Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Popular

"I'm head of the class
I'm popular
I'm a quarter back
I'm popular
My mom says I'm a catch
I'm popular
I'm never last picked
I'm a cheerleader chick

I'm the party star
I'm popular
I've got my own car
I'm popular
I'll never get caught
I'm popular
I'm a teachers pet
I make football bets."


No reader, this is not a post about the song "Popular" from Nada Surf. It's a lesson in how important it is to be popular and It's a quick rant about politicians and politics in general, including a National presidential candidate and a person I know who currently is "in office" locally. Politics exist in our lives on every level. Politics are not about doing a good job, instilling change or improving things. Politics are a silly, perverted popularity contests won by those who are the best "convincers". In a job. In a family. In a peer group. And in government, of course.

We repeatedly get to hear all sorts of political "stances" along their campaign trails like: They'll will instill actual change. They're not proponents of "Big Business". They'll make things better for us. They'll lower taxes. They'll improve health care. They'll work to lower the deficit --Insert whatever words you like. It's only that, words, to appeal to what we Americans so desire. It's a silly, redundant, three ring circus with all efforts to get elected, and to get "the power", if you will. Politicians don't give a shit about what their campaign missions say they will do. It's only words. No candidate would be equipped with the actual power needed to instill change when elected. No candidate is so righteous and noble that they can compel the elite establishment in this country to move. At best, they will become a notable figurehead. Political candidates know that they need to attempt to make everyone happy in order to win the election.

They know that they need to be popular.

Just words folks, from human beings just like us. Well, maybe not just like us. Unless you have teams of vested-interest campaign staffers who raise money, provide administrative support, control the media and cover up your wrong-doings along the way? Nope, they're just people who happen to be subject to the same temptations as we are. They get confused and sick like we do. They want comfort and security just like we do. They want money just like we do. They want attention just like we do. They are weak like we are, sometimes. They're not righteous. They're great public speakers who have worked with "vision" to further their careers --at all costs.


Take Republican political candidate Herman Cain for example. His brand is that of an ultra-righteous man who chased the American dream by first choosing what is "right" in his life rather than what would further his career. According to his website, he did not dream of being the President of the United States but rather, he knows the United States needs strong leadership in these times...yadda yadda yadda...I can't even finish typing it because it's all redundant bullshit. Well folks, a citizen of this country stepped forward with accusations of a 13 year, on and off and "very inappropriate" extra-marital affair with Herman Cain. I bet his wife didn't think this was too "right"? Anyway, all this action caused him to "reasses" his presidential campaign over a few days as his crew and him feel that the allegations may "cloud" in some people's minds as to whether or not they would support him going forward. You think??? I mean, shouldn't we be used to this by now?? Do we think he is "pure"??? Anyway, I really like how he said he would be "reassessing his role in the Republican race over the next few days". Meaning, Herman and his crew of pundits, pushers, press contacts and political backers would be scurrying around to gauge whether or not they could still convince the American public that he is a righteous man and whether they could still raise enough money for the campaign to be successful. Yep, lot's of scurrying around, trying to find a way --any way-- to spin this newly-surfaced information in their favor. Probably not going to happen. And he won't be missed. The next one will most likely face the same shit. And we don't care who you're banging, we're just going to vote for the most compelling orator who can "move" us anyway. We're going to vote for the one who makes us believe that he or she will actually make change...etc. Whatever, it's all silly if you think about it.

Here's a fun story of an up-and-coming local politician who I am "graced" to know personally. Names will be withheld because it's never a good thing to upset a politician. Right? So, a "righteous, man-of-his-word, noble, for-the-people" candidate won a local political seat in an election a couple years ago. But before he won his respective popularity contest, he was just a normal citizen like you and I. Here's a bit about his actual character. A girl I know is very good friends with this man. I remember her her Jack and Jill pre-wedding party and how he had confidently assured her that he had the music for the evening "covered" as well as many other organizational details of the event. Nope. He just plain didn't get things done and plain didn't bat an eye for not doing it. He was just too consumed with his life, his campaign and his "public" to do what he said he would do. I mean, her party wasn't going to affect his political campaign anyway, so it was "expendable". I provided music for the event that night and it was a great time. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working with this gentleman a few years ago in the same company and he was, let's say, a rather shitty employee. As a result of his consistent disregard for company policy --like not blowing off customers to relax at home all day-- he was fired. Upon exiting the building, he proceeded to vandalize the office with a spray painted Nazi Swastika on the wall above the doorway, complete with "fuck you" cleverly written below it. Noble.....Righteous.

There you have it reader, the actions of A true "man for the people". Unless you fire him from a job or rely on him to make good with what he has promised, of course. Point being: It's not about him per-say, it's about you knowing that it's only words. Words from political people to get you to view them in a positive light. To get more votes and get elected. To get the power and be, popular.


"I'll never get caught"



~ZFJ

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Before things get too "medical", let's get ourselves together.

Guten Tag lieber Leser ,

Experienced readers of this blog know that I am a fan of Prescription Medications listing of possible side effects in their marketing pieces (see http://zerofunjohn.blogspot.com/2011/04/weight-of-our-choices.html for reference). Savvy readers may have also picked up on the fact that, not only do I loathe mosquitoes, they seem to despise me at the same time (see http://zerofunjohn.blogspot.com/2011/07/bruce-lee.html for a bit of reference on this subject )....Furthermore, the most prolific reader may also know of my aspirations to become a Motivational Speaker (see http://zerofunjohn.blogspot.com/2011/05/u-and-ur-motivational-speeches.html for reference). And even furthermore, you may know that I have never been defeated in an eating "contest".

Last evening while having dinner with some good friends, they "challenged" me to try and eat 6 saltine crackers with no water (etc), in the span of one minute. I tried. I failed. Good thing this was merely a "challenge" rather than a "contest". So, loyal reader, you may continue to be confident in me to destroy any and all opponents who dare enter an eating "contest" against me. However, I wouldn't be too confident in my eating "Challenge" skills at this time. But this post is not about that, and you may be wondering why I foreshadowed this post with some key points about my life and aspirations complete with click-able links?

Before I get to my point, which will enhance your life and thoughts through this holiday season and beyond, I'd like to point out that I was terrifyingly correct about something I claimed recently. My claim was, since I am still dealing with hoardes of mosquitoes that congregate on my back porch and back door, that they have constructed some type of fortress that I cannot locate. I'm assuming it is under my porch somewhere but I've launched seek and destroy missions, I've ran extensive surveillance and have even hired espionage experts to help. All to no avail. I know, I know....This is a ridiculous claim. Then how do I explain the droves of mosquito warriors that were perched on my backdoor last night??? It was fucking November 28th last night people!! You think you have a better explanation than my "fortress" theory??? I'd really love to hear it....I'd also really love to not have malicious blood sucking demons lying in wait for me to come home so they can take me out. It makes me crazy but, I chose to control my attitude last night and broke out "The Equalizer" for an impromptu death-dealin' party in my kitchen (http://zerofunjohn.blogspot.com/2011/06/sniper-equalizer-hot-topics.html)....anyway, here's a picture of just a corner of the backdoor in question. ***Warning, the picture may be unsettling to some readers***



Photobucket


Shocking....riveting...



So,I was watching TV the other night and once again got really amused at the extensive list of potential side effects that could happen if you take a prescription drug. It got me to thinking that we all really need to seek other ways to take care of ourselves. America peddles the "put-a-band-aid-on-the-Cancer" thinking and pharmaceutical companies take it to the bank. Shit, recently I looked up a prescription that I use for Asthma and it's retail cost in the U.S.A is $295.99. The retail cost through a Canadian pharmacy was $64.95. Wow. Now, I'm not going into the massive insurance scam that America runs on us, or the cost of prescriptions in our country. I'm only suggesting that we need to focus on our physical health or our mental health simply cannot be vibrant. If our mental state is not vibrant --or at least comfortable-- than our spiritual health (not talking religion here folks) cannot blossom. Our physical health is the easiest and most mechanical key to mental and spiritual health and also a factor that many of us tend to place low priority on --which leaves many of us to have to rely on prescription drugs to "feel better". Truth is, unless we have our physical, mental AND spiritual health "in line", we will have difficulty feeling consistently "happy". All you need to do is get active, get healthy and keep doing it. Your mental and spiritual health will respond in accordance. That said, I believe, considering all the wonderful information available to all of us these days, that we should focus on natural cures, holistic approaches to health and consistent activity that will help to enhance our physical state of being --Before things get too "medical". Yes reader, this perspective is going to be part of my budding Motivational Speaking career in the future...just working on the speeches.

