Walking in Memphis (part II)

Then I’m walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel

“Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn has probably been my dive bar jukebox song of choice for the past decade, and yet I’ve never realized until my most recent trip to the River City just how personalized the song is to some of the city’s main attractions.

Most notably: Beale Street.

I’ve raved about this heavenly avenue when I blogged about my first Memphis trip in 2011, and it really is the stuff that dreams are made of. I’ve never been to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but until I do, I can safely say that Beale Street is the greatest street I’ve ever set foot on.

While major cities will often condense their bars and restaurants into one area, Beale Street is so committed that they actually block off the street to prevent vehicle access. This layout essentially allows for you to leave each bar with drink in hand and stroll into another. Heck, the majority of bars have outdoor to-go stations where you can order a beer without ever stepping inside. All the while, cops regularly guard the street’s perimeter to ensure relative order.

In short, if you visit Memphis and don’t go bar hopping on Beale, then you’ve made the biggest mistake of your lifetime.

But outside of this street, there’s still much more to do. Want to learn about the history of our nation’s struggle for equality? Check out the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Want to eat barbecue? Head, well … anywhere. But I’d recommend Central BBQ just outside the museum.

Want to see the water? Take a boat ride down the Mississippi River, and perhaps even float into Arkansas. Or walk to Mud Island, a pleasant strip of land that holds a walk trail, park, restaurants and an amphitheater.

If the season allows it, check out a Memphis grizzlies game at the FedEx Forum.

And if you want to see a real-life grizzly (or a giraffe), go to the Memphis Zoo.

And of course, if you want to absorb yourself in the city’s musical history, then your choices are endless, starting with Graceland, the home of Elvis; the Gibson Guitar Factory; Sun Studio; and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.

But the coup de grace of my trip to Memphis – in 2011 and in 2017 – was the Beale Street Music Festival, an annual three-day concert that had no shortage of well-known artists.

While I enjoyed listening to the likes of Jimmy Eat World, MGMT, Silversun pickups, Tori Kelly, X Ambassadors, Death Cab for Cutie, Sturgill Simpson and Memphis’s own Kings of Leon, the main event for me was hearing two vintage 90s rock ‘n’ roll bands back to back: Bush and Sound Garden.

Both were absolutely electric. But it was a special thrill to see Bush, which produced some of my favorite rock songs of my youth, and sounded just as great and brought just as much energy as ever.

And what made my last visit to Memphis extremely memorable was the fact that it coincided with the death of Osama Bin Laden.

This time, no terrorist ring leader was killed, but we did receive the news that Marine Le Pen handily lost the French presidential election.

I was the only one in Memphis who cared.

United Airlines continues its roll, and the return of Maria Sharapova and Haim

Happy government shutdown eve everybody! It’s literally a federal holiday.

Government joke! *pushes up eyeglasses and gives a high five to absolutely no one*

While Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers perilously navigate their way towards passing a budget that hinges on a controversial health plan, I thought we’d use this crisp Thursday night to catch up on other assorted items happening throughout.

No matter how bad you’re 2017 is going, and no matter how miserably you have failed to maintain your New Year’s resolution, you can take solace in knowing that it’s only April and yet, it’s still impossible for you to have a worse year than United Airlines.

You can get dumped by your longtime girlfriend this year, and your year still wouldn’t be as bad.

You can get fired from your job, and your year still wouldn’t be as bad.

You can murder two people at the same time with a sledgehammer and your year still wouldn’t —

OK, maybe that’s too far.

What did United Airlines do this time? Well, they’re facing outrage after a three-foot rabbit, who was supposedly in perfect health, died on one of its flights.

united-airlines-giant-rabbit-death

The continental giant rabbit, named Simon, is an ancient breed that is supposedly very friendly and intelligent.

At least this time a security official didn’t physically beat the rabbit and drag its bloody body off the plane. So … progress, I guess?

While we mourn Simon, I’d like to wrap up this week by addressing two separate comebacks this week by some of my favorite women.

The first triumphant return was Russian goddess and tennis star Maria Sharapova, who, like me, joined the 30-year-old club recently, and who is playing in her first tournament since her suspension for using a drug that was banned only right before she tested positive for it.

If you remember, her initial two-year suspension was reduced to 15 months following an appeal. She’s back now, and Maria won her first two matches in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany this week. Some of her fellow competitors have had some harsh words for her, but I don’t care. I have been a staunch Sharapova fan for about 10 years, and she can do no wrong.

Besides being suspended 15 months for doping.

Lastly, one of my favorite bands, Haim, is back in the news today as they released their first new song in four years. The rock-n’-roll sister trio spent the last four years touring their old stuff and partying with Taylor Swift, and now they’re bound to become as popular as ever with this new release.

