Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review of Wes Fif "American Beach" EP

Back in July 2012, I wrote a review of Orlando rapper Wes Fif's album "International Drive." I was admittedly late reviewing the mixtape, as it came out in March of that year. A few months later, in July of 2013, Wes Fif dropped his newest EP "American Beach". In keeping with the trend, a little more than five months later, here is my review. I am really late. Sorry.

In my review of "International Drive", I wrote that although I liked Wes Fif's sound and his beats were nice, his lyrical content took me by surprise. Much of "International Drive" was about hustlin' and grindin' on the streets of Orlando. Having lived in Central Florida for over 20 years, I never thought of Orlando as a place where a lot of hustlin' and grindin' goes on. After I posted a link to my review on Twitter, Wes Fif reached out:

I have a lot of respect for artists who reply and engage in conversation. That's one of the awesome things about Twitter.

Shortly after I wrote my review for "International Drive", Wes Fif released "American Beach".

First, a note on the title. Wes Fif continues using Florida landmarks as titles of his work. American Beach was a prominent beach for African-Americans during the Jim Crow-segregated South. Created in 1935, the beach became a National Historic Site in 2002. I had never heard of American Beach prior to the EP, so I had a history lesson right from the start. That's a real good thing.

Here are a few thoughts on each song on "American Beach".

Track 1:  Intro by Dinero Jones. Jones explains the meaning the title of the EP, giving a little history lesson and applying the past to Wes Fif's current efforts to make a name for himself in Orlando, a place known more for N'Sync and boy bands than hip-hop.

Track 2: "Forever" - Over a quick club beat, Wes Fif announces his presence with a rapid rhyme attack. Again with a Too Short-like flow, Wes Fif talks about how his crew is the best and how he gets the girls and runs his city. Standard rap braggadocio. Wes Fif also talks about his experience in the game as a veteran in the music business, even slipping in a few lines of social commentary. More on that later.

Track 3: "Get It On" - This song is Wes Fif rapping a positive ode to a woman he is looking to spend a lot of time with. This is the type of song I mentioned was missing on "International Drive". Legend has it 2Pac told Biggie to write for the women and the men will follow. "Get It On" is one of those type of songs. The beat is slow and Wes Fif rhymes directly to the woman of his affection.

Track 4: "100" - "Everything a 100". Over a slow electric beat, Wes Fif rhymes about how everything in his crew and his life is 100% real and true. Solid track.

Track 5: "Too Wrongs" - Another relationship song to the ladies. In this song, Wes Fif talks to a woman who is not his main girl, but someone he has feelings for and has been close to. As the song progresses, Wes Fif reveals both he and the lady have significant others, and they both know it's wrong.

Track 6: "Wave" - Best beat of the album. Like "100" and "Forever", another song about the grind. "Ride the wave" is a perfect fit for an EP with beach in the title.

Track 7: "Heelz" - This song is the complete opposite of "Get It On". Heelz is pure sex rhymes - albeit with a twist. "Heelz" is the first shoe fetish rap song I've ever heard. Over another slow electric beat, Wes Fif and guest singer London tell the subject of their affection "Baby keep those heels on". Could this lead to a trend of more rappers dropping fetish songs?

As I mentioned in the review of "Forever", Wes Fif has become more outspoken in his lyrical content. Since the release of "American Beach", he has continued to expand his social commentary. In August 2013, Wes Fif released a track entitled "Wake Up (F**k WorldStar)" in which he criticizes WorldStarHipHop.com, a website that posts street fights, arguments, and other videos of people acting like fools.

From his "Wake Up (F**k WorldStar)" release announcement:
It’s that time again, time for another installment of #WesFifWednesday. This week, we’re going to take a break from the cliche, stereotypical rap and get on some real shit. I present to you an original track titled “Wake Up (Fuck Worldstar)”. It’s my take on the urban community as a whole and the self hatred that’s going on at an alarming rate. I believe sites like WorldStarHipHop could have a much more positive impact on the community, instead they rather peddle demeaning filth on a daily basis (hence the subtitle).
Of note, Wes Fif isn't alone in going after WorldStarHipHop. In Februrary of 2013, the Universal Zulu Nation, the founding organization of hip-hop culture, wrote a letter to WorldStarHipHop, asking the site to stop portraying hip-hop and urban culture in a negative light. In hip-hop, when the Universal Zulu Nation speaks, many listen, including Vibe, Jet, and other media claiming to represent the culture. It's great to see Wes Fif taking a similar stand.

As the year comes to a close, Wes Fif is still promoting his anti-WorldStar track and also encouraging other artists to take a stand on something.
From the title to the content, Wes Fif has grown as an artist, even in the short time I have listened to his music. That's impressive as too many artists get stagnant. After hearing his latest content and reading what he writes on Twitter, I am definitely looking forward to new Wes Fif music in 2014, and hopefully the opportunity to see him live. Even if he doesn't like FSU.

Overall, "American Beach" is a good Florida summer album. It stays hot, but doesn't go too fast. As anyone who has been in Florida in the summer knows, moving too quick in the summer gets you all sweaty. And being sweaty and sticky might be alright in the bedroom when she keeps on her heels, but being sweaty is not good when you are on the streets, trying to get your grind on.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

So Long, From the Sunshine State - A Review of the Final FCW Event in Tampa

From 1961 to 1987 Championship Wrestling of Florida was the number one wrestling promotion in Florida. At its height, the company ran four to five shows a week throughout the state, from Miami to Orlando to Jacksonville, and boasted a who’s who of wrestling legends, from Dusty Rhodes to Bob Orton, Sr. to the Funks to many more. Although the company spent most of its time entertaining state-wide, there was only one city it called “home”: Tampa.

Tampa had hosted pro wrestling events since the 1940s and the early days of Eddie Graham. After a promotional war in the mid-40s, the city’s primary venue became the Fort Hester Armory, a few miles from downtown. Through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Championship Wrestling of Florida continued in the Fort Hester Armory and the armory was where most old-time local fans saw their first wrestling show.

Of course, we all know what happened to the territories, for better or for worse. CWF merged with Crockett Promotions in 1987, an NWA Florida was created in 1990, and in 2003 Championship Wrestling of Florida was created as an NWA promotion. Meanwhile dozens of fly-by-night promotions sprung up in Florida – some good, some bad – and the local wrestling market became heavily saturated.

In 2007, the WWE decided to move its main training facility from Ohio Valley to the Tampa Bay area under the leadership of Steve Keirn. They resurrected the Florida Championship Wrestling name and hosted many of their early shows in a bar called Bourbon Street in New Port Richey, Florida, about 30 minutes north of Tampa. For years, Bourbon Street was home to indy shows and its consistent wrestling booking fostered a loyal and passionate fan base, the “Bourbon Street Mafia”.

When FCW completed its training facility in South Tampa, shows were moved from Bourbon Street to the FCW Arena. The first FCW match in the new location in 2008 was between Tyson Kidd and the then-Gavin Spears (now known as Tye Dillinger).

