Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Little Caesar's, living your best life, and who should pay on a date

Do you like observational humor? Here’s an observational joke for you: Have you ever noticed that Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready Pizzas and very frequently NOT ready?

Seinfeld is rolling in his grave*. When I thought of this joke I actually got up from where I was sitting, opened a drawer and got out a pen, went to a shelf and got out a notebook, and wrote that mess down. In hindsight, it probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had forgotten that joke.

But seriously: the other night I was at Little Caesar’s and they told me it would be a 10-15 minute wait for a Hot and Ready, without any trace of irony. I sat in the little plastic chairs and while I waited I started to write an angry tweet to Little Caesars. Before I sent the tweet I had the thought, “It’s probably a better use of my time to just kill myself,” because if you’re in a Little Caesar’s on a Friday night, angry tweeting about a $5 pizza, it’s not really about the pizza, is it? Something else has gone wrong in your life to bring you to this point. Furthermore, Little Caesar’s doesn’t care one bit about your customer service experience. They know that people who can afford to go elsewhere for pizza, do. They know you’re going to be hungry and broke again, and you’ll come crawling back.

While I waited, a good-looking couple came in. They looked like they were on a date and they ordered the Hot and Ready pizza. The young man asked the young woman, “Hey, can you get this?” Now, call me old-fashioned, but I feel like if you’re on a date and it’s a $5 pizza, the guy can pay.

They sat down with me (their pizza wasn’t ready, of course) and while we waited a woman came in to order a Hot and Ready. She was an overweight woman, and I can say that since I am also overweight, so she is my people and we are bonded together by carbohydrates. She proceeded to get super upset that the Hot and Readies weren’t ready. She yelled at the-16 year-old disinterested cashier and demanded to see the manager, who was also 16, also disinterested, and also unable to help.

I had crazy respect for this lady, because, as an overweight person, I never want to seem too overeager to eat, especially when it’s something as nutritionally bankrupt as a Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pizza. I don’t want to be judged, like, “We get it fatty: you’re fat. We’ll get you your pizza as fast as we can and then you can cram it down your gullet as fast as you can.” But this lady didn’t care about any of that.

She was the hero of my evening, a role model, and she got her Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready before all the rest of us. I think she earned it.

*Seinfeld is obviously alive. This is, like, a joke within a joke. I invented it, I'm sure.

This post is adapted from a standup set I did a few nights ago. Like when a comedian writes a book that is just their standup bits in collected essay form (i.e. Dad is Fat). Not sure if the adaptation worked. You be the judge. I might do more of these in the future.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Critical of critics

I know Waldorf and Statler are technically hecklers, but they also have a lot in common with critics.
On March 15, 2008, one of my favorite bands, The Matches, released their third album, A Band In Hope. It was a watershed record for the band, and it was even more experimental than their previous album.

And the critics didn’t get it.

Or at least one critic in particular didn’t, and he sticks out in my memory. He gave the album two and a half stars and I was furious. One year later, The Matches called it quits and I blamed this critic, and all his ilk, for killing my beloved band. I would bet this reviewer didn't play an instrument, and had never written a song in his life. My question at the time was, “If you're so smart, why aren't you out there making the most perfect five star album of all time?” Furthermore, what gives this guy the right to critique this band, and why am I listening to him?

This same issue arises with critics of all stripes: “If you know so much about X, why aren’t you out creating the best X ever instead of sitting there typing snarky little witticisms that don’t really contribute anything?” I’ve realized that with creative endeavors: those who can, do, and those who can’t, become critics. It’s simple: If you are not good enough at something to do it professionally, make a job out of talking trash on those who are.

Here are some other problems I have with critics:
  • Bandwagon effect. Doesn’t it seem like once a few critics like something then there gets to be a critical mass of critics and then all of a sudden everyone loves something? That seems weird to me.
  • Time delay. Some works are initially panned but over time people warm up, and vice versa, so can we really trust critics?
  • Critics are out of touch. Take Superman vs Batman. I didn’t like it, and a lot of critics didn’t like it, but people in general seemed to love it.
  • Critics have questionable taste. Take Game Of Thrones. This show is rapey as hell, and misogynist to boot, but it is a critical darling and lavished with awards. Why?
  • Sometimes critics confuse “transgressive” with “good.” I’m not advocating censorship or being prudish, but I am saying that just because something breaks a taboo, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or revolutionary or even noteworthy.

And now, maybe you are asking: “Hey, man! Don’t you ‘review’ pop songs on here sometimes?” My answer: Yes, and I am a hypocrite. But those reviews clearly aren’t serious, and no one reads them anyway, so I’m only a half-hypocrite.

