Things I Learned Today: October 22, 2017


First, I want to state that the things mentioned here are a collection of observations over a period of time and not things I noticed just today. It will be that way going forward – now you know.

So here we go!

Things I Learned Today for October 22, 2017

Wait, October is almost over? Holy cripes.

1. After a long bike ride, beer ain’t so bad. I have been riding in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour since 2010 and not once did I ever go for the option of having an ice-cold beer at the completion of the ride. The usual finish line fare consists of a bag of snacks, a banana, water and – ugh! – coconut water. Now I don’t know if you ever tried that stuff but there’s nothing good about it. “Devil’s armpit sweat” is about the only way I can describe it. It’s putrid and people tend to drink it because they’ve convinced themselves it tastes good – just like kale. Don’t believe the hype. The stuff is garbage and so is kale.

So this last time (October 8), I opted for the Beer Garden. Keep in mind it’s about 7:30 am and I just finished riding 20 miles. With medals clanking around my neck, I got in line for a wristband, grabbed my can of beer, cracked it open and took a sip.

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And you know what? Coconut water has got nothing on this after a nice bike ride – this stuff very refreshing and light. I actually enjoyed it and I’m not the biggest beer drinker (which probably explains things). Now I know what I have to do next year.

2. People still use Mapquest. This one will lead into other things. For example, I had no idea Mapquest was still around. You see kids, back in the day we had no GPS or smartphones so outside of consulting the Thomas Brothers street maps for directions, this was our only real option. In fact it was probably the most popular online mapping service back in the ‘90s and it would be years before any competitors would show up. But with smartphones and GPS, Mapquest is all but obsolete but people still use it. How did I find this out? I saw somebody driving with printed directions with the Mapquest logo on it. I realize not all of us are fortunate enough to own a smartphone or GPS unit and some choose to live without either (a coworker comes to mind), but I still found it unbelievable.

3. Newspaper machines still exist. While I wrote about the cost of the daily newspaper in my last “Things I Learned…” post, I guess it never dawned on me that there’s still a demand for newspapers in general. Additionally, people still use slugs to try to fool the machine.

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With the cost of the daily paper now $1.50, I can almost understand why. That used to be the cost of the Sunday Edition of the Los Angeles Times which got you retail ads plus coupons, the Calendar section (a great resource for upcoming concert information), and a killer Classified section.

4. Payphones are still around. And yes, I’ve seen people using them.

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5. “Bette Davis Eyes” is a cover! We all know the classic ‘80s version by Kim Carnes which goes a little something like this:

But through a search on Spotify, I discovered the original version was recorded by legendary songwriter Jackie Deshannon back in 1974. GET OUT! Really!

(Guilty Pleasure alert: this song remains one I would somehow incorporate into a movie scene since I freaking dig it. Night, beach party. Camera pans down from a darkened sky. The scene is lit by unseen moonlight, song playing in the background. And that’s all I’ll say – there’s more.)

And while I’m blowing your mind, Hall and Oates’ “Family Man” is a cover of a Mike Oldfield song. That’s right, the guy that composed “Tubular Bells,” aka the song from The Exorcist, also wrote that one. What a world.

Well, time to throw away that Post-It note and start on another list. And since I spoke of newspapers this post, here’s one you should see.

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THE DODGERS ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES!

Ahem. Pardon my enthusiasm but it’s been 29 FREAKING years! I was still a punk teenager the last time the won it all and I can’t wait to see it all happen again starting Tuesday.

Dodgers. World Series. I can’t stop saying that.

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Depeche Mode Fan Takeover: The Jimmy Kimmel Live! Performance


As you read in my last post, I was chosen to take over Depeche Mode’s Facebook page last Friday. It was a blast but since there’s still a few months left in the year, I won’t get into details on how the whole thing works. I don’t want to give anything away.

What I will say is that I was contacted last Tuesday and I had honestly forgotten I entered the contest. Not only that, I was thinking that with all those entries and only 365 winners (some of them other musicians), what were my chances?

Pretty good, apparently. The folks in charge of the event emailed me and told me to give them a call if I was interested. Well duh, I was interested. So I sat on the patio at work and got the whole rundown of what was going on.

