Growing Up With Scott Weiland

 

I have a funny kind of memory.  I’ve always been the kind of person who looks at the trees rather than the entire forest.  I can tell you everything I had for dinner the day I received my Masters Degree, the arcade machines at the Eagle Rock Lanes when I bowled every Saturday morning from grade school to college, and all the stores in the Headquarters Plaza Mall during the late 80s and Early 90s during our weekly trips to the movies.  I can remember all these small minute details but I can’t tell you where I was or what was playing the first time I heard my all time favorite band, Stone Temple Pilots.  It’s a shame because now as an adult I not only embrace STP’s music as art and an early gateway to similar artists, but also the soundtrack to my life staring in my teens up until my mid-thirties.

I know I wasn’t an early adopter of their music; I didn’t own a CD player until Christmas 1994 (sophomore year of HS) and even then my early CD collection was various volumes of “Scott and Todd Phone Scams”, music from the video game “Secret of Mana” (I totally hit it off with all the girls), and a copy of Aerosmith “Big Ones” which I only bought because I overheard the girl I had a crush on tell her friends how much she liked the band (guess she didn’t have Nintendo).  The first time I even knew of Stone Temple Pilots (STP) was in spring of 1994.  I rushed to CD World because my favorite musician at the time, Hammer, had a new album out titled “The Funky Headhunter.”   While I was at the register I noticed STP’s debut album, Core, on display near the far aisle.  I took note of it because of the band’s unusual name and the artwork stood out; I didn’t buy the album that day- in fact I never actually purchased a copy of Core or the band’s follow up Purple.  A few years later my taste in music had evolved a bit.  I had developed a habit of going to bed while watching 120 Minutes on a Sunday night.  During this time I was afraid to share my music with others and unfortunately, was too intimidated to expand my circle of friends.  Had I done this, I probably would have discovered STP earlier.  My best friend growing up had taken a liking to classic rock, funk, and electronic music and my sister had moved on to more rap and dance music.  Although I appreciated all these other forms of music, and still do, I lacked the communal feeling a fan develops from listening to music with others.  I would come home and draw (my favorite after school activity) while listening to CIV, Everclear, Soundgarden, Presidents of the Untied States of America, Bush, and others.  One afternoon my sister was cleaning out her room and getting rid of CDs she stopped listening to.  I picked through one of the boxes she was discarding and rescued a trove of musical treasures.  My haul that day included Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Ozzy, Pantera, and my beloved STP.   If my sister never gave me another Christmas or birthday gift again, I would be OK with it because her discarded tunes are a residual gift that has enriched my soul for years.  Around this time, my Language Arts teach assigned the class a paper to write about and dissect our favorite song.  We would present our papers to the class and get a change to share the actual song in the class.  By this time STP’s second album Purple was almost 2 years old and had become (and still is) my favorite album of all time.  I had memorized every note, riff, and lyric of the music and eagerly wrote about my favorite track, Vaseline.  Being that I didn’t share my love for music with any of my classmates I didn’t know the single had been played to death nor did I realize the album was considered passe by now.  After I read my paper and played my song in class, someone had commented, “really? this song is so old.”  I don’t know why the comment bothered me but it did.   I didn’t discuss music with anyone until midway in the fall semester of Freshman year at college.  Despite this, Purple, had a permanent spot in my CD player for the next decade or so.  Later the same year, STP’s third album “Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop” was released.  The weekend before the album was released, I was on vacation in Florida with my best friend’s family.  When we piled into the rental car for the first time and flipped the radio on, the DJ announced in anticipation of the new album the station would broadcast Tiny Music… in it’s entirety all weekend long.   By the end of the trip, I was hooked and Stone Temple Pilots had become cemented in my mind as my favorite band.  I had planned to get tickets to see STP when they came around but as many know, the tour never happened as Scott was arrested and incarcerated for drug possession.

I developed a theory, more of a policy really, stating I won’t consider myself a fan of a band or musician until I’ve seen them perform live at least once.  I formed this theory because of STP and the emotional impact their live show had on me.  Five years after my trip to Florida, I was all in when it came to STP.  I had all four albums, posters, magazines, bootlegs, everything!  My first tattoo is of the cover of Purple, a baby riding on a dragon in a distinct Japanese style.  Surprisingly enough I hadn’t seen STP live yet, due to lack of opportunity.  The closest I came was seeing Scott Weiland perform a short set to support his solo album 12 Bar Blues during K-Rock’s Dysfunctional Family Picnic II tour.  I was supposed to see the band on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at PNC Bank Arts Center earlier in the summer but a freakishly harsh rainstorm slowed traffic down to a crawl.  By the time I walked into the venue, I heard the band saying their goodbyes to make way for the Chili Peppers.  The opportunity to see them finally arose in fall of the same year, at the Asbury Park Convention Hall.  I remember walking into the small venue, a far cry from the stadiums and arena the band had played previously.  The entire show was all general admission allowing my sister and I to get close to the stage, but not precluding me from having to protect my sister from grabby guys around us.  On this evening, I believe I experienced what it truly means to feel the power of music and how it can effect one’s soul if allowed.  It was akin to a religious experience where one can understand an aspect of the human condition that may have eluded them before.    Somewhere between the guitar parts of Interstate Love Song, the soft quiet stillness of Atlanta, and a magnificent cover of Shine On You Crazy Diamond I felt like I had found the answers to every question I ever had.  I went on to see STP play eight more times at the PNC Bank Arts Center, Susquehanna Bank Arts Center, Stone Pony Summer Stage, and lastly NJPAC (the single best show I’ve ever seen in my life).  I sang every song, I danced around like a fool, I listened intently as fellow New Jersians Robert and Dean DeLeo told the crowd the same story every single time they played in NJ: their first concert ever, The Carpenters at the Garden State Arts Center.

