Archive for June, 2014

Sketches in the Dirt

June 20, 2014

I thought it was time for another look into the mind of Phillip Brooks, my character from PlanetFall.  Yet again I have taken liberties with the setting since our RPG group has not outlined a lot of the culture or technology before they were exiled.  This takes place during a week of in-game time that was not role-played at the table since nothing really exciting happened during it.  It is the first real downtime since the characters’ arrival on the strange prison planet.  It takes place not long after a mission which ended up being an especially bloody affair.  As before, characters not written by me are the property of their creators or the creators of PlanetFall itself.

*                     *                        *

Phillip sat between two dwellings across from the medical station, staying quiet and still in the dirt.  There was almost always shade here during most of the day and he was mostly left alone there.  This was where he often stayed when he wasn’t off on whatever duty he was assigned to during the day.  He also offered his help to Grace but he had no skills in medicine and he had no hope in catching up to her knowledge and experience.  Still, he was nearby just in case.

After a long shift on the wall, he was sitting in the dirt and trying to sketch the power processing unit for an XJ-9 ion engine.  It was getting difficult to remember and he thought he might be accidentally incorporating parts of the XJ-8.  It felt like ages since he had opened something up to try and fix it.  After the addiction had taken its toll on his mind and body, he wasn’t sure what was left in his head.  He dreamed sometimes of being back up on the ship but he wondered if he could still fit in.

He looked down at his arm, still scarred from when his skin had erupted with open sores.  He couldn’t remember smelling bad but could tell from the expressions on  their faces.  He hadn’t been able to look Grace in the eye during that time so thankfully he couldn’t recall her reaction.  He knew what he must have looked like and how he probably did not look much better now.  He knew he must be less than human now, like the trolls and ogres from the fairytales he heard when he was little.

That thought brought his mind back to the Roland where he had spent his while life before his life was over.  His sister was still up there and so was his neice.  At least, he hoped they were still up there and safe.  He wondered how they would survive without him.  If they had any family left, they were not on the Roland.  He had heard of a possible distant cousin on the Danu or was it the Balaur.  There had never been a response when the message was sent out about the death of Phil and Sarah’s parents.

There hadn’t really been much time to think about it before but now that there was finally downtime, it was hard to think of anything but the past.  Thinking about the future didn’t seem to be worth it.  Everything looked so bleak.  His mind flashed to those little cat things, the giant snake, that six-legged predator, the man-eating flower,  insects in the trees and finally deadly trees.  Before he could stop it, images of all the dead bodies flashed into his mind’s eye.   He had only ever seen his parent’s bodies before he had fallen.

Something was going to catch up to them eventually.  The trees, the cat people or maybe even Declan would succeed in taking their lives.  Several of the fallen had already died and only more could follow.  If things didn’t start looking up, he wouldn’t have to worry about his family anymore.  After all, corpses don’t have a care in the world.

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: I Love it in Spite of Myself

June 19, 2014

WILPW

Stuff I Loved In Spite of Myself

No company in the history of man has ever done everything right all the time.   Sports entertainment companies are no different and I’ll definitely be posting on the truly terrible mistakes in a future episode.  Sometimes though, a company comes up with an idea so weird that I can only shake my head and go “Alright, let’s see where this goes.”  Sometimes I’m disappointed and sometimes I’m rewarded for my patience but these moments never fail to entertain.

Doink the Clown

Yes. You read that right.  Doink is a wrestling clown.  Doink was originally portrayed by Matt Osborne in 1992 but was also played by eight other men.  When Doink debuted I was definitely intrigued and I have continued to be interested in the following 22 years that “he” has appeared.  Even though one of Doink’s strength’s are his facial expressions, his make up allowed for pretty much anybody to play him.   I preferred Osborne’s Doink who was a villainous clown when he first showed up.  He was dressed so festive but looked so unhappy and would often play cruel pranks on babyfaces (good guys).  Later he even briefly added a “twin” and did the mirror gag that Lucille Ball and the Marx Brothers made famous.  He lost some of his shine when he became a good guy, largely due to Osborne getting fired.