Their reasoning was simple: being I had gone to see them at Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2009, they thought I’d be a good candidate to see them again on Wednesday since they were the musical guests that night. I jumped at the chance and even let the coach of the company softball team know that I wouldn’t be at the game that night. And I have plenty of vacation time saved up so the time off was not an issue, either. More on our…team at the end of this post.

There were confidentiality agreements to sign, promises to keep, things to do. It’s pretty much like your on assignment for the band. Once all that was approved, I started writing my posts which came to about five total although not all of them were used.

Then came Wednesday, the day of the taping. I had to meet Depeche Mode’s management away from the throng of devoted fans hanging out in the alley, waiting to catch a glimpse of the band. I called when I arrived and they greeted me at the back door, meaning the parking lot.

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By the way, I didn’t drive. This is a shameless plug for Los Angeles Metro, my alternative source of transportation that I use whenever I have to go someplace in L.A. that is near a station. Never drive or pay for parking – go Metro!

Anyway, this would be the only picture I took because photography was strictly prohibited and this was mentioned on the confidentiality agreement. I’ve got a story on that later as well.

Once inside, I was given a purple wristband which meant I was more VIP than the other VIPs in the crowd, who all gathered in the Green Room during the taping of the show (we watched the taping on monitors). I just waved that band at folks and I was in. Ta-daaaa!

During the taping, I mingled with other fans and was greeted by Freddie Morales, aka Devotional Dave from the cover band Strangelove. We follow each other on Instagram and he came up to me and started the conversation – pretty cool! He was telling me about their upcoming shows and their potential setlist which includes some classic songs that I’d love to hear the real Depeche Mode play one more time. Great guy and you should go see them if they are in your town. Here we are after the taping.

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As we waited, a few of the band members – Peter Gordeno and the legendary Fletch – came out of the dressing room and chatted with a few fans. Didn’t expect that but there they were. Once they left, I was asked by management if I wanted to take my picture in the Jimmy Kimmel photo booth which was in a place that only those with purple wristband could go. Who was I to say no?

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The magic of the the Purple Wristband!

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It took a sequence of three and for the middle one I decided to make a stupid face for some reason. But as you can tell by the first and last ones, I was genuinely excited to be a part of this. Also, DM management took this shot of me that they used for Facebook.

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I ate hors d’oeuvres. I drank a few White Russians from the open bar. I mingled. I was as fucking Hollywood as anyone could get that night.

As the taping continued, I was notified by management that if I wanted a good view, they would lead me upstairs to the stage – and so I went. I was in the first group of people, all with their purple wristbands, and we got as close as we possibly could to the stage for the performance. Shortly after that, the others made their way up as Kimmel’s hype man got the crowd worked up.

After about 10 minutes, the band took the stage and the crowd lost it. If you don’t know, Depeche Mode has one of the biggest followings in Los Angeles and they are playing an unprecedented four sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl starting this weekend — not even The Beatles did that. We love them, the the crowd let them know. You could tell they appreciated it.

Unlike their 2009 performance, where they played a set of about eight songs, tonight there would only be one: their new single “Cover Me.” They did an off-camera rehearsal then after about five minutes, Kimmel appeared to the left of the crowd, the cameras went live, and he introduced them. This one would count and here it is.

In case you’re wondering, here I am in the yellow circle:

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A few notes:

  • I’ve been to my share of shows and I have to say that Dave has never sounded better live. Maybe it was the combination of a small venue with him not needing to strain his voice and the subdued tone of the song but either way, wow. He absolutely killed it.
  • If you watch the video closely, there’s a lady to my left and in front of me looking like she is covering her mouth. I let her squeeze by for a better view because she couldn’t see from where she was. The reason she was covering her mouth was because she was absolutely enthralled by the performance and almost in tears. Remember what I said about L.A. fans? Here’s your proof, and she was extremely grateful that I let her in. I’m taller and could see just fine from my angle.
  • After the performance, a few people tried to take pictures of the stage and when security saw them, they immediately approached them, told them to delete the photo, then delete it from their Trash folder – all while they watched them do it. They weren’t playing.

