Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Benefit of Being Neutral

There is definitely an aura and a mystique to being neutral. Not too many things are neutral. Maybe monks. Maybe water. Maybe Ziggy.

My old college roommate Zheke used to talk about how great it would be to be neutral on everything.

"Do you like Coke or Pepsi?"

"I'm neutral."

"Republican or Democrat?"


"Chicken or steak?"


The cool thing about being neutral is you never get involved in people's messes. You never take sides. You are just there, detached from the conflict. You are just observing.

I bring up being neutral because of this recent article on entitled "Switzerland Goes Rogue". According to the article,
Switzerland established its neutrality at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and has not fought a war since, making it second behind Sweden as the longest-standing neutral country. But in Europe this is, to say the least, old news.

Recently, however, Switzerland has been acting anything but neutral. Globalism and a shrinking world has forced them to make decisions that have had negative effects on their international image. Like an awkward teenager, they been forced to interact. And with decisions comes consequences - some good, some bad. Some, as the authors states, have made them look like a rogue state.

Of course, there is a big difference between being a rogue and being neutral. Being a rogue is nefarious, dark, and selfish. Highwaymen can be rogue, but they are definitely not neutral. Clowns, on the other hand, can be neutral, but they can't be rogue. Unless of course, they are the clown from "It". Or the clowns from "Killer Clowns from Outer Space".

Now I am left with this dilemma: when I do reach the enlightened state of neutrality, where will I live, now that the neutral homeland is anything but? Where will be my Walden Lake? Is there anywhere remaining neutral? The article mentioned Sweden, so that's a possibility. Maybe Antarctica.

Sweden or Antarctica?

I can't decide. I'm neutral, remember?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A review of "Let's Rob The Cheese Shop"

My long-time interest in the "Who Shot Mamba?" project and similarly long correspondence with screenwriter Brian Spaeth has definitely raised my interest in independent films and supporting those who make them. So it was with great interest that I attended the Gasparilla Film Festival Saturday night to see a movie highly recommended by Tampa social media maven Julia Gorzka entitled "Let's Rob the Cheese Shop".


Written and directed by New Orleans filmmaker Sean Gerowin, "Let's Rob the Cheese Shop" is the story of three college students and their foolproof plan to take mad cheddar from a local muenster merchant.

Along the way, however, things don't go exactly as planned.

The movie starts by introducing us to college buddies Alex and Vance. Alex is the square, buttoned-up nice guy and Vance is the outgoing, slackerific ladies man, albeit with a bit of a drug problem. To be honest, Vance reminded me of a cross between Jay from the Kevin Smith movies and Jim Morrison of The Doors. He also reminded me of a few friends I've had through the years - minus the coke habit.

Like most college students, Alex, Vance, and their friend Daphne are broke. Apparently between the three of them, they have just enough money to buy Bonnaroo tickets. Unfortunately, only one of them has a job. So, again like most college students, they start brainstorming on how to make some quick cash. Although they first consider robbing a bank, the idea is quickly tossed aside for a more practical notion: to rob Daphne's workplace - the local cheese shop.

(I totally related to this scene. Longtime fans of my work may remember when I came up with the idea to liberate Rhode Island because, of course, it's not an island. Then there was the time my roommate and I called the campus police department to ask if we could throw a non-alcoholic beer keg party in the dorms. Must be something about college that fries the brain.)

With everyone finally on board, the three friends begin to calculate and contemplate, hypothesize and strategize, and dream and scheme how to make the plan a success. Of course, they don't consider what would happen if they got busted, or if Daphne lost her job (which she is shown to be not very good at, by the way), but such is the innocence of youth.

Speaking of innocence (or lack thereof), while the friends are contriving their nefarious plot, we learn that Vance and Daphne used to be lovers and now Alex has a crush on Daphne. This sets off a continuous backstory of love, lust, and why girls don't like "nice guys".

(Of course, this is totally true. In no real universe could two guys and a girl just be friends; someone has to be involved with someone else. It's nature's law. By the way, for a great read on "Nice Guy Syndrome", check out this post: Why "Nice Guys" Are Often Such Losers, it's a phenomenal read.)

