Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Super Bowl Halftime Show

In what was an evening of disaster for me with the Super Bowl, perhaps the greatest outrage was the Halftime Show Extravaganza Brought To You By Pepsi.  (By the terms of their sponsor agreement, I think I have to mention Pepsi or face a ninja team of bloodthirsty lawyers)  I have now become such a curmudgeon that I can measure the disconnect I have from popular culture by the degree of befuddlement I have while staring at “The Biggest Stars In Music!!!” do whatever it is that they do.  I must have said, “What is this shit?” 17 times during halftime.  I literally have no idea why anyone would find what was presented appealing in any way whatsoever.

I am aware of Coldplay much like I am aware of Imagine Dragons, Country Music Mega Tickets, Chili’s restaurants, the Real Housewives TV shows, and the acting career of Will Smith.  These are things that I can identify from afar but I don’t get close to, as I know that there’s nothing really there.  It’s the cultural equivalent of a Pizza Hut large pizza with cheesy garlic knots.  No good can come of coming in contact with it and you will feel badly about yourself afterwards.  Yet I was totally unprepared for the reality of Coldplay.

Allow me to sit in my rocking chair and tell you about The Good Old Days.  There was once a time when rock stars looked cool.  They were dangerous.  They fucked amazing looking people that would never talk to you under any circumstance.  They did powerful drugs that you don’t even know the name of and did these drugs publicly without remorse.  They were wild and scary and exciting.  And then there is Coldplay.

Coldplay look like four effeminate lads on their way to yoga class.  In their United Colors of Benetton action gear, they looked like four British pansies that had been let outside by their mother for a playdate with their sexually ambiguous friend “Robin”.  I think the bass player stole his top from 1980’s Fleetwood Mac Christine McVie’s dressing room.  The multicolored LA Gear high top aerobic workout shoes that Chris Martin had were probably meant to say, “we are Coldplay and we are inclusionary!” but to me they said “Who is that pussy and how come they didn’t book Iggy Pop?”.

I don’t know what to say about their songs.  Two of them sounded sort of familiar.  They sort of float by like music in a grocery store, meant to fill some space to prevent awkward silence.  They are instantly forgettable.  My understanding is that they have sold 778 kazillion records, yet why don’t I know anyone personally that listens to them?  The extras that ran up to the Disney looking stage sure seemed excited, but I have a nagging feeling that this was something being claimed on resumes by America’s lowest rung actors as a “TV Appearance”.

The producers of the show must have been aware early on that some mopey British anthems weren’t going to cut it during a mega testosterone event like the Super Bowl, so that’s when they went to The Big Guns.  When I say “Big Guns” I mean 5 foot 3 inch Bruno Mars and a bunch of other nameless guys in vinyl jumpsuits.  Yeah, that’s really going to amp things up.  Why do people like this music?  Why does that little fella need 16 other guys in matching black vinyl pajamas hopping around with him while he pretends to sing that shitty song?  How come Chris Martin of Coldplay looked like a Euro NBA power forward when he stood next to Bruno Mars?  Is Chris Martin 6 foot 9?  Is Bruno Mars 5 foot 3?  Are Chris Martin’s LA Gear pussy shoes lifts?  What is this shit?

Uh oh!  Here it comes!  It’s Beyonce everybody!  Whoa!  And she looks mad!  And she’s got 36 black chicks in black leather booty shorts dancing on a football field!  Look at that zipper in the front of her weird high waisted shorts!  Maybe she’s gonna unzip it and show us her fucking snatch!  No?  Oh, she’s just going to lip sync some disco song and try not to fall down while fans blow her hair around.  Well, that’s disappointing…

When all of them started dancing around on the stage and the clips of other legitimate artists from the past were evoked I got the sense that the goal was to try and make me forget about what I had just seen.  It was almost like a hypnotist trying to erase a memory of your family being executed in front of you by terrorists.  “Watch this clip of Prince.  You did not just see a man in green golf pants playing guitar while hopping around with Beyonce and a midget doing disco.  Ease that from your mind.” 

