Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A phenomenal post

Other words that are starting to bother me...

"Fierce" (thanks macmachine) - a big hit with the kids.

"Not so much" - running a close second behind "phenomenal" for most annoying use of language.

In fact, if you Google the phrase "not so much", this is the first result:

An entire article devoted to it's evolution and usage. No surprise that it's traced back to early episodes of the "Friends" television program. Unlike "phenomenal", in which the user tends to exaggerate the greatness of something, people who use "not so much" tend to think they are witty. Not so much, asshole.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shit from an old notebook...

It's Sunday, and the motors in my brain are all gunked up with weekend partying residue, so it's time for the classic cop-out archives series. Plus, it's cool to title your blog entries after Minutemen songs. These tragic DJ adventures seem to be a big hit, so here's one of the all-time classics:

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Worst DJ Gig Ever
Current mood: aggravated

In the world, there exist people without a soul. They're terrible, evil people. They have a bunch of soulless, asshole friends. They listen to terrible, emotionless, soulless music. These people have birthday parties, and they hired me to DJ at one. The problem is, I don't hang out with soulless people, so I really don't have any idea what their musical interests are. But I must have something they enjoy... right? Believe me when I tell you, I played EVERY POSSIBLE STYLE OF MUSIC I OWN. But this did not appease them. They need soulless people music. People without souls do NOT listen to any of the following:

motown, 60's R&B, jerry lee lewis, the beatles, disco, funk, the talking heads, new wave, 80's hits, 90's hits, anything on the tommy boy label circa 1990-1993, west coast rap, east coast rap, "i believe in a thing called love", willie nelson, daft punk, or motley crue.

oh, they enjoyed "SexyBack" and "Sweet Caroline". Who doesn't? And then someone gave me a "Bon Jovi Live 2006" and the "new" Buckcherry albums to play (since I was doing such a bad job at entertaining these people). Honestly, I didn't even know that Buckcherry still existed. I remember laughing at a minor hit song they had in like 1998 called "Lit Up". Apparently, they had a new, even more laughable song that is a huge hit with the Jersey Trash crowd called "Crazy Bitch". At some point, I was bombarded by requests for this song. Imagine being trapped in a room with 50 people, none of whom had a soul, and trying to play music for them. But you don't have any of the music they want to hear.

Why? The person running the party NEVER TOLD YOU WHAT MUSIC TO PLAY! On the phone call before this surprise birthday gig, the conversation with the girl organizing it for her boyfriend went something like this:

Me: "What bands does he like? any particular songs?"
Dumb Skank: "oh, he likes everything."
Me: "yeah, just give me a few bands so I have an idea..."
Dumb Skank: "well, I dont know, he listens to everything."
Me: "Any particular songs you want to hear? Does he have a favorite song?"
Dumb Skank: "What do you have?"
Me: "Well, I can get anything, just let me know what you guys listen to..."
Dumb Skank: "Nothing in particular..."

Nothing in particular. OK, maybe these people really like anything.... Duh, of course they don't!

Fast forward to the worst dj gig I ever had. I was even HECKLED ("play that funky music white boy!" "what the hell is this guy playing?"). No one would even request anything! Finally, there was a classic moment about two hours into it, where someone came up and asked me to play some "Metallica or Maiden!! Get this place rockin'!" Metallica or Maiden??? At a party with like, old people and stuff? Literally, seconds later, someone asked for Neil Diamond. Neil Diamond? Iron Maiden?? Where am I???! I've been Dj'ing for almost four years, specializing in dance parties, and I can never remember the sense of horror I had this night, with just a complete lack of sense of what these people wanted to hear. You know how sometimes Eli Manning looks totally and completely lost on the football field? I can now completely relate.

