Archive for March, 2019

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 7

March 30, 2019

20 – Favorite Current NXT Wrestler


Johnny Gargano

Gargano first appeared on WWE programming as part of the awesome Cruiser Weight Classic tournament. The tournament was a showcase for a lot of former indy darlings to show their stuff to a wider audience. Gargano failed to win the tournament but he formed a tag team with Tommaso Ciampa called DIY. He quickly established himself as the ultimate underdog. He also earned the nickname that crowds still chant at him: Johnny Wrestling. He embodies pro-wrestling, a scrappy fighter who could never quit because it is just not who he is. When he and Tommaso had their falling out, it turned into a bloody war that took both performers to another level. Gargano eventually took on a dark streak, a quirk in his personality which allowed the character to become more versatile. “Never say die” was merged with “Win at all cost” and Johnny Wrestling finally became Johnny Champion. He is one of the most well-rounded wrestlers on the roster. He can counter just about any move, he can fly high, he can twist his opponents into pretzels, he strikes like a man possessed, and he is incredibly charismatic. He is currently on the verge of possibly being brought up to the main roster but I hope he stays down in NXT. His feud with Ciampa was put on hold for at least a year due to Ciampa’s neck injury and I am excited to see where they go next. Also, I want to see what he gets up to next. Coming up, he is going to have a hell of a match with Adam Cole during Wrestlemania weekend and then the sky is the limit.


Velveteen Dream

The man who would become Velveteen Dream started his career in Maryland Championship Wrestling (local to me) and showed a lot of talent and promise. When he was first introduced to the WWE Universe, he went by his given name of Patrick Clark. He disappeared for a while and then reappeared on NXT television as the Velveteen Dream. I was immediately skeptical. He has a strange gimmick that was hard to grab onto immediately. At first, I thought it was just a Prince ripoff (one of his signature moves is called “The Purple Rainmaker”) but it is so much more than that. He uses the eccentricity of Prince as a jumping off point and then he adds in elements of Deion Sanders, The Rock, Ric Flair, and his own brand of meta-storytelling that blends into an interesting and entertaining character. He continues to captivate me and he just seems to get better and better as his career continues. The more outlandish Dream gets, the more entertaining he gets. I cannot wait to see what he does next because he will make sure that nobody ever forgets him.

21 – Favorite Current NXT Female Wrestler


Bianca Belair

I was skeptical of Bianca at first, thinking she was just loud and her personality was a little grating at first. However, she really grew on me. I first spotted her in the first Mae Young Classic tournament. She was brash and I thought there was not much more to her than the gimmick of using her ponytail to whip opponents. The first thing I noticed once she actually started appearing on NXT television was that she was immensely strong for somebody who was not very tall. When she turned babyface, her brashness was not as annoying but it was endearing. It was kind of like The Rock’s first heel turn. All it took was a change of alignment and the proper opponents for me to start to get into her. She is a homegrown talent for WWE and they obviously see a lot in her as they keep pushing her to the forefront. She labeled herself “The EST of NXT” (meaning that she is the fastEST, strongEST, and greatEST). For a long time she was undefeated but thankfully, they ended that streak because those streaks just get boring after a while. Now that it is only her mindset that is “Un-De-Fea-Ted” she has become a much more interesting character. Her recent turn to the dark side, stemming from frustration and ambition, has been interesting to watch and I cannot wait until she gets to beat the holy hell out of somebody again.


Kairi Sane

Kairi was the winner of the first Mae Young Classic, beating out actual MMA fighter and friend of Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler. She was trained in Japan as part of a company that specialized in joshi puroresu style which landed her in a dominant trio where she learned her current style. What drew me to Kairi at first was her enthusiasm for pro-wrestling and her character. She came on the scene with a pirate gimmick which she leaned into so hard that it was impossible for me not to get into it. To this day she continues to bring a ship’s wheel or a spyglass to the ring. It just looks like she is having fun playing pirate and that fun is contagious. However, when the bell rings, playtime is over and she is just as hard-hitting as any other performer. As a high-flyer, it feels like she has a higher vertical leap than most. She puts everything into every movement and every mannerism. Now she has been joined by her old teammate Io Shirai and the two have formed the Sky Pirates, a new version of their old team. She and Io are just so cute and I get a lot of joy out of watching cute people kicking the crap out of their opponents.

23 – Favorite Current NXT Tag Team


Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan

Oney Lorcan was one of those guys who looked fairly nondescript and he did not seem to have a lot of personality. Over time, he was used as a guy who had a reputation of being super tough and they often put him against somebody debuting to showcase the newcomer’s toughness. It felt like Oney was never going to go beyond a cult following, slowly building that reputation as a hard worker and a tough guy. However, he then got into a feud with British wrestler Danny Burch. Danny Burch was like the English equivalent of Oney, two tough guys straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie. After fighting, the two seemed to form a genuine appreciation of each other and then a real friendship. Playing off Oney’s name, they started saluting the crowd as number one and number two. They also started to dress like they were palette swaps in a video game with one wearing red trunks and the other wearing blue trunks. For two guys primarily known as being tough, they can really move and are able to accomplish some great technical feats as well. They are able to get the crowd fired up without getting much time on the microphone which is a heck of a feat in today’s WWE.


Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate and Trent Seven)

Back in the day, Trent Seven actually trained Tyler Bate during a pro-wrestling resurgence in England. Bate and Seven joined up with Pete Dunne to form a stable known as British Strong Style. The trio created a hybrid style between Japanese Strong Style and traditional British wrestling. While Dunne is a more vicious wrestler, Seven and Bate have been able to create their own separate but similar style. I really like a good tag team that can kick butt but also entertains at the same time. Bate especially excels at physical comedy but both of them are always ready to crack a joke either on the microphone or by playing pranks in the ring. They are called Moustache Mountain because both of them sport curled English mustaches. However, their other nickname is “Big Strong Boys” which is what crowds like to chant. Both names go with their playfulness and willingness to play to the crowd. The two of them are currently competing in both NXT and NXT UK as they have great crossover appeal.

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Media Update 3/28/19

March 28, 2019


The Order

The blurb I saw for this show read “When Belgrave University student Jack Morton joins a fabled secret society, he is thrust into a world of magic, monsters, and intrigue.” Which immediately piqued my interest. College students fighting a secret war against monsters and magic? Sign me up. What I was not expecting was that this show had more than that. The tone of it feels a bit like The Vampire Diaries mixed with Buffy. Jake Manley plays the lead character and he is just the right mix of cocky and likable so that he never got annoying to me when a lesser actor might have been more of a punk. It does not hurt that he is backed up by his grandfather played by Matt Frewer who has been in tons of things that I have loved. There is also an entire cast full of interesting characters with mysterious backgrounds. This is a mystery. Actually, it feels like several mysteries as Jack works to unravel a personal mystery while also navigating a minefield of other mysteries. In that way, it feels a bit like Riverdale which had each mystery solved create more mysteries. All of it feels organic so far as well. The mysteries and plot grow from the characters’ backstories naturally and nothing seems to be thrown in just for the sake of spectacle yet. I also want to see who actually survives this mess because there is a lot of deadly action. I recommend it.


JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Bizarre is the correct word for this one. Initially set in the 1800s, this is a story of both drama and the supernatural. It has to do with two young boys as they grow up together while constantly at each others’ throats in a vicious rivalry. There also some weird supernatural elements. Also, it is an anime so everything is weirdly exaggerated. The voice acting is so strange and the characters are so intense. Honestly, even if it did not have supernatural things going on I would probably still be interested. There is anime-style combat all over the place even when the characters are simply playing sports. The animation and character models change a bit from episode to episode, I suppose to note the passage of time. It is really hard to explain this one which is why I guess it has not been spoiled for me. It feels like it was written to be deliberately strange and melodramatic. Everything is life or death which strangely works for adolescent boys as I remember everything being so important back then. I am not sure how far I am going to go with this series but for now, I’m willing to give it a shot because I have heard such good things. The good thing is that it is sort of an anthology series so if I grow tired of the current characters, they eventually change to a new story. I recommend it for lovers of the strange and the occult.


Corbin Nash

When this movie first popped up on my radar, I was intrigued. Anything with vampires is usually going to pique my interest. This is a dark tale of a Los Angeles cop investigating a wave of disappearances as a cold case investigator. No bodies have ever been found. The cop (who is the titular character) gets on the trail of the murderers and figures out that it might not be a human threat. In fact, it ends up being something more twisted than just vampires. Nash is played by Dean Jagger, an actor and stuntman trained in MMA and Jiu-Jitsu. He is nothing special when it comes to acting, but he has a great imposing physique and he moves like an animal when it comes to fights. The real acting actually comes from Corey Feldman of all people who plays one of the most interesting characters I have seen in a low profile action/horror flick. He is mesmerizing and freaky from start to finish and if he was not there, this would have been a fairly boring movie. The movie drags quite a bit, padding for time until the actual vampire hunting gets started. Once things do get started, it’s actually a lot of fun and I feel like the entertainment was worth my time. There are also some big names attached to the movie but a lot of them barely have cameos. Rutger Hauer, Malcolm McDowell, and Bruce Davison are all in the movie but they each get very little time. Malcolm McDowell gets the most time as basically walking exposition. I recommend this for horror fans but be prepared because it is not remotely safe for kids.

Music of the Week:
Smash Into Pieces – Let Me Be Your Superhero

Alyson Stoner – Dragon

MoonSun – Deep Within

Joyner Lucas – I’m Not Racist

The Sugarcubes – Birthday

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Occult Societies”
– I started Grimm Season 6
– I watched more Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more The Seven Deadly Sins Season 3
– I finished Blindspot Season 1
– I watched more Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1

Interview Questions 17

March 25, 2019

What do you like to wear when you go to work?

I used to wear whatever I wanted to work. I would wear t-shirts and jeans and when it was cold, I would throw on a hooded sweatshirt. I wore sneakers until they would be falling apart and then I would keep wearing them. My clothes often had holes in them. When I first got an office job, I was frustrated that I would have to wear button up shirts and ties. I had never really been a tie guy. As soon as I felt I was able to get away with it, I stopped wearing a tie to work. I was not very invested in that job as it was just something to do to pay the bills. When I went back to school to become a paralegal, a change came over me. When I got my first job after school, I gladly put on a tie. Throwing on a buttoned shirt, slacks, nice shoes, and a tie puts me into work mode. When I don that combo, I feel professional and I think that is reflected in my work ethic. Besides, it is expected by clients and other professionals that I appear dressed like a proper assistant. Sure, there are some days I would rather not wear a tie but most days it is easy enough to wear one. Part of that is that I have shirts that fit my neck size and I learned that you do not have to cinch a tie to the hilt. It is not that hard to be comfortable and well-dressed.

