Sunday, March 30, 2014

Unfinished Works: Thought Catalog

I became a contributor to Thought Catalog about a month ago. It's been fun. To kind of show off my ego, I like to think that I'm writing really smart, thought-provoking pieces. I'm doing good stuff over there.

I initially wrote here about how my relationship with TC started. I was sending in articles and not hearing anything back from them. I took it as a sign of rejection. It turns out that my emails weren't arriving at their destination. It was literally a one-day thing that changed it; I emailed one person who emailed one other person, that second person apologized and my first article was up that night.

Since I thought they were rejecting me, I tried to think of ways to change and better my writing. I didn't think what I was writing was bad, but maybe it wasn't in the vein of what they wanted on their site. So, I tried to change my writing accordingly. My Weezer piece is an example of trying to write a "Thought Catalog article" instead of an article and sending it to Thought Catalog, which is what I do.

Long story short, I had decided I was going to dumb down my writing. I had been "rejected" maybe 4 or 5 times and I was trying to come up with ideas that the TC crowd would like. I knew I needed a list, and it needed to be about something people would like.

I was at work and a friend asked if I was going out to the bar later that night. Inspiration hit me! I would write about how to optimize your jukebox experience at the bar. I thought it was dumb, but maybe other people would like it. You can tell if I'm struggling to write something if I doodle all over the page. Lots of random scribbles in the above picture.

Here's what I wrote:

ways to optimize jukebox experience

1) Get there early; make sure no music is playing

2) Size up your audience

  • hip hop crowd? country? rock? pop?

3) play a wide variety of music

  • genre crossing ---> rap/rock
4) little-known songs btwn 2 popular ones

5) Have fun!

And yeah, I thought it was kind of stupid, so I didn't finish it. I did, however try to write it, as we will see below:

That's a view from Google Drive on my iPhone. I thought the early-mid 20s bar crowd would get a kick out of reading something like this. I got through a lame introduction and my first point, then I felt so dumb that I stopped writing it.

So far, that's the only thing I have attempted to write for Thought Catalog and gave up on. If I stop writing anything else, you guys will be the first ones to know.

Click here to check what I've had posted so far on Thought Catalog.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Such a waste

"It's such a waste to be wasted in the first place."

I've accepted that I'm an addict of some sort. That's the first step, right? Admitting it? I wrote about it a lot more in depth over at Thought Catalog. I had some people tell me not to plug that one on Facebook, so I didn't. If you know how to read what I write over there, you can find it.

I never really thought anything was out of control. I had X, Y, and Z that I liked to do. And then I realized society was looking at me like, "That's not normal, bro."

So, that's where I'm at in life. I have a lot of grandiose plans for the future, but I just need to get past this lame present. I feel like years later when I'm a success of some sort, this will be the dark days of my story. "You wanna hear about how bad it got before things got good? Let me tell you about when I was 26 and 27."

I'll keep you guys updated on how things go.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Unfinished Works: Lance Armstrong

The time is summer of 2010. We were in the midst of that year's edition of the Tour de France. It was to be Lance Armstrong's final tour. He had won seven straight Tour de France titles between 1999 and 2005, then came back in 2009 and finished third. He would ultimately finish in 23rd place in 2010.

One day during the Tour, I checked the news on my phone and had a very powerful thought: "Fuck Alberto Contador!" Why did I have that thought? Who is that guy? He won the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Tour de France. In 2009, he and Armstrong were teammates. By 2010, the two had a contentious split and were now rivals.

I realized that I felt a sense of pride for Lance Armstrong. He had gone through so much, overcoming cancer and winning all those races. And people were dragging his name through the mud, saying all these things about how he was a cheater and how he had rigged all those drug tests.

Armstrong put over how many tests he had taken and how strict they are, saying that there was no way that somebody could consistently cheat and not get caught. As the years went on, Armstrong seemed to be in the clear.

I decided to write a blog post about all of this. I mapped out my outline, a picture of which is above. Here is what it says:

Lance Armstrong

- noticed him, didn't pay attention until 3rd tour

Lance's Accomplishments, sports
- 7-time tour
- attention to dead sport
- coming back from cancer

Lance's Accomplishments, cancer
- Livestrong
- money
- attention

Disgraced Peers
- Steroid Era
- Tiger Woods

What he's dealing with
- Landis allegations
- Past allegations

- Last honest athlete left
- Inspires so much personal pride
- Cancer work

And, so there's that. I'm not sure why I never got around to writing it. Laziness? Probably. 

