Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Once Upon A Time, A Junkman Had A Dream..."

Man, this poster promised so much and wound up a waste of great promotional artwork. Typical.

With no homework to do and an itch to watch something instead of aimlessly tool about cyberspace, I popped in a borrowed DVD of Explorers the other night. I think I saw this once or twice on cable when I was in high school, and seeing it again years later hasn't changed my opinion of it at all, for better and for worse.

The first half of Explorers is completely charming (and somehow nostalgic) as we follow around a trio of misfit early teens (including a cherubic Ethan Hawke and a hilariously nerdy River Phoenix) who have literally dreamed up a way to create a spherical force field that moves according to commands input into an Apple computer. Following some experiments with their discovery, the boys realize that this force field can also be used to fly them around their hometown (and beyond), so they quickly set about building a kind of exploration vessel cobbled together from junkyard materials (namely, a discarded Tilt-A-Whirl car) to achieve this end.

After such a heartfelt and engaging first hour, however, we seem to switch movies in a hurry as the young adventurers set their sights on extraterrestrial destinations. This is not to say I found the idea silly (I know I would have been all for the idea if I were one of them), but it was how the second half of the movie plays out that feels so jarring and ultimately disappointing as we are reduced to watching a lot of silliness by way of upright Cootie bugs in hokey rubber suits. It's doubly frustrating that director Joe Dante had his heart in the right place on Earth, but was so desperate to avoid something that felt like E.T. or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, that the only way out of Explorers was to goof off and hope that cheap laughs would save the day.

The Vulture has landed!
Another fragment of childhood that Explorers made me think of was the old TV movie/series Salvage 1. I really want to see this original movie again now that I've been poking around on the 'net for a bit (including this splendid fan website), and I remember being pretty taken by it as a nine year old ... despite the starring role of Andy Griffith, of all people.

What brought Salvage 1 to mind was the strikingly similar plot idea of fashioning a spacecraft from junk, only for a very different reason (to grab all the discarded crap sitting around the moon from the old Apollo missions). Looking again at the website, it looks like Salvage 1 might hold up about as well as, say, Galactica 1980, though who knows? If nothing else, I'm pretty sure the end was nowhere near as farcical as Explorers. Hopefully, I'll find out again sometime soon (hint hint, Dave M.).

NP Cocteau Twins Lullabies To Violaine Volume 2: Singles And Extended Plays 1993-1996

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Goat, I am beat right now ...

Spent the last two days at work re-wiring (or replacing) speakers, and my limbs are presently yelling at me for all of the stretching and reaching from the stepladder I had to do to run the new wire over and under fixtures and hidden behind acoustical ceiling tiles.

This was supposed to be a one-two hour project, tops, but thanks to doing this with a regular of ours who is a bit of a perfectionist woodpecker, it wound up taking the entirety of Tuesday and a chunk of today to get everything looking and sounding good. Once that was completed, there was a lot of re-thinking and re-arranging of counter space that had to be done in order to relocate the amp and CD player since we ended up short two feet of wire where it mattered the most (of course). The rest of tonight was a mad dash of getting caught up with orders, inventory adjustments, program buy-ins and ticketing/shelving stock to avoid falling two days behind on the assorted busywork. Ugh.

Incidentally, as far as that situation at work last week is concerned, things will be turning out for the best after all as the new release shipment problem we had has apparently been corrected ... it's just too bad that the one week everything went freakin' haywire was a heavy release week, so we have quite a few albums by Prince, Ben Harper and My Chemical Romance (not to mention a pile of South Park DVDs) that will be stinking up the place for a while. Dohhhhh.