Which, I admit, merely scratches the surface of what these women are capable of. Consider it a teaser. I saw them live three times last summer, and they played some new stuff that sounded awesome.

So the best is yet to come.

In conclusion, Haim is the best, and you heard it here first.

Have a good weekend everybody.

My last post in my 20s

One of the cool things about writing a daily blog is to look back at earlier posts and see how you have evolved over time.

While this venture has been very different than a journal, where you divulge your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis, a quasi-pop culture/news blog such as this still allows me to see what was at the forefront of my mind at any given day over the last seven-plus years.

And the evolution is startling.

In the first couple of years of this blog, I was basically talking about Jersey Shore and recapping my drunken nights. I had yet to start my first full-time job when I created this thing in late 2009.

Now I’m foraying into European politics and talking about the Supreme Court.

I guess it speaks towards the evolution of all young men and women, though. I started this blog as a 22-year-old.

And tomorrow, on April 7, I will become a 30-year-old.

I always assumed you’re supposed to feel a certain way when you turn 30. TV shows and movies often dramatize it as being a major turning point in a person’s life, when they finally figure out what exactly they are meant to do in this world.

30.jpg

But as I write this, in the final hours of my 20s, I don’t really feel any type of emotional catharsis. Who knows, perhaps it will sink in after the fact, like the first time I input the number “30” in the gym treadmill when it asks me my age. I don’t know.

I’ve never been a believer in setting age-oriented milestones. Everyone moves at their own pace. Anything that I wanted to accomplish in my 20s can also be done in my 30s.

Will I miss my 20s? Sure. You do feel a bit of youthful exuberance when your age starts with the number 2. But will I miss the late-nights staying out until 4 a.m. getting drunk? No. Will I miss the indifference I had towards starting a career? No.

Even now, I reflect on how I behaved for most of the last decade. I was a dope. I acted as if I could do anything and get away with it. To this day, my past recklessness terrifies me.

If I had the ability to push a button and suddenly become 25 again, I don’t even think I would. I like the person I’ve become. I enjoy spending hours immersed in a book or news articles, trying to enhance my knowledge or understand a complex situation. I enjoy enlightening myself to new experiences and different cultures that I didn’t bother to concern myself with in my 20s.

Over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve undergone a transformation, and it’s made me a better, well-rounded person. I feel like I’ve done a better job gaining empathy for people who are different than I am.

And that continued evolution is what I see defining the next chapter of my life — my 30s. I want to keep filling gaps in my knowledge. I want to continue to travel and experience new things. I want to be a better person. And I plan to do just that.

I find that exhilarating. I’m not dreading my 30s. I’m thrilled for the person I am going to become over the next 10 years.

There’s so much that this world has to offer. And I’m just one person trying to figure it all out.

That’s my mission for my 30s. And I won’t accomplish it.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

I’ll see y’all on the other side.

Let’s talk about sports

Let’s talk about sports, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sports
Let’s talk about sports

OK, so that’s the PG-13/Jock Jams version of the classic Salt-N-Pepa song.

But the excitement that the female hip-hop trio had for fornication in their early ’90s hit is the same excitement I feel right now for sports.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. March Madness is reaching its climactic end. The NBA and NHL are gearing up for the playoff season. And most importantly, baseball season is just days away.

There’s something about the great American pastime that invigorates me. The fresh-cut grass, the dirt spraying into the air when a batter slides feet-first into second base for a double, the mental chess match between a pitcher and hitter before a 3-2 pitch, and the arduous grind of a six-month, 162-game season where your team hopefully ends up on top.

When baseball is happening, it feels like natural order is being restored. It’s the only major American sport without a clock, which, in turn, has been a source of controversy as of late due to the increasing length of game times (an issue Major League Baseball targeted this year when they eliminated the need for pitchers to actually throw the baseball during an intentional walk).

Mets

I can’t help but think of the quote uttered by James Earl Jones in the movie Field of Dreams, as the character Terence Mann, whenever I want to describe what it is that makes me love baseball so much:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

When James Earl Jones talks about baseball, you listen.

Last year, I predicted my beloved New York Mets to win the World Series. Unfortunately, injuries derailed their season and they fell short, despite their best effort.

This year, they have nearly their full complement of young pitchers ready to go, and things look much more promising.

And even if things didn’t look bright, I’d pick them to win the World Series anyway. I will do it every year until they do. Hopefully, one year I will be right.

Baseball starts on Sunday. For many, Sunday is already a day of worship and reflection. For sports fans, it takes on extra meaning.

In other semi-sports related news, the North Carolina Legislature voted to repeal the controversial House Bill 2 today, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” which required men and women to use public bathrooms that align with their gender at birth. Human rights advocates (and any one with any human decency) considered it egregiously discriminatory towards transgenders, which number more than 37,000 in North Carolina.

