Friday, May 31, 2013

Courtney and Kurt

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I was eating pasta at a random cheap Italian joint in Atlanta when I found out Kurt Cobain blew his brains out. I was still in college at the time and couldn't believe how it was only a couple years earlier when my roommate, Jeff K. burst into out room at my fraternity house clutching a CD. It was Nirvana. He ran over to my CD player and in one motion put it in the tray and three seconds later the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit rattled off our walls. Two and a half years after my introduction to the Seattle band, Generation X's first legit rock star was dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Cobain was only 27 years-old.

I moved to Seattle a couple of years after I graduated college. One of my roommates was a musician who played drums in a local punk band in the late 80s and early 90s. His claim to fame was that Nirvana once opened up for his band sometime back in late 1988 shortly after they had signed with Sub Pop and a couple of years before they anyone really knew about them.

Everyone in Seattle has heard their fair share of conspiracy theories that included Bill Gates vaccines, Mt. Rainer's UFOs, Big Foot, Ted Bundy, mysterious severed feet washing up on random beaches, and Courtney Love hiring a hitman to kill Kurt Cobain.

Yeah, the prevailing theory among my Seattle friends was that Cobain was "suicided", which is a murder that is disguised to look like a suicide. Cobain wanted to leave the band and leave his crazy-ass junkie wife. He got sick of the music biz and got even sicker of Love's antics. He wanted to divorce her and disband Nirvana. If he lived, then she'd get shut out. If he died unexpectedly and tragically, then she'd inherit his intellectual property and be perpetually famous for being Kurt Cobains widow. Simply put, Love had much more to gain if Cobain "committed suicide."

This is the documentary film about the life/death of Kurt Cobain that Courtney Love did not want you to see. If you like Nirvana conspiracy theories or have questions about Cobain's so-called suicide, then check out Kurt and Courtney...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Twit Links: May 2013

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here is a collection of shit I linked up on Twitter over the last month.
Film, TV, Art and Lit
The Art of Fiction with Dom DeLillo [Paris Review]
Existential Star Wars [Tumblr]
Steve Soderbergh: Dismal State of Hollywood [filmcomment]
GIF: Pete Campbell Falling Down Stairs [Vulture]
The Total Disaster of Chevy Chase's Short-Lived Talk Show [SplitSider]
New Marty Beckerman Book: 90s Island []
David Foster Wallace on Binge TV Watching [The Morning News]
Coppola's Arrested Godfather [Slate]
Brad Pitt's Battle to Make World War Z [Vanity Fair]
Obey the Giant: Documentary on Shepard Fairey's First Defiant Act of Street Art [Open Culture]

Sports, Poker, and Sportsbetting
Woody Allen: Notes of a Know Nothing Knicks Fan [Observer]
B.S. Report with Zach Lowe and Haralabob [ESPN]
Poker's Watergate Moment [CrAAKKer Poker Blog]
NY Rangers Will Play 2 Outdoor Hockey Games at Yankee Stadium [SNYRangers]
10 Years Later: How Chris Moneymaker Changed My Life [PokerStars Blog]
Oral History of the 2003 WSOP and Chris Moneymaker [Grantland]
Another Look at Moneymaker v. Ivey [Jesse May]
PODCAST: Chad Millman Interviews Bookie Bob Succi [ESPN]

Thom Yorke: Karma Police [Hidden Track]
Thom Yorke on Here's the Thing Podcast []
Slayer - Archive [Joe Giron Photo]
Top 100 Albums of the 1970s [Pitchfork]
1973 Interview: Ben Fong-Torres on Stevie Wonder [Rolling Stone]
Trailer: The National Documentary: Mistaken For Strangers [YouTube]
PODCAST: Huey Lewis Interview [Marc Maron's WTF Podcast]
VIDEO: Long Train Running by The Doobie Brothers [YouTube]
Mick Taylor Returns to The Stones After 40 Years [Hidden Track]
Beastie Boys Interview from 1998: The Boys Are Back In Town [Rolling Stone]
12 Years of DFA Records - Two Old To Be New, Too New To Be Classic [YouTube]
Trailer: LCD Soundsystem Documentary: Shut Up & Play the Hits [YouTube]
Currency War for Dummies [Zero Hedge]
Drugs and Misc.
Two People Smoke Huge Doobie on NYC Subway [HyperVocal]
Travels in the New Psychedelic Bazaar [NY Mag]
Dr. Feelgood [New York Sun]
Linklater's Plans for Dazed and Confused Sequel [Rolling Stone]

Internet, Digital Media and Social Media
The Internet Killed the Middle Class by Jaron Lanier [Salon]
Adventures In Invoicing Your Copyright Violators [The Awl]
Why I Don't Tweet, Example #147 by David Simon []

If you don't follow me on Twitter (@taopauly), then what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Cult of Social Media

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

There's a fine line between a cult and a religion. It's called tax-exempt status.

If the omnipotent IRS deems your organization as a legitimate religion, then you don't have to pay taxes. Ever. It's a good scam if you can blow a fast ball by IRS auditors, but there's far more lucrative ways to make money.

Cults are cults. I was raised in a cult (the Catholic Church) and I regularly attend cult meetings several times a year (Phish concerts). I've been paid a decent wage writing positive things about a cult (the poker industry) and I even succumbed to peer pressure and caved in and joined the cult of Facebook.

In the new season of Arrested Development, one of the characters joked something like: "Leaving Scientology was a lot easier than deactivating my Facebook account."

Facebook is like the mafia. Once you're in, you're in for life.

The worst aspect of Facebook (and mostly all forms of social media) is how it dehumanizes you and turns your once meaningful relationships into units of information and your page/profile/account essentially becomes a database. Any sort of virtual connection (comment, "like", or tag) seems cold and impersonal. Data collection. Binary. 1 for like; 0 for nothing. It's like we've been reduced to 1s and 0s.

I'm not a Luddite opposed to social media and I think those platforms (much like the philosophy of life) are all about what you the individual user wants to do with it. You can take it seriously, or not. You can become a wallflower or jump right into the fray, You can stir the pot and spit venom at people on the opposite side of the political spectrum, or you can try to make people laugh when they're having a rough day.

I am not thrilled with Facebook's evolution from an online version of the "Fuck Finder" to its bumbled IPO. Facebook treats its users like cattle and all that data that people willingly fork over is virtual gold for Zuckerberg and his cronies. Some trends disturb me like heightened superficial interactions and bullying. While other things outright enrage me like having user data been manipulated/exploited and bought/sold by multi-national corporations for malevolent reasons (spying) or consumerism (marketing). But it is what it is. It's not compulsory, but there's so much peer pressure to conform that anyone dissenters are marginalized.

Social media is a great means as a connection point, but I firmly believe the real world is where you truly cultivate that original virtual connection into a blossoming real, concrete relationships either as an acquaintance, colleague, friend, or confidant. I'm one of those people who feels guarded about virtual connections. Maybe it's the poker player in me that feels more comfortable being able to observe people in order to get a read on them through non-verbal communication. Nothing can trump human interaction. The virtual world is a substitute, like methadone, but it could also be a raging addiction like heroin.

Some of the saddest cases I've seen are people who eschew their real lives in favor of the internet world to hide online and use the anonymity of the internet to create a new persona thereby extinguishing the real life trauma. That schism is dangerous and unhealthy and I'm frightened to think how many millions of Americans are hiding in the virtual world and making insincere and superficial connections with other hurt people. Instead of having a deeper connection in which they can help each other work out their real life issues, they opt for a more fantasy-like realm. It's no wonder Catfish is a huge popular show. I guess my biggest surprise is why doesn't it happen more often? I suspect it does, but most people are so embarrassed about how deep they fell down that rabbit hole.

Like anything else, if you have you're shit together, you will flourish in real life and in the virtual world of social media. If you're a train wreck in real life, no matter how much you try to cover up all of you're weaknesses, it will eventually bubble to the surface.

In the 80s, if you had a shitty day or were down in the dumps you could crawl into bed and go to sleep and hope that tomorrow is another day, or you can zone out in front of the boob tube, or you can listen to depressing/uplifting music on the radio. But today's kids are slaves to the "stream" and they must plug in and find out what everyone else is doing, who is everyone gossiping about, and if anyone else is talking shit about them. Shit, it's hard enough to do that in real life, it's even more vexing to go home and manage that aspect of your life.

In 2013, when someone having a bad day, the entire world is aware of it via social media. Everyone has a bad day. Life is a series of bad days squeezed in between a ton of mediocre days with the occasional day of awesomeness. But when someone has a couple bad days in a row, they're on the verge of an epic social media meltdown. I've witnessed my fair share of them over the last few years. It's some of the best/worst aspects of social media voyeurism... like a car wreck on the freeway that you cannot look away from when you pass by.

