Monday, March 31, 2014

TV Sleuthdom and its expectations

Last week, I had a...shall we say "spirited discussion" with a co-worker on the HBO series True Detective.

(and if you haven't watched the show but plan to, you might not want to read this post)

He said he enjoyed the show but thought the writing was bad.  Pressed for examples for some insight, he added that the crime and ultimate resolution was "like Law & Order: SVU."  Now, if you know me, you know saying such a comment is a heavy insult.  You could find deeper characters in what's left of the Sunday comics section of your newspaper than any of the L&O shows.  But I did my best (read: a poor job) of calming down and then heard this key nugget:

"There were too many twist and plot things that made me think it would go another way.  I thought Rust was going to be behind it, or Marty's wife, but it..."

Ah, the viewer detective nature of crime shows these days.  That's the problem.  And just how many are out there in the audience?

These are the folks who play right along with the game as if they're right by the main character's side.  Talking to the TV, texting their friends that they just KNOW who did it and why.  I think I've watched, read about, and worked in entertainment (particularly TV) long enough to ask: is there anything wrong with just being entertained?  Even if you do guess correctly, do you think the channel or writer is going to show up the next day with a congratulations balloon and an ice cream bar?  Way to go - here's your "Junior Adventure pin" - wear it with pride!

Interesting to me that you rarely if ever hear this about comedy...maybe because so many sitcoms are conditioned to end on a note that "it's over."  And even in movies, you can be entertained (or not) on how it was done since you've invested money and some sort of emotion.  Dining out, same thing.  (Well, for some people...others know exactly what the Fish Filet combo meal includes each and every time)

All these armature sleuths who think they know how things will end possibly started this skill watching Dodgers games.  (Turns to wife)  "Honey, I think they're going to blow this one...late innings."  (Wife nods, goes back to People Magazine)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Talkin' Deals

Excuse me, do you mind if we talk deals for a moment?


"Sure, I have a minute.  Deals?  Well, we have our own company.  We do work in various aspects of business.  We do some entertainment, some commercials, some, uh merchandising."

(Looks away, and looks back)

"You know, everybody asks that, but there's so many layers behind the scenes that we don't need to get into here.  It would take way too long, and you probably haven't heard of a lot of it.  But to give you an example...Olivia Newton-John, I know her personally.  I mentioned entertainment...we've have some talks with the Starwood to-"

(The man behind him clears his throat)

"I don't know if you've seen that Huffy bicycle commercial...it's on TV nationwide.  Got that Christopher Cross song on it.  We were part of that."

(Checks digital watch)

"Thinking about having dinner at the Bonaventure tonight."

(Turns around to look at man behind him)

"What time you got?"

(Man behind him buttons his sport coat)

"Excuse me."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Time Passages

It helps the daily jungle gym of life to be realistic about the status quo, I find.  I can dream always and forever, I can plan, aware of the stakes.  I can walk down the street listening to the theme from Black Caesar and envision myself in another time and surrounding.  (Tip: Keep this in mind when you meet someone where delusion reigns supreme, and you’ll find out just how well adjusted you live.)

So I suppose I am an adult, yes?  My responsibilities are now categorized as such and typical for someone my age.  I feel youthful, but that’s about all it is: a feeling.   I can be on a roll of comedic material with new, younger employees, and then make a fatal fuck-up: a reference before their time.  History, Pop Culture History, an old athlete…makes no difference:

“What?  Oh…was that in the 80’s?”

Yes it was…but come on, I know about shit from before I was…aw, forget it.  The joke isn't on them – it’s on me.  So, I guess I’m old.

Then I have lunch with a retired dealmaker who is telling of current life.  “She wanted me to make dinner!”  Is this an unacceptable request?  “Yes!  That’s how it works.  I mean, I go the butcher, you know, but she does the shopping, the cooking.  Sometimes I’ll clean the wine glasses, because those are done by hand.”  Mighty thoughtful of you, I suppose.  Is my situation the same?  No, it’s not.  I don’t mind doing some of the work, as long as—

I was interrupted (politely) and told the game plan from another generation.

“Look, Trip, you know what I told her?  I said ‘I can find plenty of women in the county who would like to cook me dinner, OK?  And I don’t have to set the table or any of that bullshit.’ ”  You don’t do have to do anything?  That’s a pretty good life.   And I think if I tried to find a lady my age or younger who’d do exactly this request, I would probably get a zonk in my chops.  So, I guess I’m young. 


The pendulum of life always swings, but it is a mighty leaden tool…and it feels like it’s just hangin’ there; a giant disco medallion, stuck in fur.  

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Dome finally goes to the Dump

(Editor's Note: Writer Trip Darvez mentioned that this story is "likely the least Gold topic there is" but felt it was worth sharing all the same.)

