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.

Monday, May 12, 2014

SALT LAKE COMIC CON: FAN X - POSTGAME

A few weeks late, but I've heard a bunch of people say things like "better late than never" over the years, so here we are. That's not always true, by the way, because sometimes it just gets way more awkward if you try to pick up a thread after it's been on the ground for too long. Believe me, I know.

But whatever. This is my blog and I'll pick up threads for things that happened weeks ago without even skipping a beat. That's how we roll here.

And since that's the case, I'm going to give you the rundown of Salt Lake Comic Con: Fan Experience from a few weeks ago.

Last September, Salt Lake held its first Comic Con and it was a huge success. So much so, that they decided to do it twice this year. They called the first event something different, of course, but it was basically the same thing. Things got a little bit crowded at the Salt Palace Convention Center last time around, but that's mostly because no one knew what to expect so they only used half the available space. This time, they opened the entire thing and it was enormous.

The final numbers haven't been announced yet, but the rumor is that Fan X (what they're calling the April event) was the third largest comic convention in the country—right behind New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con. That's pretty damn impressive.

Like last fall, Casey, Spidey and I took a gamble on a booth to sell some of our unwanted comics and it worked out really well. We sold a whole bunch of stuff and immediately started making plans for the next event. This time around, we had things pretty well organized (well, Spidey and I did, anyway. Casey waited until the Saturday before the convention to even start, which meant we were helping him bag, board and sort his comics the whole weekend.) and ready to go. We rented a truck Wednesday afternoon and got everything loaded into the convention center that evening. It was a full three days this time (instead of two and a half), so we had to be there pretty early the next day to get everything set up and ready to go.

From the minute the doors opened we were busy. There were a bunch of people that had bought stuff from us last year that came back for more and were really excited to see us. That made us feel pretty good and the whole weekend went really well from start to finish.

It was really exhausting, but a lot of fun and I'm excited to get back to it this fall. I solidified our spot for Salt Lake Comic Con proper a couple of days ago, and now we just need to get an earlier start on getting things together. Luckily, Spidey let us store everything at his house so it's all in one spot and we can organize things a little easier.

We're also splitting a bigger space with Casey's toy store, The Tutoring Toy, so that we'll actually have enough room for all of our books. Now we've just got to start planning out how to make the most of the space we're getting.

If you're planning on attending Salt Lake Comic Con in September, buy your passes ASAP and come visit Grudge City Comics/Old News Records/The Tutoring Toy in booth 1701.

I promise to give better updates as we get closer to it. Probably. Well, maybe.

Oh, and that tank top in the photo below? Yeah, that's available if you want to buy it. Just head over to the Old News Records store and grab it.


Friday, May 2, 2014

TULIP IS BACK IN STOCK

Last year I turned Old News Records into a publishing company and released our first novel. It's written by the very talented Mike Farfel, and we just got it back in stock.

I wrote a bit about it over here, and Jay Meehan of the Park Record wrote about it in his column last fall.

It's a really great debut novel and I urge all of you to check it out. It's for sale in the Old News Records store right now, so get a copy while you have the chance. I'm looking into getting it in a few local bookstores, so if you'd rather wait for that to happen, I'm all for it. But, I'm just saying, it's right there, ready for you to read.

"Bogged down by the existential angst of the American Dream, Tulip has long since given up on any search for meaning—until a voice he's never heard sneaks into his head.

The small miracles of life, paired with the new voice, sets him on a path of moral awakenings and trials by the Devil's hand. Through it all, Tulip seeks love, fights back hoards of entitled masses and finds a new hope and respect for humanity.

At the same time, Tulip must decide if the voice in his head is real or if reality is just falling apart."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

THEY'RE REALLY DOING IT

Well that escalated quickly.

Back in January (which is like 6 posts ago, I know, and I'm sorry. I've been busy) I wrote about the Satanic Temple and their plans to erect a giant Baphomet statue in front of the Oklahoma state capitol. The reasoning is that since Oklahoma is kind of violating that whole "separation of church and state" thing by having a 10 Commandments monument, the other side of the coin should be represented as well.

The Satanic Temple launched an Indie GoGo fund to raise money, and hit their goal fairly easily. I pretty much assumed that would be the last we heard of it, but that's thankfully not the case and they've been hard at work actually making the damn thing.

It turns out that Oklahoma state representative Mike Ritze paid for the 10 Commandments statue with his own money and donated it to the state house. Since it was a gift, it was deemed okay to place it on state grounds. Following that explanation, the Satanic Temple has submitted the proper forms and applications and is waiting to hear back. All the while, they've hired a New York-based artist trained in classic sculptures to start making a bust that they'll be able to cast in bronze and place as soon as they get the word.

As noted before, The Church of Satan (probably pissed that they didn't think of it first) had a few issues with the proposed statue, and it looks like some of those issues have been addressed. Vice followed up on the project and got a nice little behind the scenes look at the progress of the 7-foot statue and some great comments from Lucien Greaves—who used to be listed as the leader of the group, but is now just listed as a spokesman. I could probably find out one way or the other, but I've got other things to get back to.

