02nd May2010

DC Comic-Con: Well, There’s Always Next Year…

by Will

So, today marked the 1st (annual?) DC Comic-Con. However, in this case, “DC” meant “Northern Virginia”, and “Comic-Con” meant “church bazaar”. I really had high hopes for this show. Established as a joint effort between Baltimore Comic-Con creator Marc Nathan, and the Laughing Ogre chain of stores, the show was poised to give the DC-Metro Area its first taste of a somewhat “official” comic book convention. Considering how great the Baltimore show has become over the years, this venture held a lot of promise. Unfortunately, something went wrong between idea and execution.

Now, I was actually supposed to volunteer for the show, as I first learned about it when I was in Marc’s store a few months back. He had a really good idea: he was already hosting a Free Comic Book Day signing in his store, so he figured he would just offer those guests an extra night’s hotel stay, and have them as his guests for the show. On top of that, he was going to make sure that all of the local shops had flyers available on FCBD, so that he could take advantage of the newcomers who might be flocking to stores. Considering his guest list was going to include Frank Cho (Ultimate Avengers 2, Liberty Meadows), JG Jones (52, Marvel Boy), Jo Chen (Buffy Season 8 covers), and others, it sounded like it couldn’t fail. Of course I wanted to be on board with that! He told me to show up early, and he’d put me to work. Well, fast forward to this morning, as I didn’t get to sleep until 7 AM because I’d been up working on restoring older entries to the site (I’ll explain that situation in another post). So, considering I wasn’t getting to sleep until about 3 hours before the show started, I simply muttered “Fuck that noise”, and went to sleep.

Over the past few days, I guess I lost most of my interest in the show when it didn’t seem like anyone really knew about the thing. I was in a comic shop yesterday, where I overheard someone talking about it, but their account of the thing was riddled with misinformation. On top of it, these were the retailers, themselves, and not just some fanboys standing around. So, it was becoming apparent that those flyers hadn’t made the rounds as planned. Also, the website was only updated intermittently. By Thursday, in total, there had only been about 5 update posts – none of which contained any major information, outside of the list of creators who’d be present. The only show-exclusive item was a variant cover of Witchblade, which would benefit the Hero Initiative. That’s good for the Hero Initiative, but the whole “Show Exclusives” part of the site looked pretty sad, as nothing else was being listed alongside it. It’s almost like, “Why bother?”

The worst crime of the site, however, was that it didn’t even list information pertaining to the price of regular admission. It stated that tickets would be available at the door, and not in advance (unlike the Baltimore show). Also, admission would be $5 IF you signed up for the e-mail newsletter. What if I don’t want to sign up? Well, there’s no information for that scenario. Guess I would just have to find out at the door…

So, I woke up around 11:30, and really debated whether or not I wanted to even bother with it. I had told Marc I’d volunteer, but it’s not like he really cared. He’d be OK. The main thing, though, was that I didn’t really know how to get to George Mason University. Sure, there’s Mapquest, GPS, and all that, but I hate the thought of trying to navigate a college campus. Cornell was basically the entire town of Ithaca. I knew GMU wasn’t that big, but I didn’t want to waste most of the day wandering around aimlessly. I checked the con’s site, only to see that they had uploaded a map of the campus, showing the location of the show, as well as the lot (Lot A) which was the only one open to con guests. Nice of them to post this…on May 1st. Yeah, they did it yesterday. The day before the show.

Honestly, though, I really just wanted to go so that I could finally meet one of my twitter pals. He’s one of the few people I can actually have a tweetversation with, and I think he’d be a cool “real life” friend. I knew he was making the trip from Baltimore, so if he could do that, then I could suck it up and drive to VA.

I headed down to GMU, but I was looking at the map on my phone, as I didn’t have the chance to print it. The Zoom option didn’t want to work, so I was flying blind. Once on campus, I couldn’t, for the life of me, find Lot A. Driving around Patriot Circle, the signs about the show/lot simply ran out. I ended up parking in the lot for a shopping center across the street from the campus. I didn’t want to risk tickets/towing by parking in the wrong campus lot, and I don’t mind walking. If I had found Lot A, it would’ve been a “5-10 minute walk” to the show. I’m not sure if that estimate was for the “normal” person, or for us geek types, who don’t have much in the way of cardio training.

I wandered through campus a bit, and actually walked past Lot A. It wasn’t much closer than the shopping center, so I didn’t feel too bad about my choice. Since the main campus seems to be configured in the middle of a circle, it wasn’t too hard to figure out the general direction of central campus. That said, all of the buildings, while nice and new, all pretty much look the same. Every now and then, I’d see a fat kid carrying a bag of comics, coming from the general direction in which I was headed, so that was an encouraging sign. Eventually, I just had to suck it up, and ask some kid where the Student Union was. Luckily, it was right around the corner from where I was. Keep in mind, this whole walk, which was in the CORRECT direction, contained NO signage to imply that I was headed in the right direction. I couldn’t have been the only one to experience this. Sadly, I arrived just in time to receive a tweet saying that my twitter pal had just left.

Anyway, once at the student union, there was nothing outside to indicate what was going on inside. No “DC Comic-Con Here!” sign. The only clue was that there were more slovenly kids with bags of comics, and a line at the ATM. Once inside, I realized that it wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Admission turned out to be $5, so I guess the newsletter tactic was a bust. The problem was that, after I paid the money, the guy manning the table was more concerned with me filling out a raffle ticket than with giving me my wristband. People were bunching up around me, so once I was done, his partner tried to charge me another $5 before he’d give me the wristband. I told him I’d already paid, and the 1st guy co-signed it, so I got my wristband. That’s when I entered the “ballroom” where the show was being held…

You know your grandma’s church? The one that’s old and drab ’cause only old people attend? The one where they hold bazaars in the drab auditorium? The same auditorium which has a stage up front, as they sometimes use it to present the Christmas Cantata? Well, that’s exactly what this venue was like. It had a very “flea market” vibe to it. The entire room was filled with vendor tables, while something seemed to be happening onstage. I started to make the loop, but people were just in the way. This is a common problem with conventions, as everybody wants to bodyblock the longboxes until they’re done looking through them – very territorial.

