Monday, June 30, 2014

Gorilla Position: Who's Got Dat, Who's Got Dat, Dat Money In Da Bank!?

What a night!
Money in the Bank continues to grow in reputation, as evidenced by its Royal Rumble-style video package reviewing the statistics of the history-making evening. Nine years, seven new champions. It's truly changed the year of WWE events, because the evening essentially guarantees a major title defense at some point during the year, and statistically speaking, most likely a title change. And now, with only one unified title at stake, the Briefcase has become even more important.
I felt a little underwhelmed by the fact that the championship itself was being contested via ladder match too. I feel like that should've been a bigger deal. Perhaps because it was already up for grabs in a TLC match earlier in the year? Who knows, but the second ladder match lacked a spark the first one had.
Overall, I think this was a fun night and some really solid matches. The filler could have been a lot better, but every card can't be perfect, I guess. That said, I felt at least the championships were well-represented, and I felt like some real stand-out stars were made throughout the evening.

Here are the matches!

Jimmy and Jey, THE USOS defend their Tag Team Championships against Erick Rowan and Luke Harper, THE WYATTS

I think if you really want to kick off a Pay-Per-View strongly, open with a tag team match, and put something on the line.
The Usos have proved to be capable champions. They're faces, but they're exciting faces, which is more than can be said for a lot of the singles roster faces at the moment. Against Harper and Rowan, it's simple underdog, scrappy, high-flyer, little faces against big guy, ruthless, relentless evil heels.
I preferred Harper and Rowan's creepy music box version of "He's Got the Whole World" as their entrance theme. This one sounded more rock generic (though I guess it was an abstract cover of "He Got the Whole World", still?)
All four competitors were top-notch in this match, and considering that they have to compete with bigger matches with much more on the line, it's quite a bold statement, but I believe they very nearly stole the show. They got a "This is awesome!" chant early on and deservedly so. A lot of fun spots in there, including Rowan setting up an Uso to take a Harper dive through the ropes and a superplex to Rowan by both Usos followed by their trademark splashes. While it would be fun to eventually see a possible Wyatt Family tag team run, I'm content with the ending, especially with such great matches.
Score: 7/10

PAIGE defends the Divas Championship against NAOMI of the Funkadactyls
I mean, does no one else find it weird to have Naomi and Cameron still referred to as the Funkadactyls, and continue to come out to Brodus Clay's entrance theme, with no Funkasaurus to be found? Because I do. But, considering the state of the Divas division, I'm sure if they weren't called the Funkadactyls, no one would have any idea who they are.
Which is unfortunate, because I've actually started to really like Naomi. I for one couldn't look more forward to this split from Cameron they seem to be building toward, because I find Cameron to be absolutely useless, and after having her on commentary, I also find her exceedingly annoying.
I'm pretty sure the top rope setup for what was probably going to be a superplex was a botch, though I can't really tell by whom. I would think Paige was mostly in control by that point in the move, though I hesitate to blame her, because, you know, she's supposed to be the one who knows what she's doing.
Regardless of that, I really thought the match was great. Paige has been garnering steadily stronger reactions, and like I said, Naomi is proving herself a better and better worker. They're a ways off from deserving more time than they got, but they certainly made the most of it.
Score: 5/10

Look, this was the only worthwhile part of the match. Another chance for Damien Sandow to show an immense talent for characters, and to get in some straightforward heeling. Could he be doing more in the WWE? Quite possibly, yes. He was once Mr. Money in the Bank, and the only other unsuccessful cash-in besides Cena, which puts him in rare company, even though it's negative.
But with Wyatt and the Authority, I just don't think there's much at the top for Sandow, who is a great worker, but lacks any more of a compelling storyline. Perhaps if this ever turns into some sort of "disgruntled worker" angle where he refuses to dress up every week anymore, then his character will really heat up, but I for one am enjoying his character work, because there's not a lot of guys who can pull this off anymore.
Also, speaking of character commitment, I hate, I hate, Adam Rose. I find the gimmick endlessly pointless. I hate the Rosebuds, I hate the entrance, and I hate that he keeps going over. He's not good. And yeah, I'm sure he was just great before they gave him this Adam Rose gimmick, but I mean, I actually think Fandango is a damn talented wrestler. I don't see any of Rose's skill being showcased. It's boring, and it's aggravating. What a waste of time that could've been given to the Divas.
Score: 0/10

Unfortunately, we were not treated to the presence of the Intercontinental Champion, Wade Barrett. Thanks to Jack Swagger, yet another career was put on hold with the dislocation of Barrett's shoulder.
Look, we can say it was an accident, we can say that maybe Swagger is mostly fine as a worker. But that makes two absolutely dangerous accidents he's caused now. It was an accident, but it was an avoidable one. Swagger was fresh, and walked out to the ring to assault a tired Barrett. If it had been Ambrose who caused the dislocation following something in the two's match, that would've made more sense to me. But Swagger was uninvolved until he had one spot to do. And he botched it. He should know better.
On top of that, I remain unimpressed by Swagger, who since his debut, has done nothing that amazing to me. Name an unforgettable Swagger match, and I'll tell you you're wrong, simply because you are. How on earth he remains in high-profile matches like this one remains a mystery to me. Even more so, how on earth he is a former Money in the Bank winner and a former Heavyweight Champion confounds me to no end.
Now, on to the match.
These six guys put on a really worthwhile show. Like last year, in the "smaller" of the two Ladder matches, they really put everything on the line. We had a great spot from Kingston (a little more subdued than in years past, but I can't really complain, since they keep finding devastating ways every year to use these things) and the Rollins/Ambrose blood feud really helped add depth to the match. Normally, we don't have too much story going into Ladder matches, especially Money in the Bank, since there's enough at stake already, that's compelling on its own. Right off the bat, Ambrose set out to destroy Rollins, and it was a lot of fun. Rollins also later took a back body drop off the ladder on to another ladder by Kingston, which was thrilling.
Most impressive performances though, besides Rollins and Ambrose (who also stole the show with a superplex spot from the top of the ladder that looked devastating) were Rob Van Dam, who has quite a lot in the tank, and was particularly on last night, and Dolph Ziggler.
Now, I find this hard to admit, but I am not enamored with Dolph Ziggler. I think he's a competent worker, and a great seller. His cash-in is one of the best ever. All that said, I just am not that big of a fan. While others have complained of him being constantly passed over, of his win-loss record, his demotion from the championship scene, I really didn't have an opinion either way. If he'd continued on the push following his concussions, I would've thought, great. If he hadn't (which is what happened), I would've thought, great.
But last night, I saw a man truly give it his all, and he reached me. When he took Kingston down on that Zig-Zag and there was a moment as he was doing it that he knew full well he was also landing on the ladder, I bought it. For the first time, I bought Ziggler. He was impressive in his spotlight. And I truly believed for a moment they were going to let him win.
I also believed Ambrose had it. So Kane coming in to interfere legitimately surprised me.
Score: 8.5/10