The Spirit Squad

So in 2006, five young wrestlers were brought up from Ohio Valley Wrestling which at the time acted as the WWE’s developmental promotion.  All five guys were pretty much novices in the business but thrown together, they could possibly cover each other’s weaknesses.  What gimmick were they given?  They were a male cheerleader squad.  You would think they would give this gimmick to a group of female wrestlers but no.  I rolled my eyes but they kind of grew on me.  They were committed to their gimmick and they were all pretty athletic.  For some reason, the evil Vince McMahon decided to use them to enforce his despotic ways.   He would pit all five of them against one of his enemies.  The five to one advantage would pretty much always win out until they faced the reformed DX.  After that, it was fun to watch them get their asses kicked.  The only one left with the company is Nicky who became Dolph Ziggler.

Santina Marella

I realize that this choice might be controversial.  Now, I have been a fan of Santino Marella for some time ever since he changed from a generic hero to the people to a comical immigrant character that reminds me of Chico Marx.  He is definitely a performer who quickly embraced his role as the company’s comic relief.  He kind of went off the deep end when he decided he wanted to compete against women a la Andy Kauffman.  When that didn’t work, he cross-dressed and spoke in a comically high-pitched voice and claimed to be his twin sister Santina.  The wrestling was admittedly not very good but the backstage comedy bits could be priceless.  He wore revealing dresses and did not bother to cover up his distinctive tattoos or shave body hair.  You never saw Santino and Santina in the same place at the same time although he did pretape an interview with himself.  It was all ended by Donald Trump of all people and everybody shrugged and carried on.

Damien Sandow: Master of Magnetism

Damien Sandow has been a bright spot ever since I became aware of him.  He is a pretty good physical performer but his skills on the mic are great.  I consider myself to be pretty smart and well read.  Sandow’s character takes that several steps farther and names himself the intellectual savior of the masses (his actual words) and combines that with a brutal offensive style.  When Hugh Jackman showed up on WWE programming the first time I was wary but he pulled it off nicely.  Prior to his recent appearance I heard that he was a really big fan of the product so when he appeared again, I looked forward to it.  Damien Sandow stepped out in a certain costume that looked handmade and pathetic while being simultaneously pretty accurate.  I urge you to watch the above video.  It ended up being just perfect.

Brodus Clay: Funkasaurus

Brodus Clay originally debuted as a monster.  He was a wall of a man who stood in the way when Edge was facing the villainous Alberto Del Rio.  He brutalized Edge’s “brother” Christian over and over just by being difficult to knock down.  He went away for a while after that feud was over and when he came back things were really, really different.  Suddenly he had back up dancers and lights and catchy, poppy music.   It was a huge change and I was very confused especially since Clay could never actually dance well.  He was supposed to be chock full of funk but could only do the T-Rex arms bit from Thriller, the electric slide and the Gangnam Style dance.  He later added other lame moves.  Still, he kind of grew on me.  It didn’t hurt that he continued to tear his opponents apart.

The StarDust Debut

There is not much to say on this one yet as the character just debuted on Monday.  Cody Rhodes might just warrant a whole episode of his own in the future.  Cody is the real life  younger brother of Dustin Runnels aka Goldust.  In order to continue their tag team, Cody has now adopted his brother’s bizarre gimmick.  Time will tell on this one but I’m willing to ride it out.

Fanboys (2009)

June 12, 2014

It is now time for a long overdue movie review.  I’ve been a huge fan of Kristen Bell since I discovered Veronica Mars years ago.  As I absorbed the series, I became a bigger and bigger fan.  When I realized that season 4 was not going to happen, I was crushed but I knew I would always support the alumni of the show.  That’s what caused me watch the show Flashpoint (which is awesome) and made me love Moonlight a little more than I would have.  I’m even going to get around to watching Party Down if I ever get the chance.

I was flipping channels today as I tried to beat the heat and came upon a little movie called Fanboys.  Now, I had heard a little bit about Fanboys in the past but I never got around to watching it.  What caught my interest was that in the scene I happened upon, Kristen Bell was front and center.  Consider my interest piqued.  I hit record on the DVR and decided to watch it later since the movie was almost over

The movie is about four guys trying to travel from Ohio to San Francisco to break into Skywalker Ranch to see an early screening of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  The four friends are lifelong fans of Star Wars (although, like me they weren’t yet born when A New Hope came out) One of them has cancer and is not expected to stay alive until the movie actually comes out.