As I’m walking through, I realize I recognize a lot of the vendors. After all, I used to frequent those little comic shows they hold at the Crowne Plaza in Tysons. Yup, there was the guy with one arm. There was the jerk from Columbia. There was the dude who always gives me the stink eye. The gang was all there. As I continued around, something became VERY apparent to me: the vendors had only brought their older comics OR their junk. So, if you were new to comics, your only options were overpriced yellowed books from the ’70s or a bunch of $1 bin books from the mid ’90s. I was kind of offended by this, as it implied that none of the vendors had taken the show seriously. Just as the place looked like a church bazaar, they were treating it as one. As I walked around, I overheard a lot of grumbling amongst the vendors, as the show clearly hadn’t met their expectations. Now, I’m not sure if they were unhappy with the turnout, or the lack of sales, but I have to lay some of the blame on the vendors themselves. Outside of the shitload of unnecessary Deadpool variant covers released over the last few months, the vast majority of vendors didn’t have any books published within the last five years. On top of that, it was a great show for anyone looking for cheap trade paperback collections, but the single comic offerings were piss poor. One guy was selling “new comics”, one of which was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that came out six months ago. Now, considering that series comes out thrice-monthly, that book is basically a year and a half old, when compared to other comics. That’s not NEW.

I made about 5 loops around the room, and couldn’t find ANYTHING on which I wanted to spend money. It was all junk. Hell, I was so disgusted that I passed up the FCBD books that some guy had leftover from yesterday. I bought the DC Comic-Con exclusive Witchblade because it was the show’s ONLY exclusive, and I wanted to have proof of the show’s existence in case it’s never held again. It helped out the Hero Initiative, though I’ve never exactly been sold on that organization (look up its guidelines some time – there’s a a VERY narrow pool of creators who even qualify for its assistance).

The saddest part of the convention was the lone Joker who was skulking around the show floor. This dude looked terrible! I mean, his costume was good, but he just looked depressed, and I’m not sure if it was part of his cosplay. I think he just felt out of place, as he was the ONLY one in cosplay that I saw. They were granting free admission to anyone who showed up in full costume, but he’s the only one who looked like he may have taken advantage of that offer. In any case, I eventually saw him hiding behind a pillar, fervently texting someone. Maybe he was asking Batman to come and take him back to Arkham. After all, that HAD to be a better option than where he was at the moment!

Oh, remember the commotion onstage? Well, that’s where those big name creators were set up. It was so awkward, however, as they were elevated over the rest of the show floor. To add to that, any fans wishing to get signatures & sketches had to wait off to the side of the stage. When it was their turn, they went up, as if they were about to receive a diploma. I’m being overly dramatic, but it really looked like an elitist setup, as we were all waiting to “pay tribute”. I already had signatures from all of them, so I didn’t even give it a second thought.

While on Loop #5, I noticed one vendor, who also happened to be the only vendor who was even remotely friendly to me, had a bunch of old toys for sale. Really old toys. That’s when I saw them: the Hasbro figures from the Stargate movie. Kurt Russell as Jack O’Neill, James Spader as Daniel Jackson, and nary a trace of likeness rights between them. Despite looking nothing like the actors, I LOVE Stargate, and I couldn’t shake a stick at the price tag of $3 each. As I took Daniel and O’Neill to the vendor, he laughed and told me he would cut me a deal for all of them. There were 6 figures, and he said he’d give them to me for half price. Now, I’m normally a sucker for a deal, but I really had no use for Lt. Kawalsky and Horus figures. I mean, Kawalsky looked just like O’Neill, but had a different color shirt, and I don’t care about grunt soldiers from a defunct toy line. I could’ve had them all for about $3 more than I spent, but I just didn’t want more junk in my apartment. I’m gonna hang Daniel and Jack on the wall, like the kitsch that they are. I simply had no use for the others.

IMG00087-20100503-1111_opt

The very second after I completed that transaction, I headed for the door.  I didn’t care about the raffle, or the door prizes, or spending another second in that place. I walked out the door, and didn’t look back.

While I had major problems with the venue, I think my main disappointment came from the fact that I had held such high expectations. It’s really a matter of semantics: this was not a convention, but a show. A comic convention is an experience. There are vendors, panel discussions, and it provides fans with the chance to meet their favorite creators. A comic show, however, is simply about selling. Vendors bring their backstock inventory, and hope to unload some of it to people who are trying to fill holes in their collections. Shows don’t always have guests, and when they do, they don’t tend to be “marquee”. This show definitely fit the latter definition. It was geared toward the collector, and the older collector at that. It didn’t serve as a proper introduction for the new fan, nor as encouragement to the casual fan. I’m a collector, and it didn’t even fit my needs, so I’m left to wonder what was the target audience for this show. It’s got some reputable names behind it, so maybe this was a case of “1st year mistakes”. I didn’t exactly have an amazing time, but fanboys are gluttons for punishment, so I’m not giving up on it completely. After all, there’s always next year…

08th Dec2009

All I Want For Christmas Is A New Christmas Song…And An End To Jason Derulo

by Will

“And there ain’t no nothin’ we can’t love each other through”

(The following is a post that I wrote for TGRIOnline.com, my friend, Marcus’s culture blog)

Christmas songs. I know this is a bit of a hipster blog, so y’all might not be into the Christmas thing so much, but it’s hard to ignore at this time of year. There’s a constant race to see which radio station flips to the all-Christmas format first. Locally, that honor always goes to 97.1 WASH. They used to wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but it has gotten earlier and earlier in recent years. This year, WASH flipped formats on November 20th. At this rate, they’ll be flipping the day after Halloween by 2015 (that is, if the Mayan Armageddon doesn’t get us first).

When it comes to Christmas songs, I’m always surprised by how hard it is for new songs to gain acceptance. Sure, if you write a song about trees and family and snow, you can pretty much call it a “Christmas song”, but the public isn’t going to necessarily accept it. When you really break it down, there are really only about 25 different Christmas songs. The boyband du jour or some New Age artist might try to introduce something new, but when it comes down to it, people only want to hear those 25 prime songs (No, I’m not going to list them – you know the ones), which have been recorded and re-recorded by every artist under the sun. They’re mainly broken down into 2 categories: The Jesus Saga (Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, etc) and Secular Funnies (Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer, The 12 Days of Christmas, etc). That first category is pretty locked up – there are no more angles of The Jesus Saga left to explore, unless someone comes up with a song about aliens who watched the whole thing unfold. Even then, I think the Bible Belt would put that into the Secular Funnies category. If you want to break into the Christmas music scene, Secular Funnies is the category to aim for. The most recent Christmas song to really have any staying power is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, and that was in 1994. Do you realize how long ago that was? That was like 4 Cher Farewell Tours ago! THAT’s how hard it is to make your dent on the holiday season.