I am still refusing to use the tag team name bestowed upon Axel and the Big Guy, because it is stupid. It is infinitely stupid. It sounds like diarrhea meds, and I hate it. And it's too bad, because the two have really impressed me as a tag team. Are they legit contenders for the belts yet? No. I definitely think Harper and Rowan have a better claim to that for a while.
I am also impressed by Goldust and the bizarre, bizarre Stardust. Look, love or hate the new gimmick, it's still Cody Rhodes. It's the talented, underestimated, underrated Cody Rhodes. And this Stardust gimmick is getting him noticed. The reaction to him is not unlike it was for Goldust in the Attitude Era. Sure, it's not as boundary-pushing now as it was then, but it's still quite off-putting, based on audience reaction. But then you see the two work, and you get it. I mean, to a lesser degree, it's the Macho Man formula. Randy Savage came to the ring with insanely loud, solid color tights that looked like the cover of a Tiger Beat magazine, ribbons on his arms like wings, painted sunglasses, and quite literally the most pompous music you could enter to, and you just couldn't take him seriously. But then he got in the ring, and he worked his ass off. You loved him. It's the same for the Rhodes brothers. They are off-putting, but they are absolutely solid workers, and this gimmick keeps Cody relevant.
The match wasn't as strong as the Usos/Wyatts affair, but we've also seen this match-up a lot as of late, both before the Cody/Stardust transformation and after. Which is terrible, because Stardust is only a couple weeks old. But all that said, it was a fun little match, and the Tag Team division goes 2/2 for the evening, which is more than can be said for the Divas...
Score: 6/10

RUSEV (with Lana) VS. BIG E
Sadly not given much more time than a filler match, Rusev and Big E put on a great hoss match. The two are awesome workers, deceptively agile big men, and while E seems an unlikely candidate to challenge Rusev on a USA VS Russia angle, the match more than makes up for it. Frankly, I'm more of a fan right now of Big E than of Rusev, though both are talented. And I also think I'm just bored with monster squashers. They seem to get way more interesting once their domination phase is over.
Score: 4/10

LAYLA VS. SUMMER RAE, with Fandango as Special Guest Referee
This is what I was talking about when I said the Tag Teams had one up on the Divas tonight.
What a waste. As I said about Adam Rose, I hear Summer Rae is actually very good. Clearly she's not getting to showcase it here, and Layla's just never been one of my favorites. Fandango, who I actually think is quite good despite a terrible gimmick, was relegated to being absolutely useless here.
On top of that, the storyline is insulting, both to women, and to people who like stories. Two people fighting over one person is a fantasy. Either way, it paints the women involved in a terrible light, and the men look like sleazeballs. No one fights over a single person. It doesn't happen. This is an invention of Hollywood.
On top of this, you could not have a storyline like this in the hands of worse storytellers. Whether this is their fault, or the creative's fault, I'm not entirely sure, but it led to a match with no stakes, and no logic. Why is Fandango the ref? There's no rhyme or reason to this call. He's not a valid official for this bout. Ken Shamrock reffed the match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin not because he used to be one of their friends and now was the other's. That would make no sense.
It would have only made sense if Fandango turned on Layla. Which he didn't. Hence, a waste.
Good timing on the "CM Punk" chants, WWE Universe.
Score: 0/10

Well, now that was fun.
Boy, they really didn't like the idea of Sheamus winning, huh?
Del Rio got featured more than Bray Wyatt, which is too bad, because I never thought he ever had a legitimate chance at winning.
Kane was there for filler, which was unfortunate too. I feel like he shouldn't have been used at all, and only gotten involved as a non-entrant. They didn't need him to interfere in the earlier match, Rollins could have found a way to do it himself. But WWE heeling 101, I guess: never do anything by yourself. Make yourself look as incapable as possible.
Reigns was impressive here, but I'm interested to see him work a lot more extended singles matches soon. The Shield was able to cover any deficiencies he had as a worker, with Ambrose and Rollins absolutely solid, and most of the matches Reigns has been involved in outside of The Shield have been battle royals and the Royal Rumble, again masking deficiencies. I'm not confident in him quite yet as a solo act. But I have no doubt he'll get there. I frankly was glad he didn't win this evening. I think the push that far would be premature. I'm also really liking the solo Shield's entrance music, unlike the Wyatts' recent change I mentioned earlier. They're all loosely inspired by the group's music, with Reigns' being the closest to it still, and it's really fun.
Cesaro looked impressive too, but I honestly think of the five heels involved in the evening's match, (yes, I'm counting Cesaro as a heel) Orton impressed me the most. I mean, you forget how good Orton can be sometimes, with his apex predator persona. He got color the hard way, and continued the match. And he was even better after the head wound! He looked dangerous. It was awesome to see. I thought he also had a legitimate moment at taking the titles.
But c'est la vie, John Cena stood tall at the conclusion of the match. And you know what, I don't mind. Most of the normally hostile Boston crowd didn't seem to mind either. Cena goes into his 15th reign, but we'll talk about just how long this reign will last...
Score: 9/10