Slowly but surely the scheme starts to disintegrate. Some people get cold feet, some people start thinking with their heart instead of their brain, and still others choke down handfuls of random pills, making them completely useless as a potential accomplice.

Before the plan goes completely up in smoke, however, Vance meets the woman of his dreams. And she is not the kind of woman to keep him on the straight and narrow either. Quite the opposite. She is the cowgirl from Hades and just the inspiration Vance needs to dust off the friends' scheme and attempt to be Clyde to his new love's Bonnie.

Will he succeed? Will the cheese shop be robbed? Will Alex get lucky?

For the answer, you have to see the movie.

Overall, I really enjoyed "Let's Rob the Cheese Shop". It's a fun movie that definitely brought back memories of wild and crazy college days. There is no doubt "Let's Rob the Cheese Shop" lives up to its claim of containing "a fair amount of Sex, Drugs, & Cheese". It was definitely funny, although some of the humor was very subtle - like when Alex attempts to get close to Daphne and she repeatedly slides away. Finally, as the movie was filmed in New Orleans, there is plenty of good music and, of course, lots of drinking.

(Coincidentally, I spent most of my day prior to going to the film festival converting hours of my own drunken escapades from VHS to DVD. So by the end of the night, while the rest of the audience shockingly watched Vance drink his life away, I  felt like I was right there with him. Minus the coke habit, of course.)

For another review of a Gasparilla International Film Festival flick, check out Tampa Film Fan's write-up of the stoner horror movie "Trippin'".

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Journey into the Heart of Booster Darkness

(Originally posted on

I am not a big fan of the FSU Seminole Booster program. I've "put them on blast" time and time again. I've suggested they be replaced by a stock program, I've begged for their transparency, and I've compared them to a well-funded, influential political lobby group.

Yet, I am in the minority. A lot of people claim the Seminole Booster program is essential. Booster Program CEO Andy Miller was recently quoted as saying "They do not realize that without private contributions, we do not have an athletic program."

Well, in order to prove the "truthiness" of Mr. Miller's claim, I have to put myself in a dangerous mindset. I have to put aside all attachment, memory, and kinship. I have to do away with human feeling. I must become Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now:

ScalpEm Headquarters: Your mission is to proceed up the Suwanee River in a Seminole patrol boat. Pick up the Seminole Boosters' path at the Big Bend, follow it north, and learn what you can along the way. When you find the Boosters, infiltrate them by whatever means available and terminate their command.

Jordi: Terminate the Boosters?

ScalpEm Headquarters: They are out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And they are running the athletic program.

Average Fan: Terminate with extreme prejudice.

ScalpEm Headquarters: You understand, Jordi, that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist ...

I have to become Captain Willard to the Seminole Boosters.

The first step is to evaluate the Boosters' overall importance to the university. According to its website, "Seminole Boosters, Inc. is the fundraising organization that helps fund the Florida State University Athletic Department budget". Yet, on the university's "about" page, there is only one brief mention of athletics, and that is as a part of the experience.

Although not mentioned, going to Bullwinkles and getting thrown into the Westcott Fountain are also part of the FSU experience. Yet the owner of Bullwinkles doesn't influence university decisions.

(Maybe he does. Maybe he or she is a Booster member. Maybe they have people everywhere like the Masons or the Illuminati. Maybe the Boosters built Doak Campbell Stadium and they have secret maps scattered around the campus, like in National Treasure or The DaVinci Code.)

The next question to ask is: How important are athletics to the overall well-being of the university?

As much as it pains me to say this, I'm going to say "not very". Although I'm not sure how many universities have no sports, there are plenty of establishments of higher learning that do just fine without certain sports. Did you know, for example, in 1975 the University of Tampa board of trustees voted to do away with the football program?

Yet University of Tampa is still alive and well.

(Imagine the fate of the University of South Florida's program if UT still had their team. Would USF be in the same spot they are now, on the cusp of being a legit state power? Or would UT's program had emerged as a competitor?)

So we know universities can survive without football. But what is the value of athletics as a whole? Is it important?

Did you know small, private schools spend 5% of their budgets on athletics? Did you know, according to that same article, there are no boosters at small, private universities? Athletics at these schools are funded by the students.

