Thursday, December 12, 2019

Steak Break The Movie Review

Tampa comic John Jacobs is a genius.

Tampa comic John Jacobs wasted his time.

Neither of these statements may be true. Both of these statements might be true.

This dichotomy is the essence of Jacobs's new movie, Steak Break. On its surface, the movie is about a performer testing his abilities in an entertainment district and hoping to raise enough money in passerby contributions to buy a steak at a local restaurant.

But the movie and Jacobs's purpose is far deeper. Between clips of Jacobs telling jokes, dancing, singing, dribbling a basketball, and attempting skateboard tricks is an inner dialogue Jacobs has with himself, questioning the purpose of the endeavor. Is he really there to raise money for dinner? Or is he trying to test the limits of his skills by performing for hours on a street corner? Or is he trying to better understand the psyche of his audience and what they will pay for? How much is performance art really worth?

Although the movie never mentions how long Jacobs performed on the streets of Ybor City, we can assume from the background that he was there for at least 8 hours. He starts in the middle of the day as passerbys are either tourists or people on their way to or from work, many of whom can't be bothered by the guy singing on a corner. By the end of the movie, he is engaging with barflies and club goers, some of whom take over his role with their own antics.

Somewhere in between - I believe it was near or after 8pm - I crossed path with Jacobs while on my way back from dinner. By then, he was joined by fellow local comic Clark Brooks. My interaction with Jacobs and Brooks is in the movie at the 42:00 mark.

Jacobs engages with many interesting characters, from a lady in a wheelchair who says he is great, to a freestyle rapper, to a young couple who got engaged moments earlier. By the end of the movie, their stories and interactions become almost as much of a story as Jacob's quest to earn money for food.

Following his interactions with Ybor City's nightlife, Jacobs finally calls it a night. He then checks his hat to see how much he received for his hours of performing. Did he make money, and if so, was it enough for a steak? If he did make enough money, did the buy the steak?

Was the endeavor worth the trouble?

Steak Break The Movie is a film about a quest. A quest to make money, a quest to test the limits of human performance, and lastly, a quest to determine the value of art. For these, Jacobs doesn't have to be good. He just has to endure.

Watching Steak Break, I wondered how the movie would have progressed if one passerby dropped a $100 bill into Jacobs's hat in the first hour. With $100 Jacobs could have bought multiple steaks. Had this happened Steak Break would not have been as interesting. Without the struggle, Steak Break probably would have been boring.

And while he may or may not be a genius, John Jacobs is anything but boring.

Watch Steak Break The Movie below:

Monday, December 9, 2019

Meeting Cristela Alonzo in Tampa

Last month I had the awesome opportunity to see comedian, writer, actress, and activist Cristela Alonzo live in Tampa. She was hilarious. Afterwards, I bought her new book and gave her a copy of mine. We both signed our respective books for the other. Very cool moment.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Undercover Brother 2 Review: Unfunky and Unfunny AF

Before 90% of internet traffic went to only four sites, before the dark times, before the empires of Facebook and Google, the early internet was a funky place, full of ideas and creativity. Among the many creative videos the early internet spawned was the pre-YouTube series Undercover Brother, written by John Ridley - the same John Ridley who wrote "12 Years a Slave", The Wanda Sykes Show, and Barbershop.

Ridley's Urban Entertainment sold the rights for the Undercover Brother series to Universal in 2000. According to reports, it was the first Internet-based project to get picked up by a major film studio.

In 2002, comedian Eddie Griffin starred in Hollywood's version of the popular web series. Directed by Spike Lee's cousin, Malcolm Lee, Griffin's movie captured the spirit of comedic rebellion. It was witty, quotable, and light, but still carried a strong socio-political theme. It was a Parliament-Funkadelic album on the big screen. It had a fight-the-power message you could laugh with. It had songs by Snoop Dogg and Bootsy Collins and a cameo by James Brown. It could not be any funkier.

Undercover Brother was a classic.

Fast-forward to 2019. 16 years after Undercover Brother dueled Mr. Feather and The Man, Hollywood green-lighted Undercover Brother 2. Written by comedian Ian Edwards and Stephen Mazur and directed by Leslie Small, the movie went straight to DVD/Netflix without passing go and without collecting $41 million in the theater.