The Aftermath
The Usos carry the titles for a bit longer, but I think this can only eventually end with the Wyatts winning. There's something enticing about the Wyatts eventually holding title gold, because it's something The Authority doesn't want and it's something none of the faces want. It could give us one of the more exciting storylines. The Wyatts winning might happen as early as Battleground, if only for the fact that I don't think a rivalry can be sustained to SummerSlam, though the lack of the division's depth may necessitate that fact.
Paige has no legitimate challengers in the forseeable future, short of AJ Lee coming back to take the title back. Then we'll have a pretty strong title picture going forward from there, with Paige chasing the champion.
Stardust is here to stay, and I think he made a better impact tonight than his debut. I don't think they'll re-enter the championship picture again, but they could hold over the division until a couple new teams get added.
You now have a legitimate star in Dean Ambrose, whom I am loving more and more every day. I hope something similar happens between Ambrose and Rollins, as happened with Sandow and Cody Rhodes with last year's Money in the Bank. I don't know if it will, but it'd be a lot of fun to see.
Cena is heading into the match of his life against Lesnar at SummerSlam. I can feel it. And we all know what's going to happen. Look, there's always doubt when it comes to Cena, and we've seen him beat Lesnar before, but this is now the Lesnar who conquered the Streak. Lesnar could very well be your next WWE Heavyweight Champion. And I for one, look forward to it.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

15 Characters Most Likely to Die Next Season on Game of Thrones

In Game of Thrones, as in life, no one is safe. And we can see that that promise has been kept
throughout four tumultuous seasons with the show. We've had to say good-bye to characters both good and bad, unexpectedly and expectedly.
After some reflection, I think I've compiled a list of the next characters to go. This is in the order that they will most likely be dispatched of throughout the season, and as always I welcome discussion and debate.
But it's good to talk about these possibilities now, so that we are somewhat comforted when we finally do have to say good-bye.

The Next 15 Characters to Die on Game Of Thrones.

15.  Aerith Gainsborough
       of House Gainsborg

We start with one of the youngest entries on the list, because eventually, Game of Thrones will have to start killing off its youngest denizens, regardless of whether they reach maturity or not.
While she may not receive as much character development as some of her teenaged counterparts, you always have to worry about the brooding, quiet ones.
Expect Aerith's death to be swift and unexpected. It won't be during the heat of a battle, but in a quieter moment, like her praying in the castle's chapel, for instance.

14. Mallorie "Mal" Cobb 
       of House Miles

It's weird that in a show full of whispered, low-register British talkers, I find Mal's accent to be the most unintelligible. I'm not usually to throw this opinion around lightly, but geez, is there any Game of Thrones character you can think of that deserves to die more than this meddlesome harpy? At various times, she's been called the ruiner of heists, the spoiler of dreams, and the buzzkill of landing parties, and soon she'll be called the most justified death on the hit HBO show so far. I'm really hoping that with the character's suicidal tendencies, she just offs herself anyway, but they take up at least half the fifth season with a sort of murder mystery, where everyone could safely be framed for the death of Mal. But in the end, everyone just agrees that we're all better off without her anyway. I mean, after all, winter is coming, and if there's one thing we know Mal can derail more than anything, it's a retreat to a fancy ski lodge.

13. Jay Pritchett 
       of House O'Neill
I admit that I don't have much more evidence to go on other than the fact that Pritchett is like one of the oldest characters on the show. He's seen his fair share of wars, and he's raised two separate families: the Bundies to the north, the Pritchetts to the west. On top of that, besides Cersei Lannister, Jay has one of the most insufferable wives on the show. If stress and old age don't catch up to this geezer, then his spry young wife certainly will make him meet his maker. Plus, Pritchett's really only good for a one-liner here and there, and we already have Tyrion Lannister to fulfill that role. Despite a rough exterior, we see an soft spot and because of that connection to the audience, we know those characters don't last long in Westeros.

12. & 11. Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton 
                  of House Sparks

Despite their relationship most closely relating to the series title of "Ice & Fire", Noah and Allie just aren't a compelling love story. I mean, she doesn't even bother to remember it, why should we? I predict that they ship Noah off to rebuild the Wall by himself (he's good with his hands) and while he's away Allie will go off and marry someone else, as she is wont to do, and upon Noah's return halfway through the season, they'll sleep together and Allie's husband will kill them both in a jealous rage. Unless he falls out of the window of a tower. I mean, that tends to happen sometimes.

10.  Marcellus Wallace 
       of House Tarantino

It sucks to say good-bye to one of the most beloved and pretty much the only black character in all of Game of Thrones, but it's why it makes him a prime candidate for the Reaper. Add to that the fact that Wallace's soul, encased in a block of ice, is so constantly in the hands of other people, Wallace may get traded up to save another's life faster than you can believe it. I'm sad it didn't happen in the fourth season, but I'll certainly say that in the fifth, his ass goes down.

9. King Boo 
     of the Mushroom Kingdom

Even while the Mushroom Kingdom's forces are far from mobile, the threat of someone who already calls himself "King" is certainly a threat for any of the Five Kings (or is it Seven?)
But I mean, the bigger question is can a character who is already a ghost die? I actually don't know. But don't count out the unpredictability factor here. We don't know much about the Faith of the Seven, or the God of Death for that matter, so it's all up in the air, even for a character as loveable as King Boo.

8. Artax 
     of Fantasia

Animal deaths on Game of Thrones are few and far between, which is what would make this one especially shocking. Sure, you have that one horse that gets decapitated, but that's just a horse. Not Artax. We've gotten to love Artax as if he were a direwolf. And like I said, we're so rarely subjected to the deaths of animal characters, that this one will certainly be so depressing when it inevitably happens, that it will be drowning in a Swamp of Sadness.

 7. & 6. "The Cyclops" Scott Summers and "The Phoenix" Jean Grey 
                of House Xavier
Brett Ratner is directing the fifth season, so say bye-bye to these two lovebirds!

5. Dr. Gregory House 
     of House House

He already faked his death once, but there's so many people out there who want him dead for real, that as soon as "The Mad Doctor" rears his ugly head again, he will most likely meet his Maker. With his conscience in James Wilson succumbing and joining the other Dead Poets, House is a free agent and free roaming. With his extensive knowledge of medicine and human psychology, he is a dangerous liability to be kept alive and while it's plausible that one side will keep him alive to destroy another side, it is far more likely that The Mad Doctor will give everyone a common enemy to unite against for at least a couple of episodes or more. House has always enjoyed pulling the strings on those around him, but he doesn't realize that all those strings are burning.

