Weather Rapport (or, Whichever Way the Wild Wind Blows)

weathergraphic

LIZA: … and that’s how little Penny Lattimer got her DUCKS … in a row.

(Fellow newscasters chuckle over residual quacking.)

DERRYL: Adorable, Liza. Speaking of ducks, I hear we’re getting some wild weather this weekend. Meteorologist Tom Lumbago has the latest in StormProbe Alley. Tom?

TOM: Thanks, Derryl. And yes, while our duck friends may enjoy the ride, especially if they love being torn apart by a vengeful God and plummeting earthward to their own shrieks of terror, we hairless apes might find it problematic. Our latest reports suggest a not-so-scrumptious gumbo of doom from a super-aggro typhoon rerouting its hissy to the Northwest and Northern California sometime Saturday afternoon, because why should Florida have all the fun.

This means potentially high, vicious winds, rain and showers sharp as nails, and scalping gusts from the point of landfall through the valley, followed by soapbox squalls across social media from people who either find predictions of the storm’s severity exaggerated — like, “Hey, MAAAAN, if it’s so NASTY, why haven’t y’all NAMED it yet?” — or who chastise such individuals for their trivialization of disasters in the making. Distracted from their bickering over the election, they’ll come to the online equivalent of blows, inflicting minor damage with copy-paste links and toppled-lawnchair-STORMAGEDDON-WE-WILL-REBUILD memes that stopped being clever nine years ago but generate LOLs anyway.

Some 200 Oregonians are scheduled to record themselves wandering outside on Facebook Live. Sources confirm that 76 will be teenaged boys removing their shirts at various locations and screaming, “WOOOOOOO! WORLDSTARRRRRR!” while their girlfriends roll their eyes and sip from rum-laced Wild Cherry Pepsi Big Gulps. We’ve been told that three are named Tami with two “e”s, but only one is stuck-up about it. At least six videos will go viral, but the only one to appear on “Ellen” will have been produced by a 62-year-old divorcee who set an emotional montage of sepia-toned aftermath photos to Phil Collins’ 1990 hit, “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” complete with lyrics in a light purple Helvetica.

Additionally, there’s a 70 percent chance that my profession will be maligned by viewers who assume meteorology is not a field of study but blind voodoo guesswork, that I’m sensationalizing for viewership to appease the Illuminati and not actually performing a public service, saying, “Hey, things might get funky here, so please be careful.” Meanwhile, they’ll fecklessly post hoax forecasts written by nobodies just because they sound awesome — 700-mph cyclones spitting cow blood and Datsuns!

The furor is expected to subside Sunday morning, when everyone returns to their usual gibberish about the best places in town to Martinize doughnuts, having conveniently forgotten their bile and posturing amidst genuine expressions of concern the day before, once again proving that Mother Nature may be unpredictable, but human nature is not. For KOAN News, I’m Tom Lumbago. Hashtag peaceoutaight.

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Rebecca Black Puckers Up to Kiss the Zeitgeist

The ’Net’s aflame with scabrous analysis of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” but is any of it warranted? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, this deceptively imbecilic single has attracted streams of snark, scorn, and praise from detractors and supporters alike, all propelling the 13-year-old into the dimming limelight of viral fame and sending whores like myself scrambling for hits.

Like it or not, folks, Ms. Black is the Chosen One, the bridge between old and new media, the transition between structured celebrity and immediate global exposure. As Dr. J.F. Kincaid argues most persuasively in his essay “Liking Teen Pop Doesn’t Mean I Belong in Prison,” her computer-enhanced emphasis of “Friday’s” first vowel represents a new spoken language, one that knows not nuance and compensates for nonverbal communication’s over-reliance on the consonant. The calculated rise of stars like Justin Bieber has fast become a relic of packaging; what Ms. Black portends is a more accurate harbinger of the future. Her willingness to be this bellwether is nothing short of heroic.

