Tim Meyer’s 69 is a sublime look at the horror of Alzheimer’s disease

Tim Meyer’s 69 is a well-paced, chillingly atmospheric horror novella set in a New Jersey assisted living facility. Amanda is sent to investigate why all of the 69-year-old residents of Sping Lakes have slipped into “living dead” comas, complete with rigor mortis. They’re alive, barely, but possessed by something. The evil baddie of 69 eats memories, and uses your worst ones against you. While cosmic horror is at the root (pun intended ) of the residents’ problems, the underlying terror of 69 is the real-life horror of losing a loved one to the slow mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease. Meyer’s storytelling skills are top-notch.

New Book! The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight!

It is with little fanfare but no small amount of pride that I announce the release of my latest novel, The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight! To commemorate this fine achievement I interview myself below.

Q: What the hell is this?

A: It’s a book.

Q: Duh!

A: Dur!

Q: What kind of book is it?

A: A new one. 

Q: Asshole! What’s it about?

A: About 230 pages in print…60,000 words…

Q: You know you suck at book promotion.

A: Yes. I do. 

Q: Is that why The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight was published with no pre-orders, no promotional copies, no ads, no reviews, no promotion of any kind?

A: Yes.

Q: Is this an elaborate marketing scheme, like when Beyonce drops a surprise album without telling anyone?

A: No. I hit the wrong button while proofing the print version on Amazon and accidentally put the book on sale. So I figured I’d better release the ebook version also. 

Q: How long has the book been out?

A: A few weeks. 

Q: How’s the feedback so far?

A: I haven’t gotten any. Nobody knows about it. Nobody’s read it. 

Q: Why should I read The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight?

A: It’s a good book. 

Q: (sigh) What will I find in this book…and don’t say “words”!

A: Rock ’n’ roll, cosmic terror, dysfunctional twin brothers, inter-dimensional monstrosities, music management, human sacrifice, adult film actresses, zombie parenting, South American drug cartels, caregiver stress, the end of the world, and fat jokes. Other stuff too. 

Q: This sounds similar to your first novel, Hangman’s Jam, except with more fat jokes.

A: It’s a sequel to Hangman’s Jam.

Q: See! Now you’re talking! Why didn’t you say that in the first place?

A: Because it’s more of a parallel novel than an outright sequel. Hangman’s Jam was narrated by Bobby Marks, the bass player for Allen Vent & The Strange Creations. The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight is the story the Boyle brothers, whose band opens for The Strange Creations. Bobby Marks dismissed Vinny and Vance Boyle as murderous henchmen, but there’s much more to these troubled twins. Some believe the Boyle brothers were the true talent at that final apocalyptic show in Rio De Janeiro. 

Q: Wait, the world gets wiped out in The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight too, like it did in Hangman’s Jam?

A: It does. 

Q: Fuck’s wrong with you, man?

A: The story demanded it. 

Q: Why The Dunwich Horrors? What does it mean? 

A: “The Dunwich Horror” is a classic HP Lovecraft story that about cosmic terror and dysfunctional brothers, themes prevalent in The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight. Plus, I thought The Dunwich Horrors was a cool name for the Boyle brothers’ band. (Although, the Boyle Brothers’ Band is a pretty cool name, too.)

Q: Who is HP Lovecraft?

A: Google him, douchebag!

Q: Fuck off! Do I have to read Hangman’s Jamfirst before reading The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight?

 A: No. The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonightstands on its own. 

Q: If I read Hangman’s Jam I don’t need to read The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight because it’s the same story, right?

A: No. They’re both novels about the same apocalypse, but they’re different stories. Like Schindler’s List and Diary Of Anne Frank are both about the Jewish holocaust, but they’re different stories. 

Q: So you’d classify The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight as holocaust literature?

A: No! That was just an example! 

Q: So The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight is based on actual events?

A: No! It’s a dark fantasy novel, you dunce!

Q: How dare you! You’re the dunce who decided to release a book without properly promoting it.

A: Point taken.

Q: Why would I want to read either Hangman’s Jam or The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight if the world ends? Isn’t that depressing? 

A: Lots of things are depressing. But I have some uplifting news! I’ve written a happy ending of sorts into the third and final volume of the Hangman’s Jam Saga, which will be released in early 2020. It’s called Kiss The Sky Goodbyeand it’s available for pre-order on Amazon now. 

