Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thoughts on Commenting and Community



Here is something I wrote five years ago when I first started blogging. As more and more people spend more and more time online, I think it is increasingly relevant. Also, as the web becomes more mainstream, I have seen the idea of a "tolerant global community" diminish somewhat. Also, looking back I think the "globalness" of the web as been wiped out by "localized social groups". I think part of the "social customization" of the web is to blame for that, but that's a Pandora's Box of social commentary for another day.

I think the Internet and our reliance on non-personal communication has been a blessing and a curse. While everyone can communicate with all across the world, technology has created a "have" and "have not" climate in terms of face-to-face interaction. We are not becoming one global village. We are becoming two groups: one communal village of interactors and a second cynical group of individuals who express their opinions but choose not to participate.

This second entity can be quite dangerous. Whether informed or unlearned, the Internet as given everyone a voice. These mostly cynical views can splinter attempts at a tolerant global community if allowed. If enough people choose to follow a dissenting voice or group of voices, the attempt at harmony will be destroyed.

Cynical web sites, blogs, and comments are similar to the Grinch mailing down propaganda to Wooville on a daily basis bemoaning the Woo's emphasis on their Christmas holiday. We have gone too far to pull back and retreat into isolationism. Reasonable tolerance is the only answer. Negotiate where one's group ends and another's individual options begin. Throwing rocks at glass houses is not an option.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Song by Ice-Tay and the Jingle Jamboree

I was feeling so much in the holiday spirit the other day that I wrote a song. Not just any song, but a song that captures the true feeling of Christmas.

Ok, well maybe one that captures the true feeling of spending money for Christmas.

Sung to the tune of the Big Tymers' classic rap joint "Still Fly", this song perfectly posits the juxtaposition of the American working man to his struggle to buy material goods for his family while still maintaining economic self-legitimacy in the cutthroat capitalistic nvironment of 21st Century America.

In order to capture the spirit of the song, I recruited famous rapper and actor Ice-Tay and the musical genius of the world renown Jingle Jamboree band. Unfortunately, I only had the money to pay the Jingle Jamboree band to stand behind Ice-Tay; I didn't have enough to pay them to play music. So you don't hear them.

But you do hear Ice-Tay. And to me, that's worth the price of admission.

Let me know what you think!

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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Star Wars Holiday Special

Aired on CBS in 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special is legend among Star Wars fans. Some despise it for its cheesiness and call it among the worst things to ever happen in the Star Wars legacy. Others, using hindsight, forgive George Lucas and crew for any misgivings and admire the broadcast for what it is.

Personally, being born the year Star Wars came out in theaters, I was too young to see the Holiday Special air live and before people started putting it online, I had never watched it, as Lucasfilms refuses to release it on DVD (Amazon has it listed, but "not available"). That lack of recognition has only created more of a cult status for the special, and made me want to seek it out.

So here it is, in its entirety, commercials and all. Enjoy, May the Force Be With You, and have a Happy and Blessed Life Day.






Post-viewing additional viewing: For the best review of the Star Wars Holiday Special on the internet, please check out this hilarious review from ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com.



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!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Becoming a better writer through Nanowrimo



Way back many moons ago, when the sun rose on the month of November in the Year of Our Lord 2011 I wrote a post that discussed my embarking on an endeavor called National Novel Writers Month or Nanowrimo. The goal of Nanowrimo is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in the month of November.

Entering Nanowrimo, I thought doing 50,000 words seemed difficult, but highly doable. In reality however, it proved too difficult. I ended the month with only 33,233 words, or 16,767 words off of the goal.

When I was in the military, we would look back at exercises and attempt to derive "lessons learned" to hopefully guide us in our future efforts. I think that is a good way to look at Nanowrimo. It was definitely an exercise, one of the literary sort. And although I didn't succeed in my writing goal, I did learn a lot about myself as a writer during the month.

1) Leave the house

I was most effective as a novel writer when I left the house and visited a local bookstore coffee shop. I limited distractions and surrounded myself with writing. That helped a lot. Being home meant keeping an eye on the TV or an ear on the radio. It was easier to do something else when I was home. Going to the bookstore was a lot like going to the gym to work out.