4. Dr. Bernard Merrick 
     of House Bean

Speaking of Doctors, I can't help but feel like they have it in for this guy. Calm, cool, collected, and far smarter than anyone else on the Iron Islands, it feels like his eventual voyage across the sea will lead to his death, and most likely a gruesome one at that. A gruesome, graphic death, probably concluding the season.

3. Agent 006, Alec Trevelyan 
     of House Bean

If not Merrick, then it stands to reason that "The Two-Faced One" may face his comeuppance soon enough. A liar and manipulator, Trevelyan orchestrated many of the deaths and instigated many of the wars throughout the previous seasons. He's incredibly durable though, as we've already seen, and nothing short of an entire structure falling on him will kill him. But that's exactly how he goes. Get ready for it, folks.

2. Steward-Prince Boromir 
     of House Bean

Guys, stick with me on this. I really think House Bean is cursed. Mark my words, the Steward-Prince has no claim to the throne, but he is a marked man nonetheless. He is on a fool's errand to retrieve the power of something he doesn't understand, and he will end up paying the price for his hubris and ulterior motives. It may come later for everyone to hate him more, but don't be surprised if they manage to pull of a moment's worth of redemption right at the very end.

     of House Dragonheart
He has stated many times throughout the series that he is the LAST ONE. Draco is a proud and noble dragon, and you see where proud and noble characters end up. The same place lowdown, despicable characters end up. Dead.
Plus, who wouldn't want the honor of killing the very last dragon in all the Seven Kingdoms? Good-bye, Draco. It's been a blast.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Wonder WHAT?

Netflix has the complete series of The Wonder Years available to watch.

So I did.

It was a wonderful trip down memory lane. What a great series.

What I realized as I was coming up on the final episodes, was that I've never known who did the voice of older Kevin, narrating the series as an inner monologue.

So I kept the anticipation building until the very end of the last episode.

Then I finally allowed myself to look at the credits.

Voice of Kevin: Daniel Stern.

Daniel Stern.


I can't place this person.

So I looked him up on the internets.

This is the first picture.


My mind was blown, as was 12 year old me's mind. Two blown minds. How did I not know this!? I went through my life not knowing this!

So there you have it.

Kevin Arnold is a Wet Bandit.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

NYC-Made, NYC-Necessary: 8 Superpowers New York Demands of You

Over the past week or so, I've read three separate articles about possessing superpowers in New York. I don't know why it's a trend, but there it is. I'm hopping on to it for two reasons: I found most of them to be generic and ill-fitting to New York City. All three of them listed "Flight" as a superpower, as if that would improve our quality of life immensely. I get that it would, and I'm all for stretching the imagination to its limits, but "Flight" would help in other areas. And that's the second reason: The logic behind them was rather flimsy, only loosely associating them with New York.
Now, it can be supposed that many specific powers can be advantageous to many big cities around the world. But I wanted to see if I could get as specific as possible, and also bring the powers to a more believable level. Like, we could eventually achieve powers like this, if we really worked at it, whether psychologically or more likely, technologically.

Anyway, enjoy 8 Superpowers Required to Live in New York City

Instant Adrenaline
Look, New Yorkers drink.
You drank too much and have to be up early in the morning because you have work.
There's a lot to worry about here.
My biggest problem when I do that is just falling asleep on the subway, missing my stop.
You might wake up hungover, meaning you're going to work that way, and it's going to be a miserable eight hours, for you and everyone. But mostly you.
You might be late for work. Or running late. Or you'll be just barely on that cusp, you're cutting it close, but there's a good chance you can make this all work out.
But you've got to pull your shit together.
And that should be a superpower. Instant hyper-awareness, instant fight-response, and all cylinders instantly engaged. Even if you nap a second while on the A-Train, your awareness remains engaged, and you can feel the train slow, you hear the announcement, and your body can instantly tell you it's another 5 minutes. Imagine waking up from that 5 minute nap both engaged and at ease.
The adrenaline also outlasts your hangover, it outlasts all your drowsiness and tiredness.
You can push it too, until you get a reasonable chance to recharge (well, it's New York, let's be honest, you might not get that chance). But turning it off is like Bruce Banner reverting from The Hulk. You might be a little dazed and it's necessary to have some alone time.
Yeah, yeah, get over it, guys. Most superpowers are curses.

Subway Senses
Speaking of the subways though, you know what feels amazing? Walking down the stairs at your subway stop just as the train is pulling in to the station. It's even better when every train on your route does the same thing. I once grabbed a downtown Q, ascended the stairs at Canal St. just in time to take the J into Brooklyn, and the M shuttle was just about to leave when we got to Myrtle-Broadway. I didn't do anything, but it felt like I'd just accomplished everything.
Why wouldn't you want that feeling all the time!?
Subway Senses will allow you to be an Empath to trains. (Charmed? Anyone? No one.)
You'll know if they're delayed, you'll know if they're slow, and you'll know exactly when they pull into the station.
How about just for good measure, it can also tell you exactly where to stand so you will get a seat.

Subways are just a necessary part of life here in New York, and there are myriad apps attempting to make the system as accessible and accommodating as possible. But most of the apps that tout accurate subways times, even accounting for delays (I use one that's shooting at about 80% accuracy), are a ways off from being totally reliable. Even if they were, it's hard to check them underground, because there's no signal for vast stretches of the system. But that wouldn't be a problem for...

Self-Generating WiFi
What if your body just had an organ dedicated to making your body its own personal HotSpot? (Is the appendix doing anything?)
WiFi is becoming more and more accessible, and even the subway system is too, at the stations at least, and a lot of places are set up for it too.
But a lot of places aren't, or require passwords, or even paying for it.
I'm a big advocate of the free and open internet, and by free, I also believe it should be accessible to everyone and anyone.
But we're headed in this direction anyway, why not just be our own router. No spotty patches, no loss of signal, constant communication to the surface world, and no burdening other's bandwidths.
Imagine being the WiFi your music and pictures get sent back and forth from one of your electronic devices to another.
Ooooooooooooo...The Future!

