Monday, April 30, 2012

WWE Extreme Rules Review

I originally meant to post about the new miniatures I painted for my Tomb Kings, but I enjoyed last night's Pay Per View so much that I just had to write about it.

I've been down on the WWE lately. The months leading up to Wrestlemania were a big waste of time and Wrestlemania itself was rather upsettingly mediocre. Since then we've had a lot of spinning wheels, badly booked matches, and so many video packages that it has become difficult to care. The worst part of all this is that I'm starting to become that obnoxious TNA fan who will say things like, "Well, if you wanted to watch a wrestling show you'd watch TNA." I blame the WWE for making me say those things and mean them. Thanks, guys.

Last night, however, was really good. It's amazing what can happen when a show gets back to basics and just puts on a wrestling show. I've been saying this for months now but their roster is just so good and all they have to do is let those guys wrestle and the audience will be happy. I hate to keep repeating how easy this is, but it's really easy.

Miz v Santino
I was a little excited for this match. I thought they might get a full half hour to have an actual match, and I was really hoping that the Miz would get some good time to impress. I like The Miz and I appreciate how a lot of people like Santino so I expected something. Instead we just got a 4 minute match.

If the WWE is going to stream their pre-shows on YouTube (which is a great idea) then they should make those pre-shows good enough to get people who are on the fence about paying for the PPV a reason to actually pay for the PPV. This didn't do that, but it could have. Maybe use the pre-show as a chance to showcase some NXT guys? Seriously, give Tyson Kidd and Michael McGillicutty a chance to put on a solid 15 minute match and it'll make literally everyone happy.

Kane v Randy Orton
I keep talking about how there's lots of audiences that watch, but I can't help but feel that people who like Randy Orton also like Kane so I'm not opposed to them being in a match together, because I'd rather they were together than with someone I actually like. The only upside to this match was more of Zack Ryder being an impotent child. That was funny.

Brodus Clay v Dolph Ziggler
I was on board for Funkasaurus longer than most. This gimmick has overstayed its welcome and it's just making me cringe. I also really love Dolph Ziggler (seriously, if I was a 12 year old girl I would have Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes posters on every wall in my bedroom) but he really needs to do something more than what he's doing now. I hate being Mr Internet Wrestling Fan but just because Ziggler is the best seller in the WWE doesn't mean he should be a jobber.

If Ziggler is to be taken seriously he needs to at least win a match once in a while. Mr Perfect was believable because he'd Perfectplex your ass and he'd win matches. Ziggler just bounces around when he gets hit. It's fun and he's good at making people look dangerous, but it's time for him to do something else. He's one ICP tattoo away from losing to Ryback.

Cody Rhodes v Big Show
This match really surprised me. I could go on and on about how awful Big Show is (he's slow, racist, boring, stupid, and slow)(oh, and fat) and how awesome Cody Rhodes is and how he should be a Big Deal, but instead I'll just reflect upon how happy this match made me feel.

Cody Rhodes won a match he shouldn't have won because Big Show is a fat dude who can't stop embarrassing himself. Cody Rhodes gets all the +Rhodes.

Sheamus v Daniel Bryan
Yes, Sheamus won. Yes, I wanted Daniel Bryan to win, murder Sheamus, rip his entrails out and spell out "Bryan Danielson" with them on the mat as he ditches his slave name. Instead we got the best match I've seen in a long time. No, it wasn't the most technical match but it told a story and was exciting. Having a 2 out of 3 falls match where the first fall happens well past halfway in was brilliant as it made me excited for each pinfall attempt.

This match, more than any other, goes to show how great wrestling can be when it just features a simple storyline (jerk guy versus guy who is not as much as a jerk) and how just letting them out to wrestle can make everyone happy.

I'm a Daniel Bryan fan and he lost. He lost a match. That doesn't matter in wrestling. What matters is that he was allowed to succeed and put on a great show. That's why I was so angry at Wrestlemania. Winning and losing doesn't matter (if it did Funkasaurus would be in the title hunt!) but what matters is what we saw last night between these two guys. These two guys stole the show and really did something great.

I'm happy for Daniel Bryan and I'm happy for the people out there who love Sheamus. If I was a Sheamus fan, and I am when he's not fighting Mah Boy DBry, I would have been ecstatic with last night. Sheamus was losing the entire match but came out the winner by sticking it out and winning.

I can't find anything to complain about with this match. We would be very lucky if the WWE gave us a better match this year, but with Daniel Bryan around I think it's possible.

Ryback versus Juggalos
I love this gimmick. Skip Sheffield's new gimmick is kind of boring (Terminator? Really?) but I do like the idea of the WWE traveling from town to town having this guy just kill local Juggalos. I got nothing else to say except, "ICP sucks lol."