Q: Wait a minute! Has this whole crappy interview been a backdoor promotion for Hangman’s Jam Volume III

A: Yes, I suppose. But I had to let you know about Hangman’s Jam Volume II first. Heck, you can pick up a copy of Hangman’s Jam Volume I for a dollar! I’m putting it on sale. You might want to also grab a copy of Songs In The Key Of Madness to immerse yourself in the rich musical history of Hangman’s Jam. Oh, and don’t forget Sensual Nightmares. Selena Simpson from “The Porn Maid’s Tale” has a starring role in Kiss The Sky Goodbye

Q: That’s your idea of book promotion? Putting the first book in a series on sale and releasing the second volume without telling anyone? 

A: I’m telling you. 

Q: I am you, fool! 

A: Yes. Perhaps I should’ve thought about this promotional meta-interview beforehand. 

Q: You can edit this section out. 

A: Yes.

Q: You won’t forget?

A: I’ll remember! Do you think I’m stupid?

Q: Well, you forgot to talk about the custom playlists on YouTube and Spotify!

A: Shit! You’re right! I made custom playlists on YouTube and Spotify that reflect the rock ’n’ roll themes of these novels. The chapter titles align with the song titles. Use these playlists as a type of “soundtrack” for The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight and Kiss The Sky Goodbye. Or pick your favorite song and start reading from there. The story probably won’t make sense, but at least you’ll be listening to your favorite song! All of the Hangman’s Jam stories are very musical, so I figured playlists are a good way to enhance the reading experience. 

Q: So the world ends in Hangman’s Jam and The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight, but gets saved in Kiss The Sky Goodbye?  

A: In a way. It’s hard to save something that’s been washed away, but humanity carries on. We’re hard to kill.   

Q: You are a bundle of joy, Rob Errera! 

A: Kiss The Sky Goodbye is a tale of rebirth and redemption. I hope fans of Hangman’s Jam and The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight will appreciate where I take the story. It’s not all dreary. There are a few jokes in there. 

Q: Sounds like a hoot! It’s a good thing you’re so handsome, Rob Errera! 

A: As are you! 

Q: Do you want to jerk off together? 

A: Always! 

Listen to The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight Playlist on YouTube or Spotify

Listen to the Kiss The Sky Goodbye Playlist on YouTube or Spotify

Get The Dunwich Horrors Die Tonight! (Only $2.99! The cost of a cup of coffee!)

Pre-Order Kiss The Sky Goodbye! (Only $3.99! The cost of a Starbucks cup of coffee!)

Get Hangman’s Jam: A Symphony Of Terror! (One dollar! Cheap!)

Get Songs In The Key Of Madness: New Variations On Hangman’s Jam! (One dollar! Cheap!)

Get Sensual Nightmares: Volume I! (One dollar! Cheap!)

Thanks, folks…and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads!

FREE ADVANCED READING COPY of ROCK ‘n’ ROLL & COMIC BOOKS TAUGHT ME ALL I KNOW

Rock 'n' Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know
Rock ‘n’ Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know
Sorry, folks, not more free ARCs. Gotta buy it January 22, 2019!

Advanced Reading Copy
ROCK ’N’ ROLL & COMIC BOOKS TAUGHT ME ALL I KNOW!


Why, oh Rob Errera, are you giving me this amazing $4 book for FREE? Well, it goes on sale next month so I’m hoping you’ll leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads before then. You don’t even have to read the book! Just cut and paste one of the handy reviews below! 

5 Stars –  Brilliant Insights Into A Pop Culture Renaissance!
I loved this book! The essays were very thoughtful and moving. I laughed. I cried. I fell in love. Who wouldn’t? This book is filled with ‘80s nostalgia, and Rob Errera is a slim, sexy superhero!

3 Stars – This book of non-fiction essays is quite bookish
This book contains words. The words are arranged in sentences. The sentences are arranged in paragraphs. The paragraphs are organized by topic. There are a handful of numbers in this book, too. 

1 Star – Awful! Stay Away! Toxic Thoughts and Malicious Ideas Inside!
This book stinks! It’s filled with ‘80s nostalgia and old man gripes about how music used to be better, blah, blah, blah. Rob Errera is NOT a superhero and looks nothing like the guy on the cover. Rob’s a fat bastard IRL! 