Immune System Efficiency
This power is two-fold.
First of all, while still on the subject of subways, I feel like I'd stress out a lot less if I didn't have to worry about every pole and banister I have to touch throughout the day.
I successfully avoid most interactions with our metallic lessers, but not entirely. If I can't get a seat at rush hour (you don't get a seat at rush hour) but the standing room is also pretty full, I usually end up in No Man's Land, not against anything I can lean on, and nothing to grab onto. You're Charlie Bucket, floating up toward that giant on Fizzy Lifting Drinks. You gotta grab onto something.
Eventually, you're going to touch something that one million other people have touched. And 200,000 of those were kids who are the dirtiest little shits on Earth, and at least 100,000 of them were homeless people who most likely used their own hands to wipe their ass if they bothered to wipe at all.
New York's a damn dirty city. I feel gross if all I have to do is squeeze by someone on the stairs, and my bare arm scrapes the wall. I'm convinced most of those stains on the wall are blood, laminated by ejaculate.
Like I said, I try my best to avoid it.
If I can avoid it, I use my hip (subway turnstiles), I lean (on the subway), I sit on the edges of things and I don't put my hand down on it first (though I do a visual to avoid...moisture of any kind).
If I have to touch something with my hand, I use my sleeve.
If I do touch something with my bare hand, I make sure not to touch anything with that hand again until I wash them.
Like I said, I would feel much more at ease if I never worried about getting sick from anything.
Unfortunately, this power wouldn't keep you from touching shit. It just would prevent you from getting Hep-C from touching that shit.

The second part?
New York is a wonderful city of good food. Culturally diverse, you have literally thousands of options for any flavor you crave.
That being said, sometimes quality is a little sub-par. Sometimes, ingredients are not so fresh. Sometimes, something wonderful entering your body becomes a hellspawn upon its exit.
But what if you just had invincible stomach acids? Just perfect prevention of indigestion, food poisoning, and other graphic unmentionables?
Maybe I wouldn't default to pizza. (The pizza sometimes tries to kill you too.)
Yeah, I'd like the Wolverine of stomachs.

Accent Equalizer
One of the articles I talked about actually listed the power basically of a Universal Translator. That would be pretty fantastic, actually. One of the ones I definitely agreed with.
Personally though, I've found that most everyone speaks English, and pretty fluently. We've all settled on a single language, but unfortunately, not a single accent. And some are really hard to navigate.
Not so with this power. You hear everyone clearly, perfectly.
Maybe everyone understands you too, without having to do overly exaggerated hand gestures.

Hammerspace Bag
Hammerspace is the terms for where Bugs Bunny and other cartoon misfits pull hammers and other needed objects from seemingly nowhere.
They gave the space a name.
We need access to this dimension.
You know what I do miss about San Diego?
Having everything I would ever need in my car?
Too cold? Sweatshirt in the car.
Too warm? Shorts in the car.
Shoes get rained on, too wet? Sandals in the car.
Random snack break? Can of Peanuts in the car.
I didn't have to carry everything around on my back like an effing turtle.
I drove everything around in my car, like a much bigger turtle.
But if I could just have all that I could need in a day on hand when I needed, without having to carry everything, that would be amazing.
Imagine the weather turning around in an instant (it's not hard to imagine, it happens) and having whatever you need to change into instantly.
Imagine having the shoes you need. Or the keys you forgot. Or the ATM card you need. Or whatever. I don't need to keep naming examples, you understood how awesome this was when I said the word Hammerspace.

Odor Alteration
Another one that came from one of the articles I read had to do with odor elimination. We can't eliminate it. New York smells like garbage, because garbage lines the streets 3 out of the 7 days of the week, usually more. In the summer, it smells like 8 million unwashed people, sweating through their 12 hour days. Everything's gross. And it puts us in even worse moods than when we started.
I personally used to discreetly spray cans of Axe at odors of people that were displeasing.
And holding your breath is difficult when you're simultaneously gagging.
I think a more idealized version of odor elimination or shutting off your sense of smell, is basically aversion therapy.
If our brains were somehow wired to convert terrible smells into lovely ones, making every trip up 7th Ave like a walk down the Febreze aisle at Walgreens.
What's that, garbage? No, chocolate chip cookies.
Did someone take a shit in this planter? Nah, they just left behind some fresh spring rain.
Is that the raised armpit of a man who long ago walked away from deodorant? Nope. Linen.

Perfect Spatial Awareness
And finally, it's bound to happen.
At some point or another, you are going to have to traverse Times Square at some god-awful hour (all of them) and weave through the impenetrable traffic of quite literally everyone from Midwestern America.
"Ooh! Look, honey! The ground! Take a picture!"
People stopping, changing direction, walking in inappropriate formations, breaking flow of traffic, veering off indeterminately...the situation is harrowing. And you're late for work.
But imagine that scene in The Matrix, when Neo finally understands, he sees all the code. He can bend it to his will. Imagine being Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version) and mapping out and anticipating an entire situation down to the letter.
And then imagine bobbing and weaving flawlessly through the sea of tourists, ducking errant gesturing arms, sidestepping wayward children, leapfrogging old people... right to your destination.
That shit would be awesome.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Fragmented You

It's not my theory originally by any means, but one idea I'm obsessed with that I come back to in improv, because it relates to what performers have to do in improv, is that your personality, your character, is not a singular, defined entity.

You move throughout life, adapting constantly, modifying behavior often. Whose to say what facet is pretend, what facet is manufactured, and what isn't? We ourselves are not able to say this, because we construct a self-preserving narrative that keeps our brain from frying out. We're not working with the full perspective. But people who know us and people who don't know us offer only half the insight too. They aren't working with the full deck either.

The basic idea is that our character mode is not "set." This person is not one thing to all people, but different things to different people, and so it is true for anyone.
We are constantly thrown into unfamiliar situations, and sometimes we know how we will react and other people might know how we will react, but it's not always a surefire prediction.
When people talk about Jesus, all religion and divinity aside, I always think it's funny that either we are surprised, or preachers act as if it's surprising that Jesus had emotions: we make a big deal that he wept, we emphasize verses of him lashing out, getting mad, reprimanding. That is because to most people, Jesus is one thing: love, peace, serenity. While he is those things, he is infinitely more.
And so are we.
We are not just one thing.
A comedian is not only funny. They are also not simply their tragedy, being worked out through public therapy.
A performer, a writer, an artist... They are not just their creativity, their passion, their drive. They can be unfocused, inattentive, unmotivated.
A mother is not just a mother. She was and is at various points in her life a girlfriend, a daughter, a grandmother, a wife, a lover, a worker, a woman.

