Archive for December, 2016

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: John Cena

December 31, 2016

WILPW

John Cena has been in the WWE for fourteen years now. Before that, he wrestled for Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling. When he was starting out, he created a robot wrestler character called The Prototype. While I never saw this side of Cena, it makes sense. The man is a machine and has been since he debuted over a decade ago. He works harder than just about anybody in the company and it shows in his success.

When I first saw Cena, it was when he debuted against the now legendary Kurt Angle. Kurt was always an impressive physical specimen but suddenly this young punk came out of nowhere and challenged him. His battle cry was “Ruthless Aggression” and he certainly showed he had it. He was far from the wordsmith he would turn out to be but physically he was fast and everything he did looked good. It really was like the second coming of The Rock as he was pushed toward greatness from the moment he first appeared. Not only did he beat up Kurt, he was given kudos by a lot of veterans on camera and was even congratulated by The Undertaker. He had the charisma and he had the moves and he had the respect, he just needed a little more to truly get over.

Later that year he found that special something that would help boost him a little more into the spotlight. Taking a cue from his real life rapping skills and the popularity of hip-hop and white performers in the genre, he adopted the persona of John Cena, Doctor of Thuganomics. He leaned in hard to the gimmick and turned heel in the process. All of the kayfabe respect he had before, he threw back in the faces of those backstage as he feuded with the Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. He had rap battles with other superstars and proved that his gimmick was no lie. He was very good at getting people to boo him but I always loved to watch him. It was during this time that he developed the finisher that he uses today. It was called the FU to mock Brock Lesnar since it started like his F5.

In 2005, Cena won hist first heavyweight championship against John Bradshaw Layfield. It was a good choice because Cena was still technically a heel heading into the feud. Having him take down a heel faction that was a symbol of authority and politics was a good way to show that he was a good guy. I felt he also stepped up his game, broadening his character and showing that he could definitely play with the big boys. Not long after this, though, fans started to boo Cena probably because they felt he was being pushed too hard and too fast. It did not help that he was feuding with Chris Jericho who is so good that fans cheer him whether he is a babyface or a heel. The booing gained momentum and fans pretty much turned on him. I have to admit that I loved seeing Cena throw his shirt out into the audience and seeing the audience throw it back at him. I bought into the hate and booed right along with everybody else.

Cena won my respect, though. He did not let the booing faze him and instead worked harder. In one of the great modern storylines, he feuded with the Nexus. Cena often fought by himself against ten men and never gave up. Finally, this led into one of my favorite Cena feuds. He faced off against CM Punk. Cena was practically manufactured by the WWE as he never really wrestled anywhere else. Punk was an indy darling. Cena had a small move set while Punk had a huge arsenal to draw from. Cena and Punk burned the house down and had some of the most memorable matches of both Punk and Cena’s WWE careers. During this time he also feuded with the Miz in a feud that, over time, helped pull Miz into a whole new stratosphere. The two seemed to almost be made for each other at times.

Probably the biggest feud of his career was a two-year feud with The Rock. As I alluded to before, the two were very similar. Both were charismatic youngsters who joined the WWE with huge momentum already on their side. Both were immediately crowned as legends and given kudos by their colleagues just after their first match. Both were pushed too hard and too fast, forcing the crowd to hate them. However, The Rock turned heel in response and eventually got the crowd to love him while Cena just persevered and stayed the honest yet aggressive character he had always been. It was around this time that the company started to have Cena win no matter what. It led to the meme of LOL Cena Wins because his victory was almost always a forgone conclusion. It was similar to Hulk Hogan’s career in that respect.

Cena has now won 16 heavyweight belts throughout his career, tying his record with that of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. He continues to work hard, still performing despite multiple injuries and setbacks. Along the way, he won back my respect but I still resented that he always won. Last year he won the US Championship and he started to turn his image around. He issued open challenges and he barely won them. He got injured again. He came back and he actually started losing for once in his career and I was overjoyed. Not because I still hated him but because LOL Cena Wins was actually being used for a great new purpose. All these new stars were beating the unstoppable Cena and it did not make him look weaker but it made a lot of them look stronger. He went toe to toe with indy darling AJ Styles and Styles won and has continued to win. They will go at it again next year and I will be glued to the screen when they do. In the meantime, he is making new forays into Hollywood and crushing it as one of the most charitable celebrities. Period. I still expect good things from Cena. In my opinion, he just gets better and better.

 

(HAPPY NEW YEAR = LAST POST OF 2016)

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Media Update 12/29/2016

December 29, 2016


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I love the Harry Potter films a lot and I was glad that they finished that story and contained it by itself. That book series (and movie series) created a whole big magical world but only stayed in a small part of it. We mostly only saw the magical world of London which is a small fraction of our planet. After the books were written, we got a little information on how magical schooling is done in America but not much. Of all ways the Harry Potter world could be continued in film, I did not expect them to do a period film about the author of one of Harry’s textbooks. We follow a British wizard as he journeys through New York City in the thirties. This movie felt a lot more grounded than most of the Potter films. It is full of a similar sense of wonder but the world is different. There is no Voldemort and all the familiar characters who are alive are an ocean away. It is a fresh new story in a new world with similar rules. We also finally get to see a movie whose hero is not a fricking Gryffindor and is instead a Hufflepuff. It is interesting to see the Wizarding world in times past because it seems that it once was closer to the human world. Instead of robes, we see the wizards actually wearing real clothes which makes way more sense. This is a story about every life being precious, even when there is a constant threat of terrorism or war. It is an important message right now and always. I definitely recommend this movie and I look forward to the next movie in the series.