But even more important than this perspective, is our attitude. Health concerns are stressful for people. The holidays can be stressful for many people. Day to day life can be stressful to people. Shit, just getting out of bed can be stressful some days. We can't control things like mosquitoes constructing fortresses under our porches in efforts to strike back at a person who has destroyed countless numbers of them. We can't control the fact that America absolutely rapes it's citizens with healthcare costs and prescription prices. We can't control the actions of friends, like when they issue an impossible eating "Challenge" thus putting a perfect eating record in jeopardy. Again, just so you know, it was not a sanctioned eating "contest".

Anyway, we can control our attitudes and that's where we need to focus because that's where everything "good" or "bad" originates from. I'm leaving you with a quote from Charles Swindoll that, when I first read it, opened a door to "better" thinking for me. Maybe you've read it? Maybe not? Either way, it's still good to refresh/realize. Here you go:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”


Later....


~ZFJ

Monday, November 28, 2011

...and everything looks good if you know the right way to put it on.

ZZ Top said it best, "The girls go crazy for the sharp dressed man."


As I've mentioned in previous instances, Northampton Massachusetts is a cool fucking place to live, visit and party in. We have forward-thinkers, active culture, beautiful architecture, diversity and generally lot's of cool-looking people. We have a reputation for having an active music scene here too. Why, even Saturday Night Live recently ran a skit about that. The skit wasn't funny or accurate but still, that is Saturday Night Live talking about "us". We've got crosswalk laws that will make your head spin, complete with people who saunter across these crosswalks while you fucking wait to pull into your desired street. We even have people who will simply jump out into the crosswalk with nary a glance at potential oncoming traffic -because they can. We foster a "locally-based-do-the-right-thing-for-the-Earth-and-your-community" atmosphere --which is very commendable. Yes indeed, we have intelligent, cultured, detailed and professional people out here and naturally, a hipster population that will also make your head spin. They wear the "right" clothes. They listen to the "right" music. They watch the "right" films. They're fierce individuals who stick together and also kind-of do the same things, and oftentimes look the same way. They ride the "right" bikes. But this post is not about the wonderful hipster community of Northampton, at least they are generally cultured people. This is about Northampton's high number of what would appear to be, avid bicycle enthusiasts. Well dressed bicycle enthusiasts, mind you. See, it's not the amount of bikes and bikers that impresses me, it's the attention to detail that goes into what outfit to wear while riding the bicycles that impresses me. I mean, say what you want about Northampton but we, hands down, have the most well dressed bike people in the world....right here in this town.


Early Saturday afternoon as I drove to my destination, I was stopped at a light waiting to make a right turn onto Route 9. It was a rather busy intersection complete with pedestrians trying to figure out the crosswalk schedule --they obviously don't live here-- and oncoming traffic from multiple directions. Soon, the coast looked clear so I hit the accelerator to manipulate the turn but almost in the same motion, I was forced to jump on the brakes. I would have run over a fast-moving/cool-looking guy on a bike who shredded past the front of my car if I had continued to accelerate. The rouge riders bike was leaning toward the "vintage" style of ten-speed rather than a newer model, of course. Still, despite the lack of technology built into his bike, due to the technology not being in existence when his bike was manufactured, he had that fucker flying down the street at an impressively high rate of speed. But, my dear reader, this is not about his bike. Check his outfit out: Cool looking beard, sunglasses, cool looking hair --despite the wind resistance, cigarette in mouth. One more time, cigarette in mouth. That's right....anyway, I also noted the brown, fashionable, boots, grey pants, black shirt and one of those "cool" looking backpacks that actually had black/brown trim, matching the overall outfit. Wow. He probably was just going down the street to get a new pack of cigarettes but he sure looked cool doing it. I was more jealous by how cool he looked with that cigarette in his mouth while shredding around on his bike, than I was startled by almost hitting him with my stupid car. I mean, we do get that a lot out here, the cool/aloof-looking-hipster-bike-rider opting for a vintage-style 10 speed bike and possibly wearing clothing (for men) that will resemble something James Dean would have worn. And/or (for women) something "80's" looking on either a vintage style bike or an absolutely clever/quirky-style bike. ***Disclaimer: These fashion styles will change in approximately 6 months. Or may have already? Who knows? I'm not too hip***.....Anyway, looking cool, slashing around on a vintage bike and now, smoking cigarettes -which really makes a person look cool. All while riding a bike??? That's right....Not a care in the world.

We also feature the more "settled", professional and ultra-serious bikers out here. They're not hipsters but are forward-thinkers, career-oriented, possibly innovators(?), perhaps a bit judgemental(?), outwardly organized and detail-oriented. These people may work in high-tech, cultural and/or think-tank style jobs. They wear the tight spandex-ish biking outfits with company sponsors all over the taut material, even though they're most likely not sponsored riders. Their bikes are in the $5,000-$15,000 range and feature Carbon Fiber, lasers and computerized shifters. These people pride themselves on doing everything right. Everything. No detail, or expensive accessory is left out of their biking pusuits. Their bikes make me realize how little I know about bikes, spandex and having excessive money available to buy that kind of bike. They employ every biking etiquette and road signal while touring 3-6 blocks from their driveway to their "green", poshly-decorated Main Street office -where work life balance is highly enforced, of course.

We even have a trash and recycling service out here called "Pedal People", which I am not dissing at all. Total kudos out to them to be able to do that kind of work, hauling bins of stuff around town to it's appropriate places, on their bikes. My point is, if you're going to come to Northampton thinking you're going to impress us with your hip outfit as you ride through town on your vintage bike, you're not. Or if you think we'll be intimidated by your spandex outfit with feigned sponsors on it and your super-high-end bike, we won't. We're all very used to this by now.


And it's cool....That's it.



~ZFJ

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Introducing: "Suck it dry Sunday"

Last night it occurred to me, and I still almost don't believe it. See, I was settled in and unwinding with some Ghost Adventures --not an episode from the new season which are full of "hammed-up" acting and flimsy claims of demonic possessions by the shows three Ghost Hunters-- but an episode from a previous season where they actually still managed to catch ghosts talking and floating around on video. Anyway, then it happened. A retail operation ran a commercial for their wares...It started out routinely enough with mentions of Black Friday deals and what they're selling, and why I should buy it. The commercial ended with a plug for deals that run from Black Friday to "Cyber Monday"

Cyber Monday??? What the fuck is this shit?

Maybe you are aware of this? Maybe you already know what the "brand" for Cyber Monday is supposed to be? I assume it's THE day where you and I can get super-deals online??? Not like we can do that EVERY day or anything. It occurred to me that the retail operations and the media are actually attempting to brand a full "shopping" weekend in this country, rather than just the Friday after Thanksgiving, and are actually naming (branding) certain days so us sheep -err, "Consumers", can rush out and buy when we are told. Don't believe me? Well then how do you explain "Small Business Saturday"? That's right reader! A short time after I learned about Cyber Monday I got hit with a commercial for Small Business Saturday, which featured all sorts of actors posing as consumers, proclaiming that they're going to buy at least one thing from a local "small" business in their area --on Saturday! What. The . Fuck. Is. This. Shit???? I have not yet heard what the branding name for Sunday of this shopping weekend is called but I'm sure it's out there, or in development in some retail operations lavish conference room as we speak. Wow....it's all so lame....my teeth are turning and turning.

