The Dark Web Podcast Episode 11- Featuring Sam Houston

This is a very special episode featurin a special guest. Michael “Sam Houston” Smith, professional wrestler stopped by to talk about his latest projects including telling the story of his new song, “Salvation”, available on iTunes.

We talked about what video games Sam plays, he talks about his time in prison and how his faith got him through it. The episode also features our first sponsor, Yoga With Stacy. Stacy is a yoga instructor-in-training featuring a degree in anthropology and experience in bellydancing. She writes blog articles about her experiences with Yoga. Her blog is

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The Dark Web podcast 10- Stephan Hawkings passing away, state of VR, defending the Switch ports and more

In this week’s episode I talk about Stephan Hawkings, the state of Virtual Reality, all the hate over the Nintendo Switch ports. I also talk about this new show I just got into, Shameless.

The Kimberly effect on MMPR

The last article I wrote on Power Rangers centered on the science fiction aspect of the show. While you could make a case it’s technically more fantasy than sci-fi with all the magic, the technology defeats the magic forces so in a way it’s science versus the supernatural. I never really considered it any deeper than that. However there is one factor missing from the previous analysis of the show, Kimberly or the Pink Ranger.

All too often young boys will hide their true feelings on things because they are constantly bombarded with notions of masculinity and what is “appropriate behavior” for a boy. If you then find a young boy drawn to a strong female character in a science fiction show, and it’s not romantic or sexual in nature, people get weird about it.

I discovered similar reactions when people find out I like Sailor Moon, Aeon Flux and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it wasn’t sexual in nature. I guess if you have a crush on a female it is acceptable to root for her success but otherwise it’s creepy? I don’t know I have friends who refuse to watch any film or TV series with a strong female lead. In fact I know certain people who are turned off by the new Star Wars movies just for that very reason. There is another side, the less obvious but also worth confronting, that is the anti-feminists. In other words those who are so strongly anti-feminism they refuse to accept anything that doesn’t fit into that narrative. No, I am not really trying to sound political, because I have my own views on feminism that might contradict the mainstream narrative if you take them at face value. But I can certainly appreciate, and root for, a strong female protagonist without having to feel guilty about it. Especially when I know for 100 percent fact my admiration for the character is not rooted in sexual desires. I mean, no I never had a “crush” on the Pink Ranger. I had a crush on Melissa Joan Hart I make no secret of that. But seeing Kimberly over come her valley girl, prissy, spoiled brat attitude and transform into a kick-ass super hero fighting evil with the rest of the boys, and the stereotypical Asian chick, it was something I could look at and think yeah okay keep kicking ass. I was also one of those who rooted for Tommy and Kimberly to hook up, not something a boy with a crush would do (I wished nightly for the death of any boy caught kissing my beloved Sabrina on screen).

This was further complicated when I grew up. Being raised in a very conservative Christian home I do carry with me plenty of values and morals from that upbringing. Despite the evangelicals on TV crying how “evil and Satanic” Power Rangers was, I discovered I could tune those ridiculous cries out yet when confronted with justifying liking the Pink Ranger and admitting it wasn’t  physical attraction (again not to “objectify her” but she wasn’t that pretty in my eyes back then). But still I think I mostly hid my liking of this show more because it was un-masculine and ‘pro-feminist’ if I admitted liking it for the reasons I did. I am still not sure how to handle the #metoo movement or feminism as a whole, hey cut me some slack I am a guy. I am also a 35-year-old virgin by choice so let’s not complicate things by dragging my preferences through the mud. All you need to know is not everything has to be broken down into leftist verses right-wing politics. I mean, it’s a silly kids show for crying out loud, why can’t it just be harmless entertainment?

