Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HENRY ROLLINS FLIPS INTERVIEW

Well this is awkward.

I wish someone would track this kid down so we could see what he thinks about this whole thing 30 years later.

Monday, November 24, 2014

STILL HERE

Hi.

I kinda forgot about this thing for a while. Remember when I got laid off? Did I even tell you about that? Well, anyway, I got laid off two days before the World Cup started and decided that I'd pretend I was 19 all over again, wait tables part time and have summer vacation. So that's what I did.

I hung out all summer, went camping, took a few trips, generally just enjoyed life outside. Now that it's like 20 degrees around Salt Lake I'm getting back on the blogging train. I actually had a few posts written and ready to go up last week, but then the thing with Brad happened and I wanted to keep that post at the top for a little while.

Things are still moving along in a few different areas, but nothing incredibly exciting has happened lately.

So on that note, let's get to the posts! Up first (below) is a little thing about Andre the Giant. It's the first of three wrestling posts I have queued up (including the tale of how Hulk Hogan is an asshole in real life), so stay tuned for those.

And for other stuff. I may be getting back into the groove here. Or I may just put these two up and forget about it again. We'll just have to find out together, I guess.

THE GIANT

I was never truly infatuated with Andre the Giant the way some people were. He was the guy from the generation before, so by the time I was getting into wrestling he was on the decline. I was too young for his "passing of the torch" match with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III and only knew him as the funny, big guy from THE PRINCESS BRIDE.

Over the past year there's been a bit of an Andre the Giant resurgence, and all these stories are popping up (like here and here). They're kind of great, so I've started to learn a little bit more about him.

A while back, I learned about this video of him on Letterman's show back in 1984—before Letterman wore a suit every night and was still just a young comedian from Indiana that somehow ended up with a talk show. It's not the greatest interview, because Andre seems a little shy, but it's still a lot of fun. I especially love the story about why he won't pick Dave up like he requested.

Monday, November 17, 2014

RIP BRAD BRICKS


Brad Hancock was shot and killed last Saturday night outside of a show in Salt Lake City.

The fact that something like this happened at a place where people would to go to blow off steam, see bands they loved, and get away from all the bullshit in their life is beyond depressing. Hardcore shows weren't always a sanctuary—there were always going to be disagreements and a fight every now and then—but 85% of the time, they were. Shows were always a place that you'd meet up and chat with friends you hadn't seen in a long time. You'd catch up and then bands would play some breakdowns and everyone would go nuts.

It was fun. Until it wasn't anymore. I've been out of it for a while, so I wasn't there the other night, but that doesn't mean it didn't have an effect on me.

I won’t pretend that Brad and I were close, because we weren’t. And I’m not going to try and convince anyone that I knew him the best, because I didn’t.

But we were friends. I met him as a young, punk kid that I liked because he gave a shit about something—even if it was the wrong thing sometimes. Whenever I'd book a show, or be at one with whatever band I was in at that time, he'd be there. Any time we'd make our way up to Ogden, Brad was there, ready and willing to help with anything we needed.

He changed a lot since I first met him, and I watched him go through the pains of growing up. We didn't hang out, and we barely ever spoke outside of shows, but I watched him get his shit together from a distance. He found a girl he adored and had a son that he loved more than anything in the world. It was nice to see. Now it's gone.

I never told him this, but I was proud of him.

I was, and still am, proud of the way he stepped up and changed course in his life. I'm proud of the way he shifted from that punk kid I met singing for Right on Track to an adult taking on serious responsibilities—especially the task of being a father. That's no easy job, and Brad was up for it.

It's sad for us that he's gone, and it's even worse for his fiancee and young son.

People have been stepping up over the past few days, raising money and trying to help out wherever possible. If you've got a few extra bucks, send it their way. They could really use the support.

There's a Go Fund Me page set up in his honor that you can find here: Go Fund Me for Brad Hancock and Family.

Also, my friends Troy and Gailon at King of Swords Tattoo here in Salt Lake City are getting into the spirit as well. On November 29, Thanksgiving weekend, they'll be doing walk-ins all day and donating the proceeds to Brad's family. Stop by the shop at 248 W. 900 S. in Salt Lake City that weekend, get tattooed and share your memories of Brad.

*UPDATE* Adam Gibson at Cathedral Tattoo will be doing walk-ins this weekend (11/22 & 11/23), donating all proceeds to Brad's family.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BE VERY AFRAID


Just like last year, City Weekly asked me to check out a few of the haunted houses around town and do a little write-up for them. So I did!

Luckily, this year I had company as I went through all four of the bigger ones around SLC. I planned ahead because I didn't want to get stuck with a bunch of teenagers after a high school dance. That was fun once, but I wasn't too interested in trying that again.

My friend Elsha went with me the first night to Castle of Chaos and Strangling Brothers, and the next night I roped my friend Andy (@pangeaspeed) and his GF Melissa (@moldiegoldie) into coming along with me to Nightmare on 13th and Fear Factory. It was pretty fun. I don't get scared at these things anymore, but I still love walking through them. It's fun to see what each one does differently and which ones quietly steal ideas from each other and tweak them a bit so no one really notices (that happens).