After the performance, I took my picture with Devotional Dave then lingered around Hollywood Boulevard for a bit. It was then when I was reminded of what a strange and surreal place Hollywood really is. I’m not here too often so I took it all in, looking around and just thinking “Wow, this really is a freaking weird place.”

Then I got on the train and went home, wrote about the performance for the takeover, and my day of working for Depeche Mode was complete. It was definitely fun.

Oh, and our softball team? We played tonight and lost again but I went 1-3 with 2 RBI against a whiny bunch poor winners who complained at the most minor things. Fuckin’ nut up and play. This is for fun and nobody will be taking home any trophies, so STFU and get on the field already. I yelled at them quite a bit as they complained, telling them to hurry up. Bunch of babies.

As for our team, well, I could be the father to some of the players and to hear they were tired after a 7-inning softball game really made me laugh. Here I am wanting to play two and there they were thinking about taking tomorrow off because they were sore. Look, I’m not He-Man but really?

Anyway…yeah! Working for Depeche Mode was something I’ll never forget.

Depeche Mode Fan Takeover on Friday!


Chances are every person in my social circle is tired of hearing about it but for those of you that only know me from the blog, here’s your official notice.

On Friday, October 6, I will be taking over Depeche Mode’s Facebook page as part of their Fan Takeover. Every day in 2017, a different fan will be selected to share their experiences with the band, their music, etc. and I was selected as one of them for Day 203.

Even got the profile picture for it and a short bio on their website:

1006_PP_Approved

My posts will be shared throughout the day and there may be a few surprises and announcements so if you like Depeche Mode, you might want to check things out!

Now go go go!

Well, not until Friday but you get the idea.

The Way It Used to Be


It seems I need to get back into blogging.

Since I don’t watch much TV, I’ve been spending my nights in a fruitless effort to try to learn the Japanese language – and still getting nowhere. At least it feels that way. It’s doubtful I’ll make much progress anymore so it’s on the back burner for now. Disappointing, yes, but you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, let alone those of a foreign language.

And on top of that, it’s kind of a way to hit the proverbial Reset button. I need to do this as much as I need to meditate, something else I haven’t done in a long time.

At any rate, this old dog spent last Saturday night with his son at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to see one of his all-time favorite groups, Pet Shop Boys. In all my years of concert-going, this was only the second PSB show I have attended. Technically, it should have been the third but things happen. As expected, it was spectacular.

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The good thing about this venue is that like most of my favorite spots in Los Angeles, it’s close to a Metro station and that makes me happy. Rather than spend $20 on parking plus burning all that gas to get there, I spent $7 round-trip for the both of us.

The trip to the Pico Station was pretty uneventful save for the usual hustling from vendors selling food and cell phone accessories. Pretty much expected.

When we arrived at our exit, I saw a couple exit before us and the girl gave me a glance and said, “You going to the Pet Shop Boys concert?”

She had me pegged. It must have been my shirt from their 1991 Performance tour that gave me away.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been waiting a long time,” I told her. She then gave me a rundown of all PSB shows she’s attended then pointed to her boyfriend.

“He hasn’t seen them live yet.” I smiled.

“Oh, you will NOT be disappointed,” I told him as we made our way down the sidewalk. Anthony held the gate for them and they were surprised. Kids don’t do that these days.

We then split up and told them to enjoy the show as they made their way into a corner Mexican restaurant across the street. Anthony and I headed over to the venue.

And wow. Let me explain. In addition to the usual Saturday night crowd, there were also two other events happening: Stan Lee’s Comic-con at the L.A. Convention Center and the League of Legends Championship at Staples Center and outside Microsoft Theater. There were tons of young people there having a great time. Granted I don’t know much about either of those things – remember, Old Dog – but I’d be more inclined to attend the comic-con if I had a choice. There might be a slight chance I’d be able to recognize some of the cosplay outfits based on my limited knowledge of anime. In fact I’m sure I saw a young lady dressed as one of the Sailor characters. There are many and I can only identify Moon. Jupiter, Mars, Venus? Forget it. But one out of…many isn’t bad I guess.

