Observations

Some of my thoughts, often comical.

Sheepdog David Grant’s 19th Annual Academy Awards Contest Results!!!

THE BROADCAST

We live in a very different America than we did last year.  While there has always been angst regarding the Academy Awards acting as a platform for political views, we had never had a sitting president call Meryl Streep “overrated” before.  After her comments at The Golden Globes – which could basically be boiled down to: Please stop bullying Hollywood, foreigners, the press, and handicapped people, Mr. President – Trump supporters vowed to boycott the Oscars.  This shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who is paying attention.  The right have long derided “the left coast,” and now they finally have an administration eager to end funding to the arts.

A lot of people were expecting heavy political messages this year, and there were a couple.  When Iran’s “The Salesman” won Best Foreign Language Film, a statement was read by the filmmaker, who refused to come to America as long as we have a president that has openly discussed a “Muslim ban.”  While presenting, Gael Garcia Bernal told a truth about how all those in the film industry are migrant workers who go to other countries to craft their work.  And several jokes were made that teased at the division in our country.  Overall, however, it was kind of lite on hardline statements.

Normally I would do a segment entitled “On a Very Special Episode Of…” that goes in depth into the greater theme the broadcast seemed to be on a crusade to discuss, but it fits in so nicely here.  The reality is that they were going for something more mainstream and neutral this year, aiming to please as many people while spreading out the monolog throughout the program and keeping a tight schedule.  It worked pretty well, but it would have been rather unforgettable had Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway not announced La La Land as Best Picture when Moonlight had actually won.

But there were two themes that did come up.

The first was not a new one.  We’ve seen it a lot since 9/11, actually.  And the year that there was controversy surrounding the rise of superhero movies, the perceived decline of films with depth, and fans that were upset that The Dark Knight was snubbed, the Academy went to extra lengths to elevate the films that were actually given the nod, going as far as to have host Hugh Jackman use his Wolverine street-cred to sing a song in his opening monologue about the subject.  Movies are important.  Storytelling is important.  Film is an important industry, not just for the American economy but for the world’s.

The second was only lightly touched on, but it’s exactly what I thought they should have focused on.  You see, in calling for others to boycott the Oscars, the Trumpeters said things like, “Why do we give awards to actors and not the real heroes?”  First, we do, and if it made for good T.V., you better believe they would air it.  It should go without saying that Hollywood is indeed rewarding the best work in their industry, but their industry routinely pays tribute to real-world heroes.  Captain “Sully” Sullenberg.  Desmond Doss.  The hidden figures that put a man on the moon.  People who adopt and raise children.  Not to mention all the real-world heroes in the documentary subjects!  By bringing famed scientist Katherine Johnson, who Taraji P. Henson played in Hidden Figures, onto the stage to a standing ovation, the point was made.

“Movies about the lives of men and women in the history books have long been a staple of storytellers,” Monae told the audience. “Sometimes the names and deeds of the heroes in those films are known to all.”

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THE BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

The best acceptance speech for an Oscar this year was not during this broadcast.  It actually came from Jackie Chan, who won a lifetime achievement award during an earlier ceremony.  You can watch that speech here.

However, if we’re just looking at the televised ceremony, then the winner would be Viola Davis, who extolled the storytellers to “exhume those bodies.”  You can see that here.

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ALSO DEAD:

They always leave people off the memoriam.  This year, the following people were missing:

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Alexis Arquette (actor)

florence-henderson

Florence Henderson (actor)

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Dan Ireland (producer)

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Jon Polito (actor)

GALLERY

Dorris Roberts (actor)

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Garry Shandling (actor, comedian)

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Robert Vaughn (actor)

 

NOT DEAD:

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Producer, Jan Chapman, whose picture was mistakenly used for costume designer Janet Patterson.

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A SPECIAL TRIBUTE:

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Known for The White Shadow, 1776, Rambo, 30 Rock, and 105 other credits, Ken Howard was also the President of SAG/AFTRA, Chancellor of the National Kidney Foundation, a board member of the Los Angeles Alzheimer’s Committee, a board member of Shambala Animal Preserve, and a national spokesperson for the Onyx and Breezy Foundation.  I had the pleasure of knowing him a little during my tenure at Kent State. He was attending the graduate program and taught a few classes that I was in. He coached me in a couple of monologues.  He was a no-nonsense kind of guy that was very particular about what he considered good acting.  He ended one class with an open q & a. The rest of the class kind of waited, unsure of what to ask and looking to each other to break the ice. I put my hand up right away and asked him about working with Sylvester Stallone.  He chuckled and told a few good-natured stories.  That got things going.

RIP, Ken.

