Tire Separation, 360’s and Things I Am Thankful For

I had a blowout on I-40 this morning on my way to Harrison. I did about three 360-degree spins before running off the right side of the road, scraping an Adopt-a-Highway sign along the way. I lost some chunks from my bumper and dented the backside of my car, but other than that everything appears to be OK. I got a tow, changed my tire, duct taped the bumper back together and headed on to Harrison. I’m very thankful today: I hit no one, I’m fine, the car is essentially fine, and there were a lot worse places it could have happened. I’m also thankful that this is the closest thing to an actual car wreck that I’ve ever had to experience in all my years. It’s also the closest I’ve ever come to serious injury or death. That’s all I can really say at this point; I’m still kind of freaked out about it.

UPDATE: As I bought new tires today, I noticed that the offending wheel was still fully inflated. I didn’t have a blowout, I had a full-on tire separation. Stay away from Bridgestones, people! These weren’t the recall tires, but I’ll be damned if I’m ever buying Bridgestones again. I went back to get the stripped tire later that day but it was already on the bottom of a big pile, so I can’t keep it for evidence or to complain to Sears Auto Center. Damn.

I should also mention how great people are. I had several people stop to offer assistance following the accident. One lady even gave me a hug. And I met a cool bass player guy with a huge Yamaha 6 string in his van, as well as a 5 string he bought from the store where I used to teach. Arkansas is a small town.

Back on the downside, my brother just called to say that Mrs. Benetka, the nice lady that lived across the street from where I grew up, died on Tuesday. She was my childhood cookie enabler, and she will be missed. Go tell someone you love them right now. Life is fast and short.

Meta Studio 60

How to deal with being a young, unproven show in a time wherein more and more people are skipping commercials with DV-R’s and TiVo? Product placement. How to build in product placement, yet do it in such a way that you retain creative credibility? Answer: talk about product placement in the script. All the more “meta” is the fact that Studio 60 is a show about a show. So while the characters are talking ever so specifically about adding product placement for Gibson Guitars, I recall wondering why I’ve seen Gibson and Epiphone[1] banners around the set.

Add to all this the fact that last week’s episode talks about a spinoff show (see the other show about a show, 30 Rock, and its relationship to SNL), and you’ve got a complete loss of suspension of disbelief, which is the only problem I keep having with Studio 60. Fortunately it will be around for another season.

1.) Gibson-owned brand.

Last Day of Class, Harrison High School 1992

So I bought a VHS to USB converter box recently. I’ve been dubbing all kinds of stuff to MPEG. I sliced up the footage several of us took from the last day of class, 1992, and uploaded it to youtube (sans Wade Wilmoth’s commentary about Aria Newton’s locker).

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

As I watch these videos I’m reminded of what a great group of kids we had. The seniors you see in video 6 around the table were a great group to look up to; I was a sophomore that year, and I couldn’t have asked for better role models. In a town like Harrison, it’s hard to find a large group of kids dedicated to being unique and creative, but the class of 1992 had more than its fair share. As did the classes of ’93 and ’94.

Technical Difficulties

We’re having some problems with the spam protection image on the comments, so I thought I would leave comments open to the public, but then it wasn’t long before spam started coming in, so I’ve set the comments to require registration.

CORRECTION: Heath installed a new anti-spam device. So comments are now open to the public, and hopefully the spam comments will be killed or re-routed for moderation.

On Transformers

I picked up the new Transformers: The Movie DVD, and there are some interesting bonus features and commentaries that shed a lot of light on the toy business. Everyone involved in the production seems to make some mention of the fact that what they did was just a job, a gig, and for some reason this surprised me. Maybe I always assumed there was a team of creative people somewhere at Hasbro or Takara that put all these characters together and gave them personalities and life. As it turns out, the Japanese developed the toys, while the gang at Hasbro decided to call them “Transformers” and left the naming and character development to essentially one guy, a comic book writer. Sunbow produced the cartoons, and took the character development from there, adding in the voice talent to bring life to each character.

Upon discovering this, I began to realize that what made Transformers great was a combination of ingenious toys, plus the commercial art of the voice talent and a comic book writer. Everyone involved essentially viewed the project as just another job with no real passionate attachment to it, which is a real credit to the pop art of it all. The fans cared about the whole universe, and never stopped caring. We developed emotional attachments to a product line, and this was never more apparent than in the reaction to the death of Optimus Prime in the film. I’m still fascinated by the interaction of emotions to commerce that this DVD has presented.

I’m reminded of the time, in 4th or 5th grade I think it was, that I designed my own line of Transformers called the Aquabots. There never were a lot of boats in the Transformers universe, so I drew up a team of five combiners that made one larger robot. My mom attempted to get the attention of Hasbro, but they replied that they did not take on outside creative projects. Now I know why. They didn’t even have an in-house creative team! They’d get the robots from Japan, send them to Bob Budiansky for a name and a personality, and send them on to Marvel and Sunbow to add to the cartoon. Just cranking out the units. And yet somewhere in the mix there was a spark that got kids excited enough to make an emotional connection.

The Death of Retail Music

In the last two weeks, I’ve been to three going-out-of-business sales. The first was Tower Records in New York, where I picked up the first 16 or so CDs listed here. Then, during my day-long layover in St. Louis, McMurray Music in St. Louis, where I bought an A/B switch and various other accessories (all the guitars were gone by that point). Side note: McMurray is affiliated with Brook Mays Music, whose store closing sale in Dallas I also recently attended. And last weekend I went to Millsap Music to find that they’ll be closed by Christmas. And, add to the list Sam Goody in McCain Mall, which I’m led to understand disappeared without a trace recently. No big clearance sale to say goodbye.

Whether it’s CDs or instruments, music stores across the nation’s larger cities are sighing their last. With the loss of Tower Records, retail CDs stores have officially died by the one-two punch of Best Buy and the Internet, while instrument retailers have been pounded to a pulp by the Internet and Guitar Center. Only small town stores like Harrison’s Guitarsmiths and Ashley Music have any hope of survival because they exist in a town too small for Guitar Center to reach. And even Guitar Center, I’m told by my sources, has not posted a profit in a very long time. Maybe it’s because musicians are by nature bargain-seekers. We’re not generally a demographic known for our petty cash. We’ll seek the bargains whererever they may be, be it Ebay or Amazon or somewhere else. The used guitar market in general has nearly dried up as people are learning that pawn shops and music stores will never give you a reasonable amount of cash for your instrument compared to Ebay.

For everything you gain, you lose something.

And We’re Back!

I have returned from vacation, and a New York Travelogue is ready. Feast upon it. I had intended to blog throughout the trip but we left the dodgy Russian mafia hotel with good WiFi for the cushier environs of the uptown hotel near Central Park with crappy WiFi.

I feel exhausted and detoxed from the pollution and adrenaline of NYC, but I now have had my spirits lifted and my political soul resurrected by the results of yesterday’s midterm elections. Higher am I lifted with the news that Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down. It’s morning in America again, and the Bush Aminstration is hopefully drinking a warm cup of STFU with their humble pie.