Archive for August, 2006

30
Aug
06

Hold Your Head Up, Cena

cena-with-belt.jpg John Cena will probably be one of those WWE Champions whose legacy will be tarnished a bit. He’s champion at a time when the entire climate of our country tends toward the cynic. And while he’s not the greatest talent that I’ve ever seen, the belt has been put on wrestlers that are far worse than Cena. But more than his talent and the cynicism that has made it’s way into wrestling fan’s minds, I think it’s the lack of a great rival that will either make or break Cena’s legacy. Ali had his Frazier. Hogan had his Andre the Giant. Shawn Michaels had Bret Hart. HHH, Rock, Austin and Foley all had each other to feud against. But it seems like right now the best feud that we’re seeing out of Cena is Edge. The book isn’t closed on Cena, but his legacy is certainly in question.

I’ve never been a ‘John Cena’ fan. He started on Smackdown when I had stopped watching. I had heard about his “white rapper” gimmick and I thought it was all kinda silly. When he made his debut on Raw, I was kinda excited to see what he was made of. And he was o.k. A solid talent. Good mic skills. But to me he lacked that extra something special. I didn’t hate him — but I wasn’t about to run out and buy a ‘Thuganomics’ t-shirt either.

I guess I wasn’t alone. At some point early this year, fans started to punk Cena out. Much like the Rock years before, Cena became the target of merciless boos. It wasn’t quite as bad as what the Rock got, but it’s getting there. I’ve never been in the squared circle, but I’d have to say that one of the most difficult things for a wrestler is to be labeled a babyface or fan favorite when the fans are adamantly opposed to you. The entire flow of the match becomes weird. And clearly you can see that it affects the way that guys are able to concentrate. But amidst “Cena Sucks” chants, I’ve been impressed with the way that Cena has handled this difficult situation. Continue reading ‘Hold Your Head Up, Cena’

30
Aug
06

Perhaps Idlewild is a Sign That Going Solo Is A Good Idea for OutKast?

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I must admit that I’ve never been a huge OutKast fan. SouthernPlayalisticCadillacMusic came out at a time when I wasn’t really into the whole “country-drawl” rap music thing. (And now it’s pretty much taken over.) Subsequent releases didn’t get much attention from me either. It wasn’t until I bought a bootleg copy of Stankonia that I sat up in my chair on the bus ride home and took notice. Like most others, I liked So Fresh, So Clean and Ms. Jackson, but my favorite tracks on the album were the title track, Stankonia (which is just about the freakiest track I’ve heard — and I mean that in a good way) and Toilet Tisha. The latter track was a double entendre of sorts, playing upon the the southern pronunciation of the phrase “toilet tissue”, but more appropriately unveiling the haunting story of a 14-year old girl named “Tisha” who was pregnant and having thoughts of suicide while sitting on the commode. Pretty difficult topic, but handled very well by the two cats that I had slept on for years. (Well, maybe I didn’t sleep on them, but perhaps it took six years for their development to mature to the point where they were kicking out stuff that I was ready to receive.

I saw OutKast live with my sister in 2001 after they released a Greatest Hits album with a few new tracks. I remember hearing them shout onstage claiming to be coming out with their new album “in the fawll ya’ll!”. “The Fawll” turned out to be more like the summer — only two years later. But it was well worth the wait. Well, half of the effort was. (More on that later.)

Amidst rumors of creative differences and conflicts with regard to which direction the album should take, Andre 3000 and Big Boi seemingly took the smart route, as compared to groups that came before them. While artists like A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, NWA and many others probably saw less revenue than they might have had they stayed together a bit longer, OutKast understood that they might stand to be more successful as a group than two solo acts. After all, the name “OutKast” alone garners a certain amount of “top billing”.