The thing that is startling to me is that this is what the majority of the nation thinks is absolutely top flight entertainment.  I must have taken a horrible cultural off ramp at some point to get to the place where I can’t even wrap my mind around any of that being mildly interesting.  How is it possible that people I walk around amongst daily think “Wow!  What an amazing performance!  What an Age we live in!”.  This must have been what it was like in the late 70s when punk first broke.  There must have been just enough people sitting around looking at crap like this to reach the point where they said, “Fuck this.”.  I hope if nothing else, that Halftime Show encourages a fresh outburst of real creativity from somewhere. 


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate Super Bowl 50

To not wager on the Super Bowl is the equivalent of prancing around a shopping mall in a pink tutu.  Look, I am aware I am not allowed to say that anymore and if I saw a grown man frolicking in a pink tutu by The Gap I should tearfully applaud his “courage”.  I am not falling for this cultural shift.  Sometimes a duck is a duck.  America was built on violence, rewarding criminal behavior, and crass commercialism.  This is what the Super Bowl is all about.  It is the ultimate orgy of American excess.  It should not only be celebrated but taken part in at all angles.  Too much food.  Too much drink.  Wild gambling on anything that moves.  If I come in contact with one person playing that smug contrarian’s role of “I am not watching the Super Bowl and I don’t really even know what football is...” I swear to Christ I am going to light them on fire.  It is my duty as an American.  What can be more all American than responding with swift violence to something we don’t understand and/or agree with?  God Bless America.

The last few days I have been served with gambling industry misinformation suggesting that those in the know are all over the Denver Broncos.  I think that every jackass on the planet got down on Carolina -4 the second that line went public.  The line has moved to 5.5 in a desperate effort to coax money on the other side.  I can’t find anyone that is on Denver that doesn’t have a direct tie to sports gambling concerns.  Meanwhile almost every sports gambling concern is suggesting that “sharp money” is on Denver.  I ain’t buying.  I’m on Carolina -5.

If I am Carolina I assume that Denver can’t run the ball since they haven’t run it all season.  Meanwhile Manning seems to be unable to throw downfield.  I think Carolina is going to play coverage daring Manning to throw the ball outside and deep.  As we saw against New England, he is going to float the ball long to avoid turnovers and hope his receivers somehow make a play.  If Denver falls behind early, they are in big trouble.    I just can’t see them making sustained drives against that Panther defense.  By the way, Carolina is 28-2 in their last 30 games as a favorite.

The real action is on the crazy prop bets out there.  This is where I am really going to get after it. I like to have so much action going on the game that I can’t even keep track of it all.  I cannot stress to you how much this will change your experience watching what could be a lopsided game.  The key is to also get action going on things that no sane person pays any attention to whatsoever.  To be able to scream out “Fuck Yes!!!” when Denver decides to go for a 4th and two and not kick a 46 yard field goal, which means your prop bet of “No Field Goals over 45 yards” will pay off is a glorious thing. 

Let’s get started…

Lady Gaga Sings The National Anthem in 136.5 seconds:  I am UNDER on this.  She sang the anthem in 2:16 at an event in New York but I watched the clip.  She had no accompaniment on it so had dramatic pauses as she was a capella.  I am assuming she will be singing along to a track that will keep her on pace.  If she does any theatrical shit to push this OVER I will hate her forever. 

Coin Flip:  I am going “Heads” on this as I am going to assume that the “Tails” of the ceremonial coin will have more bullshit on the back, therefore more weight, leading to a slight edge that it is the side that ends up on bottom.  It’s nice to know that if Lady Gaga runs long and the coin comes up “tails”, I will already be in a hole before the game has even kicked off.

Neilson TV Rating over/under 47.5:  Last year the game did a 47.5, but it was also a nail biter of a game featuring two teams with massive regional fan bases.  It was an anomaly.  This year the relatively unpopular Carolina Panthers face a team from an area of the country with small population.  47.5 is a motherfucker of a rating.  The last time the Super Bowl did over a 47.5 was in 1985. In a game that could get out of hand, I am going to bet on the casual fan turning out early and driving the rating down.  I am going UNDER 47.5

Which region will have a higher Neilson rating Charlotte or Denver?:  This is a gimme.  There are probably people in the Carolinas that will be watching DVDs of Duke and North Carolina basketball games.  Carolina is all about college sports.  Most people that live there moved from somewhere else.  The NFL isn’t like it is in Denver.   In Denver people painted their faces orange three days ago.  At this point the people of Denver’s complexions have completely broken out in a sea of pimples and whiteheads because of blocked pores from all the face paint.  You think they aren’t watching this game?  Denver -140.

