Being Judgey

Being Judgey

 

Judge not, lest ye be judged yourself. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? I try not to judge anyone on anything serious. Sure I will form an instant opinion on what film series involving the word Star you like more but that’s pretty much it. Every so often though we don’t have a choice, we have to judge others otherwise there can be no winner.

Every year, in some form or fashion, a friend of mine runs a singing contest. It used to be a smaller contest at her karaoke venues and a couple times I sat on the judges panel because I couldn’t enter since I was part of her company. Which is fine because the one time I did I stunk, granted I was not as practiced and the song was chosen by someone else but even at my best I don’t think I have the chops to make an impact in these things, but I digress. This year the contest is Road to Rockin’ River Talent Search, the winner goes to the festival in Merritt to open for Brett Kissel and The Band Perry. This is the second year in a row that 1 Epic Night has played a part in the search. Now whether I judge another night or not let me give a bit of advice.

First and foremost this is a SINGING contest, where the prize is a spot on the main stage at a very large music festival so…KNOW YOUR SONG. This is not the place to try new material for the first time. Find a repertoire of songs you do well and be ready to call an audible at game time, know your lyrics, staring at the screen like you’re in a Subway commercial is a bad idea. Songs that mean something to you will always work best because you can get lost in the emotion and just go with it because you do not need the lyrics for more than a prompt.

Secondly, and only a frogs hair less important, is to KNOW THE RULES AND CRITERIA. How many categories are you competing in? What are the judges looking at for each, what are they listening for? There is something to be said for signing up on a whim and giving it your best shot at the time but if you make it to the next round be ready for it, if you are planning to get in it in advance don’t go in blind. This isn’t to say that being premeditated is a sure fire way to make the cut I’ve seen many cases where a good singer that signed up on a whim blew the competition stacked with singers with every intention of winning out of the water and advanced.

Third YOU ARE THE MAIN EVENT SO ACT LIKE IT. In other words don’t sweat the other contestants in any way, shape or form. You do you, pay no mind to what they to good or what they do poorly, nerves and egos will kill your chances, find the sweet spot between them and pour yourself into it. Do not get lazy, over confident, scared or intimidated. It is almost like imagining the room paid to see you, you owe the crowd every effort you have and remember they want to see you. It is the give and take of performance.

Lastly, these things are often close in the math. When the scores are given and tallied there are very few points between first and last, it is like an Olympic race that way, the margin of moving on and trying again is ridiculously small. Read that again and pick out the advice. Did you see it? Do you get the words I am saying? IF YOU DO NOT ADVANCE IN THE FIRST ROUND TRY AGAIN!!! Come back the next week, go to another venue, by God you could have missed by 1 point in a tough group. If you like the opportunity then keep trying until you can’t try anymore. I’ve seen people miss by a point and try again and move on with a huge margin on their next try.

Now then you may be wondering where this all is taking place so let me show you. I should point out that the Walnut Grove Liquor Store does have a pub attached.

RRR

Now the days are not listed in the photo but I bet if you are in the area you can check with the venue OR the company hosting the show. I see shows for 1 Epic Night for those in the GVRD and you folks further inland do just a bit of research and I am sure you’ll find everything you need. I may be watching, I may be judging but I am always pulling for anyone that has the intestinal fortitude to get up there and belt out a song.

On The Road Again

On The Road Again

Ah the road trip. Staple of life and right of passage to adulthood. As a kid growing up before 2004 Road trips fucking sucked. Oops, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be cussing so early in this but let’s be honest Gen X our kids are spoiled, they get in flight movies, video games and they don’t even have to share. When I was seven I had to get in the back of a Jaguar XJ12 (ok, not so rough) and drive from Nanaimo B.C. to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. My four year old brother and I stuck in the back seat for 2 weeks including stop overs with family, some of which I have not seen since. There are two kinds of road trip in my book, the leisurely journey from A to B where stops are made and quirky roadside attractions are taken in OR the timed event where you have crossed three city limits so it is officially a timed event. These days I prefer the timed event, my knee and my back really get cranky if I sit in the car too long.

As a kid we would take trips from Nanaimo to Victoria several times a year and I thought they they were long trips, I drove it two years ago…I was a dumb kid. By the time I was in fourth grade we had moved to Kamloops, which meant the trips to Nana’s were now longer. We didn’t have much back then, I had gotten over the headaches and nausea that came with reading in the car when we went across the country so for many of the rides I could read a bit but I was also prone to just staring out the window and letting my imagination wander. The other option was nap, which I did but those are never comfortable. Life would change in 1989 when Nintendo Gameboy hit the market but it really was nothing compared to the rolling entertainment centres family vehicles have become, by God let them be bored like we were, let the develop an imagination and appreciation for scenery. Okay, I do understand that it increases the frequency of “Are we there yet?” and “Stop hitting me!” but I legitimately get concerned about kids today and their constant need to be entertained, way too often do I see a TV in the back of a vehicle just puttering around town. I digress, in short my trips as a kids were different.

