Archive for December, 2018

Would You Eat At This Restaurant?

December 8, 2018

My folks live out in Shepherdstown, West Virginia and that area is very different from the city I grew up in. I was raised in Baltimore which has an inordinate percentage of black people living in it so I grew up thinking nothing of being among people of different races. It is why my theory is that exposure to other people and other cultures makes it easier to leech racism out of the population. Still, my family is originally from further south and we still bristle at the sight of a Confederate flag. In my mind, the Confederate flag means racism. People often talk about “history” and “state’s rights” but when my mom was growing up, the people who sported those flags hated black people and were to be avoided. So, it was with some surprise that I was informed locally that this tavern had some of the best burgers around. My first thought was to avoid the place but as Clerks 2 attempted to say “you can’t taste racism”. I guess it only leaves a figurative bad taste in my mouth.

I have been struggling with these thoughts lately. Not this restaurant in particular, as there are many others even in that area of Western Maryland. When do I continue to consume something that I find objectionable or comes from a tainted source? For example, I think most would agree that Kevin Spacey is a great actor but (allegedly) he is a sexual predator. As soon as I heard, I stopped watching House of Cards. I no longer listen to Michael Jackson music because of his pedophilic past. I do not count myself worse off for either of those things. However, what do I do when something truly fantastic is produced by horrible people? Also, where is my line? When do I choose to give up somebody and move on from them forever?

Pedophilia is definitely over the line for me. Harming children is something I will not and cannot stand for. Readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of Halloween and I watch a lot of horror movies each year. You would think that most people who create these movies have disturbed minds but most of them are just fun, creative people. However, two huge classic movies that I have never seen are Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. The second one is often lauded as one of the very best psychological horror movies in history. Repulsion is a more obscure horror movie that makes it on a lot of best of horror lists. Both are directed by Roman Polanski, a man who has been wanted by authorities for statutory rape since before I was born. I will not honor his name by watching and reporting on his movies. I believe that such men deserve to be forgotten.

General sexual abusers definitely trouble me. I was sick to my stomach when I watched and blogged about Bright before finding out that writer Max Landis was a serial abuser. I had already watched several of his movies but I had been eyeing Chronicle as a rare found footage movie I might enjoy. Now, I will probably never watch it. I get a bad feeling when I see how many of the movies in my collection come from The Weinstein Company, knowing what a horrible man he was. However, I comfort myself by remembering that he was not directly involved in their making and should not profit off of them. There are many I do not mourn no longer being able to watch but some really hurt to get rid of. Bill Cosby was somebody I listened to endlessly, laughing at his take on urban childhood. However, now he is erased from my life. I was a big fan of Chris Hardwick until I found out how abusive and manipulative he is.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that people can change and some transgressions are forgivable with time and penance. When somebody dug up writer/director James Gunn’s tweets from ten years ago that included dark “rape humor”, I was hurt. However, I also recognized that this came from a young troublemaker who wanted to shock the system. He has since grown out of this and has produced mature, heartwarming movies since. Even his own brother admitted that Gunn was an asshole in the past but that he had grown out of that and had repented. Now, they are doing the same thing to Kevin Hart who made a lot of questionable jokes years ago but has since been on his best behavior. Neither of these two is somebody that I would abandon.

I think Sarah Silverman put it well when she discussed the issue in light of Louis CK being accused. She talked about removing problematic people from your life as “cutting out tumors”. Those people did horrible things but hid in plain sight. They endeared themselves to us, worming their way into our good graces and then their rotten natures were revealed. Their pop culture contributions became a part of me so now I have to cut pieces from myself. Their crimes deny me of something I once enjoyed freely and that just makes it hurt worse. For the sake of their victims and for the sake of my sense self-worth I cannot deal with them anymore. It is a difficult process deciding who stays and who goes, though.

Media Update 12/6/18

December 6, 2018

The Rookie

I have been a big fan of Nathan Fillion since I first saw him in Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I then came late to Firefly and finally fell in love with that too. Castle was absolutely great as well. However, when I saw the ads for The Rookie I was not sure about a more serious role for him. However, it is not exactly that. The Rookie casts Fillion as a man who enters the police academy during a midlife crisis and he takes to it. The show follows him in his rookie year as a police officer and it is pretty good. The show is actually about three rookies and their respective training officers. Like Castle, the show leans on comedy but has plenty of drama. They get into some serious situations but also approach the lighter side of policing, mostly through segments on public relations. Each episode, the three trainees learn new lessons about how to be a better officer and a better person. As with most shows about the police, it is an idealized version of the police with relations between the public and the police force being relatively stable and almost no racism. The cast has a great mix of people who approach policing from different perspectives and it is an interesting cross-section of what a police force should be. I recommend this show.