However, we must first give credit to the Svengalis at ARK Music Factory for teaming Rebecca Black with tune-purveyors Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson in the first place. The potential for “Black”/“Friday” wordplay must have been irresistible: a reference to competitive commerce as well as, let’s face it, homage to Steely Dan, an obvious lyrical influence. In fact, “Friday” could well be considered an organic epilogue to “Black Friday.” (Messrs. Fagen and Becker could not be reached for comment.)

Clarence Jey’s catalog is lousy. with layers of musical tribute. His “Hello My Love,” written for California troubadour Cindy “The Great” Santini, is also, not coincidentally, the opening line of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23.” But here there’s no correspondence, just the immediate contact of gentle voice upon stirring companion. “Hello, my love,” Santini burbles with a helium vivacity compared to Sheryl Crow by writers prone to blackouts. “Been sleeping once again / Rise up, sunshine / It’s time to wake up / Stop your thinking” — valuable advice in a strife-laden universe or an editorial comment on George W. Bush’s governing philosophy. “Following you, following me,” she continues, invoking post-prog pop strategists Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins. Santini’s own recorded genesis, Making Sound (2010), is aptly titled, for that is exactly what she does.

“Friday” is similarly structured: chronologically, with morning spilling into another meteorological dazzler over Anaheim Hills, California. It’s the same sun that peeks through the windows of baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew and NFL legend Deacon Jones, no stranger to the pull of music-loaded Fridays himself. Perhaps he chanced to hear the song on local radio and thought about his reign with the L.A. Rams, when he sweated on the side through clubs with the band that would one day become WAR. But Carew and Jones are anomalies in this planned community; their equally prosperous neighbors are predominantly white. Ms. Black, despite her name, is no exception. She’s as wholesome as a teenaged Caucasian can be.

Yet “Friday” has more in common with Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” than it does Santini’s “Hello My Love.” Both are street-savvy narratives, albeit with minor, insignificant alterations.

Cube:

Just wakin’ up in the morning, gotta thank God
I don’t know, but today seems kinda odd
No barkin’ from the dog, no smog
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog
I got my grub on but didn’t pig out
Finally got a call from a girl I wanna dig out
Hooked it up for later as I hit the door,
Thinkin’, ‘Will I live another 24?’
I gotta go ’cause I got me a drop-top
And if I hit the switch, I can make the ass drop

Black:

7 a.m.*, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal
Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends

(* Precisely one hour after law enforcement officials descended upon Ice-T’s home)

The only discernible differences between the songs are diet- and transportation-related (although the “Friday” video depicts Black rejecting the bus for a convertible — a “drop-top,” if you will — piloted by a tousle-mopped 13-year-old. Anaheim Hills residents are so wealthy that driver’s licenses are apparently optional.). Both awaken into peculiarly favorable scenarios. Cube’s involves a lack of harassment from authorities and peers, and is sweetened by carnal and corporate attention. For the younger Ms. Black, freedom from schools and parental supervision is enough. Both are also troubled by a sense of mortality; “Thinkin’, ‘Will I live another 24?’” Cube wonders, while Black noshes her Froot Loops and observes the hustle and flow. “Makes tick tock, tick tock, wanna scream,” she later laments.

Time is a recurring theme, its aggravation abutting an effervescent chorus as release: “It’s Friday, Friday / Gotta get down on Friday / Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend.” In her very first song, this promising young chanteuse has sonically bottled the spirit of Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid.” Although not of working-class origins, she’s successfully married the struggle of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” minus the rock-star neener-neener, to the unshackled jubilation of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” in ways not even Mike Reno in his finest headband could imagine. “Friday, Friday,” “weekend, weekend” — she says them twice to impart their weight, as if she can’t believe they’ve arrived. Or, perhaps as Dr. Devin Rexall has suggested in “Rebecca Black Can Count to Eight Days a Week” (Brain Matter Quarterly, Summer 2011), she’s countering the misery of “Monday, Monday,” by The Mamas & the Papas.

