Is the NFL Fiasco More Like the WWE or the Government?

I think everyone is pretty much on the same page on the Ray Rice story. He’s an animal, and should be fired. He was. NFL players need to better behave themselves. Great. Now let’s continue talking about when Johnny Manziel will start.

Photo: AP

But wait, there’s more. The tape. (Jim Ross voice) OH MAH GAWD THE TAPE! Did Goodell see it? Did he not see it? Does it matter? Who knew? Who hid it? Who killed Kennedy? Why are so many NFL players beating up their loved ones? I don’t know! Pandemonium!!!!!

I thought this was another one-day news story being beat to death by ESPN. Make no mistake – it is. But there’s angles here that play out in our society every day that the media only dared to touch once another and another and another story came out. This is the essence of the culture that American media has created. And it made me realize that there are stunning parallels between this story and two parts of society. Of these two parts, one is important. The other isn’t. One attempts to avoid drama at all costs. The other thrives on it. One’s public face is the American President. The other has a superstar nicknamed “The All American American.”

It’s time to enter the ring, or the debate podium, and figure out if the Ray Rice story belongs in the Government or the WWE! Cue entrance music!

Argument 1: WWE

Was it Hulk Hogan in the locker room with the chair? Or perhaps Triple H in the garage with the sledge hammer? Nope, it was Ray Rice in the elevator with the closed fist and Adrian Peterson with the tree branch. I’m not condoning anything these two did, but that tape literally looked like it was from Monday Night RAW. It’s a serious issue when anyone can compare something that happened in real life to the “fake” WWE, but this has to be something Vince McMahon has written before. Randy Orton has DDT’d Stephanie McMahon – Vince’s own daughter. Not cool in this situation either. At least in the WWE, Stephanie’s husband, Triple H, was attempting to defend her.

I know I lost you there with the wrestling talk. The bottom line is this sort of behavior is the type that should be reserved exclusively for the WWE in staged circumstances. I only wish the tape was in fact a staged event for (maybe somewhat sick) entertainment purposes, where nobody was seriously injured. This isn’t the case. The WWE is certainly where this footage and story belongs. That’s why it’s most similar to the WWE.

Argument 2: The Government

Did Goodell see the tape? Did Obama know about the IRS targeting? How about Bush and 9/11? What happened to the Nixon tapes?

Both the government and the NFL have a monopoly. When you think of monopolies you think about companies in a certain industry. But make no mistake, the NFL and the US Government operate a monopoly. I totally and completely agree that these monopolies should exist and operate in their current state, but the fact remains. Any time you have a monopoly, there is an attempt to curb transparency. The NFL needs to save face just as the government does. Public trust can play a huge role for both of these entities, though neither of which are going away any time soon.

I don’t know if Goodell saw the tape any more than I know who killed Kennedy. What I do know is the NFL has a history of covering things up just as the government does. Concussions becoming an NFL safety issue about two decades late comes to mind. Do I think there’s something Goodell isn’t telling us? Yeah. Do I think it’s world breaking news? I don’t care. I’m used to it.

It’s how they both operate. Saving face then doing back door deals to keep power. It’s the world we live in on Sundays and every day of the week.

(Now I need some back door deals to get done to keep the Rams in St. Louis. C’mon Goodell and Kroenke! I know you can do something!)

Oh yeah and the former FBI Director is investigating the NFL in handling of the case. Parallels people… Parallels…

In conclusion, these stories are sad for so many reasons. There are real victims here unlike the WWE, but the fact that it could be mistaken for a fake wrestling plot is sad in and of itself. We can’t let violence against women and children go on with a 2-game suspension, and we must hold our NFL and government monopolies accountable to our interests as fans and citizens, either at the stadium or at the polling booth.

Winner: Government. The issues are real. Don’t get caught up in the drama-fueled tabloid headlines that TMZ and WWE is successful at manufacturing.

Damn. That post got real. Sorry bout that.

