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Trusty Plinko Stick

Better living through junk culture.

Updated: 2018-02-14T04:54:40.821-05:00


Unlicensed sleuthing: a brief appreciation of the amateur detective


Photo by Flickr user Carla216, shared under a Creative Commons licenseAmateur mystery solvers of the world, I sing the praises of thee.Wrong has been done!  And, as all good people must, you seek to right it, solve it, punish it, avenge it, etc.  Anyway you slice it, justice must be rendered, and you're just the person to do it.Some think this should be the sole purview of the criminal justice system, but you're certain that law and order can't always be maintained by Law and Order (dun-DUN).  In your experience, the police are always overlooking clues (obvious and otherwise), or making assumptions based on incomplete (possibly inaccurate) information."It's an open and shut case, stay out of it!  And besides, you're just the medical examiner, a doctor at a nearby hospital, a kid, a writer, maybe even a priest!  What's it to you, anyway?"For many, this admonition would be enough.  They would drop the issue, not get involved, go back to doing the crossword or to their lucrative medical practice.  But not you, would-be detective!  Your tangential relation to someone in law enforcement, years spent observing the human condition, unique-yet-strangely-applicable skill set acquired from years in an oddball profession, or even just near obsessive need to insert yourself into literally everyone's business makes you ideally qualified to save the day, whether those in power see it or not.But you're not content to just let the cases stumble into your line of vision, even if they tend to with an almost episodic regularity, and sometimes you need to take the show on the road; amateur Mystery Solver becomes Itinerant Mystery Solver! The reason why isn't important, though it's usually an out-of-state friend in trouble, an upcoming vacation or to a conference, or maybe you've finally burned every figurative bridge with local law enforcement and just need to get scarce for a bit.  What does matter is that you've got that sweet conversion van of yours gassed up and sitting in the driveway, ready to take you on to new locales, friendships with 1970s character actors, or - best case scenario - maybe even a crossover with some other sleuthy busybody.Is this dangerous?  Sure.  Careless?  Perhaps.  Foolhardy?  Oh yeah, no question.  The fact that you haven't gotten yourself killed yet is nothing short of miraculous.  It's also surprising how few of these matters you're falsely implicated in, given the sort of bodycount your life seems to be acquiring.  No wonder the local police want you out of town and people everywhere else you go wish you would just stay home.  Let's face facts here: you're pretty much the Grim Spectre of Death Itself.  If you've noticed a real drop-off on the number of Christmas cards you've received in recent years, that's probably the reason.You know deep in your heart you're interfering with due process and that a shocking number of innocent, otherwise uninvolved people have been killed because of your actions, but you carry on fighting the good fight.  Despite the stream of misery and suffering you leave in your wake, it cannot be denied that you have done a lot of good.  You cause as many problems as you solve, but your average trends toward the positive, so you've got that going for you.  Nice job.Rest assured, amateur mystery solvers of the world... they would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for your meddling.[...]

Refuge, not retreat: when the things that don't matter actually matter the most.


Well... it sure has been a year (or two), huh?I'm not the sort of person to go around saying "man, the whole world's gone crazy!" because if you look at history even casually then it's pretty easy to see that the whole world has always been going crazy and that maybe we're just noticing it more now because a.) my generation are the adults now and society kinda demands that adults pay some actual attention to that sort of thing once in a while; and b.) thanks to the 24 hour news cycle, the internet, and the unceasing bombardment of screaming information (or screamformation, if you will*), there's just no avoiding it.That being said... man, the whole world's gone crazy.No need to get into the particulars.  You know the particulars.  Your particulars may even be very different than my particulars, and if they are, hey, that's fine.  We don't need to get into that here.  Plenty of other places on the internet for you to scream into the void about whatever it is that's on your mind there, sparky.  I'd rather talk about how we deal with it, or at least how I'm dealing with it.Basically, I'm throwing myself down every pop culture rabbit hole I can find.  Shocking, I know.Some would say that's just avoiding the problem(s), but I disagree.  I'm not approaching this from a place of antipathy or even apathy.  I'm carving out quiet little places in my brain and in my life when I need a break from the noise and insanity... like Sherlock's mind palace, but with more robots, rubber suited monsters, people in capes, and old-timey comedians in derby hats, for instance.  It's refuge, not retreat.Refuge has always been important, but it's more vital than ever in our current screamformation environment**. The era of getting the bulk of your news information at the beginning and/or end of the day are long gone.  Although having wider-ranging real-time access to information can be beneficial (and there are plenty of times when it is), the signal-to-noise ratio of our current reality often feels to me like people screaming in our faces all day in the most alarmist way possible since that gets more attention.  Sure, I want to know when the zombie robot shark armada invades, but I don't necessarily need that 3 minutes of actual information couched in 13 hours of speculative commentary, accompanied by accusations that the zombie robot shark armada causes cancer and wants to steal our jobs, or 13 Facts About the Zombie Robot Shark Armada (#7 will astound you!), or anything like that unless I actively seek out that information myself.  Because sometimes I do (every once in a while #7 really does astound me).  But I want to make that choice, not have the everything forcefed down my mental gullet in order to make my brain into informational foie gras.(Terrible metaphor, but I'm sticking with it.)So how do you deal?  Well, you could unplug completely, but that's kind of ridiculous.  I may complain about the media in its many forms, but there's all kinds of awesome stuff there if you look, and besides sometimes you really do need to know about the zombie robot shark armada before they show up at your door.  You're better off taking a break.  You can't hide from everything forever, but the world can deal without you for a little while when you need some respite.  Build a blanket fort around your brain, hang up a No Reality Allowed sign, and just kind of... be.  Do what it is you do to untwist the knots in your brain... cook, walk, read, meditate, garden, eat, whatever.  Me, I fill my fort with cartoons and books and comics and movies and TV shows and whatever else comes to mind.  Lately I've decided I haven't seen enough Laurel and Hardy films in my life, so I've been watching a bunch of those (hot take: Laurel and Hardy were funny as hell, you guys).You can't escape any problem forever, sooner or later the zombie robot sharks need to be dealt with, but there's nothing wrong with taking a breather now and then in order to [...]

