Monday, December 29, 2014

The Unpalatable Molly Knight

Before its first issue in 1998, ESPN Magazine was introduced in a commercial starring NBA players Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury. In this commercial, the then-Timberwolves claimed the magazine wouldn't have "swimsuits, thongs, or bikinis", but instead would be "all nude", albeit "tastefully done". Because that's important.



In its history, ESPN Magazine has not only gone "all nude", but also maintained a high level of professionalism and taste in its pages. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a recent tweet from one of its writers.

Yesterday, writer Molly Knight caused a social media splash when she tweeted the following:
For what it's worth, I am an occasional reader of ESPN Magazine. Although I do not have a subscription, I get handed issues from family members, see the magazine in doctors' offices, or might even pick one up at random at a newsstand. So there is a chance I have read Molly Knight's work. There is a chance I haven't, but a chance I have.

That said, I will definitely look at her work with a different eye in the future. Am I supposed to believe she is unbiased in anything she writes from here on out?

I will admit, I am a bit old school when it comes to sports writing. I don't believe sports writers should have favorite teams. They can have favorite subjects, but they should leave their biases at the door when it comes to their published work. And contrary to what most people think, tweets are published materials, just as articles, stories, or blog posts. They are, by definition, micro-blogs.

Unfortunately, in recent years ESPN has thrown the "writers shouldn't have favorite teams" idea out the window. They want their personalities to be opinionated. They want to generate argument and debate. For better or for worse, it's their business model.

With that background, let's return to Ms. Knight's tweet. When asked in a reply why she would be rooting for Oregon over Florida State, she replied:

So this is not a case of a writer rooting for a team as much as it is a writer rooting against a team. FSU could be playing the Alaskan State College of Auto Repair and Ms. Knight would have written the same thing.

What is particularly galling about Ms. Knight's tweet is not that she is rooting against the FSU football team because of any on-the-field bias, but strictly because of her thoughts on the off-the-field situations involving the Florida State University football team, the FSU administration, and local authorities. Ms. Knight has taken a moral stand and expanded it to her sports opinions. I don't think that is professional at all, especially for a nationally published sports writer.

If Ms. Knight was against the decisions of the Tallahassee police department, the FSU police force, and other powers that be, those are who she should be commenting about. Or if she is against the coaching staff, than she should express her displeasure with them. She would still be biased, but at least it would be against the right target. The score of the football game is irrelevant to the existence of those entities. Win or lose, none of those organizations will change. Unless she wants to dig in, double down, and hope FSU goes winless until such time Jimbo Fisher is fired. Which has about zero chance of happening anytime soon.

But an FSU loss in the Rose Bowl will make Ms. Knight feel better. Not sure how, but it will.

What Ms. Knight should be doing, instead of writing how she wants the football team to lose, is to use her platform as a national writer to make the changes she wants to see in the world. It is easy to be emotional and reactionary. It is much harder to take action, put your ideas on the line, and push for change.

I would respect Ms. Knight much more if she wrote an editorial either in ESPN Magazine or on her own website calling for the resignation of FSU officials and Tallahassee police officials who she feels are at fault. She could also create a 10-point plan that in theory might solve what she feels is a problem. She could even write how she wants the university to do away with football and for the state to create a "North Florida Football Academy" where athletes get trained under a more competent staff. Whether or not she is right and whether or not I agree or anyone agrees is irrelevant. What is important is that she use her leverage for more than "I hope they lose".

(If she has written this, please point me to a link. Thanks.)

A few days ago, Will Leitch, one of the most level-headed sports writers in the business, wrote an editorial about modern media. In this editorial, Leitch wrote that the goal isn't to be smart, it is to be "loud".
The entire strategy for succeeding at anything, whether it's winning elections, selling a product or attracting visitors for your Website, revolves around pitching yourself as loudly as you can to those people on your side and turning those who disagree with you into the worst version of themselves, demonizing them into something subhuman and venal.
Molly Knight's tweet about how she hopes FSU will lose received over 700 re-tweets and 800 favorites. Her words reached a lot of people. Many of whom probably agree with her, for one reason or another. Would a more nuanced tweet promoting a 10-point plan of action be shared as much? Highly doubtful. But as Leitch said, "Nuance is tossed out, even if you know a situation is desperately nuanced, in favor of quick points and splash".

Quick points and splash. To hell with tasteful.

Two final points:

1) This post is not to excuse any lowlife scumbag who belittles a writer because of her gender. Everyone has the right to work in a harassment-free environment. And if tweets are publications, then twitter is where Ms. Knight "works", and she should be treated with respect by other "publishers", i.e. everyone else on twitter.

2) Before I get accused of being an FSU homer, I've had my own objections with the way FSU does business.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Iggy Azalea, Rod Stewart, and the railroad track of credibility



I consider myself a blues fan. I've visited the Crossroads, stayed in historic blues hotels, been to classic juke joints, and have a pretty decent collection of blues albums. But I think white people ruined the blues.

Maybe it was Stevie Ray Vaughn. Maybe it was Eric Clapton. Maybe it was the Yardbirds or the Rolling Stones. Somewhere along the way, the blues was appropriated by white musicians. They played the licks. Some played them very well. Some even had feeling. But through no fault of their own, these musicians inspired scores of imitators, some who made it big and some who only play for fun.

None who can really play the blues, despite their mechanical prowess.

Although buried in the archives now, fifty years ago there was a debate on who can sing the blues. In 1964, a young Rod Stewart was criticized for his cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's 1937 blues song "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". Not coincidentally, this song also features future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.



Although the critiques aren't easily found, Stewart's response to his critics is. According to a 2005 biography on Stewart, he claimed:
"A white person can sing the blues with just as much conviction as a Negro. All these coloured singers singing about 'Walking Down The Railroad Track'...they've never walked down a railroad track in their lives. Nor have I. You've got more to sing the blues about in the Archway Road, near my home, than on any railroad track I know."
(Click here for a great article on the role and importance of the railroad in the Mississippi Blues. In short, the rail was the lifeline between the cotton fields of the Delta and Memphis, its closest city.)

Despite his attempts at establishing his credibility, Stewart still had the fear of rejection. In a 2012 NPR interview, Stewart says:
Because I was a white boy from North London trying to sing rhythm & blues and soul music, I was paranoid that the curtain would go back and it would be all full of black people, and they'd yell, 'Fraud! Fraud!'
While Stewart's early blues career wouldn't amount to much, he continued in music and became one of the most respected singers in American history, selling over 100 million records.

But recent issues in a more contemporary genre forced me to look up Stewart, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and white men who ventured into traditionally African-American music.

Over the last week, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea has attempted to defend herself from a barrage of critics who claim she does not have the credibility to be a respected hip-hop performer. The critics charge that she doesn't understand the roots of the culture she is making a very good living on.

To recycle the Stewart criticism, they claim Azalea has never "walked down the railroad track".

According to her bio, Azalea came to the US when she was 16 in 2006 with the intention of getting into music. After several years in the underground scene, she finally released her first major album in 2014 and has since been nominated for several Grammy awards. Her videos have over 400 million views on YouTube and some have even claimed she "runs hip-hop".

That is much further than Stewart got in his blues career. But Stewart never changed his voice to sound like a black farmer from Mississippi as Azalea as changed her accent to sound more "hip-hop" on her songs.

In response to a back and forth between Azalea and New York-born rapper Azealia Banks, one of Azalea's most recent critics, long-time New York rapper and producer Q-Tip released a long diatribe on twitter about hip-hop, its roots, and why there is defensiveness when outsiders attempt to work their way into the scene. The whole speech is worth the read.
"HipHop is a artistic and socio-political movement/culture that sprang from the disparate ghettos of NY in the early 70's Coming off the heels of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and approaching the end of the Vietnam war it was a crossroads 4 America specially for blacks in the US our neighborhoods were PROLIFERATED w/a rush of HEROINE."

