Thursday, May 24, 2012

Five Popular Bands I Just Can't Like

Most of you already know my disdain for certain bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch, so I will refrain from bashing them any further, but rest assured, they're still awful. No, rather than cheat and include those two bands, I'm going to instead talk about five more popular bands that, to be honest, I just can't get into no matter how many tries I give them. But first, before I dive into the main list, I'll start with an dishonorable mention:

Dishonorable Mention: Korn


For anyone who knew me in high school, this straight up blows your mind. I breathed Korn as an adolescent. I knew every word to every song, I bought every t-shirt that had their logo on it, I spent countless hours on the internet reading anything and everything I could about the band members. At one point in time, I had memorized the release dates of all of their albums, I knew all of the band members' birthdays (I still remember that lead singer Jonathan Davis' is January 18th), and my nickname in high school was, in fact, Korn. Once Head left the band, everything went downhill, and they haven't released any album worth listening to since his departure. I've tried and tried, but no matter how much I listen, I just can't believe my ears. They epitomize the phrase "How the mighty have fallen." In the late 90s and early 2000s, they were the most gigantic rock band on the planet. My first concert ever was Korn and Rob Zombie, and to this day I would still rank it as my favorite concert I've ever been to. I was 13 years old, going to see my favorite band, who were at the top of their game. I have so many vivid memories from that show, and I screamed every single word along with Jonathan. Now, it's a different story. I went to the Mayhem Festival in 2010, where Korn was the headlining act, and I left before they even played, I'm just not interested. When I heard they released a dubstep album, I thought it was a joke. The worst thing about it though, is that it still sold decently well, reaching #10 on the Billboard Top 200. So maybe they haven't actually fallen that far. I recently saw a video where Head rejoined the band for a one-time only playing of "Blind," their most iconic song. While it was cool to see Head rocking out with the band again, and it took me back to being a teenager, it just wasn't the same. Korn, you will always have a special place in my heart, but I can't be with you anymore.

Now, with that out of the way, on to #5...

#5: Mastodon


Let me start off by saying that I understand that three of the five bands I'm going to talk about are incredibly talented, and Mastodon is definitely one of them, and by all accounts, I should absolutely love them. So why don't I? Honestly, I have no idea. Out of all the bands on this list, I've given Mastodon the most chances, and outside of a handful of songs, I just can't get into them. I'm not a musician, so I can't give you breakdowns of why I don't like their sound, and I think that may be the reason I don't like them. Every musician I know tells me how great Mastodon is, so maybe you need a musician's ears to hear the greatness. Rolling Stone even stated that "Mastodon is the greatest metal band of their generation--no one else even comes close." That's pretty high praise from any publication, but coming from Rolling Stone, there's little room to argue.

One thing I do like about Mastodon is that every one of their albums sounds completely different. Usually when bands experiment with different sounds, it turns out terribly (see above), but all their albums are universally praised by critics, so more power to them, I respect people who leave their comfort zone to try something new.

My Favorite Song:

#4: Saliva


As far as generic rock bands go, Saliva is the cream of the crop. They make Nickelback look like pre-Black Album Metallica. At least Nickelback will be honest and tell you that they write the type of music they do because it sells, whereas with Saliva, I get the impression that they go around telling people "We just want to express ourselves, it's not about money," as they blow their noses with a $100 bill. You may be thinking how I can say this with such heart-wrenching emotional ballads like "Click, Click, Boom" and.....whatever other songs they have. Singer Josey Scott recently left the band, so at least now when I hear Saliva, I won't know it's Saliva, so there's a plus.

Let us not forget that Josey Scott teamed up with Chad Kroeger (of Nickelback) to concoct a song so amazingly and painfully mundane that it gives me conniptions just thinking about it. It's the most agonizing 3:19 in human existence. It's like that movie Awake, where you're conscious during surgery, and you feel all the pain but you can't cry out for help to make it stop, that's what the song "Hero" is, it's a musical purgatory.

My Favorite Song: Just pick one, they're all the same song.

