Friday, January 29, 2016

The Road to Wrestlemania

The road to Wrestlemania, the biggest event in all of sports entertainment, has been paved in blood. Numerous superstars, including John Cena and Seth Rollins, have been sidelined by injuries. This could have been a chance for the WWE to finally make some new superstars, but alas, 50/50 booking has persevered, and an out of touch Vince McMahon has been micromanaging as much as ever. Let's take a look at what matches we could have, and figure out whether or not they'll be worth watching.

Main Event: Triple H versus either Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, or Brock Lesnar. Roman's push has been disastrous, at least in terms of having the fans embrace him. He's got the look and decent ring skills, but as a face, he's a charisma vacuum. Still, Vince wants to mint John Cena 2.0, and he's dead set on pushing Roman to the top at the expense of everyone, including Roman. Fan favorite Dean Ambrose should probably face Triple H; that would put asses in the seats. Even Brock is a better choice than Roman. But at this point, I expect Roman will be the one to reclaim the Heavyweight Championship. He and H will put on a good match, but I can't imagine it ending in anything but boos.

Undertaker match: Taker versus who? Because of 50/50 booking, and the injury to Cena, there's really no credible opponent for Taker to face. Rumor is that Vince wants him to wrestle Braun Strowman, but that's a terrible idea. Strowman is one of the lesser talents on the roster, and I can't remember him ever fighting a singles match. Jericho or newcomer AJ Styles would be much better choices, or perhaps Kevin Owens. If either Owens or Styles faces Taker, they should go over--with the streak broken, there's no reason to put a fifty-year-old Taker over prospective stars like those two. But you never know with Vince calling the shots.

Brock versus Wyatts. This one has been rumored. The Wyatts haven't been booked as strongly as they should have, and I can't see anybody going over Brock, unfortunately. 

U.S Championship: Kalisto verses who? The E seems to want Kalisto to be the next Rey Mysterio, which he could be with the right booking. I'd love to see him battle Neville, though it's unlikely, with both of them being faces. Alberto Del Rio seems like a likely opponent, but he's pretty stale at this point, with the League of Nations being basically a league of jobbers. Once again, poor booking has given us no strong heels.

Intercontinental Championship: Not sure if there will be a match for this, but if Dean takes the pin like I expect him to at Fast Lane, he'll have to defend his championship against some challenger. Owens could be a likely choice, given that he works well with Ambrose, but a new opponent would be nice.

Tag Team: New Day versus The Usos, in all likelihood. We've seen it too many times! Give us something else for the New Day! Hell, let Big E challenge for one of the midcard championships while his stable continues to hold the tag belt.

Celebrity match: Maybe Neville and the Green Arrow versus Stardust again. Another rumor that's pretty boring.

Women's Match: Sasha versus Charlotte. I think this is what we're leading up to, a heel versus heel battle with Becky waiting for her triumphant victory. This will be a good one, and probably one of the best of the show.

What I'd like to see: NXT call ups. With all the injuries, let's call up some NXT guys. Would love to see Finn Balor defeat the Undertaker and become the new supernatural heel/face. Don't think Baron Corbin is quite ready, but he definitely will be a great new heel. Bailey would probably go over best at a smark event like Wrestlemania. Unfortunately, I am not Vince McMahon.

Vince hasn't been playing a character for years.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Heart of the Thief, Pt 2

Back in May, I started a fantasy story tentatively titled "The Heart of the Thief." You can find part one here. The idea was to write a fantasy epic involving a handful of character who each represented various life-philosophies. The project was mainly influenced by Thomas Ligotti and the Thief video games series developed by the now-defunct Looking Glass Studios. I don't really write genre stuff, so after about one-thousands words, I abandoned The Heart of the Thief only to take it up again recently. Make sure to check out part one linked above if you want any of this to make sense. Part One.