Two other things that got me down about the current state of our country and Hollywood entered my consciousness a short time after the aforementioned revelations. One of them is a product called "Forever Lazy". People, these are fleece "Footy" pajamas for adults. One piece, with flaps in the front and back so when we have to take shit or piss while wearing this outfit, we don't even have to remove it. Nice! They are currently available in three awesome colors: "Workday Blues" --a nice play on words reminding us of how much it sucks to have to go to work, especially if you're wearing this shit, "Hanky Pinky Fuscia" --no comment, and of course "Asleep On The Job Gray" --that's really it's name. Like we really need to be more lazy in this country??? C'mon!!! Then, while still in the throes of annoyance from learning about this fucking shit, I get hit with a commercial for the upcoming holiday movie, "New Years Eve". It seems to be about a group of young attractive friends and lovers who, want to party in Times Square. On New Years Eve. That's it? I mean, how bout' a movie where the Earth gets attacked by aliens on New Years Eve?? Or a movie where someone successfully thwarts a terrorist attack on New Years Eve?? It's been done but at least it has some kind of a believable story set on New Years Eve, rather than just being about New Years Eve. But not in our current times, nope, we get holiday movies about peoples aspirations to go party on New Years Eve. Wow Hollywood......wow America.

Anyway, I realize that I have watched too much TV already in this holiday season and today I hope to find a nice sand pile, or maybe a pile of debris in the street in which to bury my head for a quick reprieve from the bombardment. While writing this I have come up with a name for the Sunday portion of America's new shopping weekend:

"Suck it dry Sunday"

Like it?

You heard it here first reader....hopefully it will catch on!


See ya!



~ZFJ

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Oil & Water, Black Friday, and other things that turn the teeth

Good evening reader.

The NFL Network has these two analysts. One of them, Brad Nessler, is monotone and calm while the other, Mike Mayock, has either done a bunch of coke, or needs to punch someone hard, with a lot of sustained intensity and aggression. I'm actually worried as of this writing that he could find me somehow. Makes my teeth turn when I have to endure their broadcast along with an otherwise quality NFL game.

Also, while driving to the kin-folks house today with my sidekick, the music sucked particularly hard, in case you were wondering. It, the radio, was mostly of the background-noise nature due to the ongoing conversation between Jack and I. Unfortunately, he fell asleep and I just drove with that shit on from there. My rigged-up ipod is still on the fritz, also unfortunate. It just stays in a funk, on the fritz, sometimes for a few days. One day...a week? It's tough to tell when the device will decide to wake up...Anyway. 99.3 was on by default, as I had been conducting research on it the other day, and then Kid Rock came on. Not one, but two full songs. Kid Rock makes my teeth turn.

Black Friday. The concept. The term. And the really overbearing and annoying branding being done with it, MAKES MY TEETH TURN. It is really up our asses, so bad. Seems more intense this season? I could be wrong, or maybe I simply haven't paid as much attention in the recent past. I'm not even joking. It turns my teeth when I hear it. I've tried to actually find the reasons inside my heart for why it is bothering me so much. Can't I just "play ball" with the artillery bombardment-like conditioning effort that the media will unleash upon us all?? Not like it's anything new...No. I can't. It sucks. Spending quality time with friends and family should be our focus. But that gets interrupted by signals on the TV to, Buy...on fucking Black Friday. Shit, one store has a fucking jingle with a girl singing "blaack Friday...Black Fridaaaaay..." Hey Kohls. (that's right, I know which store it is. See, I hated it so much the other day that I made sure to find out which store was responsible...) Fuck you Kohls. I know it's my own fault that I had the radio on and was also watching a good dose of TV Football, then TV in general. Just hate that shit man...I just hate it.

Chris Deprey turns my teeth. Because he's the one that, at least in my life, first uttered the phrase "Turns my teeth".

Ammo's barking is currently turning my teeth.


Otherwise, I'm having a solid Thanksgiving holiday so far. Hope you are too.



~ZFJ

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Formula?

Hi.

Driving in my Range Rover (Mitshubishi Galant) down Broadway in Manhattan (Main St, Northampton)the other day...anyway. My car's CD player shit the bed some time ago but that's no problem because I rigged up one of my ipods to the stereo. As a result of my ingenuity, I get to listen to music I want, rather than the shitty/available radio stations. But, inevitably the ipod --which has dependency on radio signals being clear in order for it's reception to be clear-- goes on the fritz now and then. The other day it went on one of these fritzes and I had to resort to: Mainstream radio. I had Rock 102 on for a bit because the music, classic rock, is very tolerable. However, I had to switch the station because I couldn't handle the mindless, self-absorbed drivel that Bax & O'Brien were spewing over the airwaves.

Then I switched to 99.3 FM. I'll admit, I occasionally listen to this station even when the ipod is working, in order to "research" what the radio is playing for all of us average listeners these days. Bad move, as always.

I got hit with various Nu-Metal songs and paltry attempts at humor from the stale DJ's. I once again was not surprised with what I got served, but still, it got me to thinking about a topic that I had been kind of burning on for awhile. With so much great, open, passionate and fresh music available in the world, why does mainstream "rock" radio continue to force watered-down, thoughtless and formulaic songs from every conceivable Nu-Metal band on people?? And why does most NU-Metal music sound basically the same? Why not feature other styles of rock music? Why does modern "radio-friendly" rock music all seem to be NU-Metal?? At least this is what 99.3 FM is slinging. But why??? Why won't NU-Metal bands expand their overall dynamic? I mean, the very term for the genre came about because of the mixture of rock with hip-hop/DJ elements. Why can't they continue to find new mixtures that may be fresh?

Please remember, this blog contains factual opinions.

Why? Because, they want to sell the product that they know will sell. Art seems to be a secondary thought --if considered at all. It's about sales folks...and when you've got a proven system for sales, you stick to it. So, write music that will work on the radio, will appeal to the "everyday" folks out there and that will sell albums, songs and tickets to the show. **I'm all for people making livings from their music. I just feel that people sometimes, in order to make this living, will "run a business" rather than creating their art. They just put out a solid "product" that, based on status-quo, they believe will sell.** Why, it seems that over the years, NU-Metal music has found actual "formulas" that work (sell) and, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The "Godfathers of NU-Metal", Korn, once admitted to writing in formulas. The band Staind did as well. Don't quote me...but listen.

Here are brief descriptions of the three basic formulas:


#1) The "positive-affirmation-you'll-never-hold-me-down-and-I'll-emerge-stronger-from-this-torment" type song. This song will usually feature some kind of rawkin' intro riff (which may also occur after each chorus to lead the verse back in). The verses will scale back dynamically, usually relying on the bass to shine through with some picking on the guitar. The singer will try to sound like Layne Staley (RIP) while delivering the strife parts of his or her "situation" to the listener. The chorus will contain tag lines with mass appeal qualities, so we can all relate to their plight. The bridge will occur upon completion of chorus #2 and there will be a third chorus or verse riff to take the song out.

#2) The "I'm-such-a-bad-boy-who,-if-you-decide-to-mingle-with,-will-turn-you-"bad"-just-like-me-and-you'll-like-it." This song formula also features a rawkin' intro riff which again, may recur in the song. However, while the verses usually change dynamically in similar style to the aforementioned formula, they will usually feature a muted guitar riff while the "bad boy" singer tells us why he's so dangerous and out of control. The verses will feature porn star references, stripper pole references, dirty sex references and other "taboo" lyrics to establish just how fucking bad-ass the singer is in his life. The chorus will usually be "explosive" with stupid tag lines such as "I'm an American Nightmare..." that inspire us to try and be bad-ass like the singer is. The bridge will usually occur upon completion of the second chorus and will either be extremely rawkin' or will bring the dynamic MUCH lower, in order to set up further explosiveness for the third chorus or nasty riff to take the song out.


