary of "Say Anything..." Last month, a group calling itself "Mobler" went all around New York City holding radios above their heads to commemorate the significance of the film and the critical cinematic moment.

The group blasted "In Your Eyes" in subways, on escalators, in revolving doors, in Times Square, Washington Square Park and all over as they dressed like Dobler and reminded us about how sometimes love, pop culture, cheesiness and poignancy all can come together in a bold act for the whole world to see.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gazing at shoes and another possible band

Every five months, I have the same conversation:

Person: Hey, man, you ever been in a band?
Snooze Button Generation: Kind of.
Person: What do you play?
SBG: I kind of play the guitar - self-taught, but I'm more of a writer and entertainer.
Person: What does that mean?
SBG: I don't know. It's too hard to explain.

I've been in several bands that were extraordinary, but never got the critical acclaim I was expecting (See entry from 8/27/09 called "My personal True Hollywood Story.")

The problem I have with being in bands is that it's a rarity anyone understands my aesthetic. Although it has been approximately 18 years since shoegazer bands were most popular, I strive to be in a shoegazing band that rocks hard. As the front man for such a band, my top goal would be to turn my constant, in-your-face humor into a more subtle humor.

Between the years of 1960 and 1980, numerous quality rock bands existed with the Beatles at the top of the quality list. After 1980, though, when the Snooze Button Generation started listening to rock, incredible bands were hard to find.

The funny thing is that many bands after 1980 (and even some bands today) strove to be those bands from yesteryear. Obviously, those bands stunk.

The perfect band has never existed, but I want to try to have my band be that. My Bloody Valentine is the closest band that had the sound I am looking for - shoegazing, yes, but actually rocking hard, too.

Most other shoegazer bands, especially the Cocteau Twins, Jesus and Mary Chain and Ride, don't rock hard enough for my taste. Other bands that are arty that rock include the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Sonic Youth. They're not considered shoegazer, though, and I see my band - with my thoughtful and subtly funny lyrics - being a bit like those.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amazing how Smurfette is so down to earth

I am not suggesting Smurfette sleeps around or is immoral in any way. But I do wonder this: How in the world do Smurfs mate?

As Smurf folklore goes, 100 Smurfs exist with one being female - Smurfette. ... WTF?

Because of the differentiation in sexes, it makes me assume Smurfs mate, and Smurf babies are conceived, like humans. Does that mean Smurfette gave birth close to 100 times? Was there another female Smurf who gave birth to Smurfette's contemporaries?

A ton of theories exist on this question, but when going straight to the source (as any quality journalist does), no succinct answer exists. The source, by the way, is either the Belgian artist Peyo, who created the Smurfs in 1958, or Hanna-Barbera, which produced the Smurfs TV show from 1981 to 1990.

By George, my research shows that a Sassette Smurfling also existed, but she was born after Smurfette. She has a slight Southern accent and has red hair. ... Good God.I believe any good story also needs a good back story. I am not convinced that exists with the Smurfs.

I don't feel the mystery of Smurf mating will ever be solved, but through this all, I did run across a list of the 69 named Smurfs of the 100 Smurfs. Some of the names blow my mind as the list includes Pastrycook Smurft, Pretentious Smurf and Reporter Smurf.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Port-a-johns at home: Totally impractical

Despite the conventional wisdom, stealing a port-a-john is probably a bad idea.

I faced this common dilemma - to steal a port-a-john or not - yesterday when I realized there was one parked outside of my home. I don't steal. In fact, I am not sure if ever have stolen anything. But it is such a rare occasion to have a port-a-potty parked outside one's home that I thought perhaps stealing it was relevant.

I enjoy entertaining - having guests over and promoting what Caucasians refer to as "food, folks and fun." I have a small backyard and patio, and I believe it would be convenient to have an outdoor facility, perhaps a port-a-potty.

Here's the problem, though: I am completely uninterested in figuring out how I would clean the port-a-john. Presumably, I would call some number, and others would clean it. But shouldn't these things be cleaned daily? ... Ew, icky!

No thanks, port-a-john. You're simply not for me. I hope you understand why.