CM Punk v Jericho
Ehhhhh, yeah, this match. It was okay. I don't know, I never got excited about this match and there never seemed to be any sort of rhythm. I know lots of people that said there were three great matches last night, but I wouldn't call this a "great" match and that is especially true when one of those matches was Daniel Bryan v Sheamus. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but who can watch Daniel Bryan v Sheamus and then Jericho v Punk and think that they are anywhere close to each other in quality?

It wasn't a bad match or anything. It was fine, but these two guys should have an awesome feud. They should have killer promos against each other. They should have great matches against each other. Instead it just feels like a bad episode of Degrassi High and it's just making me hate CM Punk for his new schtick where he's the coolest and smartest wrestler ever.

Also, what's the point of Jericho being back if he's just going to do nothing? The only thing I can think of is that he just wants to troll his past fanbase and kill off any notion of him as a wrestler once and for all. When he first came back he said nothing for weeks and got lots of cheers for it. He showed the audience how shallow and stupid they were for liking a guy for doing nothing. Maybe he came back to bumble around with awful promos, mediocre matches, and to just lose as a way of really telling his fans to screw off? I don't know, but even worse I'm starting to not care.

Layla v Nikki Bella
Well, okay. Whatever.
That's not Kharma!

John Cena v Brock Lesnar
This match was something else. I think it was both exciting and the absolute worst thing the WWE could do.

For the first five to ten minutes I had thought that Lesnar just cold wanted to murder Cena to prove some point. I always figured that Lesnar is a legit asshole (he's against universal healthcare and all) and it wouldn't surprise me if he just wanted to come back to the WWE and prove some point about his being a warrior or something. I thought it was real.

It wasn't real, it was wrestling. That's great, too, because I don't want to watch two skinny white guys with tribal tats beat each other up for money. The problem is that it felt legitimate. They keep talking about how Lesnar is bringing back legitimacy and how he's an asskicker and everything else. All this talk of legitimacy and reality, especially with how much the lines blurred last night, doesn't make the Cena v Lesnar match feel more real: it makes everything else feel fake.

Last night we saw a really fantastic match with Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. That's everything I want out of wrestling. It told a story, was exciting, and just made me feel like a little kid again. That's what professional wrestling is and does best. The Lesnar v Cena match from last night makes it feel fake. In trying to push Lesnar as a legitimate threat they are delegitimizing everyone else. By trying to emulate MMA they are ceding ground and calling attention to how it is fake.

How can Lesnar have another match without similarly beating the blood out of his opponent? We'll look at that match and think about how fake it is. I'm afraid that this won't be about Lesnar alone and we'll be acutely aware of all the other matches where no blood is shed and wrestlers are able to pull of their staged moves. Rey Mysterio's 619 is one of the stupidest moves ever, but when he did it to Kurt Angle it made me excited. I knew it was stupid and staged but it felt real. How can something like that feel real now when we all know that a real fight should just be two grown mean grappling each other as they lacerate one another with their fists?

There's no a very firm demarcation between the WWE and reality. Pointing out where that line is makes it difficult to become invested in the story that they are trying to sell. When you're not invested in the story you are just watching some grown men pretend to fight each other, and who wants to do that?

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Ten Favorite Warhammer Fantasy Models

The post I wanted to put up today is giving me issues. I hope to have it up next Friday as it's something I've been trying to express for a while and I think I'm finally getting close to doing so correctly.

Instead, I thought it would be fun to look at my favorite Warhammer Fantasy models. Unlike other games, miniature gaming demands an aesthetic appreciation. When I played Magic the Gathering or the Game of Thrones Card Game I would just make decks based on in-game mechanics and effectiveness. I didn't really have any attachment to any of the cards or anything else. After a period I would look past all the art and just see mathematics and simply play the game with that in mind.

Miniature gaming, and Warhammer especially, is different. I know people who are married to one army and have played the same army for over a decade. I'm obviously not that guy, but for me to play a game, or a faction within it, I have to like the figures. This makes sense as I'm sure most of us spend far more time painting figures than we do playing with them. It's why my attempt to play Warmachine in 2010 fizzled out: half of their figures are just awful.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to look at some of my favorite figures from Warhammer Fantasy. I only included figures that are currently available, but there are lots here that really inspire me and demand me to buy and paint them.

Beastmen - Jabberslythe
I love this figure. If I were to design a monster that was able to fly and made people go insane by merely looking upon it this is what I would have come up with. It's just totally nuts and I really love it.

Warriors of Chaos - Chaos Lord on Chaos Steed
This figure works for me for a totally opposite reason from the Jabberslythe: it's so simple and classic that it is immediately evocative of what a Chaos Lord should look like. Whereas the Jabberslythe was unbound imagination, this Chaos Lord is a simple figure that is just classic and timeless.

Tomb Kings - Prince Apophas
Egyptian demon assassin made of scarabs? Yes, yes please. 

Tomb Kings - Queen Khalida
This is similar to the Chaos Lord I talked about above. The pose isn't dynamic and she's not as complex or detailed as many figures, but she is just so classic and evocative that it really works for me. I picked one up and painted it last week and I'll be posting her and the remainder of my Tomb Kings stuff this Monday. This is a fantastic figure that is also amazing in the new Tomb Kings book.