 

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MY FAVORITE PART OF THE SHOW

Bringing his favorite running gag from his late night show to the Academy Awards broadcast, Jimmy Kimmel made a lot of jokes at Matt Damon’s expense.  He has been his supposed arch-nemesis ever since he ended an episode with bad guests by quipping, “My apologies to Matt Damon.  We ran out of time.”  Upping the ante, former girlfriend Sarah Silverman surprised Jimmy with a music video for “I’m F#$%ing Matt Damon” and then taking it to a whole new level with his own response, “I’m F@#$ing Ben Affleck,” the fake-feud has led to a lot of great TV moments.

So. . .  After the insane confusion with the Best Picture mix-up, I had a lot of fun with my live Tweets.

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SCORE BOARD:

0 Correct Answers 0%
Nobody  
1 Correct Answer 4.1666%
Nobody  
2 Correct Answers 8.333%
Nobody  
3 Correct Answers 12.4999%
Nobody  
4 Correct Answers 16.666%
Tarah Hamilton  
5 Correct Answers 20.8333%
Nobody  
6 Correct Answers 24.999%
Elizabeth “E.J.” Jackson  
7 Correct Answers 29.1666%
Matt Ratz  
8 Correct Answers 33.333%
Jamie Mank  
Ann Murdock  
9 Correct Answers 37.4999%
Nobody  
10 Correct Answers 41.666%
Mike Maletic  
Leigh Ann Spratt  
11 Correct Answers 45.8333%
“Shawny” Shawn Page  
12 Correct Answers 49.999%
Regan Page  
David Shoemaker  
13 Correct Answers 54.1666%
Brian Stevens  
14 Correct Answers 58.333%
Victoria Leduc  
15 Correct Answers 62.4999%
David Grant  
Stella Ingram  
16 Correct Answers 66.666%
???????  
17 Correct Answers 70.8333%
Nobody  
18 Correct Answers 74.999%
Nobody  
19 Correct Answers 79.1666%
Nobody  
20 Correct Answers 83.333%
Nobody  
21 Correct Answers 87.4999%
Nobody  
22 Correct Answers 91.666%
Nobody  
23 Correct Answers 95.8333%
Nobody  
24 Correct Answers 100%
Nobody  

 

WALL OF FAME

1999 – Elizabeth Grant

2000 – Eric Fox

2001 – Jillaine Gill

2002 – Eric Fox, Nate Hodges, and Drew Lerman– 13 correct guesses (no tie breaker)

2003 – Eric Fox– 15 correct guesses

2004 – Kevin Schwendeman– 20 correct guesses

2005 – Nate Hodges– 16 correct guesses

2006 – Jes Antolik and Leigh Ann Spratt — 14 correct guesses (Leigh Ann won the tie breaker)

2007 – Jillaine Gill — 16 correct guesses

2008 – Rock Shaink Jr — 14 correct guesses

2009 – Benjamin Crusoe — 18 correct guesses

2010 – Holly Elswick — 17 correct guesses

2011 – Elizabeth Grant — 17 correct guesses

2012 – Christian Hodges and Kevin Schwendeman — 18 correct guesses (Christian won the tie breaker)

2013 – Sheepdog David Grant — 19 correct guesses

2014 – Sheepdog David Grant — 21 correct guesses

2015 – Brian Stevens — 20 correct guesses

2016 – Holly Elswick and Brian Stevens — 17 correct guesses

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

With 16 correct guesses…

 

holly-elswick

Holly Elswick!!!

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Top Posts of 2016

Keanu

10. Keanu!!!, in which I review the Key and Peele film.

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9. How Should I Spend My Lottery Winnings, in which I make plans for a couple million bucks

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8. The DO’s and DON’T’s of Action Flicks, in which I compare and contrast the original Jack Reacher film with Skyfall

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7. How to Spot a Racist, a post that is even more important today than it was when I wrote it in 2013

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6. The Greatest Depictions of Single-Minded Emotion, a continuously popular blog

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5. VOTER’S GUIDE: California Propositions and Measures, a helpful voting tool

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4. Back Story, the story of my debilitating back injury and the miracle that went with it

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3. Ghostbusters (2016): A Superfan’s Perspective, my thoughts on the reboot

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2. Going Long: Reviews for “Kill Me Now” and “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie,” reviews of a couple of independent films made by popular Youtube artists

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1. Predator versus “Predator,” my take on female teacher sexual scandals

 

 

The Greatest Depictions of Single-Minded Emotion

Seeking out the perfect representation of simple emotion in the arts.  This is one man’s opinion. . .

