Kevin Gossett's Blog

A Year, Riding

An article I wrote for Hog (Harley-Davidson Owner’s Group) Magazine:

Screenshot_1_1_14,_3_32_PM-3It’s been about a year and a half since I first swung a leg over my 2011 FXDF Fat Bob, and six thousand miles in the saddle have shown me the decision to finally walk into Chandler Harley Davidson and buy the almost eight hundred pound beast was the right one. It had been a long road to motorcycle ownership for me, now a third generation Harley Davidson owner, since accidents both my Grandfather and then later, Father were involved in, had kept me on four wheels through my young adult life. My younger brother Craig, family rebel, hadn’t paid as much attention, and owned bikes since he was a teenager. When he passed away in the summer of 2012, parked outside his house was a 1992 Heritage Softail Classic. My brother wanted his Harley to go to his best friend, the first person he met when we moved to Arizona in the late 70s, and so my father and I arranged it.

Packing up his possessions, I came across a stack of HOG magazines, and a well-worn 2012 Trip Planning Guide he had clearly spent time with. I was sorry that his rapidly declining health had prevented him from using the guide as it was intended, and a couple days later, sitting in a coffee shop reading about HOG, I made a decision.

I always joked that when I was young, I had a mother who prevented me from riding a motorcycle. When I was older, the mother held less sway over those decisions, but I didn’t have the extra money necessary to buy a bike. By the time I had the money, I had picked up a wife, who took over from Mom in keeping me out of the saddle.

My wife, a wise and understanding woman, recognized there was something different this time in my musings about buying a bike, and didn’t object when I took a rider’s course to get my motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license. As I shopped the Harley-Davidson line, both at the dealership and online, she and I both had our separate revelations. She realized I was serious about motorcycles this time, and I came to understand that I wasn’t looking for just a motorcycle, I was looking for my Harley.

The rider’s course was excellent, and though I’d never ridden a full-sized motorcycle, just made a few laps around an empty lot on a cousin’s Honda Trail 70 when I was 13 or so, I came away from the two-day course with a good understanding of basic ridership, and a healthy respect for all that can go wrong in riding big, heavy machines in traffic with bigger, heavier vehicles driven by less-skilled operators who weren’t always paying a lot of attention. The mechanics of riding seemed natural to me, and presented no great challenge. The instructor taught in a way that gave us just enough of a peek into the physics of riding a motorcycle that I was inspired to study those aspects of riding more fully. As a result, I believe I’ve learned to ride much more safely than if I’d just picked it up myself, and that comes with an understanding that the learning should never end. It’s made me a better “cage” driver, too, since I’m much more in tune with what the other cars around me are doing, and even more importantly, what they may be getting ready to do.

After getting the required “M” endorsement on my Arizona Driver’s License, I began shopping in earnest, quickly eschewing the advice to “buy a Japanese 750cc bike and ride it for a year or so, then trade it in on a Harley.” After looking at all the possible combinations, I settled on a new, light blue 2011 FXDF Fat Bob, negotiating a color change to “Black Denim,” and contracting with the incredibly talented Matt Andrews of Hypnotic Air to do some custom paint on the tank. The result was stunning, and I had my first Harley.

Early, EARLY morning rides got a safe start, and as I felt more comfortable, I began riding in heavier traffic, and then on the interstate. The Fat Bob may not be a bagger, but it’s a stable platform that with a windshield and some mini-floorboards, makes for pretty comfortable medium range transportation.

As I rode to breakfast today, on a cool, bright Saturday morning, I marveled, as I often do, that even though I just started doing this a year ago in August, my FXDF makes me feel like I’ve been riding all my life. While it sometimes makes me regret not learning to ride a lot sooner, when I could have ridden with Craig, it also hits me that maybe the free, natural feeling I have when doing this is partly because he’s here with me, knowing his best buddy has his Heritage Softail Classic, and happy his big brother finally wised up and got on two wheels.