Then tonight, my boss forwards me this email from the girl who organized the party:

> From: "Janice Sxxxx"
> To:
> Subject: Surprise Party!
> Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2006 14:49:36 -0700
> Hey Rob,
> Hi how are you? I'm a little upset about the
> party last night. I
> should of had a party list but, when I called Erik
> he said he had
> everything. So you know you are at a 30th Birthday
> and first my boyfriend
> walks into happy birthday sweet sixteen. He is a
> man not a teenage girl.
> For a party you normally play cha cha slide the
> electric slide, he played no
> party music. I had to go up to him tell him to play
> something more upbeat
> my guests were falling asleep. Then one of guests
> went up to him to tell him
> he was 30 not 60. The most disappointing what DJ
> don't speak. For futher
> hires so people don't have a horrible time like my
> guests did please inform
> them that the DJ's you are giving to them don't
> talk. That's why I hired a
> DJ so he could get people moving on the dance floor
> have fun not just sit
> there and be bored. I'm sorry if this is rude, but
> he was awful. My mom
> has friends at work that were going to get married
> and I told him that he
> could of at least tried, but no he didn't. I really
> wish I didn't pay him
> lst night. I just hope for further peoples parties
> that he does you inform
> them that he does not talk on the microphone.
> Janice Sxxxx

For the record:

- The music they were "falling asleep to"? MOTOWN. FUCKING MOTOWN. If Motown doesn't make you move, you OBVIOUSLY HAVE NO SOUL. If Motown makes you fall asleep, you just might be related to Satan directly. And yeah, you're gonna tell me you've never heard the Jackson 5 at a fucking wedding? I can only imagine the poor sap who had to DJ that one.

- Not once did anyone request the Cha Cha Slide or the Electric Slide. I'm fairly positive no one would've danced to it anyway.

- And "Janice" did eventually request some music. CLUB MUSIC. "Do you have any club type music?" Which I did actually play. Daft Punk's "Around the World". A genuine dance-party ringer. No one danced.

- I personally think playing "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" for anyone over the age of 25 on their birthday is hi-larious. But then again, I'm pretty sure I have a soul and a sense of humor. What's even more funny is that this was emasculating to him, and she took personal offense.

- She notes: "I wish I didn't pay him". She didn't. She went so far as to write me a check, then put a stop payment on the check.

- And this "talking on the microphone" business. If only she knew that I also do a radio show, I could've just done my radio DJ schtick the whole time!!! Now that would've been fun... "All right! A little Iron Maiden right there with 'Run to the Hills' off the 'Number of the Beast' LP from 1982! That's goin' out to Bob at the table in the back over there... good rockin' Bob! Right now in Old Bridge, it's Eleven fifteen in the P M, 43 degrees and cloudy... Comin' up next, a little two-fer Saturday with Neil Diamond!"

This isn't a fucking bar-mitzvah. All DJ's don't stand up there and try and get a bunch of drowsy 60 year-old parents and apathetic 30 year-olds to dance to Iron Maiden and the Cha Cha Slide. We play the music you ask us to play.

Now, I feel terrible that these people had a bad time. Never before have I felt so bad about my abilities as a dj. But communication is something I've been working at making myself better at for some time now. I'll take this as a learning experience on several levels. I can't relate/type out all that I've learned, but take this little bit of knowledge and wisdom I learned the hard way:

If you're paying someone lots of money to play music for you,


Here's the kicker:

The theme of the party? "Party Like a Rockstar". They had balloons and banners with that printed on them, they even had shirts printed up for all the guests that said "I partied like a rockstar at Jxxxx's 30th birthday".

If there's a bright center in the universe of rock stars, these people are on the planet furthest from.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From Brooklyn to Bordentown, part III

Ah, Saturday night at the Elks Lodge in Bordentown, NJ. Nothing more glamorous for a working DJ such as myself. After two nights indulging in mid-to-late 20's yoof culture, you'd think a night with some respectable, well-mannered adults would be a welcome respite from the insanity of binge-drinking twentysomethings.

I always hold older people in high regard. "Respect the elders" is one of the mantras of celebrated freeform radio host Vin Scelsa, and what Vin says, goes. Part of being a DJ is being cordial and maintaining a sunny disposition, and respecting your audience, and more often than not, those of adult age (read: your parents' age) are very respectful and cordial in return. However, some of the "adult" members of the celebrated Elks Lodge don't give a flip about being nice.

Whereas rudeness at the Harvest Moon would be someone asking me for the 40th time when their song is up, and rudeness at Last Exit would be some snot-nose loser from Dayton, Ohio who pretends he's "from" Brooklyn, NY telling me I suck, rudeness here in Bordentown is some guy literally grabbing the microphone out of my hands while I'm singing... because I'm singing "his song". Then all of his buddies laughing about it. Cue a clip of Michelle Taner saying, "how rude!"

