Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Strawberry



In 2003, my grandpa was in town visiting. It was around christmas-time and we were wandering around Walmart. He just randomly asked if I wanted a CD. I guess he was thinking "The boy probably wants something. He listens to music." So I picked out the Everclear greatest hits album.

The liner notes contain the story behind every song. For this one, the lead singer wrote that he had been sober for several years, then had a dream that he began using drugs again. He woke up and wrote "Strawberry."

Very poignant words. "Don't fall down now, you will never get up." Not just for drug addiction, those words are very important for anybody going through anything. Depression, anxiety, relationship issues, job woes, you've just gotta keep going and don't let the darkness surrounding you to swallow you.

I've been guilty of falling down several times in regard to whatever my vice or problem is at the time. I just haven't always been able or willing to pick myself up. And it's taken a lot of time and mistakes to realize that if I do fall down now, I will likely never get up. So, that's what I'm doing now. I'm getting up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kevin Owens makes RAW debut; lays out John Cena



Do you ever see something that just makes you so happy that you don't know how to describe it? That was an apt way to describe me while watching Kevin Owens make his WWE "main roster" debut during the May 18, 2015, episode of Monday Night Raw.

It is one thing to see a former Ring of Honor star, a former World Champion of that promotion, make his debut and get a little steam and traction for himself. It is another thing altogether to see that star - Kevin Owens - make his debut and talk down to John Cena, the biggest star in WWE for the last 11 years, then beat him up and walk out on top. Not only that, but he was treated like a legitimate star and an equal by the announcers.

Check out this blog I wrote earlier in the year about Owens and Sami Zayn and their rise from ROH to NXT - http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2015/02/zayn-vs-owens-makes-me-happy.html

I'm excited for where this takes Kevin Owens. From following him over the years, you get a little piece of his real history, and it makes you root for the person behind the character. Kevin Steen is his real name, which he used for the first 15 years of his career. His son is named Owen Steen, after wrestler Owen Hart. Kevin's wrestling name honors two different loves in his life.

Shortly after Owens signed with WWE last year, he did a series of interviews and mentioned that his son was a huge John Cena fan. He told a funny story about going to a WWE live event a few years back and Kevin's son asking if he was going to be wrestling that night. So he mentioned that his son was particularly happy to know that he was going to be a part of WWE.

It was really cool, then, to see a video posted on instagram by Kevin Owens' wife of their son reacting to seeing him on TV challenging Cena. Apparently, they did not tell their son about what was going to happen. He was watching Monday Night Raw like he does every week. Owen Steen saw John Cena come out and and he got excited. Then he saw his dad come out to challenge Cena. That link is here - http://tinyurl.com/m7vhotc

One thing that I've talked about a lot over the last couple years when discussing the success of people like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, and going further to Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, etc... is that you can tell when somebody is a true star and when the crowd genuinely respects them.

I'm legitimately upset right now that Daniel Bryan is having injury issues and has missed chunks of the last two years. Stephanie McMahon wins media and business awards left-and-right and I don't give a shit, because I don't respect her. Chris Jericho gets cast in a Comedy Central web series and I'm actually happy for him. Randy Orton gets cast in a few WWE movie productions and I roll my eyes.

You can tell when somebody becomes a star by rising through the WWE-controlled bullshit and when that same person is manufactured by "the system." One is respected and the other is just there.

When I saw Kevin Owens come out to challenge John Cena on Monday night, I was actually happy. I smiled. I put my phone down. I watched a person that I care about do something that I know he loves. And it made me feel good.

Here's a link to a Rolling Stone dot com article that profiled Kevin Owens recently. They have a pretty extensive wrestling section online - http://www.rollingstone.com/sports/features/who-is-kevin-owens-the-guy-who-gatecrashed-raw-speaks-20150518

Below, check out some clips of Kevin Steen before he went to WWE and became Kevin Owens:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week

This week's Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week was in the news a couple days ago. It was Norm's last appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman and he got very emotional at the end of his set when talking about the influence Letterman had on him.