Then there was Scott. Outside of his work in STP I’ve seen Scott perform with Velvet Revolver on three occasions, completely solo once, and with his final band, The Wildabouts, four times.   At one point in my life I knew I had seen Weiland once too many in too short of a time when I found myself thinking of wearing a scarf in the summertime (thankfully I didn’t).   Scott was the kind of artist who projected his emotions into his performances so heavily at times it drowned out the music. When he was happy, the entire venue felt his intensity, it was like what I would imagine watching an artist like Jackson Pollack create one of his masterpieces.  When he was stressed, we all felt it.  I had seen the shows were he showed up 3 hours late slurring his words and almost falling off the gigantic speakers adorning the stage.  I’ve been to hundreds of concerts in my life and seen a wide variety of artists from Metallica to the Dave Matthews Band, Beastie Boys to Paul McCartney, and Less Than Jake to The Cherry Poppin Daddys but no one has ever matched the amount of emotion Scott Weiland brought to the stage.  The last time I saw Scott Perform turned out to be one of his final shows- November 28th 2015 at the Wellmount Theater in Montclair, NJ.  The show itself wasn’t his best but not his worse either.  He started the show acting a little subdued and quiet but by the end the rock star I had come to admire was in full effect.  In my mind, it was noticeable his fame was fading and I had decided he would reunite with Stone Temple Pilots soon.  His last album, Master Blaster, showed he still has the talent, both parties needed each other, it made perfect sense.   After the show, Scott was doing meet and greets for $300 a couple.  I had discussed it with my girlfriend and decided to pass, as it was a lot of money right before the holidays.  Had I known he would be dead less than a week later, I would have certainly paid the money.

The purpose of my rambling post isn’t to glorify Scott Weiland’s death.  Even though I had secretly hoped it wasn’t the case I, like everyone else, knew the case of death would be drug related.  I would rather celebrate the music, memories, and understanding Scott gave me. His music was like a friend, holding my hand during turbulent times and celebrating with me during the fun times. Our heroes are never perfect, they are humans with very real problems and trials just like you or I but their work lives on and resonates with us long after the final encore.  If I ever had the opportunity to speak to Scott Weiland I’d like to think I wouldn’t gush or get nervous like I tend to around those I admire, I’d thank him for helping me understand more about myself by writing and singing about himself.   I’d like to end with these thoughts, a quote from my favorite film Almost Famous, “Music, you now, true music – not just rock n roll – it chooses you. It live in your car, or alone listening to your headphones, you know, with the cast scenic bridges and angelic choirs in your brain. It’s a place apart from the vast, benign lap of America.”

 

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Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.  Scott truly flew without no feathers.

Don’t Call it a Reboot! Pt2: Marvel’s Secret War

Please note, this is a continuation of my prior post title: Don’t call it a reboot pt 1: DC’s Convergence which you can review by clicking on the hyperlink.

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It’s the end of the world as we know it  (SPOILERS)

The Marvel Universe, referred to comic book aficionados as the 616, has come to an end!  Having collided with the Ultimate Universe, resulting in both “realities” being eradicated and mashed into one new reality called Battle World. So just how did all this happen?  Basically, Black Panther discovered the different alternate earths comprising Marvel’s famed Multi-verse ( i e parallel universes) are crashing into each other and destroying their respective realities.  Black Panther alerts the Illuminati, a brain trust of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe, and eventually the other Avengers but despite all their actions they are unable to stop the incursion of the Ultimate Universe with their own.  Please note, the description I gave is a extreme summary of a plot that unfolded over the course of roughly three years in multiple titles.  If you want the full story, head to your local comic book store and check out “Time Runs Out” story line. If you go this option, be prepared to shell out some serious cash for a collected volume of all the issues which make up the story.

Enter Battle World

As stated above, the only remains of the Multiverse and all of Marvel is a place called Battle World, a mashup of different Marvel stories and realities throughout the company’s history.  Elements of each universe have their own small country on a map, in a very Game of Thrones style world ruled by none other than Dr. Doom.  These nations include themes from story lines such as Planet Hulk, Civil War, Inferno, Armor Wars, and 2099. It seems multiple versions of the same characters are present such as Spider-man (ie Ultimate, Renew your Vows, Spiderverse, etc), Wolverine (ie X-men 92, Age of Apocalypse, Old Man Logan, etc) and a legion of Thors who act as Dr. Doom’s guard, believing he is the messiah.

Why Secret War?

