Wednesday, November 08, 2017

O.J. Simpson -- A Great Guy and Buddy to Us All, Right?

Early this week, the Twitterverse came alive as former professional football player, former actor and former murderer O.J. Simpson, recently released from a Nevada prison, has been seen in photographs making the rounds with some poker professionals and gambling aficionados. In one photo that stirred some passionate comments on Twitter, poker professional Todd Brunson, on November 5, posted a picture of himself with a smiling O.J. Simpson with the caption "What do these two guys have in common?" In some interesting Twitter stats accurate as of today at 1:00 p.m. Central Time, the post received eight retweets, 65 likes, and 96 comments.

There was certainly some outrage at the photo. Poker blogger Rob from Rob's Vegas and Poker Blog replied to Todd: "They both have horrific judgment and have committed morally reprehensible acts (you, by posing with a double murderer." This elicited the following response from Todd Brunson: "No me for letting an idiot like you follow me." Ummm ... okay. Twitter block #1.

Next Glenn Webber, who describes himself as a recreational poker player, tweeted "You both managed to lose my respect. (You know he killed two people, right?)" Todd's reply: "Then why are u still following me? Here let me help u put." Twitter block #2.

But the fun was just beginning! The Poker Barrister chipped in with "For a guy taking selfies with a murderer, @toddbrunson is a sensitive little twitter-blocking cunt. I mean, if you are going to exercise extremely poor judgment, then just own your own shit." Of course (u see) a response was to follow: "Ya I blocked you cause I wanna see u talk this way to my face. But we both know that will never happen don't we? Scared little coward bitch." Boom - block #3!

And finally (there might have been more, but I'll stop at this one), there was Luke Johnston, self-proclaimed left wing lunatic radical liberal , getting in on the conversation regarding the disposition of the O.J. criminal case: "Found innocent? For fuck's sake, you don't even have a basic understanding of the justice system, do you?" Chalk up block #4.

Even as interesting as these Twitter exchanges were, the profound absurdity of the situation helps gloss over the stark reality of what really happened: O.J. Simpson butchered two people that night. And yes, I realize that O.J. was found not guilty  (as opposed to "innocent") in the criminal trial. However, he was found responsible in the civil trial and was ordered to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages and an additional $25 million in punitive damages. He has so far skated away with paying almost nothing. I recently read, but am not sure if this is true, that with interest, the amount is now more like $75 million.

But hey -- O.J. is The Juice, right? Football star, movie star, all-around good guy. Aside from the crimes he was convicted of (armed robbery and kidnapping) due to his little "misunderstanding" at Palace Station, this is the reality of what this monster did:
Ex-wife Nicole

Unlucky Ron Goldman

And let's not forget the permanent damage that was done to some of the family:
Ron Goldman's father, Fred, and sister, Kim

Nicole Simpson's sister, Denise

So yeah, I guess it must be okay to laugh and smile with the guy who did this. I mean, he's a celebrity, right? Shit, it was just two murders ...

Author's note: I was pretty much obsessed with the O.J. trial. In fact, my son was born the day of the Ford Bronco chase. I followed both trials every night on television, hung on the word of every guest that Geraldo Rivera had on his program, and read quite a few books on the subject.
Some of the lightning36 OJ reading material

My only hope is that someday O.J. gets his ...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Concert Photo Dump

On Sunday, October 8, I drove to Peoria, IL to attend a stop in the Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour. I scored second row tickets at a reasonable price and was finally able to do one of the many things I had been wanting to do for a few years - see Brian Wilson in concert. I had missed catching this tour earlier, but the recent death of Tom Petty reminded me to do things now and not have regrets later.

I know that Brian Wilson does not have the voice he had back when the Beach Boys were cranking out surf and hot rod songs, but I was not going to miss this chance to see a true musical genius and legend when he was so close.

The concert was great, starting with many popular Beach Boys songs, a performance of the Pet Sounds album, then a finish with more Beach Boys songs, ending with Brian Wilson's solo "Love and Mercy." Al Jardine's son, Matt, sung the old Brian Wilson high parts in most of the songs, while Wilson sang songs still in his range, including some originally sung by Mike Love. For me, the most touching moment of the night was hearing and seeing the legend sing "In My Room," a song that was inspired from the abuse he suffered from his father.

Some pictures I took at the concert:

The Stage

Brian Wilson

Former Beach Boy Al Jardine

Blondie Chaplin

Matt Jardine

The band

Set list from the concert

A true musical genius

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tom Petty: No Shadow of a Doubt

I, like many other rock and roll music lovers across the United States and the world, was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Tom Petty. I was a HUGE Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan in the 1980's, going to several concerts, several venues, several tours. One of my biggest regrets this year was not going to see them when they were at the University of Illinois last May. Unfortunately, my daughter was graduating from college that weekend, there was a special gathering for the people in her program, and I had been working my tail off cleaning up my mother's house. The last thing I wanted to do that weekend was fight the crowd at the State Farm Center. I can always catch them a little later down the road, I thought.