Anger


Kratos (God of War)

  • The team that worked on his design and animations put in every effort to make Kratos seem ticked off.  From his hunched walk to his snarling voice, it doesn’t take long to realize that the gods of Olympus are in for some hurting.
  • Honorable Mention: Mel Gibson (William Wallace in “Braveheart”)

Happiness

Mickey Mouse

  • There’s a reason Walt Disney’s theme parks are often cited as “the happiest place on earth” despite the fact their really just a gimmick to get you to stand in lines all day and fork out loads of cash.  It’s because of the lovable animated mouse that hopped down from the cartoonist’s pen and came to life in the hearts and minds of every child.

Frustration

Curly Howard (The Three Stooges)

  • With a shrieking “mmmmmmmm!!!” and a double slap to the face, Curly communicated frustration in a way that surpassed any language barrier.  You know it’s an effective interpretation when you start doing the same thing in your everyday life.

Fear

Shemp Howard (The Three Stooges)

  • The general Stooge “Gnaaah!!” is pretty much what I do when I’m scared, but it’s the addition of Shemp’s “me me me me me” and crazy noises that takes the fear to terror.
  • Honorable Mention: Lou Costello (Abbott and Costello) for his trying-to-whistle/trying-to-cry-out-for-help bit.  However, the fact that he was mugging a bit too much toward the forth wall gave Shemp the easy edge.
  • Additional Honorable Mention: Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead)

Surprise

Michael Richards (Kramer on “Seinfeld”)

  • Each time he walked through a door, it seemed that Kramer was surprised by what he found inside the room, but it was the moments when his mind was blown that he truly excelled in being the embodiment of happy, frightened, or excited surprise.

Despair

Harold Lloyd (“Safety Last”)

  • Running out of time.  Running out of space.  Harold Lloyd is literally hanging for his life on the revolving arms of a clock, perilously five or six stories above rush hour traffic.
  • Honorable Mention: Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”) for going for the same gag.

Indignation

Oliver Hardy (Laurel and Hardy)

  • When Stan messes things up, Ollie – as one of the greatest straight men in history – didn’t just do a double take or slap the man-child, his reaction shot was the punchline to a mousetrap of a set up.

Disgust

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Jim Carey (“Liar Liar”)

  • I think it’s the revulsion followed immediately by the gag reflex that does it for me.  And that he seems to be clearing his palette after throwing up in his mouth a little is just the cherry on top.
  • Honorable Mention: Jim Varney (“Ernest Goes to Camp”) when he’s cleaning the toilet in the opening credits.

Insanity

Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard”)

  • The entire movie is a study in madness and delusion, but the “I’m ready for my close-up” scene is pure movie magic.  It’s incredible that a film about aging silent movie actors still feels as fresh and relevant today as it did then.  The funeral for the chimp companion has shadows of Michael Jackson and Bubbles, and the struggles to feel special and unique are something more and more people can relate to in the Twitter era.
  • Honorable Mention: Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance in “The Shining)

Love

Alfalfa (Our Gang, Little Rascals)

  • How do you define love?  Well, since we’re doing lust as a separate emotion here, let’s presume it is innocent.  It’s eager to please, yearning, awkward, bold.  When Alfalfa croons, he is the embodiment of all these things.
  • Honorable Mention: Ingrid Bergman (“Casablanca”)

Lust

Benny Hill (“The Benny Hill Show”)

  • Forget the tender empathy of love.  Lust is all about wanting the object of your desire, and Benny Hill not only projects that outward yearning on his face, he chases after crowds of beautiful women to “Yakety Sax!”
  • Honorable Mention: Tex Avery’s Wolf

Bashful/Shy

Stan Laurel (Laurel and Hardy)

  • Stan Laurel may have gotten himself and his pal into many a fine mess, but he was too darned lovable to stay mad at for long.  His total lack of ego may have been the only thing keeping him from being ripped limb from limb by an indignant Hardy.

Brave/Bold

Norman Rockwell (Of the Problem We All Live With)

  • Ruby Bridges walking to a newly desegregated classroom, surrounded by a mob of racists was an act of absolute bravery, and this painting captures the moment with clarity and a boldness of it’s own.  Norman Rockwell is America’s great painter, and this is one of his finest works.
  • Honorable Mention: Norman Rockwell (Murder in Mississippi – Southern Justice) is a very close second, but the fact that the subject is not a child and that the emotions are more complicated lost the edge.

Cocky/Self-Indulgent/Arrogant

Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”)

  • It’s rare for a drama or thriller to give you protagonist without layers, but Patrick Bateman’s subtext is that he’s even more shallow than he seems on the surface.  That’s what makes it such great satire and a roasting look at society in the 1980’s.

