Tuesday, March 22, 2005

#105. Leopold's Concentration is in Trouble (and Denial!)

After more than a week off, I finally got around to returning to Leopold's Concentration, and wrote the twelve chapter. I had originally planned on repeating the November challenge pound for pound, by completing the story within a month. Circumstances have changed, and so I will no longer try and pretend I can compensate. At this point, I'd be looking at a week or so of double output, and perhaps even triple output if I wanted to maintain the pace that would have put me, after the past week, with the final two installments written in the final two days of the month.

There's no rush. I had intended to plot the course of the rest of the story in the downtime, but nothing struck until yesterday, so I gave up that idea. I've always known where it's going, but the steps along the way have been improvisational. I added a new character, a major one, in 12, which just goes to show how much I knew of what was going to happen from chapter to chapter. Her name, in keeping with the main characters, is Padma Mahmoud, which has the same kind of syllabic repetition built in as Gerald Leopold and Virgil Oswald. I don't find her introduction to be an act of desperation, but rather a further depth to the reality the story sets out to explore.

I plug on. I will be done some time next month if nothing else gets in my way, which I hope it won't, because I feel like I'm finally back on track, with relatively clear paths to the conclusion. We'll see.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

#104. Leopold's Concentration Won't End, Green Lantern: Rebirth, Nightwing, I Can't Believe It's JLA Classified, The Ultimates

I lost power for over 24 hours (which would make a really interesting post, if that was what I did with the Monk), starting from the second paragraph of the eighth chapter, and it's exactly that story I'm talking about. Consequently, while it was only getting colder in the apartment, I was sweating over whether or not those valuable pace-setters had been lost. I was happy to find out they hadn't, even though I'd decided at that point that I could have lost them and it wouldn't be that big a problem after all. Being an electronically-shackled writer (for the most part), I couldn't write anything while the power was out, so I wrote both the eighth and the ninth chapters yesterday (after the three-chapter marathon of Monday, I suppose I was already ready for it), and combined them into an 8+9 medley/monster, which worked out in terms of the story, since at this point the lines separating our two protagonists, Leopold and Oswald, are blurring.

Today I continued to break the mold by skipping over Oswald's turn and continuing on with Leopold's. He does have his name in the title, after all.

I mentioned I'd picked up some comics the other day and that I was going to say something about them. Well here we go. The first of them was Green Lantern: Reborn #3, where it turns out Geoff Johns reveals how Hal Jordan went insane more than a decade ago. He was taken over by Parallax, not figuratively, not in the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader/"certain point of view" (can't wait to see Ep. III in May!) way, but literally. The creature Parallax, the embodiment of the yellow impurity and Fear itself, was another of the baddies the Guardians foolishly employed the Central Power Battery as a prison for. The other one they blundered with in this capacity was Sinestro, and Sinestro released Parallax into Hal.

So the lore of the Lantern becomes just a little more complex. It suggests a whitewash of continuity as concerning Hal Jordan since "Emerald Twilight" on the surface, but underneath Johns has provided the greatest twist yet for Jordan, and he's certainly had his share, as well as the entire Corps.

Moving right along, there's also Nightwing #103, part 3 of 6 in the Year One saga, where Dick Grayson's journey to manhood continues, which here involves a return to the circus and the debut, and origin, of the original Nightwing costume. Is it wrong to say Dick's personal journey is the most fascinating thing in comics, bar none? Chuck Dixon, returning to the title and the character he helped define nine years ago, is crafting, along with Scott Beatty, yet another milestone, one that seeks to flesh out rather than redefine things we already know. The path between his childhood and his adolescence, where Batman and Bruce Wayne take the place of his murdered family, is not something he easily understands, because there's nothing but trauma for him to sort out. He's the textbook case of growing pains. He just does it in tights.

Then we come to JLA: Classified #4, the third of three DC titles. It's the first chapter of "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League," a sequel to last year'rs Formerly Known as the Justice League, which reunites the creative team of Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire, and Rubenstein as well as their version of the Justice League from the late 80's, which means Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and the like. Booster and Beetle, I'm very well familiar with. I followed them from Jurgen's Justice League to Captain Atom's Extreme Justice. They're favorite characters of mine. But I've never read the Bwa Ha Ha version. I wasn't able to get a hold of last year's story because my comic shops either didn't carry them or they sold out quickly, and I haven't tracked them down. But here was my chance to do so. I was not disappointed. This is unforced wit in its purest form. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at Richard Hertz's insistence to be called Dick. Mr. Hertz is involved in the ostensible plot of the story, which rings familiar to the Top Cow book Common Grounds (also a contest I failed in, but I'm now attempting to make progress without). Anyway, a highly enjoyable read. It's a shame that it's also a very good possibly that this will be the only issue I see.

The last title was The Ultimates 2 #3, a Marvel book. Up until the ending, I thought this lived up to every bit the hype I've heard of this title. A realistic approach, which is what the Ultimate reality is all about. The team the book is named for become guest-stars, which is another strange part about the issue. Hank Pym is the only member to take an active role in events. Maybe that's the point of the whole excercise. I'd love to find out, but I probably won't. But I might look up the first series, and wait for this one to end, to see where things go.