I remember standing in front of the new album, Speakerboxx/The Love Below wondering exactly what I was looking at. The album looked as if it was cut in half — literally. On one half was Andre 3000 holding a pink gun under the title The Love Below and Big Boi was sitting in a chair with a mink on under the title Speakerboxx. Two CDs for $11.98. It was certainly a bargain for my money. Regardless of the bragain, with a certain degree of hesitation, I picked up the CD case and checked it out at the Best Buy in Bridgewater, NJ. All it took was one long interstate ride home from New Jersey to New York and I was hooked — on The Love Below, that is. Continue reading ‘Perhaps Idlewild is a Sign That Going Solo Is A Good Idea for OutKast?’

30
Aug
06

A Plea to The Rock (and All Other Wrestlers): Please Stop Making Token Movies

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I have a tremendous amount of respect for the former wrestler known to the world as “The Rock”. People know about Dwayne Johnson’s success as a wrestler, but many don’t realize some of the tall challenges he had to face. His plans of being a football player out of college didn’t quite pan out. He played in the Canadian Football League for awhile. And upon making the decision to start wrestling, he trained for a few years and then after spending time in one of the WWE’s minor league equivalents under the name Flex Kavana, he made his debut in the WWE in 1996.

Entering the WWE would have seemed to be an easy road. After all, Dwayne’s father was WWF favorite Rocky Johnson, his grandfather was WWF hero High Chief Peter Maivia. And more importantly, Dwayne grew up around wrestlers — it was common for him to spend time in the locker room of Madison Square Garden or The Philadelphia Spectrum watching Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Pat Patterson suit up next to his dad. But unfortunately the road wasn’t quite so easy. When he was presented to WWF fans in 1996 as a babyface (or a “fan favorite”), his skills were still a bit raw and unfinished. And at that time, fans’ definition of what a “hero” was had been changing. People found more favor in rooting for the dark and mysterious Darth Vader than they did the once popular Luke Skywalker. And similarly, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Diesel and other WWE bad guys turned good were getting a lot of “shine”.

I was present for Survivor Series 1996 in Madison Square Garden when “Rocky Maivia” made his debut. Rocky’s first match had been hyped for a few weeks. He came out to a rousing reception and actually helped his team win the Survivor Series that year. But as time went on, people started growing tired of the “good guy” image. After a few weeks of tolerance, you could start to hear the boos intensify with each match. At one point it began to get really embarrassing — “Rocky Sucks” and “Die Rocky, Die” chants could be heard from the front row to the rafters. People just didn’t like the character.

Rocky’s saving grace came when the WWE wrote him out of the babyface role and had him become a heel (bad guy) and join the Black militant group, “The Nation of Domination”. It was at that time that his creativity was allowed to flow. Slowly fans began to find humor in Rocky’s interviews and charisma in his actions. Within a few years Rocky went to the top of the card and won the WWE Championship seven times. He became one of the biggest starts that the WWE ever saw. Quite a change from “Die Rocky, Die” and “Rocky Sucks” chants. Continue reading ‘A Plea to The Rock (and All Other Wrestlers): Please Stop Making Token Movies’

28
Aug
06

In Wrestling, Sometimes "Silence is Golden"

https://i1.wp.com/www.officialsabu.com/16.jpgGrowing up in the 70’s as a wrestling fan, the sport was very different from what we see today. Some of the changes were for the good, but many detracted from my enjoyment. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen over the years has been with regard to wrestlers doing interviews.

Back in the 70’s, very few wrestlers had great “mike skills”. I recall Jesse Ventura providing some entertaining interviews with Vince McMahon holding the microphone. However, the majority of the interviews were unscripted and poorly executed (as compared to the TV-time conscious efforts of today). Guys would repeat themselves and blank out in the middle of sentences. It was pretty bad. But the great thing about wrestling in those days is that you didn’t need to have great mike skills. There was a tool created to do all the talking for you. It was called your manager. Some of the greatest wrestlers said very few words while guys like Bobby Heenan, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling, Fred Blassie, Jimmy Hart and Lou Albano stood next to them and shouted for 3 minutes about how their guy was going to tear the challenger apart.

