Whatcha Gonna Do? Stop

March 17, 2002. It’s cold, too cold on the streets of Toronto for this Vancouverite. I am with a good friend and we are roaming the streets near Sky Dome, people in costume and severely under-dressed for anyone but locals flood the streets chanting and raving. I would call them lunatics but life isn’t that black and white, today it was black and white or red and yellow depending on taste. You see that was the date of Wrestlemania XXVIII and the crowd in Toronto was firmly behind a well past his prime Hulk Hogan, for no apparent reason, at least to me. I was behind The Rock, younger, more athletic, better with the mic, better track record of entertaining matches simply put The Rock was just better in every category. Toronto didn’t care, they were still addicted to Hulkamania, I was, and am. a recovering Hulkamaniac. Whefirst discovered professional wrestling it was the beginning of Hulkamania, Wrestlemania, Hulk Hogan’s Rock & WRestling, A-Team, the WWE marketing team was learning their job and doing very well at it. Like the ornate figure head on the bow of  majestic ship Hulk Hogan was the forefront of professional wrestling in the 1980’s. Also like that figure head he was just decoration and the real parts were less glamorous and more functional.

My first indication that the Hulkster was not the entire show was the fights that happened in my living room. Back in the 1980’s LJN released a ling on solid rubber WWE action figures, I had a few, my friends had a few, and together we could out book a Wrestlemania, the fights began like this: Kid 1: “I get to be The Dynamite Kid”

Kid 2:” No, I want the Dynamite Kid!”

Kid 3:”We have two…”

Kids 1 & 2: “YOU CAN’T HAVE DYNAMITE VS DYNAMITE!”

Kid  2: “THEN I AM BRET HART!”

Kid 3: ” I already picked Bret when you two were arguing.”

Kid 2 the picks up King Kong Bundy figure and smacks Kid 3.

As you can see by the above pic Bundy was a mass of rubber that could split a skull. Now the idiocy of pre-teen boys aside the key there is we never and I mean ever fought over who got to be Hulk Hogan. Fights would also break out over ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and  Ricky ‘ The Dragon’ Steamboat, when I looked at it years later as I rewatched Wrestlemania III it hit me that I would never talk about he Hogan match, it was always the undercard that got the talk. Fair is fair; Hogan slamming Andre was a spectacle but Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat was dissected. That is the remnants of the Hogan era, his matches contained spectacle moments, not to discredit him they were incredible feats and moments not matches. The big stars saw their names in lights out side buildings and work at the end of the night (when cameras were on) but the big talents got the fans respect and conversation. It was a slow decent out of Hulkamania for me, there was to one moment that did it, too often the WWE hype machine built up a match only to be disappointed in the end product, I think the last truly engrossing match Hogan had while I was still a Hulkamaniac was with Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V.  There were matches that over promised and under delivered near the top of the cards and then underneath there were the ones that under promised and over produced. By Wrestlemania VIII I was done, so much of the under card was performing above their promotional level and yet the show closing battle of the titans Hulk Hogan facing off with Sid Justice was probably the best outing either had in a while but still so vastly underwhelming that I just couldn’t handle it any more. I wanted to see Bret Hart, Mr Perfect, The Undertaker, Jake Roberts, these guys were delivering every time often well ahead of the hype they received. The Hulkster had lost his luster to me, I started to see a paint by numbers structure and a lack of gripping story in the ring.

Around that time Hogan began getting more film work, his wrestling time was limited and eventually he would transition to WCW as would many of the late big names of his era and the young talent that held our attention started closing the shows. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in particular, but credit to Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Jeff Jarrett, The Undertaker, Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith. There was a catch though, a clear void in star power to draw eyes that the charisma of Hulk Hogan could not. The “gimmic” era of the WWE made it tough to get eyes on the in ring quality, wrestling clowns, garbage-men, tax collectors, hockey players (in full gear), plumbers, repo-men, even a star spangled hero didn’t cut it. Meanwhile Hogan had turned evil in WCW and ride another eave if popularity….or did he? sure he was top of the card but moat of the time he was working with the same few competitors. Even the WCW alternatives got so many repeat matches they felt like watching reruns of Fraser, fine the first time but lamer and lamer as they went on. WCW had the same formula, an amazing under card with a drizzled shit topping. Hogan was bad, Flair a shadow of his true self, Luger was over rated, The Giant was under developed, Sting needed a bigger challenge, Savage was over looked, DDP under valued and Bret was a shadow of himself after 97 and worse after 99. The under card contained Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Booker T and Raven. The supporting pillars under the high profile stars and again the marketing machine proclaimed that Hogan was the pinnacle, not that the WCW machine was any thing close to the WWF. There wasn’t much different when WCW collapsed and in early 2002 Hogan returned to the WWF in his black and white attire accompanied by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as the nWo.