Thank you! Enjoy!
Wait! What happens when I click the button?
A copy of the book will be automatically downloaded from my Dropbox to your device or computer. How you open/read it is up to you. My iPhone/iPad will allow me to export the file to iBooks or my Kindle app. You may have to follow some other method. But you’re a smart, capable person…you can do this!

FREE ADVANCE COPIES! Rock ‘n’ Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know

Rock 'n' Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know
Rock ‘n’ Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know. Is this cover cool or douchey? LMK.

Dudebros & Cool Chicks!

I have a new book coming out next month called Rock ’n’ Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know. Yeah, it’s autobiographical.
Because you’re so cool, I want to give you this book FREE a month before it goes on sale. You’ll wake up Christmas morning and this brand new ebook will be waiting for you, a shiny, precious gift! All you have to do is join my mailing list. You can even leave a fake name (but a valid email address).
Everybody who signs up before Dec. 24, 2018 will get a FREE(bold. all caps. important.) digital copy of Rock ’n’ Roll & Comic Books Taught Me All I Know.
My goal is to get a dozen reviews for this book on Amazon and/or Goodreads before it releases on January 22, 2019. That’s gives you nearly a month to peruse this fine publication and write a review.
Wait, writing? Writing sucks!
I couldn’t agree more. Just copypaste one of the pre-written reviews below! It’s easy! You don’t even have to read the book!
5 Stars –  Brilliant Insights Into A Pop Culture Renaissance!
I loved this book! The essays were very thoughtful and moving. I laughed. I cried. I fell in love. Who wouldn’t? This book is filled with ‘80s nostalgia, and Rob Errera is a slim, sexy superhero!
3 StarsThis book of non-fiction essays is quite bookish
This book contains words. The words are arranged in sentences. The sentences are arranged in paragraphs. The paragraphs are organized by topic. There are a handful of numbers in this book, too.
1 StarAwful! Stay Away! Toxic Thoughts and Malicious Ideas Inside!
This book stinks! It’s filled with ‘80s nostalgia and old man gripes about how music used to be better, blah, blah, blah. Rob Errera is NOT a superhero and looks nothing like the guy on the cover. Rob’s a fat bastard IRL!
Go ahead! Sign up! I want to give you this book!
Peace!
Rob

Tiny Writing On Bath Bottles Is Cruel Joke On The Naked

“Argh! I can’t tell the shampoo and conditioner apart!”

Every time I wash my hair I feel like the victim of a cruel joke…and not just because I’m naked in the shower. It’s because I can’t figure out which bottle is shampoo.

My wife and daughter use a lot of different products, from shampoos and conditioners to body washes and cleansing gels. Everything comes in pretty, decorative bottles with cleverly designed logos and packaging. It’s all too clever for me, who has weak eyesight, and can’t read the labels very well.

What’s in this bottle? I know the brand, and I know it’s called “Hello Hydration,” or “Body Envy,” but what is it? What’s Brazilian Keratin Therapy? Do I need that? One bottle promises “nourishing oils,” while another offers a soupy mixture of rosemary and eucalyphus. Am I really supposed to pour this on my head?

I’ve frequently have to exit mid-shower and find my fogged-up glasses so I can read the labels on bath products. Even with corrected vision it’s hard to tell what some of this stuff is. I know it will “strengthen, enhance, and heal” my hair, leaving it, “sleek and shiny, full of bounce and body.” I know it’s made with exotic-sounding ingredients like kukuli oil, moroccan argan oil, and teatree mint. These things are clearly legible on the bottle. But where are the words telling me what this stuff is?

Ah, there. Printed in a miniscule font usually reserved for legal documents are the words, “shampoo,” “conditioner,” or “body wash.” It’s usually written on the very bottom of the bottle, or stuck in the middle, sandwiched between two larger-type phrases. (Superior Shine / Rejuvenate and Revive).

Thanks to my friends at PhatLabels.com, I can differentiate between my hair care products!

Manufacturers in the cutthroat hair care industry have over-designed their product packaging to the point of uselessness. They are so focused on making their bottles look appealing, they forget to tell you what’s inside.

Admittedly, I’m out of touch when it comes to hair care. My wife and daughter speak the language; they know what all this stuff is and does. Many products use small-type on labels (“100% Spring Water” / “Chocolate Flavored Drink”) and I don’t demand such explanatory packaging from my hot dogs or potato chips.

