Category: Rants

Racist VW ad?

So there’s a TV ad slated for the 2013 Super-Bowl by VW that features a white man from Minnesota with a thick Jamaican accent.

Mainstream Media is asking whether the commercial is racist or not. I have a simple answer to the question: Yes. It’s racist. Clearly. It’s racist against Jamaicans AND white people. It’s also kind of funny. And (in my opinion) utterly harmless.

A white guy from Minnesota with a thick Jamaican accent telling a woman to “Turn her frown upside down” is a ridiculous one. If you’re offended by that, you miss the point entirely.

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Extended School Hours

So there’s all kinds of talk about extended school hours. Some school systems are keeping the students 300 hours longer. Advocates say it’s to keep competitive with other countries. Further advocates claim that in urban environments, students require more support because they’re not getting it at home. Politicians are asking teachers to “suck it up” and do what’s right for the country.

Here’s what I think:

-Our country would certainly benefit from an an improved education system. Money spent in that direction is an investment in our future.

-More hours do not directly directly translate in to better education. For that, you need a circumstance where BOTH student and teacher are equally motivated.

-Simply throwing money at the problem does almost nothing.

-Politicians: Our school system is meant to educate our children. Not to politicize them.

-Administrators: lead from the front.

-Teachers: No-one cares what you know until they know how much you care.

-Parents: invest your time and attention to your children. Expect unreasonable things from them. Make sure they know, every single moment of every day that you believe in them. If you do that, you will change the world.

(insert emotional movie music swell here)

There. I’m done now. Your turn.

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Rant Archive (September 1999)

Telephone Companies

The phrase alone carries enough weight that I might not even have to rant. Maybe All I have to do is use the phrase… (spoken slowly and in an eerie manner…) “Tel-e-phone Com-pan-ies”..

Jeesh. That alone strikes terror in to the faint of heart. I got a bill that was very high. I mean, like “Oh, my God” high. The reason is simple. I didn’t read the fine print. Hence the phone company charged me at the highest possible rate at every turn then add like 75% simply because they can.

Trying to talk to a live voice was a challenge. I don’t know why I am not soothed when I am told how long I have to wait.

I do fantasize sometimes about what the world would be like if people treated corporations the way corporations treat them. Imagine they call to tell you your payment is late. They are first greeted by the “Main Menu”

-”If you want information about Jon, Please enter your password” (of course, there is only one employee who knows the password, and she will be back from vacation in three weeks)

From there is a dizzying array of options and menus. None of which are up to date, or relevant.

“Your call is important to us, please continue to hold. Your call will be answered in 23 minutes”

Of course, the person who actually answers will have no authority whatsoever over my life.

Nor will his “supervisor”. They will be simply in place to deflect my bill collectors.

Ahhhh…. captitalism.

But here is the part that is utterly pricelss. After an unreasonable amount of phone calls, I actually made headway. I was able to lower the bill. The phone operators were totally prepared when I gave every reasonable explanation why I thought my bill was too high. These reasons ranged from a complex analysis and rate comparison to “its just too high and I cant afford it”. None of those worked.

The reason that did was the explanation that worked: “Look, I’m a guy….”

When she stopped laughing, she gave me $200.00 price break on my phone bill.

What a world.

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Rant Archive (May 1999)

Car Salesmen and why they are lower than Pond Scum!

Sometimes I wonder to myself if people mess with my life so that they can garner their 15 minutes of fame on these rant pages. Recent statistics show that of the 17,000 per month or so that visit this site, the rant pages are the most popular. So that must be it. Car salesmen are lower than pond scum. OK, maybe not all. Just every single one I have ever dealt with without exception.Here is what has happened to me. I signed a lease three years ago for a 96 Jeep Cherokee. The lease was for 15,000 miles/year.

After I took delivery on the vehicle the salesman called and I was informed a mistake was made and somehow I need to agree to lowering the mileage to 13,000 miles/year. I admit it. I was asleep at the wheel. I let them change the mileage. At the time I had no idea what the consequences would be. Please… I already feel stoopid enough!!