In some cases, students are voting down increases in their tuition that would earmarked for athletic spending. For these students, the cost of athletics is not worth the increased price of attendance.

(By the way, we have already discussed the university relationship to athletic profit. A few months ago, I attempted to make the assertion that the football team indirectly built or improved the campus and I was raked over the coals. So this time I am assuming the athletic department has no direct financial benefit to the rest of the university. If I am wrong again, let me know.)

Some would say the benefit of a booster program is to take the cost of the athletic program off the students and place it on an outside organization funded by private individuals. This way, students can realize the entire college experience the way it has been for the last hundred or so years, with athletic competitions and all the associated pomp and circumstance, with minimal cost.

But what if the value of athletics is marginal at best to the college experience? Could you put a value on the happiness of a university after a championship? Sure, people are more likely to party, have a good time, and maybe even enjoy the company of the opposite sex after the game, but after the bacchanalia subsides and the kegs are returned, what's left? Do grades go up after championships? Are potential students more likely to attend?

I don't know the answer.

On the flip side, what about the negative impact a few misbehaved athletes have had on our university? How much did the free shoes scandal in the 1990s cost us? What about the academic scandal of a few years ago? What about the negative press we got from Peter Warrick, Ernie Sims, Geno Hayes, Sebastian Janokowski, Preston Parker, etc? Does that have an affect on how people view FSU as a whole? We  could only wish Myron Rolle's greatness wiped away the sins of past athletes like he was a next-generation Jesus.

What if Jesus listened to Ice Cube every time it was a good day?

Can the benefit of sports programs be measured?

If so, then the impact of the Booster program can be measured.

Until then, I can hypothesize, fantasize, eulogize, and feature the Seminole Boosters as George Bailey in the FSU version of "It's a Wonderful Life" until the cows come home.

Nothing is going to change.

Before I sign off, think about this: while the Seminole Boosters want a multi-million dollar indoor training complex for the football team and improvements to athletic student housing, many of the integral academic departments at Florida State University have had their budgets cut, had to lay off teachers, merge with other departments, or had to make other types of sacrifices due to lack of money.

My guess is that Andy Miller sees nothing wrong with this.

The horror, the horror ...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I used to want to write for a newspaper

Way back in the ancient times of 2003, in a world before social media, before YouTube, before Twitter, and when the term "blog" was just entering the public lexicon, a young writer, armed with a bachelors in English/Creative Writing, set forth to find himself a job. He scoured the Internet for hours at  a time, looking for a position that would employ him to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and let loose words that would change the world. He was ready to be a journalist somewhere, anywhere.

Then his mother asked him if he would really be happy writing about junior high basketball in a two-bit town halfway across the country. She told him someone with skills such as his should be aiming higher. He took those words to heart, stopped pursuing journalism jobs, and went to grad school. Three years later, he landed a job close to home, one that paid him well enough to buy a new truck and go to a few baseball games.

To be honest, looking back, I am actually glad no newspaper did so much as offer me an interview. I am happy none of the 60 or so jobs I applied to took the even first look at me. Because no matter how much I may bitch about my job now, I am absolutely thankful I don't work for the newspaper industry. I would probably be unemployed right now.

I don't remember the last time I read a newspaper. I used to sit down every morning, pour myself a big heaping bowl of Crunch Berries, and dig through the Florida Today. First, I would read the Sports, then the Comics, then the Front Page section, then, if I had time, I would read the Business and Life sections. I was hip to the happenings of the world.

I have no idea if they still publish the Florida Today. If so, I would assume 90% of its readership is over the age of 65.

These days it should come to no surprise to anyone that the newspaper as we used to know it is going the way of the dodo. Last week alone I read three articles that called out the newspaper business for being less than responsive.

In the first, TyDuffy of The Big Lead asks "Why Do Newspapers Remain Slaves to the Games Story and Boring Quotes?". Duffy challenges the status quo of sports writing and basically calls it less than inspired.

