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Jack Rebney Still Has a Lot to Say

27 Jul

In 1989, a man named Jack Rebney shot an industrial film meant to promote Winnebago motor homes. Shooting in intense heat and being pestered by flies caused Rebney to lose his cool many times, and all his expletive-laden outbursts were captured on film … and then edited together into a legendary outtakes reel that eventually made its way onto YouTube, where it has achieved cult status. But whatever happened to Rebney? We know he was fired from his job a month after shooting, but that’s the last anyone had heard from him. And thus we have the inspiration for the new documentary Winnebago Man, in which filmmaker Ben Steinbauer goes in search of a man once dubbed the angriest in the world.

If the initial search for Rebney was all the film was about, that’d be an awfully short documentary — especially because when Steinbauer does find him, he’s just a nice older gent who is bewildered by the attention. Thankfully, there’s more to the story than that, and more to the film too. Steinbauer fleshes out Winnebago Man by interviewing and soliciting brief commentary from some viral video “experts,” including Douglas Rushkoff (who coined the term viral video). At least one interviewee is confused by the inquiry and the search. After all, if we get to know the people behind some of these videos (like the Star Wars kid or Alexsey Vayner, whose leaked resume video made him the laughing stock of the Internet), then they lose their charm and entertainment value, right?

Not so with Rebney. Thankfully, after his initial “dog and pony show,” the old man turns out to be the cantankerous-grandfather-like figure Steinbauer (and fans like me) expect and hope he’ll be. (One can’t help but think he’s the brother of Justin Halpern’s dad.) It’s fascinating to watch as this man, who has chosen a hermit-like life for himself on a mountain in northern California, comes to terms with his notoriety and the people who think of him in such an affectionate way.

Could Winnebago Man have been about more just than a search for one man, and instead been an examination of multiple people who gained, if not fame then infamy through YouTube, and a greater study about why we’re so fascinated by them? Yes. That might have made it a more interesting film, with more of an insightful takeaway. But as a portrait of this one man, and why people are so fascinated by him, it’s engaging and entertaining.

YouTube is, as one person describes it, a “modern-day freak show,” and films like Winnebago Man might just go some distance toward reminding viewers that there are some real-life people behind the videos that make us laugh so hard. Hopefully those people are all as compelling as Jack Rebney. I’m giving Winnebago Man a B+. Do yourself a kindness and go see it.

Can’t Stop the Music

7 Nov

You might call this a case of “Desperate times call for desperate measures” — relatively speaking, of course.

Monday, Jamie Cullum‘s new album, The Pursuit, will be released in the U.K. and all over Europe. I’m a very big Jamie Cullum fan, have been for years, and for a while now, I’d been banking on the fact that the album — Jamie’s first in more than four years — would be released in the U.S. a day later, on Tuesday. That’s how it usually works, after all (though one wonders why albums don’t just drop on the same weekday around the world). Well, last week I got an email telling me that in fact, the U.S. release would not happen until March 2.

Suffice it to say, I just couldn’t wait that long. I mean, that’s crazy, right? Releasing the album in Europe, and then waiting four months to do it here? Especially after a four-year gap between albums. Jamie may not be a household name in the U.S., but he’s hardly an unknown, brand-new artist (Pursuit is actually his fifth album, though not all have been released in the U.S.). People like me are going to notice if he has an album out elsewhere in the world, and they’re going to want to get their hands on it now.

So as any enterprising person would do, I went on a pursuit of my own, and set off to find the album somewhere on the Interwebs. Before you could say “I’m All Over It Now,” I found a site (actually, a couple of them) where I could download all 12 tracks, for free, before the album had even been released overseas. It was almost too easy. Isn’t the Interwebs great?

Now, before you get all huffy and accusatory on me, and tell me I’m “stealing music,” you should know this much: I have every intention of buying the album when it’s officially released over here next year. In fact, I’ll probably even go for the deluxe edition (assuming I have the same option as the European fans), which includes bonus tracks and a DVD. I support artists I like, and I want this album to do well.