Literally Anyone Can Make Comics: Genie!


Not everyone's cut out to be Elvis, you guys.(image)

RIP Bobby "The Brain" Heenan


Bobby "The Brain" Heenan & Gorilla Monsoon, likely seconds before Monsoon yelled "Will you STOP?!" at Heenan.Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was everything you ever hated in a villain... conniving, greedy, pompous, too sure of himself, and cowardly. But at the same time, you couldn't keep your eyes off of him, and waited with anticipation to hear his every excuse, insult, and cornball joke.So yeah, he was amazing television. He was, without question, the greatest heel manager in professional wrestling history - this is not up for debate - and on the short list for greatest commentators, too, particularly when teamed up with Gorilla Monsoon. They played their parts well,  Monsoon always the babyface-supporting play-by-play guy and Heenan the quintessential heel color man, and their banter was epic... not a wasted line, every word advancing the narratives while also setting up and delivery the best bad jokes imaginable. Gorilla and the Brain weren't just a legendary announce team, but one of the great unheralded comedy duos of the 20th century, at least by my reckoning. Theirs was the sort of on-screen animosity that can only be fueled by a great offscreen friendship, and it was both wonderful and heartbreaking to watch Bobby say goodbye to Gorilla on episode of WCW Monday Nitro years later, and pay further tribute to him in his WWE Hall of Fame acceptance speech.Prime Time Wrestling, the show that used to air on Monday nights on the USA Network, was a far cry from Raw - just Gorilla and Brain sitting in a studio introducing pre-taped matches recorded badly at house shows from around the country and often featuring guys you barely ever heard of - but on the whole was still a more satisfying watch than Raw is some weeks even now, and that's entirely because of Heenan and Monsoon. It was appointment television for me when I was a kid, and I would beg my mom to let me stay up to watch at all as often as I could get away with it.A few years ago, I had the chance to meet Bobby Heenan in person at a New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame fan event. He had had a ton of health problems due to throat cancer and some related issues, and at that point most of his jaw had to be removed and he was unable to speak. It was sad, and such cruel irony that a man who made his living largely through talking (and at length) no longer could, but I couldn't pass up the chance to meet him.  I went up, happily paid for an autographed photo (I picked a picture of him and Gorilla to sign) and explained to him just how much I loved to hate him as a kid, how that eventually made me realize how big a fan I really was, and everything I said above about Prime Time, and I finished with a simple "thank you."  He couldn't speak, but... and I know this sounds cheesy as hell... I could see in his eyes that despite it all, he was clearly still The Brain through and through. We ended with a handshake... and let me tell you, for such an obviously infirm guy he still had a decent grip, too, which continues to prove that any wrestler you can name is way tougher than any so-called "real" athlete, sonny jim.So once again, Brain, thank you for everything. You kept us humanoids entertained, even (probably because) you were the biggest weasel of all.You'd have to be a real ham-&-egger not to acknowledge his genius, humanoid.[...]

Literally Anyone Can Make Comics: Donuts are a harsh mistress. Tasty, but harsh.


They lure you in with their deliciousness, then strike hard.

Also, circles are really hard to draw freehand, you guys. We don't talk about that enough as a society.(image)

Your hatred of pumpkin spice probably means you're kind of an asshole.