And to their credit, most of them are handmade. Probably not the easiest thing to do.

As we made our way through the crowd, there was a guy pointing out and verbally identifying people by their wardrobe and giving a high-five gesture, then slapping them one if they held out their hand. So many smiles everywhere. Video screens flashing ads and music videos lit up our steps to the venue.

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Anthony then asked me, “Is this what Japan is like?” Hmm. Shibuya and Harajuku. Osaka’s dotonbori. I looked up and around.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I told him basing my opinion on sheer speculation and not fact. But they do look like places that would have a similar vibe, if not better.

“Okay, we need to go then,” he said with a smile. In time, my man. In time.

The show began a little after 9 pm and as previously stated, it was amazing. A lot of newer stuff mixed with classics like “West End Girls,” “Domino Dancing” and “Always On My Mind.” Then, of course, “It’s A Sin.” That song pretty much changed my life.

We left the venue satisfied, ears ringing, and walked the couple of blocks back to the train station for our ride home. That’s where I saw the couple from earlier that night. I saw the guy and asked, “Well?”

“It was outstanding,” he said with a smile. His girlfriend chimed in and agreed. I then asked which stop was theirs as the train approached. It was only one away from ours so Anthony and I sat next to them for the ride and introduced ourselves.

I discovered that the couple – we’ll call them Jack and Dianne – were big music fans and regular concert-goers. At 31, Jack was the oldest of the two and about 7 years Dianne’s senior. At one point Dianne mentioned that she had seen Depeche Mode a few times and was looking forward to seeing them this time around. I am too, and I told her about the DM shows I have attended.

“Oh, I first saw them in 1987 at The Forum. Music for the Masses Tour. Then I saw them at the Rose Bowl in 1988.”

“Really? And how much was it for that show?”

I replied without hesitation. “$22.50. And for four acts: Wire, Thomas Dolby, OMD, and Depeche Mode.”

Totally stunned. That concert is the stuff of legends. I then told her I was at the Jimmy Kimmel taping in the pit taking lo-res pictures with my old Verizon LG enV flip-phone.

We talked about how incredibly expensive concerts can be now, even for the cheap seats. I agreed then told them they have it easy these days. They didn’t remember a time before the Internet and apps when buying concert tickets was an event in itself.

How did you even get to see any shows back then?

“Two ways to buy them: camp out or call Ticketmaster and 213-480-3232. See? I still remember the phone number. And you had to keep calling if the line was busy and if you finally got through, it was a miracle. This was before the Redial button, you know. But even if you camped outside Music Plus or The Wherehouse, there was no guarantee you’d get them. Scalpers have always been around and they still are.”

And camping out usually meant sparking up conversation with the people around you, especially if the wait was expected to be long. And when it was over, you’d part ways with the knowledge you might just see them at the show. And if you didn’t, hey, you at least had a great chat to kill some time.

Then we went over shows we’ve been to. That lasted a while with me but it turns out that despite me being old enough to be Dianne’s father, we all had similar taste in music. I said the last show we attended was Perfume, a Japanese electro-pop group that rarely tours the U.S.

Not only were ticket prices discussed but physical tickets in general. We used to collect them and put them in scrap books or our wallets as a way of showing our friends we were there. Well, outside of buying a shirt. Now I’m not even sure if you can opt for a physical ticket or have to print them at home (and still get charged even though you’re using your own ink). But I do know that a virtual ticket is indeed pretty cool but nowhere as cool as a stub. And if you don’t screencap it, it’s lost.

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Speaking of Perfume, I told them that as I was waiting for them to tour the U.S., I wanted to find some videos on YouTube of their Japan tour. It was impossible and the reason is simple: I learned that in Japan, it’s not allowed. At all.

So it was only natural that the conversation took yet another turn. I said concerts were so much better in the days before smartphones. Why? Because we were in the moment enjoying the show. We knew we would have stories to tell the next day at school or at work. There seemed to be more of a personal connection between the music and the fan back then, rather than this “look at me” generation that cares more about taking selfies with the stage in the background or posting live videos on Facebook. Seeing a sea of screens in front of me the entire show is pretty annoying because I come from the cigarette-lighter-during-a-ballad generation. And it was waaaaay cooler.