New Country for Young Men (and Women)

I did a post a few years ago when I started getting into country music. Well, this is a post how I’m getting out of country music. At least the kind on the radio.

I’m getting so frustrated with the country on the radio now. Literally every single song is the same. Don’t take my word for it.

Kinda funny. Kinda ridiculous. Very sad. Not every song in that video is terrible, but it’s all so played.

You know who else is sick of country singers on the radio? COUNTRY SINGERS ON THE RADIO!

Zac Brown said Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night”  is the worst song he’s ever heard. “If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up.” – Zac’s words. Not mine.

I get it. It sells. Once Florida Georgia Line came out and started killing it with only those types of songs, everyone jumped on. Country people like it because it reminds them of their life, and non-country people like it because they can pretend they live like that. And again, it sells. It’s still getting old. Don’t be satisfied with it. Demand more.

If you’re getting a little tired of the same old country songs on the radio, or if you’re just simply looking for more music, you should check these bands and songs out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Turnpike Troubadours

Matt Carpenter’s walk up music currently, these guys are from Oklahoma and are simply phenomenal. My favorite band the last 6 months. I’d throw them with Country, Alternative, Rock, Red Dirt, and a little Bluegrass. Don’t be scared of the genre “bluegrass” either. It’s not just your uncle’s banjo ramblin’ on constantly. Okay, maybe a little, but the genre has evolved with modern music beautifully. They’re coming to St. Louis in July after I tweeted at them and told them to. I’ll be there front row.

Songs (links open in new tab): Gin, Smoke, LiesLong Hot Summer Day (Carp’s Walk Up); 7 & 7Every Girl.

Railroad Earth

These guys are more bluegrass, but again, don’t be afraid. They have plenty of alternative rock in them. I saw them in January and they can shred! It was one of the best concerts I’ve been to. I’ve had over 10 songs featured on my favorites in Spotify for a full year. Out of about 70 favorites total. Unprecedented for my music library.

Songs: Mighty River, Lone Croft Farewell, Hard Livin’.

Pat Green

Most of you country fans have probably at least heard of Pat Green, but he doesn’t get near the attention he deserves. You’ll know Wave on Wave and probably Carry On. I pretty much survived my last college semester on Carry On.

He’s like your cool uncle that will tell you crazy stories from college, then turn around and give you some of the best damn life advice ever. I rarely tweet out song lyrics, but I make exceptions for Pat. The lyrics just speak to me. Need motivation? In It For The Money. Ready to party? Here I Go (he’s probably sober in this video). Beautiful Sunday afternoon? Poetry.

In conclusion, the internet and streaming music has greatly enhanced our ability to listen to a whole plethora of new music. While I’m still am a huge fan of free AM/FM radio, it gets too repetitive.

Don’t be satisfied with it.

Open your ears to the wonders around you. That’s what I think I think you should do.

 

Honorable Mentions: Josh Abbott Band, Randy Rogers Band, Casey Donahew Band (lotta “bands” right?), Donna the Buffalo (they’re weird, but awesome), Stoney Larue, Rob Baird, Jason Isbell, I could go on and I’m probably missing some of my favorites.

I got to give a shout out to my buddy Kevin who’s from Oklahoma. Not sure if I would have discovered the magic of red dirt country without him.

RMR: Beasts of the Southern Wild

(Quvenzhzé Wallis)It’s late. I have 6 straight hours of class tomorrow (which is a lot for a college student), but I just checked the final best picture nomination off the list and I’m opinionated. (I’m not considering Amour as a nomination. Looks too depressing and just no fun. Not seeing it.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild was an absolutely stellar movie. It has the best camerawork I’ve seen in awhile. The characters and acting were all suburb, and the story can’t get much better. I think I enjoyed it so much because I had absolutely no expectations going in.

Although I enjoyed the movie from an entertainment standpoint, the movie still upset me. A lot.