“Save the philosophizing,” says the Thief. “I hear enough of it from various sources.”
            “Unless you have elevated your company, I doubt that the gutter riff-raft have much to say beyond voicing their complaints. To whom else beside myself would you turn for stimulating conversation, my terse friend? Were it not for me, you would be blind to the essential horror of your existence. Rankar knows you wouldn't ponder the nature of your being on your own initiative. You are a man built for a single purpose if I have ever met one, Thief.”
            “How do you know this courtesan?” asks the Thief. “She can be trusted?”
            “What a fool you must think me to be. I am most assured of her loyalties. Believe it or not, I have dealt in these schemes before. Dazbog is no mere conjurer of petty tricks. Cassilda is, shall we say, disgruntled. Her life has not proceeded as planned. The poor creature does not realize what little control she has.”
            “That's all you speak of. Control, or the lack thereof.” The Thief gets up from his chair and stands by the window, looking out over the city. He doesn't think much of it, for it has never been very kind to him. The pup snuggles into the crook of his arm, sleeping. What is he doing with this animal? He should have let the boys beat it to death. Just another hungry mouth to feed, a burden on its owner. An old weakness has surfaced, one that he thought was buried. He always had a fondness for parasites.
            “You should toss that creature out the window,” says the wizard suddenly, his mouth twitching, his great eyebrows arched. For a second it looks as though the Thief might do as he suggests. He takes the pup by its nape, dangles it out in the nothingness, lets it hang there, watching to see if it reacts, to observe if it senses its own doom. The swollen eyes do not open; the pup just continues its ragged breathing, lost in a netherworld, unaware of its circumstances. Poor thing doesn't even know it can die, thinks the Thief, pulling the animal back toward him. The wizard looks satisfied as though he has learned something. He puts the tunic, lute, and balm into a burlap sack, ties it together, and hands it to the Thief.
            “Go to Cassilda tomorrow night at the twentieth hour and wait by the porter's entrance near the westward tower on Ablemarle. There will be a guard, a drunkard named Bernard. Give him a bottle of cheap port. He is used to being bribed as long as you act as though nothing is out of the ordinary. You have such a way with people, my friend. Utilize your natural charm.” The wizard turns toward his instruments, his bony hands working feverishly. The faun glowers at the Thief, letting him know that he is dismissed. Down the steps he goes, wordless, his parley with the wizard having ended as abruptly as usual. I am an instrument, he thinks to himself. Such is the natural order of things.
            On the steps of his building an old man lies stretched out, a wineskin in between his legs, his hands supinated, eyes swimming in murky pools. A ragged old change purse sits beside him, disemboweled. A red ooze trickles from his mouth; whiskers sprout from his chin, gnarled, twisted things of grey. He has been sleeping for a long time, undisturbed by the urchins and rats that prowl the street, just another fixture, a perverse statue, a tribute to the debauchery and weakness of man. The Thief rouses him with a gentle kick; the old man awakens suddenly, lurching forward, mumbling curses.
            “What do you want?” he asks, looking up at the Thief. “I was having a very nice dream.”
            “What do the dead dream of?” asks the Thief.
            “The same things all men do. Virgins, drink, and a warm hearth. I've never been able to obtain all at the same time.”
            “You've never owned a thing in your life, old man,” says the Thief. “I brought something for you.”
            “An offering? I was an oracle once. You know that, right?”
            “Only women are oracles. Will you care for this beast?” The Thief places the pup in lap of the old man.
            “I cannot care for this,” says the drunk.
            “You can beg for two. When it is older, it will keep the rats and urchins away. A dog is warmth in the winter.” He steps around the old man, opening the door.
            “I will give you your fortune, though you burden me with an unwanted gift,” says the old man. “Nothing will go right for you. One cannot survive on luck alone. Be wary of your friends. You have none.”
            “So nothing will change,” says the Thief, entering the building.
            “Don't be so sure,” replies the drunk.    
            He goes up the stairs, passing a girl sitting on the steps. She makes eyes at the Thief, large green eyes that flutter like the wings of a fly, but he doesn't see them, preferring whores to skinny peasant girls who desire husbands to fill their bellies and beat them only once in a while. Never has he wanted the demands of a family, though not for religious reasons like the Antinatalists. Just the other day he passed one of their lot down by Market Street, a wretched creature holding a sign, the desiccated remains of his genitals dangling from his neck like dried carrion. To deprive oneself of one of the chief pleasures of life—he cannot imagine it. Sometimes he thinks that he is the only person in this world who enjoys himself. Existence is a matter of perspective. In the dungeons he thought only of wine, women, and his art instead of pain and isolation, and such thoughts prompted him to find a way, to do what could not be done, to escape. The mark on his hand is that of a dead man's. He looks at it as he produces the key to his apartment. A jagged X, serrated, rough at the raised edges of the scar. There are scars covering his back, his chest, his legs. They scar you until there isn't an unmarked spot of flesh on your body. He turns the key and walks inside.
            It is a plain space, just one room with a mattress in the corner, a window above it. A small shelf rests against one wall, its contents a skull and several volumes on miscellaneous subjects. He hasn't read them, not completely, though he will take a book down from time to time and thumb through it. A black leather case full of lockpicks sits below the shelf, unused, a gift from a well-meaning friend. The crowbar that leans against the case is frequently utilized, his large hands suited more for prying and battering than subtle manoeuvrings, though the women have never complained. He goes to the mattress and lies down, not taking off his cloak, his eyes fixated on the cracks in the ceiling, the spiraling shapes flowing with a river's mad sense of direction. Events settle in his mind and sit, fermenting, growing like mold. A great weariness threatens to seize him, to take the Thief and wrestle his spirit away, leaving only a tired, spent creature with no desire to do anything but sleep and drink. That was how it was a week ago. He had come home after casing a joint and simply collapsed on this bed, his hands finding a bottle, and the rest was a blur, a whole day lost. He moans in his sleep, they say, murmurs terrible things, unpronounceable names of monsters. The Thief doesn't know why they spread rumors. He can never recall his dreams.