2) Limit internet access

Although I went to the bookstore, I still was extremely tempted to use their free wi-fi and check my email, hop on twitter, or pop on Facebook. It got to the point where I was tweeting with the document open. I would type 50 words, then tweet, then write a sentence, then tweet. The only times I was successful in removing the Internet as a distraction was when I would take my computer into my bedroom, sit on a yoga ball, and type on a makeshift desk of an end table.

People have often asked me why I don't have a wireless router connected in my apartment. I have for years used a cable wire out of my wall connected to my laptop. It is makeshift and ghetto, but it works. I cannot imagine how little work I would have gotten done in my bedroom if I had an Internet connection there as well.

3) Try not to catch a computer virus

During some late night Internet surfing on or about the 19th, I caught a debilitating computer virus. This virus wormed it's way into my system, deactivated my anti-virus program, and replicated into my computer's registry. I eventually had to back up my entire hard drive on to my portable back-up drive, reformat my hard drive, and re-load everything, including a new updated anti-virus program. The whole process took four days and totally killed my rhythm for writing.

Could I have saved my novel on to a thumb drive and taken it to a local library? Sure, and I was very close to doing so. But I felt fixing my system was more important than writing a novel.

4) Get more work done before Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday fell right after I fixed my computer from its killer virus. Although I wrote the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I did not write Thanksgiving Day and only wrote 500 words the Friday after. I knew Thanksgiving was going to difficult and I did not give myself enough flexibility to stay on top of my needed word count, even not counting the virus. I was behind before that.

Thanksgiving, however, was the death kneel of my effort.

5) Writing at my parents' house is impossible

My parents' house has always been loud. Sound resonates there. Combined with the fact that I have a loud family - nothing wrong with that, some families are louder than others - and a musically inclined 4-year old nephew and writing is all but impossible. It is like trying to read cosmic physics at a death metal concert. It is a fact of life.

6) Surround myself with other writers

I know I said I was going to meet other writers. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. After my friend Keri said she dropped out a week in, I knew no other writers in person. I had to rely on going online to seeing other people's updates and share words of encouragement. And going online was my Achilles Heel, as I mentioned. If I had followed through and gone to write-ups perhaps others' positive writing vibes would have worn off on me and aided my production.

Conclusion

I learned a lot about my writing style, techniques, and habits because of Nanowrimo. Although I can write non-fiction anywhere with the TV on, radio blaring, my nephew doing nephew things, and life going on around me, writing fiction requires much more discipline and a change in my habits.

I will definitely finish the story I started in November. I also am working on another story I was writing before Nanowrimo began. I'd like to have them both done by Christmas.

And I will be doing Nanowrimo again in 2012.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Star Wars meets Pro Wrestling

Words can't describe how cool I think this is. But it is even cooler than that because I have met the wrestler who plays Princess Leia, and she is very cool. She just got cooler.

(If you don't want to watch the match, fast-forward to the 11:00 mark and just watch the end.)

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?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thoughts on the Soldier and the Citizen



When went on active duty in August 1995, I was told the Army was “different” than it used to be. Career NCOs preached that the military wasn’t as “tough” and that it was getting “sensitive”. I heard rumors of recruits using “stress cards” to stop drill sergeants from yelling at them. There were complaints that women had to do less, had easier jobs, and should be held up to the same standards across the board, including physical fitness.

I never understood any of it. I have always subscribed to the notion that the military was a reflection of society and should even be more forward on social causes than the general populace, not less, whether in the areas of sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Recently, I’ve read several articles by authors who feel the military system is changing too much. Articles like Philip Ewing’s October 2011 piece “It’s No Longer Our Military, It Hasn’t Been For Years” and Robert D. Kaplan's 2007 piece “On Forgetting the Obvious” speak about a changing in attitude towards the US military and how that attitude is slowly permeating our fighting forces, and how this nonchalant attitude towards national security could render the military less effective than in years past. Both authors claim those in the service understand their mission more than the general population of the United States and therefore the American citizenry should be forced to do more, including possibly drafting citizens (or maybe non-citizens) into the military.