The story follows a young girl that lives outside the levi in Louisiana in a community called the “Bathtub.” They do what they want. Drinking, partying, child abuse, you name it. When a Katrina-like storm comes it leaves the survivors in a tough spot. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m stopping there with the synopsis.

Politically-charged movies can be extremely moving at times. There are dozens of redeeming themes to this movie such as caring for one’s neighbor, unconditional family love, doing what you must to survive, and living the way you want to live, despite all other obstacles. Sometimes these themes can be taken to dangerous lengths.

Anarchy is one of the main themes that came to mind to me. Although “doing your own thing” can sound like a utopia, it was disturbing to find myself rooting for a community where education, discipline, responsibility, and any structure at all was viewed as evil. Where hospitals with hurricane refugees were viewed as prisons where one must violently break out of. Where blowing up a levi, potentially devastating to thousands of people, was celebrated just so the outlaws can drain the bathtub. Where blowing up your own house for no reason with no reprussions besides a good ol’ beating by papa, is okay. I found an article that took it even farther to compare it to Marxism, but I’ll leave it at anarchy for now.

Okay this is all fine and good. Movies are for entertainment, right? It’s rated PG-13, and if you’re, 13 you’re probably able to handle these themes even if you don’t completely understand it. As long as this movie isn’t shown at the White House and celebrated by the First Lady as one of the most important movies in a long time.

You guessed it. Michelle Obama called it just that. I guess my blog is based all around my opinion, but I think this is the first time I’m mentioned anything too political.

I was shocked that she showed the movie to middle-school aged audiences. I remember in middle school I needed a parent’s signature to see PG movies and they are showing PG-13 movies to them at the White House? That’s besides the point. The point is the FLOTUS mentioned many of the redeeming themes such as “Strength our community gives us… Hope in the midst of devastation…” and called it “beautiful, joyful, and devastatingly honest.” But failed to mention any of the other themes. The themes unmentioned that are going to stick with me way longer than something as wildly ambigous such as hope, joy, honesty.

I can’t disagree with anything she says. But there are many themes that shouldn’t be celebrated. Does it make it a bad move? Absolutely not. But if there is going to be a movie celebrated at the White House, it shouldn’t be a movie centered around anarchy, destruction, and living how you want to live with blatant disregard for anyone else. They burn a house down, blow up a levi, abuse their children, raise havoc in a hospital, and drink til they pass out. All qualities you want in your children, right?  I wonder what a middle-school David would do if the FLOTUS showed this to me and called it inspirational, joyful, and honest. I’d probably think “I don’t need school! I don’t need to shower! Let’s go blow some sh** up!” It is just impossible to celebrate the good while turning a blind eye the oh so bad.

It would not surprise me if Beasts takes home a few Oscars on Sunday, but let’s be careful about taking home every theme this movie gives us.

Like it or not, that’s what I think I think.

RMR: Les Miserables

Les Mis

Before you see this movie you should know something that I didn’t know going into it: This movie is 99% singing. The total number of spoken lines is probably less than a baker’s dozen, and as soon as they say one thing they break into song. I knew it was a musical, but not a music-all.

The singing was phenomenal. Everybody in the movie including the kids are fabulous singers. I wasn’t expecting it from Hugh Jackman, but home boy has some pipes.  I actually have a studio album by Russell Crowe on my computer that I got from the Jeff City Public Library. The album is no good, but he can still sing decently. Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, heck even Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat) killed. The singing, the visuals, and the costumes were all very good. The story is obviously a classic, and the overall theme is redeeming as well. I’ll let you figure out what that is. (Hint: Miserable-s)

I just can’t get into musicals where it is ALL SINGING. I don’t know if I can say it was good acting, because it’s all singing. The fact that there’s no dialogue in the film at all can be seen as an accomplishment, but I see it as sort of a cop out.