"Our school systems here in NY dungeon traps with light for learning… blk men some of whom didn't return from tours of duty n the ones who did came w/war baggage (agent orange, addiction, ect..)… these men had families but due to these events and throw into the mix the public emasculation… they proved to be handicapped parents. The surrogate parents? The STREETS… the streets of gangs, crimes, and the hustlers coddled us and swept us up."

"But! Being a spirited, rhythmic & expressive people music art dance outlined our existence… it proved a way for us to exhault to scream to dance to laugh and find OUR VOICE… we weren't at the time skilled musicians as kids. We had records, turntables, ideas and INGENUITY being natural chemist we took from whatever was availed to us and we created something mighty and special."

"We cut breakbeats back n forth we took a hybrid of Jamaican toasting along w/ radio jock rap( hank Spann, Gary Byrd, ect.) and we put our rap down.. it was a neighborhood thing really. Black and Latino Kids were carving out their space and it became infectious… eventually Keith Cowboy coined the phrase hiphop . Yrs later the first rap record was recorded and now we r moving."

"But during these strides this country still had the monster of racism and racial insensitivity breathing and ruling… believe it or not young black n Latino lives specifically weren't acknowledged in mainstream American culture unless Of course.. the convo was abt gangs , being criminals or uneducated. And hey! Like I stated early our families were rushed our schools sucked and we were left to put devices to survive… but HIPHOP showed that we had DEPTH, fire, and BRILLANCE… the music was undeniable! It moved from NY N became national and even GLOBAL."

Hiphop now was FOR EVERYBODY!! All of those who cld relate to the roots, the spirit, the history, the energy.. It reached YOU… it touched your spirit n took u up. We magnetized you! That's what BRILLANCE does… now u are fulfilling your dreams … BUT! you have to take into account the HISTORY as you move underneath the banner of hiphop. As I said before… hiphop is fun it's vile it's dance it's traditional it's light hearted but 1 thing it can never detach itself from is being a SOCIO-Political movement."

"U may ask why … Well once you are born black your existence I believe is joined with socio-political epitaph and philos based on the tangled and treacherous history SLAVERY alone this is the case it never leaves our conversation… Ever. WeAther in our universities our dinner tables our studios or jail cells… the effects still resononates with us. It hurts… We get emotional and angry and melancholy… did u know president Clinton was the ONLY PRESIDENT to apologize for it? did u know that remnants of slavery exist today thru white privilege? When certain "niceties" r extended your way because of how u look? Isn't that crazy?"

"I say this 2 say u are a hiphop artist who has the right 2 express herself however she wishes… this is not a chastisement this is not admonishment at ALL this is just one artist reaching to another hoping to spark insight into the field you r in. I say this in the spirit of a hopeful healthy dialogue that maybe one day we can continue… I've been on twitter a long time and this will probably be my last series of tweets pretty much but I'm Kool with it as long as I got to share this w u. Zzzzzzz's up! Peace!"
The biggest take-away in the long speech is how Q-Tip labels hip-hop as a sociopolitical movement. In a 1998 essay, writer Bari Lehrman describes the Blues in similar terms.
During slavery, secular music was considered blasphemy and forced underground. What emerged from this was the blues, as a"form of art, modern mythology, and a secular religion"(Spencer 55).

According to author Larry Neal, the blues represents"the essential vector of Afro- American sensibility and identity", and represents the"ex slaves' confrontation with a more secular evaluation of the world"( Spencer 36). It was shaped by social and political oppression and it reflects a defiant attitude toward life. The blues represents survival during hard times and it tells the basic facts of life. As can be seen in the music, there is an emphasis on the"immediacy of life, the nature of man, and human survival..."formed from a history of mental and physical hardships (Spencer 39). It is a direct expression of the post-slavery world view, linked to freeing the individual spirit.

The 'old blues' redefined America's traditional values, and led to the"vision of a new establishment"(Spencer 56). It directly spoke out against white America and the Puritan ethos that was forced upon the slaves for centuries. The lyrics helped release America from the"moral prison"of this Puritanism, and questioned the morality of Christianity and white society. In the music, there is an emphasis on unity, with the joining of man and woman together, and their ultimate triumph over the machine (Spencer 57).

Despite the obvious separation between the blues and the church, the blues is often seen as a"secular religion", as well as a form of art and modern mythology (Spencer 55). In comparing the blues singer to a preacher, Charles Keil states,"Blues singers and preachers both provide models and orientations, both give public expression to deeply felt private emotions, both promote catharsis- the blues singer through dance, the preacher through trance; both increase feelings of solidarity, boost morale, and strengthen the consensus"(Spencer 64).
Despite his claim otherwise, there is no way Rod Stewart could have had the same feeling in his blues as an African-American from the Mississippi Delta. Likewise for Iggy Azalea in hip-hop. Both could understand the mechanics of their genre and perform them perfectly, but the heart of the music - that indescribable credibility that underlies every song - will be missing.

Because neither could ever "walk down the railroad track".

Which brings me back to my problem with many contemporary white blues players. While their life might have problems, and they might have the blues, the depth and historical context is not there.

This is not to say people of European descent can't have sociopolitical music. There are generations of Irish protest songs, hundreds of anti-government punk rock songs, and even country music was born from the bluegrass tunes of the Appalachian coal workers.

There would also be no problem if Iggy Azalea went back to Australia and used hip-hop as a medium to communicate local sociopolitical ideas. Socially conscious hip-hop is heard all over the globe, from Soosan Firooz in Afghanistan to Thufail al Ghifari in Indonesia to Turkish rappers in Germany.

But someone who comes to America and celebrates their mastery of an art form without tipping their cap to the heart of the music should be criticized.

Now if Iggy Azalea covered Florence Reece, we might be having a totally different conversation.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Coastal Hyundai, Bad Customer Service, doing social media wrong



I am the proud owner of a 2013 Hyundai Elantra. I bought it new, and love it. It's great on gas, comfortable, and everything I need for where I am in life.

But while Hyundai has a great warranty, the one thing I don't like is how they constantly send me emails about their newest models and deals. I have tried to unsubscribe, but that never seems to work. They are automated and will probably never go away.

However, I do expect to be removed from a specific Hyundai dealership's mailing list. Especially if I ask them to remove me. Especially if that request is reiterated every month.

Somehow, Coastal Hyundai of Melbourne, Florida received my contact information and will not leave me alone. I have never dealt with Coastal Hyundai and I doubt I have will. I bought my vehicle at an Ocala, Florida, Hyundai location. The Ocala dealership called me once and I told the gentleman on the line I was not interested. He was very nice, understood, and then asked how I liked the car I did buy. I would do business with them again.

Unfortunately, despite my pleas, Coastal Hyundai will not stop. This despite the fact that I did not buy my vehicle there.

Yet they badger me. I have spoken with their general managers. I have spoken with other managers. I have talked to whoever answers their phone. All claim to remove me from their mailing and email lists. I still get emails and unwanted literature.

This has gone on for over 6 months.

So with personal contact not working, I decided to look up Coastal Hyundai on social media. Perhaps a well-placed complaint could get done what monthly calls could not.

For a well-established car dealership, Coastal Hyundai's social media presence is pathetic. It is obvious they created twitter and Facebook accounts because they either had to or felt it would be "the cool thing to do". They don't interact with customers on either. Even worse, their twitter account is only forwarded Facebook posts.

That's not how you "do" twitter.

Can I expect a response if I reach out on twitter? Why have an account customers can use if you don't interact on it? That's bad social media 101. Customers will have to find an avenue in which to get a response. How long should customers wait to get a response? Just terrible.

If you are not going interact on a social media platform, don't create an account. Keep announcements and pushed media on your website.

With a twitter response unlikely, I went to Coastal Hyundai's Facebook page. This isn't much better than their twitter account. They do have 661 followers and a post every few days, but interactions are nearly nil. Their most recent posts are only "liked" by the dealership general manager and earlier posts are only "liked" by another employees. That's not good.