Four things typically signify the beginning of Autumn:Leaves changing color (assuming you live in an area where deciduous trees are common);The start of the new school year;Spirit Halloween Stores hermit crabbing their way into your local abandoned retail locations;Pumpkin spice-flavored products everywhere, heralded by the arrival of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte and spiraling ever outward.Everyone loves the leaves because pretty; parents are psyched about school, and though the kids grumble they're secretly happy, too, because they've been bored since August 1st; and Spirit is always a fun place to browse, though no one ever actually buys much until it goes on deep discount on November 1st.Pumpkin spice, though... that one's divisive. Some folks have weirdly strong feelings about it, and look upon the Pumpkin Spice Phenomenon with the sort of fervor or ire usually reserved for discussions about religion or politics. Pumpkin spice inspires deep, abiding, vocal love and hate in equal measure.(It is possible, of course, that you don't fall into either category and are blasé on the whole issue. If so, you're probably a normal enough human being with actual concerns in life. Good for you, buddy.)In the interest of full disclosure, I fall on the cusp of the former group.  I can't claim to enjoy everything they add the chemically simulated pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavoring to each year, but I can promise you that I'm willing to try pretty much all of it at least once.  I figure that anything that tries to get the world to taste more like a pie - nature's most perfect food - is worth giving the benefit of the doubt.  Pumpkin beer, coffee, and cider are all amazing; pretty much any baked good can be pumpkined up; it even works well in candy (they've done M&Ms in regular pumpkin spice and pumpkin spice latte, and both were good).  Some folks may take it too far, but they're mostly harmless.The haters, though... I don't get the haters.  I don't mean the people who simply dislike the flavor of pumpkin; that's an acquired taste, everyone's palate is different, we all have our things, blah blah blah.  I mean the ones to whom the very idea of pumpkin spice anything is an affront to their very way of life.  The ones who complain loudly to anyone who listen, the ones who make and post all the insulting memes, the ones who reduce all lovers of pumpkin spice anything to the stereotype of twenty-something women in scarves, Ugg boots, sweaters, and leggings who text constantly, Snapchat every second of their lives, and they love Fall but OMFG they can't even.. . .Okay, yeah, there actually are a lot of those and it's such a ubiquitous thing that even the brown M&M was dressed in a similar fashion on the packaging of the pumpkin spice late M&Ms a while back and it was such a flattering look on her that if I had been single I would have totally wanted to go on a coffee date with her and talk about books and our favorite bands."I loved 'All the Birds in the Sky,' too... I've read it twice in the past year!" I'm possibly oversharing here. Anyway, the hate. I'm not sure where it comes from.  Seeing as the stereotype focuses so heavily on Millennial women, it's tempting to chalk it up to good ol' internet misogyny, and that's probably a contributing factor in certain sectors because it's 2017 and if there are things that people seem to hate on in this year of our lord Two-Thousand and Seventeen it's... well, it's a lot of things.  Quite a lot of things.  SOOOOOOOOO MANY GODDAMN THINGS IN CASE YOU SOMEHOW HAVEN'T NOTICED. But two of things on that long, sad list are women and Millennials, so yeah, it figures into the mix for some folks, but not for all.  I see the hate coming from a wide range of people from as many walks of American life as you can name.  I think it's deeper, more insidious, and far more basic than all of th[...]

The problem with Bayley is that there is no problem with Bayley.


For the uninitiated, this is WWE Superstar Bayley:Bayley hugs, high fives, rocks a side ponytail like few others, and is as positive an on-screen role-model as anyone could hope for.  Her NXT storyarc was one of professional wrestling's ultimate underdog stories: the starry-eyed fangirl who rises to the top to become a champion, earning the adulation (and adoration) of the crowd and respect of the peers who had earlier dismissed her. And she put on some damn good matches to earn all that, too (seriously, go watch her title match with Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver Brooklyn in 2015; it stole the show and might be the single best wrestling match I've ever seen at an event I attended live).  Her eventual jump to the main WWE roster was inevitable, and before she ever came up the crowds during Raw and Smackdown shows would sometimes chant her name during other people's matches (which is as rude as it is admiring, but we'll get to the crowds in a bit).Long story short, she did eventually get "promoted," debuted in dramatic fashion, got involved in some big storylines, and even got held the Raw Women's Championship for a time.And then large portions of the crowds started booing her.Not in our house, I should hasten to add. We're all big Bayley fans at Trusty Plinko Stick World Headquarters, ever since the wife and I got back into wrestling a few years ago and discovered NXT. We got to watch her entire character evolution take place, starting from the time she'd awkwardly follow the late, great Dusty Rhodes around up through each stage as she'd gain more skills and confidence until she deservedly started to get shots at the NXT Women's Title, even if she came up short. That final victory was the culmination of long game wrestling storytelling, and when the crowd at that Brooklyn chanted "YOU DESERVE IT!" at the end of that match with Banks, it was 100% sincere. She was given nothing but a chance, fought for every opportunity, and those efforts were rewarded.  Her subsequent title run followed suit, as both performer and the booking had to show that even with a title she was still the underdog, proving again and again that this wasn't a fluke, that she was a deserving champion.So what happened? Why, after all of that success in NXT and the initial warm reception on Raw, have the crowds cooled?  I think there are a couple of reasons:1. Bayley's rise to the NXT title gold happened organically over a period of several years as both her character-building and in-ring work grew and changed. Her path from Raw debut to the women's title happened over the span of just a few months. Back in the day, wrestling crowds were more accepting of the company mandated "This is your new hero!" type of booking (see also: Hulkamania), but in the past decade or so fans have been hesitant to do so and very vocal about it. The second anyone feels "shoved down their throats," like a John Cena, a Randy Orton, a Roman Reigns, a sizeable portion invariably turns on them, preferring to choose their own heroes, thank you very much. Of course, this has usually helped underdogs in the past, like Daniel Bryan or CM Punk, so it's weird to see Bayley get lumped in with the former group rather than the latter, but Bayley also moves a lot of merchandise for the company (adults may boo, but kids want those headbands and slap bracelets), so maybe it does make a bit of sense in a way; some people have a real problem with others' success.2. NXT exists in a different environment than any other WWE show. Raw, Smackdown Live, and even 205Live are big arena shows that travel across the country (sometimes even the globe) every week. NXT travels a bit for house shows and, lately, for the quarterly TakeOver events, but for the most part in exists in one location: Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. Weekly shows aren't live and are taped several at a time (I think they'll do 3-4 episode[...]