Most of the singing was in awkward situations when:

1. There was back and forth dialogue. People can’t be fighting and arguing while singing. It just doesn’t happen. Try to sing out loud “I’m going to kill you” and have it be convincing at all. Can’t work. In these intense scenes I can’t adequately judge the acting because it can seem comical. You can’t be whispering in a grave yard one moment and the next burst out into song. I guess it was well done because this didn’t completely take me out of the movie, but was still extremely distracting.

2. The characters were talking to himself/herself. If it looks stupid for a guy to be talking to himself in a scene, it looks ten times stupider for a guy to be singing to himself. This is where I saw it as a cop out. Instead of further developing the story, after every major scene, there would be a scene with an actor by himself/herself singing to himself/herself. This singing would usually consist of “Here’s where the story is. Here’s why I’m sad. Here’s what I need to do.” We get it. You don’t need to establish where the movie is every fifteen minutes. Continue the story instead of insulting our ability as movie watchers to understand what’s going on.

There were a few really great musical scenes where you know a song is coming and it fit and was great. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s scenes were much needed comic relief and were a lot of fun. They were too few and far between though. The writers also felt like they had to rhyme every single line sung. Great writing to be able to do that, but it was forced at times. I found myself trying to guess what word is coming up that rhymes with the last one instead of actually listening. Music doesn’t have to rhyme to be good music.

I also wish there was a redeeming song. After watching “White Christmas” I am always singing “White Christmas.” After watching “Lion King” I’m left humming “Circle of Life.” After I see “South Park,” I am can’t stop singing “Blame Canada.” After I watch… oh you get the point. I didn’t get that from Les Miserables. Mostly singing dialogue instead of good quality songs.

Overall I’d give this movie a B- still. I guess I’m just not one that can fully appreciate this type of movie. It certainly was a huge accomplishment and deserves a lot of credit. There were people crying after the movie, and one of my sister’s friends posted on Facebook that it’s her favorite movie ever. I think everyone should give it a try. Everyone I went with loved it. It will get some nods at the Oscars. There’s redeeming historical factors that I’m probably going to read up on, but all the singing was distracting. Not going to see it again. Glad I saw it, but wish I saw Django instead.

Miserable or not, that’s what I think I think.

RMR: Eric Church – Chief

Eric_Church_Chief

My first review is going to be of Eric Church’s 2011 album called “Chief.” After getting into country music last in summer 2011, I’ve found that there are two things I look for in a country song: Poetic lyrics, and upbeat rock-style rhythm. “Chief” has a perfect mix of both. The upbeat songs kick your butt, and the slower ones make you cry.

I truly believe we are in a golden age of country music (though I’ve only been a fan for a little over a year). Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, etc. are all legends, but their time is running out. Jake Owen, Zac Brown Band, Luke Bryan, and Jason Aldean are all pumping out hit after hit after hit. And they are all magnificent. These young guns are where country music is now and where it’s headed. With “Chief,” Eric Church has forced himself to be mentioned with the above.

You’ll recognize about 3-4 of the hits on there such as “Drink in my Hand,” “Springsteen,” and his newest, “Creepin’,” all very different style of songs that give homage to the versatility Church has. But look further, and you’ll find some of the deepest songs out in country music today.

“Over When it’s Over” is my favorite right now. A song about breaking up with lyrics such as “It’s the first snap of the last straw, where regrets outlast the alcohol.”

I’m going to use this word again, but “I’m Getting Stoned” when compared with “Over When it’s Over” is the epitome of the versatility of Church, because “I’m Getting Stoned” is another break-up song, but very very different. A favorite in our house now, this one is very upbeat and angry as opposed to sad, with the chorus going “She’s got a rock, I’m getting stoned.”

These songs along with a ballad like “Homeboy”, a toe-tapper like “Jack Daniels”, and a rocker like “Keep On”, all add up to an absolutely superb album.

Walk by my house this weekend, and chances you’ll hear one of these songs. Hopefully not too loud, though.

