2.16

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I’m writing just to write.  Maybe that isn’t great, but I feel like I need to write.  I have a couple half baked ideas that I need to do more research on (Politics in Sports, Why Sean Waltman (X-Pac) is the most underappreciated wrestler of his era, Losing yourself in outer space and its limitless potential), but nothing that I feel comfortable putting pen to paper (heh) on right now.

Mostly I’m in this bizarre place every time I look at where this country and the Trump presidency are.  I always make the mistake of hitting the trending hashtag on Twitter and it brings up an unfiltered view of what EVERYONE thinks.  Because that is who speaks up on Twitter.  Everyone.  Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s a terrible thing.  It’s certainly giving people a place to feel like they are being heard.

That’s why I’m struggling.  Normally on Twitter, I’m in my own little bubbles (comedy, video games and baseball on my main account; wrestling on my other), seeing viewpoints that I agree with or people who’s opinions I trust (hence the reason I’m following them on Twitter in the first place).  But when I do the deep dive and click on trending hashtags, especially about politics, I see how the other half sees it.

Example: Today, Donald Trump said some really dumb things, made more baseless accusations about the media and blew off a really serious issue regarding Russia.  My normal twitter feed got a little angrier, had a few laughs and reassured my views on everything.  But when I see how the other half sees it, it’s jarring.  They think he scored a big victory on us stupid liberals, our ideals and our attack of their beloved president.  Normally, in a normal administration, that would be fine.  Yeah, the Bushes and Reagans of the world did stuff we didn’t like and we got upset about it, but I could at least see why the other half liked what they did.  I can’t quite comprehend why people today are so happy with the way things are going.  I suppose he is doing exactly what he promised them (at least when it comes to the really abhorrent stuff, like the wall, the ban and repealing all the “bad” stuff Obama did), and that’s what they want.  Maybe they can gloss over the bad because of all the “good, or they believe Trump’s story when he tells them it’s fake news?  I don’t know.  But maybe I want to know.

Here is the biggest problem with where we are headed: there is no happy resolution.

The powers that be, on both sides, have spent the last 20 or so years villainizing the other half.  So now that we are dug into our trenches on either side, we can’t see things how the other half does.  A lot of that is the information people are receiving, or lack thereof.  I can understand quite a few reasons why people would vote Republican.  I can even find myself agreeing with quite a few of them (fewer taxes would be dope, if unrealistic).  But because we have demonized each other for so long (and more aggressively over the last handful of years), you seemingly can’t have a conversation with the other side without it ending in someone getting called a Fascist or a Cuck.

So how do we bridge that gap?  I have no idea.  I’d like to get all pie-in-the-sky and say “have an open and mature conversation with a friend or family member with the differing viewpoint”, but is that really enough?  If we confirm with our friends why we feel the way we do, why they feel the way they do and then we are right back where we started and you are just left to quietly steam over how much you fucking hate that person for their viewpoint.  But hey, at least no one got called any names!

I don’t believe the internet is really the place to find it either.  There is a certain bravado that the shield of anonymity of the internet provides, and that won’t get you any real answers.  But do you really want to seek out Joe Random on the street and ask him why he feels the way he does about immigration, healthcare or media bias?  Does he care to tell you?  Will he be honest?

I do truly believe good will win out, and the rampant racism, sexism and all other hatred will fade to the background again.  But once it does, will we be able to look at the other half the same way ever again?

To lighten the mood a bit at the end here, I did find a twitter profile who’s header was this hilarious drawing of Jesus helping Trump sign a bill.  I shit you not.

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Josh’s America in 2017

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So it’s been a while.  But I’ve got a gimmick to live up to.  I literally can’t blog.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this, or if I’ll even tell anyone this is here, but the six weeks of 2017 have been some of the strangest of my entire life.  With what’s going on in the world, where my tastes lie and whats actually been happening to me personally, 2017 is shaping up to be… well, an odd 30th year.

I’m writing this from work waiting for a show to start.  I’m now a full year into my first “full time” grown-up job.  That’s actually been one of the better constants I’ve got going.  Sure, occasionally it will have some stress or a busy day, but for the most part, it affords me the opportunity (in time) to write stuff like this, or catch up on TV, or just zone out on Reddit.  It also affords me (in money) the ability to move to a bigger place, spend money on dumb shit like virtual packs of cards or Lego.  I could see myself here for the next few years pretty easily.  So I’ve got this going for me, which is nice.

Ugh… I’ll try to avoid memes the rest of the way.

