Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bray Wyatt: one of the most compelling characters in wrestling



One of the coolest theme songs in wrestling right now is that of Bray Wyatt. I think the reason for that is because it's a real song. Somebody in a board room didn't say, "Here's this character, he needs some sounds to happen when he's walking to the ring." Bray Wyatt found the song a few years ago, "Broken Out In Love," by Mark Crozer and the Rels, and made it his entrance music.

The video above is from WrestleMania 30. For big events, WWE will occasionally feature live performances by a band if they can make it work out for their wrestlers. Sometimes it's planned out in advance - Mark Crozer and the Rels announced sometime in February that they were performing at WrestleMania in April. For WrestleMania 29, WWE realized that Living Colour - who performs CM Punk's theme - would be in New York the same weekend as WM29 just a few weeks before the event, so they put something together quickly.

For those who don't know, Bray Wyatt is a 3rd generation wrestler. His real name is Windham Rotunda. His father is Mike Rotunda, who had some fame in the early 90s WWE as "Irwin R. Schyster" aka "IRS." His uncle is Barry Windham, a famous member of the Four Horsemen. His grandfather is Blackjack Mulligan, a member of the famous "Blackjacks" tag team from the 70s.

Bray Wyatt is one of the most compelling characters in wresting. He doesn't necessarily do "wrestling promos," i.e. "I'm gonna kick your ass." He talks about real things: corruption, politics, being held down in life. I feel like it could resonate to a real audience, not just wrestling fans.

Below is Bray's last appearance in NXT. That's basically WWE's "developmental system." People get their characters in order there, they train, they learn, etc. Then when they're ready to be "WWE Superstars" they leave NXT and appear on "Raw" and "SmackDown."

He was so charismatic that the NXT audience turned him into a good guy. As he gives his farewell address, the crowd cheers him as he gives a passionate promo about chasing your dreams and facing your fears. As a sidenote, the wrestling match featured in the beginning is only 30 seconds long, so that's not too much to get through.

The #YesMovement is back!



Daniel Bryan was promoted by WWE as being on the Dec. 29 episode of Monday Night Raw in order to make an important announcement about his career. 

Some people were speculating about the worst. Daniel Bryan had one of the most incredible fan-led grassroots movements to make one person a main event star in WWE. It culminated with Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in front of 75,000 people at WrestleMania 30. 

As Bryan mentions in the video above, a week after his victory, he married his longtime girlfriend. Then, the negatives started to happen: his father died while Bryan was backstage at a Monday Night Raw episode. Then he injured his neck. He took a month off, to see if he could recover. It was decided that he needed neck surgery and he was stripped of the WWE Championship.

Aside from a couple random appearances here and there, we have not seen Daniel Bryan since May. He was initially scheduled to come back around the end of the summer, but he noted that he wasn't regaining strength in his arms after the surgery. It was being speculated that he would need a second surgery, which would possibly keep him out for a year or longer.

He definitely took the "WWE Universe" on an emotional roller coaster ride with his performance on Monday night. There was a legitimate chance that he needed additional surgeries and that his career could be over. 

But, he shocked the audience when he posed the following question: "Is Daniel Bryan's career over?" The answer, of course, was "No." He announced that he was ready to come back and asked a second question: "Is Daniel Bryan in the 2015 Royal Rumble match?" And the answer to that question, to the delight of the fans, was "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Below is a video that WWE produced for Daniel Bryan as he entered into WrestleMania 30. It shows the evolution of his career and how he got to this point. Below that is Bryan the night after WrestleMania 30, making his first appearance as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week

This week's edition of the "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" is a segment from his podcast, "Norm Maconald Live," where he interviews comedian Todd Glass. This is part 02 of a two-part episode.

There's a lot of insightful discussion between two comedians. They look at comics who are "shocking" just to be shocking. They talk about words that are no longer socially acceptable, due to being racist, sexist, or homophobic and look at words today that we as a society will frown upon in the future. They bring up "retard" and "gay" as being words that people used as insults that are no longer as accepted as they used to be. Norm brings up that he has a schizophrenic brother and doesn't like when people use that word to describe somebody being weird.

They mix in a lot of humor and - Norm especially - go off topic with long-winded jokes, but it all makes a good point. It's a fun hour. Click here to watch part 01.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie Review: The Interview

Have you guys heard about this movie? It's called "The Interview" and stars James Franco as a tabloid-style news personality and Seth Rogen is his producer. Nothing too scandalous, right? Oh yeah, the plot of the movie is that they get an interview with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and are recruited by the CIA to kill him.

North Korea was not happy. Some mysterious threats that alluded to bombing any theater showing the movie were made. People believed those threats were from North Korea. Several movie theater chains pulled out of showing the film, which was to open Christmas Day. Sony, the film's distributor, then decided to cancel the release.

It was a super big deal for a couple days. The general consensus seems to now be that North Korea was not behind the terrorist threats. Sony can't just be like "Oops, let's just pretend like this didn't happen," so it's no longer in theaters. But, they did decide to distribute it digitally, via YouTube, PlayStation, and other video streaming media.

I paid $5.99 to rent "The Interview" on YouTube. For less than six dollars, I can watch it for 30 days. Watching it once was enough, honestly.

James Franco plays Dave Skylark, a tabloid journalist. Seth Rogen is his producer, Aaron Rapaport. Skylark hosts a celebrity interview show, which features some funny cameos during the film: Eminem reveals he's gay, Rob Lowe pulls his wig off to show he's been bald since the 80's, and Joseph Gordon Levitt is randomly in a playpen full of puppies.

Skylark and Rapaport are polar opposites when it comes to journalism. Rapaport wants to do more. It comes to a head during one heated argument.

Rapaport: "I wanted to cover serious news, not Nikki Minaj's fucking vagina flopping out at the fucking Grammy's."

Skylark: "You don't like that brown sugar?"

