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February 2008

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 27, 2008

Usually after a rough night of bouts, my fellow fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit and I will find the nearest Hooters, fill up a booth and unwind with some pitchers of iced tea and plates of fried cheese.

Contrary to what UFC fans might see on television, the fighters form a tight knit group. See, we're a rare breed. You won't find too many men willing to head into the Octagon and fight each other until our faces are bloody pulps and our ears resemble cauliflower. It takes a special person to partake in mixed martial arts matches, to confront the pure adrenaline that rages through another man when their muscle, fists and feet are the only tools of victory.

My teammates in the UFC and I are such men. In the Octagon, we are sworn enemies. Outside the Octagon, we are blood brothers Ð men so tough we have fragments of each others' teeth embedded in our knuckles and knees.

I'm somewhat new to the world of UFC. I was discovered by a UFC scout after I was attacked in the parking lot of a Hobby Lobby in Lincoln, Nebraska by a group of grandmothers seemingly unhappy I had purchased the last paint-by-numbers unicorn project at that particular store. They swept upon me like ninjas: swift, bat-like in their quickness and stealth. Thankfully, I had also purchased a set of dowel rods for a series of seasonal banners I had planned on crafting for the holidays. With the agility of a jaguar, I slipped the rods from my shopping bag and went to work on the women, popping one lady square on the nose and hearing the snap of her nasal bridge while utilizing another rod on the collar bone of one of her partners. Between the rods, my feet, and of course, my deadly fists, I had soon brought six card carrying members of the AARP to the ground in a crumpled, moaning mess.

Little did I know, the women were a plant by the UFC to test my mixed martial arts skills in the hopes of finding the next UFC star. Apparently, the UFC utilizes such ambushes to seek out talent. While many believe UFC fighters rise through the ranks in sanctioned and unsanctioned events across the country, the organization actually follows men throughout America that give off the "look" and "aura" of a fighting champion that go unseen in regular bouts. Remember, a UFC fighter is an investment for the organization; regular "John Does" off the street must not only exhibit fight skills but also have the demeanor of a "star." Men that fit this profile are usually reserved, ruggedly handsome and built like a piece of heavy construction equipment. They must also look good with someone like Jessica Alba on their arm. Naturally, a UFC scout saw I fit all four categories and arranged the "confrontation" that night in Lincoln.

I was soon presented with an opportunity to make seven figures touring the world as an Ultimate Fighting Champion. I took a crash course in UFC rules, the circuit's history and the quickest and most effective way to set one's own nose.

I also started to get to know my fellow fighters out of the Octagon. For instance, not many people realize that Randy Couture is a big fan of collectable Celine Dion ceramic figurines while Chuck Liddell's passion outside of UFC is square dance calling.

I've been on the circuit for almost a year now, and while you have likely seen me on some of the Spike TV and pay-per-view broadcasts, I'm not in the Liddell or Couture stratosphere just yet. At the Hooters the other night, I asked Couture if the blood and skull fractures are worth it.

"Oh, hell yeah," he told me as he downed the last of his iced tea. He nodded, stopped for a moment as a puzzled look crossed his face. He stuck a finger in his mouth and pulled a tooth out of its socket. He dropped it on his plate with a clink. "I mean, look. If I wasn't making what I was making now, there's no way I would have been able to afford the Celine figurine collectable that commemorated the closing of her recent Las Vegas show. They only made 500 of those, then they broke the mold! With my UFC earnings, I was able to purchase five of those suckers! I'm having a special cabinet built for those figurines! Only a fan in the United Arab Emirates was able to purchase more than five, and he only managed to buy six. Before UFC, I would have been lucky to buy one Celine collectable. Now I can buy five!"

The rest of the fighters at the table nodded.

"It's a good life," said one newcomer. "I'm looking forward to the day when I can buy my mom a Prius. She says those are really good for the environment."

So, the UFC clan of fighters is more than a group of blood-thirsty savages. We may be quick with our fists, but we're also appreciative of collectable ceramic figurines and concerned about the environment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Many of you may not realize that Rob recently suffered some head trauma when he slipped in the bathtub. While we are quite certain Rob is not a fighter in the UFC circuit, we do believe that it is important in his recovery that we humor him and nod knowingly when he speaks of such "adventures." It is in this spirit that we print this column even though we realize it is all bunk.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 20, 2008

Greetings from Fluville.

I haven't looked at any recent studies, but I'm fairly certain that 96% of the local populace -- yours truly included -- is currently suffering from this nasty infectious crud that gives one fever, aches, deep coughs, pressurized headaches and the inability to taste, smell and breathe.

It feels pretty much as if a dump truck loaded with gravel has run over me two or three times.

This thing has been having a blast in my system for going on five days, and I'm more than ready for it to go far away. Except for taking our daughter to school and an occasional errand, I've been stuck in the bed surrounded by my laptop, old magazines I've read cover to cover, remote controls and about 100 crumpled pieces of Kleenex. I'm so sick of the television, those magazines and cruising the same old websites that I want to scream. To me, you see, the best way to battle the flu would be on a hot sandy beach with fresh king crab legs boiling away in a kettle nearby.

Of course, one thing to keep in mind while I discuss my battle with the flu is this: I'm a wimp. A big ole wimp. Think about the folks on The Deadliest Catch, the television show that documents the trials and tribulations of those who fish for king crab legs. How do you think they would handle a simple case of the flu while out in the middle of the dreary cold sea? Like MEN! That's how! They'd handle it like MEN!