I guess it's pretty clear to see what I was going to do. I knew the name Lance Armstrong during the first couple Tours, but didn't follow what he was doing closely until his third race. I was going to write about his sports accomplishments, then transition that into what he had done to help raise awareness to cancer. We were going to look at some other tarnished "heroes," like all of the baseball players who had tested positive for performance enhancers, then the recent Tiger Woods issues, maybe throw Kobe Bryant in there.

One line sticks out to me that I wrote in 2010. I wrote that Armstrong was the "Last honest athlete left." If we can't trust Lance Armstrong, who can we trust?

If you've followed the news to any degree over the last couple years, you know where we're going with this. It came out that Armstrong had cheated. He was stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles and banned from competitive cycling for life. Armstrong initially denied the allegations, but eventually admitted in an interview with Oprah that he had cheated all those years.

I guess the issue that people keep looking at is whether or not we should be mad at Lance Armstrong. He cheated a lot, but it's not like he took the money he won and hoarded it all for himself. Not even counting the money he has raised for cancer awareness and treatments, the attention alone he brought to it is amazing.

Should we forgive him for doing something wrong if the end results are good?

Those who err on the side of reserving judgement also point out that it wasn't as if Lance Armstrong was the only cyclist in the history of the sport who was cheating. It was a culture among the cycling community. Basically, nobody has won a Tour de France in the last decade because they all keep getting stripped for failing drug tests. Everybody did it, Lance Armstrong just benefited the most.

Is there a right or wrong to this? I guess, technically, yes. There were rules put in place and he did not follow those rules. The broader argument is whether those rules should be in place. Should it be illegal to pump out your own blood, wait a day or so, then put it back inside you? Your body has extra blood, which theoretically gives you more oxygen, which means you don't get tired as quickly. It's natural. Natural-ish.

Baseball finally cracked down on steroids, aka "performance enhancers." But, I read a study a few years back that said baseball players had a higher ratio of being diagnosed with ADHD than the general public. Why? The article theorized that these baseball players were faking their symptoms to get pills to keep them focused, Ritalin and Adderall, etc. So, you can't take steroids, but you can - allegedly - fake your symptoms and get another pill to enhance your performance?

Again, is there a right or wrong? Is it wrong to be a cheater in a competition filled with cheaters? If he hadn't done it, somebody else would have.

I don't know. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Episode 15: Brian Crandall

Episode 15 of the podcast. I talk to wrestling super-fan Brian Crandall about all things WWE and whatnot. We look at the direction of the wrestling industry as we head toward WrestleMania 30, discuss the WWE Network, look at the exit of CM Punk, the rise of Daniel Bryan, and so much more.

Apologies in advance for the sound quality. Well, not my quality - I sound great. I talked to Brian on the phone and his connection wasn't the best. There is a drop in quality when he starts talking, but he's easy to understand and you can still hear him. Just not quite as clear as when I'm talking.

Here are some previews of what Brian had to say:

Becoming a wrestling fan: Literally, as far back as I can remember. I never had that moment where I discovered wrestling. There was not a change in me the way there are a lot of wrestling fans. My dad watched it, my uncle watched it, I was born a wrestling fan.

Favorite wrestlers: I think my very first favorite would have been Sting ... I was a big fan of the Road Warriors, Sting, I loved the Steiner Brothers; they were my favorite tag team ever. Ric Flair was awesome in his own way.

Batista's return: I wasn't excited about it in the first place, but it's even far worse than I ever thought. Nobody cared. Even your average fan doesn't care. You'll always have your Internet Wrestling Community guys who don't care about anything. But, like nobody cared, not even the casual fan.

Zack Ryder's rise and fall: I'm always the last to know about anything popular. When I saw the chants that Ryder was getting, it was amazing ... People cared about Ryder as a person and a wrestler, but people weren't buying the "Broski" gimmick. It was for kids and a very niche adult audience and it wasn't going to get him where he needed to go. The more serious aspect he's taking, I think if he could somehow portray that into a heel character, a bad guy on TV, I think that it could work and he could go places with that.

Sting signing with WWE rumors: I would expect him to show up the night after WrestleMania. I think that this could be good and I think that Sting has a lot to offer. I don't think he'll do a whole lot onscreen, especially in the ring, but I think that Sting in the locker room would have a great influence on the guys.

All that and more. Give it a listen. Don't forget to check out The Best In Wrestling Facebook group that Brian runs.

