Monday, January 27, 2020

Buzzfeed, Amy Schumer, and Me

Way back in November 2016, comedian Amy Schumer blocked me on twitter for something I said. Not sure what it was, but whatever it was, she didn't want to hear from me anymore. That's her opinion.

A few days ago, comedian Bert Kreischer asked his followers to name the most famous person to block them. I sent Bert an image of Amy Schumer's page telling I was blocked. It became quite popular among the replies.

(Btw, I met Bert. He did a video for me. He is a fellow FSU alumnus. We are cool.)

A day after Bert's post, writer Ryan Schocket wrote about Bert's post on Schocket used my post to Bert as the number one example of twitter users getting blocked by famous people.

Let me repeat: I'm the number one example of someone blocked by someone famous.

I guess I have that going for me now.

In case you are curious, this is a post with a screenshot about a post about a tweet reply to a tweet that screenshot another reply to a tweet.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Quick blog posts

Quick posts are subtle like ninja strikes. Thoughts rapping with words rapid like bmx bikes. Jumping over cities and towns, minds surfing the web and never slowing down. Good blogs keeping you moving through the intertubes, like a time traveling telephone booth with two cool dudes.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Music to My Years by Cristela Alonzo Review

How do you review a book about someone's life? It is their story. There is no way I could possibly say they didn't tell their story the right way.

But if there is a right way to tell a life story, it is in comedian Cristela Alonzo's book Music to My Years.

Music to My Years is part biography, part musical journey. Cristela breaks down parts of her life by the songs that meant the most to her during those times, from the Golden Girls theme song to a song off the latest Tribe Called Quest album. Each song is like an episode that defines who Cristela is.

Personal backstory: I only "discovered" Cristela about a year ago. I think I saw a clip of her on Comedy Central social media and then followed her Instagram and twitter. I don't watch much TV, so I had no idea she had a show on network TV. I had no idea how long she had done comedy and I had no idea of her backstory. Everything about her was new to me. I just knew she was funny.

As I followed her on social media, I got a feeling about how real she is. Her near-daily social media chronicles her going to Pilates, going to Wal-Mart, going to Disney World, etc. Everything in her life seems so normal. I go to the gym, I go to Wal-Mart, and I have been to Disney.

Celebrities, they are just like you!

Although she has been successful, Cristela doesn't seem like a big shot celebrity. She seems like a real person who really cares about her family and friends. That same persona comes through in her book. She honestly discusses her fears, anxieties, and successes. She talks about the things that held her back, the times she fought to move forward, and the times success made her cry tears of joy.

All of this with a dash of humor and musical trivia.

My background could not be more different than Cristela's. Whereas she grew up poor in a Texas border town, I grew up on Long Island and Central Florida in white middle class suburbia. Everyone I aspired to be either looked like me or was at least my gender. Society never told me "no". So to read Cristela's hopes and dreams was aspiring and made me root for her even more.

Although our roots are different, I could relate to Cristela's career struggle. For the last 10 years, I have been pushing to find a stable career. Something I enjoy, something fulfilling, and somewhere they want me to succeed. Even with two master's degrees and international experience, I have had 9 jobs in 9 years. I live in a small apartment with used furniture and a TV that is old enough to vote because I am not willing to compromise. I want a job that allows me to thrive, not one that is paint by numbers. I will be successful, I guarantee. Just don't put me in a box.

Like Cristela, I have turned down great opportunities because I didn't think they were good fits.

Like Cristela, certain songs have defined who I am. For example, here is a story I have never told before.

In late 2005, I was finishing up my first master's degree. My master's thesis was a 90+ page paper on the Kurdish Peshmerga - the military forces in Northern Iraq. I worked long and hard, burying myself in the university library for weeks on end. I was there so often I was on a first name basis with the library staff. I finally submitted my paper in late November. A few weeks later I was scheduled to defend my research before a panel of professors. Even though I was confident, the ordeal was still stressful.

On the day of my defense, I drove to campus listening to Leela James's song "Long Time Coming" off her first album A Change is Gonna Come. If you have never heard Leela, she is an amazing throwback to when R&B had soul. Her voice comes from the days of Aretha Frankin and Marvin Gaye.

Long Time Coming is one of the last songs on her first album, but I think it is one of the most powerful. It starts out with a blast of horns and then rides into a very funky guitar. After a few moments Leela begins to talk, and then sing one of the most personally inspirational songs I have heard.