If you could be Batman or Robin, which one would you be?

I have been a huge fan of Batman in many forms since I can remember. Batman was way better than Superman or any other hero out there because he was more or less an ordinary guy who did ordinary things. He used intelligence more than he used actual power to save the day. I truly fell in love with Batman in 1989 which was arguably Batman’s second movie outing but the first in theaters. Through all of the stories through all of the years, the comics have stressed how much pressure Batman is under. He has to make the tough choices and he has to make the plan. Honestly, I always liked being in a support role. Every job I have ever had has been in a support role. Robin is right there by Batman’s side, helping him save the day but following his mentor’s lead. Robin also makes Batman better by occasionally challenging him when Batman goes off the rails a bit or when Batman is otherwise incapacitated. Actually, although it was not a choice, I would love to be Oracle. Oracle was the former Batgirl who became Oracle after an injury left her wheelchair-bound. She used a vast network of computers and contacts to help Batman, his allies, and other heroes around the world. That seems like it is right up my alley.

Do you prefer cats or dogs?

I would have to say that I prefer cats. Dogs are great, though. Dogs are big bundles of energy and all of that seems to be focused into love and excitement. They are always happy to see you and happy to see everyone they ever see. In my experience, most dogs immediately run and jump all over everyone who comes in the door even if it is their owner who they have seen thousands of times. As a natural introvert and somebody who likes to actually do stuff in their house, this sounds tiring to me. I would kind of like to watch television without having to deal with the barking. I know that means that I am missing out on the love and affection of a lot of good boys and girls but I just cannot deal with it. Also, people with dogs never seem to be able to go anywhere. They always have to be back to walk the dog. By the way, walking the dog is the one part I did not have a problem with. Cats, on the other hand, are largely low maintenance. They handle a lot of their business on their own and only bother you when it is time to eat (which is all the time but that can be managed). Cats seem to know when you want to be alone and when you want company. They are more like roommates than pets sometimes.

The Scene of the Battle

March 23, 2019

The battle had happened some nights ago when soldiers from two armies met at the crossroads and the result had not been pretty. Bystanders with their trade wagons had been sent scattering to the four winds. One of the wagons had broken a wheel and their owners had been forced to abandon it. Constable Lucia Ironpaw spotted it in an instant. Apples were scattered on the road beneath it.   Some of the baskets had been taken away from the cart by hand by fleeing traders. There was blood all over the ground but the bodies had already been removed. Frankly, Lucia felt more sympathy for the traders than the soldiers who had only brought the violence. This was no righteous war for peace and liberty, this was a trade war. They had only fought for money and power. It disgusted Lucia to hear of such greed.

It was Lucia who had been assigned to assess the site of the violence for any more clues as to which factions had been involved. There was a low fog but the area was clearly a mess even in low visibility. Lucia had heard that nobody had died in the violence but Lucia doubted that statement when she looked the site over. There was so much blood everywhere. There were even a few puddles of it here and there. Lucia gestured and her celestial cat familiar appeared out of thin air and approached one of the puddles. He sniffed at the puddle and Lucia could smell the rotten iron smell of the blood of battle. She turned up her nose and divorced her senses from the cat’s for a moment. She used her eyes for a moment, trying not to retch from the intense smell.

Directly in the middle of the crossroads, the ground was scorched black in a wide radius. Lucia knew the effects of the fireball spell well. Somebody had detonated a fireball in what would have been the middle of the crowd. This would have been devastating but it also would have taken a lot of the will to fight from both sides. It made Lucia wonder which side had done it. Perhaps a wandering wizard or sorcerer had detonated the fireball in hopes of stopping the fighting. There were no witness reports that mentioned who had cast the spell. Lucia nudged at a bit of blackened grass with her foot. She had long proposed research into time travel magic for law enforcement use but the suggestion had always been shot down. It was the only true way to solve mysteries like this. She shook her head and moved on.

From behind her she heard her cat, Caleb, let out a long plaintive meow which means he had found something. The cat sat patiently, staring with its one eye. The other eye was not damaged, the cat had chosen to appear like that. Somehow, the lack of an eye did not impede its sight in any way. Lucia allowed her senses to be swept into the cat once again which was always both familiar and disorienting to suddenly be so low to the ground. She instantly sensed what the cat had. It was an intense smell of brimstone that meant that this had been no ordinary battle. While she did not want to jump to conclusions, Lucia knew from school that brimstone often meant the presence of some sort of demonic being. With her perspective so low to the ground, Lucia could see something scratched into the dirt. She left the cat’s perspective and shook her head to adjust again. She crouched next to the drawing in the dirt. It had been disturbed by stomping feet and burning fire but they might have been runes at one point.

Magickal runes do not just get drawn for no reason though Lucia supposed they could have been normal runes left as some sort of message left for communication over time. Still, one of them looked like half of a very powerful magickal rune she had seen in many books. She had a hunch that it might have been a trigger for a trap. There had to be more to this. Lucia did not really believe in coincidences. She pulled out a few pieces of paper and carefully sketched what she could make out of the symbols. She then dug a way under them to see if there had been some hidden evil. She came up empty and started to look around to see what else could have hidden whatever the runes had triggered. That is when Lucia spotted the lone tree on one corner of the crossroads. Travelers would often sit beneath that tree to get out of the sun, one last break before reaching the town market. Now Lucia spotted what looked like putrid corruption around a branch high up in the tree. The bark had turned blackish-green with white veins. Was it some sort of side effect of a spell?