From the 50's to 1981, Metropolitan Stadium was the major sporting venue in the Twin Cities.  By first and all glances, it isn't much.  As the general sports scene grew up in the area, the volume sports fans increased.  The stadium game at the time dictated little change beyond "maintenance," so things like "indoor bathrooms for half the stadium" were never implemented.  And yet, football fans continued to pack the place.  When the Metrodome was built, fans had to accept the inevitable: the fun, the home field advantage enjoyed...it's all gone.

Before the final game, it hit tailgaters like a bottle to the head: this was it.  When you move to your new stadium, Duane and Carl, you can't tailgate.  This was no reason to give up, though: they were there to make the best of the situation.


At this point, the Vikings were out of the playoffs.  Nothing to do but play out the string.  Knowing that, look at these folks...


They are having a fantastic time, already on Schmidt #2 and it's not even 11AM.  Doesn't matter.  Well, hours later, it was game time, and the mood ebbed and flowed per usual, but the celebratory toasts went all afternoon.  How else are you supposed to stay warm?


NBC Sports was there to cover the game, and they milked it for all it's worth.  It's tough selling a game the last week of the season with two teams out of it.  Montages of the park's building...all the highlights to Frank Sinatra.


Two exclamation points.  We're live!!  The game: boring.  Vikings tease a comeback but lose (there's a shock).  And yet, throughout the game, there were shots of what everyone was feeling...we're saying goodbye to a friend.  Life as a fan is changing, and change in Minnesota is difficult.  It's especially so when it's change that seems to be for the "better" but is so far from "the same" that nostalgia pours through the veins.


With the game over, despite the increased security, fans stormed the field.  In the stands, they took everything they could.  You're taking away "my" stadium?  Well, then I can pick this carcass clean.  What do you think about that, Mr. Politician?  I'm not going to buy anything.  I was here in the cold for years.  I deserve this.  This is mine.


And then, as the drunks slowly sobered up, and reality '81 was setting in, a banner flew from fans among the debris:


The definition of being a fan was changing.  You were to pay increased prices, buy merchandise, and cheer when the big scoreboard's clapping hands told you to.  I'm not sure if this was the prevailing mood of everyone at the time, but a vintage news clip held this nugget: a fan, tailgating outside before the game...

"The dome is beautiful, something we gotta have, but...(looks around) this is the best."

Progress, Metrodome style, meant:
Built to budget withOUT adjustments to inflation (which was sky high at the time)
No air conditioning because "it's built underground"
Cheap astroturf with minimal padding
1 sheet of turf for all sports.

So, now in 2013, the Blunderdome is finally getting the ax.  I mean, look at it:


The roof looks worn and...whoa - I'm sorry, that's a photo from 20 YEARS AGO.  As newer stadiums went for either bang or bang for your buck, the Metrodome was neither.  It's complete lack of amenities (and comical attempts to make up for it) glaring to each visitor made it almost embarrassing to enter.  This didn't stop the Metrodome from hosting major events, but it was rare that the major event ever returned for a 2nd go around...they saw all they needed to see.

With the stadium long-overdue for the wrecking ball, I asked former Pacific Gold writer Drew Boatman for his thoughts.  He, too, suffered through the stadium as the only game in town, and together we present you a summary of this stadium as a venue:

The stadium itself:


  • That it took almost 10 years to get a video board.  Video replays attempted to be played on the black and white scoreboard, which was clearly incapable of doing so.  Canterbury Park had a better video board at its start.
  • The cups for drinks at the start...a soda said "cold drink" (blue) and beer said "Beer" (yellow)  Reusse says "At least the pop says it's cold...they can keep the beer any temperature they want"
  • One sheet of turf meant chalk lines...on turf...we can't have PAINT in the end zone, that would cost too much.  Chalk.  Chalk yard lines...chalk end zones.  Cheap, cheap, cheap...
  • The Met concessions sold cigarettes and cigars (!) but the Met was proudly "No Smoking!"  When enough of a fight was put up, They converted an entryway into a smoking lounge and piped in the radio call..
  • The "We Like It Here" banner, put up as if to deflect attention, likely written by Sid Hartman.

Football:


  • When the Super Bowl was at the dome, instead of replacing the worn astroturf, they just painted it to "look new."
  • Heading to the bathroom during Super Bowl XXVI (which most people only did at the end of quarters/halftime to not miss anything) and seeing hookers in the concourse.  (Editor's Note: not a slam against the stadium per se, but something they should have included going forward)
  • "Security" only seemed to exist to help old people find their seats

Baseball: Minnesota got indoor baseball to combat cold and rain-outs.  Be careful what you wish for...