That'll be all for now.

Monday, March 07, 2005

#103. Leopold's Concentration Continues Onward

The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters are up (after a mildly disruptive weekend pushed back the writing, but not the place-holding, for the first two of them) of the story. The sixth and seventh chapters feature quoted text, which ended up looking funny, at least at my end of the pike, which I wasn't expecting, but I won't be trying a new format for the gimmick, at least not yet.

I also picked up some comics this weekend, which I'll comment on soon.

Friday, March 04, 2005

#102. Leopold's Concentration is Good, Orlando Jordan

Fourth chapter of you-know-what is up, and I'm enjoying the writing process quite a bit once again, even if the experience and the story are so different from the last time. This installment features an intervention scene that might ring as a little clich├ęd, but is absolutely necessary in establishing Oswald and his life, as much as talking about pet behaviors is with Leopold. At any rate, I find it all really fascinating, and I can't imagine why...

Booya! Boo-ya! Oz just got his groove on! That's right, Orlando Jordan is United States champion having defeated John Cena for the United States championship last night on Smackdown. Yes, it required the interferrance of the Basham Brothers (co-secretaries of defense) and JBL himself, but the fact of the matter is, Oz has gold! His hard-earned work, as chief of staff and as ring lackey, has paid off. No, it's not unusual for someone to win a championship, or to defend it for that matter, without technically having done it fairly. Being associated with JBL, the particulars of Orlando's victory are no surprise, but the inevitability still tastes as sweet.

He's a guy who puts himself out there and makes his opponents look good time in and time out. Call it the Jericho Method. It's what Orlando was basically brought in to do, and this skill ultimately ingraciated him into a position to build a personality, a profile, he could not naturally build himself. He's been couched into greatness, and he's not there yet, but this is a huge step, and he's got nowhere to go but up. And the difference between someone like him and someone like Test (whom I still admire and wish the best of luck when he returns, wherever he returns), is that it's not just expectations he's building on, but himself. If you can't do that, then you're sunk. You're Eric Watts, you're Brutus Beefcake, you're Ahmed Johnson. But Orlando has the goods to fulfill the potential those who believe in him know he's capable of. No one sees the great ones coming, and Orlando has that potential. Even if he ends up being another Booker T, that's nothing to sneeze at. Booker is, after all, a five time (five time, five time, five time, five time) world heavyweight champion, even if it looks as if he'll never ascent to become a WWE version of one.

But Orlando can. He's just starting out. His obvious model is the man he defeated to become United States champion, John Cena. The man headed to WrestleMania next month in the classic journey to the heavyweight title started out as a punk with no gimmick and no momentum. gradually, he built one, and still lost mostof his matches. But he continued to refine, until he became someone no one could ignore. And he did it by constantly giving back. John Cena is not greedy. When it's good for him to win, he wins. When it's good for him to lose, he loses. He's made the United States championship something to talk about, whether he's fighting Rene Dupree, fighting just about everyone to keep it, fighting Booker T to win it back, losing it to Carlito Carribbean Cool right away, or allowing himself to lose it again just before the biggest show on the wrestling calender, thus forfeiting one of the greatest spectacles possible for a wrestle, holding the two heavyweight titles available to you. It's how Ultimate Warrior did it.

So unlike Warrior, who never seemed to quite understand what was good for him, and thus ruined a great career, Cena does. Call him the next Austin (as it seems so obvious), or the next HBK. And then look just behind him and see Orlando Jordan.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

#101. Leopold's Concentration Continues, Job Hunting

The third chapter of Leopold's Concentration is up. Meanwhile, I've added another link to the righthand sidebar the Monk's new design afforded me, to a wrestling site I've referenced in the past.

Did I mention job hunting's a bitch? 'Cause it is...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

#100. Leopold's Concentration, Wrestling

Second chapter of Leopold's Concentration is up, and it introduces the second main protagonist to the story, Virgil Oswald, and the joke about the footstool-shaped robot comes straight from the original version of Oswald's half. The shuttlecraft is named after the appropriate sci-fi genius/author.

There's a new look to the blog, and I looked up the Raw results (did I mention I actually get to watch Raw every week now, though with the side effect being I now know it's easy to fall asleep during the second hour?) from this past Monday, to find out Chris Jericho indeed has something huge in mind for WrestleMania next month, with five other superstars primed to join him, undoubtedly (or so I'm assuming) from both Raw and Smackdown. You'll notice I used the common word "look" to connect two disparate thoughts. Brilliant, I know...

