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]