Things change though don’t they. Road trips get to be adventures when we are in our 20’s though. A destination may be in the cards but most of the fun is in the trip. My favourite trip from that era started a little after midnight on a Friday night, I was picked up in Langley by Steve and Matt and we hit the highway. The reason for this was we had tickets to Bad Religion for Saturday night, they weren’t coming through Vancouver on that tour and we were not missing them when a quick jaunt up the Trans Canada Highway would fix the problem. The three of us were stoked for the show a mere…13 hours away in Edmonton. We made good time despite Matt and Steve needing sleep, I drove a few hours after a stop outside of Kamloops to caffeinate a fading Steve yielded poor results. In the fading darkness as we barreled through the nearly deserted Rockies Steve suddenly came to life in shotgun and came as close to yelling as I’ve ever seen him “Slow down!” I was making good time damn it but it was his car so I complied. The next few hours I got to drive into the sunrise in our incredible mountains, possibly the best sunrise of my life. Fatigue took me not long after dawn and Matt took over while I slept in the back seat, he had been out since before Kamloops but he also had the long day at work. We rolled into Edmonton about 2pm and found a hotel, after trying to occupy ourselves enough to stay awake we returned to our room and crashed. I was barely aware of setting the alarm clock but thankfully I did or our trip would have been wasted. I remember two things about the show 1) our west coast carcasses were frozen in the clear March air that night as we stood bundled inthe cold while locals in shorts and t-shirts snickered at us 2) the dude behind me was on the verge of vomitting on Matt and I the whole show, which I really don’t remember much of but the view, half way up the seats to the right of the stage. We left early the next morning and Steve was sure he knew the way, just outside of Edmonton the mile marker denoting Yellow Knife said different and I would like to say we partied on and had a road adventure that spanned weeks and thousands of miles but we eventually arrived home about 46 hours after we left.

These days I am on the Dad-centric timed event challenge. The first one I embarked on was a family emergency where I left Langley, headed to Kelowna and then on to Trail and back to Langley in the span of 26 hours. One year I left Langley at 2am after work and made a ridiculously good time to Sorrento BC to be there when my daughter woke up on her birthday, I would have been quicker but road work near Chase had me waiting for an escort car for 30min which killed my energy level and had me drifting off before I arrived. When I get on these trips I get focused, quiet and highly alert to the world outside of the car, fully in the zone. Okay I detest stopping for food or bathrooms on trips that should be under five hours, fill up and empty out before we leave family, timer has started and I got aches to avoid. This philosophy causes a lot of complaints and spikes the anxiety of my fiancee so I have found myself staring out the window letting my imagination roll over the scenery and listening to a podcast. Easter weekend we visit Mom in Lillooet and the narrow valley dotted with ranches and homesteads on the cliff sides really send me off into the ether, I love it. The kids sleep or read or play on there mobile devices, I refuse to serve up movies and encourage them to stare off at the scenery, it really is a spectacular view even though the ‘highway’ is a dodgy piece of road that resembles Frankenstein monster.

As much as I would love to make every trip as short as possible there are a long list of reasons to just enjoy the ride, the adventure, the sights, the break from whining. There is a certain level of sadness that the kids can just find the head space to get lost in the scenery or play a road trip game (granted those get annoying after a while too). Perhaps getting lost in your own head on a road trip is a dying aspect of life now, us Gen Xers started with the hand held video games and loved the in vehicle TV and DVD player options so much they are used just to go a few blocks by many people, another question mark in the new generation gap as those of us who remember Kurt Cobain in concert will have to learn to live with.

 

 

 

 

9628 Days Later

9628 Days Later

November 22, 1990. I remember it well, it was the rarest of occasions when family friends had ordered WWE Survivor Series and we got to watch it live on Pay Per View, little did we know that we would get to see the televised debut of a legend. Dark and creepy The Undertaker strolled to the ring as ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper proclaimed “Look at the size of that Hamhock!” FIVE of the 8 men in the match now are in the WWE Hall of Fame and 26 years, 4 months, 1 week and 5 days later The Undertaker seems to have laid his career to rest.

Bar none The Undertaker persona is the most successful WWE creation ever. The man himself has reached a level of respect where only Andre The Giant resided before him. A much lauded locker room leader and the de facto enforcer of locker room etiquette. There really is no good reason for such a cartoonish persona to have lasted more than a year or two let alone 26 years, it is the man in the role that made it work. Mark Callaway did such a good job that fans forgot he was a living human being most of the time. That sounds odd doesn’t it, it is the truth though, he always seemed supernatural and the WWE spared no expense in assisting that perception, special effects and slight of hand started to become a staple in the mid 90’s. The company invested in the character as much as the man and by 2004 the entrance of The Undertaker was a show unto itself with many performers going on record as saying watching it from in the ring was legitimately intimidating.