At the end of this video, Norm talks about the first time he ever saw Letterman perform, when he was 13. He then proceeds to tell his favorite Letterman standup bit and concludes with some poignant words about Letterman's legacy and gets choked up when saying "I love you."

What isn't mentioned here is the huge honor that was bestowed onto Norm. It has long been known that Norm is a favorite guest of the late night hosts. He is irreverent and always has something funny to say. He's not just there to plug something; and even when he is, he is entertaining.

As we got closer to the end of David Letterman's run - which concludes May 20 - the show became more of a nostalgia run. The last couple months have been "greatest hits" shows, as some of Dave's favorite guests have been coming back for one last bit of fun.

So, I wasn't surprised that Norm was on the show a couple months ago. He told a few funny stories and each one had a recurring joke of mentioning his old ABC sitcom "Norm." Each time he mentioned it, he would immediately say "I played Norm."

One joke that Norm made was when he said something to the effect of "This will probably be my last time on your show." Everybody laughed because, of course, it is his last time. There are only a couple months left and you want to give everybody a chance to have one last guest spot.

So, it was a surprise then that Norm was on last week. The final full week of shows. And it was a big show: Oprah was on. A long-running joke from Letterman was trying to interview Oprah. And then it finally happened and it was one of his highest-rated shows ever. And then she's back for one of the last shows. And then there's Norm Macdonald, too.

Standup comedy has always been a huge part of the late night shows. While Johnny Carson wasn't one himself, he loved the art form and routinely made stars out of comics performing on his show. Letterman and Leno were both standup comics (and got their first big breaks on Carson's show) and have always routinely had comics on.

So, not only is Norm Macdonald one of David Letterman's final guests, he is actually the final standup comedy performance on David Letterman's show. What an honor. And Norm knows what an honor that is, which I think is part of the reason he is so emotional at the end.

There have been a few other emotional farewells to Dave from standup comedians. Ray Romano gave one of the sweetest, as he also got choked up talking about Dave's influence in his life. He said that his career wasn't really going so well in 1996 until a guest spot on Dave's show led to "Everybody Loves Raymond." Adam Sandler sang a song for Dave, and while it's very sophomoric and crude at times, it turns into a very sweet and touching moment at the end.

It's very sad to see David Letterman retire. I'll have more on that at a later date. I just wanted to throw out Norm's touching tribute. And, the rest of his jokes are really funny too. We'll close with a link to an article looking back at Norm Macdonald's impression of David Letterman from SNL. The voice and look aren't necessarily important, but that's how Norm works. The mannerisms, the expressions, the way he talks not the way he sounds, it's all perfect Letterman.

Check that out: http://decider.com/2015/05/15/you-got-any-gum-norm-macdonald-david-letterman/

Saturday, May 16, 2015

BB King

Legendary blues musician BB King passed away the other day at the age of 89. I wasn't a huge fan, but I understand his role in the history of music and what he meant to other artists that he influenced.

Sometimes when you're a kid you don't know much. One of the things I heard a lot growing up was "You're not as smart as you think you are." Now, whether that was true or not can be debated at a later date.

The point is, when I was a kid I knew BB King not from the music world, but rather from diabetes testing strip commercials. I mean, I knew he was a musician. That was the point of the commercials: he hated pricking his fingers to check his blood sugar because it interfered with his guitar playing. Kind of like how I also thought at the time that Dick Van Patton just sold insulated windows.

So, he was 89 years old and had issues with diabetes. When I heard that he died, my reaction was along the lines of "Yeah. That happens." I was more shocked at a Facebook status I saw lamenting the loss of King that said something to the effect of "OMG Can't believe we lost BB King in this manner!" She made it sound like some sort of James Dean rebel-without-a-cause, avoidable tragedy. I think when you're 89 that the real news story should be every day that you don't die.

What was unintentionally hilarious about BB King's death was listening to the radio later that day. The DJ played an Eric Clapton song (the one about loving cocaine) and then spoke about the relationship between Clapton and King, bringing up the album they recorded together in 2000. He concluded by saying, "And after the break, we're going to play some rock from artists still with us." The first band back from commercial was The Who. Half of that band is dead!