Lucia sent her senses back into Caleb the Celestial Cat and the cat slowly began to climb the tree, far easier than Lucia could have climbed. The smell of brimstone was almost unbearable as the cat approached the blighted spot on the tree. The cat’s paws tentatively tested the blighted bark but it seemed stable enough to climb on and it did no damage. Just above the branch, there was a hollow in the tree trunk, somewhere a bird or a squirrel might have made their home at one point. Now, no living thing would make a home there. It was absolutely putrid, the air thick with brimstone. The cat poked its head into the hollow and both it and Lucia saw a small bundle. It looked like a material component bag but it also looked like it had detonated. Lucia was forced to conclude that her hunch was probably correct. Somebody had laid a demonic trap and it was hard to tell what that was now that the evidence was mostly destroyed. Either side could have laid this trap or perhaps a third party. For what purpose? Lucia could only report the results of her investigation to her superiors and see what the information led to. She moved under the tree and caught her cat as he jumped from the tree and headed back to her horse to return to town.

Media Update 3/21/19

March 21, 2019


Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

I only heard about the Fyre Festival after the whole thing had finally collapsed and people were putting out memes making fun of the people caught up in the scam. I was never the kind of person targeted by these sorts of things. I have never ever listened to an “influencer” and until recently I did not really understand that this was a job in itself. The Fyre Festival was a big attractive trap for the rich and naive. It is hard to feel sorry for people who have so much money to burn and choose to spend it partying instead of lifting up their fellow man. This documentary kind of exposes that shallow attention to brand over substance, image over reality. This sort of thing could have ended way worse than it did and it is only chance that saved many lives. I do feel sorry for some of the employees involved because a lot happened without their knowledge and consent which sort of ended promising careers and futures. If you did not know the story of the Fyre Festival, it was a music festival planned by people who had never had any experience in putting something like that together. They refused to give up and it was a disaster. I definitely recommend this documentary to pretty much anyone.


Robin Hood (2018)

I have always loved iconic stories and Robin Hood has always fit that mold. It will always be a story I go back to and Hollywood obviously has no problems going back to it either. So, Hollywood and I are in agreement. This time around they cast Taron Egerton (of The Kingsman and the upcoming Rocketman) as Robin of Loxley. Egerton is a fun actor who plays young, tough, and charismatic well. In this version, they use a lot of what came before including Robin being a war veteran and befriending an Arabian moor. The difference here is that they have Loxley playing a two-faced role of currying favor as Loxley while stealing as The Hood. He is befriended and mentored by “John” played by Jamie Foxx who is probably the best thing about the movie. Eve Hewson plays the first version of Marian who seems to have her own sense of agency and is less of a damsel in distress and more of a partner in crime. Finally, we have Ben Mendelsohn (of Captain Marvel) who plays the Sheriff of Nottingham as the insidious, fascist asshole he should be. The whole movie feels kind of like a mix between a Guy Pearce movie and an episode of Peaky Blinders (which had the same director). I definitely recommend this as well.


Elysium

Neill Blomkamp has a history of directing movies that attract attention but are usually not instant classics. The only one I have seen all the way through before this is District 9. He has been able to use a lot of the nasty history he saw in his native South Africa and apply that to creating science fiction worlds which are just extrapolations of our current culture. In District 9 he looked at xenophobia and colonization. In this movie, he explores class wars brought to an extreme level which do not seem all of that farfetched with the recent militarization of police forces. Like District, this movie creates an interesting world with interesting characters but it is a pretty grim movie. Post-apocalyptic world stories are rarely happy pictures but there is not much to smile about in this one for sure. The movie is gory and dirty and definitely not something for the weak of stomach. Still, Matt Damon is the star of this one and he is on top of his game as a likable criminal. He is opposed by Jodie Foster in what is probably the only villainous role that I have seen her in. It is a decent enough science fiction movie and the things it says about the rich and the poor line up with my philosophy. I recommend it but not that strongly.

Music of the Week:

Orville Peck – Dead of Night

Dirty Vegas – Days Go By

BATTLE BEAST – Eden

Caravan Palace – Miracle

Mustard, Migos – Pure Water

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Eat the Rich”
– I watched more Grimm Season 5
– I watched more Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more The Seven Deadly Sins Season 3
– I watched more Blindspot Season 1
– Kofi Kingston was screwed!

2019 A to Z Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

March 18, 2019

It is time once again for April’s A to Z Blogging Challenge. This will be my fifth year taking part in this challenge and each year I feel like it has been building bigger and bigger. The changes and evolutions have been interesting to watch but that is all just logistics. What really drives this thing is the community. I never got into blogging for fame or for attention. I started because I was depressed and writing made me feel better. Everything else I have made in art was temporary (live theater) but this would be my permanent proof to myself that I made something. When I joined this challenge it was on the suggestion of a friend of mine and I wanted to challenge myself. What I got was the engagement in a community that I did not know I was missing. The feedback and encouragement that I have gotten from this challenge have lasted me a long time.