But while I don’t have the work stress that say, my lovely wife does… it doesn’t mean I’m without stresses.  Mostly those stresses are in things that don’t matter, like producing my wife and sisters’ wrestling podcast (and the pending expansion of that podcast and all the unknown challenges that the opportunity presents), balancing my time at home between my wife and my friends, and trying to be happy to be out doing stuff when I’d much rather be at home 2 hours into a session of Overwatch or 3 episodes deep into a run of Parks and Recreation.

What stresses me out most, though, is where we are as a country and a people.  I can’t say there have been many things that have come out of Donald Trump’s mouth that I agree with since he started his campaign in 2015, but even when you don’t agree with the President, you can at least mostly ignore what they are doing because it doesn’t truly effect your day-to-day life 99% of the time.  Unfortunately, when your president is hoping to set back society as a whole back 60 years to a time where you could oppress those less fortunate than yourself and businesses could do harm to their customers with little regard for anything but the bottom line.  Oh, and apparently racism is cool again now?

Honestly, as a middle-class white guy, if anything, a Trump presidency would only benefit me personally.  He might lower taxes for those of us above the poverty line… and I’m of no threat to be deported, harassed or otherwise have my life impacted.  Unfortunately, I don’t really care about any of that if those around me are being deported, harassed and having their lives ruined by a simple stroke of a pen (or ego).  What’s happened in the last three weeks has not only been historically significant (which as a US President aficionado has been really interesting to see), but also incredibly depressing.  Until the Muslim travel ban (which I could write another 500 words on how completely pointless that is), at least the worst things weren’t coming from the white house, but the staggering 50% of the country who wanted this shit to happen.  Muslims, Blacks, Gays and all others being harassed by a shitty, petty and sad group of people who now feel empowered by “one of theirs” being elected president.

I miss the days where the worst things a president did was sleep with an intern or two.

Really what sets this era apart from any other is how vocal both sides are, and the pure disdain they show for each other.  We are all still people.  Please treat each other that way, even if you disagree with what they stand for.  Also, shut the fuck up about your politics for 10 god damn minutes.  I live a dual life on Twitter, and even on my mostly-wrestling Twitter account, it’s all that ever pops up on my timeline.  Part of me wants to see it. I want to be informed. I want to know whats happening.  I want to know what I can do to change things.  But I also don’t need to see C-List Celebrity #3 tell me how Trump is an idiot for the third time that day, or how we shouldn’t be so hard on DeVos.  I’m not sure what I want, but I don’t like where things are now.

The way I want to consume media (or entertainment, or whatever buzzword you want to use) is rapidly changing as I near my 30th birthday.  Part of that is the way media is presented.  I can get more out of a 12 minute YouTube video where two bozos try and predict the next WWE PPV, or watching an insane Canadian play FIFA 17 on Twitch for a couple hours, than I do sitting down to watch the newest episode of whatever television is trying to tell me is good these days.  I get it.  Mr. Robot is probably phenomenal.  I should probably go see Rogue One or John Wick 2.  But honestly, I just don’t care.

I don’t care about movies at all anymore.  I saw exactly one movie in theaters in 2016.  Disney’s Moana.  It was adorable.  I don’t feel like my life is missing anything by not having seen Deadpool or La La Land or Rogue One.  I’m sure if I actually forced myself to sit down and watch any of these things, I’d enjoy them, but I don’t ever WANT to.  I don’t know what that is.  I know it’s my weird brain, but I just don’t care.

Television is a little different.  I’m much more likely to get drawn into a series that either gives me hours upon hours of enjoyment, even on repeat viewings (like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Bob’s Burgers), or losing myself in a fantasy world that keeps me enthralled and guessing week after week (like Westworld).  But I’m still unlikely to pick up something like Mr. Robot or Breaking Bad (in the case of BB, picking it back up.  I’ve seen the first season and a half.  It’s great, but I’m just not looking for that, I guess), or something with heavier tones.  I made an exception for a while on The Walking Dead, but aside from a charming new villain, that show hasn’t done anything for about three seasons.  I just don’t need the true-to-life depression, violence or eerily similar themes of oppression and greed.

