Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Unfinished Works: Random Ideas

Here is the latest installment in my "Unfinished Works" series. It is what it says it is: I write down a lot of stuff and some of it never turns into anything. This is where I post a picture of that page of ideas and talk about it a little bit.

Here are some past "Unfinished Works" blog posts:

This is the first Unfinished Works post in 2015. We'll call this one "Random Ideas." These are all basically titles of articles written down on a sheet of yellow paper. I actually wound up writing two of them for Thought Catalog, but the rest have not progressed past being an inkling of something in my head.

I wrote these ideas on that sheet of paper in the summer of 2014. But some of the ideas were actually from 2010, that I had written down in a previous notebook. I thought they would be fun to bring up again.

Here's a rundown of what I wrote, with some explanations:

"10 Biggest News Stories of the Last 10 Years" ... One of my 2010 ideas, I thought it would be fun to explore. But, I never got around to it.

"Surprising bodybuilders who were actually wrestling fans" ... In wrestling, a trend in the 80's and 90's was for bodybuilders who offered nothing but a nice physique to get into wrestling. As wrestling fans got smarter, they began to resent those types of people. And with this list, I was going to look at bodybuilders who actually had that passion and love of wrestling that most didn't. All I had on the list was Dave Batista and Chris Masters. Then I gave up on it.

"Biggest Mistakes" ... A look at some events in professional wrestling that I think were the wrong idea. 

"Mythologizing of bacon" ... It tastes good. But it's not the most amazing thing in the world. Wrapping something in bacon doesn't instantly make it some incredible super food.

"Confessions of a recovering gamer" ... Wrote that one. Click here to read it over at Thought Catalog.

"Amazing shows I've never watched" ... Another Thought Catalog exclusive. Click here to check that one out.

"Biggest music busts of the last decade" & "Biggest acts who became surprisingly popular" ... I wrote this one in 2010 and was going to look at 2000-2009. I wrote out a bunch of bands, but never got around to fleshing it out into something deeper. The biggest one on my "I'm surprised they got that popular" was Nickelback. And then the biggest busts was just a bunch of one-hit wonders that I thought would have bigger careers. Like the Pink Spiders. I figured they would have become big in the pop rock scene.

"Top places to hang out" ... I don't know? I'm sure at the time that seemed like something that made sense. Where? With people? Doing what? Sometimes I get an idea, write it down, then don't remember what it means later.

"Millennials" ... I hate the term. I'm okay with it as a descriptor of a person born within a certain time frame. Like baby boomers and Generation X. The first time I heard the phrase millennial was in 2009. The way they described what a millennial was totally different from what they say now. Basically, the gist of what I wanted to accomplish with this article was point out that anybody using that phrase to describe today's young people has no clue what's going on.

"Things that are actually 'Epic'" ... I just feel like that's an overused word. I was going to list some things that I actually felt were really worthy of being called "epic."

And that is the full list of random ideas there. I'll check back with some more at a later date.

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23

I've been happy lately. Things have been going well for me. Life really is a series of peaks and valleys. Most of 2014 saw me valley-ing, but hopefully 2015 will see me peak-ing.

I got a new tattoo recently. I have 6 now. This one is just sort of an odd design that takes up a lot of my left forearm. I don't know why I wanted it, but it's just an idea that I've had in my head for a while and I got it done. You can click here to see it. There are more pictures on Facebook. I've had that smiley face tattoo since 2007. I really like it. Not sure why. I just do.

I have not been anywhere near as productive lately as I would like. I get very lazy and complacent so easily. It's been the biggest hurdle that I've needed to overcome in my life.

It's been snowing a lot lately. As we all know, I am not a fan of that.

And that's been my life. We'll come back with more later.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Foo Fighters. Driving. Writing. Girls. Etc.

A little while back, I was texting my friend Celia Laverty and asked her to choose between a couple bands. She chose Foo Fighters. I then told her that the next "Top 25" blog I did would be about them. "Hey, Chris, didn't you mention in a previous blog that you were talking to a girl and kind of liked her?" Huh? What? Anyway...

I started working on that list tonight. Which really just means I wrote down Foo Fighters songs. I just wrote down songs of theirs that I really liked. I have 31 on my list and will narrow that down to 25 and then loosely rank them. And then write a little about each one.

People seem to like the concept. Below are links to the previous ones I've done:

Top 25 Beatles Songs

Top 25 Led Zeppelin Songs (sort of)

Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

Until I'm done with that, above is a video of a 2-hour Foo Fighters concert. It was recorded right around the time of their 2011 album "Wasting Light" and the first 50-ish minutes are spent just playing their new songs. Then they start talking to the audience and playing all of their bigger hits.