So that brings me to this year’s Theme Reveal. When I started this challenge, I did it without a theme. Recently I decided to go with a loose theme. For the last two years, I did “Getting to Know Me” and “Getting Nerdy”. As I started to try and plan this year’s posts, I racked my brain for a good theme. A good theme makes writing posts easy. This year I have picked something near and dear to my heart and something near and dear to a good friend who passed away just a few months ago.

MUSIC

So what does this mean? This means that every personal story, every short story, and every review is going to center around music in some way. I have a lot of love to spread this month so I hope you stop in to check some of it out. You are always welcome!

This is what the first week is looking like:
April 1 – The Aristocats
April 2 – The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story
April 3 – Carousel
April 4 – The Dragonsong (Creative Writing)
April 5 – Empire Records
April 6 – The Fili Rebirth (Creative Writing)

So this year I am doing it again even though I just started a new job that takes a lot of my focus. I want to stay in this as long as I am able to as a continued challenge to myself. It pushes me to create things that I never would have thought of before. I hope anybody who reads this enjoys what I have to put out this month. Also, you’re welcome to come back during the other eleven months. Here is what I regularly do on this blog:

– Mondays: Personal blogs, Why I Love Pro-Wrestling, 30 Day Challenges, and more

– Thursdays: Media Update which is made up of spoiler-free reviews of what I am watching lately

– Saturdays: Mostly creative writing

In October I do a huge Halloween event that lasts all month with spoiler-free reviews and not overly spooky creative writing.

The Border Tavern

March 16, 2019

Syd stepped into the world-famous Iron Border Tavern and was immediately grateful that he had his knives tucked far into his jacket. Of course, there was a weapons collector. With the reputation that The Border had it would probably be a blood bath inside. Of course, with the rumors Syd had heard, there was a good chance of regular bloodbaths anyway. Walking through the deserts of Koshain to the border of Khull in a jacket and a hat alone was bad enough but it was worth it to gain access to one of the most famous places in the criminal underground. Syd had expected the place to be a lot rougher but it was actually quite nice.

He made a face at the weapons collector at the door and passed over the daggers that hung at his hips. He had had them for a long time, they were perfectly balanced. The man who took them gave him no ticket to reclaim them. Syd tried to mentally file away the man’s face in his memory and then walked towards the bar. Nobody stopped him to frisk him, they just believed that he had given up all of his weapons. Syd felt deeply uneasy about this. He glanced around the room, wondering if everyone had done the same exact thing or worse.

Syd knew that he could not be without weapons. He had no magic to speak of so he counted on steel and fists to protect himself. When you were a bounty hunter, you always had to be ready to fight. Syd had survived a lot just by being prepared and he had survived even more just by being quicker than the target. Right there in the taproom, there were plenty of mean-looking customers. There was a mean-looking half-orc by the end of the bar and table full of actual drows in the back corner. They were playing cards as if the sun was not just outside. The list of things that Syd would not have given for a death ward was short at that moment.

He stepped up to the bar and politely knocked on it and smiled. He waited for the bartender to walk over. She was a halfling so she was walking along a platform attached to the bottom of the bar. She looked weathered and tough like she was made of tattoos, leather, and wiry black hair. Syd liked the look of her immediately so it was not hard to give her a smile. She did a double take.

“A human with all his teeth?” the bartender said. “Now I’ve seen everything. Watch your pockets and your mouth, love.”

“Of course,” Syd said. “I know the drill in establishments like this.”

“There ain’t no place like this one,” the bartender said. “The Border is one of a kind.”

“I’m starting to understand that,” Syd said. “Can I get a glass of your worst whiskey?” He punctuated the question by setting down two gold pieces. “And the news of the day.”

The bartender raised both eyebrows high in surprise but she definitely reached forward and palmed the coins quickly. “What sort of news are you wanting?”

“Just wondering if anybody especially interesting has come through recently. I have heard that this place has the most amazing clientele pass through.”

“Criminally interesting, I imagine,” the bartender said. It was not a question.

“I have a feeling that you and I will be good friends,” Syd said. “Yes, those are the sorts of people I want to meet and greet.” Syd took out a journal and spread it on the bar. “In fact, it might help if you’ve seen any of these individuals.”

The bartender briefly flipped through the sketches shaking her head and Syd could feel disappointment start to set in. Finally, she pointed at one of the portraits. “Funny,” she said. “Somebody was asking about this one earlier.”

“Earlier?” Syd asked. “How long ago? Who was it?”

“Fancy lass,” the bartender said. “She’s upstairs in the room with the unicorn on it.”

Syd stood in thought for a moment and then it dawned on him. He downed his whiskey with a grimace and set the glass down. “I’ll be right back,” he said and then he headed up the stairs before anybody could object.

Syd strode up the stairs with confidence and a soft step, hardly making a noise. He started down the hallway while looking at the doors. He saw a bear, a wolf, a rabbit, a leopard and then looked down the hallway for more. Syd could not see the end of the hallway. He had a sick, frightened feeling in his gut at that moment and he felt like his brain was failing to grasp what he was seeing. He looked to his left and there was the door with the unicorn on it. He decided he did not need to know what was going on right at the moment. It was best to keep his head down and move forward. He knocked on the door, waited a moment, and then kicked the door open hard. As he rolled into the room, he just barely dodged a crossbow bolt.

Lacey Thorncatch stood tall in a fancy purple dress, struggling to put a heeled shoe back on while reloading a crossbow. “Syd Scaland!” She yelled. “I would think you would have the sense to not kick open a lady’s door. I’m disappointed.”