Doctor Strange

I never really read any Doctor Strange comics but I was definitely aware of the character. When I saw him, he was often assembling a makeshift team of heroes to battle some threat to the Marvel Universe. He was the resident magical expert in Marvel and he faced down unimaginable threats without batting an eye. I was excited when this movie was announced because I wanted to really get to know the character outside of a team-up story. I knew a bit of his origin story and it is a tale that confirms that sometimes good things can rise from tragedy. Every single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie has been great especially when working with a character who the average person on the street would say ‘who?’. They do a great job at making their properties into iconic characters who also feel real. The first choice they made in this film that showed they were on the right track was casting Benedict Cumberbatch. Over and over he has proven to be a great actor. Playing Stephen Strange requires a certain amount of confidence and arrogance that Cumberbatch is used to portraying. He can look pathetic and he can look powerful. The casting of Tilda Swinton is a little regrettable but not a mistake as she is great in her role. On top of that, we have the always excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor who I first encountered in Serenity and knew he would continue to be awesome. I also really liked Benedict Wong who plays the practical and serious Wong who I know was Strange’s assistant in the comics. I definitely recommend this and I am overjoyed that Marvel keeps churning out awesome movies.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I first heard about this series when I saw the book in my mother’s car where it had been left by her granddaughter (technically my niece). I had heard that the book was good and from what I heard, Tim Burton was probably a good choice for adapting it. Burton failed at adapting Alice in Wonderland but magic in the modern world is something he has experience with. Burton is kind of hit or miss for me but I respect him a lot as a filmmaker. This movie was so refreshing as Tim Burton movies go. Burton purposely did not use a lot of the digital effects and plastered-on make up that have become a crutch for him in more recent years. He also did not use Danny Elfman as a composer. I love Elfman but the two definitely needed a break from each other. The source material is obviously good because the movie follows an interesting mystery without a lot of the pointless quirkiness. It feels like Tim Burton became stuck creatively at some point and this movie may be a sign that those juices are flowing correctly again. This movie definitely has charm and the characters are so likable and interesting. Eva Green is very commanding and Samuel L. Jackson is great as the conniving villain. Asa Butterfield is the audience’s proxy as the everyman who is curious about this new world. There is an underlying creepiness and otherworldliness that is fun for a Halloween enthusiast like me. The world building is a little shaky but I was willing to trust in it and it has paid off so far. I am interested to see if this series continues. I recommend this definitely.

Music of the Week:
BabyMetal w/ X Japan – Akatsuki

Beastwars – Damn The Sky

DMX – How’s It Goin’ Down

Panic! At The Disco – LA Devotee

Los – Hustle Hard

Weekly Update:
– It’s my birthday!
– This week’s theme is “Magic is Just Out of Sight”
– I really did not watch much this week
– I watched a little bit of The Office
– A smidgen of Arrested Development
– I watched a cute film called Dear Santa starring Amy Acker
– I also watched a weird movie called Georgia Rule
– The holidays were so busy and they are not even done yet

It’s a Wonderful Life

December 26, 2016

A year and a half ago I started a project on this blog called Media Update that was meant to be an outlet for me to blabber about things I like. As it continued, I started a self-imposed rule that every week I must watch three new things and write about them. This has caused me to watch a lot of things I would have dismissed or just go back to binge watching shows and movies that I have already seen. Lately, I have been inspired by Tamara ChambersTamara’s Never Seen show to go back and watch movies that practically everybody has seen but I missed. Some of those movies have been parodied and referenced so much that I feel that I have seen them but I never sat down and watched them. This movie is one of those movies. I have seen Clarence and George on the bridge done in parody so many times that I had to actually try and remember whether or not I had seen this movie. When I mentioned it offhand, my mom pounced on it and asked that we watch it. Initially, I wanted the streak to continue but that is a foolish and weird reason not to watch something.

I started watching The Twilight Zone when I was a teen when I caught late night episodes and holiday marathons. The combination of the simple life of the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties and the supernatural was an interesting one for me. Most episodes are about somebody’s life going crazy and how they deal with the supernatural or extraterrestrial influence. This movie very much has the feel of a solid Twilight Zone episode. The movie is in black and white and done in a very theater-like style. It also has the combination of the normal life and intervention from a supernatural force. Without the supernatural aspect, the movie would probably have been a little more run of the mill and the movie may have never become a holiday classic. I could not dismiss the feeling as I watched the movie and I had to make reference to that comparison as it is inescapable.

The first part of the movie deals with a trip through George Bailey’s life so that we can see what kind of man he is and what kinds of choices he makes. Jimmy Stewart, often parodied but never truly imitated, was a really solid actor. He has a great earnest quality to him but his character is just as much at ease with joking around. He gets emotional as he fights for his family and friends and what he believes is right. We also see Donna Reed as Mary. Rather than just being a side piece to the hero, she is a great person on her own. She is far funnier than Stewart (which is saying a lot) and is extremely smart. Her character is shown to have a very rich imagination but is also grounded enough to make her dreams come true. We also have the legendary Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter who uses his experience playing Ebenezer Scrooge in radio plays. He is a man hard as iron and sneaky as a deadly spider. There is a whole cast of bit players who do a ton with short scenes and fewer lines.

The last part of the movie is when the Twilight Zone aspect kicks in. We get to see an alternate reality where an important man is absent from history and we see the damage that causes to the timeline. It is interesting to see the butterfly effect and how one life can affect so many. Of course, we see all of George’s actions earlier in the movie so we can easily see their absence. George is one of those guys who actually would be missed and I am a little envious of that. He sacrificed himself over and over for the benefit of his friends and family and the town he loves. Obviously, he wonders where other paths would have led to and that causes a restlessness. In his darkest hour, that restlessness rises again and he wishes everything away. It is a totally understandable feeling. The alternate timeline is really well done and fits together pretty well with lines and events from earlier in the movie.