#3) The "ultra-introspective/comin'-clean" type of song. This is the big change of pace for most rawkin' NU-Metal bands. This type of formula normally features acoustic guitar music --many times almost sounding like Country Music-- (I surmise that there are real parallels between Country Music and NU-Metal music as they both rely on putting out a sell-able "product" for the masses to consume?). This type of formula is gaining popularity as more NU-Metal bands have realized that they must expand their song dynamics in order to keep selling records, catering to the opinions of the masses and of course, getting radio play. This type of song is designed to let you know that the band you view as taboo, dangerous, uncontrollably-sexual and wild also has a sensitive side. They want to let you know that they're not just big "rawk stars" like you think, they're also just like you. They want you to relate to them. They want you to buy their record.

yawn...

I know...I know. Who the fuck am I to spew these opinions all over the blogosphere??? Well, a few years ago I was a member of a band that, while it didn't start out as NU-Metal, it surely "evolved" into it. While I'd like to mention that we had some level of substance and integrity, we still consciously wrote music to appeal, to be "Radio friendly" and to be marketable. I left that band to pursue the art I felt was inside me. I wanted to shed the parameters that I felt were established in NU-Metal music by radio, by industry professionals we consulted with, by our fans and by ourselves. I wanted to find the honest messages within me and bring them out, regardless of who may "buy" it. (Tearing at your heartstrings?)

While still spinning my heels with this band, I remember particular phone conversation I had with a good friend. I complained about Rock music and how sterile and repetitive it felt to me. How every song on the radio bored me and seemed repetitive and contrived. I'm forever indebted to this friend who slapped the reality on me: He vehemently informed me that Rock music was not sterile. The music being fed to me is sterile. He said if I want to find the music that moves me then I have to take initiative and search for it.

Which I did.

I hope you do.

Or just like whatever you want and enjoy the upcoming holiday, eat drink and be merry!!!

and turn off mainstream rock radio once in awhile. :)



~ZFJ

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Normalcy Bias

In continuing with my holiday kickoff theme, I've decided to just include some eye-opening information about what exactly is a Normalcy Bias. But before we begin, I must tell you that I'm dropping this on you because you need to be awake. Really. I watched a video yesterday that was quite sobering (about the potential for the U.S. Dollar to be further devalued and possibly not continue as the worlds exchange currency...uh oh)...

Anyway, that's what stimulated my thoughts about Normalcy Bias. Many/most of us think, because something hasn't happened yet, that it never will. There are just too many examples in world history to not open your mind to what could happen. We have to take a really good look at what is happening --then look deeper into "why" things are happening--and begin to think on your feet to handle the lightning speed changes that our world is bringing to us. Serious shit here reader. But, as you know, ZFJ Blog is here to help.

The only consistency in life is change.

And now, what exactly is Normalcy Bias?

From Wikipedia:

"Normalcy bias
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.[1]


The normalcy bias may be caused in part by the way the brain processes new data. Research suggests that even when the brain is calm, it takes 8–10 seconds to process new information. Stress slows the process, and when the brain cannot find an acceptable response to a situation, it fixates on a single solution that may or may not be correct. An evolutionary reason for this response could be that paralysis gives an animal a better chance of surviving an attack; predators are less likely to eat prey that isn't struggling.[2]

Effects

The normalcy bias often results in unnecessary deaths in disaster situations. The lack of preparation for disasters often leads to inadequate shelter, supplies, and evacuation plans. Even when all these things are in place, individuals with a normalcy bias often refuse to leave their homes. Studies have shown that more than 70% of people check with others before deciding to evacuate.[2]

The normalcy bias or the sheep effect also causes people to drastically underestimate the effects of the disaster. Therefore, they think that everything will be all right, while information from the radio, television, or neighbors gives them reason to believe there is a risk. This creates a cognitive dissonance that they then must work to eliminate. Some manage to eliminate it by refusing to believe new warnings coming in and refusing to evacuate (maintaining the normalcy bias), while others eliminate the dissonance by escaping the danger. The possibility that some may refuse to evacuate causes significant problems in disaster planning.

Examples

Little Sioux Scout camp in June 2008. Despite being in the middle of "Tornado Alley," the campground had no tornado shelter to offer protection from a strong tornado.[4]
New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. Inadequate government and citizen preparation and the denial that the levees could fail were an example of the normalcy bias, as was the thousands of people who refused to evacuate.
The September 11th Attacks can also be seen as a case of normalcy bias. Although the US Government received adequate signals that an attack was being organized, inadequate steps were taken to prevent it."



The video I saw yesterday is here
http://www.newamerica15.com

You'll need an hour to watch it if you're interested...


Happy Holidays!!


~ZFJ

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dark Corners & Lifestyle Messages

Happy Monday reader!

And happy holiday season...which, if you have turned on the television, entered a retail store, listened to the radio or have generally been not-sleeping to any extent, you have already been innundated with holiday messages, huge sales alerts and various other messages. All serving to drive home the point of how we "need" to get out and buy shit.

But first, I'd like to mention that I had a great weekend full of recording music, attending "Friendsgiving" and watching the Dolphins win their third straight game. I don't know what the future of "The Bastion of Despair" will be now that the Fins just can't stop winning... I'll just have to cross that bridge when it is time. On Saturday evening, right after the studio session, we drove to Cambridge for "Friendsgiving", and despite our fatigue, it was a fun holiday time as per usual. Friendsgiving really kicks off the holiday season, in my opinion. Prior to the evenings festivities in Cambridge, our Saturday recording session was rewarding and liberating, as recording sessions usually are for us. Not many things can replace the feeling of "making it official", with regards to the music we've been working on for the last year or so. Here's a shout out to Zeuss, Metal music Producer/engineer extraordinaire --and also our drum track engineer for this album. We don't play Metal music but we sure do like the raw drum tones he can get!! The guy is meticulous. The guy is awesome.


While at the studio with drum tracking in-progress, we engaged in our tradition of perusing the selection of Metal magazines in order to find Metal band names and album titles that are funny to us. We not only found a few gems, but also realized how dead fucking serious these bands are about striking fear into the hearts of the listener. And how serious they are about tapping into the "black" parts of the soul and the mind in their album titles. It occured to us that Metal bands, especially "Death" Metal, "Black" Metal, "Viking" Metal and the like, will forever be locked in an everlasting quest to create super-fast, highly agressive and very evil music. Equally important to the quest of fast, evil music is the quest to name their albums in the most fear-inspiring, "dark", occult-like and sickening-thought-conjuring nature. Which is funny. Here's a few samples:

Baptized in Blood, "Baptized in Blood"
Carnifex, "The Diseased and the Poisoned"
Hell Within, "Asylum of the Human Predator"
With Blood Comes Cleansing, "Horror"
Arsis, "We Are the Nightmare"
Dimmu Borgir, "Death Cult Armageddon"
Cradle Of Filth, "Damnation And A Day"

Wow. Take it easy? Life isn't that bad? Try to tell that to these bands though and they will gladly kill you with their evil bare hands or, and surely most preferably to them, with a human sacrifice --of YOU-- to Satan, or whatever other dark entity they're singing about. Watch it?

*sigh*

Well reader, Happy Holidays, again. Now is the time of year that hopefully we can unwind and spend quality time with loved ones, family and friends. It's the time of year for giving. And it's the time of year that retail operations in this country energetically and methodically drill this message into our brains and souls. We know, we know...we "have" to give presents. We have to spend money and they, the various retail operations, love receiving our money. This is not a secret, we all know that they're in business to make money. We just endure the blitzkrieg that begins around Halloween....Every season.......Every channel....Every commercial... Every radio.....Every website.....Every possible form of pressure to buy, both subtle and overt.

But that's not even my point. What I'm getting at is how all this effort only enhances my personal distaste for their corporate tag lines. Millions of marketing research dollars spent....then millions of advertising dollars spent, to get...our money. Your money. My money. They need to have their "brand" positioned correctly in the marketplace in order to get our money. They attempt to "disarm" us with positive affirmations, empowering lifestyle messages and clever plays-on-words. But still, we know they don't really care about our lives being "better". We know they just want "it", our money.