Vampire Counts - Winged Vampire Lord
This is, again, not a very elaborate or dynamic figure but it's just so full of character that it is one of the big reasons why I want to do Vampire Counts. This guy just looks like a total badass.

Skaven - Deathmaster Snikch
Just look at that guy! He has a great pose and just looks mean. I really liked the older Snikch model but this one is even more fantastic. 

Dark Elves - Cold One Knights
These guys were some of the first new cavalry Games Workshop put out in the last few years. Four years ago they started to update a lot of their old cavalry models and these are probably my favorite, although the Chaos Knights are up there. 

Orcs and Goblins - Arachnarok Spider
Just look at that thing! I know some people aren't a big fan of the new books getting a big monster, but I think it makes a lot of sense and I'm very much in favor of every army have a centerpiece model.

Warriors of Chaos - Nurgle Chaos Lord
I really like Nurgle. The only army I regret selling was my Deathguard army for 40k. This guy is the epitome of how awesome Nurgle can be. He's one of those models that's just so awesome I'm still honestly surprised it isn't an Avatars of War model. This guy just oozes Nurgle and it works great.

Ogre Kingdoms - Firebelly
This is an ogre that eats lava and spits out flames. The model is as awesome as that sounds. 

Call me a fanboy (or is it "fanboi"? I always forget), but I'm a big Games Workshop fan because they put out some amazing models and their games are fun. I could complain about prices, lack of FAQs, how they won't release the books in the order I want them to release them (6th Edition and Tyranids please), and tons of other things but at the end of the day I just don't care because I love their models, the game worlds, and the rules make for very fun games.

I'm finishing up the last of my Tomb Kings. I have some characters and Necropolis Knights that I'm excited to share for Monday. I'll also be working on a big post summarizing my Tomb Kings and have pictures so I can link to the army easily.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Lack of Protagonists in the WWE

I've not been enjoying Raw or Smackdown for a few weeks now. I don't want to be too dramatic, but I usually love the hell out of any and all wrestling because I'm a man-child. The last few weeks have been peppered with crap and the parts I otherwise might enjoy have been lackluster or boring. I'm starting to think of why this is and I have a few theories. Today I'd like to talk about how the WWE is starting to lose all of their characters.

The WWE is becoming filled with NPCs - Non Playable Characters. An NPC exists in an Role Playing Game as a plot device, enemy, or something for the character to interact with. They're there to provide content for a character, or to give a protagonist something to do. I'm starting to think that the only character that lives in the WWE is John Cena, and as much as I tend to like John Cena more than most it is simply not enough.
I like a lot of the wrestlers in the WWE. Hell, I like most of the wrestlers in the WWE a whole lot. As much as I love Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler, though, I don't cheer for them because I relate to them or want to see them win a championship (although it would be rad!) but because they are entertaining within themselves. Their function in the WWE is to entertain the crowd and to interact with "protagonist wrestlers".

Right now everyone exists to serve a role for another wrestler to interact with, but we no longer have any of the wrestlers to actually progress through these storylines. I'm not a huge fan of Kofi Kingston but shouldn't he be in meaningful feuds with these people so we can see his character grow and become attached to him, instead of him just being the guy called in when they want to make a heel look strong?

I've seen them try to do this with Sheamus, but for various reasons it's not been going well. I really loved his feud with Mark Henry and it was great to see something like that turn him face. His winning the Royal Rumble was big and made him feel like a big deal as a face. His feud with Daniel Bryan has been engaging and I really loved his promo from a few months ago where he showed a lot of empathy and growth and felt like a two dimensional person. Sheamus could be a guy who we can latch onto and care about as he interacts with all the archtypes in the WWE, but instead they booked Wrestlemania so poorly that we are now forced to choose our love for Daniel Bryan and Sheamus. There's no way I care about anyone more than the American Dragon and now I hope Sheamus gets exported back to Ireland.

It's just really difficult to find someone to care about or to relate to. I'm no longer emotionally invested in any of these people and instead I see a lot of archtypes bumping around and acting the way they should, because their role dictates them to act that way. John Cena is the exception as we've seen him react to The Rock and Brock Lesnar. We've seen how his friendship with Zack Ryder and the hilarity with Kane has affected him. It's easy to hate on Cena but he's the only guy who seems like a human being, even if Cena himself comes off more than a little superhuman.

I want to care about these people. I also know that a lot of the wrestlers are there to serve a role. Instead of seeing an actual story with actual characters it is starting to feel a little bit like The Sims: we're seeing people play out their characters and interact, but there are few clear narratives or characters to really invest in.

