March 18, 2017
Hak ran through the trees as quickly as he could. At age twelve, he was already over five feet tall and very athletic but that was not strange for a half-orc. He would have had an easy time running except for the tree roots underfoot and the arrows in Hak’s back. Now that his seemingly bottomless rage had run out, Hak could feel the blood dripping down his back even as he ran. He could not stop running or the slavers would catch him again. Two people had already died in the escape attempt, Hak had to make this count or he would join them or he would be back in chains. Both were pretty much the same option.
It had been a long year since Hak had seen the tribe that had raised him. Some of them were half-orcs and some of them were human but they lived together in relative harmony. They hunted together and fought off powerful enemies together. It was here that Hak had learned how to use the rage his blood gave him to his advantage. He missed the grip of the enormous sword he had earned in combat on his sixth birthday. The slavers took the tribe by surprise, using powerful sleep spells to steal away some of the younger members. Hak was shipped far away and put to work. He lived his life in chains now but that was over now if he could just keep running.
As he ran past a tree he reached up and pulled a large branch off of it and carried it with him. If they caught up to him, he would make them pay for every lash of the whip and every boot to his ribs. It almost made him hope they would catch up, even if it would probably mean his death. He was a rabid dog. If he was cornered, he would kill anybody who came into reach. The trees fell away and he was in suddenly in the open which filled his stomach with anticipation. It would not be long now. His heart fell at the sight in front of him. It was a cliff and beyond that was the sea. Hak had run the wrong way.
The men and women who had been following slowed to a jog, forming a semi-circle to make sure Hak could not get away. Hak raised the branch and swung it a few times, showing them that he meant business. He backed almost to the edge of the cliff and growled at the slavers. He tried to access that rage again but it had been depleted. He was just so tired but he would not give up no matter what. A dwarf with a battle ax charged and Hak swung as hard as he could. The branch broke a little on the dwarf’s head, sending the slaver stumbling away. Hak laughed wildly, his eyes wide open.
The tiefling woman to the dwarf’s right did not take such chances. She aimed a crossbow and fired it into Hak’s shoulder. There was a terrible moment when Hak fell to one knee and he felt they were going to take him alive. He tried to push himself back to his feet but he lost his balance. Time slowed down as he realized he was falling over the edge. He could see the disappointed faces of the slavers. He could see the dwarf already yelling at the woman for firing her crossbow. Then they were gone and Hak was alone, falling parallel to the rocky cliff face. At least the slavers had lost. Then came the water and sweet oblivion.
The light came again and Hak held his arms in front of his face. There was the sound of seagulls and the crashing of waves. He realized that the swaying he was feeling was real and not just from his recent blood loss. Though the sun hurt, Hak dared to open his eyes anyway. He was on a ship on what looked like the ocean. Standing over him was a woman with cloth strips tied over her eyes. She smiled in relief as he moved to sit up even though he let out a grunt as he did. She walked down the length of the ship, the ship’s crew took little notice as they went about their duties.
“So you’re finally awake, are ye?” A man with a long beard said. He walked with purpose and authority and Hak knew he must be in charge. He was a human but he was not an ordinary one.
“I am awake. How–?” Hak asked.
“How did you get here?” The man asked. “We fished you out of the ocean. You’re lucky we recruited a cleric a while ago.”
“Lucky,” Hak said. He looked up and could not see the cliff anywhere. “Very lucky. Thank you.”
“We didn’t save you for free. We could use a big lad like you,” The man said.
Hak tensed, remembering how the slavers had put him to work. “You could, huh?”
“Yes. For pay, of course,” the man said with a smile. “You would follow my orders but no more chains and no more whips. What do you think?”
“I have a choice?” Hak asked. He could not hide his surprise.
“Every person in the world has a choice, lad. What are you going to do with yours?”
Hak looked the man in the eye for a long moment. “I will follow you. See what the ocean has to offer,” Hak said at last.
“Good,” the man said. “You look like you could use a drink. Then we’ll see about putting you to work. I’m Captain Trystan but most people call me The Shark. What do we call you?”
“I am Hak.”
The man grinned and patted Hak on the shoulder. “Hak the Hurricane. I like it.”
March 13, 2017
Because you don’t want to be lucky, you want to be good at what you do.