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with Christmas songs. You see, growing up, I used to LOVE the season. My birthday is December 23rd, which was just far enough away from the 25th that I didn’t necessarily suffer from the 1-gift-for-2-occasions screwjob. I always considered my birthday to be the “day that we celebrated the magical birth of the baby Will”. And then, 2 days later, Jesus got his day, which also meant presents for the aforementioned Will. I milked that Santa train WAY longer than a sane person should, but my family thought it was cute, and it ensured maximum giftage. So, considering I felt the entire season was my own personal holiday, the soundtrack of carols and songs really contributed to the mood of things. Then, college happened.

In college, I was not what you might call a “model student”. Whenever pe
ople ask what I studied, I sometimes answer “I majored in a cappella”. That was what made me feel popular, and that’s where I had most of my friendships. So, I didn’t do the class/homework thing so well. I usually coasted along through a semester, and then not failing the class would hinge upon me not failing the final. I went to a competitive-ass school, so it’s not like there was a studying montage, and all of a sudden I had an A in the class. I usually gave up sleep, bathing, and my sanity for the better part of 2 weeks. I experienced stress I’d never felt before, because my entire future was hinging on this degree. How was I gonna be “not like all the others” if I didn’t graduate?! What would I do?!!! One year, I even pulled an all-weeker – I believe that we’re all given a set amount of all-nighters that we can endure in a lifetime, and I used up the balance of mine during a finals week. When the nosebleeds started for no reason, I knew that it was “Houston, we have a problem” time.


Anyway, throughout all of this uncivilized behavior, my soundtrack was Christmas music. I was trying to remind myself of the good aspects of the season, and all of the things I would experience after the finals, once I got back to Maryland. That stopped really working around Junior year. Then, a strange, Pavlovian thing took place – instead of helping me forget about the stress, the songs became synonymous with it. Now, when I hear those songs, it all comes rushing back. “Oh Holy Night” – walking home from the library, through the snow, at 1 AM. “The Grinch” – somehow tanking that Human Sexuality final (don’t worry, ladies – everything’s in order now *wink*). “Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer” – those aforementioned nosebleeds.

This is why I’m so interested in Christmas songs. I NEED new Christmas songs! Those old ones are tainted as Hell. I need something to come and take the pain away. I ca
n’t keep reliving that trauma every damn year for the rest of my life. The only thing that saved that Mariah Carey song is that I love the shit out of Love Actually. So, I’m appealing to you, the hipster crowd, to save my life and record a Christmas song! That’s what was missing on Wale’s album: It could’ve been called “Under The Tree in the DMV”. Somebody get his people on the phone for me!

I ran long this time around, so I’ve only got one pop thing on my mind at the moment: Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say”. First of all, I fucking HATE how he just liberally samples Imogen Heap’s “Hide & Seek”. It’s so much of a sample, that he might as well have released it as “Jason DeRulo, feat Imogen Heap”. The main thing that gets me, though, are the lyrics. Yeah, I know in the past that I said I wasn’t a lyrics guy, but these just hit me over the head with a club. So, let me get this straight: he cheated on his girl, and now he’s apologizing, and promising her that he’ll take care of her when his career blows up. REALLY?


Dear Mystery Girl In The Song (and for you teenyboppers
listening):
DO
NOT TAKE HIM BACK. Right now, he’s a nobody and he cheated on you. You know who it was? It was that bitch, Sharonda, who works at the CVS on Saturdays. You know, the one who’s always chewing the gum! You knew she was acting like a bitch when you went in there for your relaxer. That bitch is fucking yo’ man! But get this, that mu’fucka’s only sorry he got caught. You really think he’s gonna take care of you when he becomes a star? Do you realize what kinda pussy he’s gonna be able to get THEN? Run, gurl! I don’t think you got nothin’ to worry about, though, ’cause that nigga can’t even write a whole song of his own. You do you, gurl!

Peace, Love, and String Cheese,
Will

30th Apr2008

Possible Boyband Revival, Chris Brown, and Last Call

by Will

“Fat people are harder to kidnap”

Can you feel it in the air? It’s coming! What, pray tell? The Boyband Revival!

If you remember, these fads occur in cycles. Around 1986, we had New Kids on the Block. They lasted for about 4 years and it fell apart. Then, around ’96, Backstreet Boys finally hit it big (after a false start in ’94 – the world wasn’t ready yet), followed by ‘NSYNC, with both groups tearin’ up the charts and our hearts. While they were on top, a few New Kids came back (Joey, Jordan), while the main boybanders begat a slew of imitators (O-Town, 911, SoulDecision, Youngstown, LMNT, Natural, 5ive, Take 5, C-Note and the list goes on and on). Now, here we are, in 2008, and we’ve got the return of NKOTB, rumors of a 5ive reunion across the pond, and this little tidbit I found today:

http://www.myspace.com/bandemoniumtour

That’s right, boyband manager extraordinaire, Johnny Wright, is at it again with BANDEMONIUM, a national tour featuring Menudo, NLT, Glowb and V Factory (God, I hope V Factor is comprised of a bunch of virgins – what a clever gimmick!). The only recognizable group is Menudo, and that’s because of that craptacular Making-the-Band style show on MTV last year where the group was created. This kind of event, however, is how Backstreet Boys got big. Lou Pearlman held a bunch of Transcontinental Records showcases, and this propelled the Backstreet Boys to international stardom. Sure, there were other groups (Solid HarmoniE, LFO, Innosense – if you ever want to see all of Lou’s acts in one place, track down a DVD copy of Longshot, as it was part of their contracts to appear in some way, shape or form) but they had to fail so that BSB could succeed. Out of these 4 boybands listed for Bandemonium, 3 of them ain’t gonna make it. But I can feel it in the air: bubblegum pop is almost back, and I couldn’t be happier! The Jonas Brothers just kind of reopened the door: the boyband that plays their own instruments. Pretty soon, though, the “Hannah Montana Generation” is going to demand choreographed dancing, frosted tips, and Burger King CD giveaways. It’ll be great to hear something not produced by Timbaland, and not featuring T-Pain or Akon. And, oh, what a glorious day that will be!