I strongly encourage all to check out this album if they haven’t already. Spotify has it. If you haven’t checked out Spotify yet, get on that right away. Like it or not, it’s what I think I think.

What’s Up Docs?

I’m going to keep on going with the Netflix theme because my life has been consumed with movies. Work, movies, sleep. That’s it. And I love it.

I just bought Netflix for myself. I had been using my parents for streaming purposes, but they got the DVDs by mail. $10 is worth it this summer to get any movie I want in the mail. Plus I get to rate movies with my own profile and then have Netflix make recommendations for me and only me. It recommended Irreversible for me earlier, and at that point I had to have a life evaluation. Definitely the hardest movie to watch EVER. Don’t watch it. Seriously. At all. Worse than Human Centipede. You’re going to go watch it now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There are two reasons I love Netflix so much:

1- I get to catch up on movies I should have seen already but haven’t, such as Terminator, Star Wars, Back to the Future, etc.

2- I get to see types of movies I haven’t even heard of and otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to at all.

And that’s where this blog post is going. Foreign films and documentaries are two of my favorite movie genres and that is all thanks to Netflix. Without the streaming service, I wouldn’t have access to hardly any of the great foreign and docs that I’ve seen. Next time I’ll do my favorite foreign films, but now I’m going to count down my favorite documentaries. Documentaries are real, for the most part. The involve real people and real situations that these people get into. There’s no need to flash “This film is based on actual events.” It’s understood, and awesome.

For my taste, there are two ingredients to an awesome documentary. The first is that it has to be about normal people. The common man. The second is it has to be un-political. I love political documentaries, and I’d say over half of the docs on Netflix are politically driven somehow, but in order for one to really stand out for me it has to leave all that stuff at the door. The political ones are interesting, but I can only take so much negativity. And pretty much all political documentaries involve something that’s bad about society and needs to be changed. But no more stinkin’ thinkin’.  Let’s get started.

All of these I watched on Netflix Instantly. They might not all be on there still, but I’d bet most of them are.

5. Hoop Dreams

Widely regarded as one the best, if not the best, documentary of all time. ‘Hoop Dreams’ is a story about two inner city middle schoolers from Chicago who have the dream to make it to the NBA. It follows them from 8th grade all the way through high school as they pursue their dreams and deal with all the turmoil that comes with it. The best part about this movie is the span of it, how it follows them for over four years of their lives. It’s long: 3 hours. But it doesn’t seem like it. If you’re into sports at all, this is a must see.

4. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Nominated for best documentary this past year at the Oscars, ‘Gift Shop’ has had people talking and arguing for months. Made by the maybe the most famous and certainly the most secretive street artist alive, Banksy, this film has a shift in tone like any other. It’s difficult to discuss at length without giving anything away, but this one will leave you wanting more at the end without a doubt.

3. The Human Experience

No other movie made me want to get up off my ass and do something with my life more than ‘The Human Experience’. This one follows two college age kids who are living in an orphanage in New York. They decide to look far and wide in search of whatever they consider to be the human experience. They start out living on the streets of NYC for a week, then head to South America to a low income school. They end up in Africa at a leper colony. I didn’t know those still existed. It’s tough to say if this movie was motivational or depressing. It was motivational by making we me want to do something with my life, but depressing because all these people they run into seem happier than anyone I’ve met in America, while possessing so much less. It also has the best soundtrack of any movie I’ve heard in awhile.

2. The Cove

An exception to my political rule, this is a film about ‘dolphin genocide’ happening in Japan. Part political commentary, part ‘planet earth’, part action thriller, The Cove has it all. Try to watch it without crying. Completely deserved to win best documentary at the 2010 Oscars.