Maybe I'm wrong and maybe people relate to Big Show or Randy Orton or Santino. For me, however, I'm starting to feel cold about all of this. I'm able to forgive the WWE when it's bad because I always thought they would get around to dealing with someone I care about, but now I really don't care about anyone outside of "mah boy right there" Daniel Bryan. Now that there is less for me to look forward to the bad parts feel worse.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vampire Counts - Hexwraiths

I've been making some progress on my Vampire Counts. I think I can get them finished, or at least the army build I currently have in mind, by the middle of May. That should give me enough time play the army enough so if I do take it to the Quake City Rumble I won't have a repeat of The Colonial.

I really like this kit. I think they did a good job of giving enough details to both the Hexwraiths and the Black Knights so they look different from one another. This kit, more than most, had a lot of mold lines and cleaning mold lines is probably my least favorite thing to do in this hobby.
I don't know if it's because of Slimer from Ghost Busters, Scooby Doo, or some movie I saw as a kid but whenever I think of ghosts I always think of them being green. All of my ethereal in my Vampire Counts will be green because of that, and I think it looks pretty good.
I really like the idea that they're green ghosts with ghostly blue flames, but that the only thing they carry that is physical is the scythe blade.

I think moving forward I'll be doing another unit of these guys as they're solid in the game and I really like how mine came out.

For the rest of this week, however, I'll be finishing up some odds and ends for my Tomb Kings. I've been using Khalida with them and having a lot of fun with the army, so I'm happy to play them for another month.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Fragmented WWE Universe

I wasn't alone in being angry at Wrestlemania. Robbing Daniel Bryan a proper Wrestlemania match felt like the worst sort of insult by a company that constantly tells us that we are part of something bigger. On the following night's Raw you saw a crowd that actually was apart of something and it was something special. Hearing a crowd that was unified in their feelings really made viewers at home, at least those that agree with that sentiment, feel as though they were part of something bigger.

That crowd, and the crowd at last year's Money in the Bank, are the exception. There's a lot of talk about how a great crowd can make a decent show into something special. I think Ring Ka King is a very good show made into a great one because of the passion their audience has. For all the talk of us being part of the "WWE Universe", it can oftentimes feel as though we watch and enjoy the WWE despite itself and contrary to what they want us to enjoy.

I went to the April 9th WWE Raw show in DC last week and I think it really cemented home something I've been feeling for a while: that fractured audiences are bad audiences. We all come from different walks of life and backgrounds, and we all enjoy different things and while everyone at a WWE show is a "wrestling fan" it is becoming obvious that we're different types of wrestling fan. It's difficult to talk about the different types of wrestling fans as I don't want to be condescending, because clearly the type of wrestling fan I am is the best type of fan, but the "categories" of fan is pretty easy to see.

When you go to an independent show you'll oftentimes see a more unified crowd. Go to a Chikara or Maryland Championship Wrestling show and while the crowd will be small it will be unified and that unity is something really special. The WWE has become so large and so aware of its demographics that most shows are populated by a loose confederation of people that really have little in common and who are there to see very different things.

When we look at a good crowd we don't really see a "good" crowd but an audience that is unified. When I was at Raw in DC last week the crowd could never get anything going because we were all there for different reasons. There were quite a few people there getting YES chants going, but only a tenth of the crowd joined in and they could never reach critical mass. The only time the crowd seemed unified was when they were unified in ways the WWE dictated. It's weird, but Big Show and Jerry Lawler probably got the biggest pops that night, although R Truth and Brock Lesnar were close, and Vickie Guerrero (who I love) got the only real unified boo'ing.

I think the WWE has done a really good job of giving each person something to like in their programming.This has created a fanbase that is really fragmented and live audiences can come off as lackluster or disinterested. Everyone is excited about something at a live show, but there are very few things the crowd is unanimous about.

I think that the WWE does a good job of catering to all sorts of different audiences. More and more it seems that we all watch wrestling for a different reason, and this can make each show feel really disjointed. We can go from having a great match with Daniel Bryan to video packages of Undertaker and Triple H (at the live Raw in DC last week the crowd was clapping and super respectful during that video package, I even heard a few "thank you"s in the crowd during it) and then to bad comedy segments with Santino. The WWE is so aware of their audience and they do try to give something for everyone, but I doubt it leaves very many people satisfied.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Reaper Bones Cave Troll Review

I've been a big fan of Reaper for years. My interest in role playing games has been driven, in large part, to my desire to find something to do with all the awesome figures Reaper makes.

I was at the Game Parlor last week and saw that they had come out with a bunch of new recasts of some of their older figures. They were dirt cheap and I was really curious to see how they compared, so I picked up the Cave Troll and painted it.

The first thing I noticed was the price: $2.29 is stupid cheap for a medium sized figure of this quality. This is an older sculpt and it's not the most impressive, but I find most of Reaper's older figures to be classic and elegant in their simplicity. I find them to be good figures that are fun to paint up, and that can be a real good quality when many manufacturers are moving towards complex figures that need to be painted in different stages.
Reaper's prepainted version.
For comparison's sake, Reaper's prepainted Legendary Encounters version of this figure is $4.29 and the old pewter miniature is $6.99.  I'm not a fan of prepaints, unless I paint a figure myself I don't feel that I really "own" it, but it's not a bad paint job or at a bad price. Even the pewter version is very reasonably priced for how large the figure is.

