Sunday, June 26, 2011

Michael, Mike, and Mikey in The Godfather

I had the pleasure of watching The Godfather on Sunday at the historic Tampa Theater during their annual Summer Classic Series. They play a series of classic movies through the years and I when I saw The Godfather on the schedule I knew I couldn't miss it.

Of course, The Godfather is a great movie and not much needs to be said there. It was nice seeing it on the big screen as it came out several years before I was born. I could really observe some of the interesting lighting and shading effects in the scenes that I wouldn't pay much attention to on my 29 inch TV, which made for a better experience.

But what I really found most interesting was certain elements of dialogue, namely the addressing of Michael Corleone. Being named Michael myself, I pay attention to when people call me "Michael", "Mike", or even "Mikey". Corleone is addressed as all three during the movie.

Some observations:

Corleone's brother and friends predominantly call him "Mike" when addressing him but "Michael" when talking about him. This is similar to how the same type of people address me, although many also tend to call me "Mike" when talking about me. It is a casual peer thing, and I would feel uncomfortable if friends called me "Michael" and I don't remember the last time my brother addressed me as such.

Corleone's girlfriend/wife Kay addresses him as "Michael" almost 100% of the time. Normally, I don't object to women calling me "Michael". It doesn't carry the authoritative tone of a man's "Michael", unless it is used in an state of anger or annoyance. Some female friends have even taken to calling me "Michael" all the time. At first it's a little strange, but I get used to it. It becomes something unique to them. Some even mix it up in the same conversation. A waitress I am familiar with, for example, said "Hi, Mike" and "Bye, Mike", but referred to me as "Michael" when she asked if I wanted another drink. When it comes to women, as long as they don't call me "asshole", I usually go with the flow.

Although women can address me as "Michael", I usually ask boyfriends and male friends of my female friends to address me as "Mike". I think there is a bit of an authoritative, dominant tone to a male calling me "Michael" that I don't like, unless that person is in an actual position of power over me such as a boss or unfamiliar with me such as a doctor. For a casual male acquaintance (such as a friend's boyfriend) to call me "Michael" after I correct them is a power show to me and I take that as an offense.

Likewise, in The Godfather, Michael Corleone's sister's husband Carlo addresses him as "Mike", even as he is begging for his life in the final scenes. He never uses an authoritative tone with his sister's brother.

Corleone is also addressed as "Mikey" by his brother Sonny several times. I have a few friends that call me "Mikey" and although it's rare, I'm cool with it, as long as I am very familiar with that person. It's the friendliest addressing and the one that requires the most familiarity and closeness.

Michael Corleone is addressed as "Michael" by his father 100% of the time. There is a hierarchical tone to this address. Don Corleone is not Michael's friend. He is in a position of authority as his father. It is also a sign of respect that he is instilling in his son by addressing him solely by his given birth name. In my case, my parents call me both "Mike" and "Michael". It's usually pretty random, although my mother tends to call me by my full name when she is mad but I'm sure that is a typical mother trait for every name.

Anyway, just a quick post on something I noticed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Media Attraction

(This article was originally published in the FSView and Florida Flambeau in June, 2003. Although I thought it was original, it was immediately compared to another editorial column written a year before by another columnist who preceded me at the paper. I'm not going to lie, being told by commentors that I stole someone's idea was one of the lowest points I had as a young writer. Now I am little tougher and know that although the premise might be the same, presentation and voice make articles unique.)

While traveling the New York City subway lines last month, major league baseball pitcher Randy Wolf had an encounter with a beautiful young woman. Their moments together were fleeting however, as after she asked him for directions they were separated and she was out of his life.

Of course, this has happened to everyone. Why should a baseball player be any different? A seemingly perfect 10 moves on without saying goodbye or allowing a chance for a second hello. Unfortunately, it is one of the sick games of the fates.

But Wolf attempted to change his fate and give destiny a second chance. He appeared on at least two nationally syndicated sports radio talk shows attempting to find the woman. He openly went on the air describing her appearance, her clothes, everything about her.

“There was something about her eyes,” he said.

Wolf also planned to place ads in several prominent New York newspapers in the hope that she might see them, remember him and reply, according to an ESPN Web site.