Shortly thereafter, I attended my first FCW show. With shows every Thursday, it wasn’t long until I knew every member of the Bourbon Street Mafia and became part of a second wrestling fan crew, the Afro-Squad. I could go on about how wearing an afro in public and having a grand time at wrestling shows helped me embrace my performing side, while also getting a much deeper understanding of the role of the fan in wrestling, but that’s a post for a different day. Let me just say that through the FCW fan crews, I made friends in Tampa that have lasted for several years and have extended far beyond the arena.

Although attending FCW was the thing to do from 2008 to 2010, eventually people seemed to lose interest. While the first class of stars were main eventing on RAW and Smackdown, the follow-up classes from FCW weren’t as exciting, save for a Bryan Daniels here or a Loki there. As time passed, most of the fan crews started to dissipate – some people moved, some found other interests, and some even tried their hand at their own local indy promotions, sometimes even using former FCW talents in their shows.

In 2012, the WWE joined with Full Sail University and in August 2012 did away with the FCW name, swapping it for the NXT brand. Shows were still held in the FCW Arena, but it was now a satellite location, far from the main hub.

And that brings us to last week’s final show at the FCW Arena and the possible end of more than fifty years of Florida Championship Wrestling.

The writing was on the wall since they took the posters off the walls and replaced them with the stark corporate blackness of NXT. Despite “FCW” still illuminating the front of the building, there were no traces of Florida Championship Wrestling anywhere in the building. Gone were the pictures of former champs, pictures of Gordon Solie, or any traces of the palm tree logo. This was NXT and it could have been anywhere.

But that’s how WWE likes their product. Save for a tip of the cap to Jerry Lawler in Memphis or a few other geographical acknowledgements, the WWE keeps its product as geographically sterile as a Wal-Mart, a McDonalds, or an Olive Garden. You would never know where a WWE event is if they didn’t tell you in the opening of the broadcast. That’s because shareholders like corporate uniformity. And with fans gobbling up spin-offs of the WWE brand beyond the traditional outlets of RAW, Smackdown, and PPVs, tying the product to a location made little sense.

For thoughts on the last show, I’m going to go Magic Bullet Style:

• Great crowd. Absolutely great crowd. Half the chairs were not there, so many stood chair-less the entire show. Steve Keirn mentioned it was a sell-out and I would guess in the ballpark of 300 fans. I am not sure what advertising they did, if any, or if it was just word of mouth, but it was great crowd.

• Being in Afghanistan from early 2012 to mid-2013 took me out of the loop on a lot of wrestling. And wrestling, due to its continuous nature, is very hard to catch up with. Hence I knew very few people on the FCW roster. I did however recognize Gavin Spears and Leo Kruger, but did not recognize their new names.

• The show opened with a great speech by Norman Smiley, a trainer for FCW since it opened. He talked about wrestling in the Fort Hester Armory a few miles away and how to him FCW was the completion of life’s cycle. He mentioned how it was time to move on to bigger pastures. Of interesting note, after he concluded a few fans tried to start an “N-X-T” chant but they were quickly out-chanted by the majority’s “F-C-W” chant.

• WWE has put a lot of work into character development since the early days of FCW. Maybe because NXT means TV and fans know characters much earlier in their WWE careers, but almost every wrestler had personality. Far different from when FCW would parade undistinguishable Randy Orton clones to the ring, leaving fans to ask each other who the heel and face were.

• Best match of the night skills-wise was Solomon Crowe versus Kallisto. Even though I had no clue who they were, right from the start I could tell they had experience outside of WWE/NXT. One of my friends confirmed they were long time indy talents. I was really impressed. I’m looking forward to seeing more of both of them, even if not in person.

• Seeing Gavin Spears (Tye Dillinger) back with FCW/NXT was cool. He was on the FCW roster when I first started going to their shows in 2008. After his release, I saw him wrestle for various indies throughout Florida. Some were even bar shows in front of 50 people. And even then, he still brought it. Good to see him back on the cusp.

• Also bringing back memories was Leo Kruger (aka Adam Rose). He too was on the early FCW roster, although then he was one of the many undistinguishable talents. As Adam Rose, he has character flair and his match with Corey Graves was big on entertainment and in-ring trickery.

• The match of the night was NXT Champion Bo Dallas versus WWE veteran and NXT trainer Billy Gunn. Of course as the challenger, Gunn came out first. I was disappointed he came out to the DX music and not the “Ass Man” theme song, but gotta play to popularity, right? When Gunn did enter however, the crowd went nuts and Gunn did a great job building the crowd’s excitement. That’s a gift most veterans learn – how to build up the crowd. He ran around the ring, slapped hands, and urged fans on one side to chant louder than fans on the other side. It was a lesson in charisma for the young superstars.

• At first the match showed Gunn as the stronger competitor as Dallas bounced off of him, went down hard on punches and clotheslines, and generally built up Gunn through a series of hard bumps. But eventually Dallas reversed the match and built himself back up as a worthy young champion, with Gunn taking solid bumps.

• As part of the no-DQ stipulation, Gunn asked the fans for chairs to hit Dallas with. With an extra afro wig in our group, we passed Gunn a wig, to which he promptly used to pummel Dallas. Best use of an afro since we passed John Cena a wig and he struck a pose with it.

• The end of the match was a gimmick-fest as several wrestlers ran in and gave each competitor a finishing move, depending on whether the interfering wrestler was a heel or face. After even Norman Smiley and Bill DeMott ran in, Dallas eventually avoided a Fame-Asser and pulled off the win.

• After the match, Gunn took the mic and gave a Randy the Ram-like speech thanking the crowd for being there and commenting on his own mortal fragility. Gunn put on a hell of a match for a guy past his prime. Not sure he could mix it up on a regular basis, but he looked good.

• Following Gunn on the mic was Norman Smiley. Again, Smiley thanked the fans for coming out and supporting the product during its time in Tampa. He then asked Steve Keirn and his wife to come to the ring. After thanking them, he presented Steve with a plaque of appreciation.

• Keirn then took the mic and gave a nice impromptu speech. He talked about establishing FCW in Tampa and mentioned Vince McMahon’s request that Keirn supply two talents per year to the WWE roster. Keirn said FCW promoted 116 in six years. That’s almost 20 a year. Keirn then acknowledged the support of his wife in his career. Finally, he concluded that although FCW was done, he wasn’t and NXT represented another chapter.

• After the show, the talent packed up the ring and other equipment and loaded it into an NXT truck, taking with them years of memories.

Final thoughts:

Although Tampa area fans could possibly make the drive an hour or so to Full Sail University and see their favorite upcoming WWE talents, what will be missed most with FCW closing is the family aspect of the promotion. From the days of Eddie and Mike Graham to the Keirns, FCW has mostly been a family promotion. The wrestlers came and went, but the family aspect stayed. And that idea of family extended into the crowd as well, as regular fans grew closer and FCW became an oasis in their busy lives, a place to meet, socialize, and bond over common interests. Perhaps one day someone will chronicle the slow removal of families from the top levels of the pro wrestling landscape. I think it would make a great story. That’s not to say there aren’t still great lineages in the business, but as time passes, so too does their influence. Shareholders don’t care about family names or fan families.