What is with “Love In This Club Pt II”? They took a hot song and just made it boring. Did Beyonce really need to be invited to this party?

Has anyone seen the video for Jordin Sparks’s “No Air”? What is that all about? She & Chris Brown would have air if they weren’t wasting it, screaming at each other! He’s right in front of you, in that hoodie he always wears. What are you screaming about, Jordin? Stop yelling in Chris Brown’s face like that!

Speaking of Chris Brown, I really like that dude. I was in JT’s corner, but as his star rose, he got a little too smug for my tastes (plus, it didn’t help that he slept with every woman on the average male’s “dream list”). Chris, on the other hand, seems so down-to-earth, even in spite the neck tattoo and that hoodie he never takes off. Chris Brown is like your pretty boy cousin that you only see at the family reunion. His mom is going on and on about, “Chris just made the basketball team”, and your aunt comes in and says something like, “Mmm, that boy is gonna be a heartbreaker, with his good-lookin’ self!” And Chris just smiles and says something like, “Well, you know…” And you sit there, thinking, “I wish someone thought I was a heartbreaker…”

I thought Chris had a new track until I found out it was Jesse McCartney. Anybody heard “Leavin'” yet? I’ve got to give it to Jesse – he took his “beautiful soul” underground for a few years, and I really think it helped his creativity. Well, that and puberty. A lot of people don’t realize he wrote Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love”, collaborating with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (sidenote: I really think Ryan Tedder’s going to be the David Foster of our generation. He’s just getting started, and he’s going to be prolific as Hell!). Jesse’s releasing his version as a hidden track on his new CD, Departure. Having heard his version, I’ll say it’s different, but I still like it. Leona simply sells the vocals, while Jesse sells the lyrics.

How is Chloe Lattanzi still on Rock the Cradle? Seriously, who is she pleasuring with those amazing lips of hers?

Still not watching Idol, but I caught the mp3 of David Cook’s “Always Be My Baby”. That’s gotta be the best reinterpretation of a song since Clapton’s unplugged “Layla”. Yeah, it’s that good.

In closing, I spent last weekend @ Cornell, taking in the spring show of my boys, my family, Last Call. When I was in that group, it was always my hope to go down in history as, maybe, one of the Top 20 soloists in LC. Unfortunately for me, the group just gets better and better, quickly knocking me off that list. I shall one day simply be a footnote in their existence. Maybe I’ll make the list for Top 20 Black soloists in LC. Either way, I’m proud of them, as they truly kick ass. I’ve got to say, though, nothing wakes you up quite like this quote, which was said to me at the afterparty: “Oh my God, I had such a crush on you when I was twelve.” Yeah, apparently, I’m that old now…

29th Jan2007

My Life, In Watches

by Will

“But we’ve just lost the beat.”

I’ve always had a thing for watches. Carrie Bradshaw has her Manolo’s, and I’ve got whatever Fossil/Casio/Timex catches my eye. Sure, we’re talking low price points here, but that’s how I roll.

Now, as far back as I can remember, I was into watches. When I was 2, Mommy bought me a Ronald McDonald watch. I had some sort of tantrum, and destroyed in the foyer of our house. When she questioned me about it, all I could say was, “Well, he was fat, anyway.” She vowed not to buy me a new watch, but I had a Michael Jackson watch soon afterwards.

After Daddy died, I had a Knight Rider watch. Man, did I love that watch. If I remember correctly, it didn’t even tell time. It was fake and plastic, but it had a picture of K.I.T.T. inside, and that’s all I needed.

Recently, I’ve come to notice that I get new watches to signify new phases in my life. For some miraculous reason, it becomes “new watch time” whenever there’s a sort of shift in the things in my life. Now, sometimes “new watch time” is signalled by a dead battery. Let me let you in on a little secret: I don’t change watch batteries. I just buy a new watch. So far, the batteries have lasted for years, and they tend to die at just the right time.

In middle school, I had my Radio Shack calculator watch. Yup, I was THAT kid. But I loved that watch, with its calendar function and “deet-deet” alarm. I was a geek, but I didn’t care. At that point, I didn’t much care what people thought of me because I knew I was kind of weird and I was fine with that. I was my own best friend and I had my imagination to keep me company.

In high school, I went through several different watches, mainly because none of them really held much meaning for me. I was trying to settle on watches as I tried to figure out who I was. Honestly, though, high school was NOT this time of angst that people make it out to be. In all truth, I expected it to be like ‘Saved by the Bell”, and was disappointed when it was NOT like that. Either way, I didn’t have the growing pains of not being asked to dances, or learning to drive. Life is like the lottery: you’ve gotta be in it to win it, and I decided to sit it out. My high school weekends involved me watching tapes of pre-recorded TNBC while talking on the phone to my friends while they were out living their lives.

In college, I had 2 watches that come to mind. When I first went to school, I had this really bootleg musical watch that Mommy really pushed on me at City Place. Now, I liked the watch and all, but it had a big G clef on the face, and little notes for each hour. I was emerging from a few years playing piano, and it was pre-a cappella. If anything, I was in my musical theatre phase. The watch, though it sounds kinda gay, was actually nice. The downside, though, was that I felt a musical watch should PLAY music. It didn’t have a little song, so I felt gypped. Anyway, I got the watch and wore the HELL out of it. By Christmas (maybe 6 months after buying it), the band had worn off (thanks City Place!).

I came home for Christmas, and Mommy bought me a Relic watch from JC Penney. “Relic” was basically a generic “Fossil”, but it was a beautiful watch. Oddly enough, it had a blueish-green face which matched the stone in my class ring. It was like my accessories had been destined to be together. It’s funny because we HATE Penney’s, but sometimes what you’re looking for is where you least expect it. Anyway, I wore that watch for the rest of Cornell and through graduation. In fact, I wore it up until about 6 months ago.

Now, a few people might know this, but 2004 was pretty rough for me. In a LOT of ways. Hell, you can go back and read the archives. Sometimes, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Anyway, I was working at H&M and it’s a freaky place. It’s not simply retail, but instead it’s this weird, neo-hippy, bohemian enclave that happens to sell clothes. I decided , “Hey, I’m gonna ride this opportunity til the wheels fall off”, so I started crafting “H&M Will”. Part of that involved a Fossil leather cuff watch. Now, I never would’ve looked twice at the thing 4 years ago, but at this point, I felt it would complete the ensemble. Several returns, fitting room shifts, and gay bars later, I realized that I didn’t really like that world so much. Plus, I felt it was a lesson that I shouldn’t have traded up watches “before it was time”.