In 2002 the WWF was a far different creature than the company Hogan left years before. It was not a one man show with a revolving door of challengers that came and went. The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit all sat at the top of the pile while Edge, Rob Van Dam and Booker T were looking to break through to the top, not to mention that Spring would see the debuts of John Cena, Randy Orton, Dave Batista and Brock Lesnar. The talent pool was too deep for anyone to jump in with out being able to swim and in the ring Hogan couldn’t swim. I will give him his due, he is an icon, he could hype people into seats and n his younger days he could go but as his star grew he didn’t need to, his talents were in his mouth and in his ability to pull sympathy. Before I am misunderstood that ability to pull sympathy is a key component to in ring work but I like a more well rounded performer. I started this love of wrestling under the bright light of Hulkamania, along the lines I gave up that addiction and on a cold St. Patrick’s Day in Toronto I watched as it ran rampant. I sat with 68,236 others and was in a very small minority that had given up the addiction to the red and yellow and I never went back.  So when you see that wrestling meme or clip and think of me, leave The Hulkster out of it, I can’t discount his contribution but I don’t have to be a fan.

 

 

 

 You Can Smell It

 You Can Smell It

Ooooo that smell…can’t you smell that smell? The smell I am talking about is unique to a comic shop. The aged paper muffled just slightly by mylar and a musty taint inherent to any small used book shop. I love that smell, it smells like…imagination. Some one imagined the story, another the visuals, another the light and depth, another the colour scenes and yet another the look of the dialogue. Almost every issue of a comic book is the product of multiple imaginations. THAT is what that smell is. When you walk into a small used book store it is a concentrated dose of pure powerful imagination. Sunday I walked into the Croatian Cultural Centre and momentarily became The Rock as I took a deep thoughtful breath, I had dragged my step children to the Vancouver Comic & Toy Convention and I couldn’t care less that they had originally not cared to come (too bad my event was kid friendly and my fiancees was not). The first time I had truly smelled that smell was when I convinced my parents to stop at Island Fantasy in Victoria B.C’s Market Square in the late 1980’s. I had seen them listed in a Marvel Comic and on our trips to visit my Grandmother we would regularly tour downtown Victoria. My Dad and brother had their spots to stop, my mom had hers, Island Fantasy was mine. The usual route meant  was 2nd stop, we hit the sports store first simply because I was closer to Nana’s house then I would make everyone crazy perusing the racks (giggidy) of comics and bins on back issues, I honestly don’t remember if the family was annoyed because I was in my happy place, I could have been left there while they spent hours downtown and not noticed. I recall the lay out of the store and it’s location but it is the smell of it that I remember most.

I have spent a lot of hours flipping through back issue bins, you’ve probably seen Shelton Cooper and Howard Wolowitz do the same thing (great clip watch it then come back  ). Thankfully my best friend at the time never got to a major fight about it as we had just slightly different tastes. I must have a collection gene passed down through my maternal grandfather, but despite having 4,386 comic books to sell I have 3,509 I’m not willing to part with yet, no offer really goes unconsidered though. I would have loved to have spent more time flipping through boxes of back issues and seeing what I could find to fill the holes in my personal collection but I had no real agenda aside from the three books I found and my step kids were not as enthralled as I was. I let whim take over from table to table as I strolled through the crowd and watched the kids to see if their attention was caught on anything. If a story line popped into my head or a cover caught my eye I would flip through and see what I could find. The down side to a convention is that every ten feet it is a whole new selection to sort through, to do it properly I would need ours that my step kids simply would not be interested in and a proper list. I do maintain a wish list on http://www.comicbookrealm.com but I hadn’t updated it in a while and did not show up with the intention or funds to assault said list. I explained a few things to the kids, we saw the toys that I used to ask for for Christmas and talked to a few vendors as we threaded our way through the crowded aisles.

Once we made our first circuit of the room we had to take a break and get some food. Found a nice lady and her hot dog cart in the parking lot and sat down to discuss what we had seen. I had to explain the difference between a comic to be read and one to be collected, generally I consider a $10 single issue a collectible and not something to end up on an 8 year old’s floor with missing pages, when I boiled it down to the quantity of books that could be purchased that could be read and cared for in the way only an eight year old can it made sense. We went back in this time looking for a few nick knacks that were reasonable for the kids ages and my wallet. They settled on a Mario Bros Star plush pillow and some Harry Potter buttons eventually. While we strolled I got to talk to the dealers and listen to some discussions they had with others. I tend to gravitate towards the ones that are approachable and personable, there were several grumpy looking dealers that almost seemed to take offense to people looking at their wares, could be that they were 3hrs from done after a long weekend but that seems ore like the time to schmooze and move some merch before you have to cart it all home and tally up your profit/loss.