But even in her bubbly ebullience, she recognizes how quickly reality re-surfaces. “Tomorrow is Saturday,” she reports, glumly and correctly, “and Sunday comes afterwards.” All we can do is live in the moment, our friends on either side, embracing the Friday-ness within, as the best pop music has for decades. Because we all know what Mondays can bring.

The First “No” Is the Deepest

Man, that Facebook’s a ceaseless wonder. After reconnecting with distant relatives, old classmates, former paramours, half-remembered acquaintances, and cherished childhood friends, I’ve hit yet another nostalgic milestone: the first girl I ever asked out.

I was 15 then, and way behind the curve. I’d been on dates before — don’t be silly! — but those were usually parent-finagled scenarios to get me out of the house so they and their adult friends could guzzle brandy, smoke cigars, and lament the horrid backslide of education, politics, and the arts since 1969. “Heyyy,” pops could cajole, draping a fatherly limb across my skeptical teenage shoulders, “the Colsons have a daughter about your age…” By ellipses’ end I’d find myself at the cineplex, $20 in my fist and a virtual stranger at my side. There’d be wandering glances and awkward pauses as we desperately, nervously struggled through small talk, clawing for common ground. Oh, you like Mr. Mister? Cool. Want some popcorn to hide behind for the next two hours like a buttered potted plant?

Together we’d sit like Frigidaires, me duded up, slightly hopeful, her plotting quiet revenge against all of our parents. License to Drive would cut shadows into our sad charade. She’d watch Corey Feldman and Corey Haim do their ridiculous Two Corey schtick and wonder why, of all the available Cory/Coreys in the universe, she was saddled with me.

She was lucky, though, that I wasn’t actively pursuing her. ‘Cause I was utterly hapless with girls. To compensate for an otherwise quiet demeanor, my adolescent courting technique could best be described as suicidal. When I liked someone, I expressed my affection by mocking the shit out of her. That was my surefire formula: relentless ridicule. Plumb her pleasantries for puns, lob salvos and barbs upon contact, repeat until the subject falls in love.

Hey, it worked for my hero, Groucho Marx. In my hands, however, it proved surprisingly ineffective. One girl wouldn’t speak to me for five years. (Well, that’s not entirely true: late in our senior year, she directed a barrage at me that contradicted her status as an Honors student.) Prank calls weren’t endearing, either, unless you found tiresome rounds of Asshole Telephone sexy. My exasperating immaturity cost me a few potential friendships. Somehow, my actions weren’t seen as scampishly clever.

For a Lothario in training, my track record stunk. I’d had exactly one girlfriend by the tenth grade, a relationship I demolished with my loutish behavior. She was a sweet girl who deserved far better than my phony strut for however long she endured it. When we were 12, it felt like months, when it was likely only weeks. But it was a middle-school romance and oh, so serious. Florid, yearning origami jammed through locker vents. Long afternoon phone calls to listen to each other listening to music. Communication through song dedications: “This one goes out to Cory — it’s Toto, with ‘Stranger in Town.’” Making her cry ’cause I had to be a prick. A showoff. An icehouse.

She eventually got her revenge by forgiving me. But not before announcing to our junior-year creative-writing class that we’d once been “lovers,” relaying this information with an evil grin and eyes of playful malice. Touche. (She’s a Facebook friend now too.)

But what the hell. I’m leaping around the timeline. Focus, soldier; you’re a Professional.

This particular incident took place during my sophomore year of high school, late ’87/early ’88. The girl was in my Bioscience class. Quiet and intriguing. Naturally, my usual approach would not be appropriate. I was still young, but I was learning fast. Slowly dulling my vicious edge. Honing my filters. Cooling my dickish lean. I had to be delicate, do things right. This meant handling the situation as the private me — the dope who poured poems into notebooks and harbored dreams of writer-dom — and not the stumblebum knucklehead junior raconteur. I had to talk to her at school or call her at home, engage her as a human being instead of as a straight man, and ease, organically, into a formal proposal.