Although the movie is mostly an ensemble movie,  Sam Huntingdon plays Eric who is arguably the lead.  For a minute, I thought it was Shia Lebouf in this part but Sam Huntingdon is way better and was also in Veronica Mars. (Bonus!)  Eric is facing a dilemma in that he always wanted to pursue being a comic book creator but fell into working at his dad’s car dealership in order to make a living.

Chris Marquette plays Linus who has cancer and was always best friends with Eric.  He’s disappointed in Eric for giving up his dream but also mad at Eric for not talking to him for three years.  He’s not ready to forgive Eric for leaving his friends behind.  He drew up a plan for a road trip to Skywalker Ranch when he and the gang were in elementary school.  He is also struggling with accepting his own mortality.

Dan Fogler plays Hutch, the requisite uber-fanboy man-child.  He likes to “bitchslap some trekkies” and will punch a man for demeaning Han Solo.  He is constantly trying to use jedi mind tricks on women and delights in embarassing and bullying his friends.  Despite all that, he’s actually really enjoyable to watch as I have definitely had friends like him.  The kind of guy that you’re friends with for no clear reason.

Jay Baruchel plays uber-nerd Windows and his name is never explained.  He is teased by the other three for having an internet girlfriend until said girlfriend is able to get them blueprints to Skywalker Ranch.  His journey is one of self-discovery and becoming comfortable with who he is and what he really wants.  On top of that, he has some of the funniest lines in the whole movie.

Kristen Bell plays Zoe, the geek girl of the group.  Somehow they avoid her being a complete stereotype and she is a lot of fun in this movie.  I don’t know if Kristen Bell has geeky pursuits in real life or not but it does not matter as she pulls off a believable comic book/sci-fi geek here.  She is also hands down the toughest character and the funniest performance of the movie which is actually saying a lot.  I won’t spoil her journey in the film.

There is plenty more to love in the film.  There’s cameos from Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher and Ray Park all of whom are Star Wars alumni.  There’s a surprise Star Trek cameo as well which I won’t spoil.  There’s a cameo from Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith at one point as well.  Seth Rogen plays three funny characters, the first of which took me three minutes to realize it was him.

The movie really surprised me at how good it was.  It was not great cinema but it was an enjoyable road picture where the characters actually experienced growth.  The general feel of the movie reminded me of Detroit Rock City, a movie I actually remember liking a lot.  I don’t remember if it was ever stated in the movie but the characters are around college aged.  Though it is mentioned that Windows owns a comic book shop and Eric does have a serious job so maybe they’re closer to 30 than 20.

Apparently there was controversy over the editing of this film and the movie was delayed for years so they could do some reshoots.  Executive meddling almost cut out the whole cancer storyline which would have torn the heart right out of the movie.  I vaguely remember the protests and campaign against producer Harvey Weinstein so I’m happy the director/writer got as much of his original script as possible up on screen.

It was obvious that Lucasfilms was heavily involved in the movie but not enough to actually meddle in it.  It looks like they gave a lot of access and permissions for a lot of licensed stuff.  On the other hand, Viacom/Paramount gave absolutely no permission for Star Trek images or logos.  It makes the Star Trek stuff a little awkward but it still gets the point across.

I definitely recommend this movie.  Go ahead and watch it.

More Flavor Text

June 12, 2014

Yet more working out of my Tabletop RPG.  I’m getting more confident about the world now and if you notice I might have a name for the world and maybe the game too.   This is a quick outline of magical abilities within the world of the game.  Of course, this is for player characters, for everything else I can break the rules.

*                    *                          *

There are five kinds of magic that have practical application in the world of Maatero.  That is, there are five applications of magic that do not require ritual to work.  Each of these uses a being’s spirit bound to magic which can be incredibly dangerous.  Only a creature of great magic can perform this binding although once in a blue moon it can happen by accident.  When done on purpose, it can be done as a blessing or a curse.  Only three are generally seen as blessings but all five are an ordeal.

The first is Elemental Fusion which is the practice of placing a portion of an elemental spirit in oneself.  This allows a person limited control of one element (fire, ice, wind, earth, etc.)  An elemental spirit is of primal origins and allows a person to attack or defend using that element.  It requires great mental focus and the power can only be summoned so much before a rest is needed.