All in all I have to say I enjoyed attending the Vancouver Comic & Toy Convention, I even ran into an old friend and got to have a quick chat. I could spend hours at these things but that would probably mean spending more than time. For now I will remind myself that I must purge before I binge and look forward to getting another whiff of imagination.

 

 

Over The Bridge

Has anyone noticed that I am a bit of a smart ass? I know, I know I am very subtle about it but it is true. There is a trick to it though because there is a fine line between being a smart ass and being a mouthy asshole. It takes a lot of practice to tilt that ratio to a socially acceptable side, at least for me. I spent a lot of formative years being on the wrong side and when coupled with teen angst and being socially inept I had a lot of space on my calendar.  I can’t claim to be exact on this skill now but I have a much better success rate these days and I find that the key has been learning when to keep my mouth shut. I have a dream that one day the internet community will learn this, of course I also dream that I will grow wings and fly and one is more likely to happen than the other.

There is a huge difference between being a  smart ass and being a dick. Sure I have crossed that line plenty of times but it the internet is over populated with people that would rather just be harsh to friends and strangers alike. It isn’t good natured ball busting or teasing just harsh, and often, unwarranted statements, Trolling. It’s easy to get caught up in such things on the web, just disagree with someone and say so. I don’t mean pick a fight, even the most civil disagreement can result in a lambasting of unbridled proportions, as if having a differing view point was a slight against the laws of God and man. The concept of agree to disagree or civil debate does not seem to exist on the internet, which is a shame because of the way things escalate to personal attacks instead of facts or point of view explanations. These are the aggressive Trolls, just out to cause problems at any turn.  Actively being hateful and trying to drag down others accomplishments and happiness.

Instigating internet shit storms seems to be the main pass time of millions these days. Do not stand up for yourself, others, call bullshit on someone for their lies, half truths and/or egotistical bravado, that leads to a hell of a time. These are the defensive Trolls, they wait under their metaphorical bridge and when anyone tries to cross it they emerge to rage at the audacity of those who dare to use common sense or question their obviously fabricated or clearly uninformed posts.  It’s the spin doctoring type I have trouble with the most, part of the truth wrapped up in a thick layer of garbage designed to make them the victim and everyone else, be it one person or society as a whole, the bully.  I remind myself that I do not have the time or energy to drag myself into the quagmire of embarrassment that is involved with unwrapping that garbage. I have jumped in before and will probably do so again one day, I just try to keep my cyber foot print positive but I am human and somethings get under my skin as much as anyone. I stop and remind myself that even the most playfully cheeky remark can spark a blitzkrieg of retorts and the personal satisfaction is usually dwarfed by the energy it would take to deal with the drama to follow. Essentially I play the role of the first to billy goats Gruff and roll my eyes as I walk past and wait to see what happens when the big goat wanders past.

All in all the tight knit world of social media is less small village and more Middle Earth where the few good souls are vastly out numbered by the hordes of Trolls waiting to lash out. I don’t mean to paint a dark picture but lately I have wandered past far to many in our digital realms and it irritates me that good people trying to stay positive or have a civil discussion are subject to the whims of the negative and ignorant who seems to dominate the realm, I would surmise that perhaps the negative ones have far too much time on their hands but I haven’t done the research to prove such a theory. All any of us can do is carry on and avoid the idiocy we encounter, despite the rise in ocular injuries from the amount of eye rolling we now do, again speculation not research, and the only advice I have to offer is; DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN….


Left, right, left, right, A, B, select, start. If you had game siblings or friends you know what that means. 30 lives each for a two player Contra session on the NES. My brother wast nearly the gamer I was, granted he was an athlete and his time was limited but when it came to the sports games the odd time we played I was his bitch. I racked up quite the cache of NES, Sega, Sega Genesis, N64 and PS2 games, hell I have managed to grab a great many PS3 but honestly that has more to do with the ability to wait out cheaper prices on used games and amalgamation of two households. If you are reading this and knew me in high school you will recall I was not at a lot of the social events until just before graduating in nineteen-ninety-it’s-not-important, I was more content with my comic books and video games, I’m sure there is some social anxiety thing that played into it but regardless I was content and my friends were too. My social ineptitude aside I was hooked on video games since the early 1980’s, Atari and Coleco vision got me and Intelvision hovered in the periphery.  I thought I would never put down a controller. Turns out I was a stupid kid.