I will, however, freely admit that seeing Kimberly being replaced by the much more pleasing to look at Katherine in Season 3 was certainly a motivation for me to keep watching despite being heartbroken at watching the cast I had grown to admire leave, one by one. I was ready to also call it quits when I learned Kimberly would no longer be donning the Pink Ranger suit. It wasn’t because I had crushed on her or felt betrayed personally, it was just I had developed a strong respect for the character as she was the most developed on the show by that time. At least of the original cast. I still believe Billy remained a caricature throughout the series while the other rangers were allowed to become somewhat real character, even if they were cookie cutter variants of a signature type. Especially seeing Bulk and Skull, the bullies of the show, blossom into likable characters you ended up rooting for in the end. Secretly I always felt Skull was a big softy he just needed to be tamed.

If I admired the character for being a female who could kick ass but not someone I wanted to imagine myself doing nasty things to, what does that mean of me and my masculinity? Well, again as someone who as abstained from sex by choice I can say it’s not really that hard to not get too sexually arouse by gorgeous women if you see them as people and not objects. I know that sounds political but screw it, I mean I think it’s a balance of Christian upbringing and being raised in a house with 3 sisters and no male influences outside my dad. So say what you will, make fun of me call me names belittle me for having different views and seeing girls as people. After all my best friends were always girls and I never gave into temptation to engage in sexual behavior with any of them. Not that I wouldn’t succumb to the pleasures of a female if I was in the type of relationship my personal views would allow, it’s just I actually get more out of doing little things like making her smile or getting her to laugh when she was down, than I would treating her like a sex toy. Take that for what you will but for me I will continue to see this show as both a form of harmless entertainment, and a source of food for thought.

The Dark Web Podcast Episode 9- A Wrinkle in Time, Pita bread pizza tales and VIOLENT video games?

Oh hell no, did I just record a swear-filled emotional rant about violence in video games? Did I actually attack folks in the “mainstream media”? Well maybe I did or maybe I throw down a level headed discourse on the topic. I guess you will just have to listen to find out.

I do talk about A Wrinkle in Time. I compare it to other books I enjoyed from my youth. Highlights include Bridge to Terabithia, A Doll in the Garden, To Kill A Mockingbird and more. I also recall the steps that transpired to me taking the time to learn how to cook my first flatbread pita pizza.

I also talk a little bit about my friend Israel who has really inspired me recently.

How, and why, I got back into Power Rangers

I know what you are thinking, dude aren’t you too old for Power Rangers? Well, I guess if you wanted to make that argument you could but where is the fun in going that route? Actually my recent rediscovery of the series is more or less rooted in my original discovery in the first place. On the surface it is a kids show. Now I admit it certainly has flaws in production and terrible acting. That doesn’t deter me though. I realized it’s not that different than something like Doctor Who, which I have been watching semi regularly for a while now. At the end of the day it’s a super hero science fiction series. Okay that’s a bit of a stretch maybe I could argue its a super hero B-sci-fi series at best. However as a fan of b-movies I can’t exactly say it’s all that bad.

I first discovered Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers during it’s original run. It was a combination of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers/Voltron and it was live-action. Somehow it was the perfect show to catch my interest. I kind of struggle with admitting I liked it at first though. You see I discovered it right around the time I turned 12. I was in middle school and facing that period where I had to justify holding onto anything too “nerdy” from my childhood while also looking to discover my interests as a budding teenager. So I watched the show in secret fighting off the nerd guilt as I was told constantly it was not for me. I would occasionally flip through the channels and see an episode playing. Even though I hadn’t stayed current with the story lines, I would keep peeking in from time to time out of morbid curiosity.

It took the reboot live action series before I would let my curiosity, coupled with a growing nostalgia for the 90’s, encourage me to give in and begin re-watching the original series on Netflix. I continued my curiosity by signing up for Amazon Prime so I could check out a few of the episodes of the original Japanese show the series was based on.