I still can't pick a favorite because they all have pros and cons. They're all fun in their own way. If you're bored any time over the next month, the four that I mentioned above are all worth checking out.

If you don't believe me, just check out the article!

Have you checked out any haunted houses this year? What is your favorite part of them?

City Weekly -- There's no better way to get in the spirit of Halloween than wandering through hordes of zombies, deranged clowns and lunatics with power tools while trying to pretend you're not terrified. Haunted house season is upon us, and Utah has its fair share of some of the best in the country.

Read the rest...

Friday, August 8, 2014

CRAFT LAKE CITY - 2014 EDITION


I was prepared this year.

Let's back up a bit. I was prepared before I got to the show, at least. Usually I'm still putting stuff together while I get set up and hope that no one actually comes by my table for the first hour so that I can get everything together.

This year, I spent the whole day holed up in my house folding mini-comics, making labels and painting my display rack. It's going to be good.

If you're coming down to the Gallivan Center any time today (Friday 8/8) or Saturday (8/9) stop by and see me. Instead of a table, this year I'm sharing a booth with my friend Lauren (@snackmastercandyblaster). She makes cat crafts and cool little trinkets. We're going to have fun

Our booth is under Old News Records and/or Lauren Mack. We're set up in one of the white tents that's actually on Gallivan Avenue, so come by and see us. We'll be there all weekend.

Feel free to bring treats for me and boxed wine for Lauren. You might have to sneak the wine in though.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ON THE ROAD AGAIN


Up until about a week ago, I'd never set a single foot in Colorado. I've driven through a few times while on tour, but we were never able to book a show and I didn't really have any other reason to head east.

I just got home from spending almost a week there (over the course of two trips) and it was pretty great. I had no idea what to expect, but I loved the city. If it didn't snow just as much, if not more, than Salt Lake City in the winter, it would be on the list of cities that I would actually consider moving to (but probably never actually will).

The first leg of the trip, I drove out in a rental car with my friends Casey and Oz. For the second half, I flew, but met up with Casey, who drove out again with Paddy and Justin.

I covered most of the trip here and here, but I've got a bunch of other pictures, too. Some of them showed up on Instagram, some showed up on Twitter (my own and The Fucking Reserves), but there were a lot more and I didn't want to clog everyone's feed.

If you're interested, head over to check them out at my Flickr account. There's a bunch of other stuff for you to root around in, too. You can lurk my life all the way back to 2004 if your little heart desires. I don't mind.

VIVA LA UNDERWATER BOAT DEVILS!

While I'm not the world's biggest soccer fan, it has grown on me a lot over the past couple of years. I had season tickets for Real Salt Lake for a season, still go to a few games each year and paid casual attention to British Premier League games (now that they're on NBC quite a bit).

Over the past year, I've started to get more and more into soccer and it's mostly due to that Manchester United podcast (we've been going strong for almost a full year, only missing one week) that I'm part of. I still don't know much about the intricacies of the game and I couldn't tell you why some players work where others don't, but I'm learning.

The other huge boost that I got was getting laid off just before the World Cup started. I was planning on catching as many games as I could, but figured I'd only be able to catch the Saturday games and daily recaps. That changed, and I took full advantage of my summer vacation and caught as many as I possibly could. Now I'm really starting to get the hang of things.

The Premier League starts up again in a couple of weeks (with the German and Spanish leagues starting soon after), and pretty much every club is in pre-season mode. A whole bunch of teams from Europe (including some of the big names like Manchester United, Man City and Real Madrid) came over the U.S. for a little preseason tournament called the International Champions Cup. It doesn't really mean a whole lot, and it's mostly for the teams to build their profile in the United States, but it's still pretty awesome.

Manchester United was scheduled to play in Denver against AS Roma a few days after the Nine Inch Nails/Soundgarden show, and there was no way that Casey was going to miss it. He bought a couple of tickets and my friend Paddy, who also does the podcast with us, bought a few as well. Casey was going to take his wife, and Paddy was going to take his wife and two kids, but as the game got closer, most of the family bailed. Oz had used up the last of his vacation time on the Soundgarden trip, and Byron couldn't get away, because he and his wife had just their second kid not long ago.

I was still unemployed (still am, more or less), so I took one of the tickets and headed back to the Mile High City for the second time in less than a week.

I flew out early Friday morning, and got into town about 10:30, while Casey, Paddy and our friend Justin drove out got to town about 4 PM. We met up at the hotel and headed to Sports Authority Field to watch an open training session. Roma backed out of theirs, so we waited around in the pouring rain and watched Manchester United run around cones and do ball drills for a couple of hours.

The next day, we headed to the Four Seasons and waited for the team to leave the hotel. Casey and Paddy had a bunch of stuff they were trying to get signed, but the crowd was too big and the only player that stopped to sign anything was Chicharito—and even he only got through a handful of things before he had to get on the bus.

Casey's seats were on the 11th row behind Roma's bench, while Paddy's seats were in the 3rd deck. We split up, and Justin went up with Paddy and his friend that just happened to be in town, while Casey and I went down to our seats. The  field-level corners of the stadium ended up being pretty empty, so eventually we all met up and moved over to some vacant seats and watched the game. For the first half, Casey and I stayed in his seats and we got a great look at a Wayne Rooney goal that was awesome, a Juan Mata goal off a beautiful assist from Rooney and another Rooney goal on a penalty.