The second is Animal Fusion which is the practice of placing an animal spirit in oneself.  This allows a person to call upon the skills and attributes of an animal from nature.  They can even transform into that animal although it causes a great deal of stress to do so.  This is one of the ordeals that can easily be inflicted on someone as a curse.  In this case, the animal side can be hard to control in times of stress and may present itself at the worst of times.

The third is the Soul Weapon which is a magical weapon bound to a person and inseparable once formed.  A part of the soul is separated from one’s inner being and forged into a weapon by following the rites of Aeon.  This weapon is indestructible and only exists on the material plane by a force of will.  The only people who wield this power are followers of the tenets of Aeon who are all noble souls.

Fourth, a person’s spirit can be placed inside an inanimate object or objects which is almost always done as a curse or punishment.  When this happens, the person is no longer “alive” but depends on the well-being of the objects they are in to determine how long they can live.  There are few people who would want this to happen to them.

The final option is no option at all.   The forces of Hel can infuse someone’s spirit with Helfire which grants Hellish supernatural powers.  This is done through a contract with a demon.  Going back on said contract almost always results in being banished to Hel.  If you do not enjoy being chased by Helhounds, do not go back on a demon deal.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Strong Women

June 9, 2014

WILPW

Throughout the history of sports entertainment, there have been a lot of good perfomers and a lot of bad performers.  Of course, being a good performer has nothing to do with what your sex is.  I’ve seen female performers who can wrestle circles around their male co-workers and I’ve seen women who don’t know a wristlock from a wrist watch.

Unfortunately, for a while, the WWE has trotted out a lot of female performers who don’t actually wrestle.  They might wrestle once a year at Wrestlemania and then the rest of the year they appear in a trashy reality show and pose for photo shoots. (I’m looking at you Eva Marie)

Variety is the spice of life but wrestling companies definitely go through periods where they trot out bland performers who run together.  They have no character, no skill and no charisma and are mostly just fitness models who look pretty in their costumes.  They might as well be clones of each other.    The Eva Maries, Bella Twins, Camerons, Rosa Mendes, etcetera of the business are a plague.  What follows are a handful of woman who always had me on the edge of my seat.  Once again, omissions are not a statement, I just grabbed a few examples that I thought were examples of my experience.

Gail Kim

Gail Kim has unfortunately been underrated in years past.  The WWE did not know what to do with her.  They didn’t realize what a good thing they had going with her on their roster.  She is the inaugural women’s champion for TNA where she continues to kick ass.  She is one of the most athletic woman in the business today.  Also, her logo on the screen during her entrance looks like artwork done by Jamie Hewlett  of Gorillaz and Tank Girl fame.

Kharma/Awesome Kong

If I saw Awesome Kong coming my way then I would run and I would hide.  I would do anything to get out of her way.  She is one of the most unique female performers that I’ve ever seen.  She flattened plenty of people with her Implant Buster in TNA and then moved over to WWE to decimate their roster as well.  She was let go by the WWE due to a pregnancy that she did not carry to term but it would be a crime if she doesn’t make it back into the big time.

Victoria/Tara

Another performer who has worked on top in WWE and in TNA.  She immediately impressed me with how vicious she could be at a time where everybody else seemed to be blonde and happy.  Her Widow’s Peak finisher is more believable as a painful maneuver than a lot of moves I could name.  Later, in TNA, she became legitimately scary through acting and carrying around a spider.  She always looked like she worked stiff and looked tougher than a lot of people I know in real life.

Lita

The first lady of Team Extreme spent a lot of time pissing off fans of the WWE. All of that aside,  she was one the first really talented female wrestler that I knew of.  She was also the first female high flyer that I knew of.  She wrestled about as well as Matt and Jeff Hardy who she hung out with.  Later, she proved to be better than either of those broken down messes.  A lot of people trumpeted Trish Stratus as the best of the best but I was always a Lita fan.  I liked her music, her moves, her style and her attitude the best.

Beth Phoenix

The Glamorous Amazon or Glamazon has beastly strength for somebody of her stature.  Proof positive that you an bench press a ton of weight and look good doing it, Beth Phoenix was always impressive.  Her Glam slam is impressive at how she can consistently lift people of both sexes and slam them down face first with such ease.  She was put into a lot of silly and demeaning storylines but her talent always shone through regardless of what the WWE did to her.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Catchphrases

June 2, 2014

WILPW

One of the things that can get a performer over (aka popular) quicker is the use of a catchphrase.  The performer really has to sell the catchphrase.  Therefore, a good catchphrase needs to be shorter, repeatable by the fans and must come naturally from the character.  The catchphrase doesn’t even have to be cool.  It just has to resonate with the fans.   A catchphrase can help get a performer a foot in the door but then talent and charisma gets them the rest of the way into our hearts.

