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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bill Alfonso Talks Suggestive Selling and Pro Wrestling

A few years ago I had the unique privilege of working with former pro wrestling manager and referee Bill Alfonso. For over a month, I hung out with Fonzie, driving around Florida with him and filming his interactions with other wrestlers, from legends such as Dory Funk and Afa the Wild Samoan to the relative newcomers of the Florida indy wrestling scene. Fonzie was entertaining to say the least. I learned a lot about the wrestling business, about wrestling history, and about the man himself. But the most important thing I learned was always keep the camera rolling.

I've uploaded little snippets of our journey on youtube. Little nuggets of knowledge or memories or pieces of advice from a man who has been part of professional wrestling for over 25 years.

Here is the latest video, followed by links to other videos I have posted so far.

Bill Alfonso on "Suggestive Selling" and Professional Wrestling



 Here are other videos of Fonzie that I've posted:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Popular Delusions, Witchcraft accusations, and injustice



I've been reading "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" lately. Written in 1851 by Charles Mackay, the book is a fascinating look at crowd phenomenons and events that have upset social fabrics in Europe, from the 1200s to the 1830s.

Although the chapters on alchemy and the Crusades were interesting, perhaps the most eye-opening chapter was that on witchcraft. For nearly 200 years, people - mostly old, lonely women - were put to death on suspicion of being witches. So bad was the hysteria the onus was on people to prove they were not witches in order to not be put to the stake, drowned, or killed in other cruel devices. They were guilty until proven innocent.

And anyone could accuse anyone of being a witch. Mackay writes of children accusing adults and adults accusing children of witchcraft.

Eventually, the tide turned on accusers, and not only were people they accused innocent until overwhelming evidence could be provided, but soon accusers were prosecuted for faulty accusations.

However, all of Europe did not advance at the same pace. Here is one of the more interesting cases:
Julian Desbourdes, aged fifty-three, a mason, and inhabitant of the village of Thilouze, near Bordeaux, was taken suddenly ill, in the month of January 1818. As he did not know how to account for his malady, he suspected at last that he was bewitched. He communicated this suspicion to his son-in-law, Bridier, and they both went to consult a sort of idiot, named Baudouin, who passed for a conjuror, or white-witch. This man told them that Desbourdes was certainly bewitched, and offered to accompany them to the house of an old man, named Renard, who, he said, was undoubtedly the criminal. On the night of the 23rd of January all three proceeded stealthily to the dwelling of Renard, and accused him of afflicting persons with diseases, by the aid of the devil. Desbourdes fell on his knees, and earnestly entreated to be restored to his former health, promising that he would take no measures against him for the evil he had done. The old man denied in the strongest terms that he was a wizard; and when Desbourdes still pressed him to remove the spell from him, he said he knew nothing about the spell, and refused to remove it. The idiot Baudouin, the white-witch, now interfered, and told his companions that no relief for the malady could ever be procured until the old man confessed his guilt. To force him to confession they lighted some sticks of sulphur, which they had brought with them for the purpose, and placed them under the old man's nose. In a few moments, he fell down suffocated and apparently lifeless. They were all greatly alarmed; and thinking that they had killed the man, they carried him out and threw him into a neighbouring pond, hoping to make it appear that he had fallen in accidentally. The pond, however, was not very deep, and the coolness of the water reviving the old man, he opened his eyes and sat up. Desbourdes and Bridier, who were still waiting on the bank, were now more alarmed than before, lest he should recover and inform against them. They, therefore, waded into the pond--seized their victim by the hair of the head--beat him severely, and then held him under water till he was drowned.

They were all three apprehended on the charge of murder a few days afterwards. Desbourdes and Bridier were found guilty of aggravated manslaughter only, and sentenced to be burnt on the back, and to work in the galleys for life. The white-witch Baudouin was acquitted, on the ground of insanity.
So for no reason, they killed a guy. Then they got off with only aggravated manslaughter. And the ringleader was acquitted.

Amazing.

If you are interested, this book is available for free download here or in html form here. Although it is a bit of a read at over 700 pages, it is worth it just to see how stupid, naive, and insane societies were and continue to be.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writing for the Struggle Bus



A few years ago, back when I was giving stand-up comedy my first spin, there was a website called The Struggle Bus.com, run by fellow comedians Eric Prae and Jenn Belso. The website was a chronicle of adventures and funny situations and was even featured in the local newspaper. Unfortunately, it has since been shut down and sucked up by another business venture. Because I like publishing my work, I am posting the one article I did for them here so it can be read and cherished by future generations.