Still hurting from the violence in Las Vegas and on the train from my son's apartment in Seattle to the airport, I saw the news of Petty's heart attack. Talk about another punch to the gut.

Petty was a true rocker in every sense -- a rebel who did have a clue. I am posting an example of the brilliance and energy that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers brought to every concert. Note the great synergy in the song -- every instrument contributing to the sound, the lead and back-up vocals ...

RIP Tom Petty. The beauty of music in the world is now a little bit less than it was. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MLB: My Favorite Catch of All Time; My Favorite Moment

Watching the Chicago Cubs clinch their division tonight, I was nostalgic for some of my favorite moments in Major League Baseball.

The first clip is of the greatest all-around player to play the game, Willie Mays. If you were expecting his World Series catch at the Polo Grounds -- nope! Instead, it is of the unbelievable catch he made against the fence in Candlestick Park.

And for drama, nothing beats the long clip below of Kirk Gibson and his classic at bat in Game One of the 1988 World Series. Injured, struggling to walk/run, team down one run with a runner on with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning ...

It's almost time for post-season games. Play ball!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I HATE! HATE! HATE! the Meal Button

I was playing poker at Harrah's Joliet yesterday when I was reminded of one of my pet peeves of brick and mortar poker: the meal button. But before discussing this dastardly button, let's look at the whole concept of poker and eating first.

When I play poker in cash games, I almost always  put in long sessions. The best strategy for me is to eat before I play poker. If I am driving a significant distance to the poker room, I'll either get a decent meal before I hop in the car, take some food with me or stop along the way to get some food, usually at a fast food restaurant. Sometimes I might do more that one of these things. When I get to the table, I want food to be the last thing on my mind.

Some poker rooms are set up so that players can eat at the table, thereby not wasting ONE VALUABLE SECOND away from playing! And actually, if one is hygienic about it, this option can work if you are really hungry. I think the smart players sit back from the table for an orbit or two and don't mix the eating with playing -- and handling cards. And eating something that requires a fork or spoon means you, in theory, are keeping nasty germs away from your mouth.

I don't like to think that I am paranoid about this, but we know that poker players are not the most hygienic people. I cannot tell you how many times that I have used the restroom while taking a short break and have seen way too many poker players return to the poker room WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS! Yes, just what I would be looking to do -- touch some cards that have microscopic remnants from some guy's butthole or schlong. Yecch!

I sometimes see people eating at the table touching sandwiches, french fries, etc and then touching cards. Ummm ... no thank you!

Butt (ha ha!) back to the main gripe of this post. Harrah's Joliet has a meal button that can be used, which is common in some poker rooms. I believe at Harrah's that players can use the button to be gone up to 45 minutes. I've seen some rooms use one for as short as 30 minutes and as long as one hour.

In my mind, if you are going to be gone 45-60 minutes, why not just cash out and come back after eating? In the meantime while you are gone, the blinds come around faster and the pots likely have less money. If one or two people take a bathroom or smoke break, suddenly the table is now seriously less than capacity. And if the table is so juicy that you don't want to leave, why go away to eat? On my last trip to Las Vegas, I was playing at Aria and getting ready to order a comped meal courtesy of Mr Subliminal when a guy came to the table and began spewing money. I not only needed to eat, but I really had to pee, but there was no way I was leaving that table anytime soon!

Yesterday, however, the meal button led to the most selfish and disrespectful way some poker players act. A guy named "Marcus" had apparently played at another cash table for an hour or more and wanted to be moved to our table. I am guessing that he has just busted. He set one redbird down and took off. He didn't even bring any chips with him or buy in at the table. Other players in the room said that he gets his butt kissed because of his status (Diamond or Seven Star?). The brush was actually called a couple times, but he asserted that Marcus had already played an hour and was eligible to use the meal button.

I'm guessing that you know how this story ends. Marcus was gone for about an hour, returned, picked up his redbird, and asked to be seated at a different table. The guy next to me predicted things would go down exactly that way. He has seen Marcus to this several times before. So Marcus blocked a wait list player from being seated, kept the table short handed for an hour, and didn't even attempt to play one hand at the table.

I've had other times when people were gone for long periods, played an orbit or two and then left, but don't recall having a player not play any hands at all and then move to another table. Of course, everyone was muttering unpleasantries under their breath yesterday. So yes -- I really do HATE HATE HATE that button!

I do recall that one time I played somewhere (maybe Harrah's Southern Indiana?) that used plexiglass little tables that would go over the chips so that someone could play "over" the space of someone on a meal break. That was an interesting experience.

btw - This is a lightning36 version of a mini-rant. I know that some players like to rant when their diet sodas are taken away prematurely, but ...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two Short Bobby "The Brain" Heenan Stories

Earlier this evening, word spread across social media that former professional wrestler and manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan passed away. Heenan had been in questionable health for many years following a bout of throat cancer and several reconstructive surgeries on his jaw and face.