#3: Chelsea Grin


I had never really listened to Chelsea Grin before I saw them on the 2011 Thrash and Burn Tour. I went because I liked other bands on the bill like Winds of Plague and Upon a Burning Body, and Chelsea Grin was the co-headliner with WoP. Not only were they one of the three worst bands I've ever seen live (along with Woe, Is Me and Taproot), but they were also incredibly disrespectful. The venue I saw them at was The Attic in Dayton, Ohio, which is a Christian venue. The cool thing about The Attic is that they bring all kinds of bands through there, not just Christian bands, and they're even cool with bands swearing during their songs. The only thing they ask is that the bands don't swear between songs when they're addressing the crowd. Chelsea Grin's singer dropped at least one F-bomb between every song. Now, some people are probably saying "They should be allowed to say what they want, it doesn't matter if it's a Christian venue or not." Well, my view is this: I'm not offended by foul language, in fact, I had to make a conscious decision to clean up my language, and I still have slip ups every now and then. I just feel like it was incredibly disrespectful. The owners are allowing you to play your music to your fans, and they have one simple request, and you can't do it? Winds of Plague was respectful enough to watch their language, and if there is one thing Winds of Plague is NOT, it's a Christian band. It would be like me being booked for a wrestling show, and the only thing the booker asks of me is not to fight in the crowd, and the first thing I do is jump out of the ring, hop the security railing, and kick a child in the face.

Despite this, I decided I would still give them a listen, because there have been bands that are terrible live but good on their albums, in fact, two of the bands I saw at that same show (Like Moths to Flames and In the Midst of Lions) are those types of bands. Chelsea Grin, however, is not one of them. It sounds like steel grinding against a chalkboard while forks scrape against plates. It's just a bunch of awful noise. I love metal music. All types of metal. Everything from Black Sabbath to August Burns Red and everything in between, if it's metal, I'll at least try it, and Chelsea Grin, despite having one of the most brutal metal band names of all-time, is just not for me. I was amazed to see how many people left The Attic when Chelsea Grin wrapped up their set.

I don't have a favorite Chelsea Grin song, but just listen to this and tell me it's not terrible.

#2: Megadeth


Megadeth sucks.

#1: The Beatles


I already know that I'm going to get a lot of grief for this one. Let me say that I understand why they are one of the most popular, if not the most popular band of all-time. I see people of all ages that totally love The Beatles, whether they're my mother's age, my age, or half my age. I see teenagers rocking Beatles shirts all the time, although it's more likely just the hipster in them and they've probably never heard a Beatles song. It's almost as bad as seeing a teenager with a Ramones shirt, take that off you little jerk, you don't appreciate the Ramones. Sorry, I kind of went off there, I just hate hipsters.

Anyway, I've tried to like The Beatles the same way I've tried to like Elvis Presley, classic film and television, and Atari games. Perhaps there's just some sort of chemical imbalance in my brain that makes me unable to like things that occurred before my time. I understand their appeal, and if I had grown up in a time that they were new, I would have loved them. There's no argument that The Beatles are iconic to rock music, and without them, the evolution of the genre probably would have gone in a completely different direction. A rock music time-space continuum would occur, and I know with certainty that the alternate universe it would create would be much less interesting. It'd be like comparing the black and white Kansas to the striking beauty of the Emerald City.

The Beatles are timeless, and even if I don't enjoy their music, I at least understand their appeal and can appreciate what they've done for not only the music world, but the world in general.

Favorite song:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Good Riddance, Premier Fitness



I'm starting this blog at approximately 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 3rd. In ten hours, my boss will walk in and discover that I've quit my job. I will refrain from using names, but I would like to tell the story of why I've become so miserable working at that place, and why I've finally decided that it's time to leave.


This is how he's going to find out.

Never before have I been treated so poorly by an employer, especially considering how loyal and dedicated I was to this job. If I had made it to late July, it would mark four years that I had spent with the company. In the nearly four years I spent there, I was never late (as a matter of fact, on most nights, I was at least a half hour early), I didn't call off, I showed up every day, did my job, and left. I was hired without filling out an application, was never given an employee handbook, and was never given any sort of training on my job. I was given a call on a Friday afternoon, told to come pick up the key to the front door later that day, and show up on Monday. Prior to being hired, I was a paying member who had just signed a new 3-year contract. I signed the contract in April 2008, was hired in July, and my membership was not frozen. It wasn't until last April that I was able to workout at the gym I worked at without paying for it.

At first, everything was awesome. This was my first full-time job, so at the time $9.50 per hour seemed like a gold mine. I didn't have a car payment, I didn't have a fancy cell phone, so my expenses were minimal, and I felt great, almost all of that money was for me to spend any way I wanted. Quickly, however, things changed. I began to realize just how vindictive and horrible my co-workers were. There were exceptions, of course. I did get along with some people over the years, but for the most part, I didn't speak to the people I worked with unless they spoke to me. Over the first few weeks, my boss would show me a few things just so I knew what all my duties were, and that was fine, I liked this job and I wanted to make sure I kept it. Sure, I was working 12-8 a.m., but it was quiet, I worked alone, I could take breaks when I wanted to, so this was my kind of job. I would just show up, turn on my iPod, and get to work.