These days I mostly fantasize about playing video games. I still have a good deal of vintage stuff and promise myself I will eventually hook the up and enjoy them but I never seem to have the time. Four kids love playing heir games on the PS3 but by in large I don’t get the appeal of Mine Craft or Infinity and my tolerance for first person shooters went out the window back when Perfect Dark was a big deal. I would love to spend an afternoon on the couch with a controller and a beer but it doesn’t work out that way these days, once in a while I get to pay partial attention and offer advice to the kids as they play Kingdom Hearts or some thing I can relate to but mostly I just look at the video game console like one might look at an old girlfriend, not the one that got away type but the “we had such a good time but I want different things from life now” type.  Sure we get together for a few hours a couple times a year or if mutual friends are around but we just don’t have that chemistry we once did. Did someone put on a Simple Minds album? I haven’t forgotten about my games and I still get the urge to shut my life down for 48 hours when an updated sequel pops up or nostalgia collection is released, I know that no good can come of it.

i don’t want to sound like I don’t play any games, I have a selection of time wasters on my phone and a few times a year I drop a disc in the PS3 or dig out an old cartridge and spend a little time just being in the game, I still find it as relaxing as ever right before I hit a challenging part and my frustration peaks a least. Metal Gear, Final Fantasy and WWE games raise my eyebrow and I get curious but it is rare that I dip into the wallet for them for my personal use, mostly I just play something on hand and the progress I used to make in a weekend now stretches out over the course of years. I am probably just being an adult and putting my priorities back in the order the should have been in decades ago but when I see the kids playing I wonder what I am missing. Should I be sharing some of my favourite games with them and making family time? The kids have been known to enjoy games I recommended, sounds reasonable to me, I just don’t seem to have the time to sit for several consecutive hours anymore.

I do miss those times where an entire day just vanished under my thumbs, no traffic, no drama, no BS that the outside world can bring. The catch is gaming is addictive and the realities of the 16bit gamer fantasies of intercontectivity and massive user games provide their own pit falls. I don’t want to get sucked in to a life where I am exchanging insults with strangers. The concepts today were forgone conclusions to anyone playing sports or combat games in the cartridge era, play with your friends but not leave the house, of course internet anonymity reared it’s ugly head and  created a whole different kind of stress exists over a game now. The computer isn’t cheating for itself everything that goes against a gamer is now ‘bullshit’. If I am going to get stressed out and frustrated I may as well be productive while I’m doing it. Frankly I think the levels of frustration I achieved in my gaming days far eclipses most of my adult frustrations, who needs that? I keep my systems and kids of the internet gaming community because I know I will drown in that world and they just aren’t ready for it.

I don’t look down on gamers, I envy them, you have the time to do it and live a life then by all means, go ahead. I have painted myself in to a corner in life and used up my game time allotment early, that’s on me. Most days I don’t miss it but like that ex-girlfriend that you grew apart from I see the games and remember the good times and think “I should take her out one more time.” but in the end for me it is just not the same, I don’t have the drive and they don’t have the attraction. I’ll sit down from time to time and catch up over coffee or a beer but that passion has gone from me. Every few years I pick up a new game and the kids and I play it for a while but in short order I find myself just watching them as I type or read or study, looks like I am an adult now. Someone will lose their job over that one eventually.

Love Lost 

“Love is a burning thing.” said the man in black, he was right, it warms and comforts and provides but it also destroys, that beacon in the darkness may also be your home burning to the ground.I think we’ve all been there, if you can honestly say you haven’t I would counter with ‘yet’. That is life though, it is how we are forged into functional human beings. I must confess that I love someone that doesn’t love me back.

It took a long time to get to love, while it was never truly hostile I was not much more than tolerant for many years. Things change as we grow older, whether I got more tolerant or just found things I never expected to find one day I just found that their was something undeniable and I caved in and went with it. For a while it was really good, we worked well together for a while. Lots of motivation and support, life was good, until it wasn’t. It didn’t take much to push us off track, a few lack luster results or set backs and the rifts would form. We would grow apart and want different things for a time and end up back together sooner or later. Slightly toxic right? Yeah, you’ve been there too.

The bottom line is that I can’t escape this, when we were good we were great, best times of my life, when we weren’t it was awful. I see this person every day. Every day I am reminded that there are great things to be done and if only we could work together despite set backs we might get something done on a grand scale. When I look in the mirror and try to convince myself that we could still be good together, the reflection reminds me that I have a better track record of poor results and we are better off apart. There is no more toxic love affair than the one with yourself, you can love yourself but to really be successful you have to return that love as well, that little voice in the back of your head has to love you back. Right now mine does not, I put a good spin on things, find the humour and fun around me but I allow too many other things to distract me from my actual desires. It comes out in sloppy work and rushed tasks that cause me to become frustrated or indifferent, you may have noticed it come out here from time to time.

It took me a long time to learn to love myself and in turn it has taken me an even longer time to love myself in return, to get that little voice to find me attractive too. Lately it seems less like a lost love situation and more like trying to escape the friend zone. This cannot continue though, I am making headway,I have gone nine months where I produced this content every week, some times twice. It doesn’t always feel like I am getting anywhere but I am chiseling away at those 10,000 hours, sooner or later that will start to earn the respect of that little voice and perhaps this love affair will start going both ways again. Though I will admit that materialism has been a factor in this dynamic a little monitory reward for my efforts may just nudge things along. Stay tuned.