Going way back to the 1960's, I was a fan of professional wrestling. The feed we got in suburban Chicago was Bob Luce Wrestling. I grew up watching stars like Dick the Bruiser, The Crusher, Yukon Moose Cholak, Andre the Giant, Jimmy Valiant, The Blackjacks, Wilbur Snyder, Billy Red Cloud, Baron von Raschke, ... However, one of the most intriguing figures, and the man I consider to be the best professional wrestling manager in history, was Bobby Heenan. Heenan had the gift of gab and used it to fashion a hall of fame managing career. He was famous for a lot of big talk, but when finally cornered in the ring, he became the wimpiest, most timid man on the face of the earth, begging to not be hurt. He specialized in dirty tricks to help his wrestling "family," and could dive out of the squared circle faster than anyone if trouble was brewing and he was about to get pummeled.

In the early days, Heenan was known as "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan. In those glory days when he was managing tag teams like Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan and the Valiant Brothers, he was by far the best interview in local wrestling. One of my favorite memories was a tale he told about being in a downtown Chicago store. At that time, Heenan's speech impediment was a little more pronounced, sometimes adding color to his many stories. In this particular instance, he claimed that he was beginning to go down an escalator and was pushed from behind, tumbling down the escalator to the floor. He couldn't see who was at the top who had done the pushing, but as Heenan related "And I saw a young boy standing next to me at the bottom of the escalator pointing up toward the top and saying 'Look, Mommy -- Bruither ... Bruither ...'"

A few years later when he was managing the Valiant Brothers, he and Handsome Jimmy Valiant were discussing their many problems with being such handsome dudes and with all the women they attracted.
This time, Heenan let Valiant take the verbal lead, saying "Sometimes we have to die our roots black just to get a little peace and quiet." And a quote I have adapted and used myself several times in my life: "Sometimes people say we are conceited. But the truth is, sometimes we don't even think we're half as great as we really are."

Heenan was among the best in the business at creating heat for wrestling matches, earning the hatred of many fans and the inglorious nickname "Weasel." In later years, he was an engaging wrestling commentator, especially when paired with his buddy, Gorilla Monsoon.

Rest in peace, brother Bobby, and thanks for the many hours of fun and delight you gave to me and to other wrestling fans across the world.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Night with ZZ Top

I remember first hearing ZZ Top's "La Grange" when it came out in 1973. In fact, I think that if I checked my old 45's, I would find it there. It was certainly unique and seemed to come from a group destined to be a one-hit wonder. Man, was I wrong.

I had passed up several chances the past few years to see ZZ Top, once at Assembly Hall in Champaign and once at the Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond. When I heard that they were going to be playing in a small, local venue that seats less than 1,500, I was determined to go. Unfortunately, the beginning of ticket sales somehow passed me by, and later I forgot about the concert. Several weeks ago I was prepared to buy a ticket, only to find out that the concert was sold out.

I checked on Nothing. I checked several ticket resale sites, but the cost was prohibitive and the tickets were crappy. So I checked. And checked. And checked. Nothing.Finally, the venue posted that there might be some tickets released closer to the concert. I checked several times. Nothing. I even checked this morning. Nothing.

I was prepared to admit defeat and kick myself when I decided to take one last look right after I finished work today. I was surprised to find that there were tickets available! I went to the venue's website and saw something unbelievable: a ticket available for purchase IN THE FRONT ROW! I put in my order information, clicked on the button to complete the sale and ... received a message that my order could not be completed. I had had trouble with that website before, and despite changing browsers and credit cards, I couldn't purchase the ticket. I called the box office and was told that someone (me) had clicked on the seat and it was still listed as "reserved." I was asked if I instead wanted the third row seat, but I declined. The young woman at the box office asked for my phone number and told me she would see if it became unlocked and, if so, she would give me a call. I figured I wanted that first row ticket and waited for the call. Fortunately, the woman called a few minutes later and I was able to get my front row seat -- less than 2 1/2 hours before the concert. Score!

I went home, had a quick dinner and headed to the will call window, thereby bypassing the line of people waiting to enter. Another score!

Yeah - I was really in the front row and ready for the concert to begin.

Billy Gibbons

Dusty Hill

There were a few interesting songs in their set, including Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and Buck Owens/The Beatles' "Act Naturally." However, the big ZZ Top monster hits were the highlight of the show. "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" were in the main set and an extended version of "La Grange" and "Tush" were the first encore. They ended the night with a second encore of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock."

As with poker, sometimes life circumstances seem really crappy ... until  you catch that one outer on the river. Getting a front row ticket to a sold out concert hours before the show -- a clear demonstration of what clean living can do for you! As Brad Hamilton said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: "Learn it. Know it. Live it."

Thanks for reading!