  • The Twins (awkwardly shoehorned into a football stadium) played "Talking Domeball" during the 80's after a Twins loss, a god-awful song.
  • The Hormel Row of Fame promotion during Twins games.  The winning row won a free hot dog.  As the song goes, "Great for lunch, great for dinner, you could be a wiener winner in the Hormel Row of Fame"  People were embarrassed every time.
  • The Twins band-wagon fan base swelling during World Championship runs, turning it into an "advantage" - an advantage that went away when they weren't playing good...

Basketball?!  Yes, basketball was played there.  No one wanted to play at the Met Center or St. Paul Civic Center...so it was the dome.  A decision made over and over again...the wrong decision.

  • An awful place to watch a game.  You had to have GREAT seats...otherwise, you're screwed.  The great seats were about 8,000 total.
  • The 1st NCAA tournament games in 1986 (sitting on the 3rd base side about 20 rows up) and still not being able to see anything.
  • 1996 regional finals, and my seats were further down the 3rd base line...FACING OTHER SEATS.  You had to turn completely to your right to see the court.  The fact that these seats were sold without any sort of discount tells you something about the Metropolitan Stadium Commission.
  • Sitting in the upper deck for a basketball game, Drew thought " there is absolutely no worse place on planet earth to watch a basketball game."

And yet, realities gave the Metrodome a much longer shelf life than it ever deserved (if it should have been built that way in the first place).  So, with it finally gone, I searched far and wide to see if I could find the same thoughts by fans on this stadium going away.  Not memories of teams...of missing the stadium.  The same way people missed and loved the Met.  Any video or photo evidence would be included.

Well, as of this writing, 10,000 seats have been sold (not taken, sold, with accepting fans) so there is some nostalgia...but still I searched.  I wanted to find someone who said they loved the place.  Someone who enjoyed the whole environment of the dome.  After reading nearly a dozen articles (and scanning video footage), I found a quote:

"People called it a dump,” Lonke said as he looked around the stadium. “But it was our dump. And we loved it.”

Even someone who loved it called it a dump. Or maybe it was this quote that sums it up:

"I am going to miss the Metrodome,” Tom Tolve of Brooklyn Park. “I usually come at least once a year for a monster truck rally.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Just Deserves

It's one of the oldest tricks in the entertainment industry: a well-liked performer needs to pay the bills.  So many are "working actors" and you find them in something that might be, to someone's personal eye, beneath their talent.  During the predictable trashing of a review, a critic will add "and poor ________, she/he deserves better!"  Because, of course, the person didn't audition or approve doing the role, and went through the whole production.  How does a person in either a large studio movie or airing TV series "deserve better?"

I don't know.  I also don't know why this phrase can only apply to actors and actresses.  Why can't it apply to people in my world...my place in society (such as it is)?  Hell, why can't it apply to me?

The possibilities are endless:
Look at Trip in his beat up, old Saturn.  Sure, it still runs just fine, but why drive such an old car?  He can't use outdated safety methods these days!  He deserves better!  Get him a Mercedes!

Looks like Trip is sweating through another hot Summer day.  Why hasn't he found the right house yet?  Get him somewhere that has central air instead of window units.  He deserves better: temperature control at the touch of a button.  End his private hell!

Yes, that is a stylish 70's beer stein Trip is drinking from, but it IS a bit unwieldy.  It's a chore to properly clean as well.  He deserves better!  When will today's fine ceramic beer mug makers create something for such a man?

Writing those phrases, let alone reading them aloud, looks stupid.  Just as stupid as demanding "better" for folks who make more in one episode than I'll make in months.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Bitter Pill for Halloween '82

(Editor's Note: With Halloween around the corner, Trip Darvez releases another old column from the defunct L.A. Reader.  This story is from October 28th, 1982)

Here at the Thrifty Drug on Magnolia Blvd., the kids are going through the usual paces: looking at the costume accessories, ogling the candy, staring through the glass case at the ice cream.  In that respect, nothing is new.  But ask their parents, or go a few aisles over, and and you'll get a different story.

A handwritten sign is on shelves on both sides of Aisle 9:  "PLEASE ALERT US IF YOU SEE ANY TAMPERED MERCHANDISE."  And while people are telling store manager Mike Cristofano "They'd rather just have a headache than die." he thought he'd only have to deal with Asile 9.  But as Halloween approaches, the parents are out in full force.  Not just with Tylenol, Bufferin, Anacin, and the like...but with Brach's?

