Friday, February 27, 2009

The Best of BLOG!: Getting Fired

Two of my friends lost their jobs today, so I decided to re-post this entry, originally posted August 3, 2007.

When I woke up Monday morning, I was gainfully employed in three different jobs: on-air personality and ad rep for the local TV station; writer, producer, and host of a radio show*; and as a "fine art consultant" at a downtown gallery. By lunchtime, the only one I still had was the radio gig, and that pays bupkes. I actually got fired twice in the space of a half an hour. That's got to at least tie the all-time record. I know guys who have been fired from far more jobs than I have, but none of them can claim two separate cannings in 30 minutes.

And I've got kids to feed, Jack.

The television job was the one I wasn't really expecting to lose, but then I've learned to expect the unexpected in my time at Channel 22. By way of explanation, I was "Michael West," the station's movie guy, hosting, writing and producing the Friday night double feature Surreal Cinema and the Hollywood Classics morning movie. I also voiced a lot of the commercial spots, while working full-time as an "account executive," chasing down advertising dollars. In any case, thanks to certain deadbeat clients and others who were slow payers, those ad dollars had been scarce since the end of the tourist season.

I was forced to take the art gallery gig because it offered a base salary, along with commissions, and medical, dental, and life insurance. The fly in the ointment was the job itself, which was to work the floor, selling Thomas Kinkade paintings off the wall to unsuspecting tourists. And I was terrible at it. Apparently, selling art is a whole 'nother head than selling 30-second spots, or quarter-page ads, or used cars. You have to be this obsequious ass-kisser who is simultaneously kissing ass and manipulating the rubes into plunking down a wad o' their hard-earned cash on "Sunset on Lamplight Lane" or "Cobblestone Cottage."

My first day on the floor, I sold three of 'em, splitting the commish with my colleague. This is like taking candy from a baby, I thought at the time. But my beginner's luck was just that, and for the next four weeks -- 20 working days -- I sold not one. Not "Evening Glow." Not "Peaceful Retreat." Not "Mountain Paradise." I had a tension headache the entire time. The owner of the gallery, a former high-ranking military officer turned art magnate, did his best to help me. He told me that I needed to smile more, that I was giving people the "death stare," or as it was known back in 'Nam, the "thousand yard stare." I guess I was having trouble hiding how much I thought the entire experience was something akin to Purgatory.

So it was with great relief I learned that I was relieved of my duties, terminated with dignity, class, and integrity by a most excellent gentleman. He told me that I was a class act, a "cool breeze," and it was certainly a shame that I couldn't sell paintings. But that's what I was hired to do, so after going 0-for-20, I was getting my unconditional release.

If I never see another Thomas Kinkade canvas, it'll be too soon.

After getting off the phone, I made it over to the Greek restaurant to meet the TV boss for lunch, to renegotiate my contract, or so I thought. Turned out, TV boss and his wife had decided to fire me, without severance pay, thus leaving me out of a job, and off the air, except in reruns. We produced over 75 episodes of Surreal in the 14 months we were on the air, so it'll be like I never left. Except for the fact I'm no longer getting paid.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been fired many times. Mostly during my rock 'n roll heyday, when I tended to seek out employment that fit my lifestyle. Back in '88, I made myself available to the local public school system as a substitute teacher. It paid pretty good for a temp job, and the working day was over by 2:30 in the afternoon. I got called to fill in at JFK Middle School, and ever the entrepeneur, instead of actually teaching the students, I sold them my band's swag: LPs, T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc., and signed autographs. I was fired when the girls started wearing the bumper stickers across their chests, and because during one autograph session, I failed to notice one student, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a young Darryl Strawberry, chucking textbooks out of the window at the back of the classroom. The vice principal came into the room, livid. "I'll take over from here," he said, barely containing his rage. "That's cool," I said, "I can make it. School's out in like, 15 minutes."

And then there was the time, I believe we're talking '89, possibly 1990, when I went to work in a boiler room selling accidental death insurance over the phone to Avon ladies. I had just gotten engaged at the time, and took the gig because it paid better than anything else in the paper and required a suit. That's for me, I thought. Basically, you had a cubicle and an IBM computer with the orange typeface spelling out the script: "Hello, this is ____ from Avon Insurance. You recently received a certificate for $10,000 of accidental death coverage. Today and today only, you can double your coverage for only pennies a day..." It's funny, but I played the lead in a Harold Pinter play a few years before, and I can recall just a few lines of that great dialogue, but I can still do the Avon Insurance speech word-for-word. Sad, really.