But bath products are always used when you’re wet, naked, and vulnerable. You squint to protect your eyes from water and soap, so your vision is automatically impaired. If you wear glasses you’ve got double trouble. How are we supposed to see clearly in the tub or shower? Hey, Mr. Shampoo Guy, how about an easy-read label here? Better yet, put Braille bumps on your plastic bottles. This type of universal design would assist users of all ages and bathing levels, while teaching everyone a bit of Braille and the importance of touch. We’re all blind in the shower.

I’ve learned to pick out my bath products before I get in the tub, an essential procedure for anyone who wears glasses and/or shares a bathroom with a woman. There are so many strange and mystifying products in a lady’s bathroom, it’s best to keep your male toiletries to yourself. More than once I’ve fumbled out of a slippery shower, groping for my glasses, only to find myself holding a bottle of Nair.

Near miss! Lesson learned.

This column ran in TODAY Newspapers in January 2016. Thanks to my friends at PhatLabels.com for the life-saving labels!

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Modern Concerts Are Big On Spectacle, Short On Feel

Once upon a time, I loved going to rock concerts.

It didn’t matter what the act was. Tickets were cheap in the 1980s: $15-$20; maybe $27.50 for fancy seats.

One week in the mid-80s I saw REO Speedwagon on a Monday night, and KISS that Thursday. I was at an Ozzy Osbourne/Metallica show where the crowd ripped open the seats and tossed seat cushions around the arena until a swirling cloud of cushions hovered over the arena floor. I thought there was a fire when Rage Against the Machine played the Lollapalooza Festival in 1993, but it wasn’t smoke; it was the mosh pit kicking up dry dust in front of the stage. A decade earlier Brian Johnson walked down our aisle with Angus Young on his shoulders during an AC/DC concert at the Brendon Byrne area. It really impressed my girlfriend at the time.

Back in the day, the Brendan Byrne Arena and Giants Stadium were the main concert venues for big touring acts. Both venues are still around but they’ve sold their names for corporate sponsorship; they’re the Izod Center and Metlife Stadium now.

Even though I haven’t been to a big rock concert in over a decade, I was happy to take my 10-year-old daughter and her friend to see One Direction at Metlife Stadium recently. Live music is awesome and I was eager to indoctrinate my daughter into the rock concert experience.

1D For Me

One Direction takes the stage.

Making our way into Metlife Stadium I noticed a trend; it seemed most parents were waiting in the parking lot, tailgating, while their kids went into the concert. Not me. I was there for the music, man! Plus, my daughter’s only 10, I wasn’t going to send her and her friend into Metlife Stadium by themselves.

One Direction played a fine set, though the emphasis seemed to be more on explosions, fireworks, streamers and balloons rather than the music. During the power ballad everybody held up the flashlight app on their cell phones and waved them back and forth. I wondered what happened to all the cigarette lighters, but then I realized that nobody smokes anymore, and lighters are dangerous.

The One Direction concert came off a bit impersonal, but I can’t blame the band. They’re just following a trend that began years ago, back when I was still a regular concertgoer.

Giant video screens have been around at rock concerts since the early ‘80s, and while it’s supposed to make big stadium shows feel cozy, instead they reduce live performance to a TV show. Why watch the little man with the guitar from 200 yards away when you can watch the video screen and get a close-up? Why even go to a live concert at all when you can watch the same video footage from the comfort of your home?

Cell phone flashlights have replaced lighters at modern concerts. Safer but boring.

Before the use of big video screens, bands used stage effects that enhanced the music rather than distract from it. From the mid-‘60s and into the ‘70s rock bands had liquid light shows or psychedelic light shows projected behind them while they played. The swirling, colorful amoeba shapes were eventually replaced by elaborate lighting rigs that synched with the dynamics of the music. The Genesis light show was a selling point for their live performances well into the 1980s.

Lost In Techno Translation

But as technology advanced, an intimacy was lost in the concert going experience. Giant video screens simultaneously brought audiences closer to the performers and reduced them to characters on TV. During the One Direction concert I saw several fans recording the concert with their camera phones, but instead of focusing on the members of the band, they were recording the images on the giant video screens. Why?

One thing that hasn’t changed about modern concerts is the energy created when fans gather together to celebrate the music they enjoy. This is the core essence of the concert experience, the same blueprint as religious gatherings. I saw many Grateful Dead concerts over the years, and the atmosphere was very close to a church mass. There was the same sense of reverence, respect, ritual, and release.