It is obvious Coastal Hyundai is not connecting to their customers via Facebook or twitter. And with their constant disregard of my requests to be removed from their mail and email list, it is obvious they don't listen to customers over the phone either. Worse, I was never a customer.

I don't know what else I have to do to in order to have Coastal Hyundai remove me from their marketing lists. I want nothing to do with them. Maybe I should contact Hyundai's corporate offices? Maybe I should file a complaint with the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce? Maybe the Better Business Bureau?

Maybe this post will work.

Dear Coastal Hyundai, leave me alone.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The value of an Uncle



A few years ago, my nephew gave me a funny birthday card.

So apparently my value as an uncle is worth more than the aforementioned $1,000,000. That's good to know, especially if I ever decide to put my uncle skills on the open market.

But what if I valued myself for over a million dollars? What if I was a professional baseball player and made $20 million dollars a year? My uncle value, if exactly $1 million, would only be 5% of my professional value. I'm not sure that would be something to brag about.

Being that I am not a professional baseball player, and my salary is not yet anywhere near $1 million, could I use the perceived value of my uncle skills to answer the dreaded "salary requirements" question employers often ask?

Q: "What are your salary requirements?"

A: Well, being that my uncle skills are valued at over $1 million, and then adding my education and experience, I don't think I could settle for anything less than $1.23 million.

I'm sure recruiters would be cool with that.

What this card does not make clear, unfortunately, is the amount of time the value is spread over. Is it annually? Or is it over the lifetime of the uncle relationship? Since I am 30 years older than my nephew, there is a good chance I will be his uncle for 50 years. If my uncle purchase price is $1,000,0001.00 - a value $1 over $1 million - then my annual uncle value is only $20,000 per year. That's not bad, but not something to brag about.

"I'm a $20,000 a year uncle."

Sure, some uncles are worth less than that. Some uncles don't even know their nephews. But they don't get birthday cards with their value. So they must live in ignorance, if they care.

But I consider myself a kick-ass uncle. I have value. And that value is over a million dollars.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gargoyle and the AfroSquad Wrestling Promo

While perusing the vast illustrious digital video depot known as YouTube, I found an old wrestling promo video I was a part of. This video was filmed in early 2011 when I was frequently attending All-Star Wrestling in Tampa. On this particular Friday evening, the regular crowd was joined by pro wrestling superfan "The Gargoyle", who had traveled from the Florida Panhandle to check out the Tampa wrestling scene.

Being a bit of a character myself, with my 3-foot afro, The Gargoyle and I clicked immediately. We clicked so well, we knew we had to shoot a wrestling style promo outside of the venue. Joining us was wrestler Colby Godwin, aka BTY.

I don't go to as many wrestling shows as I used to, but these were fun times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poem about a painful job search



A brief word on my struggle to find employment.

Empty Hands

They say don't get attached.
But how can you not when it has been so long?
And you have dreams deferred for years.

They say don't let emotions get in the way of your hustle.
But every rejection letter hurts.
Every soulless notice sent from a faceless email address.

They say don't hate the human behind the resources.
But the pie is shared inside.
And you are on the outside looking in.

They say don't take it out on anyone.
It's the process, the machine, the system.
But you want to throw baseballs at lockers like Ricky Vaughn.

I want you to tell me all this grind is worth the effort.
That my dream will overcome the American Reality.
And if you can't, then proving you wrong is what keeps me hungry.

Meantime, I tinker, building my Deloran with the future in mind.
Even if you have me looped back to the past.
Withholding plutonium until I make it work on banana peels and trash.

There is no notice from 1985 to save me from the shots.
Consider this my shot fired for the shots taken.
To the chest, to the wallet, and to the confidence.

I'll take another shot and strike up another conversation.
Maybe she's the one I can build a home with.
I'd rather be a last dance than a last resort.

In a weird way, there is comfort in the pain.
Not sure how I would react if I got it all tomorrow.
The whole pie, the whole enchilada, the whole world.

You don't have to give everything to me yet.
I just want something to help me seize the dreams.
I just don't want my hands to be empty anymore.

Friday, September 5, 2014

National Lampoon, Leaked Photos, and Voyeur Culture



In 1985, Clark Griswold and his family traveled to Europe. While in London, Clark mischievously recorded his wife getting out of the shower. Ellen then did a seductive dance for her husband and the two commenced in intimate moments while the camera recorded. A few days later, while the family was in Paris, their camera was stolen.



Several days after the theft, Ellen saw a picture of herself during the recorded moments in an advertisement on the side of a bus. The advertisement was for an adult movie. As to be expected, she was embarrassed and angry at her husband for not erasing the material.

In the wake of the latest theft of celebrity intimate photos, is the above scenario still funny?

Also, who do you think is to blame - if anyone - in the above scenario?
  • Ellen Griswold

  • Clark Griswold

  • The Paris thief

  • The distributor

  • The bus company for promoting

  • The market for such a video
Personally, I hate "blame". People get too busy blaming and pointing fingers, and not fixing problems. What's done is done. After the incident occurs, the next step is to make sure it doesn't happen again. In the Griswold case, that might mean Clark is never able to operate the camera again. Or they don't make intimate videos again. Or they never hand their camera to strangers again. Or they ensure the thief is prosecuted to the utmost extent of the law, intimidating potential thieves. Or they could start a campaign trying to change the voyeur culture. Either way, effective countermeasures may be taken.

Or not.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My favorite Tampa Bay music venues



A few weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Times (who I have written for) published an "Ultimate Bar Guide" for the Tampa Bay area. One of the sections they divided bars into was the best places in Tampa Bay to see live music. Their list:
  • The Ale and the Witch (St. Pete)

  • The Brass Mug (Tampa)

  • The Orpheum (Tampa)

  • Pelican Pub (St. Pete)

  • Hideaway Cafe (St. Pete)

  • Uncle Mike's Smokehouse Grill (Plant City)
I've never been to three of their six venues and probably should go, as the TBT crew are well-versed in their area music and their recommendations are probably pretty good.

Here is my list of best music venues in Tampa Bay. It is slightly different.
  1. The Brass Mug (Tampa) - raw, loud, and isolated, despite being 5 minutes from University of South Florida. Best metal bar in the area seems to still be a work in progress after move to new location. Bands I've seen there: Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Secrets She Kept

  2. Crowbar (Tampa) - wide array of genres helps. Perfect venue for Ol' Dirty Sundays weekly hip-hop night. Bands I've seen there: Obituary, Talib Kweli, DJ Scratch, RJD2, Weekend Nachos, several local shows.

  3. Hideaway Cafe (St Pete) - I need to go here more often, especially on a blues night. Only been once. Beautiful set-up. Very "unplugged"-esque. As the TBT folks mentioned, the Hideaway Cafe is billed as a "listening room", which is much different than the loud energetic concert vibes I am used to. A place for music listeners.

  4. Skipper's Smokehouse (Tampa) - Eclectic blues, jam, reggae bar. Great vibe. Awesome decor. Would be much higher if not for terrible parking lot. Impossible to find a place to park when they have live music. I've turned around and gone home in frustration a few times. Bands seen here: JJ Grey & Mofro

  5. Jannus Live (St Pete) - Outdoor courtyard venue that was redone a few years ago. Wide array of bookings helps. Being on a block with other bars, clubs, and pizza places is also a plus. Bands I've seen there: George Clinton, Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep.
Places I need to go to that could make the list:
  • Ybor City Jazz House (Tampa) - New live jazz place in Ybor. Place for "grown folks". Dress code required. DJ Sandman, who I have interviewed, DJs upstairs on Saturday night.

  • Ringside Cafe (St. Pete) - Haven't visited since they moved to their new location near Jannus Live. Live blues and rock puts this place high on my "must-see" list.