When it was time to turn it in for another vehicle, I told the salesman what my concerns were and how dealing with the same company after being screwed so badly the last time was a small leap of trust. He assured me my situation was an isolated incident.

The deal we agreed to was that I would pay off the remaining lease payments and any additional costs, such as excess mileage, taxes, disposition fees would be included in the finance agreement. So imagine my surprise when after financing all that stuff, I got a bill in excess of $3,000!!! The best part was when after going to the deal to inform them of this oversight they denied ever making such an agreement. So It all boils down to my word against his. Of course on paper everything is airtight. On the other hand how credible is the word of a car salesman?

Guess what folks! They lied! Now they are trying to cover it up!

The lesson I have learned today is that car salesman count on these elements of human nature:

-That most people want to trust each other.

-That when all the complicated math comes out, the average customer glazes over but is unwilling to admit to confusion.

-That once the car is delivered, it is now the customers’ problem to deal with from that point on.

-That if a guy gets screwed, he will generally keep his mouth shut so his buddies don’t know how stupid he is.

-Sometimes guys will speak out and confront the salesman and even make a scene.

-That if a lot of hot air is blown, it passes quickly.

What they have not counted on are these things:

-Musicians like me will readily admit their inability to deal effectively with complex financial figures.

-Sharp criticisms are just a part of life. We tend to filter out what we want and leave the bullshit behind.

-Many performers are unaffected by certain types of fear. We just ignore it. Threats of doom usually fall on deaf ears.

-While an airtight paper trail is good, musicians are often experienced in dealing with contract disputes.

I have to admit I was tempted to rip their necks off when I found out what a beating I have taken. I took silent pleasure out of gently asserting to the sales manager that I was lied to and nothing else is really relevant to me. As he tried to explain their position, I simply listened and let him talk himself in to a corner. When he did, I just said, “You could be right, but as far as I am concerned, he lied.”

But the story is far from over. I have vowed to do my part in getting myself a fair resolution. I plan to do it in a way that keeps my blood pressure at an even keel. When I visited today, they started to explain their position further why I was in the wrong.

I just told them there was little point in discussing it.

What I have fantasized doing:

-Leaving the Jeep in the middle of the parking lot with the “panic” mode engaged, doors locked, take the keys home and throw them away.

-Visit them every single day, and like the guest that wouldnt leave, gently remind them they lied to me. Every day.

-embarking on a media campaign that would expose them for the slime they are.

What I will do is wait until I am calm enough to think rationally. Then I will take small and measured steps toward finding a satisfactory solution. And no, I will not feel the least bit guilty if several men lose their jobs in the process. Their dishonesty is not my fault.

And while I don’t hope this happens, it would not surprise me to learn these salesmen have been experiencing a long bad luck streak.

Karma really does work two ways. And what goes around really does come around.

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Rant Archive (January 1999)

Cars, car dealers, service centers!

Cars are the bane of my existence. The only part about buying and owning a car that’s fun is the part where you dream about what your next car is gonna be. That’s it. As soon as I have the damn thing in my driveway, it serves a perpetual money pit, a constant reminder of how that slimeball salesman took advantage of me (despite a firm resolve not to allow it to happen), and target practice for every bird in the northern hemisphere. I have made several phone calls to Car manufacturers telling them about the trend in guitars toward a vintage look and feel. I don’t know why, but they react badly at my suggestion that they should release “pre-dented” models with the front end already out of alignment. That’s how it will end up anyway. Why not buy it that way and save myself a whole lotta worry and aggravation?

As a car owner, I am right between Mr. “I’m so rich that my needs will be served simply because I’m important” and Mr. “I can fix anything and I keep five cars in my driveway to keep one of them running”. Generally, if something breaks in my car, I’ll try to fix it before I send it to the shop. Or I’ll just decide to leave it broken.

Headlights are an important feature for a musician’s car. We drive at night a lot.