As for Tampa wrestling, there are still plenty of places for the indy fan to see shows. SHINE and EVOLVE run shows in Ybor City and other local promoters still put on shows headlined by regional talents, including those who had a cup of coffee or two with FCW. And Orlando, with its many promotions is only an hour away. Although fans who know wrestling only from TV will lament not seeing wrestlers they recognize, the underground scene will be fine.

As for the legacy of Championship Wrestling of Florida, perhaps the WWE Hall of Fame will one day include it in exhibit on the history of the territories. Perhaps locally the Tampa History Center may feature a few pieces of memorabilia. And hopefully the Jewish Community Center being built on the grounds of the Hester Armory will acknowledge the many years Championship Wrestling of Florida called the building home.

Names have power and carry memories. Championship Wrestling of Florida and Florida Championship Wrestling will forever live in the memories of Tampa wrestling fans.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Are Macho Man Randy Savage tribute shows cursed?

Last month, aptly-titled pro wrestling blog "The Wrestling Blog" posted this picture of a wrestling show that didn't quite go as planned.

Yes, the man in the red tights is wrestling legend Nikolai Volkoff. And yes, besides Volkoff nothing in the picture resembles a pro wrestling show at all. There is no ring, no referee (unless you count the guy in the black pants who looks like Francis from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure), no banners, no signs, nothing. The Wrestling Blog called it "The Saddest Wrestling Show" ever. I agree.

According to one of the people involved's Facebook:
I arrived at the venue around 6pm and as I went in well things werent looking too well. The ring crew got pulled over due to a too heavy load with a ring that was on their way to the venue but were told that they had to turn around in which it made it to where they couldnt bring the ring in. The promoters were on the phones trying there best with others to get a ring to the venue but it wasnt looking too bright. I noticed that everyone became discouraged due to this incident and some wanted to leave. As the fans were coming, they were all told that abt the issue and it didnt seem to bother them one bit because they wanted to see a wrestling show and it motivated the promoters to get the wrestling mats out and put on a show. The boys in the locker room were all still worried due to having no ring. Bobby Fulton took charge and had a meeting in the locker room informing us that the show must go on and that we were here to give fans what they want to see. Bobby then assigned us all to duties to where the locker rooms discouragement lifted up to where everyone became encouraged and did their part to where we all worked together to make this event happen. The end result was the event was an hour and a half and the fans were louder then most shows ive been on in the past. The workers stepped up got out of their fear mindsets and put on one of the most memorable and loudest shows i ever been on. The fans were into it like u wouldnt believe and every fan left with a smile on their face and a wrestling show that they will never forget.

However believable that explanation is, there is one more tidbit that makes this show even more bizarre and separates it from all the other half-attempts at pro wrestling entertainment that go on world-wide on an given day.

This show was supposedly a tribute show for Randy "Macho Man" Savage.

Another tribute to Macho Man gone horribly wrong.

Who can forget the July 2011 "Macho Man Tribute" debacle in New Port Richey, Florida when "promoter" Dino Puglia shafted not only the wrestlers and the band out of pay, but also shorted the charity the show was put on for? As a first-hand spectator, that was by far the worst show I have ever been to. The Tampa Tribune covered most of the problems with the show, but left out a few other embarrassing details such as:

  • Puglia's "tribute" to Macho Man was dragging a big screen TV into the ring and showing Macho Man's WrestleMania 3 match against Ricky Steamboat. If members of the crowd were on the backside of the TV, they couldn't see. And there was no volume.

  • Wrestling legend Ox Baker openly mocked the promoter's no-bell "moment of silence" for Randy Savage. Usually wrestlers gather around the ring as the bell is rung and all observe a moment of silence. Every time Puglia said "Ding", Ox Baker replied with "Dong". Standing in the crowd, it was extremely difficult for me to not laugh.

  • The first match wasn't even a match. It was two fans horsing around in the ring with a referee pulling them apart. It was backyard wrestling in a wrestling ring.

  • Puglia nearly got into a shouting match with the band before he left. This interaction happened by the front door of the arena just behind the bleachers where a majority of the crowd was siting. Where everyone could hear. When the band learned they weren't getting paid, they asked Puglia if anyone was getting paid. Puglia tried to hide behind wrestlers, many of whom quickly realized they too weren't getting paid. That left no safe place for Puglia and he bailed.

  • The main event didn't even happen as after Puglia skipped out, the show disintegrated. After the ruckus with the band, some wrestlers only went back into the locker room to change back into their civilian attire. After 30 minutes, the ring crew started taking things apart and packing up.

Of course, Puglia denied all the accusations against him and blamed the band, other promoters, and anyone else he could think of. You can read his defense here.

Since the Macho Man died in May of 2011, I have not yet heard of a good tribute show to the former wrestling legend. Maybe it has happened. Maybe it had living legends and local wrestlers opening their hearts to the memory of the Macho Man and putting on the greatest spectacle the squared circle has ever seen. But I am starting to think that maybe the man who wanted no part of wrestling after his retirement is haunting the business. Maybe he figures since he can't get back at Vince McMahon, he will make sure any "tribute" is fumbled and every promoter who tries to capitalize on Macho Madness is made to look bad.

Dig it?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New music animosity is nothing new

I was recently tuned in to this interesting YouTube video made by Rolling Stone Italy bemoaning Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and promoting rock 'n' roll.

What the video falls to realize however, is that rock 'n' roll wasn't America's first "rebel" music. Not even close. That would be jazz. Check out these quotes from a 2000 PBS article on a then-upcoming Jazz broadcast.
When the new sound of jazz first spread across America in the early twentieth-century, it left delight and controversy in its wake. The more popular it became, the more the liberating and sensuous music was criticized by everyone and everything from carmaker Henry Ford to publications like the Ladies Home Journal and The New York Times. Yet jazz survived.
And ...
Jazz was different because it broke the rules -- musical and social. It featured improvisation over traditional structure, performer over composer, and black American experience over conventional white sensibilities.
Perhaps what we are seeing with EDM - especially if it grows into the mainstream - is the opposite of jazz. Not so much in race, as EDM is more white than black, or in structure - as EDM can be very much improv - but in the performer versus composer battle. EDM is more about the composition than the performance. Sure, some concerts have lights and smoke and other gimmicks, but the eyes are not on the performer as much as the environment. While Jazz turned the bandleader into the center of attention, who stared at Mozart while the orchestra was playing? Interestingly, I recently saw this Disney cartoon from 1935 depicting a contemporary for the time Jazz vs Classical battle. While the Simpsons recently re-made it, I wonder how it would go if remade by Rolling Stone Italy.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Method Man and Redman in Tampa, November 2013

I’ve been a Redman and Method Man fan for years. I remember seeing Redman’s “Time 4 Som Aksion” video on Yo! MTV Raps back when the show was relevant and thinking “what in the world did I just see?”. It had the hoodies, the alley shots, the posse posing, and the background of many ‘90s hip-hop videos, but there was something mentally unstable about it. A little bit later, I saw the Wu-Tang Clan on Yo! MTV Raps and the video debut of the song “Method Man”. Although I liked the rest of the Clan, I loved Method Man’s word play.

