“Buddy Holly” and the Crickets of Weezereaction

What’s with these homies, dissing my girl?
Why do they gotta front?
What did we ever do to these guys
That made them so violent?

“Why do you like this song?” my girlfriend asked one time while we were driving somewhere. She had her iPhone plugged into the stereo, and I had been asking her to play various jams before at some point I requested to hear Weezer’s Buddy Holly.

Weezer is one of many bands that would likely be deemed too politically incorrect to be mainstream today, and if present trends continue, may one day be retroactively banned or censored. Of course, there isn’t really anything particularly offensive about their music or lyrics, but that just doesn’t matter anymore. People will find something whether it’s there or not.

I don’t recall being that interested in Weezer when I was in high school. I didn’t own any of their CDs, unless you count the Mallrats soundtrack (of which one of their song Susanne appears.) One thing I’ve discovered about getting older though is that you start to develop a fondness for certain things from when you were growing up (even if you never paid attention to them at the time,) as they come to be more recognizably associated with your “era” and present as alien artifacts to a new generation…like inside jokes that they aren’t in on (and don’t care to be in on.) It’s only long after the fact that you begin to notice that the popular songs, movies etc from your teenage years often subtly speak through cultural references to issues relatable to a particular place and time. The less serious side, is that sometimes even if you hated a song, you may appreciate it later because it will remind you of other good times you were having while you were annoyed that it was playing on the radio. I don’t remember ever being “excited” to hear Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping or Aqua’s Barbie Girl come on the radio in 1997, but if I heard them today I’d probably smile because they’d remind of me of some spring and summer nights that I’ll never get a chance to relive any other way. Of course, it isn’t always a positive association. The reason I never watch The Devil’s Advocate (besides it being a piece of shit movie,) is that my old friend Andrew and I were robbed at gunpoint (and very nearly shot) outside the theater after seeing the film when it came out.

Anyway, I told my girlfriend that Buddy Holly by Weezer was catchy, but that it also had subtle social themes and reactionary undertones I could relate to on some level. Take the following snippet of lyrics which I posted at the beginning of the article:

What’s with these homies, dissing my girl?
Why do they gotta front?
What did we ever do to these guys
That made them so violent?

A less charitable analyst might see that verse and shout “RACIST! NAZI! Rivers KKKUOMO!” under the assumption that “homies” refers to black gangsters, and that the question What did we ever do to these guys that made them so violent? potentially alludes to the problem of black violence and to what extent whites’ historical mistreatment of blacks contributed to the rise of it…as Weezer’s implicit throwback whiteness “Oo-ee-oo I look just like Buddy Holly Oh-oh, and you’re Mary Tyler Moore” suddenly finds itself out-of-place in a downright hostile 90’s America that’s in the process of being overrun by diversity, where Rivers Cuomo’s fashionable homage (even if semi-ironic) to 1950s America would be received with as much welcome as an episode of Happy Days being broadcast to BET audiences in 1995.

This is a highly dubious interpretation though, I mean really reaching, as it seems obvious to me (or anyone my age) that Weezer is probably talking about conflicts with 90’s wigger culture, which most people of the era this was released could relate to. As someone of a more alternative/indie persuasion, I absolutely hated the wanna-be gangster culture of the 90s. I thought it was dumb, ridiculous and featured some of the ugliest people, hairdos and clothing styles I have ever seen. I was a teenager though and a skateboarder, so I occasionally went along aspects with it to fit in when I was with certain groups of friends (and I will admit it was fun to sometimes troll parents and grandparents by speaking in gibberizzle.) The threat of getting into a fight with a bunch of obnoxious wiggers was real though, if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and they decided to fuck with you. This might be especially so if you were a raver, goth, punk, skater, rockabilly kid, mod or the kind of nerdcore hipster Rivers Cuomo represents. You’d have stuck out like a sore thumb, and they probably would have talked shit about what you were wearing, called you a “fag,” “bitch,” “freak” or whatever.

So yes, I can relate to the song Buddy Holly as a commentary on the way civilized people must struggle having to deal with violent riff raff disrupting their pursuit of happiness. One can do one’s best to ignore the thugs and morons:

I don’t care what they say about us anyway
I don’t care ’bout that

but ultimately we have to live in the physical world (is there any other kind?) and tuning them out… often isn’t enough.

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The Truth About “Mystery Shoppers”

“Mystery shopper” has to be one of the scummiest occupations. The mystery shopper is basically a low level informant, spying on underpaid retail employees and helping big corporations enforce compliance with all kinds of pointless rules and tedious protocol (which smart employees often ignore to maintain efficiency and prioritize the achievement of broader goals.)

A typical mystery shopper review would consist of something along the lines of the following:

“The employee failed to give the official FashionMart 4 point company greeting when I entered the store. The associate also took a sip of water while at the counter and leaned on it as well while sipping the drink.”

First off, almost no one follows company guidelines to the letter and the only people who fetishize them are overpaid executive do-nothings whose time is spent dreaming them up and perhaps a few overzealous cultist true believers in retail management. The only other employees that blindly adhere to them are the natural slaves of retail who never question anything and are easily exploited like pawns.