  • Hard Rock Cafe (Tampa) - Been for food, not for concerts. Great environment. My favorite place to people watch. Growing reputation as a place for good rock.



Other places in the Tampa Bay area I've seen music (bands I've seen in parentheses):
  • The amphitheater (Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Alice in Chains, Velvet Revolver, Incubus)

  • Ruth Eckerd Hall (BB King)

  • Tampa Bay Times Forum (Pearl Jam, Kid Rock)

  • State Theater (Sevendust, Clutch, Aesop Rock, House of Pain)

  • Ritz Ybor (Sevendust, Southern Darkness Fest, Rodrigo & Gabriela, Black Label Society)

  • The Orpheum (Southern Darkness Fest)

  • Local 662 (local bands)

  • Fubar (Secrets She Kept, local bands)

  • Pegasus Lounge (local bands)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Southern Darkness Fest in Tampa 8/23/2014



On August 23rd, I checked out the first Southern Darkness Fest held in Tampa. The multi-venue hard rock, metal, hardcore, and punk show was the first festival of it's kind to be held in Tampa. According to the founder,
Southern Darkness is unique for a couple of reasons: the festival actually presents a coherent narrative and it’s exceedingly cheap show for so many bands.
Between 28 bands and 3 bars, there was a lot going on and of course, I was unable to catch it all. But I wanted to give a quick review of what I did see. Instead of going into a longform narrative, I'm breaking the review into chunks and give each part a grade.

1) Music - A : This is a no-brainer. I wouldn't be going to the show if I didn't want to hear the music. That said, however, I wasn't familiar with hardly any of the bands. As a matter of fact, I had only heard of three (Black Tusk, ASG, and Weekend Nachos), and that was because they had songs on a Relapse Records sampler I picked up. So I had heard three songs from the catalog of 28 possible bands. Maybe less than 1% of the total music?

(Compare that to the Soundgarden show I saw recently where I had most of the songs in my collection for 20 years.)

Every band was new to me and none disappointed.

Here is where I have to admit I missed half the festival. I only saw 5 bands total, only one song from one of them. I saw Scrog (half their set), Weekend Nachos, Black Tusk, Bongripper (one song), and Pelican. I didn't realize the festival began at 3pm. I thought it began at 8pm. But what I did see was badass.

Of these, Black Tusk was the most imposing, Weekend Nachos had the most energy, and Pelican was the most groove heavy. Each band brought something different to the table. I felt a little old for Weekend Nachos (I wasn't the only one), but their show was really good. Stage diving, mosh-pit slamming, and high energy.

Black Tusk is described on Wikipedia as "swamp" and "sludge" metal. They were more "grown-man" metal than the somewhat punk vibe of Weekend Nachos. With their tattoos, long beards, and Black Sabbath-esque riffs, Black Tusk looked like they could be part of the WWE's Wyatt Family. I was impressed and even picked up a CD.

Pelican also impressed me a lot. They were the headliner, so of course they drew the most attention from the crowd. And they did not disappoint. All instrumental groove-metal songs. I've often critiqued some bands by their lead singer. I've dug the music, just not the tone of the singer. With Pelican, I didn't have to worry about that as there were no vocals at all. Just over an hour of instrumental heavy metal. Good stuff.

2) Venues - A- : The Southern Darkness Fest was held in Ybor City's Orpheum, Crowbar, and Ritz Ybor. I had seen shows at each of these venues and knew each were good places for live music. Of the three, Crowbar was the most crowded and with Weekend Nachos, it was the most energetic venue. Orpheum was a bigger venue and its dark vibe suited the doom metal bands that played there very well. Of the three, Ritz Ybor was the least impressive. Instead of their main stage, Black Tusk was in a side room. The room held a decent size crowd, and Ritz probably realized Black Tusk wasn't going to pack their 500 head main room, but being stashed in a side room was a little disappointing. Thankfully Black Tusk did not disappoint.

Another spot for improvement would be give each concert-goer a venue set list, perhaps with a genre listing next to each band. When I walked from one bar to the next, not only did I not know who was playing, I didn't know what type of metal it was. Each bar was a crapshoot.

3) Ticket Prices - A : The total festival cost on the day of the show was $45. No processing fee, no handling fee, just $45 for 28 bands and 10 hours of music. And had I bought the ticket a day earlier, the cost would have been $35. And had I been there on time, I would have seen more music for the price I did pay.

But I paid $15 each for 3 bands and 4 hours of music. That's still not bad.

4) Concessions - C : Most bands had a merch table, which was awesome, but what was missing was a festival t-shirt. I was hoping to buy one. The only merch the overall festival had was a small poster they were selling for $10, which I thought was overpriced. If it was a larger poster I could hang on a wall, then perhaps, but I was not going to buy a small poster.

Maybe next year, if they do a second Southern Darkness Fest, they will have festival t-shirts or large posters. Some room for improvement there.

5) Overall - A : I had a good time, drank some beer, and rocked out to some metal without spending an arm and a leg. That's a good night. I hope there is a second festival next year and they book similar bands. Next year, I promise I will get their earlier.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Polysyllabic Poem Power



I saw Dead Poets Society tonight for the first time. How I never saw that movie before was beyond me. I should have. It was really good, but I think Good Will Hunting was slightly better. But that's for another post someday.

Anywhoozle, Dead Poets Society reminded me I haven't played poet in a while. I enjoy poetry, but I've been writing heavier research-type stuff. So let me dip my mind in the creative sauce, slather it across the grill, fry it on 400 until a golden hue, and see what we can cook up.

Polysyllabic Poem Power


Poems bemuse
Poems bedazzle
Poems bring out words in styles rarely said
Extravagant mouthpieces of legendary verbal apostles
We cling as if they have invented gospel for the mind
Souls sometimes for the go for ride if the price is right
Double down on tone and meter. Triple down for rhyme
Four beats to a measure, or is it nine?

But poems aren't only for the high class, the aristocracy, or academics
They belong to the streets, the warrior class, and the starving artists
Those with an eye for words and words for the eyes
Whether the poem is said with a beat or sold to make ends meet
Or get off the street, avoid the heat, and make life complete

Will they look at Nas the way they look at Whitman?
Or will they keep poetry in a box, defined by academic rule
What would Whitman think of Nas? What about Frost's thoughts on Ice Cube?
Common admirers of Theodor Geisel.
Soon all the living poets will be dead. Just like the dead poets.
Reincarnationists don't believe in the circle of life. It's more like a helix. Wrapped around the rhythm of the galaxy.

Now we look to wind this poem down
Turning off the literary faucet
Flushing the stragglers
Wipe it off, shine it up, put a bow on it.
Here is my latest poem.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson and the Militarization of Police in America



The situation in Ferguson, Missouri continues to dominate social media. What started as a sad situation when a police officer killed a teenager has turned into much more with protests, demonstrations, looting, and an increased police presence that borders on an occupation.

I am far from Ferguson. I have no first-hand experience nor first-hand knowledge of the situation. But I did want to organize my thoughts in regards to the many discussions going on. Twitter and other social media platforms might be great for news and rapid responses, but social phenomenon and analysis are not done well in 140 characters.

Why I have this blog.

I am going to skip the incident that caused the situation and the racial makeup of Ferguson versus the racial makeup of the powers that be in area. That has been discussed in length in many other places. There are many angles to that situation that I don't know.

What I want to discuss is the concept of power.

International Affairs professor Steve Saideman wrote a really good piece today for OpenCanada.org where he compared the situations in Iraq, Israel/Gaza, and Ferguson. Saideman writes that in each instance, the trust in government and use of power was not correct. He writes that each situation boiled down to deterance and assurance - the ability of a government to deter a bad thing from happening and its ability to assure the populace that only the right amount of power will be used.