I suspected that calling her at home was the easiest option. No barking-sweat visuals to turn her stomach. But still it took three nights to summon the courage. My logic was sound, I thought. Monday was too early. Tuesday was too volatile. Wednesday was just right. Weekend plans would still be in limbo and, uh — well, it made perfect sense at the time. All that was left was to actually make the call.

I was an anxious wreck, kneeled over the rotary phone in my parents’ bedroom, door securely locked for maximum privacy. The cool drone of a dial tone hummed expectantly in my ear as my fingers tapped the black beast in thought.

You poor kids today will never know the beauty of the rotary phone, the anticipation as tumblers fell into place. It was the perfect agent of suspense. The numbers clacked and spun, giving me time to concentrate on potential outcomes. What would I do if a parent answered, a protective father type demanding my name, address, and intentions? Or maybe she’d answer, first ring, and catch me unawares. What if an answering machine picked up? Would I leave a message? What would I say? Would I pretend to be a wrong number? Disconnect without a word?

Too many options, too many question. So I’d hover over that final digit, quailing at the crossroads, rewriting history, until that angry chorus of “EH! EH! EH! EH!” sent me all the way back to the beginning. CLACKCLACKCLACKCLACK … CLACK CLACKCLACK …

After 700 attempts, I finally spun the orphaned number, largely out of sympathy. It looked so forlorn and untouched, separated from its tribe by a teenage pussy. Also, I’d compromised by then, vowing to hang up after three rings. Couldn’t say I didn’t try.

The tumblers settled. I was in.

One ring. OK.

Two rings. Almost there.

Th —

“Hello?”

Deep voice.

Father?

Shit.

“Uhhhh, hi!” I sang, whitening my delivery with counterfeit sunshine. “Is [NAME REMOVED] there?”

Pause. Interminable pause.

“Sure. Hold on.”

Muffled voices. Silverware? Dinner. Bad, bad form. Brush of phone on flesh and

“Hello?”

It’s her.

“Hey!” I shout for the benefit of neighbors six blocks away.

“Hi.”

“Hi!” I reply, as if trying the word out for myself. Then I realize “Hey!” and “Hi!” aren’t exactly exclamations exclusive to me, so I decide right then and there to be helpful.

“It’s Cory. From school.”

“Hi.” No discernible change in tone. Not cold, not glad, just mildly friendly.

“Hey. So, um, did you get that assignment done?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Oh, no reason. Just wondering. Science, y’know. Like, pshoo. Science.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’m sorry, did I interrupt your dinner?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It’s OK.”

“Didn’t mean to be, y’know. Rude.”

“It’s no big deal.”

“Anyway,” I continue, finally seizing the reins to strangle this dying pony, “the reason I’m calling, actually, is because, well, y’know, I was curious. Would you maybe wanna perhaps, I dunno, go out sometime? Like Friday, maybe? Or next Friday? Or …”

I feel a surge of genuine shock course through the cord like Kool-Aid up a Silly Straw. Now it’s her to turn to stammer.

“Whuh — um. Hm. Sorry, but no.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just — ”

“No! No. That’s OK.”

“OK.”

“OK. Cool. Well.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I will, um — I will see you in class tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow, Cory.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

I hung up, sat on the edge of the bed. My first formal proposal, my first formal rejection. 0-1. Or 1-1. Why be a pessimist.

Honestly, though, it didn’t feel so bad. In fact, it was better than I’d expected. She was gentle, not at all what I’d feared — what I’d always feared: combative revulsion, angry denouncement, emasculating laughter, or outright physical retaliation at the very idea of socializing with me in a non-academic environment. It was not a harbinger of my future. It was just the word “no.”

And that, as they say, was that. We returned to class and, with the exception of an occasional bemused glance, never acknowledged what had happened. In fact, that Wednesday night exchange turned out to be the longest conversation we’d ever have.