Maybe you are asking: “If you are critiquing critics, then aren’t you a critic critic? Perhaps criticism is in itself an artform and by critiquing it you should hate yourself by the criteria you have established here.” And to you I say: Fair point, but we will never be friends because you are clearly the worst.

Maybe you are also asking: “Is it possible that in the Information Age there is so much content flying at our faces that critics serve as a type of ‘gatekeeper,’ helping us filter out the good content from the bad and saving us time?” To that I say: Maybe, but is it worth putting up with critics? I’d rather just search blindly for my next Netflix show.

The moral of the story is: critics are off-puttingly smug and don’t take them too seriously.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

That’s Not Music!-“All in My Head (Flex)”

Installment #5 of my new semi-weekly (very semi) series "That’s Not Music!": Jaded Dad Reviews Pop Songs

This week's song: "All in My Head (Flex)" by Fifth Harmony feat. Fetty Wap!!!!!!!!!!!

  1. Mikkel Eriksen, 
  2. Tor Hermansen
  3. Benjamin Levin
  4. Willie Maxwell
  5. Daystar Peterson
  6. Nolan Lambroza
  7. Julia Michaels
  8. Simon Wilcox
  9. Brian Garcia
  10. Ewart Brow
  11. Clifton Dillon 
  12. Richard Foulks 
  13. Herbert Harris 
  14. Leroy Romans 
  15. Lowell Dunbar 
  16. Brian Thompson 
  17. Handel Tucker

Chart Position (as of this writing): #11

Unforgivable Lyric: "It's all in my head" (see below)

My kids’ opinion: My kids are indifferent at this point. I think they haven't heard it enough to form an opinion.

My opinion: Like most pop music, it is mindless, meaningless, hastily written lyrics paired with a sweet beat, and I'll be darned if I don't enjoy it a great deal. I don't change the station.

UP. BEATS. This song had me at the first reggae-style guitar upbeats.

Soooooo... girl bands are a thing again? Since there are five of them, that makes them like the Spice Girls, right? Which means they're British? I'll assume they're British.

I'm fascinated that a five person singing group can manage to give each member a part to sing in a three minute song and manage to squeeze in Fetty Wap. It's kind of genius. I also like how the lyrics seem to eschew any type of double entendre and just have... entendre. There is also not a lot of internal song logic either. If "It's all in my head," does that mean all this climbing into beds is just a dream, like some hyper-sexualized Inception? Or it just rhymed? I'm not sure. 

In regards to Fetty Wap: He's probably the best mumbler of our time. Maybe it's just too much autotune/effects on his vocals, but I can't understand a word he says. Even so, I think he's awesome and catchycatchycatchy.

Other Notes:
  • The actual music video (not the live one posted here) is out of control. It's like the lyrics: not subtle at all.
  • I could have the number of writers wrong, but does it really take 17 people to write a song this simple and silly? Some of the writers, I believe, are from the "interpolation" of another song. Either way, 17 is a lot of writers. Good job, team. Go spend up you 1/17th of the royalties, you've earned it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

That’s Not Music!-“I Took A Pill In Ibiza” by Mike Posner

Installment #4 of my new weekly series "That’s Not Music!": Jaded Dad Reviews Pop Songs

This week's song: “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” by Mike Posner


Writer(s): Mike Posner

Chart Position (as I write this): #8 and climbing

Amount of Times I’ve Heard This Song (Estimated): Not very many, as far as top 40 pop songs go

Instrumentation/Structure: There are two versions, the SeeB remix, and then the original acoustic version with its "Subteranean Homesick Blues" video. Both are equally cool in my opinion, almost like different sides of the same coin. The SeeB version has an instrumental hook that sticks in my head.

Unforgivable Lyric: "I took a pill in Ibiza" and "You don't wanna ride the bus like me"

As a father I obviously can't endorse the taking of random pills to impress your friends. And, no offense, but I don't think Mike Posner actually rides the bus. People aspire to become pop stars so they don't have to ride the bus. And in the first few lines he already said he drives a sports car, so which is it, Mike? Where is the internal song logic?

All that being said, I really like the song. I particularly like the SeeB remix because the music is happy and upbeat but the lyrics are kind of sad and melancholy. I love that kind of contrast, it's something that The Police -and later, Sting- used to do really well. And, as always, many points awarded to Mr. Posner for writing his own song. I never liked Mike Posner's other songs in the past, but this one was a pleasant surprise.