“How do you have a crossbow?” Syd asked with some shock. “Where did you hide it?”

Lacey blushed slightly. “A lady never tells,” she said. “You let them take your weapons at the door? I thought you knew how to bribe.”

“I guess I didn’t realize that was an option,” Syd said and stood up and shut the door. “I can’t believe you’re after one of my marks.”

“I’m the best,” Lacey said. “I’m after everybody.”

There was the sound of at least half a dozen people running down the hallway. Lacey and Syd looked at each other and almost simultaneously said: “You tipped them off!”

“The heat is too hot here,” Syd said. “We have to get out of here.”

“You have no idea,” Lacey said. “You have no idea what this place is. I’ve worked a long time to build a cover here. You ruined it!”

“Let’s go out the window,” Syd said. “We can make a break for it from there.”

“You don’t understand,” Lacey said. “This place works differently. This place has entrances around the world. If we use that window, there’s no telling what it might do to us.”

Syd pointed at the door which was now having heavy objects slammed against it. “Do you want to find out what they might do to us?”

Lacey placed her palm against the door and whispered a few words. “That should hold it for a second,” she said and then made a frustrated sound. “Fine! Let’s go out the window!”

Lacey grabbed a few things and threw them in a bag and then they both crashed through the window together. Their world turned upside-down and inside-out and then they plunged into a cold pool of water. They clawed their way out of the pool through patches of mushrooms.

“Where are we?” Syd asked, looking around and not really seeing anything through the darkness.

“Welcome to the Underdark,” Lacey said.

Media Update 3/14/19

March 14, 2019


Captain Marvel

I was not a huge fan of Carol Danvers growing up but I think for good reason. Writers did not know how to use her and used her too infrequently. When Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, and Emma Rios had their run on Captain Marvel with Jamie McKelvie’s redesign, they breathed new life into the character. This was the first time she called herself Captain Marvel and was the birth of a whole new fandom, the Carol Corps. After that, I really loved the character and when they announced this movie, I was excited. This movie absolutely does justice to the spirit of that character. Part of that is the absolute brilliance of Brie Larson in the lead role. She is just so charismatic and perfect in the role. It also does not hurt that we have Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Fury as her co-star. We also get great performances from Jude Law, Anette Benning, Lashana Lynch, and Ben Mendelsohn. Like most big Marvel releases, I saw this with my friends in a theater and I spent the thing either grinning or laughing the entire time. It was such a great adventure from beginning to end. This was a movie that cannot be denied. I cannot wait to see where they take this character next both in Avengers: Endgame and hopefully beyond. For now, I will bask in the joy of this movie. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


Battle Angel Alita

I was wary of another live-action anime adaptation but I heard some good buzz. I really liked the interesting mix of CGI and live action that created a somewhat unique art design for this movie. This is a world where humans coexist with cyborgs. Cyborgs are accomplished with a combination of CGI and practical effects. Similar to Astroboy, there are a sky city and a dirty city below which is a pretty common trope in science fiction. However, they pull off a gritty and lawless future city very well. This is a collaboration between two famous directors. The first is James Cameron who has awesome technical know-how but went artistically bankrupt a while ago. The second is Robert Rodriguez, a guy who was able to figure out this script and utilize the technical wizardry to create spectacle that also has a good story. Rosa Salazar plays the title character and her voice acting and motion capture are so charming. Christoph Waltz is on top of his game as usual as the hardened but kind mentor. Mahershala Ali gets to play an insidious and sneaky villain. Jackie Earle Haley plays to his strengths of being a psychotic villain. Jennifer Connelly plays a bitter and cynical woman. I also liked some smaller performances from Idara Victor and Keean Johnson. The animation moves seamlessly with the live action stuff and it all follows a great little story about self-discovery and the warrior’s way. I definitely recommend it.


Mary Poppins Returns

Over and over, I have proclaimed on this blog to be a big Disney nerd which is easier to be now that Disney basically owns everything. Mary Poppins is a movie I remember well from my childhood and I still listen to the music from it to this day. The Sherman Brothers were an amazing songwriting team. So when a sequel was announced, I was definitely interested in it. The trailer made the movie look a lot like the original. The original was whimsical but it had a lot to say about its characters, mostly the Banks family. This movie picks up the story years later with the Banks children now grown up and Michael has three kids of his own. Emily Blunt is an awesome Mary Poppins, strict but fun, confusing but enlightening. She is every bit the enigma she was in the original movie. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a lamplighter who used to be Burt’s apprentice (with the same ludicrous accent). The three children are delightful as Michael and Jane were. Ben Whislaw plays Michael Banks, a befuddled and clumsy artist who is just trying to keep his family afloat. Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) has inherited her mother’s activist spirit and is supporting the labor unions. The music is so good. It feels like the Sherman Brothers songs and yet feels new as well. I was also really happy to see hand-drawn animation again. Not that I hate CGI but a movie like this just deserved a return to classic Disney animation. The art style felt like the original but with a little extra polish that new filming technology inherently brings with it. I definitely recommend this movie.

