July 13, 2014

I Called it.

Almost exactly one year ago I happened upon a metal band of three 11-year old black kids called Unlocking the Truth, and I posted about them here. They were just three headbangers who set up shop in Times Square and played their brains out for the love of Metal.  Then 10 months later in April, I posted an update after reading that the band had opened up for the one and only Motörhead and were about to take the stage at Coachella. 

In that first post I predicted fame for these kids.  I stand firm on that.  Even if Unlocking the Truth doesn't become huge, it will set the stage for whatever comes next for these kids.  They are only 12 and 13 now, so they've got plenty of time.  Anywho, while downing my coffee and browsing the internets  this morning, I read on TMZ that Unlocking the Truth scored a record deal!  Now, I'm no expert on record deals, but it seems to me that a nearly $2 million/5 album contract for a three kids just hitting their teens ain't too shabby. 

Hey, I'm not afraid to say "I told you so".  Maybe it's a little early for that, but I still feel pretty good about my prediction.  Perhaps I should've been a band scout for a living.  Here's a video of them at Coachella.  God damn, they rock.  Their guitarist, Malcom Brickhouse (real name, and it's real awesome), is insane on the guitar.  He's TWELVE.  Listen to him play, and just remember that.  Incredible.   

June 8, 2014

Another Triple Crown Bust.

Well, that sucked.  I think yesterday I probably looked like the human version of air being let out of a balloon.  Good race, I will say, but not the outcome I wanted nor hoped for.  California Chrome looked so calm before the race, and got off to a good start.  There were moments he got into a crappy position in the pack, but he'd manage to reposition himself.  But he just didn't seem to have The Juice.  He didn't have that spark I saw in the last two races.  I felt like I was watching the race in slow motion, and it was excruciating.  I was full of adrenaline and screaming to California Chrome, "Turn it on!  Turn it on now!", because I could see early on the mojo was missing, despite him staying with the pack and in the top 4 until the end.  By the final turn, I knew what was coming.  Still, I wanted to believe, but my screams took on a desperate tone.  "Come on, do this.  Please do this".  I had tears in my eyes during the stretch.  Late last night after I returned home, I read online that California Chrome was found to have a crack in his hoof, which I immediately realized is why he looked to be running fine, but lacked that look in his eye like he needed to bolt.  Because he couldn't, and he knew it.  The fact that he ran that race as well as he did with that injury makes me wonder what could've been had he not had the condition.  Oh well, moot point I suppose.

If you continued watching the coverage after the race, they interviewed California Chrome's owner, who went on an irate rant about the set up of the Triple Crown races.  He was MAD and loud and raising his hands.  The interviewer appeared shocked like the rest of us, and seemed to cut the interview short.  Many this morning are crying sour grapes and criticizing him for his outburst.  Perhaps he could've handled it a bit better, but I have to say, I tend to agree with everything he said.  When I was a kid, I remember very early on wondering why I was seeing different horses in the Preakness and the Belmont who were not in the Derby.  To me, even back then, it seemed all 3 races should have all of the same horses.  Although I didn't dwell on it, all my life that thought has stuck with me.  It just felt unfair that the Triple Crown contender had to compete with fresh horses running in the latter two races. 

With that being said, I just accepted it.  I mean, who am I going to question?  Plus, I never really heard others talking about this, so I often assumed my thoughts on the subject were biased because of my issues with fairness in general (I'm overly sensitive about it, I admit).  I just accepted that the system is how it is, even if it didn't make total sense to me.  On the flip side, I also reminded myself that the current set up is one of the big reasons why the Triple Crown is so hard to achieve.  I also questioned if changing the set up to instill fairness would invalidate the achievement in some way.  Would changing things mean it becomes a little too easy to win the Triple Crown?  That would certainly take away some of its magic.  Bottom line:  I have mixed feelings about it.  A change in the set up might make the playing field more even and fair, but in the end, is it fair to all the other horses/trainers/owners from the past?  Is it fair to the tradition?  Because I'm huge on tradition and that doesn't set well with me either. 