Finally, in late-breaking news, Moe has a heretofore-undiscovered passion for roast beef. I had brought home a sandwich from Arby's with me, and the scent of it had Moe up the kind of invasive antics he hasn't attempted since he was a kitten (including trying to leap directly onto the sandwich itself, and then finding every possible way to get his head in between me and my dinner). I think he is still sniffing around for it as I type this, the little goon ...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Erin Go Blah

Maybe it's my dominant Limey/Kraut genes (or the fact that I look like an utter prat in green) but I was never much for St. Patrick's Day. Sure, it was a decent excuse to go out and get bombed back in the days when I did so with a fair degree of frequency, but the day never held any kind of special resonance for me. In fact, heh, I found it rather bothersome dealing with everyone else who did.

Well, today was not a day that did much to change my mindset in that department.

Actually, I should start off with an update from my last personal missive: it is with much relief that I pass along to you the news that last weekend's worrisome car troubles were of minimal financial impact: all it took was a new fuel filter and some cleaning out of the throttle to get it running and starting nominally once again. Hell, I was even able to get the car started on Sunday afternoon, which saved me the logistics and expense of scheduling a tow and then a subsequent ride home. Woo!

OK, there was your good news. The rest of this post is a bit more subdued (and industry-intensive, so if talking record biz shop isn't your thing, I'd move along) ...

All of the drama over the past week was at the store, where we had a pretty tumultuous few days in a row. It all started on Tuesday with the departure from our primary supplier of one of the best salesmen we've ever had the pleasure we had working with, and culminated with our recently-completed commercial wet firecracker of a Friday. Actually, "wet firecracker" is putting it rather kindly -- today flat-out sucked from one end to the other as pretty much anything that could go wrong went ahead and did so, starting with our current new release situation.

The one thing we had most feared losing our old salesman was a subsequent loss of being shipped new release product on Friday instead of industry-standard Monday, and those fears came true today as our new release order for March 21 failed to materialize. Great. To add a bit of insult to injury, the restock order that our supplier did ship wound up headed somewhere else, as it was not on the UPS truck this afternoon either.

So now comes the figuring out of how to handle this new development from the supplier side, and it's a pretty delicate position to negotiate. Selling albums before street-date is not illegal, per se, and aside from the odd superstar project (say, an Emimen release) most of the industry prefers to turn a blind eye to it for two reasons:

1) This practice is almost exclusively in the realm of indie/specialty accounts and therefore nearly impossible to effectively police.

2) As a direct result of the first reason, the numbers involved hardly ever impact the SoundScan charts on a national level since most of these accounts are either not contributing numbers to SoundScan, or those that are hardly ever sell enough records in three days of a given tracking week to make any kind of early splash (for an album to impact the Billboard Top 200, sales of at least 5,500 are needed, give or take a few hundred depending on the time of year). To the best of my recollection, the last time an album charted a week early due to street date violations was sometime in 1997.

The retail end of the music industry has been pretty cutthroat on this end for a while now, and especially in the current market, any advantage is seized upon by the indies, no matter how much trouble it may wind up causing them somewhere down the road. For us, this advantage has been a quirk in the way our orders were processed for a few years that enabled us to get new product three days earlier than we had been able to with any other supplier. As a business, we need Friday shipments to even be able to sell most new releases, since by Monday when everyone has seen the previous days Best Buy/Target/Wal-Mart circulars, having a big new album a day early doesn't seem to mean an awful lot if you are willing to wait 24 hours and buy it for an unmatchable cost across the street. Having long since grown accustomed to Friday releases, we had been dreading this development for a while now, and it looks as if the day has finally come.

Yes, it's very likely that Monday new release shipments probably would not impact our sales of independent or third-tier major releases (since many of them are not carried by the big box accounts named above), but without the ability to get a debatably-ethical four-day head start against The Evil Empire, our major new release buying would drop by nearly two-thirds on any title of respectable stature (that huge opening total we had with the David Gilmour album last week would have been carved nearly in half, for example).

The options we have right now are three:

1) Assuming that timing is everything (and not some wonky shipping error in the computer), we'll talk to our new salesman and attempt to have him move up the processing of our new release order by one day. Our previous contact would process his new release orders on Thursday morning (which I believe is what kick-started the Friday shipment thing in the first place), and it appears that our current representative does this on Friday morning, instead. If he will accept our request, this might be the easiest solution.

