Lost a limb, gained a weapon

I once wrote a story — actually it’s unfinished, and I’ve been working on it for a few years (it’s long) — and at one point a woman imagines her husband being overcome with a case of road rage, removing his prosthetic leg, and throwing it at another driver. A local article in the Seattle Times today completely trumps my idea. Was man armed with prosthetic legs? First off, two prosthetic legs definitely beats one. Second off, real life beats fake story.

Newcomb took the driver to the patrol car, then chased the passenger, eventually kicking him from behind. After falling to the ground, the passenger threw both of his legs at Newcomb, the report says. One hit the trooper in the chest.

This is beautiful.

Tony from Italy or wherever, I can’t get you out of my mind!

I’ve been working on a mixtape for a friend, and the process has delivered to me the realization that I’m kind of obsessed with British bands from the ’80s and ’90s that feature male vocalists with a higher end vocal range. I love how the vocals often sound so earnest and emotional. Some bands that I can’t stop listening to: The Psychedelic Furs, Nik Kershaw, Visage, Ultravox (not british), Manic Street Preachers, David Bowie, Talk Talk, Human League, Echo and the Bunnymen, Pulp, Tears for Fears. For contemporary bands that could fit the bill, I’ve been listening to Maximo Park. I like how the singer occasionally sounds like Brian Ferry.

I really have to restrain myself from making the mix sound like the soundtrack for Rad 2 (as in, a made-up sequel to that bmx movie from the ’80s).

Obsession #2: This one’s a bit more disturbing. I’m obsessed with this little google video of Tony singing Naked Eyes’ Always Something There to Remind Me. (You can add Naked Eyes to the list above.)
Tony sings!
I was trying to relate Tony’s importance to a friend, and he didn’t give a crap. So I’ll now do so in a forum where I won’t be subject to any immediate response.

From the description we know that he made this video as part of the process of his singing practice. Or, more accurately, his “songing practice.” He tapes himself and then reviews the tape. That’s normal. One doesn’t just have a good voice — voices need to be trained, and he’s being active and doing just that.

But I imagine that he’s practicing singing, and especially this song, in order to eventually perform some serious crooning. If he only wanted to work on his voice, then I bet he could choose a song with which he’s more familiar.) He wants to serenade a woman and then win her heart. This is where I impose tragedy (in the loosest sense of the word) into the situation. At it’s current state, the chances are that he’s not going to win any hearts with his rendition. And I’d venture to say that even with lots of practice he’s still going to sound pretty dismal. Even though there’s a good chance that I already love this guy, he’s a bad singer, and he’s only going to embarrass himself if he brings this number to the woman of his dreams.

Now, those assumptions are the more optimistic ones — I think there’s a far better chance that he’s not practicing for any imminent croon. The object of love is not just around the corner waiting and somewhat willing to hear his message. On the contrary, he’s practicing this song in the off chance that he’s ever in a situation where he might need to bust into a song in order to get him out of/in to a situation. Kind of like when Maverick busts into You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling when he see a beautiful woman in a bar. But I imagine that Tony’s vaguely thought out plan will never come to fruition. It’s sad to think that there might not be anyone particular in mind as the recipient. His earnestness will only get him so far.

He most likey picked this song because it’s one of his favorites. It has a good beat that many people recognize and like to dance to. But still, he doesn’t know most of the lyrics (granted, I’m doubting English is his first language, and so he’s not as adept at gathering the words without a lyric sheet). He only knows the chorus, and even that he gets wrong. But the chorus is the title of the song, so how is he getting that wrong? Perhaps his copy of the song is from an unlabeled mix tape (or maybe labeled as “Dance Hits!” given to him by his cousin) and he just, like me, feels the power of those higher range British vocals. It has him hooked, and through the song he feels a connection with other people who enjoy the song. And he imagines they’d all get along because of their mutual affection for it — if only he had concrete confirmation that these people exist. Perhaps he’ll be at a liquor store getting some chips and a six pack of soda, and the song will come on the stereo. He’ll bob his head like he does in the video, and when the chorus arrives he’ll quietly sing it. This will attract the attention of a young couple who only last weekend danced hard to this song at a popular nightclub. And then they’ll all, just like in Reality Bites, join together and rock out in the liquor store. It will be great. And afterwards the couple will invite him out, and they’ll introduce him to a single and attractive friend of theirs.

I don’t mean to belittle Tony by coming to such conclusions. It’s just what I imagine might be going on here. And I’m truly entranced by this guy — and not in a “he’s great to make fun of” kind of way. If this is too mean, just tell me. It’s presumptious, of course, but it’s just my interpretation (and only part of it).