Come A Little Closer

Cage The Elephant makes me smile when I listen to them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Unfinished Works: Led Zeppelin

[This is the first in a series looking at notes written for articles that I never finished.]

In April of 2013, I wrote a pretty popular blog looking at my Top 25 Beatles Songs. People seemed to like it and I went on a kick of trying to come up with similar lists.

Most classic rock stations do some sort of Led Zeppelin theme during the month of September. They call it "Zepp-tember." Get it? September, Zepp...Tember?

Anyway... In September, I thought it would be a fun idea to go with my Top 25 Led Zeppelin songs. I wrote the list out and let it simmer for a few days. It has now been over six months.

I don't know if that's my actual 1-25, "I like this song better than this" listing. I just started writing 25 songs. That list is below:

1) "Hey Hey What Can I Do?"
2) "Over The Hills And Far Away"
3) "No Quarter"
4) "Going To California"
5) "All My Love"
6) "Fool in the Rain"
7) "Ramble On"
8) "When the Levee Breaks"
9) "Black Dog"
10) "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"
11) "Communication Breakdown"
12) "Good Times Bad Times"
13) "Dazed and Confused"
14) "Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)"
15) "Thank You"
16) "Immigrant Song"
17) "Out On The Tiles"
18) "Tangerine"
19) "Battle of Evermore"
20) "Stairway to Heaven"
21) "D'Yer Mak'er"
22) "The Ocean"
23) "The Rover"
24) "Houses of the Holy"
25) "Kashmir"

Had I made this into a proper blog post, I would have had links to the music on YouTube and I would have given comments about why I liked each song. But, I never got around to doing it.

I have pages upon pages of notes like this over at least the last 5 years, so I'll try to make this a semi-regular feature. It might be interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The #YesMovement is working; Daniel Bryan poised for huge WrestleMania moment

The following videos are from the March 10, 2013 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. Daniel Bryan has been challenging Triple H to a match at WrestleMania for weeks. Triple H had been denying his request, saying that Bryan wasn't in his league, using the "B+ player" tag he had given Bryan months ago.

That all changed when Bryan decided to "Occupy Raw" and refused to leave the ring until he got what he wanted. He took it a step farther by bringing out several of his friends. In the end, Triple H gives him the match, but Bryan ups the ante saying that if he wins he gets inserted into the main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H agrees.

Daniel Bryan occupies Raw.

Triple H agrees to face Daniel Bryan.

This is the happiest that I have been as a wrestling fan in a long time. Daniel Bryan has had the support of the "WWE Universe" for the last couple years, and especially the last year has been one of the most consistently popular or "over" superstars on the roster.

But, it had fallen on deaf ears. Daniel Bryan was positioned as "just good enough" but not good enough to be "the man." There have been countless moments of WWE fans "hijacking" events to show their support for Daniel Bryan over the last few months.

The Royal Rumble, in particular, was a low point for WWE. The smart WWE fans wanted to see one thing: Daniel Bryan win the Royal Rumble match and go on to WrestleMania and win the championship. WWE had different plans, bringing back Batista from a 4-year retirement and (allegedly) promising him a WrestleMania title victory. 

Batista is a hot commodity right now, having a major role in "Guardians of the Galaxy," the highly-anticipated comic book movie that is expected to be a huge hit. The plan is for him to be full time until this summer, then take some time off to promote the movie. The working idea had been for Batista to be the WWE Champion and top good guy when the movie came out. But, since winning the Royal Rumble, the WWE fans have turned on Batista so horribly over the last two months that they have changed course and Batista is now a bad guy, angry at the fans for not appreciating him.

CM Punk had been penciled in to face Triple H at WrestleMania, but it is looking more and more like Punk is really gone. So, Daniel Bryan was put into that spot. The fans booed it, seeing it as a step down from what they wanted. They want the main event or nothing at all.

And it looks like the WWE is finally realizing it. They knew there was no realistic way they could have a match between Randy Orton and Batista without the fans crapping all over it. They don't want that on the biggest stage of all, WrestleMania. So, it looks like Daniel Bryan will be the star of the night. The only logical conclusion to this is for Bryan to defeat Triple H, then win the World Championship, then close WrestleMania with Bryan holding the belts up as 70,000+ fans chant "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

WWE has listened to the fans. The #YesMovement was a success. Daniel Bryan is positioned to become the top star in wrestling. Am I happy with this? Yes. Yes. Yes.