It's not like the old days when you can close the door to the bedroom and insulate yourself from the outside world and wallow in your own misery for a bit until you feel better and emerge from your cocoon of self-loathing. But in the 21st century in which everyone stars in their very own reality show, people are so addicted to social media that they forget that they can go bonkers without live-updating it.

I'm old school. I prefer to go fucking bananas behind closed doors.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Morphine Drip of Binge TV

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I like humor. It's a defense mechanism to mask all of the internal pain pulsating through my veins. I prefer absurdist humor. The more absurd, the better. As soon as I was old enough and could stay up late to catch Saturday Night Live, I watched it religiously and I'm proud to say I learned most of my politics through SNL sketches. I got hooked on sitcoms as a little kid when Three's Company came on and I became infatuated with Jack Tripper living the swinging lifestyle in Santa Monica (and yes at least two times in my life I had a living situation when it was me with two other women, and this doesn't count the time I lived in a loft with my girlfriend and two roommates who were drag queens, which in itself could be its own sitcom). Cheers came along and I never missed an episodes and I wasn't even old enough to drink in bars, yet I loved every bit of it. When Seinfeld arrived, it blew the hinges off the door. It was wacky, absurd, and the characters were deplorable, which is why it was fucking hysterical.

David Lynch is hysterical in his own way, but it's not absurd, rather it's mundane. Lynchian humor in the same vein as postmodernist dark humor that magnifies the ridiculousness of mundane normalcy.

David Foster Wallace had the best explanation of "Lynchian" humor, which he explained on the Charlie Rose show... "Let's unpack the idea of Lynchian and what Lynchian means is something about the unbelievably grotesque existing in a kind of union with the unbelievably banal."

Enter Arrested Development. The show got cancelled in the mid-00s. Fucking network dildos in suits have zero taste and would rather give Justin Beiber's pet monkey his own reality show.

Subversive humor hits home hard. The Simpsons is such a fantastic show because of all the underlying shots they take at the ridiculousness of American society. I remember reading an article once in the early 90s about how that particular TV critic felt The Simpsons did a more accurate job portraying American family life than the most popular show at the time The Cosby Show.

Dysfunctional is kitschy in 2013. Some of the most popular sitcoms from the 90s paved the way, because they were centered around the zaniness of every day life in the family unit. That's why so many viewers identified with The Bundys and The Connors.

Arrested Development was a show ahead of its time. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks it was canceled because it was too subversive and too much of a social commentary on the worst aspects of American society -- greed, vanity, classicism, narcissism, and over-consumption. That's why it was such a great fucking show. But it was too clever and not your typical formulaic sitcom. The best kind of comedy is the kind that makes you laugh out loud and howl while it's happening, but then takes root and you realize sometime later (perhaps after  second or third viewing) when you realize that the joke is funny because there's some element to the truth about it.

I think I'm paraphrasing Hunter Thompson here when he said, "Only in America do people laugh when you tell them the truth."

I sort of binge-watched the new season of Arrested Development. It was released on Saturday at Midnight on a holiday weekend was genius because it gave rabid fans an opportunity to watch it all in one sitting or for the hardcore fans, it gave them a chance to watch it a second time. All day Saturday, one of the cable channels ran an Arrested Development marathon, so I was able to refresh my memory with some of the last season. I was still working at the time of the Midnight release so it wasn't until 2am or so that I put on the first episode. I showed a bit of restraint and only watched one because I had to get up early the next day for work. On Sunday and Monday I spread out five or six episodes during work breaks. I finally finished a two-week assignment on Monday night and as soon as I was done, I got schwasted and sat down to watch the rest.

This is not the first time I binged on a series. A couple months ago I went a little overboard with House of Cards. Once I started, I couldn't stop. So far, Netflix has released two series online -- House of Cards and the fourth season of Arrested Development. The fucktards at Fox gave up on Arrested Development and it failed to find a second home at Showtime. So they opted to shoot an entire season and release it on Netflix. All at once.

Is this the future of "television"? Instead of traditional network TV, will shows now release it all in one batch online (if not at Netflix, or Hulu, or some new streaming site) at the same time and fans can enjoy it without watching the same fucking car insurance commercial a thousand fucking times?

Last year while I was still recovering after an accident, I spent a ton of time confined to bed rest or couch rest. I was jacked up on pain pills and I revisited The Wire. Last year, in the anticipation of Aaron Sorkin's new show Newsroom, I wanted to catch up on his work on The West Wing. It was one of Nicky's favorite all-time TV shows. Shit, if a former Hollywood D-girl spoke highly of Sorkin's work on a regular TV show, then I knew it must have been good. In a two-week period (actually it was about 11 or 12 days), I tore through the first four seasons of The West Wing. Only four because those were the ones Aaron Sorkin wrote. Nicky had the first three seasons on DVD, so it was easy. I think I streamed the fourth online at Amazon. I noticed you can watch the rest of the season via Netflix, but I haven't been that bored... yet.

A couple of years ago, I caught up with Mad Men in one long weekend. Nicky loved the show and knew one of the actors (way before they got famous), so she watched it religiously. I watched a couple of episodes at the start of Season 3 and thought it was interesting, so I set aside a weekend to watch the first season. I scored a chunk of hash and tore through the first season in one day. I polished off the second season the very next day and at that point, I was caught up. That Mad Men weekend was the first time I found myself binging on a TV show.

Since then I've heard friends go on huge benders in which they watched an entire series in a huge gulp. I turned friends onto The Wire and they did it with that, or friends who never got a chance to see LOST. These binges are humorous, yet scary to see them exhibit the same behavior as hardcore drug addicts. Almost reminds me of the intoxicating Infinite Jest film from DFW's tome. Indeed, TV is the opiate of the masses. In this day and age, DVRs that allow you to record an entire season of a show for later binge consumption, or the ability to stream en entire season via Netflix (and they have a crazy option in which the next episode will play automatically at the end of an episode for continuous streaming). Ah behold the paralyzing powers of a live-streaming morphine drip.

Some of my friends have consumed all of Arrested Development and I'm eager to hear their thoughts. I know Dawn Summers had some mixed feelings about it.

If anything, I'm pretty ticked off that fucking Wonkette conned her way into writing an episode-by-episode recap of Arrested Development for Grantland. What the fuck? Did she give Bill Simmons a  handjob or something? Why the fuck is a politico-bloggess writing a recap (at a pace of two a week) about a comedy show? Sure, I could understand why she'd be an appropriate choice to recap House of Cards as someone who was a Beltway insider, but there's far more talented writers already on the Grantland staff who could have done a superior job. Yeah, that Wonkette shit sort of ticked me off. Stick to politics and lol-cats instgrams and let the stoners keep writing about TV and binge-entertainment

My thoughts on the new season of Arrested Development? I have to watch it again to fully formulate an opinion. Regardless, I was laughing out loud. A lot. Subversive humor and absurdist behavior is something that appeals to me. Plus, I thought Jessica Savage was fantastic. She's an MVP candidate and I'm so thrilled to see a major role go to a 70+ year old actress. Hollywood tends to throw out any actress over the age of 30, so to see an older actress show off her chops was really fucking cool.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shaking up the Establishment, Sitting in Limbo, and Fading the Valley of Death

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Covering the 2005 WSOP

In 2005, I did something groundbreaking that shook up the establishment. I moved to Las Vegas and live-blogged the 2005 World Series of Poker on my dinky little poker blog, Tao of Poker. Over the first few weeks of the 6-week long festival of poker, I built up a rabid audience. By the time the Main Event (for you non-poker people, the Main Event is the last two weeks of the WSOP and it's what you see on ESPN) rolled around, Tao of Poker's traffic was redonkulously sick. Looking back at those salacious numbers, it makes me dizzy and jealous. I caught lightning in a bottle. Tao of Poker became a purple cow. I was in Las Vegas for less than two months during the summer of 2005 and in that short period of time I went from an unknown writer to "that guy from the Tao of Poker."

The popularity of Tao of Poker helped me launch a career as a poker reporter and freelance writer, but it also made me the #1 enemy in the eyes of the (poker media) establishment. This was smack in the middle of the glorious poker boom which had blossomed to a billion-dollar global industry overnight. At the 2006 WSOP, rules were instated specifically to prevent me and any other upstart websites from getting those million eyeballs during the World Series. Yeah, I got cockblocked by The Man and the powers that be instituted an hourly update rule. I couldn't post updates more than once an hour or I'd get my press credential revoked. I bitched and moaned about the new Draconian rules for a few days, but then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and plotted a new game plan. I did what my father (a former U.S. marine) taught me to do in the face of adversity... adapt and overcome.