She’s probably long forgotten it, but I carry that memory with a peculiar fondness. It was the beginning of the private me overcoming a self-conscious manufactured asshole. The process was long and painful, and I can’t say he’s gone completely — I’m still a sucker for well-laid snark; its pull is sometimes too irresistible — but I’m more civilized now and, might I add, an excellent lunch companion, so…

No? Well, maybe next time.

Anarchy in the U.K. (A Phish Tale)

“And I can see there’s something wrong with you
But what do you expect me to do?”
— Sex Pistols, “Problems”

“I look into my finance box
Just to check my status”
— Phish, “Golgi Apparatus”

24 Feb 2011

Attn: Her Majesty the Queen
cc: Prime Minister David Cameron
Ricky Gervais
The cast and crew of Cranford

I never thought these scenarios were real … until it happened to me.

Now, look. I’ve never set foot on your continent. But I’ve seen enough BBC to grok the gist. Aside from Basil Fawlty’s sputtering lunacy, Vyvyan Basterd’s two-sticks sneer, and Jeff Murdoch’s creepy libido, I’m confident you’re an island of manners, couth, and grace.

But some of your subjects — my God. I understand you’re not responsible for every rapscallion’s behavior, yet you must be apprised of a rapidly worsening social epidemic.

Everywhere I turn I hear awful stories about Americans impulsively traveling abroad only to be assaulted by your countrymen, stripped of their wallets, then left only with access to Facebook to share their harrowing experience with friends, often in stilted babble that sounds completely unlike them. Their desperation is heartbreaking, their anguish overwhelming. In their discombobulation, they’ve forgotten specific details about their own lives, details like longtime e-mail addresses or personal/intimate histories.

Forgive my impudence, Your Majesty, but the U.K. sounds like a goddamned nightmare. I picture alleys of scoundrels, blackjacks and pistols ready for action. Apparently, the police are useless because they’re still fuming over the way we good-naturedly mock their sartorial resemblance to Rowan Atkinson in The Thin Blue Line (hey, that’s Ben Elton’s fault! Go rob him!), and our embassy twiddles its fat bureaucratic thumbs, rendered immobile by bangers, mash, and kebabs.

Right. Fine. We’ll give Tom Hooper all the Oscars this year. We’ll cast Colin Firth in everything. We’ll retroactively apologize for killing only English- and Irishmen in The Great Escape. We’ll make a movie with Jason Statham, Brendan Gleeson, and Liam Neeson beating the shit out of the Rock. Now, will you please let us roam the Piccadilly unmolested?

Honestly, you never hear about such violence in America. I’ve never been pinged by an English acquaintance: “Pip-pip, chappie, I’ve been robbed at gunpoint outside an Allagash bed-and-breakfast and I’m in dire need of lucre to settle my bill.” Instead, it’s more “What-ho, I’m chuffed, they’ve sold me a marvelous jar of local preserves!” That’s how we do in the colonies, bro. We limit the beat-downs and swindling to our own, each and every week on Jersey Shore.

Seriously, though, are you guys broke or something? Even with all the world’s eyes on your upcoming royal nuptials? Good Lord. Imagine the horror as news cameras capture, over Prince William’s shoulder, Kate Middleton’s uncle pulling a knife on Kanye West! How do you think this anti-American trend will affect your international press, not to mention your tourism and diplomacy?

I’m not that tight with the White House (yet), but I know a few gofers at my local city hall. I can certainly get the ball rolling, see if we can’t get you back on your feet. So the next time one of my friends bounds across the pond for some needed R&R and decides to chat me up after two or three years of irregular contact, we can have a weird conversation instead about how lovely and generous your people are. How perhaps I should visit myself one day, for badinage over a spot of tea. And then I’ll give you my PIN number.

God save and keep the Queen,

Cory J. Frye

 

P.S. My gratitude to the Guardian’s Richard Adams, who helped me make sense of a phishing attempt this morning and who, for some odd reason, follows me on Twitter.