Stand-Up Guys a Stand-up Thumbs-Up

If you have either Netflix or Amazon Prime, you really need to watch “Stand-Up Guys,” since you’ve already paid for it, and it’s a wonderful movie. I’ve always been in awe of Al Pacino, the rare kind of actor who can play both the head of a huge crime family (The Godfather) as well as a down on his luck, low level wiseguy (Donny Brasco) without either of those roles influencing his take on the other. He displays this amazing talent again, adding another completely unique mob character to his portfolio in Stand-Up Guys. Playing opposite Christopher Walken, Pacino creates a bad guy whose heart would be in the right place, if it only weren’t so damn big. Far from an anti-hero, Valentine, or “Val” to his friends, despite spending the past 28 years in prison, is an obvious master of his nefarious craft, but a good guy, which we assume is the cast in the opening scenes, one of which shows him warmly shaking hands with the prison guard escorting him to the exit gate.

Walken’s character is far more conflicted, for reasons that eventually become clear, but proves he too is a stand-up guy on many levels. Always entertaining, Alan Arkin provides the predictable long-suffering, naval-gazing Jewish friend whose job it is to reveal other characters, but at the same time revealing his own interesting and touching story.

There’s a great message in the movie, that holding a grudge is never a good idea, nor is assuming youth and vitality trumps experience that has nothing to lose. 

The beginning of “Stand-Up Guys” is executed perfectly, and the ending, though not what I thought it would be, likewise. Jon Bon Jovi’s music is an essential foundation for the story, much better than what most directors would do, recycling pop songs from these gangsters’ day in the sun. Bon Jovi’s original tunes are a much better soundtrack for this film, acoustic and modern, yet introspective. Nice stuff.

I don’t think this film did well in theaters, but it deserves success. Great story, wonderful script executed flawlessly by two of the finest actors who ever worked in front of a camera.

I give it 7 out of 5 stars!

Review: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10

One word: Amazing.

Two words: Heart breaking.

Three words: Well, you get the idea.

Marcus Luttrell survived one of the most difficult ordeals imaginable, when he and his fellow SEALs were discovered on a mountainside, conducting surveillance on an Afghan village, looking for an enemy commander who had just recently masterminded a bombing that killed several U.S. Marines. When faced with the decision to kill three civilian prisoners, including one young boy, or suffer the consequences of letting them go, they did the latter, only to have the Afghan civilians run straight to the guerillas for whom capturing and beheading American soldiers (or civilians, for that matter) makes for a great day.

When the ordeal was over, three American SEALs were dead, and Marcus Luttrell was severely wounded and emotionally whole, but scarred for life. Probably over 100 Afghan fighters were dead.

Lone Survivor is a story of American fighting men beating frightening odds, and has been made into a major motion picture, starring Mark Wahlberg, out in December. I’ll condense the review to this:

Read the book and then go see the movie. You will be glad you did. God bless the United States Navy SEALs.

Excellent Horse-Like Lady Executed Because Boyfriend is a Weird, Twisted Friend of Dennis Rodman

Rodman and his little buddy Okay, so maybe Hyon Song-wol wasn’t machine-gunned because her ex, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is a friend of Dennis Rodman (Korea’s answer to Penn and Teller, I’m thinking), but the fact that she was executed at all (along with a number of other people as well) is simply taking the whole “don’t video yourselves naked” too far. Jesus, why do they put video cameras in cell phones, anyway? The former Chicago Bull, Rodman, being “friends” with the ruler of this horrible country is weird enough (though when you look at him and his piercings, not really, I guess) but to go on TV and defend his little buddy’s culpability in the public execution means Dennis is simply not getting good advice from…well…anybody.

Hong Song-wol was apparently a North Korean pop star, one of her big hits being a ditty that translates to “Excellent Horse-Like Lady.” Here it is. As far as I can tell, it’s about young North Koreans working at a factory that makes cotton t-shirts, known in the country as “food.”

USS Ranger Floating Museum Plans Scrapped

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Retiring USS Ranger to museum status in Fairview, Oregon isn’t going to happen. It’s a shame that one of the most famous and traveled Aircraft Carriers in the world, featured in movies like Top Gun, Flight of the Intruder, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (yea, that was Ranger, playing without complaint, the carrier USS Enterprise) has to be consigned to scrap.