As I discovered more music as I got older, I did begin to appreciate BB King and what he represented and how he influenced generations of musicians. I didn't care a lot for the entire BB King catalog, but I enjoyed him in small doses. I particularly enjoyed his collaborations with other artists. His stuff with Eric Clapton is great. My favorite BB King track, though, is "When Love Comes To Town," which he performs with U2. That track is below. You can click here to see a portion of the "Rattle and Hum" documentary where Bono discusses the song with King.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Handle With Care



Randomly mentioned to a friend of mine the other day, "Do you like Roy Orbison?" And the response was basically "Meh?" So, I started talking about his favorite songs of mine and it turned into "Have you heard of the Traveling Wilburys?" And the response was again a "Meh."

Having this history lesson for me and my friend has been good for me. Until just now, this super group of George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne, has just been something that I knew of and had a passing reference toward. I knew the main songs, but I didn't care much.

And now that I've talked about if with my friend - and a couple others as a result - I've gotten very much into them. One, I've always liked George Harrison. Two, Roy Orbison has an amazing voice. Three, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan are a little grating here, but there are songs where the two of them shine.

This one, especially, - their main commercial song - has had a special place for me. Everybody can relate to this one. At its core, this song is about a man who wants to be loved, but has gone through some issues. He explains his issues, then Roy Orbison comes in with more, then the rest jump in with the chorus. It's a nice song about how you just want to be loved, but you've been through a lot of shit, so "handle with care."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week



Norm Macdonald and Conan O'Brien are good friends. Norm has been on all three of Conan's late night shows several times and he is always hilarious. One thing that I have noticed is that Norm is usually the first guest on the show on a particular night and then he will stay and interact with the second guest.

Usually the second guest is somebody who is not a comedian. Either it's a dramatic actor who doesn't have a lot of jokes, a "host" or other TV "personality," or in the case of this week's Norm Macdonald Clip of the week, a professional snowboarder.

When there is a guest who is deemed "uninteresting," it seems like Norm is kept out there as a way to make the segment interesting. Norm will either make fun of the absurdity of it all (like the infamous "Carrot Top" clip) or he'll try and chime in like he's helping, like this interview.

What is especially funny is that Conan acts like he is so angry and bothered by Norm's constant interrupting. But, knowing that Conan is a comedian, he has to secretly love the weirdness of it all.

Had it been Conan interviewing this snowboarder by himself, it wouldn't have been that interesting. She was a "flavor of the week" mini-celebrity based on her X-Games exploits and she didn't have the wherewithal to to have an entertaining back-and-forth in a comedy setting. So, that's where Norm comes in. It's awkward, but it's funny. Without Norm, it would have just been awkward. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Full Excerpt: Monday Nights

I released my first ebook "B-Sides: Rarities and Unreleased Works, vol. 01" back in December of 2013. For those unfamiliar, I purchased a new computer in the summer of 2013 and began going through the old one to see what pictures and stuff I wanted to save. Without realizing it, I had accumulated a lot of written content; stuff I would either not finish or stuff that I never did anything with. 

I looked around at it and realized that a lot of that stuff was better than I thought it was originally. So, like a musician going through his back catalog, I put together a book and called it my "B-Sides." There's one original piece I wrote for the book, some poetry I wrote back in high school, and a collection of other non-fiction and fiction I originally did nothing with.


Reviews have been favorable. One girl did tell me I sounded "whiney" throughout a lot of it. But, some of those stories aren't happy and didn't come from the best periods of my life. So, there's that warning about the tone. But, some of it is happy.


Below is an article that I wrote for a wrestling blog in 2011. The blog was written by my friend Phil, a reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal. The blog hasn't been updated since the end of 2014, but at one point it was pretty big. Phil is a journalist, so he had credentials to get interviews with wrestlers and do a lot of really cool stuff.