Most notably, Greaves spoke about what might happen to the statue once it's placed. There are bound to be a lot of unhappy people in Oklahoma if the statue is put up and vandalism is highly likely. Greaves said he "wouldn’t expect these outraged and nearly insensible reactionaries to actually know how to assault a bronze monument without severely hurting themselves in the process."

Still, they're not taking any chances and instead building a mold so that if one is damaged, they can just pop out another. "Depending on our insurance policy, we may be able to cast two from the destruction of one, expediting our arrival to the next battleground."

Oklahoma's been staging some great battles in newspaper headlines and inside execution chambers this week, so I'm sure shedding blood on the steps of their statehouse over a statue wouldn't be outside their wheelhouse.

So yeah, the Satanic Temple isn't fucking around here. You should head over to Vice to read their whole piece. I lifted a couple of quotes and these photos from them, so the least you can do is actually go check out their article. And you'll probably get lost in their archives like I do every time. It's fun though. They've got good stuff.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL

This video doesn't really do the song or St. Vincent (the stage name of the fantastic Annie Clark) justice, but it's the best video available right now.

St. Vincent came through SLC a few weeks ago and I didn't go because I'm an idiot. In reality, I heard a few tracks off the new record earlier this year and really liked them, but I just forgot about them. Then I forgot all about St. Vincent as a whole. When she was in town, I saw Instagram posts and Tweets all night about how good the show was, but didn't put everything together until a few days later.

I've been pretty upset about it ever since. To make up for it, I've been listening to her albums all day at work. and watching shitty videos of her performing with Nirvana at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony last night. Better videos will surface eventually, but they'll get taken down pretty quickly since the whole thing will air on HBO next month.

She played "Lithium" with the rest of the guys at the Barclays Center (Joan Jett, Kim Gordon and Lorde also played with the rest of  Nirvana which is Dave Grohl, Krist Novaselic and Pat Smear) and then the whole crew (minus Lorde and adding J Masics and John McCauley of Deer Tick) went over to Saint Vitus, a club with a 230 person capacity, to play a full set. Clark fronted the band for three songs - "Lithium" again, "About a Girl" and "Heart-Shaped Box" and from the sound of it, was amazing.

No matter what she played with Nirvana, Annie Clark is my current lady crush in the music world and I think it's safe to say she'll stay that way for quite a while.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR

I've had the bones of a nice little WWE piece saved in my drafts for a couple of weeks now, but just haven't had the time to sit down and write it. It's a good thing and a bad thing that it's not quite done yet, because The Ultimate Warrior died this week. He was one of my favorite wrestlers when I was little along with Hulk Hogan, Jake the Snake and the Macho Man.

His real name was James Hellwig, and since he left the squared circle back in the 90's, he's been working as a public speaker using the energy he brought to the ring and translating it to a different situation. He also left the makeup behind.

A few weeks ago, on the Reserves Podcast, we picked which WWE superstars would own which Premier League teams. The only stipulation was that they had to still be alive. We ended up deciding that the Warrior would be the owner of Arsenal because they're kind of brash and showy. I think that was the reason. I don't actually remember.

But either way, it's a sad day (well kind of, because Warrior wasn't really the most tolerant person) for anyone that was even remotely a wrestling fan. But it is bittersweet, because this past Sunday, he appeared at WrestleMania 30, was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame and kind of buried the hatchet with the organization that he'd been feuding with on and off since the 1990's.

The next night, he appeared on Monday Night Raw, did his signature rope shaking and addressed the crowd wearing a mask that resembled the war paint he wore in his ring days. That night, Warrior said:

"Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if that man did in his life what makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior."

Friday, March 21, 2014

THE DAY I TRIED TO LIVE

Last fall I drove to Las Vegas to see Nine Inch Nails and it was amazing. You probably remember me writing about it for two months before and after the show. I bet you were also pretty sick of hearing about it.

Well guess what? I'm seeing them again this summer!

They're touring with Soundgarden, too. I used to really, really want to see them but kind of lost interest when they reunited. I figured they'd put on a good show, but I wasn't interested in traveling to see them. But now that they're playing with Nine Inch Nails? Sign me up!

I tried to get tickets in Las Vegas, but I couldn't so no Ronald's, Society Cafe or Twin Peaks for me this time. Instead I'm hitting up Red Rocks in Colorado. Should be fun. This is my way of bragging about it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

AMTRAK WRITER'S RESIDENCY


Last month, my friend Jamie Gadette (whom I've known since we were 16 and I was making amazing punk rock/hip hop mixtapes for her) posted a link to this article.
The Wire -- Inside AmTrak's (Absolutely Awesome) Plan to Give Free Rides to Writers - Amtrak has begun offering "writers’ residencies" to, well, writers – long roundtrip rides aboard Amtrak trains dedicated solely for the purpose of writing.
It's a brilliant idea and a great way to get people back riding trains. Sort of, anyway. Apparently, from the limited research that I've done anyway, it's pretty hard to actually get approved. I imagine that there's thousands of writers that heard about this and immediately tried to apply.