            There she is. A woman with chesnut hair and emerald eyes, long-limbed and lean, her form hidden by a cloak, though he knows her body, he can see her movements in utter darkness as though she were an extention of him. She walks beneath the earth, creeping down the throat of the world, the only beacon a faint light glittering like a star eons away. Do you have it? He can't see it in her hands; she doesn't answer. The coldness of the earth is changing. Hot breath funnels through the tunnel, the warm exhalations of a colossal creature, something unimaginably old and beyond understanding. Did she eat it? Have we eaten it? Suddenly he knows, he sees her, sees himself leaning over a fire with dripping jaws and trembling hands. We made love and basked in our glory and that is why I follow her. He will always follow her. He can do nothing else.
The Thief waits by the porter's gate dressed in musician’s clothes with a lute strung across his back and a bottle in hand. He brought a bottle for the guardsman as well as one for himself, though he hasn't drank enough from it to become drunk. People pass in the street: bands of roving children, gentlemen on the prowl, characters hooded and cloaked, obvious miscreants with razors hidden in their sleeves. Bernard snaps at these fiends, telling them to keep their distance or risk feeling the point of his halberd, which he brandishes about mencingly, bushy eyebrows raised, his mustache inclined at a similar angle. This zealous fool doesn't seem like the type to be bribed with a bottle of porter; rather, he seems more likely to impale a prospective friend such as the Thief before he can even approach. Above are the fortress walls, emerging from the mountain's side like the scutes of an armored beast. Cassilda he whispers suddenly, testing the name on his tongue. He looks to his left and sees a courtesan coming down the street, smiling, a fan clutched in her gloved right hand. She passes the Thief, looking at him with green eyes, lashes flashing, and he is at her side in an instant, his arm entwined with hers. What is happening he thinks, as his feet move and his face breaks into a disarming grin. They march up to Bernard, who eyes them warily, and Cassilda curtseys and he follows with a deep bow. “For you, sir,” he says, presenting the bottle of porter. “As a reward for your exquisite service.”
            “Aye, what's that?” asks Bernard, twitching his mustache.
            “You are being honored, recognized for your distinction. There is no better halberd man in the court. No men of foul repute will ever pass through this gate, such is the greatness of your discretion. Please, take this.” The Thief offers up the bottle, marveling at the words that have come from his mouth.
            “Is that thair some of that spiced wine? Did the boys put yere up to it? I warn ye, I don't like being played fere a fool,” says Bernard, eyeing Cassilda rather laciviously.
            “No one would ever take you to be one,” says Cassilda, revealing a full, shiny denture. She extends a gloved hand, touching the hairy arm of the guardsman. Suddenly she wraps herself around him, lips in his ear, and a shudder passes through his body, a sesmic tremble that results in his falling back against the wall, slumped downward, legs bent and barely supporting his stout frame. She looks at the Thief, eyes aflame, burning with emerald glory, and points at the bottle in his hand. He places it at Bernard's feet, and they dart into the passageway. Rankar spare me thinks the Thief, following Cassilda as she hurries through the hall, nearly catching up to her as she takes a left down a winding tunnel, and then finally grabbing hold of her arm as she mount a spiriling staircase.
            “Let go of me, vagabond,” she says, tearing free, and continuing to climb.
            “We were supposed to bribe him, not poison him,” says the Thief.
            “Maybe that's what you were supposed to do,” replies Cassilda. “Dazbog's magic is as predictable as the whims of the Duke's royal concubine. He obviously enchanted us without our knowledge. You followed me without question, and you spoke with words that were not your own. Our guardsman was not persuaded. I said something to him in Elmeric, which is odd, because I don't know Elmeric. This is all bad, Thief. We are being used as pawns.”
            “Let's get out of here, then. I won't be used by that sorcerer.”
            “I think it's too late. Can you stop your feet?” Cassilda looks at him, turning around as she climbs. The Thief tries to stop, but he keeps climbing, taking each step at an inexorable pace. “Shit,” he says.
            “Yes, we seem to be in a pickle. I think it will be best to cooperate with the spell. Trying to resist such things usually results in unpleasantness.”
            “'Unpleasantness?' What if Dazbog has enchanted us to kill the Duke? Who knows what that mad wizard has done. You know that he is disgraced? He has grudges. We must break this spell.”
            Cassilda laughs, wheezing, her breath shortened from climbing. Through a tiny window he sees the city spread out beneath them, its towers distant and shrinking with every step.
            “You know much about magic? I would think that your expertise would be limited to how to break door jambs and twist arms for money,” says Cassilda.
            “The Valientice vault, that was my work, as was the Royal Bank heist. What do you know of stealing, courtesan? Harlotry is your profession, no?”
            “We all do things for money. Are you good at what you do? You must be, since you're alive and wearing that brand. Let's get the Heart and be done with it, agreed? That's the only way to break the spell. Money from the Galvanians was what you were promised, correct? We have our lives and our fortunes at stake. Say what you will about Dazbog, and do what you will with him afterward, but he is a talented magician. We will make it out of here alive. I promise you that.” Cassilda stops, finally having reached the summit of the stairway. “Well look at that. There's an allure ahead. I hope you don't get vertigo. It's rather high up and there's not much of a parapet.”
            The Thief tries to move his feet back down the staircase, but as soon as Cassilda ventures out onto the wall walk, they follow her obediently like two whipped dogs. I will kill that wizard he thinks, stepping out into the air, the wind snapping at his frame, plucking the strings of his lute as he moves across the narrow pathway. Heights have never bothered him; he always considered the rooftops of the city to be his highway and an easy way to travel if one didn't mind making the ocassional mad leap. Cassilda clutches the smooth wall as she rushes toward the next tower, her gaze fixed firmly on the doorway—she's scared, he sees, though she moves gracefully enough, gown flapping as the breeze breaks against the mountain, revealing long, lean limbs. There's a scar on her right calf, an ugly thing stretching across the muscle like a purple leech. Must've hurt like hell he thinks as he follows her into the tower.
            “Hey, more stairs,” says Cassilda, already moving upward. “We will reach the lowest level soon, and then we'll go to the atrium and see who's congregating. You look like a social person. Perhaps you play that lute?”
            “I know many bawdy songs. I even know one about a harlot who gets a thief killed.”
            “I'm sure that will go over nicely with the other courtesans. To tell the truth, I'm very worried about your role in this whole thing. You look as though you'd rather use that lute as a weapon than an instrument. Are you capable of guile, Mr. Thief? You do realize that a lute is a poor thing to arm oneself with? A tongue works much better in my experience.”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