Hey Tom, how about helping the ship out here?Hey, Tom Cruise – Ranger helped make you famous! Can you call somebody? Tens of thousands of retired sailors at some point had her keys. Anybody keep a spare set? She’s a 1950s design, powered by boilers, so there aren’t any nasty nuclear reactors or anything. Chiefs run the Navy, a few retired guys could get together, sneak aboard, and…Don’t even need any officers.

My first novel, Time Flying, is set aboard Ranger. I’ve been on the ship, and a fan of hers since the mid 80s, when I first saw her tied up at NAS North Island.

I mean, it’s not like Washington would miss the money selling Ranger will bring. She cost $160 million 1950s dollars to build. We Americans spent almost $100 million on our President’s family vacation to Africa this summer, so money must not be a problem.

I know looking forward, not backward, is important. But when we have something that has been such a visible part of our culture, war and peace, security and entertainment, why can’t we keep and enjoy it? If USS Ranger isn’t worth saving and using to remember those things worth remembering, what is?

I really admire all those who have worked so hard to make the dream of Ranger as a museum a reality, and appreciate all their hard work. Here’s a great farewell to a wonderful and deserving mission.

Dick Van Dyke escapes from burning…Movie

NewImageListening to the BBC this evening, and they report that 87 year old actor Dick Van Dyke survived a very dangerous situation in Los Angeles, when he was found slumped over in his burning car on an LA freeway. After delivering the basics of the news story, the British newsreader and his sidekick then bring up what every Brit feels a cultural need to talk about when the subject of Mr. Van Dyke comes up.

His horrible accent in the movie Mary Poppins.

That’s right. The man starred in what was probably the perfect sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show, created by the great Carl Reiner, and starring a 20 year old Mary Tyler Moore alongside Mr. Van Dyke, but 50 years later, all the Brits can remember about him, is that his accent in Mary Poppins suckedThe Dick Van Dyke Show was awesome and ahead of its time. The storytelling was great, and though to watch it today, you’d see it as a good, sharp, well-written sitcom, except that in my mind, The Dick Van Dyke Show was the Lord of the Rings of television situation comedies.

Let me explain.

A lot of people read the Tolkien trilogy and say “Oh, OK. Traditional sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy stuff,” except that mostly all of the books in those genres are derivative of LOTR. Gray bearded wizards, elves with long pale hair who are good with the bow and arrow, dwarves who like to mine, and somewhat human like creatures who serve evil, dark lords, all of those archetype characters made their debut in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. So, when a fan of the genre comes to LOTR late, they think “seen it.”

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The Dick Van Dyke Show is a lot like that. It was the first show to use a technique that’s quite common in everything from comedies to dramas to horror (I even used the device in my first novel, Time Flying), the flash forward. Most currently, Vince Gilligan, creator and show runner of AMC’s Breaking Bad uses it extensively. If you’re not familiar, the flash-forward is a storytelling technique where an episode, movie or novel starts with a scene from sometime else in the narrative, usually the end, and the bulk of the story is told leading up to the plot-point depicted in flash-forward.

The first example of this technique in The Dick Van Dyke Show, was Rob’s (Van Dyke’s character) wife Laura, played by Moore, picking her husband up from jail. While they are talking, trampy exotic dancers (or at least what passed for TV versions of same) were getting bailed out, making a fuss over Rob as they exited the cell. Laura is amazed, because in addition to getting arrested at an illegal card game, Rob was charged with firing a cannon at a police officer. All of this is shown in the first five minutes of the episode, the remaining 17 minutes devoted to explaining how this completely crazy situation is, in the end, understandable.

But, do the British news readers talk about any of this? Do they mention that Carl Reiner and Van Dyke had a five-year plan for the series, and that they ceased making the show at the end of those five years, even though it was at the top of the ratings?

No, some 50 years later, all they want to talk about is how horrible Van Dyke’s accent is in Mary Poppins.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s bad. Not as bad as Kevin Costner’s faux-british in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but at least halfway through the movie, Costner, apparently realizing he sounds nothing like Robin of Loxley probably sounded, he just kind of gave up and did the rest of the movie as an American. I always imagined Morgan Freeman, who played one of Robin’s men, a Saracen, saying “Dude, I started this movie as a Muslim, and stayed a Muslim, the least you can do, is keep trying the friggin’ accent.”

