Whew! That Could Have Been Trouble!

I was watching television this evening and there was a commercial for a car of some sort. In the ad a giant claw descends with a crash and lifts an old junker up into the air. From underneath the crappy car a shiny new car drops.

At the bottom of the screen, in fine print: Do Not Attempt.

Back in the day, he was Fleeker

It seems that most places I’ve worked there’s been the designated guy who the rest of the office likes to pick on. It’s a combination of traits that lead someone into this position — an almost contradictory combination of a tendency to take himself too seriously, making sweeping pronouncements that he expects people to instantly see the wisdom of, while at the same time having his own sense of humor and willingness to laugh at himself.

Fleeker was that guy at Binary Labs. He was smart and hard-working, and he wasn’t afraid to make a bet that might end with him wearing a dress to work. Every office needs a Fleeker.

Eventually Fleeker went back to school, got his MBA, and is working now at some big food company in Chicago. The office wasn’t the same without him, but somehow we managed. I fell out of touch with Fleeker, so it was a bit of a surprise a few months ago when another former coworker sent me a link to (I think) a Wall Street Journal article. The article was about using the Internet to find love, and it started off telling about a Chicago guy who had been rejected by a major online dating service — apparently no small feat. In response this man launched his own Web site. I clicked on the link, and sure enough, there was Fleeker, in a particularly unflattering photograph.

That is the first thing you see when you go to SettleForBrian.com. On the site he does his best to lay out both the good and the bad about him, so there will be no disappointment later.

On valentines day this year the online version of the San Diego paper featured Fleeker. Apparently the full-discolsure method has yet to work magic, although there has been some interest.

I think it’s time to pitch in and help the lad out.

A big part of the site is a long list of pros and cons, listing his good points and his less endearing qualities. Looking over the list, however, I see a few omissions. Not necessarily pro’s or con’s but important Fleeker facts. Also missing, and much more needed, are testimonials. Naturally, in the spirit of things, the testimonials should also not sugar-coat the truth. Toward that end I’ll be sending a testimonial to Fleeker, for him to use as he sees fit. I encourage those who know Fleeker (or the new Brian version) to send in your own testimonials. I have no idea if he’ll use them, but it should add depth to the character he presents on his site. If he posts the testimonial there, I’ll slap it up here as well. (I had the testimonial up here for a couple of minutes, but then I decided to take it down until Fleeker had a chance to see it.)

Coming Soon to a Paris Runway Near You

There’s something that’s been percolating through my grey matter for a few days, and it’s finally reached the surface. A while back I read a blurb about a guy who was looking ever-so-stylish in a custom-tailored four-button coat.

Four buttons! Wow! Can you believe it? That guy has some brass!

Four buttons.

One time, many years ago, I went into a suit store (lacking the funds to pay someone thousands of dollars to make a jacket for me with one more button) and asked for the suit that would be the farthest thing from the Standard Male Uniform without offending people who expected to see me in the SMU. (Nobody I knew was in the ‘expecting to see’ category, but there was a funeral or a job interview or a wedding or some tragedy like that that required me to look ‘respectable’.) I ended up with a fairly nice suit in a borderline scandalous dark dark green that utterly failed to bring out my eyes. It looked, to my eye, like just about every other suit I’d ever seen.

If someone from a non-suit-wearing culture were to visit me in a suit-required situation and apologize for mixing up our names by saying ‘you all look the same to me’, I would nod my head in agreement. Women have fashion, men have the SMU. Men are reduced to the necktie to express who they are through clothing. Unfortunately, the necktie has turned into the business equivalent of gang colors. It’s not an expression of individuality; it’s your membership badge for whatever pathetically irrelevant subset of suit wearers you imagine yourself to be. There is the Power Tie (ha!), the School Tie, the Invisible Tie, and (the only one backed by a shred of honesty) the Family tie. I like the Family tie. It changes with the holidays, is sometimes horrible but carried as a badge of honor. “I’m wearing this polyester disaster because it will make my family happy.” There’s a good chance it will deflect bullets as well. The Family tie is cynically wielded by gray-haired salesmen.

Back to the buttons. You read it here first, kids… the TRUE FASHION REBEL will have no buttons at all. Velcro, baby. Imagine the clean lines of your suit jacket that is in every other respect just like what everyone else is wearing. No buttons! The Scandal!

Velcro. It’s the new black.

A Nation Comes Together

The TV is not on here at the Little Café Near Home very often, but sometimes there is an event that draws people here to watch as a group. the most obvious example of this is for major sporting events, but there are other programs that draw in the crowds as well. One of those shows is on right now. I’d consider going somewhere else, but any other place with a TV will have the same show on.

What is this event that draws the nation together? I’ve mentioned it before, but the current season of Česko hleda Superstar is getting down to the finals. The good news is that means the contestants who really, really, suck have all been eliminated. Now we have a homogeneous batch of people who fit the formula. They all sound pretty much the same, craftsmen rather than artists, singing safe tunes written by other people. One of these will be labeled ‘Superstar’, a large fish in a small pond, and will then try to turn that into a career, just like the other winners of the other Superstar contests all over the world.