Broken/Redeemed

Bill Murray (Frank Cross in “Scrooged”)

  • This is particularly subjective, I realize.  For a lot of people, the ending of this movie dragged on way longer than it should have, and perhaps they’re right when judging the film solely as a comedy.  For me, however, this scene was absolutely necessary for us to see and feel the redemption of a Christmas miracle.  And more importantly, this was the moment that I realized that one of my favorite actors of all time was actually one hell of an actor.

Sad/Depressed

Ricky Scroder

Ricky Schroeder (“The Champ”)

  • This one was easy.  There was an actual scientific study to find the saddest scene in history, and the kid from “Silver Spoons” won it hands down.  While they don’t have an animated .gif of this iconic moment (I mean, who would spend their time making such a thing of something so sad), you can view the three minute scene here.

Anguish/Despair/Worry

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James Stewart (“It’s a Wonderful Life”)

  • The scene where George Bailey is praying at the bar was one of the first shots Jimmy Stewart did coming out of the war.  He had told Frank Capra, the director, that he wasn’t ready to make a movie, that he was still recoiling from the psychological effects of combat.  Mr. Capra got this shot and actually scanned the image to get closer than the original frame.
  • Honorable Mention: Aleksey Kravchenko (Florya Gaishun in “Come and See” – “Idi i Smotri”) showed incredible range and depth in his first acting role.  The moment he literally sticks his head in the mud to block out what he is seeing is riveting and will stay with you forever.  It kind of comes as no surprise that in the director’s commentary, Elem Klimov reveals he was afraid this scene had “driven the boy mad.”

Shame

Lucille Ball (“I Love Lucy”)

  • Lucy would do anything to get into Ricky’s show.  She’d step over people and on toes, and it would end in disaster.  But she loved the people that she embarrassed or hurt, and she genuinely felt ashamed.  Thus, she’d burst out into her famous “Wah!!”  The picture here is not perfect, but you can see what I mean here.  (It’s a fan-made music video of a song produced by “Weird Al,” but it shows you what I mean if you if you don’t already know.)

Pain

Jim Varney (Ernest P. Worrell)

  • Jim Varney’s rubbery face could project many emotions, but what the slapstick maestro excelled the most at was showing pain.  I feel he especially excelled at exaggerating the little injuries that we are all familiar with, such as slamming his fingers in a door.

Weariness

Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean in “Falling Asleep in Church”)

  • This entire five and a half minute sketch is pretty much Mr. Bean just trying to stay awake through the sermon at his church.  And it’s perfectly riveting.  Check it out right here.

Hunger

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Charlie Chaplin (The Tramp in many films, but especially “Gold Rush”)

  • For one of the richest men ever to grace the silver screen, Charlie Chaplin sure understood hunger.  The Tramp was an outcast who couldn’t hold down a job, keep a girl, or get a decent meal.  The most compelling imagery for hunger is in “Gold Rush,” where Mr. Chaplin invented the man-turning-to-food-hallucination gag, which you can watch here.

Isolation/Loneliness

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Live (Lightning Crashes)

  • Music has a way of crawling under your skin and haunting you.  This song about simultaneous death and birth reminds me of driving lonely roads miles from home in the middle of the night.  It’s melancholy without being so sappy it doesn’t leave you completely cold.  You can watch the music video here.
  • Honorable Mention: No Doubt (Don’t Speak) is the song I listen to in a dark room when I need to cry for a scene.   Don’t judge me!

Belonging/Family/Community

The whole town (“It’s a Wonderful Life”)

  • As you can see above, this film was cited as having the quintessential moment of anxiety, which makes this ending all the sweeter.  It is at the precise moment that this line is spoken by George’s kid brother, the war hero Harry Bailey, that the realization that no man is a failure who has friends really sinks in.

Sarcastic

Groucho Marx (The Marx Brothers)

  • I don’t know about you, but whenever I want to get away with insulting someone, I pretend to be ashing a cigar, stoop down a little, and say whatever quip I have in mind in the voice of Groucho Marx.  The greatest compliment in the world was an insult from the man with the painted on mustache and eyebrows!

Indifferent

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Buster Keaton

  • The king of deadpan comedy, Buster could have a house fall down around him, and he would take it all in stride.  In fact, he did.  You can see that here.  Oh!  And here.

Contentment

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Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want”

  • This singular image not only represents contentment within the American ideology, but it calms you as you look at it.  Rockwell created the history of our country on his canvas and told – not an idealized version since he was not afraid to tackle the hard issues (see Bravery above) – but a version that is complete and immediately accessible.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your picks in the comments.  Did I miss an emotion?  Or perhaps a great masterwork?