Basically, the first half was all Rooney. Since these games don't really matter, the entire team was subbed off at halftime, and the second half was decidedly less exciting, with the exception of a killer Roma goal that was lobbed in from just over mid-field.

Casey and I both way over-prepared for the 20% chance of rain, but didn't prepare at all for the 80% chance of the 95-degree direct sunlight that ended up being the case for most of the first half. It was brutal, but luckily clouds moved in, gave us some shade and cooled things down for the second half. Manchester United ended up winning 3-2 and I've never seen Casey or Paddy in a better mood.

While I'm not really a huge fan of the team, I'm glad to say that I've seen a British Premier League team in action. The quality of play is way better than what I'm used to, and after seeing that in person and spending a month watching World Cup, it's going to be tough to watch an RSL match next time they're on.

But I'll still do it. The Jazz are going to be terrible again, baseball games are getting harder and harder to sit through (more on that later), and the NFL is a complete farce. So let's go soccer!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO.


I had three bands on my "bucket list" and I checked the second one off last week.

Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden and Bruce Springsteen (I once made noise about wanting to see the rumored Slayer/Anthrax/Megadeth/Metallica tour, but I don't actually care about any of those bands anymore) were the three bands I'd never seen live but always wanted to. I kind of figured that it would never happen, since Springsteen never comes anywhere near Salt Lake and neither Soundgarden or Nine Inch Nails were actually bands anymore.

Never say never, I guess.

I got the chance to see Nine Inch Nails last fall for the first time, and I got to see them again last week. They put on an amazing show last time I saw them, so I was looking forward to what they'd do this time. What they did this time was bring Soundgarden as their opening act.

Casey, Oz and I drove out to Denver last weekend to catch the show at Red Rocks Ampitheater, which is about half an hour outside of town. It's built into the side of the mountain and one of the coolest venues I've ever been to. The views are amazing and the sound is incredible (though it's a little bit of a hike to get to, and getting out afterwards takes far longer than I would have liked).

Before the show started, I had no idea what to expect from it. I'd never gotten confirmation on just whose tour it was: was NIN opening for Soundgarden? Was it the other way around? Were they co-headlining and trading off each night? I was a little stressed, because while I love Soundgarden, I wanted NIN to play for as long as possible. Turned out to be a Nine Inch Nails tour, with Soundgarden as support.

Casey, Oz and I hit up the cafe to eat French fries during the ambient DJ that was opening the show and we got back to our seats just as Soundgarden dropped the curtain in front of the stage and launched into "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" and didn't let up for over an hour. They didn't have as much time as they would have liked, so they stuck mostly to the hits, but threw in a few of the less popular tracks, which was awesome. They played "Like Suicide" and "The Day I Tried to Live" and closed their set with "Slaves & Bulldozers" which just left a huge smile on my face.

Soundgarden sounded perfect, but they're kind of boring to watch. It didn't lessen my enjoyment, but it was a little bit of a letdown. Kind of looked like they were just going through the motions at times, but at least I got to see them.

The beginning of NIN's set caught me by surprise because there was literally nothing on the stage until Trent Reznor walked out, stood next to a single light and hit a few buttons on a sequencer. "Copy of A" started, and one by one, the rest of his band joined him across the front of the stage. Huge, LED screens moved behind each of them and the show got underway.

The setlist was very similar to what they played last year when I saw them (with a few exceptions, like taking out "Reptile" which was a bummer, but adding in "Closer" and "1,000,000" so it was okay), but the stage show this time was much more involved and intricate. There was also a smaller band this time, which made it easier for the seven (!) screens to be moved around while everyone was playing their instruments.

Totally worth the trip out there (and I'd never been to Denver before, which is an awesome city that we'll talk about a little bit more), I've hit two out of three and now I'm just waiting on The Boss. Let's get to it, Bruce.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SEE THESE NOW


Summertime means a lot of things. It means swimming, hiking, bbq, patio eating, iced coffee, road trips, World Cup games (this one has been great) and tons of other fun stuff. Most of that takes place outside, which is exactly where you're supposed to be during the summer months.

But sometimes it's just too hot for any of that. There are few things that are more enjoyable and give you a nice break from the sweltering heat than sitting inside a nice, air-conditioned theater and catching a movie. Plenty of great movies get released over the summer, but there are two playing right now that you should see immediately.

SNOWPIERCER - Seriously, if you like weird, character-driven, brilliantly made sci-fi movies like BLADE RUNNER, BRAZIL, or ALIENS, you'll want to see this immediately. Sometime in the future, an attempt at stopping global warming fails miserably and immediately freezes the entire planet. The only survivors were the people that were rich enough to afford a ticket on the Snowpiercer—a train with a perpetual-motion engine that travels around the world non-stop. At the last minute, others that couldn't afford the price rushed the platform and boarded the train before the doors started. For 17 years, the rich lived a life of luxury at the front of the train, while the poor languished at the back. Chris Evans is one of those stuck at the back and fed up with being fed only protein bars and decides to lead a revolution.