According to Saideman,
deterrence is a threat with a promise —that if you do nothing bad, nothing bad will happen to you
When America was first created, long ago in the days of our "Founding Fathers", the nation was built on the premise that power should be controlled. That the central government should not have the amount of power used by the British crown. This is the philosophy behind many of the amendments. The Constitution by nature is a restrictive document.

But Saideman states that perhaps even here in America, democracy has lost its power to control power.
Democracy is seen as the solution to this problem of combining effective governance and restrained governance.  Indeed, some of the chapters in our book make that quite clear.  Yet, even in democracies, the balancing act continues with swings towards too much coercion and too little assurance leading to tensions and conflict.  The situation in Ferguson in the U.S., where protests and even perhaps a riot have followed the shooting of a young, African-American man, illustrates this.  We need police to have the capability to use force, but we need that use of force to be limited and targeted or else the police lose legitimacy.
Which brings me to my second point, that the most extreme insurance against the imbalance of power has been eroded to the point of ineffectiveness.

"Open Carry is White Privilege"

Earlier Wednesday, I saw several tweets comparing the situation in Ferguson - where an unarmed teenager was shot - to situations in Texas, where 2nd Amendment supporters are carrying their rifles on their shoulders as they go to Wal-Mart, gas stations, church, etc. The tweets said this was a clear example of "white privilege", that the rifle-carrying persons were not seen as a threat because of the color of their skin, while the unarmed teenager, who was black, was seen as a threat solely because of the color of his skin.

I disagree completely. Open carry is not only a "white" thing. Never has been.

Prior to 1967, the Black Panther Party frequent patrolled the streets of Oakland armed with rifles. According to PBS.org,
The Police Patrols had become an integral part of BPP community policy. Members of the BPP would listen to police calls on a short wave radio, rush to the scene of the arrest with law books in hand and inform the person being arrested of their constitutional rights. BPP members also happened to carry loaded weapons, which were publicly displayed, but were careful to stand no closer than ten feet from the arrest so as not to interfere with the arrest.
The rifles were not necessarily to shoot cops, but to portray legitimacy, that the Panthers could deter and assure. According to a University of Virginia website,
The gun was a rhetorical tool, deployed to impress black urban audiences and to warn law enforcement officers and other outsiders. Newton described the emphasis on the gun as “a necessary phase in [the Panthers’] evolution, based on Frantz Fanon’s contention that the people have to be shown that the colonizers and their agents—the police—are not bulletproof



Unfortunately for the Black Panthers, their power was neutered with the passing of the Mulford Act, which restricted open carry ability in California. This bill, like many other gun control bills in America, was designed specifically to restrict the power of African-Americans.

(Of course, notice the racial undertones of the image to the right. "Invaded" by a "Armed Negro Band".)

Community Leaders

Armed or not, the Black Panthers had something the people in the streets of Ferguson do not have: leadership - specifically organized local leadership to either continue protest or negotiate on the streets. While organizations such as the NAACP and national spokespeople such as Al Sharpton make their faces shown, there should be church leaders and neighborhood spokespeople who can control, speak for, and when needed, police communities. Of course, neither the right-wing mainstream media or the left-wing mainstream media dare mention the ability of a community to police itself using guns. They believe either a) guns and should only be used by those in power or b) only be used to protect homes and individual persons.

That's what most people believe and what most people have voted for.

And that's why the power pendulum has swung so far to the system and out of the hands of the people.

To quote Boots Riley of the controversial rap group The Coup: "I got faith in the people and they power to fight / We gon' make this struggle blossom like a flower to light"

Examples of Power

Slowly but surely, I am starting to see more people comment on the "militarization of police forces" in America. This has been the case for a while, but if the situation in Ferguson promotes change, then I'm glad people are finally on board. Even non-news media are talking about it.

(Bill Maher had an interesting take here. A few too many bad punchlines, but good points.)

During the 2012 Republican Convention, I was shocked to see pictures of the security forces. The police and security forces were not the usual run-of-the-mill beat cops, they were heavily armed, SWAT troops. As well, blocks around downtown Tampa were blocked off and people had to show identification cards in order to enter the area. There was even debate whether drones were used. All this for a convention.

Less than a year later, after the Boston Marathon bombings, hundreds of police swarmed the streets armed to the teeth, looking for one man. There was no way the bomber could have had enough firepower to topple the Boston police force. Impossible.

Trust of the populace

One of our biggest problems in the US is trust.

Not only do we not trust each other, the powers that be do not trust the populace. There is the assumption that the populace is "up to no good". This is a really bad assumption. It is what got the US military in trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn't until the Petraeus doctrine was enacted and counterinsurgency modified to integration not occupation, did US forces start developing bonds of trust with local populaces.

We have police forces in the United States that don't understand that. Forces can be all-white, all-black, all-Asian, all-Hispanic, or all from Mars, if they don't understand the concerns of the populace, then any effort to be seen as positive contributors will be lost. Police need to be seen as a positive presence, not occupiers. In Ferguson in the last few days, with their tear gas, armored personnel carriers, bullet proof vests, shields, batons, and attempts to silence the media, the police are definitely playing the role of occupiers.

Which brings me to another interesting point. We have in a sense, dehumanized the police. They are the authority, the power, The MAN. But I wonder what goes through their heads when they stand their with their armor and their shields. Are they scared? Are they nervous? How much has their training become instinct? When they make a mistake, it is because they were trained wrong, or because they panicked and did what they thought was right?

We have to understand both sides are human. It is easy to humanize protestors. But we also have to remember in many cases the people in uniform also have families and children and the same concern for human life. Unless they are cold-hearted, jack-booted thugs, which may be possible. Then again, some protestors may be anarchists or wannabe martyrs. But the odds are small of radicals on either side.

Solutions

Again, I am not there. I have no idea the political situation or the personalities involved. But I don't like analyzing something if I am not going to give a "now what?".

Hopefully based on the bad public relations the Ferguson police force received, police forces across the country will review their doctrines and processes. Maybe increase their level of work with community leaders to establish boundaries, processes, and equipment use.

Maybe governors across the United States will put limits on police force equipment acquisitions. The US has limits on personal weapon capabilities. Why not limit the power of the authorities to match or be slightly above the degree of average weaponry owned by the people of the community? Weapon restriction is a state issue or something that can be handled at the local level. I wonder if that is a platform that would garner support in an election. Would people back a candidate who says they are going to reign in police? Better yet, could they?

In the meantime, a short term solution could be a legal person accompanying the police in every action. This legal representative would ensure laws are followed and rights are respected. If this is too consuming, perhaps ridealongs should be mandatory only while forces build relationships within communities.

As for Ferguson, Missouri, they need to take their relationship with the community back to square one. It is broken. There is no way the police will be trusted there again. Their credibility is shot. So too is their ability to deter and assure.

Just some thoughts.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Portrait of Young LOOGY



I've often written about my early days on the ballfield. Days where I was the Jamie Moyer of the Eau Gallie Little League - a junk-balling control specialist with a a good change-up and an uncanny ability to locate my league-average fastball. Up and down, in and out, I kept the other 12-year olds off-balance.

Facebook is funny sometimes. Amidst the pics of high school classmates' kids and vacation selfies of still-single friends, sometimes a nugget of memories emerges. Two weeks ago, one of my old little league teammates posted a "Throwback Thursday" pic that took me by surprise.

I played in the Eau Gallie Little League from ages 10 to 14. So this was my second to last year. If I remember right, this team won a few games. I pretty sure I pitched a game or two. I know I played a lot of right field in those days.


These days, my 6-year old nephew plays on the same fields I played on. He's also left-handed. If he stays with the game, I hope he does better than I did.

He already hits a lot better.

(By the way, if you couldn't tell, I'm the kid with the glasses in the left end of the front row.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Since I returned from Afghanistan



Has it really been that long?

Seems like yesterday I was flying back from London to Miami - 13 hours cramped in an airplane over the Atlantic. I remember I watched "Wreck It Ralph" on the flight. I watched other movies as well, but I don't remember which.