It comes out that Kim Jong Un is a fan of the interview show. Through a series of hilarious(?) twists and turns, they land the interview. The only conditions are that they have to travel to North Korea and Jong Un will provide his own questions. Rapaport is not sure about the ethical side of this deal.

Skylark: "When you score a Hitler or a bin Laden or an Un, you grab it by the balls. It's the first rule of journalism; give the people what they want."

Rapaport: "That's not the first rule of journalism. I think that's the first rule of circuses and demolition derbies."

There are plenty of dumb jokes throughout this film. When they first meet the CIA lady after a night of debauchery, they are hung over and can't stop staring at her cleavage as she explains that she wants them to "take out" Un. Take him out on the town? Take him out to lunch? They eventually get with the program. And hilarity(?) ensues.

Both Skylark and Kim Jong Un are misunderstood by the world, and as such they form a bond and friendship. They both love the same music and drinks.

Un: "Do you think margaritas are gay?"

Skylark: "Did somebody tell you that? If liking Katy Perry and drinking margaritas is gay, then who wants to be straight?"

Un: "Not me."

We then go to a montage of Skylark and Un listening to "Firework" and blowing stuff up in a tank, then playing basketball, then partying with North Korean prostitutes. It's just as over-the-top and funny as it sounds. One of the highlights of the film.

A rift forms between Skylark and Rapaport, as Skylark begins to have second thoughts. The truest lines of the film come next:

Skylark: "Kim is not evil. He was just born into a bad situation."

Rapaport: "You are fucking stupid and fucking ignorant."

And here's where James Franco gets a pass to play in dumb comedies; he is an amazing actor who can do anything. There is a poignant moment in "The Interview" where Skylark realizes that Un really is evil. It's played as pure drama and really shows the range of Franco. He makes it work, then he takes it over the top for comedy's sake. It works.

The climax of the film features gun fire, explosions, fingers getting chewed off, more explosions, a puppy, and Katy Perry's "Firework." Does Un die? You'll have to find out for yourself.

Overall, is "The Interview" a good movie? It's a dumb comedy with a loose basis on current events. Seth Rogen is almost a brand to himself. If you like his sub-genre of movies, you'll really like it. If you're not a fan of profanity, crude humor, sexism, and all that other bad stuff, then this might not be your cup of tea.

Is "The Interview" worthy of all of the media hype surrounding it? No. Don't go in expecting something *amazing* because you're going to be let down. It's a dirty comedy about assassinating Kim Jong Un. That's it. But it's fun. And stupid. At the same time.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week



It's back after a long absence. In this week's edition of the "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week," our friend Norm Macdonald does a stand-up comedy routine about how he would murder a woman. It's a lot more hilarious than it sounds.

"Hey, Chris, what is one thing that Norm Macdonald does that you have copied over the years?" I refer to women as "ladies." I think it's classy. I think it's nice. If you are of the female persuasion, you are a lady.

I identify with Norm Macdonald's style of comedy. The term that I want to use, he has actually stated on his podcast before that he doesn't agree with it to describe himself - meta. Above it; he tells jokes about telling jokes. It's like "The Office." The premise was that a documentary was being filmed about them, so they could look right into the camera and be obvious to what's going on around them.

Norm Macdonald will tell a joke, then will tell jokes about the joke that he just told. He's not so much a comedian, as he is a comedian talking about comedy. He does jokes, he does funny stuff, but then he takes it to a next level. And a lot of people don't get it.

He is so funny that he's not funny. And then he's funny again, by being unfunny. I don't know how else to explain it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

B-Sides one-year anniversary

December 7, 2013 my first ebook, "B-Sides: rarities and unreleased works, vol. 01" was published. Below is the press release I wrote about it and also a podcast where I talked about the writing process.

Chris Slater's first book has been published

Episode 07: B-Sides and snow

So, for the one-year anniversary, I am offering a special deal:

The book retails for $3.99 but for December 7 - 11, "B-Sides, vol. 01" will be free. Zero dollars. No cost to you at all. Zilch. Nada. Other words that mean zero. You get the idea.

"How do I purchase this book?" Great question. Let me take you through it.

You need either a Kindle reading device or the free Kindle app. You can download the app on your iPhone, iPad, android phone or tablet, and also your computer. 

You create an Amazon account. If you have ever purchased anything from Amazon, you already have one. Enter in your credit card information if you're creating your account. Even though it's free, you're still technically "buying" it.

Search "Chris Slater B-Sides" or click the following link: http://www.amazon.com/B-Sides-rarities-unreleased-works-vol-ebook/dp/B00H5K0ZHG

Buy the book. It's that simple. You can even write a review of it if you're so inclined. Two people have so far, one of whom was me.

It's a short read. Most people have told me they needed a little over an hour to finish it. Nothing too crazy. It's a collection of stories I didn't know what to do with; my "B-Sides" to steal a music term. [Back when musicians would release a single on a record, you could put another song on the other side so the main track was the "A-side" and the other became the "B-side." It eventually morphed to mean songs that an artist had that were not put on an album for some reason. They would occasionally release them as a single or a full b-sides album.]

The way the book is set up, there is an introduction explaining why I made this book. Then there is each article, with a brief explanation as to why I never did anything with it before. Some of them were not completed, some I didn't like the tone, etc and so forth. Included in the book is:

Introduction ... Exactly what it is.

My Night In Jail (2013) ... Original piece I wrote for the book. If you read the blog, you've read this one.

Monday Nights (2011) ... Article looking at how I would ask off for work on Mondays so I could watch wrestling. And what inevitably happened when my friends found out.

Marijuana (2011) ... A crazy tale of debauchery involving me and two of my friends. Alcohol, marijuana, a strip club, a cocaine dealer's girlfriend, this one has it all.

Agassi Book Review (2011) ... I started writing a review of tennis player's Andre Agassi's autobiography. But I never finished it, so this is just what I wrote. 