Ya'll this evening
Ante up, time to let the trumpets sound
Crown me later, I'm a take my crown now
Been writing for 'bout 10 yrs now
And finally the real truth is coming out
You can't stop it 'cause this is God's plan
I know some of y'all just don't understand
And now ya twisted, can't believe it's me
Get it, it's Leela sho nuff
It's been a long time since ya heard it like this
It's been a long time since ya felt it like this
It's been a long time since ya seen it like this
'Cause ain't nobody bringing it quite like this
I've been praying for a time like this
And I've been waiting for a time like this
I've been talking 'bout a time like this

The entire song is about Leela's struggle to get where she is. On my way to my first academic defense, I didn't want to listen to anything aggressive or anything that would cause me to be too hyped, but I wanted to feel confident. "Long Time Coming" was the perfect song at the perfect time. Every time I have heard it since, I think of that drive to campus in my suit and tie, copies of my thesis in hand, ready to answer any questions about my research the board may have.

Although there were a few questions I stumbled on, I did well. One of the professors even said my thesis was one of the best he had read in a long time. My thesis was approved and I passed my graduate program. A few weeks later I walked across the stage at the graduation ceremony, ready to take on the world.

I like to think Leela James had something to do with my graduation.

Cristela Alonzo's book Music to My Years is all about moments like that. I recommend it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

7 Reasons FSU Football is like the Star Wars Original Trilogy

In 1977, George Lucas gave the world Star Wars.

In 1976, Bobby Bowden took the reigns of Florida State Football.

On the surface, these two incidents a year apart don't have much in common. However, 40+ years later, they have more similarities than one might think.

Here are seven ways FSU Football is a lot like the Star Wars original trilogy.

People remember glory episodes from yesteryear.

FSU fans can't forget the glory years of FSU football. They are the golden standard from which every season is measured. The Bowden glory years are full of myth and legends, comebacks and trick plays, triumphs, tragedies, and great stories.

Likewise, the original Star Wars trilogy looms large in the fanbase's collective memories. They set the impression of the galaxy far, far away. They are also the standard from which every later story is measured. The original trilogy is full of myths and legends, comebacks and tricks, triumphs, tragedies, and great stories.

2000s were mismanaged by the creator.

The 2000s were not nice to Star Wars or FSU Football. From 1999 to 2005, George Lucas was the single mind behind the Prequel Trilogy, an over-the-top bonanza full of special effect and some of the worst dialogue in a major film ever. It wasn't until George Lucas gave the reigns of the Clone Wars cartoon to director Dave Filoni did high quality work again came out of Lucasfilm.

Meanwhile in Tallahassee, FSU Football was slipping from the Bowden Regime. The competition had caught up with FSU and Bobby Bowden seemed unable to catch up with the changing college game. It wasn't until the hiring of offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher that high quality coaching again came out of Tallahassee.

There are a lot of old financially influential fans.

This reason goes hand-in-hand with remembrance of the glory years. Fans who remember the peak stories of both Star Wars and FSU Football are typically older and typically have more money to spend. Organizations such as the Seminole Boosters and Disney marketing do not want to turn away money, so they cater to these fans often by appealing to their sense of nostalgia.

For FSU, catering to money means being beholden to financial donations. When FSU Football doesn't perform well on the field, the inclination of boosters is to donate less. With less money coming in, FSU Football feels the need to make decisions that will get boosters to give again, whether creating new experiences at the stadium or buying out under-performing members of the coaching staff.

The Star Wars community also has many influential fans who can affect revenue streams. Fans will pay big money for conventions or opportunities to relive their childhood. Younger fans unfortunately do not have as much money, even if the PG-rated Star Wars was originally created with them in mind. If affluent fans do not get what they want, they do not spend their money.

There is also a saying that no one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. Subsections of the Star Wars fanbase have made money complaining about Star Wars. These fans have influence among similar-minded fans. If those fans make enough noise, Star Wars writers and directors might be prone to cater to their whims, however much they deny it.

1st sequel did very well but had underlying flaws.

After the prequel trilogy, fans wondered if Star Wars could ever regain its former glory. New director JJ Abrams had pedigree and experience on big budget moveis but it was unsure if he could handle the reigns of Star Wars.

After the Bobby Bowden years, fans wondered if FSU Football could ever regain its former glory. New coach Jimbo Fisher had pedigree and experience on winning teams but it was unsure if he could handle the reigns.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens reinvigorated the Star Wars fanbase and was a success in the box office. Despite its success, the storyline had major flaws that made following episodes difficult.

Similarly, Jimbo Fisher led the FSU Football team to glory in 2013, reinvigorating the fanbase. Despite its success, Fisher's teams had underlying problems in discipline and academia - problems that would make follow-up seasons difficult.