That was 1992 and 1993. In 1995, the two artists collaborated on the “How High” track for The Show soundtrack. I remember the first time I heard that song as well. That single began a sporadic yet profitable pairing that saw the two rappers do two collaborative albums, a movie, a short-lived sitcom, and even a deodorant commercial.

Yet despite their other ventures, they remained two of the best MCs in hip-hop.


Like most rap fans who grew up in the 1990s, I think the material of that era is overall better than material produced since. That is definitely true with Method Man and Redman’s output. While Method Man’s 2006 album had some great moments, Redman hasn’t put out a solid album since Doc’s Da Name 2000 in 2000. And while their first collaborative Blackout! was a classic, Blackout 2! was lacking as I mentioned in my review.

Despite my trepidation of their newer material, when I saw Redman and Method Man were coming to Tampa, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to finally see two of my favorite lyricists. While it wasn’t the first time I saw Method Man, having seen him with the Wu-Tang Clan in 2008 (review here), it would be my first time seeing Redman.

The concert was held at the outdoor patio of Ybor City’s Cuban Club. The concrete-walled area was big enough for probably 1,500 people maximum and on a perfect fall Florida night, it was a good place to see a show. When I entered, however, I realized that although the stage at the Cuban Club is high enough, it is quite small. The benefit of a small stage is at least there wouldn’t be 500 people crowded on stage as there are at some hip-hop shows I’ve been to.

(I’ll never understand that, by the way.)

While the stone stage sat in the middle of the large area, off to the far side of the entrance, against the back wall stood a small tent and two small speaker stacks spaced roughly ten feet apart. Between these two speaker stacks was a band playing at eye level to the small fraction of the audience that wandered past the main stage to the far side of the venue.

Despite their less than accommodating set-up, the bands that played were good. They had funk, they had groove, they had a little bit of hip-hop, and they had energy. They should have been on the stage.

On the stage instead was a DJ stand with a 95.7 The Beat banner. While this was obviously where Redman and Method Man were due to perform, I had no idea why 95.7 The Beat needed the room so long before the show.

Then I saw perhaps one the dumbest things I have seen in my years of going to concerts. One of the DJs started playing old school ‘90s hip-hop 100 feet away from the band while the band was playing. Let me repeat: WHILE THE BAND WAS PLAYING. The superior sound of the main stage completely drowned out the small speaker stacks of the band, leaving them only entertaining the small gaggle in front of them. For those audience members between the conflicting performers, it made for a very confusing show.

I am not sure who to blame. Was it the fault of the bands? Did they play too long? Was it the fault of the DJs? Did they start playing their playlists without consulting the bands? They had to have noticed there were bands playing. Both they, and a southern rap crunk group that took the stage to perform a few “get money” songs, completely disrespected the live music openers.

Maybe the conflicting cacophony was the fault of poor management who could have easily stopped the conflicting noise and not let it happen for over an hour.

Eventually, knowing they were out-equipped and outnumbered, the bands finally gave up. I felt bad for them. Even if the crowd wasn’t digging them, they were given the short end of the stick by DJs who should have known better. DJs who should have understood the opening bands role in the show and had more respect before they began spinning songs most of the audience had heard 20 years before.

With the bands finally gone, the DJs had the patio all to themselves. Although they took the stage in less than ideal circumstances, the DJs – led by DJ Sandman and the legendary Charlie Chase of the Cold Crush Brothers – did a great job. With the help of a surprise appearance by Mobb Deep sideman Big Noyd, they kept the crowd excited.

Unfortunately, the DJs and Big Noyd had to keep the crowd hyped for longer than expected. As is almost expected in hip-hop shows, the main act was not on time. Apparently, the flight carrying Redman and Method Man to Tampa was delayed. As much as I want to believe this, it boggles my mind why every hip-hop act is delayed in air travel. Either hip-hop performers have the worst luck or there is a national conspiracy devised by The Man to hinder the travel plans of everyone involved in the biggest minority-performed style of music in the United States. All I know is if I was about to board a plane and I saw a prominent MC or DJ boarding, I wouldn’t expect to be on time.

Finally, at near 11:30 at night, a half-hour before the show was scheduled to end, Method Man and Redman arrived. Shortly thereafter the crowd was assured the show would not end at midnight (as the Wu-Tang show I went to did), and that the crowd would get a full performance.

To the loud cheers of the hundreds of people who patiently waited (including Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price and former WWE wrestler Percy Jackson), Redman and Method Man took the stage. As Method Man said after their second song, the duo's focus was “good weed, good lyrics, and energy”. While I can’t attest for the marijuana part, although the smoke was in the air, they definitely had the latter two in abundance. Especially energy. The two 40-something rappers bounced and danced around the stage throughout the night, constantly moving. And only once did I question whether or not they were actually saying their own lyrics or if the words came from the tracks the DJ was playing.

(Note: I am not sure how long this is has been a thing, but no concert trend is worse than rappers playing hip-hop karaoke with their own recorded vocals. DJs should have instrumentals of tracks, never versions with words. Imagine if a rock band did that. It’s incredibly lazy and cheats the paying customers.)

As for what Redman and Method Man performed, they did several songs from their Blackout albums:

Y.O.U; Da Rockwilder (Blackout!); A-Yo, City Lights, I Know Sumptn (Blackout 2!)

One song from the “How High” Soundtrack: Pt. 2

Their verses from LL Cool J's 4, 3, 2, 1 and Wu-Tang Clan's Do Ya Really (Thang Thang)

A few solo songs from Method Man: Bring Tha Pain, Method Man, All I Need (Tical); Fall Out (4:21: The Day After)

A few solo songs from Redman: Time 4 Sum Aktion (Whut, Thee Album?), Tonight's Da Night, I'll Be Dat, Enjoy Ride

The shortened radio version of “How High” (notable due to the absence of the last two verses – Method Man’s verse about rap critics and Redman’s verse referencing Biggie Smalls)

They also did a short tribute to deceased Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, playing a few of his songs and rhyming along with them. (By the way, the only acceptable time DJs should play songs with lyrics.) And they teased the possible release of Blackout 3! and How High 2.

On stage for some of the show was Wu-Tang affiliate Streetlife, who performed a few of his verses on Method Man’s songs and did a song of his own and a person introduced as Redman’s cousin also dropped a verse while the headliners took a short break.

For their final performance, Redman and Method Man covered Sugar Hill’s legendary hip-hop classic “Rapper’s Delight”, which Redman once covered with Erick Sermon and Keith Murray on the Def Squad El Nino album.