That silly one-hour update rule was in effect from 2006 onward and all it did was protect the financial interests of whatever big media octopus decided to buy exclusive coverage and strangle the rest of poker media with its slithery tentacles. A precedent was set. Those exclusive official outlets were exposed as greedy fat cats because it was all about monetizing their monopoly on traffic than actually covering the WSOP. And of course, the overworked and underpaid kids doing all the grunt work were compensated peanuts and they never shared any of the millions in advertising dollars (from online poker rooms on a spending spree). Over the years, the official update fat cats reaped mega-profits from their monopoly. They wanted all the traffic and all the money. They became ruthless bullies trying to enforce those bullshit hourly updates rules. When it came down to it, they were afraid of one guy with a laptop.

After the 2005 WSOP, I got pushed off to the fringes of the burgeoning poker media industry, which is kind of where I belonged anyway. I liked it all the way out on the perimeter. It gave me a better perspective on the entire industry. It gave me tons of freedom to say what I want. But mostly, it allowed me to experiment with different ways of covering the WSOP through photos, podcasts, and even Twitter. In the end, I worked out a generous compensation package as an "affiliate" and the online poker rooms I pimped out did not give a shit what I wrote about so long as the traffic was bountiful and I sent them new players.

By the time the 2011 WSOP rolled around, Twitter was ubiquitous and the technology improved so everyone had an iPhone. Anyone could update the progress of the tournament. Anyone. That hourly embargo on information was obsolete. The now-bloated bloated media giants had become slow-moving dinosaurs on the verge of extinction.

In 2005, I'm was just one guy with a laptop and that scared the fuck out of the establishment. Just think about that simple fact, and apply it to the global marketplace and you'll start to wonder why all the titans of industry (across the board in all sectors) are shitting bricks right now. The dinosaurs are about to get slaughtered because they are unable to adapt to the sobering fact that millennials "won't pay dick" for content. The entire paradigm is shifting in media and Hollywood and in the music industry. I have no idea where it will end up but a firestorm is raining down fire and brimstone and it will eventually scorch the entire landscape. This apocalyptic battle of old media vs. new media is on the cusp of a resolution. And when it's over, the paradigm will finally recalibrate. The future is not pretty and filled with unicorns and rainbows. It's going to be a bleak winter of discontent like the gloomy scenes out of The Road. I've seen the horrors of journalistic cannibalism, and it's only going to get worse.

Anyway... sorry for that tangent.

2005 was a fine year. In March of 2005, a Vietnam veteran turned photographer and his tech-geek son (Flipchip and Poker Prof) hired me to help them cover the World Series of Poker for their Vegas-centric website. I moved to Las Vegas and the rest is history. I parlayed that original gig into a regular column in Poker Player Newspaper, and from there, I was poached by Fox Sports, who was seeking poker content for their new poker section, which was only in existence to compliment their foray into poker-themed television programming. I started writing for a couple of magazines, mostly new ones that came into existence for the sole purpose to create advertising space for dozens of brand new online poker rooms.

By the time I arrived at the 2006 WSOP, money was literally falling out of the skies. But underneath all the glitz and glamor was the underbelly of Sin City. The poker industry and the online gambling world had a wild wild wild west mentality. It's where former gangsters and web geeks met at the crossroads of commerce. I wrote all about the height of the poker boom in my book, Lost Vegas: The Redneck Rivera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker, which detailed my time in Las Vegas from 2005 through 2008, right at the apex of the financial crisis.

I wrote Lost Vegas as a cautionary tale. Millions of suckers bought into the American dream and the mythological notion of Las Vegas. They all took their shots... and missed. The house always wins. All of those gigantic gaming empires were amassed due to the unrealized dreams of broke-dick gamblers. Even for the few success stories, it was only a matter of time before their life leaks got the best of them and Sin City swallowed them whole.

After covering the World Series every summer since 2005, I took last summer off. During the 2011 WSOP, I was involved in a nasty car accident and I took that as a sign from God to get the fuck out of Las Vegas. I needed a break but I couldn't persuade myself to leave the circus. The universe made the decision for me and I hobbled away from a popular website. It was either the best decision I ever made, or I was committing blog-suicide.

After moving to San Francisco with my girlfriend and taking time off from the grind, I realized that was not mentally and physically prepared for another grueling summer in Vegas and made the wise choice to sit out and let the Tao of Poker go dark. You can't phone in a ginormous seven-week assignment like the WSOP and that's what would have happened if I took the money to return into the belly of the beast. Instead of compromising the quality of content on Tao of Poker and undermining my own integrity, I made the best possible choice I could make under those circumstances. I put Tao of Poker on indefinite hiatus.

There's a huge misconception that I hate poker and hate the WSOP. It's the complete opposite. I love poker and I'm eternally grateful to the WSOP. I have too much respect for the game of poker and the rich history of WSOP to do a half-assed job covering it. If anything, I hated myself more than anything else. The enemy is me. I loathed the metamorphosis that had turned me into a hollow shadow of someone I once knew. I'm surprised it took so long for the circus to corrupt me, but when we fall... we fall hard. I had succumbed to the dark side of the force (addiction is a son of a bitch) and needed to walk away from everything in order to pull myself out. Like I wrote last week in Speed Men, if I needed a crutch to stay on the field and cover the WSOP, then I shouldn't be there in the first place.

No one walks out of the Valley of Death. That's why it's fucking called the Valley of Death for a reason. I got lucky twice. I struck gold with Tao of Poker and in the process I got sucked into a vortex of the "heart of darkness", but I somehow found a way out and bolted to preserve my own sanity. I hope that if/when I return, that I can find the same way out again. If not, then once I return... I'm back in forever. No one walks out of the Valley of Death two times. No one.

I thought I would be back to writing half-baked tripe on the Tao of Poker by now and hoped the political climate would have improved by this summer, but it's still the same gridlock and in many influential circles online poker is still considered an outlaw pursuit (on the federal level) by the knuckleheads in DC. That's changing. Slowly. Even the puppets cannot resist change. The dinosaurs have been paying off the shifty-eyed shysters and snake-oil salesmen in DC to keep online gambling illegal (save for online betting of horse racing... ah, behold the deeply entrenched old boys network and the magic of "carve out legislation"). But all those old patrons are quickly dying off, which is why the racing industry has warmed up to online poker. It's not a question of "if", it's more of a matter of "when." Sportsbetting and online poker will eventually be legalized in America. It's just taking much longer than anyone wants to admit. Red tape is red tape. State rights vs. federal rights is a fucking nightmare and has been a struggle since the Founding Fathers sparked incendiary debates about it while designing the foundation of America. Then again, had the rebellious colonies lost the Revolutionary War, then we'd all be subjects of the British Crown, which legalized both sportsbetting and online poker. God save the Queen.

For now, the online poker world in the USA is caught in a murky grey area. It reminds me of that scene in The Great Gatsby when they are driving through the valley of ashes.

* * *

I'm sitting out the 2013 World Series of Poker. I was offered gigs to cover the WSOP for other sites, which I respectfully and politely declined. I even got a generous offer to reboot Tao of Poker. I could use the money, but I'm conflicted about returning to Vegas for another seven weeks of self-inflicted torture. I might be back next year... if the timing and price is right.

If you enjoyed Tao of Poker over the years, then head over to Bluff Magazine. They have my exclusive poker content and my archives can be found here. Last year Bluff launched a kick-ass mobile app, so you can read the current issue of the magazine on your hand-held devices.

If you're a hardcore poker junkie and seeking out some of the best and most comprehensive WSOP coverage this year, then check out updates from my colleagues on Bluff's website ( and follow them on Twitter (@BluffMagazine).

In the meantime, if you're looking for a poker fix, then purchase Lost Vegas. It's available on Nook and Kindle, and if you're a Luddite, you can even buy a physical copy. Not only to you get to read about the poker boom and the dark side of Vegas, but you get to support an independent writer in the process.

I'm just a guy with a laptop, who once shook up the establishment. I'd like to keep doing that, so please buy my books.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Around the Horn: Speed, Bad Acid, Baseball Haters, and Blog Birthdays

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Jean DuBuffet

Still smack in the middle of a big work project. A couple of more days and I'm done. I somehow found some time to crank out some fodder over here. In case you missed this past week's action on the Tao...
Hey Jude - Wilson Pickett and Diane Allman - Insane guitar solo by Duane Allman at the end of Wilson Pickett's cover of this highly popular Beatles song.

Speed Men - The latest episode of Mad Men was jacked up on speed. And other things. I also candidly spoke about what it was like for having a prescription to Adderall and what I don't take it anymore.

Gimme Shelter (Documentary Film) - Don't eat the brown acid... the brown acid is BAD! This is the full version of the documentary about the Rolling Stones and their attempt to put on a free concert, which turned out to be an utter disaster at Altamont.