Yea, I admit it. British actors do much better American accents than Americans do British. The cream of our crop, Gwyneth Paltrow, is passable, but to my ear (I have a thing for accents), it moves around the southern part of the island a little. There are a lot of British actors that American audiences love, but have no idea they’re not from somewhere in the midwest, until they see them on Conan or Letterman. A great example of this is Hugh Laurie, who despite having a totally British name, plays Dr. House so American, I’m sure there are Yanks out there pretending to have gone to high school with him. Heck, even the creator of House upon seeing Laurie’s videotaped audition (he was filming a movie in Africa at the time) said “This guy’s great, and I’m so glad he’s American, because there will be a lot of medical lingo in the scripts.” 

Another great example is the star of (among other things) Homeland, Damian Lewis. Lewis even played the lead in Band of Brothers, the excellent HBO series based on the book about Easy Company, of the American 101st Airborne, in World War 2. In fact, because most of the filming for Band of Brothers was done in England, a large number of the American soldiers were played by Brits. Heavy irony, that too, because studies have shown that 86% of British citizens agree that two of the top three facts they all agree on is that the United States did not save their asses in World War 2, they were “Giving Jerry a proper gubbing,” and secondly, Dick Van Dyke’s accent in Mary Poppins was “bollocks.” It’s true that it’s accepted British slang to call an American’s failed attempt to sound Brit a “Dick Van Dyke accent.”

Okay, I made up the 86% thing, but the slang fact is true.

But not all Brit actors do accents well. Consider one of my favorites, Ray Winstone. In American movies, he’s almost always a heavy, a tough. His East Ender, “Cockney” accent is distinctive, and present in any role he plays. While in Britain once, I watched a two-part movie in which Winstone played King Henry VIII. As a working class Cockney. Yea, right.

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Sean Connery is another one. A Scot who adopted the Irish “Sean” (his real name is Tom), Connery doesn’t really care about the cultural background of any character he plays. The Russian submarine captain Connery plays in The Hunt for Red October has a distinctly Edinburgh accent. The Irish Chicago cop in The Untouchables? Scottish accent. How about King Richard the Lionheart in the aforementioned Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Hell, Richard Coeur de Lion probably didn’t even speak English. He was French, for God’s sake, but sounds quite Scottish in the film. Let’s not even talk about Sean’s portrayal of an aging Robin Hood, opposite Audrey Hepburn in Robin and Marian.

But, the most delightfully ironic twist in lingual Hollywood is Mr. Connery’s role in Highlander, in which he plays, with his signature, unaltered Scots accent, a Spaniard! 

Yes, Scotsman Sean Connery portrays “Ramierez” a Spanish swordsman opposite American-born French actor Christopher Lambert, who plays the immortal Scottish Highlander, Connor MacLeod. In the film, Lambert occasionally uses a Scottish word or two, but doesn’t even try the accent. It boggles the mind.

I’d like to go on the record, saying it again: British actors do better American accents than Americans do…Well, any accents. Can we move on now?

And because I know you’re all concerned, Mr. Van Dyke is fine.

Breaking Bad – Season 5b, Episode 2

Breaking_Bad_Season_5_Episode_PhotosThe long-awaited second half of the last season of AMC‘s superior Breaking Bad is so over-delivering on the 10 months of expectation and the 3 months of hype, it’s not even funny. The first two episodes of the last act represent some of the best television I’ve ever seen. I believe BrBa will ultimately render The Sopranos quaint and…well…really good for its time.

Damning with faint praise, indeed.

S5 Ep 10 continued the steady and almost breathless march to the finale in a way that shocked me when the credits rolled. I was watching the episode partly from DVR, partly live, fast-forwarding through the commercial breaks and finally caught up to the show as it was being broadcast, when Hank entered the cop shop interrogation room. Honestly, I thought we were half an hour into the broadcast. Tonight’s 60 minutes flew by faster than one of the show’s gorgeous time-lapse cut scenes.