They wouldn't be complaining about having to re-read old issues of Time magazine. No, if they were stricken with the flu, they would still be on the deck at three in the morning with the raging sea drenching them in the freezing temperatures and icicles hanging off their beards.

Me? While I'm sick, I've been complaining when the hot water runs out while I'm soaking in the tub with my SpongeBob action figures.

"The water's chilly!" I'll tell the rubber SpongeBob I'm holding. "It's really chilly!"

But the rubber SpongeBob never replies. Because it's a rubber inanimate object. And rubber inanimate objects, obviously, cannot hear or speak.

It's pitiful, really. Pitiful.

Besides talking to rubber bath toys, the flu has also caused me to have some vivid and insane dreams.

In one dream last night, for example, I almost went nuts in an ice cream shop.

I was craving a large mint chocolate chip milkshake. So I go to the ice cream shop and give the guy behind the counter my order.

I wait. Wait. Wait some more. And then I realize, I'm not being served my large mint chocolate chip milkshake. I begin to throw what one of my junior high physical education coaches would term, a "hissy fit."

"Where's my mint chocolate chip milkshake?!? Where is it!?! I've been here for half an hour, and I still haven't received my mint chocolate chip milkshake?!?"

By now in the dream, other ice cream shop customers are looking my way very uncomfortably. Some are putting their arms around their children, fearing I will drop to the floor at any moment, kicking and screaming.

Finally, my milkshake arrives, and because I had to wait, they say, the shake is on the house.

But there's a problem. I ordered a large mint chocolate chip milkshake. The milkshake in front of me is a small mint chocolate chip milkshake.

I begin to tremble with an anger so fierce and uncontrollable that I fear my skull will explode.

And then I wake. I'm in my bed. I'm chilled from fever and my head aches. I turn over to my side and spoon-hug my life-size SpongeBob doll. It was all just a nasty nightmare. All is right in the peaceful night.

Except for the fact I have the flu.

Oh, that and the fact I'm spoon-hugging a life-size SpongeBob SquarePants doll.

But other than that, yeah, all is right in the peaceful night.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 13, 2008

Jeepers, I leave town for six weeks, and everything goes wacko. What's happened to this place?

First, as my son and I are exiting a movie, we're met with hundreds of little girls in sequins and wigs in the theatre lobby. It was as if the Oaks 7 was holding a mini-Dolly Parton convention.

"What the...?" I said to myself.

"Hannah Montana movie, Dad," my boy said. "They're lined up for the Hannah Montana movie."

For those of you without little girls, 15-year-old Miley Cyrus plays the titular character in Hannah Montana, a Disney Channel sitcom about a precocious and goofy high school student who is secretly a major music star. The success of the show has enabled Disney to spin off countless pieces of Hannah Montana merchandise: albums, DVDs, computer games, Hannah Montana costumes (complete with a wig), and of course, a controversial concert tour that sold out in minutes, disappointing millions of Ms. Cyrus/Montana's diminutive fans who could not either nab a ticket in time or, in many cases, even afford a ticket.

The latest Montana bonanza from Di$ney is this theatrical 3-D film, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. Around 680 theatres are playing the film across the country -- a small number of screens for a major film, believe it or not -- and the Oaks 7 is one of them. (Oh, and get this: guess how much the ticket price is for this 77-minute movie? Eighteen bucks.)

The lobby that Saturday afternoon, stuffed with little Hannah Montana lookalikes waiting to see the movie, had an undeniably giddy atmosphere, but let's face the facts: it was a little creepy to come upon a horde of identical pre-teen girls. It seemed like something from The Twilight Zone or that old horror flick about the identical zombie-like kids, Village of the Damned. I almost wanted to grab my son's hand and run screaming from the lobby.

"HUTTON! WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE! DON'T LOOK INTO THEIR EYES, SON! DON'T LOOK INTO THEIR EYES!"

But, I didn't.

And perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh. Wholesome role models for young girls such as Cyrus/Montana are few and far between in this age of Spears, Lohan and Hilton. (Yikes. That sounds like a law firm from hell.)

Another freaky thing I've encountered since my return home is the total chaos that is Harrison Street. How many lanes is it now? One? Three? What the hey? And just when you think you've cleared the construction traffic, you come upon another line of frustrated drivers.

Then, thinking you're pretty smart, you decide to zip over two blocks to Neeley Street to beat the system only to find about 400 other drivers lined up with the same idea.

Aaaargh!

Oh well, at least the construction will only last, oh, about two years.

We'll survive.

Finally, what about those fancy new signs at Sonic? Dad-gum, they make Batesville and Southside look like Las Vegas! Pulling into town the other night and seein' one of them colorful swirlin' signs with pictures of iced tea and burgers and what not, I could've sworn I done made the wrong turn and ended up in Branson or somewheres!

Sigh.

***

So, the Oscar nominations were announced the other day. I used to be a cinema fanatic, but as I mellow with age, I'm not much of a moviegoer anymore.

That said, three of the Best Picture nominees I've seen could easily take the top prize, and I'd be tickled. Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men are each brilliant films, but I'm betting the latter title will nab Best Picture. Daniel Day-Lewis is a lock for Best Actor for There Will Be Blood (His "I drink your milkshake!" speech at the end will be long remembered as a classic film scene.) And Julie Christie will win for her portrayal as a woman suffering from Alzheimer's in Away From Her.

Of course, each year there is always at least one masterpiece that is overlooked by Oscar and 2007 was no exception. When I realized that Zombies Gone Wild was not nominated for Best Picture, I sat down and wept.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

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