So when they blew out, I went to the parts shop, bought new ones and set about installing them (imagine here the voice-over announcer in the drama series intimating, “……and he was never the same again…..”).

When I discovered the new headlights didn’t work either, I knew I was in trouble. I set about troubleshooting and traced the problem to that little knob on the dashboard that you pull out to turn them on. Don’t be too impressed. I figured it out when I pulled the knob and it came ALL THE WAY out of the dashboard.

I began the process of disassembling the dashboard. I got most of it apart except for one friggin little screw. This screw was neither phillips head nor flathead. I don’t know what kind it is, but it was clear I didn’t have the right tool to get it out. Of course, this screw would allow me access to the dashboard to get the part out. I tried to repress images of running in to the design room at the manufacturers sporting two uzi’s and a Rambo outfit, asking “……Why?…… why did you add that screw? ……WHY?” (of course, as the fantasy plays itself out, the designers attempt to answer but can’t because their heads are separated from their bodies).

Of course, it was inevitable the car had to go to the shop. This over a weird screw, and a part that probably cost $3.00.

Total costs:

Labor: $166.00

Parts: $30.00

Car rental for two days: $89.00

The next time this happens, I am going to institute a new policy: I only take gigs during daylight hours.

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Rant Archive (May 1998)

I’ve been hearing lots of debate over the ethics of Internet piracy. The whole discussion makes my blood boil.

I’ve had my band together for ten years, and have been building a following on a grass roots level. Every time I’ve tried to get the attention of the “big boys” I get one of these types of responses:

-Instrumental music doesn’t sell

-If you could write lyrics to those songs, there might be some potential (we tried it, and BOYYY did it ever come across as stupid….).

-You guys are “too good.” The trend these days is that the musicians we record can’t really play.

-You guys are too old

-If you are willing to let us make all the money while you do all the work, we can talk.

-Your music doesn’t fit any category. If you can make it sound like the rest of the stuff we sell, we’ll know what “bin” to put you in.

-You music doesn’t sound like our label. If you can make your music change to fit our image, maybe we can do something (These same people tell the public they let their artists have free reign….).

It’s only partly true that “the big boys” have the capacity to do effective internet “piracy” A guy like me is clever enough to do it too. But I won’t. Why? Because I’m too focused on making our own stuff marketable.

These are the simple facts:

-The web doesn’t make a distinction between David and Goliath. It doesn’t care.

-That makes David every bit as accessible as Goliath

-If David is resourceful enough, he can bring forth good music without Goliath’s help

-If David is successful financially he doesn’t need Goliath’s help at all.

When “Don’t Look So Serious” was released, it sold 17,000 copies worldwide. Total revenues paid to me: $3,850 (as per “creative accounting” from the label)

If we do it ourselves, we’ll be able to make enough money at it to sustain ourselves and bring the music to our fans our own way; The way that has gotten us the kind of fan loyalty few bands enjoy.

I think “they” are more concerned about loss of market share than piracy.

Fuck you Goliath.

heh heh… not that I’m bitter or anything….

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Rant Archive (April 1998)

Those “Exclusive Discount” clubs

As I walked out of the store for the last time, I wished the manager a good day. I wasn’t kidding myself that there was any sincerity in the statement, but there is a part of me that feels obligated to be polite even when I mean, “fuck you”.

There is a store in the Hanover Mall called Ritz Camera. They sell cameras, binoculars, telescopes, film, lenses… all that stuff. Plus, they have a one hour photo service. Now, since I’d gotten back from Europe, I’ve been anxious to get the pix I took developed. But my life being what it is, I barely have time to take my socks off when I go to bed.

So, here I am walking by the store, knowing I’d be in the mall for a while, had the film in my hand, so I decided to take advantage of their “One Hour” service. I gave them the film. The girl behind the counter asked if I’d like to save some money. She informed me that if I joined their “discount club”, the membership would pay for itself and I would actually get the pictures done cheaper. Plus, from that point on, I’d get discounts.

“Sounds good to me” I said.