Crits, The Hamster (2012) ... My hamster died, so I decided to write a blog about it. Crits, short for "critter," was a joint pet between myself and a former girlfriend. I began writing about the death of Crits, but it morphed into a look at the death of that relationship. It was too emotional for me to post at the time, so I did nothing with it.

Untitled Pizza Hut Blog (2013) ... Started to write about working at Pizza Hut and how rude customers affected me. I was angry when I was writing it and realized I wasn't making a good point, so I never finished it. I posted a line from this story on Facebook that made fun of WVU football fans; it got quite a heated reaction.

Thanksgiving Blog (2008) ... Went to my grandpa's house for Thanksgiving Break. There was no Internet access, so I planned to "live blog" my week and then post it when I got back to Concord. When I got back, I got really sick (which is very rare for me) and wrote about that instead. Time passed and the Thanksgiving blog was no longer relevant.

Unpublished Concordian Article (2013) ... I went back to school during the fall 2013 semester. I was basically a decade older than the freshmen. I was reflecting back on what went wrong with me and school. I penned a letter to the editor of Concord's newspaper that basically used me as a "Don't become this guy" example. They didn't publish it. I don't know why as I never asked. I don't know if it got lost in the spam folder or if they thought it was "too dark," which is one complaint I got from a person I let read it. I talked about drugs, I talked about laziness, I talked about suicidal thoughts. I talked about real shit that happens when you waste a decade of your life.

Poetry (2002 - 2011) ...  Back before I had blogging and tweeting and whatnot as my creative outlets, I used to write a lot of poetry. I started in 2002 and wrote a lot until I went to college in 2004. I wrote a couple here and there over the years, with the last being in 2011. I include a few in the book.

Mr. H (2012) ... A little bit of fiction writing. I never showed anybody this at the time because you could very obviously tell that it's about me. "Mr. H" is a rude customer at a restaurant and "Joe" is the guy who waits on him. It's about me and how much I hated working at Outback Steakhouse. Then it takes a dark turn. I like it.

Then I have a little epilogue thing at the end thanking some people who inspired me to write and those who looked over the book for me. And that's "B-Sides: rarities and unreleased works, vol. 01" for anybody curious.

My thoughts on it, if I'm being honest: it's okay. I think it's a solid collection. The DUI story, the unpublished Concordian letter, and Mr. H are the strongest in the book. I like the emotion of the Crits piece, but it's a little odd as I meant for it to be a blog post so it's written like that. But I do really like that one as well. I was reviewing "Monday Night Raw" for a wrestling website, and had to work one Monday, so I wrote the piece about asking off to watch wrestling. It's lighthearted; although, there is a wrestling joke at the end that casual fans won't understand.

Is it worth $3.99 to read? Yes. I don't think you would be disappointed if you paid full price for it. So, I think zero dollars for this five-day "one year anniversary" sale is a great deal.

Check it out, see if you like it. If you like it, the next "B-Sides" volume will be out in the next month or so. If you don't like it, let me know. I would really like to hear from both sides here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Foo Fighters, books, and dreams



I didn't really like The Rolling Stones when I was a kid. And that's because for the most part, the only songs I had ever heard of theirs was "It's Only Rock 'N Roll" and "Honky Tonk Women." My thinking was, "This is the Rolling Stones? No, thanks."

Early into college I heard "Miss You," and I was blown away. I realized that I had been wrong to judge the Stones on the basis of a couple songs. And then I explored their discography some more and realized that "Miss You" is one of their 3rd string quality good songs. They've got so much good shit.

Anyway, I heard this Foo Fighters cover and thought it was really cool. The Foo Fighters have been one of my favorite bands for a long time. I gave a friend a couple band options and told her to pick her favorite. She chose Foo Fighters, so I told her that the next "Top 25" songs blog thing I do will be about them.

So, I'll get around to doing that eventually. Until then, here are my favorite Foo Fighters cover songs. These are all live performances. One of my favorite things about the Foo Fighters is how their concerts seem to be so much fun. A couple are them intentionally being funny and trying to make people laugh, but then they still wind up rocking out at the end.

There's no ranking system. I just thought of 10 quick covers off of the top of my head. They are below:

Ramble On ... During a live performance at Wembley Stadium in 2008, the Foo Fighters were joined on stage by Jimmy Paige and John Paul Jones, two original members of Led Zeppelin. They jammed together on a couple Zeppelin tracks.

Rock And Roll ... From the same Wembley concert. This time, lead singer Dave Grohl is behind the drum kit and drummer Taylor Hawkins - who fronts his own side project band - is singing lead.

Tie Your Mother Down ... One of my favorite Queen songs, the Foo Fighters performed this version at a VH1 special dedicated to Queen.

Tie Your Mother Down ... Another performace of the same song, this one live with Queen's surviving guitarist and drummer. The Foo Fighters own drummer takes over singing duties on this upbeat track.

War Pigs ... During a week-long stay on the Late Show with David Letterman, the Foo Fighters performed a collection of covers and had a lot of guests. For this one, they invited Zac Brown over to cover this Black Sabbath classic.

Stiff Competition ... Dave Grohl is back on the drums as Taylor Hawkins covers this Cheap Trick song, with help from Trick guitarist Rick Nielson.

Darling Nikki ... This crude, raunchy tale of a lady looking for some company was a big hit for Prince in the 80's. Foo Fighters have fun with it.

Tiny Dancer ... This Elton John song plays a pivotal role in the movie "Almost Famous." If you haven't seen it, check it out. Around the movie's release, Dave Grohl shows up by himself on the old Craig Kilborn late-night show with only an acoustic guitar and tries to get the audience to sing the chorus with him.