I spent many hours while riding around the country on my motorcycle singing songs to myself. I tried my best to sound like Echo or Bowie or the Furs — I didn’t have much to do when I couldn’t listen to music or hear anything except my own voice. And so I’d practice my singing voice. I tried many different styles of singing, and the one that came most natural to me was the Bowie-ish voice. But I’m sure I sounded awful.
Anyway, this video has paralyzed me.

Albertson’s now pricing some food “per pound”

I enjoy writing letters to companies (and sometimes people). A few months ago I wrote a letter to the president, in which I suggested that he put out a presidential jigsaw puzzle for the holiday season (though it probably didn’t fly because I suggested giving the proceeds toward education). I mean, I’d buy it and then give it someone. Especially if had his cute dog on it. Hell, I’d probably buy another copy and keep it for myself. Why doesn’t the government set up fun little benefits like that?

Some more months (or years?) ago I noticed that the literary “humor” magazine, Yankee Pot Roast, has a section devoted to correspondence with people or entities who are unlikely to respond. (That’s trick linking, right there.) So I submitted the one posted below. I thought it would be a definite winner, especially because I received a response. But no, it was rejected upon grounds of being “not funny”, and because the YPR folks don’t have Albertsons where they’re from. Second of all first, this letter could also be sent to Ralphs or Vons. This covers a rule that flies for many grocery stores. First of all second, it’s not supposed to be funny. It’s a real letter that I sent, and until I saw their section, I had no intention of ever making it public. With that said, it is actually funny. But my sense of humor is way off from YPR, Opium, McSweeney’s, etc. — much of which runs along the I’m-a-reasonable-guy-talking-about-crazy-weird-
stuff-in-a-straight-yet-deranged-way type of humor; it’s too easy, and not convincing — so I could be wrong.

Well, I’ll just publish the letter myself.

Dear Albertsons,

I’ve been listening to your commercials for, I would say, the last 14 years — so, since I was nine years old — and throughout that time I have noticed pretty much all of the commercials to possess one, possibly fundamental, consistency. The consistency is more of a detail than a governance, and I was writing to ask about the origins of it and the intentions of its inclusion in all your commercials.

All of your commercials have a woman’s voice describing the saving and deals and specials for the period at Albertsons. I am sure the source behind the voice has changed over the years — it is honestly kind of difficult to figure that out, but I am pretty sure the voice is different (and not just different because she has aged 14 years) — but I will just refer to them in the singular. And there is one remarkably entertaining (to me, because I pay attention to this) consistency in the words she uses, and more accurately, the tone she uses when saying those specific words. The words she consistently uses is “per pound” — an unremarkable pair of words in itself, especially given that they are used in the context of describing food at a grocery store, where many things are sold by the pound. The remarkable part comes from the way that she says “pound”. For at least the last 14 years she has chosen to put some bizarre emphasis on the two vowels in the word. She elongates them, stresses them, capitalizes them (pOUnd). They roll around in the back of her mouth for a bit longer than usually allowed before the “nd” gently extinguishes them.

Now, this lady…well, the significance of there being multiple practicioners of this ritual will now come into play. These ladies were all either chosen for the job because of this ability and/or tendency to pronunciate “pound” in such a way, or they were trained to do so, or they are all just really nice ladies who share a love for groceries and for an unknown reason this love provides them with the propensity to linger on their “pounds”. For the support of that last option, I would like to point out that I have noticed the same tendency in the female voices of other grocery store commercials (The red-haired woman in the Ralph’s commercials from about 11 years ago, anyone?)

I am a fan of your stores and a pretty loyal customer, and I was hoping you could provide me with some insight into this phenomena. Deliberate, or just coincidence? Origins, etc. I will be periodically checking my email in expectation.

Thank You, Ryan Gratzer

p.s. It may help to carefully listen to a few commercials in order to get a firm understanding of what I am talking about.


Dear Mr. Gratzer:

I’d like to begin by thanking you for your above-average interest in our radio commercials. It sounds as though you have a great attention to detail.

In the past 14 years we have had two or three ad agencies, an unknown number of women recording these spots, and several campaigns. There’s no single detail in there that would indicate a preference on anyone’s part to achieve the verbal tone you’ve identified.

The consistent use of the phrase “per pound” isn’t something we consciously work for; if you’re hearing a similarity in the vocalization it’s either coincidental or possibly a result of the way the words are used, i.e. after a price. Again, thanks for your interest in Albertsons.

Jeff Wxxxxxxx
Director, Corporate Advertising Albertsons