Bad Backs, Bad Manners, and I Know Why You Hate Baseball - Tough week with a bad back. I also figured out why some people hate baseball... it stems from a bad childhood.

2023: Pro Soccer, Green Zones, Internet Speakeasy, and Cat TV -  A glimpse into the future. It's not pretty with rampant crime and limited internet access, but there's plenty of soccer and 24/7 TV channels with nothing except cats.

Get Paid to Be Dick on Facebook - I envy people with jobs that allow them to fart around on social media all day... every day... all the fucking time. Plus, the rise of the internet troll.

Happy 11 - The Tao of Pauly turned 11 yesterday. What a long strange trip it's been, eh?

I had a fairly active week on Coventry Music, and we posted a new mix...
Mad Men and Daft Punk  - Mashup with Kenny Cosgrove and the new Daft Punk album.

Video: Trey Anastasio Band at the Hangout Festival - 90 mins of Big Red.

Michael Cain, BITCH! Mix - Delicious mix of funk, reggae, punk, hip-hop, rock n' roll, and surf guitar.

RIP Ray Manzarek and People Are Strange (Documentary) - The Doors keyboardist passed away and I posted a good doc about The Doors.

Here's a few things I posted elsewhere:
Bronx Bums Report 5/19/13: Little Bronxowski Overachievers  [Ocelot Sports] - My weekly column about the Yankees, who are competing for the top spot in the AL East despite a rash of injuries.

ABA: Red, White, and Blue Balls [Ocelot Sports] - A book review about the oral history of the old ABA pro basketball league that took flight in the 1970s.

Graham Hancock on Joe Rogan [Tao of Fear] - Great interview on Joe Rogan's podcast with the author of Fingerprints of the Gods.

Writing music over the past week included...
Iron Man by Eric Dolphy
Sextant by Herbie Hancock

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy 11

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

On May 25th, 2002, the Tao of Pauly was birthed into existence. Eleven years ago today.

It all started after I reconnected with an old college friend Dave Simanoff (a former roommate who was a journalist at a major newspaper). He authored a "web log" called The Daily Dave. It was the first personal blog I ever read. Simanoff encouraged me to start one of my own by opening up a free account at I had just seen the Tao of Steve film and thought it was a hysterical flick. I was also dabbling heavily in Buddhism at the turn of the century and was inspired by the word "Tao." In Chinese, "tao" is loosely translated as "the way" and the same Kanji script character translated into Japanese means "the road." If you want to get literal, it means The Way of Pauly or The Road of Pauly. Inspired by Tao of Steve, I tweaked the title and created a new blog.

Tao of Pauly was born. Cue the music. The rest is history.

It's funny how technology and creativity often evolve together. When I look back at how I used Blogger in 2002 (via dial-up modem access), it looks a lot like how I use Twitter today (sharing links to news stories and random pop culture fodder). I occasionally opened up a bit and wrote rambling posts, but that was the rare exception. I had about a dozen readers, mostly my friends in NYC bored to death at work and a few tech geeks from Seattle. In 2013, I use Tao of Pauly primarily as a platform for long-firm writing, utilize Tumblr to post music, and use Twitter to share links to stuff.

Over the last 12 years, I immersed myself into creating shit both on the web (websites) and in real life (books). I'm loyal to Blogger. Despite a few hiccups here and there, I can't complain over a free service. I used MT and Word Press (and Tumblr) for different project, but in the end, I'm loyal to the crew at Blogger. I'm sure at some point in the future I'll migrate away from this platform, but for now, I think of the earliest days of blogging with fond memories. This was at a time when Facebook and Twitter were... nonexistent... and MySpace was quickly becoming the epicenter of the social media revolution. How have times changed in less than a decade.

Tao of Pauly was birthed in late May of 2002 when I was still hustling on Wall Street and struggling to make my quota as a glorified salesman. It was only eight months after 9/11 and we had yet to go to war with Iraq. I had given up aspirations to be a novelist and screenwriter and donned a Brooks Brother suit and elbowed other commuters for space on the downtown express. I thought I had given up on my dreams and settled into a life as a shyster broker, trying to dig out of debt (crippling credit card bills and a school loan) by churning the accounts of widows living in New Jersey. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that starting this blog would become a launching pad for an epic Hoartio Alger-esque journey that would eventually indirectly land me a job in Vegas (and inspire a book) and help secure myself a career in which I traveled the globe as a poker writer, before I shacked up in Los Angeles with the love of my life.

Never. In. My. Wildest. Dreams.

If you don't take a shot, you'll never succeed. Simple as that. Thanks to Dave Simanoff, I started Tao of Pauly. Eventually it would spawn a sister site, Tao of Poker, that would also inspire to create at least one book, Lost Vegas, and an inevitable sequel about sports betting.

Once I started, this I couldn't stop. Tao of Pauly. Truckin'. Tao of Poker. Coventry Music. [DELETED Politics Blog.] Tao of Bacon. Tao of Fear. Ocelot Sports.

I also dabbled in other social media platforms like Flickr (where I built up extensive photo galleries from my travels and meals) and Tumblr (which I used as a go-between a blog and Twitter). Along the way, I was involved in the launch of a couple of other websites (Fantasy Sports Live) and defunct blogs ( and Las Vegas Business and Politics).

Here's my blog history:
Chronological Creations
2002: Tao of Pauly and Truckin'
2003: Tao of Poker
2004: Coventry Music and [Defunct Politics Blog]
2005: Vegas Blog
2006: Flickr (Pauly Pics) and - Business and Politics
2007: Fantasy Sports Live
2008: Tao of Pokerati [Podcast]
2009: Tao of Bacon
2010: Tao of Fear and Lost Vegas [Book]
2011: Jack Tripper Stole My Dog [Book]
2012: Tumblr (Tao of Pauly and Ocelot Sports Betting)
2013: Ocelot Sports
2014: ????

Check out the evolution of the Tao of Pauly and how it slowly morphed into what you see today:

I create shit. It's what I do to stay sane and prevent myself from crawling inside a bottle and wasting away as an alkie. Ask Nicky. Sometimes I paint over old paintings... just to fucking paint. God knows how much tripe I cranked out here since 2012. A couple millions words? That's disgusting. I should be tried for crimes against humanity for butchering the English language and writing thousands of words about taking a dump on airplanes or about my vapid neighbors in the Slums of Beverly Hills. What good is a million words if that is the equivalent of loose stool and other nasty fecal matter?

Over the last decade, I also turned down work on websites that I never spoke about publicly. Some of it I can't talk about. Some of it, well, I'm embarrassed to talk about it. Like the guy who wanted to do a poker/porn site. I even once got offered my own sportsbook by a guy with a lot of vowels in his last name... and wisely declined that offer (that I almost couldn't refuse). I also got plenty of bad advice (the worst of which was a serious suggestion that I turn Tao of Poker into a sanitized and PG-rated site, and then creating a second anonymous poker blog and use an online pseudonym where I could write about the dark side of poker.) I also got screwed over by a bunch of shady fuckers. Nothing is more demoralizing than doing a ton of legwork and writing a shitload of content for a potential new website... and then you never get compensated for your work. I got scammed once slaving away on a start up and another time financing fell apart a week before the launch date. Shit happens.

Oh, and then there was a time when I got blackmailed by a shady motherfucker in Reno who wanted me to write a weekly column for his website -- for free -- otherwise he was going to tell all the major publishers in the poker world to not publish Lost Vegas. He went ahead and tried to cockblock the publication, but in the end, I was not going to back down to a bully. I went my own way...the right way... and looks like I won because poker enthusiasts all over the world are still buying Lost Vegas three years after its initial release. I luckily caught lightning in a bottle with Lost Vegas by capturing the city at the apex of the online poker boom up until the rehabilitating Financial Crisis of 2008.

Writing is my wheelhouse, so I'm was approached by "web entrepreneurs" looking to launch gambling-themed websites. I worked on dozens of those sites as a consultant, site builder, or old-fashioned content generator. Some of those projects I completed using my real name while others were done with a pseudonym (some obvious and not-so-obvious).

You meet a lot of dreamers and hustlers in and around the gambling scene in Vegas and Atlantic City. The poker world has no shortage of angle-shooters and assholes who will do everything to exploit you. Every summer during the WSOP, I got pitched a variety of business ideas about everything you can imagine from poker schools, to poker clothing companies, to poker-themed game shows, to a marijuana grow operation specifically catered for poker pros.

For every successful project, there's a dozen scattered carcasses from projects that fizzled out, or never took flight, or crashed and burned. I'd hate to tally up how many months (un-paid) I lost working on those duds that never got out of the development stage or in a couple of extreme cases the ones that blew up in the pre-development stage.