Some of you may be wondering why there’s so much slapstick comedy on this list.  Well, for two reasons:
1. Slapstick boils down complex emotions into simple, single-minded reactions better than any other art form.
2. I have a deep appreciation for classic comedy.

Okay.  That’s it.  Go on home.  Nothing more to see here.

GameStop and The Wow Factor!

I’ve been reading “Platform” by Michael Hyatt, and based on the fact that Hyatt’s “wow factor” was making it’s way into the GameStop vocabulary in the lately, I’m willing to bet that someone at their corporate office was paying attention.

Unfortunately, I think they just liked the idea of having a wow factor and merely skimmed through the material. They really seemed to miss most of the point.


I can read!

Let’s clear the air first.
I’m not writing this as some disgruntled former employee that wants to see this company go under. On the contrary, I like the company for the most part. I worked there for a decade, and I did learn some valuable things there. I also made contacts during my time there that have aided my life in unexpected ways. (J-Man and Rich Prophet of Chalkskin are both former employees of mine.) I am not demanding for the end to GameStop. I’m simply an outside observer that’s calling things the way he sees them. I’ve started my own business, and I’m trying to give Wolf In Wool Productions as much opportunity for success as possible. As I’m learning about how to make a successful company, I’m also discovering that what I was taught over the last ten years wasn’t exactly the way to do that. This is more of a friendly warning to GameStop and an encouragement for them to finally lift their eyes to a more encouraging future. Stop spouting philosophies that you don’t really live up to, and go all-in.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The fact that I am somewhat disgruntled will show in the vividness of my metaphors, which will be unsuitable for anyone that shouldn’t play an M-rated game, neophytes who walk lockstep with every company mandate, and corporate executives who lack a sense of humor. Beware!

Dwight Schrute
Not intended for this guy.

The Wow Factor.
Hyatt is pretty specific about what you need to wow your customers. He basically says you need to have ten ingredients:

1. Surprise – Exceed our expectations. Create delight, amazement, wonder, or awe.
2. Anticipation – Get your customers to begin to live it in advance.
3. Resonance – Touches the heart. Gives goosebumps or even tears.
4. Transcendence – An experience of purpose, meaning, or even God.
5. Clarity – You suddenly “get it” in a new way.
6. Presence – You are thinking about what is happening now.
7. Universality – Almost everyone will experience it in the same way.
8. Evangelism – It needs to be shared. You recommend it unconditionally.
9. Longevity – The shine never wears off. It endures.
10. Privilege – You feel like humbled and part of an elite group at once.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine an experience that you had that fit at least most of these descriptors. Maybe it was a vacation you took. Maybe it was a book you read. Maybe it was a play or a day at a spa or a movie or. . .

Well, I highly doubt you thought about your last trip to GameStop. Honestly, how many of these things can you really pin on that donkey?

Game Stop
Not saying wow, unless it’s “Wow! My eyes hurt.”

Now on with the unfiltered editorial and those vivid metaphors I promised.
In my opinion, GameStop expects their employees to create the sense of wow for their customer. It’s something I myself was asked to do time and time again by my superiors. We want our customers to have a “wow experience.” Having now learned a considerable amount more about what they were asking, I would have to say that they are expecting way too much from their employees. That or they’re deluding themselves into thinking their stores could be perceived in a very, very different way than they are laid out. Of all of the stores I visited, I could say that maybe Universal City Walk’s store is the exception to the rule. Generally GameStop stores resemble a dumbed-down Odd Lots or a Blockbuster video from the 80’s. Not exactly the thrilling, magical layout you would need to wow anyone with any kind of real expectations.

How does the layout for their sales floor, general display of their products, or their unusual business practices (ie gutting games, allowing employees to check out new games, low-balling trade in values, etc.) surprise you? (Unless you’re expectations are low.) How does it help bring clarity to the experience? (Customers are constantly getting lost and have to ask for direction around the store.) How does it cause you to focus on the here and now? (Unless you’re really occupied with finding that out-of-place game somewhere in the haystack of used PS2?) Even when you’re dealing with video games, a beloved past-time, the store design barely conjures feelings of nostalgia. (Certainly not enough to warrant transcendence.) When you take the interaction with the staff away from the equation, the overall shopping experience at your neighborhood GameStop just feels so cheap, and it’s all based on the feeling you get when you look around their store. (There is no privilege in shopping such a generic sales floor.)

Nice try though.