And since I now can watch Raw, I can comment on the new calibur of the show. It's definitely improved since the last time I saw it, two summers ago. The Bottom Line highlight show doesn't really do it justice. Thw restling is better, and the blocking better, too. All it took was letting guys wrestle again, sparked by the acquisition of Chris Benoit. So it's ironic that Smackdown no longer has the same calibur wrestling it did two years ago. Not that it's a ton worse, or comparable to the low level Raw once had, but that it's lost some prestige. I think thing'll turn around soon, though. It's got the talent, it just needs these guys realigned a little, which shouldn't be too long from now.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

#99. The Angry Avenger, Leopold's Concentration, Wrestling, Simon Cowell, Smallville, Lost, Alias

Having completed Colinaude, the Angry Avenger last November and seen how only a little pain was involved, I decided I could do it again. This time, it's a personal challenge. Leopold's Concentration is my next 50,000 word story, and the idea is to write it, like the last novel, within the span of a month. March has one more day than the one I wrote in the last time, but that's not really that huge a difference. The daily word count needed shaves off sixty words, and the first entry exceeds that anyway. That's the context. The content is actually a reworking of a story I wrote in high school, which the creative writing teacher seemed to enjoy well enough (and in fact, the three entries were probably the most well-received of my efforts that semester), and the elements are basically the same, but also radically different. There'll be nods to the original draft dropped along the way, and the first happens to be the protagonist's name. Here it's Gerald Leopold, whereas originally his name was simply Gerry, a nickname Leopold has had in the past, but no longer goes by.

At any rate, it should be reasonably amusing, and possibly thought-provoking as well.

A few things have gone on in wrestling since I last wrote, but Triple H and JBL are still the respective champions of Raw and Smackdown. Randy Orton is no longer in pursuit of Hunter; rather, now it's the 2005 Royal Rumble winner, Batista, who achieved his turn by cleverly nodding to the way Orton was booted from Evolution. He's poised to become WWE's own Goldberg, as most of his matches have been of the patented squashings Da Man was so famous for in his WCW heyday. It's a funny development, considering Goldberg floundered when he tried to make it on Raw a few years ago, and his feud with Hunter was wasted. Maybe things have changed. Maybe Batista is the worthy successor Triple H has been, uh, waiting for. We'll see.

JBL, meanwhile, is headed toward WrestleMania XXI with a bullseye in the middle of his pompous forehead. John Cena, in the grand tradition of wrestling's granddaddy of PPVs, is finally going to dethrone a longstanding, unpopular champion, and start his bold new era, which might lead to the Smackdown revitalization the Internet insiders have been clamoring for. JBL has been great, and Orlando "Oz" Jordan" has been seeing steadier action than ever before, but this ride's just about finished. Hopefully it gives Oz the chance to really shine, and not just act as the Designated Jobber (the win against Rene Dupree last fall notwithstanding). He deserves better. He deserves a JBL-like push. He's even got his vocals ironed out, as he demonstrated when ushering the WWE champion to his post-No Way Out celebration this past Thursday. Come on, give Oz his shot. Is that too much to ask?

And while you're at it, consider giving Paul London and Charlie Haas the pushes they deserve. They're making Velocity worth watching, but the one hour shows are not exactly the companion shows they could be. Hardly anyone sees this stuff. Give London his WM match against Chavo Guerrero. And let Haas wrestle then, too, even if he has to do it with Hardcore Holly. And Dupree, too, he's a superstar in the making, if only he's allowed to register some solo wins. The continuing matches against Cena are good, but let's move beyond that and get him on track to win the US championship. He deserves it.

Whatever's in the works for Booker T, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and Big Show for WM, let's get on that, too. Surely you can't waste them, after the year each has had, even if they have had to wrestle in JBL's imposed shadow. The same goes for Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit on Raw. What're they gonna do? Even if Benoit fights Mohammed Hassan, as it's looking now, that still leaves Jericho. Does he get Edge? It'd be nice if Raw and Smackdown didn't leave so much fine talent so directionless, or embroiled in feuds that are sidetracks for the other guy, as Edge's with Shawn Michaels' is. If HBK is gonna face Kurt Angle at WM, tha leaves Edge wasting his time building up one feud when he could be spending it with his actual opponent. And if Randy Orton is to face Undertaker at WM, as is rumored, you've got a mere month to establish that, too. And what about Shelton Benjamin? Is Snitsky going to be his opponent? What about Kane? Does he get Simon Dean?

It's all very interesting, but the waiting sucks. I guess tha's called "anticipation." Right now it seems like it could be better than last year's, but there's so much uncertainty it's hard to really say.

I've been watching American Idol, and as usual Simon Cowell is the only judge worth listening to. I'm glad he made amends last night for some of last week's obvious mistakes, but it's already too late for the audience to salvage two huge mistakes of their own, that being the ouster of the first two males from this stage of the competition. Too bad, but this year has already lost some good ones to self-sabotage ("Here I go, here I go, here I go again..." straight to poor subsequent song decisions). This is the first year I'm consistently watching, mostly because of my sister, so I get to see a little more of the pain, beyond even more rotten audience decisions in later rounds of the competition, and unexpected pleasures. But then, more pain comes to me as my sister insists on the time-wasting Wednesday results show as well as Smallville (sucking story arcs faster than a speeding bullet) immediately before it, which costs me Lost and Alias. The former is okay, since I've resolved to purchasing the eventual DVD release, and the latter is somewhat, too, since the retooling this season has dulled my interest in it.

Still expecting, two months in, for 2005 to be a good year for me...

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