What mystery shoppers and their nefarious puppeteers do not realize, is that they are not entitled to what they have decreed as the ideal shopping experience. Why? Since they are not genuine customers, mystery shoppers do not deserve to be treated like them. By misleading the employee as to their intentions and ultimately wasting everyone’s time, the mystery shopper is not acting in good faith. If the company demands employees that employees make genuine personal connections with shoppers (a demand which is inherently oxymoronic in itself,) this is not possible with the mystery shopper, because everything about the mystery shopper’s interactions is phony. The entire premise they present for their visit is a facade. They are there to spy on you, to trick you, to watch you, and ultimately to catch you in violation of some sacred creedo on a technicality.

An employee can often sense when someone is not genuinely interested and there are all kinds of reasons why they will be inclined to be less helpful. The mystery shopper may have a resting bitch face. They may appear like too much of a busybody. It may creepily show in their eyes that they are sizing the employee up and judging their every move. Truth be told, there are plenty of shoppers which give off such an annoying vibe, that an employee will prefer the customer would just go away, concluding that the person’s business just may not be worth the potential hassle of future customer service issues, inevitable returned merchandise, arguments over warranty, etc.

The worst part about being preyed upon by a mystery shopper though, is the lack of recourse. The employee has no opportunity to face his/her accuser and refute the mystery shopper’s claims. The report is filed, and management accepts the account provided by the mystery shopper uncritically. It doesn’t matter if the mystery shopper was grossly exaggerating, failed to take into consideration possible context or misperceived the entire course of events.

In conclusion, mystery shoppers are among the lowest forms of humanity, right down there with people who eat chips loudly in public places. Employees do not owe them anything but scorn. Retail employees have enough to juggle with in the form of genuinely shitty and irritating customers: middle-aged women that ask to speak to the manager, aging suburban wiggers attempting to shoplift, fat white men with neck tattoos and Star Wars t-shirts that talk shit because they don’t understand purchasing etiquette in the 21st century. The last thing the retail employee needs is a fake customer, whose sole purpose is to tattletale and document behaviors from the perspective of those with dubious motives and a limited understanding of the situation on the ground.

Skytrain to Nowhere

Available in Paperback here

and eBook (pdf) here

Skytrain to Nowhere is an imagination driven and esoteric volume of free-form poetry. The book documents the author’s experiences, thoughts and observations while riding the skytrain at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the period of several weeks. Since the skytrain is only designed to transport travelers between various terminals and parking facilities at the airport, someone spending nearly 50 hours riding it purely for recreation and artistic inspirational purposes is highly unusual (to put it mildly.) Aside from occasional quirky anecdotes about various passengers, the poems mostly deal with themes of motion, the passage of time, and nostalgia. The author grapples with these issues from a retro-futurist perspective. Skytrain to Nowhere celebrates the realization that our vitality hinges on our ability to always keep moving, while recognizing we are unwilling or unable to leave some things behind on the journey.

Purchase Skytrain to Nowhere on Amazon.

Off the Top

“Read old books” they say. Well, I went ahead, dug into my closet looking for some light reading and found an astrology paperback I picked up about 7 years ago from Half Price Books. It’s from 1975 and titled Off the Top. The author was a famed astrologer named Sydney Omarr (note that despite the Arabic sounding name, he was actually born Sidney Kimmelman and was Jewish.) Anyway, as you might imagine, I’m not a huge believer in astrology but have always been intrigued by it and favored the aesthetic over other religions. I do in fact believe that forces in the cosmos probably do affect us to some degree but in ways we have not yet been able to pinpoint with specificity and perhaps never will. I went through a phase several years ago when I was looking for 1970’s-80s astrology books mostly for the illustrations and laid back writing style they often featured. I even had a sterling silver, crab pendant necklace in honor of my own zodiac sign, Cancer. Having worn the necklace for about a year, I eventually lost it and have been too lazy to buy another one since.

When reading Off the Top, I sometimes felt reminded of that scene from Leaving Las Vegas when Nicholas Cage is looking at the sign for “The Whole Year Inn” but instead sees it as saying “The Whole You’re In.” I mention this because the book is mostly Omarr’s casual thoughts and ruminations about astrological signs, taken “off the top” of his head (or the opening paragraphs of his syndicated newspaper forecasts.) Off the Top might just as well be a euphemism for Out the Ass, depending on your point of view.

Amusingly, even in a light hearted book like this it only takes Omarr one paragraph into the book before he brings up the nazis and the holocaust, within the context of the role of astrologers played in WWII. However, this quickly leads into one of the more interesting parts of the book, which is a lengthy introduction featuring a fast-paced hodgepodge of favorable quotes and anecdotes about astrology relating to various public figures and personalities. Often the endorsements seem a little out of context but are interesting tidbits nonetheless. Among the first are a couple of quotations from Carl Jung:

“We are born at a given moment, in a given place, and like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born.”

and

“Astrology represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity”

The intro also has some rather ridiculous paragraphs from Omarr himself, noteworthy only for their chutzpah:

Becoming proficient in astrology demands knowledge of astronomy, history, mathematics,literature and psychology. Not all astrologers live up to the highest standards. Sadly, neither do all attorneys, physicians and educators. The key in this Space Age is to set aside preconceived notions, academic prejudice and aim toward progress. If astrology, among other subjects leads the way, so be it.