Again, this is the exception, not the norm. The Elks are great people, and my only gripe would be that I'd expect a "social club" to be a little more rollicking on a Saturday night, but maybe that's because they live in Bordentown, which is neither a suburb of New York or Philadelphia, just some place out in the sticks where there are still rude mofo's, and people still love karaoke.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A diatribe on artificial sweeteners

Last year my new year's resolution was to stop using the word "dude" (unless, of course, it was in reference to the Big Lebowski). I was successful, for the most part. I still slip up now and again, but I figured it was an easy goal to attain, and I did.

This year, however, I decided to set my sights on personal improvement a little higher. This year I fell victim to the oldest one in the book: eating healthy. This resolution actually started a few months ago, when I decided that my breakfast regimen of pork roll egg and cheese sandwiches and bagels had to go. I read that it's best to wean yourself off of these things, so by definition, I still eat them, just with much less regularity. Two other health decisions I already made a long time ago: 1) eat way less fast food 2) try not to drink anything containing "high fructose corn syrup".

I think #2 is something everyone should read up on. High fructose corn syrup is a substitute for pure cane sugar, but is processed in a way that is considerably less healthy. A passing glance at articles on the subject reveal that HFCS is known to cause
-liver damage
-complications from diabetes including eye and nerve damage, and foot ulcers
-insulin resistance
-cardiovascular disease

Wikipedia: High Fructose Corn Syrup
The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup
The Mayo Clinic: Why Is HFCS Bad For Me?

A Google search for "high fructose corn syrup" reveals a myriad of articles pertaining to a wild assortment of health risks. Ever since reading a bunch of them, I've become quite the "ingredients" detective. Obviously, it's no shock that almost every major brand of soda uses HFCS, so it's impossible to avoid it completely, but when I started checking major brands of juice, the results were surprising. I mean, it's juice, it's supposed to be healthy! Sugars are found naturally in fruit, we don't need a bunch of sweetener in them... right? Well, apparently, we do. So far, the only major brand of juice that is actually "100% juice" (that I've found recently, and I'm talking major brands here, not specialty), is Dole. Snapple, Ocean Spray, Tropicana, et al, all add this gross sweetener to my beloved juice. Juice... it's something you associate with health and purity, but here it is, tainted by this incredibly artificial product.

Of course, American drink makers are beholden to the use of HFCS because some stupid corporate conglomerate:

The preference for high-fructose corn syrup over cane sugar among the vast majority of American food and beverage manufacturers is largely due to U.S. import quotas and tariffs on sugar. These tariffs significantly increase the domestic U.S. price for sugar, forcing Americans to pay more than twice the world price for sugar, thus making high-fructose corn syrup an attractive substitute in U.S. markets. For instance, soft drink makers like Coca-Cola use sugar in other nations, but use high-fructose corn syrup in their U.S. products.

Large corporations, such as Archer Daniels Midland, lobby for the continuation of these subsidies.[16] Since local and federal laws often put a limit on how much money one particular lobbyist can contribute,[17] ADM's contributions are often given by numerous smaller entities under the authority of ADM. This is commonly called bundling political contributions.

Obviously, I'm not a health store nut or anything, I mean, I still have a ways to go to be "in shape", and we are talking about sugar here - when we should be talking about vegetables or food pyramids or something - but it's a start. I just hate the idea of putting this nasty stuff in my body. It's also good to see I'm not the only one who feels this way. The consumer rebellion against all this impurity has already begun. My local Wawa and QuickChek's both carry this "Naked" juice. I've become a dedicated fan of "Naked" juice, with it's two pounds of fruit in every bottle, it's gotta be the healthiest thing in the store. Also excellent for your coffee needs is "Sugar in the Raw", which is unrefined Hawaiian pure cane sugar. It actually contains small amounts of nutrients and has a more natural flavor than standard sugar.

As Joe Jackson once sang, "everything gives you cancer". Which is pretty much true. But I sure as hell ain't going down with foot ulcers, and if anything is gonna destroy my liver, it's not gonna be some stupid soda and fake juice.