I don't want to say much else for fear of ruining it. I saw it last Saturday and loved every second of it. Evans is fantastic (as he is in everything he does lately), John Hurt plays a wounded veteran of past uprisings, Tilda Swinton is the spokesperson for those at the front of the train, including Wilford—the creator and operator of Snowpiercer. It's full of amazing, claustrophobic action, great character moments and stunning visuals. I haven't seen anything like it in a long, long time. It's out in theaters now and will be released for On Demand this weekend. Look for it.

EDGE OF TOMORROW - Look, I know what you're thinking because I had the same thought: I fucking hate Tom Cruise. He's not a bad actor, and he plays essentially the same character in every single movie he headlines. It's just that his personal life was so encompassing for a while that it made me sick of him. But he is FANTASTIC in this movie and Emily Blunt, who is always great, goes toe to toe with him every step of the way. I really thought it was going to be a dour, boring movie like so many futuristic war movies, but I was 100% wrong. It was directed by Doug Liman, a guy that I've always loved, and I always forget that he likes to make his movies fun.

Aliens have taken over most of the world and humanity is losing badly. Tom Cruise is a military PR guy that gets thrown into battle dying almost immediately because the aliens have anticipated the attack. As soon as he dies, he wakes up the previous morning, unsure of what's happened but remembering everything. He tries to convince his squadron that their demise is inevitable, but they won't listen. Each time he dies, he wakes up again in the same place. In one of his encounters, he tries to save another soldier (Blunt) who believes him and tells him to find her when he wakes up. She tries to teach him how to defend himself from the aliens long enough to stop them.

If you're thinking "that kind of sounds like a war version of GROUNDHOG DAY" you're right. But the similarities end there. It's a much, much better movie than I gave it credit for going in and I promise that you'll love it.

So there you go. Go see both of those movies. The only two other movies I'm looking forward to this summer are DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. If those are half as good as these two (and I think they'll both be great), we're in for a good summer at the movies.


Monday, June 23, 2014

THE MOUNTAIN AND THE VIPER


The fourth season of GAME OF THRONES ended last Sunday, with an awesome battle between The Hound and Brienne of Tarth. The week before that, there was an hourlong battle at Castle Black and The Wall.

THRONES has become the favorite show of many, many people and for damn good reason. It's really really good. It takes a bit of a commitment and you actually have to pay attention to it since there are so many characters and so many different story lines. It's a weekly soap opera with much more violence, magic and dragons. It's amazing and if you're not watching it, you should be.

Everyone spent most of yesterday (Sunday, 6/22) in withdrawals and counting down the days until season five premieres sometime next March. Luckily for us, the World Cup is on and the U.S. Men's National Team decided to re-enact the iconic battle from Episode 8 of this season, "The Mountain and the Viper."

Unfortunately, for everyone in this country, the United States decided to assume the role of Prince Oberyn Martell. It was heartbreaking.

The U.S. was up 2 - 1 going in to stoppage time, when 5 minutes (5 minutes!) was tacked on. The U.S. held on for most of it, but Ronaldo, arguably the greatest player in the world made an assist at the last minute–literally the last minute–to give Portugal a tie.

The United States was 30 seconds away from advancing to the round of 16. Now I know how Tyrion felt.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

HEY THERE, STRANGER

I know. I know. You don't even have to say it. I already know.

Look, the thing is that I've been busy. I've been working on things that I just haven't been able to share with you yet. Lots of behind the scenes things.

Also, laziness. That's also a thing. Laziness in regards to this blog, anyway. I've been getting outside, enjoying the summer, taking pictures with animals, trail running, going to bbq's and gardening with a two-year-old, playing PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN with a six-year-old, eating dinner on patios, going on nighttime walks to coffee shops. I've been doing all the things that you're supposed to do when the weather gets nice. you should be doing that stuff as well.

There has been a lot of stuff going on in the background though, I promise. Work has been... weird. There's been a lot of drastic changes to the company that I work for and I'm just kind of rolling with it. But enough about that. Let's talk about fun stuff!
  • We've been going strong on the soccer podcast for 33 straight weeks now. It's been a lot of fun and if you like soccer and jokes you should check it out. There is a lot of soccer talk though. I won't lie, sometimes even I tune out for 10-15 minutes each time. And I'm in the room! http://www.wearethereserves.com
  • I got accepted to Craft Lake City again this summer. I'm sharing a booth with my friend Lauren, who makes cat crafts. It's going to be a lot of fun, but now I have to buckle down and start actually getting my shit together. There will be another issue of FILLER, maybe some buttons and maybe some more shirts. I don't know yet. Depends how much I can get done in the next two months.
  • SLUG Magazine and Craft Lake City are presenting some workshops this summer and they asked me to teach one. I'll be teaching a bunch of junior high kids how to make zines, which I'm pretty excited about. The biggest problem is going to be explaining what a zine actually is and that it has nothing to do with a computer. That might be tricky.
  • I started reviewing comics again for SLUG. They gave me the first seven volumes of The Sixth Gun from Oni Press, so I worked my way through that and sent in a fairly long review earlier this week. It should be up soon. I've got two more comics I've got to read and a documentary about the early years of the California hardcore/punk scene to review next.
  • Casey and I have actually been working on that children's book we concocted two years ago. We've been meeting regularly and pretty much have the whole thing hammered out. Then it moves into the scripting stage, then we need to find an artist. We're hoping to have it done and ready to go sometime next year. We're not exactly sure how that will happen, but it will. Casey's already trying to figure out how it'll be turned into a ride at Disneyland, how much control we'll have over the film rights and what kind of sequel potential it has. I'm trying to figure out how we're going to get it actually finished in the first place.
  • I'm 52 pages into the rewrite of the Until My Heart Stops book. It's pretty much like starting over because I'm going back to posts that I wrote in 2004-2005 and seeing how bad they are. I've basically been re-reading each post, trying to get back in the mindset of that specific day and starting fresh. It's been easier and harder than I thought it would be all at once. I'm leaning towards renaming it "Tin Foil Basements and the Junkyard Next to the Women's Prison" but I'm not 100%. There are a few other ideas that I'm kicking around, too. I really like that one, though. We'll see. I want a second draft finished by the end of the summer so I can start playing with the layout.
  • Tulip went back to print and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to get it in stores. I knew it would be hard, but there are a lot of hoops that I have to jump through and a lot of bookstores (even the local ones) won't take anything unless they can get it through a vendor. I managed to get it into a local record store, but that's about it so far. Baby steps, you know?
See? I've been getting stuff done, it just hasn't been in the form of blog posts for you to read. I want to change that, but there's also a bunch of other stuff I want to accomplish, too. 