Tar Heels

The bill basically cost Republican Governor Pat McCrory his job, and cost the state from hosting the 2016-2017 NBA All-Star game, several NCAA March Madness games, and many other high-profile events.

The newly passed bill is not a straight-forward repeal, however, and as a compromise to right-wing hawks in the Legislature, it maintains a stipulation from the original bill that places a moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020, and thus leaves the regulation of bathrooms to state lawmakers.

LGBT activists say it still does not provide the protection needed to safeguard an already vulnerable population of people.

They’re probably right, but with Republican and Democrat ideologies being as divergent as they’ve ever been in the modern political era, sometimes a compromise is a victory. Even if it’s just in the short term.

The timing of the repeal is even more significant given that the North Carolina Tar Heels are one of four teams left in the NCAA Tournament, where they will face the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. The other game is between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

They promise to be some pretty damn good games, and as an added bonus, if South Carolina beats North Carolina in the finals, I win $650.

Go Cocks!

…I stand by it.

Attention: I am initiating the Bloxit process

At approximately 8:37 p.m. on Tuesday, the Weinblog™ held its long-promised referendum to decide if we wanted to remain a member of the United Union of Bloggers.

Over the years, the Internet has grown increasingly volatile. The rise of social media has only highlighted that trend.

A major consequence of the Internet’s expansion is the deterioration of the English language: when experiencing a certain emotion, people invent acrostic behavioral terminologies, like FML or YOLO, because they’re too lazy to express how they truly feel.

Last year, fake news became an Internet epidemic.

And recently, the Republican-controlled Congress repealed Internet privacy protections preventing Internet service providers from sharing your data without permission.

It has gone far enough.

So, finally, on Tuesday, March 28, we held our long-awaited referendum to vote if we should leave the United Union of Bloggers – UUB for short – which I officially anointed as Bloxit.

The electorate comprised two people: myself, who voted with a resounding ‘yes,’ and my cat Marbles, who stared at me, licked his paw, and then rushed to a nearby window to stare at what I presume was a bird. I took those actions as a declaration of assent.

And with that, I initiated the process. I stood on my front lawn wearing a bandanna, while somehow equipped with a walking stick akin to the one carried by Gandalf in Lord of the rings, and yelled, ‘BLOXIT!” And then I went inside and ate a cheese sandwich.

OK, so this was a dramatic representation of what it would be like if individual websites were able to declare their own sovereignty from the Internet, not unlike the current trend of European countries deciding whether they wish to remain as a member state of the European Union.

Brexit

As we all remember, the United Kingdom voted last summer to leave the E.U., and this week, nine months after 51% of voters chose to support ‘Brexit,’ Prime Minister Theresa May has formally initiated the exiting process.

In the meantime, many other European countries have flirted with the idea of holding their own referendums, and Scotland is deliberating whether to even stay in the United Kingdom.

Theresa May accomplished the start of the Brexit process by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, also known as the Lisbon Treaty, meaning Britain must officially be out by April 2019. Think of it as your parents telling you that if you don’t get a job within two years, you’re kicked out of the house, whether you like it or not.

May sent a letter shortly before 12:30 p.m. local time to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, signaling the initiation of Article 50. And if you think the instructions provide an extremely complex and detailed protocol for an unprecedented departure from a continental geopolitical and economic union, you’d be wrong – it’s five steps. Monopoly comes with more instructions.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, there’s no such thing as Bloxit. I made it up. And if it did exist, my departure from the also-made-up UUB would be far less consequential than the UK’s forthcoming departure from the E.U.

But hey, it’s fun to joke about things that could cause real-life economic turmoil as well as deep uncertainty in the futures of young British people for decades to come.

Cheerio!

Listening to music the way it was meant to: 33 RPM at a time

If I like a particular artist or band, then I make every effort to see them live.

It’s not only a great way to show your support for their work, but I’ve long contended that being in a live musical setting — where you can let yourself go with a few drinks while singing and swaying along to some of your favorite tunes – surrounded by fans who share your enjoyment for that particular artist is a soul-cleansing experience.

I always leave a concert feeling better than when I arrived.

Just think about when a song you like comes on the radio while you’re driving, and how happy it makes you. Now imagine that happening at a live show, with the band directly in front of you performing it. It’s awesome. And to share that experience with thousands of other fans makes it that much more special.

When I first became musically conscious around 7 years old, the dominant listening format was compact discs. I still remember the first three CDs I ever bought: Weird Al Yankovic’s “Bad Hair Day,” Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” and Third Eye Blind’s eponymous debut album, all released between 1995 and 1997.