Here's what I came up with when painting the Cave Troll:
I spent about an hour prepping and painting this guy. He painted up fast and was a lot of fun to paint. I based him, as I base many of models, on 1.5" metal washer for some extra heft and stability.
There were a few differences with the material compared to the old metals.  Bones are made of a soft rubber, think harder than Wizards of the Coast D&D / Star Wars mini but probably not as hard or brittle as Heroclix, that paints up well and was surprisingly good at holding detail. I read that you didn't need to prime the figure and I can see how that is possible, although I primed my Cave Troll.
I only really have two problems with this figure. First, there were very few mold lines but the mold lines were hard to see (I blame it on the color of the material) and difficult to scrape off with a hobby knife. It almost felt like the mold lines were as hard as the rest of the figure, and I'm used to mold lines (for metal models, especially) being brittle and tearing off. My second gripe, and this is a small one, was that the figure was made of rubber and I found it bending at the ankles (I held it by the metal washer I glued it to) sometimes when I was pressing down with the paint brush. This isn't a huge gripe, but it was something I noticed happening a few times.

This figure is, on the whole, very worthwhile and I'm happy to see Reaper trying new things to keep costs low. The Bones version of their metal Cave Troll is 60% off and that's pretty huge. My small gripes, and they are relatively small, are definitely worth the discount.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vampire Counts - Beginnings

After the stunning failure of my Tomb Kings, an army I'm likely to play some over the next few months but will bitterly complain about after every game, I've decided to start a new army for Fantasy.  I was tempted to do Warriors of Chaos, as I have about half of that army painted, but I decided to go with Vampire Counts as their book is new (meaning I'll get at least 5 years with them before needing to implement changes) and that Warriors of Chaos were rumored to come out later this year.

I've always wanted to do a Vampire Counts army and I'm really excited to get around to doing one.  I've accumulated over 100 GW Zombies over the last few years, I somehow always get some at swap meets, and since they're good in the book, or at least good enough, I'm excited to paint them up and to use them.
I painted these ten guys in about two hours.  They're definitely "table top quality" and I'm thinking of spending more time on the remaining Zombies I want to paint.  I was tempted to use the Mantic Zombies (their undead is their only line that isn't awful) but I still like the GW Zombies enough and already own a ton of them.
I'll also be taking a big block of 40 Ghouls.  I really like the GW Ghouls and really appreciate how the Mantic Ghouls are different.  The GW Ghouls look more like monsters whereas the Mantic Ghouls look more like feral people who are cannibals.  Both are valid and I'm glad Mantic decided to give Ghouls their own spin.
I painted these ten guys up in about two hours.  I think they look pretty good and vicious.  A unit of 40 will look really mean and bloody.
I'm actually really excited to crank these guys out.  Ghouls are, strangely enough, easier to speed paint than Tomb Kings and once my Zombies are all painted I'll be buying the next set of 30 and will likely just grind through them in an evening or two.
I picked up this Reaper figure and painted him up to be a unit filler for the Ghouls.  He looks different enough from the big Ghouls that GW sells that I think it works.  He'll likely be my Ghoul King and will look good as a unit filler.

The army I'm planning on doing is this:

Vampire Lord, Coven Throne, Aura of Dark Majesty, Dread Knight, Quickblood, Glittering Scales, Talisman of Preservation, Sword of Might

5 Wraiths
2 Banshees
Necromancer, Level 2, with Dispel Scrol

50 Zombies
40 Crypt Ghouls with Crypt Ghast
10 Dire Wolves

5 Hexwraiths
Spirit Host

5 Cairn Wraiths
Black Coach

I'll likely build from this into an army list that isn't totally bad.  I really like the Ethereal stuff and I think 5 Cairn Wraith Heroes being the front rank of a bus of Zombies might be really good.
I'll be using the Wraith Harvester models from Reaper for the Cairn Wraiths.  They're nice and they're reasonably priced.

Before I'm full steam ahead with my Vampire Counts I'll be finishing up some Ogres (I have 6 Maneaters that are half painted) and I'll be painting up my copy of Dreadfleet.  I hope to have pictures up of the Maneaters, and the rest of my Ogres, for next Monday and Dreadfleet the Monday after that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

On Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey a lying narcisist.  He managed to create a lot of fame with his "Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" monologue where he talks about a partially fictionalized trip to a Foxconn factory where Apple products are made.  My initial response to hearing his monologue was feeling that while I agree with his core message that the exploitation and harm done to workers by Apple and other firms is bad, I still found his delivery too personal and selfish.