Besides tugging on the heartstrings in an almost Hollywood-esque way, Wolf’s search reminded me of the great power available to public figures. They often have numerous media channels at their fingertips, each capable of helping find a possible social interest.

Although definitely not of the public stature of Randy Wolf or of a sports radio talk show host, I like to think of my column as a media channel and of myself as a public figure in the Florida State universe. I guess that means I have a little power.

But, to quote the movie Spiderman (which was on HBO every day last month), “With power comes great responsibility.”

Would I ever dare use this column in order to get the attention of a certain young lady? If so, I would only get one chance. I couldn’t write to a different girl every semester and beg them to talk to me.

“Dear girl in the 2nd row, 4th seat of Professor Smith’s 11:15 English class, please say hi to me tomorrow. Thanks, Mike.”

Not only would that kill the “romance” of the search, but it would make me pathetic and desperate beyond belief.

I mention Wolf’s search and my own ponderance of power because a situation I was in on Memorial Day has forced me to contemplate using my column as a social tool.

As I was driving down Highway 19 (Apalachee Parkway) on the way to my grandparents’ house for a Memorial Day dinner, driving either behind me or along side me was a very attractive Florida State female student in a white Toyota. For over two hours, we (if I may be so bold as to use a pronoun that puts the two of us together) wove in and out of streams of holiday traffic on the way to our respective destinations.

As we eventually came to a stop at a traffic light in the town of Crystal River, I rolled down my window and thanked her for driving “with” me. She smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”

Then the light turned green and away we went again, with me eventually turning onto another highway in route to my grandparents’ town.

So should I use this column as way of getting in touch with her?  Maybe I already have.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clutch, Tow Trucks, and T-Shirts in St. Petersburg

There are certain rules I abide by on the day of a concert. These are simple rules, acquired through years of seeing almost every genre of music from blues to hip-hop to death metal.

Rule one: Don’t listen to anything by the band within 24 hours of the show. If you don’t know the songs by the day before, you won’t know them. Concerts aren’t college, there is no cramming. And you don’t want your ear influenced at all by the studio recordings. Enjoy the show for what it is.

Rule two: To quote the Wu-Tang Clan, cash rules everything around me. Merch vendors, bars, and some ticket stands don’t take Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, so “if you don’t have dollars, it don’t make sense”. Hit the ATM before you get to a show. It allows flexibility and convenience.

Rule three: Dress the part. Never wear a t-shirt of a band you are going to see. Wear a similar band, or someone of the same genre. But always dress to fit the scene. Don’t wear a Parliament-Funkadelic shirt to see Slayer.

There are two exceptions to rule three. The first is that you can wear a shirt from a festival featuring the band you are seeing. That’s simple enough as it shows community and that you have seen other bands. The second exception is the seldom used “memorable slogan clause”. If your t-shirt has an overly funny, clever, or all-round bad-ass slogan, you are accepted into the community of the performance.

In my time going to concerts, there have been two memorable slogan t-shirts that stand out among the masses. Both are engrained in my cerebellum not only because of their cleverness, but because of the stories associated with them. The first, a black t-shirt that proclaimed “Fuck You, You Fuckin’ Fuck”, was worn by a man named Manimal who I wrote about nearly three years ago. For those who missed it, Manimal was a bad-ass biker dude who forbid moshing in his general area during a 1999 Metallica concert.

The second most memorable slogan tee that stands out for me is a black shirt with the devil’s face and the words “God’s Busy, May I Help You?”. This shirt brings back memories of a concert adventure I had on my 23rd birthday when my college roommate Zheke Snow and I traveled from Tallahassee to Orlando to see rock bands Isle of Q,  UPO, Full Devil Jacket, and Nickelback (after their first album, and before they jumped the music shark).  It was a night of obnoxious cops, tire problems, good rock ‘n’ roll, and driving around the Disney World Complex with the bassist of UPO as he yelled at his drunk bandmates who left him and didn’t tell him where the hotel was located.

It’s a classic story perhaps I’ll tell in full here one day.

Even though I have been to dozens, if not hundreds, of concerts since, I hadn’t seen either of those slogan t-shirts. Until a few Tuesday's ago, when the devil’s question made another appearance.

And of course, I had another interesting night.