Overall, I thought it was a really good movie. It is very interesting and the acting and direction were some of the best I have seen from an older movie. Frank Capra knows how to make a small town seem inviting and familiar. Jimmy Stewart was freshly home from the war and his emotions are very raw in the movie and, I am told, his tears are real in the movie. The writing is intricate enough to fit together like a puzzle but simple enough to understand without too much thought. Of course, I do not really think of this movie as a Christmas movie. That holiday does not show up until a little more than thirty minutes before the end of the movie and it is not the central theme of the movie. But it is still a pleasant movie that I recommend.

Christmas Interview Questions

December 25, 2016

Since it is Christmas, I thought I would break my normal update schedule and post today. While it has been over a decade since I have attended church, I still celebrate Christmas with my family. My stepfather’s family actually gives and receives gifts tomorrow morning which extends our Christmas tradition a little more. Anyway, here are a few Christmas interview questions to celebrate this day of giving.


Do you prefer to give gifts or receive them?

When I was little, I was all about receiving things. However, as I got older and older, receiving became less and less important. I struggled to actually add things to my Christmas list because things became less important to me. Action figures just took up space so I started to float toward comic books, books, video games and movies which are all objects that give you an experience and serve a specific purpose. I still find it hard to ask for anything since I already have mostly everything I need and most of what I might want is boring and cheap. At the same time, giving gifts has become a more rewarding experience. I struggled to pick good gifts for the people I love. I was always desperate for a gift to give because it was required. Now, I have become better at reading people and drawing on my personal connections to them to pick a good gift. Nothing I give is boring or impersonal, it always carries memories of a bit of fiction we both liked or a memory we shared. Now I prefer giving gifts so I can see the reaction and the feeling that I really know that person.


What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

This is a huge running thing on the Internet and among my friends and family. The most popular answer that I have heard is Die Hard as it is loudly proclaimed by my brother. While I love Die Hard, I cannot pick it because it is not actually a Christmas movie. The same goes for my joke answer which is Batman Returns which involves Batman saving Christmas. One of my favorite movies, A Nightmare Before Christmas, has officially been labeled a Halloween movie so that does not count either. I feel the same should be said of Gremlins. I think I would actually go with White Christmas which I finally saw for the first time last year. It starts with singing Christmas songs to the troops in the middle of a really bad war zone. It ends with the main characters putting on a show to save a failing business. It stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye among others and has the old Christmas standard White Christmas (of course). It is a kind-hearted movie but it does not fall into the trap of getting too sappy, too sarcastic or too sugary sweet. It has a lot of humor but it also has a lot of touching moments and conflict which, to me, is what the holidays are all about.


What’s your favorite Christmas song?

Musically, I would have to go with the song I posted on Thursday, All I Want for Christmas is You by Vince Vance and the Valiants. Lisa Layne is one heck of a singer and I like the pleading nature of the song a lot along with some jazzy backup from the band. However, it is not a message that resonates with me. I have never had a special somebody during Christmas that I was missing and needed desperately to be with. It felt a little right that one Christmas I was working on A Christmas Carol and could not come home to my family for Christmas but that is not what I want from Christmas. I would have to go with Santa Baby simply because it embodies what I want from Christmas. I want playfulness, I want happiness, I want good music and good secular fun. Obviously, my heart goes out to the Eartha Kitt version because she was Catwoman and that ties into the whole Batman thing from earlier. She also really does well walking the line between playfulness, flirtatiousness and holiday cheer.

And how about a few gifts?

From the WWE for fans of Why I Love Pro-Wrestling:

A little Heavy Metal in honor of my new Dungeons and Dragons character:

And a look at why Home Alone may not be the best holiday film:

The Story Pt. 3

December 24, 2016

the-story

I turned back to face Alice who was waiting, probably expecting me to sign on the dotted line. “Well, thanks for all of that exposition but I don’t think I’m a good fit here. In fact, I should get back to my place. I need to finish with these plays and I still have plenty of homework that you all interrupted,” I said. I was about done with the lunatic asylum. The whole concept of magic was astonishing but I knew if I let that idea take hold, I would never escape.

“Your answer is ‘no’? May I ask why?” Alice asked. She was completely thrown off.

“What you have here is potentially more powerful than nuclear arms. Power like that needs to be hidden away so it is never abused. It is too tempting to use once you know about it. If what you’re telling me about this Oncoming Storm is right, it has already fallen into the wrong hands,” I said. It was the only logical answer in my mind and the fact that it was not obvious to Alice further proved that point.

“Could you at least stay a bit so things can blow over on your campus? I can’t be sure of your safety right now. In fact, we cannot guarantee your safety for the rest of your life,” Alice said with a frown. She suddenly looked more tired. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

“Nobody could guarantee my safety before this happened either,” I responded.

“But the Editors and the Oncoming Storm will both be after you,” Alice said. “They won’t believe you said no. Nobody has ever said no before.”

“So I’ve heard. I’ll take my chances.”

“Don’t walk out of here out of stubbornness,” Alice said. She had her hands on her hips now, indignant at my behavior. I admit it was rude but these people were insane.

“I’m walking out of here because I don’t think I can handle magic. I don’t think the world can handle it either.”

“You don’t want to think about it?” Alice asked.

“No,” I said bluntly. “Show me the way out now.”

“Booker will show you the way out then,” Alice said.

Booker seemed to appear out of thin air. “Aww, really? Please stay, won’t you?”