Phillip Brooks (better known as CM Punk) has a tattoo that says “Luck is for Losers”. That phrase has resonated me ever since I saw the tattoo. As I have stated in the past, I am a skeptic. As a skeptic, I am picky about what I believe in. I believe in science even if it does not need me to believe in it. I believe in gravity, genetics and free will. I believe in a lot of forces of the universe but I do not believe in luck. I do not believe in a magical force that pushes outcomes one way or another based on the whims of the universe. Who or what would control such a force? Believing in luck feels weird and wrong.
But seriously, don’t buy too many lottery tickets.
I do believe in chance and probability. When I was in high school, I took a probability and statistics class. I learned all sorts of practical things. I learned that if you buy a lottery ticket, it is best to pick numbers that are not a day of the year. You do not raise your odds of winning but you lower your odds of sharing the prize if you happen to win as a lot of people play birthdays, anniversaries or other significant dates. I learned that specific numbers (like 666) can pop up at any given time and they do not mean anything. I learned about the chances of owning a mentally ill dog, a concept that had never occurred to me. The mathematics made sense to me.
I missed and everybody watched it happen.
Of course, I started playing tabletop roleplaying games a while ago and my beliefs were challenged. Lately, this has really started to bother me. On Saturday, our group once again met to deal with dungeons and/or dragons. Our adventuring party (including my character Bron) set out to deal with some bandits that were plaguing a small town. While we made mistakes, we would have done fine if we had not consistently rolled low when it counted. When you are rolling dice, the house always wins eventually but in a tabletop game, 7 people should be able to cover for low rolls. This was barely the case.
Oh Wil Wheaton, bless these dice!
Of course, we have all had bad streaks of rolling dice. One of the things I like about the group is that we are all huge nerds and geeks. The group is mostly made up of people of science. Vets, patent researchers, and IT professionals. As a former theater guy, writer and legal professional I guess I am comparatively a ‘poet’ in the group. They are all also very creative people but we all love science in our own way. And yet, we do a lot of superstitious things. We talk about ‘blessing’ dice with good luck or ‘cursing’ dice with bad luck. We switch dice after a horrible streak of dice and we retire dice ‘responsible’ for particularly bad numbers.
I thought about smashing my dice but I just watched this a few times instead. Therapeutic.
It does not make any sense and I find myself fighting against it. I also find myself fighting the feeling that I am responsible for my bad rolls. I have to believe that if I could roll well by skill and knowledge of the physical realities then I would. For example, if I knew how to move my hand and when to release and how hard to throw the die, I would practice all of those things. The reason that it bothers me is that this is my character. I wrote him to be such a strong fighter and he cannot seem to actually hit anything. All of that backstory is not matching up to the realities when it comes to game time. It is frustrating. I just have to hang on to the belief that eventually, my rolls will average out.
March 11, 2017
It is National Women’s History month and last Wednesday was International Women’s Day. I think it makes sense to pay tribute to the women of professional wrestling. Lately, the division has seen a more mainstream resurgence. Based on the female wrestling in Japan, the core of the WWE’s women’s division is taking things more seriously. For the most part, storylines are based on tests of skill rather than catty slap fights over a male or some other superficial reason for fighting. Today’s reason for Why I Love Pro-Wrestling is part of that core who are called The Four Horsewomen. That’s right! It’s Bayley! Arguably, my favorite member of the Four Horsewomen.
I have been a fan of sports entertainment and professional wrestling in particular for a long time. I love all the twists and turns of the various television shows and pay per view events. While the genre has enjoyed periods of popularity, it feels like it is in another period where it has drifted from the mainstream. It is not a popular topic of conversation among my friends and it is not something I mention that I like in public. I respect it a lot but I know that I am in the minority. I keep my commentary on the WWE and Lucha Underground mostly to this blog and Twitter. However, I still remember that first lightning bolt of excitement when I became a fan.
Bayley embodies that feeling. She is a fan of the business. While most pro-wrestlers were fans of the business before they got their own start, almost none of them talk about it anywhere near the ring. They mention it in podcast interviews but they are in character when they are performing. Bayley openly talks about how much she enjoys the business around her. When she debuted on NXT, she was practically asking for the autographs of the performers she was fighting and fighting alongside. When she recently teamed with The New Day for the first time, she eagerly declared how much she was a fan of theirs and how happy she was to work with them. She is that fan in each of us who just loves the product for what it is.