It took me a while to finally figure out that a great idea is only as good as its execution. I'm not opposed to working on start-ups, but I have to 100% believe in it before I take the risk and gamble with investing my time in something without the possibility of getting paid. If you get involved in a bad situation, you can't dodge the primary question that haunts you: "why do I want to work on someone else's shitty start-up?"

If you do not believe in something, then you should not be doing it. If you fake it, or force it, then it will never develop organically. If there's one thing you must believe in more than anything else... is you. But once you start doubting yourself, then you're totally fucked.

Luckily, whenever things got too weird, I can always come back to this specific space and unleash my thoughts. It's like Cheers... a place where everyone knows my name... and I'm a regular who can slump at the end of the bar and hang out and be myself. Tao of Pauly one of the most comfortable places I have ever been a part of (both virtual and IRL), which is why this tiny corner of the web often extracts some of my favorite pieces of writing.

It's been a wild run for sure. 11 years of Tao of Pauly? I never celebrated my 10th blog birthday last year because I took most of 2012 off while I was living in San Francisco with Nicky and Halli, and ensconced in my I'm Not There moment, in which I needed to shut everything down and do nothing for a while as I sorted out a bunch of existentialist shit inside my head. Once I got stuff worked out, I could not wait to return to the Tao and pick up where I left off.

In the modern era of social media, you are your own TV network, which my blogs are like TV shows. Some of them were cancelled (like the DEFUNCT POLITICS BLOG). Some of them became quirky late night stoner shows (like Tao of Pauly). Some became mega-hits (like Tao of Poker and Coventry Music). Some of them are niche with their own fervent cult following (like Tao of Fear and Tao of Bacon). And some were shows that were on forever and critically acclaimed, yet no one ever watched (Truckin'). I like to use the TV show analogy with blogs mainly because a blog cannot go on forever. Even some of my favorite TV shows only lasted for a couple of seasons. Heck, some of my favorite bands never toured for more than a couple of years before they broke up. How I was able to maintain a popular site for so long continues to baffle me. Any moron can get lucky. I am that moron.

I never know which way the winds will blow, which is to say I never know where my interests will be at any given time in the future, which is why all of those blogs experience ebbs and flows. How long can I keep it up? That's a question I don't know if I can ever answer.

So what's next?

I have no idea. Well, I have ideas... but I cannot predict the future. I wake up every day and write for pay to keep a roof over my head and then wander over here, which most nights seems as amateurish as open mic night at your local comedy club. I first began screaming into the void on May 25th, 2002 and I'm still screaming 11 years later.

Thanks for tuning in.

P.S. If you have enjoyed Tao of Pauly (or any of my other deviations) over the last decade, I encourage you to buy one of my books.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Getting Paid to Be a Dick on Facebook

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I write quickly, especially in this space. The entire key to blogging is to not think about it and just open up a blank page and let it rip. This only works if you're able to do most of the writing before you sit down -- inside your head mostly -- so by the time you sit down, it flows organically like a conversation. That's why I like writing after a long walk, or a lengthy shower because during that time, I'm organizing those seamless thoughts inside my head or mentally trying to jot dot an outline.

It doesn't always work like that and not everyone does things the same way. I tell aspiring writers to do whatever works best for you, which means a lot of trial and error and finding a routine and sticking with it. You also have to be flexible and work under adverse conditions. It's almost rarely perfect, so the more practice you have working under horrible conditions, the easier it is over the long run.

I require a good chair and the ability to concentrate, which means blocking out an external distractions. Having an office in which I can close the door is wonderful, and I'm fortunate that I do not have to work at Starbucks every day like I know a lot of screenwriters have to do in L.A., or work in some sort of shared space with other annoying writers, or not have any space whatsoever and have to write in common areas wherever they live. Most single writers I know are broke and do not earn much money so this means they are almost always living with roommates, siblings, or family members. Even writers with significant others often have to shack up with them due to financial constraints. The writers who are married with kids do not always have the financial independence to have an on-site office, or be able to afford to rent a space, so that means they have to make due under the duress of the everyday insanity of raising children.

I'm lucky. I have a door to close, a comfortable chair (a necessity for someone with a bad back), and good music to listen to that helps me drown out the external noises of living in the Slums of Beverly Hills like noisy neighbors or nonstop leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and other whirling machines. I often enjoy writing super late at night because that when things are the most quiet and my brain has the least amount of distractions.

I write quickly, which means I often go for volume and quantity, mainly because it's just pure math -- if I crank out enough shit, some of it will eventually stick. I know other colleagues who take much longer to write, so it's an arduous and painful process. I'd prefer to rip the band-aid right off, because most of the time that's what you're doing as a writer... ripping off the band-aid, picking off the scab, and then squeezing out the blood and pus onto the pages. The faster I do this, the less it hurts.

I feel bad for friends that spend a significant amount of time crafting an excellence piece of writing (I'm talking days or even weeks), only to have it torn down in mere seconds by a nonsensical and nasty comment from the same fucking tool. It only take a couple of seconds for the troll to hijack the conversation and then it devolves into a shitshow. I know one friend who doesn't write very often and sometimes goes weeks or even months between posts, but as soon as he hits publish.... WHAM... troll shows up automatically because that decrepit creature was anxiously waiting and waiting and waiting for a whiff of attention, like a deranged lunatic stalker, until they climax at the moment they hit publish on their incendiary comment.

You cannot be an professional content generator on the intertubes without having a thick skin because there's always some sort of blowback. The world has no shortage of assholes but after a while, you become teflon and don't even notice. Unfortunately, I've seen extremely intelligent people crack under the pressure of trolldom. One of my colleagues lost her shit once and has yet to recover from troll-PTSD. I simply ignore trolls (they only gain power through attention). But whenever I see that happen to a friend of mine, it makes me go Hulk berserk and want to stomp them... but then in turn, I become a monster like them and a troll too. It's weird, I could care less about my encounters with morons, but I get more tilted and angry when I see my friends have to deal with them, or I should say, struggle to deal with them. I guess it's part of me feeling protective of my friends and the way I was raised to always stand up to bullies.

The internet has dehumanized people and the hive-mind and group think has taken over, which is why very few assholes have remorse or guilt, or really have no fucking clue what they are doing is wrong. In some ways, I've never seen so much over-sensitivity, then again, it's getting uglier and uglier every day as this psychopathic behavior is becoming normalized and socialized. We need to toughen up as a culture, but we also have to scale back a ton of this acidic vitriol that we unleash on anyone in our path who has a diverse opinion on the most mundane topics.

Back in the day, if you wanted to write a letter to the editor in the local newspaper, you had to include your address and telephone number and they'd call you up to verify that information and the content of your letter or citizen op-ed. These days, those same newspapers have embraced "web 2.0" (insert snicker here _____) and  they allow anonymous comments, which always gets completely out of hand. I admit, sometimes I often get caught up in reading some of those comment threads and cringe at the trainwrecks, yet I am unable to pull away. You can expect anonymous commentators to say the worst of the worst, but I'm shocked at what some people say using their own Facebook profiles and their real name.

It also makes me jealous of people who have an office job and get health benefits and get paid a weekly salary, on time, every week (or every other week) like clockwork. If they are having a bad day, then they can hide in their cubes, slack off, and dick around on Facebook and Twitter. All day. As a freelancer, if I don't work, then I don't get paid. That's what I signed up for. But on a bad day (mental health or even a bad back day), I have to suck it up and still gut through it all, which is why I'm really jealous of friends with 9-5 jobs who get paid to sit around and pick fights on Facebook (presumably with other office workers who are getting paid to waste their days away on social media) and troll celebrities on Twitter on company time. Seems like a ton of fun. I dunno why those folks bitch and moan about their jobs all the time. Shit, I'd love to get paid to grind Facebook/Twitter all day. Where can I get one of those jobs?

I had a friend tell me about how everyone in his office freaked out when their company firewall blocked Facebook. It seemed to work initially, but then everyone just dicked around and played Facebook games and updated via their smart phones and mobile devices. Addicts will find a way to get high. He made a joke in a meeting that any new hires should be specifically people who do not have a Facebook/Twitter profile, otherwise they should hire total Luddites. HR suits didn't laugh. They thought it was a great idea and it would increase worker productivity.

I'd rather work for a company that required no Facebook pages than the ones that force you to hand over your password so they can "snoop" around. Well shit, as anti-Facebook as I am, that's fucking absurd. What's next? Weekly anal probes? How about coming over to look in my fridge or medicine cabinet? Will they be testing feces samples too?

Okay, so maybe I'm happy after all that I work from home and don't have to worry about my overlords snooping around Facebook. For the meantime, it's back to calling up 1-800-Rent-A-Thug to help me get paid from delinquent clients.