In short, we are complex creatures. We long to be defined by more than just one simple thing.
It's where I really fall in love with the idea of the Fragmented You.

Like I said, it's only part of the idea, but this has to do with perception.
There are four squares to the personality:
- Along the X-axis is who you are in public (to others), and who you are in private.
- Along the Y-axis is what is known by someone, either subjectively or objectively, about you.
- Top left is the most exposed public persona: this is who you are to everyone, and what you choose to let everyone see about you. This is the aspect of your personality with which you try to make a first impression. This might be what people see as you at your best.
- Top right is your secret. It's your inner monologue. It could be your conscience, depending on how much you listen to your inner morality. It is your id, and your superego, in a constant battle for supremacy. Exposing this to people intimate to you might be the equivalent of people seeing you "at your worst."
- Bottom left is the blind spot. You know that moment when someone confesses to you in a private moment, something so true about yourself but you never acknowledged it before? That's where this aspect lies. You are putting something out there that you don't even realize. Maybe you see yourself as attentive, maybe someone sees you as overbearing. Maybe you see yourself as having high standards, maybe someone sees you as stubborn. Whatever it is, it is pretty important we discover these things and learn to acknowledge that they are part of us as well.
- Bottom right is the nebulous X-Factor. You have a certain "it" and you don't know what it is, and other people can't quite place it. They're either drawn by it or repelled by it. It's indescribable, but it's in every one of us. It is beyond a talent or a trait, it is that unknown that makes us truly unique.

In that bottom left square is where improvisation most ideally operates.
We don't know what this character is, we don't know what this character is going to do. The audience doesn't know it either.
But we treat it like a regular person. Our responsibility as a performer is to treat every character we momentarily inhabit as a fully realized, living, breathing person. They are not caricatures, they are humans with wants and needs. They are not singularly defined, just as we refuse to be singularly defined.
But we do have to remain truthful to something. We have to remain truthful to our other three aspects.
Our public persona is how we present, our secret dictates our motivations, wants and needs, our blind spot is in the hands of the other improvisers, but our X-Factor will always allow us to keep the element of surprise.

If you think of the four squares like we do a theory in tectonics, then we understand that all four squares are constantly moving and evolving. Four separate moving parts shifting and affecting each other, that's a lot of factors.
That's why it's also important to realize that things that once belonged to one square may move to another, but the make-up as a whole doesn't change. We are simply directing our energies elsewhere. The mid-Atlantic ridge lies dormant, while the Ring of Fire rages on, two oceans on the same Earth changing and evolving, but it is still the same 3rd planet from the sun.
As things become known, we can make them a part of us, they remain in the shuffle, rising and falling in prominence.

Over the long term, there is more consistency to be found. People tend toward patterns and just because they are predictable does not mean they are boring. Our situations also eventually tend to repeat. Once we find ourselves in a situation we've been in before, the way we act this time around is in direct correlation to the previous experience.
But this process takes time, it takes a lifetime of discoveries. Our partners, companions, friends, both on stage in improv and off stage in real life who can remain aware of who we are the present moment and want what's best for us are our most valuable assets. Thought and consideration are important, collaboration is important, and following your gut is important.

Because even if we know 25% of what we want and need, and our friends know 25% of what we want and need, that still leaves 50% up in the air. And that means we are mostly unknown, we have nothing to trust but the X-Factor, and maybe the only thing we can trust is fear itself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Re-Blogged! 6: Hero of Mine

I have always been a fan of the web comic, Pearls Before Swine.
The medium allows for writers to be more self-referential, more subversive, and less inhibited.
Stephan Pastis, who writes and animates the strip, has always been really good at all three, and the controversy that Pearls draws is indicative of that.

For the most part, my favorite Pearls strips are the ridiculously drawn out and painful puns that one of the characters forces a set-up to lead into it with the equally painful payoff.
Here's one of my favorites:

And Pastis also enjoys calling himself out on such things, doing so at the end of this comic, as well as frequently throughout the strip on his jokes, and his own artwork.

Which was the basis for this set of comics that ran last week.
In them, we get introduced to a character named Libby, who is an aspiring cartoonist.
She decides to call out Pastis on his abilities, and his characters (Rat, of course) are more than supportive.

So Pastis decides Libby try her hand at drawing his strip. 
The results are... impressive, to say the least.
But they are also... so vaguely familiar. An artistic presence I have not felt for...

It's just all too familiar.
Who is behind Libby's hand? Surely, Pastis does not magically have this ability hiding in his t-shirt this whole time.
That style, the shading, the lines, the perspective... It all seems so naggingly familiar.

Of course it does. Because Pastis managed to have Bill Watterson guest draw his strip.
Yes. That Bill Watterson.
Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995, when I was quite literally still a child. To have now grown up in a lifetime that now consists of more years without new Calvin and Hobbes strips than with, is mindblowing. Mindblowing and heartbreaking.
Even though I feel the collection to be complete, it's thrillingly disappointing that Watterson will never pen another.

Appropriately, Libby's departure from the strip, harkens back to Calvin and Hobbes' own finale.

As Pastis recounts in his blog linked above, Watterson is extremely reclusive and he and his iconic artwork are so rarely seen but his legacy is undeniable. The idea that so many people who were so touched by Calvin and Hobbes, like me, who later became Pearls fans, had this happen right under their noses is wonderful. It was a nice little tribute to a personal hero, someone whose characters inspired me, made me laugh, comforted me, and became my friends in some of my most formative and unsure years.

Thank you, Stephan. And thank you, Bill.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wow, Eden Espinosa. Wow.

Say what you will about Wicked as a musical.
I think it's one of the better-structured shows of the last couple decades, with some awesome songs, and depending on who's in it, some beautiful scenes, clever dialogue. And when you consider the source material and how vastly different it is, the existence of this musical is astounding. It's not the best, but it's certainly one of them.