Where have all the cowboys gone? I look out my window and see no cowboys. Right in my yard there's a big, fat cow, though. It's eating my grass and shitting all over the place. When I yell at it, it just looks at me with its dumb cow eyes and goes back to shitting and eating. I let the dogs out but it just ignored them. What the hell am I going to do about this cow? There are no cowboys listed in the yellow pages. On the internet, I only find exotic dancers or clowns.

There are no cowboys on my television, either. The NFL has no cowboys for me to watch. I can't find a western to save my life. The closest person I've found is Tom Selleck and he's not even playing a cowboy, he just has a mustache.

When our fathers were growing up, you saw cowboys everywhere. They were on television. They showed up on Halloween. They rustled cattle and rode the trail. Yippee-ki-yay, right? People wore cowboy pajamas. Everyone had a pair of boots that they put on once a year. People wore six-shooters, too, with sandlewood grips. Roy Rodgers was a singing cowboy. Will Rodgers was a humorist and a real cowboy as well. Like I said, there were cowboys everywhere.

Somehow, between then and now, all of the cowboys have gone extinct. Scientists say we are currently experiencing a mass extinction of animal life. People go ape-shit over panda bears, but what about the American cowboy? What about that unique symbol of American independence and individualism? Donald Trump isn't a cowboy. Steve Jobs wasn't a vaquero. Mark Wahlberg has no fucking idea what a buckaroo is.

That cow still stands in my yard. I tell it that I'm about to go grab my shotgun and send it to cow hell. Have you ever stared a cow straight in the eyes? They have eyes like glass marbles. They are opaque, clouded with the glaze of idiocy. We have made cows the way they are, you know. We domesticated them. We took their independence away and now they can do nothing but shit, eat, and wait to be taken care of. We took a piece of their soul and carved it up and cooked it and served it on a plate. They've never heard of American exceptionalism. They don't know of manifest destiny. They haven't met the spirit that conquered the west.

Does anybody have Paula Cole's phone number? Maybe she knows where the cowboys have gone. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Literary Analysis of John Cena's "The Time Is Now"

The Time Is Now
Your time is up, my time is now
You can't see me, my time is now
It's the franchise, boy I'm shinin' now
You can't see me, my time is now!

In this repeating chorus, the poet Cena summarizes his main themes. He has come and your time is up; it is no longer your time to shine, rather, it is Cena's. His brilliance is so strong that you cannot see him, for he is a shining star, blinding and bright. In terms of consumer culture, he is a franchise and worth millions of dollars. This is certainly true, for Cena is a multimillionaire. Not many authors have the intellectual honesty to lay bare the essential truth of their nature.

In case you forgot or fell off I'm still hot - knock your shell off
My money stack fat plus I can't turn the swell off
The franchise, doin' big bid'ness, I live this
It's automatic I win this - oh you hear those horns, you finished

In the first verse, Cena reminds his detractors that he is still popular, in case they fell off of the face of the earth. His considerable fortune remains, and try as he might, he cannot help but earn money. He acknowledges one of the biggest complaints about his wrestling character (LOLCenaWins), but offers no apology, only bravado. This masculine attitude continues with the next stanza.

A soldier, and I stay under you fightin'
Plus I'm stormin' on you chumps like I'm thunder and lightning
Ain't no way you breakin' me kid, I'm harder than nails
Plus I keep it on lock, like I'm part of the jail

The soldier comparisons are apt; Cena often utilizes a military theme in his profession. He compares himself to elemental forces, emphasizing the futility of opposing him. Part of his authority derives from Cena's inherent bond with the system and the powers that be; like a jail, he is an institution, serving not only as a prison, but as the warden himself.

I'm slaughtering stale competition, I got the whole block wishing
they could run with my division but they gone fishing -
- with no bait, kid your boy hold weight
I got my soul straight, I brush your mouth like Colgate

There is no shame in fortune, for Cena blames the mediocrity of his competition for their lack of success against him. He feels no guilt for not putting younger wrestlers over because they are not at his level. Honesty seems to be our poet's greatest strength.