By the time I entered high school, CDs were starting to phase out, and MP3s were becoming more and more accessible. I built up my MP3 collection, priding myself in downloading by the album, and not the single. By the time I graduated college, my iTunes library surpassed 10,000 songs.

Now, downloading is no longer necessary – programs like Spotify and Apple Music offer the entire musical universe at your fingertips. The idea of “owning” your own music no longer exists. It’s all streaming.

And while it’s much more convenient, it still felt unsatisfactory to me.

Vinyl.jpg

There’s something purposeful about picking and choosing what artist and what album you want to listen to, and manually taking the time to add it to your musical library. In a way, it helps you compartmentalize what artists you prioritize over others. But with streaming, that’s gone. The Beatles are as accessible as Selena Gomez and it takes no extra effort to listen to one over the other.

So recently, I decided to take things into my own hands and reclaim that feeling of control and ownership: I started a vinyl collection.

Until now, I usually go out of my way to defend myself from being called a hipster. But once you start a record collection, there’s no escaping it anymore.

To date, I have 11 record, comprising a nice mix of new music and classic rock. And while I’ve quickly learned is that vinyls are not cheap, it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I now get to be one of those guys that seeks out indie record shops, and stumbles in on a Sunday afternoon sorting through their shelves looking for hidden gems.

I proudly showcase my records. I pick my next purchase very carefully, deciding which artists are worthy of being in my possession, and in what chronological order.

(Hipster, remember?)

Lastly, and this is something that only fellow record collectors can attest to, there is something indescribably soothing about removing a record from its case, carefully placing it on the turntable, lifting the pin, and watching that record spin as sweet, sweet music echoes through the room.

The last step is to figure out if One Direction released their albums on vinyl.

Did I just say that out loud?

 

The Weinblog™ record collection:

Ryan Adams – Prisoner (2017)
Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
The National – High Violet (2010)
The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (2010)
White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
Chuck Berry compilation album
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves (1976)
Bruce Springsteen – The River (1980)
Foo Fighters – In Your Honor (2005)

The ‘Fate of the Furious’: how did we end up here?

As I’ve grown up and started to appreciate the insignificance of trivial matters, I’ve tried to reflect that changing worldview in my everyday life.

The evidence lies right here in this blog. For better or worse, I no longer talk about my grievances with social media, or my pet peeves concerning female behavior.

It’s not that these things have gone away. It’s more that I’ve gained more perspective in life and tried to focus my attention towards things that really matter.

And that’s an evolving process. For the better part of 2016, I was so zealously tuned into the minutia of the election and the coverage surrounding it that it actually began to make me angry on a regular basis, and affected the way I communicated with others.

Months later, I’ve realized that there is certainly a healthy balance one can maintain, even when trying to stay informed. It benefits you not only from preventing an information overload, but also by protecting your sanity.

That all being said, sometimes I have no choice but to revert my attention back to a certain topic of very little real-life consequence that I’ve been dwelling on for quite some time now. (See here and here).

The Fast and the Furious film franchise.

Fate of the Furious

This year will see the release of the eighth movie in the series. The eighth. Meaning that after this summer, there will officially be as as many Fast and the Furious films as there are Harry Potter. And that is highly disappointing.

In isolation, there’s nothing wrong with any of the movies. It’s hardly the first time Hollywood has exploited fast cars, pretty women and muscular movie stars who have simply given up their dream on ever winning an Oscar.

But who asked for eight of them? Show me that person.

And I enjoyed the first Fast and the Furious film. It was seriously flawed, but it was a highly entertaining popcorn flick. And from what I gathered, it stuck to trying to realistically simulate the underground street racing scene.

Since then, realism officially jumped ship. I tapped out at Fast Five, when the ending chase scene involved a car driving 100+ miles per hour down a freeway while towing an entire bank vault. 

There’s suspension of disbelief … and then there’s that. The talking lion in the Chronicles of Narnia was more believable.

And I know that there’s a level of sentimentality that now surrounds the films since the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker in 2013. Which is why I gave Fast and the Furious 7 a pass.

This time? Not so much.

This new installment is called “The Fate of the Furious.” Which would lead you to think it’s the last one, since the title basically tells us that we we will learn how all the characters’ lives end up. Hence their “fate,” and thus eliminating the need for any more movies, right? Right?

Wrong. We are due for at least two more, and there is talks of possible spin-offs.

Furthermore, Paul Walker’s character may be included in future movies.

What in God’s name is happening?! When will this madness end???

If you’re all wondering, a nor’easter swept through New York today, and it’s 7:30 p.m. and I’m hours deep in cabin fever. But I still stand by this post.

And yet, deep down, I know that the Fast and the Furious franchise will outlive all of us.

Maybe the next one will be called “The Fake and the Furious.”

Sad!