Literally Anyone Can Make Comics: Kirby's 100th (or, Something, Something Darkseid)


It wasn't my intention to post a second comic so soon, but I couldn't miss Jack Kirby's centennial.

Much has been said about the King's reach, scope, and influence on comics, and every word of it is true. Jack has inspired everyone who has had even tangential connection to the form, and will continue to do so for as long as people have eyes and imagination. Probably longer.

My tribute is... lacking, we'll say, but I hope Jack would appreciate the attempt if not the execution. But I learned that Kirby Krackle is really fun to draw, so there's that.

Happy 100th, Jack Kirby, and thanks.


Literally Anyone Can Make Comics - Intro and Aliens


Like every comics fan ever, I have always wanted to make comics.

Like a giant portion of them, I had a million and one reasons why I couldn't.

I can't draw for crap, I hardly ever write anymore, my sense of humor could charitably be called esoteric, etc.

But you ask any comics creator, amateur or professional, how you get started making comics and the answer is always the same: you make comics.

All of which is to say that I got to the other side of 40 and decided I wanted to make comics, if only for myself.  I got one of those tiny Comic Note Books from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild and just started doodling around to make myself laugh.  I shared one on Instagram and a few of my friends laughed, so I've been sharing more.

The art is terrible, the lettering is worse, and honestly I'm probably only making myself laugh, but I figured what the hell, I'd keep sharing them as they come along.  And rather than make a whole new place for them, I figured they'd make a fine addition to the Trusty Plinko Stick family of products since this blog has been lying fallow too long and I've been wanting to give it a kick in the pants with a variety of new projects anyway.

With any luck, someday they'll at least be legible. Maybe I'll even learn to ink eventually.

So, anyway... Literally Anyone Can Make Comics #1 - Aliens!


THUMP THUMP THUMP... is this on? Is anyone out there?


Hey, some actual honest-to-Kirby content coming later today.

Watch this space.

Assuming you're still watching at all.(image)

And now a word from our sponsor...


FacePalm... the joke is dated, but the relief is timely!


"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."


If there's a better thing than masked wrestlers all dressed up, then I don't want to know what it is. [...]

Still a thing!


You know how it is.  You get busy, time slips away from you, society itself comes crashing down in an apocalyptic doom spiral... we all know the story.

Anyway, the plan for right now is that posting will resume on an at least quasi-regular basis.  We'll see if I'm able to stick to that.  And if you're still around to even see it, great, thanks so much.(image)

Good Words - A Brief Reaction to Some of the Reactions to Orlando


I woke up this morning thinking about Orlando and had this exchange from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan stuck in my head on repeat (yeah, I know, but bear with me):

David Marcus: Lieutenant Saavik was right: You never have faced death.
James T. Kirk: No, not like this. I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and -- patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing.
David: You knew enough to tell Saavik that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life.
Kirk: Just words.
David: But good words! That's where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them.

The context is obviously different and not particularly important.  What is important is that last line of David's, and that is what has stuck with me.

News in Orlando brought about the expected horrified responses and a lot of people expressing sympathy and saying they were sending their thoughts and prayers.

Not for the first time, but assuredly the loudest, there was a lot of backlash to this, with people angrily saying that thoughts and prayers were empty and useless, and that it was a time for action, not words.

I get the anger.  The anger is justified.  It's justified after a single such attack occurs, much less the umpteenth.  And yes, we need to do more to make sure all of our people (no matter who they are) are protected from violent attacks (no matter what motivates them).

But I hesitate to tell anyone that their words are useless.  Before we can act, before we should act, we need to stop.  And think.  And feel.  And speak.  We may question that sincerity of what is said by some, particularly those speaking out in sympathy with a group that they usually cast aspersions upon, and that's only natural and probably good (question everything, I say, but not to the point where your skepticism prevents you from accepting what may be genuine, if unexpected, support; that's a problem, too).

But - and I may be totally naive here - I cannot believe than any expression born from empathy and kindness will ever be useless.

Taking the next step and turning those words into action is important and necessary, yes, but it's a start,  We can work with a start, so never downplay the importance of words.

Especially good words.