The Good Doctor

This was something I recently sat down and watched with my mother as we relaxed after filing a complaint. It was not a show I would have chosen to watch as I had previously dismissed it as a pale imitation of House. However, that was doing it a bit of an injustice. The show stars Freddie Highmore as an autistic kid who proves himself to be a skilled surgeon and is hired by a hospital. Highmore plays it well, giving the character a lot of heart while also having him not understand a lot of human interactions. He is mentored by Richard Schiff who is a great, accomplished actor. He is backed up by an ensemble cast of interesting actors who play doctors and nurses. The show is paced pretty well and it has more heart and thought in it than I thought it would have. What helps is Schiff’s awesome performance and how people react and act around Highmore’s autistic doctor. Everything is handled with care and it provides a lot of interesting character moments. I may start watching this at some point. I recommend it.

The Resident

This show was kind of confusing but granted I jumped in at a later point in the show and would probably need to go back and watch in order to figure out what is going on. The hands down best part of the show is Malcolm-Jamal Warner who plays a sage and calm surgeon. He mentors a rising star surgeon who is over from Africa to learn how to be a better surgeon and she is played by Shaunette Wilson. However, the actual focus of the show is Matt Czuchry who plays a doctor in his residency whose father owns the hospital he is working for. His colleague (actually a nurse but overqualified) and girlfriend is played by Emily VanCamp. There is a slew of other characters all involved in a lot of melodramatic, soap opera dangerous shenanigans. The show was a bit much for me but the acting was at least interesting and there was a boatload of charisma in it. I may check this out later but it is going way down my list. I cannot recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Gateway Drugs – Night Swimming

Tell Me a Story – Mischief Brew

Ariana Grande – thank u, next

Kayo Genesis – Rich Lives Matter

Baskervillain – It’s A Love


Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “The <Blank>”
– I watched more She-Ra and the Princess of Power Season 1
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 7
– I watched more Chilling Tales of Sabrina Season 1
– I watched more Hilda Season 1
– I finished MST3K Season 12

Elorian Campaign Pantheon Pt. 4

December 3, 2018

Nerull (God of Undeath)

No god had the fall that Nerull experienced and nobody pitied him because he brought it on himself. In ancient times, Nerull formed from the primordial forces of death and never really connected with the 6 Holy Domains. He remained on his own, hiding away from the world while the other gods roamed and introduced themselves to each other and creation. For the first while, there was not much for Nerull to do until more people started to die. This was back when there was only one afterlife and Nerull watched over it with his nameless lieutenants. As the afterlife was populated, Nerull started to experiment on the dead in secret. He was very interested in the domain that he had been given, so interested that he wanted to take it apart and put it back together again. As he experimented, he succumbed to madness and contempt for the Holy Six whose fingers were not stained by the dead. One of his experiments ended up destroying a whole kingdom. In revenge, Azrea killed him and stole his domain from him, casting his body into the afterlife he had called home. However, Nerull did not die, at least not exactly. He pulled himself back together and used the energies of his broken home to become the God of Undeath. In the Shadowfell, he continues his experiments mostly by whispering to the wizards of the material plane, trying to tempt them into creating more undead to rip apart and corrupt the creation that spurned him. His followers are necromancers, liches, and other dabblers in the undead arts. His symbol is a sewn X.

Those of the Abyss

Gruumsh (God of Destruction)

Where there is creation, there will also always be destruction. It is part of the natural order. And so, Gruumsh was born of that primal force and from birth desired to destroy what others had made. However, evil bent his heart and he desired only to destroy what was good in the world. As he was thwarted again and again by the Holy Seven, he began to thirst for their blood and the blood of everyone they sought to defend. When he was defeated in the great conflict, he was chained up at the very bottom of the Abyss and left there. Still, there are plenty who remember him fondly and carry out violence in his name. Many evil men, bent on destruction, carry out his mission, trying to wreck society and make it bleed. Principal among his followers are the orcs who have constructed large stone temples where they feed victims’ blood to their god to sustain him should he ever return. Few have seen one of these temples and lived and most would rather die on the battlefield than be captured to bleed for the brutes who follow Gruumsh. His followers hate all government, desiring pure anarchy where the weak are controlled or destroyed at the strong’s whims. His symbol is a bleeding heart.