We all know what is happening in China and throughout much of the world.  Globalization has brought untold levels of exploitation and environmental devastation and we all know about it.  Most of us accept it because we either don't think about it or we believe it is just a natural result of the free market and, as such, it's totally out of our hands. People feel this way because many treat the free market as some implacable force, like hurricanes or earthquakes.  Some even go so far as to rationalize it as a "choice" that "free people" make to live and work in these conditions.  All the same, we all know instinctively that what is happening is wrong.
We are all complacent in knowing that our demand for cheaper clothing and consumer electronics, fresh fruits and vegetables regardless of season, and so much else about our daily life comes at a great cost to the rest of the world.  I was able to forgive Daisey's pregnant pauses and desire to dramatize HIS personal feelings that HE felt about what he saw.  I would prefer that people were able to see the evils of globalization and be moved by those alone, but if it takes a bourgeois liberal to express his personal feelings about what he saw to make other people feel anything, even if it's just sympathy for Daisey, then that is better than nothing.

But then it came out that Mike Daisey lied.  He went from an obnoxious bourgeois liberal that used colonial prejudice to tell a highly personal story to someone that manipulated the truth to advance his career.  The problem is that Daisey only lied about how he saw these events first hand.  Everything Daisey spoke about has actually happened. The tragedy, exploitation, and horror he spoke of happened to real, actual people, he just never met them. For Daisey to insert himself into these tragedies is one thing, but to lie about his interactions only serves to cheapen the reality and to strengthen the forces that caused them to happen.

I always felt there was something off about Mike Daisey's monologue.  He spoke of his translator, and most other people he saw, in a way that dehumanized and simplified them down to a quirk or a physical attribute. I chalked this up to latent colonial prejudices or his desire to use short hand to at least give these people a single dimension, since it was Mike Daisey, not the victims of globalization, that was the real character, and victim, of his monologue.  Even if his monologue had been completely accurate, it was still filled with typical bourgeois narcissism.
It is, of course, silly and dishonest to focus on the lies of Mike Daisey over the evils of globalization.  While he would like to defend himself as a "monologuist" who tells "stories" and not a "journalist" (all of which seems to be trying to validate his being a liar), he does have a point in that the media, This American Life included, has made a bigger story of his being a liar than about the evils of globalization.  What Mike Daisey doesn't understand (and why should we expect a member of the bourgeois class to understand anything?) is that he made himself the center of the story from day one.  The story, the story he told on stage and on radio, was never about those that have been mangled by the gears of industrialization, but about his emotional reaction to what he saw.

It is ridiculous for Mike Daisey to be sad that his being a liar is now the focus.  Any attempt by him to shed light on Foxconn was always secondary to advancing his career.  If he truly cared about this cause, he never would have lied and would have done everything possible to make his monologue unassailable.  It is naive to think the neoliberal forces would not use his lies as a means to discredit him and to quietly ignore the very real evils he discussed.

This topic has spiraled out for me and I'll be touching on it again in the next few weeks.  I think this situation has brought to light many topics that aren't well discussed but are important.  It would be far too easy to beat up on Mike Daisey, as he continues to make himself an easy target, doubly so as he has apologized for "anyone who felt betrayed" instead of just coming out and apologizing for lying.

Moving forward, I'll be talking about alienation in our society and our need to feel emotions through proxy and the impossibilities of living an ethical life in America.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WWE Wrestlemania 2012 Review

Sunday night was Wrestlemania 28.  It's taken me a few days to get my thoughts in order.  This was a really difficult Wrestlemania to write about.  It's been difficult to watch the event without any baggage and even more difficult to collect my thoughts in a way that I could clearly express.

Daniel Bryan v Sheamus
This was the match I most anticipated.  I left the Colonial (after a total butt whipping that you can read about here) at 3PM and sped home anticipating this match being first.  It took me 7 hours to drive up on Friday due to traffic, but I managed to get home in 4 hours so I could see this match.

This was a huge letdown.
I expected this match to go first or second, to last 15 minutes, and for Daniel Bryan to lose.  I also expected this match to be really great.  Daniel Bryan is amazing and I really like Sheamus, and I knew these two can put on a great match.  I figured Sheamus would win clean and that Daniel Bryan would go back to wrestling Tyson Kidd on Superstars.  I came to terms with Daniel Bryan losing because he would have his Wrestlemania moment.