That's where ideas begin.(image)

Comics Alliance's Andrew Wheeler on Superheroes


So a few weeks ago, when all that hoo-har about the Captain America "revelation" hit, Comics Alliance EIC and writer of "Another Castle" Andrew Wheeler wrote the following series of tweets about the origins of superhero storytelling and how that sometimes (often?) clashes with modern sensibilities.  I liked it because it expressed a lot of similar thoughts I've had on the topic, so I wanted to present the whole series here without any further comment, because it reflects where I'm at well-enough that I can't add too much.

(Click to see them at a readable size.)


RIP Darwyn Cooke, 1962-2016


Too much talent, too many stories left to tell, too young, too soon.Thank you, Mr. Cooke.[...]

Angry Superhero Movie 2: The Angry Superheroing


"Hey, guys.  Maybe some SPOILERS ahead. So, you know, read carefully." The Summer of the Angry Superhero™ continues!Captain America: Civil War is unquestionably a better movie than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but they have a lot of the same problems, and I left the theater feeling the same way about both of them. There were parts I liked (some quite a bit) and breakout characters whose solo films I'm now looking forward to, but they were also both overlong, tried to do too much, and were weighed down by an unearned sense of self-importance.Overall, though, my feelings on both movies comes down to two things:.The first is simply that I'm sick to death of angsty, angry, morally gray superhero storytelling.  It's not the whole "all the superheros are fighting" thing, per se, because that's a trope almost as old as the superhero genre itself, going back to old school throwdowns like the Human Torch vs the Sub-Mariner and Captain Marvel vs Spy Smasher.  There are misunderstandings, punches are thrown, and then comes the inevitable team-up against a common enemy (admittedly, in the Marvel movies' case, that team-up is several films away yet, but still).  Two of these same types of movie in the same summer is too much, I'd argue, but whatever.No, what bugs me in these movies - and in the last decade or so of the comics from both publishers that spawned these films - is that no one seems willing (or able?) to let our heroes be heroic anymore.  I've talked about this before, but we've become too skeptical of our heroes' true motivations, we're too cynical to accept capital-G Good at face value.  And hey, I get it... we live in a world now where real-life superhero Hulk Hogan goes on a racist tirade in a sex tape and beloved TV dad Bill Cosby stands revealed as a serial rapist.  Those (and many others) are blows to the American pop psyche that are going to leave marks that will take generations to recover from fully.But on the other hand, I think bringing the actually-heroic down to that level in the name of "realism" and "making them relatable" does more harm than good.  Sure, darkness defines the light, and you don't have much of a story without a struggle, but an endless slog of that darkness and struggle is really hard to sit through, especially when normally upstanding characters seem to just give into it because actually standing up to it is just too hard.  If our heroes constantly compromise their beliefs in the name of expediency or convenience, then of course cynicism will continue.  We learn by example.  It's the worst of self-fulfilling prophecies.The second reason ties into the first, and it's that fixation with realism (or realism-adjacency) superhero films have had since the Nolan/Bale Batman movies.  "If these characters and situations existed in our world, this is how they'd work," we're repeatedly told.  And yeah, maybe that's true, but why would I want to see that?  I don't look to superhero storytelling to be a beat-for-beat re-enactment of the world I see every night on the news.  I look to superhero stories for an escape from that.There's nothing wrong with using real world events as a jumping off point, something that can be served up and discussed allegorically (like on this past season of Doctor Who, where we got a two-part episode about religious fundamentalism and terrorism in Zygon drag)... that's the sort of thing superhero stories do very well.  But a lot of these movies are getting too bogged down in the details, I think, and the escapist fantasy gives way to too much emphasis on the [...]