I don't know what the answer is, but I, for one, support the owner's rant last night.  I think he has giant balls to do what he did, what I'm sure other owners have felt before but wouldn't dare say out loud, much less to a national television audience.  I knew, as it was happening, that this would be the start of a debate in the sport of racing, and based on what I'm seeing online today, I was correct.  I'm happy about that.  Even if nothing changes, I think it's right to have the discussion.  In reading a few articles this morning, I learned some very interesting new facts.  Only 3 of the 11 Triple Crown winners in history were won in the current format.  Apparently there were many years that the Preakness was run before Derby, and others when the Belmont was run before the Preakness.  The latter, in particular, could be very impactful seeing as the Belmont is significantly longer than the other races and therefore is much more difficult to run last.  In addition, I read that horses today are not raced as they were in, say, the 70s, and they have less long distance races.  This means the horses themselves are not as sturdy as they used to be, and poses the question whether the current format is compatible with the racehorses of today.  Learning this new info makes me feel stronger for the argument to change the format, although I'm still torn.  Former owners/trainers of some of the greats, such as Affirmed, are understandably vehemently opposed to any changes.  I respect that.  It will be very interesting to see where all this goes.


June 7, 2014

Anticipating a Triple Crown.

Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I woke up today feeling like a kid on Christmas.  This could be the day I finally see another Triple Crown winner.  I have a soft spot for Affirmed, who last accomplished this feat in 1978, and whom I met once as a kid touring horse farms with my beloved aunt and granny.  He was retired at that point, and I was still just a kid but was well aware of the greatness that surrounded me, and I was in awe of him.  In a weird way, I want him to stay on top.  But I'm not getting any younger and it's been such a long dry spell that I have worried I might never seen another Triple Crown in my lifetime.  Yes, I worry about such things. 

I don't recall if I said it here when I posted around the time of the Derby (and I'm too lazy to look), but my friends can vouch that prior to the Derby I said that California Chrome might have what it takes to win this bitch.  I'm far from an expert, but I know a bit about racing and I am that geek that studies each horse's racing history, pedigree, training, jockey, etc. prior to the race.  After all that stuff is taken into consideration, my final tipping point is simply how the horse looks physically - his build, his size, his muscle mass.  Not very scientific, I know, but that deciding factor alone has won me a few bucks at the local racetrack in the past (or so I'd like to think).  My point is, based on a combination of factors (not including the back story) I felt good about California Chrome from the beginning.  I didn't think he was the second coming of Man O' War, but I thought he had solid potential.  That being said, I wasn't completely rooting for him during the Derby, because I rather like when a non-favorite comes out of nowhere and wins.  I prefer underdogs.  But when the Derby was over I was quietly pleased with his win because I knew he had potential to keep going.  There's nothing worse than when a horse wins the Derby, and you just know that horse has no Triple Crown potential.  It's a real bummer.

It feels like everything is in perfect place for this horse to win it.  The back story of the horse and the owners has sparked much more interest in this potential history-making feat than it might've otherwise.  Everyone is rooting for this horse.  Everyone loves the story.  Everyone wants to see the regular Joe owners and the 70-something trainer achieve the impossible.  The jockey, Victor Espinoza, is 6 for 6 on California Chrome.  All the stars seem to be aligned.  Maybe a little too aligned, which is my only concern at this point.  Is the set-up just a little too perfect? 

The beauty of the Belmont is that it's a wild card.  At 1.5 miles it's a long race, and for most, if not all, of the young participants it's the longest race of their career.  It's not like you can look at their history of long races and see if they are good distance horses.  California Chrome's longest race thus far was the Derby, and his time was considered on the slow side.  Still, he showed no signs of being tired at the end.  He had the 4th fastest time ever in the Santa Anita Derby, winning handily and with "minimal urging".  This horse just likes to run, you can see it, and in that sense he reminds me a bit of Secretariat.  I know that sounds obvious because all thoroughbreds are genetically wired to run, but this horse has something special.  He's said to be wicked smart.  A quick learner, who is also a bit of a showman.  He loves attention and has been witnessed stopping and striking a pose upon hearing the clicks of cameras.  He's been referred to as "chill" - commotion doesn't rattle him or throw him off his game at all.  He isn't feisty and does what the jockey asks him to do when he asks him to do it.  He doesn't come off as a show-off, but more so as a people-pleaser.

I was spoiled as a small child of the 70's, watching 3 Triple Crown winners.  Since then, 11 horses have won the first two races, only to lose at Belmont.  That's always crushing.  One potential winner ended up not making it to the start gate of the Belmont at all.  That sucked even worse than watching another loss.  Whatever happens, this year has been good for racing.  There is a renewed interest by the masses, and win or lose, I think the racing industry has gained some new fans.  But a Triple Crown win this year could do wonders for the sport, and if not for my own selfish self, I want to see a win for the sake of the sport.  For the last 36 years I have gotten my hopes up every time and have had them crushed every time, but I'm not going to let that stop me from torturing myself once more.  That's what racing is about.  So yes, once again, I truly believe this is the year.  And I've probably said this before too, but I feel better about this horse doing it than I have about other horses in the past.  Despite being a favorite in each of the three races, California Chrome is, in many ways, still an underdog.  And I love my underdogs.

