Saturday, June 1, 2024

Writing for the SportsChump

 


My friend Chris has a blog called The Sports Chump. It's an old school blog where Chris writes his thoughts on sports. Independent, no filter, whatever he wants to write, whenever he wants to write it.

I love it.

Of course, when Chris asked if I wanted to contribute to a debate on his blog, I said of course. Chris is a big Orlando Magic fan and wanted to know my thoughts on whether or not the Magic should retire the jersey number of legendary sometimes-star Dwight Howard. Although I was a Howard fan at first, I soured on Howard in the middle of his career. So you can probably guess which side of the debate I took.

It has been a long time since I wrote about basketball, so this was a treat.

Chris's blog is highly recommended. Check out our debate.

Debating the Second Superman: SportsChump and Michael Lortz discuss a Dwight Howard return to the Magic and the possible retirement of his number - SportsChump.com


Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Not so Serious Movie Review: Shinobi 2 - Runaways (2005)

 


A few weeks ago, I watched Shinobi: Law of Shinobi (2004). Shinobi 2: Runaways picks up where Shinobi left off. Our heroes, Kagerou and Aoi are on the run. Literally, they run through the woods for half the movie. Along the way, they encounter other shinobi who are instructed to kill them. There is a Shinobi 3 and 4, so it is not a spoiler to say the other shinobi don't succeed. Not even the crazy prisoner guy who yells "Kagerou" often.

The low quality of these movies make them confusing. I think they are supposed to take place in the 16th century but they talk like it was last week. Yet the dialogue is not as bad as the narrative breaks in the movie that fill in unnecessary backstory about the villages and tribes. And I am still not sure what to think of Aoi. She continues to be a confusing mix of damsel in distress and badass swordswoman. Overall, this movie doesn't advance the story at all. It's just more running. I can't wait to watch Shinobi 3.

Grade: 1 running shinobi of 5.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Seen on a SportsKeeda WWE Video

 


Eagle-eyed wrestling fan and my good friend Nick Major informed me that I was in the background of a recent video by Sportskeeda Wrestling. The video, entitled "How WWE Failed Dolph Ziggler", covers the career of Ziggler from his days in college wrestling to his present status with TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling. A majority of the video covers his nearly 20 years with WWE, to include his 2008-2009 stint at Florida Championship Wrestling in Tampa.

That's where you see me and fellow Afro-Squad member Snowman. We are at the 3:30 mark in the video.

Fun story: one Thursday night in late 2008 or 2009, I went to a local Hooters after an FCW show. It was near 10pm and Hooters was about to close. But there was enough time to get food. While I was sitting at the bar eating wings, Dolph Ziggler walked in a took a seat at a table in the nearly empty restaurant. I told the bartender that he was a wrestler. At first she didn't believe me but then walked over to ask him. She talked to him for a few minutes. That's my Dolph Ziggler story.

Unfortunately, that is not the Sportskeeda video. But if you want to watch what is in the video, here it is.



Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Flash vs The Aliens full video is finally online

 


Almost 25 years ago, I made a movie with a few Army friends. That movie, Flash vs the Aliens sat on VHS for years until I finally digitized it in 2012. At the time, Youtube would only let me post 15 minutes at a time. For a 38 minute movie, that meant it had to be in three parts. Very inconvenient.

Last year, I created a Vimeo account. Vimeo allows longer videos but less often. So now Flash vs The Aliens is available in full on Vimeo. All 38 minutes of amateur alien invasion insanity. I am excited. Maybe I will clean it up for the 25th Anniversary Special Edition.


Flash vs The Aliens - The Earlier Adventures of Flash Hercules from JordiScrubbings on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

My problem with the comments of Stephen Hawking

I wrote this over 10 years ago. Not sure why I never published it. I haven't thought about Stephen Hawking in a long time. Here are my thoughts on him from back then.

There is no doubting the utter brilliance of Stephen Hawking. The man is as close to a real life living brain as possible. He has done miraculous work in the field of cosmology and theoretical physics. I consider him the smartest man since Einstein.

(For the Star Wars geeks, Hawking is also basically a human version of the BT-16, the spider thing in Jabba's palace. According to Wookiepedia (again!), a BT-16 is a robot spider that carries the brain of an enlightened monk. Or in Hawkings case, a super smart astro-physicist.)

Now all that said, Hawking has been ruffling the feathers of the faithful over the last few years with comments that God wasn't needed to create the universe and his most recent statement that there is no afterlife.