If you haven't read it, check out: Pay the Fucking Writer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

2023: Pro Soccer, Green Zones, Internet Speakeasy and Cat TV

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Writing about the past is easy. Re-creating it inside my mind is fun, like playing back a videotape, but the images are crystal clear so it's easy to write what I see. I do not share my half-baked essays about the future here. Some things are best left with eyes unseen, besides, most of that stuff sounds like really terrifying and rambling sermon from a crooked preacher. My morbid thoughts on the future are too dark and apocalyptic, or it's the complete opposite and utterly sappy/hopeful. That's why I'd rather turn on the tap of the past and let those old memories flow out. It's easier to tap into the past. It's like that Kierkegaard quote about understanding life backwards. That's why I spend hours and hours trying to make sense of the past by writing up stories of different events that happened.

I might write extensively about the past, yet my non-writing mind is locked in on the future. I spend too many waking hours obsessed with the future. That's all I think about some days.

Here are a few random things that I think will be huge in 2023 and the ensuing decades...

1. Professional soccer in America

More Latinos are migrating to America from Mexico, Central America, and South America. More Eastern-Europeans are trickling over too. Not to mention the West Africans. Only 100 years ago, the bulk of migration came from Western Europe and Southern Europe. The current wave of immigrants love soccer. Their kids share the same passion and are better than American kids. The current system and sports-entertainment-media machine is not set up to promote soccer because you can't make money on it, but the demand is coming as soon as Big Media and the power brokers figure out pro soccer in America is an untapped gold mine worth billions. Within a decade, we'll see the first big push to bring soccer back into the mainstream (it's tried unsuccessfully several times before). Then comes the boom and the feeding frenzy. Eventually soccer will surpass American football in terms of popularity and in late 21st Century (2080s and 2090s), soccer will become a hotly-contested rival of baseball as the American past time.

Pele and the N.Y. Cosmos
By 2043, the NBA grows into a 48-team international sport with four divisions (Europe, North America, South America, and China/Asia/Australia), but by then the professional soccer boom would have washed over America a decade earlier, in which greedy team owners (global mega-corporations raking in trillions like JPMorganChase-BP-Warner Brothers-Halliburton) bribed sleazy politicians to divert educational funds to pay for a brand new ginromous soccer stadiums with luxury boxes, helipads, and sealed off sections for opposing hooligan fans.

Insider Tip: Invest in soccer-related domains, a soccer ticket scalping site, and an actual soccer franchise. Oh, and a sports book. Betting on soccer is already a billion dollar enterprise, just wait until America gets pro soccer and legalized internet sports betting.

* * * *

2. Green Zones

America is sliding into the financial crapper and we're one nasty bank run away from another Great Depression. I predict a dismal future with starving poor fight each other to the death on reality TV shows just to eat a bowl of gruel. America has kissed its Middle Class goodbye as we've become a nation of uber-wealthy ".1 percenters" and the rest (99.9'ers) are slave-wage mooks saddled in debt. We're already a third-world banana republic that's leveraged to the hilt with horrendous crime rivaling the worst of the worst in South America.

After the shit hits the fan, the rich will live on palatial estates in green zones, which are patrolled by private security firms owned by global mega-corporations (GoldmanSachs-Blackwater-Google-Nestle). Rural America becomes a no-man's land with roving bands of cannibals and Neo-Nazis bikers, while the bulk of have-nots struggle in giant ghettos comprised of disease-infested shanty towns and millions jam packed into the slums in 250-story concrete towers of squalor, like something out of Judge Dredd.

Insider Tip: Invest in private security firms from South Africa and Israel. There's billions of dollars up for grabs in security contracts for exclusive neighborhoods in major metropolitan areas. Fuck Beverly Hills Cop... how would you like to hold the fat, fat, fat contract for the Beverly Hills paramilitary patrol? Private contractors and former snipers driving armored SUVs and providing safe passage to/from Ivy, while keeping both paparazzi and armed East L.A. gangs away at a safe distance.

* * * *

3. Free Internet Speakeasy

What we know as the Internet today will not be the Internet of the future. No more net freedom. The days of sharing information freely and having access to anything and everything is over. The Patriot Act of 2021 will usher in the Sanitized Interwebs of the Nanny States of America a.k.a. SINSA. The Censorship Wing of the newly formed Ministry of Cultural Affairs (MCA) will handle the banishment of books deemed too subversive. When you do a news search using SINSA, you get funneled to corporate-run shill site or fed propaganda from the Department of Internet Defense (DID). In order to listen to music, or read books, or look up stuff the old-school way you'll have to visit underground internet cafes, like illegal bars in the basements of buildings during Prohibition. In these illegal dens of interweb iniquities, you will pay for an hour of "uncensored search capabilities" in which you can anonymously video chat, sext, play video games, watch banned films, research the truth, read underground blogs, or jack off to porn.

Of course, a entire new brand of sex club will flourish in the oncoming decades. The Russian mafia will always have a firm grasp on the sex trade industry and they'll run the bulk of these "sex net cafes." Instead of traditional peep booths, you can jerk off in a stall with a (sticky) laptop that gives you a full menu of porn that you cannot normally access through censored SINSA search engines. In fact on the SINSA whitewashed version of the internet, porn is considered a lucrative means to fund terrorists and thereby banned by the Department of Homeland Security.

These "free web" underground internet cafes already exist in China in 2013. To deter people from visiting or running these speakeasies, the Chinese government kidnaps and tortures the family members of people who visit these cafes. They make those troublemakers "disappear", and they execute anyone who get caught running an illegal internet cafe. In America the way things are headed (toward an internet kill switch), it's a matter of time before these "free web" speakeasies start popping up in and around college campus and major urban areas. In order to combat the rise of the internet speakeasy, the DID will have to form special wing of undercover Internet Cops (think 21 Jump Street meets Hackers), who get to infiltrate these free internet clubs, and then call in a SWAT raid.

Insider Tip: It's too risky to invest in a free web cafe. More money is to be made in web enforcement. Invest in software companies that detect rogue internet connections and sell that software for a redonkulous amount to DHS or DID or MCA.

* * * *

4. Cat TV

All cats. All the time. 24 hour cats. Nonstop reality shows about cat ladies and cat breeders and cats jumping all over themselves. You can also start a second channel called Kitten TV. All kittens. All the time. You'd die of overjoyed kitten ecstasy. Think about it. Everyone loves kittens, right? Creating a Cat Network (CN) and The Kitten Channel (TKC) is a fucking billion-dollar concept. Why hasn't a bunch of suits in Burbank conjured up with this game plan yet? Americans are so fucking dumb they'll watch anything these days, while some people hate their lives so much that they'll gladly lose themselves into a 24-hour cat-themed TV channel just to feel better about themselves. Kittens are instant mood enhancers. All cats and kittens... all the time. Everyone loves kittens and they'll make you melt every time you come across an episode of Box of Newborn Kittens.

Insider Tip: New TV stations are always desperate for content, so if you can come up with a somewhat decent cat-themed reality show, then you can print money with your idea to create a show called Cat Whisperer. Or how about... Cat Shrink? Or Cat Top Chef? The finest chefs competing to create the best culinary delights for felines? You can have Padma Lakshmi host in a cat suit. Me-fucking-ow.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bad Backs, Bad Manners, and I Know Why You Hate Baseball

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I threw out my back over the weekend.

If you have chronic back problems, then you feel my pain and vice versa.

Time is the only thing that can help me. I need time to rest and my body heal itself.

I spend too much time sitting in chairs. It's a job requirement as a writer. When you have to deal with back pain and forced to write through it, you have to become creative with figuring out how to gut it out without completely killing yourself.  I scrambled to figure out a different way to write... standing up.

I concocted a makeshift standup desk using a milk crate on top of my desk. I place the laptop on the milk crate and voila! It's the perfect height so that can type without any strain. The only problem is that after thirty minutes, my legs get achy and I'm forced to take a break. Normally, during a multi-hour writing/work session, I force myself to get up and take a five minute break every hour to stretch my leg, grab a smoke, refill a drink, walk outside around the building, check email on my Crackberry... all before I return to the office and get back to the grind.

With the makeshift desk, I have shorter spurts. I have to stop about twenty minutes in and stretch my back, doing weird exercises (a really bad fusion of Tai Chi and yoga) on Nicky's yoga mat in the living room. During a bad back day, I'm only getting about 40 minutes of work done for every hour versus the usual 55 minutes of productivity per hour.

Such is life. I'm getting older. I have chronic back issues. It's a trade off I made with God. He let me survive two car accidents in Las Vegas, but in exchange, I'm afflicted with random back pain for the rest of my life. It's not a bad deal, then again, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. So now, mostly every day I am reminded about the randomness of the universe and humbling nature of life. Only God can shoot dice with the universe. We're just along for the ride.

