Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Movie Starring Ice-T, Peanuts, Ralphie, and a Dragon

I made a Christmas movie. It is a big budget extravaganza. I had to contact ILM for the dragon. And who knew Peter Billingsley would so difficult to get to reprise his classic role as Ralphie. But I think it turned out ok, considering what we had to work with.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Curse of the Almighty Darth Sidious



While surfing the web recently, I found this article where the author talks about how he found what he believes is a new revelation in Star Wars Episode I. The author explores the idea that perhaps the teacher of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palapatine created the life of Anakin Skywalker through the Dark Side of the Force. It is definitely an interesting theory I've never heard before, even if people in the comments claim they have.

My own theories on Palpatine/Darth Sidious were also kindled when I recently read the Episode 3 prequel book, Labyrith of Evil. In the book, the author says there can only be two Sith at any one time. Wookiepedia calls this The Rule of Two.

Sith are driven by power and greed. They will eternally eat each other. Hence they can never run the galaxy efficiently, unless they kept their greed in order. More likely, however, one will oppose the other.

Vader represented this when he asked Luke to join him to rule the galaxy together. Vader was planning on killing the Emperor. There was no way there was going to be a “Holy Trinity” of Sith rulers. Vader was assuredly plotting a coup.

If Darth Plagueis created Anakin to kill Darth Sidious, it was probably as revenge because he knew Sidious was going to kill him. Palantine knew this child would be his down fall, but he knew he was essential to exist.

What if there was no “Chosen One”? What if the idea of a “Chosen One” was a never-fulfilled Jedi fable and the only way the Jedi prosper is because the Sith are so driven by greed that the moment one Sith brings in another, the second plots his day in the sun?

Although people have studied and contemplated the Jedi and they were given the most emphasis in the mainstream Star Wars media, it is the Sith that require more study. They drive the entire galaxy.

There is also a reason why Vader was not made as powerful as General Grevious. Sidious wanted Vader to be weak and vulnerable as a human robot. Had Vader been more powerful or more of a military mind, he would have killed Luke, but Vader never could. Then his moral compass took over and he eventually destroyed Sidious.

Now here is another theory: what if Han Solo – the only wildcard in the movies – was unknowingly controlled by Palantine? Solo foils Vader from killing Luke in the trenches of the Death Star at a moment when Vader doesn't know who Luke is. Solo is the thorn in Vader’s side through Empire Strikes Back that prevents Vader from finding Skywalker before their relationship has blossomed into father and son. And if Palantine knew of Chewbacca and the Wookie’s blood oath, which is not unlikely since he probably wanted to know all about the enemy the Jedi were working with in the begin of the Clone Wars and Wookies were on the Senate, he could have manipulated Republic hero and friend of Yoda, Chewbacca, by linking him up with Han Solo, a stooge of Palpatine.

Chewbacca and Solo are forced to become smugglers, not unlike how Dan Akroyd was forced into a life of crime in Trading Places. I don’t think it is beyond Palpatine to conduct a social experiment and send Solo and his former Wookie war hero friend into a life of crime. Solo wasn’t the smartest person in the galaxy either. Why did he go back to Tatooine when he dropped Jabba’s spice load? Shouldn’t he have run as far away from the Hutt’s reach as possible? What if Chewbacca convinced him it was safe because Chewie knew Obi Wan was there?

So Palpatine tells the Imperial forces to intercept Han Solo. Solo drops his spice and is now in trouble with Jabba the Hutt. The Empire doesn't fear the Hutts, at least not Jabba. So Palpatine controls Solo and Chewbacca falls into the trap. Chewie knows the Empire is closing their grip on crime and he knows he has no choice but to find Obi-Wan in this time of trouble. Palpatine used Chewbacca and Solo to bring Obi-Wan and Luke to Vader, where Vader and Obi-Wan would face off. If Vader lost again, Palpatine knew Obi-Wan would go after the Emperor next. And Palatine knew he could take Obi-Wan. If Vader won, it would also cause even more mental instability in the one-time padawan. There is no doubt Vader was distraught over killing Obi-Wan underneath the layers of hate he held for the man who left him stranded on Mustafar.

Although Vader spends time hunting for Kenobi prior to Episode 4, he is sidetracked by his hunt for Princess Leia. It is very possible Palatine knew Leia would lead Vader to Tatooine and rile up Kenobi.  The difficult thing for Palpatine is that he didn’t have anyone else who could hunt down Kenobi. So Palpatine figured he would lead Kenobi to Vader.

Palantine knew Obi-Wan was looking after one Skywalker child and Bail Organa was looking after the other. Organa was not going to train Leia in the force, but Obi-Wan could easily train Luke as he did, hence the latter pair need to be deposed of first. When Luke’s friends join the academy, Palpatine knows Luke is then old enough to be a threat. Now perhaps even Uncle Owen is controlled by the Emperor when he tells Luke he can’t join the academy. Maybe Palpatine controlled the harvest.

It is clear here also that the Sith have no trust in the military apparatus. The military is used only for wild goose chases, seizures, or large scale assaults. This is seen most in Vader’s blatant disregard of Imperial officers in Empire Strikes Back and there is no scene where Palantine counsels with Imperial Officers. He doesn't trust them. So Palantine doesn’t want Luke to be part of the military environment. He does not want Luke’s mind to be militarily rigid, as Grevious’s was.

So I have just made a case that Han Solo and Uncle Owen were stooges of Emperor Palantine designed to push Luke to Emperor when the time came. It was Luke who was supposed to be the heir to Palantine after Anakin’s body was destroyed. When Luke was before Sidious, Vader and his half robotic self was expendable. But to Vader, who probably thought of himself as nearly as powerful as Sidious, Sidious was expendable if Vader could convince Luke to join him.

And by the end of Return of the Jedi, we have free-will restored to the galaxy. We have the Light and Dark Side of the Force weaker than they had been in thousands of years. We have no Siths and no Jedi Council. We have only one Jedi Knight, but that might be in name only as Luke was the weakest Jedi in the movies, by far. Who is around to call Luke an official Jedi Knight? I could study how to be a medieval knight all day, but am I really?

In conclusion, although I did all this typing and pondering and maybe some it made sense and some of it didn’t, I think overanalysis is the worst thing to hit the Star Wars Universe. The fact that Palpatine was a super-powerful figure means people attach more and more power to him, as I did here, making him stronger than George Lucas ever imagined. And this is the worst part of the prequels, that they create an idea around the Force that it controls everything. The fact that none of the characters have free-will and that they are all puppets to a creepy, evil old man totally sucks the fun out of Star Wars. No longer are there Rebels fighting to get out from the clutches of a repressive Empire, but the story turns into a magical monster man playing puppet master with people. Until of course an innocent na├»ve – some might say weak – farm boy says he would rather have the love of his father than rule the universe.

And then perhaps it is love that changed Han Solo from easily-manipulated scoundrel to a caring Princess lover in Empire Strikes Back.

Unless that was Yoda’s doing …

Friday, December 16, 2011

Books by friends David Davisson, Dale Lotreck, and Artie Fletcher



Not only is The Bus Leagues Experience Vol 2 blazing its way up the Amazon.com charts, but I have a few other friends releasing books recently. Please check them out and support them. So many writers have been supportive of me since I started these crazy endeavors, I can only try to return the favor.

1) Fellow local blogger David Davisson released his book Re/Creating Tampa: 101 Ideas for a Better City in November. This book, as stated, discusses David's ideas on how Tampa can be better.

Free PDF download

Ebook format $1.99

Paperback $10.00

2) Long time e-friend Dale Lotreck released his first e-book last week, RUBY LEAVING TEXAS. According to Amazon, RUBY LEAVING TEXAS

"is a tale of sex, drugs, love, lies, incest, deceit, a life misspent, and the potential for violence. It is the story…"the truth the way I see it”…of a Whiteboy from Connecticut who ends up in New York City in the 1980s, doing what he is told not to, becoming an artist, a prolific graffiti artist and social vandal."

Sounds really interesting.