According to various reports, Marvel own 40% of the market with DC a distant second- so why shake things up? Depends who you ask.  The Marvel writing staff insists this ambitious story has been years in development as a means to streamline everything into one universe, which makes sense to a degree.  Marvel has had many convoluted stories retconed over the past few years, this could serve as a literary device to finally straighten things out.  Feral fans insist this is a may of making the comics appear more similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently sweeping movie theaters across the world blockbuster after blockbuster, this makes sense to a degree as well.  Merchandise for both the Fantastic Four and X-men have become noticeably less visible over the past couple years as Fox owns the exclusive cinematic rights to each property.  This came to a climax when Marvel and Fox met in court over the use of  the characters, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who have ties to both the X-men and Avengers. Whatever the reason may be, Marvel seems to have a definite plan here, even leaking some exciting post Secret Wars plans.

I’m more positive on Secret Wars than I was at this point during DC’s Convergence because Marvel seems to have some direction and plans this far out they are more than excited to share.  Right off the bat I’m more than happy to see the lineup for the new (or another) Avengers team including Ms. Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man, and Sam Wilson.  If anything is to be saved from the Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales deserves his place in the spotlight and it seems the powers that be agree!

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Recently Marvel has announced top talent writer Brian Michael Bendis, known not only for the creation and subsequent destruction of the Ultimate Universe but also the creation of the modern day Avengers, will be assuming writing duties of Iron Man this fall.  Iron Man will be Marvel’s new tent pole title around which this bold new universe will be built around.  This was further backed up by new teaser art showing Iron Man surrounded by other characters who will be at the forefront of Marvel post-Secret Wars including recognizable characters who have been in the background  like Ant-Man, Agent Phil Culson, and various members of the Inhumans as well as Secret Wars refugees Old Man Logan and Bloodwulf ( a character from the 1970s I had to look up myself).  One notable character included in the artwork is X-23 donning a new costume inspired by her mentor, the deceased Wolverine we all miss.  One thinks this may be an attempt to silence anyone insistent Marvel is attempting to “do away” with the X-Men.

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Other exciting observations include members of the Squadron Supreme, Thing in new Guardians inspired attire, Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker, Citizen V, and Dr. Strange wielding a rather nasty looking double edged ax.   Marvel has also stated Maestro, the villainous Hulk from the Future Imperfect story line and the all female Avengers featured in A-Force will also be a prominent part of this new universe.

 

My Secret Wars Wish List

Just as I did with Convergence, I’m asking posting some things I’d like to see both during and post Secret Wars.

1. Empty out the toy box – With the inclusion of mini-series such as Weird World, Where Monsters Dwell, and 1602 inspired continents it’s apparent Marvel is certainly digging deep for content.  I say while you’re at it lets tap the bottom of the toy chest for the long forgotten characters and stories we thought we’d never see.  I’m talking about bargain bin dwellers such as Cap-Wolf, Brute Force, and the Marvel Knights Angel Punisher.  At the end of the day, why the hell not?

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2. Magneto – The Malcom X inspired character is one of the most interesting figures in comic book history not because of the various changes he has been through but because despite these changes he has kept true to his ideals.  There will be various versions of other characters walking around, why not have the present day Magneto collide with his counter parts and less than noble versions.  Why not have the heroic Age of Apocalypse Magneto collide with the character at the height of his villainy from X-Men 92.  Maybe even an entire team of Magneto’s, M-Force?

3. Wolverine – If you read my post on the Death of Wolverine you’ll no doubt know I am a huge fan of the Ol’Canuckle head and was sad to see him go.  He was my favorite character since childhood and has left a huge vacuum in the Marvel Universe.   Many automatically assumed as soon as Secret War was announced this would be the way Logan would rise again.  All this being said, keep him dead. Nuff said.

4. Villains – Marvel has a stable of some of the greatest antagonists in comics- Apocalypse, Kingpin, Kang, Norman Osborn etc.  Although there have been some notable moments in individual titles It feel as if they’ve all taken a backseat to Thanos in the past few years, on a line wide scale.  Even Sabertooth and Venom are heroes right now.  With the inclusion of Maestro this is a good time to bring back the bad.  Let’s see characters like Omega Red, Stryfe, and Mr. Sinister, who has already made an early appearance in Battle World, make a comeback.  The Ultimate universe also some great villains in their stable, Dr. Doom, Green Goblin, and Reed Richards.  I’m curios to see their take on Red Skull, whom will star in his own Battle World title.

5. Don’t be afraid to keep what worked – Marvel hasn’t been afraid to try bold new ideas.  Some like introducing a more diverse superhero (Ms. Marvel, Northstar, Miles Morales, and Flash Thompson) are applauded by the readers and the industry while other moves have been quickly introduced and redacted what didn’t work  (Spider-man: The Other). It’s encouraging to see some of the more recent changes, like a female Thor and a black Captain America, are sticking around.  I love the direction of the most recent volumes of Ms.Marvel, Daredevil, and Silver Surfer.  Would hate to think Secret Wars would bring these stories to an abrupt, screeching halt.

6. No more “baby heroes” – One title during I won’t be picking up is A vs X, why? Skottie Young. Yes his offbeat “baby” style is amusing at times but he’s over exposed.  Style does note always mean substance.