Good to note: You can still buy Dr. Pepper made from pure cane sugar here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The word "phenomenal"

The word "phenomenal". I don't know why this word irritates me, but it does. Like nails on a chalkboard-type irritation. My sister used it during a recent conversation three times in the span of five minutes. There's a car commercial out now which uses it twice in 30 seconds. There's probably a hundred other instances over the past few months where I've heard this word used. Phenomenal. It has this subtle power to convey a supposed overwhelming awesomeness of something you experienced to another person, which I've noticed is it's most common usage. Apparently, there's a lot of amazing shit happening. Everything's freakin' phenomenal.

I feel like this word was sparsely used up until a couple of years ago. Then, for some reason, it started peppering more and more conversations. It's like the new hipster band of vocabulary words. Phenomenal has a $70 shag haircut and wears tight jeans. It listens to Animal Collective and The National and LCD Soundsystem on it's iPod Nano with white earbuds. It drinks PBRs with "Irony" and "Nostalgia" at the bar on Fridays, goes dancing and does bumps of coke with "Kitsch" on Saturdays.

To make a long blog post short, if you use the word "phenomenal" to describe something to me, and the event/situation/object is actually NOT phenomenal, but merely "outrageous", "hysterical", "totally sweet", or "awesome", I WILL slap you. Consider yourself warned...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Take Off, Eh! - Special Dispatch from Toronto, ON

Greetings from the Great White North, where it really is great, white, and north of New Jersey. It's also pretty warm, a balmy -12 degrees (celsius). To convert this to fahrenheit, simply multiply by 9/5ths and add 32. In other words, its about 10 degrees to you, and a bit colder with that wind. For someone like me who thoroughly enjoys cold weather, and also complaining about people who constantly complain about cold weather, it's almost a vacation, except I sometimes have to work.

While at night I may be known as DJ Milky, during the day I have a couple joe jobs where I'm known as either just Erik or, in the case of my job as video assistant for the Scarlet Knights, Milky. So when the Rutgers University Football team rounded up it's entire support staff for the trip here to play in the International Bowl, along I went. This is my second trip to Toronto, the first being a few years ago when the crew drove up for the weekend to see Oasis play the Molson Centre. However, this is not your average trip across the border. For roughly 15 hours or so, I was living (not really, but sort of) like a rock star.

New Year's Eve found DJ Milky working late into the night. This is nothing new, but getting up at 9am the following morning to leave was. With about 2 hours of sleep under my belt after a night of heavy partying, I drove from Brooklyn to Piscataway in the rain, changed into a suit, got on a bus escorted by three state trooper patrol cars, got off the bus on the runway and got onto a charter 757. This was optimal because at this point, having to make a trip through the terminal at Newark airport would've killed me. Also awesome: We were greeted on the plane with a gourmet sack lunch, and I'm pretty sure no one was more ecstatic about this as I was.
Nothing like a smoked turkey wrap, ginger ale, milano cookies, cheese, and an apple to kill a brutal hangover. And an hour or so later, we're touchin' down at YYZ.

Nothing too exciting happened after that. I've walked at least 5 or 6 miles around Toronto in the last 24 hours, and went to Tim Horton's twice. Tim Horton's is the Dunkin' Donuts of Canada, in that they both serve delicious coffee and are located on almost every streetcorner. However, there is one key difference: everything you order at Tim Horton's comes with a donut. EVERYTHING. Coffee? Duh. Turkey Club? Well, OK. Bowl of chili? Now there's a donut to dunk. Maybe one day I can open up the first Tim Horton's in New Jersey.

Today, we set up some video equipment at the practice facility at the University of Toronto, where I encountered a great example of the disparity of sporting priority here in Canada as opposed to America.

The University of Toronto "Varsity Blues" (nice team name) hockey arena, which has substantially more seating than it's football stadium. It's all hockey, all the time. Front page, back page, even their professional NHL team, which sucks, is sold out for the next 17 years. However, I think I'm even more fascinated by the daily curling column in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

I'm off now to sample some tasty Canadian brews at highly-regarded C'est What and hopefully stop at Tim Horton's on the way back. You can catch me on the sidelines this Saturday at noon on ESPN2. Until then, I'll leave you with this parting shot of the view from my hotel room on the 24th floor of the Westin Harbor Castle:

Thanks Coach!