After those first few weeks, however, my boss started being much more hateful when pointing things out, saying things like "This place looks like s***," "You're not worth the money we pay you," and "You're easily replaceable." So, for the last 3 years and 9 months, I've been living in fear of losing my job. Not having job security is a terrible way to live. Better not buy too many groceries, I may not have a job on Monday. I shouldn't fill up my tank completely, my boss might find some insignificant thing and fire me for it. That's how I've lived for over 3 years.


Nobody enforced the "Pick up your weights" rule, so this was another one of my duties.


Over the course of my employment, there were several times, sometimes month-long stretches or more, where I didn't even know who my boss was. People would be fired and re-hired so quickly that I didn't even know that they had been fired to begin with. If you were a new salesperson, good luck keeping your job. The company was so obsessed with sales that one bad week could result in termination. Even though I didn't do any sales, I know this is true because there have been at least 20 different people working the shift before me. In a two-week time span, I had three different people working that shift because one had been fired and the other had quit. I should have taken that approach long ago.

I would show up and have notes from co-workers (not even bosses, just salespeople) telling me how bad I was at my job. I had one co-worker who would always chew sunflower seeds, and instead of throwing away the shells, he would simply sweep them off the desk onto the ground. Guess who would get in trouble if it wasn't cleaned up? No, I'm not kidding. Let me also mention that I didn't work on weekends. My weekend would officially start at 8 a.m. on Friday morning, and I would show up to start the new week on Monday at midnight. How much cleaning was done by the rest of the staff during this time? None. Absolutely none. They didn't even empty their own trash cans. I show up on Monday and there's trash stacked almost a foot above the top of the can. I once showed up on a Friday evening to get in a quick workout and the men's locker room was flooded. When I showed up on Monday, it was still flooded. They didn't even bother to take the time to put up a "caution" sign. I would show up on a Monday with a note telling me the place was disgusting, with them not taking into account that I hadn't been there in two days.

About a year into my tenure, I was told that I was going to be put on salary. I was told that my pay would be increased, but that's what my pay would be from now on. Let it be noted that my pay was never increased, I stayed at the same pay rate as always. As a matter of fact, my checks were smaller because I was no longer receiving overtime pay. When I complained to my boss, he insisted that I was making more money. Well, I'm the one that deposits the checks every two weeks, so I'm pretty sure I'm not, jerk.

Every year, I would take one week off in the Summer for vacation. This, of course, was not paid time off. The first time I did it, my brother filled in for me. When I returned home from my trip, he informed me that a co-worker had told him that my bosses would deliberately throw trash around the gym just to see if I picked it up. Seriously? You're complaining about the place being dirty, but you're the ones making it that way? I would go through stretches where things were cool and nobody would be complaining, but after about a month of silence, I would have a new manager that wanted to make a difference in the company and would get on me. One even went as far as to ask me to make a log of everything I did in a night.

I'd now like to talk about how much I was paid/given as opposed to what a recent manager was paid/given. In one week, I earned $300 after taxes (I'll come back to this) and received no insurance or benefits of any kind, worked the graveyard shift, and did the most physical work. My manager, who had been fired and re-hired several times (for stealing money from members), earned $900 after taxes (three times what I made), the company paid for her rent, paid for her to drive a rental car, and the most physical work they did in a day was pick up a phone to call me and complain about something.

In the past 4 years, I've received: 0 pay raises, 0 paid vacation days, no insurance or benefits (they weren't even offered to me), was deliberately taken to the women's side of the gym and yelled at for 45 minutes with the sole purpose of trying to embarrass me, and was treated like I wasn't a real employee by nearly everyone I worked with. After doing some research into the U.S. Department of Labor, unless I'm missing something, I've been being illegally underpaid for almost three years now. I could be wrong of course, but on the Department of Labor's website, it states that salaried employees must be paid a minimum of $455 a week, I made $375. Also, I am supposed to have 2 full-time employees working directly beneath me, I had none. Lastly, I'm supposed to be involved in all company decision making, and don't even ask me if I was or not, because you know I wasn't. So if anyone out there knows a good lawyer that deals with cases like this, let me know, I would love to know if I have a case or not.


Fight the power!