Stairway To Heaven ... Dave Grohl is again on Craig Kilborn's show, and this time he brought Taylor Hawkins with him. They begin an acoustic rendition of Led Zeppelin's biggest hit, except they hit a snag: Grohl doesn't remember the words. It's a joke, obviously. The beginning is funny, then they rock it out at the end.

Band On The Run ... Paul McCartney's greatest hit with Wings is really a couple different songs thrown together. Dave Grohl did this one for an awards ceremony for McCartney.

Under Pressure ... This song came on at a bar once and a drunk girl mistakenly yelled out "Ice Ice Baby!" I thought it was funny. Anyway. This song is live at a concert and seems to be pretty off-the-cuff, with Dave Grohl admitting that he didn't know all of the words. Taylor Hawkins sings the David Bowie part and Grohl does his best Freddie Mercury impression.

* * *

So, there's that. Just something off the top of my head. While I have this open forum, I figure I'll give an update on some projects I'm working on. Here we go:

The 2nd B-Sides book is still in progress. I said I wanted to have it finished by late November or early December. The other day a Facebook friend posted a status that said something to the effect of "It's December already, where did the year go?" And that's when I realized that this wasn't going to get finished by my deadline.

So, that will get done soon. I'm trying to make it different from the first book. I have a couple different ideas and whatnot. I just have to get it done. And that's a work in progress. I'll keep you guys updated on that.

* * *

The 6-part "Adventures In DUI Class" is also in progress. I am finished with actually having to attend DUI Class. That's a relief. One thing, though, that I will elaborate on in one of the articles I'll write is the bond that we all developed. The first week, we all hated being there and a lot of the people let that be known. As the weeks progressed, we realized that we had to be there and we had to spend 6 weeks together. So, we all loosened up and had a little fun.

I'm giving the DUI class articles time to breathe before I finish them. I still don't have my license back yet. That will happen in due time. As I joke to my friends, "I'll be swerving all over the road in no time." 

I have written the articles for weeks 1-4. I have the notes I took during class for weeks 5 and 6. And then I'll probably write some sort of epilogue piece looking back at the entire experience. I'll submit those to Thought Catalog whenever I'm ready.

Click here to read a small preview of the week 01 article.

* * *

The current plan is to finish the B-Sides book in the next couple weeks. Then I will finish those DUI class articles. Then 2015 will see me work on my third book project. I actually started it before either one of the B-Sides books. It's just been harder to do and has taken longer to complete because I actually have to write everything.

It's not that novel I blogged about a couple months ago. I doubt I'll ever finish that and I'm not really going to lose any sleep over it. Fiction writing isn't really something that I'm in love with.

I'll keep this one under wraps for a short while. I've told a couple close confidants about it and they seem to like the idea. I don't want to talk too openly about it and say "It's this!" and then see it morph into something else by the time it's done. So, I'm going to start seriously working on that in January and give updates as they become available.

"Hey, Chris, your Facebook cover photo looks like pages from a book you're writing. Is it this third one?" No comment.

* * *

Dreams fascinate me. I love the idea of closing your eyes and emerging into a fantasy world. A lot of times, I think the dream world is a lot more interesting than the real world. I try my best to write down a dream if I can remember it. I've lost count of how many times I laid there in bed thinking "I'll remember this later," then I'll fall asleep again and it's gone.

I have a notebook with illegible dream ramblings scrawled on them. I have a note in my phone that is full of legible, but hard-to-understand dreams typed into them. It's just a bunch of weird stuff.

I was talking with a friend about dreams. I jokingly mentioned that I wanted her to start writing down her dreams for me. A day or so later, I get a text from her at 8:30 in the morning that is her dream. She said she didn't remember much but gave me the major details.

I thought it was really interesting. I didn't have much to do that day, so I turned her short text into a 600-word story. Like I said earlier, fiction isn't something that I love, but it's something that I can do. I had fun with it and didn't stress over it. It took like 45 minutes to write. I sent it to her and she thought it was pretty funny.

I'm going to ask her if I can put that story in the next B-Sides book. I think it's an odd story, but one worth checking out.

* * *

That's it for now. I'll check back with something of substance at a later date.

[Click here to purchase my first e-book, "B-Sides: Rarities and Unreleased Works, vol. 01" for your Kindle device or app available on your iPhone, Android device, or computer]

Friday, November 28, 2014

CM Punk finally breaks silence on leaving WWE



Professional wrestler CM Punk, real name Phil Brooks, shocked the wrestling world when he abruptly left WWE in January of this year. He gave no notice and stayed out of the public eye for months. He kept silent on the subject until Thanksgiving Day, appearing on the popular "Art Of Wrestling" podcast, hosted by veteran journeyman wrestler Colt Cabana. Both Punk and Cabana are best friends, having begun their wrestling training together in the early 2000's.

I wrote about this subject in early February. Click here to read that. It looks at all of the popular rumors at the time about why Punk walked out on WWE. Long story short (or in this case, 2-hour podcast condensed into a couple sentences): all of the rumors played a small role, but the biggest reason was Punk's health and mental well being.

Punk was creatively frustrated with what WWE was doing with him, in addition to what they weren't doing with others, such as Daniel Bryan. He had an accumulation of injuries that would not heal: knee problems, elbow issues, broken ribs, and a concussion he suffered during his last WWE match.

Punk notes that he doesn't want the interview to come off as a bitter, "fuck WWE" piece, but admits that he has anger and bitterness toward the company. He tries to see both sides to the story, but gives his honest thoughts about his dissatisfaction with working for the largest wrestling company in the world.

Some highlights:

- Punk was offered the lead role in a WWE-produced movie, but when he brought up a scheduling issue with him being WWE Champion at the time they took the movie away from him and gave it to Randy Orton without letting him know.

- Punk asked Vince McMahon if he could switch to wearing UFC-style fighting shorts with sponsorship deals on them. Vince said no, then allowed Brock Lesnar to do just that when he returned to the company.