I came back an hour later and the film wasn’t ready. So I left the mall. Later that afternoon, my wife, Beth, was driving by the place so I asked her to stop in and pick it up. When she came back she told me the film was ready but she didn’t pick it up. She wanted to know why I spent $45 to have two rolls of film developed. She also told me the salesman was very rude to her when she questioned the price. She just left.

I went down myself. Sure enough. $45 they wanted. They explained that was the cost of the developing, double prints, film and membership.

So I asked them to break it all down. “How much is the membership?”

“$15 for the year”

“OK, but doesn’t that give me a discount on the rest of the stuff?”

“Yes”

“But I was told it would cost less if I got the memebrship”

“It does. But the membership costs $15″

“I understand that. But without the membership, my bill is $35″

“Right, but with the membeship, its only $30″

“Right, but I spend $15 dollars to get that discount. I was told I would save money”

“You do. You save $5″

“Sir, which figure is higher? $35 or $45?”

He just looked at me blankly.

“I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel kinda foolish spending an extra $10 to save $5. I was told I would spend less if I got the membership. If I’m spending more, I don’t want it.”

“Well, its common that when we explain how it works that people don’t listen. Would you like to hear it again and maybe you could listen this time?”

“You must be joking. Have a nice day sir”

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Rant Archive (An Open Letter to the President – From 1998)

An Open Letter to the president (and all who care to read this)

Soooo…. It’s come to our attention that our president may have engaged in illicit sexual activities with a certain young female intern at the White House.

Here is what bothers me about it all. In the first place, the fact I know about it bothers me. If you’ve ever dealt with the media, and tried to get publicity over things you WANT people to know about, then you have a real understanding of how much work it takes to get a message out to even a small portion of the population. If the whole world seems to know about our presidents’ indiscretion, then how hard did how many people have to work to get that done? I think my question is this: Who was it that decided that to spend thousands of man-hours, untold millions of dollars, hours of satellite uplink time, and overwhelming amounts of technological mass communication equipment was a good idea? Was there anyone who was shocked to learn that Bill Clinton is morally bankrupt?

Oooh….. I’m on a roll…..

I think I’m more concerned about his policital views than I am about his attitudes toward relationships. I for one, don’t really want to know about his private activities. Though I do acknowledge that this is yet another instance that proves what a “character” this guy is.

This part gets me in the gut. When directly confronted, he denied the allegations, but then it comes out that he doesn’t consider oral sex to be cheating. If you about it, the implications are deep. Resources at the White House (that are needed elsewhere…) were spent trying to figure a way to put “the least negative spin” on this.

This is our own fault. When the media brings us these stories, we eat it up like starving Ethiopians. Our system of electing presidents is such that the kind of people we really need in that office won’t go near it. The process attracts well-polished slime-balls (quite possibly the worst kind….).

I, for one don’t approve of what’s happened (if it’s true). Nor do I approve of the idea that so much energy was spent making sure I’m aware of it.

I think that’s what bugs me the most. That I know about it. If Bill Clinton was my friend and told me about it in confidence, I think I’d react this way:

I’d probably just kinda smirk at him and say, “What in the world are you thinking?”

Hey Bill….. Enough already. We all know you’re a stud. Please get back to work.

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Rant Archive January 1998

I don’t do much in the way of Freelance gigging these days. There are two reasons:

1) I don’t get called. I get the feeling I don’t have much of a reputation for that stuff.

2) I’m kinda more focused on pursuing the my solo carreer anyway. It may not amount to much, but it’s my little anthill.

That said, I love getting calls from time to time to do freelance stuff. It’s a nice change of pace. Often, the gigs I do get called for are low-maintenance, good money, good music, and a lot of fun… even if I do gotta wear a monkey suit. Most of the time, the leaders are great to deal with. They know me, they know what I do, and they hire me on that basis. Most are really cool to deal with too.