The flyer stared at me from beside the keyboard at my work desk, a simple reminder that time was moving far too slow. Every minute dragged on with the full power of 60 seconds of might, as I fidgeted like a child who refused to dream of sugarplums and candy canes on Christmas Eve. Finally at 6:30 I flew out of the office like Meatloaf’s bat out of hell, sped down I-75 at 90mph, daring the Florida Highway Patrol to stop me, and cruised into St. Petersburg.

On the docket that night was one of my favorite bands, Maryland-based groove-metal band Clutch. I’d seen Clutch five times prior to last Tuesday, the latest time being with Black Label Society in October. Opening for Clutch was GroundScore from Washington DC and the Florida/Alabama-based Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. I was totally in the dark about Groundscore, but I had heard a few good things about Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, and I was also looking forward to seeing them.

Into St. Pete I drove, finding a spot in a parking lot a few blocks from the club. Needing money for a ticket, beer, and a new t-shirt, I walked over to a local ATM and pulled out some cash. On my way to the club from the ATM, I found two 2011 pennies with the new backing. One was heads up and the other was tails up. Although I usually think money is money and finding two cents gets me that much closer to retirement, I was struck momentarily by the symmetry of the yin and the yang.

After I bought my ticket, I walked into St. Pete’s State Theater, ready to finally get my rock on. One of the best things about a Clutch show it that it is usually attended by veteran rock fans. Fans who proudly sport their shirts of quality metal bands, such as Slayer, Danzig, or Judas Priest. Shortly after entering, I received a compliment on my shirt, the tour shirt from the aforementioned BLS/Clutch gig from a few months back.

Even though my shirt was highly regarded, I quickly hit the merch stand for a new Clutch shirt. To my amusement, the merch vendor was wearing another shirt I hold near and dear to my heart: an “Arm The Homeless” tee from a punk band called Tree who toured with Clutch in 2003. That was one of the few times I didn’t buy a shirt from my favorite band and opted for the opening act. I couldn’t resist walking around with a picture of an AK-wielding old lady on my back.

Now dressed to impress with a brew in hand, I walked into the theater and closer to the stage to check out Groundscore. They weren’t bad, a mix of 311 and Sublime, with elements of punk and metal blended in. They were definitely Warped Tour material or the soundtrack to a new skateboarding video game.

(Speaking of interesting t-shirts, the drummer for Groundscore had A Tribe Called Quest shirt on. I wonder how many metal fans caught that?)

During the Groundscore show, I perused the crowd, checking out the environment and doing a little people watching. No matter the type of music show, people watching at a concert is always fun, especially if the band isn’t entirely up my alley.

But that’s when I saw it: “God’s Busy, May I Help You?".  I’m surprised the guy wearing it didn’t ask me what I was looking at I paused for a moment when my eyes hit his shirt. It was if Satan himself was telling me the night was going to be interesting. A warning from Lucifer for me to heed.

Second on stage was Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. Like I said, I heard good things from a few friends about this relatively new band. But because friends can sometimes have music tastes that don’t always jive with mine, I turned to my brother for his valued musical scouting report. That morning, his review came in: “Heavy southern rock/blues sounding”. Nice. My kind of music. I was excited.

Maylene didn’t disappoint. Although I couldn’t understand their lyrics on occasion, I was impressed with their sound. Throughout their set, I pulled out my phone and tweeted comparisons to Corrosion of Conformity, White Zombie, and Black Stone Cherry, all bands I hold in high regard. I closed my tweeted review with the simple phrase, “I like”. I’m going to have to buy some Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.

After the usual downtime between bands, the mighty Clutch came on stage. As to be expected (for me, at least) Clutch was absolutely spectacular. They played many of their most popular songs, from Big News I & II, The Regulator, Electric Worry, and the trace-like Spacegrass. As compared to the last time I saw them in October, Clutch didn’t have to worry about set limits, so they threw in a few jams between songs.

(Here is a youtube video of Clutch playing Escape From the Prison Planet and here is the concert review from the Tampa Bay Times.)

Being a long time fan, seeing Clutch brings out a sense of community for me. Other Clutch fans and I compare times and places we’ve seen Clutch, admire each others’ concert shirts, and no matter what song, we sing along, even if Neil Fallon’s lyrics are sometimes far too complex to understand (Songs about anthrax, redcoats, and elephants?).