That should be a warning.

The best way for me to sum up Undercover Brother 2 is to say that it's existence is a plan by The Man to diminish the legacy of the first movie.

It is bad. It is not as bad as Joe Dirt 2How High 2, or the Shaq-Fu video game, but it is close. After you read this review, my suggestion is to forget Undercover Brother 2 existed.

But because I bought Undercover Brother 2 on DVD, I am going to cover what I liked, what I didn't like, and where those responsible for this travesty dropped the ball.

(Spoiler Alerts Ahead, if you care not to have this rotten movie spoiled.)

What I liked:

New supporting agents: Sarcastic Brother and Harvard Brother were decent replacements for Conspiracy Brother and Smart Brother - on paper. In the movie, however, nothing can equal Dave Chappelle's litanies against The Man. Conspiracy Brother fueled the concept of The Man as intangible bugaboo that controls everything. The jokes for Sarcastic Brother were not written half as well. If written better, these new agents had a chance to equal the original.

(I wonder if Undercover Brother 2 could have done another Conspiracy Brother being that conspiracy theories are now all 4Chan/QAnon/Illuminati conservatives who believe the all-powerful Deep State is trying to drive America into a One World Government.)

What I didn't like: 

Casting: Michael Jai White is awesome in action movies. He is also well-known as Black Dynamite, another socio-political classic about fighting The Man. Why was he cast as Undercover Brother? This is like casting Robert Downey Jr as Superman. Robert Downey Jr will always be Iron Man and Michael Jai White will always be Black Dynamite.

While Michael Jai White did have a few martial arts scenes, which is a great use of his abilities, there was not enough to make casting him worth the confusion. There are probably many African-American comics who could have fit the role better.

Personification of The Man: In the original Undercover Brother, the director made sure never to show who The Man was. Viewers saw his hands, but there was always a shade on his face. That effect enforced the idea that The Man was an omnipotent, all-powerful entity. It was brilliant.

Undercover Brother 2 not only gave The Man a face, they misused the character completely. They made The Man a person, not a thing to fight. By making The Man a person, they evened the roles of antagonist and protagonist. There was a reason Mr. Feather took the fall in the first Undercover Brother movie. Undercover Brother could fight Mr. Feather but he could never topple The Man. That was the point of The Man. The forces of good are always defending against The Man, yet they can never defeat him. And what would Undercover Brother do if he topple The Man?

My last complaint with Undercover Brother 2's misuse of The Man is that The Man is pigeonholed as an old racist American white man. As a concept, The Man is far more than that. My recent book, The Man Makes You Work: How the Rich and Powerful Hold Down Everyone, explores the fact that The Man is an omnipotent eternal global negative force that prevents people from reaching their goals. In my book, The Man keeps his mystery and power.

Concluding with Undercover Brother's new night club: Horrible. After foiling The Man, Undercover Brother could have been like Black Panther and opened up a cultural learning center. Instead, Undercover Brother and his brother open a place that does not contribute to their neighborhood at all. Where is the positivity and social growth there?

Undercover Brother's brother's relationship with the Chief: While it was great that the BROTHERHOOD had a female chief, the affair between the Chief and Undercover Brother's brother was useless. It was awkward and made no sense. There was no reason for it. If anything, it diminished the Chief's role as leader for her to engage in a relationship with one of her agents.

Manson: As a character, The Man's son was completely unbelievable. He had no goals. There was also no point in his random gun shooting or drug addiction.

Missed Opportunities:

Russian Woke AF: When the original Woke drug is destroyed, Manson (Son of The Man) creates a plan to import more social dividing drugs from the Russians. Given the presence of Russian disinformation in our current politics and Russian goals of dividing people in nations all over the world, this was an awesome idea. It could have made a Vladimir Putin-type character an agent of The Man and made the movie international, moving it beyond holding down American minority groups. Instead, the idea was tossed away in 5 minutes and nothing came of it. Frustrating.

Not using breweries: The antagonist in Undercover Brother 2 uses coffee shops to distribute his Woke drug to cities. This echoed the fried chicken gimmick in the original Undercover Brother. But to make plot more realistic in gentrified areas, the antagonist could have also distributed the Woke drug through breweries, possibly specifically using IPAs as the distribution device. While that would have been similar to Black Dynamite's use of malt liquor to poison the populace, it would have expanded The Man's reach of his drug to urban populations.