And hopefully that will never change. Long live rock-n-roll!

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, October 2014

Cheap Gas Is Great, But Where Are The Other Savings?

“Can I have $40 regular? Cash.”

This used to get the gas tank on our SUV nearly full. But the other day something miraculous happened. The pump clicked to a stop after $29.50.

“That fills it,” the gas station attendant said, seemingly as astonished as I was. “Here’s your change, sir.”

Wow. I couldn’t have been more astonished if a chorus line of Rockettes had danced out to clean my windshield and check my tire pressure. Gas was cheap! Well, cheaper than it has been. Back in February 2009, at the tail end of the 2008-2009 recession, I wrote about Exxon’s record-setting profits ($46.6 billion in 2008 and $40.6 billion in 2007) that were due, in part, to gas selling for $4 a gallon the previous summer.

Why So Cheap?

So what happened? Why is gas selling for half of what it was? Did we unexpectedly find double the amount of crude oil underground? Have gas engines gotten doubly efficient? Are more dinosaurs dying off, increasing the overall reserve of fossil fuel?

No, no, no. Economists say it’s simple supply and demand; oil companies pumped more fuel than people needed, so gas prices dropped. But there are other reasons gas prices are so low, like:

  • Fracking Up—Environmentally un-friendly technologies like hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) and horizontal drilling have helped America increase its oil output by 50 percent over the last several years. Why import expensive Saudi Arabian oil when we’ve got plenty of crude right here under the slate bedrock in Texas and North Dakota? New drilling technologies are even extracting crude from oil-rich sands in Alberta, Canada. Oil extracted from shale or tight sandstone is called “tight oil,” and business is booming.
  • OPEC is a Mess—The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose oil embargo caused America’s “energy crisis” back in 1970s, can’t figure out how to stabilize current gas prices. Iran, Venezuela, and Algeria pushed to cut oil production to firm up prices, but Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf nations refused. Iran has actually increased its crude oil output. The leaders of OPEC met in November, but failed to come to an agreement, leading oil prices to tumble further.
  • Cold War Over, But Still Chilly—Soviet Communism may not be the threat is was 50 years ago, but Russian leader Vladimir Putin is still an unsettling world leader. By supporting rebels in former Soviet states like Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine, Putin seems on a relentless quest to return the Motherland to its “Glory Days” as a Soviet Union. But cheap petroleum is crippling the Russian economy, and may foil Putin’s expansionist plans. Economists estimate Russia’s Gross Domestic Product will shrink by at least 4.5 percent in 2015 if oil stays at $60 a barrel. Bad news for Russia, but good for those branches of American government responsible for keeping Putin in check.

The bad old days, when a gallon cost nearly $5

Gas prices in the US are expected to creep lower throughout 2015. Economists estimate US drivers will spend about $550 less on gasoline in 2015 than they did in 2014, and $750 less on home heating fuel. Great news!

But where are the rest of the savings?

Trucking is the backbone of American commerce. If fuel costs are half of what they used to be, then the cost of shipping and delivery is less, too. The price of groceries and goods everywhere should be coming down, right? When gas was expensive in 2008, NJ Transit raised bus and train fares. So where are the discount bus and train tickets now that gas is cheap? Why aren’t airline fares coming down? Consumers and commuters need a price rollback here!

Don’t hold your breath waiting.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, January 2015

 

 

The Mystery of Superstar Forgiveness in the Age of Apology

A trio of talented awful people: Woody, Bill, and Roman.
A trio of talented awful people: Woody, Bill, and Roman.

We live in the Age of Apology, where knee jerk reactions are the norm, and thin-skinned political correctness reigns. Politicians, pop stars, athletes, actors, comedians, talk show hosts, and church leaders are pressured into insincere public apologies if they “offend” some special interest group or another.

But the Age of Apology has little to do with true forgiveness. Forgiveness in the court of public opinion serves another function altogether.

Send In The Creeps

Exhibit A: Woody Allen. Woody Allen was in a relationship with Mia Farrow for years, helping raise her adopted daughters. But in 1992 Allen separated from Farrow and began a romantic relationship with her adopted daughter, Soon Yi Previn (when Woody was 56, and Soon Yi was 19.) Recently, Woody Allen’s biological daughter with Farrow, Dylan, accused him of molesting her when she was a child.

