Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

#153. Watchmen, Paperback Reader, Who Watches

I'm thinking somewhat sacriligiously: I'm reading Alan Moore's Watchmen for the first time, and have thus been thinking maybe this year's NaNo, and capper to the previous three years' will be called, or subtitled Who Watches(?).

In other news, Paperback Reader has, at least for the moment, decided it doesn't actually want me to continue writing for it. Maybe not Bart himself. But definitely the site. Weird...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

#152. PWI 500 2007

So, having digested much (okay, all) of the new PWI 500, I wish the magazine could do more. I wish it came with a DVD, like music magazines and computer magazines do, with matches featuring the top ten finishers. I've never seen Mistico (#3) in action. He's the latest international sensation I know only by name and picture. Wrestling's such a funny thing, though. It's a deep enough culture that a bunch of people would be crazy enough to compile a list of the top 500 wrestlers, every year, but not lucrative enough, or whatever, to be truly represented like it should be. It's still all about the territories, with Mexico and Japan, say, losing out to most audiences, like baseball, I guess.

Anyway, Edge (#2) made it in the top ten, and Batista didn't. I'm okay with it. Edge had a wider pool of talent to contend with, having operated on both Smackdown and Raw, and was as such able to, because of his mobility, cover a lot of ground. It wasn't really that great of a year for him, at least not as compared with the same period in the last PWI 500. He just happened to surge through his last few months (during which I hated him vehemently, because he'd stolen a bunch of other wrestlers' thunder, not the least being Mr. Kennedy, who lost his Money in the Bank for no reason). Batista, meanwhile, spent the entire grading period either holding or pursuing the World championship. This sounds really good on paper, but it also means, as some have pointed out, he had a nearly unlimited number of title shots throughout that year. He was in every single Smackdown main event, from King Booker's reign to the Undertaker to Edge, even to the Great Khali. He was their only opponent. It's ironic, too, because this happened after seemingly everyone on the Smackdown roster got injured. Batista, of course, originally lost his title because of injury (as John Cena has just now done as well...if WWE is guilty of anything, it's not knowing when to take the pressure off of any one star when they could really use a break...it's how The Rock made a career, right?), and by the time he returned, Rey Misterio's reign had become Booker's, and everyone's pants had been caught around their ankles. They were in the awkward position of not actually knowing what to do with Batista. After he'd gone to rehabilitate, WWE got Kurt Angle one last championship reign, and they used it to push Misterio as well as Randy Orton, but Orton's interests were elsewhere, and so were Angle's. Smackdown ended up with Misterio as champion, with no real program, so it took the title off him and put it on another veteran who'd waited his turn so patiently, King Booker.

But Booker was never going to be champion that long. Then someone came up with the worst possible scenario for Batista as champion, and that was to pin him against a reinvigorated Undertaker (counting all the way back to his match with Angle at No Way Out just before WrestleMania 22, for WrestleMania 23. People had already seen Smackdown with champions of seemingly every orientation. Batista, when he returned, face a public that had moved on.

So between the fall of 2006 and summer of 2007, when so much had been squeezed from the brand, Batista faced the unlikely possibility of proving himself all over again, and his contenders just kept falling. Somehow he became an MVP no one quite appreciated. He took the brand on his considerable shoulders, and for that, because of his unwitting dominance of the title scene, whether as contender or champion, everything the fans had loved him for, when he'd captured, two years earlier, the top spot on the PWI 500 over Cena, they'd completely forgotten. Somehow, between the winter of 2006 and summer, everyone had started assuming, rather than becoming exactly what he would, Batista was actually nothing more than the new Goldberg, Brock Lesnar. The Goliath whose interest could be easily toppled. Goldberg, that dude spent two solid years tuned in, and then went the Warrior route when everyone started forgetting. Lesnar, he was another two year wonder. Well, Batista's on his third year, and he was the only one of the three to have an origin, a before. That's why he's better than people say, better than #13.