Who Does the Super Bowl MVP Thank in Speech first?:  I am going “God” on this one.  Sure, it is appealing to chase the +220 payoff for “teammates”.  Only a damn fool would chase “owner” at 8-1 or “Family” at 7-1. Chances are pretty good that a quarterback wins this award.  I watched a clip of Cam Newton winning his Heisman trophy.  First thing he did?  Thanked God.  This is essentially a bet on Newton vs. Manning.  I think Manning would probably thank a corporate concern first, but I can’t get a 15-1 payout on “Nationwide”, so “God” it is...

Will the game be tied again after 0-0?:  I am going to bet “no” on this as this will keep me on edge the whole game. 

 Today is the biggest consumption day for food in the United States, edging out even Thanksgiving.  It is a glorious day of consumption, greed, glitz, and shallow values.  It is a monster spectacle with something for everyone/no one.  If one is good, ten are better.  Open up 17 beers.  Eat your weight in chicken wings.  Throw money around like a drunken sailor.  Let’s get this thing started.   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The Tragic Failure of The Bull Shark Dive

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.  “So I’m in a boat with a Swedish nanny, a Mexican, a Death Metal drummer, and an English Dominatrix…” Yet, there I was.  It was happening.  I had arrived in Playa Mujeres Mexico last Saturday.  I had arranged my dives with a man I had checked out via the one unimpeachable source available to savvy individuals nowadays, the Internet.  It does seem rather absurd to base the merits of willingly jumping into the ocean with the planet’s most aggressive shark on a review from Trip Advisor reading “Scott from San Antonio:  Arturo was great!”, but that was what I had done.  I don’t have many options.  It’s not like I have any personal friendships with anyone that dives, much less anyone that goes for more extreme experiences like Bull Shark Diving.  The Internet is all I have to go on.

This particular dive is seasonal.  Bull Sharks come in from sea to an area surrounding the mangroves primarily to deliver more little sharks.  From December to February they patrol relatively shallow water in large numbers and then go back out to sea as mysteriously as they arrived.  There appeared to be two big differences in available shark dives.  One of these is the method where a guide chums the area, meaning they toss chopped up fish into the water.  When the sharks arrive to see what is doing, these guides will actually hand feed sharks whole fish to insure a close experience for the divers.  This seems like a bad idea.

My thought that the long term ill effects, beyond altering the animal’s natural behavior, is also training these animals that divers=food.  The reality with sharks and divers is this…  The shark is naturally curious about divers, but maintains a buffer.  Sharks don’t encounter something close to their size that has a halo of bubbles coming from it.  It makes them cautious.  Sharks want to attack something they see as a food opportunity.  Flop around the surface on a boogie board around some sharks to see what I mean.  Wear lots of shiny bracelets too.  I think that feeding these 300-400 pound sea monsters opens the door to all sorts of unwanted behaviors, like getting your fucking arm bit off when they think it’s a red snapper you are offering them. 

The guide I had chosen, Alvaro, has a method of keeping chum in a box.  He opens the box letting a little blood and guts seep out, and then allows the sharks to cruise into the area to check out the potential food source.  The game plan for the other divers is to stick close to the sandy bottom, pull in arms and legs, breathe normally, and don’t do anything stupid when the 8-11 foot predator comes to nose around like try to flee to the surface.  Of course, the one potentially fatal flaw in this plan is that we might come in contact with a shark that has had the lightbulb go off that says “I hear a boat and see some divers.  They must have brought me lunch”.  There is a gamble that any particular shark will be pissed off that there are no grouper on the menu and might decide to find out what the meat in the wet suits taste like after all this time.  Still, it seems like a better idea than ringing the dinner bell and purposely getting that behavior in motion by tossing dead fish around. 

