Sunday, September 24, 2006

#130. Hired by Borders, Star Trek 40th Anniversary, Dostoevsky, TV, Music, Movies, Business Cards

Okay, so I'm back for a rare double-whammy. Barnes & Noble has a wicked sale going on right now (at my local store, anyway, and I should add that I was just hired by the local-and-soon opening Borders, a direct competitor), 3 books for $9.99. I just couldn't resist. I should add that the three books in question are limited in scope and do not include every book in the store (they may be emptied, otherwise). They're in the entrance, and have big purple dots stickered on them. I came back for purchases after marking my targets and getting hired by Borders (terrible, ain't it?), making one change (a bio on historical monsters for a bio on St. big dif, right?). Among the rest are a T.C. Boyle read, a Freud/Einstein postulation, a treatise on the neuroses of writers, and a collection of Star Trek fiction (I pretty much gave up on that stuff years ago, but...I'm not aversed to return engagements). I got six books. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have cobbled together another trio. Fairly certain. Anyhoo...

I'm in the midst of writing my contribution to Star Trek's fortieth anniversary, to continue a line. Pertinent links can be found to the right, for those interested. Having found on the Internet (I never go there!) a copy of Gene Roddenberry's original proposition, I decided early in the year that I would riff on his initial concepts, adding what I could along the way but preserving the concepts that would become the stuff of modern myth. The story is called, as Gene began, "The Next Cage," and it will have to be wrapped in time for November. Where does the time go! Soon I'll be starting Colinaude's final adventure, "Cotton's War." Can you believe it? Are you ready? (Sorry, that last line's actually a wrestling reference. I thought I'd gotten most of that out earlier.)

I'm still dogging away at Dostoyevsky. More than a month ago, I quit my primary job, and have been adjusting to life at the movie theater (AMC! home of the new Clips Picks!) I started at a month after that job. This week it became obvious just how stupid delaying getting steadier employment was, and as luck had it, Borders obliged rather obligingly. If I'd been employed this quickly last year, who knows what I'd be doing right now? I certainly wouldn't be typing this right now. For a number of reasons. Anyway, The Brothers Karamazov is everything John Locke said it would be, in a roundabout way. Yeah, I'm a Losthead, right through last season, which I'm currently reviewing via DVD. I've got Prison Break on the same docket. This fall season seems destined to make another fan of my with one show or another, whether it be Heroes, Six Degrees, The Nine, or even Kidnapped, which is to say nothing of the lately-uncommonly strong slate of sitcoms coming round. I've also become quite a fan of Grey's Anatomy lately, thanks in part to a friend and coworker (and manager) at the theater. She's also trying to get me into Justin Timberlake. We'll see about that. She'll be off to Poland for six month come January. I wonder how she'll come back. There's another friend and coworker there I recently debated martyrs with. I haven't told her I named a character the Burka Martyr in a comic book concept, Blur, that I've been developing, after that discussion. (I told her martyrs were silly. She had a good laugh about it.) Another form coworker, supervisor, and current friend (of whom I've spoke here before, trust me) will be back in five weeks. I don't know where any of this is headed. I like that. Maybe they do, too. Who knows?

Recent albums I absolutely adore include Coldplay's X&Y, Oasis' Don't Believe the Truth, Hootie & the Blowfish's Looking for Lucky (and their even more recent Live from Charleston, in part because I saw them live for the first time a month before its release, the same day I quit that job), U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and a bunch others. But the first two I've particularly obsessed over. I also love the All-American Rejects. WWE coopted "Move Along" for its Diva Search this year (dang! another wresling reference!), but that does little to diminish my love for that video. I also love OK Go's treadmill video (it's actually another recent example of something I didn't like, really didn't like first sight, but ended up loving afterward, including U2's "Beautiful Day video, in fact). I'm always trying to broaden my horizons. Hooking up with a Tower Records benefits membership netted me a subscription to Paste magazine, and that led me to Beirut. The music artist, not the city.

This summer some of my favorite films were The Da Vinci Code, The Break Up, Superman Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and, wait for it, Stick It. The last is now out on DVD. It's spunk is its hook. Don't dismiss a hidden treasure, folks. And don't dismiss films like United 93 and World Trade Center, either. They're pain worth living through (but I've written quite a bit about that recently at Paperback Reader in the Quarter Bin). And don't dismiss M:I:III just because you, personally, think Tom Cruise is a nutjob.

Speaking of Paperback Reader, the proprietor Bart Gerardi recently shipped me some marketing material which included business cards. I have business cards now. Yeah, I don't make any money off of my work there, but, business cards!!! Somehow, that makes it seem all the more official. Darn reader reaction!!! But reader reaction is good, too.

I'm waiting to hear back from Visionary Comics. I think I've written about that here, right? Anyway, Theoretical Reader, know that if I hear good word from them, that the aforementioned Blur is joining an already extensive list of material I'd be more than happy to start actually working on for a publisher. Oy, as if creative energy could be a curse...That'll be all I pretend burden on you today, I swear...