But I love you for still checking in with me. I really will try to update more often. I've got about 20 loose story ideas in my drafts folder. It's just a matter of getting to them.

Friday, May 16, 2014

ADULT PAINS


My man Andy Carter is having his first solo art show this weekend, and Friday is the opening night party. Everyone should come down to Fice and check it out. The address on that flier is actually wrong, but it's next to Este Pizza's downtown location at 160 East 200 South.

Andy's always been kind of a night owl, so while everyone else is sleeping, he's wandering the streets, taking pictures of the homeless people he meets, and asking them to tell him something about themselves. He's turned some of those photos into paintings and others into gel medium transfers, and they'll be hanging on the walls of the store for the rest of the month.

Eventually, these paintings and some of the photos he's taken will be collected into a book, with excerpts of the conversation he's had with each person. This is the first step, so come out and support.

Oh, Andy is also the guy behind Pangea Speed, which builds amazing motorcycles and custom bike parts. If you have a motorcycle, I'm sure you know all about him and his work. This is just a little extension of that.

I'll see you there.

YOUR WEBSITE AS YOUR PERSONAL MIXTAPE

Last year, when I started my new career as a desk jockey at boring corporate institutions, my first "challenge" was to write a blog post. Easy enough, I figured. The goal was for the three of us on the copywriting team to write and publish a piece about the Internet. Broad enough topic, right? One person wrote about keywords, one wrote about customer reach and I took a page from HIGH FIDELITY and wrote about turning your website into a kick-ass mixtape.

The goal was to see who got the most page views over the course of a month and the winner got $500 (well, $377 after taxes. God damn government). I used every trick I knew and called in every favor I could and eventually won. I posted a HIGH FIDELITY meme on Tumblr with a link to the piece embedded in the image and I still get "reblog" and "like" notifications about it to this day. It has almost 4,000 notes and is definitely the most popular thing I've ever posted. It's pretty stupid what works on that site.

It's been a year since the contest ended, so I figured I'd post my entry up here since I no longer work for that company, and that company doesn't really exist anymore anyway. If you helped me out by sharing it, I still appreciate it, and to show my thanks, I compiled all the songs that I listed into a cool playlist at the bottom. Using a Spotify embed flies against everything I wrote about in this piece, but it's just so much easier, right?

Enjoy!

Your Website as Your Personal Mixtape

The Internet is a weird, wild place. There are so many different avenues and alleyways to explore that you’ll never see it all. But getting there is half the fun, right?

When you have your own website—whether it’s a site for a small business, your writing, or just your personal blog—it can be hard to get noticed and it won’t just happen overnight. Building up a website requires building up a web presence. You need to be active all over the place and have your hands in a few different social pies for your website to grow. But beyond that, first and foremost, your site content has to be better than the rest.

In order for someone to choose your site out the endless abyss that is the Internet, you need to have a voice of your own. The content has to be interesting and informative, sure, but you need to stick out from the pack. You need to be a unique voice that rises to the surface.

The best way to do that is to approach your blog or website the same way you’d put together a mixtape.

You remember those, right?

Back before Spotify and YouTube playlists were shared and available at the click of a mouse, you had to physically hand someone a cassette tape. A tape that you put together through hard work of pouring through every song in your collection and figuring out how to delicately express your own feelings through someone else’s poetry. It meant sitting in front of your stereo, listening to the radio, waiting for that one perfect song to come back on. You’d have a blank tape in the deck, cued up and ready to start as soon as you heard the opening notes. Then you’d spend the rest of the night timing the start of each song just right so as not to lose valuable space and making the most of those 30 minutes on each side.

It took a lot more effort than a simple drag and drop.

That’s kind of what building a website is like, too.