Appreciating Chyna


Joanie Laurer, better known to most as Chyna, died on Wednesday, and it's a damn shame to see another professional wrestler (or anyone, really) lose the fight with the demons in their life.  It's especially tragic because although she will be lauded and celebrated now that she is gone, she should have received her due when she was still here to enjoy it.I'm as guilty of this as anyone, sadly, because although I saw most of her career in the WWE, I didn't pay as much attention as I probably should have, and did even less so in the years since as she bounced around the lower ends of the entertainment field.  And it's sad, because she was important for two reasons.1.  She wasn't a sex symbol.  Women's wrestling in the US has been around a long time, but until the past decade or two it was usually just the breather match, the place on the card to go to the bathroom or get another hot dog.  And if you did stay in your seat, what you mostly got was a lot of slaps and hair pulling.  By the time you get to the 1990s and the WWF/E "Attitude Era," most of the women were no better than car show models, parading around displaying the miracles of modern elective medical science in their increasingly tiny tops, and if they wrestled at all it was in "bra and panties" matches where they'd be stripped to their skivvies while a salavating Jerry Lawler screamed "PUPPIES! PUPPIES! BWA-HLA-HLA-HA-HA!'Chyna was different, though.  Chyna wrestled.  Chyna kicked ass.  Chyna ran with the boys.  Hell, for the bulk of her time in McMahonland she defended the boys, acting as the heater / bouncer / bodyguard for Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and the rest of D-Generation X.  She was mad, bad, and dangerous to know... if you messed with DX, you might have gotten a beating from the guys, but you would definitely have gotten one from Chyna.  And she continued to be an ass-kicker post-DX, twice winning the Intercontinental Championship (three times if you count when she and Chris Jericho were declared co-champions), the only woman to do so.  The reigns weren't long, but they're considered official and legitimately, understandably groundbreaking.2. She was a sex symbol.  Bigger female wrestlers weren't a new phenomenon by the time Chyna happened onto the scene, but they were always booked and promoted as oddities, the side-sideshow to the sideshow.  They were big, they were fat, they were ugly, they were to be feared and looked down upon in equal measure.  Chyna was different.  She was certainly bigger than the other women on the roster at the time, but she was tough looking and muscular.  This invited a certain amount of "hurr, hurr, she's a dude" snickering at first, but that changed over time.Admittedly, her looks were altered over time, too - she left the WWE with a bigger chest and smaller chin than when she had come in - and I'm sure that helped to a degree, but even still the overall effect marked a massive sea change for women in the wrestling world.  She was tall, she was muscular, she could put a hurting on you, but she was also - wait for it - a sexual being.  She was Eddie Guerrero's mamacita, master to the Kat's slave, and out in the real world even posed for Playboy.  A woman could be big and strong and still be sexy... given how many of the women in American professional wrestling at the time looked like exceptionally buoyant Barbie dolls, the importance of this cannot be undersold.Her life before and after wrestling (and probably even during) was reportedly hard, and that's a damn sha[...]

Say, Jim, that is actually a pretty decent outfit, wooooo!


DC's Rebirth is a-comin' down the pike in the next few months and the thing that most people are talking about (besides the fact that it's not really the rollback to the pre-New 52 DC Comics universe a lot of folks - maybe sometimes myself included - were hoping for) is that the Superman featured in all the press materials is the pre-reboot, married-to-Lois-and-now-with-a-kid Superman, the one we saw in Convergence and the Superman: Lois & Clark miniseries (info here, but probably some spoilers).  New 52 Clark seems nowhere to be found (this past week's Superman #51 has a big clue as to maybe why, and there are definitely spoilers at this link).  There will also be a Chinese man with Kryptonian-like powers getting a book called The Super-Man, and aforementioned Super Son will be getting his own spin-off book with the Damien Wayne Robin called The Super Sons (and his hoodie/costume looks all kinds of rad).Now, I'm as curious as to the hows and whys and what nexts of all this as the next Comic Book Fan of a Certain Age, but what makes me happiest about this news is that it looks like we'll finally be rid of that New 52 Super-armor and in its place will be a Superman costume that more closely resembles the recent Henry Cavill movie uniform.(art by Patrick Gleason)Though there seems to be some question as to how it will actually be colored, though:(Artist unknown)But no matter.  While I still prefer something closer to the traditional, red trunks costume (as do most product licensors if the shelves at stories almost everywhere are any indication), this is a damn sight better than that godawful, clunky, priest-collared thing the Man of Steel has been wearing since 2011 and I can live with it because I thought the movie costume worked well and have been wondering when the powers of cross-platform synergy were going to finally take hold.As for the comics themselves, I'll wait and see but I am cautiously optimistic.  I haven't enjoyed a lot of the New 52-era Superman books I have read (though the brief Geoff Johns / John Romita, Jr. run was decent, and #51 that I mentioned above was pretty good), but I liked what I have read of the Lois & Clark miniseries and I am absolutely loving the Superman: American Alien series from Max Landis, so I have hope that a more traditional, less mopey Superman is the four color panacea I've been hoping to see.  Time will tell, I suppose, but if nothing else it will be easier on the eyes.[...]

The Up Too Late Film Club #4 (Field Trip Edition): Thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (SPOILERS)