May 4, 2014

Satan Statue.

As I was doing my usual Sunday routine this morning of coffee, internet browsing, and just the right amount of pot, I ran across this gem of an article on the trustworthy and highly esteemed news source known as Metal Insider.  The article is short, so in case you're too lazy to click the link I will post it here (actually, click the link anyway so you can see the statue):

In 2009, a statue of the Ten Commandments was placed at the Oklahoma Statehouse, which angered some people. Namely, the Satanic Temple, who argued that there should be a separation of church and state. In fact, they started an Indiegogo campaign to place a monument to our dark lord. They raised over $8,000 more than the $20,000 they were seeking, and Vice got a chance to look at the work in progress by Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves. It’s pretty glorious – the baphomet sits next to a pentagram while two children gaze upwards at him adoringly.

Greaves told Vice that they’re building a mold of the sculpture so more can be made should a self-righteous Christian attack the bronze statue. When completed, the church, which also includes Vital Remains’ vocalist Brian Werner, plans on placing the monument outside the Statehouse, even though the state has halted issuing permits for other monuments until a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Ten Commandments monument is settled. That monument has been outside the capitol since 2012, when state Representative Mike Ritze paid for it with his own money and said it was a donation.

First off, this article is so poorly written I had to read it twice just to fully understand it.  What the hell is "Vice"?  I assume a magazine or website, but they could've filled me in (checked - it's both).  Second, the whole story just cracks me up.  They're like two kids fighting in the school yard with their one-upping and outdoing of one another.  And why does the Satanic Temple argue about separation of church and state, but call themselves a "temple" and then later in the article are referred to as a "church"?  I hate to be nit picky, but that seems to be a little contradictory.  Doesn't matter what kind of "church" you are, separation of church and state is exactly what it sounds like, so perhaps neither statue belongs there.  I also laughed that they built a mold, anticipating desecration of their statue and having to create replacements in the future.  Those Satanists, they're organized and prepared!  Then they end the story by noting that the Ten Commandments statue only got placed at the courthouse because it was done in a shady manner that avoided any sort of official city permission, due to being "donated".  How Christian. What a goddamn clusterfuck of ridiculousness. 

May 3, 2014

Derby Day!

Happy holidays, folks, it's Derby Day!  One of my favorite days of the year.  I've probably yapped about all of this before (my guess is every year on Derby Day, but I'm too lazy to check), so I'm sorry if I bore you with my broken record.  I can't help myself though, because I love the Derby!  Horses are one of my favorite things on this earth, and watching those beautiful thoroughbreds holds a special place in my heart.  I could probably count on one hand the number of Kentucky Derby races I've missed in my lifetime.  My dad got me into it at an early age, and every single year of my childhood we watched the race together, him enjoying his gin and tonic with extra limes, and me enjoying the one Saturday a year when we got to show up at weekly 5 o'clock mass late.  Since post time usually is around 5:20 or so, by the time we got there it was almost communion time and this pleased me immensely because I loathed going to church, so missing 3/4 of it was right up my alley.  It's funny how our likes and dislikes take shape so early on.

Anywho, when it gets to be this time of year I always venture on over to ye ole YouTube and watch racing videos from the 70's.  Yeah, I really do that.  It was the golden age of racing and it was also the decade of my early childhood so it's chock-full of nostalgia for me.  I could watch Secretariat run the Belmont a million times and it would still make my jaw drop.  The fact that Secretariat has held the record time in ALL THREE Triple Crown races for 41 years is astounding.  Think about that for a moment.  41 long ass years.  It is an amazing feat, and I can't decide if seeing any one of those records broken is something I want to see in my lifetime or not.  If any of them are ever to be broken, then I suppose I would want to be alive to witness such a historical feat.  But if/when it does happen, I can tell you right now without question that I will weep.  Doesn't matter if I'm in a bar, at a race party, at the track, or on my couch - there will be tears. 

Here's video of the stunningly gorgeous Secretariat running all three Triple Crown races in 1973.  Watch it and get pumped up for post time.