While the songs were over, the show wasn’t. For the next 10 minutes or so, Redman and Method Man took turns stage diving, culminating with Redman climbing 10 feet or so up the highest speaker and leaping in the crowd. Oddly, I haven’t seen crowd surfing and stage diving in a long, long time. Good to see.

When it was all finished at nearly 1:30 in the morning, Redman looked at the crowd and announced that he wasn’t tired. In a moment of honesty, Method Man looked at his cohort and mouthed “I am”.

They weren’t 20-somethings on the top of the hip-hop world anymore, but for one night in Ybor City, Redman and Method Man showed they’ve never came down from their high.

Overall, despite the debacle with the opening acts, Redman and Method Man were definitely worth the price of admission and the lengthy delay.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weekly Book Update #9

I have been working on my first book over the past year. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

Book Status:

Based on the suggestions of my mother - who read the first 10 pages - I re-wrote the first 10 pages. Again. Although I passed the book to a few people, the opening two chapters were a little herky-jerky for me. But I thought it might have been just me. But my mother confirmed my initial thoughts were correct. So I went back to the drawing board on Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Now what was Chapters 1 & 2 is now Chapters 1, 2, and 3 and everything following is higher in sequence. I am happier with the flow.

Yesterday, as I wandered around Tampa pondering how to fix my first few chapters, I stopped by the University of South Florida writing center. I scheduled an appointment, so we'll see if they help and how much. I also found out about Tampa Writers Alliance constructive criticism meetings. I might just stop by those as well. Maybe they will help and perhaps I can help another local writer in turn.

Interesting links of the week:

Here are a few links that have inspired me this week:

First, here is a really great post on baseball blogging by a former Mets writer who walked away. He claims writing about the team became too much of a job and he missed being a fan. I can totally relate, although I wasn't near the regular writer he was. Anyway, its a really good read, so please check it out.

The Misadventures of a Baseball Blogger - Narratively

On the flip side of the same coin, here is a post by Pittsburgh writer Dejan Kovacevic on how to survive writing sports for a living. He says to never be a fan and never let your affiliations blind your story. Writers write about anything. I loved these quotes:
The job is about journalism, not about being pals with your favorite teams or athletes. The passion has to be for journalism, for reporting and writing and editing and taking pics and page-designing or whatever your specialty.
Later on in the article:
If you want to blog into adulthood about what you know or think about sports, better make sure you’ve got a separate way to actually make money.
My final favorite quote:
Learn to write. It’s a learned craft, not an inherent one. No one is born a good or great writer. It’s up to you to read and to practice as much as possible.
Writers write.

Want to be sports writer? Forget sports. - Morning Java

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What if The Beatles never happened?

While perusing Amazon.com to see if The Beatles' CD box set I bought in Afghanistan was in fact the bootleg version (of course it was), I found this interesting discussion:

Supposing The Beatles never happened?
Initial post: Apr 18, 2008 8:02:06 PM PDT

The year is 1963. The first major blast of authentic Rock'Roll (Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Holly) has come and gone. Pretty boy-schlock pop dominates for a while as do the girl groups. The Phil Spector "sound" is particularly popular, Mowtown is in the midst of breaking big and, for "group" sounds, America has the surf sound of The Beach Boys, the whatever sound of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jay and The Americans, Dion and the Belmonts and a LOT of movie soundtracks selling like crazy...and here we be, nothing much else, newer or fresher anywhere to be hinted at (something about a beat group having a local hit in England called My Bonnie but they never got that elusive record contract-broke up or something)..so where "did" the road of popular music go from here?
The whole conversation is worth checking out. Some of the best answers get downright deeply social:
Actually Debbie, your post does raise a question much more sociological and I'd argue that, in their way, the Beatles did a lot to push back the civil rights movement, a sentiment that was first posed by R&B artists like Ben E. King in the BBC's Rock n Roll documentary. There was a feeling, before the Beatles came, that things were going to change, that there was a breakthrough about to happen, and when the British invasion groups came in, those artists were pushed aside for the "prettier" white artists. You see bands like the Moody Blues topping the charts with "Go Now" instead of the original version. Maybe from a "What If?" standpoint, we might have gone in a better direction as a society. There'd be no need for "Imagine," or even later more militant songs from within the African-American community like Sly Stone's "Don't Call Me Whitey, N*****." This was actually a really great post. Don't let people tell you differently.

I think no Beatles means the American music scene would never have been overtaken by the British Invasion. Which means American music would have stayed more based out of Memphis, Detroit, and Chicago. It wouldn't have been American musicians feeding off British musicians influenced by American musicians. American music would be more directly influenced by the blues or jazz or maybe even bluegrass and not British pop. And that would mean probably more call-and-response songs than verse-chorus-verse songs.

Which means probably no Nirvana, which is heavily verse-chorus-verse. So much so, in fact, that Kurt Cobain named a song after the format.

Also, I am no Elvis expert, but I think without The Beatles, Elvis maybe never falls off. Maybe the counter-culture pushes him aside with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, etc, but what does the counter-culture sound like without the drugged-up experimenting later years version of The Beatles?

Ipso facto, there would be no Pulp Fiction bonus scene and no theory that people could be Beatles People or Elvis People, not both.

The domino effect of a world with no Beatles would also be profound in heavy metal, as the Amazon discussion touches on. First, there would be no Black Sabbath, which means the entire spectrum of heavy metal would look different. No Black Sabbath means no Ozzy, which robs the world of one of music's most interesting personalities.

Maybe the members of The Beatles arrive on the music scene later, maybe they never get bigger than Britain. Maybe they end up in pub bands. Which would mean no "Imagine", no Wings, no popular cover version of "I Got My Mind Set On You", and no whatever it was Ringo did outside of The Beatles.

Wasn't he on The Simpsons once?

(Pic from AlbumTacos.Tumblr.com)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekly Book Update #8

I have been working on my first book over the past year. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

Book Status:

I finished re-writing the second chapter. I've sent the rough draft to a few friends. Although I was busy with school during the week, hopefully they took some time to read it and hopefully I get feedback soon. Then the goal is to look for sports fiction publishers, then of course, prepare a proposal.

Interesting links of the week:

Here are a few links that have inspired me this week:

First, a paragraph from AdviceToWriters.com

Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them. - MICHAEL MICHALKO

Second, I've mentioned Jessie Rosen of 20-Nothings before. I really dig her blog. In one of her latest posts, she discusses how her and her fiancee are hoping to buy a church in the small upstate NY town of Hudson and turn the empty church into a theater for the arts. Such an awesome idea. Of course, we shall see how well they can do it being from LA.

My Fiancee and I Are Buying an Abandoned Church - Part 1 (20-Nothings)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rescuing AfroSquad dot com from The MAN

For those who have been following the last few years, every so often I mention the AfroSquad, the funky forebearers of  fro-wearing fun. Legend has it the AfroSquad was two guys, one in Michigan and the other in Texas doing similar videos and posting them in the days before YouTube.