E-book version $4.99

3) Lastly, comedian Artie Fletcher (who taught my comedy course) released his first book this week, Comedy on the Road as Seen Through a Comic's Bloodshot Eyes. Artie's book discusses his career in entertainment to include the highs and lows and the tolls it has taken on his family life.

And by the way, I asked Artie about his book in my latest article for the Tampa Bay Times.

Paperback $19.95

E-book $9.99

Please check out these books. Thanks!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reflections on Michael Maccoby's The Gamesman



I’m usually not one for business books. I’ve never read “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Cheese”, “Who Moved My People”, “Everything You’ve Wanted To Know About Business, But Didn’t Want To Ask”, or any bios on the rich or the powerful. Just not my bag.

About this time last year, however, a former co-worker recommended the book “The Gamesman” to me. He described it as the best organizational business book he had ever read, although he claimed to have read it over 25 years ago. As we were working in a resources and requirements division, the book seemed like a solid recommendation and something I figured I would enjoy.

Written in the early 1970s by business anthropologist Michael Maccoby, “The Gamesman” explores several different personalities found in the 1970s corporate business environment. Maccoby builds on other personality studies such as “The Organization Man” and Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and attempts to categorize workers based on their drive, corporate roles, and lives outside of the workplace.

First a disclaimer: being that this book was written in the 70s, it is very much a product of its time. There is very little talk of women and minorities and only Mexico is given an acknowledgement in the discussion of international cultures. When discussing the work place, women get the most coverage of the aforementioned groups and even then they are marginalized as secretaries and other administrative positions. They are seen as objects for powerful men to oogle or flirt with and their admiration is counted as points for a distinctive corporate personality. That aside, as a white man who has worked in predominantly white male dominant industries, I could identify with a book about the corporate personalities of other white men.

(Also, I am not sure if the person who recommended the book to me realized how The Gamesman was incredibly sexist and culturally single scope, since he too was a white male in the same white male dominant work environment. And the fact that the military and many defense contractors are so white male driven does say a lot about their business culture. This is not good or for bad, just reality.)

Through his research, interviews, and investigations, Maccoby comes up with four distinct corporate personalities:

The Craftsman

The Craftsman is the type of person who takes pride in his craft. They are subject matter experts on one thing, often spending their entire lives working one issue or field. They are career plumbers, career writers, career engineers, or any other field where one can dedicate their lives. They care little of promotion or interaction, only that they get emotional satisfaction from being good at their niche.

The Jungle Fighter

Jungle fighters are people who scratch, claw, and play political games in an attempt to get to the top of a corporation. They play people against each other, manipulate their co-workers, and use those below them for their own personal gain. They are largely political creatures who ass-kiss when needed and throw people under the bus when needed.

The Company Man

The Company Man is the type of person who throws themselves at the will of the company because they fear the repercussions of the company. He will do any job, take any position for the betterment of the company, and side with the company on all decisions. They are submissive and do whatever it takes to not get fired.

The Gamesman

The Gamesman is the newest type of corporate personality and was created by Maccoby. Gamesman feel the corporate environment is game they have to “win”. Money isn’t the end result unless it is part of a goal. Gamesmen want to achieve, compete, and pit themselves against their environment. They are very success-driven, often as Maccoby discovers, at the risk of alienating or losing their emotional attachments.

After writing brief chapters on the craftman, jungle fighter, and company man, Maccoby focuses more than half the book on The Gamesman. He explores the personalities of several successful managers at defense companies and other high-tech industries. What he finds is surprising and somewhat shocking. Gamesmen rely on competition. It drives them and keeps them on their toes. They have an unending drive to be the top of whatever field they decide to be in.

Unfortunately, Maccoby writes that the drive that propels many gamesmen to the top of their fields often stands in the way of their emotional well-being. Their lives revolve around work and they often lead unfulfilling family lives, sacrificing the warm embrace of home and hearth for the cold calculations of the business world.

Maccoby discusses the conflict these individuals have in depth in a chapter called “The Head and the Heart”. He proposes the idea that the corporate culture that promotes corporate “winning” and being “better” than others sadly kills the idea of true cooperation and compassion. Although Gamesmen aren’t inherently cold people, their actions and need to feel victorious sometimes make others feel degraded, especially those who don’t share their competitive will.

I don’t think it was the intent of my former co-worker to show me that I was too driven by work. I think he told me to buy The Gamesman because it would help me identify what I was up against in the conservative military defense contracting work environment we were in. But when reading The Gamesman, I found myself associating with The Gamesman personality much more than any other corporate type. And I found myself looking inside myself to see if I was as ultimately empty as the people Maccoby interviewed.

One of the people Maccoby profiled fit me almost to a tee. He was a successful worker who racked up the accolades at work, but couldn’t seem to find happiness. Although he was married, he couldn’t stay calm after work. He kept thinking his life would be better if he sought out other challenges, such as law school, medical school, or trying to find another job. He felt frustrated in his job because they wouldn’t let him “win” any more.

Overall, The Gamesman scared me more than any book I have ever read. Since I have been out of work, I’ve realized how important it is to be alive outside of the workplace. All the work and accomplishments I did at my job went right out the window the second I was laid off. They went on my resume, but they didn’t define “me”. I thought I was “winning” in the career “game”, but in reality, professional and educational accolades didn’t mean anything to me as a person. And now, as I try to figure out where my career path is going, I know money alone doesn’t equal true happiness. Money is necessary to pay the rent and I should still save for a time when I am too old to work, but money and accomplishments shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of life. I should enjoy my work path as much as possible.

I might not know what I want to do, but I know I want to try to undo 16 years of competitive nature and act more from my heart for the first time ever. I don’t want to be a Gamesman anymore.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2 is now available



(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues Baseball.com)

We are happy to announce the release of our second annual book: The Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2.

Like our first release, The Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2 is a collection of interviews and conversations with some of the brightest prospects in Minor League Baseball as well as coaches, media personnel, fans, and other people associated with the lower levels of professional baseball. Volume 2 expands on our original work by featuring the voices of our expanded roster of writers and includes much of the work Brian and Mike did during their tenures with MiLB.com.

We worked hard to ensure The Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2 is available for the holidays. We promise it will make a great gift for baseball fans of all ages no matter what their holiday or denomination.

Again, we would like to thank each and every one of you for your support, without of which this book would never be possible.

Click here to buy The Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2 at Amazon.com.

The Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2 includes interviews with the following:

Travelers & Fans

James Dively

Tug Haines

Joe Price

Torianne Valdez

Craig Wieczorkiewicz

Writers & Broadcasters

Bruce Baskin

Clark Brooks

Jim Donten

Kurt Schweizer

Greg Young

Players

Dellin Betances

Tiffany Brooks

Chris Cates

Travis d’Arnaud

Wes Etheridge

Anthony Gose

Mark Hendrickson

Liam Hendriks

Chad Jenkins

Mike McDade

Mike Minor

Stolmy Pimentel

D’Vontrey Richardson

Moises Sierra

Michael Spidale

Zach Stewart

Kyle Weiland

MiLB.com

Stetson Allie & Justin Meccage

Aaron Altherr & Mickey Morandini

Garin Cecchini & Rich Gedman

Alexander Colome

Cito Culver

Jarek Cunningham

Matt Hobgood & Scott McGregor

Kyle Jensen

Coline Kaline

Jeff Locke

Richard Lucas

Matthew Neil

Matt Rice & Kes Carter

Garrett Wittels

From the Podcast

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jeff Perro

George Springer

Thanks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cause of Death: Knocked Out By the Hero


Much to the chagrin of many people, I think too much. It happens all the time. Almost unconsciously. For some strange reason, whenever anything happens I can't just relax and let it go without having an opinion or attempting to fit whatever it is in my personal schema.

This includes movies. Even those that come with a disclaimer that "plot is sacrificed for the sake of explosions, porn, or kick-ass kung fu". Yup, even those I do too much thinking about.

Needless to say, an odd thought entered my cerebellum this weekend as I watched Star Wars: Episode III.