Greetings. I am Jordi Scrubbings. Like Eric, Jenn, and the dog, I am a writer/comic in Tampa. I also like to call myself a “creative genius”, but to be honest that’s a bit of lie – I failed the child genius test by one point. But if it worked for Wile E. Coyote, I’m making it work for me.

Anyway, you may know me from other ventures such as my website, www.theserioustip.com, my appearances on Deadspin.com and other sports sites, or my tweet venture, TheManInc, a log of everything The Man is doing to hold people down. I’m all over the place, and now I am here.

I have weird ideas. Like I once thought that the movie Men in Black was made to desensitize the general population to the evils of the real-life Men in Black, you know, those government agents who made people disappear. I also used to think Joe DiMaggio killed John F. Kennedy because JFK slept with Marilyn Monroe. Then I also thought that my GI Joes and Transformers came alive when I went to sleep and protected me from evil spirits and nightmares. But I don’t think those things anymore.

I’m grown up now. Or so they tell me.

These days I find myself hanging out various places around Tampa. Of course, I’m at the Improv, I’m at sporting events – I’ve been a Rays season ticket holder the last few years, I go to a lot of concerts, and when I am not doing any of those things, I’m checking out the modern spectacle that is professional wrestling.  Little known fact: I made a cameo on this site a few months ago. Yup, that was me in the big afro wig in Jenn’s wrestling write-up. But Jenn loves me now and I love her too. She was just disappointed that a guy with that big of an afro could have a little penis. What can I say? I came up short, just like in the child genius test.

But I will be writing here once a week or so. Maybe I’ll write about sports and sunshine, maybe it will be about beer or barbeque, or maybe I’ll be penning a sonnet to my dear Reese Witherspoon.

By the way, should I find it weird that she has a kid born on my birthday? I think getting into a relationship with a girl with a kid would be challenging enough, but having to share my birthday with that kid would make it even tougher. My birthday should be my day, the day she spoils me. But if it’s her kid’s birthday too, then we have to do the party thing with the balloons, the cake, and the pin the tail on the donkey. And then not only will the kid get all the presents, but at the end of the night, after everything is cleaned up and all the rugrats have gone home, Reese would probably be too tired to give me some birthday lovin’.

And that’s a total dealbreaker.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Charlie Brown: The Last Lovable Loser

The economy is in the crapper.

People fight and kill over religion.

Gas prices are high.

You still can't pee on the Alamo.

But at least you're not Charlie Brown.



You know, sometimes I think the fact that Charlie Brown was such a lovable loser was good for society back in the day. There aren't any new lovable losers anymore. There are characters that keep failing and make a show of it or ones that act out to fight their oppressors - they would have fought Lucy or punched her in the nose. But they don't have the grace of Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown isn't a bad guy, he is just a guy who didn't win.

And no one gave him a trophy just for showing up, either. He went home empty handed.

Then he tried again.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Victor Licata, Trayvon Martin, and Marijuana



Few people have a favorite ax murder. Devouring details of people hacked to death is usually the territory of criminologists or psychopaths.

Yet ever since I learned the epic ax murder that changed the face of public opinion on marijuana occurred in Tampa’s Ybor City, I have been enamored with the case of Victor Licata.

To summarize, on the night of October 17, 1933, someone killed five members of the Licata family with an ax. According to police reports, blood was everywhere. From author Paul Guzzo’s article in a 2011 issue of Cigar City Magazine:
“On the bed in the front room they found Michael Licata lying in a welter of blood, killed with one swing of an axe. In the adjoining bedroom they found the bodies of the family’s 22-year-old soon-to-be-married daughter, Prudence, and her 8-year-old brother, Jose, both hacked to death. In the rear bedroom they found the murdered mother, 44-year-old Rosalie. On the bed beside her lay her 14-year-old son, Philip, alive but suffering from numerous axe wounds. And lying on the floor next to the bed was the murder weapon–a blood-stained axe.”
Reports continue by stating the police found 21-year old Victor Licata, the sole Licata family member still alive, cowering in his room with blood stains on his shirt.

Sounds like an open and closed case, right?
Not so fast.

Victor Licata’s supposed use of marijuana (he was labeled the “Marihuana Maniac”) was a key part of the prosecution. The fact that marijuana was associated with the murder made the drug public enemy number one, leading to the “Reefer Madness” phenomenon.

It also led to many pro-marijuana advocates to re-examine the Licata case. A few writers even believe Licata was innocent. That's what makes the case so interesting.