No, what I need is junk food for my brain in the form of Professional Wrestling.  I don’t care how I get it.  New or old, foreign or domestic, good or bad.  I’m really feeling wrestling right now.  Even more so than when I was 3 and adored Hulk Hogan, and way more so than when I was 12 and adored Stone Cold Steve Austin.  I want to consume as much wrestling as I can.  I want wrestling opinions from everyone.  I want to talk to people about what I think is going to happen and what I want to happen.  It’s like pro sports without the stress.  I still watch and follow pro sports (and I’m beyond excited to lose myself in 3-4 three hour baseball games a week again), but when your favorite wrestler loses, it doesn’t devastate you quite as hard as when the Ducks lose at home in Game 7 again, or the Angels best pitcher goes down for the season and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.  You know that the story needed him or her to lose, and they will get back on the horse next week and beat up some jobber.

That’s kinda where I’m at in 2017.  Video games are still a huge part of my free time, but going over all that would take another entry all together (which if new games still disappoint me to the extent that 2017’s offerings have, I might have to).  My only other constant (besides my job, weirdly) is my wonderful wife.  I know things have been hard for her at work recently, and she puts up with a lot of my awful hobbies, usually at the same time, but I’d be nowhere without her… except maybe under a freeway, living in a box.

I’m 30 years old and my idea of a good day is really simple.  Some combination of Lego, Wrestling, Video Games and Netflix, all with my wife by my side and a bacon cheeseburger (or a Naked Chicken Chalupa) in my belly.  Ideally, I’d be out there, marching against the bullshit happening to our country, but I don’t know what I’d want to say.  I’d want to come from a place where the “other side” (you know, more human beings) understands me and where I’m coming from…but I don’t know if that place exists.  Maybe we’ve let politics, corporations and all the other powers that be separate us so much, it’s impossible for us to come back together on anything anymore.  I don’t feel like I need to change peoples minds anymore, that was 20-year-old Josh.  30-year-old Josh just wants everyone to understand where everyone else is coming from and respect each others ideals.  Unless those ideals are legitimate racism, sexism or hated of other people.  In which case, I hear Argentina is lovely this time of year.

Is OK Go the Last Music Act to Cash in on the Music Video?

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So… in the 80’s and 90’s, at the height of MTV’s popularity, it would happen all the time where a sorta-catchy song that wasn’t really working on the radio would have a weird or fun video that would shoot the song to the top of the charts. Now that music videos don’t really get a lot of play on television and most of it is done on YouTube, it takes a lot for a weird, unique music video to give a song success it wouldn’t have otherwise.

So is “Here it Goes Again” the last time this is going to happen? OK Go were a decently known indie rock band with little-to-no radio play and almost no chart success. But with “Here it Goes Again”, they wanted a fun video to put up on the internet and maybe get some buzz for their new album. So the no-cuts, dancing on the treadmills video was born. It goes viral and you hear that song everywhere.  OK Go sell millions of copies of that album, millions more downloads of that song on iTunes and boom, they’ve made it… even if just as a “one-hit wonder”, there is nothing wrong with that.

For conversation’s sake, I included “Gangnam Style” by Psy here as well… even though it really isn’t in the same spirit here as OK Go is. “Gangnam Style” would have literally  zero chance on American Radio if it wasn’t for the video (whereas OK Go MAYBE would have had a shot if Alt Stations picked up that single). The video blows up, breaks all kinds of YouTube records, that’s great for Psy and probably changes his life. Not quite the same, but I know if I didn’t include this bit, most of you would probably just be thinking “yeah, OK Go sure… but what about Gangnam Style?”

The video made the song a hit, but it’s such an internet-only anomaly that it never would have happened on the highly meticulous MTV in 1985, as edgy as that station was at the time (or so I’m lead to believe).

Are these the last musical acts that will be “made” by their music video? The way people listen to music now is already so splintered and varied. There are a dozen or so genres that all have devoted followings, and many of those have even more varied sub-genres and the like. Some people just listen to what they know or hear on the radio, others let Pandora feed them what they might like, and even others seek out the newest and most unique music they can find (and some people do a combination of everything). From there, some people use YouTube to queue up a bunch of music videos, or use Spotify to listen to the newest music. And from time to time, in a dusty, dank warehouse somewhere, people are looking at album art in a record shop. It’s going to take a lot for a music video of some unknown act’s never-before-heard song to push them to the big time, especially without the help of a big record label or radio station backing them.

OK Go struck gold while YouTube was in it’s infancy, but now that the video streaming service is rapidly changing and feeding you videos of what it already knows you like, is the opportunity still there for the next band to make a unique video and have it transform their lives? Probably not, I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

Dinosaur of the Week – Triceratops

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There are probably two or three dinosaurs that you immediately think of upon hearing the word “Dinosaur”.  One, for sure, is the T-Rex, another might be the Brontosaurus (even though that’s an Apatosaurus, dawg.  We’ll get to that another time, don’t worry).  But perhaps the most instantly memorable dino is the Triceratops.  Known for it’s three horns and hard bony shell atop it’s head (it’s name literally translates to “three horned face”), Triceratops makes a great case for being so damn popular.