1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

This is probably the most intense documentary about old school video games I have ever seen (joke, because I haven’t seen any but this one). Steve Weibe is a down home high school teacher who happens to be really really good at Donkey Kong. He sends a tape of him beating the record to “the powers the be” on video game record holders. He challenges Billy Mitchell, who in my opinion is alongside Bill the Butcher from “Gangs of New York” as some of the greatest movie villains of all time. He’s so cunning and deceiving, and will stop at nothing to destroy Weibe and claim his reign at the top of the record books for Donkey Kong. I can’t recommend this movie enough. I could watch this film over and over and over and over again and still love it so much. How intense and suspenseful this one is for being a documentary about a video game I care nothing about is what makes this my favorite doc out there.

So there you have it. I’d love for some reccomendations of more obscure documentaries out there. I’m trying to see all I can. Learning from movies can actually be fun, trust me.

Netflix Can’t Be Stopped

It’s happening more and more all the time. Industries in America are experiencing sweeping  technological changes that not only change the way an industry works, but change people’s everyday lives. Podcasting for radio, DVR for television, Amazon for shopping, to name just a few. But the one that’s had the biggest and most interesting impact by far is Netflix in the film industry.

What started out as a simple mail-order DVD service has become, in my opinion, the best at-home entertainment option. I can’t think of a company that has grown quicker and smoother than Netflix. Started in 1997, then first publically posting revenues for the year 2003 of $272 million. That’s not bad for a 6 year old company. Still chump change compared to their 2009 revenue of $1.67 billion. I bet it’s at least at 2.5 billion now. (All these stats and all following stats are from Wikipedia and/or my brain. And yes, both are reliable sources.)

More impressive than dollars and cents is the market presence and effect on the entire movie industry. Blockbuster had an opportunity to buy Netflix early on. They didn’t, and now they are bankrupt with $900 million in debt, and owned by DirecTV. Part of this is due to Redbox, but I believe Netflix is the real finisher. Redboxes do keep popping up, but the truth is that sooner or later all movie rental will be digital whether it’s a pay-per-view service or monthly subscription online streaming.

And that’s where Netflix turned the corner from a convenient way to get movies to major industry player. You can now stream over 10,000 movies online, and  over 20,000 TV Episodes. With rough estimates, it would take you over 3 years straight to watch everything that is offered on Netflix instant. 20% of the internet bandwidth usage during prime time every night in America is used for Netflix watch instantly.

In my opinion, the reason Netflix is literally on top of the movie industry is it’s wiliness to spend the money to get the shows and movies people want to see. All the technology, customer service, speed, convenience is nothing unless they have the products that people desire. They partnered with Starz in 2008. Last year, they paid $1 billion to stream Paramount, Lions Gate, and MGM for the next 5 years. Add that to the numerous TV and delivery rights with just about everybody, you have a company that knows what the people want (everything) and knows how to get it (money). The first few seasons of the mega hit TV show Mad Men is going to be streaming in July. The price? Nearly $1 million… per episode.

Ready for Netflix to turn the next corner? That. Just. Happened. In March, they reached a deal with a new show from this-year Oscar Nominee director David Fincher and Oscar Winning actor Kevin Spacey called House of Cards to establish their first original streaming program, beating out heavyweights HBO and AMC. That’s right, you don’t have to set your DVR, you don’t have to wait for it to pop on Hulu, you’ll find it instantly, ready to watch, 24/7, ONLY on Netflix… first. Wikipedia has all the juicy details about this huge deal, but one I found most interesting is that Netflix will do absolutely nothing to advertise for it, claiming the only advertising they need is the algorithm that recommends shows to customers based on their watching patterns.

Look for a business model, and you got it in Netflix. Aside from the whole “If you stream it, they will come” method, their employee culture something unheard of. They offer unlimited vacation time for salaried workers, and the option to have any amount of their paycheck in stock. I hope when I apply to work at Netflix in a year or so they see this post… but seriously.

Although technological advances change industries constantly, what Netflix has done in the last 10 years is nothing short of phenomenal. They took the Hollywood and put it in their own hands. It’s not unreal to think that in the next couple years, Netflix will have a whole fleet of original television programming. The only question is… what else will it do?