Did the Empire have a Casualty Notification process? How did they convey the news of the deaths of Imperial Officers and troops to the family they came from?

(I know most Stormtroopers were clones, at least through the Clone Wars Era. They didn't really have families, unless the Empire sent all the notices to Boba Fett, as he was their only next of kin. But the officers and other staff members had to have families. I don't think they were clones.)

I can't fathom the scope of the job of the Imperial Casualty Notification Office. Especially after the destruction of each of the Death Stars.

Here is how I think an Imperial death notice written after the Death Star explosion may have read:

"Dear Sir or Maam, 
Perhaps you heard, the Galactic Empire recent suffered a grave loss at the hands of rebel scum. Your son, (insert officer's name), was killed when these rogues destroyed our bastion of security, the Death Star. He, along with 31,622,963 fellow Imperial military members, lost their lives in the service our beloved Emperor.
In these sad times, be assured your loss is our loss. Your son was a valued member of our armed forces and the Emperor and Lord Vader have vowed to find and punish those responsible for his death. They will join us or be destroyed. 
Sincerely,
Galactic Empire Secretary of War/Defense"

(By the way, on the subject of remembering those who perished in the Death Star explosion, check out this hilarious College Humor.com video of Stormtroopers reminiscing.)

Of course, the idea of death notices should not be limited to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. What about the scores of other goons, henchmen, minions, and lackeys who were beaten, pummeled, or generally defeated at the hands of heroes? Who informed their loved ones? Did they have loved ones?

Take for example this scene from Bruce Lee's classic Enter The Dragon.



By my count, Bruce Lee knocked out 49 thugs in this 4 minute clip. Some just received a kick to the head, while others were flipped through glass, tossed into water, mauled by prisoners, or had their necks broken. It is, without a doubt, a cornucopia of kung-fu casualty creation.

But again I wonder, were the loved ones of these baddies informed of their unfortunate demise? Whose responsibility was it to write the families of these men and let them know their son, brother, husband, lover wouldn't be home for any more Thanksgivings, Christmases, or any other holidays? For whatever reason, I imagine a stereotypical middle-aged woman in a secretary role slaving over a typewriter filling out form after form after form and then getting them signed and put in the mail as soon as possible.

I wonder what she would put as the cause of death. Knocked out by hero?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda



A few weeks ago at Barnes and Nobles on a block far, far away, I saw a book called The Strange Case of Origami Yoda on the “Interesting Books for Halloween” shelf. As a Star Wars fan since a long, long time ago and a fan of origami since the fourth grade, this book piqued my interest. Admittedly, it is a book written for kids, but that didn’t stop me from reading the back cover and eventually buying it. That's what happens when on the front cover paper Yoda is.

Written by Virginia writer Tom Angleberger, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is an investigation by a 6th grader named Tommy into an unusual classmate named Dwight. According to Tommy, Dwight is a weirdo. He plays with his food, says random things, and wears the same clothes for weeks on end. He is not ashamed of his weirdness and when other kids point out how unusual he is, he turns it up to another level.

While other kids in 6th grade are all about who is “cool”, who is a “loser”, and who is “weird”, Dwight embraces his role as outsider.

Then one day, Dwight shows up with an awkwardly-made green origami Yoda on his finger. He claims Origami Yoda knows all and can answer any question. Assisted by several other classmates, including the pessimistic Harvey, Tommy cites several examples of Yoda guides the kids through embarrassing moments, movie reviews, and most importantly, their relationships with members of the opposite sex. For many of the boys, Yoda’s advice is key to avoiding looking like a fool in front of the girls they like.

Throughout the book, Origami Yoda helps in more ways the kids realize. He helps them with their confidence, helps them not to panic, and helps them to not be scared of the unknown. Even if that unknown is the feelings of the cutest girl in class. He also helps them understand the weird kid named Dwight.

Although he doesn’t make them Jedi like the real Yoda did, Origami Yoda does make the kids better people.  And that’s what’s most important in this very likeable book for kids and Star Wars fans of all ages.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Book review: Ivy League Stripper by Heidi Mattson



One of the biggest lessons I have learned in 2011 and since I have been laid off of two jobs is that people have to do what people have to do to survive. Some people can sit on their laurels, confident that they will have a job and money coming in. That’s not to say they are completely secure, but they at least don’t have to worry about how they will pay their bills.

In Ivy League Stripper, Heidi Mattson faces the unfortunate consequence of being accepted to a premier college and not being able to pay the bills for it. Like others in the ranks of the unemployed, broke, or despondent, she is forced to hustle. Like many college students, she initially hustles at a school job and a restaurant, but when those jobs don’t come close to paying her enough for her education, she takes a bold step – she works at a topless dance club.

At first Mattson faces her own preconceptions of working at a strip club. Taking the role of a “foxy boxer”, she first works in a mock-athletic fighting entertainment capacity.  Her description of the job and how her and her co-workers “fought” each other to entertain the crowd reminded me a lot of pro wrestling. Although Mattson gets her share of bumps and bruises, she learns how to “sell” the moves and put on a show for the mostly male crowd.

While “foxy boxing” makes Mattson a few bucks in her quest to pay off her college loans and tuition, she soon moves from the ring to the pole and becomes a full-fledged topless dancer. Here she makes much more money and learns the ins-and-outs of the adult dancing profession while still, however, taking the approach of a distant observer. She writes about other strippers and their lifestyles and their quest for more money, to include capitalizing on the male obsession with huge breasts. She writes about some of the shade characters who populate her club on the regular, from mafia wise-guys to depressed cops to socially awkward romantics.

But Mattson’s biggest lesson doesn’t come from the stage, it comes from her heart. While doing what she has to do to pay for her education, she realizes that she is living a life her family, particularly her mother, might not understand. While she is rationalizing her occupation as a money-making decision, she fails to see the sociological impact her dancing has on her small-town, ultra-conservative family. By the end of the book, she is forced to face her family and their preconceptions of her. She has to prove to them that the stereotypes of her profession do not define her and that besides being more street-wise and aware of the shady characters of the strip club industry, she is still the same person and still has the same values her parents strove to instill in her.

By the end of the book, Mattson delves into the conflict she has with seizing her sexuality in a culture that worships her in private but is afraid of her in public. While men enjoy her powerful image on the stage, she feels seizing that same confidence and control (without the handcuffs and feather boas, of course) is looked down upon outside of the club. While women are increasingly more well-received for their brains and intellect, they are discouraged for using their God-given gifts of beauty to their advantage. Meanwhile, being a professional wrestler and selling a violent fantasy is not only acceptable, but glorified.

Mattson is a strong, intelligent woman who also happens to be beautiful. In order to accomplish her dreams, make money, and succeed at the capitalistic game we call the American Dream, she uses all of her strengths to her advantage with no shame. For that, she should be acknowledged as a role model.

I really enjoyed Ivy League Stripper. I enjoyed reading about Mattson’s self-discovery and hustle. It was very eye-opening, especially considering Tampa is one of the premier strip club cities in the US. I wonder how many of the local girls who use their bodies to make money have a similar story?

Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writers Month Challenge



Starting November 1st I will be thoroughly engaged in the National Novel Writers' Month Challenge. Known across the internet as "NaNoWriMo", the challenge is to write the first draft of a novel in a month. The website defines a novel as 50,000 words, or approximately 175 pages. That comes out to about four pages a day.

That's the hard part. The good part is that NaNoWriMo brings together amateur and professional writers across the world in an effort to promote writing and this writing endeavor. It is a chance to network with other writers in the same way Basic Training or Boot Camp helps recruits bond - by putting a majority of them in a stressful environment and having them grow together as professionals.

Of course, writers can do the challenge completely alone if they want. Or they can crawl away from their writing hovels every so often and meet other area writers and network, bond, get advice, and lean on. My goal is to meet with other writers at least twice, if not once a week. And there is also my friend Keri from the blog FilthyNerdy who is also doing the challenge. So perhaps we will be exchanging notes, ideas, and shots of alcohol.