Anyway, to cope with the crushing awfulness of the job, I devised certain ways to amuse myself. I kept a log of the most interesting names on the call list: Lucinda Lively, Mavis Graper, etc. I composed a rock opera about the call center, with a couple of numbers from the gargoyle in the next cubicle ("Hello, This Is Carol from Avon Insurance/You recently received an accidental certificate/For ten thousand dollars of full death coverage..."), and one from my supervisor Patty Affeldt, or as she was called in the opera, "Patti Awful," a big production number entitled "I'm a Stickler for Time," which was what she used to say when I'd arrive at my desk at 8:01 instead of 8:00 sharp.

Whenever I called and got someone's answering machine, I would leave a cryptic message, often in the guise of "Carlos," a Latino drug mule, or as Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, Patti Awful used to periodically monitor our phone calls -- for quality assurance, no doubt -- and she must have heard me leave an urgent message to call Carlos, or croon Elvis's great ballad "Love Me": "Treat me like a fool/Treat me mean and cruel/Oh, but love me..."

Patti was cruel to be kind, and terminated me with extreme predjudice.

To be continued next week in The Best of BLOG!: Getting Fired 2: Electric Boogaloo

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Is Poverty?

Leonard Cohen is starting his tour in Austin

And I can't even think of going

The New York Dolls are playing South By Southwest

And a badge is out of the budget

The Alamo beckons, with a free screening

Of The Amazing Mr. No-Legs

But I still can't afford it

Right now I'm working at a loss

Living in the land of negative cash flow

It's 85 degrees ands not even March

AC's out of the question

The future's next week, baby

Get on with it

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Florida Rocks Again! MySpace Page

Hey, kids, Florida Rocks Again! now has its own MySpace page. The address is

Be Our Friend!

One of the cool things about the MySpace page is that the music player launches automatically, so you can listen to all 34 episodes of Florida Rocks Again! from the Podcast.

While you're there, be sure to visit Mal Thursday's MySpace Page, where you can listen to every episode of The Mal Thursday Show, or if you're more of a Facebook fan, check out my page there.

And, if you are so inclined, visit The Florida Rocks Again! Swag Shack at Cafe Press and give us a little economic stimulus!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Mal Thursday Show #12: All Kindsa Girls, Part 2

Mal Thursday is back on the Podcast with another fat sack full o’ gut-bucket garage nuggets with the word “girl” in the title, in the hastily thrown-together sequel to The Mal Thursday Show #11. There’s also Mal’s rockin’ preview of the 2009 South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive Conference and Festival, held March 13-22 in Austin, Texas, with musical selections from festival participants the Cynics, the Ugly Beats, and the New York Dolls. Produced by JM Dobies in Living Monophonic Sound.

TONGUES OF TRUTH: Let’s Talk About Girls
THE CYNICS: Little Girl/Girl, You're on My Mind
THE UGLY BEATS: Girl on the Brain
THE SIR FINKS: The Ugly Surfer (bed)

CAST OF THOUSANDS: Girl Do What You Gonna Do
DARK HORSEMEN: Girl, Stand By Me
WHAT’S LEFT: Girl Said No

DMZ: Watch for Me Girl/Pretty Girl
THE SEEDS: Girl, I Want You
THE HATE BOMBS: A Girl Like That
THE CRAMPS: Bikini Girls with Machine Guns
THE FOREIGN OBJECTS: Little Girl (Live at the Bay State)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bygone Days: The Sweet Music of Miami's Overtown

Here's a great piece by Jordan Levin about the Overtown R&B scene of the '50s and '60s that ran in the Miami Herald last month.

Friday, February 20, 2009

David Allan Coe at La Zona Rosa

My Austin weekend pick to click is David Allan Coe at La Zona Rosa on Saturday night the 21st. The outlaw's outlaw and good tex-mex cookin' - Mmm Mmm Good.
Tickets are $20. 612 W. 4th Street, Austin.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Top Ten Car Movies

For the full review, visit

Since the automobile and motion pictures were invented right around the same time, cars and movies have had a long-standing relationship. While there have been movies that have featured cool cars (American Graffiti, Munster Go Home) and great car chases (Bullit, The French Connection, The Seven Ups), I have limited this list of my Top Ten Car Movies to only those films where cars are the main subject matter.

10. Cars (2006): Here's one for the kiddies that's enjoyable for all ages. Another gem from the geniuses at Pixar, all about a hot-shot racing car named Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, who learns the inevitable life lesson. Other voices are provided by Paul Newman, Michael Keaton, Richard Petty, Cheech Marin, and Larry the Cable Guy. Disney Home Video.