I nearly jumped out of my shoes and I clutched my chest. “How did you do that?” I yelled at her. I felt a little bad about yelling despite the whole kidnapping and dangerous situation.

“Magic,” Booker said with that big grin. “Most of our spells come from our favorite pieces of literature. Alice and I like the Wonderland books a lot so we get a lot of our spells from there. Just now I harnessed the power of the legendary Cheshire Cat.”

“His power of plot convenience?” I asked. I smiled at my own bad joke. Nobody else did.

“Very funny. Everybody’s a critic.” Booker said.

“I kind of am a professional critic. So how does this harnessing work?” I asked. I could not help my curiosity.

“You just think of the right piece of fiction and you take on one of their aspects or powers. Sometimes focusing the power into an object or totem can help,” Alice said.

“Like this one,” Booker said. She was holding up the little rabbit she had been holding outside of the library. “Obviously, it is based on the White Rabbit and it stores the magic needed to make an instant entrance to Wonderland. Interesting, right?”

“And frightening. Now, could you stop harnessing the power of the Mad Hatter and get me out of here?” I asked.

“This is very serious to us. We have studied for quite a while to discover new aspects to magic,” Alice said. She was getting angry and it helped dispell the air of authority she had had when I first entered. She was a normal human being after all.

“Don’t go, we can teach you all of this and you can help us be good,” Booker said.

“Let him go. We do not force anyone to stay here and we are not going to start today. Try to send him back to a safe area,” Alice said.

“So, definitely not back to the library,” Booker said.

“That would be a no. Good luck, William. If you ever reconsider, we will be able to contact you again. If you are still alive, of course,” Alice said.

“That’s intimidating,” I said and walked away back down the hallway.

Pretty soon Booker had caught up, sighing several times dramatically. “I guess there’s not need for this anymore.” She waved her hand over her face and her hair turned dirty blonde and her eyes became a soft brown.

“Wait, that wasn’t real? Why?” I asked. This just got weirder and weirder.

“It’s a little cliche but I use it on recruitment runs. In a lot of bad fiction, the heroine had red hair and green eyes. Plus, I really like putting on my ‘game face’. It helps me find my confidence,” She said.

“You didn’t have to lie to me, Booker,” I said.

“Aww thanks, William.”

“Putting me in danger and kidnapping me worked just fine,” I said with a smile.

“You’re horrible,” she said but she was still smiling. “Just go through that door and William?”

“Yes?”

“Be careful.” She said.

I nodded and opened the door in front of us and walked through. I could instantly feel a difference in the atmosphere. I was behind a building on campus and, in the distance, I could see smoke drifting up from what was probably the line of cars in front of the library. Suddenly, I heard a loud click from right next to my head. It was a gun.

“Freeze. Don’t move a muscle.” A voice said.

Media Update 12/22/2016

December 22, 2016


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I went to Rogue One this past Saturday because I could not stand leaving it until later for fear of spoilers. Also, a whole bunch of my friends were going and we had assigned seats in a very cushy movie theater in Columbia. I had been hyped about Rogue One since the first inklings of a plot had been released. Most Star Wars movies have been sweeping epic fantasy movies that deal with the most important people in huge political conflicts. This movie pays more attention to the regular people in the Rebellion and the Empire. The heroine is important but she’s long been overlooked by everyone around her. The main villain is a sycophantic bureaucrat with high-minded aspirations of greatness. This is a darker, dirtier story about doing what it takes to spark the flames of hope in people ground down by the evil in the universe. This movie was exactly what I needed it to be. It had humor, it had sadness, it had triumph. It also had a lot of allusions or direct references to the rest of the Star Wars movies but nothing felt too forced or overdone. The ragtag group of heroes felt like they grew together and fought their hearts out. I do not want to spoil it too much because I definitely recommend you go see it. I do like Star Wars VII better but that is only because I feel like the normal Star Wars movies are a little happier.


Magnificent Seven (2016)

I am a big fan of the original movie but it has honestly been a while since I have seen it. The original was modeled after The Seven Samurai and both of those films are classics. When the trailer for the remake was released, I was definitely interested. A remake is not necessarily a bad thing. The True Grit remake was a lot better than the original. If you attach good writers, good directors and good actors to a project, it can succeed remake or not and this movie is proof. This version is a great story about people who have every reason to hate each other, gathering to fight for a just cause. The whole cast is excellent, as you would expect for a movie designed to be an ensemble affair. Of the cast, Chris Pratt was the one who drew me in first. He is proving that he is not only fun but he is a great actor as well. Of course, once I found out Denzel Washington was involved, I was even more excited. I really liked the friendship between Byung-hun Lee and Ethan Hawke. Vincent D’Onofrio once again plays a weirdo but this time with a heart of gold. To round it out, Martin Sensmeier is a great silent killer and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is funny. On top of the seven, Haley Bennett is great as a widow with revenge on her mind. Peter Sarsgaard is a great, purely evil villain. I definitely recommend this one as it is a great tribute and companion to the original movie.


Female Agents

This movie is a dark but interesting tale set in 1944 in war-torn France in the Spring before the Normandy landings. A British agent has been captured and it is up to five female agents to rescue him from Nazi-occupied France. Since this was made recently, the women are portrayed realistically. So this is not a Charlie’s Angels type affair. This is more like an all-girl Dirty Dozen with each woman having a bit of a specialty that can help on the mission. They are all brave women but not all of them are badasses but they are all women who have had a hard life. The movie was made in France and the whole thing is in French with English subtitles which add to the movie. I like when I get to see a story about a region that is actually told by the country where it happened. The agents in question are from a few countries, the leader is a British agent but she teams up with French women and an Italian Jewish lady. The real title of this movie is actually The Women of the Shadows and that better describes the feel of this movie. War is Hell and it shows with the decisions these women (and their male allies) have to make in order to serve their countries against a greater evil. The actresses all have strong personalities and great characters who all come to the story from different directions. I was surprised by how interesting this movie was especially after I found out that it is based on a bunch of true stories. In fact, the story it details is very fascinating. I definitely recommend it as it is very dramatic and has a lot of twists and turns that I did not expect.