College infiltration: Colleges are supposedly where people are the most socially conscious. Not playing up the idea that political correctness of college campuses has run amok missed a huge opportunity. Perhaps Undercover Brother could have used a historically black college marching band (FAMU, Bethune-Cookman, Howard, etc) to funk up a campus of arguing students. This idea could have also led to a great George Clinton or Bootsy Collins cameo.

"Shaquille O'Neal" punches: One of the funniest parts of the original Undercover Brother was how Eddie Griffith shouted names when he connected a punch or kick. Nowhere in Undercover Brother 2 was that done. That should have been an easy carry over joke.

Overall, Undercover Brother 2 was very underwhelming. It was the result of many bad decisions. And I made a bad decision in buying it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Deadspin is Dead Long Live Bloggers

For all intents and purposes, died earlier this month. After corporate orders restricting content to only sports, the site's writers and editors walked out in protest.

Since 2005, was a bastion for against the grain views. When the mainstream media, especially sports media, was grasping with how to handle their growing online audience, Deadspin was at the forefront of the sports blog "revolution". Bloggers were influencing how the online audience thought, and their views were vastly different from the TV-viewing audience.

Many sports blogs wrote from a fan-based perspective not seen in the "ivory tower" of established journalism. To the internet-savvy fan, newspapers were a relic of a slower past. This infuriated more traditional media representatives such as Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger.

Check out this video of Bob Costas's interview with Deadspin founder Will Leitch in 2008. Costas begins by calling the blogosphere the "wild west of the internet" where "anyone can post anything".

(The best part is Costas decrying the "potshots and mean spirited abuse" abundant online. As more people got online and as the internet became more of our daily lives and media went from easy to "social", the mean spiritedness only got worse. If only we had to worry about a few sarcastic comment sections. But that's a social commentary for another day. Maybe another blog post.)

Simply put, the breaking of the publishing barriers and the ease of blogging allowed readers to read, learn, or laugh about sports in ways that circumvented traditional media. Blogs and stat sites were the underground. Blogging was a cool kids club similar to hackers or other online groups that the mainstream didn't understand.

During the time of Deadspin's rise, I wrote frequently on this site and my work and my words were quoted on Deadspin a few times.

In September 2008, for example, then-editor Rick Chandler and I had a small back-and-forth when Chandler insulted the Tampa Bay Rays. First, Chandler posted a letter I wrote to the editor on his post entitled "Mock The Mohawk At Your Own Peril":
On Tuesday, I received this email: Rick I always thought Deadspin was the place for the underdog. I don't know your sports affiliations, but you definitely came off as siding with the Red Sox in your post on last night's Rays vs. Red Sox game, particularly your shot at the Rays attendance (the majority were of course pro-Red Sox). I'll be at tonight's game and I'll definitely be able to determine if the majority of fans are pro-Rays, as they normally are, or pro-Boston. If you are there too, please let me know. I'll say hi. You know, I never thought Deadspin would be pro-Evil Empire; I thought that was ESPN's job. Things definitely have changed since Will Leitch left. Jordi Scrubbings
That night, I wrote a post documenting different types of Rays fans, which Chandler then quoted the next day on Deadspin.
Secondly, there was a sellout crowd of 36,048. And as my pal Jordi Scrubbings points out, most, evidently, were Rays fans. Scrubbings has taken me to task for claiming that Rays fans are uninspired and rarely present, so he took the time to document his claims to the contrary. Included in his thesis is this example of the Rays Mohawk:
You had to roll with the punches. If you had a sense of humor, the blogosphere was fun.

I also wrote a post for Deadspin in 2009. I was picked to preview Florida State basketball in the NCAA Tournament. I had to send them a sample of my writing and in return, they provided me with a bit of exposure.

Besides being quoted and writing for Deadspin, writing about Deadspin was also a thing. Yes, it was naval gazing, but many sports bloggers knew they were part of something new. Again, it was similar to the early hackers who knew the internet was going to be big and they were on the cusp of a movement. Sports bloggers knew there were going to be changes to how people ingested their sports. We knew something was happening at the crossroads of technology and media.