While I am not going to dispute his statements there, I am going to call BS on his reasoning for the latter.
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail," Hawking said. "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

(Quote from Space.com.)

If the brain is truly like a computer, then it must be completely understood as a computer. A computer only runs when hooked up to electricity or a battery. It doesn't work without a spark. When the computer becomes outdated or the motherboard or chips fail to work, the power in the battery and the electricity in the wall doesn't vanish. It becomes potential energy back in the battery or on the grid. The energy is still there. "Life" for the computer is still there. There is just no consciousness.

Likewise, when our parts stop working an energy that ran us needs to go somewhere. While our consciousness is gone, the energy should still exist. That's Newton's Second Law, or the Law of the Conservation of Energy. The energy that drives Einstein's General Theory of Relativity should be default also exist in humans. We don't have a special "non-energy" that propels our existence. The same energy that energy that exists in all atoms and galaxies is the same energy in us.

Using the notion of an all inclusive energy and if you believe that "all is one and one is all", then the energy that was "us" is no longer contained in us when we die but is now potential again. Hawking should know that all the energy in the universe is spawned from the Big Bang or may possibly slip through to other dimensions and alternate universes, depending on what theories of astro-physics you believe.

With the understanding that energy can not be created nor deleted, Hawkings statements can be seen as somewhat off. Although I agree that we have no consciousness of an "afterlife" with Pearly Gates and saints and a life among the clouds, the energy that was in us will still be there after our life. Whether potential or kinetic, the energy that drives human life will continue to exist, always and forever.

(Yes, that means unless energy is deported to another dimension or universe, the next Big Bang should be just as epic as the one that created our universe.)

You can call that energy God or the Tao or the Great Spirit or whatever you want.

But you can't deny its existence.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Not So Serious Movie Review: Shinobi - Law of Shinobi (2004)

 


Back in the day, Shinobi was a video game, kinda like Kung-Fu, but with more ninjas. This movie isn't based on the video game, although it might have been better if it was.

Shinobi are the lower class foot soldiers of samurai. They are assassins and swordsmen trained to kill or be killed. They love to run around in forests. No lie, 80% of the movie is the woods. Shinobi are also as cliquey as high schoolers. Kagerou is the best shinobi so of course no one likes him except his bestie, Aoi. She is part badass and part damsel in distress. Very confusing. They fight the bad guys, a dude gets impaled by a log, another guy gets gutted like a rabbit, and our heroes run around in the woods.

Looking forward to Shinobi 2: In the Woods Again.

Score: 2 cheap samurai of 5.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Independent Bookstore Day in Tampa Bay

 Here is my trip to various independent bookstores in Tampa Bay on Independent Bookstore Day 2024.




Wednesday, April 24, 2024

One Last Drive to Minneola


I’ve been putting off writing this for a few reasons. One, I wanted to attend all that needed to be attended, and two, I wanted to give time and space to others to express their views before I express mine. I don’t mind bringing up the rear, and in their world, they go first.

Fifteen years ago, there was very little development northbound on State Road 27 between I-4 and Minneola City Hall. Once you got off the interstate and past the truck stops, there were a few lights in Clermont and a whole lot of nothing before arriving at Minneola’s one traffic light. The nothingness was so expansive that in February 2009, the first time I drove up SR 27 to Minneola, I thought I was lost. After a few minutes of nothingness, I turned around and drove back to Tampa.

True story.

Once I figured out where I was going, Minneola City Hall became a regular drive. Although many times I took a friend or two, and even once took a legendary pro wrestling manager, I often made the journey solo.

While friends were always nice company, the reason I drove to Minneola City Hall was to see World Xtreme Wrestling, the famous federation run by Afa Anoa’i and his family.

In the beginning, my reason for driving to Minneola was simple, to support my brother, Bryan Maddox. If Bryan was in a show, I drove to see him. Prior to wXw, following his career led me to matches all over Florida. I saw matches in roller skating rinks, VFWs, bars, television studios, and the occasional civic center. Once he settled on wXw, I settled on wXw.

As the commercial says, wXw is better than the rest.

Over the years, I became a wXw regular. I was the heckler with the afro wig. A cheerleader, one with a three-foot afro wig instead of pom-poms. A tradition that started with the Afro-Squad at Florida Championship Wrestling travelled to Minneola and found a new home. Whereas I was part of a crew at FCW, at wXw I was the only afro-clad super fan. In wXw, the afro wig got bigger and I got louder. I developed a reputation as the guy who jeered the bad guys and started chants for the good guys.