A mother, Julia, says "See...these don't have anything on the label."  So what?  "Anyone could put something in the candy.  Pins, poison, whatever."  Couldn't 'they' do that to anyone?  "Yes.  That's why we're having a party instead."  That idea was brought up to the kids who couldn't have disagreed further.  "No!  We're going out trick or treating." said one whose name I can't print, lest he get caught.  "I am.  We already have our route.  I'm going as Pac-Man.  He's (a friend next to him, also nameless) is going as an LA Ram.  Hey, what did my Mom say?"  I wasn't going to get into the middle of this, but each side made their point.

Most people giving out candy (if you're lucky to have a house...for now) didn't seem to care if kids ate it or not, but it turns out I was shopping at the wrong time.  At the Lucky market a mile or two down the road, a housewife was stocking up.  "I can't, in good conscious, hand out those fun-size treats."  She, too, was afraid...almost of herself.  "I don't want to accidentally poison someone."  Her response was to make and hand out snacks that kids would eat off paper plates in front of the house.  "I found an apricot cheesecake recipe in Family Circle.  Let's see, I need unflavored gelatin."  Aren't parents stressing that kids not take unwrapped candy this year?  "Well, I would never...are you saying that kids won't..I don't know why..."  She pushed her cart away.

It appears that Sunday night will tell us how much the hysteria hits the actual kids - about 2/3rds told me they eat the candy while trick or treating, thus less to carry down the road.  Their one complaint of all the adults making changes this year: raisins as a substitute.  "My mom won't let me take apples because of razor blades in them, you know?  But raisins suck."  I hope they don't go to Ramona's house: she was stocking up on raisins when I met her.  "Kids have enough candy as it is.  It's safer to give them raisins now.  Who's going to poison raisins?"  Why stop there?  Why not just pour from a big bag of rice?  How about samples of linoleum...or maybe a pack of smokes?

One other aspect worth reporting was the merry pranksters of the high school set, but the lone response I received seem to sum up the whole experience.  "Halloween...it's on a Sunday, so...man, this year I'm just gonna get drunk."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fanatics at the Gate

When it comes to the Dodgers / Giants rivalry, its apparent there are two sides now.  You have the in-game baseball aspect, and everything else.  The everything else is the problem, and the "rivalry" is becoming less and less about baseball.

Your writer spent years in Boston (pre-World Series victories) and saw a team with a desperate inferiority complex.  Beyond that, there was a unifying hatred of the Yankees...really, the fact that the Yankees were a close (geographical) team that tended to not only win often, but defeat the Red Sox.  There would be anti-Yankees apparel, and folks wearing Yankees clothing (purely to act as a shit-stirrer in public) would be booed and threatened.   If you think it is & was limited to sports fans around the stadium or bars, you're wrong.  I had an older, female teacher in a college class tell me (solemnly) that anyone wearing a Yankees cap would receive a lower grade.  This was said along side the class curriculum and assignment workload.  I was surprised, but would soon grow accustomed to the scorn.

The difference between that rivalry and the Dodgers and Giants is different, and the recent murder makes any sort of "progress" made all for naught.  With the Brian Stow beating in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, the focus was on the out of control nature of the post-game LA fan.  It was LA's problem (regardless of how a Dodger fan would be treated outside Telephone Park) and often used as symbolism of Frank McCourt's inability to be nothing but a moron.

But now, 2 years later, a Dodger fan (son of a stadium employee) is killed just outside the stadium.  People wearing one team's apparel, someone wearing the other's confronts them...and then this.  "This" (thankfully) doesn't happen often...but it's the same 2 teams, and here we go.  "Words exchanged" - doesn't help whoever started the talk, but it's all the shit afterward.   Or that there's any "shit afterward."

Folks, the Dodger and Giant teams are thankful for their fans, but that's where it ends.  You can pay to see them in person, pay to eat their food, pay to wear their clothing.  All they do in return is take your money.  When I ended years of frustrated Cub fandom, I received no letter or phone call of apology from the team.  They didn't notice.  The Dodgers didn't notice I became a fan.  So it goes.

And this is just a rivalry between two teams - there are entire groups of a team's fans who uniformly "don't respect" other team's fans because...they're "rivals."  Who are?  The fans?  Does that make you the "Best Fans in the League?"  Because you care more?  Shit, on the streets of Beverly Hills this morning, I saw a woman wearing a New York Yankees cap.  The odds would be good that, if pressed to name a starting pitcher for the team, she could not...or would say "Mariano Rivera?"  But even if she did that, or did name one, or the entire rotation...who cares?!

You're a fan of a team?  OK.  You're a fan of a team that is a rival of my favorite team?  My mind will reflex and claim to "not understand why you would" but there it ends.  And that's all it should be, because you don't play, own, or even work for the team.  As an excuse for anything beyond a "look" is apparently the state we in this state are in now...and there's no joy in Dealville.