(Unfortunately, like the early hackers, early bloggers couldn't control what happened to online sports media, they could only write about it. But that too is a possible post for another day.)

My favorite naval gazing post was written when original editor Will Leitch left Deadspin in 2008. This post entitled "Hey, Wait, I'm Blogging Sports Complaints" used Leitch's love for Nirvana as a basis for discussing the blogging "revolution".

Ironically, at the end of the article, I attempted to predict the future of Deadspin.
"Will the mantra Leitch promoted be marginalized by the very consumerist machine that sparked its conception?"
Although editors who followed Leitch continued his philosophy of speaking truth to power, the inside powers that be - venture capitalists who eventually purchased Deadspin as part of an online journalism conglomerate - killed the site.

Admittedly, I haven't been a regular reader of Deadspin for several years. I have no idea how much of their posts were sports versus partly sports versus completely non-sports. But that is not the point. The point is that a website that was once the pinnacle of the underground was eventually forced to lose its voice.

While I am disappointed Deadspin is dead, I do not share in the thought that all is lost. Writers will still write. Writers who were previously employed by Deadspin will surface again. They will continue to put words on screens and click publish buttons. Before the days of Deadspin and other corporate forums, many writers were underground. If need be, the former voices of Deadspin will publish underground again - be it on sites such as wordpress or blogspot, or on their own websites.

And when the former voices of Deadspin do write again, they have the power of social media (particularly twitter) to market their works. That built-in audience is an advantage that the early blogosphere did not have.

Unfortunately, independent blogging rarely pays. This is why so many writers flocked to corporate owned platforms over the past 10 years. Perhaps many of the former Deadspin writers will find paid gigs - if so, more power to them. I fear some will not.

But if I could make one media suggestion before I conclude this ode, it is that the internet needs better aggregation sites. We need sites that list the best writing from independent writers and bloggers and lets readers discover new voices. In the early blogging days, sites such as Deadspin, The Big Lead, and others always had a "link dump" of the best articles they found that week. For a small, independent blogger having an article listed on a major site meant hundreds, if not thousands of new views to your work.

Unfortunately, aggregation posts don't get many ad clicks and page views. Few people share aggregation posts - they more likely share the articles the aggregation posts link to. Aggregation posts have to either be vanity pages or they have to be on sites such as Reddit.

In conclusion, this has become quite the long ode. But this is my site and no venture capitalist is going to tell me to wrap it up.

Long live Deadspin - a site that helped me not only gain exposure and confidence in my writing but also taught me about blogging to power - something I have done often on my Tampa Bay Baseball Market website. There, I don't have access, favor, or discretion and sure enough, several of Tampa's mainstream sports writers don't like my voice or opinions. Oh well.

Hard to believe I have been writing online for over 13 years. The writing world is a lot different these days. But even though time passes, and we know lives and businesses come and go, it is still sad to see the home of a revolution strangled by the hands of corporate greed.

RIP Deadspin.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Before there was AfroSquad there was ANUS

Agent Jordi Scrubbings of the AfroSquad formerly worked with an organization called the Alien Neutralizing Underground Society (ANUS) - not to be confused with the AfroSquad News Underground Syndicate (ANUS). ANUS's mission was to protect the universe against intergalatic threats, such as the Hartoonians and the Head Alien (please see the movie Flash Vs The Aliens for more on that earth-saving conflict).

In 2002, Agent Scrubbings was instructed to inform the worldwide media on the status of ANUS following massive US Government restructuring efforts in 2001. There were rumors and speculation that ANUS would join Homeland Security or one of the Intelligence Agencies, possibly the Agency for Superterrestrial Suppression (ASS) or the Bureau of Undisclosed Terrestrial Terror (BUTT). This memo, recently rediscovered squashed the rumors, stifled the innuendos, and stopped the prognostication.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Finding my bologna poem part 2

Over a year ago I wrote about finding one of my more creative poems in different, unexpected places throughout the internet.

I found the poem, entitled "A Forgiveness Poem to Bologna", on poetry lesson websites, on a text lesson website, and on where someone actually tried to claim it was theirs.