Music of the Week:
Vince Vance and the Valiants- All I Want For Christmas Is You

Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

Harvey Fierstein and Michael Mckean – Heat Miser and Snow Miser

John Lennon – Happy Christmas (War is Over)

Twisted Sister – Silver Bells

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Hope in the Face of Evil”
– Happy Holidays. Keep safe and be happy.
– I got to Season 5 of The Office and it actually gets better as it goes
– I rewatched Nightmare Before Christmas, as I do every year
– I am on Season 3 of Parks and Recreation
– I am almost done Season 2 of Dark Matter

A Facebook Thingy Before Christmas

December 19, 2016

As I prepare for Christmas and cool down from finishing my Fall semester at CCBC, I thought I would post this Facebook thing that I beefed up.  We had snow and then freezing rain on Saturday and it was more annoying than dangerous even though there was a huge crash south of the city.  I am getting excited for Christmas as the presents I bought for people start arriving in the mail.  Posts will continue as scheduled even as I go to Shepherdstown this week.

Four names I go by:

1. Steven

My given name. It means “He who is crowned.” I love my name even though it is often used to for a random name to call lame guys in fiction. However, Eddie Izzard often uses it for a name to call characters and does not mistreat the name. I believe that spelling it with a “v” is the right way to spell it even if Stephen came about first in history.

2. Steve

I used to hate this shortened version of my name but I have learned to like it. It is so quick and casual. A lot of good friends have called me by this shortened version. However, I now have a friend/family member who goes by Steve and is in the tabletop gaming group I am in. This creates confusion but somehow we manage. I end up being Steve 2 sometimes.

3. Wolf of Words

You are reading this blog right now. It has also become my new gamer tag when I need one. If you see WolfofWords holding a gym in Pokemon Go, that is me. As I explained earlier, the wolf is a part of my family history because my family is crazy. My mom taught us to howl at the full moon because her aunt taught her to do it. I am also devoted to stories and words as a writer, an avid consumer of fiction and a student of the law.

4. KM/King

While I was in New Jersey, I created a gamer tag called Mengi around the time I created this blog. It was created for a game called StarPirates which had a great community. There was a guy in our little group playing the game who called himself LordTyrion and, to tweak his nose, I renamed myself KingMengi to outrank him. I stuck with the name through a couple games and that’s why it appears as my twitter and WordPress username.

Four places I’ve lived

1. Baltimore, Maryland

I love Baltimore. It is the city where I was born and where I have lived for 24 years (not consecutive). I love so many great places in Baltimore and I learn more and more things about it every day. If you keep reading this blog, you will find me talking about Baltimore over and over.

2. Sussex, New Jersey

Sussex is a small town in New Jersey jammed up near the borders of Pennsylvania and New York. Even though it is nearly two hours from New York City, it is still in the NYC Metropolitan area because that area is gigantic. I worked at a theater called Tri-State Actors Theater here and I lived in the back of a framing shop. The place was a little town with a two-block main street surrounded by farmland and mountains. Still, the local children were frightened of the urban dangers it might contain.

3. Matamoras, Pennsylvania

When I first moved up to work at Tri-State Actors Theater, I lived at the owner’s house just over the border in Pennsylvania. At first, I had no car and I was at the mercy of what rides were offered by the people whom I was living with. Once I had my first real car, I remember driving there really late at night. Once, I was driving over the mountain to get home and there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground and I spun out near the top. After I recovered my wits, I continued to drive. I was really stupid sometimes back then.

4. Shepherdstown, West Virginia

In the last few years, my mother moved to West Virginia along with my new stepfather. (Although, not so new anymore.) It is a great place to be as it is far from the hustle and bustle of the city and I never experienced that, even in Sussex. I worked at the house there for two years on several projects for the family business and I continue to visit for holidays.

Top 11 Television Lawyers

December 17, 2016

As a little celebration of finishing all of my classes on the way to my paralegal certificate (except an internship), how about we look at some great lawyers.  Unfortunately, they do not make any shows about paralegals.  Obviously, I may need to change this eventually.


11 Jeff Winger (Community)
Trial Lawyer

Community has been one of my favorite shows since my brothers introduced me to it. In the first episode, we meet Jeff who is a lawyer who has just been put into a tough spot. He had lied about having a bachelor’s degree when he was hired at the law firm he was working at. So he is forced to go to Greendale Community College to get a quickie law degree. This is now somewhat familiar and relevant to my life. So a successful lawyer has to attend college just to get a piece of paper. Winger is at the bottom of the list because he is not a properly licensed lawyer through most of the series. Jeff was a defense lawyer who mainly tried DUI and other traffic cases. Jeff’s main strength comes from his excellent charisma and his ability to make a great speech with very little substance. He was very successful but it seems that he does not know a lot of actual law and falls back on convincing judges and juries with his silver tongue. Throughout the show, he does sometimes act as an advocate at disciplinary proceedings and we see both how effective he can be and also how ineffective he can be when people see through his nonsense.