At the end of that hour, an almost comatose Jesse sits before a presumably still running video camera (any bets as to whether Hank has the presence of mind to shut it off, or whether the two ABQ detectives the team of Pinkman and Goodman has so successfully bitch-slapped in the past accidently get the whole story from Hank’s mouth?) ready to unburden his soul with the whole story. There is a precedence for Jesse giving that story to Hank, the one person he hates more than Walt. Remember the partnership of Walt and Tio? The mute, nursing home resident didn’t bother trying to hide his hatred for Walt, but there was one man who he burned for even more than “Heisenberg,” and that was Gustavo Fring, which motivated the old guy to work with Walt in order to be a wheelchair-bound suicide bomber for the cause.

Don’t be surprised if history repeats itself.

Watching the final act of this masterpiece unfold, I find myself constantly in awe of Vince Gilligan and his writing crew. Making it clear that Hank had figured the whole thing out after 10 months on the crapper was a bold move. Most TV shows would have used their entire inventory of creativity convincing us that Hank’s discovery of Gale’s inscription in Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass didn’t convince DEA agent Schrader that “Heisenberg” was none other than his own dying-of-cancer brother-in-law.

No, the look on Hank’s face as the lynchpin fell into place was for real, and Gilligan’s team took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference.

Yes, I know I mixed my authors, and I do know the difference between Frost and Whitman.

The pitch for Breaking Bad was “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface,” but it was an interesting twist tonight, to see Walt lying on the floor of his bathroom, being tended by Skylar, and begging her to keep the money, never speak of it, and pass all of it along to his children. He pleads with his former domestic adversary, now turned ally “Please don’t let me have done all of this for nothing.” Now, we are faced with “Mr. Chips becomes Scarface, and near the end, when all seems lost, including his soul, tries to demonstrate he’s carrying a battered leather briefcase, rather than an M16. At the same time, I do need to remind you that in the flash-forward scenes, a heavily bearded and shaggily coiffed Walt has purchased an M60 machine gun, considerably heftier hardware than Tony Montana’s “little friend.”

And as a side note here, am I the only one who think’s it’s important that the actor who played Pacino’s character’s best friend in Scarface, Steven Bauer, also played the doomed Mexican cartel Godfather, Don Eladio, in BrBa? I love stuff like that, and just know it’s not coincidence.

Hank knows the truth, as does Marie, who by the way, did in tonight’s episode what so many of us would have paid big money over the past couple years to do ourselves, slap Skylar upside the head, and Jesse is in an interrogation room after playing paperboy with millions of meth-money, knowing Walt capped Mike and probably strongly suspicious that the bald one poisoned Brock after all. Just when you thought you knew which way the wind was blowing, that the endgame is near, if not happening, everyone committed to their course, Gilligan and Co. throw a big old spinning, spit-laden fork-sliding-curve ball at us.

Now, it looks like, with Skylar having second thoughts about Walt’s evilness, the money moved to a safe place in the New Mexico desert (and nice tip about how to hide a series of important numbers in plain sight – use a lottery ticket that you magnet to the fridge – I’m going to use that one), and Heisenberg about to board the room-temperature RV to the superlab in the sky (or somewhere further south with a much hotter climate), the pressure is on Hank. He’s damned if he does, damned if he don’t, his 3XL ‘nads completely in the vise. If the head of the ABQ DEA takes what he knows to the office, he’s laughed out of his job, because everyone will know his Public Enemy #1 is related to him by marriage and in Schrader’s words, “10 minutes later, I’m a civilian.” If he keeps it to himself and the info gets out anyway, he winds up in prison, assumed to be an important member of “Team Heisenberg”. Tonight, Walter White gave up his seat on the stove to his brother-in-law. Walt’s worst case now takes a backseat to Hank’s, and that ain’t good for Hank, who, when he closes his eyes to sleep, now dreams of getting out of this with his ass intact, rather than that “tuggy” from Shania Twain.

Either way, though, it’s a good bet Steve Gomez has heard his last “beaner” joke from the bottler of Schraderbrau.

Conspiracies and Manipulation (the good kind of both)

A couple Mad Men notes this morning.

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STOP!

While reviewing the past couple episodes in preparation for tonight’s first-viewing of the new ep, a couple interesting lines of thought came through.

First off, I’ve noticed in the past couple years, that Mad Men has been leading the charge against DVRing and fast-forwarding through the commercials. While some are going for the “we’ll make them stop and watch the commercials” by turning off the ability in some devices/cable systems, AMC is accepting the practice will continue, and programs to take advantage of it, or at least mitigate the damage.