Say what you will about Eden Epsinosa.
Her range is just unbelievable. I saw her in San Francisco in this very role, and she was mindblowingly good. I swore she was hitting notes not in existence. Some of her acting is less than stellar, but I would say that's only because I've seen some amazing actors in the role (Julia Murney, for one).

Say what you will about "The Wizard and I."
I think it's a great 'I Want' song that doesn't follow that traditional structure. I think it builds beautifully, and sets up the rest of the play quite nicely.

Maybe it's all just not your cup of tea.
But I mean, man. This is just a fantastic performance.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tips and Tricks for Buying Theatre Tickets

I've grown up working in retail and food and have never strayed too far away from doing theatre jobs like ushering, ticket services, and the like. They all have one thing in common.

The dreaded 'customer.'

Simultaneously our livelihood and the bane of our existence, the Customer is a curious animal: perpetually confused, rarely on time, easily provoked into anger, and lacking sophisticated communication skills in conveying wants and needs. They also seem to have a constant insistence that they are the victim. They are the victim of a cruel system and everyone is out to get them. I try my best to help others who work in similar jobs to mine by being someone they can vent to, I try to help put problem customers in perspective, and being a constantly affirming presence reminding them that each customer is a temporary occurrence in our lives and that they, like all things, do not last forever.

This article is not for them. This article is an open invitation to the people we serve everyday. I am inviting you to read, to learn, to be open to criticism, and to be better for it.

I know the title is a bit misleading. Unfortunately, this isn't a guide on how to find the best deals on tickets. It's simply a far more important guide on how to not make people whose lives are already miserable infinitely more miserable by being a dick. I can't believe people actually have to write these things. No one should have to tell you how to be a decent human being. Your attitude, what you give to the world, speaks volumes. Some people lack the self-awareness to correct these things and some people lack the self-respect to see the reasoning behind not pissing off people ("this is just how I am. Deal with it") and I find these people disgusting. I'm an asshole sure, but I'm not always an asshole. Courtesy, tact, consideration of others, and self-awareness go a long, long way.

These are suggestions, take them as you will. But just know, you could quite literally make someone's day if you treat every transaction in this way.

As with all of my recollections of customer service exchanges, any quotes I use are 100% real.

Rule #1: Be As Prepared As You Can

Right off the bat, I can pinpoint the earliest moment ticket transactions break down:
Hapless Patron: "Hi, I'd like to buy tickets."
Me: "Okay, for what show?"
Hapless Patron: "I don't know the name of it."
How? How the crap?
You wouldn't try and pull that shit at a movie theater. Can you imagine?
Hapless Movie Enthusiast: "Hi, two tickets please."
Me, as a Movie Usher: "For what movie?"
Hapless Movie Enthusiast: "Oh, I didn't know you had to know the name of it."
(I'm also wearing a bellhop's hat in this scenario, for some reason.)

This isn't a game show where I'm the contestant who has to guess what you want.
That would make for a terrible game show, and predictably, it makes for a terrible experience in real life.
If you go and try and buy a product and you don't know the name of it, we can't help you.
Some good Samaritan may try and attempt the $100,000 Pyramid with you, but most will not. I guarantee you that no one in retail is paid enough to account for your laziness.

  • Know what show you are buying tickets for!
  • Know what day you want to go. Have at least a couple backup days in mind.
    Most systems don't allow me to see what days are sold out.
    So when I say, "What day would you like to go?" you don't get to say, "What's the best day?"
    I don't know that. You tell me the day, and I'll tell you if that's a bad day or not. I know sometimes at restaurants you can say to the waiter, "What do you recommend?" but generally (always) you just order your own damn food, because that's how that works.
  • Know how many tickets you need. You can always add tickets later, unless we sell out. No, we can't hold tickets unpaid for you. Yes, I do mind if you stand here in front me while you call and text your friends and then wait for them to get back to you. Yes, you are asking about too many things.
  • Bottom line: don't come to order tickets until you're fully prepared to answer all the most basic questions. Even if you think it's gonna sell out before that time, you're wasting far more time by not being prepared.
Bonus Tip: Be aware, most shows do not run on Mondays. Stop asking if we have Monday shows. Also, if I say, "We have matinees on Saturdays and Sundays," your next question should not be, "No matinees during the week?" Which actually serves as a beautiful segue into my next point...

This is just a sample of what people have asked for. A sample. Of just this season.

Rule #2: WE are here to help YOU.

Ticketing services is exactly that: a service. A customer service. We are here to serve you, get you your tickets, help with what we can, and get you on your way as quickly as possible. (Okay, admittedly, that last part is more for us. You're annoying.)

So please, PLEASE, stop acting like we are actively working against you. I ask you: WHO the hell benefits from ME, a person working for this company, denying YOU the service necessary for us to survive as a business? It makes no sense. We are not the enemy.

This rule covers all manner of sins, but it really just boils down to this:
Your attitude is the first real roadblock to a successful transaction: so drop it, learn to take us at our word, and stop treating us like we're liars and manipulators, winged soldiers in the army of the dark demon Abaddon.

I don't know about everyone, but I definitely take each customer as an individual. What do I mean by that? I mean, that if one person comes to my window and they are despicable, steaming, stinking, piles of human garbage and they leave me hating both mine and their existences, I don't treat the very next customer like an equal pile of human garbage. Why? Because each person's a goddamn snowflake.
No but really, I don't let my experience carry over to the next transaction. If I didn't, I would've lasted at this job...oh...3 days.
So the least you can do is extend me the same courtesy.
When you are immediately on the offense, and say things to me like, "I'm not standing in that line, that's just another chance for someone else to ignore me", "No one's ever able to help me here. That's why I hate coming here", and "I don't trust box offices. Last time I gave my number to a box office, I had to change numbers."
Look, first of all, I don't believe any of those and you're full of it. Second of all, if it did happen, that was one time. We're not talking a one-time traumatic experience that led you to stop swimming in water ever again. We're talking about a weird situation that yeah, while frustrating, is not some sort of norm. You should know better. Be better. Be smarter.