My personal belief is that their being dubious. They are expecting the mere fact that they sell an exciting product to generate the needed thrill to compensate for the poor business practices that constitute their highly underwhelming layout. It’s as though they expect nerds to have a geekgasm just by being around video games, and the staff is there to further stimulate their erogenous zones while they come down from the erotic experience of spending their hard earned money on something that will distract them from the world just long enough to earn enough for the game they pre-ordered.

I guess that means they do have the anticipation category on lock.

How lucky they are to have GameStop around to satisfy them. Otherwise, they’d have to get their lovin’ from a big box store that won’t even warm them up with half-working demos and cardboard cut outs of Masterchief. That or they’d have to risk a virus downloading their favorite fantasies on pirate sites like some kind of regular pervert. And when they’re at home, finally alone, they can utilize the privacy of their personal privy to page through the latest issue of their porn rag, Game Informer. With each upcoming game, their anticipation rises, and they find themselves drawn back to their costume-painted mistress again and again.

Red Beard
Ooh! GameStop, your beard tickles!!

Enough of that sexy talk.
I digress… My point is that the business model for GameStop seems to revolve completely around their products and their employees as the sole source of wow. They’re strategy is to hire folks that love games just as much as their customers and have their associates be the front-runners of evangelism. However, by only taking the experience halfway, they are in essence hamstringing their quarterbacks and almost guaranteeing they fumble the ball.

When I was working there, they would build up midnight releases as these epic occasions, and they really have the potential to turn an occasional shopper into a loyal customer. They would talk about making deals with pizza chains, soda companies, etc etc. But unless you had a Chick-Fil-A nearby, you were boned. (And that’s only because Dan Cathy’s policy is to give GameStop everything they need, expecting nothing in return.) The entire event was laid in the hands of the store manager. They had zero support, but the expectations were astronomical.

Well, that’s midnight releases, but what about the day-to-day. Just ask any GameStop manager what their operations, tasks, and expectation consist of. With their heavy task loads and lack of payroll, it’s a wonder if they’ll even have time to answer your question. They’re taking their greatest asset, and their weighing them down with the same outdated practices and philosophies that keep their sales floors from having that shine.

And, honestly, how sad is a GameStop store compared to the expectation of fun you get from playing a video game? How in the heck do they make themselves believe that they’re doing anything aside from falling short of expectations?

Used PS2
I mean, I guess it kind of looks like Tetris.

Here’s where I vent my personal frustrations.
GameStop overestimates their brand, and they put too much pressure on their employees without giving them the necessary support to be successful. Sure, some managers will compensate, but that is almost exclusively the singular act of that employee. They either have so much excitement for the gaming world that they explode with energy and transcend their environment to personally bring the customer up to them. Or they are incredibly gifted at balancing tasks, operations, and sales and can be all things to everyone all the time. GameStop has certainly not made it easy for anyone to be wowed by their storefront, sales floor, or experience. They overwhelm their employees with busy work, do not give them the man hours to effectively run their business, hamstring them with unmanageable fixtures and walls, make them feel guilty for feeling the heat, and just generally discount the value of even their hardest working people. These employees can be incredibly dedicated and well-balanced, but unless they shine incredibly well in the pinlight of an area that they micromanage (rewards cards, reservations, constant growth of sales and trades, and a customer service matrix that is based on their “wow” experience), then the employee is replaceable. A burden even. You have to be in the top two thirds of the company to not be constantly challenged, shamed, and reprimanded. This is despite the economic limitations of your store’s location or the ceiling of growth a store can experience. You have to always be growing your business, even when operating at a consistently high level. If you’re not in the top third, you’re told that you’re doing it wrong. What one store can do, all of them can do. This wouldn’t be true even if you weren’t ranking your stores against one another. It’s impossible for all stores to meet at the same equilibrium. That’s a fanatic’s dream, and it should have been abolished long ago. Instead of focusing on how to better the experience and compete against outside forces, the bonus scale is based on how to beat the other GameStops that are all within walking distance of your own store.

Sony and Best Buy
While you were worried about the other GameStop in your mall, Kevin Butler was making love with Best Buy.

Why it’s important GameStop heeds this warning.
GameStop – Can I call you G.S.? G.S., let me talk directly to you for a moment. You are losing your foothold. While you stay focused on managing your practices virtually the same way you did when the Super Nintendo reigned supreme, technology is slowly making you obsolete. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo. . . They’re all trying to find ways to do their business without a middle man. And let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s not because the industry doesn’t see your value. They clearly have made a lot of money with you over the years. It’s entirely because they don’t care for your business practices anymore.

You’re not wowing them either.

I can relate to you. I’m trying to start an entertainment company in a time when music, television, and movies have become temporary commodities. I’m trying to find a foothold where I can give my fans a wow experience, and I’m working my butt to the bone to do it. It’s not easy to reinvent the wheel!