Unfortunately, while lost in the world of leather, my pretty, blueish Relic died on me. It died on me when I needed it most. I was working in the illustrious commercial real estate industry as the world’s worst telemarketer. I didn’t know how I got there, nor did I know how to get out. Everything was changing around me, but I felt stuck. And my accessories didn’t match anymore. The high school ring had given way to the Cornell ring. For some reason, I decided that I didn’t like the traditional A.D White ring and designed my own, with black onyx. It had always clashed with the pretty watch, but it went quite well with the leather cuff. And that didn’t sit right with me. I always wanted to have class, be a little GQ, but now I felt very “gloryhole”. And it didn’t help that I didn’t know what I wanted to be or how to get there.

Finally, prayers were answered, and “it was time”. Not only did I gain my emancipation, but I also fell into my dream industry: comics. As a brand manager, I would have to be a figurehead at cons and whatnot, and there’s a certain emphasis on appearance. Suddenly, I knew it was time to do something about the leather cuff. I wasn’t really that person anymore, nor did I want to be. Right before my birthday, I was looking through a magazine, and I fell in love. Right there, I saw a attractive, black Fossil with a diamond at 12 o’clock. No, re-read what I wrote: It was an attractive, black fossil with a diamond at 12 o’clock. For all of you English majors out there, that’s what you call metatext, so I’m not going to ruin your analysis. I had to have it, and actually bought it for myself before buying most of the presents I needed to buy for my family; hey, I’m an only child!

The watchband was actually too large, and I needed to take a few links out for it to fit better. Yesterday, I finally got around to getting the links taken out. It was at that time that I realized I hadn’t really tried the watch on. Sure, I’d sampled it, but what can you tell from that? I was left with the feeling that it was more beautiful, more attractive on paper than on my wrist. Sure, I could grow into it. As Mr. Humphries would say, “It’ll ride up with wear”. Either way, as I sit here typing this, I look down at my attractive, black Fossil with the Diamond at the top, and I wonder if it’s really for me. Maybe it was meant to stay on paper. I hope I don’t come to regret my new watch/phase of life. Regrets…that’s a topic we’ll revisit tomorrow.

02nd Apr2006

University of Oregon Divisi: Best Female Collegiate A Cappella. In the WORLD.

by Will

“We are Divisi, pretending we’re Usher.”

OR

“Everytime I think I’m out…”

So, I just got back from what I will consider a great trip to Ithaca. Reunited with the men of Last Call, visited a REAL Wegmans, and dined with the lovely El. I also had the pleasure of watching possibly the best a cappella group I have ever seen. And get this: they were women! I was really trying to “grow out of a cappella”. Tell myself that those days were over and I should stop caring about bops and d’jims and ziggas. But now I’ve got the itch again.

I wish everyone could have the pleasure of seeing a performance by University of Oregon Divisi. Female a cappella gets a bad wrap for being boring and/or lacking performance. These ladies blow all of those stereotypes out of the water. I have been in this game for awhile, and I’m pretty familiar with what different groups are doing. Not only am I going to say that they are the best female group around, hands down, but they are quite possibly THE best group in the country. Men, women, and coed. You’ve got your ‘Bubs, and Off the Beat, and Everyday People, but a lot of them are living on borrowed time. They built a name for themselves awhile ago, and people still remember those past accomplishments. Hell, I still tell people about The Today Show, and that was 4 years ago. These ladies are totally making a name for themselves today, and it’s hard to believe that they’ve only been around since 2002.

Not only were they incredible performers, but they were cool as shit. Best. Guest.Group.Ever.

So, enough gushing from me because A) I would like to avoid the “So, why are you so obsessed with Divisi?” coming from the missus, and B) I would like to walk away without looking like too much of a stalker.

Anyway, check ’em out for yourselves:

http://www.myspace.com/uodivisi

and

http://www.uodivisi.com

14th Nov2005

Not The Last Time I’ll Mention Ted McGinley…

by Will

“Goddess, NO!”

So, I’m starting to think of myself as the Ted McGinley of blogging. For the uninformed, Ted McGinley is an actor who is referred to as a “show killer”; every time he is added to the cast of a show, it ends up getting canceled. The main exception to this is “Married…with Children”, where he played Jefferson Darcy for about 9 years. Prior to that, he had a hand in killing “Happy Days” and “The Love Boat”. It’s not his fault, but people seem to think he’s cursed. The same goes for the lovely Rena Sofer and Carla Guigino.

Either way, whenever I comment on someone’s blog, I kill the thread. Sometimes, I kill the blog entirely. There’s a site out there called “Ithaca Has Gorges”. It was created by some people I know from Cornell, and I found them through a random, boring afternoon online. Anyway, while they hadn’t been online long, they’d prolific in a short span of time. I commented about how glad I was to find them online, and then nothing. Nothing which lasted for about 2 months. They finally posted again 2 weeks ago, but it still seems like they’re on life support.

This is only one example, but I have had this happen many times. And all I’m trying to do is cultivate e-friendships. Listen to me, I’m like Casper, the Friendly Ghost over here!

06th Oct2005

Runaway – Hong Tat Tong (feat Will West)

by Will

“It’s so hard, to say goodbye…”

So, without much fanfare, I announce my retirement from the recording game. Sure, this doesn’t mean retirement from music, per se, but it does signal the end of the recording. I wouldn’t close the door on the possibility of a comeback, but for now I believe I will focus on other projects. I will continue to tour the country, possibly at a karaoke bar near you, but the recordings will cease for the foreseeable future.

With that, I leave you with my final track. It’s actually more of a “Hong Tat Tong, featuring Will West” track, but it’s me, and it’s recorded. It’s a different sound than you’re used to from me. I tackle that R&B genre, with mixed results. I’m happy to have a new track, but when you hear this, you won’t miss me much. Trust me. So, fill your ipods with the old stuff, and remember to tell your grandkids about the days when you could easily download the latest Will West track off the i-net. Yup, this is that monumental. Anyway, snatch it while you can, ’cause I don’t know how long this site will be up:

http://box.net/public/t2/files/751820.html

06th Oct2005

Cornell’s Sorority System, Described Using Celebrities du Jour

by Will

“I’m not above putting out for cash!”