 

Music of the Week:

Wiley, Sean Paul, Stefflon Don – Boasty ft. Idris Elba

Bailey Bryan – Perspective

The Cranberries – All Over Now

Hozier – Dinner & Diatribes

Dorothy – Missile

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Women Heroes”
– I finished Fate/Apocrypha Season 2
– I finished Carmen Sandiego Season 1
– I finished Unsolved: Biggie and Tupac
– I finished The Umbrella Academy
– I finished Lorena
– I started Grimm Season 5
– I watched more Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more The Seven Deadly Sins Season 3
– I watched more Russian Doll Season 1
– I watched more Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 6

March 11, 2019

WILPW

17 – Favorite Debut/Return


Chris Jericho

One of the craziest debuts in the history of the WWE and it is unlikely that it will ever be topped. It was 1999 and everywhere you looked, you could see a clock counting down to the year 2000. Many believed that we were under the threat of a Y2K bug in electronics and there was an anticipation in the air about what was going to happen. One man happened to look at one of those clocks as he was getting ready to debut in the then WWF. He proposed that they start a countdown clock for months before his debut. They would occasionally cut to it during broadcasts with everyone wondering what it was. The time left on the clock did not line up with New Year’s Eve. On an episode of Raw, the Rock hit the ring and he was talking to the fans when all of a sudden the clock showed up again and it hit zero right in the middle of a Rock promo. The lights went out, fireworks went off, and then Chris Jericho appeared to the sounds of rock music. The crowd went ballistic as some were fans of his zany antics in World Championship Wrestling, some knew him from Extreme Championship Wrestling, and some were just caught up in the moment. Right away he traded words with the Rock and his career was off to a new start. It turned out to be a bumpy start but he eventually became even more of a legend from his runs in the WWE.


Paige

I had just started watching NXT when Paige first showed up. It was a dark time for women’s wrestling on Monday Night Raw. The place was rife with “Divas” who were better at posing than talking or wrestling. Paige dubbed herself the Anti-Diva, a wrestler who had a pale goth appearance and tons of actual athletic talent. She had just recently won the NXT Women’s Championship when she had a surprise debut on Monday Night Raw and she beat champion AJ Lee in what had to be the best women’s match on Monday Night Raw in a long time. Her star burned bright but unfortunately, she did not last as long as other performers and she is now retired by injury. She will definitely always be fondly remembered.

18 – Favorite Commentator


Mauro Ranallo

I was not so sure about Mauro Ranallo when he first showed up as an announcer. He was a commentator for other sports first and sometimes that just does not work out. Professional wrestling is a unique beast and sometimes the skills do not translate from actual sports. Mauro’s references sounded a little forced at first. He makes a lot of geeky references and a lot of references to other sports. I usually get the geeky references but I do not always get the sports references. However, he eventually won me over. His enthusiasm is impossible to ignore and it has obviously caught on with the WWE Universe. Part of what really got me on Team Ranallo was his admission that he is bipolar and his advocacy for mental health initiatives. He moved from the main roster back to NXT and he became part of the fabric of the place. Fans chant his now famous “Mamma Mia!” catchphrase when amazing things happen during matches. His enthusiasm helps build rivalries and sells the story. Villains become more villainous, heroes become more valiant, and every move pops just a little bit more as he adds his two cents in. I know that he still has other gigs and that his mental health is important to him but I hope that he finds a healthy balance so he can stick with the WWE family for a good long while.


Renee Young

She started as a backstage interviewer and stuck with the company long enough for them to really realize her potential. She filled in at the commentator table a few times and it was clear that she was more than ready for the big time. When she finally got her chance, she had been known to fans of the WWE for years. I had been hoping for a female commentator for a long while. First, because they kept bringing back the same tired male commentators who were only getting worse (Lawler, JBL, Booker T). Second, they were finally pushing women in professional wrestling and it only made sense for a female to lend her voice to this new movement. Third, if women were going to be given a more equal spot on the card, they should get a more equal spot at the commentator table as well. Renee is outspoken and knowledgeable about pro-wrestling and adds a badly needed different perspective on the product. I am glad to have the fresh blood behind the table.

19 – Favorite Underrated Wrestler


Cesaro

I first became aware of Cesaro when he was known by his real name of Claudio Castagnoli in Ring of Honor. He was part of the Kings of Wrestling with Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) and Sara Del Ray. All three of them now work for the WWE which was a brilliant decision. Pound for pound, Cesaro just might be the strongest guy on the roster. He can accomplish amazing feats of lifting and athletics with seemingly no effort. When he needs to, he can be a high-flyer, a brawler, and a technician. He has been a part of a lot of amazing moments in NXT and WWE history. Yet, he has never really gotten the fair shake that has always been due to him. He should have gotten a major title match a long time ago. When I watch him, I see a workhorse who always does what is demanded of him. He has proved himself in feuds with Sheamus and Sami Zayn. He has done well in tag teams with Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd, and Sheamus. He has suffered from weak feuds that were not his fault. I really believe that he could be a great heavyweight champion if given the chance. Right now he is doing great in his tag team with Sheamus but I feel like his singles career is now a fading memory. He just needs one good feud to ignite the run of a lifetime.


The IIconics

Like most people, I first became aware of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce when they first showed up on NXT. They appeared as The Iconic Duo which was immediately interesting. There had been female groups before but there had always been a clear pecking order and most of the teams eventually fell apart. Billie and Peyton are true friends and each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They work together to gain opportunities for whichever of them has the best chance at the moment. They are actually real life friends who went to high school together in Australia and it shows. They have so much chemistry together and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s performances. They are really funny and a lot of the time they come off like a sketch comedy team instead of wrestlers sometimes. However, when they get in the ring they can definitely get the job done either together or separately. There is plenty of time for one or both of them to get a run with a women’s championship but I feel like soon they might get a good feud for the women’s tag titles. I really hope that people see their shine through all of the chaos and give them a real shot.