9. Duel (1971): Steven Spielberg's film of Richard Matheson's creepy short story about a man (Dennis Weaver) stalked by a killer 18-wheeler. A lot better than it sounds, it was originally produced as a made-for-television movie, but was released theatrically overseas. Universal Home Entertainment.

8. Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988): Francis Ford Coppola directed this true story about Preston Tucker, played with gusto by Jeff Bridges, an automotive genius whose revolutionary automobiles were way ahead of their time. Unfortunately, the dream of the title is crushed by the Big Three automakers (now reaping the whirlwind, by the way) and the US government. Paramount Home Video.

7. Le Mans (1971): Steve McQueen plays Michael Delaney, who competes in the gruelling, 24 hour race through the French countryside. Almost documentary-like in its approach, the film features some mind-blowing footage from the actual race, and a laconic performance from the iconic McQueen. Paramount Home Video.

6. Grand Prix (1966): James Garner stars as a world-weary race car driver who attempts to make a comeback after falling from grace. John Frankenheimer captures the feel of being behind the wheel of a formula one racer travelling at over 160 miles an hour with some way-ahead-of-its-time camera techniques, and also captures a bygone era when drivers lived hard and drove harder. While the soap opera elements tend to slow things down a bit, the driving sequences more than make up for it. With Yves Montand, Eva Marie Saint, Toshiro Mifune, and French chanteuse Francoise Hardy. Originally presented in Cinerama. MGM Home Video.

5. Death Race 2000 (1975): Director Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul) helmed this futuristic exploitation satire about a cross country race where drivers score points for running down as many people as possible. David Carradine stars as champion death racer "Frankenstein," with Sylvester Stallione as his nemesis Machine Gun Joe, the lovely Simone Griffith as his love interest, and the Real Don Steele as the play-by-play announcer. Continuing an unfortunate theme, this one was also the subject of a lesser remake, starring Jason Statham, in 2008.

4. Pit Stop a/k/a The Winner (1969): "Flesh Against Steel! Raw Guts for Glory!" Writer/director Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Coffy) scores with this story of a drag racer named Rick Bowman, played by Dick Davalos (best known for playing James Dean's brother in East of Eden), who is recruited to drive in "figure eight" races, a totally insane (and real) form of car racing. This film is highly underrated, having been consigned to the bottom half of double bills when it was released, due to the fact that black & white films had gone out of fashion, but deserves a greater reputation, as it is one of the best films of its kind. Hill filmed the mayhem up close and personal, capturing many real crashes, and gets some fine performances out of his cast, which also includes veteran character actor Brian Donlevy, Ellen Burstyn (here billed as Ellen McRae), and Spider Baby vets Beverly Washburn and Sid Haig (outstanding as Bowman's mentally unhinged rival). The DVD ediion from Anchor Bay is now out of print, but can be had easily enough.

3. Vanishing Point (1971): Barry Newman is Kowalski, who takes a job delivering a 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco. He bets that he can make the delivery in 15 hours or less, which inevitably leads to unwanted attention from Johnny Law. A spectacular chase, and much vehicular mayhem, ensues. Co-starring Cleavon Little as Super Soul, a blind radio personality with a police scanner who helps him avoid the heat, and mythologizes him for his listeners as "The Last Free Man on Earth." Directed by Richard C. Sarafian, and remade (very, very badly) in 1997. Available on DVD from Fox Entertainment.

2. Gone in Sixty Seconds (1974): Written, produced, directed by, and starring H.B. Halicki, this automotive orgy boasted "93 cars destroyed in the most incredible chase ever filmed." A drive-in classic and an example of true independent cinema: Halicki even distributed the film himself. Sadly, he was killed in 1989 while filming the sequel when a stunt went horribly wrong. Highly superior to the big budget remake of a few year back starring Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie, but unfortunately the DVD release of the original is marred by a re-recorded soundtrack.

1. Two Lane Blacktop (1971): Director Monte Hellman's existential road movie stars musicians James Taylor as The Driver and Dennis Wilson as The Mechanic, who make their living drag racing in their primer-grey '55 Chevy. Into their insular world comes The Girl (Laurie Bird), who hitches a ride with them, and G.T.O. (the great Warren Oates), who challenges them to a cross-country race for pink slips. One of the greatest films of the '70s, featuring incredible widescreen cinematography, and a great script from Rudolph Wurlitzer (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Candy Mountain). With Harry Dean Stanton. Available on DVD from the Criterion Collection.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Glyph Jockey Rock 'n' Roll Baseball Cards, Vol. 1

Since Spring Training started this week, I'm going to feature some of the incredible punk/rock baseball cards from the geniuses at on a weekly basis throughout the season.