Once you get diagnosed with back pain, you're never the same. It's a day to day thing, much like life. Most of the time you're sore but you suck it up and gut it out. Every once in a blue moon, it's not pretty and you're rendered inoperable. You shut down. Nothing you can do about it. Whenever I throw out my back and confined to bed rest, it makes me truly appreciate the good days.

And on the bad days? It's kind of depressing. Doctors orders: bed rest. It's hard for me to do that because I'm an active person (especially my brain) and not someone who enjoys inactivity. At the same time, I don't sleep much so being in bed is torture. The only solace... books and Netflix (via iPad).

During the most recent stretch of bad back days, I tore through a bunch of books, several of which I needed to read for specific projects, so at the least, I felt more productive while confined to bed rest. I haven't figured out how to write in bed... and it's probably best I don't. Although, I developed a nasty habit that flared up in the middle of the night. Normally when I wake up and can't sleep, I'll get up and go into my office to write or watch documentaries until my eyes get heavy and I head back into the bedroom. But during the back back days, I'm stuck in bed and Nicky is fast asleep next to me, and I don't know what I can do that won't wake her. I got hooked on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, but I caught up with all of his recent episodes and eagerly awaiting the next one. So, my options are limited to Tiger Woods golf on iPad until the battery runs dry, and then I'm forced to dick around with my CrackBerry. The last thing I want to get lost in the static on Twitter and get titled by some stupid shit. That's when I started writing long emails to myself via CrackBerry. But then my fingers get tired after 15-20 minutes and I stop. But a couple of those late night rambling emails were transformed into Tao of Pauly posts, like parts of this one. Even while stuck in bed in the middle of the night, I'm trying to do something creative to keep me sane.

Most people would love to stay in bed and watch Netflix all day while jacked up on pain pills. And yeah, it's fun... for the first few hours... and then you get sucked into that dream-like fog and feel completely separated from reality. It doesn't help that you're watching nonstop movies or TV shows -- which are vehicles for you to displace your reality. So, you're crocked on pain pills and your mind is stuck in that tweaked reality and its easy to get sucked into that foggy and groggy world.

You'd be surprised how easy it is to get brainwashed by flickering images and powerful music to manipulate emotions. That's why I'm concerned with people who sit around and watch reality shows all day, because eventually all of that uncouth and aberrant behavior is becoming the norm. Everywhere. The average person knows that its wrong to behave like reality show participants -- who shout at each other and act like total selfish morons -- however, if that's the only thing you watch night after night, after a while, you'll start to mimic that behavior.

That is what is freaking me out the most... millions of people who treat each other like shit because they lost all semblance of civility, common sense, and good manners. Half the sheeple have been spooked by the fear mongers on news channels and they bury their heads in the sand while corporations rape and pillage America, and the other half of the sheeple have been brainwashed by horrible reality TV shows.

We're doomed.

That's why we need to read more books. Books force the reader to use their imagination. Books forces you to use your brain. What a novel idea! Read books to massage your brain muscles and get entertained at the same time.

What readers don't realize is that they are the director, cinematographer, and art director all rolled into one whenever they read a book. I'll write the scene, but you'll have to conjure it up in your head.

Book haters loathe books because they don't want to think. That's why sports or movies are enjoyable and have gross mass appeal because you don't have to think to enjoy it. Hey, I love zoning out every once in a while and watching a good flick. I'm an avid sports fan and enjoy the couple of hours I can devote to enjoying a sport and losing myself in the moment or getting sucked up in pleasurable memories of said sport.

I came up with a generalization based on sports based upon my amateur pursuit of psychology. Don't forget, I'm not a real doctor, but I play one on the internet.

Anyway here it is:

If you hate baseball, then you had a bad childhood.

Emphasis is on "hate." I should clarify my blanket half-baked statement. If a male tells me they hate baseball, then I assume they did not have a good childhood or had a difficult relationship with their father. If I meet a woman who loves baseball, then I can assume she had a very strong relationship with her father.

In case you were wondering... some of the warmest memories I have are playing ball with my brother and father in the school yard on those hazy, lazy summer nights in the Bronx. I loved baseball as a kid. I even wrote about the time my father was named head coach of my little league team. It's titled... The Accidental Coach.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gimme Shelter (Documentary Film)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Rolling Stones were in LA playing a special tour to commemorate 50 years as the world's greatest live rock and roll band. I skipped it. If it were 1973, then I'd definitely drop everything to go see them. But in 2013? I'll pass.

Gimme Shelter is a documentary about the Stones attempt to put on a free concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, that eventually got moved to Altamont Raceway on the other side of the Bay. Benjo called this documentary a snuff film because you see the Hells Angels murder a speed dealer during a performance of Under My Thumb. Although not mentioned in this film, supposedly the CIA launched Operation Chaos and flooded the festival with a bad batch of LSD, which is why everything and everyone went awry. Who knows what really happened, but one thing is certain, there was tons of bad acid floating around. Someone cooked it up and distributed it. But who?

Watch Gimme Shelter ASAP before the YouTube police yanks it down...

FYI... a couple of months ago, G-Money wrote a great review of the Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane. Check it out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Speed Men

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

My breaking point is 40 hours. If I stay awake anything past 40, then its really fucking ugly. As an insomniac, I can stay awake for 24 hours without blinking. I often joke that I was born on a different planet that had 30 hour days instead of 24, which is why I have trouble going to sleep at a normal time. I had stints due to work (or work-related travel) in Vegas or during serious benders on Phish tour in which I stayed up for 2 days in a row. I think I only surpassed the 50-hour mark a couple of times. That's such a dark and terrifying place that I hope you never get to experience the physiological changes that occurs due to sleep deprivation.

You need sleep to keep you sane. If you don't get enough rest, then your mind runs rampant and you turn into a hysterical zombie. That's why meth is such a nasty drug. It's not the actual effects that will do you in, rather it's the prolonged effects of sleep deprivation that drives you insane and makes you do stupid shit like take apart your toaster to see if GE is spying on you, or decide to dig a hole to China in your neighbor's backyard.

If you watch Mad Men, then you know about last night's episode titled The Crash. By the way, if you're looking for funny recaps Mad Med, head over to Grantland and read Molly Lambert. She consistently nails it week after week.

If you haven't watched last night's The Crash episode yet, or not caught up yet with this season, then you probably should not read the rest of this post because it may contain some spoilers. Consider this a charity disclaimer. But then again, I really don't give a fuck about your viewing habits. I have a small window to write and I'm going to crank this out while the episode of the themes from The Crash are still fresh in my mind.

Speed. It's a crazy drug. The hippies saw the horrors of speed, which is where the tagline "Speed kills" originated in San Francisco. Marijuana and mushrooms are natural gifts from the gods, but speed is manufactured by the Man in sinister labss. The Germans invented speed. The Japanese perfected it. Soldiers during WWII (on both sides) were crocked to the tits on speed. The military dubbed them "Go" pills. In the wake of the Cold War, the Air Force perfected a new pill that would allow bomber and fighter pilots to fly 24-hour missions over the Arctic Circle and stay alert during the opening moments of WW3 with the Russians.

If you have a prescription to Adderall today, then you should thank the U.S. military for their willingness to create a magic pill that gives you the right amount of pep in your step and helps you concentrate, but with built in landing gear so you don't crash. Hard.

That's the inherent problem with speed. What goes up, must come down. When you crash from speed, it's not pretty. It's fucking ugly. But somehow, Big Pharma tweaked and tested and figured out the perfect mixture of a series of amphetamine salts in Adderall that will give you a prolonged buzz, but it won't absolutely tear out your innards while you're coming down.

Cocaine is like getting shot of a cannon. But the euphoria lasts maybe five minutes, or ten minutes max. That's why my favorite drug joke is this...
Q. When is the best time to do a line of cocaine?
A. Right after you did a line of cocaine.
The problem with cocaine is that it doesn't last long. Do a line, get gacked, then ten minutes later, you're rushing back into the bathroom to do another line.

What I liked about Adderall was that it felt more like cocaine and less like speed, except that you never came down. Once you got up in the atmosphere, you stayed there for several hours. Soaring. Flying high. It was truly a wonder drug. Cocaine high in pill form.

My married friends (particularly middle-aged moms) often hit me up for Adderall. It's easy to function with little to no sleep in your 20s. It's a struggle in your 30s. It's impossible in your 40s.

Back in the 1960s, "Mother's Little Helper" was a barbiturate or downer that helped get them through suburban malaise.  But today's postmodern soccer moms need a little extra ooooomph. Raising a family in the 21st Century requires an abundance of energy, so anything that helps get your ass in gear on sluggish days is a godsend.