“Perfect Loser!” – to Richard “Perfect Creation” Criato. Still one of my favorite chants.

“No one likes you!” – to any and all bad guys. Especially the arrogant type.

“Get up! I have money on you!” – always funny when a good guy is getting pummeled.

“You got him right where you want him!” – when a good guy wrestler is getting beaten by a bigger bad guy.

“WXW! WXW!” – when wXw was invaded by FCW and years later, Battlefield Wrestling.

And so many more. Whenever I brought a friend, I would warn them of my reputation and antics. Sometimes they joined the trash talking. Sometimes they got caught in the heckling crossfire. But it was always good fun and always clean.



Being a wXw regular and Bryan Maddox’s brother introduced me to so many great people at wXw. First and foremost, the Anoa’i Family. From Pops to Momma Lynn to Vale to other family members who occasionally visited, the entire family treated me like family. Whether it was giving me a warm welcome when I returned from Afghanistan, allowing me to visit their home after a show, sending me emails when I was in Qatar, asking about my brother during his times away from the ring, coming to my book signing, or being at my Dad’s Celebration of Life, I am forever thankful for their kindness and support.

Before I discuss the regular roster, I want to mention that because of wXw, I have some amazing Haku stories. Haku is a legend of the ring. A former king and one of the toughest men in pro wrestling history. But I never approached him as an awestruck fan. His daughter, Vika, was at FSU the same time I was. Her college roommate was friends with my college roommate. When I first approached Haku, I asked about his family. We talked about life in Orlando versus Tampa. He paid my tab at Buffalo Wild Wings one night after I complained about lack of service. He sent me a birthday video last year. He gave me a hug and chop to the chest at the last wXw show. Haku is the man. Getting to know him wouldn’t have been possible without wXw.

Because of wXw, I also broke bread and drank beer with Jey Uso in a Tampa sports bar. When I explained to Jey that his family has treated my family like family for many years, he asked me who. When I told him I knew his Uncle Afa, Aunt Lynn, Cousin Vale, etc, he invited me to hang out with him and also paid my tab. We closed down a few bars when WWE was holding temporary residency at Tropicana Field. That never would have happened without wXw.

Other people I crossed paths with because of wXw include Harry Smith at the same sports bar I met Jey, Tamina Snuka at a Qdoba in Tampa, and two women on a nature trail in Hawaii who commented on my “Anoa’i Strong” t-shirt and told me about their own Samoan lineage.

Now to the wXw roster. I have a lot of respect for the wrestlers of wXw. I have only been in a wrestling ring twice in my life. It is not my place. My place is outside the ring with a big afro wig on my head. But to those who put their bodies on the line at wXw, thank you. To my brother, Bryan Maddox, to his longtime tag partner, Ethan Essex, to his former manager, Rico Moon, to Nick Nero and Ace Radic (aka Justin Bieber), Maluta to Mandrake, Vertigo to Deathrow, Hound Dogg to Hudson, Gus Money to Gariston Spears, Mercedes to Sarona, Sugaa to Shawn Spears, TNT to Tony Ice, D-Ramos to E.R.A. to Alex G to the Big O, and many, many others, thank you for years of dedication and entertainment. I hope to see you at other shows soon.

In my 15 years of wXw fandom, one of my favorite moments happened in Summer 2023 when Battlefield Pro Wrestling “invaded” wXw. I arrived at Minneola City Hall wearing my afro and a wXw t-shirt. Before I could make my way to a seat, the wXw wrestlers sitting ringside chanted “One of us” to me. I was representing wXw and they wanted me to sit with them. Of course, I didn’t attack Battlefield wrestlers when they did, but I did join them in booing and jeering the invading roster. For them to acknowledge me as “one of them”, even in the crowd, was super cool.




Now to the fellow fans. Through wXw, I became family with many other regularly attending fans. We would always chat and catch up every month. From the Clacks to Santa Claus to everyone who bought my book to the kids who thought my afro was real to the kids who swore it wasn’t, thank you for making wXw more enjoyable. I can’t count how many new fans at wXw asked me if I was part of the show or told me that I added to their enjoyment. Thank you to the fans who laughed at my heckling and thank you to the fans who joined my chants. I also hope to see all y’all at other shows soon.

wXw provided me with 15 years of entertainment and introduced me to so many good people, but the best thing wXw did was make me that much prouder of my brother. I saw Bryan win titles, lose titles, get cheered, get booed, get a stinkface from Rikishi, meet his idols, and eventually make the wXw Hall of Fame. I’ll admit I cried a little when he received his well-deserved Hall of Fame plaque.