I had to take a taxi to Alvaro’s tiny store front in a run down little plaza near a small pier.  The office is behind a sliding glass door that barely fits one desk and two plastic chairs.  To sit in there would be unbelievably claustrophobic.  Small bits of mid-repair scuba hardware sit drying on the small available surface.  The little store front is the only one open in the shabby plaza.  If it was America there would also be a discount mobile phone shop and wig store here.  Alvaro is nowhere to be seen.  I walk out to the pier where heavy lidded and bored Mexican men sitting on benches give me a quick look.  “Are any of you Alvaro?”  They stare at me and say nothing.  I wonder if I’m invisible and wander back.  A few minutes later a man that looks surprisingly like Zac Galifinakis wanders up the hallway.  “Greg?”

Alvaro is middle aged and probably older than I think.  In another life he could be a tired middle manager at a widget company.  He lucked out and discovered a way to live out on the ocean and keep a lively spark about him.  He and I gather some gear from a locker in the back of the cinderblock building while getting to know each other.  Alvaro gives the sporadic cough of a life long smoker as he leans down to pick through the equipment we will need.  He exudes a sense of calm and amusement.  This is the sort of demeanor that one looks for in Mexico.  “A lot of really crazy things can happen here but we will smile and make the best of it” is a healthy attitude in Third World countries.  I climb into his truck and we set out on a drive south to meet up with the boat and a few other divers.  This is when I get the news.

“Greg my friend…  I must tell you…  The sharks?  They have gone out to sea.  No one has seen them in five days.”


I learn that I will not get my shark dive.  Alvaro tells me how some shady operators will try to milk out another couple of weeks on unsuspecting tourists, making them sign a waiver along the lines of “sharks are wild animals and there are no guarantees we will see these wild animals as we can’t control them so give me a couple hundred bucks and we will go sit on the sand alone for an hour while I chop fish up and then afterwards I will shrug my shoulders as we head back inland as I stare at your disappointed faces”.  I like Alvaro’s cadence.  “Yes my friend…  I do not want to live my life that way.  Each year we know…  The sharks come.  The sharks go.  We cannot control it.  So today we try to have the best dive we can have today if that is ok with you?  We can go dive at the wreck where yesterday it was good, quite good… (he smiles)  Or we can do the wall dive today?  It is up to you my friend…”

I am very disappointed that I have missed this window of opportunity.  I know he isn’t bullshitting me though.  Alvaro has an impish quality, but has the relaxed manner of a man that knows what he is talking about.  The guy learned to dive in 1968 and has done any type of dive you can name. He doesn’t want to waste our time when anything can happen if we put ourselves in position to see it.  I knew when I originally scheduled the shark dive that I was pushing the end of the season, but that type of thing usually works out for me.  Fuck.  Oh well, as Alvaro said, let’s have the best dive we can have today.  I decide that as the winds have picked up and are forecast for much worse tomorrow, the wreck would be great if we can convince the others.  The currents will be challenging today, but tomorrow that site will be off the table.  Alvaro makes a call as we bounce along sun bleached roads.  Something isn’t working out for the wreck on the other end of the line.  He hangs up with a grumble, looks at me and smiles.  “Well?  It looks like we dive the wall!  They don't want to do the wreck today.  I try to tell them tomorrow is no good but...”  He shrugs and smiles.

The wall dive is fine by me.  That was my other goal on this trip.  It is hard to explain what it feels like to be swimming in 80 feet of reef and then come to the edge of a cliff where it drops off into deep blue nothingness.  It is almost like flying except the current slyly tries to pull you out into the abyss.  All sense of perspective is instantly lost.  Giant fish work the wall looking for smaller fish that creep too far away from their little reef nooks of safety.  The grand scale of the thing is amazing.  It can truly be spectacular.