A year and a few months ago, a TSA security guy in Miami gave me a hard time. I had a long beard and a one-way ticket from Afghanistan. He asked what I did over there. I told him I couldn't tell him. He didn't like that.

Then I told him I wanted to get to Orlando to see my family. He finally let me go.

Jerk.

It was over a year ago that my parents and my nephew greeted me with "Welcome Home" balloons, big hugs, and smiles. My nephew grew a lot over the 14 months I was gone. Unsurprisingly, he has continued to grow since I've been back. I'd be more worried if he stopped.

It was over a year ago that I pulled in to the Sea View Motel in Melbourne Beach, Florida. That was the perfect place to bring life back down to the lowest gear. My only regret is that I didn't spend longer there. The owners were great, the room was great, and the view on the beach was phenomenal. I need to go back.

I would like to make an annual trek to the Sea View Motel, at least for a weekend, just to unwind and reflect on everything I accomplish in a year's time. Sort of like a growth chart. Maybe I will go from one night in the cheapest room to a week in the most expensive as the years go on. That would be growth.

The first months after my return, I lived a nomadic existence. One relative called me a "gypsy". I had everything I needed in my trunk. That was of course, after I traded in my pick-up truck of six years. People ask me how I like driving a smaller car as compared to a full size truck.  To be honest, had I not been gone for 14 months the transition would have been more awkward. But as it was, I only drove my truck for two months before trading it in.

I felt good about that deal as well. Which still strikes me as weird. I am so used to getting fleeced by companies and for a car dealer to give me almost exactly the deal I wanted was an accomplishment. I only had to go up $1,000 or so from my low offer, which was about $5,000 off the marked price. So I walked out with a deal and a new car.

After a summer in over a dozen hotels, several weeks at my grandfather's house, and assorted nights and weekends at other friends' and family's homes, I eventually ended up back in Tampa by the University of South Florida. It was finally time to start my MBA.

I moved into a small student-area apartment in August of 2013. I hadn't lived in a place this small since I was an undergrad over 10 years ago. It was a big step back lifestyle-wise, and the furniture and belongings I had prior to leaving remains in storage. But while I was stepping back with my lifestyle ...

I jumped back into school with both feet, taking six classes in the fall. It was my first semester in college since 2005 - almost eight years. Needless to say, I needed to re-learn how to study. But my skills eventually returned. After a few shaky first tests, I made it through my first semester with 2 A's and 4 B's. Not bad. Especially considering I had never even been introduced to some the material before. And here I was learning at the graduate level.

On a related note, maybe I should have taken a few more business classes as an undergrad. The only class I could identity with was Marketing. I did well in that class. Other classes, such as Accounting, caught me by surprise. The material was so new. I don't want to call myself an old dog, but I am no young pup. I was learning new tricks.

After the fall came the spring semester. More classes. This time I took Finance. Finance killed me. I thought Accounting was hard. Finance was impossible. I got my first ever "C" in college. I know for most, that's not a big deal, but I had never gotten a "C". That's my standard. But Finance just murdered me. But more on that some other time.

Now I am finishing up the summer semester. This semester has been chock full of "analysis". I am taking Financial Analysis, Competitive and Business Intelligence, Digital Marketing, and a CitiGroup Seminar course focusing on anti-money laundering processes. I am also taking an online course through EdX on statistics, basic databases, and baseball analysis. So there is definitely overlap in my coursework with things I have done in the past, whether at work or in my personal time.

At the close of this semester, I will be about half way done with my Master's in Business. I have learned a lot. I'm sure how much is common sense for people in the private sector, but to me, it's been a whole new world.

Hard to believe how much my world has changed since I got back from Afghanistan a little over a year ago.

(And for those curious, I eventually cut the beard.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weekly Book Update #10



Wow. I haven't done a book update in a while. Not much has changed, to be honest. The novel is still in draft form. I have however sent pitch letters to six agents on April 13. So I guess that is news. I received one rejection letter so far. I will probably wait another week or so before sending a pitch letter to six more agents. I figured doing six every three weeks should increase my odds of hearing from someone.

Then I have to send a sample - most likely the first 30-50 pages. Then the agent has to like that enough to represent me to a publisher. Then the publisher has to read it and mold it into a final publishable version. So we have a ways to go.

But I guess I have taken one small step.

This week's link of inspiration comes from the Co.Create blog by Fast Company. They interviewed best-selling author James Patterson and asked what advice he would give beginning writers and storytellers.

His advice:
  • Write Stories the Way People Tell Them

  • Make It An Experience

  • Short Chapters Keep People Reading

  • It Doesn't Have to Be Realistic

  • Outline Like Your Book Depends On It

  • Be Open To Changes During the Writing

  • Write With Confidence, Even If You Don't Feel Confident Yet

  • Know Who You Are Writing For And What They Want
I like to think I did that with my novel. At least I hope so.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What do Tampa people support?

Since I've lived in Tampa, I've checked out several local entertainment scenes:
  • Baseball - Major League and Minor League
  • Pro Wrestling
  • Stand-Up Comedy
  • Hip-Hop
  • Heavy Metal
There are many other scenes throughout Tampa, but these are the ones I can say I know fairly well. Either I've participated or gone to see them often. While these scenes have similar demographics, they also have something else in common.

Lack of Support

Of these, the hip-hop scene probably has the best support. Especially if a national act is involved. If a known entity is performing and local acts are opening, a venue can expect to be sold out or close to it. But without a national act headlining, many local rappers and DJs end up playing for themselves.

The lack of support for baseball has been well documented, especially at the Major League level. Sure, there is a bevy of reasons, and the Rays TV ratings are great, but too often cheers echo in stadiums throughout the Tampa Bay area. Especially in the Minor League parks.

Pro Wrestling used to be huge in Tampa. Back in the day, Tampa was a hotbed of wrestling, where legends such as Dusty Rhodes ran the state. Not only did they pack the Hester Armory near downtown Tampa, but occasionally they even sold out major football stadiums. Now the WWE moved its training to Orlando and the only pro wrestling that performs regularly is the occasional bar show in Ybor City.

The local stand-up comedy scene can be better supported as well. While the Tampa Improv and Side Splitters bring in some great national acts, local comics plying their trade appear in front of 25-50 people at best at open mic and small performances. Sure, Tampa is not on the list of "funniest cities" and I personally need to get on stage more, but when more people come out to shows, more people are motivated to perform and join the scene. That is how communities grow.

As for Heavy Metal, admittedly, I don't know as much as I would like to. I am probably guilty of lack of support. I go to shows, but only when big bands are in town, bands such as Obituary and Cannibal Corpse. I do go to the metal community's annual fundraiser for spaying and neutering stray cats and that is usually a great show packed with the best of Tampa Bay metal. But I could probably do more.

Recently, I have been reading Tampa Metal Review.com, a website that writes about the local metal scene. They do good work interviewing bands, taking pics, and reviewing shows. Last week, however, one of their writers called out the scene for not supporting local bands.
There were probably 40 people there the ENTIRE time! Do you people not realize that we are fortunate enough to see bands like this on a pretty regular basis where as in other parts of the USA even (not including the world) would pay $$$$$ to get in the door to see them?!?! We are talking 10$ and 6$ to get in the door. You can’t save up enough change through the week to come see a band line up like this one? I am a poor college student and I can even do this. And do not tell me Behemoth took all your money either. I truly believe there is a lack of support for bands. I have seen a decline over the past six years and frankly, it turns my stomach. You wonder why these bands bitch? No actually, most of them don’t because they will play for ashtrays anyway because they LOVE what they do!
Playing for ashtrays. I've never heard that before. I like it. I might have to use that one.

I've been in Tampa for eight years and I'm still not sure what the people of Tampa do support. Maybe they (we) just wait for the next big show or event. Maybe the majority of us don't want to bother with local acts and want to see only the brand names.