In 2011, Phil noted that his "real job" was getting in the way of his wrestling blogging, which was really just something he did on the side. He asked for a couple contributors. I and one other girl began writing for him. I would review WWE Monday Night Raw and occasionally write some other features. Here's a sampling of some of my work:


Top 10 Royal Rumbles


Looking at Kevin Nash's WWE run


Looking at the new WWE YouTube channel


I did stuff like that and also reviewed Monday Night Raw. Around that time, I got a new job. I had worked at Pizza Hut for years and was a member of management; I was "part of the team," so to speak. So, that's why it really shocked a lot of people when I put in my notice and left. It wasn't fun anymore, so I got out. 


I found a new job and things were going well. With one small problem... I had to work on Monday night! I couldn't review the wrestling show. So, I instead decided to write an article about how weird it is being a wrestling fan and "outing yourself" to those around you.


It was cool; I liked it. Then I got fired from that job before I could submit the article. I was sad about losing my job and I felt weird about submitting an article that mentioned a job I didn't have anymore. So, I didn't turn it in. It sat on my computer for nearly two years until I decided to put it in my book.


Here it is below. It's written to a wrestling audience, so some might not understand the joke at the end. But, the rest of the article should be readable to a non-wrestling fan; it's about how awkward I feel when telling people I like wrestling.


* * * 


Monday Nights, 2011

I started a new job recently. After working at the previous one for nearly six years, I felt like it was time for a change. The new job is fun; a pretty relaxed atmosphere. There's just one small problem… 

I had to work Monday night! 

It wasn't originally like that, and I felt like I was getting pretty lucky in having my wrestling-viewing schedule mesh well with my work schedule. But, I felt a sense of dread when my boss said to me, "I had to change the schedule around. Take a look at it." I walked over and checked it out. Yep. Working Monday night. 

Most people in my situation simply grow up and grow out of wrestling. For them, it's time to get a job and you don’t have time for that wrestling show you watched as a kid. Of course, that wasn't the case for me, as I'm presently going on 20-plus years of wrestling fandom. Ever since I saw Undertaker lock the Ultimate Warrior in a casket, I was hooked. 

With my previous job, working at the same place for a long time, you have a little bit more pull in certain areas. Back in 2006, I was asked if I had any days that I didn't want to work. I thought about it briefly and hoped I wouldn't be asked to explain myself as I said, "I like to have my Monday nights free." 

I wasn't asked to explain, and thus began my multi-year streak of not working on Mondays. 

If you stay at any place long enough, you eventually become friends with your coworkers. That was the case with me. One day a friend was looking at the schedule and he asked me why I never worked on Mondays. I thought about it for a second, wondering how to address this. I decided to go for it and be honest. 

"I asked for Mondays off so I can watch wrestling."

He looks at me blankly for a second. 

"Wrestling?"

I'm getting a little nervous. 

"Yeah, wrestling. Monday Night Raw. WWE."  

My friend looks over at another group of people. 

"Did you hear this? Chris asks for Monday off so he can watch wrestling!"

And that's the story of how I became "that wrestling guy" at work. Some people who used to be wrestling fans began asking me about the current state of WWE, and also questions about the past. It was at this point that they realized I was pretty much a walking encyclopedia on wrestling information. Then I became the equivalent of a party game for my friends. "Ask him anything about wrestling! He knows everything!" 

I feel like I'm getting fairly acclimated into my new workplace and my new responsibilities. We're getting close to the point in time when I can look at my boss and meekly say to her, "You know, if it’s not too big of an issue, I would prefer if it would be possible to be able to have Mondays off. If it's not too big of a deal."

You know, stand up to her. Like a man (a Real Man’s Man, like William Regal). Hopefully she doesn't ask me why I need that day off...

* * *

And, there's that. Nothing special, but I think it's kind of cute and makes fun of myself a little bit without making fun of wrestling itself. 

Volume 02 of "B-Sides" is chugging along. I'll update everybody about that as soon as I have some new information (aka I'm lazy).

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE "B-SIDES: RARITIES AND UNRELEASED WORKS, VOL. 01"