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, 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

Transported to parts unknown

Off to the hinterland
Hindering the lay of the land

They fell
But completely unharmed

Why would they be where they are?
But where are they, they wondered.
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!


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

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…”


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.