It also includes zillions of “factoids” which seem kind of far-fetched but which I don’t have the time or energy to research to verify their accuracy. Example:

Outbreaks of murder appear to be triggered by the moon tugging on “biological tides” within the human body, according to Dr. Arnold L. Lieber of the University of Miami medical school

You get the idea. The introductory portion actually goes on for over 30 pages, nearly 1/3 of the entire book.

Moving on to the actual signs, Omarr dedicates several pages to each one. They offer comprehensive and detailed overviews, written in a very entertaining, no-nonsense and matter of fact tone. Some statements are unintentionally, hilariously accurate, such as:

The United States is a Cancer nation and has been known to feed the world.

Being a Cancer myself, I got a kick out of how much time Omarr devotes to talking about how Cancer is a great cook and loves being in the kitchen. My own idea of “cooking” is to throw a brick of tofu in the microwave, add some cheese and grape seed oil vegenaise to it and presto! My home cooked meals for most of my 20’s to mid 30’s consisted almost exclusively of microwave popcorn and cheap wine. The late Sydney Omarr must have gotten the last laugh though when I realized he had me pegged after all:

The classical Cancer native has a tendency to repeat facts and deliver monologues. Members of this zodiacal sign savor childhood memories, even bitter ones.

I recommend this book, even though I’ve been somewhat critical of it and don’t take much of it seriously. It is written in a very entertaining style, and believe it or not I learned a few things I did not know (too many to mention actually.) It also does contain a few of the kind of 70s paperback illustrations and fonts which were the reason I purchased it, so I can’t really complain.

Strike a Blow Against Global Cubicle-ism, Part III

 

Just wanted to give a brief update. The lack of articles over the past couple weeks is due to my finishing up a new book of poetry, hopefully to be out within the next month. Writing it has consumed most of my time the last month or so. It might seem strange to some, but as a lifelong hypochondriac I always feel like I’m potentially weeks from death, and whatever I’m working on I just *have* to finish by then. How’s that for creating an artificial sense of urgency to complete a project? Well it’s not artificial if you really believe it.

It’s also very difficult to find writers that aren’t only interested in writing about edgy politics. I personally would rather write reviews of obscure 1970’s astrology books, but somehow end up back to opining about controversial topics again and again, which only attracts more interest from people I have little in common with. So, if you see content on this site that isn’t political in focus or related to hot button like “race,” “feminism,” “nationalism,” and instead see articles about Intellivision and the aesthetics of Seventeen Magazine circa 1995 and you think “wtf is this shit?” Recognize that you may have walked into the wrong bar.

Anyway, I do have a couple of short articles coming up, including one on the return of  American Apparel.

Also, if you have been enjoying this site the last few years feel free to donate.

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Robert Stark Interviews Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan About San Francisco Neon

Al Barna is a San Francisco photographer and artist whose work has been shown in exhibitions at the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor Museum, the Rayko Gallery, the San Francisco Public Library, and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. His photography has been published in CA Modern magazine, Society of Commercial Archaeology Journal, The Sun magazine, and Shots magazine.

Randall Ann Homan began her interest in the art of signage as an apprentice sign painter in Flagstaff, Arizona. She lives in San Francisco and is an art director, photographer, and an award-winning graphic designer. Someday she would like to design a neon sign.

Listen here

Topics:

The history of Neon in San Francisco
Neon Walking TOURS
Historic Preservation and how San Francisco has lost the least of it’s signage of any major city
Market Street, it’s history as a Neon hub, and the failed Mid-Market Sign District Proposal
The Starlight Room at The Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square
Other signs near Union Square including Tad’s Steak House, Marquard’s Cigar Store, The Stratford Hotel, and the Herbert Hotel
Parking Garage Neon near Union Square
The Tenderloin
Chinatown which has the highest concentration of signs in the city though many are unlit
The Lady from Shanghai directed by Orson Welles
Broadway in North Beach
Columbus Street in North Beach
Fisherman’s Wharf; Alioto’s, Fisherman’s Grotto, The View Alcatraz Sign, The Cannery and Ghiradelli Square
Bar signs including the 500 Club Martini sign in the Mission District
The Coca-Cola Company Replaced the Landmark Outdoor Neon Sign with LED
Animated Signs
The Embarcadero Center’s LED bulb signs
The Port of San Francisco Sign at The Ferry Building
Oakland’s signs including the Paramount Theatre
The Orinda Theatre
Rheem Theatre closes it’s doors in Moraga
Santa Cruz, The Boardwalk, and The Del Mar Theatre
Jim Rizzo of Neon Works in Oakland who rescues and restores signs
Stookey’s Club Moderne which has a brand new Art Deco style sign
NEON SPEAKS: Symposium & Spotlight Forum
The Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, California
Will Durham’s Neon Museum in Reno