When It All Ended Pt. 16

March 9, 2019

Morgan’s Raiders gathered once again in Percival’s Magical Mansion, a place that had been their home on the road for years. They had been brought before the Royal Court of Eloria as the chaos was winding down in the streets outside of the palace. They had all been in rough shape but high off their victory and honored to have an audience with the King and Queen. After that audience, they retreated into their magical mansion where they each took time to bathe and tend to their wounds. When they met again in the common room, they could all feel finality in the air. It was a momentous occasion. They had slain the dragon, saved the princess, and perhaps saved the kingdom. They had been through so much together.

“So what next, Raiders?” Morgan asked as she sat on the bar.

“Well,” Percival said. “There’s the King’s offer on the table. Posts in the six districts of Eloria. We’d be set for life.”

“Are we really willing to retire and take a government job?” Garth asked. He looked dubious as if he was gauging the others’ interest before answering.

“Forsake all of the glory for a relatively quiet life?” William asked.

“I think I’ve had enough, personally,” Cassandra said. “I’ve learned a lot with you all and I would like to pass that on to the students of the future.”

There was a pregnant pause after that admission. Everybody thought about that for a bit.

“I’m glad you said that,” William said. “I also want to teach. I think I could show the young a thing or two about how to swing a weapon.”

“I’m tired,” Galath said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I think I’m ready for retirement.”

“What do you think boss?” Cassandra asked. She was suddenly worried that she had disappointed a woman who she had respected for a long time.

“I think we just lost half of our party,” Morgan said. “It would be hard to continue on after that.”

“I’m sorry,” Cassandra said but Morgan held her hand up.

“I’m kidding, Cass,” she said. “I think we’ve had our time. I want to go home and spend some time getting to know my mother better.”

“And I would like to return to the library,” Percival said. “I’ve been away for so long now and I’m sure the place is falling apart without me. Besides, you all have given me so many stories to write.”

“I guess I want to return too,” Cassandra said. “Back to New Moon Academy but as a teacher instead of a student.” She thought she might invite Princess Cora along just in case the princess was inclined to say yes.

“You’d be a great teacher, Cassandra,” Galath said. “I prefer the quiet life so I suppose I would choose the plains of Hasse. I have fond memories of traveling across those plains. Also, I believe that William wants to be near the mountains of Stull.”

“You are correct, Galath,” William said. “I have heard good things about the Battle Arts Academy. Besides, it’s closer to my native land.”

“And you, Garth?” Morgan asked. “You are being characteristically quiet. Do you have qualms about working for the law of the land?”

“Well,” Garth said. “I may be a thief but I only became one out of necessity. Over time your good influence has allowed me to change my ways. Maybe I can continue to use my criminal expertise for some good. I would like to get that pardon he offered in writing, though.”

“I’m sure that can be arranged,” Morgan said. “I’m a little nervous about installing you among the Guard near the sea but I suppose you’ve earned Eloria’s trust.”

“I suppose that closes this chapter in our lives then,” Percival said. “Do we have any loose ends here?”

“We unleashed a faery and a djinn on the capital of Eloria,” Morgan said. “Did anyone see what happened to them?”

“Monela and Clio? I saw them fly off together,” Cassandra said. “I mean I promised Monela she could go when the battle was done but I wish she had stopped to say goodbye.”

“Same goes for Clio, I guess,” Garth said. “I had a feeling she would bolt.”

“I worry about the damage the two of them could do together,” Morgan said.

“Should we go after them?” Percival asked. “You know we would follow you on one more adventure.”

“And yet we just retired as adventurers,” Morgan said. “So I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they cause trouble. The king can command us to take action at that point.”

“Agreed,” William said.

“I think it will be fine,” Galath said with a shrug. “What can they really do?”

“Maybe Monela will do something better with her second chance,” Cassandra said. “And Clio was never really evil, right?”

“She always looks out for number one,” Garth said. “She isn’t so stupid to bring the world down around herself.”

“Then I guess we have to go back to court in the morning and tell them our decision,” Morgan said. “Take your time and drink and eat. We have plenty of time. I’m going back upstairs to rest.”

They all said their goodnights to Morgan and she took her leave and went back up the stairs and into the bedroom. After so much time she was grateful to feel the burden of leadership slide off of her. She looked forward to her new life of relative ease. A few moments later, Percival stepped into their room and she turned to smile at him.

“You didn’t have to come up here too,” Morgan said. “You could have stayed down there with them.”

“It was important that I come up here,” Percival said. “Or should I say I came up here for something important.”

“What?” Morgan asked and laughed. “Speak plainly, librarian.”

Percival sank to his knees and held up a golden ring. “Morgan Moonglow, will you marry me?”

Morgan was taken aback for a moment but she grinned and reached for the ring. “Yes!” Her hand slipped through the ring which was somehow insubstantial.

“Sorry,” Percival said. “That was an illusion. I don’t have the real ring yet but we can get it.”

Morgan laughed again. “You know I don’t need anything too gaudy. We’ll pick it out together.”

“Yes,” Percival said. “Together.”

And then they kissed.


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