Shar (Goddess of Darkness)

While physical darkness is not inherently evil, metaphorical darkness is known as evil and Shar works with both. Shar lurked in darkness and learned to love all of the other things that lurked in darkness and also hated the things that lurked in the light. Her beloved monsters were quite adept at destroying allies of the light and good. The drow, duergar, ilithids, and the beholder societies were all born bathed in Shar’s darkness. Gods like the Three Suns, the Moon, Bahamut, and Mara tried to seek her out but they could never find her in her element. They successfully fought back her companions mostly into the Underdark but dared not journey too deep into her territory. In the final conflict, Shar and Lloth chose to support Gruumsh as they admired his passion. They struck from the darkness as Gruumsh raged against the other gods and it was only through the use of a terrible weapon that Shar was removed from the Underdark, leaving much of its civilization in ruins. Afterward, Shar was thrown into the darkness of the Abyss where she was free to create the demons with Lloth, hoping to use them to destroy the material plane as she wished before. Her symbol is a black diamond.

Llolth (Goddess of Poison)

Lloth was born to kill the world or pervert it in her own message or one and then the other. Lloth quickly partnered with Shar, seeing that the two were of a similar mindset. However, Lloth’s attentions turned toward both harmful and beneficial poisons, ingesting them all until she herself was toxic. She mutated and that gave her ideas of how she and Shar could accomplish their goals. She used her poisons to mutate elves and dwarves into drow and duergar. She kept all sorts of spiders and other poisonous creatures as pets and part of her personal army. She and Shar are responsible for the particular deadliness of the Underdark. In the great conflict, she and Shar struck from the shadows but both were horribly injured by the terrible weapon used against them and their armies. Her creations are still very loyal to her and also to Shar but Lloth above all. Her followers despise the surface world, attributing the Holy Seven’s previous devastation to their heirs. Rampant xenophobia on both sides has created an unending divide between both sides. Her symbol is her beloved spider.

Those of the Nine Hells

Cyric (God of Corruption)

Born from that little voice in your head that tells one to act for evil instead of for good. Cyric seeks to turn the tide and make the world as evil as himself and his compatriots. Unlike his more monstrous-looking friends, Cyric easily walked among the races that walked the world to learn all he could about them. He learned so many weaknesses that he used to make the world darker and more vicious. He followed two main lines of thought. He used charisma and he invented psionic powers to influence minds directly. In the final conflict, he helped amass an army for one of the evil sides. He was cast into the Nine Hells along with his allies where he is the most beautiful thing there. His followers seek to spread evil through influence, anyway that they can. His techniques with psionics were picked up by the ilithids deep underground although some have survived on the surface available for use for good and for evil. His symbol is the slithering serpent.

Torog (God of Subjugation)

He is called He Who Binds and is the god of kidnappers, slavers, and all of those who entrap and use other beings. In ancient times, he seized people in the darkness and held them against their will. He created creatures to entrap those he was interested in and exhorted evil people to help him in his task. Even those who served him did not count themselves as free as Torog would not let them go too far. In the final conflict, he constructed a grand fortress but a division in the evil gods’ ranks caused an easier defeat. After the final conflict, he was sent tumbling into the Nine Hells where he eventually set up his own twisted prison to torture anybody and anything he could get his hands on. Few have truly seen him and escaped but those who did shakily described a living shadow with large glowing eyes from which long clawed arms would stretch impossible distances. His followers feel they gain and show their power by enslaving others. His symbol is a lock.

Tiamat (Goddess of Conquest)

In response to the creation of Bahamut, the evil gods all agreed on something for once. They needed to create their own enforcer and so they did, taking their inspiration from Bahamut himself. However, they constructed something from the chromatic dragons instead since they seemed to be of like mindset. Of course, they had to try to make her more powerful, fusing five ancient dragons together and upping their power level. What resulted was a very powerful force of combat but also a very intelligent new goddess. She believed that the world deserved to be under her thumb or ground under her heel. An intelligent general, she was the only force existing that could rally all of the chromatic dragons together which was scary on its own. However, she was out-thought by Ioun in the final conflict and defeated by her rival Bahamut. She was sealed with her compatriots in the lowest layer of the Nine Hells where she schemes without much effect. However, she still has plenty of worshippers who will try to carry out her will. Her symbol is an inverted pentagram.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 5