Like so many of the rest of you, I made it out to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend (and seeing as I crossed state lines to see it with friends up in Maine and didn't make it to bed until about 2am afterward, it counts as an Up Too Late Film Club field trip).  Unlike a lot of you, though, I actually kinda liked Man of Steel, so I didn't have quite the same amount of baggage going into it that many did.  I still had my fears, though (mostly due to comments of director Zack Snyder), so if I went in optimistic, it was cautiously so.I'll break my thoughts up into two sections: the short, spoiler-free version, and then some more in-depth, spoilery comments to follow.Quick Thoughts, Spoiler-Free: it tries to do waaaaaaaay too much, it squanders an awesome supporting cast, the villain is weak, and I didn't love the ending, but what it does well it does very well and you can't accuse it of being unambitious or boring. Henry Cavill was properly Supermanly, Ben Affleck was a better Batman than Christian Bale, and Gal Gadot steals the show in her (too few) scenes as Wonder Woman. More specific comments to be found in between pictures of the lovely Ms. Gadot:Seriously... HERE BE SPOILERS.  Okay, here we go.The Good:For all the talk of the wholesale destruction in Man of Steel and the fears that this would me just more of the same, I think the movie did a good job of addressing the issue.  It wasn't just shrugged off and moved on from, there were lasting consequences that affected each of the characters and their motivations, good and bad alike.  It drove Clark to take his responsibilities seriously and realize his every action has an equal and opposite reaction; it may have pushed Bruce too far, but an over-reactive Batman shouldn't be anything new to people who have read DC Comics in the past 20 years; Holly Hunter's senator's motivations seemed realistically driven by a desire to protect the public good and a basic, understandable fear, etc. On a related note, Henry Cavill's Clark showed some real growth, both as Superman and in his job at the Daily Planet, both driven by the same instinct to inform and protect.  Having grown up on 1980s post-Crisis Superman, I prefer the idea that it's Superman that's the disguise not Clark, and that the same values and responsibilities drive both of the major facets of his life.I stand by my assertion that Ben Affleck was a stronger Batman than Christian Bale, particular as an older, at-it-for-20-years Batman.  He was strong and driven, and clearly the most clever guy in any given room.  As grim as he was, it was still kind of weirdly fun to watch him Batman around, particularly given the fight choreography.  And I was psyched that they finally put a more traditional Bat-costume on the big screen instead of the usual all-black body armor.  It looked great.I realize it wasn't her movie, but Gal Gadot could have had a lot more screen time and I would have been happy because she owned every scene she was in, whether she was playing the part of mysterious international glamour woman or badass Amazon warrior.  I'm excited that she gets a whole movie to herself next year, though... the early footage we've seen looks amazing.It's a shame that we didn't see more of the supporting cast, because they were excellent, particularly Amy Adams's Lois Lane, who we at least got to see do a little more shoe-leather reporting this time, play a part in the action, and show that maybe all this getting rescued by Superman does take[...]

Remembrance of Rings Past


I became a huge fan of professional wrestling as a kid, and I was a fan of the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in particular.  The only problem was that I was living in Bangor, Maine, and though the then-WWF had come to my town sporadically before I discovered the world of sports entertainment, my particular golden age of wrestling fandom was something of a dry spell for live events in the area.  There were local, indie promotions that would put on shows at the fair and stuff, and those were fine, but what I really wanted the bigger-than-life people I was seeing on the USA Network.As the 90s dawned, though, we started getting some house shows at last, and though my initial interest in pro wrestling was starting to ebb a little (I'd walk away and come back several times through the years), it was so exciting to hear they were actually coming that of course I had to go.  In the years since, I recalled having good times at those shows but didn't have many concrete memories of what happened beyond a few specific happenings, but I recently stumbled upon a site called The History of WWE, and among many other things it lists the results of both TV and arena shows throughout the decades.  My memories of the details are still a little hazy, and some of their listings are incomplete, but I was so excited to find them and relive these events that some specifics floated back to the surface.  Here are the listings from that site for the shows I got to attend, and a few reminiscences here and there where they fit:WWF @ Bangor, ME - Auditorium - June 14, 1991Flag DayThe Berzerker pinned Koko B. Ware at the 9 minute mark after dropping him throat-first across the top ropeThe Warlord defeated Jim Powers (sub. for Kerry Von Erich) via submission with the full nelson at the 9 minute markThe Big Bossman pinned the Mountie with the sidewalk slam at 6:15Roddy Piper pinned Ted Dibiase with a small package after a low blow at the 9 minute markGreg Valentine defeated the Barbarian via disqualification at 6:30 after the Barbarian shoved the refereeThe Bushwhackers defeated the Orient Express at 9:30 when Butch pinned Tanaka after Luke interfered behind the referee's backJim Duggan pinned Sgt. Slaughter in a flag match with the running clothesline; Virgil was the special referee for the boutOh, man, I was so excited for this show.  I was practically sitting in the rafters at the Bangor Auditorium but it was still so exciting to finally see these guys in real life.  Funny thing about Jim Powers subbing for Kerry Von Erich ("The Texas Tornado")... he was actually billed as Kerry Von Erich (sort of like how the WWF would later occasionally try and pass others off as The Undertaker, Diesel, and Razor Ramon).  It was hard to tell from where I was sitting (although he definitely didn't move the same way), but friends with better seats assured us that it was not the real deal in the ring.  Von Erich had a lot of problems going on at this point in life, though, would be gone from the WWF for good a bit later, and would be dead by 1993.  In better news, the Big Bossman (a 2016 WWE Hall of Fame inductee) was amazing... really astounding to see a guy that big move so agilely.  And Roddy Piper, oh man, so much fun in the ring and out.  Also, this was when Sgt. Slaughter had renounced the USA (and presumably GI Joe royalties?), hence the flag match with Hacksaw.  Many "USA! USA!" chants were shouted. WWF @ Bangor, ME - Auditorium - September 12, 199[...]

Fantasy Booking 3


Diana didn't object to the Divas' title, per se.  She appreciated how it celebrated the spirit of sisterhood, and who doesn't love a big, bright, cheerful butterfly?  However, she never saw the point of a separate championship for women, as if they needed to be segregated into their own division.  Combat is combat, and to the victor go the spoils.

