Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why shop at the local music store?

By now you guys should know I am a huge music fan. If I'm not out and about or watching sports, cartoons, or movies, I'm listening to tunes.

How I get those tunes however, has gone through a small transformation in the past few years. Admittedly, I was really late in getting on the music download bandwagon. While friends of mine were using Napster way back when it first started, I finally downloaded my first album two years ago. Although I've download dozens of albums in the last few years, most of what I download is re-mixes, mix tapes, and free giveaways. I'm still a fan of going to the music store and buying CDs, getting the entire album, checking out the album art, and reading the liner notes. I'm old school like that and I can't see regularly getting music any other way.

Although I am also a fan of supporting local businesses, my music buying habits have never effectively "gone local". Even though the closest independent music store to my apartment, Vinyl Fever Tampa, was ranked 18th on Rolling Stone's top 25 record stores in the country, I don't have the incentive to make them my only music destination.

Maybe my music tastes aren't unique enough. Vinyl Fever carries a lot of vinyl (of course) and hard to find stuff. My music tastes tend to fall outside of mainstream, but not quite independent. Take a band like Clutch, for example. They are one of my favorite hard rock bands of all-time. They have a few songs on the radio, usually one per CD, but have never had what anyone would call a mainstream hit. Although they have been around for over 15 years, you can't find them at Best Buy and you may find one release if that at a mall music store.

When I looked for Clutch's latest, I bought the only copy Vinyl Fever had. Maybe other rock fans had been scooping them up, but I doubt it.

Maybe I am being too specific, but I could also not find a few old school rap CDs I've been looking for, groups such as the Gravediggaz and Aesop Rock. I know I shouldn't expect them to have everything, but I can't figure out if going there will help me find what I am looking for.

Of course, I know I can order CDs through the store. I have done that on occasion. My problem with doing that is once again there is no incentive. I can order music through my local FYE or other mall music shop. There is no 10% discount or anything for ordering through Vinyl Fever.

That brings me to another point: cost. For the CDs I do find, and I do find things on occasion, Vinyl Fever is no cheaper than any other store. As a matter of fact, their usual $12-16 per CD was severely undercut by a sale at one of the local mall stores that marked every CD  down to $9.99.

$9.99 for a Miles Davis, a Sly and the Family Stone, a Ghostface Killah, and a Black Label Society? I can't turn that down.

If they are going to price their stuff the same or higher than the bigger vendors, it might help if Vinyl Fever Tampa had buyer reward cards. Perhaps if they created a community amongst their clientele and maybe gave one used CD free for every 10 new CD purchases. That would keep me coming back.

Finally, I also have a small complaint with their customer service. Normally, they are average to above average. However, there was an incident lately that really rubbed me the wrong way. A few weeks ago, I went there on a Sunday.  Unfortunately, I was there five minutes before their opening time of noon. Noon passed and the store was still not open. 12:05 someone finally wandered out from the back and opened the door.

That's it.

It would be have nice if the person acknowledged my presence, especially considering he was late opening the store. He could have said hi, maybe asked if I had been waiting long, and maybe even apologized for my wait. If he was really customer friendly, he could have offered 10% off one of my CD purchases.

That would have cost Vinyl Fever $1.60, but would have won them my loyalty.

As it is, I have no overwhelming reason to shop at my local record store.

(Apparently, a commenter on the Rolling Stone site doesn't think too highly of them as well. I wish they had listed which Tampa-based record stores they thought were better.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Florida College Football and the Age of Empires

(Originally posted on

On the morning of the first big weekend in college football, I figured I would make my triumphant return with an idea that has been marinating in my head for the last few months. This probably should have been written sooner, but I had to make sure my research was correct.

Before the season, I was thinking about how important this season is in the annals of Florida college football history.

Being an international affairs major and a bit of a history aficionado, this season reminds me of a very interesting point in 20th Century world history. Feel free to disagree, but I think the 2010-11 State of Florida college football season is very similar to post-World War I geopolitics. Now this may be the craziest thing you have ever heard, so let me explain:

Prior to World War I, empires still controlled much of the global geopolitical scene. During and immediately following WWI, the three of the biggest of these – the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the German Empire (a fourth being the Austrian Empire) – were still relevant and had much sway on the discourse of nations.  Entering the discussion, but not yet in the class of “Empire”, was a small upstart power called the United States.

For many years, the Florida college football season was likewise dominated by three major players. Like the post-World War I empires, the Florida Empires each face different challenges as they enter the second decade of a new century. And as they confront their own internal identity issues, a new power is slowing emerging, growing every year in strength and confidence.

In matching empires to Florida college football powers, one of the easiest connections to make is that of Florida State to the Ottoman Empire. From 1299 to 1922, the Ottoman Empire covered a vast stretch of land spanning from Algeria to Iraq, Hungary to Ethiopia. During that time, the empire was ruled by a Sultan, who doubled as the Islamic Caliphate, or religious leader. Although power was dispersed, the sultan was still the “supreme monarch”.