On a smaller scale, but this goes right along with it, we mean what we say. There's no secret password, no key to this. If I say, "We're sold out," that means there are no tickets left. If you follow up with, "Not even one ticket left?" that doesn't change the definition of sold out. So when I say we're sold out, and especially if I say, "We're sold out for the rest of the run," then you and I are done. That is the end of our interaction. You can say thank you (that'd be nice, but most people don't) but that's it. These questions and phrases won't change that answer:
"We don't have to sit together."
"Wait, like, completely sold out?"
"But you had tickets yesterday."
"Wait, really?"
"Are you sure?"
Sometimes, it's genuine shock, and those I'm willing to forgive, but I know the difference.
Me, interacting with someone who is genuinely shocked:
Me: We're sold out.
Hapless Patron: Really?
Me: Yeah, I'm sorry...
Hapless Patron: That's okay.
(What they really should say though is, "That's okay. You've been very helpful. I'm the dumb one who waited too long to get tickets and shouldn't have been silly enough to think it wouldn't sell out. I should prepare for all possibilities.")
Someone who is actually angry or confused or not understanding the concept that there are other people in the world who bought tickets though, doesn't stop and instead goes like this:
Me: We're sold out.
Hapless Patron: Really?
Me: Yeah, I'm sorry...
Hapless Patron: You mean, there are no tickets left whatsoever?
Me: ..........................Yeah. That's what sold out means.
Hapless Patron: Every last one.
Me: ..........................Oh, I forgot. Sold out means I have one left. Here you go. It's free too. Congratulations, you broke the code. You have to annoyingly ask for the same thing three times after already being told no. You get the secret ticket. Along with this gold brick. Have the soul of my first child.
Bonus Tip: Just because you know the term "house seat" doesn't mean I can sell you that. All you get for that is a, "Congratulations. You know an 'insider' term." Those aren't on sale for a reason and you don't have to know those reasons. If you "know someone" and you can get house seats, good for you. Go get them, then. You don't know anyone. Because then you wouldn't be at the window yelling at a minimum wage worker. Speaking of reasons...

Rule #3: You Don't Have to Know Everything

Please don't mistake this for going back on my #1 rule. What I mean by this is: I'm sure there are why's for why things happen the way they do, but guess what, you are not entitled to any of them.

Why was this show cancelled?
Why do we have to wait in line?
Why do you need my information?
Why didn't the show start on time?
Why are my ears bleeding?

I'll just be honest, most of the time, we in the box office are not even privy to the information about why something happens. It's a higher-up's decision, and something not having to do with us caused that decision to be made. And sometimes we are made privy to that information, and then explicitly told that we do not share it with the general public. So yeah, sometimes when we say, "I'm sorry, I don't know what happened," we're lying. But that is because if we say, "We're not allowed to give out that information," you think there's some way to egg it out of us. Well, don't. Like I said, the vast majority of the time, we don't know. And one of the harsh realities we have to face in life is that most of the time, things happen without a reason. So deal with it.

My line on it is: if it really doesn't affect you either way, then you don't need to know. It's not for your edification. You're not going to remember it when you walk out the door. Who cares?

In particular, it bothers me when people ask about a show getting cancelled. You get a refund, and an apology. Do you really need to know every damn detail about what happened to the performer, or whatever? Not really. Most of the time, I've noticed people will ask me why a show got cancelled and then they judge the reason.
For all my actor friends, just so you know, I can tell you from audience reaction that your physical health is not a reason to cancel a show. Nothing short of your own death is good enough reason, and I'm not even sure that's sufficient. The number of dirty looks and headshakes I get from that reason is astounding.
I love that people never question "technical difficulties." I don't know whether that's a comment more on audiences believing tech people are in over their heads or that actors being incapable of doing their jobs is an imaginary problem. But I guess I'll save that discussion for another time.

Oh, and if your ears are bleeding. You should find out why that's happening. Doctors should tell you. Get that checked out.

Rule #4: You Are Not Entitled To Anything

I want to make something clear that isn't often said. This is me speaking from a purely pragmatic standpoint. From an artistic, philosophical, romantic side, yes, of course I believe theatre is necessary, good for the soul, an amazing experience everyone should have, and should be accessible to everyone.

But speaking realistically:
Theatre is a luxury. You do not have to go to it, and therefore, you are not entitled to any sort of special treatment.

Do you think the ticket price is too expensive? Don't get a ticket.
Do you think you're on hold on the phone too long? Don't call anymore.
Do you think you shouldn't have to pay fees? Do you complain at the grocery store when they add tax?
Do you think your seats are bad? You can leave.
Did you not enjoy/agree with the show? That sucks.

Guess what, you live in the first world. There are people who will never experience theatre. The experience is not perfect, nothing ever is. Everyone tries their best. We can't please everyone.

I'm sure there are valid things to complain about in a theatrical experience. I'm sure there are. I don't know any, none come to mind, none are strong enough that I would feel compelled to actually complain about it.
It especially bothers me when someone says that they've been to a lot of theatre. That doesn't give you any sort of right to complain, that just should make you more able to understand.

I also get bothered by people who think their status gets them something more. If you are someone who actually warrants a, "Do you have any idea who I am?" then chances are you have far better means of snagging tickets than coming to the box office and buying them. I don't treat anyone any differently at the window, not because they don't deserve it, but because no one deserves it. If you're coming to the window expecting me to just hand you a free ticket to a show that's sold out and has been sold out for weeks, just because you once donated $2000 or whatever, I'll say the same thing I say to everyone else: "We're sold out."

If Sir Ian McKellen can order his own tickets online, stand and wait in the will call line, then pick them up with his own credit card under his own name, then so can everyone else. 

So there you have it.
Is it so much to ask that when you're planning a trip to the theater, you make everyone's lives easier by being prepared, enjoy it by not being an asshole, and always treating it as a privilege?
I love the theatre. I want you to experience it. I want to help you experience it. But you need to meet me halfway. You need to either accept that you know nothing and allow me to guide you, or get your shit together and do it all yourself so you never have to interact with another human being.
But especially, don't complain. What good is complaining?
If you really think you were done an injustice and that this is how we treat everyone, we wouldn't be in business.
No one customer ever took down a company by themselves.
Except Erin Brockovich.

And oh yeah, Julia Roberts waited in line for her tickets too.