Weeks ago, when I started writing this essay, I thought I was making my last drive to Minneola. Afa the Wild Samoan announced April 13 was the last wXw show. Twenty-seven years, to include fifteen in Florida, was coming to an end. I was ready to tear up. During the show, however, Afa Junior took the mic and announced he was going to continue hosting wrestling shows in Minneola. We don’t know when, we don’t know who, and we don’t know how. But we are going to hold Junior to his word.

Instead of saying good-bye to Minneola, the wXw Grand Finale was instead the closing of a great chapter. It was end of the shows hosted by Afa, his wife Lynn, and their daughter Vale, the central nervous system of wXw. They have to circle the wagons and take care of Pops, who has been battling health issues lately. The Grand Finale was their finale.

These days, countless condos and complexes line State Road 27 from I-4 to Minneola City Hall. The nothingness is gone. The area is growing and more things are happening. City Hall itself is getting a massive upgrade. But after April 13th one thing will be missing.

World Xtreme Wrestling.

Thank you, Afa, for putting on such great shows for 15 years. Thank you, Mom and Vale, for all you did. Thank you to the wrestlers and the fans. I love you all and I will see you soon.

P.S. After the second-to-last show, someone asked me if the afro wig will be retired if wXw closed. I don’t think it will be. The Afro-Squad started in FCW and has been at many different organizations statewide. I also don’t think my WXW or Anoa’i Strong shirts will be retired either. As a matter of fact, they will probably be my regular attire to all wrestling shows from here on out. Although I will be at whatever show in wherever, Florida, my heart will always be at wXw.

P.P.S. I still can’t believe I missed The Rock.




Friday, April 19, 2024

Signing Books at the Ale and the Witch - Sunday April 21 2024

 


I am very happy to announce another book signing! 

On Sunday, April 21, 2024, I will be at The Ale and the Witch beer garden in beautiful St Petersburg, Florida from 5pm to 8pm.

This will be my first signing at The Ale and the Witch and I am excited. They do a Blues Jam on selected Sundays and I am signing while the band is playing, which is always great synergy.

Come on out and say hi!



Thursday, April 4, 2024

Not so Serious Movie Review: Damn Yankees

 


I finally watched the movie Damn Yankees. In March of 2023, I read the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop, the book from which Damn Yankees is based. The movie and the musical took the novel to another level as most people now associate the story with the Damn Yankees title and not the book's original title.

Several of the reviews for Curveball at the Crossroads have mentioned Damn Yankees, inspiring me to find the movie and the book. There are some similarities, although my novel is based more on blues music and southern folklore. Damn Yankees is a more generic Faustian tale.

What I liked:

  • As far as I remember, the movie stuck pretty true to the novel. 
  • It's light, quick, and fun - an easy watch. 
  • The Yankees lose. Which is always a good thing.

Being a musical and made in the 1950s, the movie doesn't get too deep into the dark side of a deal with the Devil. Ray Walston keeps the Devil humorous and mischievous. He is evil, but with a quick wit. After working with the Devil in my novel, I like seeing how the Devil is portrayed in other works.

My biggest critique of the movie has to be why "Who's Got the Pain" was part of the production. While impressive for its dancing, it doesn't advance the story at all.

If it wasn't a musical, the movie could have dove deeper into the characters. I thought Lola was especially overrated. She is a side character at best and definitely doesn't deserve to be the focus of the poster. But Gwen Verdon is an amazing dancer and steals the show in her dancing scenes, and that's the focus of musicals, hence she is the biggest face on the poster. 

On a related note, no offense to Gwen Verdon, but she doesn't come off as a temptress very well. The fake accent scene didn't make sense and not until the end does the viewer get the idea that Joe Hardy might even like Lola. She is more concept than character. The novel version of Lola is a bit more tempting. Neither are as seductive as Kim Bassinger in The Natural, however.

Overall, Damn Yankees is recommended. Especially if you have read Curveball at the Crossroads. I also recommend reading The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, which I like to think is Curveball at the Crossroads's spiritual predecessor.

Side note: I realized after watching Damn Yankees that the song "Heart" is from the musical. I have seen the video of the 1969 Mets on the Ed Sullivan Show performing the song many times but never knew where it was from. Mystery solved.

By the way, could someone look less excited than Nolan Ryan being forced to sing on late night television?