The next day, Tommy Duncan of esteemed Tampa-area blog Sticks of Fire called out the St. Pete Times and the Tampa Tribune for their hypocritical statements regarding disposable plastic bags. According to Tommy, articles in both papers have denounced the bags whether by calling for their ban or promoting alternative measures. Yet, both newspapers are delivered to their readers' front doors in small, clear, disposal plastic bags.

Tommy again goes on the offensive a few days later blasting the Tampa Tribune's advertising flyer. Apparently, the "Trib Clips" is delivered every week without fail, regardless of readership, interest, or occupancy. Kinda like the official newspaper of the mob in Good Fellas. Not home? F*** you, read me.

Unfortunately, there isn't much good news coming out of the newspaper industry. They seem to be scrambling to find some footing during the information metamorphosis of the last 10 years. They are cutting even the most established staff.

Back when I wrote for the FSU newspaper, I predicted that five years after graduation I would be living in a cardboard box behind a WalMart with only my diploma and my Writer of the Year 2002 award to keep me warm. I'm sure if I was in the newspaper industry, that would probably be true.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

An Interview with AfroBoy

It's been a long time since I did an interview with a pro wrestler. So when given the opportunity, I couldn't pass up the chance to ask local Florida wrestler AfroBoy a few questions.

AfroBoy has always been a favorite of mine, a good wrestler and a good guy with a great hair do. Unfortunately, he has been sidelined for the last few months. But despite not being in the ring, he still goes to the shows and makes his presence known to the fans.

So without further ado ...

Jordi: You've been out for a while. What happened?

AfroBoy: Well J, I had what I thought was a minor accident. Turned out that I fractured both my leg and ankle.

J: What have done to get ready to return to the ring?

AB: I had to have surgery on the ankle which lengthened my return date. Been going through the recommended rehab.

J: When can fans expect to see you back in action?

AB: I am confident that the fans will see me back in the ring sooner than later. As for now, I am remaining present in the commentary department of WXW.

J: So how did AfroBoy end up in the Florida wrestling scene? Did you train here in FL?

AB: Yes I did train in Florida at the now defunct FXE Academy. I received training from several professionals of the sport. It assisted in producing some wrestlers making waves: Simon Sez, Mike Cruz, Bobby Fonta, and Da Biff.

(Ed note: watch AfroBoy and Da Biff take on Simon Sez and fellow local grappler Gus Money here.)

J: What would you say has been your best match?

AB: I do not know if it was my best, but a good one. My favorite match was against the British Lions. I had the privilege of tagging with Scotty 2 Hotty. It was the first time I got to main event a program.

J: What wrestlers did you admire growing up?

AB: I was a big fan of Superfly Jimmy Snuka and Flyin' Brian Pillman. I enjoyed Macho Man, Mr Perfect, and Rick Rude. All were amazing in my eyes.

J: Who are your professional idols? What wrestlers do you look up to now?

AB: Dwayne Johnson is someone I look up to. While many question why he won't return to the ring, I admire that he was able to walk away. His in ring work led him to another path which has been just as successful and more power to the man. I also admire Randy Orton. Another 3rd generation superstar who has been able to carve his own niche. Bound to be around for many years to come.

J: Let's talk about the 'fro. How long have you had it? Did you grow it just for wrestling?

AB: The 'Fro has been on for almost four years now. June will make 3 yrs for me as a pro wrestler. I grew up watching my favorite wrestlers all with long hair. So I figured I would let mine grow out as well. Only problem is that my hair doesn't just lay down and look fabulous. I pick it out and make it look 'FroLicious!!!

J: How do you maintain and take care of the 'fro?

AB: I do keep the 'Fro trimmed up. Once a month, I go see my lady at the salon and make sure it is touched up. Add a bit of sheen on the night of a match and Damm, that boy is fly!

J: What message do you want to send to your fans?

AB: Thank you for all the support up to this point. Many may say it, but I believe it... 2010 is going to be a big year for your friendly neighborhood AfroBoy and the Afro-Squad. Keep it Pimpin' ! ! !

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meeting Taryn Terrell

Over on YouTube, the SnowMan of posted a video of the day I met WWE Diva Tiffany.

 After this video, I learned Taryn Terrell lived in my apartment complex. I used to see her and fellow WWE trainee Drew McIntyre walking Tiffany's dog.