But thinking back to some of the most menacing wrestlers at that time…. guys who seemed ten times as scary as Kane or the Undertaker…. guys who you didn’t want to ever meet in a dark alley….. legitimate nut-jobs…. were the guys who didn’t say a word.

I remember a guy who was billed as “The Mongolian Giant”, Killer Khan. Killer Khan was about 6’8″, of Asian descent and bald. During interviews, Khan would look into the screen while his manager (I think it might have been Fred Blassie) would talk. The kicker was that during the interviews and the matches, Khan would scream occasionally and slap himself in the face. Hard. To this day, I would freak out if I saw Killer Khan. And to have him speak in fluent English would completely ruin the effect.

Lots of folks remember Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka as the man who jumped off the top of a steel cage and pounced on top of Don Muraco. However, I recall the guy who made a splash on the scenes in the WWF in 1980 under the tutelage of Lou Albano. Back then, Snuka would contort his face and twitch his body every so often. He never spoke. Only looked strangely into the camera… as if he wasn’t quite sure whether his reflection was another guy on the inside of the lens. Of course we now know that Jimmy Snuka probably could talk, but he was so much more horrifying when he didn’t talk. Continue reading ‘In Wrestling, Sometimes "Silence is Golden"’

28
Aug
06

In Salute of Kurt Angle

I was rather shocked this week while perusing the Internet to find out that Kurt Angle had asked for his release from World Wrestling Entertainment (and equally as shocked to find out that it had been granted to him.) I had heard the rumors of Kurt making a few rumblings behind the scenes about wrestling for the ECW brand or that his body might have been under an unusual amount of stress. There were also a few rumors that he might have been having some marital trouble or other related trouble within his family. Whatever the reason, I was taken aback to hear the news and it made me reflect on what might be the close of a short but incredible career.

Unlike many other wrestlers, Kurt made the rather unusual decision early in his career to wrestle under his given name — Kurt Angle. I remember first hearing the name, “Kurt Angle” — I kinda thought it was a joke. An “angle” is wrestling insider talk for “a made up storyline”. (For instance, currently the WWE is playing up the angle that Vince McMahon’s spirit has been broken as a result of the actions of the faction, Degeneration X.) But Kurt was certainly no “angle” in that sense of the word. He was actually more “real”, if you will, than most of the other wrestlers on the roster. While “The Rock” was playing the superstar and “The Undertaker” was playing, well, an undertaker from the “dark side”, Kurt Angle was pretty much himself. Winner of a Gold Medal for Wrestling at the 1996 Olympic Games, Kurt wore the medals to the ring. (Initially he wore the actual medals from Atlanta, but after realizing the risk, duplicates were created.)

Kurt could have probably had a successful career on the strength of his Gold Medals alone. However, the “angle” that the WWE created for him was one of slight arrogance. Kurt was to play up the fact that he was so great that he’d become a hero to people all around the world. He would come out and shoot promos and give interviews to highlight his program for success: “the three ‘i’s” as he called them — “Intensity, Intelligence and Integrity”. Kurt would do interviews as if he were the guy on the Wheaties box speaking to kids who wanted to grow up to be like him. And while the promos were a bit obnoxious, you certainly couldn’t argue with success. Kurt had won the WWE Intercontinental Championship, the now-retired European Championship and finally the WWE Championship — all within the first year of joining the WWE. Continue reading ‘In Salute of Kurt Angle’

23
Aug
06

Biiible – A Great Resource for the Word

Biiible - Bible search for the Google freakWho says that Christian web sites aren’t hip? (Well, actually, I used to say that.) But not any more. I’ve seen some great uses of technology to spread the word of God. There are a few online Bibles that have been great resources for studying or researching, but probably the greatest example is Biiible.com. (That’s ‘Bible’ with three (3) “i”s.)