Whatever may happen, I’m sure the House of Ideas has a few surprised up their sleeves.  If not, it can always been undone, hexed away, or redacted in an unusual and contradicting story line.  In the meantime, bring on the changes, the new friends, and the new stories.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like-minded optimists.  Excelsior ! 

Why is Everyone Mad at U2 ? – Part 2 – an update! Sharon and Ozzy Clarify Their Stance.

A few months ago I posted a blog entitled,”Why is Everyone Mad at U2?”;- discussing the surprising blow back from Apple gifting digital copies of the bands latest release,”Songs of Innocence.”  In the piece I noted Sharon Osbourne was particularly vocal, and in my opinion hypocritical, in her criticism of the band on Twitter stating .  “U2 you are business moguls not musicians anymore. No wonder you have to give your mediocre music away for free cause no one wants to buy it.”  For my full blog post go to:     http://wp.me/p4kPiy-69

Last week both Sharon and Ozzy appeared on the Sirium XM’s “Opie and Jimmy Show” to discuss upcoming projects including Ozzfiesta, a possible special to commemorate the anniversary of their realty show, and the future of Black Sabbath.  During the interview the subject of Sharon’s recent thoughts on U2 came up, although Sharon noted after she made her initial remarks, the members of U2 sent Ozzy a “lovely” hand written note.  Her issue was not with the band but she felt calling the album a “gift to the world” deceptive because the band was paid by Apple, rather than recording the album for free.

A video of the interview is below, U2 question is around the 22 min mark. 

Sharon’s issue is more of a business issue, making it sound when massive artists like U2 give away their music for free it does a disservice for new struggling artists to be heard. With all due respect to Sharon, who is a savvy businesswoman and mogul in the recording industry, as a consumer I strongly disagree.  To reiterate my point in my first post on this subject, record labels gouged customers by overcharging on albums (in all forms) for years and still do.  Record labels devalued their own product by creating an inflated market for it and then trying to over saturate their target market. The advent of MP3s and digital music dealt a significant blow to the industry in a way corporate music labels still haven’t recovered from.  Case in point, the new AC/DC album debuted as the best selling rock album last week,but sales were a third of their prior release. Record labels profit more off of licensing the music to movies, commercials, video games, and other mediums then to the actual music sales.  I surmise this is why its’ so damn expensive to purchase an actual concert ticket these days.

Consumers themselves have become apathetic to music as well.  High School and College students, who were once the top customer for record labels, are now opting for services like Spotify or Pandora rather than owning an actual album.  Music is no longer a valuable piece of cultural currency rather it is a disposable commodity used to sell cars and life insurance.  This is why as a consumer and music appreciator I will gladly download a free album by one of my favorite artists just as I won’t for an artist I don’t care for.  In a case like this, where Apple, pre-loaded the next release of IOS with the album, I can understand if someone feels something is being forced on them but you can either quietly delete it or hit the skip button.  This is hardly the first time a mp3 player or phone came pre-loaded with an album or track.  Rather than cause a stir, I would like to see how other artists of the same magnitude promote their music in new ways.

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In closing, let me make special mention Sharon and Ozzy have been trail blazers in introducing new artists to the public, often using Ozzfest as a way to expose upcoming bands to music fans around the world.  If anyone in this business knows how to bring new artists to the forefront it’s Sharon Osbourne.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.  Not only does he love the new U2 Album, he is very excited to see them live this summer at Madison Square Garden!

There is No Morocco: What the Film Almost Famous Can Teach Us About Goal Setting

As many regular readers to my blog know, I am a film fanatic and believe motion pictures, as with any art form, have the ability to educate the viewer about the human condition and about them self in a way no scientific material  or textbook can.  The Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous is my favorite picture and one I hold close to my heart for this very reason. For those who haven’t seen it, be warned I will most definitely spoil the story of the film in this post.  If you were planning on Netflixing the film tonight, its OK to close this screen for now (I forgive you) as long as you promise to come back here later when you’re done.  The movie has several layers; it’s a coming of age drama, a love story, and a love letter to classic rock based loosely on Crowe’s youth.   I’m not writing about a nearly fifth-teen year old film to give you a review, rather I had a thought recently regarding the characters in the film I feel we can all use to reach our own goals.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

The characters in the film are dreamers, to one extent or another. William’s mother dreams of her son growing up as a respectful grounded and intelligent gentleman.  His sister dreams of freedom away from her mother’s over bearing behavior. The fictional band, Still Water, dreams of the fame, and Penny Lane dreams of visiting exotic locations.  The film’s main character, William, however, is a different kind of dreamer.  While everyone else in the film treats their dreams like a fantasy world they can close their eyes and think about with no real aim in to make it a reality William is actively working towards his goal of becoming a professional music journalist.  So what makes William different than all the others in the film?

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First and foremost, he’s tenacious. We learn early on the film he has been submitting articles he’s written in his spare time for years to his idol, Lester Bangs.  This connection prepares William for his big break, writing an article for Rolling Stone on his new favorite band Still Water.  William is intent on getting the article completed, so much in fact he misses his high school graduation while attempting to get interviews with all the members of the band.