Kinda like Bobby Bowden.

Continuing the analogy, during the final few hundred years of its existence, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of stagnation, again not unlike Florida State during the 2000s. Although many believe a portion of the Middle East is still suffering from this malaise, the nation of Turkey recovered from the destruction of the empire thanks in part to new leadership and a new national philosophy. Whether or not new head coach Jimbo Fisher can guide the Noles back up after the plodding rule of Sultan Bobby I has yet to be seen.

The second empire analogy is the University of Miami to the German Empire. Here the comparison is more valid in the years following World War I, when Germany was stripped of many of its national privileges, including the ability to build a military-industrial complex. They also could not export or import at the rate they did prior to the war. Eventually, they looked inward, to a leader who invoked the brightest confidence in glory days gone by. A man who, despite his evilness, promoted an increase in German pride.

Please note, I am not comparing Randy Shannon to Adolf Hitler, AT ALL. However, the hiring of Shannon and the emphasis on his pro-Miami background was done to return a sense of pride in the Hurricane players. The idea that the name “Hurricanes” means something once again to the players is what is important. Team pride is on the rise in Miami thanks to Shannon and slowly they are rebuilding the war machine in an attempt to establish a new Reich.

Unlike the German Empire, which would rebuild and rise from the ashes of WWI and aspire for world domination a generation later, the British Empire was all but deflated after the First World War. According to the Almighty, All-Knowing Wikipedia, World War I crippled the British psychologically more so than physically. Will the University of Florida face a similar fate? Will the years of domination and competition combined with the loss of their most esteemed athlete ever cause UF to slip from the ranks of the elite? It is very possible that the UF fanbase could fall off the immense high they have been on for the last four years and end up like the bored and disinterested Red Sox Nation.

Besides an effect on their national standing, British prestige also took a hit after the Great War. Slowly those who saw allying with the British as the only way to go began to reconsider their options. This phenomenon is not unlike the most recent recruiting class, particularly the decision of highly touted running back James Wilder to attend FSU over UF among others.

Last, but definitely not least, is the University of South Florida. Not considered a major power until recently, USF’s rise to relevancy is similar to that of the United States. An outsider in global geopolitics immediately after the war, the US found itself on level ground with the Empires after the war due to circumstances and opportunity.

Unfortunately however, the United States withdrew from discussion and practiced isolationism for several years until the Great Depression and the Second World War thrust them back in the spotlight. Unless USF loads up their schedule with powder puff cupcakes and focuses only on the Big East, I do not see them taking an isolationist route. Only time will tell if their strategy of taking on the old empires head-on is a wise one, but I think new Head Coach Skip Holtz will carry the tradition of his predecessor and heritage and continue the stampede.

Of course, there have been many other changes throughout college football leading into this season. In the past few months, the headlines have proclaimed tales of new alliances, scandals, reloading, and rebuilding. Across the nation, programs have flexed their muscles (Texas), and had their muscles taken away (USC). But nowhere is the presence of change more prominent than in Florida. And now, as each major program in the state faces its first huge challenge of the year, fans can only watch as a new era of college football in Florida begins.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

See The Freak (John Merrick)

(Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago. It is, of course, directly influenced by The Elephant Man.)

Help me.  My master has put me in the cage again.  The monkey screams.  The darkness always envelops me.  A freak. The monster I am.  People come from miles around.  I am educated.  My deformity makes them think otherwise.  Help me.  I am a man.  The master makes his money.  I see it.  I help him, yet he gives nothing to me.  He lives, not concerned with me.  But I provide for him.  Ungrateful.  I am shuffled to the side.  I am sick.  Dying.  Please, please help me.


I am a human being.

He looks ill.  Pathetic.  I wonder how his life has been.  How is the life of a circus freak?  That can’t be a politically correct term.  His sad eyes connect with mine, sending the pain of a lifetime of misery.  His master doesn’t look very compassionate.  Does he care more about the man or the money the man brings in for him?  Others are disgusted, I'm saddened.  He does not deserve this life.  There is nothing any man could have possibly have done to be treated like he is.  Can I save him?  Someone should.

Friday, September 3, 2010

An Interview with Wrestler Ethan Essex of the Hatchet City All-Stars

I have to admit, I've had the interview sitting on the shelf for a minute or two. I was looking for a more mainstream place to post this, but after negotiations with other forums feel through, I figured I would post it here. Enjoy.

Jordi Scrubbings: How did Ethan Essex get his start in pro wrestling?