10 Saul Goodman (Better Call Saul)
Public Defender/Civil Litigator

I am really only referring to Saul Goodman during the first season of Better Call Saul. In Breaking Bad, he is a piece of crap and does very little that an actual lawyer does or should do. In the early part of the show, he is a lawyer with a small general practice operating out of the back of a nail salon. Like Jeff Winger, Saul’s true strength lies in his opening and closing statements. When his money situation gets desperate, he becomes a public defender for meager checks from the State. He encounters some horrible prosecutors who seem disinterested in dealing with him in any way. As far as we see, his clients are pretty guilty but Saul does not quit. He works tirelessly for his clients, giving masterful closing arguments and going above and beyond his duties to try to get plea bargains for his clients instead of letting them get fully prosecuted. He does not lie, he does not cheat. He does what a good defense lawyer does and tries to slant the cases in favor of his clients and does his best on behalf of his clients. He falls into a dark place for a bit, trying to cheat the system to make some money but he is also scared back to a more righteous path. Later on, he gets really jazzed about representing the elderly in writing wills and then protecting their rights. He will fall to evil eventually but for the first season, he is a good lawyer.


9 Lindsey McDonald (Angel) – Defense Lawyer

For those of you were born after the nineties, Angel was a spinoff of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and both of those shows are in the upper echelons of my favorite shows. The heroes formed a sort of detective agency that did more saving of lives than actual mystery solving. The main villains of the show came from an evil law firm known as Wolfram & Hart. While there are a lot of jokes about how evil lawyers are, this show took that to the extreme and connected lawyers to several hell dimensions. One of those lawyers was a southern boy played by the awesome Christian Kane. He was tough as nails and was eventually grizzled and buff. When he first appeared, his main strength was that he was one hell of a lawyer (pun intended). Time and again, it is proven off camera and on camera that he is a great lawyer. While he represents vampires and demons, he often did his best to prevent his clients or his firm from carrying out truly heinous acts. He was not a good guy but he had a moral code even if he did want to kill the title character on more than one occasion.


8 Rafael Barba (Law and Order: SVU)
Assistant District Attorney

Really, I could have picked almost any Assistant District Attorney from the Law and Order series to put in this spot. The Law and Order ADAs are often excellent at their jobs. They are very charismatic and they speak with great eloquence and know just how to play witnesses like they were musical instruments. Of course, this leads to overly melodramatic moments that would probably never actually happen in court but it makes for good television. What impresses me most about these ADAs is their knowledge and command of case law. Almost every lawyer on the show knows key cases at the drop of a hat which convinces the judge to see things their way. After law school, most lawyers do not memorize these things anymore because even memorizing local landmark cases is way too much information to retain. Besides, that is what research is for. The ADAs are also very good at convincing judges to make decisions without putting in motions. This is not entirely out of the realm of possibility in real courthouses as this sort of thing falls under a judge’s discretion. However, most judges like having some paper to point at when somebody asks why they made their decision. I picked Rafael Barba for this spot specifically because he seemed to me to be the most professional and least emotional lawyer of the bunch. He assigned to Special Victims Unit and has to try some very difficult cases and it feels like he really never let it get to him too much.


7 Alan Shore (Boston Legal) – Defense Lawyer

Alan Shore is unequivocally an asshole, a fact that becomes more and more clear as the series progresses. However, he usually uses that power for a good cause. He has an undying loyalty toward his client and champions for their right to a fair trial no matter what. He works for a huge multinational law firm called Crane, Poole and Schmidt which largely handles both civil and criminal cases. He is an extremely competent lawyer who is very good at reading people and finding a path to victory when defeat is certain. He specializes in what he calls pulling a rabbit out of his hat. He creates sensational stunts to win cases in the eleventh hour when things are looking dark. It is clear that he also knows how to use case law and actual lawyering to win cases. He often has to resort to his strange tactics because the firm gives him the strangest and most difficult cases. They do this because he is a very self-destructive person who delights in instigating the people around him. He also bends the rules constantly which is another reason why the firm throws him the bad cases to try and get rid of him. As the show progresses, he works at evolving as a person and a lawyer and gets better every episode. This reminds me that I need to watch more of this show.


6 Stewart Sanderson (The Grinder)
Trial Lawyer

When we meet Stew, he is a somewhat downtrodden lawyer who works at his father’s law firm. While he technically works for his father and another partner, he acts as the boss of the law firm. We see him leading meetings, deciding case strategy and assigning cases and work to lawyers and assistants at the office. The tiny firm does good work and obviously,  Stew is an extremely competent lawyer. Throughout the one and only season of this show, we see that he is very adept at doing his research and clearing cases the right way. In the pilot, he clearly remembers a lot of landmark decisions because he is able to pull just the right ones to convince the judge to make the correct decision. He knows the rules and he sticks to them because it gets results. His one weakness is that he is not very good at speaking in court. He relies too much on note cards and does not speak with any fluidity and finds it difficult to adapt his strategy. Enter Dean Sanderson, Stew’s big brother. Through exposure to Dean’s hammy acting and superior confidence, Stew begins a journey where he becomes more confident and therefore a stronger lawyer.


5 Laurel Lance (Arrow) –
Defense Lawyer/Assistant District Attorney

In a show that involves law enforcement and vigilantes, it is a little weird that there are so few lawyers that we see. Of course, most of the show hinges on action and drama and there is no time to slow down and show some courtroom drama. Laurel has worked hard all of her life to do what is right and protect the people around her. The first we see of her, she is working as a defense lawyer who largely represents poorer clients. One of the themes of the show is about class differences so this was a perfect starting point for her character. As the daughter of a cop, she was in a great position to see both sides of things and decided to defend people legally instead of physically. While the show does not focus on her that much, we see that she is a great lawyer. She eventually gets hired on as Assistant District Attorney, a position she uses to team up with her father and secretly with the vigilantes. While normally I would question a lawyer for bending or breaking the rules by working with a vigilante, she is working in an extremely corrupt system. When things are wrong, you have to do what it takes to make them right without crossing major moral boundaries. In the end, she blurs those boundaries by becoming a vigilante herself but she still operates as a lawyer.