I expected too much.  This match really hurt the rest of the evening for me.  I was either still upset that my favorite wrestler, and someone I relate to, got screwed, or I was expecting Daniel Bryan to come on and get a rematch because of John Laurinaitis.  Either I was upset or constantly looking for something that was to never come, and it really affected my enjoyment of the show.
The worst part about this is that the crowd loved Daniel Bryan.  Look at those signs!  He got a huge pop and there were lots of "Yes!" and "Daniel Bryan" chants.  I also really like Sheamus and we all know that Sheamus deserves better as well.
I have heard some people talk about how this is part of a bigger storyline and how this is good for Daniel Bryan.  I see where those opinions are coming from but they forget one important thing: THIS IS WRESTLEMANIA!  WRESTLEMANIA!  This is where stories are supposed to hit a high note.  Sheamus won the Royal Rumble this year just to be there!  Bryan Danielson has worked so hard his entire life to get here.  I don't care what story they have planned for Daniel Bryan (his absence on Raw likely means there was nothing planned, but the crowd reaction might now demand one) since nothing won't compare to being in a singles match at Wrestlemania.
The Hammerlock Wrestling Theorem is a reliable tool.  This match, above all others, had the highest possible outcome.  Daniel Bryan is my favorite wrestler and Sheamus is easily in my top 5 in the WWE.  They have not called each other "gay", "ladies", or anything of that sort.  They both spend more time wrestling than not, and when they aren't wrestling, they are getting to the point and making me care about them.  I really do care about these two guys and all they had to do was go out there and do what they both wanted to do.  Instant success.

This really put me into a sour mood for the rest of the evening.  I watched Wrestlemania again last night just so I could better review it without just typing, "WHO THE F*^K CARES ABOUT KANE WHAT ABOUT MAH BOY DBRY!!!!!!" to every match.

Randy Orton v Kane
This match had no build up.  I don't really care about Randy Orton and Kane is boring (and a Paultard).  Even still, they put on a perfectly decent wrestling match.  I really don't have a whole lot to say about this match.  Kane was Kane, Randy Orton heard voices, and no one really cared.  We did get a lot of "Daniel Bryan" chants during this match.  Thanks, Miami!

Cody Rhodes v Big Show
Cody Rhodes is the future of the WWE.  He will be bigger than Orton in 5 years.  I'm serious, this guy is the complete package and he will be huge.  He's one of the big reasons why I think that today's roster is better than any other time in the WWE.

Cody Rhodes got a good enough match out of Big Show.  I think this match could have been the squash that Daniel Bryan v Sheamus was.  Imagine this: Cody Rhodes has been a total jerk to Big Show and Big Show just cold lays him out because of it.  Rhodes could then have a face turn as his father and brother help him grow into a better person because of this experience.  He could become a little more humble and human.  This could be a clear point of character growth for Cody Rhodes.
Instead, we got a pretty good match.  I don't care about the Big Show but I respect that there are lots of people who do.  When he's not being the Racist Big Brother We All Wished We Didn't Have he can be okay.

Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos v Beth Phoenix and Eve
I really didn't care about this match.  I've long been trying to decide what is more sexist: using Divas* Matches as a chance to get a snack and use the bathroom or to sit down and watch the match.  I'm still unsure.

I thought this match would be a total joke and it wasn't.  It had some good moments.  MrsTHESTINGER and my best friend made some good points: the women wrestlers can get into really good spots but lack the experience to follow through.

I was expecting something awful and I got something that might pass for a Knockouts Tag Match on TNA Impact Wrestling In The Impact Zone.

*I hate the name "Divas" for the women's division.  It's one step above calling them the "Bitches".

Undertaker v HHH 
I really didn't expect much from this match.  Undertaker and HHH had a pretty good match last year (for some reason I hated on it for a lot of the year, but when I rewatched it last week I ended up liking it quite a bit), but this match had the worst build up ever.
There was good reason to be apprehensive: between Inappropriate Ponytail Theater to Shawn Michaels being the ref to fears that this would end dirty and lead to another match next year or HBK wrestling one more time.  Instead we got a dramatic match that had a clean finish that gives a worthy end to everyone involved.
This was not the most technical match and I could quibble about how it was paced (Undertaker looked way too strong in the beginning if the dramatic point in the middle was to focus on how he should just give up so HHH wouldn't have to legit murder him with a hammer) but it was well done.  This match is one of those times where it's important to judge something based on the criteria it demands.  This match demands to be judged on its drama and I think it succeeds greatly there.  Nothing else really matters.

Team Johnny v Team Teddy
This was probably my second most anticipated match.  The midcard is positively stacked with amazing talent.  Almost everyone in this match is exciting, interesting, and really awesome.  Combine that with John Laurinaitis being hilarious and this could have been something special.
Instead, this match was largely forgettable.  David Otunga and Dolph Ziggler used their brief moments to shine, but this match never really clicked.  I thought it was going to be a Survivor Series styled match so I expected lots of pinning, drama, and for everyone to get a chance to shine.  Instead it was a regular tag team match (but with 6 people per side) and it never really clicked or told a story.
This match wasn't as disappointing as Daniel Bryan v Sheamus, but it wasn't nearly `as good as it could or should have been.  This should have been the fun match that helped give a Wrestlemania moment to all of these really great guys.  Instead it felt like a waste of time.  I'm happy Team Johnny won, though.  Good job, Mr Excitement.

CM Punk v Jericho
This is the one match that I most expected to be great.  This didn't end up being a bad match or anything, but it wasn't the classic match I was hoping it could be.  CM Punk and Cena had a great match last year and I think Jericho is a better wrestler than Cena, so I had pretty high expectations.
Since their feud is going to continue into the future I fully expect them to have a classic match in the next few months.  These two guys can.  I don't think I'm being quite fair to what is a very good match.  These guys put on a good show and it was very enjoyable.

