Sunday, June 22, 2014

Please Stop...

We had a great vacation last week.

Pennsylvania is lovely and the countryside surrounding the city of Lancaster particularly so. Over the course of seven days, we managed to visit historic Philadelphia, HersheyPark, the Julius Sturgiss Pretzel Factory, Luray Caverns, and we even found time one morning for breakfast at IHOP. Incidentally, blueberry cannoli pancakes should be permanently emblazoned on every IHOP menu from now through the end of eternity. If you haven’t tried them yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

For some reason, the soundtrack to our family “Road” movie included quite a bit of Journey. 

Turn on the radio and there’s “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” Pull into a gas station and get greeted by “Wheel in the Sky” from overhead speakers. Sit down in a restaurant booth and you’re tapping along to “Any Way You Want It” before you consciously acknowledge the song is even playing.

Now, if Journey had never formed as a rock band and later devolved into a lightweight video power ballad band my life wouldn’t be any the lesser for it, but I am not a Journey hater. I don’t hold a grudge against Carlos Santana for suggesting to Neal Schon that he start his own group, and I don’t harbor ill will toward MTV for the thousands of times it replayed the horrifically horrible video for “Separate Ways.” 

I freely admit to enjoying the group’s music. Show me any person in his or her forties who claims to never have attempted to match Steve Perry’s wailing voice in “Faithfully” while sitting alone in a car and I’ll show you a big fat liar.

Regardless of my enjoyment of the bands numerous hits, there was one Journey song that kept popping up round every corner during our trip, most especially during our two days at HersheyPark. You couldn’t hide from it, shut your ears to it, or put it out of your mind because the song, continuing its rise up from the ashes of clich├ęd eighties pop culture, refuses to die.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” -- apart from being one of several song titles that suggest Journey had a passionate distrust of the letter “G” -- is one of the more commercially successful covers by the cast of Glee, a show single-handedly responsible for convincing teens around the globe that all high schools have the budgets and technical ability to stage professionally choreographed karaoke competitions. This has led to all cover bands everywhere, even Death Metal cover bands, adding the song to their portfolios of musical butchery.

There was the Dueling Pianos show at HersheyPark that featured the song. Three talented pianists in bright suits who worked it into their 30-minute performance of piano-based pop tunes. Passable.

Fifty feet away was the all-girl cover band, Patty and the Peppermints, that featured the song. Six or seven young women in dire need of a properly functioning sound board and at least one band member with the ability to tune an instrument. Mildly annoying.

Then there was the roaming street trio that attempted the song. Three aspiringly disengaging waifs with instruments on loan from the Toys ‘R Us throwback collection. Intolerable.

At this point, I’m just happy to be home where I have more direct control over the soundtrack of my life. Until, of course, Our Daughter hops in the shower and cranks up the teenage tunage. What are the chances that’s actually Journey singing "Don't Stop Believin'?"

© 2014 Mark Feggeler

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Mischievous Responder

Some genius recently reported via NPR that teenagers skew important surveys by intentionally providing incorrect answers.

I know what you're thinking: "You listen to NPR?"

They call these lying teenagers "mischievous responders" and say they raise concerns over faulty data and misleading survey results. Apparently, the light bulb went off as early as 2011 when some rocket scientist with a clipboard decided to question not only the veracity of answers provided to a survey on the lives of lesbian and gay teenagers, but also whether or not the kids taking the survey were actually even homosexual.

To me, this is nothing more than one of those monumentally obvious "duh" moments.
  • The McDonald's coffee was hot and burned you? -- Duh.
  • The Outback's Bloomin' Onion appetizer is fattening? -- Duh.
  • The Kardashians are soul-sucking parasites that are 47% responsible for all tabloid sales and 97% responsible for the decline of Western culture? -- Duh.
I turned 46 recently-- unless my parents are a couple of mischievous responders -- and I can honestly say that from the very first time I was ever surveyed to the most recent, I have never completed a survey without either gleefully adding an untruth or knowingly answering a question incorrectly simply because I knew no one would take it seriously. Call me a mischievous responder, or a wisenheimer, or a smart ass if you must, but it isn't my fault. If you're hell-bent on asking me stupid questions, I'm going to dedicate myself to being equally hell-bent on giving you stupid answers.

Plus, it's fun. If you're seriously going to ask my opinion on politics while I'm sucking down Dippin' Dots somewhere between Sbarro and Auntie Anne's Pretzels at the local mall, then you deserve to hear that I don't trust the Affordable Care Act because I think President Obama used to be a Somali pirate. In fact, that kind of canvassing might explain 90% of Fox News coverage.

In fact, I plan to make it my goal to respond more and more mischievously with each future survey I take. I'll go out of my way, time permitting, to seek out people with clipboards in malls and airports just to test my creative skills on the fly. I'll even try to enlist the aide of people around me. The next time you're watching the news, don't be surprised to find out a full thirty percent of Americans believe the Pope is secretly an Islamist extremist in league with Glen Beck to undermine the stock value of Apple.

Anyone interested in starting now? Go ahead. Ask me anything.

2014 Mark Feggeler