In any weather I'm never better your boy's so hot
you'll never catch me in the next man's sweater
If they hate, let 'em hate, I drop ya whole clan
Lay yo' ass down for the three second tan

Authenticity is a key element of our author's persona, and he will never dress like another man. Critics will always be critics, though he vows to silence them with his martial prowess for at least a few seconds' time.

It's gonna be what it's gonna be
Five pounds of courage buddy, bass tint pants with a gold T
Uh - it's a war dance and victory step
A raw stance is a gift, when you insist it's my rep

Here Cena reveals that he is a hard determinist. Circumstances are inevitable, and attributes like courage quantifiable only in actions and their results. If you desire John to change, he cannot--there's nothing he can do about his gift or his nature, which are predetermined by forces beyond our control.

John Cena, Trademarc, you all are so-so
And talk about the bread you make but don't know the recipe for dough though
Aimin' guns in all your photos, that's a no-no
When this pop, you'll liplock, your big talk's a blatant no-show

After the weighty philosophical implications of the previous stanza, Cena reverts to masculine posturing once again. He highlights the impotence of his haters, claiming that their weapons will not revert the castration they have undergone at the hands of the system, the very system that Cena is a part of.

See what happens when the ice age melt
You see monetary status is not what matters, but it helps
I rock a timepiece by Benny if any
The same reason y'all could love me is the same reason y'all condemn me

Detractors will detract; they cannot help their envy. A repeating theme.

A man's measured by the way that he thinks
Not clothing lines, ice links, leather and minks
I spent 20 plus years seekin' knowledge of self
So for now Marc Predka's livin' life for wealth

In his last few lines, poet Cena reveals that all of his previous references to wealth and material fortune were red herrings, for he only truly respects the power of the mind and mental discipline. Twenty years he spent in the desert as an ascetic, searching for knowledge of self. Yet after such rigorous denial, he and his cousin Marc Predka embrace a hedonistic existence, for he has done his time. Here he sets himself up as a Christ-like figure, a walking contradiction. You are free now; John has done the hard work. Hustle, loyalty, and respect.  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Retro Review: Jedi Knight 2 Jedi Outcast

Shadow Troopers! These Darth Vader knockoffs are pretty difficult.

One of the defining games of my youth was Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. The sequel to the classic Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight (this series had a weird thing going with titles), Jedi Outcast continued the adventures of Kyle Katarn, sort of an amalgam of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, as he rediscovers how to be a jedi. Set in the now-defunct Expanded Universe, Outcast has Kyle meeting up with many Star Wars regulars, like Luke and Lando, to take down the Imperial Remnant, led by Desann, a bipedal dinosaurian dark jedi who has infused his troops with the power of the force. Jedi Outcast was released during the reviled prequel trilogy, and although it didn't erase Lucas's cinematic sins, it offered a Star Wars alternative to those who felt as though they'd been burned.

Gameplay centers around third person combat with the lightsaber, with three different styles to choose from. A huge improvement from the primitive system utilized in the first Jedi Knight, Outcast has one of the finest combat systems I've encountered. Lightsaber hits are lethal and swings require patience and proper timing at higher difficulty levels, though you can hack and slash lower tier enemies such as stormtroopers. Force powers are also a joy to use, especially grip, which lets you choke enemies and throw them around like Darth Vader. Unfortunately, the game doesn't give you the saber or powers until you've completed five levels. Earlier titles were more shooters than saber simulations, but Outcast has some of the most frustrating first person shooting I've ever played. Gun animations are not tied to cross-hair movement, making enemies hard to hit, and hit boxes are incredibly small. You'll occasionally see blaster bolts hit targets and not register any damage. Considering that Outcast was developed using the same Quake 3 engine that powered one of the best shooters of all time, such foibles are difficult to forgive. The poor shooting makes the first couple levels much harder than they should be and will be a turn off to modern day players, who are less likely to stomach poor mechanics than the gamers of yesteryear.

Also of note is the sometimes confusing level design. Although not as expansive and vertical as Jedi Knight, Outcast features some labyrinthine mazes that require attention to detail while still being fairly linear. This is another thing that players today will have trouble with, since the game often doesn't give you much to go on, resulting in a few situations where you won't have a clue where to go. If you can stomach consulting a walkthrough, which I recommend, you'll lessen your frustration.

Outcast has a pretty decent plot, if you're the type who cares about the story when you play a game. For Star Wars fans, it's full of references (Kyle quips "Black armor... not again," when he first sees a Shadow Trooper. If you're in need of a Star Wars action fix, I can't think of a better recommendation. The single player campaign is pretty long as well, and you can player through the excellent multiplayer with bots, though there are still a few online players to be found. Though it's doubtful EA, who now have exclusive license to make all Star Wars games, will continue this series, Outcast is definitely worth playing, especially considering you can purchase it for just about nothing.