I dabbled in Adderall, but I don't touch the stuff anymore. I think if I wrote better on Addys, then I'd be crushing those fuckers up and snorting them nonstop. As is, Addys gave me tunnel vision and hindered the creative process. Nothing can ever top a hit off the old peace pipe for the supreme writing buzz, but Adderall is something that is... 1) more suited for editing, or 2) a miracle drug for "all nighters."

My friends and I often joked that the 2010 World Series of Poker (WSOP) was really the World Series of Speed (WSOS). I had access to an Adderall prescription and several of my friends (both reporters and poker pros) regularly took the drug. For a 24/7 city like Las Vegas, a drug like Adderall is a necessity. It allows you to keep going and going and going and going and going.

In early 2005, I played poker at an underground club in NYC. At the time, a friend of mine was a grad student and she would not stop hyping up the joys of playing poker on Adderall. She used to take it to help study, but supposedly it was an immense booster at the poker tables because it helped her stay awake and allowed her to read players better. After I moved to Las Vegas and took a job in the poker industry, I quickly found out that cocaine and meth were old world drugs and that synthetics and pharmaceuticals were the new rage. The new generation of poker players were being funneled through the online poker realm. Most of those players were college-aged, so they were already familiar with the effects of Adderall for helping cram during exams.

In some ways, Adderall and other variants were dubbed smart drugs by Big Pharma. I always wondered if Adderall should be banned at poker tournaments because it is a performance-enhancing drug. The NFL put Adderall on the list of banned substances because it is a derivative of amphetamines. But I also know that if poker tournaments started drug-testing its participants, then no one would show up to play. You can only drink so much Red Bull or Starbucks to stay awake.

When I first got into the poker biz, I relied on my chronic insomnia to get me through tough stretches. As an insomniac, I was used to staying up late and being perpetually tired. Plus, when you're passionate about something, nothing can hold you back. The ability to write (well) while tired, coupled with the pure love of the game, carried me for the first few years in Vegas. But as soon as I became a jaded vet and middle-age crept in, I found myself struggling to tap into my internal energy reserves. I was surrounded by emotional vampires. I was running on empty and used up the last of the vapors. I was dunzo.

That's when I turned to Adderall during the summer of 2010. It was "my little secret how I got ahead." Well, not really. Everyone was doing it. I have an uncanny ability to look someone in the eyes and know precisely what drug their on. Just wander into any poker room and Vegas and you can easily spot the stoners from the kids cooking on Adderall. They have the same glossy gaze in their vacant eyes like cocaine-eyed starlets.

I did not cover the 2012 WSOP. I skipped it for the first time in seven years. The reasons are too numerous for me to discuss in this pithy post, but one of the contributing factors was age. When I got into poker, I had just turned 30. A decade whizzed by and I was approaching 40. It's impossible to work 16-18 hour days, seven days a week, for seven weeks straight without some sort of pharmaceutical enhancements. If I am unable to perform the job as a reporter without the assistance of high-grade Big Pharma speed, then I should not be doing the job in the first place.

I never understood why athletes took steroids until the summer of 2010. I finally got it. I felt like Eddie Harris from Major League. He was an aging veteran pitcher who needed to doctor the baseball in order to get outs and stay in "The Show." When he was younger, he could blow fastballs by his opponents. As an aging veteran with his arm barely attached to the rest of his worn-down body, he needed to do whatever it took to stay on the field and compete.

I had a job to do. I was getting paid big bucks to cover the WSOP on the Tao of Poker. I opted for a shortcut. I barely survived the 2010 WSOP, and wrote a couple of great pieces along the way (e.g. Most Likely You'll Go Durrrr's Way (And I'll Go Mine) and the Odium of Hellmuthstein), but when it was all over, I felt as though I cheated. I didn't have the same satisfaction that I had from previous summers.

I felt miserable.

I felt like a fraud (more so than usual).

I felt like a cheating whore.

I finally knew what it felt like to be Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa the year they chased Roger Maris' record. Be careful what you wish for, because if you take shortcuts to get there, you'll be haunted with the demoralizing truth that you needed an extra turbo-boost.

Sure, I'm being hard on myself about an Adderall prescription. I wasn't taking it to write better, rather, I was taking it to stay awake and be able to work 18-hour days, go home write, then come back and repeat the process. Many reporters took Adderall (and other derivatives) that summer. Thousands of poker players did too. I'm sure so did the poker dealers. And anyone else who had to hump late-night shifts. Heck, plenty of people have to take happy pills every single day in order to avoid clinical depression. Does that mean they're cheating too and their work is tainted as well?

I stopped taking Adderall in 2011, and for the most part, the 2011 WSOP was a sober series. I was stubborn and wanted to rely on my natural abilities. But, I might have popped it a couple of times -- as a last resort -- which was something I was cool with. In small doses (like once or twice over a 2 month stretch), Adderall can be a helpful wonder drug. If you abuse it, it will hallow out your soul and you'll end up a chatterbox speed freak with a million stupid ideas.

So I skipped the 2012 WSOP because I felt as though if I was physically unable to perform the job, then I shouldn't be doing it. I feel similar about the 2013 WSOP. If/when I return sometime in the future, my goal is to be able to maximize a peak performance but without the assistance of Big Pharma.

Which brings me back to last night's episode of Mad Men. In The Crash, the ad firm -- SCDPGCC -- is pulling an all-nighter over a weekend in order to prepare a new ad campaign for Chevy. The company got paid mega-bucks to deliver ideas, so they had to dance like a monkey. In order to keep the creative juices flowing, one of the partners called up his "witch" doctor. He was one of the many Upper East Side physicians who prescribed the rich and famous a concoction that was essentially B-12 and high-grade speed. The Beatles sung about those types of nefarious doctors with their song Doctor Robert. Aretha Franklin sang its merits with Dr. Feelgood.

Shit, feeling down in the dumps? Just call Dr. Feelgood.

In 2013, I have no idea how many kids are being prescribed speed for their ADHD. I have no idea how many college students and  how many professionals are being written prescriptions. All I know is that Big Pharma is raking in billions in profits on legalized speed. Starbucks and Red Bull are raking in dough as well because their products keep people a wake.

My greatest societal fear in a horrible natural disaster. The looting or losing electricity doesn't concern me as much as the tipping point when people drugged up on happy pills and fried to the tits on Adderall inevitably run out of their meds and then they crash hard and go berserk. That's when you'll really see the zombie apocalypse and people eating each other faces... when all the pharmies wear off.

Speed kills. That's no fucking joke.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Lefsetz pointed me to a fucking great min-documentary (those wizards at the BBC will do a doc on almost anything; they were VICE decades before most VICE reporters were even born) about the history of Southern Rock.

It wasn't so much an overview as it was a biography of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Both 1970s bands cut their teeth in the Southern club circuit for several years honing their skills. The musicians in both bands were complete outlaws. The music industry saw them as drunken rednecks, while racist and narrow-minded Southerners dismissed them as long-haired hippies. That's why those bands really knew how to belt out the blues. They lived that anguish and turmoil, but put their own modern rock-n-roll twist onto things.

Duane Allman is the greatest guitarist I've ever heard. No exceptions. Duane is like Clapton and Trey and Miles Davis all rolled into one skinny redneck. But Duane died young. Too young. We never really got to hear what he could really do because he died in a motorcycle crash in Macon, GA. Duane Allman was 27. Urban legend suggested he was killed by a peach truck, hence the cover of Eat of Peach. One thing is for sure... Duane died in a wreck with his motorcycle and some sort of truck. A year later, the Allmans' bass player died in a horrific motorcycle accident, which happened four blocks from where Duane died.

And you know the tragedy that befell Lynyrd Skynyrd. 1977 Plane crash. It took off from Greenville, SC en route to Baton Rogue. Half of the band died in a tragic plane crash in the swamps of Mississippi, which is how the music world lost the barefoot troubadour Ronnie Van Zant.

The doc is good. Definitely worth a watch. It tells the stories about two epic southern rock bands, plus the two devastating tragedies encompassed both bands. The Allman Brothers carried on without Duane. They had no choice. As Greg Allman said, if they didn't keep playing, they'd all end up jail or dead or dealing drugs.

For non-fans of Duane Allman, his guitar work is most known on Eric Clapton's Layla. He's one of the dueling guitars you hear during the sick instrumental. Duane originally sat in with Clapton while Clapton recorded an album in Miami. That's how talented Duane was... everyone wanted to hire him to play slide guitar on their own albums. Duane was channeling the ghosts of the Delta blues and trying to play Coltrane-like scales using his guitar. He was true alchemist, willing to mix in everything and anything.

Probably my most favorite Duane riff is at the end of a cover of Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett. Duane's solo is barely a minute long and you have to wait until the end of the song to hear it, but there's more soul and gravitas in that quick burst than there is in all the soulless music ever created in the 21st century.