- He calls the WWE doctor, Chris Amann (who was a recent guest on Chris Jericho's podcast) lazy and incompetent. He refused to properly diagnose his medical issues, noting that he wrestled with a staph infection for nearly 3 months. 

- He called the wellness policy a joke, referring to wrestler Ryback as "Steroid Guy" and mentioned multiple times that Ryback injured him. He confronted Ryback about it, asking if he did it on purpose or was just "fucking dumb."

- When he left WWE, he was alone in a room with Vince McMahon and Triple H. He ripped into all of them, particularly Triple H for ruining his momentum in 2011 (aka the "summer of punk"). He said Vince McMahon hugged him with tears in his eyes and said they would always be family. He shook Triple H's hand as he walked out.

- Punk was initially suspended for two months. After a few more months, Triple H texted Punk asking if they could talk. Punk replied that his wedding was in two days and if they could talk after his honeymoon. Two days later, on his wedding day, Punk received papers stating he was fired from WWE. He does not believe it is a coincidence.

This is something that needs to be listened to. If you are a professional wrestling fan, this is the biggest, most shocking, hard hitting interview of the year. Even if you don't like wrestling, it is a fascinating look at how Corporate America ruined a man's passion for the one thing he loved. Personally, I liked working in the pizza industry, but I hated working for Pizza Hut. It ruined something that I thought was fun. WWE does the same thing to professional wrestling with CM Punk.

Additional reading:

CM Punk pipebomb promo

CM Punk GQ Magazine interview

CM Punk - Chris Brown feud

CM Punk DVD review

Jim Ross interviews CM Punk and Steve Austin

CM Punk pipebomb II, Rock confrontation

Friday, November 21, 2014

Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs

One of my favorite bands since the late 1990s has been the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had been aware of them for years before, as they became a mainstream chart-topping act in the early 1990s and had been making albums for most of the 80s as well. But it wasn't until the end of the 20th century that I really got into them. 

I've gone back and discovered their early discography over the years. I'm going to admit, I'm not a huge fan of their earlier stuff. They were very heavily influenced by Funk music and I don't really like that as much. While I have heard a complaint that all RHCP songs sound alike, I don't feel as though that is true. While they do have a very distinct sound, they have very different styles that they take their music on. They can go hard, they can go soft, they can sing about serious issues like drug abuse and failed relationships, and they can also release songs called "Party On Your Pussy" and "Yertle The Turtle."

With that said, here is my list of the Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. It leans heavily toward their later albums. 1999's "Californication" is their biggest selling album and Rolling Stone magazine placed it at 399 on their "Top 500 Albums of All Time" list. And I think their 2006 "Stadium Arcadium" double album is artistically, one of the greatest things they've recorded. On opposite ends of the spectrum, I love how angry 1995's "One Hot Minute" is and I really enjoy how easy and mellow 2002's "By The Way" sounds. And if you want to know what I think of their last album, released in 2011, then check out the review I wrote.

Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. Loosely ranked, very subjective. If you agree or disagree, let me know.

This Is The Place ... I love the bass in this song. One of their more serious songs, Anthony Kiedis wrote this about the death of his childhood friend and original RHCP guitarist, Hillel Slovak. He was ashamed that his friend died of a heroin overdose and he didn't immediately clean up his act.

Dosed ... Such a beautiful love song. This sums up everything that is good about falling for somebody.

Californication ... When the Miley Cyrus VMA "twerking" mini-scandal was all over the news, I was listening to a friend go on about it. "Can you believe she did that" and whatnot. My response really confused her. I said, "You do know nothing is real, right?" That wasn't some off-the-cuff random moment that happened to cause some controversy. It was a carefully-choreographed stunt approved by a multitude of executives who were looking for attention. That's what this song is about. Nothing is real, everything is phony. "Space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement."

Especially In Michigan ... Kind of the opposite of "Californication." Anthony Kiedis wrote this song about his childhood growing up in Michigan. It's just a fun little song with a lot of random Michigan references thrown out there. John Frusciante was very experimental with his guitar playing on this album and it shows here.

Otherside ... Another deep song about drug addiction and suicide. It builds slowly and then explodes at the end.

I Could Have Lied ... From their "BloodSugarSexMagik" album, this tells the story about how a guy did the right thing by telling the truth but it messed up the relationship. He could have lied and he would still have the girl he loved. But would it have been for the best?

One Hot Minute ... Dave Navarro brought a heavier element to RHCP during this time. And the drug addiction rampant among several of the band members brought darker lyrics to the group. Song about how short life is, how all we have is "One Hot Minute" and we need to enjoy whatever it is we're doing.

She's Only 18 ... You're dating a younger woman, trying to present a different/cooler version of yourself, and she sees right through it.

Emit Remmus ... Stare at the title for a second. It's "Summer Time" backwards. It's a song about spending a summer in London with a girl. Unofficially, it's believed to be about the member of the Spice Girls that Anthony Kiedis was briefly involved with: Melanie Chisholm, aka "Sporty Spice."

Savior ... The drums take over a little more in this song, as opposed to fading in the background to the bass or guitar. "Savior" is about Anthony Kiedis reuniting with his father after a period of estrangement.

Happiness Loves Company ... Upbeat song from their 2011 album that features a fun piano opening. Makes you smile when you listen to it; it's good.

Strip My Mind ... Very trippy track off of "Stadium Arcadium." Looking back at past times in your life and realizing that you can't recreate them.

Around the World ... Vintage RHCP. If you want to take a song that embodies what the band is all about, it would be one like this. It's got the hard bass line, the catchy hooks, the subject matter of loving women around the world, and it rocks.

Can't Stop ... At times it seems nonsensical, but it appears to be about looking back at a life of drug addiction. Catchy song with a great guitar solo in the middle. Weird, weird music video.