To say I am more than a little worried about NaNoWriMo is an understatement. Although I've been writing for a while, the longest thing I have ever written - my Master's Thesis - is only 27,000 words. The novel I intend to write will be double that. Yes, there is no research as there was in a Master's Thesis, but research as never been a problem with me. Focusing on writing and the discipline to sit at one spot and write page after page is difficult.

Second, and probably most challenging, is the unusual fact that writing directly to a computer is not my strong point. Many of my detail-oriented posts or most creative tales are usually written in a notebook or on loose leaf paper. I am better at letting my ideas flow from brain to pen to paper than from brain to keyboard. But because I don't think I can spare a moment in November, outside of an outline or character sketches, paper and notebooks have to be out of the question. I won't have the time to write then type. That's double work.

So what about this great bastion of writing prowess? What will happen here while I am knee-deep in fictional novel writing?

Well, my goal is to put up at least one post a week. Odds are, it will be some casual, like an old poem or a youtube clip. Please don't expect anything extensive - although I will be working on my next article for the Tampa Bay Times and a possible essay on socio-military relations is in the works. And I would like to type a quick book review on a few books I recently finished. And if there are any moments to spare, I would like to finally finish a 50-page short story I've been working on since the summer. And I have a book proposal out there that I hope to hear back on. And I am still looking for full-time work, which might have an effect on the schedule. Perhaps I might try to recruit a guest blogger or two. I've cameoed on enough blogs in my day, maybe a few of those writers could lend me their words during this creatively trying time.

So off I go into the National Novel Writers' Month Challenge. Please think of me in your prayers and send me all of your well-wishes, votes of confidence, atta-boys, and other signs of positive encouragement. I'm going into November a blogger, coming out a writer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordman



Keeping with the poem theme of the week, here is something I wrote in early 2003.
Twisting words like cotton candy
on a stick
They digest them both
sometimes at the same time

One day my day will come
the bling-bling
Power, sex, respect

Don't you know who I am?
"The Wordman
better than a birdman?"

Listen here
There is something in my stomach

It's going to eat me
Consume me
Control me

I vomit regurgitated thoughts
Puke pink all over your shirt

"If she bails, then it was never meant to be."
If she stays, another victory
For the Wordman

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crossing Paths with Playboy Models



According to legend, I was conceived in New York's Playboy Hotel. So although I wasn't pre-conceived to cross paths with Playboy, I guess I was down with the bunny since before Day 1.

With my creation story as inspiration, I thought it only made sense for me to want to marry a Playmate. For almost all of my teenage years, I wanted nothing more than to follow the footsteps of J. Howard Marshall, old dude extraordinaire and brief husband of Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith. I remember my exact thought process was along the lines of, "she can marry me for my money and I'll marry her for her body. It's a far trade."

(In hindsight, to say I was a bit misaligned in my thoughts on a healthy adult relationship would be an understatement. Yet for some reason no one pushed me back in the right direction. Maybe they thought I was joking. Anyway ...)

My odd fascination with Playboy continued while I was in the Army. While deployed to Bosnia in 1998, I started a very brief (read: three e-mail) correspondence with Miss October 1994 Jennifer Lavoie. I was so super excited to get an email from a Playmate while a few thousand miles from home. I think I even printed out the emails and hung them over my bunk. Next to making a 35-minute movie about alien invaders, my letter from Jenn Lavoie was the highlight of my Bosnia mission.

Shortly after leaving Bosnia and exiting the Army, I enrolled at FSU. Not knowing a thing about Tallahassee, I signed up to live in the dorms for my first year in college. Being a 22-year old freshman in a dorm full of 18-year olds would have completely sucked if not for meeting two people: my future apartment roommate Zheke Snow and future Playboy Coed of the Week and Road Rules contestant Mary Beth Decker.



While Zheke Snow has little Playboy affiliation that I know of, Mary Beth and I were friends for her one semester at FSU. She roomed on my floor, we shared Olive Garden, and I also snuck her drinks at Potbelly's bar on our first night in Tallahassee. On that balmy Tallahassee night in August 1999, Mary Beth drove me to Potbelly's in her Mustang and we talked about Tom Green, Pearl Jam, and how she planned to eventually get a boob job because dresses didn't fit her small-chested frame.

After only a few months at Florida State, Mary Beth transferred to Texas A&M, where she told me all of her friends from high school went. Lo and behold, in 2003, shortly before I graduated, I saw a familiar face on Playboy.com. Mary Beth had not only gotten her boob job, but changed her hair color from blond to brunette and although she was cute before, her new look made her Playboy model pretty. A few quick internet searches later, I also found out she was on MTV's Road Rules and made a name for herself in reality television. I guess because she wasn't at Florida State for very long, no one in Tallahassee made a big deal of it. But I thought it was cool. We shared cheese sticks.

Playboy girls and I drifted apart after my brief friendship with Mary Beth. In 2004, Playboy made a brief visit to Tallahassee to capture a few pictures for their regular "Girls of ACC" feature. Despite having classes with hundreds, if not thousands of girls at Florida State, I didn't have any classes with Playboy's FSU representatives. I did however shop at the local record store where Playboy took several of the girls' pictures. Sadly, that record store (Vinyl Fever Tallahassee) is no longer open, leaving the Playboy pictorial as one of the few reminders of the place where I could find obscure albums without having to wait five to ten days for delivery.

I went through a Playboy drought from 2004 to 2010. Although I interviewed one-time-Playboy model-now-porn star Angela McLin on my old site, blogged about one-time Playmate of the Year Carmella DeCesare's local charity bowling event, and even saw CJ Gibson, sister of December 2005 Playmate Raquel Gibson, at a Tampa beach bar, Mary Beth was still the only Playboy model I knew in the flesh.

My Playboy drought finally ended in February 2011 when I met cover girl and then-Tampa Breeze Lingerie Football Player Mikayla Wingle. While working as Social Media Adviser and Special Projects Coordinator for All-Stars Wrestling, I learned the Girls of the LFL were going to be featured in Playboy. After discovering who the Tampa Breeze girl was and finding her contact info, I coordinated for Mikayla to visit All-Stars Wrestling, sign autographs, and even cameo on the local shock jock drive-time radio show.

After exchanging emails and tweets with Mikayla for a few weeks, we finally met at the radio station prior to her going on the air. While we sat in the green room - which by the way wasn't green - we hit it off and even kinda became quick friends. Mikayla made her appearance on the radio show and then re-met with me and we headed off to the wrestling event. While there, we took some awesome pictures and watched the show, making jokes, cheering, and booing the wrestlers along the way.



Before she left, Mikayla told me she worked at a bar in a Tampa suburb and invited me out to visit whenever she was on shift. After her visit to ASW, I visited her bar once a month to say hello, grab a beer, and catch up on her career.

About a month ago, I learned Mikayla was following in the footsteps of my previous Playboy pal Mary Beth Decker and making an appearance on reality TV. But Mikayla wasn't going to be on a seldom-watched obscure MTV show, she was going for the gusto and appearing on the one of the granddaddies of reality shows, Survivor. So far, she is doing well. Several weeks into the season she is still on the island, making more friends than enemies, and gaining fans and followers by the bushel.

Sometimes it's weird meeting people who have been in Playboy. I know it's a great career milestone for models, but as I get older it becomes less exciting of an accomplishment. Although I am proud of them, especially if I know them personally, I am no longer that teenager who wanted nothing more than to marry a Playmate.

These days, I'm not the type of person who will pose with a woman in a one-off meeting (unless it's Reese Witherspoon, then all bets are off). However, if she is a fun person with a kick-ass sense of humor and she is wholly enamored by the power of the afro then you can bet your sweet bunny ears we will be taking plenty of pics.

And, if by chance, she ends up on a reality TV show, you can also guarantee I'll be tuning in to support my friend on there as well.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Trip to the Dade Battlefield State Park

Thursday I finally visited the Dade Battlefield State Park. Although I have passed it dozens of times, I never had the chance to stop by.