Sometime in the early 2000s, the AfroSquad was forced underground and someone forgot to pay the website bill. The name afrosquad.com expired, the afrosquad.com name was claimed, and the AfroSquad moved to afro-squad.com, where you can still find some funny stuff. However, after a little web perusing I found the name afrosquad.com is for sale. I thought maybe I had a chance to reclaim the name and bring it back to the old school 'cause I'm an old fool who's so cool. And after I got done singing "Whomp, There It Is", I would bring some funkiness back to the domain that started it all. So I sent an email to the company responsible for the negotiation of afrosquad.com. I told them I was interested and asked how much the owner was willing to sell it for. I had a price in mind and was willing to cough up a few hundred dollars, tops. A few days later, I received an email response (abbreviated due to confidentiality):
Hello Michael, I am the Domain Broker who represents afrosquad.com. This domain name has been previously quoted at $28,000.00 USD. If you would like to make an offer we'd be happy to present it on your behalf and see what the owner says. Thanks very much for your interest.
That's right. $28,000 dollars. As much as nice car or a legit down payment on a house. Now I don't know how much website ads make. I don't anyone who clicks ads, although I have heard advertising on the web is a way to make money. But $28,000? That's a lot of cash. I wrote the company back and offered $250. Like I said, I was willing to throw down a little bit. Not a lot, but a little bit. Considering I have never bought a website name for more than $12, I thought $250 was rather reasonable. Especially for a site with nothing on it. Crazy, right? Then I received this response to my counter-offer:
Hi Michael The domain owner appreciates your feedback but respectfully declines your offer. All the best to you and your venture.
The domain broker also informed me the seller was willing to go as low as 20% off the $28,000 price. Well, that is still over $20,000 for a website name. So The MAN continues to hold AfroSquad.com hostage.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekly Book Update #7

I have been working on my first book over the past year. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I will give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

(And I missed another Book Update last week. This is almost turning into a bi-weekly update. But once I give in to bi-weekly, then it is a slippery slope to yearly.)

Book Status:

I finished re-writing the second chapter. Yesterday I added some much needed text to the story to get it off and rolling into the main plot. I am really excited now, because I think I am in the ballpark to being done. And I think it reads well now. Everything flows nicely, at least I think so.

The goal now is to maybe give the story another once over and meanwhile look for sports fiction publishers, then of course, prepare a proposal. I am also open to sending a polished draft a select group of friends, colleagues, or other writer folk.

Interesting links of the week:

Here are a few links that have inspired me this week:

This week is Timothy Leary Week. According to Wired.com, the New York Public Library acquired a mass amount of the famed psychologist/drug advocate's personal library. This week, the NY Public Library made the collection public opening the archives to researchers, historians, and other curious individuals.

I've mentioned before how big of a fan I am of writer Aldous Huxley. Huxley was influenced a lot by Leary's studies, especially in regards to thoughts of reaching higher consciousness through psychedelic drugs. Huxley then influenced Jim Morrison, who named his band "The Doors" after Huxley's Doors of Perception book. I got into The Doors years ago and worked my way backwards to Leary.

Here are two recent articles on Leary from Wired.com:

Timothy Leary’s Transformation From Scientist to Psychedelic Celebrity - Wired.com

This article explores Leary's migration from Harvard professor to drug advocate. While some discouraged his work, others praised it. The article takes a fair look at whether both the criticism or the adulation was warranted while adding a good amount of history to the context.

Turn On, Boot Up, and Jack In With Timothy Leary’s Long-Lost Videogames - Wired.com

In this article, Wired.com looks at Leary's later years and his experimentation with computer games. According to the article, Leary saw potential in the networking aspect of computer programs years before the Internet emerged as a force. Leary helped create computer games and models that helped expand the mind, using the computer systems as he did drugs years earlier.

Last but definitely not least, here is a link to the Timothy Leary Online Archives. It has been a big week for them. Tons of great stuff on this site from pictures to letters to links to other material.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Obama loves Pokemon

The federal government shutdown is causing a lot of pain for many. For others, it is the source of conflict and dispute. For enemies of the state, it is creating opportunity. For most, it is the source of frustration.

For the creative-minded geniuses at FilmCow, it is an opportunity to create a hilarious South Park-like animated short bringing to light President Obama's love of Pokemon cards. To be honest, I didn't think Pokemon cards were still a thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Comedy Improv Campaign

One of the more interesting classes I've been taking during my first semester back in school is Improv for Business Organizations. This class is a creative thinking class designed to get people out of their perfunctory little boxes and encourage them to think creatively in the workplace. The class is big on the exchange of ideas and never saying "no" and is based on the skill sets of comedy improv.

Having done a smattering of comedy over the last few years, I've taken to this class like a fish to coffee. I've always been the creative sort (as you may or may not be able to tell), and the class has given me justification and even a bit of reaffirmation that through the years I've been doing something right. It also reaffirms my idea that I would at some point in time like to take an improv class at one of the major improv schools in either LA, New York, or Chicago. Perhaps I can also one day turn my creativity into a teaching gig. That would be cool.

Anywhoozle, the other day friend of the site and fellow Tampa writer Clark Brooks linked to an interesting fundraising campaign on his website - which I have written for three times (shameless plug). This campaign, entitled, Comedy Improv Can Save the World, is a film project by comedian Jacqueline Kabat in which she plans to film a documentary of her traveling to three places across America and putting on comedy improv clinics. Her students in these classes are vastly different sectors of America: returning PTSD war veterans in California, Chicago inner city youth, and New York Wall Street investors. And she is filming the whole thing.

I think her cause is fascinating. Especially the veterans part. Perhaps there is something else I could do one day. I know the military and a little bit of where those guys have been. While Jacqueline is working with veterans in California, I wonder if anyone is using improv techniques to work with veterans in Florida. But I digress.

In order to get her project going, Jacqueline Kabat is looking for help. $10, 25, 500 dollars, it doesn't matter. But you get stuff the more you donate.

So if you can, lend a hand. Because that would be cool.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weekly Book Update #6

I have been working on my first book over the past year. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I will give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

(And I missed my first Book Update week last week. Oops. I was getting good at this.)

Book Status:

I finished re-writing the first chapter. Yesterday I merged the several paragraphs of background on the characters into the second chapter. I still need to smooth it out and bring it back into the story.

That's one of the things about writing a long story. It sometimes feel like I am knitting a giant sweater. All the tangents have to be part of the story. No strings can be left hanging. Especially if they are in the middle of the chapter. Sections can't be disjointed.

The goal now is to finish this second chapter, then maybe give the story another once over, then send the polished draft to a select group of friends. Once I get back some feedback, then it is on to contact publishers.

Interesting links of the week:

Here are a few links that have inspired me this week:

Washington's Comedians are Taking a Do-It-Yourself Approach - WashingtonPost.com

This article explored the Washington DC stand-up comedy scene. It talked about comics finding hole-in-the-wall bars and putting on their own shows, some of which have gained significant followings. Among the factors I've thought about if I were to ever move to DC is the comedy scene. There have been some great big-name comics from there, and great to see the lower ranks holding their own as well.