December 1, 2018

14 – Favorite Promo

Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

Mick Foley will always be one of my favorites. He has proven himself to be a very thoughtful and intellectual performer, one of the best thinkers in the business. His autobiographies show a wealth of knowledge and an aptitude for ring psychology. In 1998, Foley was in the midst of The Three Faces of Foley. He was cycling between three personas Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack. He had just had a run as Cactus Jack, battling for, winning, and losing the tag titles with Terry Funk. This promo was about how he felt betrayed by the fans. Cactus Jack was Foley’s most resilient persona, capable of taking the most physical abuse. However, the point of the promo was that the fans had turned their back on Cactus by ignoring the effort he and Funk had put in, in favor of flashier stars like Steve Austin and Degeneration X. It was part of Foley’s turn toward darkness and his eventual alliance with Vince McMahon. Foley delivered his promos with the gravitas he had learned from studying greats like Jake the Snake, Robert Fuller, and so many others. Foley had a natural ability to embody the character he was playing, practically believing that it was real. This is the style of acting taught at the college I went to, first popularized by Sanford Meisner. “To live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The promo was delivered with appropriate gravitas and mentioned a lot of the roster which opened up a lot of possibilities going forward. It also blurred that line between reality and fantasy as Mick dropped a lot of his real life once again into one of his promos. It was sad and furious at the same time and it showed that the character meant business while others were just playing around. It hit hard and told a great story.

No More Divas – AJ Lee

Recently, Women’s wrestling in the WWE has been getting better and better thanks to an influx of new talent and a general change in philosophy. Stars like Moolah and other women put the brakes on talent in the division in exchange for flash and comedy. That was carried into the 2000s where the women’s division became the “Diva” division, further shifting away from athleticism and skill. Meanwhile, in Japan and in the independents, women were wrestling the same style as the guys and people loved it. Something had to be done. AJ Lee was a breath of fresh air. She had grown up as a huge fan of the business and she knew in her heart that she could do everything the guys did. When she finally got her chance, she was not that great but she worked at it and she got better and better until she was awesome. While others were fine with stagnation and mediocrity, AJ called for equality. The current WWE women’s division is called the “Women’s Revolution” then this promo was the equivalent of the Boston Massacre. This was the first event on the main roster that made people sit up and realize that they deserved better. It made people realize that women’s division matches did not have to be bathroom breaks where plastic little princesses pulled each other’s hair and slapped each other’s faces. The reaction to this promo would eventually be a call to arms for the NXT superstars who would revitalize the division and raise the bar.

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

A lot of WWE fans of my generation fall into one of two camps: Bret Hart fans and Shawn Michaels fans. I was part of the latter group as I liked the younger, flashier star who was small like I was and he was funny too. When Stone Cold Steve Austin came onto the scene, everybody sat up and took notice. He was a cold-blooded sociopath who spoke his mind and stood up to everybody and anything in his way. He was billed as a good guy but he was plowing through people I had no passion for. At the same time, Bret was whining about being screwed by Austin at the 1997 Royal Rumble. Austin had been eliminated from the match but the referees had not seen it so Austin took advantage and won the match. Bret had a point, he had been screwed but instead of doing something about it, he just whined and threatened to walk out. This eventually set up the perfect feud between the two. On one side was Stone Cold Steve Austin who was a sociopath but he was proactive and always did exactly what he promised. He was vicious but America was ready to get behind that aggression. On the other side was Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who was good but had failed to back up his boasting for too long at the time. He was finally ready to actually do something about his complaints and vent his frustration in a big Wrestlemania match against Austin. The two were set for a submission match which was Bret’s specialty but Austin had that never-say-die spirit. In the end, Austin did not give up and passed out from pain and blood loss, allowing for Bret Hart to become a villain and Austin to become a hero of the people.

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

As I mentioned above, the women’s division has been great lately, delivering more good content than bad. As I type this, Becky Lynch has become one of the hottest and brightest stars in the WWE. She has even eclipsed many in the men’s division which has led to her labeling herself “The Man”. Leading up to Summerslam 2018, she had decided that enough was enough. She was through being nice and letting people pass her by. She had been the first Smackdown Women’s champion and she vowed to win it back by any means necessary. This led to a confrontation with her former best friend Charlotte Flair. Charlotte is a second generation pro-wrestler and therefore is wrestling royalty. She had previously lorded this over the division, letting her success and fame darken her soul as she held onto her belt. She seemingly left that all behind and turned over a new leaf but everybody knew that it was still inside of her. Becky had enough of the facade and obliterated her so-called best friend, choosing the championship over friendship. Becky stood victorious, finally beating her friend and earning her place in the sun. Then Becky was briefly injured, putting her career on hold for a little bit. In the meantime, Ronda Rousey had a match with Charlotte and finally beat the facade away, revealing the old Charlotte once again. Now, Becky and Charlotte are set to face each other once again.  Both of them have embraced their dark side in order to be at the top of their game. The crowd is behind Becky but Charlotte has a great big match record. It will be really fun to see what happens next.

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