But these arguments are flimsy at best, false propaganda for the military-industrial complex at worst. They are the same arguments people used to keep African-Americans in separate units, keep openly gay Americans out of the military, and continue to keep women from combat arms positions. The bottom line is that these arguments do not reflect the reality of today’s American culture. They do not reflect a global world view in which cultures are connecting and merging more than ever before. Yes, there are cultural hotspots, both in America and across the world, but they are growing smaller and we are learning how to deal with them better with every passing day.

This growth in multi-culturalism has created a new and different American identity – one not based on nationalism or even civic pride, but based on smaller communities of brands, industries, groups, sports teams, or even forms of entertainment. I would not be surprised if Mac, iPhone, iPod, and iPad users rate their loyalty to Apple higher than they do to America. For many, this would be an unspeakable wrong, but if it is true, it is the reality we live in.

Whereas Kaplan bases his idea on theory (making it difficult to factually counter), Ewing tries to use selected statistics to promote his argument. He cites Robert Burns’ recent article on military member’s views on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as reason for a civil-military disconnect. Burns discusses a Pew Research Center study claiming military members believe the wars are worth fighting more so than civilians. Ewing states this as a reason the American public doesn’t “get” the military’s mission. However, this logic is put to the test by another Pew Research Center statistic that says military members on the front lines believe the war is worth fighting more than those who haven’t seen combat.

So the closer people are to something and the more they put their time and effort into it, the more they believe in it? That has nothing to do with politics, the military, or war. That’s human nature. There are automobile commercials that hinge on that very premise.

There is no doubt in my mind a non-volunteer army would not work – forcing people to fit into the American military culture would be resisted. It was resisted in the 1960s and would be even more resisted today. Logically, it doesn’t make sense. How can elected leaders force those who voted for them to die for them? Lawmakers don’t force people to vote or participate in the political process, why force them to be involved in the military process? Just like voting results are their decision, if the majority of the American people want to be under Chinese, Russian, or even Sharia rule, that is also their decision. That’s the true definition of democracy. If a minority moves from another land, becomes a majority, and enacts their own laws and rules, then that is the natural evolution of the laws of the area. The Native Americans can attest to that. Maybe the American general populace of Ewing and Kaplan will react only after such rules have been enacted. But again, if they do so, that’s their decision.

In my experience and what I have told prospective recruits for years, is that you have to want to be part of the military lifestyle. Especially in today’s American culture where we promote individuality and the celebration of differences, assimilating into the military way of life is not for everyone. The strict rigidness of the military is so different from the business world or civilian life. For those used to an artesian perspective, the military does not promote a sense of creativity. For those used to a business perspective, the military lacks adaptability as there is no “competition” and the inability to expressively define freedom creates an ambiguous end-product people with a business mind are not familiar with. One-size-fits-all might fit the military, but we cannot expect it to fit a majority of Americans unless they are willing to voluntarily put their individuality aside.

Ewing and Kaplan also claim the general public has lost touch with the military. If we want to incorporate military members into the greater society in America, we need to remove the social isolationism of the military, a phenomenon that has been growing since the end of the Civil War and the emphasis away from militias and on a national force. There are a few steps we can take besides forcing citizens into the military.

First, we can remove base housing in America. Make military members our neighbors. Let them talk about their jobs at our BBQ and at kids’ soccer games. This is will not only educate non-military citizens about the military, but also move the sense of community from the base to the neighborhood, where neighbors would be more likely to assist the wife or husband of a deployed neighbor before a unit-mate who is left behind.

Second, we can remove base/post exchanges and other life support facilities. I understand why those facilities are essential overseas. They provide a sense of comfort and security. But in America, they are a hindrance to the society understanding the jobs and functions performed on a military base. Let the troops shop at Wal-Mart, which often times even has greater discounts than the PX/BX.

In a perfect world, the actions of a military should reflect the desires of a populace. The people vote for politicians who represent them. A part of that citizenship decides to join the military to protect the citizenship. The politicians decide, and in some cases vote, to send the military to war. If the people disagree, they can vote out the politicians and vote in people who will end the conflicts.

That is why in a way, I tend towards supporting the idea of removing the military’s ability to vote. The military should not be able to vote on their own future. They are a tool of the citizenry.