Where Parody Ends and Politics Begins - GlobalVoices.com

An interesting look at comics and parody parties that become serious for change and run for political office across the world. There is truth in humor and sometimes that truth gains enough of a following to be popular.

Worst I Ever Bombed: Patton Oswalt - Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

This Youtube clip from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon has comedian Patton Oswalt describing his worst-ever comedic performance. While funny, his bombing isn't really a bombing, more like a lack-of-trying. It could be worse, he could have bombed in Afghanistan.

I just noticed all of today's links started with the letter "W". So today's post is brought to you by the number 6 and the letter W.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Star Wars Read Along

A long time ago, in a state and town far, far away, I was but a wee lad with a slight Star Wars fascination. I was all into Star Wars as a kid - the toys, the bedding, the lunchboxes. Every once in a while, I take a cyber trip down memory lane and check out something that brings out the kid in me - kinda like Frosted Shredded Wheat, but with lightsabers.

Anyway, last week I found a YouTube clip of the Star Wars read-along book. This book came with an audio tape - or in some cases I think a small record (33? 45? I'm not up on my vinyl lingo). Although the character voices were not the "real" voices, the audio did have an authentic R2D2 beep notification for when to turn the page. Which I think should be incorporated in all online books, lessons, and academic classes.

So big kudos to the person who put this together. It is very well-done. And click play and enjoy a trip down memory lane to galaxy far, far, away.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lortz in the Nude

It started innocently enough.

In 1996, in my military training school at Fort Huachuca, one of my classmates mimicked a commercial of a local dive strip club called the Sorry Gulch Saloon. In the style of late radio announcer Jan Gabriel, my classmate inserted my name in the commercial instead of the name of whoever was feature dancing at the Sorry Gulch. Being that I didn't mind at all, and I have always been up for being the subject of a victimless joke, the radio call became one of the funniest catch phrases of my time at Huachuca.
"Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
Live at the Sorry Gulch
It's Lortz in the Nude!
This Sunday. Lortz in the Nude.
First 200 ladies get a free Lortz t-shirt!
Be There!"

After military training, I went to Fort Hood and never saw that classmate again. The Lortz in the Nude call sat dormant until 1998. Then, sometime during my Bosnia deployment, I dusted it off and used it a few times, usually to break up a boring day. Then, to my surprise, a flyer appeared on my desk:

Who was I to argue?

Then, a month or so later, this was created:

It was an epic performance. According to news reports, the event had to be moved to a city park as ticket demand was too high and several riots ensued among the Bosnian women who could not get into the hotel. Once the hubbub was ameliorated, the show went on without a hitch.

Shortly after coming home from Bosnia, I couldn't abandon my blossoming career as a performer. I had to flyer Florida State University and let them know of the show.

As you can see, the flyers are getting a little more complex, as was my show. This show, however, had to be cancelled at the last moment due to protests by the Student Body. Ironic, don't you think?

The night I graduated, however, I was able to perform one show in Tallahassee.

The level of pandemonium that show caused forced me to reconsider doing "Lortz in the Nude" performances. I decided to stay in Tallahassee, continue my education, and get out of the game for a while.

Receiving a letter from the Secretary of the Florida Public Endangerment Commission calling my show "a danger to society" forced me to also lay low during my time in Tampa. Working a well-paying job and the spread of picture phones and made me wonder if I would ever do my show again. Although the show was popular, the dogs cute, and the fire hot, I just couldn't see a reason to endanger my career.

Until now.

I'm back.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekly Book Update #5

I have been working on my first book over the past year. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I will give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

Book Status:

Still re-writing the first chapter, combining much of what was an introduction into the first chapter, starting with a scene instead of long exposition of the whos, whats, wheres, whens. I was left with several paragraphs of background on the character that I still need to merge into other parts of the book.

Interesting links of the week:

Here are a few links that have inspired me this week:

Chekov's Legacy - completely hits the point of what I am doing to my own manuscript.
Anton Chekhov gave some advice about revising a story: first, he said, throw out the first three pages. As a young writer I figured that if anybody knew about short stories, it was Chekhov, so I tried taking his advice. I really hoped he was wrong, but of course he was right. It depends on the length of the story, naturally; if it's very short, you can only throw out the first three praragraphs. But there are few first drafts to which Chekhov's Razor doesn't apply. Starting a story, we all tend to circle around, explain a lot of stuff, set things up that don't need to be set up. Then we find our way and get going, and the story begins ... very often just about on page 3. — Ursula LeGuin

The Secret to Great Writing! It's right here! Promise! - Jay Busbee.com
People often ask me what the secret is to writing. It's like they think there's this little one bit of hidden knowledge that, if you learn it, you'll become a rich and famous author, beloved by millions who read your books (or at least see the movies based on them). Guess what? There is. Gather round, lads and lasses, and I'll tell you:

The secret to writing is rewriting.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Weekly Book Update #4

If you aren't aware already, I have been working on my first book over the past year. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I will give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

Book Status:

I started re-writing the first chapter. I am combining much of what was an introduction into the first chapter, starting with a scene instead of long exposition of the whos, whats, wheres, whens. It's not Lord of the Rings. I need to get right into the action.

Interesting links of the week:

Here are a few links that have inspired me this week:

Advice to a Young Comedian (& Myself) - SaraSchaefer.com
There is nothing more beneficial to one’s career, state of mind, and personal confidence than WORKING! Working hard on anything – whether it’s that latte you’re making for some rich douchebag, or the spreadsheet you have to redo, or the clever tweet you’re crafting, the open mic you’re tackling, the sketch idea you’re mulling over, the slightly annoying comedian you’re chatting with backstage – FUCKING WORK ON IT. Don’t sit there and wonder why you got stood up for the dance; fucking sew yourself a pink dress with weird angles and SHOW UP ANYWAY. And don’t just work, work with a damn smile on your face. Stop complaining that you have to work. What did you think you would have to do? Open your eyes one morning and suddenly see a brick of gold bullion sleeping softly next to you?

Louis CK, TJ & Dave, and the Power of Slow Comedy - SplitSider.com
The people involved in these kinds of shows, on stage and off, see the value in slowing down, keeping the story grounded, and never, ever forcing any laughs. Sometimes this leads to hilarious discoveries. Other times, it leads somewhere less amusing, but still completely honest – to an interesting bit of theater, let’s say. And that’s great, because who says comedy only exists to make you laugh?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A brief bit on Afghanistan Poetry

While I was in Afghanistan, I read quite a bit about Afghanistan culture. Having a degree in Creative Writing and being a writer and blogging et al, I took special interest in articles on Afghanistan poetry. From what I've learned, as in most tribal Islamic cultures, the poet has a special place in Afghan society.

This quote from a 2005 NPR article sums up Afghan feelings on poetry:
Afghanistan remains mostly illiterate, overwhelmingly so outside the cities. Rather than read, people store material in memory and, if literary, recite it by heart. And poetry, because of rhyme and rhythm, is much easier to memorize than prose… Many Afghans internalize segments off the great Persian classical poets, philosopher-mystics whose verse rises above daily hustle and bustle.