Ethan Essex: Growing up in Delaware, I had a lot of exposure to it. You had all kinds of fresh little indy shows that me and my friends would go to all over. You have ECWA in Wilmington run by legendary promoter Jim Kettner, and you had Delaware Championship Wrestling out of the Southern Delaware area. Maryland Championship Wrestling has been running all over Maryland for quite a while and it was only a 20 minute drive to Philly. Every three weeks, ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) would return to the Arena for television tapings. I would be there every taping chanting “EC'dub” so loud that my voice would be gone at school the following week. When ECW closed, that spot was filled by CZW, ROH, 3PW, and WXW and so on later on in my teen years. And of course watching WWE and WCW.

All I ever wanted to be was a Professional Wrestler. How could you not with all these great companies around me? So I began training with Jeff Rocker at DCW (Delaware Championship Wrestling, now Dynamite Championship Wrestling out of Dover, DE) and had been doing ring announcing duties. I had some issues come up in my life and had to move to Florida. Jeff Rocker recommended I continue my training with Bam Bam Mancuso and Florida Extreme Wrestling. It is there that I met and worked out with fellow Hatchet City All-Star and brother Bryan Maddox and another one of my good friends inside and outside of the wrestling world, Nooie Lee.

JS: Where are you currently wrestling?

EE: Currently, Maddox and I are wrestling for WWE Hall of Famer Afa the Wild Samoan's WXW (World Xtreme Wrestling) and are the 4-time WXW World Tag-Team Champions! How fresh is that?

JS: Who are your wrestling influences?

EE: Owen Hart, Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, Shane Douglas, Raven ... I really could keep on going with guys that influence me. There is so much talent that never really got credit or pushed as main guys, but ran with it when given the right booking. They were always more over with me than the top guys.

JS: You and your partner in the Hatchet City All-Stars, Bryan Maddox, come out to Psychopathic Records Artists Twiztid and wear Insane Clown Posse garb in the ring. What does ICP and representing the Juggaloes mean to you?

EE: I love the Juggalo Fam. Straight up. It’s the one place I know I can turn when life is down and out and somebody is like, “Man, go get ya shine on in this piece”. I've been listening to ICP for almost as long as I’ve been watching wrestling. I’ve been a Juggalo even longer. I can't say we represent juggalos, if anything they represent us.

JS: How accepting has the ICP community been to the Hatchet City All-Stars?

EE: We always get love from the Family when they come out to shows. Except at Gathering of the Juggalos last year. Bryan and I were tagged up with Trent Acid for Juggalo Championship Wrestling.

On a side note, Trent was a really cool guy and learned a lot from him. I’m glad he and I got to cross paths. RIP Trent. The party might be gone but it’s certainly not dead.

Back to the Gathering, we were tagged up as Trent’s Alter Boys against ICP, (former WWE legend) Scott Hall, Sid Vicious (aka Psycho Sid, Sid Justice, etc), and Corporal Robinson. Now all weekend guys like Sabu and Mad-Man Pondo and Ian Rotten were coming up and telling Bryan and I to watch out for trash flying at us from the crowd. Here are some legit tough guys and they are telling me to be careful of the fans?

Anyway, the Juggalos got rowdy and since were aligned with the top heel in the company we needed to have eyes in the backs of our heads. Well, let me tell you the Juggalos didn't disappoint. All kinds of stuff were thrown at the ring that night. From chairs – the poor ref took a chair from a fan in the back of the head and it cut him – to hundreds of two liter bottles of Faygo Pop. I got nailed with an empty Faygo bottle and Maddox and I narrowly escaped a diaper. It was like a landfill come to life!

After that match I had a lot of Juggalos and Juggalettes come up and say what’s up and give us respect. To me, that made getting the entire festival’s trash dumped on us by 20,000 Juggalos and Juggalettes all worth it.

JS: What was your best match ever?

EE: I have had some good ones and I’ve had some bad ones. But my best singles match would have to be against a kid named Freestyle. A lot of other workers had come to that show. I felt like I had something to prove to them and we tore the house down. That match was a very important match to me – there was a lot of back story, but that’s a whole other thing in itself.

JS: What all-time wrestler would you like to have a match with? Why? What about a tag team would you like to take on?

EE: Hulk Hogan, hands down. If you’re wrestling Hogan then you’re in a good spot.

As far as tag-teams go, I think Maddox and I would agree on Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith.

JS: What is your greatest accomplishment in wrestling?

EE: We recently captured the WXW World Tag-Team Championship for the fourth time. That’s a record for that company and we feel honored and privileged to hold that record. Also performing in front of 20,000 Juggalos with ICP will always go down as a top moment.

JS: What does the future hold for Ethan Essex?

EE: If the past four years have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is promised. It’s what you make it. So we'll see. Good things I hope.

JS: Would you like to say anything to the fans?

EE: Thank you for the support you guys have shown us. It blows my mind. We need you as much you need us. Whoop Whoop.

JS: Where can we see more Ethan Essex? Do you have a website?

EE: The Hatchet City All-Stars page is under construction, so in the meantime fans can find me on Myspace at