In my opinion The Undertaker is not just a successful character but the greatest WWE performer of all time. Stop scoffing for a second, most of the elite level performers in WWE history excelled in a few areas, many eclipsed Taker in some aspect most notably the mic skills area, but The Undertaker was so well rounded that he made up for it in such a way that whole was more valuable than the sum of his parts. When one looks at the amount of time spent at the top of the card Undertaker was there for 25 years. While the two biggest stars of the 90’s Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock may have sold more merch or drew the eyes of more mainstream viewers they both had relatively short careers. Austin spent 7 active years in WWE (less a year off for neck surgery and another 8 months after a walk out) and The Rock was effectively a part timer after 7 (with several lengthy absences to film movies), essentially the two biggest stars of his time had careers less than a third of Taker. Hogan, you say, well he was out classed in everything except raw charisma and in three wrestling stints with WWE Hogan’s career tallies only 12 years. On the long term time line The Undertaker can not be touched in any facet, Andre himself only had 17 years with WWE.

The first few years was not the non-stop five star match parade some may wish to remember. There was a learning curve for the young Taker and the WWE as they got comfortable in character and learned to showcase things properly. Undertaker never a poor worker but there was always room for improvement and he did improve, no aspect was ever left to linger long and at no point did he stop improving, even when he had reached the top of the industry he kept adding to his performance. The character constantly evolved growing darker and more sinister through the late 90’s, then a complete departure to a biker look for about 3 years until coming full circle to an updated version of his original character but this time the evolution was less sinister and more awe inspiring.

Undertaker.png

I remember being at a Monday Night Raw in Seattle and after the TV feed was done the superstars gave the crowd a little extra. This particular night Booker T had challenged his partners to try his signature “Spin-a-roonie” break dance move. One by one, Goldust, The Rock and Booker did one. The Undertaker was shaking his head and you could see on the big screen he was unhappy with the shenanigans. The crowd chanted “Do it!” over and over until Vince McMahon strode down the ramp and made a speech before he too tried one, the “Mac-a-roonie” was born. Soon Triple H returned and his opponents from earlier allowed him to try his hand, the entire time Undertaker is vowing his revenge (according to interviews with the other participants) until the other three performers from the match ran down and a brawl ensued as they were once again chased off and everybody returned to the locker room.  This was a legendary moment in WWE because the top stars in the company and Vince McMahon could not crack the Undertaker or make him break character. There is the key to it all, every incarnation it remained the same, he never broke character, interviews are few and far between, he never appeared less than cool and collected, he has yet to wrote a book or do a podcast or put a rant on YouTube and his most in depth video release (Undertaker: This Is My Yard, 2001) shed very little light on the man outside the character. The public really doesn’t know Mark Callaway and the few things we’ve learned are a drop in the bucket.

The bottom line here is that an athlete is only going to remain at their peak for so long before they have to call it a career. April 1, 2017 seems to be the day The Undertaker chose to leave the ring once and for all. He had a hell of a match with one of the best full time performers in WWE and closed out one last Wrestlemania in front of 75,000 fans. The second most shocking Wrestlemania moment for Undertaker fans was not his second loss but when he piled his gloves, coat and hat in the ring and broke character on camera when he hugged his wife and kids on his way up the ramp. In all honesty The Undertaker gave us everything he had in his rare ring time over the last five years, but it was becoming clear that he was not the same performer,  his last truly great night was Wrestlemania 29 when he faced CM Punk. After that it was like those puzzles for kids where two nearly identical pictures are places together and you must find the differences, subtle or glaring and that is how I see the last few years. I do not mean that disrespectfully in any way but a man in his late forties and early fifties that put his body through the rigors he did can’t maintain peak performance anymore, he can put on the show better than ever but physically things were slipping.

This is a case of a top athlete leaving us and ending an era.  That is the echelon The Undertaker sits at as an athlete, the top 1% of the top 1% in his field. I believe we’ve seen the last of the Deadman, I fully expect him to be the marquee induction to the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame. Perhaps it is even possible he isn’t retired and there is one more match, I doubt that though. Sure we fans can say “It would have been better IF…” but this ending is the one to stick with, it is poetic and fitting for an old school man like Taker, the torch is passed and he went out on top, closing the biggest show of the year. I get that there are fans that are still throwing a temper tantrum over Roman Reigns but they all need to recognize one thing, The Undertaker had the stroke and the respect to veto anyone he did not want to be his last opponent, while it is not confirmed I suspect Roman was chosen for the task by Taker himself.  I have been a fan since that night in 1990 through all the twists and turns and all I can say as in the end is Thank You Taker.

Taker