Biiible‘s tagline is, “Bible Search for the Google Freak”. (I hope Google lawyers don’t come after these folks). Just like Google, it has a very simple, uncluttered homepage. But don’t let the simple interface fool you. You can use the search window to find a verse of scripture in one of sixteen different translations, including the King James Spanish translation. This is an excellent resource for those times when you know the verse, but can’t recall where it’s found. For instance, I was looking for the scripture in an earlier post where Paul advises that we should “pray without ceasing”. And so I entered that text in the search window and came up with not only the verse, but links to other verses with similar sentiments. The search results will tell you the number of instances that a word appears. For instance, I typed in the word “love” and it came up with 546 hits. However, keep in mind that it finds all words with that root. So, words like “beloved” are included. (I’m sure there’s a way to search for a word alone.)

Searching is not limited to a word or a verse. If you enter “Acts 10”, the site will bring up the 10th chapter of the Book of Acts. And even better, you can click on the “Compare Two Versions” link and see a side-by-side comparison of two translations.

The site also has a dictionary/lexicon for most generic terms as they apply to the scripture.

Best of all, under the “Downloads” section of the page are PDF and even Microsoft Word copies of all sixteen of their translations! I downloaded the MS Word copy of the King James version — it looks great. Beautifully formatted (although the files are understandably large in size. The King James versions in MS Word and PDF formatting are 6.6 and 7 megabytes, respectively. That’s a pretty big size for a document, so be patient if it takes a few seconds to open.) If you have a laptop but no Internet connection, these folks even have a JavaScript version of the website that you can search without being connected.

For all of the great information that’s available on Biiible.com, understand that there is no substitute for cuddling up with a well-thumbed, leather-bound copy of the scripture. However, for those times when we are doing research or studying in front of our computers, this is an excellent alternative.

God bless the good folks at Biiible.com. They’ve done a great job in making the Word of God available and accessible to everyone on the web. Check out the site — it’s a great resource.

23
Aug
06

Assignment: Prepare for Disaster

Over the past two days, like many others I’ve been watching parts of the Spike Lee documentary, When the Levees Broke, on HBO detailing the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Initially I didn’t have a strong desire to see it — not because I was disinterested. Rather, it was because I had a strong indication about what I might see….and I knew it wouldn’t be good.

Well, I was wrong. It was much worse than I could have imagined. Often we see so many of the same images that we’re desensitized to the actual event. The film brought new images to my eyes. And even worse, the film began to put more detailed images of people’s last Earthly moments in my mind. Families trapped in attics thinking that the water wouldn’t reach that high…. as they gasp for their final breath. Bed-ridden and wheelchair bound people who couldn’t have created a mock-raft even if their life depended on it (and sadly, in this case, it did.) Children floating face down with backpacks. It was a depressing look at a dark period in American history. (This is the one time when I wish I didn’t have a high-definition television.)

Rather than focus on the emotions that the film stirred up (and I could easily go on), I think we should use the Katrina example as an opportunity to prepare for disaster near our own homes. This week in church one of my friends gave a great presentation on things that we should be doing to prepare for disaster. It’s true, we don’t plan to fail — but often we fail to plan. And everything she said was key. Designate a meeting place where you and your family agree to meet, if separated. Identify a family member out of state who everyone should contact and who would serve as the central point of information. Keep water and canned foods in the house…. just in case. All great precautions.
Since this is a tech-focused, site, I thought it might be a good opportunity to share another strategy. In the event that tragedy strikes my home (either via fire, flood, hurricane…. or worse) I can live without all of the “stuff” that’s in the house. Everything is replaceable. Every DVD, gadget, computer, mobile phone….heck, even my MacBook Pro is replaceable. However, there are some things that you can’t just go to EBay or Amazon and buy new versions of. The pictures of a deceased loved one. The photos of your son’s first birthday party. Death certificates. Identity cards. Tax returns. Banking information. Property deeds. In the time of disaster, I can’t take my file cabinet along with me. But there is an alternative. Continue reading ‘Assignment: Prepare for Disaster’