While I visited I brought my video camera and recorded my walking tour of the park. Feel free to check out the video.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Buckethead at State Theater in St Petersburg, Florida 9/22/2011



I've been a big Buckethead fan for over 10 years. After being introduced to Buckethead by my friend Shelbs who was and probably still is a huge Primus fan, I bought Buckethead's Colma album.

After Colma, I picked up Buckethead's Monsters and Robots, then I dipped into the guitar great's back catalog and have been following along since.

I discovered Buckethead was not only a guitar virtuoso, but also one of the most creative musicians out there.

As the years past, Buckethead crept up my list of guitar greats I had yet to see.

I've seen Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Dimedag Darrell, Alexi Lahio, and Magic Red, but never saw Buckethead.

Finally, on September 22, 2011 at State Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida, I had the chance to finally see the bucketed one live. And outside of two minor complaints, he didn't disappoint.

Seeing Buckethead is visual experience as well as a musical treat. After his stage was prepared by a dreded tech in a hospital mask, Buckethead took the stage with his trademark KFC bucket on his head and dressed in black. Immediately he started his guitar wizardry with his fingers flying up and down the fret board. I'll admit, I am not good at memorizing the titles of instrumental songs, but I recognized a few songs from his classics Monsters and Robots and Giant Robot.

Buckethead is also part Carrot Top in his show. The dreded tech placed several toys on Buckethead's amp and speakers for the guitarist to play with during the show. These included a hand-held distorting mirror (like those in an amusement park House of Mirrors), a toy chainsaw, and of course Buckethead's nunchucks.

Seeing Buckethead whip his nunchucks to and fro was a treat I looked forward to. As was seeing Bucket put down the guitar and dance like a robot on stage. These are things Buckethead is known for. Of  course all the while he kept his bucket and Michael Myers mask in place.

Halfway through the performance the theme song from the movie Space Jam played and Buckethead walked to the front of the stage with a big blue bag. He reached in the bag and started handing out toys to the fans. Buckethead gave out Halloween masks, Star Wars toys, action figures, and other assorted goodies.

I guess that shouldn't be that unusual considering Buckethead has a song called "Buckethead's Toy Store", he runs his own "abusement" park, and he is the friend of children everywhere.

I was surprised however when the toy giveaway turned into a toy exchange and fans gave Buckethead gifts as well. If Buckethead saw something he liked, he simply traded toys with the fan.

Speaking of Star Wars, Buckethead is a huge Star Wars fan. As of course, I am. Needless to say, when he played the Star Wars theme song and the Imperial March, I got goosebumps. For real.

One of the strangest things about a Buckethead concert is seeing an artist that looks completely emotionless. That's his schtick and being a big fan, I get it. But to not see an artist smile, laugh, or talk on stage is an interesting phenomenon. The emotion of the show comes strictly from his music or the crowd.

This lack of emotion is part of one of my complaints. The show was only and hour and 45 minutes long. That's it. Granted, I'm not sure even I could have withstood three hours of guitar shredding, but not even two hours? It went by quick. And when he was done, Buckethead simply walked off stage. No bow, no cheering the fans, no thank yous. He just walked off as if his programing was finished and he had something else to do.

My other small gripe: Buckethead's t-shirt selection was awfully small. There was only one t-shirt for sale. And not only did it not have the tour dates on it, but it was an ugly white design.

Oh well, I guess that's another reason for me to visit Buckethead's Toy Store. I hope they have a clothing department.

Here is a video a fan took of Buckethead's performance Thursday night.

It might seem hypocritical for me to post this video and then complain, but I'll have an opinion piece soon on the absolute annoying trend of people who hold their phones up to video record entire concerts. You can enjoy the music without being a cinematographer. Trust me, it's possible.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Light bulb jokes



As part of my training to be the next great comic genius, my lesson book, Comedy Writing Secrets 2nd Edition, instructed me to compose a few "light bulb" jokes as an example of triples - a tried and true comedy staple. So here are my answers to the few subject they suggested and one of my own:

How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?

Three.

One to say we need to work together, one to blame the Muslims for the bulb going out, and the last to sell the opportunity to the highest bidder.

How many generals does it take to change a light bulb?

Three.

One to petition Congress for a new bulb, one to create a new unit of bulb changers in case this happens again, and the last to see how Patton would have done it.

How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

Three.

One to represent the old light bulb, one to sue the lamp for damages, and the last to prevent the last light bulb from being screwed.

How many cops does it take to change a light bulb?

Three.

One to arrest the lamp for assault and two to get donuts.

How many auto mechanics does it take to change a light bulb?

Three.

One to give you an estimate, one to order the parts, and one to put it together wrong so you have to bring the lamp back in next week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cybercrime, potential, and the time to nail ISPs



Way back in July, I bookmarked a post from Wired.com about arresting or prosecuting Internet Service Providers for the crimes committed by their users.

Over the last few months this post has inspired a lot of thoughts. I'll admit, one was "where did I put the link to that ISP post?". That's why you are getting this post now instead of in July or even August.

Sorry.

But luckily this issue is still relevant. Anyway, without further review, here are my thoughts relating to Internet Crime. And because the best way to fight crime is through kung-fu, they will be in the famous Magic bullet style - not to be confused with the other magic bullets.
  • First of all, I 100% agree that ISP need to be prosecuted. Not only for hosting virus spreaders, but also hosting child pornographers, hackers, and other sorts of online hooligans. ISPs will assert that they are providing a service, and that they shouldn't be held liable, but that's bupkis. ISPs provide a platform for media, no different than a newspaper hosts articles or a website hosts comments. If criminals abuse that platform, ISP should shut them down. Failure to do so means the ISPs are aiding and abetting.

  • Second, the authorities have a problem: the best developers, hackers, etc don't work for the authorities or the US government. They would rather go work for Google, Facebook, or other private firms. Compare that to engineers or other fields that are tied to government consumption. Outside companies pay more and as long as that remains, they will continue to be behind.

  • Consider the career of a young IT college grad: should he or she take a government job hindered by red tape, old methodologies, and far less pay, or a position with a new, forward-thinking, proactive, creative company? Unless they are incredibly loyal to the nation, it's not a hard choice.

  • Are ISPs licensed? Do they have to be? They should be and IP addresses should be associated in some way with the ISP, like social security numbers are associated with region. I don't if this is the case already. It could be.

  • If the government finds an ISP guilty, they should take away their license. Kinda like a liquor license. Depending on the violation, there could be jail time or a fine.

  • And finally, I think ISPs will be hurting when the government seizes all WiFi connections and finally treats the Internet like it does the radio air waves.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Ode to Roommates by Dean Rice



Back in June, I wrote about some of my favorite wall posters. After I posted this, my old college roommate commented that I forgot one very important piece we hung in our apartment.

Although back in the day we did not know the author of this great essay on roommates, I found it was a writer named Dean Rice on a satirical website called Effenheimer.com. Sadly, that site has since closed although the essay is posted on Everything2. Because it was so important to us, I figured I would re-post the essay here for prosperity. Everything below is Rice's work. If he ever finds this, I hope he doesn't mind.

Roommates

by Dean Rice

I swear to god, every time I go home, my roommate has touched my shit.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not all about possessions, but it would be nice if the guy would have the goddamn common courtesy to get my con permiso, if you know what I mean.

I didn't spend three years in the Navy with no privacy sleeping four guys to a bunk so I could go to college and have my stuff fucked with by some sickly, pale looking socialist from Shaker Heights, I tell you what.

For example, I don't know if you are picky about this shit, but when I watch a porno, I want the god damn thing left where I stopped the tape, am I wrong?

There is nothing more frustrating than coming home from a night at the bar, finding no one home and your favorite spank tape has been forwarded to some part where they're just talking about how "these car repairs are gonna cost more than I thought" and shit. You've got precious few minutes to yourself when you share a dorm room and when you need a good whack, the last thing you need to be doing is scanning for the next doggy style when you left it cued up to the best one. Is this just me? Am I on the wrong track? Am I crazy? What country is this anyway?