After getting through the first season of the original series I made a few revelations. First, I continued to enjoy Saved By The Bell and Boy Meets World all these years. That was precedent for me to justify enjoying a show from my youth. Second, there was Doctor Who. As campy as that show was I continued to get into it. Sure it has far better acting and infinitely superior special effects, it’s still laughably cheesy most of the time. Third, there was my growing resentment for all those people over the years who judged me for being different, liking things they didn’t or just pretending to be into things I wasn’t or hiding the things I was into. I can say it’s not the biggest secret I have hidden from people. So why should I care now? I guess as I get older I start to realize I don’t care as much what people think of me. Is the series bad, sure, is it cheesy you bet, so why am I finding myself enjoying it despite knowing I shouldn’t? I guess part of it is just not caring what people think any more. There is also a part of me that has to accept things as they are and not worry about how they could be. I mean don’t get me wrong it’s not great entertainment but when it’s all said and done, it is what it is and as far as I am concerned the series has a certain appeal I can at least accept for what it is. It’s a science fiction show with a low budget, bad acting and very basic plots. It’s not very deep and the special effects make it an easy target for criticism. On a certain level if the rest of the world can get some enjoyment out of a Full House remake why can’t I reconnect with a show from the 90’s I enjoyed?

Sometimes life gives you more than one chance

If there was a reoccurring theme in my life I would say that it is never give up because you never know when it’s going to work out the next time.

When I was in high school I didn’t have a lot of friends. But I did have one friend that stuck with me through thick and thin, his name was Israel Gamez. The two of us got into break dancing together, and was sitting in the backseat of my car listening to Tupac CDs talking about conspiracy theories of how he might have faked his death. I don’t often look back on my time in Nevada fondly. But every once in awhile I will take a moment to remember the people that matter to me.

My journey of discovering breakdancing started long before I moved to Jackpot. When I was I guess 11 maybe 12 I got my first hip-hop CD. It was called Doggystyle by Snoop Doggy Dogg.  My discovery of hip hop music predates that purchase. Cuz I already had cassette tapes, mostly singles of songs by Jazzy Jeff, tone Loke, Kris Kross, MC Hammer and even Vanilla Ice ( give me a break I’m white I live in Kansas it was the 90s).

Then I saw a movie it was called Dangerous Minds. It opened me up to the realities, or at least the Hollywood version of, the inner city ” Gangsta” lifestyle. Through a combination of MTV, Nickelodeon’s all that, and hanging out with kids who were minorities always making friends with people that was Hispanic, or African American. So by the time I move to Jackpot Nevada I was ready to fit in to that hip hop culture as we called it. I discovered what we refer to as the four elements: rapping, scratching, breakin’ and graffiti art.

Everybody tells their story how they discovered their thing their clique. When I was in Middle School I was kind of a unpopular kid kind of dorky got beat up a lot so I join the chess club then found out I wasn’t any good at chess nor was I smart enough to talk to them about math or science or anything too nerdy.

I started hanging out with the D&D kids. I guess I was more into that then I was chess, but even they came and went. It really wasn’t until I moved to Nevada that I have my first round of stable friends. The first group of friends that I became close to or just two girls sisters their names were Shawna and Samantha. There was also a girl named Melissa, and a guy named Dallas. Eventually I’d make other friends including Israel the guy we called Haagen-Dazs, Dominic and Danny B.

What initially drew me to break dancing was the Showmanship people loved it. I didn’t have to be smart I didn’t have to be athletic I didn’t have to be musically talented I could just get on the Dance Floor Pop Lock, Glide, worm, wave, backspin then generally just bust moves. Rocketed from being a nobody to one of them most popular kids in my class even becoming student council president my final year of high school. Oh sure it was a small school but still everybody knew me they knew my name. They would always say what’s up THE RAT, show us some moves break for us. I didn’t care that they just wanted to see me do something I just wanted to perform it was the only type of performance art I ever got into. Like I said I wasn’t athletic so I couldn’t do any of the cool moves like my friend Israel my homie we can bust out a windmill to some head spins then they have that awesome shit people like to see break dancers do. 

Different people would come and go we try to form crews, but it was always me and Israel. Maybe not always I mean I moved away then I lost touch but back then he was one of the few constants.