Many of their points, for example, are on the site “The Reefer Madness Museum”.
  • There was a serial Axe murderer operating in the Tampa area at the time

  • That the Licata family was NOT the only Tampa family cut down by an Axe murderer.

  • That one of the other families slain by the serial Axe murderer was the Rowell Family - same last name as the author of "On the Trail of Marihuana, the Weed of Madness”

  • That Victor Licata (to his dying day) denied that he has ever used Marihuana and that there was never a scratch of evidence to even suggest that he ever had?

  • That at least one of the major players (the Detective chief who had accused Victor Licata of having committed the murders) has been caught (documented) lying about the matter?

  • That much of the (alleged) evidence against Victor Licata was fabricated and so fake it wouldn’t have stood the light of day in a courtroom?

  • That many of the senior people within the Tampa judicial justice system knew the truth – and choose (for whatever reason), to deliberately keep quiet?
Also adding to the dispute is Victor Licata’s size. According to reports, he was only 5’8 and 120 lbs. Not a big man by any means. Could marijuana have made a skinny young strong enough to move furniture and wield an ax with such brutality?

It is now pretty much popular consensus that marijuana did not play a huge role in the Licata family murders. Medical reports indicate Victor Licata had several other mental problems, and wasn’t exactly fit for society. And back in the day, Tampa wasn't exactly a paradise of proper legal process. So there may just be room for debate.

As it is my "favorite" ax murder, the other day I mentioned the Licata case on twitter to Tampa Bay Times writer Ben Montgomery. Montgomery has been tweeting about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial since it started and was discussing Martin’s supposed use of marijuana and what role if any the drug might have played in the incident that led to Martin’s death.

Based on our discussion, Montgomery used the Licata case as a topic for his own article comparing it to the Zimmerman case. Definitely worth the read. Check it out:

At Zimmerman trial, marijuana testimony echoes famous Tampa killings

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More thoughts on Natural Rhythm



A little over three years ago, I wrote a blog post on string theory and natural rhythm. I read a few articles and theorized that there is much we don't know about the natural rhythms of life and of our brain and how the whole thing is linked together. I always thought it was one of the smartest things I have ever written.

Over the past few months, I have collected two more articles (both from Wired.com) on the brain and music. In the first, Human Brain is Wired for Harmony, writer Elizabeth Norton discusses recent scientific conclusions that have helped take the first steps in learning why our brain does not like dissonant noises but prefers smoother consonant sounds.
In a musical chord, for example, several notes combine to produce a sound wave containing all of the individual frequencies of each tone. Specifically, the wave contains the base, or “fundamental,” frequency for each note plus multiples of that frequency known as harmonics. Upon reaching the ear, these frequencies are carried by the auditory nerve to the brain. If the chord is harmonic, or “consonant,” the notes are spaced neatly enough so that the individual fibers of the auditory nerve carry specific frequencies to the brain. By perceiving both the parts and the harmonious whole, the brain responds to what scientists call harmonicity.

In a dissonant chord, however, some of the notes and their harmonics are so close together that two notes will stimulate the same set of auditory nerve fibers. This clash gives the sound a rough quality known as beating, in which the almost-equal frequencies interfere to create a warbling sound. Most researchers thought that phenomenon accounted for the unpleasantness of a dissonance.
In another article, writer David Dobbs of Wired.com discusses the music he uses as inspiration to write to. In the article, he links to another post on the Public Library of Science website where several other prominent authors list their own musical muses. Both are fascinating articles that list a lot of classical pieces, such as Bach. While most writers choose the instrumental route (Miles Davis was a common pick), very few seemed to go towards the modern rock or indie route. And there was no heavy metal or dissonant music at all.

Perhaps that says something about what type of music best fits and is able to stimulate the writing part of the brain.

Personally, it depends. If I am writing in the middle of the day, I might try something faster to get a rhythm going - to include death metal, preferably something with unintelligible lyrics. But if I am writing at night and I want the brain to calm down and get into a deep analytical thought process, I will lean towards the aforementioned Miles Davis or perhaps Buckethead's Colma, Electric Tears, or Electric Sea albums.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another interview Brian Spaeth: Author and Filmmaker



Many moons ago, I would interview people I thought were interesting or who I took some creative influence from. I haven't really done much of that lately, but after reading writer/filmmaker Brian Spaeth's latest book "Flight of a Super Airplane", I figured I would drop him a line and ask him a few questions on writing, filmmaking, and his thoughts on the creative process.