Another thing I can't fucking stand is when the guy leaves his fucking water bottle in MY dorm fridge. There ain't hardly enough room in there for my sixer of Bud Ice and a chicken pot pie or two for when I come home from the bar and want a salty snack.

Get a drink out of the goddamn fountain you yuppie prick! Comes right out of the fountain colder'n shit. You telling me you need to keep water in my fridge 24-hours a day just in case you need a sip of cold H2O you fucking gel-haired puss?

I was in the Navy for four years before I came to school and I never needed ice-cold water and I WORKED for a living defending my country from barnacles and waxy build-up, you pussy college boy.

I came home from the bar one night and grabbed a potpie and the damn thing was mushy. I thought, "Oh, fuck, my fucking fridge is fucking fucked up!"

Then I checked and the fucking thing was turned down to "6." I clearly remember setting it on "7" when I got the damn thing specifically to freeze my potpies and snickers. I never turned it down. So I asked my roommate what the fuck he thought happened... he tells me he had ice in his water so he turned the temp on my fridge down.

WHAT THE FUCK?!

So I told him all calm and rational that if he had ice in his bottled water, he might try letting it sit out on his fucking desk like a normal human fucking being! Then I told him he owed me 63 cents for the fucked up pie. It was only 49 cents, but I figured what the fuck, I might as well get him to pay me for a good one.

And he uses my hand towel. That's just not hygienic and I should know since I was in the Navy for three years with some of the most unhygienic specimens of humanity before they kicked me out for smoking weed on the flight deck.

I tell you, the next time that scrawny wussy boy jacks around with anything of mine, I'm gonna beat him like a bitch and throw his ass out in the hall.

Am I wrong? Am I over-reacting? Has the train left the station without any passengers?

Does John Denver shit in the woods? This is America, right? This isn't communist Russia?

I didn't get on the wrong bus back in Appleton and end up in Canada with the lumberjacks, did I?

I didn't fucking think so!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Curse of the Evil Online Ego



Quick post today based on something interesting I read on Wired.com:

In an article entitled "Pseudonymity, Anonymity, And Accountability Online", author Sheril Kirshenbaum discusses her opinion of another article on the Wild, Wild West of Internet commenting.

(Yes, this is a post about a post about a post.)

This discussion of how people choose to comment on the Web behind the cloak of anonymity has gone on for a while among people who observe culture, media, and technology. The Web is not for the sensitive, bringing out the worst in racism, sexism, and overall meanness.

But there is another less-talked about effect of the Web. That which may even have an effect on lives offline.

There is an allure to be egotistical online. What you write comes from you and is your opinion and your words and often times, being from you, they have to be right. And when faced with the slightest bit of objection, people online tend to either coat their expression in the Internet language of snark or they become highly combative. Neither of which is very healthy.

The Internet has unfortunately decreased our ability to have civil discussion and instead preached argument. It has fostered a culture in which a solo opinion is all that matters and that people have to outshout or outargue everyone else.

If you do a lot of work online, this can be particularly dangerous.

Although you can turn off the computer and mutter under your breath how much of a moron the person you cyber-argued with was, that is not a healthy habit offline. Because it only takes one to type and comments are rarely made by consensus, the Internet has devalued cooperation, listening, and compromise.

As I live by myself, sometimes I have noticed these traits slip into my own interactions. Nothing major, but the ego and hostility that bear its fangs in online debate sometimes slips out offline.

That's not good.

Stupid internet.

I need a dog or maybe a Russian bride.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Name Checking Hackers and Attacking the Mouse



Since this blog has gone in a million different directions lately, I figured I might as well go somewhat political-military-strategic today.

In the last few years hackers have caused almost as commotion and aggravation to governments and businesses as terrorists. I'm sure there are people out there that would label them "cyber terrorists". Two of the premier hacker groups are the associations Anonymous and LulzSec. Both of these groups aim to debilitate the powers that be that they feel are taking advantage of the little guy. They are sticking it to The Man as they see fit.

More power to them.

But my question is, are there any rappers who name-check them yet? Rappers are big in name-checking African rebels, Muslim terrorists, domestic terrorists, freedom fighters, and other folks who fight the power. But do they ever mention either of the two groups who are causing the most ruckus? I'm sure there is a lot you can rhyme with Anonymous or LulzSec.

Second thought:

I was reading an article on a conspiracy web site that talked about how a terrorist attack at Disney World could severely destroy what remains of Florida's economy. According to the counterterrorism analyst, if the tourism goes, so does Florida's economy. Makes sense to me.

But I have always thought terrorists could take a Disney attack to the next level. Why stop at Disney World? Why not attack Tokyo Disney, Euro Disney, and Disney Land as well? If a group of suicide bombers synchronized their watches and exploded bombs at the main entrance of each Disney park at the same time, it could send ripples through the global tourism industry. Granted at least one bomber wouldn't claim any victims as the parks would be closed, but I don't think that's not the point of most terrorism.

If the point is to show global reach and the ability to scare people from doing what they would normally not be scared to do I think an attack on each Disney main entrance at the same time would do that.

Disclaimer: I like my blog. I like writing on it. I am not advocating or supporting the actions of any group mentioned in this post. Nor am I advocating any violence. I own Disney stock, why would I not want people to go there? What I am doing to expanding on issues that are in the news and brainstorming a little.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Additions to the Essential American Songlist



A few weeks ago, I read an interesting editorial by Ernest Hooper of the St. Pete Times. In this editorial, Hooper tries to create a playlist of essential American songs, songs that, in his words, "reflect life in our nation".

After having over 3 CDs worth of ideas, Hooper narrows his selections down to 30. There's some Elvis, some Skynyrd, some Michael Jackson, and many others.

But in my opinion, however, his list leaves a bit to be desired. It's not bad, but I think it could be better.

Here are a few changes I would make:

1) First of all, Hooper has zero blues songs on his list. That is unacceptable. He has a lot of soul and Motown, but nothing directly influenced by the Mississippi Delta. Since Hooper starts his list in the mid-1950s, that eliminates a lot of the classics, from Robert Johnson to BB King's The Thrill is Gone (1951). But since there is also no Jimi Hendrix (perhaps Hooper considered him a "British act"), I would include Red House. If possible, I might also add a Stevie Ray Vaughn tune.

To make way for Jimi, let's remove Saturday in the Park by Chicago.

2) Hooper's hip-hop selections are off. He lists The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, which is great, but then he lists Dear Mama by 2Pac and Lose Yourself by Eminem. I would delete both of those and replace them with Fight For Your Right by the Beastie Boys and Nuthin' but a G Thang by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

The reasoning there is that Nuthin But a G Thang is perhaps the best West Coast rap song and it talks about the scene, where as 2Pac only talks about his family relationships. The Beastie Boys need to be on there as they were one of the biggest links between rock and rap and it was they, moreso than Run DMC, who made hip-hop acceptable to white audiences, without of which it would not be what it is today. And Fight For Your Right is a great party tune.

There is also a huge need for Public Enemy on this list, especially since he lists Marvin Gaye's What's Goin On and Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come. I would add Fight the Power. Let's remove Don't Stop Believing by Journey.

3) Hooper also misses out on heavy metal. Nirvana is as heavy as he gets and Bon Jovi is the only hair band on the list. Keeping Bon Jovi as the 80s hair representative and Nirvana as the model grunge band, I would add a Metallica tune, since they typify American Metal probably more than any other band. As for which Metallica tune, I would go with Master of Puppets. Not only is it one of Metallica's best, but it also addresses the social issue of drugs, which doesn't get talked about much in Hooper's list.

To make room for Metallica, I'd take out I Want You Back by The Jackson 5. Hooper already has Michael Jackson on the list, so there is no need for Tito and the rest of the gang.

4) There is a definite lack of punk rock on Hooper's list. I'm no punk expert, so I'll leave that to others who might be, but at least a song or two from that genre needs to be on the list.