If you have 2 hours to kill, give it a listen. Their performance of "Stacked Actors" is especially good.

* * *

What else is going on in my life? I got my driver's license back about a month ago. Why did I lose my license in the first place, you ask? Because I was an innocent man set up by the police. Either that, or they caught me driving drunk. I was feeling pretty buzzed when I got arrested; I don't remember all of the details.

That's a lie, I remember most of the details. Click here to read about the night I got arrested if you haven't already done so. And if you haven't, then shame on you.

I had to retake both the written and driving tests. I had to have my mom drive my car to the DMV so that I could drive it. The written test is actually more of a "touch-screen computer" test. I had to get 19 right out of a possible 25. 

I had 50 minutes to complete everything. I finished in 6. There's a joke there. But I won't make it.

When you're a teenager and do all of this, you get your learner's permit and have it for a month before you take your driving test. If you have previously had your license, you can do both on the same day.

I don't know if this is the most efficient way to do it, but it's the rule. I passed my written test. Then I stood in line for 15 minutes. Then I went and got my picture taken for a learner's permit. Then I waited 5 minutes for it to print. Then I took my learner's permit over to another line and signed up to take my driving test.

The lady in charge of my test asked if I had driven before. After saying yes, she responded, "Oh, good. That means you won't be scared or anything." You get three tries to parallel park. I needed all three. As I was driving down the road, I was talking to the driving lady. I then noticed that I was talking with my hands, which meant I wasn't keeping them on the wheel. So, I glued my hands to "10 and 2" and didn't move them.

We drove down a road. "Did you see that sign?" she said to me. I did and told her what it was. A few minutes later. "Did you see that sign?" I awkwardly said, "Ummm. No. I did not." After that, I pointed out every sign we passed. She had a good sense of humor and laughed about it.

Then I had to wait in line for another 15 minutes. They took my learner's permit that I had for approximately half an hour and threw it away, then I took a picture for my actual license.

The lady I was talking to about all of my paperwork after I finished my driving test had to call somebody about my stuff. I could only hear her end of the conversation, and I'm pretty sure the person on the other line made a stupid "Christian Slater" joke. Here's how it went:

She said some numbers to the guy. "No, it's not him." Pause while other person says something. "Haha yeah, I wish."

At least it wasn't a "Saved By The Bell" joke.

* * *

Q&A time! "What's going on with your second book? It should have been done two months ago. Why are you so lazy?"

Wow. That's harsh. Book number 01 was a learning experience. I figured out the general idea of putting words together and assembling them into a (digital) book format. So, for book number 02, I wanted to use that information I learned and expand upon it.

I wanted the new book to be bigger and better than volume 01. And, so I had some ideas. I explored those ideas and tried to make them happen. And it didn't work. So, I'm still figuring out what to do with that.

But, it will be done eventually. Don't worry, soon enough you'll be able to not buy it when it's released and then clamor for it when it's free for a week.

Next question. "What's going on with the 6-part 'Adventures in DUI Class' articles?"

See above. Partial laziness. But, also, it's been hard to mentally revisit that time of my life. I was going to DUI classes for 6 weeks and taking notes, thinking that it would be something awesome to write about. I started the writing process as the classes were ongoing. Then I took some time off from it. And now, it's hard to get my head back into that part of my life. I wasn't very happy when I had to do all of that, and now that I can drive and am feeling happier I don't really like drudging it back up.

But, we'll get there. Any other questions?

"What's up with you and Celia?"

Huh? Oh, I'm sorry. We're out of time.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Zayn vs Owens makes me happy

A couple years ago, one of the things I wrote about that made me happy was the WWE feud between Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. The two of them had grown up before our eyes in the smaller Ring of Honor wrestling promotion before defying the odds, it seems, and making it to WWE.

For years, there was a prototypical look for a wrestling superstar. Tall, jacked, tanned, etc. Hulk Hogan. The Rock. Triple H. Brock Lesnar. Randy Orton. Batista. Roman Reigns. Our friend CM Punk is maybe 6'1 and a little over 200 pounds. Daniel Bryan is listed by WWE as 5'10 and 189 pounds.

But the two of them defied all of the odds and turned that "prototypical" look into a "stereotypical" look. CM Punk held the WWE title for over a year - something that is rare in this day and age - and had two matches against Hollywood star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He only comes back to fight the best. Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista in the same night at the biggest WWE event in history - WrestleMania 30 - to win his championship.