It’s almost a matter of tradition that I do some freelance gig on New Year’s Eve. Why? Money. Pure and simple. New Year’s Eve gigs usually pay pretty well. I spend the rest of the year making art more important than money. Why not take one night a year, be a whore for a night, and make life a little easier around the Finn household?

The gig I did last year went OK enough that the leader asked if I could do NEXT year. Same gig, same band, same night…. Etc… I said, “sure.”

I didn’t hear about the gig again, but since the leader in this case is a close friend and very trustworthy, I didn’t think about it. I just assumed the gig was on. Three weeks ago I got a call from someone I knew of, but hadn’t ever worked with. She wanted to know about New Year’s Eve and whether I was working. I called her back and said I had a gig, but I’d check to see if it was still on. I checked and it wasn’t. So I called her back.

The next few conversations were like the twilight zone. After informing me of the great money I’d be making (less than one-third of what I usually get… ahem), she asked me a million questions trying to figure out if I’m good enough to do her gig. Since I feel uncomfortable saying things like, “Oh yeah, baby, I’m a badass! I’m yer guy!”, I just gave her some names of people I knew she’d trust and told her to call them. I also (in the interest of honesty) informed her that I hadn’t done a country gig in a while (She’s a country singer).

She calls me back and asks how many country songs I can sing. I told her that very few people hire me on my singing. I can croak out a few things, but I do it only to give the singer a break on a long gig. My preference is not to sing at all. She asks for a list of fifteen country tunes I’d be willing to learn for this gig.

Time for a reality check. Two weeks before New Year’s Eve, she’s looking for singing guitar players. Obviously, she’s exhausted the list of players she knows. They’re all gigging. That’s why she’s calling me. From my point of view, I’d rather gig than not, but I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t. I’m offered short money to play music I don’t like with someone who appears to think I need to “prove myself”. Is something amiss?

I called her back and told her my bottom line. I gave her five songs I knew how to sing (not country really, but you can kinda get away with it….) and also told her how much I need to be paid. If that doesn’t work, then I would be happy to provide names and phone numbers of people she could call (though I expected they were all working too….).

Sooo…. Check this out… she called a friend of mine and asked to relay a message to me that she found someone to do the gig.

Is that lame or what? I don’t mind getting passed over for the gig at all. I have no desire to pursue a “country alter-ego”. First she puts me through all this shit, then calls A FRIEND to tell me I don’t have the gig. I thought I was done with Junior High….

What’s THAT about?

At 8:30 PM on New Years Eve she called and asked if I could come to the gig and play.

When I stopped laughing, I declined, but wished her a Happy New Year.

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Rant Archive (Sept. 1997)

Telephone Sales Geeks
There are few things that annoy me like telephone sales geeks. Actually, I feel kinda bad for the actual tele-marketers because if I had a job like that, I’d think to myself, “I hate my job.” But think about the social implications of such a vocation. What kind of personality does it take to willingly self-inflict such verbal abuse on themselves? When was the last time YOU were cordial to a tele-marketer? When did a disproportionately high tolerance for verbal abuse become a POSITIVE attribute in a society that struggles with punishment and re-habilitation?

The message seems to be this:
“I can punish myself all I want and society will accept and honor it. But society can’t punish me even if I drop a baby on a tile floor!”

How the hell did I get from Tele-marketers to dropping babies?

I get annoyed as hell when I get a telephone sales call. I used to interrupt them and say, “Sorry, not interested”, then hang up. But then the annoyance isn’t mutual. More recently, I’ve taken to a new strategy. When I get such a call, I interrupt them and inform them they have called at an inconvenient time. I ask for their name (their FULL name), and their HOME telephone number, then offer to call back. As they explain to me it is against company policy to give out such information, I ask them why they think its OK to call me at home but not vice versa. Finally, I explain to them that if I need to be told about a product before I realize I need it, then I don’t really need it. All they are doing is wasting my time, and their own as well.

When I ask them how they got my number in the first place, they usually don’t give a coherent answer.

Oh, and yes, I just LOVE it when the tele-marketer calls and its not even a real person….

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