Whatever We Want ... Never officially released as a single or on an album, this b-side from the Stadium Arcadium sessions is awesome. It's about breaking up with a girl you didn't really care about and how you sort of strung her along. From reading his autobiography, I know Anthony Kiedis had a girlfriend with short blond hair. He later had short blond hair himself. That might explain the opening line of the song, "I stole your haircut and your boring personality."

Snow (Hey Oh) ... Really introspective song about looking back at years of drug abuse. Sounds different than a lot of their other songs, if that makes any sense.

Under the Bridge ... The one that made them worldwide stars. A soft ballad about heroin addiction. He would go underneath a bridge and shoot up. The ladies at the end are John Frusciantie's mom's church choir.

Transcending ... Written about River Phoenix, a close friend of Anthony and Flea. Flea was present at the night club where River died. The line "Said your brother's a real punk" is about Golden Globe winner Joaquin Phoenix. It has a nice, mellow groove... until it descends into anger and madness. It kind of shows how they were dealing with the death: cool on the outside, but struggling on the inside.

Desecration Smile ... The dark side of love. He's keeping a smile on his face, but it's not real. "All alone, not by myself. Another girl bad for my health." John Frusciantie's falsetto background vocals add another element to this song.

Scar Tissue ... In his autobiography, Kiedis talks about finally getting clean after a very bad drug bender. He walked outside, looked up, saw some birds flying overhead and came up with the line "With the birds I share this lonely view." With that, he started writing what would become RHCP's comeback song, after most thought their career was finished.

Parallel Universe ... Really cool song that builds slowly and then gets loud for the chorus. Odd subject matter, kind of out there. Is it a literal parallel universe? An out-of-body experience? Is the parallel universe a figurative one? None of that really makes sense. But it's still fun to listen to.

Give It Away ... This is actually a much deeper song than it appears on the surface. It is literally about giving things away; it's about charity and how it makes you a better person. It's catchy. It's high energy. It's fun. It's a hit.

Look Around ... Off their last album. Follows a similar theme of some of their other songs: a man who thinks he's something bigger than he really is, only to be discovered as a sham by his lady friend. Opening sounds go back to their funk roots, but it settles into a nice rock rhythm.

The Righteous and the Wicked ... Brooding song with some guitar distortion. One of RHCP's more political songs, as it looks at issues surrounding politics and religion and war and how humanity is destroying Earth.

Fight Like a Brave ... Positive song about standing up for what you believe in, with Anthony Kiedis using the lyrics to describe getting over drug addiction. A minor hit for the group in the late 80s before hitting it big a couple years later.

* * *

And there we have it. Twenty-five songs that I loosely organized and ranked. There are a lot more that I like, and also several more that I don't really enjoy. I could very easily make a "25 Least Favorite" songs list and it would mostly be songs from their first few albums. And "Purple Stain" from Californication, "On Mercury" from By The Way, and "Warlocks" from Stadium Arcadium.

Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree or whatever.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 Years Later: Looking at American Idiot

Picture it: Sicily, 1921. No wait. Concord University, 2004. I was 18-years-old and a wide-eyed, naive freshman. I was sitting in my girlfriend's dorm room watching MTVu, the MTV channel just for colleges. They were showing music videos.

A new video comes on. "Hmmmm... Green Day has a new song," I think to myself. In minutes, my life has changed forever. I just didn't realize it yet.

The title track from "American Idiot" really resonated with me. With his recent forays as a painter, author, and attempts to become a media darling, it's very easy to forget how horrible George W. Bush's America really was. I was fed up with it and I now had an anthem with which to express my dissatisfaction. 

My mom and I went to the FYE at the mall. I ran to the display of Green Day albums and grabbed my copy. My mom got a Guns N' Roses greatest hits album. We listened to that one on the way home. I don't care much for their bigger hits, but "Patience" and "Mr. Brownstone" are good GNR tracks.

Back in the day, people talk about getting their favorite cassette tape and wearing it out from playing it so much. Ten years later, my CD is in very good shape because I took care of it. But, the "wearing it out" hyperbole works here. That CD became my companion. I listened to it in my alarm clock/CD player combo. I found out you could put a CD into a DVD player and it would work, so I listened to it on my roommate's TV. If you saw me walking around campus in 2004 with headphones on, you saw me listening to American Idiot on my portable CD player.

It was loud. It was angry. It was sad. It was complicated. It was me. I felt such a connection to the words and sounds coming into my ears.

It inspired me creatively. When I needed that extra spark, I put my headphones in, cranked it up, and my fingers got to doing their work.

Green Day had that rare creative and commercial success. The singles were all over the radio and it was selling a lot of albums. But the critics also loved it. A few years ago, Rolling Stone magazine named it the 23rd greatest album of the "aughts," 2000-2009.

It took me a little while to really get into the story. American Idiot is what we call a "rock opera." It tells the story about a cast of characters throughout the course of the album. Green Day is not the first, nor the last. Arguably, The Who did it best with "Tommy" (the "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" who can play pinball in one of their most popular songs) and "Quadrophenia."

There are three central characters in American Idiot: The Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy, and Whatsername. The Jesus of Suburbia is your average kid growing up in George Bush's America, on a diet of "soda pop & Ritalin." St. Jimmy is the bad kid, "Here to represent the needle in the vein of the establishment." Every good story needs that female element. Whatsername inspired the album art ("she's holding on my heart like a hand grenade").

Throughout the course of the album, they get disillusioned with life, meet up, try to change the world, it ends horribly, sadness ensues, then the album ends on a poignant note of reflection.

Let's take a track-by-track look and watch the story unfold.

American Idiot ... The album opens with the introduction. It sets up the kind of world that we're living in and the people involved. "Can you hear the sounds of hysteria? The subliminal mind-fuck, America."