2) Should our new salesman balk at this practice (or if he agrees and this still has no effect on our shipments), we'd have little choice but to climb up the ladder a bit and attempt to argue our case at the executive level. It is here that we will likely run into bigger snags, as most middlemen suppliers are the ones penalized by the labels should one of their accounts be caught selling new releases before Tuesday. For that reason, our supplier would certainly be in the right to decline our request, and trying to play hardball with them to convince them to change their minds would likely prove a futile (and ultimately counterproductive) effort.

3) If the above two options do not pan out, we know of the existence of other middleman distributors who can and will ship product for Fridays. However, many of these will add a per-piece surcharge for this privilege, which not only makes this option a last resort, but also one to be used very carefully as it can wind up erasing our ability to price such product competitively.

Fun, huh? It'll certainly be interesting to see how this all pans out from all sides.

That was the big deal this week, the rest of the shit from today was far more low-key, but just added to the general ill mood at work. First off, we are being subjected to an display of intermittent rebellion from our amplifier, which has developed a habit of "overloading" itself lately, which results in an automatic shutdown anytime the music surges past the level of say, ambient noise. Making this problem more vexing is that we cannot poinpoint exactly what the problem is, much less how to fix it once and for all. I've attempted with temporary success to correct this problem about five times now (most recently at around sundown this evening), but as I was getting ready to leave earlier tonight I noticed it was starting to recur once again. I will look at this again tomorrow, and if it this keeps up, I'm just going to disconnect the damn speaker and see if a three-way stereo system will work for us instead as I'm pretty fed up with doing this over and over again.

In the middle of this, the goofballs were out in force this evening -- most notably a truly annoying longtime weirdo we haven't managed to lose from our Great Lakes Mall days who tonight asked me the exact same question about a dozen times in the course of me selling him a used CD and attempting to get rid of him as quickly as possible (and yes, I answered his question each of those dozen times). I thought the full moon was on Wednesday ...

Oh, I almost forgot the cherry on the sundae. Being St. Paddy's Day, there was a hell of a lot of traditional Irish music skiddle-dee-dee'ing out of the stereo as the night dragged on: just the kind of nails-on-chalkboard noise you want to hear when the stereo does work (not to mention while dealing with the people you would least miss if you ever gave up working retail). I can deal with the occasionally snarky and cartoony excesses of The Pogues, sure, but The Clancy Brothers? The Corrs? Fuckin' Riverdance?


NP Various Artists 12"/80s/2

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

RD Top 20 Sellers For Week Ending 3/12/06

On An Island - as big as they get for us these days
3. MOGWAI Mr. Beast
4. RAY DAVIES Other People's Lives
5. SHAGGY 2 DOPE Fuck The Fuck Off
6. REVOLTING COCKS Cocked And Loaded
7. SHE WANTS REVENGE She Wants Revenge
8. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN Hammersmith, Odeon, London '75
9. ROBIN TROWER Living Out Of Time: Live
10. THE CARS Greatest Hits
11. CHEAP TRICK Dream Police
12. COVENANT Sky Shaper
13. DAVE DAVIES Kinked
14. JUVENILE Reality Check
15. VAN MORRISON Pay The Devil
16. OF MONTREAL The Bird Who Continues To Eat The Rabbit's Flower
17. SCARFACE My Homies, Part 2
18. GLENN TIPTON Baptizm Of Fire
19. STAIND Chapter V
20. PINK FLOYD A Momentary Lapse Of Reason