So I added five songs, with a chance to add more with punk input. That means I kept 25, which I definitely have to give Hooper credit for. His list might not be perfect, but it is a great start.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Defending the Moon



Every once in a while I think about science. I read a few science blogs, so I guess it's only natural. The other day, after reading about a comet that somewhat "buzzed" the Earth, I started thinking about The Moon.

Everyone likes The Moon, right? It's our moon. It is the only moon in the universe addressed as "The Moon", which gives it sort of a "Cedric The Entertainer" vibe. People sing about The Moon, they depict The Moon in art, they even include The Moon in their songs. There is generally a lot of goodwill directed towards The Moon.

(Unless you are a vampire, then you don't like full moons. Or a reluctant werewolf, who also despises full moons. But half moons, quarter moons, et al, those are ok in everyone's book.)

But what if the moon was in trouble? We have many movies about saving the Earth from comets, but I don't think I have ever seen anyone give a second thought to the Moon. Which I think is a shame.

The moon regulates tides. It's quite important. But what if it were on course for a collision with an asteroid or a comet? That would severely mess up life on Earth. But it would also surely cost us a lot of money to defend land we don't live on.

And who would pay for defending the Moon? Would America take charge? Would it come out of our defense budget? I could definitely see Congress debating about the costs and allocations while whatever was threatening the Moon inched closer.

And who would execute this grand plan? Would the US ask the whole world to chip in? What if other nations don't see the benefit? After all, it is just the Moon. Do the costs of Moon defense outweigh the benefits for the entire world?

Would we feel neighborly guilt if we don't save the Moon? Romantic evenings staring at the Moon would be a thing of the past if it was taken out by a comet. What if the Moon got whacked out of orbit a bit? According to Discovery Magazine, the Moon might have gotten whacked so hard billions of years ago it actually flipped in orbit. So it can happen.

I'm not too worried about the Moon pinballing into the Earth. If that happens, we are screwed. But I'm worried about the safety of the Moon.

Maybe I am the only one.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Michael, Mike, and Mikey in The Godfather



I had the pleasure of watching The Godfather on Sunday at the historic Tampa Theater during their annual Summer Classic Series. They play a series of classic movies through the years and I when I saw The Godfather on the schedule I knew I couldn't miss it.

Of course, The Godfather is a great movie and not much needs to be said there. It was nice seeing it on the big screen as it came out several years before I was born. I could really observe some of the interesting lighting and shading effects in the scenes that I wouldn't pay much attention to on my 29 inch TV, which made for a better experience.

But what I really found most interesting was certain elements of dialogue, namely the addressing of Michael Corleone. Being named Michael myself, I pay attention to when people call me "Michael", "Mike", or even "Mikey". Corleone is addressed as all three during the movie.

Some observations:

Corleone's brother and friends predominantly call him "Mike" when addressing him but "Michael" when talking about him. This is similar to how the same type of people address me, although many also tend to call me "Mike" when talking about me. It is a casual peer thing, and I would feel uncomfortable if friends called me "Michael" and I don't remember the last time my brother addressed me as such.

Corleone's girlfriend/wife Kay addresses him as "Michael" almost 100% of the time. Normally, I don't object to women calling me "Michael". It doesn't carry the authoritative tone of a man's "Michael", unless it is used in an state of anger or annoyance. Some female friends have even taken to calling me "Michael" all the time. At first it's a little strange, but I get used to it. It becomes something unique to them. Some even mix it up in the same conversation. A waitress I am familiar with, for example, said "Hi, Mike" and "Bye, Mike", but referred to me as "Michael" when she asked if I wanted another drink. When it comes to women, as long as they don't call me "asshole", I usually go with the flow.

Although women can address me as "Michael", I usually ask boyfriends and male friends of my female friends to address me as "Mike". I think there is a bit of an authoritative, dominant tone to a male calling me "Michael" that I don't like, unless that person is in an actual position of power over me such as a boss or unfamiliar with me such as a doctor. For a casual male acquaintance (such as a friend's boyfriend) to call me "Michael" after I correct them is a power show to me and I take that as an offense.

Likewise, in The Godfather, Michael Corleone's sister's husband Carlo addresses him as "Mike", even as he is begging for his life in the final scenes. He never uses an authoritative tone with his sister's brother.

Corleone is also addressed as "Mikey" by his brother Sonny several times. I have a few friends that call me "Mikey" and although it's rare, I'm cool with it, as long as I am very familiar with that person. It's the friendliest addressing and the one that requires the most familiarity and closeness.

Michael Corleone is addressed as "Michael" by his father 100% of the time. There is a hierarchical tone to this address. Don Corleone is not Michael's friend. He is in a position of authority as his father. It is also a sign of respect that he is instilling in his son by addressing him solely by his given birth name. In my case, my parents call me both "Mike" and "Michael". It's usually pretty random, although my mother tends to call me by my full name when she is mad but I'm sure that is a typical mother trait for every name.

Anyway, just a quick post on something I noticed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Media Attraction



(This article was originally published in the FSView and Florida Flambeau in June, 2003. Although I thought it was original, it was immediately compared to another editorial column written a year before by another columnist who preceded me at the paper. I'm not going to lie, being told by commentors that I stole someone's idea was one of the lowest points I had as a young writer. Now I am little tougher and know that although the premise might be the same, presentation and voice make articles unique.)

While traveling the New York City subway lines last month, major league baseball pitcher Randy Wolf had an encounter with a beautiful young woman. Their moments together were fleeting however, as after she asked him for directions they were separated and she was out of his life.

Of course, this has happened to everyone. Why should a baseball player be any different? A seemingly perfect 10 moves on without saying goodbye or allowing a chance for a second hello. Unfortunately, it is one of the sick games of the fates.

But Wolf attempted to change his fate and give destiny a second chance. He appeared on at least two nationally syndicated sports radio talk shows attempting to find the woman. He openly went on the air describing her appearance, her clothes, everything about her.

“There was something about her eyes,” he said.

Wolf also planned to place ads in several prominent New York newspapers in the hope that she might see them, remember him and reply, according to an ESPN Web site.

Besides tugging on the heartstrings in an almost Hollywood-esque way, Wolf’s search reminded me of the great power available to public figures. They often have numerous media channels at their fingertips, each capable of helping find a possible social interest.

Although definitely not of the public stature of Randy Wolf or of a sports radio talk show host, I like to think of my column as a media channel and of myself as a public figure in the Florida State universe. I guess that means I have a little power.

But, to quote the movie Spiderman (which was on HBO every day last month), “With power comes great responsibility.”

Would I ever dare use this column in order to get the attention of a certain young lady? If so, I would only get one chance. I couldn’t write to a different girl every semester and beg them to talk to me.

“Dear girl in the 2nd row, 4th seat of Professor Smith’s 11:15 English class, please say hi to me tomorrow. Thanks, Mike.”

Not only would that kill the “romance” of the search, but it would make me pathetic and desperate beyond belief.

I mention Wolf’s search and my own ponderance of power because a situation I was in on Memorial Day has forced me to contemplate using my column as a social tool.

As I was driving down Highway 19 (Apalachee Parkway) on the way to my grandparents’ house for a Memorial Day dinner, driving either behind me or along side me was a very attractive Florida State female student in a white Toyota. For over two hours, we (if I may be so bold as to use a pronoun that puts the two of us together) wove in and out of streams of holiday traffic on the way to our respective destinations.

As we eventually came to a stop at a traffic light in the town of Crystal River, I rolled down my window and thanked her for driving “with” me. She smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”

Then the light turned green and away we went again, with me eventually turning onto another highway in route to my grandparents’ town.

So should I use this column as way of getting in touch with her?  Maybe I already have.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clutch, Tow Trucks, and T-Shirts in St. Petersburg



There are certain rules I abide by on the day of a concert. These are simple rules, acquired through years of seeing almost every genre of music from blues to hip-hop to death metal.

Rule one: Don’t listen to anything by the band within 24 hours of the show. If you don’t know the songs by the day before, you won’t know them. Concerts aren’t college, there is no cramming. And you don’t want your ear influenced at all by the studio recordings. Enjoy the show for what it is.