We arrive at a small dirt road that ends at a beach.  A small boat is tied up bobbing up and down in a few feet of water.  Dark skinned Mexicans scurry around stowing gear.  We share the boat with another guide and his small party.  I cannot stress enough the differences in the two groups.  The other group is led by an American expat ex-Marine.  I know he is an ex-Marine as he has sown Marine patches onto his wet suit for no particular reason.  He also has maintained that military haircut just in case you forgot he was once in The Corps.  “Hello everyone.  Did you see my haircut?  Do you want to ask me about the armed services?  Because I really want to tell you about it.  I really, really want to tell you…”  I am generally uneasy around anyone that has taken their complete identity around their brief time in the military.  If they loved the military so much, why aren’t they still there?  What need is this total embrace of force and order fulfilling for them?  It takes just a few seconds to look at this guy and go “Ehhhhh….  Something’s not right there….”

Marine Dive Master Guy has more gear on than I ever thought possible on a recreational dive in less than 100 feet of water.  He is playing Navy Seal to the hilt.  We haven’t even pulled up anchor to depart and he has his wet suit zipped up, complete with a hood.  It is 80 degrees.  We have an hour on the boat.  Why does he have that hood on?  He also has plastic knee pads.  Three different flashlights are clipped to his belt line.  He has four (4) separate watch gauges on.  A knife is strapped to his thigh.  He has black booties on.  What the fuck does he need all that shit for?  He asks a member of his group in a very serious tone “How would you rate your buoyancy?  On a 1-10 scale?”.  How the hell do you even answer that?  If I didn’t know any better, I would think they were on some type of black ops to blow up an Isis secret underwater cave lair.  Meanwhile Alvaro is in an old pair of bathing trunks with his shirt off smoking a cigarette laughing with the deckhands.  “Okay… Today we are going to do one thing.  We are going to have fun!”  The difference between the two guys is as absolute as it can be, and I am relieved to be on this side.  Marine Dive Master Guy is going to make it as fun as oral surgery for his group.  They all have a grim determination that has nothing to do with my “flop in the water and don’t do anything stupid” agenda. 

Our group is a bit more colorful.  A cute girl with a butterfly tattoo on her foot turns out to be a Swedish nanny that learned to dive this week.  An impossibly pale couple with English accents look the part of the greaser scene, she with a “13” tattoo on the neck, him in his sleeves, aggressive sideburns and Motorhead t-shirt.  He turns out to be a drummer in a very well known Death Metal band, and today is his last day before starting a tour.  His wife, a very friendly and proper sounding woman, I later discover by two internet clicks to be a very popular fetish model that is available to torture you, put cigarettes out on you, or take a shit on your face if that’s what you’d prefer.  I have to say, if I ever need someone in the London area to piss in my mouth, she seems like she would be a good choice.  She is very cheerful and polite.  Quite nice really.

We let Marine Dive Guy take his group out first.  We watch them as they wobble off the boat, fearful of a mistake.  I lean into Alvaro and whisper “Hey, do you think the water is going to get murky when they complete their secret mission and the explosives go off?”.  Alvaro roars in laughter, tells the crew in rapid Spanish and then they too are all cackling.  I’m glad I’m not the only guy that sees the only other American as ridiculous.  I do feel sort of embarrassed to be associated with this man as both of us being Americans. 

The dive is gorgeous.  90 feet of water with abundant sea life.  An enormous sea turtle with a shell four feet long munches on some plant life.  A nurse shark looks on blankly.  We go through caves that pop out onto brilliant sunlight and a sheer 3000 foot drop off.  It’s amazing.  The current pushes us along.  A purple eel with white polka dots pops out of his hole in the coral to give me a looking over.  I float through a giant school of bright yellow fish.  A trigger fish swims up to my mask.  My air is getting low.  I give the signal to Alvaro which I hope conveys “hey dude, I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should and I only have 450 left on the air tank so we should probably surface so I don’t drown during the safety stop”.  He gives me the “OK” sign which I take to mean “OK”.

After a second dive through a site called “Paradise” we get back in the boat to go back.  It was a relaxing drift dive in shallow depth through multi colored reefs and urgent little fish.  Totally relaxed.  The taut faces of “Dive Team Alpha” wait for us on the return.  What a totally different experience they must have had on their day.  I speak to a dark skinned Mexican crew member on our ride back.  We talk about a friend of his that passed out drunk on the beach and woke up not only without his wallet, but without any of his clothes.  I like to think about someone in Mexico right now walking around in dirty stolen underwear.  Viva la Mexico.