First up, it's the Kinks' battling brothers, Dave and Ray Davies:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ollie!

Today is Oliver Reed's birthday. He would have been 71 years old, had he not died ten years ago in that pub in Malta.

One of my pipe dreams is to own a taproom/microbrewery and call it's Ollie's Pub. Given that a good bar is basically recession-proof, maybe that's not such a bad idea...

Cheers, Ollie!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Apparently, I Don't Exist

Amid the economic shitstorm, and having mouths to feed (and miles to go before I sleep), I figured I better file my taxes pronto, so as to cash the refund check ASAP.

And so, armed with TurboTax, we filed our 2008 taxes last night. Unfortunately, today we heard back from the IRS that I don't exist.

What had happened was...I was born slightly after midnight on the night of September 16, 196_, in other words, on the 17th. When I was a kid, that's when my birthday was celebrated. But, as I approached adulthood, most documents, including my birth certificate, listed my birthday as the 16th. Still, it was well known that my actual birthday is and was the 17th. "Trust me," my mother says, "I was there."

But, since my birth certificate, driver's license, and most official documents listed my birthday as the 16th, that was the date I went with when asked. Still, I used the discrepancy as an excuse for an annual two-day birthday bacchanal.

It was never an issue until today, when my tax return got kicked back. Apparently, the IRS and Social Security adminisitration's computers only recently began communicating with one another's.

Now, I'm in a no-man's-land of not existing. I'm not official. I'm "between birthdays."

And my fat refund (with the accompanying "stimulus") will have to wait.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lux, We Hardly Knew Ye

Cramps founder and punk pioneer Lux Interior dies

By ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES – Lux Interior, co-founder and lead singer of the pioneering horror-punk band the Cramps, has died, the group's publicist said. He was 60.

Interior — whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser — died Wednesday of a pre-existing heart condition at a hospital in Glendale, Calif., publicist Aleix Martinez said in a statement.
Interior met his future wife Kristy Wallace — who would later take the stage name Poison Ivy — in Sacramento in 1972.

The pair moved to New York and started the Cramps with Interior on lead vocals and Ivy on guitar. The group was a part of the late `70s early punk scene centered at Manhattan clubs like CBGB, alongside acts like the Ramones and Patti Smith.

Their unmistakable sound was a lo-fi synthesis of rockabilly and surf guitar staged with a deviant dose of midnight-movie camp. Some called it "psychobilly."

The pale, tall, gaunt Interior appeared shirtless with black hair and tiny, low-slung black pants, looking part zombie, part Elvis Presley as he crawled, writhed and howled his way across the stage.
The group had the raw intensity of punk, but took the music in new directions by incorporating theatrical elements, often horror-themed, in songs like "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns." Their breakthrough debut EP was 1979's "Gravest Hits."

The band made a notorious appearance at a California mental institution, Napa State Hospital, in 1978. The performance, whose video is still popular on YouTube, was a punk-era echo of the Folsom Prison concert of Johnny Cash, one of the band's influences.

Interior was widely rumored in 1987 to have died from a heroin overdose, and his wife received flowers and funeral wreaths.
"At first I thought it was kind of funny," he told the Los Angeles Times at the time. "But then it started to give me a creepy feeling."

The Cramps' lineup changed often through the decades but Interior and Ivy remained the center. Their bluesy, trebly sound — the group didn't have a bass guitarist — resonates in modern minimalist groups like the White Stripes and the Black Lips.
The band's last release was the 2004 rarities collection "How to Make a Monster." They were still touring as recently as last November.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Mal Thursday Show #11: All Kindsa Girls

This mind-bending episode of The Mal Thursday Show features a series of rockin’ records wiith the word “girl” in the title. Starring such swingin’ combos as The Real Kids, Lyres, The Dictators, and Thee Headcoats, all singing songs about the fairer sex. It’s 65 minutes of top-notch rock ‘n’ roll racket for boys and girls who are hip to where it’s at.

Presented in Living Monophonic Sound.


THE REAL KIDS: All Kindsa Girls
THEE HEADCOATS: Girl of Matches
LYRES: Never Met a Girl Like You Before/I’m Tellin’ You Girl
THE DICTATORS: (I Live For) Cars and Girls

THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: The Girl Can’t Help It
THE DEAD BOYS: Little Girl
THE GIRLS: Chico’s Girl
GREAT SCOTS: That’s My Girl (Rotten to the Core)

? AND THE MYSTERIANS: Girl (You Captivate Me)
THE LAVENDER HOUR: I’ve Got a Way With Girls
THE JAM: London Girl
THE CREATION: The Girls Are Naked