Following an extensive set, Clutch ended their show with a mellow encore. And with that, the show was over. But little did I know the rest of my night was just beginning.

Across the street from St. Pete’s State Theater is a row of hole-in-the-wall bars and pubs. As I discovered after a recent House of Pain show, one bar, Fubar, usually has a band on the stage late and capitalizes on the crowd from State Theater to relax and buy some cheap beer.  After House of Pain, Fubar featured a local death metal band, so I was curious to see what they had on stage after Clutch.

On stage at Fubar was a DJ playing dubstep. I’m not normally an electronic music fan, but last year the Wu-Tang Clan put out an album with dubstep DJs and I was curious, so I grabbed a beer, unwound for a bit, and enjoyed a few tunes.

After my beer was finished, I made my way out Fubar. Shortly thereafter, I noticed something was missing.

My truck wasn’t where I parked it.

To my surprise, I parked in a lot guarded by a local towing agency. In a panic, I called the number on the sign and inquired as to whether they had my precious pick-up. After they confirmed it was in their possession, I frantically called my friend Keri, who I briefly saw at the show. Fortunately, even although she was well on her way back home, she turned around to bring me to the wrecker lot so I could get my truck. Thank goodness for friends, or I would have been sleeping with the homeless on the streets of St. Pete.

Did I mention I hate late-night towing companies? I think they are spawns of Satan, brought to Earth only to make life difficult for people. No one is going to use the bank at midnight, so why can’t I park there to go to the bar? I promise I’ll move my truck before the bank opens in the morning.

Anyway, 121 dollars later, my truck was back in my possession and my night was finally over. I should have heeded the t-shirt symbology and been more careful in the presence of the smiling devil t-shirt.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Top One Album Bands

I was thinking the other day about my top five one album rock bands. These bands are more impressive and rarer than one-hit wonders, as even one-hit wonders are usually guaranteed a second chance to recreate their magic. One album bands are like comets that disappear as quickly as they arrive.

Before I get into my list, certain rules apply, of course.

1) There can not be another album with the band's name released. This disqualifies bands such as Days of the New, whose members split to form Tantric.

2) Can not be an all-star power group. This disqualifies Temple of the Dog, Mad Season, Les Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, or Rebel Meets Rebel.

3) Can't be an off-shoot of another band or a side project, such as Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsies.

4) Must be broken up for at least five years. Because sometimes hell freezes over and bands get back together (an Eagles reference!).

Without further ado:

5) American Minor

In 2005, this southern rock-sounding throwback band released a self-titled album. Then they vanished.

4) Union Underground

Probably the most commercial band on this list, The Union Underground were an amalgamation of several bands, to include Alice and Chains, Powerman 5000, Nirvana, and The Beatles. They sang music to drive fast to about drugs and rock 'n' roll. In 2000, they released An Education in Rebellion. They were formulaic, but they followed a great formula. Then they disappeared. In 2002, they released the theme song for WWE Raw. "Across the Nation" would be the Raw theme until 2006. The Union Underground were never heard from again.

3) Full Devil Jacket

I first saw Full Devil Jacket in an Orlando bar in 1999 opening for Marvelous 3. Impressed by this Bush/Sevendust mash-up, I picked up their sampler EP and waited for over a year for major release. They released a self-titled album in 2000 and I saw them two more times, once in Tallahassee and again in Orlando. Sometime during their tour, however, their lead singer nearly died of an overdose and quit the band. One of their guitarists surfaced in Saliva for a few years, but otherwise they were done.

(Update: Full Devil Jacket reunited in 2014 and released a new album.)

2) Silvertide

Silvertide were another throwback band with a 70's southern rock vibe. They were a bit more sexy and rocking than American Minor, sort of like Aerosmith to Tom Petty. They released Show and Tell in 2004, toured with major names like Motley Crue, and then broke up. According to Wikipedia, the guitarist and lead singer have formed another band. That might be a possible pick-up.

1) Mother Love Bone

The "mother" of all one album bands, Mother Love Bone were among the first of the 1990s Seattle grunge bands to have a release on a major label. Unfortunately, days before Apple's 1990 release date, lead singer Andrew Wood died of a drug overdose. Although the band would release a compilation album in 1992, it was mostly to capitalize on the new found fame of guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament, who had found a home in a band called Pearl Jam. Thoughts?