Getting that perfect website takes a lot of careful planning and lot of work goes into it. It’s a lot like crafting a mixtape, only you’re not giving it to one special person. Instead, you’re trying to separate yourself from, literally, millions of others. You’re trying to make your website that special thing that people want more of.

In order to do this, it’s always helpful to think back to one of the best movies (and books before it) ever made about music—HIGH FIDELITY.

In the movie, the venerable hero, Rob, played by John Cusack, spends a lot of time making mixtapes for the girls that he likes. He waxes intellectual about song choices and Top 5 lists and eventually reveals the ever-important rules.

“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem.” 

The concept is pretty simple, but you do have to put some thought into it. If you apply these same rules to your website, you’ll have a pretty great place that people are going to want to visit. You’ve got to get them there, make them stick around, and then ask them to spend a little bit of their day with you.

“You gotta kick off with a killer. Grab their attention.” 

This same formula has to be applied to websites and blogs. You get one chance to hook them before they hit that ‘back’ button and go looking for something else. It doesn’t necessarily have to be controversial or anything like that, but you need to have something at the top of the page that gets people to stop. They clicked the link and your site loaded; now you have to get them to stay there. That means you need to have an interesting headline or a unique idea that will pique someone’s curiosity and encourage them to read on. Your personality should be on full display from the first line of that site.

Suggested tracks: “All My Life” by Foo Fighters, “Bed For The Scraping” by Fugazi, “The Great Pan is Dead” by Cold Cave.

“Then you gotta take it up a notch…” 

Your biggest goal when building a website is to make it a place that people want to visit. You want them to remember it, bookmark it and keep coming back to it. The best way to do that is to have not only consistent content, but consistently good content. Once they’ve lingered on the page for a minute, reading that first headline, they need to be given a reason to stay a bit longer. That’s why headlines and first paragraphs are so important—those are the first things that people will see and read. You need to keep them engaged.

 It’s a little bit like when you get sucked into a STORAGE WARS marathon on TV. They run the credits over the final scene and dive right in to the next episode without a single break. It gets you every single time (or me, anyway). That’s what your website (and mixtape) need to master—get them in, but more importantly, keep them there.

Suggested tracks: “Trusty Chords” by Hot Water Music, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, “Gimmie Shelter” by The Rolling Stones.

 “…then you’ve gotta cool it off a notch.” 

This is about the time that people are going to get comfortable with your site and start looking around a little more in depth. It’s at about this spot that you can put in an old favorite or in the case of a blog, a recurring topic or a recurring feature. Maybe you have a certain topic that you spotlight once a week or so. This is about where it should go. You can’t try to constantly one-up yourself, because that’s when you start to overwhelm people. You need to let them settle in and get into a rhythm.

Suggested tracks: “Karma Police” by Radiohead, “Disintegration” by The Cure, “Avoiding Catatonic Surrender” by Tim Barry. 

You can’t get complacent though. Just because someone chose your website over the vast millions of others out there, it doesn’t mean they’re going to keep coming back just out of habit. This is where it gets tricky. You want to be able to attract new readers and new visitors as much as possible, but you don’t want to alienate the ones you’ve already got. This is the point on your blog/site/mixtape where you need to have confidence that your words and ideas are enough to keep people interested. You can write with confidence, and still take a few risks here and there. You’ve kept them around and coming back, they must agree with your taste so. At this point, you can afford to play around a little bit.

Suggested tracks: “Young Americans” by David Bowie, “Funny Little Frog” by Belle & Sebastian, “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells. 

“There are a lot of rules.” 

Since blogs and websites tend to be endless, there’s no need to build to that final closing track that brings the house down. But once you get into a rhythm of regular posting, recurring features and returning visitors, it will feel just like that, a rhythm. You’ll feel the ebb and flow of what people like, what they’re commenting on, what kind of interaction you’re getting and all that good stuff that keeps a site thriving. Once you’re there, it’ll start to feel a lot like your perfect mixtape will never have to end. As long as you keep posting, keeping things interesting and inviting a dialogue—whether through comments or emails—you’ll never need to end. But in the spirit of the topic, you need a closer. You need something that’s going to stick with them. It’s got to be a song that hits them right in the chest, makes them remember why they were so happy to get the tape from you in the first place.

Suggested tracks: “Love Spreads” by The Stone Roses, “Sweet Avenue” by Jets to Brazil, “Girls Like You” by The Naked and Famous, or the classic “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.

There you have it. That’s how you build your online profile and get people to decide that you and your site are worthy enough to be added to their bookmarks bar.

I’ve also given you a pretty great playlist to get you through your day. I can’t decorate it with a ballpoint pen, but this is close enough.

You’re welcome.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

THE MOST ELECTRIFYING MEN IN SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT

We'll just start at the top and get the truth out in the open: I still kind of love professional wrestling. I still make WWE jokes all the time, I still have a Stone Cold Steve Austin bandanna and I still follow it a little bit. Not to the extent that I used to, but enough to know the broad strokes of what's happening and who's who.

I just never actually watch it.

When I was a kid, I watched it all the time. Only, by "all the time" I mean "once a week on Saturday night or early Sunday morning." Back then, it was the WWF and there was a weekly show that aired sometime on Saturday or Sunday. It basically gave everyone the gist of what was going on, who was feuding with who, who held the title and when they were putting it on the line next. My favorite wrestler was, of course, Hulk Hogan. I loved everything about him.