4 Constance Griffiths (Life)
Legal Aid/Assistant District Attorney

Few people seem to know about this show but I will continue to champion it until my final breath. The whole show is put into motion by Constance who takes a wrongly accused police officer’s case pro bono. She is able to use DNA evidence to exonerate Charlie and get him the best and weirdest settlement that I have ever heard of. We know from what we see of her that Constance has a big brain and even bigger heart. She does not believe that the innocent should be left to languish in jail and fights for the rights of the falsely accused. She is a one woman Innocence Project. Throughout the show, she deals with a client that has some interesting and potentially annoying personal quirks with ease. She fights to make sure that her client keeps their end of the bargain and protects him at every turn. When it is clear that she has become romantically connected to her client, she removes herself from the position. Her hard work pays off and she is offered a position as an Assistant District Attorney and I always believed that she was probably very fair and ethical in that job.


3 Caroline Julian (Bones)
Prosecutor

At first glance, Caroline is a bit of a bulldog. She is a prosecutor who works directly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She seems to be assigned all of the cases that come from crimes investigated by the partnership between the Jeffersonian Museum and the FBI. She comes across as humorless and has little time for nonsense as she helps investigate cases. She works hard to get the FBI good legal standing and open up doors to allow them to investigate. She is key in getting warrants and clearing obstacles that stand between investigators and the evidence they need. As the show progresses, we see Caroline become more comfortable in being more personable. She works to make things run smoother in the FBI offices and Jeffersonian Labs in the interests of being more efficient. Through it all, she retains the ability to be very intimidating but also later becomes more of a mama bear in the cast. While we do not really get to see her in court, we know she is dead set on following the rules and is instrumental in the cast’s success rate.


2 Foggy Nelson (Daredevil)
General Private Practice

While it would have been easy to put Matt Murdock himself in this spot, we know that Matt has an unfair advantage while plying his trade. Matt can literally monitor a witness’ heartbeat during testimony and is basically a human lie detector. Also, while he is kicking butt on the streets, he often neglects his actual job. Foggy Nelson turns out to be an even better lawyer. He works day and night for his clients and it shows in the bags under his eyes and the beers that he drinks after work. When we first meet him, he is a little too eager to take shortcuts to get clients and clear cases but he has evolved quite a bit on the show. He does his research and he and Matt are able to make a name for their little law firm. One of the main reasons I gave this spot to Foggy is the moment where he was forced to deliver an opening statement on the spot without any preparation and he knocked it out of the park. He also was able to do the same kind of thing in the middle of a knife fight which saved a lot of lives. He is a good man and a good lawyer.


1 Cliff McCormack (Veronica Mars)
Public Defender

Finally, we come to one of my all-time favorite television shows. I mourn its cancellation more than Firefly’s cancellation because every single character was awesome and I wanted a billion of their stories. One of those characters was Cliff McCormack, a public defender, and a working class lawyer. He associated with the Mars family because it is wise for lawyers to use private investigators and for private investigators to have lawyers handy. They form a friendship which Cliff is loyal to a hundred percent. I really, really love Cliff as a lawyer. He always has a hundred cases on his plate but never seems to let any of them down. He has a personal code of ethics and although he may come off as slimy, he is anything but. He even tells a rich murder suspect (a client who could net him a lot of more lucrative cases) to hire a better lawyer. While he is not above using tricks to win cases, none of those tricks involve him breaking the law. He is charming, hard-working and successful.

Media Update 12/15/2016

December 15, 2016


Hairspray Live!

John Waters is a legend in Baltimore and a great filmmaker beyond my hometown. The original Hairspray is a film I remember fondly from my childhood. I grew up among diversity in a liberal school so racism was a boogeyman that I found hard to really grab a hold of. People like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were heroes to us but we never saw what they faced growing up. The racial issues raised in Hairspray seemed like a no-brainer to me. Looking back, the movie really represents Baltimore which has one of the highest populations per capita of black people. I had never seen the musical before but I have always wanted to. I have only seen a few of these Live events but I have liked them so far. The sets and effects were amazing for a live performance. I loved the backstage access they gave with interviews and shots of actors rushing about backstage. The singing and acting were fantastic. Harvey Fierstein was really fun. I already liked Ariana Grande and Dove Cameron who were perfect casting choices for a high profile production like this. I was really impressed with Maddie Baillio and Ephraim Sykes. Maddie played Tracy Turnblad with a bubbly energy very similar to Ricki Lake’s original performance. Sykes played Seaweed Stubbs and really was an excellent dancer and he also had a great voice. I could see how the energy of this version came directly from the original and this version definitely had Waters’ campy sense of humor. It also kept the original social message of the original. I prefer the original but I definitely recommend this version to all of you musical theater fans out there.