Woody Allen is a creep.

But he’s also a brilliant artist whose career spans over 50 years. Critic Roger Ebert called Woody Allen “a treasure of the cinema.” Woody’s latest film, “Blue Jasmine,” is amassing award nominations. Audiences and actors alike look past Woody’s personal faults and continue to enjoy his art.

Roman Polanski is despicable, too. In 1977 he admitted to drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He worked out a deal that would spare him jail time, but when that deal fell apart, he fled the country and hasn’t set foot on American soil since.

But Polanski still makes great films. In 2002 he won the Best Director Oscar for “The Pianist.” Actors are eager to work with Polanski, and producers finance his films. Evidently his crimes can be overlooked, too.

Mel hates Jews, but makes awesome movies!
Mel hates Jews, but makes awesome movies!

Despicable Hollywood Creep #3: Mel Gibson. Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rants, and hate-filled voicemails to his ex-girlfriend show serious personal problems. Mel Gibson isn’t on Woody Allen or Roman Polanski’s level (either as an artist or a criminal) but — for whatever reason — he DOES NOT get a pass. Nobody wants to work with old Mel anymore … at least not at the moment or for the foreseeable future.

Why are some loathsome artists forgiven while others aren’t? Why is Alec Baldwin A-list and Mel Gibson on the blacklist? They’re both entitled jerks with explosive tempers. Why can we separate the man from his art in one case, but not the other?

Time heals wounds, and public perception and political climates change. Death helps, too. When an artist is long gone, his work can finally be viewed objectively, apart from the way he lived life. Charles Dickens was a terrible husband and father. Pablo Picasso was a philanderer. Writers Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot were anti-Semitic, as was composer Richard Wagner.

“We Forgive You, Rock Star!”

Today we forgive Chris Brown for beating up girlfriend Rihanna, though a generation ago we couldn’t forgive Ike Turner for doing the same to Tina. We absolve Marv Albert of sexual assault and Michael Vick of animal cruelty, but come down hard on Paula Deen for racial slurs she uttered decades ago.

There are parallels in the world of sports. Alex Rodriguez (baseball cheat) is on brink of flushing his legacy down the toilet. Lance Armstrong (cycling cheat) already did, along with Barry Bonds (baseball cheat), and Aaron Hernandez (serial killer).

Others athletes are forgiven. Tiger Woods (adultery), Pete Rose (sports gambling), Kobe Bryant (sexual assault), and Ben Roethlisberger (sexual assault) have all outdistanced their checkered pasts.

My job as a journalist is to try to make sense of things, to look for repeating patterns, find consistency in apparent chaos. But I can’t find any logic or order in Public Forgiveness. Apparently it works on a sliding scale based on the severity of your crime versus the magnitude of your talent, but as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski show, the scale is far from accurate.

He may have been a kid toucher, but that didn't stop people from loving the King of Pop!
He may have been a kid toucher, but that didn’t stop people from loving the King of Pop!

Forgiving celebrity sins isn’t about true absolution anyway. It’s a plot device to move stories forward. People love familiar stories, and we look for them in the lives of wayward actors and athletes. We love to see the mighty fall. We love even more when they get back up and keep fighting, battling against the odds. Everybody loves an underdog. Forgiveness is the device that allows our heroes to rise from the ashes.

Disgraced actor Shia LaBeouf  (drunk/violent/plagiarist) is reinventing himself while begging Public Forgiveness. LaBeouf recently did a live performance piece called “#IAMSORRY” wearing a paper bag over his head with the phrase, “I’m not famous anymore,” written on it. LaBeouf sat silent and alone at a table full of props while art goers milled around him. Props included an Indiana Jones whip, a Transformer toy, daisies, a ukulele, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a bowl of nasty Tweets, a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses, and a book by author Daniel Clowes, whom LaBeouf was accused of plagiarizing. One reviewer of “#IAMSORRY” said, “it was apparent LaBeouf had been crying, and the experience was surprisingly touching.”

Maybe turning apology into performance art is the next evolutionary step in the Age of Apology.

If so, Roman Polanski and Woody Allen need to put on Oscar-worthy performances.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, February 2014

Modern Junk: Buy the Best, Keep Getting Less

You’ve heard the old adage – “It pays to buy the best.”

Well, it’s a lie. Maybe it used to be true but it’s not anymore.