And I understand EXACTLY what you’re trying to do on a very personal level. I worked for you for a decade. I worked ridiculously hard for you and kept things in balance pretty well. But when I first started working for you, my employees were excited about working at GameStop. That changed over the years. Soon they didn’t work for you. Their labors and efforts, their struggles and tears, their triumphs and growth was because they worked for me. Me as an individual. I was noted as one of the most successful managers when it came to churning out responsible, ambitious key holders. I gave birth to several managers, assistant managers, and senior game advisers during my tenure. I was the guy you came to when your store needed someone great.

With tough times in my community and a dwindling passion for selling magazines, I was constantly being put on a chopping block. I often told I was not good enough. No matter how hard I worked, I was on a treadmill. I was going nowhere. I was back then exactly where you are as a company right now.

I mean, think about “wow” experiences… real ones, where you were genuinely knocked back by an emotional reaction from entering a store. Maybe it’s the Lego store by Disney Land. Maybe it’s the brick facade and cologne smell of an Abercrombie & Fitch. Maybe it’s that toy store you loved so much when you were a little kid. Now, compare that to a customer’s experience walking into one of your stores. It’s apples and oranges.

You sell video games! Why can’t you make a visit to GameStop like a trip to the Mushroom Kingdom? Or Rapture? Or Azeroth? Or Hyrule? Or . . . I mean, really anywhere but your clustered, confusing, convoluted sales floor.

If you really want to commit to wowing their customers, you need to commit fully. The experience is cheapened by the store’s layout and marketing. Own that and stop living in denial. Stop making your employees believe that it’s their fault. Right now, you’re asking your employees to do all of the work, and while most of them are doing a great job, I really think it would be a totally different ball game if the stores had an added ascetic value.

Homer in Mushroom Kingdom
Woohoo!! Best GameStop ever!

What you’re doing right.

1 The DLC program was a step in the right direction, but it was unmanageable. Just don’t give up on it!

2 You have it right with GameStop TV and the Guide. You should be kissing the folks that came up with that stuff tenderly every night.

3 The way you manage your back stock in an increasingly expanding industry is commendable.

4 Don’t stop inventory counts or any of the things that aid in loss prevention. The model is set, and it’s pretty sound.

5 The POS system is pretty rad. Streamline it, and it will be the greatest tool for your people.

6 For the most part, you’re hiring the right people.

Brotherhood of Steel
More of this.

What you need to change today if you’re serious about committing to wow.

1 Don’t just think that because you hired great talent that you’re any good at cultivating them. Your track record suggests otherwise. I’ve seen twenty year veteran managers winning awards at your conference. They’ve been there for twenty years, they’re doing well enough to win something, and they aren’t moving up with you? Something’s broken, and I’m pretty sure I know what it is. You don’t support your people. You don’t make them better. Instead, you hire them and expect them to do it on their own. Or under the guidance of their superior, who you are also doing very little to grow. You’ve gotten a little better at this, but it’s really quite pitiful. You’ve lost so many great people over the last five years, because they got burned out waiting for the sky to open up for them. Change that.

2 Help your inexperienced managers more. Train them in operations and don’t just zero in on sales sales sales. Your training is really lackluster when you compare it to Starbucks or really any other company that is truly going after the wow. Instead of relying on expensive programs and data matrix for scheduling, just teach your people how to do that stuff. It’s really not hard, and it’s embarrassing that you have managers who can’t write a schedule.

3 Don’t just appreciate your gold medalists in sales. Your people are working hard everyday in stuff that you require them to do. Most of them are operating at a ridiculously high level when it comes to shrink or TOH accuracy or any number of things that you rank, require, and never recognize. A nod on a conference call is not enough when they’re often being told on the other side of the mouth “I’m not going to fire you for bad TOH.”

4 Stop creating busy work. I know, you don’t think it’s busy work. It’s simply the needs of the business. Yeah, great! Except how many other retailers require their staff to gut games? You need to separate needs from wants. No, it’s not even that. You have to stop wanting stupid things. Why do you want your stores drowning in gutted cases? Not only does it quadruple your workload, it’s also a friggin’ eyesore! I know it’s not an easy egg to crack, but you’ve had fifteen years to come up with an alternative. You don’t have another fifteen.

5 Most importantly, make your stores an escape. Think about five words that exemplify what video games mean to people, and remodel your stores to that. It will make a world of difference.

Guitar Hero
This was the last picture ever taken of Timmy. Three seconds later, he was crushed beneath a pile of rhythm game peripherals.