Sum of All Fears

I have long wanted to watch this movie because a lot of it was filmed in Baltimore. It is also the only Jack Ryan movie that I had not seen until this week. The Jack Ryan franchise is an interesting animal. There have been four different actors in the role now and, in that way, it is a little like James Bond. However, they have rebooted it twice so it is a little bit of a mess. Affleck’s star was starting to fade at this point because of his appearance in Pearl Harbor however, it was before his nosedive started with Gigli. I like Affleck a lot. He is charming and a really good actor. Some directors did not know how to use him and he probably mismanaged the huge push in popularity that Hollywood gave him. This movie is more tense political thriller than it is an action movie. So the movie is trying to be a little more Hunt for Red October than Clear and Present Danger. Much of this movie’s charm for me is the play between Morgan Freeman and Affleck and between Liev Schreiber and Affleck. All three are great actors with different strengths and weaknesses. The plot has to do with the threat of nuclear war, Neo-Nazis and using a tense political atmosphere to play countries against each other. Unfortunately, Neo-Nazis are still very relevant to our country. There is a cameo by our former football team, the Baltimore Stallions, our CFL team that we had between the Colts and the Ravens. However, we thankfully never had the hideous domed “Baltimore Forum” stadium that makes an appearance. It was nice to see the Super Bowl being held in Baltimore even if it was a fictional scenario. This movie was actually way better than I thought it would be. It got a lukewarm reception initially at best but I liked it for what it was. It plays on a lot of old wounds between the US and Russia which are cropping up again these days along with new wounds.


Step Up

Romantic dance dramas are not really my thing but I had to watch this after learning that is set in Baltimore. Not only that but a large portion of it is shot in the neighborhood right down the street from me. This is Hamden, a neighborhood famous for both drug-related crimes but also for the tight-knit and heartwarming community. For example, it is the sight of 34th street, the biggest Christmas display in Baltimore. It also has The Avenue which has over a dozen great restaurants. The movie has the Maryland School for the Arts which is a stand-in for Baltimore School for the Arts where the other half of the movie is set. My brother went to BSA and so did Tupac Shakur and Jada Pinkett-Smith just to name three alumni. Channing Tatum is a really good dancer. He obviously throws everything he has into dancing and really knows how to use his body. In this movie, he acts opposite his future wife (Jenna Dewan) who does a great job as well. It was actually really refreshing that this movie’s conflict was not exactly rich vs. poor although there is that element present. Dewan’s family is richer than Tatum’s foster family. A lot of the students at the MSA are scholarship students so it is more about putting in an effort. (The BSA is actually a public school and therefore free.) Tatum is pretty good at being a bit of a jerk, a poor Hamden kid with a chip on his shoulder. Of course, I walk and drive the streets of Hamden every day and I think it is a great neighborhood. Unfortunately, these movies always involve the main character doing really stupid stuff until he steps up (pun intended) in the end. Still, I would recommend this movie as it is actually not too bad.

Music of the Week:

Al Great – Star of The Show

Mary Prankster – Blue Skies Over Dundalk

SR-71 – Right Now

Charm City Devils – Shots

The Orioles – Baby Please Don’t Go

Weekly Updates:
– I finished Season 1 of Arrested Development
– I am almost done Luther Series 1
– I started season 4 of The Office
– I finished Season 2 of Parks and Recreation
– I am near the end of Season 2 of Dark Matter
– This week’s theme is “Good Morning, Baltimore!”
– My semester is over this week
– Looking forward to Christmas despite the difficulties that come with it

Walking Once More

December 12, 2016

It is getting colder lately and I am starting to enter actual winter mode. Fall was not that cold but a lot of things happened that ended up keeping me indoors more than I wanted. I went and watched the 2016 election results at my cousin’s house. I got off of my Tuesday night class around eight o’clock and I rushed over to the farm to have a good time with some of my closest friends (who happen to also be family by marriage). However, when I arrived, things were already not going so great. As the night went on, things looked more and more grim and a lot of people I know are still struggling with the idea. I think I ended up struggling less thanks to the wisdom of good friends and thinking things through.

deer

Don’t think about the election.  Think about deer.  Awesome deer who rule the park.

Anyway, I ended up leaving around two in the morning because people needed to get to sleep and I was feeling tired and a little sick to my stomach. I got home at three and I was a little too wired to actually go to bed. I decided to eat a little something since I had declined to get a proper dinner directly after class. I cooked up some sausages and watched YouTube videos instead of flipping to any coverage of the election. You have to turn to fiction and entertainment in the hard times or you will go crazy. I woke up tired the next day and immediately threw myself back into schoolwork.

cool_patrol

Some of the true saints of the Internet.

The day after that, I started to feel crummy. I had a disgusting cold with a cough and an annoying runny nose. It made me not want to go on any of my walks because I would get three blocks and I would be sniffling and coughing and feeling self-conscious. I probably should have sucked it up and taken my Dayquil and just do the walk but I can be a bit of a baby when I’m sick. I like my walks but I had low energy and ended up taking it easy instead of getting my miles in. I focused on my studies and this blog and waited for the stupid cold to go away.

stack-1

Master Stacker, please keep sending me signs!

By the time the stupid cold was going away, it was time for Thanksgiving. I was trying to get my homework done while making time to spend with my family. It was a weird week but I have weird but great brothers. We ended up shooting over to West Virginia and we went out for dinner and even did some filming. I also watched Rizzo a bunch as my brother rushed around during a busy holiday week. By the time that was all over, November was almost over.

stack-2

OK. Maybe stop sending me messages. It got weird.

Wow, I meant to write about walking again and I ended up talking through some other stuff. I have started walking again and I am rediscovering the joys of exploration. Before the election, I was easily up to walking three miles within an hour. On Sunday I got back up to an even two miles. I will get back up to a good three miles again. The added distance allows me to find a lot of weird stuff and find interesting people to watch. It also allows me to catch and hatch more Pokemon as I am still playing Pokemon Go. It is a fun addition to any walk along with using Pandora to listen to music. So, I guess that is what I originally made this post about. I also wanted to show off some of the pictures I have taken in the past few months. I rarely take pictures so enjoy.

ravens

Oh!  I also went to a Ravens game with my mom, stepdad and my cousins.


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