#129. PWI 500 2006

I finally got a copy of the eagerly-awaited PWI 500, the annual ranking from Pro Wrestling Illustrated of, roughly speaking, the top 500 wrestlers in the last grading period (in this case, August 2005 to July 2006). As far as I'm concerned, it's easily their best ranking in years (though not without controversy, as their own editorial about a sudden explosion of foreign market - i.e. Mexican and Japanese - stars details; how these competitors suddenly rate isn't properly justified, though the actual write-up has never been a key selling point of the list). Gone are such questionable #1 choices as Dean Malenko (1997) and Rob Van Dam (2002), or suspect judgment calls (Batista over John Cena last year, Chris Benoit over Eddie Guerrero in 2004). There was only one choice this year, even though the editors for months had been trying to build a case for another star they thankfully didn't go with, and didn't even rank second.

Ladies and gentlemen? This year was John Cena's. And right behind him, rightfully, is Kurt Angle in what might be his last-ever appearance (if he actually takes this retirement of his seriously so he doesn't end up crippled in old age, although as an update on Monday, it was announced at TNA's No Surrender last night that he'd joined that promotion). Jeff Jarrett (for the first time making an appearance in it for his TNA efforts) rounds out a top ten that also includes familiar faces in Edge (#3, Cena's chief rival after Angle in the year analyzed), Rey Mysterio (#6), Shawn Michaels (#9, who probably takes the place of a worthier, in terms of actual accomplishments, star, though his work still merits this surprise entry), Brock Lesnar (#7, another surprise, for an IWGP title reign that was mostly unremarkable even by PWI's estimation) and Samoa Joe (#4, hailed by PWI as the first TNA wrestler to appear solo on the cover of...PWI). In addition, there's Mistico (#5) and Kenta Kobashi (#8) from the international scene, and unlike years past, their write-ups actually justify their positioning as something other than PWI attempting to make nice with non-US-soil based promotions.

Some of the same problems plague the ranking. The first half of the grading period (which would have bore out the cases for Guerrero and Cena in the personally contested rankings already noted) still seems conveniently overlooked when spotting certain stars (even Cena, though his first half was nothing to sneeze at), and write-ups, even from nationally exposed stars, seem only dimly informed at best, like they've been typed from notes alone (and this is nothing about the elipses: Theatoretical Readers will note how I often use them myself). In addition, as always, there are mistakes a simple proofreader would have noticed, to add to the professional read of a compiling seeking journalistic pedigree. They want to be known as an authority, they should act like one.

That being said, I found this year's 500 to be the best in years. The choices were made without bias (Cena is not known as an unquestioned favorite, after all), and the decision to widen the perspective, even if not executed properly, was a good one. The long wait was definitely rewarded, and in truth, I'm only in the early three-hundreds as I read through (yes, faithful editors, I'm one of the readers who actually read through, as they've lamented about in the past, though this year, aside from the Stu Saks note that opens every issue, not a single column was devoted to the 500, an omission that's particularly glaring, as if everyone really was foused on other things this year, like last issue's dubious grading cards, and that's how it was done right for a change).

One more gripe: the conspicuous taboo of the late Eddie Guerrero. He should have warranted significant mentions in the write-ups for two prominent stars, Rey Mysterio and Batista, and yet all he got was the kind of shout-out in Rey's that's had so many fans rankled this year. Eddie wrestled for three months of the grading period. He finished an epic feud with Rey (winning the final match, but losing a pivotal one before that, which of course did not factor into Rey's Top Five Moments of the Year, on a basis in what I've already noted, a feud that launched Rey to the position where he could achieve a rank of #6), and was Batista's first opponent after two extended feuds and in fact last true challenger before Dave surrendered the World title in January (and the story that surrounded this card easily ranks in Batista's top three most memorable cards, along with his exit from Evolution and the hibernating grudge with Mark Henry). To have done this was even more egregious of PWI than denying Eddie the number one spot in 2004. It did nothing to respect a recently departed and much loved star. It actually disrespected Eddie. If he hadn't died, there's every reason to believe that he was, at the very least, poised for the kind of year Kurt Angle enjoyed. Understand what I mean? So, bad on you, PWI.

Maybe I should also stress that, whatever problems I inevitably have with these things, the PWI 500 has been a ranking I've eagerly anticipated for years. I think my first encounter with it in 1995, Kevin Nash's year, and I've devoured nearly every one of them since 1998 (I particularly lament missing 2000 and 2001, when Triple H and Kurt Angle, respectively, topped the ranks, deservedly). I always appreciate the effort. It can't be easy to do this when there's no such coverage of the whole scene, as there is for nearly every other sport, and certainly not the respect wrestlers earn every single night. PWI does its part (and maybe it's time to drop the kayfabe, guys), and this year made strides to correct past errors, making it that much easier for the day wrestling finally does get its due. It's not a fad, not a silly game of men in tights. I believe that this is the era we're going to discover this. The fans will wait for another "boom period." I hope we finally get over the need for such things.

I'll be back for nonwrestling thoughts, too, I swear.


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