First discovered near Denver, Colorado in 1887 (although at that time, it was just a few spikes that the paleontologists at the time had no idea belonged to this new classification of dinosaur), the Triceratops was indigenous to what is now North America.  Fossils have been found in Colorado, the Dakotas, Montana and parts of Canada.  There are two verified species of Triceratops that have been discovered (T. horridus and T. prorsus), although dozens of other specimens have been unearthed over the last 130 years.  Triceratops is unique in that its one of the few dinosaurs that has verified fossils of almost every life stage from birth to adulthood.

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While on the topic of stages of the Triceratops’ life, it was recently reported though fossil evidence that Triceratops could be a younger-still version of a similar ceratopsid (horned dinosaur) Torosaurus.  I don’t buy it, seeing as the skulls don’t really seem to indicate that the two were that similar, but paleontologists are continuing to study this finding, and hopefully soon we will have a strong enough hypothesis one way or the other.

Top: Triceratops skull fossil. Bottom: Torosaurus skull fossil.
Top: Triceratops skull fossil.
Bottom: Torosaurus skull fossil.

In pop culture, the Triceratops shows up EVERYWHERE.  One of the earliest dinosaur scenes in the first Jurassic Park featured a sick Triceratops.  Animated films like We’re Back and The Land Before Time series both featured Triceratops’ in a major role.  Earl’s boss from the 90’s sitcom Dinosaurs, B.P. Richfield, was a Triceratops.  Basically, if you are making a show or a movie with dinosaurs, it’s gonna have a Triceratops.

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Perhaps the most well known facet of the Triceratops is it’s assumed rivalry with the major predator of the Late Cretaceous period, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  From movies, television or even on display at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, we’ve had this vision of T-Rex battling Triceratops ingrained in us for decades.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  They lived in the same part of the world, at the same time in history.  The largest predatory dinosaur squaring off with one of the largest and more fearsome herbivores?  Awesome.

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So, if everything we know now is to be believed, the Triceratops was one dope ass dinosaur who had a history series of classic battles with the biggest land predator of all time.  They also have become synonymous with the word “dinosaur” and have been a fixture of pop culture for 120 years. Hell, it could even turn out that in the next 5-10 years, we could learn that this wasn’t even the Triceratops’ final form, and she gets even bigger and more impressive an animal as the Torosaurus.

What a cool freaking dinosaur.

In Which I Obsess About Uniforms (NBA Season Preview Edition)

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Back when I wrote exclusively about the Los Angeles Angels over on Angels Nation, I had a semi-recurring series where I put aside everything else and just focused on Uniforms and why I love them so much.  With the Anaheim Ducks recently unveiling their new Third Jerseys and the NBA season right around the corner, I thought we’d take a look at the new looks in the NBA this season!

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

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It seems like every year the Bucks get new jerseys or some new alternate… just last year they had updated all three of their jerseys.  Those were alright, but these new ones are fresh as hell.  A nice simple approach with a superbly basic color scheme.  Gone is the Christmas Red that plagued this club in the past.  Instead, you get green on white (or vice versa at home) in some great blocky-type lettering… some clean blocky numbers and a really vintage approach with some modern touches.  These could be a top-five look in the league now.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

*sigh*  At least they didn’t go with the black monstrosity they were rumored to have back in April… It looked like a bad create-a-team jersey in NBA 2k14.

Even so, these new jerseys (along with the new logo) are just ugly as sin.  I know the new ownership group wanted to distance themselves from the losing (and racist) history of the former owner, but holy hell, just move the team to a different city… don’t do this.  These are the basketball jerseys of some alternate history where Michael Jordan played soccer instead of basketball, the sport never took off and miscreants were allowed to run teams.

I hope this is a one-and-done situation for the Clippers, or I’ll have to start blindly following another NBA team whose games I never watch.

3. Atlanta Hawks

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Yikes, and I thought the Clippers had it bad.  Actually, with a nice, plain material on each of these uniforms, these wouldn’t be AS terrible (just regular terrible), but whatever weird Q-Bert block design they chose to go with… just yuck.

I do like the re-introduction of the old “pac-man” logo, but to slap it on these monstrosities is an injustice on the levels of the steroid bird logo the Blue Jays had for ONE season.