Speaking of which, let me say this: The Pursuit is great (of course it is). More mature, confident, and experimental than Jamie’s previous albums, Pursuit features some impressive tracks, such as his take on Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around” (from Sweeney Todd), and Rhianna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.” The originals “Love Ain’t Gonna Let You Down” and “Mixtape” are cool. “Music Is Through” will be a hot number when Jamie plays live, as will the raucous swing tune “You and Me Are Gone.” The dramatic “If I Ruled the World” erases any memory of Tony Bennett’s more-famous version. In short, Jamie’s come a long way from his U.S. debut, Twentysomething (a long way from his follow-up, Catching Tales, too), and he’s pretty much blasted out of the “jazz singer” box that some have painted him into (just in case the album cover wasn’t symbolic enough for you). The Pursuit is well worth the wait.

But let’s not miss the larger point here: In the age of the Interwebs, you can’t keep devoted music fans waiting. If an album is out in one part of the world — and it’s going to be hyped in other parts of the world with emails, on Facebook, Twitter, and a podcast — then it should be out everywhere. Otherwise, you can’t blame a guy for finding it on his own, especially when it’s this easy.

Follow Me

28 Oct

It’s no secret that I love Facebook.

I enjoy reconnecting with old friends, getting to know new ones even better, keeping up-to-date-with people I know (even if we’re not actually “in touch”), sharing interesting items and news stories, and most fun of all, coming up with amusing status updates — even if many of them are just song lyrics.

Facebook has become nothing short of an addiction for me; it’s a routine, a site I check often throughout the day, and one I genuinely love visiting and spending time on.

Facebook’s a community site, and while it’s not perfect, I tend to find value in being a part of it every day.

And, it’s a site I feel I’ve become “good” at using.

And then there’s Twitter …

On the other hand, I’ve never quite understood Twitter. Continue reading

One Degree Closer?

7 Jun

I was reading the new issue of Entertainment Weekly this weekend, and in a Q&A with actress Kyra Sedgwick, who is, of course, married to Kevin Bacon, I saw this exchange:

Do you pay attention to your press?
My husband is a Google Alert guy. He has one on himself and me. I’m like, Dude, I don’t want to know what people are saying.

So I just wanted to test that out. If you’re reading this, Kevin or Kyra … Hi there! How’s it going?

In Craig I Trust

30 May

Like Anne Frank, I, too, believe that “Despite everything … people are really good at heart.” So this morning, when I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to log onto and try to buy a better ticket to tonight’s Dave Matthews Band concert at Fenway Park than the one I already had (yes, I realize that’s a pretty silly thing to do), I knew that my next course of action would be to post that I had an extra ticket for sale on Craigslist. Lo and behold, I got lucky and found a seat right on the field, so I posted my ad on Craigslist, noting that I was only looking for face value so I could get my money back. Within minutes I had a few replies, and over the course of a couple emails, I deduced that the person who had been first to get back to me was for real, so I agreed to meet her at Fenway at noon to make the transaction.

Not surprisingly, there were already folks at Fenway looking to buy/sell tickets, and as soon as one of them realized I was there to sell a ticket, he tried to take it off my hands, and with a small profit for me too. Well, I’m a man of my word, so I said no thanks — I was already meeting someone and had agreed to sell it to her. Then, at 12, I got a text message that my buyer was stuck in traffic and that she would be a little late. No problem, I thought. I’ll give her a couple extra minutes to get there.

Alright, backtrack here to about a month ago when I had an extra ticket on the day of Bruce Springsteen’s second show. On my way into Boston to sell the ticket to someone I had “met” on Craigslist, I got stuck in traffic on 128, the Pike, and Storrow Dr., and ended up losing the sale because the guy ended up buying from someone else when I was late. So now the roles were sort of reversed, and I had a dilemma. Sure, it would have been much easier to sell the ticket to the guy on the street and make a profit in the process, but I decided I would do the right thing and wait for my person to get there. Worse comes to worse, I had a plan B hovering over me, waiting for things to fall through. And even though she, too, would have had this same plan B, it just wouldn’t have been cool to make her pay more if she was an actual fan.

As the time ticked away, and I would get texts that my buyer was getting closer, I started to waiver and considered selling the ticket at the higher price and just walking away. So I was relieved when, at 12:45, the woman finally showed up and was a real fan who was appreciative that I had been so patient and waited for her all that time. As promised, I sold the ticket to her at face value and we parted ways. (Alright, fine. She gave me a couple extra bucks for making me wait. But I’d say I’d earned those, wouldn’t you?)