"Rhinosaur," Soundgarden

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More Observations from March 8

What was I doing one year ago today? Sitting at Starbucks writing about what a good day I was having. Check it out:

What am I doing today? Sitting at Starbucks writing about what a good day I'm having.

While I doubt the snow is gone for good, it is certainly gone for the moment. It is a nice 61 degrees outside. There's still some snow in the shady spots, but it's much improved from the last month or so:

I've been trying to think of ways to better utilize my free time lately. I keep getting into moods where I just want to lay around all day. It's hard, but I think I'm doing better in that regard lately.

One thing that I've noticed over the years that sucks is when you stop being friends with your friends. I was bored and nostalgic the other night and began looking through the Twitter accounts of a couple friends.

They were both sporadic tweeters, so I was able to go all the way back to 2010 with one and 2012 with another. It was crazy to look back and realize that we were no longer living those times, but rather looking back at them. And we stopped continuing to live future times together.

I don't know why people stop being friends. Growing up often means growing apart. When your friends either go up or down in life, I'm still in the middle and things are no longer the same. One friend has a wife and kids, one has devolved into a drug problem, some have moved away, some have done whatever and we're no longer friends.

It's weird to think that 5 years ago or so there were people in your life that you either saw or talked to every day and now there is zero communication. And it's not like anything bad happened.

I don't know. Such is life, I guess.

I would consider myself to be in a state of transition. I just woke up about a week ago and realized all of the changes I needed to make in my life. The way I live my life is I do whatever it is I do until I see a negative consequence. I do something that may or may not be good for me until I can no longer do it. And then I stop.

I've made an assortment of changes in my life, I just have yet to see any tangible results from that yet. We'll see what happens. Maybe there will be results when I write the next edition of "Observations from March 8."

If you are not aware yet, I have started writing for the Thought Catalog website. It's been fun so far. I have cataloged my thoughts in various forms for most of my life, so any opportunity to expand upon that is always good. I have a page that showcases all of my articles I've written so far - 

I have a lot of ideas about things I want to explore with that site. There seems to be a lot Thought Catalog fans. Hopefully I can be a positive contributor.

That's all for now. If anybody is curious, Kelly and I did what we usually do on March 8 - exchange vague texts wondering about the importance of that day. Read the original March 8 blog if you don't know why.

That's all for now. I'll try to check in next March 8. And, hopefully, several times before that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Writing About Writing

I was in a bit of a funk for a few days/weeks/months/years there. I don't keep track of time anymore. I've felt good the last few days. I have my moments when I get down and full of self doubt and all that other dumb stuff. I guess I'm over that for the moment.

As most people do when they're 27, I'm re-assessing my life. I doubt I'll make any major changes, but I'm at least looking at things and figuring out what has got me to where I'm at.

I have the day free, so I've been thinking about what to do. I assume I'll use it for some sort of writing endeavor, but I just don't know what. You know you're scatter-brained when you legitimately say "Which book will I work on today?" 

I have one that is about 10,000 words in. I have the number 50,000 in my head. I feel like that book will have a more concrete body to it around that number. As we get closer to that, I'll give out more details. If you actually want to see some of those 10,000 words, look at my cover picture on Facebook.

The other one is nothing but notes written out on pages. I really can't do much with that one yet because I need to interview a bunch of people and make them the focus. To a lesser extent, I need to do that with the other book as well.

The first book is still out there on Amazon if anybody wants to buy it. I haven't given any serious thought to volume 02 of that series yet, but I'm sure I have some stuff laying around that I can throw in there.

Haven't sold a book in over a month. I didn't expect to, so I'm not upset about that. I never expected writing a book to do anything to change my life in any way. Just something I decided to do to see if I can do it. I'm not disappointed that it didn't sell a lot; I'm actually disappointed that people told me they were going to buy it and then didn't. But, it is what it is.

I submitted another piece to Thought Catalog. That should be up in the next day or so. I have a couple other pieces already written that I'm going to send in. Then I have pages & pages of ideas of stuff written down that I may or may not actually write (like this). I've actually thought about writing in my blog here a list of stuff that I wanted to write but never did. Just the title/description of something I intended to do. I don't know, I think it would be fun.

I haven't had the motivation to do a podcast lately. That episode 14 was atrocious; one of the worst things I've ever done in my life. I had a lot of good ideas and tried to set up interviews, but they either turned me down, weather got in the way of us meeting up, or we were never able to work something out. So, I'm at a creative impasse with that venture at the moment.

We'll see if anything happens. If anything goes up anywhere, I'll send out links.