*sigh*

And they know that times have changed from the commonplace, everyday mindless, controllable-consumer to the savvy, internet-researching, powerful and resourceful consumer. They know we are armed with information and therefore will be difficult to control. So they needed to make their tag lines "stroke" us a little bit more while still conveying the message of: "Buy shit from our store". They needed to appeal to our intelligence with "lifestyle" messages in order to reinvent their brand and image, to get us to buy shit at their store. New tag lines have emerged that are assertive, confident, reassuring, simple, elementary, clever and, most importantly: THE MESSAGE HAD BETTER NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO. For example, Lowes used to be:

"Let's Build Something Together".

No, let's not. I don't want to build something with you. I want to build something my fucking self thank you, because I can. I don't need your shitty help, Lowe's. I want to build it with the incredible information that I recently acquired. I have the power...So Lowe's changed it to:

"never stop improving".

Which sounds like a chorus to an 80's Arena-Rock hit single! THAT'S what I want right there. A tag line that makes me feel more uplifted and empowered while I "Never stop improving" my home... with the materials I just bought at your store...fuck you Lowe's.

Or Wal-Mart with:

"Save Money. Live Better"

Simple. Nasty. Appeals to my "just-keep-it-simple-for-me-and-don't-insult-my-intelligence-because-I-have-so-much-power-through-information-that-I-won't-fall-for-any-fucking-sales-pitches" sense of mind. Their old tag line was:

"Always Low Prices"

You think I don't fucking know that Wal-Mart????? You think I didn't just look up on the internet that your store boasts lower prices than other stores, all the time??? I can't tell that's your "niche" huh??? You think I'm stupid??? Fuck off, I'm not going to your store.

Or perhaps, JCPenny's new tag line (Yes, they are still in business...surprised me too reader!):

"We Make It Affordable. You Make It Yours."

"Cool". Now that they matter-of-factly told me that things are affordable there, if I decide, through my extensive research process of "where things are affordable", that's the place to go, I might just go "make it mine". Confidently mine because I researched it.

But JCPenny can't be happy with just one tag line from what I hear. They also have an ongoing tag line to force on us from time to time. That's right reader, they have two corporate tag lines going simultaneously!! This borders on insulting my intelligence. Here's that tag line:

“New look. New day. Who knew!"

That's it! My intelligence is insulted now. That sounds like a stupid line from "Sex In The City" or some fucking Rachel Ray cooking show! It sucks and you know what? Just writing it has officially made me angry enough to never go to JCPenny's. Get with it you assholes!!!


Anyway, for kicks over the weekend, my genius-level administrative team and myself decided that things need to change in the constant barrage of corporate tag lines and Metal band album names. We feel that it would be refreshing to live in a world where Metal Band album names and corporate tag lines traded places. Like, I'd be listening to Cradle Of Filth's new album "America Runs on Dunkin" while driving to: Lowe's ("Asylum Of The Human Predator") to get some plumbing fixtures.


Maybe while shopping in Wal-Mart, (tag line "We Are The Nightmare"), I decide to purchase the new Baptized In Blood album entitled, "Never Stop Improving"???

Or, I'd be watching American Football or something and a commercial airs for McDonalds, "Death Cult Armageddon". I like cults. I don't currently like McDonalds. But with a tag line containing the word "cult"?? ....I'll have a Big Mac please. Actually, make it two.

You get it?

Anyway, this would serve to not only "lighten up" some of the Metal bands of the world but also to carve out the edgy tag lines that all of us super-informed/empowered consumers will eventually need to be stimulated. AND, since we're "always playin' games" here at ZFJ Blog (thinking of this for the ZFJ Blog tag line), we encourage you to have good times of your own this holiday season with friends and family by switching Metal band album names and corporate tag lines!!!

Ok, I'm outta here...going to listen to the new With Blood Comes Cleansing album, "We Make Smiles", while doin' some cardio at the gym.

Bye!



~ZFJ

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Thin Red Line

In the immortal words of David Lee Roth: "Here's to your thin red line, ooooooh I'm steppin' over."


Hello reader. For a few years now I've been proclaiming the music industry to be a "level playing field" where the "great" songwriters will reign supreme. I realize I am not the only one with this sentiment. See, the internet has changed EVERYTHING --as most of us know or are quickly discovering. Big mean record labels used to be able to "tell" us what to like and force feed us their music via mainstream radio and every other form of marketing. No longer. Major labels and even Independent labels employ many of the same resources that are currently at our fingertips...just waiting to be discovered and touched by us. Now, we consumers know that we can find the music we like and easily "own" it via hundreds of online options. No longer does a band or artist need to sign any fucking sort of deal to expose their art and potentially make a living from it. If the band/artist has "the goods" (quality content, if you will) then we consumers can, and maybe will, find them. The overall entertainment industry is following suit...but this post is not about the music industry. Rather, it's about how we're crossing the "thin red line" in many other capacities in our country, and in our world. Meaning, we not only realize that we can take action, we are.

Even governments and Corporate America are not safe.

For example, President Obama set records for his campaign donations --largely credited to his consistent and widespread activity levels within his massive Social Media network, combined with this country's very real desire for change. See, they can't tell us who to vote for on TV or the newspaper anymore. WE can educate ourselves very easily. We can acquire information easily. We can further research the validity of the information quickly. We can make decisions for ourselves based on the information we've easily acquired. Major news networks --which we as citizens used to rely on for information of what is going on in the world, our country, our state and our cities/towns-- are fading fast and finding it difficult to control the "people", or the "99%", if you will. Now, ANYONE can spread an idea. ANYONE can sell music. ANYONE can start a war. Just have a message. Find like-minded people. Spread your message to them. Reap results.


In the immortal words of Seth Godin (from his blog post on Seth's Blog: "The Extraordinary revolution of media choice". If you don't know who Seth Godin is then you are just missing the boat. He's awesome!)...anyway, here's the excerpt:

"In the traditional model, you can only play one program at a time. One radio show or one movie or one show...Scarcity of spectrum has changed just about every element of our culture...BUT! And it's a big but...In a world where everything is a click away, and in a world where everyone can have their own YouTube channel, ten blogs and a thousand email accounts...the only thing that's scarce is attention.

Shelf space is worthless now. Why worry about making a particular hour of radio all encompassing and wildly popular when you are welcome to broadcast a hundred hours--and people can listen whenever they like...The idea that someone can program our consumption is becoming obsolete, and fast. The front page of the paper disappears in a digital world, where there is no front page--merely the page I got to by clicking on a link from a friend. The tenth minute of a sitcom isn't necessarily the part that comes after the ninth minute, and in fact, I might never even get to minute nine.

Fifty years ago, the remote control freaked out TV executives. Today, the exception is the linear consumer, the rare bird that sits from the beginning to the end. Weird is in, mass is fading. In a world of surfers, all you can do is work to make the best wave you can. The real revolution is that you get to make waves, not just ride them."


Nasty! Truth!

In our current times, the "99%" anywhere and everywhere has the ability to make informed choices, spread information, easily communicate ideas and information, organize like-minded people in support of their ideas, and "make waves". Buckle up!!!

Today, the news media is all over the protesting in Syria. I won't elaborate on it as you can easily inform yourself on it. My point is, the "99%" is communicating their message to one another and forcing change. No longer can the "elite" in Syria control the "99%" with fear, imprisonment, murder, torture and propaganda. They, the "99%", just come back in droves even after military force is used to stop the protesting. Even Syrian military personnel are defecting to join the protests now!

The media is also all over the "Occupy Wall Street, National Day Of Action" today. I'm really not interested in dissecting this but it REALLY validates my point about steppin' over the thin red line. Take this excerpt from Occupywallst.org for an example:


"Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

This #ows movement empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up. We want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because we don't need Wall Street and we don't need politicians to build a better society.

The only solution is World Revolution"


So reader, if you're making music, writing a book, starting a revolution, a cult or running for office, go ahead and feel good about your chances! If you've got the quality content (i.e. "The Goods") and you're willing to actually work for it, you WILL be able to get your message heard!


Then, you may just persuade enough people to cross the thin red line and...