Additionally, the over-classification of the military adds to disconnect. Not enough people file Freedom of Information Act requests for the masses to know exactly what goes on with the military they financially support. Of course, there are classified special operations and intelligence actions that might jeopardize national security, but how about unclassified operations? How about opening the books on who does what and how they do it and make it easily available? How about ride-alongs and things that would get kids interested? That’s a public affairs issue. The military needs to get their message out better. Don’t rely on the media. The military needs to create its own perception. Encourage soldier blogs, tweets, and endorsements.

It is not the public’s fault the military is changing. That is the natural evolution of societies. If Americans want to abandon the traditional pro-American cause as the Russian people abandoned the Czar in World War I, that is their choice. Grasping at straws and suggesting those in the military, or those with military affiliations or backgrounds, know best in regards to how the military should be socially constructed is pretentious, elitist, and against all our citizen soldiers should stand for.

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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stormtroopers storm the Tampa Bay History Center



This past weekend, Darth Vader and a contingent of Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion invaded Tampa. They were instructed by the Emperor to see to it that the Out of This World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center opened on time.

After a short stay at the Channelside Marriot, Lord Vader marched his troops along the Tampa Riverwalk to the cheers and applause of many Tampa residents.

Accompanying the Imperial contingent was the Real Tampa Ghostbusters. They were called in by the Empire as a special detachment because hiring an intergalactic paranormal specialist was too expensive for an Empire still reeling from the wasted cost of two Death Stars. So the Empire went local.

Although I refused to talk to any Imperial Officers (#occupyCoruscant), I did speak briefly with the Ghostbusters. Before we talked however, they checked the 'fro for ghouls using their EKG meter.



(For more videos of the march, check out this youtube channel.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Literary Comparison of Out of My League and Odd Man Out



For someone who writes a lot about baseball, I don’t read too many books on the sport. Although I have my favorite books such as “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” and "Boys of Summer", my baseball reading is usually pretty sparse.

This year however, I’ve been on a bit of a baseball literary kick. Before the season I read Jonah Keri’s "The Extra 2%", the story about the assembly of the Tampa Bay Rays. I’m a Rays fan, so that was a must-read. I also of course read our book “The Bus Leagues Experience” (cheap plug).

But in the last month, I’ve turned it up a notch, put down the books on international politics or ancient Greek warfare, and read not one, but two books about baseball: “Out of My League” by George Plimpton and “Odd Man Out” by Matt McCarthy.

Written in 1961, “Out of My League” is legendary writer George Plimpton’s account of being a big leaguer for a day. As part of an assignment for Sports Illustrated, Plimpton is able to take the mound for a charity event prior to an MLB all-star game. “Out of My League” talks about the conception of his idea, how he pitches it to his editor, how he gets his equipment, and how he fares facing the likes of Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and former Pirates slugger Frank Thomas (not the ex-White Sox great).

Matt McCarthy’s “Odd Man Out”, written in 2009, is in some ways the opposite of Plimpton’s book. Whereas Plimpton played professional baseball player for a day, McCarthy is a former Yale pitcher trying to make baseball a career after being drafted by the Anaheim Angels in 2001. “Odd Man Out” is McCarthy’s account of his trials, tribulations, struggles, and successes in a year playing for the Provo Angels of the Pioneer League.

There is an interesting dynamic between these two books as both authors take the perspective of outsiders. And to a point they both are. Plimpton of course is the consummate outsider, an everyday Joe put on the mound for the sole purpose of eventually describing the feeling of playing baseball at the highest level.



McCarthy is also outsider, albeit to a lesser degree. His outsiderness comes from the fact that he is a college graduate (from Yale, no less) on a team full of recent high school draftees and “Dominicans” – a catch-all phrase for all Spanish-speaking players in the low minors. But McCarthy is part of the system as he does make a few friends and there are people he can lean on and relate to as he faces life as a minor leaguer. Although the struggle to the big leagues is a solitary one, McCarthy is definitely not alone.

Plimpton, on the other hand, is definitely alone. He is completely uncomfortable every step of the way, and he writes about his struggles to find a mitt, the help he needs in the clubhouse, and the fear and nervousness of standing on the mound and pitching to the greatest names of the early 1960s.