How big is On An Island? Combine the sales figures for all of the albums from #2 to #20 on this week's chart and you'll still be short of the Herculean total posted by the new David Gilmour solo album in its debut week. Not only did Gilmour post the biggest selling debut of 2006 by a factor of 3 to 1 over previous champ Shaggy 2 Dope, he also lobbed up the fastest-selling album since U2 posted an identical total (70 copies) at the end of November 2004. With figures only available since the middle of 2003, these two mark the biggest openings in our store's recent history, maybe even since the days of our old Great Lakes Mall location ... YouthIn Gilmour's wake, all other debuts look relatively puny, though in any other week, Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu's dozen-piece start would compete or take the pole position ... Also opening strongly is the new Mogwai project, reflecting combined sales of two different editions, while the first new album from Ministry side-project Revolting Cocks managed to reach #6 just in front of the resurging She Wants Revenge album ... Mr. BeastNot as spectacular were the sales on the new Van Morrison album, which lagged behind the rest of the pack at a disappointing #15, right around similarly underwhelming entries from rap luminaries Jaheim and Scarface ... While none of the releases due for March 14 have anywhere close to the firepower of Gilmour, it is certainly likely that the new Donald Fagen solo album will reach well into the teens for its opening week, maybe even enough to lock up the top of the next week's chart, though we certainly expect On An Island to show some legs and not be a one-week super flash in the pan. Aside from Fagen, also watch for a high debut from guitar ace Joe Satriani, a smashing entry from the Pretenders box set, and renewed action from rock upstars Fall Out Boy with a reissued version of their breakthrough album ...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

So Goes The News


Yes, I'm still breathing and I still have internet access, fear not...

As you might have guessed during my little unannounced writing vacation (which turned into the entire month of February), things have been really slow around Chez I Am A Bug, with very little of note to report for a while now in the ongoing Life Of The Author. At least until now.

So, what's new since the last time I posted anything but an updated store sales list? Some damn good news balanced out by a little bit of bad: this past Wednesday I moved out of debt and made it out of a month with money in the bank for the first time since the Great Financial Automotive Holocaust last July. Yessss! For two wonderful, carefree, glorious days, all was good and right with the world.

But then along came earlier this evening ... my car now refuses to start. Hoorah. I left it at work for now, and my current thinking is that it must be some kind of fuel injector/pump issue since everything seems to be working save for the engine actually kicking to life.

God fuckin' damn it! How's that for timing?

As of this writing, my current car problem is not yet a disaster (and I'm trying very hard to forget that last year's Voyage Into The Abyss started off as a minor annoyance as well), as I have some money in the bank to get this taken care of relatively quickly. Since I'm off from work on Monday, this is at the very least a minimum transportation inconvenience as long as it is a routine kind of repair and not, say, a fuel injector shitting the bed on me. I have to head up to work at some point tomorrow evening to retrieve paperwork and generate orders for this week, and I'll give it another try at that point. If it doesn't start, I'm going to have to set up a tow. If it does start, however, Mr. Beretta is headed straight to the garage for a look-see (and an oil change while it's there, what the hell).

In far better news, after three months of wondering what in the hell was going on with her bank situation, Sarah finally got back a little more than half of the funds she had lost from an apparent hack of her account. This was about what I'd expected in a best-case scenario (though I still wonder how and why her account was drained into the negative four-digits before anyone let her know what was happening), and though she still lost a couple grand when all was said and done, she was at least finally able to get her financial situation righted at last. Whew.

In matters of work, things went absolutely beautifully at the store in January: possibly assisted by the unseasonably balmy weather (well, it certainly wasn't a plethora of new releases), we managed to exceed our target by 10% that month and start off 2006 way ahead of pace. February, on the other hand, was a very slight loss (to be fair, we were up against a rather freakish total from last year that defies easy explanation), but thankfully nowhere near enough to derail the year to-date.

Finally, The Best Winter Ever just couldn't last: after six glorious, Goat-given weeks of amazingly temperate conditions (as mentioned above), the cold and white finally came roaring back at last as February got going, and we've been back in that on-again, off-again melt-off-and-then-snow-some-more cycle for the last few weeks. As I type this, it's feels almost like spring outside once again, though the current weather forecast portends more hateful snow, rain and cold by Tuesday. Huzzah. Just in time for my latest car drama ...

NP The Orb Brighton U.K. 9/27/91