Second, he’s not afraid to ask for help.  William wrote the aforementioned articles not only to get his work published in Bangs’ periodical, Cream Magazine, but to recruit the journalist as a mentor. This not only led William to start this life changing journey on tour with an up and coming rock band but also served as a support system when he ran into trouble with the piece, later in the film.  He also recruits Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson who received an Oscar nomination for her performance, to assist him in getting an interview with the elusive guitar player, Russell Hammond.

He’s willing to endure criticism.  William is very much an outsider and always has been in his life.  He’s too young, too smart, and at times too naive to embrace the world around him and its limitations.  Does he have tough mental armor made of steel and Kevlar?   Not at all, he is driven by his goal, amazement with creativity, and passion for music.

He’s not afraid to tell it like it is.  Throughout the film William gets distracted by the trappings of touring with rock stars, as I’m sure we all would.  The biggest and most charming scene in the film, typifies this perfectly.

At this exact moment, William realizes he is trapped.  He’s having a great time, feels like he’s one of the band, and even has the object of his affection, Penny Lane, leaning on his shoulder.  It’s a great, feel good scene, one that would probably trap any of us but William is focused on his goal. Several times during the film, when discussions with Penny Lane get a little too serious for her liking, she talks about her dream, going to Morocco.  What will she wear ? How will she speak? Until she meets William, however, she has no intention of actually going to Morocco, she just likes to daydream about it.  Towards the end of the film, William confront her about her diversionary tactics by loudly proclaiming, “There is no Morocco!”

It’s ironic in a film with characters who seem to be daydreaming about a life better than the one they have, the most grounded person is the kid who has the most impractical sounding goal.  The one major point of contention I have about William’s attitude toward his goals is hes too serious.  It’s been my experience if one takes their passion too seriously and doesn’t have any fun, they wind up hating it.  This seems to be something Penny Lane understood when she said, ” I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” Lucking, it seem like Crowe picked up this lesson sometime after the events depicted in this film.  To recap, here’s what we can learn from Almost Famous and reaching our goals:

  1. Be tenacious, don’t give up. If it’s important you’ll find a way to do it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a mentor or a college.  Everyone needs a leg up sometimes.
  3. You’re going to have critics.  They’re not living your life or paying your bills, you are.
  4. Tell it like it is- in my experience people often appreciate it when you’re blunt and find your honesty refreshing.

Remember these simple guidelines and work hard towards them every day.  Make each interaction and action prove to be one step closer in reaching the finish line.  Most importantly, never stop dreaming .  This can be easier said than done at times but dreams and ambition are the fuel that drives us towards our future.  These ideals will dramatically increase your chances of reaching your goals, whether they be visiting Morocco, losing weight, finding (or forgetting) love, or just being a better overall person.

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What are your tips for staying focused on you goals? Let me know in the comments and I’ll gladly respond and reply.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.  Oh, and like Russell Hammond, I am a Golden God. 

Stand Up Comedy: The Last Truth in American Entertainment

Earlier this month Chris Rock, arguably one of the funniest men alive, took criticism for his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live for discussing the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings and the attack on the World Trade Center.  Although the comedian made it abundantly clear he was not making light of the attacks nor the victims, some chose to criticize Rock claiming his jokes were awkward and insensitive.  In case you haven’t seen the opening, review the video below:

Although this is far from the first time stand up comedy has been scrutinized for taboo subject matter, it seems more now then ever comedy and our freedom of speech is continually under attack.  In most cases it seems the comedians jokes are taken out of context and then re-shaped to aide the argument of a special interest group or the news media.  Although I can give you countless instances where this is the case, I feel the best dissertation on this subject came from the late comic, Patrice O’Neil. Back in 2007 Patrice appeared on Fox News to discuss the suspension of the popular talk satellite radio show, Opie and Anthony,after a belligerent homeless man (a guest on the show) stated he wanted to rape Secretary of State Rice.  By the way, it was clear the man’s remarks were not a joke, nor did anyone construe it so.  A representative for N.O.W (National Organization of Women) saw the radio program’s suspension as a sign the public was sick of brash humor, even siting O’Neil’s act as offensive to women.  Perhaps Patrice put it best when he said, “..PC cops run a muck.”

The core of the discussion lies in freedom of speech, a sword everyone likes to swing through the air until they remember its a double edged blade and like any sharp pointy object one has to treat it with a measure of responsibility.  First, one must realize their message may be offensive to others and exercise caution in the manner they choose to express themselves.  Luckily, stand-up comedy has a sanctuary in the form of comedy clubs across the nation where people can choose to hear their favorite comic’s act whether it be a profanity laced set act or a guy with a puppet (or both). The medium of television and radio allows one to simply change the channel if they are offended or simply don’t want to hear what the comic has to say.  A key fact everyone seems to forget is the reality everyone has the freedom of speech in this country, including those who may not agree with you.  Just as you have the right to make your voice heard, so does everyone else.  Although one can choose to ignore the opposing or offensive perspective, they can also choose to argue it.  By argue, I do not intend to mean call for someone to be fired or be outraged, I’m talking about intelligent adult conversation. This is where stand-up comedy truly shines as the last truth in American entertainment.