Jesus Of Suburbia ... Introduces us to the main character. "There's nothing wrong with me, this is how I'm supposed to be, in a land of make-believe." This song is composed of five parts: Jesus of Suburbia, City of the Damned, I Don't Care, Dearly Beloved, and Tales of Another Broken Home. It sets him up as a naive child from a broken home, raised by "Moms and Brads." He realizes that everyone around him are hypocrites and that nothing good can come from living in this town. He finally realizes that it's a land of make-believe "And it don't believe in me."

Holiday ... He finally left town! He's having fun, "This is our lives on holiday!" he exclaims. It's a very politically-charged song, which fits the character's outlook on life. He's tired of the status quo and not being able to trust your political leaders. "Another protester has crossed the line, to find the money's on the other side."

Boulevard of Broken Dreams ... The holiday is over. Life is harder than you realized and you're all alone looking for something, be it love or companionship or something deeper. Biggest hit off of the album; pop radio was all over this. It's a simple song with a simple message and it really resonated with a mainstream audience.

Are We The Waiting ... He wants more. He needs to change the world but he doesn't know what to do. He needs something, but he hasn't found it yet. He needs someone?

St. Jimmy ... "My name is Jimmy, and you better not wear it out!" He is a charismatic character that The Jesus of Suburbia latches onto. "Patron saint of the denial, with an angel face and a taste for suicidal." He lives life hard and fast.

Give Me Novacaine ... He's getting brainwashed. He's delving into drugs. The Jesus of Suburbia is getting into this new lifestyle with St. Jimmy. "Drain the pressure from the swelling, this sensation's overwhelming." He looks for guidance: "Tell me, Jimmy, I won't feel a thing. So give me novacaine."

She's A Rebel ... We are introduced to Whatsername. "She's a rebel. She's a saint. She's the salt of the earth and she's dangerous."

Extraordinary Girl ... The relationship has started, and it's not going well. Life isn't going the way either of them had planned. "Some days he feels like dying, she gets so sick of crying."

Letterbomb ... The Jesus of Suburbia finds a letter written to him by Whatsername. She hates where they live, she hates what they're doing with their lives, she hates what they have become and who they look up to: "You're not The Jesus of Suburbia, the St. Jimmy is a figment of your father's rage and your mother's love, made me the Idiot America." He ends it by talking about what he read: "She said I can't take this place, I'm leaving it behind. Well, she said I can't take this town, I'm leaving you tonight."

Wake Me Up When September Ends ... This has taken on several different meanings over the years. Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer for Green Day, got inspiration for this song after his father passed away. It was a horrible month for him. Continuing the storyline of the album, The Jesus of Suburbia is in a deep depression after Whatsername leaves him. The music video was a long-form piece of work that told the story about a happy couple, with the man looking to make a difference in their lives. He joins the Army and his girlfriend is not happy at all. The video interjects scenes of him scared for his life in Iraq and her alone, crying. It was controversial because it was so relevant. That was real life for a lot of people during that time.

Homecoming ... An ending to the story. Nothing is the same and they don't know what to do. This song is broken up into 5 different parts: The Death of St. Jimmy, East 12th Street, Nobody Likes You, Rock and Roll Girlfriend, and We're Coming Home Again. It's a Homecoming atmosphere with them, as they meet up again, but it's not a festive moment for long. "St. Jimmy comes without any shame. He says 'We're fucked up and we're not the same. And mom and dad are the ones you can blame.'" Spoiler alert: St. Jimmy dies. The Jesus of Suburbia struggles with it. "Does anybody care if nobody cares?"

Whatsername ... Sort of an epilogue to the American Idiot album. Time has passed and The Jesus of Suburbia is thinking about the past. "I remember the face, but I can't recall the name. Now I wonder how Whatsername has been." He says he burnt all of the photographs of them together and has moved on with life. He ends things on a happy note looking at a lost relationship: "Forgetting you, but not the time."

Ten years later, it still holds up well. Green Day tried the rock opera concept a second time with "21st Century Breakdown" in 2009, which did not receive nearly the commercial or critical success as "American Idiot." The second rock opera looks at life in a post-Bush world and examines the themes of religion, politics, and relationship issues. I think it will probably become more well-regarded as time passes. It's a solid followup.

Everybody has that pivotal album in their life that helped define them. An album that helped them sort out the issues in their heads. Words and themes resonate with a young person and it helps them find out who they are. American Idiot did that with me. It is my favorite album and will always hold a special place in my heart and mind.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fast food, lame friends, and DUI's



I almost had a panic attack earlier. They don't happen often, but occasionally I'll get really weird. Crowds worry me. And not even real crowds. Like 5 people can set me off. I walked down to Sheetz to be alone and use wifi. There were too many people in there, and I just started to freak out. I went outside and started randomly walking around trying to figure out what I was going to do. After a couple minutes, I walked to Wendy's and sat down.

I was in line waiting to get a baked potato. There were two women in front of me. A grandmother, a mother (in her early 20s) and two kids. The mother was holding the youngest, who was probably not even one. The other looked like 3 or 4.

For some reason, I cringed in disgust as the grandma leaned in toward the youngest baby and said in a high-pitched baby voice, "Give Nana some sugars!" I thought it was cute when the little baby tried to kiss her mom. But, she was too busy yelling at the oldest one for getting too many straws. The kid's logic was solid: she started holding them up saying "This one is for me, this is for you, this is for Nana, and these are if any get broken or lost."

The lady taking the order was attractive, looked to be in her early 20s. The mother with the young baby said to her, "You probably don't recognize me." The Wendy's lady had an awkward moment where she said, "Yeah, I recognize you." Which really meant "I wasn't going to talk to you."

They chatted for a couple seconds. The Wendy's girl was running on little sleep and very stressed out with school. 

I've been watching her sweep the floor. I wonder what her story is. She probably wants me to leave so she can sweep under my table.

* * *

I often wonder what people think about me. I've come to the general conclusion that people will say "He's nice, but he can get annoying sometimes. He thinks he's a lot funnier than he really is."