Neither Plimpton’s attempt and McCarthy’s minor league career end well. They both face the tragic reality that they are not fit to do what they are trying to do. But both of their failures gives us a perspective that we wouldn’t normally be privy to and we are reminded how supremely difficult it is to be a successful pitcher at the big league level.

As someone who once tried out for a Major League organization, I enjoyed both Plimpton and McCarthy’s books. Both are great writers who made it further in their baseball careers than I did.

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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An Interview with Sam Ford on Social Media and Pro Wrestling

(This post was originally posted at The Wrestling Blog.)

Last year I was able to exchange emails with Sam Ford, Director of Digital Strategy at Peppercom and co-editor of The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era. Sam is also a huge wrestling fan who has written about storytelling in wrestling and even made an appearance on the Dave Lagana podcast. Sam was cool with me posting our social media-based interview here. Even though we talked in October 2010, many of these points are still very relevant, especially in the indy scene.

- How has new online media channels changed the process for independent wrestling promoters?

Sam Ford: I think social media has provided more opportunities to change the process for independent wrestling promoters than they have often picked up on. #1, the ability to tell stories between live shows now makes it possible to build feuds--and interest in shows--beyond just posters. Build up the matches beforehand. Increase the drama of the story between shows through featuring news and interviews on the site, etc. #2, the ability to connect various live shows together in a common narrative is now possible as well. As a regional promoter travels across cities in an area, online media channels actually gives him/her the opportunity to connect the events at each show to build an ongoing narrative. People may not be able to go to a live show three hours away, but what happens at that show can be woven into the storylines now. And, for more ardent fans, you might encourage them to more faithfully follow your promotion around from town to town.

- Is social media essential? Or can promoters get by with only traditional media?

Sam Ford: Social media isn't essential. Pro wrestling can still draw crowds through a promotional poster at the local grocery store. The issue is that traditional media makes it a new selling proposition each time. It's hard to gain and maintain regular ardent fans through the poster. A website and presence for the promotion acts in lieu of a local television show. Since most promoters can't afford or don't have the option of a weekly TV show for their region these days, the website offers that regular promotional vehicle to keep the promotion and its characters top-of-mind and to encourage people to plan for and anticipate the next time the promotion comes to town.

- How important is establishing/maintaining a community of fans for a promotion?

Sam Ford: It's always been important to maintain a community of fans for local wrestling to thrive. Local shows survive in part because it gives an excuse for wrestling fans to come together and see one another and participate communally in something they love: cheering their heroes, and booing their villains. Online tools just give us a chance to maintain community across multiple cities, to keep people connected between shows, etc.--especially important if the promotion's shows don't happen on a frequent basis at the same time and the same place each time.

- What is the biggest difference in how a promoter would use social media as compared to a wrestler?

Sam Ford: The promoter's focus is on his promotion and the storylines of his show. The promoter is going to be using social media to build a following for their character across all their appearances for multiple promotions. The key is for the promoter to come up with ideas that serves the wrestlers' goals of self-promotion while also building stories online. Getting talent to participate in online storylines, etc., can be accomplished by the promoter being sure to have permission to build stories themselves or to give tangible benefit to talent as to how helping build up a feud online will lead to greater ticket sales, a deeper following for their character, etc.

- What is the single most important tool a promoter can/should use to get the word out about his show?

Sam Ford: I think it has to do with networking with fan sites, etc., and doing something that goes beyond announcing a list of matches and results from a card. No matter what platform you use, how do you tell a story that compels people to come join you in person?

- What are some of the more creative endeavors you have seen in regards to promotions using social media?

Sam Ford: Because WWE has such a media machine behind them, we've seen them build storylines through their website and elsewhere in the past. But they haven't even taken great advantage. I have seen indy promotions have wrestlers/personalities bicker with each other in fan boards and elsewhere, start or further feuds with announcements on their site--special interviews--etc., that allow the storylines to go much deeper than a spot show can.

- What are your thoughts on continuing storylines through social media?

Sam Ford: I think it will be a real difference-maker for promoters once they get used to it, learn to do it well, and condition fans to look for it. The key is to build references to this online content into the show itself in order to drive fans back to the web to keep up with it.

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.