~ZFJ

Monday, November 14, 2011

Letzte Nacht, Im Vergangenen Monat, Im Vergangenen Jahr

So, gestern Abend besuchte ich eine Show.

Haha friendly reader! That is indeed the German language, as you suspected! And, it is yet another ploy to make people click a ZFJ Blog link! See?? At the very least it made you curious? Maybe you realized that ZFJ knows German, among many other things?? Maybe you realized that ZFJ knows how to use Google searches with the best of em'??


So, last night I went to a Show. Actually, it was Friday night, and it was a hell of a time.

Also, letzten Monat gab es einige Treffen. Or, "Also, last month there were some meetings."


Last month there were some meetings involving concerned citizens about the health of the Western MA local music Scene". The fact that the subject comes up so often --and with so much vigor when it does come up-- tells me that many people in the area do in fact want more quality music, more exciting events to enjoy the music and, most importantly, to be part of something exciting. A loosely knit networking group called "A Scene United" was formed and two(?) meetings have been held so far about how to bring it "back". Shit, looking back there's been a lot of talk about "The Scene" overall in the last year or more. Craigslist (Western Mass) had a two/three week posting string with people from all angles chipping in their gripes, concerns, potential remedies and other opinions about all things "scene"...I've enjoyed a video rant or two on Facebook about the "scene" and I've been part of what seems like countless conversations --from varying perspectives-- about it.....Why, even this very blog had a post about it in the recent past! (see below)


(*Shameless plug for my own blog: In February Blog Archive, "Scene Queens and the 25 Minute Divide." Have a read, if you haven't already.)

(*A respectable plug for a fellow bloggers recent post: demetrioskanavaros.blogspot.com, "A Scene Diluted".)

Beachten Sie, wie ich bin nicht die Bereitstellung von Links?
(You guessed it! That's German for "Notice how I'm not providing links?")



I'll admit, my thoughts about the "scene" --and music in general-- have really evolved over the last year for a variety of reasons. Musically speaking, during the last year, Rob, myself and Rich have been laying low and just writing and recording our new album. We cut away most live shows, promotions and stress of promoting so we could focus on only the music of the album. It feels great....feels real. Without having to cater to the necessities of putting on a live event, it is easy to just "live" with the music you're writing and easier to identify what you have to bring out of yourself to pour into the music. We got detached from the concerns of the "Scene" along the way. But somewhere along the process of just being open, writing and allowing the music evolve the way it naturally does, I unfortunately began to arrive at the realization that I'm eventually going to have to help promote the record when it comes out. The time to "work" is coming.....but we're not quite there yet. Still, between our own music being created and the impending promotion efforts we intend to employ, hearing/reading peoples concerns over "The Scene", myself currently working with an awesome music venue for promotions and getting to know more area bands as a result, my mind was cast into an interesting thought vortex about the topic. Like, what exactly is a "Scene"?


But first, the meetings. The meetings, called "A Scene United", prompted Demetrios' aforementioned post and also caused me to think on things. They were something I thought very little of when I first heard of them although I appreciated the action being taken and the good intentions. Despite the good intentions, they seemed to project a perspective of bringing something "back" --like someone had died or moved far away?? --which I think is the wrong perspective. I didn't see what this type of meeting/group could do to build a music scene but Rich really wanted to check out the meeting to see what was going on, and I got curious to see what was going on as well. Rich, Rob and myself attended the meeting in order to get "informed" and chip in our two cents, if applicable. The meeting was hectic but simple and with good overall intentions. There were some bands represented, a couple venues represented and a recording studio. Various ideas were thrown out wildly on the topic of how to get more people out to original music shows. My contributions at the meeting were simple:

1) Bands should write "better" music --meaning, tune into what their heart is really telling them, go crazy or whatever else. Just get delusional and go "off the deep end" to create and bring forth the "quality" art inside of them. They should form a "Vision" for their music and think bigger than a particular local area. I don't care how much hype and promotion they may have going for them. If a bands music is redundant, overly "been-done", badly performed/recorded and uninspired, people just won't leave the house for it.

*(Explanation of my opinion: No, I am not judging people's music to be of quality or lacking quality. As if I have the right to based on my own opinions, preferences and perspectives??? I am simply relaying what I personally feel about most "original" area bands music and sentiments shared with me by many people who are very relevant to local music in my geographical area. Bands tend to focus on playing in the local area, putting "asses in the seats" and promoting themselves to an extent. The creation of art seems to take back seat to this over time for most area bands and as a result, many people feel that the majority of the local music available right now does not make them want to leave the house. I know, I know...dangerous ground getting into the subject of "quality" with regards to music.)*

But If there is "great" music available in a particular local area (insert your own definition of "great" music, please), and bands are excited to share it, then the particular local area may experience a thriving "Scene" while these bands exist and work. I think that the "particular local area" factor is only of limited importance to the driven, passionate and excited artist who is busy creating "quality" music as their first priority. I also think that this factor is very important to local venues and other local thinking entities, which is very understandable. Or, "Verständlich" if you prefer to read the word "understandable" in the German language.

Aaaand onto my second point I shared at the meeting:

2) After those bands in a particular local area have written open, honest, compelling and "quality" music that they love madly and are just burning to share it with the world, they will still have to bust their asses to promote it. Yep. Meaning, Arbeit ihre Ärsche aus.
Or, "work their asses off", in English. But sadly and truly despite the best intentions, most bands just don't do the work.


(Explanation of opinion #2: This applies only to bands who have music they are hoping to expose to people. So, music is written and loved, excitement for this accomplishment is brimming, shows are booked to perform/expose said music....people are talking.....now there is actual work needing to be done to promote the music and the forthcoming show(s). Most bands could do this well but don't just do much about it. Unfortunately not many things can replace hard work when you want results --in anything you're doing. It can be uncomfortable to reach out and spread the word but when you're really excited, it gets easier. So get excited.

All that said, nothing can help an original local music "scene" like really good music from excited, hard-working people in bands.


So, Move forward.
("Vorwärts", in German.)

On Monday at The Elevens, I attended a show featuring Giraffes? Giraffes! ("Giraffen? Giraffen!"), Home Body ("Startseite Körper") and Sylphid ("Sylphide"...I'm pretty surprised that there is a German translation for "Sylphid"!). Lot's of people attended. Lot's of people had fun. The bands went well together, performed thoughtful, well-played sets of music and obviously did some work to promote the show. While each band shared commonalities in that they only have two members, and also rely on heavy doses of electronics and effects to properly perpetuate their deeply textured music, these bands did not come off as redundant from set to set. Rather they demonstrated their unique musical styles with performances that enhanced those unique styles. I enjoyed quality music this night. I got rather drunk. I got a good memory. I was part of a flourishing "scene" on this night.

Also, as I mentioned waaaaaaaay earlier, on Friday I attended another great show, also at The Elevens. The show featured Saint Accident (my guitar player, Rob, is a member of this ensemble), Easthampton Savings Band, Burial At Sea, Sometimes and Jameson Lavo (of Trials and Tribulations). The bands on the show "made sense" together, they all played convincing, moody and engaging sets of music in their differing styles, and you could tell they put work into promoting the show as the club was full from start to finish. It seemed that the show had a feeling of excitement leading up to it and that people were generally buzzing about "music" things on this night. I enjoyed fresh and compelling music. I had many positive conversations. I got really drunk. I once again found myself enjoying being part of the "Scene".

Weird??? The missing "Scene" was present, alive and kicking, captured in small doses on the past Monday and Friday nights!! It seems that a vibrant music "scene" is simply a shared mindset, caused by quality music, excitement and actions taken to share it.

I was also glad to be part of a music scene a few years ago that included bands such as: Swillmerchants (my band/shameless plug), The Room (Demetrios' former band), Under Falling Skies, American Business Machines, Yucky Octopus, GBNE, Hot Black, Danny Pease and the Regulators and many others. A few of these bands are still releasing new music and performing etc... but I mention these bands in particular because we had a blast together. And we made great memories together. We wrote and performed music we were excited about and worked creatively and diligently to put on great live events. We were excited about what we were doing, promoted it, worked together and as a result, many people enjoyed the live events, parties, relationships, conversations, friendly-competitiveness and pleasant memories gained --however "foggy" at times.