My kids’ opinion: My 4-year-old loves it. He sings the melody line for a few hours after we hear it. 1 year old couldn't care less, but that's pretty typical.

My opinion: Maybe I will dislike it after a thousand repeats on the radio, but for now I enjoy it. I don't change the station.

Other Notes: That video is weird, right? Paper mache heads = NIGHTMARES.

If you please, leave a comment and let me know what you think about this song or my review.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

That’s Not Music!-“No” by Meghan Trainor

Installment #3 of my new weekly series "That’s Not Music!": Jaded Dad Reviews Pop Songs

This week's song: “No” by Meghan Trainor

Writers: Meghan Trainor, Eric Frederic, Jacob Kasher

Chart Position (as I write this): #3 and climbing

Amount of Times I’ve Heard This Song (Estimated): Enough to know I don't want to hear it one more time

Instrumentation/Structure: The harmonies and basically everything about this song reminds me of Destiny's Child/early 2000s Beyonce. Unfortunately, Meghan Trainor is not Beyonce and it's 2016. The hook sits on top of a lonely little break beat and it's just thin and irritating.

Unforgivable Lyric: "I be like nah to the I, to the I, to the no, no, no!"

Of course I don't disagree with the sentiment of the song: don't harass women. Love it. The song has Meghan Trainor's trademark lyrical gimmick/well worn cliche worked into a mediocre hook, which is irritating in and of itself. A decent melody will cover a multitude of sins for me, but this song doesn't have even that. If you have a monotone hook, it should have a cool cadence, right? This one is like morse code: "My name (short) is (short) No (long)." Over and over. It reminds me of "My Name Is," and now that I'm thinking about it Eminem and Meghan Trainor really quite similar in that they are good imitators but their final product is only an imitation of something that is good (Antimetabole! Or maybe chiasmus! Not sure).

My kids’ opinion: Indifferent. They don't protest when I change the station.

My opinion: I just really can't stomach it, and I have pretty low standards. I immediately change the station.

Other Notes: Meghan Trainor is the Nickelback of pop/R&B.

If you please, leave a comment and let me know what you think about this song or my review.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Golden Age of Television and me

Hear me well, Internet*: I’m opting out of the “Golden Age of Television.” There are so many television shows, and the quality is great and so forth and so on, but TV is filling up my life, and I don’t know how it got this way. Why do I watch all the shows? Because there are so many good shows? Or I’m just afraid to miss out?

I never used to watch this much TV! When our first son was born, it coincided with the rise of streaming content. We had an 8 p.m. baby curfew and an infinite amount of stuff to watch. And it’s so easy to just… watch.

What bothers me most is this: When I look at my Netflix/Hulu/Amazon viewing history, I feel like I could’ve written the Great American Novel in that time. Several Great American Novels. All the things I could’ve done instead.

I’ll keep the shows I like, but I won’t take on any new shows, thank you, although I appreciate your recommendation. If one of my shows starts to suck I’ll give it an episode or two to right the ship and then I’m done. Eventually I want to get down to, like, one show. If that’s even possible.

Really I want to pare down my media intake in general. I’m not the most savvy consumer, but internet “news” is basically the same ten sites covering the same ten stories ad nauseum. Then there are the lists. And podcasts. And tweets.  I consume tons of “information” each day but only a small percentage of it is actual information.

A lot of people have talked about this subject already, and I’m not saying that anyone else need change their media habits. I am saying that for me personally, I just kind of want to rinse my brain out and remember what it was I used to do before streaming was a thing and I had phone in my hand at all times. Probably nothing special, but I want to remember anyway.

*No one actually cares about my TV manifesto, I just wanted to say “Hear me well.” Felt good.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

That’s Not Music!-“Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots

Installment #2 of my new weekly series "That’s Not Music!": Jaded Dad Reviews Pop Songs

This week's song: “Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots

Writers: Tyler Joseph

Chart Position (as I write this): #3 and holding steady

Amount of Times I’ve Heard This Song (Estimated): twenty one

Instrumentation/Structure: Verse, Pre-chorus, Chorus. And weird instrumentation. Synth-y. The band has a drummer, but I don't think these are real drums? How does that work?

Unforgivable Lyric: “My name's 'Blurryface'”

I guess it is a reference to the rest of the album, which is a "concept" album, and "Blurryface" is a character in it. Weird to reference it in your single, though. But points awarded to this song for being weird. Verses sort of reminiscent of a prepubescent Eminem if he read more books and was less angry, and pre-chorus and chorus that remind me of... Supertramp? Cool that they got it on pop radio.