When they left ROH for WWE, a new generation of stars needed to step up. Two of those stars were Kevin Steen and El Generico. Steen started out as a clean-cut good guy character who had entertaining matches. Then he became one of the nastiest "heel" wrestlers in the company's history, leading a faction called "S.C.U.M." and vowing to destroy ROH from the inside. He reigned as their Heavyweight champion for most of a year. Generico started as a parody of a masked Mexican wrestler. "The Generic One," he wore a plain mask and plain tights and was more of a comedy wrestler.

Steen and Generico started out as a team in the mid-2000s. People loved them. Then Steen turned on Generico to begin his heel run. They feuded on-and-off for the next several years. It all culminated in a "Ladder War" at the end of 2010.

Hype video above. Match highlights below.

Shortly after that, Generico signed with WWE and reported to their developmental promotion, NXT. It doesn't stand for anything. Well, it sort of means "Next," as in these are going to be the next WWE superstars.

They took the mask off and renamed him Sami Zayn. After seeing him for the first time, I remarked on twitter that he actually appeared to resemble "El Generico" more without the mask. He just didn't stand out to me at that time.

Over the last year or so, he has worked himself up into being the top good guy in the NXT promotion. People have wanted to watch his rise to the top for a long time. It finally looked like it was going to happen at the NXT live special on the WWE Network, titled "Takeover: R Evolution." Kind of a play on "Revolution" and "Our Evolution."

Last summer, word spread that Kevin Steen was going to be signing with WWE. That surprised a lot of people. Punk and Bryan and Zayn were all small, but they were muscular. Steen has a bit of a gut. And his promos were heavily peppered with F-bombs. He just didn't seem like he would fit in well into the PG-rated WWE world.

But he signed. Promos hyped him up for a month or two. His debut was going to be during the "R Evolution" event. Kevin Steen was renamed Kevin Owens. His son's name is Owen and he got that name from famed wrestler Owen Hart.

Kevin Owens opened up the show with an amazing display of agility for a man his size. He was heavily cheered by the NXT crowd. It's a much more "hardcore" audience. The casual WWE fan may not know who Owens and Zayn are, but the NXT audience certainly does. At the end of the night, Zayn's journey to the top was complete. He achieved his dream and won the NXT Championship.

The locker room came out to celebrate, most notably Kevin Owens. And then the turn happened. It has since come out that Owens was jealous of Zayn for getting to WWE before he did. He feels like that championship moment should have been his.

February 11, 2015 will see Kevin Owens versus Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship in the main event of a WWE-produced event. They have both finally arrived at the top.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week

This week's Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week is from a 1997 appearance on the Conan O'Brien show. Norm discusses how he combs through the newspapers (not literally, as he clarifies) to get Weekend Update content for Saturday Night Live. At one point, Norm almost has Conan literally do a spit-take, as he makes a joke while Conan is taking a drink.

Norm talks about his new level of celebrity, although people know who he is but don't know his name. A man keeps calling him Bob and Norm decides to let him. It gets funny when another man asks Norm what his name is and he has to choose between saying his real name or continuing to let the first guy think he's Bob.

And it ends with a hilarious story looking back at Norm's days as a bartender. Well worth checking it out.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Pursuit of Happiness

You can only take something so far. This image of a hip hop star as this gangster with "bling" and big rims on their cars, with the gaudy necklaces, it can only go so high before it has to come down. Lil' John looks like a parody of what an over-the-top rapper should look like. Except, he was the biggest rapper in the world 11, 12 years ago.

And like the character, the content can only get so extreme. You can only fuck so many ho's and have so many guns and "make it rain" so many times before people start to roll their eyes. And I think the hip hop culture has changed over the last 5 years or so.

Rappers have started talking about real issues again. Kid Cudi, for instance talks a lot about failed relationships and the negative aspects of drugs. Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Lil' Wayne, and some others are of the same vein. Some of them have their show-biz exteriors, but there's a lot of deep content from them.

"Pursuit of Happiness" is about just that. He thinks that drugs and alcohol will get him there, but as the song unfolds we realize that it isn't the right way. In 2012, I wrote a blog about a friend of mine who died as a result of drugs. I almost wrote this line as something of a throwaway - just something I typed and then moved on from and didn't give it a lot of thought: "You can change your situation or your mood." If life sucks and you can't fix it immediately, it's easier to drink something, smoke something, snort something, etc to immediately change your mood.

You're on that pursuit of happiness living your life that way. You're constantly reaching for something using means that will not allow you to get there.