Tampa isn't known for much nationally. Our high school baseball teams are usually good and we have had dozens of Major Leaguers hail from here. Our metal scene is highly regarded, and some of the best in Death Metal have recorded, if not started here. But both of these scenes suffer from lack of support.

At least we support our local beer makers. We are getting good at that. Too bad our politicians might burst that bubble on us.

But that's a whole other issue.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Safety on the High Seas



Bottles floated along desperate seas
SOSs played the tune of sorrow

For the survivors
Waifs in the waves

Uplifted
Transported to parts unknown

Off to the hinterland
Hindering the lay of the land

They fell
Confused
But completely unharmed

Why would they be where they are?
But where are they, they wondered.
Why?
Where else but right now?
Confused, but completely unharmed.

Make the best of the opportunity
right now.

Feel the rhythm
Feel the groove
The jazz of the city.

One rose to the top
amidst the harbingers of fame
fortune and glory.

Kick rocks.
Shine box.
Shove a man in the trunk if he dares bring up the past.

We are living now!
For the now!
This is ours!

Quiet.

We miss the sea.
Floating.
It was nice there.
Deadly, but nice.
Peaceful.

The city is not peaceful, and not nice either.
Take me back to my biggest fear.

Sharks on the horizon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Rhode Island Revolution



While perusing some of my old FSView & Florida Flambeau articles, I found this classic. My first editorial, written in May 2002.

Operation C.O.R.I.

My plan to conquer Rhode Island was born at a time of so many of my other great ideas- during a night of drunken debauchery. I figured there hadn’t been any good insurrections in America in a while, so why not?

Rhode Island was the perfect place to start my revolution, I explained to anyone who would dare listen. It is the smallest state in the union and can’t have that many people to defend it. In addition it is neither a road nor an island. The inhabitants have to call themselves “Islanders” and they don’t even live on an island. Only the all-powerful Man has the power to manipulate people like that. Down with the Man!

I quickly dubbed my plan Operation C.O.R.I. (Conquerors of Rhode Island). All that was needed was some troops. I couldn’t do this alone. My roommate was the first to decline his assistance, and the rest of my friends quickly followed. I would have to look elsewhere. Where was anyone’s sense of adventure?

Using my military background and knowledge of warfare, I knew there were several ways to go about Operation C.O.R.I. We- me and my soon-to-be-legion of followers- could try to invade Rhode Island by force ourselves or we could get the local populace to rise up against their oppressors like the United States did in Afghanistan. Since I didn’t (and still don’t) have the financial backing to buy weapons of mass destruction, psychological warfare would have to be the way to go.

More beer led to the idea that my band of rebels would need Viking helmets, since no invasion is complete without Viking helmets. I knew there was even a store in the Governor’s Square Mall that could supply us with these helmets, as well as swords, battle-axes, and armor. Everything a good invasion needed.

My crew would also need a Volkswagen bus. You can’t make an interstate trek without a VW bus. Before we depart we would need to paint revolutionary slogans on the side of the bus. I came up with two on the spot: “You’re not a road! You’re not an island! You’re not sheep! Stand Defiant!” and “Hey Providence! We are Anti-Dominance!” Finally, we needed plenty of flyers calling the people to action and signs for us to hold in protest in front of the Rhode Island capital building.

I concluded my riotous rhetoric by claiming that even if the operation was a failure, we couldn’t get in any trouble. After all, protesting the oppression of the Rhode Island people was perfectly within our First Amendment rights. It was up to the people to decide whether or not to rise up.

Even now, I don’t know what we would have done with Rhode Island if my plan were a success. I guess I would try my hand in national representation and become Supreme Ruler of the Land Formerly Known as Rhode Island. But how would I govern a million ex-Rhode Islanders? What if I had to defend against an insurrection? The whole thing seems like too much work. Maybe I just need to think less when I go out drinking.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Best of Times



It finally happened. Kinda.

Today I read a very creative and witty article by a writer for my former college newspaper, the FSView & Florida Flambeau. In his piece, The Great War: Logos, Uniforms, and Fear, FSView sports editor Perry Kostidakis comments and parodies the divide in Florida State fans, alumni, and students over the newly revealed Seminole logo.

The whole article is great and it's obvious Kostidakis had fun writing it. But one part stood out.

Midway through the article, Kostidakis references Dr. Seuss's Butter Battle Book.
 He screams, “Here’s the end of that terrible town! Full of ’Noles who like logos that frown!”

And, suddenly, at the very instant we heard a klupp-klupp of feet on the wall and a older man climbs up! The boys in HIS back room have made him one too! In his fist was another IgnitionTradition!

“I’ll blow you,” he yelled, “into pork and wee beans! I’ll tomahawk chop all of you small teens!”

“Grandpa!” I shouted. “Be careful! Oh, gee! Who’s going to drop it? Will you…? Or will he…?

“Be patient,” said Grandpa. “We’ll see. We will see…”

Genius.

After I read the article, I contacted Kostidakis on twitter to tell him I enjoyed his article and that I appreciated his reference of one of my favorite books. He was kind enough to reply.

Granted, "hero" was tongue-in-cheek, and only contained to the fact that I recognized his reference. I doubt Kostidakis has read any of my work, and I doubly doubt he has perused the FSView archives to find my ancient articles. I also can't say I have read much of his work either, so I can't tell whether this was a rare showing of creativity, or whether he thinks out of the box often. A quick Google search shows his YouTube page does show originality and his article about his mother is extremely powerful.

But it is his "hero" comment that reminded me of this - one of my final articles for the FSView. Originally written on 6/19/2003.

The Best of Times

One phrase I have heard time and time again is that my college years would be the best years of my life. Well, now that they are over, I guess it’s all downhill from here.

Soon my time at the FSView & Florida Flambeau will end. Currently, I have no idea what the future will bring. But seeing that the best years of my life are past, will it really matter? No matter where I go and no matter what I do, all I have to look forward to is 60 or so years of looking back at past glory. Looking back at a time when I was at the top of my game.

A time when I was a writer and then editor at the FSView & Florida Flambeau.

“He was the greatest,” many said. “Witty and creative. Truly a pleasure to read.”

Others, of course, disagreed, proving the old adage “you can’t please all the people all the time.” They called me “pathetic,” said I needed therapy and even labeled me extremely unethical. But their jeers were often drowned out by lengthy applause and accolades.

Barring a response from any of the employers I have so far contacted, I plan to be living in a cardboard box behind Wal-Mart by the middle of August. Hopefully I can find a box big enough to fit me, my college diploma and a few copies of Home and Garden Magazine (for the homemaker in us all).

Life will surely continue down the slippery slope towards obscurity in 2004. By mid-year, liquor store employees across the capital city will know me by name and bartenders will have “the usual” set in front of “Mike’s seat” moments before I walk in.

As the years move on, so too will I, wondering the empty roads, telling anyone who will listen about my days at Florida State. I will be a shell of my once proud and accomplished self. Hair down to my ankles, clothes made stiff by grime, I will drift across the nation. Washing dishes in Topeka so that I can travel to Seattle. Panhandling in New York to get to Los Angeles.

I might even make as far north as Alaska and live in the wilderness like Ted Kaczynski or Eric Rudolph.

But wherever I go, I know I will hear the whispers.

“Isn’t that Mike Lortz?” they will ask each other. “I heard he was once a great and powerful writer. A writer that could slay armies single handedly and have lightning bolts shoot out of his eyes. Yet he doesn’t look eight feet tall.”

Then, one day, many, many years from now, I will make my way to the town that made me so briefly famous – Tallahassee. There, a young FSView & Florida Flambeau writer will approach me and ask how he or she can make the jump from a good writer to a great one in order to win the coveted “Mike Lortz Writer of the Year Award.”