Me: So what’s new? What are you working on these days?
Brian: Currently am in post-production (mostly editing at this point) on A Cleveland in the Rye, a full-length feature we shot mostly in December. There was a pick-up day just last week, and one more day to shoot in June, most likely.

It’s about an inept documentary filmmaker who’s following self-dubbed action lawyer James Cleveland as he tries to find the 7 kidnapped daughters of a prominent Senator inside an abandoned bank.

I also have a (LeBron-centric) book about sports apathy that could possibly come out this summer, and another that uses my Twitter archive to tell the story of a struggling college drop-out trying to make a splash in the tech startup world.

Me: I recently finished your second book in the Super Airplane saga. How would you say it differs from the first?

Brian: I’d say it largely knew what it wanted to be - at least in terms of plot - right from the start, whereas the first didn’t really have a plot until about halfway through, when I realized there was a plot I could attached to the randomness.

That’s the biggest thing - other than that, there are some nixed characters and other details. Flight spends quite a bit of time in the text wondering whether it’s serving as a proper sequel to Prelude or not, so I’d rather not say more than that, since this wise question of yours is indeed answered inside the book.

It’s also twice as long.

Me: The second book ends on a cliffhanger. Will there definitely be a third book? If so, when might readers expect it?

Brian: Yes, definitely will be a third. The story and character arcs are all laid out in my head, and I’ve put some segments down on virtual paper, but I don’t see actually being able to sit down and write this until later this year or early next. The soonest anyone will see Dawn of a Super Airplane is sometime in 2014, unfortunately. I’m actually a huge fan of this series, and really want to read the next one.

Me: Will the third book be the last in the Super Airplane Saga? Or will it continue?

Brian: Will absolutely continue until the story is finished. Flight said it would be six books long, although Prelude claimed five. We’ll see.

Me: You have also put out a movie and have worked on other film projects. Why write books? Which do you find more rewarding: the filmmaking or the writing?

Brian: I go back and forth, but since the rise of the ebook and self-pubbing becoming legit, I am really leaning toward books. There’s more control, you can get more product out in a shorter time, and there no need for gut-wrenching stuff like fund-raising, etc.

I think my filmmaking itches - which are definitely there - will be scratched on YouTube via shorts and such after Rye. My true loves are ideas, and the creative process, and storytelling, and I can do that more often writing books. I’m also fascinated with the economics of indie publishing, and I’d like to be able to devote more time and thought and experimentation to it.

There’s a lot of technical aspects to filmmaking that I just don’t have that love for. I like it, but I’m not one of those people who could be shooting all the time. It becomes tedious for me. (I love it in spurts, but it becomes tedious. And it takes forever.)

Me: What is your writing process, especially with the Super Airplane books? With the abundance of characters and interweaving storylines, how do you keep the story straight when writing?

Brian: It’s kind of different every time. I generally have an idea where I’m going with something, but what usually happens is I’ll just kind of garbage something out until a certain something “clicks”. Sometimes it’s a scene or a line of dialog or who-knows-what, but when it happens, suddenly the picture for the rest of the piece is there in my head.

I see now that I didn’t answer your question, but I guess I’m saying I don’t overthink it - it just kind of creates itself. I of course have checkpoints and things I know need to happen, but I try to make it as organic as possible.

For example, when I killed off Mujukee’s wife in Prelude, it literally wasn’t conceived until it came through the keyboard from my finger. I was like, “Whoa whoa whoa, what just happened?”

Me: I am writing my own book, and have finished the rough draft. So asking this as personal advice as well, what is your editing process? Do you have people read the rough drafts? When are you sure it is ready for print?

Brian: I have two people I go to for editing help now. One I’ve used for a long time, the other is more recent, and now considered invaluable. I listen to everything, but I know when it’s ready. I’ve always been capable of being objective about my own stuff. The number of abandoned projects is proof of it.

Me: True or false: Merri Sherman is not real, Brian Spaeth is real, Brian Spathe is not real, and Calvin Stadiums is real.

Brian: All are true, except Brian Spaeth and Brian Spathe are probably closer to the same person than I’d care to admit.

Me: What about Bruce Willis?

Brian: Bruce has big changes happening in his life in the next book that will bring this into question.

Me: Are there any more Brad Radby movies yet to be discovered?

Brian: Maybe.

Me: What are you reading/watching these days?