These guys don't know they're about to get force-pulled into a bottomless abyss.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Writer's Block: Nate's Inferno

I had a half-baked idea to write a novel about a man's journey through a bizarre afterlife. This is what I have so far. Nate's Inferno is the working title.
I'm not supposed to be here.

That's all I keep thinking as I stand with a dozen or so people in a red-lit room watching an orgy in progress. It was Saturday night, and I had a slipped into my private routine, the shades drawn and all the required implements in place. There was a box sent from Japan, and I remember opening it and staring at a flesh-colored object that exuded warmth and forbidden pleasures. I took the device in my hands, held it close to the lamp light, felt its smooth skin, found its orifices. A small fortune paid for a prototype produced by a disgraced manufacturer. A black market item. They said on the internet that you wouldn't need anything else, that days and weeks would disappear once you used it. Eons, they said. It was exactly what I was looking for. I don't remember using it, but I must have, and now, instead of lying in eternal bliss, I stand next to a man in a penguin costume, watching a rotund gentlemen with a cactus for a penis pile-drive a women into a comatose state. None of the other viewers seem to think this is out of the ordinary. Two faceless naked figures stand behind the couple, their fingers in each others anuses. A dwarf crawls around it all, moaning, vomit dripping from his dragging jaw. I look at the man in the penguin costume. His face wears an intense expression, as though he is trying to decipher the scene and discover its hidden meaning. Big hook nose. Eyes that sink back into the depths of his skull. Bloodless fat lips. This is a face that I can trust.

"What are we watching here?" I ask, leaning in close. He smells a little. Faint hints of garlic and used gym shorts.

"This is how she died," says the penguin. He doesn't look at me; I barely hear his voice.

"This isn't my sort of thing," I explain. "I'm a private person. I don't even remember how I got here."

"You will when it's your turn," says the penguin.

"What's with the suit?" I ask. He doesn't immediately reply. I notice that there is a button flap on the bottom of the penguin's suit.

"It was a convention," he says, after a minute or so. "I went with a group. We met up with some other people. I went into a room with someone I shouldn't have." He turns and looks at me, stares with those hollow eyes. His gloved hands grab my own and place them on his white stomach. When I take them away, they are covered in blood.

"Jesus Christ," I say. He snorts and shakes his head. There are others on the stage now, tall and pale, strange shadows with elongated fingers. The crowd starts to dissipate as people wander down hallways that I didn't notice before, hallways that seem to stretch and curve like the inside of a colon. Flesh-colored walls. A pulsating red light. My sense of place has deserted me completely.

"How do I get out of here?" I ask.

"I don't know," says the penguin. "I've never tried."

"What's your name?" I ask. He shrugs and looks back at the stage. The pale people cuts at each other with their claws, moaning, making promises, saying horrors. I don't want to watch it; it's terrible, the way that they rend their flesh, making slow, deliberate movements. Alley cats. Dead things in heat. I suddenly realize that I can't remember my own name.

"Penguin," I say, grabbing his suit and pulling him close. "Who am I?"

"A guy with half a penis."

I look down and see that I am wearing no pants. He is right; half of my penis is missing. Then it hits me; the pain, the absence, the missing sensations. It's worse than losing an arm or a leg. A part of my essence is gone. Sundered. Vanished. I don't know what to do. Is there anything I can do?

"What the fuck is going on?" I whisper. The penguin looks at me and I finally see his eyes. They are tiny, microscopic. Vestigial. A faint yellow light emits from behind them, an amber glow.

"Stop trying to understand it. You'll make it worse. Speaking makes it worse. It's best to just accept your situation."

"I got to find some pants," I say. "Help me. Help me get out of here."

"And go where?" he asks.

"What's this guy talking about?" asks the dwarf who was crawling on the floor. He's got a big head and big ears and a mustache hovering above his upper lip with flakes of vomit dripping from its corners.

"He wants to leave. And find some pants," says the penguin.

"Leave? Why the fuck would you want to leave?" The dwarf gestures, sweeping his hands around. "This is the best place you can be. Nonstop debauchery. Depravity. A constant mix of pain and pleasure. This is existence with all the boring parts cut out of it. If you can think it, you can do it. If you want to do something to somebody, just walk over and do it." He pauses, noticing my severed penis. "Well, you can work around an injury like that," he says, pointing. "That won't stop you. There are people here with no legs, blind people, people with half a head. Just go at it. Don't mope around like this guy. Voyeurism is overrated. I spent half my life as a voyeur. All it got me was a bullet through the head."

I look around and notice the deformities, the grotesques, the aliens things from another dimension. They moan while they walk, these people. Their tongues dangle from their yawning mouths while their maimed genitals swing. Some press others against the walls and hump like animals. Others stare at the floor and sob. This is dysfunction; this is society breaking down, crumbling into anarchy and ruin. Where is the order that holds us together? These are purposeless beings; they have nothing but their lust. I look down between my legs and realize that I belong here, despite my initial doubts. What I can't do is accept my fate.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Rating the WWE's Roster by Their Stench, Part 4

Braun Strowman--This porcine-eyed member of the Wyatt family is a monster of a man but never fear, you can smell him coming from 400 yards away. A terrible cricket mishap has left this eater of worlds permanently incontinent. He also never learned how to change his pants. Stench rating, out of ten--9.