“Is it true you were hired by the legendary Chris Townsend and worked alongside the great Khuong Phan?” he or she will ask.

“Ah yes,” I will recall. “But don’t forget I spent most of my time under the watchful eye of Joe Friedman. Those were my glory days. My college years. The best years of my life.”

“Wow, Mr. Lortz, you truly are a legend. I want to be just like you.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kids are the new chimps



A few days ago, I wrote about how many creative grown-ups are looking at kids for inspiration. The popular consensus is that kids are more creative than adults, so why not dip into their well for something different?

In the 70s and 80s, the powers that be in television used chimps for comic value, as they were something different. There is still few things better than watching a chimp act like an adult human. They provided a new angle at our own actions. They allowed us to laugh at ourselves and our own situations acted out by something that normally would not fit the role. They were familiar, so we could relate, but unique.

Nowadays, the "in" thing to do is use kids voices over adult actions. It is funny. The folks at Kid Snippets have created a hilarious YouTube channel of adults acting out kid-narrated scenarios. Again, it provides the ability for us to look at familiar scenarios as see how another entity would act in these roles. Or in the case of the kid narration, what kids would say in these roles. The awkwardness provides the humor and a sense of "differentness".

Here is a funny one called "Salesman". Note the randomness and stream of consciousness.

Kids. They're the new chimps.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ancient AfroSquad video from back in the day

While digging in the underbelly of the Internet, way below the Prime Meridian, far below where Optimus Prime dare go, I found an ancient video. I dusted it off, gave it two blows to the nose, and checked the scrolls. It was a sign by the AfroSquad forefathers, who couldn't decide among the four of them who the daddy was. So they dropped this piece of funktasticalness on the world. It's so funky it makes your grandmother swap out her gym socks.

Check, check, check it out.



Seven years ago, the founders of the AfroSquad posted this. Hard to believe youtube has been around that long. Yet The Man still prevails.

AfroSquad for life.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Commenting on Jedi Compentency



I've been meaning to comment on this link for a while. Way back in September, I discovered this great blog on the least competent Jedi in the Star Wars galaxy. Granted, it only talks about the "publicly known" Jedi, but it does mention some Extended Universe Jedi. It is an interesting list.

The 9 Least Competent Jedi

Everyone associated with Anakin Skywalker is listed at the top of the list. Except Anakin himself. Which is kinda weird. It is almost as if he is exempt from the list.

Yet he is quite incompetent himself. After all, he went to the dark side. He slaughtered Tuskin Raiders. He murdered a bunch of kids.

But here I have to add to the incompetency of the Jedi Council. How did Yoda let Anakin get away with murdering Tuskin Raiders? He felt the disturbance in the Force. He knew it happened. Why was Anakin never asked about this by the council? Even worse, Anakin admitted his actions to a member of the Senate. Padme knew what he did and never told anyone. Not even Obi-Wan. Was she afraid they would suspend Anakin? That's what should have happened. Unless Padme  had little concern for the Sand People.

JUSTICE FOR THE SAND PEOPLE!

Here is an entire bulletin board conversation about the topic of Anakin and the Sand People. Interesting read.

So put me in the camp of those who think Yoda had a touch of incompetence.

The analysis of Luke Skywalker is also quite interesting. The rescue of Han Solo was unnecessarily complicated. Perhaps Luke doubted his ability to go in to Jabba's palace, kick ass, and rescue Han. Perhaps Leia was the only one who knew the code to unfreeze the carbonite - possible but unlikely considering it came from Lando's Cloud City. Chewbacca probably wanted in so bad, he wouldn't let the mission go forth without being a part. Interesting how he his confidence in Luke's plan has grown since the Death Star rescue plan in A New Hope - where Chewie was also a prisoner.

The strongest being on your team, and your plan (Twice!) is to put him in shackles. Makes perfect sense.

Sure, Luke wouldn't want to involve the entire Rebel Alliance in rescuing a former smuggler who really had little achievements outside of the Battle of Yavin at that point, but think about how his father would have faced Jabba. It would have been much different. Granted, Luke was never as strong as Anakin in the movies. Anakin was much more polished and stronger with the Force.

Maybe Luke wasn't much of a leader yet. Maybe everyone piled in their ideas and did what they wanted to do. Then when he realized no one else's plan worked, Luke walked into Jabba's palace and rescued everyone. Although the placement of the droids before Leia and Chewbacca does sort of counter that theory. Unless Artoo did in fact play "the wrong message".

Although, what if Jabba had traded the carbonite slab for the droids? Droids would have been much easier to rescue. They could have easily snuck themselves out. Not that hard. C-3P0 and R2-D2 had been in worse predicaments.

So Luke is not as good a planner as we thought, Yoda isn't a smart as we thought, and Qui-Gon's faults are pretty obvious.

Maybe the Jedi are indeed incompetent.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My new labor of love

It's been awfully quiet here lately. Tragically quiet. One might think I am trying to commit blog suicide. I swear I am not.

The reason this blog has been so barren of late is because I started a new online endeavor. I bought a new site domain and everything. And since February 1st, I've posted over 40 times there.

So I've been writing. A lot. And doing quite a bit of math and statistical analysis there as well. The type of stuff that just doesn't jive over here.

So far, Tampa Bay Baseball Market has been a success. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback by some really smart people. People are digging my deep-dive into the wonderful and wacky world of the Tampa Bay Rays attendance. Of course there are some who think I will find some magic panacea for why plagues the Rays attendance. There are not going to be happy.

There is no magic bullet theory.

What plagues Rays attendance is a lot of little things - from location of the park to who they are playing to day of the week to traffic to many other things. The whole thing is a paradox folded in a conundrum squashed in a dilemma. It's not easy and it is requiring a lot of work.

Hence I haven't been here filling these pages with witty banter.

In other news, I am starting to write query letters to get my first fiction book out published. I need to get that done. The book has been sitting semi-complete for too long. And I think people will enjoy it.

Add that to the list of things I am doing. Along with school (finance kicked my butt!), looking for a job, and other creative endeavors. I need to get comedy on that list as well. I miss going to the Tampa Improv for open mics. I miss writing creatively, shooting for humor on occasion.

I miss writing here.

Never fear, dear long time reader, I will have more posts soon. This month will not set the record for fewest posts. Even if it is a link dump of stuff I find interesting, you will get something here.

I promise.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Origins of Jordi Scrubbings and his Afro



Ever wonder how I came up with the name Jordi Scrubbings?

Ever wonder why I wear an afro?

Buddy of the Blog Clark Brooks wondered that as well. And Clark did something about it. He invited me on to his podcast, The Ridiculously Inconsistent Podcast, which oddly enough has been ridiculously consistent since it began in January. But that's Clark's irony, right there. Who else would say his podcast and blog for that matter are inconsistent, yet post on both regularly?

Seems he should celebrate his consistency, not his inconsistency. Well, at least he is ridiculous. That is true.

I am not so sure about the trickle. Clark is a bit older than I am, but his trickling is a personal issue I am not sure I want to talk to him about.

But back to the podcast!

Clark had me on his podcast (did I mention that already?). It was the first podcast I have been on in a while and it was the first I have ever been on in person. Clark has a radio-like set-up and it's quite snazzy. And he is sponsored! Which means he may or may not be making money on the deal.

Too bad I don't have an appearance fee.

But anyway, I was on Clark's podcast. We talked the origin of the name "Jordi Scrubbings", why I wear an afro, my recent lack of comedy, my worst comedy performance ever, my new blog, my current blog, baseball, and how years ago I got really sick after a night of drinking.

It was a great time.

You can find the podcast on itunes by clicking the underlined letters, under the name
An interview with triple or quadruple threat Michael Lortz aka “that kid with the Afro wig”
Did I mention Clark is older than me? I think that's why he thinks he can call me "kid".

Hopefully, maybe, one day, if the planets align correctly, and the sun shines right, perhaps Clark will have me back.