The role of a truly great comic is not just to entertain but as Mel Brooks put it in the film, History of the World, the comedian (or as he calls it the stand-up philosopher) is to, “coalesce the vapor of the human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.”

What are comics if not modern day philosophers? Comedy legends like Joan Rivers, George Burns, Benny Hill, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman juxtaposed the realities of modern day life with satire to create a message that was not only entertaining but unlike television can challenge the listeners way of thinking and expanded one’s perspective.  Their work paved the way for generations of comics to inspire and entertain millions.  Today there are some wonderful comics like Louie CK, Jim Norton, Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle, Nick DiPaolo, Robert Kelly, Vinny Brand, Jim Bruer,and Brian Regan (just to rattle off a few of my favorites) who simply put, take the art of comedy to another level.

Getting back to my original question:was Rock’s monologue out of line? Absolutely not.  His act, as he did point out, wasn’t about making light of the horrible terror attacks rather it was about the commercialization of our history and traditions to suit the needs of big business.  Days once reserved to commemorate important events and people are now used to sell mattresses, cars, and things people don’t need to and can’t afford.  Perhaps rather than focusing on being offended by the Chris Rock’s monologue, some would benefit by re-examining it keeping the commercialization of our nation’s traditions in mind.  If not and you are truly offended by his message, then remember you have the right to be and can choose to ignore it.

Do you agree or disagree? Who is your favorite comic? What do you think of the monologue.  Comment and let me know 🙂

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists.   Phil’s favorite comedy club is The Stress Factory in New Brunswick, NJ and his favorite comic is Robert Kelly. No I haven’t been paid to say it- it’s a really great place!!! 

Pulp Fiction is 20 Years Old: Is It in Your Time Capsule ?

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I’m fully aware I’m getting older but I had a moment this past weekend that really put my age into perspective. I was discussing films with my younger sister Margot, a sophomore in high school but she has a mature appreciation for the arts ( mostly dance) including film. We have had a lot of dialogue about classic films and foreign movies, although I can’t get her to watch any Fellini or Pan’s Labyrinth yet. I Very casually said to her, ” Wow Pulp Fiction is twenty years old this year I remember when it came out.” Them she dropped the atomic bomb on me I naively didn’t expect to hear from her cultured mouth, ” I’ve never seen it before.” “WHAT???” I replied as a rush of memories from my high school years flushed my brain at once: sneaking info the AMC on route 10 with my friends to see them film for the first time, Uma Thurman ( still one of the sexiest woman alive in my book) staring out from the glossy poster hung on the wall of every dorm room in college, wincing every time they bleeped a curse the first the I watched the film on basic cable (still didn’t turn it off though). She must have sensed the wave of panic and nostalgia I was caught in as she said, “We can watch it together one day. I tried to watch it but only got as far as the diner scene” (yes the opening). Margot and I will watch Pulp Fiction one day but our whole exchange got me thinking, if you had to put three items into a time capsule to define my personal taste, rather than representing my generation, on an artistic or cultural level, what would they be? I had participated in a similar projects with members of my art class during my senior year of high school. We had each put in a drawing or something representing our artwork at the time but our items were lost when the janitor mistook the time capsule for trash.

Three items I would include today:

1. An iPod or MP3 player with a mix of U2, David Bowie, STP, Billy Bragg, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Scott Weiland and some of my other favorites. Some funk too, gotta have the funk. If you’re having a bad day put on some Kool and the Gang, George Clinton, or even Ray Charles. It’s a proven fact you can’t be depressed and listen to funk. I’d have to leave a note explaining good music expired ten years ago. Hopefully the generation before us brought it back by then.

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2. A box set of all the Marvel Films. If this comes as a shock to you than you must have never read this blog before.

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3. Finally I’d include a copy of Grant Cardone’s 10x with a note: I did everything this guy said I should do now so I can enjoy the other two items later. Life is better when you earn it rather than mortgage it from your future.

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I know this was a short one but tell me, what’s in your time capsule? Comment and let me know !

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. But where we’re going we don’t need any roads.

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The Death of Wolverine

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It’s been a few days since Marvel official killed off my favorite superhero – Wolverine. I’ve recounted some of my feelings and thoughts on The Death of Wolverine on my Instagram account (@philtasticphil), including how I first became interested in the character as a child. All these years I’ve never questioned why I have such an affinity for the Ol’Canuckle Head. I finally realized perhaps the reason I’ve always been a fan of the character is become the both of us have grown up together; me growing from a child to an adult and Logan as a fully fleshed out character.

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When I first started reading Wolverine and X-Men related comics I was about 13 or 14 years old. The very first issue of the Wolverine ongoing solo series I purchased read like a scene from a high octane action film. It had Wolverine pitted against an army of soldiers with him cutting his way through a tank. Somewhere Stallone is kicking himself for not thinking of this for this scene for his last Expendables movie.