2nd sequel was a major bust.

Following Jimbo Fisher's departure, the FSU Football program went in a different direction, hiring a coach with a new philosophy. Coach Willie Taggart decided to focus on new aspects of FSU Football lore, unfortunately the results were not there. Taggart was wildly criticized and he was removed from his position during his second season.

Following JJ Abrams departure from Star Wars, Lucasfilm hired a director with a new philosophy. Rian Johnson took the Star Wars story in a different direction, focusing on new aspects of Star Wars lore. While The Last Jedi did well in the box office, Johnson was wildly criticized and he was removed from his position.

People hope 3rd sequel can get story back on track.

After removing Willie Taggart, FSU Football hoped to reassure fans that the program is still in good hands, hiring Head Coach Mike Norvell to wide optimism.

After the departure of Rian Johnson, director JJ Abrams returned to the helm for The Rise of Skywalker, a movie that reversed many of Johnson's original ideas. While The Rise of Skywalker had its flaws, many fans generally considered it a positive conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. 

If you are tired of the drama, there are a lot of other stories/sports that don't get the hype, but are more fun to watch and often have better endings.

For over 20 years, Star Wars fans have debated the Skywalker Saga - what worked, what didn't, and how each storyteller handled the mythology. The Skywalker Saga remains the biggest money maker for Lucasfilm. But beyond the Skywalker Saga is a world of great stories, from cartoons to books to streaming shows that are often better told. In these stories the creators are not beholden to mythos of the Skywalker Saga and they are free to create new and exciting characters and storylines.

For over 20 years, FSU sports fans have debated the direction of FSU Football - what worked, what didn't, and how each head coach handled the program. FSU Football remains the biggest money maker for FSU Athletics and the Seminole Boosters. But beyond FSU Football is a world of great Seminole athletics, from FSU Basketball - mens and womens - to FSU Softball to FSU Track and Field - all of which have won championships or competed against the best competition. These teams are not beholden to the drama and mythos of FSU Football and they are free to create new and exciting FSU Sports legends and stories.

The Man as defined by CrazyMan of the AfroSquad

My Modern Social Theory- "The Man"
by: Crazy-Man

"The Man" is an intangible bugaboo that masterminds the hardships and tragedies of that thing we call life. Being technologically superior, he can morph into anything he wants- your boss, the local authorities, the president, your parents, a lawyer, the guy that signs your inadequate paycheck, etc. You can use that last sentence as a mad-lib for added effect.

When you work 13 hours, come home at 8:00PM to realize that you locked your key in the apartment- blame it on "The Man"- because he made you do it. When it takes another 2.5 hours to get some scab to open your apartment door for you- blame it on "The Man"- it is all his fault. When the scab requires 20 bucks to open your apartment door, beat the crap out of the scab, because he is "The Man". But defiling the scab/"Man" apparition will be to no avail because, by the time your finished teaching the scab 'the true meaning of sorrow', "The Man" will be somewhere else already- probably stealing your loved one's monogamy.

But don't be fooled, "The Man" can be in multiple places at once just as easily as you eat a Twinkie in just four bites. He can simultaneously be controlling the red stoplight you run, in his secret hideout faxing your brain the endorphins that result in deviance, AND in the cop car that catches you do it.

Tragically enough- our modern society would not exist were it not for "The Man".

Let's outline a single "Man" scenario. It starts with the workplace- something common to almost everyone. First, "he" assumes the role of your boss. You have to work superhuman hours to keep your job. You are not paid enough to live the life "he" puts on your TV (excluding The Simpsons and Married With Children- these are actually documentaries on reality, but you think they are "comedies"). You can only afford to eat food prepared in less than 8 minutes. Enter McDonald's and Taco Bell. These generate more jobs where "he" is still your boss. "The Man" sprinkles saturated fats, cholesterols, and carcinogens into the menus. Heart disease and cancer become commonplace. Since "he" uses all of your time for unrewarded grunt work, computers are implemented into his 'toolbox of terror' in hopes of squeezing all the productivity out of your cellulite that he can. Entertainment such as the internet is added to computers so that you will waste half a year's pay to have one in your home. "He" gratuitously distributes hard drive failures, Microsoft products, lightning, and the ability to go obsolete in just one week. "He" assumes the role of that voluptuous member of the opposite sex that you meet one Friday night. While breaking the ice, your contraceptive fails and you get AIDS.

Now you know. Sorry, but the truth is out there, and its name is "The Man"