Tyler Breeze--Like many NXT guys, Prince Pretty seems unable to carve out a spot on the mid or upper card and will probably be regulated to permanent jabroni status. Due to his general overuse of beauty products, Breeze smells like a chemical factory waiting to explode. He also doesn't wear deodorant. Stench rating--6.

Bo Dallas--Apparently, all you have to do is Bolieve and you'll get out of low card hell, if Bo's newly-formed stable Social Outcasts are to be taken seriously (they're not). A jobber with the exact same gimmick as New Day, Bo always looks like he's wrestling in a pair of Depends. I have a secret: He is, and boy, do they smell. A ten time winner of Most-Likely-To-Shit-His-Pants-In-The-Ring, Mr. Dallas is one smelly son of a bitch. Stench rating--10.

Becky Lynch--The Lass-Kicker has recently benefited from one of the WWE's more compelling feuds (not that that's saying much) and is now the Divas Division's top face. I don't know what she smells like, but if you do, let me know. Please. Stench rating--0.

The Big Show--Weellll........It's the Big Show! It's a big, bad show tonight! Wait, what they hell does that mean? This guy's theme song doesn't make any sense. He's also way past his expiration date in more ways than one. If you took a poop in a box and then left it down by the river to marinate with all of the rotting fish carcasses for a week, then you might have an idea what Big Show's underwear smells like. Legend has it that his concubines have their nasal passages removed so that they can stimulate the Big Show in a big, bad way without passing out or dying on the spot. Stench rating--10.

Jericho--At last, we have Y2J. Dude, we know you were the shit in the Attitude Era, but, Jesus, you look like somebody's dad who is trying way too hard to let your kids know how cool you are. From his systematically tousled hair to his rocking' dad bod to his asinine chants of "Rooty, tooty, booty," there is nothing to like about an old has-been like Jericho returning to take time and exposure away from younger wrestlers, although I'll give him credit for letting up and comers go over him, unlike some people on the roster (Undertaker; occasionally Kane and Cena). What does Jericho smell like? Desperation, that's what. Oh, and probably your mom. Stench rating--8

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Esteemed Critic Reviews The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is a parody of a Quentin Tarantino film. It gratuitously covers all of his essential themes: excessive violence, the assertion of masculine authority, camaraderie amongst disparate peoples, revenge at all costs. There are guns aimed and one-liners delivered. Plenty of heads explode like ripe tomatoes; Jennifer Jason Leigh's visage is constantly drenched in blood and gore. If people thought Pulp Fiction was gratuitous at the time, well, The Hateful Eight makes it look like a Disney film (It was, actually: Pulp Fiction was produced by Miramax, which was owned by Disney at the time). The first half is quite excellent; Tarantino establishes an interesting premise, in which a series of coincidences unite two bounty hunters, a sheriff, and a cadre of men who are not whom they seem. Few mainstream directors allow their actors to chew dialogue and scene like Tarantino, and this is one of his finest casts. Kurt Russell in particular is fascinating as an honor-bound hanger of men (and women) whose occasional softness clashes strongly with his frequent outburst of violence. It's all good till the blood starts flowing; at that point, The Hateful Eight turns into a slatterpunk film not unlike The Evil Dead. Jackson's character Major Warren is castrated, and everybody leaks so much bodily fluid that you wonder how they all don't drop dead immediately. The momentum of the film's best scene, where Warren goads an elderly civil war general into attacking him by describing the humiliating manner in which his bounty hunter son died, is destroyed by a queer montage, with a squeaky-voiced Tarantino providing summary. But you probably expected quirkiness. There really is no one like Quentin, with his mismatched love of Westerns, pulp, and art-house cinema. This isn't an easy film to watch, however, even for fans of his previous work. The violence that frequently assails Leigh's Domergue seems undeserved and is difficult to stomach, she being the movie's only real female character. The ending, in which a grievously-injured Warren and sheriff (played by Walton Goggins) maliciously hang Domergue, fails as some sort of triumph, since we haven't seen her do anything more villainous than the movie's other characters. But The Hateful Eight is, to borrow a term from my comrade Gordon P. Weaver, a bro-movie: all that matters, in the end, is who's the baddest motherfucker standing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

What the Hell Are You Doing with Your Life?

Alright. Listen here, son. We've had it up to here with your shenanigans. It's time to settle down and finally pick a career. Your mother and I are tired of waiting for you to do something with your life. You can't be a professional video game player, no matter what they do in Korea. We're not in Korea, son. This is America, and you need to work for a living.

Your job at the Kentucky Fried Chicken is not what I'm talking about. I didn't put you through college on 40,000 dollars a year to see you put chicken in buckets. Surely your degree in Star Wars anthropology is worth something. Have you applied at a museum lately? No? I didn't think so. This is that lack of ambition your mother and I were talking about. You have to want something, son. You have to want it bad enough to work for it. When I was your age, that something was your future. One day, you'll feel the same.