Then I dropped out of high school. I’m not going to go into why or how or what led me to that decision I’ll just say I was given a second chance and I went back and then I dropped out again couple years later. Eventually I got my GED and then I went off to college and I work for a newspaper and before that I worked in TV. But on that same theme you know getting Second Chances I dropped out of college twice sometimes shit happens.

2 years ago I broke my foot. The doctor said I was going to need surgery and that it would never heal properly. He told me I was going to need to put a pin in it or walk with a limp. Ironically enough it took me slip and down the steps on some ice busting my tailbone bruising myself up getting encouraged by a couple of people who reminded me everything heals in time. I finally decided to give the physical therapy a try and now my foot feels better I feel like it’s gotten stronger and I feel confident enough to be able to break dance again I haven’t felt that good probably three or more years.

I guess what I learned from all of it is if you keep trying stay positive don’t give up don’t give into drugs don’t give into alcohol don’t lose faith just stay on the straight and narrow put your faith in God and keep at it because we always get a second chance as long as we don’t close the door.

Me and my friend Israel we wanted to break that so bad that we had nowhere to do it so we built our own floor out of wood scraps in my backyard. We used to go to the mall and there was this like skateboarding shop that also sold breakdancing VHS cassette tapes they weren’t even like how to videos they were just videos you can watch of other people breakdancing. That’s how we learned we just practiced we watched others do it we showed each other stuff there were no instructions it was just do it felt right listen to the music and let the moves come out of you. I’ve secretly always wanted to learn how to do like the fancy dancing you know ballroom dancing and stuff but I never took the time. But I still love breakdancing. I guess there was a time I thought I was officially retired from it because I thought oh I had an injury. But then I met this retired wrestler and he told me his story and the guy put his body through hell wrestling for a living and here he was middle-aged man getting back in shape keeping at it.  you know and he motivated me he made me want to do more with myself. I have a co-worker who wants me to get healthy has been teaching me how to eat healthier encouraging me to live healthier so I want to honor her buy doing as best as I can. So there’s no reason for me to give up I just keep trying and hoping that maybe I get a second chance or third chance or however many times it takes for me to get it right. But no matter what I’ll always keep trying no matter what I set my mind to if I fail if I break something or if I fuck it up I’m going to try again. And that’s what life is you just keep trying until you figure it out. Peace out b-boys 4 life. Stay cool.

My thoughts on a recent play I attended, Ghetto performed by a local high school

The room was deadly silent as the performance unfolded. The play, called Ghetto, captured the struggles of a Jewish settlement in Germany during the holocaust. The story focuses on the internal struggles of a Jewish performer as he recalls the events of his time under the thumb of Nazi oppression.

The play was performed by a group of high school students as part of a One Act Play competition series. The subject matter was a little on the heavy side for what I was expecting. Going into the play one school administrator asked if I had my box of tissues ready.

When writing for the newspaper my hands are tied as I am obligated to be objective. Not having had the experience of attending any other One Act Play performances of the other schools I cover, I was not able to gauge how the performance compares to other schools. Fortunately for this blog I can be free to write unrestricted. Therefore I can base my observations only on what I was able to experience first hand.

The performers who brought those characters to life easily reminded me of the thrill I had while studying theater in college. I talk a lot out how my original intent was to major in broadcasting and minor in theater. I saw my share of college level performances, read plays written by professionals. This play in particular took me back to my theater days, when I was hopeful I could make it as a filmmaker.