I will admit a real sense of failure around not being able to get this shark dive done.  There are only so many opportunities a man in Ohio will have to dive with enormous sharks.  I feel like I bungled this by not getting to the site earlier.  I was too haphazard in my prep.  I drive back to Playa Mujeres sitting shotgun.  The Swedish nanny comes with us.  She is in the back seat.  She is munching on potato chips and drinking one of the Tecates I bought at a small roadside shack.  Alvaro and I make a pact to dive the sharks when they return.  “Yes my friend…  You will be back.  And so will the sharks.  We will go see them together.”

He’s right.  But until then I will have this shadow of failure gnaw at me.  It really bothers me that I didn’t get this accomplished.  I get back to the room.  I’m working through the Tecate.  I look at the calendar on my phone and try to plan my return.  These goddamn sharks got away again.                 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The Bull Shark Dive Idea

So I have made arrangements to dive with Bull Sharks.  When I saw the advertisement, I thought it was a mistake or some sort of deceiving ad claim.  It seems like a remarkably bad idea if it was true.  These sharks are generally bad news like Def Leppard coming on the radio.  Also like Def Leppard, Bull Sharks have a Wikipedia page.  It says the following:  The bull shark is known for its aggressive nature, and predilection for warm shallow water.  They are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, including many bites attributed to other species.  A maximum size of 11 feet and 400 pounds is commonly reported.  They may be more dangerous to humans than any other species of shark, and along with the tiger shark and great white shark, are among the three shark species most likely to bite humans.”

The good news is I have now made arrangements to dive with some guy named Alvaro into the ocean where these bull sharks congregate at around 70 feet.  I should also note that we will not be in a shark cage, but rather completely out in the open.  Just a couple guys swimming around on the bottom of the ocean with some sea monsters.  I will also be diving with nitrox which will allow for greater time spent in the water and allow for a controlled ascent, or being able to hide from a big aggressive monster in a cave for a while if necessary.  This is about the scariest thing I can think of to willingly do, which is of course why I immediately committed to the trip.

If headlines show up in your news feed like “Jackass Tourist Loses Leg To Shark” or “Man Loses Both Arms In Shark Diving Mishap”, there is a pretty good chance it was me.  Still, as long as I don’t die or lose my limbs, a nice shark bite is just the thing I need to start out my 2016.  This will become my entire focal point as I will weave it into every single social interaction I have from that point on.  I can see myself now, walking into a crowded room trying to loosen up my shoulder.  “What’s the matter?  Did you sleep wrong?”  No, it’s just this damn shark bite left my with a lot of scar tissue that hasn’t broken up.  Oh, you didn’t know I was bitten by an 11 foot bull shark in the Gulf?  Here’s what happened…  (Eyes roll, people that have heard the story 117 times struggle to get out of the immediate area, almost stampeding one another to prevent hearing the increasingly grandiose tale spun yet again…)

I am really excited about seeing nature’s perfect predator in its natural habitat.  Sharks have such grace, power and beauty.  The challenge of keeping my cool while something that dangerous comes to check us out is exhilarating.  And really intimidating.  This is a test that is clearly pass/fail and I will not fail. The key to the entire thing is to not freak the fuck out and start flailing around.  Keep it together, stay still on the ocean floor, and don't make any aggressive moves.  They are like enormous dogs.  Well, enormous dogs that can kill you and have evolved over millions of years to be perfect at it.  The allure of seeing this gigantic amazing creature up close is the draw for me.   

Now, don’t be mistaken, I do not want to see this predator so close that it makes me a meal.  Between you and I, if it makes a meal out of Alvaro while I swim away quietly like a coward, I can live with that.  Sorry Alvaro.  I’m sure I will come up with some cover story that sounds believable enough to CNN.  Sure, the locals there will know I left a man behind, but what are the odds that the network sends a translator?  Budgets are tight in media now, and most of these reporters are following Trump around anyway.  I will play the odds on this one.  (this will be the line quoted in my obit by the way)

I will post a full report soon…