I've had a lot of people pull me aside and note that others are kind of bullying me or walking over me or basically taking advantage of the fact that I'm a nice guy. I often don't care to help people out or go out of my way for somebody. I felt really bad the other day when a girl I work with posted on Facebook that her car broke down and asked for a ride to work. She said it was only a 5 minute ride, but a one-hour walk. I wasn't doing anything, but I don't have the necessary license to give her a ride.

I told a friend the following story and she told me that I didn't have good friends. I spent a majority of a night trying to plan a get-together with a group of friends; mostly girls, a couple guys. A couple were down, some were non-committal, so I wasn't expecting anything too crazy to happen.

After a couple hours, I've heard back from nobody. I've already gotten the itch to go out, so I walk down the street to a bar. I text those friends and tell them to come if they can. And I usually know somebody there on any given night. Long story short, I looked like one of those pathetic people sitting at a bar by himself drowning his sorrows.

Around 1 a.m. I get a snapchat from one of those friends. It's a picture of her and another one of those friends. They and others went out without me. I felt an odd combination of sadness and anger. In a moment I really regret, I replied back "Thanks for thinking about me."

* * *

The last five Mondays, I have been attending DUI Class. People I have been talking to about it have been sending me congratulatory messages or saying that they're proud of me. I don't know if they think this is like rehab or AA or something? It's something the DMV is making me do before I can have my license back.

Like anything in life, I look at a situation and try to find out how I can exploit it. How can I turn a negative into a positive? I hate being there and think it's pointless, but what if I wrote about it? So, that's what I'm doing. I sit in each class and take notes on everything in my phone. It's going to become a 6-part series titled "Adventures in DUI Class." I've already written weeks 1-4. I have the notes for week 5, and class 6 occurs next week. Number six is the final class.

I write about the mundane aspects of it, the provocative moments, and my journey through it all. Here's a preview:


And, there's that. I've got about 8000 words written so far looking at the first four classes. As of right now, the plan is to send them to Thought Catalog as a weekly series. That should be fun.

* * *

That's all for now. I'll check back with everybody at a later date. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shimmer



On my old BlackBerry, I have a list in the notes section titled "Top pop/rock songs with a violin." And that's what it is. I was inspired after hearing the Katy Perry "Firework" song. This song, "Shimmer" by Fuel should definitely be on the list. Maybe I'll go back to that one day. I also had a note titled "Top songs written about Kurt Cobain." The list had Red Hot Chili Peppers and Van Hagar, off the top of my head.

As I've mentioned in a few previous posts, I love moody, depressing lyrics mixed with hard music. This song fits that description. 

More thoughts on this topic at a later date.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thursday Words



Wore a scarf today. That wasn't very fun. Well, the feeling of the fabric on my neck was okay. Maybe even slightly enjoyable. But, the reason for it was not a good one. It's getting chilly. I don't like the cold weather.

I need a pair of those gloves with the special fingertips that let you still use your phone.

I've been trying to write a piece that is due November 1 for over a month now. I am at 57 words. One of my problems is that I work best under pressure. And lately there has been no pressure in my life, so I have had no extra incentive to be creative.

Ya know, just floating through life.

I got a new tattoo the other day. Technically, it's not an original idea at all, as a simple Google search will show tons of the same tattoo. But, in my day-to-day life, I have yet to run into a person who looked at it and went "Oh, I know what that is." Well, one person sort of did.

It's a piece called "Flowers In The Attic" by a guy named Jason Byron Nelson. I've really liked this image for a long time and had been thinking for the last week or so about getting it tattooed on me. It's a person who shoots herself in the head and butterflies emerge out of the explosion.

From reading all five of Mick Foley's books, I've noticed that "juxtaposition" is one of his favorite words. And for good reason, as it's a fun one. What I like about the tattoo is the juxtaposition of the grisly, morbid act with the beauty that comes from it.

I sometimes feel like I have so much stuff in my head; all of these wonderful quips and ideas and other words that mean "words." And it's hard to get them out of my head and onto something readable.

Sometimes you have to go to the extreme and blow them out of your skull so that others can see them. And that's what this tattoo means to me.

An odd note: I realized a couple hours after getting that tattoo done that I now have tattoos of a head without a body (smiley face) and a body without a head.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Episode 29: Marriage Equality



Episode 29 of the podcast is live. This one starts out on an odd note: I swallow a gnat during the opening seconds. I begin talking and see a gnat fly around my face. I breathe in and the gnat gets sucked into my mouth and down my throat.

The big topic this week is about marriage equality. The LGBTQQA crowd can now legally get married in the state of West Virginia. I give my thoughts on marriage and look at this. Then I read a list of people's Facebook comments they posted. There's some ignorance there.

I give a status update on the next B-Sides book in my series and when I should be publishing volume two. I announce the stories that I have queued up for volume two and let you know which ones are finished and which aren't.

While we're here, I'll throw out some links to things I've written lately. 

It's mostly articles from the Beckley Register-Herald. Writing about football isn't the dream, but such is the life of a freelancer. I don't consider myself a sports writer, so I don't write like one. I don't write about a football game, I write about an event that happened and get reactions from people. The event just happens to be a football game. I think my style works.

Beckley Register-Herald:

Wyoming East at Westside

Nicholas County at Wyoming East

Summers County at Wyoming East

Independence at Midland Trail

Westside at Independence

Valley at Meadow Bridge

Wyoming East at PikeView

Thought Catalog:

A Friend Of Mine Was Arrested For Sexually Abusing A Minor ... The title says it all. A guy I worked with and had known since 2012 was arrested for doing some unspeakable acts to his girlfriend's son. I try to process that in the best way I know how; which is to write about it.

* * *

And that's everything for this week. Episode 30 is coming up, and I'll try to have something special planned for that interesting number. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc about the podcast feel free to let me know.