I can say without a doubt this performance itself was presented in no less professional of a manner as those college shows I so enjoyed. The goal of any performance art is to transport the audience out of their seats and into the world that is being depicted on stage. There weren’t any times where I was taken out of the play. In fact towards the end I was starting to have my own reflections of my German heritage. The play is clearly intended to open the wounds of the greatest military conflict our world has ever known. As someone whose grandfather fled the Nazi’s and defected to the United States the subject resonated with me personally. Not just as I had to deal with being raised under the notion that “we are Americans, Not German!” as my dad raised us to not only distance ourselves from our German culture, but to remind us that we ourselves assimilated into a nation whose acceptance of others is not always a shining example for the world. We champion our freedoms yet we often forget that those freedoms were bought with blood. No matter where you stand politically this play is going to affect you in one way or another. If it doesn’t then I question your own humanity.

As for the individual performances. I saw a few potential future stars of the stage. The one who stole the show was a young man who brought to life the conscious of the lead in a duality of sorts that ended with a catharsis the audience ought to find relateable, especially in the modern populist revival currently sweeping through Europe and the United States during these last few elections.

Again, depending on which side of the isle one lies politically is going to shape the appreciation of the play. That being said it brought about allusions of the struggle our nation faces as we have to reflect on our own identity. At the core the rise to power of an enigmatic populist with strong German heritage is all too familiar to those who take the time to read their history books. Art is supposed to reflect life and I have to say despite not wanting to dig into the political observations, I can say without a doubt the performance brought those thoughts to the forefront of my own mind. However, there is one thing I can say, these performers remind the audience that underneath the skin we are all the same, we all bleed the same blood.

I didn’t end up needing my tissue as I was spending most of the evening absorbing the work of art as presented. Structurally it was an odd piece. It was part musical, part drama yet the structure, being limited as a One Act, left me wanting more. The musical pieces were certainly fitting.

It was clear the show was confined by the parameters of the competition. However, that didn’t stop the players from bringing to life a stage show that was well coordinated and able to reach beyond the limits of its own structure leaping out to the audience and bringing them into the world, even for a brief period, reminding them escapism is not the only goal of an artistic performance.

I don’t often get too invested in my work. I photograph sporting events on a regular basis and have to remind myself the athletes I am photographing are children. Often times the emotions of the athletic competition will sweep over me and I will have to pull back. This was even more evident as I had to remind myself these are just children doing a project for school. While my appreciation of the theater certainly shaped my views going in, this fact was pushed out of my mind as I witnessed a group of kids transport the audience through the fabric of space-time to witness the events of the most tumultuous period in recorded history while simultaneously showing off the talents of a group of rising stars.

I don’t mean to belittle them by saying children. I know when I was in high school our teachers made it a point to refer to us as young adults. As one of the older members of the ‘millennial generation’, or the “adulthood begins at 30” generation, I can attest to the desire to hold onto our youth as much as possible. All the while I have to remember that when I am seeing teenagers pour their hearts and souls into something I have to keep in mind they have plenty of time to refine their craft.

What I saw didn’t need much in the way of refinement. I saw a performance nearly as polished and organized as the works I saw in my Intro to Theater class my first semester of college. It certainly had the heart even if it was clearly restricted by certain aspects. The play as a whole was an experience worth seeing. I would hate to be the one whose words discourage any young performer, so I will leave it with this. If art is meant to be a reflection of our lives, then I was looking into a mirror that reminded me for all the progress we have made as a species, we still have a ways to go.

The Dark Web Podcast episode 8- New Retro games, looking back at ESPN CD’s and more

In this week’s episode I spend a great deal of time talking about the “new retro” craze of video game development. I take a look at a bunch of games ranging from Elliot’s Quest on Wii U to stuff like AVGN Adventures, Retro City Rampage, Pier Solar, Super Win the Game, and more.I go over my views on the games and the movement as well as talk about what I like about them and what I dislike.

The music segment I take a look at my ESPN Jock Jams CD collection. I go over how I got into these CD’s in the first place. I go down the list of songs from each volume discussing which ones I enjoy and which songs I felt were out of place on these particular compilations.

I finish the episode talking about a Blu Ray I picked up recently that I ended up having more thoughts on than I originally figured. Enjoy and please like, subscribe share and don’t forget to check out the YouTube companion series, The Dark Web TV.