So, to show you just how bored I tend to get at work, the following is a little project I gave myself the other day. With the help of my good web friend, Wikipedia , I set out to take a trip down Cornell memory lane. While doing this, I began to think of the fun times, the party times. And sometimes these involved crashing some kind of Greek mixer. In fact, I remember a Sig Ep/Kappa Delta mixer where the guys spent most of the evening sneering and me and Lip from the staircase as we took over the party. You know it was a lame party if Lip and I were the main event, but that was what happened some cold nights in Ithaca.

Anyway, while looking back, I began to remember the distinct personalities of the houses. There are different frats (yeah, yeah, “You wouldn’t call your country…”) and sororities because they’re all into different things. Yes, kids, it’s the high school cafeteria all over again. So, instead of trying to describe these different social mindsets, I decided to use examples instead. Yup, I went through all of the sororities on Cornell’s campus, and then found an actual celebrity alumnae from those specific houses, some Cornell alums, some alums of other schools, that best illustrate the general “theme” of the house. By “theme”, I’m basing it upon looks and personality. You may find some of these to be harsh. You may find some to be spot on. But all I can promise is that this is one guy’s Cornell-centric opinion, and these are all true alums of the houses. And if you don’t know a particular name, don’t be afraid to Google that mofo. So, away we go!

UPDATE: I simply love commentary too much to list names without explanation. Let’s see how much I can offend some people…

Delta Gamma – Ann Coulter
Bunch of blond, rich, White Republican girls. In my best James Lamb voice, “They wanted nothing to do with me.”

Chi Omega – Joyce DeWitt
Sure, in the South, “Chi Ho” is the shizzle, but not where I’m from. On the hill, this house is nothing but a breeding ground of “Janets” for the rest of the world’s “Chrissies”.

Pi Beta Phi – Jennifer Garner
Hottie hot-hot sporty spicers. You want a hot chick who could also take you down in a fight? This is your house. Buyer beware, some of them are “beautifully musculine”. Just sayin’…Anyway, I like to refer to this as The House of Tarek.

Kappa Delta – Ellen Dow
Sure, they all mean well, but…

Delta Delta Delta – Katie Couric
Cute, but deadly. Unassuming, but that’s just what they want you to think. Sleep with one eye open.

Kappa Alpha Theta – Jenna Von Oy
Ahh…Theta. Now, this was a house of those “rough around the edges” chicks where you have to ask, “Are you SURE you wanna be in a sorority?”

Alpha Phi- Kimberly Williams
She’s got the look. Nanananana, nanananananana, nanananana!!!! In all seriousness, this was the best house of groupies EVER. I mean, these girls ate, slept, and breathed a cappella. Sure, it was a Hangover house, but that seemed to change over time…

Kappa Kappa Gamma – Sophia Bush
Every girl in Kappa looks like this girl. And they all work for Morgan Stanley. They will stab you in the back if there’s an internship in it for them. Sounds like some kind of “One Tree Hill” plotline. In fact, I can’t look at any of them anymore without Gavin DeGraw popping into my head…

Alpha Chi Omega – Dawn Wells
The girl who used to be cute and sweet during orientation who’s now cute and a bitch. Wow, it’s amazing how Rush can change a person. Plus, y’all know that Ginger was the movie star, but Mary Ann HAD to have a chip on her shoulder!

Sigma Delta Tau – Joan Rivers
A bunch of loud Jewish girls. Yeah, I said it. And I loved how all their sweaters and crap said “EAT”.

Alpha Omicron Pi – Courtney Kupets
A bunch of girls with NOTHING in common who really just wanted to tell their friends back home that they were in a sorority. Honestly, you couldn’t find a larger, more motley group. These girls had NO business being together, as they were all gymnasts or ecologists looking for something to do over breaks…

Wow, this post came off really bitter, like they all rejected me or something. Nothing could be further from the truth. In all honesty, the Greek thing wasn’t really my scene. We did the parties when we had jack nothing else to do. But these were my observations from our “away team” missions. Anyway, it’s not like anybody from these houses is even gonna see this post…

22nd Sep2005

The Lost Adventures: The Lion King Audition

by Will


“I’m me again, baby! I’m back!”

So, where have I been? “We’ve been waiting a whole month for Post #450,” you say. Well, I had it all plannned out. If comics have taught me anything, it’s that round numbers, such as 450, equate a special occasion. Sure, you could say that I should’ve reached #450 over a year ago if I’d been posting everyday like other good bloggers, but I digress. In any regard, an event like this usually involves a new headquarters, a new status quo, a back-up story, and a death. I was really gonna WOW ya, but something was missing. Most of the components were in place, save one. It’s funny how life works sometimes…

Originally, I was going to use this post to debut the reason behind my recent lack of funds. That’s right, you were going to see the new West Lair! I got an apartment. Finally, I can get out of this Negroid Golden Girls lifestyle I’ve had to endure for the past 2 years. At last, I would have a place of my own, where I could hide from the discussions of Ben-Gay and Old Testament God vs. New Testament God. I would have my Fortress of Solitude.

Anyway, I signed the lease back on September 1st, and I was gonna move in Labor Day weekend. My Cousin Joe was gonna help me, mainly ’cause he had a pickup truck. Now, few of you have been to a West family function, but those of you who have (Tarek), have surely met my Cousin Joe. He’s basically like a brother to my mom (first person with the Southern incest jokes gets it!), and he’s one of the few father figures I’ve had in my life.

So, Cousin Joe was all set to help me move, but come Saturday morning, I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t packed up a thing, and I had no desire to rush crap into a box. So, I called Joe to tell him not to worry about me; we’d do it next weekend. He wasn’t there, so his wife, Rose, said she’d give him the message.

Fast-forward to about 3 hrs later: we get a call from Rose saying that Joe had been rushed to Washington Hospital Center. The Golden Girls jump into action, and we make our way down to the hospital. Turns out, Cousin Joe was washing his truck and had a massive heart attack. We were in that hospital all night, from 5 PM Saturday to 11 AM Sunday morning. The staff tried to brace us for the worst, but nobody wanted to hear it. Cousin Joe passed away Sunday morning. I still haven’t moved.