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Wolverine as a character wasn’t terribly complex, he was a short hairy guy who drank heavily, smoked cigars, and was virtually unkillable. I would later realize Wolverine really wasn’t created with a particular backstory in mind, this was recently confirmed in an interview with Len Wein ( the character’s co-creator) which appears at the end of Death of Wolverine issue #1. This allowed for great writers like Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, and Larry Hama to chart the course of the character through actions and events rather than mythos. One of the parts of his past which was established was his unbreakable claws and skeleton was the result of a government experiment. He was also ladened with false memory implants, establishing an air of mystery about the character. He was a soldier in the Civil War and teamed up with Black Widow and Captain America during WW2.

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He had the ninja training and personal tragedies of Batman without the brooding. His stories included him traveling to exotic locations with other popular characters and often coupling with equally exotic women, but only in an alternate reality would he marry the woman of his dreams, Jean Grey, as she was with Cyclops the leader of the X-men. So if you’re a discouraged love lorn team and the object of your affection tells you there’s no way she’d ever go out with you, remember it took Logan an alternate timeline but it happened. ( I’m kidding forget that girl she’s a loser). 🙂 So we have a short ugly character with the skills of a ninja, berserker rage, with a dash of 007, and a pinch of X-files who can’t get the girl he wants because she’s dating the captain of the football team. Is it any wonder Wolverine was able to find favor among the average male comic book enthusiast ?

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I walked away from comics during my college years, for regular comic book fans this was shortly after Logan lost his nose and became a de-evolved beast. I would look online and try to see what was happening with my old friend every now and then but didn’t go back into a comic book store until 2001 when Marvel came under the toolage of Joe Quesada as Editor-in-Chief. Quesada decided he was going to make a splash by announcing a story many though would never be told, the origin of Wolverine. Many had tried in the past with everything from a caveman, to the son of his main at agonist Sabertooth, and even a mutated wolverine. Quesada had assigned top tier talent to the project including one of my favorite artists, Andy Kubert, whom I spent many hours trying to duplicate as a teenager. Needless to say I was all in. The end result was a masterpiece which stands in my mind as one of the best comic book stories to date. It showed the progression of the sickly son of an aristocrat to the early version of the character I’d come to admire as a kid. Like any good stories, it answered old questions and created brand new ones including Wolverine’s real name: Jim Howlett. If you choose to pickup the series please also read Wolverine #176 as it serves as a haunting epilogue to the series.

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The real excitement came years later when for the first time ever Wolverine remembered everything, flowing the events of the House Of M mini-series. This lead him on a quest through his past in the series, Wolverine Origins. The series followed Logan as he tried to come to grips with the good and bad parts of his forgotten history as he tried to make amends for some of his past transgressions. The series included some of my favorite villains Cyber and Omega Red. The Origins series also introduced new characters who would have a huge impact on Wolverine’s history namingly Romulus, the puppet master, and the son he never knew Daken.

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Post origins, Wolverine’s role shifted to a team player, a leader, and an educator. In addition to becoming headmaster of the Jean Grey School he also became a member of several Avengers squads. This was a boom for the character and for avid Wolverine readers as we saw a Logan who approached each situation with the air of experience and caution for this students and teammates.

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In later volumes of his solo series, He became depowered losing his signature healing factor. This brought a series of new complications to Logan including the fact he could no longer pop his signature claws out for fear of bleeding to death or infection. As an adult this new direction for the character appealed to me. Even though the character couldn’t physically be the hero he once was he did it anyway. He went up against the odds and got the job done regardless of the health implications.

WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW

Wolverine I was told by some of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe his lack of a healing factor would be terminal and to take it easy. In the end it wasn’t his lack of power that did him in, it was his nature. Like the scorpion hitched on the back of the frog crossing a river, he struck against the very enemy who created him knowing it meant certain death. His final adventure took him around the world and included almost all of his greatest foes ( Cyber, Nuke, Sabertooth, Viper, and Ogun). It also included his first protege, Kitty Pryde as a spiritual sequel to the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series of the early 1980s. I would have liked to see the inclusion of Omega Red as I feel he was a big part of Logan’s rouges gallery. I also would have liked to see other Wolverine allies appear such as Jubilee, Albert, Elsie Dee, and Maverick. That being said, The Death Of Wolverine mini-series brings our hero full circle to face the man responsible for his unbreakable adamantium skeleton. He sacrificed himself to prevent others from enduring the torture he went through and in the end became incased in the very substance he was defined by for many years.

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Wolverine has joined the likes of Superman. Captain America, and other superheroes who have died and come back to fight another day. After reading Wolverine’s swan song I followed it with the epilogues from other comics including: Logan’s Legacy, Storm, Wolverine and the X-men, and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler was by far the most emotional and impacted story. It spoke from the perspective of a fellow newly resurrected X-man and recounted Wolverines history only as his best friend could. Wolverine will be back one day, it’s inevitable. His absence will ring through the pages of every book Marvel publishes for quite some time. As an adult, who regularly seeks inspiration from art, music, literature and pop culture Wolverine’s death will create a new benchmark for me. How hard will I fight for my beliefs ? When someone tells me I can’t do something will I allow them to impose limits on me? In the 2000 film, Almost Famous, Penny Lane tells William “…and if you ever get lonely go to the record stores and visit your friends. ” Luckily when I miss my friend Logan, I’ve got hundreds of issues of his adventures arranged in long boxes in the spare room of my home. When faced with opposition Wolverine will come to mind to remind me to be the best I am at whatever I what I do and it is not your past that defines you it is your actions. When it gets really rough, when I’m in a position that looks impossible his last words will ring true. What are they? You’ll have to purchase the last issue to find out.