I really wanted this feud.  This feud felt like a natural fit, but I think it's ultimately not doing anything for me.  CM Punk is much too sincere in his feelings for smarmy-troll Jericho.  I feel like no matter how much CM Punk cares that Jericho can always just say he was joking.  Part of what made CM Punk v Cena so great last year was that both CM Punk and Cena are sincere and really care.  That gave a certain gravitas and drama to what happened.  All I can see happening in this feud is Punk proving he's better than Jericho and Jericho leaving to go play Metallica covers.  I expect some good matches and interesting promos between them, but nothing more.
Still, this was a good match.  If I wasn't so upset at Daniel Bryan v Sheamus or if I didn't hope for this match to be something more than it was I think I would have liked it more.

FUNKASAURUS! v A Little Goes A Long Way
Seriously, a little goes a long way.  I still love ya, Mr Brodus Clay.

John Cena v The Rock
First, I want to admit something: I liked MGK's song and performance to introduce John Cena.  I think it and recent John Cena promos have really tried to make this match something important.

For a while this match came down to who had the biggest penis, and really not much else.  I dig John Cena's earnestness and I think MGK's song helped to sell that.  I want to care about these guys and I want to be emotionally invested in these matches.  It's not enough to simply think someone is cool and want them to win because they're cool.  I want to care and I think John Cena has been making a good case for why we should.
This ended up being a really good match.  I didn't know who was going to win and it was a well wrestled match.  The lead up could have been better as they both spent months just making me hate each of them, but the actual match itself was good.  It wasn't great, but it wasn't disappointing or otherwise a let down.

I'm coming back around to John Cena.  I used to be a "Cena Sucks!" guy, but now that "Cena Sucks!" means "I hate Cena because something something internet!" instead of "I'm saying I hate Cena but really what I'm saying is that Cena is the personification of what I think is wrong with wrestling and I really don't hate him but I can't easily chant "I hate you not giving us wrestling and ruining stuff so please stop it!" so I'm just going to use Cena as short hand for what it is that I don't like!"

I seriously don't understand the actual hate for John Cena.  He's a good performer, he's good on the microphone, and he's just not really bad in any way.  There's really nothing to hate.  How many local news stories do you need to see about him visiting a Make-A-Wish kid before he wins you over?
It is weird that The Rock won.  The Rock won't be a full time wrestler.  He'll hardly be a part time wrestler. I expect he'll be on Raw as often as Yoshi Tatsu.  It makes no sense to call attention to how an actor can come back to the WWE and win the championship without a problem in an age where professional wrestling is mocked by fans of Mixed Martial Ultimate Bum Fight Championships.  I'm serious, the WWE is facing some real competition and I think The Rock winning can hurt the company in the long term.  Who cares if CM Punk is WWE Champion since The Rock could take a break from shooting movies to come back and Rock Bottom him?

Wrestling is fake but it shouldn't feel fake.  It should feel important, real, and dramatic.  I'm sure fans of The Rock were excited and happy after he won, but I don't think it's going to help the company into the future.
The one upside to this match is that John Cena lost because of hubris.  He went for the People's Elbow and got laid out in the middle of it.  That tells a story and is how you have someone lose and then develop as a character.

In Closing
If I can ignore the massive disappointment of Daniel Bryan v Sheamus, and I'm not sure I can, I still don't think this Wrestlemania lived up to what it could have been.  No other match disappointed but none of the matches really made me excited.  I thought there were four matches that had chances of being something special (Daniel Bryan v Sheamus, Undertaker v HHH, CM Punk v Jericho, John Cena v Rock) and the only one to get close was Undertaker v HHH.
Team Johnny v Team Teddy, and Cody Rhodes v Big Show could have been really exciting and fun matches.  They weren't bad but they weren't what they could have been.

For months we've been on The Road To Wrestlemania and we constantly hear about how important Wrestlemania is.  We were told throughout the night that this was a "once in a lifetime" event and how special it was.  I don't blame them for building up Wrestlemania but I don't think it delivered on the all the promise it had.  This whole evening could have been back-to-back classic matches and it wasn't.  Combine an event filled with good-but-not-great matches with an early slap in the face and it's just hard for me to rate this highly.
The best thing to come out of this is the backlash about what happened to Daniel Bryan.  It's exciting to see audiences cheer for him and to really care about him.  More than last Summer I think this can be a time where the audience really voices their opinion and makes some positive changes.

I'm a wrestling fan and I don't think I've ever watched a wrestling show that I disliked.  I watched the worst of WCW in the late 90s and I don't think I hated any of those shows.  I'm a sucker and in it for the long haul.  Wrestling always moves forward despite our wish for it to remain in the past, and despite a lackluster Wrestlemania I'm optimistic about the future.
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