At one point, when I was about 7 or 8, I had a tank top that I wore around the house (and only around the house, because my dad thought they were trashy and wouldn't let me wear it out in public). It got a little tear in it one day, and I wanted to rip it off the way Hogan did before a match so badly. But I had to ask permission first. I couldn't just run around ruining clothes—even ones my dad hated.

My mom finally said that it was okay for me to destroy it, but I couldn't. I physically couldn't do it. My arms were too weak and I could't tear the ribbing that ran across the front. The Hulkster and his 24" pythons were much stronger than I thought. After a few minutes of trying, my mom made a little cut in the front so it would rip easier and assured me that's probably what Hulk had to do, too.

A few years later, one of the story lines had Hulk Hogan feuding with Earthquake and they were coming to the Salt Palace for a stretcher match. My brother and I wanted to go more than anything, but neither of my parents had any interest in going, and they were also a little bit weary of sending a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old to the Salt Palace. A few weeks before the WWF event, AC/DC had played there and three people died when the crowd rushed the stage and they were trampled underneath. Eventually, we found another way to go and my cousin Robbie stepped up to take us. We just had to promise to stay in our seats the whole time.

It took a little bit of digging, but I was able to find out the whole card for that night:

WWF @ Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, UT - February 7, 1991

Sam Houston vs. The Barbarian
The Legion of Doom vs. Mr. Fuji and the Orient Express (handicap match)
Tito Santana vs. Haku
WWF Tag Team Champions Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart vs. Hercules & Paul Roma
Kerry Von Erich vs. Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Rick "The Model" Martel
Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake

I have no idea who won any of those matches, but I have to assume that Hulk won because I vaguely remember him strutting around as Earthquake was wheeled off on a (presumably reinforced) stretcher. That's about the last time I can remember caring about professional wrestling until about 1999. The WWF rolled out Thursday Night Smackdown on UPN then had a recap show that covered both RAW and Smackdown that started about midnight on Saturdays. The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon as the bad guy had me intrigued, so I started paying attention again.

The matches themselves were never the part that interested me. It was always the story lines and the performances that drew me in, and those guys were much better than the guys I saw in the 90's.

When The Rock and Stone Cold moved on I pretty much tuned out. I was only kind of paying attention when McMahon bought the rival WCW and merged them, but was so lost that it didn't matter. When CM Punk started showing up, I hated him for using Straight Edge as his gimmick, but then I actually learned a bit about him, began to like and respect the guy, and started paying attention again. At that point though, I could just get all the best stuff in YouTube clips and Bleacher Report recaps a few days afterwards. Again, it was never about the matches, but always about the stuff that happened elsewhere.

A few months back, I updated my Apple TV and there was a little icon with the WWE logo on it. I'd heard that the company was developing their own network, but I thought it was going to take the place of some other fledgling channel buried deep inside an upper-tier basic cable package that I had no intention of upgrading to. Then I found out that it was going to be a Netflix/HBOGo type thing with a monthly fee. I did some digging and found out that for $10 a month, you get everything that the WWE has ever produced and you get access to all 12 of their Pay-Per-View matches every year. It was insane how much content they were putting on there.

I was amazed, excited and badly wanted to shell out the ten bucks every four weeks that it would cost me to have access to the WWE library from the past 30 years. But I also wanted to have a shot at dating an actual woman again sometime soon, so I decided against it. Then I found out that they were offering a one-week free trial just to test the waters and to get people interested, so I did that instead. (editor's note: It's actually like a 6 day free trial, because I signed up on a Friday afternoon and had to cancel by the following Thursday or I'd be locked in for six months.)

When I got home from work that night, I turned on the TV and launched the app. Then I was fucking lost. Being a brand new product, things were still a little wonky. The search function is atrocious and while there are some individual matches from the mid-week programs, there's nothing from the Pay-Per-Views. To get any of those matches, you have to know which event it happened at, where it was on the card and then fast-forward (no chapter markings! It was like a goddamn video tape with much better quality) to the appropriate time.
Having no idea where to start, I used Google to search for notable matches in WWE history, then had to figure out how to locate them within the app. It took kind of a long time. I watched Mankind and The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match, the WCW Bash at the Beach match where Hulk Hogan turned heel and the NWO was formed, the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match that the Internet loves, the Montreal Screwjob and the match where CM Punk won the title and walked out just before his WWE contract expired.

All great stuff, but again, I don't care about any of it. I want the off screen stuff. I want the behind-the-scenes action. I want to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. I want to see how the sausage gets made.

After McMahon screwed Bret Hart out of the title, he hid backstage. The Undertaker was so mad that he went to McMahon's dressing room and demanded that he apologize to Hart. I want to see that. I want to see what Shawn Michaels had to say when Hart confronted him.

There was the segment of RAW when CM Punk aired all of his dirty laundry with Vince and was cut off, but I couldn't find that in any of CM Punk's listings. I was able to find it very easily on YouTube though. And that's free.

The Buried Alive match between The Undertaker and Mankind had some great moments, but I wanted to know more about the logistics of it than anything else. I wanted to know all the little details about how intricately they planned those types of matches.