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Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. His current favorite comics are Ultimate Spider-man, X-Factor, Swamp Thing, and Uncanny Avengers

Why is everyone mad at U2 ?

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I’m going to start this post by stating two facts about myself, which I want to make clear before diving too deep into the subject:

1. Although I am a fan of U2, I have never been a fan of their politics.

2. I am also a fan of Ozzy Osbourne.

Last week Apple unveiled a whole new bag of goodies including the newest I-Phone we’ve all been waiting to either praise or raze since last years. Ideal came out. To top it off, Apple announced all I-tunes users now own a free copy of U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence“. All they have to do is pluck it from the cloud and enjoy. Everyone likes something for free right ? Apparently not. Many I-tunes users are reporting they resent the fact U2 has given their music to them for free. Some younger users complaining they don’t know who the band is, despite decades of sold out stadium tours across the world. My question to these people is: What’s all the fuss about ?

To those who don’t care for U2 – I get it. You’ll never listen to the songs, great I respect and celebrate your freedom of musical choice. If you’re a music enthusiast, like me, you’re I-pod is chock full of thousands of songs you consistently skip over. Most of that music you pass by you probably paid for in some way shape or form. Whats another 11 tracks of fast forward past ?

To the youngsters who haven’t heard of U2 – you have the most to gain from this. You get to discover a group of the most beautifully versed poets. If you don’t believe me, jump on You Tube and check out “One”, ““Stay”, or the 2002 Superbowl Halftime Show ( my personal favorite halftime experience). Try to expand your boundaries a bit. Yea they’re not jumping on stage singing about their clothing line or have rambling outbursts on how hard it is to be married to a Kardashian but give it a shot, you may like it.

To those concerned U2 has “sold out” – Where have you been for the last twenty years ? This band have always introduced their new projects in a huge fashion, whether it be on the rooftops of a building in LA or pre-loaded onto your $500 phone. U2 hasn’t been the band who played at the local pub for years now! They’ve had their music showcased in movies (including their own film, Rattle and Hum), television programs, and commercials for years now. They announced the tour for their album titled “Pop” at a K-mart ( it was supposed to be ironic). They appeared on The Simpsons and more recently on Entourage. The early I-pod commercials even portrayed silhouettes dancing to U2’s hit, “Vertigo”. They even had a special edition I-pod filled with the band’s music.

To Sharon Osbourne, who will probably never see this – Mrs. Osbourne, big fan of you and you’re husband’s work but, calling U2 a bunch of sell outs, with mediocre music, and stating Apple is responsible for making music disposable ? Come on now! Ozzy has more useless merchandise than any other artist. There’s the lunch boxes, action figures, lighters, bottle openers, shot glasses, and other oddities destined for the dollar bin at the local Spencer’s. Not to mention the appearance on South Park, video game soundtracks, Ozzy’s cameo in the Adam Sandler Opus “Little Nicky” or the fact “Crazy Train” blares through stadiums and arenas at sporting events across the country. Love him or hate him Ozzy has sold out over and over again. There is also the MTV reality series responsible for revitalizing Ozzy’s careers and attempting to launch the career of Kelly Osbourne, who I may add recently appeared in Sharknado 2. As far as the quality of music goes, I’ve bought plenty of Ozzy albums where only two or three tracks didn’t strike me as filler, including the Prince of Darkness box set ( all aboard the disco train). Although I love the guy, Ozzy’s not really experiencing a musical renaissance right now. Just sayin.

Music on a whole became a disposable commodity well before Apple or even the advent of the MP3. The truth is music became irrelevant when it became unaffordable. I can show you all my concert ticket stubs chronicling the gradual climb in ticket prices from something the 15 year old Phil could afford on his pt after school and weekend job to an investment 35 year old Phil has to plan and budget for. File sharing services stopped the record companies from gouging their customers but also made it extremely difficult for artist, both new and old, from enjoying the high sales the industry had become accustomed to. Tom Petty recently gave out copies of his last album for free to anyone who purchased a ticket to his shows. Generation Y doesn’t even buy music in any form anymore, most stream their tunes through services like Pandora and iHeart Radio. Keeping all this in mind can you blame U2 for jumping on the opportunity to put their music in the ears of millions of subscribers.

So to the naysayers who have loudly protested the album, I want to hear from you. What’s the problem ? What’s so terrible about getting a free download from Apple ? Is this really an issue or is it just media fluff ? I want to know what you have to say. Comment on the post and fill me in.

Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. But first lets take another selfie !

I Caught Yellow Fever: My 12 Days Through FXX’s Simpson’s Marathon

I’ve never been one for binge television watching. I tend to get bored too easily to sit and watch hours and hours of the same program. I can’t re-watch many great films over 2 1/2 hours in length (note I said many not all – Jackie Brown will always have a place in my heart). … Read more