And that brings us to another item on the agenda. Your romantic situation. Living in our basement isn't going to find you a wife. The internet is not a nice place to meet people, either. Your mother suggested church, but I know that's out of the question, and besides, I haven't seen someone your age at church in probably twenty years. I'd rather you go out and hit the bars than sit on your ass in the basement playing Call of Booty. Masturbation is not a healthy habit. You don't acquire any experience, is what I'm saying.

Where is your zest for life, son? What happened? Your mother coddled you too much. I was surprised you didn't turn into a homosexual. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Shave that beard, though. It looks like a patch of pubic hair migrated from your crotch and attached itself to your face. Successful men do not have beards like yours. Hobos do. Crazy people. Street people. Do you want to live out on the street? If we kicked you out, would you exert enough energy to not descend into a life of drugs and handjobs? I just don't know at this point.

Here is a stack of applications. I want you to fill them out and then return them. The basement life is over. Call of Booty is done. Welcome to the real world. No, I don't mean that goddamn show. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Won't Somebody Shoot Me?

I thought this would be easier. When I was approached by a bunch of crazy militiamen about possessing a wildlife refuge headquarters and making a safe place for gun-wielding patriots to evade prison, I thought "Sure, what the hell." I've been wanting to kill myself for some time now, I just haven't had the courage. Plus, I've always hated the government. DMV? Hate 'em. Mailman? Not too friendly. IRS? None of their damn business. Best to go out in a blaze of glory.

But I don't think I could shoot anybody. These other guys, well, yeah they definitely could. They're the angriest bunch of people I've ever met. You'd think they were living in an Orwellian dystopia. They sure don't look like it. These are some well-fed people. Well-armed, too. I'm pretty sure one of these guys has a lasergun. I didn't know you could get those. Only in America, hah.

Ever since I lost my job as an accountant, things have just sucked. My wife left, taking the kids. My dog died from eating an onion. My car was repossessed. My zest for life basically went down the shitter. I thought about seeing a counselor, but there isn't the money, and really, what could they say? These people don't live in the real world. Well, neither do these militia guys, I suppose. Am I the only one with a firm grasp on reality? Am I the only one who recognizes the approaching blackness, the yawning abyss of existence? It has nothing to do with Obama or federal land policies. It has everything to do with the difficulties of consciousness in a savage, heartless world. I'd rather be a lamppost than a human being. Did I really just say that? Christ.

So I shaved my head and grew a beard. I started posting angry videos on Youtube, waving the Constitution around like I wanted to bludgeon someone to death with it. I don't know what my aim was. Funny how the universe works. The militia approached me and I saw an opportunity, and now I'm huddled in a government building with a bunch of crazy bastards waiting to see if they are coming to shoot us. The real problem is that we don't have a single black guy or Muslim person in this entire militia. We're just a group of white people. I thought about tying something around my head to try to make a turban, but that's a bad idea, and pretty racially insensitive. Probably won't even go to prison.

Goddamn it. Maybe if I start yelling gibberish and firing my gun in the air, they'll put me out of my misery. Allah Ackbar, right? Wait, isn't that the name of the giant fish thing from Star Wars? Christ, I don't know.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Diary of Mitch R. Singer

In a galaxy far, far away...
Another life, another year. I spend my days hauling salvage from desiccated star cruisers, dragging their innards across the desert so that I may earn my bread. The sand is coarse and irritating, and it gets everywhere. I hate it. My competition is composed of various species, most barely-sentient and only capable of communicating in languages that sound like a series of farts. I understand them, however. I guess that I speak fart.

Aboard a stolen freighter, on the run from nebulous forces
I'm not sure how I got mixed up in this. A former imperial soldier more or less kidnapped me and now we're shuttling across the galaxy, trying to unite with the Rebel Alliance. I don't know what to do. Politics have never really interested me. During down time, we play holo chess. Turns out I'm something of a savant. Who would've thought a former junker who speaks farts would be good at holo chess? If we ever get out of this mess, I'm going to Coruscant to become space-Bobby Fischer.

Captured by Imperials, awaiting interrogation
Well that idiot stormtrooper really fucked things up for me. Of course, we got boarded and I got hauled off at gunpoint and thrown in a cell. This star destroyer is managed by a guy wearing a black dress and a Cobra Commander mask. He seems to have anger issues; I watched him step in gum and proceed to take out a computer console with his lasersword, all the while screaming incoherently. Unfortunately, he's the guy who is going to interrogate me. This doesn't look good. My dream of becoming a holo-chess champion is about to go out the space toilet.

Post-interrogation, lying paralyzed at the bottom of a trash compactor
That angry dude used space magic on me and now I can't move. Apparently he didn't find anything interesting in my ol' noggin, but I guess the Imperials have a guilty by association policy. I think there's something in here; I saw a fleshy eye pop up like a periscope, and I'm pretty sure a tentacle massaged my left leg. If the garbage beast doesn't get me, the crushing walls will. Still, I don't miss sand or speaking in farts. The universe is cruel, but I always seem to wake up somewhere. You folks have a happy new year's.