Maybe things will get better as time goes on, but as of the few hours I spent with it, the matches had no context. The reality is that it would be fairly difficult to include three decades of overlapping story lines, but that's what I want, damn it.

All of those things aside, I got my free trial's worth. I spent a few hours watching things the first night and maybe a half an hour at a time here and there the rest of the week. Mostly, I just wandered through the singles matches remembering wrestlers that I hadn't thought about in years. I started wondering what happened to the also-rans that never quite made it to Icon status the way Hogan and The Rock did. You know, wrestlers like:

William Regal - Currently broadcasting or something like that for the WWE's minor league/developmental program.
Kurt Angle - Climbed all the way to the top of the WWE payroll but quit in 2006 because he was being forced to work while injured. He's been wrestling for TNA (the only real competition to WWE) ever since.
The Hardy Boyz - Jeff and Matt split up and have been making the rounds in TNA and the smaller circuit shows like OMEGA.
Eric Bischoff - Worked for TNA for a while before being let go sometime in 2013.
Lita - She was the "manager" for the Hardyz, held the women's championship for a while, but retired in 2006. Afterwards, she formed a punk band called "The Luchagors" and has been kind of floating around ever since.
Trish Stratus - Also held the women's championship belt for a bit before retiring in 2006. She's been working as a trainer and opened a yoga studio in Toronto.
Kevin Nash - He was "Super Shredder" in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2, and Tarzan in MAGIC MIKE. He's still employed by WWE.
Test - Overdosed on oxycodone in 2009, and his autopsy showed that he had advanced Alzheimer's usually found in professional boxers.

The list goes on and on. Staying at the top for a long time is hard to do and the only ones that have come out of it pretty much in tact are The Rock, HHH, Hulk Hogan (to an extent), Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels. It's strange that out of everyone I grew up watching in the 80's, Hogan is the only one still in the spotlight. Granted, it's mostly been for his shitty reality TV show, his messy public divorce, and his sex tape, but he's still managed to right the ship when things start to go south. Everyone else is either dead or still scraping by and performing at shows in YMCA auditoriums, battling addiction problems and living in their car. It's really kind of sad.

I look back on that card from the Salt Palace show I saw in 1991 and it's depressing to see where everyone is now.

Sam Houston - Wrestled sporadically for a few years but never found his footing. In 2005, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for repeated DUI offenses. He only served a fraction of the time and was last known to be wrestling in the independent circuit in Louisiana.
The Barbarian - Only under contract in the WWE for three years, then bounced around for a while. Since 2001, he's been wrestling part time in the independent circuit and running a construction company in North Carolina.
Legion of Doom - They were one of the greatest Tag Teams in wrestling and lasted quite a while. Hawk died in 2003, and Animal still appears on the live shows every once in a while.
Mr. Fuji and the Orient Express - Mr. Fuji retired in 1996, which was two years after The Orient Express split up and disappeared.
Tito Santana - He was one of the mainstays of the old WWF guard, wrestling from 1979 to 1993. He's been doing independent shows ever since, even though he's 63 years old.
Haku - Still doing independent shows.
Bret Hart - Hart left the WWE after the Montreal Screwjob, but eventually came back. He's currently signed to the WWE Legends program (which is essentially a way to keep beloved wrestlers of the past on a payroll of some sort. McMahon probably got sick of all the negative press coming his way when one of the stars of yesteryear spiraled out of control in some way) and appears every once in a while.
Jim Neidhart - After he left the WWE, he's mostly been working for TNA. There's not much on him since 2009. He's not dead though.
Hercules - Died of heart disease in his sleep in 2004.
Paul Roma - Tried his hand at boxing after his wrestling career stalled out, but that didn't last long. He now runs a wrestling training school in Connecticut.
Kerry Von Erich - He was involved in a motorcycle accident in 1986 that badly damaged his right foot. Doctors tried to repair it, but Von Erich put too much pressure on it too soon after the operation and made it worse, which resulted in its amputation. Somehow, Von Erich was able to keep the fact that he had a prosthetic foot—going as far as to shower with his boots on—a secret and kept wrestling. He became addicted to pain killers, his marriage fell apart and he eventually killed himself following in the footsteps of two of his brothers.
Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase - Still alive, signed to the WWE Legends program and occasionally appears on shows. He has two sons that have been signed to WWE at some point. One is now doing the independent circuit and the other retired due to knee problems.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts - Was featured in the ultra-depressing documentary BEYOND THE MAT, gained too much weight and moved in with Diamond Dallas Page, whom Roberts trained and mentored during the early years of Page's career. Page got Roberts in much better shape through Yoga and helped him with his recovery from addiction. Roberts was diagnosed with muscular cancer below his knees, but has been fighting it. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year.
Rick "The Model" Martel - Still alive, but not really doing anything that revolves around wrestling.
Earthquake - Started out as a sumo wrestler, switched to the WWE and had a pretty great career. He died of bladder cancer in 2006.
The WWE app wasn't enough for me to go back to, and I've still never watched a live Pay-Per-View event. I probably never will. But I'll always have a bit of a soft spot for the squared circle, the Hell in a Cell, the Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches and everything else that goes on in the Vince McMahon empire.

I just don't want to actually watch any of it.