That’s not to say that a catchphrase is even necessary.  Some of the best talkers in the business did not rely on catchphrases.  I’m talking about Mick Foley, Jake the Snake, Brian Pillman, Kevin Sullivan, William Regal, Rick Rude, Terry Funk, etc.   However, I love a good catchphrase because it resonates in my head long after the interview is over and the crowd enjoys delivering it along with the performer.

“Yes!” – Daniel Bryan

I have personally shouted this one at the top of my lungs at a wrestling show.  It was a wrestling show where Daniel Bryan did not even appear.  It was a wrestling show for a completely different company.  That is the power of the Yes Movement.  It is amazing to see a crowd of thousands chanting ‘Yes!’ and raising their hands in the air in unison.

“Are you ready?” – Degeneration X

Alright, I could have included how they always used to yell “Suck it!” but I never really liked that catchphrase.  The one that got me fired up was Triple H growling ‘Are you Ready?’  which I think was more recent.  Still, you can hear the crowd chanting along with him so it was undeniably popular.

“Believe in the Shield.” – The Shield

This catchphrase never fails to get me excited, especially since they stopped having Roman Reigns scream it at the screen.  Now one of the members of the Shield delivers the line with a seething growl.

“Rest. In. Peace.” – Undertaker

I am a grown man now and seeing the Undertaker slowly growl out this line while rolling his eyes back makes me shiver.  It always made me believe that his opponent was about to succumb to the Tombstone Piledriver.

“Woo Woo Woo!  You Know it!” – Zack Ryder

Alright, I included this one on the list because it makes me laugh.  It is a truly goofy and ridiculous catchphrase but Zack Ryder definitely sold the hell out of it.

“Because I’m the Miz and I’m Awesome!” – The Miz

A simple catchphrase for a cocky performer but it totally fits.  I have to admit that I completely ripped off this catchphrase several years ago.   It really helped a third rate reality star boost himself into being a top level performer.

“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.” – Bad News Barrett

This one was actually really annoying at first but it really has grown on me.  This one started as Wade Barrett appearing and actually delivering some bad news.  He repeated it over and over and over until I liked it.  Part of that is he obviously gets a lot of pleasure out of delivering the catchphrase.

Flavor Text

June 1, 2014

Here’s some flavor text for the RPG setting I’m trying to create.  I still have not named it.  I wanted to call it After the Fall but I figure that the Angel comic books already grabbed that title.  Plus, I’m not completely loving the title (though I may come around on it).  I’m still figuring out what this is but I’m getting a better handle on it.  I get at least a dozen ideas a week and I have to decide what I want to ditch and what I want to keep.  Good times.

*     *      *

It has been 2,000 years since the Fall cast the previous civilization into disarray.  Remains of this civilization are now scene as curious puzzles or half-forgotten artifacts to be razed on sight.  Countries have formed and borders have been to drawn to protect culture and establish sovereignty.  Royalty and heads of state play their games and the ordinary folks live their lives day to day.

It is a time when adventurers could profit.  Much of the land is still unknown and there are many patrons willing to pay for the jobs that nobody in their right mind would do.

It is the time of the 115th Grand Festival of Cammarata in the Kingdom of Altiria.  The Cammaratan festival is the largest and most popular of all the Grand Festivals in the world.  The busy port city is full to the brink with revelers, merchants, the ordinary citizenry and the usual thieves and brigands that accompany any Grand Festival.

Dignataries, both foreign and local, make more public appearances here than they will the rest of the year.  The Artisans District sells anything from useless geegaws to well-crafted artwork and useful items.  Fighting is forbidden in the streets (as it is the rest of the year) but differences are settled in the Arena.

Currently, it is the second day of the festival which is also known as Youth Day, a day celebrating the young people of the world.  It is early summer weather nd there is a humid, creeping heat under a bright sun, unhampered by clouds.  Wine is flowing, music is playing but not everybody has come to party.


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