Maybe I'll come back to that topic more later. That's enough for now.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Movie Review: Frozen & Guardians of the Galaxy

I had plans to hang out with a friend a couple weekends ago. A reference to "Frozen" crept into our text exchanges. I mentioned that I had never seen it before. "Guess what we're gonna do when you come over!"

I was okay with the idea. I had heard great things about it. One of my favorite wrestlers, Steve Corino, tweeted recently that he repeatedly watched "Frozen" with his one-year-old son and enjoyed it every time.

After getting a warning from my friend that she would probably start singing at random points in the film, we started it and I watched. In a nutshell, I really enjoyed it.

I'm not really a fan of a lot of Disney movies. A girl once asked what my favorite was and after I said "I don't know. 'A Goofy Movie'?" She replied "That doesn't count. It has to have a princess in it." She begrudgingly accepted "Fox and the Hound" as a second choice.

I don't care much for musicals. The main thing I liked about "Pitch Perfect" was that they were all aware of the fact that they were singing. Music didn't just randomly break out, out of nowhere. It does that in "Frozen," but it's nothing major. The musical interludes aren't really the main moments of the movie; they could still tell the majority of the plot without singing.

There are a lot of really catchy, entertaining songs. The big song from "Frozen," of course, is "Let It Go." The reason for that song catching on is that it's a pop song disguised as a random song from a movie. The song about building a snowman is cute, but you would only listen to that on the Disney Pandora station. If you take out the few references to snow, "Let It Go" could be on the radio as a legitimate song. 

"Frozen" is an intelligent movie. Something doesn't have to be high brow for older people to like it or low brow for kids to enjoy it. If it's smart and funny, everybody will like it. They have fun with one of the tropes of a lot of older Disney movies - love at first sight and instantly getting married. "Really? You just met him and you're getting married" isn't something you would expect to hear in a Disney movie, based on the past.

But, this isn't the past. Times have changed. So have women in Disney films. They no longer need a "Prince Charming," which has become a cliche term to describe a man trying to help a woman who doesn't need him. Ironically, that's an actual Disney character from the past.

* * *

A week later, I'm at the same lady's house. We're listening to music. A poppy, upbeat track comes on and she says "That's from the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' soundtrack." I tell her that I've heard good things about both the soundtrack and the movie. "Excuse me? You haven't seen 'Guardians of the Galaxy'?"

I have heard about "Guardians of the Galaxy" since somewhere in the late 2010, early 2011 time frame. Dave Batista, a professional wrestler, left WWE in mid-2010 and getting the role of Drax in this film was the first big thing he did. He's now currently filming a movie opposite Robert DeNiro, he was recently announced as the villain in the latest James Bond movie, and of course there's the upcoming Guardians part 02, and rumor has it that the Guardians will feature heavily in the eventual Avengers part 03.

One of the issues I saw for a long time while this movie was getting made was people worrying about a "B-level" group of superheroes being a successful movie. The most successful Marvel movies - your X-Men, the Captain Americas, Thor, and Iron Man; those are all "name brand," so to speak. Your average movie-goer may not have read the comics, but they know who those people are at least.

I would consider myself a comic book nerd as a kid. But I was more of a DC comics nerd. If you wanna talk about "Zero Hour" and how it affected their universe, we'll have a go of it. In the Marvel world, I didn't know who Guardians of the Galaxy were. I had to look that up. And, so some people were kind of worried that this wouldn't be a huge blockbuster like the previous Marvel films.

There seems to be two main genres of superhero films that are successful: those that appeal to the youth audience (Spider-Man) and those that feature a tortured anti-hero (Batman). "Guardians of the Galaxy," on the surface, is really none of those. It's more of an action-comedy featuring some unlikely heroes. And I feel like that resonated with an audience; these were just ordinary people who were put into an extraordinary situation. And it was funny. And heartfelt, too. Everybody had a reason for being thrust into their position. And we wanted them all to succeed.

* * *

To conclude things here...

I enjoyed "Frozen." I feel like this could easily become a franchise, and I'm sure there are sequels planned out. I think a prequel featuring them as young children could be something profitable. It worked for the "Hercules" movie. They made a really popular series based on a 5-minute montage from the film of him as a teenager. It could definitely work with "Frozen."

I did really like "Guardians of the Galaxy." I'm not a huge fan of action movies. But, there was enough story and comedy to make me sit through the fight scenes. The thing I heard the most about the movie was "Chris Pratt doesn't seem like a superhero." And, to that, the character he plays isn't really a superhero. So, it works.

And... That girl I'm watching movies with... I like her, too.