This week, I found my bologna poem on yet another website.

If this is my legacy, so be it.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Blocked by Jim Breuer

A few years ago, I replied to a tweet by comedian Amy Schumer. Schumer must not have liked my reply and she blocked me. I wrote about the incident here.

I always thought that was strange. I don't engage with celebrities very often, so to get that harsh of a response from someone for what I thought was a benign comment was odd. But that's how she rolls, I guess.

Recently I had another twitter incident with another famous comic. One I have seen live a few times and admire his roles in movies and other media.

But alas, I've been blocked by Jim Breuer.

It all started a few weeks ago when I read an article on entitled "Are Opening Acts a Thing of the Past?". The article details how Metallica is no longer touring with an opening act, instead opting to have Breuer, a longtime fan, act as MC to get the crowd warmed up.

The logic of the move to eliminate the opening act is that according to promoters, few fans are there to see the openers, so it is best to skip the formalities and jump right into Metallica. Which I can attest is a stupid idea. In 1999, I saw Sevendust, Creed, and Kid Rock open for Metallica in front of 75,000 fans at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and although each band was relatively new, they all kicked ass prior to the headliner.

But oddly, Breuer agrees with Metallica's new touring philosophy. He states the following:

From a comedian, I found this to be out of touch. Opening acts are part of the show, both in comedy and rock. I have seen Jim Breuer do stand-up a few times. Every time, there was an opening act.

So I tweeted my disagreement with Breuer's stance.

Breuer must have seen the tweet and not liked my opinion of his opinion as he replied:

Pretty sure Breuer didn't read the article before replying and telling me to take a nap. Which is unfortunate, because then we might have had an intelligent discourse on opening acts and modern tours. Maybe I am reading his comments the wrong way. But alas, Breuer was quick with block button, forbidding me from ever seeing his tweets again.

But I think there is another force at play here. I don't think Breuer was quick with the block because he was being a jerk, although that is a possibility. I think his emotions were running high on another target and I was collateral damage.

Jim Breuer is a huge Mets fan and the Mets were not having a good night.

Sometimes the Mets bring out the worst in people.

The next time Breuer comes to Tampa, I will buy a ticket. I am still a fan and I hold no ill will. I think think he is a funny dude. But I will print out the tweet calling me the "great critic of jerk patrol" and ask if he will autograph it. Maybe I will even make and wear a t-shirt that says "great critic of jerk patrol" and ask for a picture with Breuer.

You can't take life or twitter seriously.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Star Wars Political 9/11 Parody

Here is a Star Wars-related political parody I wrote a few months following the terrorist attacks 9/11/2001. This would be great to see in parody video, maybe even deepfake. Unfortunately, I am much more of a writer than a video creator.


We see the negotiating team of Bill and Hillary Clinton as they venture deep into the Al-Qaeda territory of Afghanistan, seeking the peaceful handing over of Usama Bin Laden. As the couple reaches the audience of the Taliban Rulers, they play a hologram message sent by President George W. Bush for the leaders of the Taliban government.

Greetings, Exalted Ones. Allow me to introduce myself. I am George W. Bush, President of the United States. I know that you are powerful, mighty Taliban, and that your compassion for Bin Laden must be equally powerful. I seek an audience with Your Greatness to bargain for Bin Laden's life. With your wisdom, I'm sure that we can work out an arrangement, which will be mutually beneficial and enable us to avoid any unpleasant confrontation. As a token of my goodwill, I present to you a gift: these two negotiators.

Hillary is startled by this announcement.

What did he say?

... Neither is hardworking but will serve you well.

This can't be! Bill, you're playing the wrong message.

President Bush's hologram disappears.

The Taliban rulers laugh.

There will be no bargain.

We're doomed.

I will not give up my favorite guest. I like Usama Bin Laden where he is.

The Taliban Ruler laughs hideously.

Several of the Taliban soldiers march Bill and Hillary down a dank, shadowy passageway lined with holding cells. The cries of unspeakable hostages bounce off the cold, stone walls.
Occasionally a repulsive arm grabs through the bars at the hapless negotiators. Bill whines pitifully.