I feel like the Hawks need to drop the Yellow from their pallet completely, embrace the red, white and black… maybe stop using “ATL” as an abbreviation on their jerseys (there is enough room there for “Atlanta” or “Hawks”)… and go back to a simpler material.

4. Toronto Raptors

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Alright… okay… this is better.  Nice and simple.  There might be a bit too much of an arc on the lettering, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It does come with a fancy new logo and heightened expectations on the team last year (after falling a little flat in the playoffs despite a nice regular season, a fact I only know because I follow so many damn people from Toronto on Twitter).  But I’m sure whomever is actually playing for the Raptors these days (probably not Vince Carter anymore, right?) will looks pretty good in this solid jersey.  Kinda wish they’d go back to the old Purple scheme… but I suppose purple is a Lakers thing.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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Alright… new plan. If you can’t manage to fit the name of your city on your away jerseys… move the team to a city with less letters in it’s name.  If you are in a city with an common acronym (see: LA, OKC, DC, NY, etc), okay… you get a pass… but this is getting out of hand.  With Philly, it’s even worse, because if they had put “Philly”, I probably wouldn’t have had a problem!  At least that’s a nickname for the city!

I know this is what the Sixers used to do, but just because we used to do something doesn’t mean we should keep doing it… (see: inequality, Jay Leno hosting things, etc)  These jerseys are also too reminicent of the “retro” jerseys the Sixers have been going with the last few seasons.  There are two GREAT “retro” jerseys in Philadelphia’s past:  1. The one Allen Iverson wore and 2. These patriotic masterpieces they had in the early 90’s.

These are boring, plain and don’t have enough going on.  Take some risks, and I don’t mean the thirteen stars on the players crotch.

Overview: Basketball jerseys are probably my least favorite jerseys in all the sports I follow… but there are some fantastic exceptions out there (Lakers, Bulls).  Obviously, the Milwaukee Bucks run away with the “Best New Jerseys of the 2015-16 NBA Season” Award, but the Raptors gave a decent effort as well.  Worst New Jersey would disappointingly have to go to my beloved(?) Clippers.  It’s gonna make it really tough to watch the first and last five minutes of their games this year.

 

Basketball sucks.

Dinosaur of the Week – Utahraptor

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Hell yeah, Dinosaurs!

This is a new Weekly(ish) segment where I school all ya’ll on a specific type of Dinosaur!  I figured for the first segment, I’d go with what is probably my favorite Dinosaur, the Utahraptor.

You remember the really cool Velociraptors from Jurassic Park (and World)?  Well, those were PROBABLY actually closer to what would have been a Utahraptor in real life.  Velociraptors were roughly the size of a turkey, while Utahraptors were the more familiar 8-foot tall set of teeth and claws.

The different sizes of the Raptor family, with a particularly dapper human for scale.
The different sizes of the Raptor family, with a particularly dapper human for scale.

The first fossil evidence of the Utahraptor was found in 1975 in, you guessed it, Utah (near Moab).  They later found enough Utahraptor specimens to give them their official classification (Utahraptor ostrommaysorum).

What makes the Utahraptor particularly special (and thus my favorite Dinosaur) is that was essentially the biggest, toughest Raptor on record.  When you consider this species commonly hunted in packs, it makes them even more interesting.  Most large dinosaurs were theorized to have hunted alone (similarly to your biggest Sharks today), so to have such a skillful predator running around with half a dozen buddies… man, what a cool freaking dinosaur.

The Utahraptor was also the main character of one my favorite dinosaur books growing up, Raptor Red. Raptor Red worked a fictional tale from what the paleontology world was learning about the Raptors of North America in the Early to Mid 90’s. It was a book told from the point of view of the raptor, which completely changed my view of how to write Dino books (and led to about a dozen short stories and comic books I wrote growing up where the lead protagonist was a Dinosaur of some sort).  Written by famed paleontologist Robert T. Bakker (remember the paleontologist who gets eaten in the waterfall by the T. Rex in The Lost World: Jurassic Park?   That was basically Spielberg’s homage to Bakker), Raptor Red remains one of my favorite pieces of Dinosaur fiction to this day.

In short, the Utahraptor was easily one of the dopest Dinosaurs to ever exist, and is one of, like, three cool things to actually come out of the state of Utah (the others being Fry Sauce and Steve Young).

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Want to recommend a future Dinosaur of the Week?  You can either comment on this article or send me a suggestion over at Twitter (@JoshCantBlah, or @JoshCantBlog after November 1st).