Rule two: To quote the Wu-Tang Clan, cash rules everything around me. Merch vendors, bars, and some ticket stands don’t take Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, so “if you don’t have dollars, it don’t make sense”. Hit the ATM before you get to a show. It allows flexibility and convenience.

Rule three: Dress the part. Never wear a t-shirt of a band you are going to see. Wear a similar band, or someone of the same genre. But always dress to fit the scene. Don’t wear a Parliament-Funkadelic shirt to see Slayer.

There are two exceptions to rule three. The first is that you can wear a shirt from a festival featuring the band you are seeing. That’s simple enough as it shows community and that you have seen other bands. The second exception is the seldom used “memorable slogan clause”. If your t-shirt has an overly funny, clever, or all-round bad-ass slogan, you are accepted into the community of the performance.

In my time going to concerts, there have been two memorable slogan t-shirts that stand out among the masses. Both are engrained in my cerebellum not only because of their cleverness, but because of the stories associated with them. The first, a black t-shirt that proclaimed “Fuck You, You Fuckin’ Fuck”, was worn by a man named Manimal who I wrote about nearly three years ago. For those who missed it, Manimal was a bad-ass biker dude who forbid moshing in his general area during a 1999 Metallica concert.

The second most memorable slogan tee that stands out for me is a black shirt with the devil’s face and the words “God’s Busy, May I Help You?”. This shirt brings back memories of a concert adventure I had on my 23rd birthday when my college roommate Zheke Snow and I traveled from Tallahassee to Orlando to see rock bands Isle of Q,  UPO, Full Devil Jacket, and Nickelback (after their first album, and before they jumped the music shark).  It was a night of obnoxious cops, tire problems, good rock ‘n’ roll, and driving around the Disney World Complex with the bassist of UPO as he yelled at his drunk bandmates who left him and didn’t tell him where the hotel was located.

It’s a classic story perhaps I’ll tell in full here one day.

Even though I have been to dozens, if not hundreds, of concerts since, I hadn’t seen either of those slogan t-shirts. Until a few Tuesday's ago, when the devil’s question made another appearance.


And of course, I had another interesting night.

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The flyer stared at me from beside the keyboard at my work desk, a simple reminder that time was moving far too slow. Every minute dragged on with the full power of 60 seconds of might, as I fidgeted like a child who refused to dream of sugarplums and candy canes on Christmas Eve. Finally at 6:30 I flew out of the office like Meatloaf’s bat out of hell, sped down I-75 at 90mph, daring the Florida Highway Patrol to stop me, and cruised into St. Petersburg.

On the docket that night was one of my favorite bands, Maryland-based groove-metal band Clutch. I’d seen Clutch five times prior to last Tuesday, the latest time being with Black Label Society in October. Opening for Clutch was GroundScore from Washington DC and the Florida/Alabama-based Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. I was totally in the dark about Groundscore, but I had heard a few good things about Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, and I was also looking forward to seeing them.

Into St. Pete I drove, finding a spot in a parking lot a few blocks from the club. Needing money for a ticket, beer, and a new t-shirt, I walked over to a local ATM and pulled out some cash. On my way to the club from the ATM, I found two 2011 pennies with the new backing. One was heads up and the other was tails up. Although I usually think money is money and finding two cents gets me that much closer to retirement, I was struck momentarily by the symmetry of the yin and the yang.

After I bought my ticket, I walked into St. Pete’s State Theater, ready to finally get my rock on. One of the best things about a Clutch show it that it is usually attended by veteran rock fans. Fans who proudly sport their shirts of quality metal bands, such as Slayer, Danzig, or Judas Priest. Shortly after entering, I received a compliment on my shirt, the tour shirt from the aforementioned BLS/Clutch gig from a few months back.

Even though my shirt was highly regarded, I quickly hit the merch stand for a new Clutch shirt. To my amusement, the merch vendor was wearing another shirt I hold near and dear to my heart: an “Arm The Homeless” tee from a punk band called Tree who toured with Clutch in 2003. That was one of the few times I didn’t buy a shirt from my favorite band and opted for the opening act. I couldn’t resist walking around with a picture of an AK-wielding old lady on my back.



Now dressed to impress with a brew in hand, I walked into the theater and closer to the stage to check out Groundscore. They weren’t bad, a mix of 311 and Sublime, with elements of punk and metal blended in. They were definitely Warped Tour material or the soundtrack to a new skateboarding video game.

(Speaking of interesting t-shirts, the drummer for Groundscore had A Tribe Called Quest shirt on. I wonder how many metal fans caught that?)

During the Groundscore show, I perused the crowd, checking out the environment and doing a little people watching. No matter the type of music show, people watching at a concert is always fun, especially if the band isn’t entirely up my alley.

But that’s when I saw it: “God’s Busy, May I Help You?".  I’m surprised the guy wearing it didn’t ask me what I was looking at I paused for a moment when my eyes hit his shirt. It was if Satan himself was telling me the night was going to be interesting. A warning from Lucifer for me to heed.

Second on stage was Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. Like I said, I heard good things from a few friends about this relatively new band. But because friends can sometimes have music tastes that don’t always jive with mine, I turned to my brother for his valued musical scouting report. That morning, his review came in: “Heavy southern rock/blues sounding”. Nice. My kind of music. I was excited.

Maylene didn’t disappoint. Although I couldn’t understand their lyrics on occasion, I was impressed with their sound. Throughout their set, I pulled out my phone and tweeted comparisons to Corrosion of Conformity, White Zombie, and Black Stone Cherry, all bands I hold in high regard. I closed my tweeted review with the simple phrase, “I like”. I’m going to have to buy some Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.

After the usual downtime between bands, the mighty Clutch came on stage. As to be expected (for me, at least) Clutch was absolutely spectacular. They played many of their most popular songs, from Big News I & II, The Regulator, Electric Worry, and the trace-like Spacegrass. As compared to the last time I saw them in October, Clutch didn’t have to worry about set limits, so they threw in a few jams between songs.

(Here is a youtube video of Clutch playing Escape From the Prison Planet and here is the concert review from the Tampa Bay Times.)

Being a long time fan, seeing Clutch brings out a sense of community for me. Other Clutch fans and I compare times and places we’ve seen Clutch, admire each others’ concert shirts, and no matter what song, we sing along, even if Neil Fallon’s lyrics are sometimes far too complex to understand (Songs about anthrax, redcoats, and elephants?).

Following an extensive set, Clutch ended their show with a mellow encore. And with that, the show was over. But little did I know the rest of my night was just beginning.

Across the street from St. Pete’s State Theater is a row of hole-in-the-wall bars and pubs. As I discovered after a recent House of Pain show, one bar, Fubar, usually has a band on the stage late and capitalizes on the crowd from State Theater to relax and buy some cheap beer.  After House of Pain, Fubar featured a local death metal band, so I was curious to see what they had on stage after Clutch.

On stage at Fubar was a DJ playing dubstep. I’m not normally an electronic music fan, but last year the Wu-Tang Clan put out an album with dubstep DJs and I was curious, so I grabbed a beer, unwound for a bit, and enjoyed a few tunes.

After my beer was finished, I made my way out Fubar. Shortly thereafter, I noticed something was missing.

My truck wasn’t where I parked it.

To my surprise, I parked in a lot guarded by a local towing agency. In a panic, I called the number on the sign and inquired as to whether they had my precious pick-up. After they confirmed it was in their possession, I frantically called my friend Keri, who I briefly saw at the show. Fortunately, even although she was well on her way back home, she turned around to bring me to the wrecker lot so I could get my truck. Thank goodness for friends, or I would have been sleeping with the homeless on the streets of St. Pete.

Did I mention I hate late-night towing companies? I think they are spawns of Satan, brought to Earth only to make life difficult for people. No one is going to use the bank at midnight, so why can’t I park there to go to the bar? I promise I’ll move my truck before the bank opens in the morning.

Anyway, 121 dollars later, my truck was back in my possession and my night was finally over. I should have heeded the t-shirt symbology and been more careful in the presence of the smiling devil t-shirt.