To further prove my point about the disconnect between music and fan today, I told them the story of the mixtape I found and how making one back in the day was such a labor of love. It had to express how we were feeling and being caught up in the creation of it was part of our connection to the music because we knew how hard it was to get this tape just right.

And the act of buying music itself? Totally different. Click-to-buy is nothing like lining up for that new CD on New Music Tuesday.

We had a great chat that made the trip seem so much shorter. When Anthony and I arrived at our stop, we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries while they complimented me on Anthony’s politeness at the Pico Station where he held the gate open for them. We both thanked them.

And while I could have given them links to my social media accounts to stay in touch, it only seemed appropriate to end our talk and part ways with these kids like this.

Just like the way it used to be outside Music Plus, waiting for Phil Collins tickets to go on sale.

Well, This Sucks


I’ve been listening to a lot of Japanese music lately at work courtesy of J1 Radio, in particular their Gold channel which plays some really, really good oldies. No translation needed; the music alone is fantastic.

Although I have to admit that a lot of words are becoming more familiar to me, like “toki doki” (sometimes), “watashi” (I), and “kawaii” (cute). Anyway…

When I hear a song I really like, I’ve gotten into the habit of copying-and-pasting the artist and song title into an email draft and at the end of the day (or couple of days, depending on how well I can manage the list), sending it to my personal address.

From there, I’ll look them up on the YouTube and add them to a playlist. But therein lies the problem.

The issue I was having is that the songs were presented on J1 in Romaji, or the Romanization of the Japanese syllabary.

Example: searching for Mayuzumi Jun “Tenshi no Yuwaku” — my current song obsession — might only yield a few results because most users would have uploaded the video in its traditional Japanese using the combination of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

In short, this: 使の誘惑 黛ジュン

Here’s the song and oh, it’s a good one. It’s been stuck in my head for a while and the video is so freaking retro it kills me.

But here, finally, was the problem. Many searches returned absolutely nothing when using Romaji and being I’m not fluent in Japanese nor would have any clue on how to translate the title properly, there was no hope for some of the songs I wanted to find and add to my ever-expanding “Japanese Classics” playlist.

What a bummer.

But today at work I accidentally found the solution to my problem. The site has a page where you can request a song and of course with that, you’d have to know the artist and/or title. What I discovered was that they maintain an A-Z database of artists they play on the station. So if I were to request the song above, I’d look up the singer’s name under the M category. All of her songs J1 plays would be listed under her name.

So I did just that. I found her along with her name and the song title in proper Japanese characters. But being I already had it on my playlist, I opted to search for one that I couldn’t find on the YouTube using Romaji.

I picked one I know I couldn’t find with Romaji, copied the Japanese title, and searched for it on the YouTube.

BINGO. Found. Then I tried another. BOOM. Score.

This was becoming all too easy and I was happy. I added those few I had found to my playlist and couldn’t wait to go home when until I finally had some quiet time in the evening to finish up my search.

With the kid to bed at 9pm, it was time to look at those emails and apply my new-found method of searching so that I could a) finally add them and b) have a good ol’ time doing it.

I had just started to read one of the emails and began seaching, adding whichever version of the song(s) I preferred to my playlist since I was now getting multiple results for each song. I would have been there all night doing it if it were my choice.

And it was all going so well…before the site went down for maintenance and, as of this post, is still down.

(UPDATE 5/7/16: it was back this morning. Yay!)

Grrrrr. So just when things were falling into place, I get shot down. Hopefully it goes back online real soon so I can continue my searching.

At least this little unexpected outage gave me time to write and less time on Facebook which I’m trying to avoid again. Less time on Facebook has also given me time in the evening to workout and study Spanish so it’s definitely working out.

And if I keep up all this working out, I’ll have to expand my Workout Playlist. After all, who wouldn’t want to workout to “Sexual Violet No. 1”?

I know I would!