Since then, time has been wrapped up with funeral arrangements, as well as life’s other little dramas. The family hasn’t been taking it so well, and I can only think, “So, it begins.” You see, Joe was a year younger than my mother. I always felt that when the dying started, it would be like a domino effect. These people have been together all of their lives. They grew up together, moved north from Alabama together, and they don’t know how yo be apart. I fear it’s like when a husband dies, and his wife dies 6 months later. It’s a cohort effect, and Joe fired the opening salvo. Selfish, I know, but all I find I can be lately is selfish. I guess it’s my defense mechanism. I keep thinking how close I was to witnessing the heart attack. Had I not called, he might have had the heart attack WITH me, while moving MY crap. I don’t know if I could’ve handled that. No hyperbole there, I truly don’t think I could have held it together had that scenario transpired.

But here I am. I’m still alive, and I guess I’ve got that’s what I’ve got to work with. A lot of people think I’m a pessimist, but I feel it just comes with living with the old folks. Many of you don’t realize it, but I have to worry about things that most people dont even think about until their 40’s. And now I’m more worried about the gals than I have been before. But there’s my milestone post. There’s my death. This is no publicity stunt. He’s not coming back.

Anydangways, I also wanted to give y’all a nice back-up story, A hidden tale that few people know. You see, about a year and a half ago, I took a little blogging hiatus. Prompted by a bunch of personal drama that simply hit the fan, there are about 3 months of my life that went undocumented. One such event, I’ve hinted at, but never fully revealed. You see, right before I started working for H&M, I had delusions of actually continuing the whole singing thing, and I auditioned for the National tour of “The Lion King”.

In my unemployed days, I used to troll the classifieds in the Arts section of the Post, looking for auditions. Since I was still in my “I’m Will West” mindset, most of the community theatre productions were beneath me. I mean, I was THE Black voice of Cornell A Cappella! Cornell! A Cappella! “Today Show”! Surely, that meant something. I would have to wait, until a role came along befitting my stature. One day, I saw it: The Lion King. I mean, besides “Porgy and Bess” or “A Raisin in the Sun”, it’s probably the most sure thing in theatre if you’re Black. And if they aren’t doing colorblind casting!

Since I was days from starting H&M, I figured it was God’s way of saving me from the sad, dreary life of the proletariat. He would deliver me to the stage, to the spotlight that was destined to be mine. I was sure of it. All I needed was the right song. Immediately, I called up my old drama teacher, and we started to brainstorm. She wanted me to do something from when I was Pippin, but that wasn’t enough. She suggested a song from when I was in Hello, Dolly, but I was having none of it. I felt I needed a Disney song, but nothing actually from the Lion King. After all, it’s kinda dick/facetious to go into an audition with an air of “You know that song you guys sing? Well, I sing it better!” Anybody out there who’s sat through people auditioning for them knows exactly what I’m talking about. Finally, I settled on “A Whole New World”. It had been our graduation song (*gag*), but “Aladdin” is the next best thing to “The Lion King”, at least musically. I’d be showing them that I can sing “the Disney way”, without slaughtering one of their signature numbers.

I practiced for a week. I had it down. But the night before the audition, I decided to showboat a little. I realized my sheet music wasn’t in the right key for me, so in order to use it as accompaniment, I’d need to transpose it. Now, we’re gonna get musically technical, so try to bear with me. I downloaded a program, and moved the song to a range that I could sing, both comfortably and well. But when I was done, the song had about 8 accidentals. You know those little “flat” symbols? Yeah, I had 8 of them. But whatever, it’s Disney. They should be able to follow that, right?

When Last Call did the Today Show, it was really hard warming up vocally that early in the morning, so I decided not to sleep. After all, I could sleep after the audition. I spent all night practicing and warming up. Auditions were taking place at Howard University, so I was scared there was gonna be a LOT of competition. I mean, casting the Lion King at Howard is like finding Bush supporters at the 700 Club. I expected PANDEMONIUM, with a hip-hop soundtrack. I figured there would be lines around 12 city blocks, as we all vied for a chance to have our 15 minutes of fame. So, got down there at about 5:30 AM. Auditions started at 10:00. What did I find? Nothing. A whole lotta nothing. Plus, it was February and FREEZING. Plus, security doesn’t like random Black guys hanging around buildings. Even at a Black school! Go figure…

Around 11:00, the Hippie Chick shows up. You know the type. If you’ve ever been in a show, you’ve met her. She’s the girl who’s all about “The the-ah-tur”. You never know when she’s acting and when she’s living. It all blends together in a fake, blah soup. So, apparently, she’s all nervous, ’cause all she does it dinner theatre and she doesn’t know what to expect. Plus, she’s scared of her chances, seeing how it’s a Black show. Man, that was priceless. She was scared that she might face discrimination. I’m not gonna get preachy, ’cause it’s not what I do, but that schadenfraude was just what I needed at the time. Guess I should’ve known what was coming to me.

Soon, other people start to trickle in. You’ve got typical “stage dad” going, “My boy can sing. Watch my boy sing. Do that thing you do, boy!” You’ve got “classically trained Black chick”, who should be doing arias rather than hakuna matata’s. And you’ve got “sad R&B wannabe brother” who really just wishes he’d been in Soul for Real (whatever happened to those fugly Dalrymple boys?). You know the kind: all he can do is wail, but rather than music, what he emits sounds more like what I’d cry if I got my penis caught in my zipper.

And they’re all looking at me, like “Why’d you bring the White girl?” But I DIDN’T! Hippie chick came on her own. Just ’cause we were the first ones there didn’t mean she’s MY fault. Story of my life…

So, they start lining people up, and you’d have thought there were ribs up for grabs or something. Somehow, I actually get to go first, seeing as how some people had vouched for the fact that I’d been the first person there. So, finally, it was the moment of truth.

I walk into the room, and hand my music to the guy at the piano. I warn him about the accidentals, but he doesn’t seem worried. But here’s where I started to worry. He had just sat down as I walked into the room. They were running late, and he’d never even warmed up at the piano. Now, an expert should be able to play on any piano, but it’s still a good idea to get a feel for your instrument prior to performance. So, he starts banging out my music like a retarded kid trying to smash ants. I mean, he wasn’t even near my scale. But I’m just singing away, in MY key, him in another. I tried to give him some death glares, hoping he’d straighten up, but this only mademe look worse. When he was done, I knew I was done. Then, began the Q&A part of our morning.