The result is something no longer valued in the modern, literate West: a memorized reservoir of poetic wisdom. Inherited from the great poets and internalized from early childhood onwards, this material serves Afghans as psycho-spiritual ballast — a buffer against misfortune, and a reminder, when times are good, the luck seldom lasts…
Not too different from how people relate to good hip-hop verses, by reciting to heart those lines that motivate them through the grind. But that's a post for another day.

Way back in late June of last year, I saved an article about Khalilullah Khalili, one of the best poets in Afghanistan history. Khalili died in 1987 in Pakistan, but according to reports, President Karzi wanted to create a commemorative grave for Khalili, one that would assert Afghan poetry. Karzi doesn't want to end there. They also are in cultural battles with Iran and Turkey over ancient poets who they claim had Afghan roots, albeit when the nation was under Persian control.

Meanwhile, poetry is being used by different classes of Afghans to reclaim their voice and share their message with the world. This Al Jazeera article from May 2012 discusses how women are using poetry to express themselves. Unfortunately, many have to share their poetry through secret avenues as their families might not approve of them stepping out.

As women are using poetry to assert themselves as minorities, another more powerful subculture in Afghanistan is getting their words to prose. In June 2012, the book Poetry of the Taliban was released. This book is a collection of Taliban poems collected off the internet. For Westerners, the book is a unique look at the words of that is philosophically different to everything the West stands for. According to reviewers, the poems are not merely propaganda. They are pieces that describe all forms of human emotion, from sadness to remorse to love to contempt.

Interesting stuff.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Finding the Blues in Bradfordville Florida

A few weeks ago, I took a trip up to Tallahassee. It had been about three years since I was in Tallahassee last and there were a few places and people I needed to see.

One of those places was the Bradfordville Blues Club, located just outside of Tallahassee in neighboring Bradfordville. For the uninitiated, the Bradfordville Blues Club has been, under different names, one of the oldest running spots for blues in the south. It is a backwoods juke joint in the old tradition, when farmhands put up secluded buildings and hosted weekend jukes all night until they had to go back to work. Juke joints and churches littered the rural south for years in the early and mid-20th Century. Now few remain.

While swinging by the Bradfordville Blues Club, I noticed a new sign. The BBC is now an official marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail as designated by the Mississippi Blues Commission. That's a real good thing and should ensure the BBC stays rocking for years to come.

For  a great article on the Bradfordville Blues Club, check out Tampa Bay Times write Ben Montgomery's feature piece from May 2013.

Bradfordville Blues Club in woods near Tallahassee a soulful secret

Back in April 2000, I wrote an essay for a Music Appreciation Class about my first visit to the Bradfordville Blues Club. Back then it was called "Dave's CC Club" and the area around there was a lot less built up than it is now.


On Friday I talked my roommate into joining me on a trip to Dave’s CC Club. At first I had no idea where Dave’s was but we looked it up on the map in the phone book. At first my roommate was hesitant because of Dave’s is quite far but I convinced him to come along.

The trip out there was pretty uneventful except for the occasional jokes about wilderness hunters shooting at us. As we turned off of Bradfordville Road onto a dirt road we both wondered if we were going the right way. Then we saw a small sign that said Dave’s CC Club that way and we knew we were in the right direction. After following the long, dark, dirt road for a while I finally found it.

When we pulled up to Dave’s I heard some good music coming from inside. As we walked to the front door I saw a sign that said that Charles Atkins was playing. I was so pumped. I had really enjoyed watching Mr. Atkins play during our class.

Dave’s CC Club had the perfect environment for the blues. There were not many people there and it had a very relaxed atmosphere. Charles Atkins and his band were playing in the corner. There was Mr. Atkins on electric piano and a guitar player and a drummer.

When we first walked in, Mr. Atkins was playing some old blues songs. We sat and listened for a while then walked outside. Outside of Dave’s there was a few people sitting around a bonfire. We joined them, relaxing, sipping our drinks, listening to the sound of the blues.

It was a great night as we listened to some of the local people talk amongst themselves. Particularly interesting to watch were some of the individuals under the influence of alcohol. It was an older crowd and that is what I like. No younger people running around acting stupid.

After spending a little while by the fire we back in the club. Mr. Atkins and his band were still playing. He was amazing. The emotion and power in his voice is unbelievable. After a short while the band took a short break.

About 15 minutes or so passed by until Mr. Atkins came back out. Being blind of course he had someone help him to his piano. As Mr. Atkins was sitting there waiting for the rest of his band to join him my roommate and I went and started a conversation with Mr. Atkins. I told him how much I enjoyed his playing during our class. Mr. Atkins asked me where I was from, and when I told him Melbourne he told me how he had played there about 30 years ago with a guitarist from the Commodores. He told me how he had liked playing in Melbourne. He also introduced us to his fellow band members.

They all seemed like great guys just enjoying playing the blues. After my roommate and I sat back down Mr. Atkins and his band started back up. Their first song was called “Just One of Us” and Mr. Atkins dedicated it to my roommate and I!

The group kept on playing until about two in the morning. Before they finished Mr. Atkins thanked everyone for coming out to Dave’s, thanking my roommate and I by name. As we left I thought about how great of a night I had and how I had to go back to Dave’s as soon as I could.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekly Book Update #2

If you aren't aware already, I have been working on my first book over the past year. Every night I pour a little more time and energy into the manuscript. So far it is progressing well. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I will give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

Book Status:

Finished the second draft. I re-wrote the book.

Pages: 138 - 11 font, Calibri

Word Count: 61,737

Next: Need to re-write the intro and Chapter 1. I need to work on the "how did we get here?" part of the story.

Received positive feedback from a friend who read the draft. So that's a really good thing.

Meanwhile, a few writing links that have motivated me this week:

Interview with "The Sandlot" director, narrator (SB Nation)

WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle by Elmore Leonard (NY Times)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Weekly Book Update

If you aren't aware already, I have been working on my first book over the past year. Every night I pour a little more time and energy into the manuscript. So far it is progressing well. My goal is to have this book published. Not self-published, but actually published by a publisher. I've self-published before and I might do so again, but I want to test the waters in the publishing industry. I want to put the name of a publisher on my resume.

With that in mind, I've decided to make every Friday "Book Update Day". Every Friday I will give an update as to where I am in the writing/editing/publishing process - at least as far as I can say.

Book Status:

Finishing the second draft - currently on page 120 of the re-write.

Pages: 137 - 11 font, Calibri

Word Count: 61,575

Next: Working through the text has made me realize I need to re-write the intro and Chapter 1. I need to work on the "how did we get here?" part of the story.

Meanwhile, a few writing links that have motivated me this week:

The Secrets of How To Write Short (Time.com)

The Evolution of the Hot Take: A Brief History of Bad Sports Writing (Pacific Standard)