Besides, this belt already had her ring name's initials on it in big, bold letters, so...(image)

The Up Too Late Film Club #3: It's a sin to kill a mockingbird.


Harper Lee passed away recently, and like nearly everyone who had ever read To Kill a Mockingbird, the news made me sad because it was an amazing book.  Seeing and reading numerous remembrances of the woman and the book reminded me that I had never seen the (arguably) equally acclaimed 1962 movie adaptation despite always meaning to get around to it.  Seeing as it was readily available via Netflix and I had a free night (and as is the case for most of the movies I watch these days, a heartbreakingly early morning ahead to which I paid no mind), I figured it was time to fix that.So let's get the easy part out of the way: yeah, of course I loved it.  It's beautifully shot; the script captures the look, feel, and flavor of the novel note-perfectly despite the inevitable cuts that are the sad necessity of screen adaptation; and the performances are all amazing, career-defining work.  It's considered a classic, and justifiably so says I.So with that out of the way, let's talk about monsters, because that is what I think this story is about.Everyone - regardless of gender, race, belief, or age - deals with monsters in their lives. Miss Leebreaks those down into three major categories.The first is the monster we imagine.  This could be something that is purely unreal - the thing we're convinced is waiting in the closet or under the bed - or it could be based on something or someone very real that has been built up by a story that wanders a little further away from the truth with each retelling.  Boo Radley's legend is spread by scared kids and nervous grown-ups alike, a few unfortunate events in his life being blown out of proportion to the point where he's seen as the sort of Thing Chained in the Basement, only a torch- and pitchfork-wielding mob away from starring his own B-movie.  Tom Robinson is similarly cast, placed on trial for a crime he physically could not have committed and convicted in the court of public opinion (and eventually a court of law) just because the story fits the prejudiced narrative that was therefore easier for many to accept than the truth, even if that truth was obvious to any who would consider the facts for even a moment.The second monster is the one of coercion, bolstered by a combination of fear and the anonymity of a crowd.  There's the terrified Mayella Ewell, of course, the woman who falsely accuses Tom and clearly fears her father Bob (more on him in a minute), but there's an arguably better example a little earlier in the story.  As Tom spends the night in jail awaiting his trial, the jailhouse is descended upon by a mob seeking what they consider to be justice.  They are united in a common belief that one of their own has been hurt, and they are taking it upon themselves to right a wrong.  Atticus Finch holds his ground in front of the building, attempting to keep them from storming in and outright murdering the man inside. He doesn't have much luck turning the tide, and it isn't until the kids show up and Scout addresses one of them by name that anything changes.  Instead of being a faceless member of the crowd, he's now Mr. Cunningham, the farmer who brought them some hickory nuts one time, a man who was a client of Atticus's, the father of the schoolmate who came home with the Finch kids for lunch one time.  Returned to the role of being an individual, he skulks away, as does the rest of the crowd.These first two types of monsters ha[...]

Talkin' 'bout what everybody's talkin' 'bout


I have tried to write a post in reaction to the DC Rebirth announcement - or to be more accurate, a reaction to the reactions to the announcement - about a half-dozen times now.  It's been difficult, because I get why the people who are excited are excited and why the people who are mad are mad (though if I'm being completely honest my personal feelings sway more to the former than the latter), so I have a hard time elaborating my stance(s) on this.

So I've decided to stop elaborating, start simplifying, and attempt to do so in as positive manner as possible, which is this:

If you're excited, good for you.  Go buy comics you will hopefully enjoy, and have fun.

If you're angry, good for you.  Channel that anger into something positive.  Throw your vocal and (especially!) financial support behind the comics you will hopefully enjoy, and have fun.

Instead of attacking the other side for liking the comics they like, support your side for liking the comics you like.  Communities are formed, books find audiences, people get good comics.  End of story.

Reductive?  Maybe, but it seems like a better use of of everyone's time and energy than yet another endless Twitter war.

(And if you recognized that the title of this post was taken from a Dweezil Zappa song, congratulations, you used to watch Nick Rocks: Video to Go, too.)


Fantasy Booking 2


Arthur was occasionally dismissed by the everyday audience, but he had a large and vocal following among "smarts" in the internet crowd, the kind of folks who are more impressed with technical skill and workrates than by repeated catchphrases.

He might have a hard time rising above the midcard, but that's where many of the most interesting feuds and most of the best matches take place, anyway, and more than once he and his opponents ended up stealing the show (that brother-against-brother angle with Ocean Master, for instance, and the ongoing war with Black Manta that has stretched out over both mens' entire careers).

Occasionally he'll become a player in the World title picture, and every time things start out strong but eventually peter out due to questionable booking decisions (usually all backstage politics by the bigger names worried about their spots) and weird attempts at changing up his gimmick.  It's the hunt for the Intercontinental title - and minor variations on his old school persona - that best suits him and the fans.

That contract stipulation about only having to defend the championship in coastal cities sure is weird, though.(image)