In the last year, especially that last couple months, I've basically zoned out. I feel like Peter Gibbons from Office Space. In a given day, I do maybe two hours of real, honest work. The rest is spent either working out or doing homework...or writing blogs like this one. So, in conclusion, good riddance to Premier Fitness. I'm at a place financially where I can afford to leave, and it's very liberating. To those people I've become friends with over the years: thank you for being awesome. You know who you are.


Hey, I paid for this, I can take some if I want. What are you? The cake police?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let Me Tell You About My $250 T-Shirts

I've felt the need to get something off my chest recently pertaining to the world of professional wrestling.

Brief synopsis: My name is Dustin Thomas. I'm an independent professional wrestler from the Cincinnati area. Anyone who has seen me work would tell you that I'm a pretty good worker. I'm 6'6", I weigh 225 lbs., I'm athletic, have a better physique than most on the independent circuit, I can do things guys my size normally can't, and I understand the psychology of professional wrestling pretty well. Yes, I just tooted my own horn a bit, but I'm not saying anything to you that someone hasn't already told me about myself, and in order to make it in the business you need to be able to admit when you're good.

At this point in my career, I feel like I'm good enough to at least get a legitimate look from one of the major wrestling companies in the world. I've felt that way for a little while now, and last year, I received a couple. I had to pay for these tryouts, sure, but I felt like $250 was a small price to pay for the opportunity to impress some important people in the business. If you're familiar with Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA), you may have heard of their "Gut Check" open tryouts. This is the tryout I received. It's built up as a legitimate way to receive a contract with the company, I can say from experience that this is false. I went to two of these tryouts last year, one in Pittsburgh in April, and another in Troy, Ohio in July, and I want to tell you my experience.

For the first trip, I was accompanied by one of my best friends, Jake Schreiner, better known to the wrestling world as Jake Omen, who, in my opinion, is one of the best unknown talents in the country. I felt that if anyone had a chance to receive a contract at the tryout, it was him. I will preface the following by saying that overall, the trip was a heck of a lot of fun. I got to spend a total of 12 hours in a car with my best friend, exchanging stories, talking about the business, music, women, etc. We wound up getting lost in a not-so-good part of Pittsburgh, checked in to a dump right off the highway at 5 a.m., managed to get a few hours of sleep, stocked up on energy drinks, showed up at the arena about an hour early, and eagerly awaited our chance to show what we could do.

This is Jake Omen, you should be familiar with him.

When I filled out the application for the Gut Check, it asked you to upload both promo and action photos, as well as asking you to send them links to two of your matches. This made me think that they were looking for only the best, I thought this meant they were looking for real, legitimate, professional wrestlers. Men who had been trained and had spent years on the independent wrestling circuit starving to make it big. This was not the case, however.

Not including Jake, I looked around and saw 10 other men, and 2 women, all of which I viewed as my competition. I make no joke when I say this, but out of the 14 total people that attended this "tryout," only 1 person besides Jake and myself looked like that had ever set foot in a wrestling ring before (that 1 other person being Sterling James Keenan).

The tryout was being run by D-Lo Brown, who some of you may remember as a former WWE mid-carder during the Attitude Era. It was one of the biggest boom periods for professional wrestling, and D-Lo was a notable contributor. Suffice it to say, I was determined to impress him. But, it's really hard to impress someone when you have to share ring time with 13 other people and the entire tryout is nothing more than what you would do in a normal 2-hour wrestling practice. Warm-up, do a couple spots, go cut a promo for the camera, put on a 5-minute match, get an evaluation, now get out of here. That's basically what it was. After the first part of the tryout, it was obvious that Jake and I were the standouts, as D-Lo paired us up to have a match, and insisted that we go first. I believe Jake would agree that we had the best possible match we could have in the allotted time we were given to put it together. We were the only ones who weren't stopped mid-match and given pointers, we were the only ones who weren't berated for lack of psychology, and to put it quite simply, we were the best ones there.

Following the matches, D-Lo brought us all into an office one-by-one and gave us an evaluation. When I came in, he asked me "How do you think you did?" And I was honest with him. I said "I think overall I was the best one here, I need to work on my chain wrestling, but I think it's safe to say that Jake and I had the best match." He agreed with me, gave me a couple things for me to work on, gave me a lot of compliments and some encouraging words, and sent me on my way. Leaving the office, I felt very good with what I had done that day.

The second Gut Check I can't say I felt as good about. Replacing Jake was my friend John, better known to local fans as Kyron. To give you an idea of how big John is, he's only about an inch or two shorter than me, but makes me look like tiny by comparison, the dude is massive and jacked.