Eventually, she moved beyond being the doe-eyed fangirl she started out as. She was winning matches so, at some point, the fan rises to a new level. Having her be an ascended fan is such a good idea. For one, she has never forgotten what it means to be a fan. She formed a special bond with a real little girl who attended pretty much every one of her NXT matches. She handed barrettes out to the crowd and became known as the queen of hugs. She is just as thrilled at her own entrance as her die-hard fans are. She has the biggest smile on her face as she makes her entrance and it tends to reappear a lot even during her matches. Like she is still waiting for somebody to pinch her to make sure it is all real.
On top of that, Bayley resonates so well with a demographic that has eluded the Pro-Wrestling world in the past: little girls. Bayley is girly without being weak. While most male and female performers perform from a place of anger or seriousness, Bayley is a ball of joy. She obviously taps into the same energy that The New Day, Santino Marella and Dude Love found. I could not help but root for her in NXT when she was getting bullied by the meaner kids. I was overjoyed when she won the NXT title and started to come into her own. When she appeared on Raw, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling because I knew that it was her dream and her friends were already there. When she recently won the Raw title, I knew how much it meant to her because I know how much it would mean to me. That is why I will always be a big supporter of the Doctor of Huganomics, Bayley.
March 6, 2017
I was thinking about the big snafu at the end of the Oscars recently. I did not watch the most recent Academy Awards and several of the ones before that. Awards shows generally do not interest me because I can get the same experience in a much shorter timespan by reading snippets of speeches and watching clips the next day. Of course, since I was online at the time, it was nearly impossible to avoid Oscars talk on my twitter feed. As of today, I have only seen one of the ten movies that were nominated for Best Picture and I will talk about that on Thursday. I have seen neither La La Land or Moonlight. I heard that both were good but a lot of people seemed to vilify La La Land for some reason.
The real villain in this story.
Of course, people were even angrier at the flub of announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture at the end of the night. However, never attribute to malice what you can attribute to ignorance. From what I have heard from various articles that I have read, the wrong winner was announced because the presenters of the award (Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty) were given the wrong envelope by the accountants that keep the envelopes safe. Which most likely means either the accountants or the company that prints the contents of the envelopes are to blame. It was a confusing moment to be sure but it seems like everybody eventually stumbled through it.
When the accountants froze, the stage manager leaped into action.
Who is the biggest hero in this story? As far as I can tell, it is the stage manager. They quickly realized something was wrong and informed the assembled producers of La La Land. To their credit, the La La Land crew were very professional and gracious about the mistake. Also, the crew of Moonlight was also very gracious about the mistake and even praised La La Land later on. It reminded me of all the times that I had to scramble to make something right as a stage manager during my brief career in theater. It is so important for the backstage crew to be on top of things. It is equally important for the performers to be as professional as possible.
The mantle is a heavy one.
I never became a professional stage manager. I worked as a stage manager in community theater and college. Those experiences made me want to be a professional stage manager but my first and last job in the field swiftly turned me into a designer instead. I was actually glad for it because stage managers have it rough. The worst experiences I had were when I worked with the now defunct Baltimore Opera Company. Actors are generally pretty chill individuals but opera stars can be a special kind of crazy. I once tried to wrangle a crazy Canadian who literally threw a tantrum at the end of rehearsal. I also was part of a costume meeting with a female singer who took one look at her dress and refused to wear it. Ever.
I miss these guys.
But, like I said, most performers are pretty cool. There was a French singer I worked with who did not speak English. I used a few Italian words I knew to communicate with him and he would smile and be the nicest guy in the world. I worked with a ton of interesting guys and gals in high school, college and beyond who I still remember fondly. My favorite will always be my friend Bill who unfortunately died young of cancer a few years ago. He was a bright ball of energy who listened to Christmas music all year long and was basically a living muppet. When I worked with him as a designer after college, he was something I looked forward to every day. Later, I looked forward to hanging with him and his comedy team partner Scotty.
While I left the theater a while ago, I still carry the lessons with me. It is important to stay on top of things and get along with everybody. Nobody loves to work with a diva. The collaborative work prepared me to work with others in other jobs I have had. Remember to use every experience you have had as you move forward. Oh and also don’t blame La La Land for somebody else’s silly mistake.