“So…’William’, what have you done…musically?”

“Well, not much lately. I did a cappella and glee club in colege, but not much since I graduated. Mainly just karaoke hereand there. I’ve been in touch with my old music teacher, and we were going to work on some things.”

“Yeah…well, it might be a good idea to hook up with your ‘music teacher’. You know, to add a little more…technical ability to your…’natural gifts’.

That last line was the one that did it. It was a harsh, modernized, personalized “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

“Well, thank you for the opportunity. *fake smile* It was a really great experience.” And I walked out.

I kinda lingered for awhile, trying to understand what had just happened. I was NOT the best thing since sliced bread. I was NOT as great as I had made myself believe. And I WOULD be reporting to H&M on Monday. But hear me out, it was NOT my fault. Yes, my ego was out of whack, and I was in a bigger pond, but that was NOT my fault. I am my own worst critic, and I RARELY give myself credit. Heck, I never even thought of myself as “Will West”; that’s a caricature that other people had forced on me after concerts and whatnot. But I was ready, as ready as I could ever be, and I sounded GREAT! I wanted it, and I could taste it within my grasp. How it slipped away, I don’t know. Well, I DO know. It was the guy at the piano. But I guess what I will always wonder is “why”. Well, I guess everything happens for a reason, and I don’t have many complaints about the past year. In any regard, I saw the show about 3 weeks ago. It was good. A lot different than the cartoon. But it was nothing to write home about. Just something to blog about, apparently…

Here’s that variant cover. If youve been to James’s site, Jeen’s site, or the site of James’s e-mistress (Oh no he di’nt!), this’ll look familiar. Everybody on the avatar wagon!

avt_wilberforceclayborne_large-797888

10th Aug2005

Stuck: Taking Stock Of Life

by Will

I’m so lost, and I don’t get to show this side of myself often. Most people think of me as the nice, corny guy, but I’ve got the same worries and fears as everyone else. It’s not all shits and giggles for me, but everyone thinks my toys and comics must make me this happy Willy-Wonka-esque character. In all honesty, I’m probably the most neurotic person you’ll meet.

Lately, I’ve been struck by how thin the line is between “pensive” and “lazy”, at least to the observer. My mind runs a mile a minute, wondering and fearing. “Am I making the right choice here?” or “Where will this action take me?” or the ultimate “What was I put on this Earth to do?” But there are SO MANY options! It’s bewildering.

I’ve often said that I wish we lived in the ’50s. Now, that may be an odd statement coming from a Black man, but the Mythical ’50s were such a simpler time. You didn’t go to school to necessarily major in anything. I mean, you’d get your degree, but then you’d get you cookie cutter job that afforded you the 2.5 kids and the house in the suburbs. Sure, there were scientists and the like, but Average Joe had his nondescript job, that he performed every day for about 35 years.

Now, we’ve got SO many choices. Do we choose a field in our major, or our minor? How will our GPA, from 3 years ago, affect this decision? Do we go for the unpredictable private sector, or go for the security of the Federal government? Do we save for a house or a ring? Do I want to start saving for a retirement I’ll probably never see due to my level of stress and freak-outosity, or do I stop hiding from my Federal student loans and actually start paying them back?

I AM thinking and planning, and just because I haven’t settled on anything doesn’t mean that the journey isn’t ongoing. But so many people want to stop me and ask, “What are you doing? What’s your plan?” I’m sorry, but every man in his own time! It’s like there’s a Universal Schedule, and I didn’t get the memo. Once everyone else gets their stuff figured out, then they start worrying about Will. Will wasn’t worrying you when you were distressed. I’m glad you’re going to law school. I’m glad you’re moving to your dream job halfway across the world. Sadly, the timing is not right for me yet. It’s not out of fear. Nor for lack of trying. I am planning, and I’ll let you know when I get there.

So, I’m sorry if I seem flaky or wishy-washy. I’m 23! The same people who like to say, “You’ve got time” are the same ones who forget and ask, “So, what now?” No, I haven’t made up my mind yet because nothing has struck me. I hate to sound all jaded, “looking for inspiration”, but I’m different. I was never the kid who said, “I wanna be a lawyer when i grow up.” Sure, I said that for about a week, but I knew even then that there were many (some might say TOO MANY) options in life. And I’m trying to find my way.

I could go to grad school right now. But I am not passionate enough about any field to make it a worthwhile investment. To go to school right now would just be me postponing the real world, and I realize this. I MISS school. I do. But I also have about $30,000 in loan debt, and I’m not exactly sitting on the goldmine to pay that back anytime soon. Why, oh why, would I go back to school to add to that, possibly in an industry that doesn’t exactly ensure I will be comfortable enough to pay off said debt. Yes, if someone is passionate about something, then they’ll find a way. I can honestly say that i’m not that passionate about it. I’m sorry if that sounds like a cop-out, but I feel it’s me knowing my limits. Yeah, it sucks that I make money so important to the equation, but it is.

I worry more about money with my “real job” than I did at H&M, and I really don’t make much more. I made great money for retail, but average money for “real world”. I’m not struggling, per se. I pay all my bills. But there’s no cushion. I have no comfort zone for a rainy day. Simply living paycheck to paycheck. Now, I realize that MANY people are in this same boat, and I’m nothing special, but I also like to think that they’re worried, too. Sure, they may have found corners to cut and methods for coping, but they’re not just sitting pretty knowing that they may be a couple of sick days away from homelessness. So, with the whole “paycheck from poordom” coupled with the “don’t feel like I’m living up to my potential”, I’ve got a lot on my mind. As I know many of my cohorts are going through the same.

And I HATE the whole “if money weren’t an option, what would be your dream job?” exercise. I’ve never had a “dream job”. My future plans were more personal. I wanted to be a good father and husband. As dumb as that may sound, that’s what was important to me. I really just wanted my cookie-cutter job that allowed me to have that life. I’m sorry if I don’t sound ambitious, but I was never the person who saw happiness as being dependent on a career. I’d like to have a job that I enjoy. Who wouldn’t? But I guess I never really wanted to have a job that consumed my life. Rather, I wanted a life that consumed my job.

So, the next time you see me goofing off, please allow me my fun and understand that it took a lot for me to get there. And if you see me frowning, just know that I really am a good, ambitious person underneath, just trying to sort some stuff out.