When you fast-forward through video content, you are watching with the maximum amount of attention you have, because you’re trying to determine exactly when to hit “play” and resume watching the show. AMC is inserting quick Mad Men promos in the commercial blocks in order to trigger that “STOP” reflex. They get promo views, and hopefully, the fast-forwarding viewer will assume the show will be right back, and lays off the accelerate button. I would imagine the advertiser whose spot follows the FF-break pays a higher rate.

Last season, an advertiser created a campaign that looked and felt like Mad Men, and would always cause me to stop the advance, but I can’t remember the client, so I guess that explains it’s absence. Here’s an NPR story on the campaign.

There’s also an ongoing rush of Mad Men stars starring in ads that play during the show. Christine Hendricks (“Joan” on the show) does a whiskey spot, and John Slattery (Roger) voices and appears sometimes in commercials for Lincoln-Mercury, but the best is Jon Hamm as the voice of American Airlines, the big fish his firm of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce needs, but never gets. Ironically, Hamm’s character, Don Draper, has always been against going for AA, since they have an airline client in the small, regional (and fictional) Mohawk Airlines.

Foreshadowing?

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In the episode “The Better Half” recently, Megan was seen on the balcony of the Drapers’ Central Park high-rise apartment in her underwear. Some viewers, understandably, didn’t notice the emblem on her t-shirt, a large red star. No, Megan isn’t displaying her support for AMC’s newest show, The Amerikans, but she is wearing a shirt identical to the one actress Sharon Tate wore in an Esquire Magazine photo shoot. Sharon Tate, you may remember, was murdered in the Hollywood Hills by Charles Manson and his band of merry crazies.

Internet blogs and discussion boards are buzzing with the theory that Megan will be killed, citing Don and Betty’s daughter, Sally, was reading Rosemary’s Baby (the movie Sharon Tate was starring in when she was killed, by the way) and the season’s poster, which features a number of police officers. Here’s a good roundup of the rumors.

Strange Bedfellows

HouseDead

As you can probably tell from this incarnation of a blog that began in the last century, I like good television. Some shows I latch onto from the beginning (Jericho, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Rubicon), and others I discover later, after realizing my first impression wasn’t a good one (Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Mad Men, Justified).

Recently, two more shows fell into the latter category, House of Cards and The Walking Dead. One is a show in which each episode attempts to make you throw up even more of what you ate that day, showing the blood, carnage and gore associated with the end of normal society, and its transition to a state of terminal inhumanity.

The other is a show about zombies.

I was disgusted and completely put off by both of these shows after watching approximately 20 minutes of their respective pilots. After hearing much critical acclaim, mostly from friends, I decided to give the shows second chances, and much like with Sons of Anarchy, once I got past the early minutes revulsion, I was hooked. In truth, these three shows, Sons, Dead and Cards share common roots. They are about power, politics and survival, and all have characters who are fighting the good fight, doing the right thing.

Okay, I haven’t found anybody like that in House of Cards yet, but I’m only nine episodes in. There’s nobody in that show I’d vote for, but let me tell you, both Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead have a number of characters for whom I’d go door to door. In fact, there have been several “walkers” in Dead who would get my support if they were running against any of the politicians in Cards. And Sons? Let’s just say that if you see an SUV around town sporting a “Jax/Chibs 2016″ sticker, that’s me.

It’s hard to say whether The Walking Dead inspired, or simply took advantage of the recent resurrection (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the interest in zombie movies. Even the government has taken notice. The Center for Disease Control pushed Zombie Preparedness content out on their website, which was creepy in an “old guy breakdancing” way, rather than a “zombies are coming” way. A Montana EBS system was hacked and announced a zombie apocalypse on television and radio, which quite frankly was, to more than a few weary Top 40 and Adult Contemporary listeners, a relief in its assurance Adele would not be able to release any more hit records. Believe me, as a 30 year Radio veteran, I would welcome spending the rest of my life battling the undead as long as there wasn’t a followup to the theme from “Skyfall.”