What could possibly have come over President Bush? Is it something I did? He never expressed any unhappiness with my work. Oh! Oh! Hold it! Ohh!

A large arm wraps around Hillary's neck. She manages to break free, and they move on to a door at the end of the corridor.


Noisily, the main gate opens to flood the blackness with blinding light and reveal the silhouetted figure of PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH. He is clad in a robe similar to his father's and wears neither pistol nor sword. President Bush strides purposefully into the hallway. Two giant guards move to block his path. President Bush halts.

President Bush raises his hand and points at the puzzled guards, who immediately lower their spears and fall back. The young President lowers his hand and moves down the hallway.

Saddam Hussein appears out of the gloom. He speaks to President Bush as they approach each other, but President Bush doesn't stop and Saddam must reverse his direction and hurry alongside the young president in order to carry on the conversation. Several other guards fall in behind them in the darkness.

I must speak with the Taliban.

Saddam answers in Arabic, shaking his head in denial. President Bush stops and stares at Saddam; he raises his hand slightly.

You will take me to the Taliban now.

Saddam turns in hypnotic response to President Bush's command, and the president follows him into the gloom.

You serve your allies well. And you will be rewarded.


The Taliban Ruler is asleep on his throne. Hillary stands behind the Taliban Ruler as Saddam comes up to him.

At last! President Bush has come to rescue me.


The Taliban Ruler awakens with a start and Saddam continues, in Arabic:

...George W. Bush, President of the United States.

I told you not to admit him.

I must be allowed to speak.

He must be allowed to speak.

The Taliban Ruler, furious, clobbers Saddam and shoves him away.

You weak-minded fool! He's using the same American trick his father used.

President Bush stares hard at the Taliban Ruler.

You will bring Usama Bin Laden to me.

Your mind powers will not work on me, boy.

Nevertheless, I'm taking Usama Bin Laden and his organization. You can either profit by this... or be destroyed! It's your choice. But I warn you not to underestimate my powers.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Brief History of The Man

This blog has chronicled the adventures of the AfroSquad for over 10 years. One of the original concepts behind the AfroSquad, before the wrestling and before the comedy, was a struggle against The Man.

But what is The Man? How long have people been fighting The Man?

According to the AfroSquad,

"The Man" is an intangible bugaboo that masterminds the hardships and tragedies of that thing we call life. Being technologically superior, he can morph into anything he wants- your boss, the local authorities, the president, your parents, a lawyer, the guy that signs your inadequate paycheck, etc."

The AfroSquad was highly influenced by the blaxplotation films of the the 1970s. But The Man goes back further than that. Much further.

The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang does a great job of detailing all the early mentions of The Man on page 173.

In the 1960s, The Man moved from Southern and Black Etymology to a more wider use. White counterculture also used the term to discuss their frustration with authority.  While Yippies and others diminished the racial and historical context, fighting The Man became a universal effort. This change is well described in The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933–1973 by Mark Greif, pages 269-272.

While fighting The Man had become universal, The Man moved to black cinema as the omnipotent antagonist in blaxplotation films. According to

"During the 1970’s the term “The Man” became a part of the vernacular of the Blaxploitation film era. “The Man” referred to the police, the mob, the politicians and anyone who was white with power. In most cases “The Man” held the key to the destruction or redemption of Black characters in these films."

After blaxploitation films, The Man slowly diminished from use as a negative term. It started being used as a positive term such as "You are The Man." 

In the late 90s, the AfroSquad started doing their thing in the early internet.

Then, in 2002, The Man had a renaissance in cinema with the movie Undercover Brother. Comedian Eddie Griffin’s character took on a faceless Man who ran an omnipotent multi-national corporation and made life difficult for a diverse group of heroes.

Currently, there is news that Undercover Brother 2 will soon see the light of day. Will the antagonist be The Man?

The Man is still out there, and still holding people down. We should never forget the original meaning and absolute power of The Man.

Monday, August 26, 2019

When COBRA tried to blow up Florida Championship Wrestling

This was a fun video made by SnowMan of the Afro-Squad from our days attending Florida Championship Wrestling (now NXT) in Tampa. Good times, and by the way, SnowMan is a cinematic genius.

I think this video was supposed to be a prequel to another video we did in which I have a bigger role.