Here’s another ancient un-truth: “You get what you pay for.” That’s true sometimes, but not always.

I’m a cut-rate guy. I know this about myself and I accept it. I rarely pay full-price for anything. I rarely buy top-of-the-line merchandise. I look for deals, sales, “gently-used” items – anytime I can pay less, I’m in.

Cheese Factor

My wife calls this the “Rob Errera Cheese Factor,” but I resent that. I’m not just being cheap and cheesy. I’m being frugal and wise. I’ve been an “educated consumer” for more than 30 years now and the more shopping I do the more educated I become. In my experience I’ve found you have to strike a balance between cost vs. functionality and items that are marketed as “the best” are rarely worth the extra money they demand.

Case in point – my new headphones. For the past year I’ve been using a $10 pair of earbuds. They sound okay, but they’re “entry level” earbuds. I decided to treat myself to a fancy pair of ‘buds. Hey, I’m a music lover — it’ll be worth the extra expense, right?

Well, there are lots of choices. Earbuds range in price from $5 to $500. I settled on fairly upscale $100 pair. I was impressed with them – the sound is much fuller and rich. I can hear more detail in the music I listen to. I can hear the squeak of the violin bow during classical pieces, the creak of the drummer’s throne during a quiet moment in a jazz set. Yeah, these new earbuds sound good.

Wish I'd read this article before I bought my crappy earbuds!
Wish I’d read this article before I bought my crappy earbuds!

But they don’t sound ten times better than the $10 earbuds I was using, you know? They sound maybe, three times better. If these earbuds cost $30 I’d feel I got my money’s worth. But they cost more than three times that, and, as a result, I’m left feeling I overpaid for a “better product” that failed to meet my expectations.

Cost vs. Function

This whole “cost vs. quality” issue is something I encounter all the time when shopping. During these tough economic times you have to question the price of everything and ask, “is it worth it?”

A better question might be “Who decides what this is worth?” I’m sure there’s an elaborate science to “consumer price points” and figuring out how much to charge for various products. But the numbers they’re crunching don’t add up.

Why does a BMW SUV cost $40,000 and a Hyundai SUV cost $20,000? Is it really “twice the vehicle” as the Hyundai? Will it look and drive twice as nice? Will it only cost half as much to maintain? Will it last twice as long?

Apply this formula to all of your purchases. Is that $3 loaf of Wonder Bread three times tastier that the $1 store-brand bread? Is Poland Spring water 50-percent better than generic spring water?

Sometimes the answer is yes. (I’ll buy store-brand bread, but I won’t cut corners on paper towels or toilet paper — you’ll end up with a mess on your hands…literally.)

I’ll spend top dollar on something I feel is important. I bought my wife’s engagement ring from Tiffany’s in New York. Yeah, I could have gotten a bigger, better ring down in the Diamond District, but this one came in a swanky “little blue box.” My wife seemed impressed. She agreed to marry me so the ring fulfilled its desired function.

But if you ask yourself “is it worth it?” about the products you buy you’ll probably find the answer is often “no.”

So what are you to do? Just buy cheap stuff all the time?

Yes. You should buy the cheapest product around that meets your needs.

And once you do, you should immediately accept the fact that you’ve just brought a cheap product and it will not be as good as other products on the market (those products that cost twice as much but are not twice as good.) And when your cheap product breaks – which it will, soon – you won’t get it fixed. You’ll trash it and get another cheap product.

Built To Fail

Sound sad? It is. But that’s what manufacturing has evolved to. Everything’s disposable. Everything’s junk. Even “quality merchandise” has a limited lifespan and may not be worth fixing once it breaks. Nothing is built to last anymore.

A better plan is to bring your broken piece of junk back to the store where you bought it for a refund. Perhaps the store will exchange it for a working piece of junk of equal value. If there are enough returns, maybe manufacturers will stop building products so cheaply. I’m sure a lot of price points are based on consumer demand. If we all demand better stuff maybe we’ll get it.

And if, on your travels to over-priced stores to buy/return poorly produced junk, you should happen to see something shiny lying on the ground, stop and take a closer look. It might be the stone from my wife’s engagement ring, which fell out of its classic “Tiffany setting” years ago. The diamond might be in our house, or in our car, or anywhere else in Northern New Jersey.

If you find it, you can thank me for buying the best.

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Originally published in Wayne TODAY, May 2009