Starsky_HutchThe point is, right now, we’re loving zombies, a fact reflected in the success of AMC’s gorefest. But that leaves me a bit unsettled, because since the dawn of electric entertainment, and accelerated by the beginning of electronic entertainment, hit shows and movies can inspire and influence our interests and behaviors. How many kids in the early 60s became pilots because of Sky King? The delightful Nichelle Nichols (I can say this because I’ve met and interviewed her a couple times – she’s the most delightful of the Trek actors, and that’s saying a lot, because George Takei, who played Sulu is pretty goddamn delightful himself) inspired, and through a program with NASA, actually recruited a number of women and African Americans to the space agency. In my own experience in the late 70s, because of my love of the TV show Starsky and Hutch, I wanted more than anything to drive a 1976 Candy Apple red Ford Gran Torino with a white strip. I never got my Torino though, and had to settle for a belted sweater jacket and a perm, the point being, shows that grab our attention, interest and devotion will inspire us in real life.

Sonny BargerA great example of this is legendary outlaw biker Sonny Barger, who when he took over a tiny, fledgeling group of motorcycle enthusiasts and moved them to Northern California, did so because he wanted to be like the fun-loving Lee Marvin character “Chino” from the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One. He loved the ideas of brotherhood and motorcycle riding in the movie, and was inspired to bring those things to his club, called Hells Angels (and by the way, there is no apostrophe in the name). Yea, Brando’s movie wasn’t inspired by Hells Angels, it was the other way around. Even back then, TVs and movies could have a great influence over what we do and what we love.

And that’s what scares the bejeezus out of me about House of Cards. As if we don’t already have enough criminals and sociopaths in Congress, do we really want to start attracting the kind of people who are excited by all the dirty-dealing they see in Cards? If there’s a zombie apocalypse, I’m all for a lot of people being prepared because, inspired by The Walking Dead, they learned to use a crossbow, but it’s tough enough watching the nonsense and criminality that goes on inside the Beltway and radiates outward to touch all of us, without worrying that Netflix, who produces and distributes the show, is sending up a red flare, attracting all who would hoodwink, fleece and otherwise sell down the river, good, hardworking, law-abiding Americans, to the city that already makes both Soddom and Gomorrah look like Mayberry and Hooterville.

Please, watch House of Cards. It’s a great show. Kevin Spacey is beyond awesome. But if you’re going to be inspired by a show, and let it spill over into your real life, store up some food, guns and ammo and maybe use Google Maps to find a nice, comfy prison to call home when the Zombie Apocalypse hits. It’s a better use for your creative energies.

Buzzwords and Charlatans

This is a pretty funny (and right on the money) ad from Adobe.

The interwebs industry is full of buzzword wielding posers and charlatans who  in some cases know just enough to be dangerous, but usually not nearly enough to be in any way effective.

Case in point:

A few months ago, I was talking to a gentleman who had helped his brother (an SEO genius, I was assured) start a company devoted to helping businesses improve their Search Engine Optimization. Setting aside for the moment the discussion about SEO being kind of…over, I nodded politely, hearing this financial dude talk about his little bro who was a friggin’ genius I tell you, and the company he helped the guy start. Amazed that I hadn’t heard of the company (I mean there are probably only, what…a BILLION SEO companies out there, right?) I looked them up on the web and laughed out loud (my wife thought I was watching Modern Family on Hulu again, much to her chagrin, because she doesn’t think that show is funny at all – but how the hell can you not think Modern Family is funny for God’s sake?) because when I hit the website, I saw this SEO company had a PageRank of…

Wait for it…

3.

Yea, three. 3.

Jesus, I just relaunched this blog, have about eight posts on it and it has a PageRank of 3.

Okay, PageRank (named, by the way, for Google co-founder Larry Page, not for “web page”) is the definitive measure of a website’s profile on the web, based on an algorithm that takes into consideration inbound links, relevence to its own keywords, site layout, etc…YouTube‘s homepage has a PageRank of 9.

Here’s a little perspective for you. I picked what sounded like a little radio station in a little market at random to check their PageRank. Froggy 99.9 in Fargo, North Dakota has a PageRank of 4.

That’s 25% higher than the PageRank of this SEO company started by a real genius SEO guru. Really!

Maybe said guru is one of the guys in the Adobe* ad.

* – Adobe’s homepage has a PageRank of 9, by the way.