Call me a sucker if you will, or call me naive or stupid, but despite all the negative press Craigslist has received in recent months, I continue to believe in it and use it, and do so honestly, with good intentions. You can be skeptical, but I think it’s nice to see that there are other people out there who are like me and do the same.

(BTW, those pictures up there? Not me, and not the scalper I was dealing with.)

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming

9 May

I’m always excited whenever something I’ve posted here touches a chord and gets picked up and linked to elsewhere.

But man oh man, the response to my post yesterday about eating at Old Country Buffet has been unbelievable! In just one day, that one post has recorded more than 1,200 hits.

That’s more than the number of hits my posts about Johnny Cupcakes and I Am Legend have received. (Until now, those two had been the most-read posts on this site.) Who knew so many people were equally curious about this place?

Thanks for the increased traffic goes to longtime supporters and, in addition to Wicked Local’s Watertown blog, all of whom have directed people my way.

And of course, thanks to all the people who have clicked and read and laughed at and commented on my post. Nothing I’ve posted here has ever had this much response.

I’m amazed, amused, impressed … and hoping you all will come back again to read what else I post here.

Update, 5/11/09, 12:00 p.m.: Well, the link was live until noon today and people were clicking on it the entire time. Between Friday at 1 p.m. and today, that one post had just under 2,400 hits. Good stuff.

U2 … Me Too?

24 Mar

Thanks to my new job, I’m getting to be quite knowledgeable about email marketing and how to do it well. Today I thought I’d call attention to a way to do it poorly.

Yesterday I got an email from the Patriots that said because I was a season ticket holder, I was “on the list” and would be able to buy tickets for U2’s September 20 show at Gillette Stadium early, before the general public has at ’em next week. I was told I’d be receiving an email today and that I’d have to act quickly because “the best seats will be gone before [I] know it.” That certainly caught my eye. After all, I am a U2 fan and I love their new album.

But here’s where the sender screwed up: For one thing, I’m not a Patriots season ticket holder. In fact, I’ve never even been to a Patriots game. Sure, I’ve been to concerts at Gillette Stadium before, and I’ve seen U2 before, but nope. Never a Pats game. Whoever was segmenting the mailing list or deciding who to mail to just didn’t synch up the data correctly.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the sender didn’t deliver on its promise. As I write this, it’s now about 28 hours after I received the preview email, and while pre-sale tickets are now on sale, I haven’t been told how I can get mine. That’s crazy, and if you ask me, it’s stupid too. Perhaps the Patriots figured out I wasn’t really a season ticket holder and thus, I’m not eligible to participate in the pre-sale. Well, that’s not my fault. They still told me I’d been selected to participate, so I expect to have my chance. (And if that is the case, and they figured out their mistake, then they should have emailed to apologize and try to correct their mistake.) And sure, the day’s not over yet. But it’s now 7 p.m. and I’m thinking the marketing folks have gone home, so there won’t be any follow-up email.

I hope I’m jumping the gun here, and that I will get my pre-sale info, because I sure would like to see this show and I sure would like to have the opportunity I was promised. If I have to compete with the rest of the fans on Monday, that’s just going to be annoying.

Update, 8:45 p.m.: So of course it happened this way. At 8:28 the email arrived, and when I logged into Ticketmaster less than five minutes later to buy tickets for me and two friends, all the available ones that didn’t cost $242.50 were gone. Of course. But at least we had our chance … sort of. So I guess this post was a jinx or something. And now we’ll just try again on Monday at 10 a.m.

"Why can’t my hair last?"

19 Mar

George Clooney is vlogging — that’s video blogging for those not hip to interweb lingo — and despite the fact that he’s doing it to raise awareness of the situation in Chad, the quick dispatches are actually kinda funny, including this one here, where George laments how his hairdo, expensive as it is, should have survived the trip to Chad. Enjoy. {font-size:11px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #999; margin-top: 5px; background: transparent; text-align: center; width: 425px;} .msnbcLinks a {text-decoration:none !important; border-bottom: 1px dotted #999 !important; font-weight:normal !important; height: 13px;} .msnbcLinks a:link, .msnbcLinks a:visited {color: #5799db !important;} .msnbcLinks a:hover, .msnbcLinks a:active {color:#CC0000 !important;}

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone

13 Feb

No Friends, Nothing to Live For

9 Nov

There’s something about this video that I can totally identify with. Ha ha ha … enjoy.