Brian: Hmm...I keep trying to catch up on Justified on Amazon Primal, but don’t seem to find the time. Mad Men, but I don’t really like it. Waiting for Breaking Bad, mostly. I’m watching a lot of documentaries on Netflix to get a feel for different editing styles of them.

Me: Looking back now a few years later, thoughts on the YaySports! blog? Was it an effective medium for gaining a fanbase?

Brian: It definitely was - I still have people ask me to bring it back quite often. I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t turned into a sports apathist. My blahness about the NBA and sports led to mishandling and sacrificing a lot of the attention, audience, and opportunities that I had back then.

Lots was learned, though, and there’s truly never been a better time to be pursuing creative endeavors.

You can find Brian's website here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

100 percent done with the Afghanistan adventure - On to the next chapter



Greetings All,

Well, the adventure is over. I safely returned from Afghanistan on May 2nd, 2013, 413 days after I departed on my great journey. I am glad to say the Afghanistan chapter of my life is closed, as far as I can tell, and I am beginning another new and exciting chapter.

413 days is a long time. There were of course good days and bad days, and some better than others. But most days were just work days, plugging along in a mission I hope improved a nation that ranked at the bottom of every feasible list of attributes in 2000. In 12 years, the world has done a lot of work to fix Afghanistan, and I am glad I played a role. As a co-worker once said, “The days go by slow, but the months pile up quickly.”

That they did.

On a personal level, I am glad to be home. It was an arduous trip, as most journeys across the world are. 18 hours in an airplane is never easy, especially when you are on a one-way trip from a nation known for terrorism to the United States sporting a beard that is almost a foot long. And yes, I was stopped by the powers that be. I was searched by security in London during a layover and then hassled by a customs agent in Miami. It was an interesting exchange that went something like this:

Customs Agent: So where are you coming from?

Me: Afghanistan

Customs Agent: What were you doing over there?

Me: I can’t tell you that.

Customs Agent: Was it secret work?

Me: You could say that.

Customs Agent: What agency did you work for?

Me: I can tell you my company, but that’s it.

Customs Agent: How long were you there?

Me: 14 months.

Customs Agent: That’s longer than a year.

Me: Yes, it is.

Customs Agent: You can go.

Me: Thank you.

Sure, I could have told him more, but after being awake through two nine-hour flights and an eight-hour layover in Dubai, I didn’t want to be bothered by some second-rate security guard in my home state.

Anyway, after I made it through the loving embrace of security and landed in Orlando, I was welcomed by my parents and little nephew. It was so good to see them. They had a balloon for me and everything. Although it wasn’t as emotional as surprising them in Washington DC in October, just seeing them again was so cool.

I spent my first week home in the Sea View Motel, a small, privately-owned, beautiful, quiet beach motel in Melbourne Beach, Florida, about 30 minutes from my parents and as far away from the world as I could be. Every night after dinner with my folks, I went back to the hotel, drank a beer or two, and relaxed to the sound to the waves. And I slept. A lot. I slept for over 10 hours twice and over 8 hours every day I was at the Sea View. It was the perfect place to relax, walk along the water, and forget Afghanistan. Highly recommended, and not just if you are returning from a warzone.

After checking out of the Sea View Motel, I returned to Tampa to complete some company paperwork and say hello to friends. Although I stopped by my workplace, I was definitely still in vacation mode. I met friends at a Tampa Bay Rays game, hung out in Tampa’s Ybor City, went to a rock concert, went to a comedy show at the Tampa Improv, and closed the week by seeing my brother do his pro wrestling thing. It was great going out and being social again, and so glad I could plan it all in the same week. It worked out perfect.

(Side note 1: I did a write up for the concert I went to for the Tampa Bay Times. It was published here:


(Side note 2: Before I left, I would see my brother do his pro wrestling thing every month. When I returned to boo him, so many people who work for the promotion and other wrestling fans welcomed me back. They asked me how I was and how my adventure was and they said it was great to have me back. That was heartwarming. So a big thanks to wXw Wrestling and the fine folks there.)

Following the second week of my “vacation”, I realized it was time to get back into the swing of things. Although I wasn’t back to top speed in regards to dealing with the fast paced American society, I was still eager to move on. Following a brief trip to New York this past weekend for a memorial service, that leads me to where I am now.

I am still looking for a place to live. I am still looking for a job. I am still hoping to get accepted into the University of South Florida Masters of Business program and start classes in the fall. I know all of these things will come in time. They are all part of the next chapter.

And now, as I close the book on the Afghanistan chapter and return to the American way of life, I am definitely excited to be back and to see what this new chapter has to offer.