And to my friends that still work there, I have this to say.
I don’t think I was ever cut out for that kind of work, and no matter how hard I tried, I would never have the level of success that I know many of you are capable of. I just hope that GameStop can improve their customer experience from a corporate level down. I’m not knocking you or your work. You do a great job, and it’s really not easy. I just hope that the guys you work for aren’t trying to ride it out and squeeze every cent they can out of the company before they become obsolete. I truly hope they’re doing something to make themselves – and you – irreplaceable.

I hope they’re ready to wow us.

GameStop
“Wow, mom! It’s Black Friday, and I’m just trying to find a game for my boyfriend, and I feel like I’m on another planet, and I tried to get help from the nice guy that works here, but he was busy trying to find a used game in the used PS2 section – whatever a used PS2 is – and I just want to curl up and die! WOW!!”

Chick Flicks

Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s just because I don’t have lady parts. But I don’t get it.

I could use the spread gun and shoot at every target, but let’s be more succinct and take just one well-placed pot shot.

Yesterday I watched a film called “Maid-of-Honor.” Okay, it wasn’t a film, it was a movie. No. It was a flick. A chick flick. The plot is about a man and a woman who are best friends. He’s banging everything with legs, and she’s got feelings for him. Of course! Who wouldn’t want to be with this man with the magical jiggling parts!? She leaves for a six week trip to Scotland, and while she’s gone, he realizes he’s in love with her. Great! Except when she comes back, she’s engaged to a man with even more magical jiggling parts. She asks her b-f-f to be her m-o-h, and he agrees only to get her to call off the wedding and marry him.

Now, I’m not one to back a marital union that is cemented in a relationship that’s only lasted two months, but this movie is really, really dumb. The chick flick takes it’s time showing how our intrepid, sexually motivated hero is not as good as the groom. He’s not as athletic, successful, nice, or – as mentioned – hung. She’s clearly snagged the perfect guy here. If Hollywood were brave enough, they could have made this a true film They could have made a bold statement about letting go of your libido and having a strong and loving platonic friendship between a man and a woman. Instead, this movie ends with the tripe formula of every other romantic comedy. He runs to her, she runs the rest of the way, he makes a fool out of him self in public without fear of anyone thinking less of him for expressing his feelings, and they make out a lot. They do this at the wedding chapel, and she calls off the nuptials mid-ceremony.

Yep. Like, I said, maybe it’s the fact I don’t have lady parts to quiver at this moment, but I really don’t get it. All I took away from this movie was that he was a doosh bag and she was a slut. And the “perfect man” will be emotionally crippled for the rest of his life so the other guy – who must have contracted every std in New York – can settle on the one who’s been there the whole time.

Gag!

George Lucas

This is a response to the following interview. If you haven’t yet read it, go ahead and do so first please.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/george-lucas-star-wars-interview-288523

My problem with Mr. Lucas is that he isn’t even honest about what he’s doing. There are many issues here.

First, George expresses an opinion that movies are changed all the time. That’s not really true. Yes, the studios often change things without a director’s consent, which he contests as a negative. The major changes are always made before the film is released, and in certain situations, the director has the privelege of releasing their original cut at a later time. Ultimately this is because the studio and the filmmaker have different ideas of what the film is. The studio is interested in the marketing, and the director is interested in the art. That’s kind of a simplistic definition of what happens, but it’s mostly appropriate.

Now, as far as “Bladerunner” is concerned – the example Mr. Lucas used – the film hasn’t been cut “seven ways to Sunday.” It’s been cut a total of three times. The theatrical release with the narration, the original director’s cut without narration and a few extra seconds of footage, and the decades late true director’s cut, which was the actual director’s cut. The changes are all in the editing and in extra scenes. They didn’t go back and micromanage the film the way George has with his.

You see, here’s the thing, George Lucas doesn’t seem to realize the changes he makes aren’t typical. He seems to believe it so much that he has convinced himself that it’s true.

Just look at how he explains the “Han shot first” conspiracy. He’s referring to a change that added a CGI blaster shot with particle and smoke effects, manipulated Harrison Ford’s head to actually cock awkwardly to the side with super speed, and changed the entire compisition of the scene as “a little wider shot” that merely clarifies what originally was in the film.

Huh.

My next issue is with how grandiose he envisions his own role in the film industry. He literally says that he “resurrected the visual effects business.” Now, granted Industrial Light and Magic has a major role in the special effects business, but visual effects weren’t exactly dead before George Lucas came around. And this was his response to the question “Have you seen ‘Hugo’?”

Wow.

While I do believe that it’s silly for people to have turned it into such a large issue, I do think George could avoid these pains if he’d atleast allow us to buy the version we grew up with.