I’m not sure you can pin all the blame for the superstar formula on the U.S., but as the worlds largest producer of pop clones I think it’s fair to guess that the recipe for the McPopstar was perfected there.

As I was watching the show (I have no resistance to the box of moving lights) I started to wonder: what’s so damn special about singing that these guys are the superstars, while artists in other disciplines toil in relative obscurity? Technology is part of the answer, certainly; electricity has made it possible for there to be a music industry. People are listening to music all the time, where for most other art forms they have to dedicate time to appreciating it. Technology has changed both the product and the distribution.

A hundred years ago there were certainly celebrated musicians and entertainers, but back then there were people in other art forms that were just as celebrated. Maybe more so. I think for a while the writers had the edge — between the invention of the printing press and the invention of radio they had the best mass-market potential. Ah, if only I was born a hundred years earlier! Before that, I’m not sure. Whatever the talented person in each village did, perhaps.

The Buggles claim that video killed the radio star. That may well be true, but the singers are still hanging in there, as long as they are attractive enough. You can’t be a superstar if you can’t carry a tune. Well, let’s just say you can’t be a superstar without singing. With Internet getting steadily faster video will become more and more influential, but the difference is that people will be able to watch anything, whenever they want. By putting distribution squarely in the hands of consumers, we might (fingers crossed) see the last of the manufactured pop star. There will always be those who have big promotional budgets, flashier videos, and whatnot, but already I only buy music from independent labels (not out of any sort of protest, their terms and pricing on downloaded music are better), and I don’t think I’m missing out on much. Honestly, I have no idea who’s popular right now anyway, and I can always find something I enjoy on an indie Web site.

I am told there are even people who use the Web to read what other people write.

The next few years will be interesting. Big extravaganzas like the one I witnessed tonight will work to make the next superstar, while beneath the stage the termites are gnawing on the supports.

Sometimes, you see things.

I am sitting in a bar, watching a woman with no shirt serving beer to a man with no nose. Actually, I have seen that before, in this very bar. What I had not seen before was the event that drove me here.

First, a small detour. I was sitting in the Little Café Near Home when the call came in. I will be getting up absurdly early tomorrow morning. My last word from Athena had been costumes on Monday, shooting on Wednesday and Thursday. I got increasingly neurotic as I received no further word about costumes, and I sent Athena a couple of messages. No response. Tonight, while wrapping up my celebration of successful bumness, my phone rang. I am expected to be at a certain Metro station at 6 am. The good news: starting that early, overtime is a distinct possibility. The bad news: starting that early, I will be getting up even earlier.

But that’s not why I am here, now.

After the hokej (rhymes with hockey) game, Little Café Near Home cleared out. It was just me and Bechovins (rhymes with Bevins, only in Czech). Then another guy came in and started scooting furniture around in a nonsensical way. After some muddling he unplugged the now-quiet television and plugged in…

Guess. Go ahead and try. You won’t get it right, but if you guess something completely crazy and then read the next sentence, which will be more whacked-out than what you came up with, that will make the revelation all the choicer. Have you guessed? All right then.

…a hair clipper. Bechovins was getting a haircut. In a place that serves food. Faced with a choice between drinking in a bar where the only other guy was getting a haircut, drinking in a bar where women with no shirts serve men with no noses, and not drinking at all, I chose “B”.

The man with no nose is much more difficult not to stare at than the woman with no shirt. She is quite pretty, and if everyone here in the bar had a nose, she would be drawing my eye. Sadly for all, that is not the case. He has a piece of gauze taped with a big X over his face, and there is no bulge beneath. It has been this way long enough that I wonder why he has not come up with a better gauze holder, something more comfortable than tape. I don’t know how he lost his nose; there must be a story there. I hope that eventually he gets a new one. In the meantime, what bothers me most is the tape. But, like him, I am getting used to it.

I hear those stunt men are crazy

I don’t want to give too much away (as if anything I’m putting in the script now will make it to the screen anyway), but I just wrote a new Most Dangerous Scene To Film. The old Most Dangerous Scene To Film involved two open cars tied together, speeding down the highway while people clamber all over them. Lots of people, fighting one another with cutlasses. Oh, yeah, there’s a big rig coming the other way. (I figure that part’s just a matter of editing magic.) The new MDTFS requires a convertible overflowing with people to jump over a sheer canyon, while other cars crash and fall in.

I’m sure fuego will wave his hands and say “No problem! We do crazier things all the time in this business!” Still, that seems pretty nuts. The stunt people are definitely going to earn their pay on this one. If, that is, we find a way to pay them.

Immediately after writing the above, I returned to the script and wrote the Most Impossible Scene To Film. Oh, but it would be sweet. The moment after the final credits that would just seal the movie, and reward those who stayed. Let’s hope for editing magic.

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Next they’ll change its name to some wacky symbol

I just learned that the official name of the country of Macedonia is “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.