A music "scene" always exists but our perceptions of it will always be relative to what we want out of it and what we contribute to it....seems likes a consistent theme is developing here?

In conclusion, finally. I can't really explain why I kept on with the German translations. It started as a ploy to get you to click...really. I can however explain that pointing fingers, blaming, networking groups, negativity, frustration, poor quality music and non-existent promotional efforts will not make a "good" local music "Scene". Not even the writings of world-famous bloggers Demetrios Kanavaros and Zero Fun John could perpetuate this. Quality music, hard work and excited people will make a vibrant local music "scene" and help to satisfy our desires to be part of more favorable memories.



Thankfully, I do feel some positive rumblings on this front as of late...


Und einen Teil der günstigeren Erinnerungen.

"And to be part of more favorable memories."


That's the whole point.



~ZFJ

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"These are not the Droids you are looking for"

Hi there, you cutting-edge-brilliant-person-who-decided-to-click-the-link-to-get-to-the-vital-and-possibly-life-changing-information in this here blog post! I hope you are well.

So, just to let you know, I love TV marketing, corporate "tag lines" and/or little slogans and advertising in general. I love to see who their "targets" are depending on what I'm viewing and what time I'm viewing it, and I love the absolute bullshit that most companies spew out to try and get our money. While watching Spongebob Squarepants with my sidekick (my son) a few days ago, a commercial aired for some new toy cars that light up, flip around and who knows what else. My sidekick (son) excitedly points and proclaims, "My want those!". My friend who was here chillin' with us quips, "Imagine that. Very clever how they put a commercial for a kids toy in the middle of programming that kids --and their parents-- may just be watching..." (sarcasm, in case you didn't pick up on that). That's just one fun example of TV marketing right there...well, fun for me anyway.

Ok, ok... I'll start getting to my long-winded point here. I own and operate an iphone. The iphone is one of the best devices I have acquired in my life. It's easy to use, extremely useful for many things --even phone calls. It's streamlined, cool and empowering. The marketing behind the iphone kind of reflects a sort of "I'm-intelligent-casual-streamlined-resourceful-clever-type-of-phone", made for and used by "intelligent-casual-streamlined-resourceful-clever-type-of-person"...at least that's how I feel when I see their commercials. Seems clear and consistent and I feel like I made the right move getting it. Just saying...

Last night after a mighty Swillmerchants rehearsal, I unwound and lightened up a bit with a viewing of "Saving Private Ryan". At commercial break, a marketing piece came on that threw me for a loop at first. It showed an object flying at high speeds through a city, powerfully and easily slicing through street lights, street signs and other objects throughout the metropolitan area. My first thought was, "Oh shit! Yes! It's an advertisement for yet another big budget movie where a seemingly unstoppable-alien-threat-terrorizes-a-city-and/or-the-world-killing-millions-of-humans-as-we-shrivel-away-in-horror-eventually-demonstrating-our-human-ingenuity- resilience-and-resolve-by-finding-a-way-to-end-the-planet-wide-bloodbath-thus-uniting-the-planet-complete-with-images-and-foreshadowing-of-the-entire-human-race-living-in-harmony-upon- the-realization-that-we-should-work-together-rather-than-battle-each-other-to-make-the-Earth-a great-place-to-live-once-again!!"

Wrong. It was just a commercial for the Droid "Razr" phone. (Note the edgy spelling of "Razr"!)

Anyway, the Droid came out a few years ago (I think) and it was supposed to try and compete for market share with the iphone. Maybe the Droid line of phones is doing this? I don't really give a shit but I do hope you proceed with caution if you intend to purchase a Droid phone. Their marketing seems to suggest that this phone will be able to fly through the air and cut right through metal, bone and concrete. Very cool, if that's what you want your phone to do?? I probed further into the marketing for Droid phones and what I discovered was terrifying to say the least. A particular marketing piece showed a young executive involved in an obviously important board meeting. He spies the Droid phone on the table and decides to pick it up, no doubt thinking that the device can help with his job and/or presentation at the board meeting. Wrong!!! The joke is on him as his hands and arms began to morph into robot arms as he manipulates the device!! Wow, I guess the Droid is capable of turning every day, well-meaning humans into robotic clones??? Okaaay......

Still another marketing piece featured a young man hiding in an alleyway, covertly following a black SUV of interest. The SUV pulls up at a corner convenience store in the city and two important yet tough-looking men urgently exit the vehicle and enter the convenience store. They quickly proceed to the ATM machine and key in a secret code, which opens a secret staircase. The young man is right behind them, unseen, wide-eyed and moving fast to discover what they are doing here. He manages to make it down the secret staircase without detection and continues to trail the two men from a short distance behind. The tough-looking men continue moving through the various uber-high-tech security levels and eventually they make their way into the awaiting and futuristic complex. Inside the complex, the young man stares in awe at massive robots and various machines putting hi-tech stuff into other stuff, huge computer screens showing what resembles a nuclear combustion in progress, and many "top secret" looking people are gathered around coordinating the whole process. He turns around quickly as the steel doors to the entrance of the complex slam shut right behind his back. Undaunted, he regains focus on the overwhelming process unfolding right before his eyes and stares in awestruck horror as a huge, semi-controlled explosion occurs in the center of the complex. The explosion produces: a Droid phone. Fuck. Was I hoping for something "more" from this scenario? Possibly? He seemed happy though.

Shit.

Damn folks. I just want to make a phone call, or text someone, or play Angry Birds (lots of it) and feel like an "intelligent-casual-streamlined-resourceful-clever-type-of-person" while doing it. I don't want to slice through metal, bone and concrete. I don't want to develop robot arms and I surely don't want to take my chances enduring a huge explosion in the company of "top-secret" type people just to get a phone. Wow. Could be just my take on it, but I don't think Droids marketing is really appropriate for consumers other than those who have plans to take over the world, overthrow a government, become a robot or generally strike fear into the hearts of all who oppose them.

Wait....maybe I should get one?

Anyway, to finally conclude todays overly-boring post, I'd like to leave you with an example of what I feel is spot-on, easy-to-consume and to-the-point TV marketing. Not surprisingly it's for "Liftmaster" Garage Door Openers. In their marketing piece they explain how their garage door opening systems are awesome and even have battery backup for use in the event of power outages! Their tag line?

"Liftmaster. Get in your garage every time."

Real fucking simple folks. Your garage door will fucking open. Period. Every time --if you buy Liftmaster, of course.

Now that's effective TV marketing if I've ever seen it!

Until later...I surely hope you have an iphone for your phone-ing needs. But if not, and you own a Droid, I hope you're putting it to "good use". If ya know what I mean (hint hint)...



~ZFJ

Monday, November 7, 2011

why wHy WhY... why-why-why-why???

Why the fuck does my dog (Ammo) go outside and just bark for extended periods of time?? I've already been watching her for a half hour straight and there is nothing at all to bark at. She's not even trying to make it look convincing. I understand there is the possibility of a few mosquitoes, "holding out" to take one last swipe at me before winter really falls, or some random ghosts, which are always a very real concern. I wish I could actually see or understand why she just goes out there and barks? Her high pitched, ridiculous and ineffective bark --aimed at NOTHING, increases in volume and intensity at times to the point where she almost blows her chippy little vocal chords out. Designed to methodically pierce my thoughts and mind? ...Again I look outside, thinking surely there is a reason for this consistent level of barking she feels the need to employ, but nobody and nothing is there...she stands on the porch just barking into the distance...no "threats" to the backyard can be seen. No wind blowing or squirrels running. It continues. I feel my skin crawling and my breath tighten. Why Ammo? Why must you always do this? Is it to further torment me? There is nothing to bark at in the backyard...nothing. Why Ammo?? Really... If she could talk I bet she would say "Fuck you zero fun John".