Amtrak had to then figure out what kind of writers get residencies and how often they can afford to offer the program. The thing is that these days, just about anyone can call themselves a writer. Every coffee shop in LA is full of aspiring screenwriters and every coffee shop in Brooklyn is filled with 23-year-old kids writing their autobiography (thanks a lot, Lena Dunham; but Allison Williams, if you're reading this, call me).

Trains are a little bit obsolete in this day and age. Flying is cheaper and faster (though maybe not safer. I mean really, it's 2014 and my friend uses the "Find my iPhone" app to keep track of where his wife is at all times, but - as of now anyway - it's been two weeks and we can't find a god damn Boeing 777 airplane?) and driving is pretty convenient if you're going short distances. Trains take anywhere from 2-5 times longer than flying and is way more expensive.

I've never ridden the train long distances in the U.S. I took one in South America, and it was pretty awesome. It feels like this is a good idea, but Amtrak is probably being very selective about who they give these residencies to. They'll probably want at least a bit of publicity out of each one, so it'll have to be some sort of established writer. Not like a famous novelist, but someone that actually has a wide readership. If it's a journalist, they'll probably be someone with connections to a few bigger magazines or websites. The first writer that tried it out was Jessica Gross. The piece she wrote during her trip was published by The Paris Review.

It's really hard for me to believe that they'd just let someone with a blogger, WordPress or Tumblr account ride the train for free for a few days, but I don't know for sure. I do know that they're only selecting 24 people, which makes it more competitive than I thought at first.

But it definitely won't stop me from trying. That's on my imaginary list for "Things to do in 2014."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

BRMC - "FAULT LINE"

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has been a band for a long, long time. I never paid much attention to them because I kind of hate that name and that's how things go. I didn't think they were bad, but I also never gave them a real shot until a few months ago.

And they're really, really good.

This song was featured on episode 7 of TRUE DETECTIVE (that whole show is amazing, by the way) and it showed up in an awesome playlist that I found of all the songs featured on the show. After a few times through everything on the playlist, I switched to BRMC and have been listening to their entire catalog pretty much non-stop for the past couple of weeks.

I suggest you do the same. You won't regret it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

GREATEST UNSCRIPTED SCENES

The hardest part about being a screenwriter is probably having your stuff re-written all the time. Well, that and actually getting a project off the ground. That one is probably harder.

But what sounds good on the page doesn't always translate well to the screen, or it paves the way for a much better exchange. Screenplays are like blueprints in that way. All the information is there and will get you a precise, finished product, but there's always a little room for growth and change. That's especially true if you have talented people in front of the camera and a director that's willing to try things on the fly.

Some of the best scenes in movies have been pieces that weren't in the original script and made up on the fly. ScreenRant has a list of 32 of the greatest unscripted scenes. I dropped a few of my favorites below, but you should really head over and read the entire thing if you have the chance. There are tons more out there, but these are probably the most well known.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - Gun vs. Sword
While chasing Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) after she's been kidnapped, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) runs into a large sword-wielding bad guy dressed all in black. Instead of fighting him in what would surely be a losing whip versus sword battle, Indy simply pulls out his revolver, puts the man down with one shot and moves on. The original script called for a long sword fight but a day earlier Ford got a severe case of food poisoning and didn't have the energy to film the scene as written. After a discussion with director Steven Spielberg, the scene was changed and became an iconic part of Indiana Jones mythos.

GOOD WILL HUNTING - The Farting Wife
In this scene between therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) and math genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon), Williams proves that comedic-minded actors usually give the best ad libbed scenes. The entire story about Maguire's flatulent spouse was made up on the spot by Williams and not a part of the original script.

JAWS - "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
While chumming the waters in an attempt to lure the deadly great white shark within range, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets his first look at exactly how massive the killer shark truly is. Stunned, startled and filled with fear he stands up and utters the now famous line to Orca Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) completely off-script, "You're going to need a bigger boat.” Turns out, he was right.

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - "I know."
As smuggler-turned-hero Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is about to be encased in carbonite, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) reveals her love for him. The script called for Leia to say "I love you" to which Solo was supposed to respond with "I love you too". Ford decided that Solo wouldn't say something like that and instead, changed the line to simply "I know."

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - "Singin' in the Rain"
Alex (Malcolm McDowell) breaks into a happy song as he and his "droogs" perform a bit of "ultra-violence" and rape. Reportedly Kubrick filmed this scene several times and wasn't happy with it each time - until he told McDowell to just "do anything he wanted". McDowell decided to belt out "Singing in the Rain" and Kubrick was so pleased with how much better the scene became that he acquired the rights to use the song immediately.

The story goes that after Gene Kelly, who made the song famous, actually saw the movie, he was furious. When Kelly, Kubrick and McDowell wound up at the same party at some point after the movie premiered, Kelly refused to speak to either of them.

TAXI DRIVER - "You talkin' to me?"
When screenwriter Paul Schrader wrote this scene it simply said "Travis talks to himself in the mirror" - there was no specific dialog given. Everything that insomnia-plagued taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) says during his faux-conversation was improvised by De Niro on the spot. To this day, whenever someone walks by a mirror they can't help but utter his now famous line "You talking to me?"