I like that the song is written by the singer, that's pretty unique for a song on pop radio. Not a fan of Mr. Joseph's verses, though, but one white guy criticizing another white guy's raps is like... silly.

This song relies too heavily on nostalgia to not suck. That being said, I identify so much with the lyric "Wake up, you need to make money." Presumably so do a lot of other folks hence the song's success. Adulthood is the worst. Nailed it, twenty one pilots.

My kids’ opinion: Four-year-old loves it; 18-month-old is indifferent

My opinion: I didn't like it at first but it's grown on me; the uniqueness helped. I don’t change the station.

Other Notes: "twenty one pilots" is a stupid band name, and all lower case? Just, come on. You're from Columbus, man. Stop taking yourselves so seriously.

If you please, leave a comment and let me know what you think about "Stressed Out" or my review.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How does the human race survive?

Does anyone else have to plead with their children to eat and drink? My children fight eating like we’re trying to poison them with battery acid laced with cyanide. Their protests seem to say, “I hear you saying that I need to eat and drink to stay alive, but I’m going to pass.” Without constant begging, pleading, and yelling on the part of my wife and I, these kids would waste away.

I think this is something unique to the human species, and I don’t understand it. Are there picky animals found in nature? You never see a mother lion trying to force her cub to eat, like, “Eeeeeeat the meeeeeeeeeat!” Evolution has all these other species fighting to live and my children seem to fight being alive. Humans clawed their way to the top of the food chain and my kids are blowing it.

Before my children even touch food, they go through the five stages of grief.

  1. Denial: “Surely you don’t mean you want me to eat.”
  2. Anger:  “Why do I have to eat? Why me?”
  3. Bargaining: “If you don’t make me eat, I’ll poop in the potty! I’ll stay in bed! Anything!”
  4. Depression: “I can’t. I can’t even. This food is breaking my heart.”
  5. Acceptance: “Fine! I’ll eat it!”

Only no, they won’t. Once these five stages are complete, then another campaign begins. It goes through the following additional stages.

  • “I’ll put food in my mouth but I won’t chew it.”
  • “I’m going to hold this unchewed food in my mouth indefinitely.”
  • “I can do this all day. Can you, dad?”
  • “OK, I’ve chewed a few times, now back to holding.”
  • “Holding.”
  • “Now I spill the food on the floor and pretend it was an accident.”
  • Cry
  • “Now I cram everything into my mouth to give the illusion that I’ve actually eaten.”
  • Gag
  • Throw up

So that’s every meal for us. It’s exhausting. It’s a war of nutritional attrition and I think we’re losing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

That’s Not Music!-“Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez

Installment #1 of my new weekly series "That’s Not Music!": Jaded Dad Reviews Pop Songs

This week's song: “Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez

Writers: Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, Robin Fredriksson, Mattias Larsson, Max Martin

Chart Position as I write this: #13 and climbing

Amount of Times I’ve Heard This Song (Estimated): One billion

Instrumentation/Structure: Pretty typical radio pop structure. Verse, Prechorus, Chorus. I like that the verses are kind of quiet and sparse and the chorus loud and groovy. Good contrast.

Unforgivable Lyric: “You’re me-ta-phor-i-cal gin and juice”

First, why does she pronounce it that way? It irritates me so. Second, why is your metaphor “gin and juice”? One lazy Snoop Dogg reference does not street cred grant. I guess “juice” sort of rhymes with “you” and “to”? Mostly I think the songwriters needed a certain amount of syllables, and words were kind of a second thought, which is pretty typical, I suppose.

Also, later in the song there are downers and uppers, and breathing stuff in, which would suggest inhalants or smoking marijuana. Pick a metaphor, man! Is this gin and juice OR pills OR huffing paint? Oh, it’s like substance use in general? The whole “our relationship is like a drug” idea has been done to death. Right off the top of my head I can think of: Huey Lewis (“I Want A New Drug”), Ke$ha (“Your Love Is My Drug”), Robert Palmer (“Addicted to Love”), The Weeknd (“Can't Feel My Face”), etc. etc. All better written than this.

My kids’ opinion: They don’t seem to care one way or another.

My opinion: The breathy little girl vocal delivery gives me the creeps, and the lyrics literally hurt me to listen to, but the melodies are strong. At the end of the day it’s pop music, not high art. I don’t change the station.

Other Notes: Who are all the Swedish people writing this song? Not that I have anything against Sweden. They seem to be, like, super-producers.

If you please, leave a comment and let me know what you think about "Hands to Myself" or my review.