Why must dudes post pictures of their new back tattoos complete with flexing/posing in front of the mirror?? Why? C'mon dude...just why?? We don't give a fuck.

Why do people issue status updates about their husband and every little interaction they have, IN EVERY STATUS UPDATE THEY ISSUE ON FACEBOOK?? WE just may not care, at all. Actually, we don't.

I'm not going to mention the nine million updates on the power being out and/or the snow. It just sucked. Sucks more to peruse your news feed and see 15 million updates of this nature.

Why do I keep using "we" in these little gripes?? Like I've got some army? Maybe I do?

Why do I think any of this material is fit for a blog post??

I guess sometimes we just take advantage of online platforms such as Facebook or Blogger to just blurt out whatever the fuck we want to? Foregoing our sense of "Hmmmm...now, why the fuck would anyone care about this other than myself?" Or, "Why would any of my Facebook friends give a flying shit about this???"

I've Been dying to use the expression "give a flying shit" in a post for quite some time now. If I told you that this whole blog post was created just so I could use it, and that the content within doesn't even matter (which I'm sure you're used to by now)...would you believe me? If so, why?

Ammo prefers to blurt her dog concerns and other shit out into the vast unknown of, the backyard. To further dig her knife of annoyance into my side and continue her agenda to attempt to rule this household, I'm sure of it.

Why?


~ZFJ

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fear and Loathing, In Massachusetts.

Hello.

First off, before boring you further, I'd like to send warm wishes out to friends and family who are still without power in the aftermath of the Nor'Easter we had right before Halloween. Some tough weather we've had since June 1st this year:

Tornado!
Hail Storms!
Earthquake!
Weak-ass Hurricane, but still a hurricane!
Nor'Easter that wiped out power in half of Massachusetts!
Damn!!

I've also found some other tough shit to deal with in our shifty lil' state. Also, I'm rather fond of swearing and will do it often in this post, but first, a tidbit of information from 2004.


In 2004, my sweet ass was fired from a job I had held for 6 years. Yes it was bullshit of course, and had to do with a petty little newbie-manager who would cut the nose to spite the face. Anyway, I ended up receiving some unemployment benefits for a short spell in 2004.

Then the beady-eyed manager went to an unemployment hearing I didn't know about.

Then he fought the claim.

Then the state said I had to repay the benefits they gave me.

Okaaaay...that's also bullshit --but still very real-- now let's get back to the current times.


So, in August I got fired from a shitty job I held for 3 & 1/2 years by a petty manager who would cut the nose to spite the face. Wait. Either I am a shitty employee (nope!) or I just don't respond well for extended periods of time to petty-thinking, negative, micromanaging managers?

Naturally, I go file an unemployment claim and It all seems to go normally at first. No mention of any over-payment. No "red flags" come up at the filing or for three weeks of weekly claims. Good thing too, because the unemployment benefits would be my only income for a while.

Then a few weeks go by with no payment, as they said to expect.

Then another week...

Then the fun starts.

I call the unemployment department and sit on hold for approximately one hour. A man gets on the phone, sounds like he is half asleep, and I ask him about an automated message I heard when I filed my weekly claim. The message said "Your weekly benefit amount is being applied to an existing over-payment..." Fuck. The man from the state says not to worry, "the only reason you are getting that message sir is because someone is reviewing your account right now, sir. Someone will call you by the end of this week or next week to review your claim." He assured me that this was why I heard that message and the ONLY reason I had heard the message. After some basic qualifying of his answer, I reluctantly trust him. Why shouldn't I? He is a state employee after all.

No one from the state calls by the end of the week.

No one from the state calls the next week.

I called back at the end of this week, waited on hold for approximately 47 minutes and 17 seconds, and after getting bounced between departments for awhile I was introduced to the "Over-payment Department".

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy such as the Over-Payment Department.

A woman answered the line and slurred the words ..."over-payment...". I could barely hear her so I say, "hello"? She utters the words "over-payment" again. I could tell I had woken her up and in efforts to break the silence that followed her phone introduction, I ask if she would like my social security number so she can at least see who she is talking with? She says, "oh, yeah". I'm not making this up folks. After pulling up my account she informs me that my entire benefit is being applied to the 2004 over-payment! What the fuck??? That story is a BIT different from the story I heard a week and a half ago! I explain to her that I really will need my full benefit amount. We haggle. She tells me of a waiver form that I can send in which will take 2-3 months to process, of course. At the conclusion of the process it will either find me "not liable" or "liable" for the 2004 over-payment. I haggle onward and get "awarded" with the information that I can receive half of my benefit amount. That sucks but it's still better than zero. I ask if there is ANY option to get the full benefit. She repeatedly says "no". I resign to my fate and hang up. I assume she falls back to sleep.

A few weeks pass and the job market remains tough. No respectable job is found. I decide to review the over-payment paperwork they sent to me. I also review the waiver form again. The over-payment paperwork has a code of "NR" on it which translates to "Not Responsible". I research further and it hints at me not being liable for the over-payment in the first place. I read the explanations that accompany the waiver form. In a round-about way, it basically tells me that I am not liable. What. The. Fuck?? So why am I getting stuck with it??? I call the over-payment department. A man answers, half asleep, and greets me with "...over-payment, what's your question." I ask if he would like my social security number so he can know who he is talking with? He says, "oh, yeah." Readers, this literally happened again. I try to explain my situation but he repeatedly and aggressively asks what my question is, uninterested in anything but retorting to my question. I abandon my attempt to give him background information as to why I'm calling and ask if there is ANY way to receive my full benefit amount while I search for a new job. He deflects my question twice with dance-around "no" answers. I say to him that I have been directly lied to previously by a few people within the unemployment departments and that I really need an answer to whether there is ANY recourse for me to receive the full benefit amount.

He explains that when they receive the waiver form, it goes into "process" and at that point I would receive my full benefit amount until a decision is reached. What??? That is exactly opposite from what the sleepy woman in the department told me last time!!!

I send in the form that I once viewed as futile. I file my weekly claim to find that I'm getting the full benefit amount now but I am furious and awestruck that: 1) The state where I live, pay taxes, fees and etc won't support me when I find myself unemployed by no fault of my own? 2) That they would "mislead" me when I ask for accurate information pertaining to my options for this?? --Repeatedly?!? 3) If not for my research and my repeated phone calls --resulting in different answers each time, I would have continued to sacrifice benefit money that it seems I may not even have to be paying???

My mind was blown.

But things got even sillier when I applied for insurance through the state. I sat with an informative employee (who works for a non-profit) who's job it is to guide citizens through the labyrinth of the Massachusetts insurance "system". She repeatedly joked how confusing it is. She asked if I pay child support? I told her I do. She then explained that the state does not consider this to be a debit. What??? It debits from my checking account each month!!! We continue...I am still trying to understand this part. Eventually she explains that, because of my current income, I will still have a formidable deductible to pay off on my new insurance when I need to use it. Like for very expensive prescriptions to control asthma, for example. Funny, the child support that the state does NOT consider a debit but DOES consider a credit for those receiving it, put me over the "line" and caused the formidable deductible. While completing the application, the cheerful and informative employee and I jokingly go back and forth with the "logic" to this. She finally says to me, "It's not fair."

"It's not fair." That's the best and most honest answer I've heard as to why things like this exist in Massachusetts.

And no, it isn't fair I guess. Anyway, I appreciate you sacrificing five minutes of your day to read this ranting drivel about my incredibly exciting life. The good news through all this is that I went from furious and awestruck, to genuinely impressed with the state of Massachusetts. They have confusion and double standards down to a science and they have even hired the right employees to pull the whole thing off! Kudos!! I mean, what other business can can you call and get a different answer each time??? What other business would honor a credit but not the corresponding debit??? You're right my dear reader, not many places of business would be able to pull this off consistently like the state of Mass can!! I do appreciate the public services we enjoy in the "Commonwealth", but then I remember that I/We are paying for this with our taxes and fees and etc's so it provides little comfort.

Cheers! And no, I'm not moving out of the state. I am a glutton for punishment.


~ZFJ

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