If he wasn't my friend, I would be terrified of him, and I thought John, much like Jake, had a good chance of impressing the higher-ups in the company. We assumed that given our sizes that it was an inevitability that we would be paired up when it came time to put on matches. We were wrong. John was paired up with a very friendly, athletic black guy, who was about 5'4" and weighed about 120 lbs. I was paired with someone only slightly bigger, but understood professional wrestling considerably less. I wasn't pleased with my match, we wound up going longer on time than we were given, and trying to work this match out was more than a struggle.
During our evaluation, I was again given some kind words about my work, and was told that I'm "almost there." I walked away from this tryout disappointed. I woke up that morning with the mentality that this was my day, I know what to expect, I'm going to show D-Lo that I've improved, and I'm walking out of there with a contract. Needless to say, that didn't happen.
In the months that have passed since then, I've realized that the Gut Check is nothing more than a way for Impact Wrestling to pick up a little extra dough. I don't feel like spending a total of $500 improved my chances of earning a contract. I feel like all it got me was two really expensive t-shirts. I probably should have known it was a scam, because everything in wrestling is a work, and this was no exception.

There are positives to these experiences, but the negatives far outweigh them. I went in assuming this was an open tryout where they only accepted legitimate wrestlers. Here's a list of just some of the things I saw over the two sessions that prove that the Gut Check is nothing more than a cash-grab:

    - People who didn't know how to run the ropes.
    - People who didn't know how to properly lock-up.
    - I saw a man put a headlock on to the right side, which would have worked if this were Mexico, but it's not.
    - People freeze during their matches because they had forgotten the spot.
    - People getting dropped on their heads.
    - Someone work another person's right arm (again, this isn't Mexico).
    - A lot of "Superman" Irish-whips.
    - Little to no match psychology.
    - Jeff Jarrett reading a newspaper the entire time. The list goes on and on.

Remember how I told you that putting my match together was a struggle? I'll explain that as well. We were given 4 minutes to put together a 4 minute match. The man I was working with (who was half my size, and also the heel in the match) wanted to bump me all over the place, which I immediately shot down. He said that during the heat, he was going to "go for a gimmick." I looked at him like he had three heads and said "No, you're not." He decided to throw in a random springboard-dropkick and two rest holds into a 4 minute match. When D-Lo asked me how long I think my match went, I responded "I don't know but it was definitely over 4 minutes." He said we had gone 4:32. Gee, I wonder how long the match would have gone if you didn't throw in one of those completely unnecessary rest holds. Look, I'm not trying to say that I know everything there is to know about professional wrestling, but I do know that when someone tells you that your match is 4 minutes long, you don't put on two rest holds. I also know that when you're in the middle of a tryout match for the second largest wrestling company in the United States, you don't want to go over on time, you don't go outside of the ring, and you definitely don't incorporate a "gimmick" into your match. The match itself was solid. Outside of the rest holds, it was fast-paced with a lot of action. Is it the kind of match that I would send out to potential bookers? No. But am I embarrassed by the match? Not at all.
Apparently, Impact Wrestling is doing some kind of on-air deal with Gut Check. I honestly couldn't tell you what it is because I watch Impact so infrequently. At the first tryout, when it came time to do promos, I had to ask Jake "Sting is still the champion here, right?" But after these experiences, I will say this: the Gut Check was a waste of my time and money. I won't pay for another tryout ever again, I feel like I'm good enough to deserve a legitimate tryout match in front of your live crowd. If I were to get a tryout match, whether it be at a house show or an Impact taping, give me 5 minutes with one of your contracted guys, and I guarantee you will be impressed.

I'm not saying that I have the skills of Kurt Angle, the charisma of Jeff Hardy, or the psychological understanding of Abyss, but when I look at the Impact Wrestling roster or catch an episode of their television programming, I see at least a handful of guys I'm better than. Perhaps I'm shooting myself in the foot here in terms of blackballing myself from Impact Wrestling, but if anyone from the company ever happens to read this, I challenge you to give me a legitimate tryout. One that I don't have to waste money on. I have proof that I'm good. There are matches of me on the internet that are easy to find. Here, watch this match I had with Abyss and try to tell me that it's not better than some of the work that I've seen from some of your guys.

If anyone would like to help this cause, send a Tweet to @impactwrestling and tell them to give @TheDustinThomas a legitimate chance with a #gutcheck.