But that's exactly where he should be. Hey, the guy above him is Samoa Joe, whom PWI itself admits competed in last fall's most invigorating feud with Kurt Angle. For now, wrestling fans can be enamored of lightweights like Christian Cage (#7), and Bobby Lashley (#9). Those guys don't have the upside of Batista. He's older than both of them. And he's going to be making news long after them.

Angle was robbed at a mere #4. But his historic championship rush is but a precursor of the stuff he's going to continue doing for TNA. Shawn Michaels (#6), Undertaker (#5), they're worth their spots. Perro Aguayo (#8)? A somewhat familiar name, that's all. Takeshi Morishima (#10), please convince your Ring of Honor superiors to release more footage. ROH could be the new ECW, and we, the fans, really don't have the chance to say so.

Speaking of ECW, there's that new version running Tuesday nights, and everyone's saying that it has no business calling itself that. Tough cookies, folks. ECW, the original ECW, wasn't really just about the "extreme." It was about providing an outlet for stars no other promotion would use, even though they deserved it and could put together a show just as entertaining as could be found in WWF or WCW. "Extreme" was a fad, but ECW was meant for the long haul. "Extreme," as the New Jacks, the Sabus, the Tazes, the Tommy Dreamers, the Sandmans, the Justin Credibles defined it, it was about tenacity, a sheer force of will, not just the blood and the gore. It was about the blood, but it was also about the sweat, and the tears. Go back over the history and tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead and look over the talent that was discovered there, not just the names you still associate with ECW, but with those whose careers owe a huge debt to its philosophy. ECW made it safe for the next generation.

The new ECW, it's doing the same thing again. It's just that it's a WWE brand now. Smackdown may still be the place WWE grooms its upcoming talent, but probably, as always, the big stars that will inevitably make their way to Raw, the Carlitos (the flack he catches now, trust me, it's inconsequential), the Mr. Kennedys (ditto), even the John Cenas. Elija Burke is no John Cena, but he's a real talent. John Morrison is no John Cena, but he's a real talent. CM Punk? I think once the fans calm down and let ECW be what it's going to be, this brand is going to be able to exhale, be itself, and prove that it's worthy of existence. It's ECW. It's not the old ECW. But the old ECW wasn't, either.

If anything, TNA is the old ECW, a show with a not-incredible sense of creating TV shows, stars that have perhaps more heart than ring sense, and it's also the old WCW, which had such a great sense of stealing talent worth banking on.

Anyway...That's more wrestling thoughts. Sorry, nonwrestling-thoughts-interested readers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

#151. Poetry, PWI 500 Preview

What's a kind of goal for Terror of Knowing? How about making it to Silliman's Blog? Hey, Ron, we're both at blogspot!

Meanwhile, I've joined Poetry Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory (for the poetry blog, not this one).

Oh! And the 2007 PWI 500 is now in my greedy hands. I'm going to read through some more before posting thoughts about it, but here's this much: Batista has sort of been put in a provocative ranking, and unlike the last time I would have said that (two years ago, if you want to do the research), I think I'm actually quite okay with it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

#150. Terror of Knowing, Cloak of Shrouded Men

For the past month now, I've been maintaining, on sixteen of those days, a separate blog entitled The Terror of Knowing. It's a new experiment of mine, the regular composing of poetry, spur of the moment pieces that I haven't given a lot of thought to, or written any real notes on (that's what I do for the majority of the poems I write, either as I've thought of them or as I plan them). Okay, so I just lied. Some of them I put a good deal of thought into before I sat down to write them. Others, less so. The blog, I guess, is really my attempt at having a regular forum. I've written at Scouring Monk over the past few years how I've compiled a few collections worth of poetry as I've written them. "Terror of Knowing" is an instant collection, with a few continuing themes (and partially inspired by Queen and/or David Bowie, at least in name), some political thought, but mostly my philosophy as it's grown and now featured in a certain book I've recently indy published (*cough* The Cloak of Shrouded Men).

I've purposely stayed away from the Monk since I started the poetry blog, but I'll be back again soon. PWI has a new 500 out next week, the #1 has already been revealed, and the fall TV season is upon us (missed Back to You last night!). If you have already, lose yourself in some of my nonsense...

Monday, August 20, 2007

#149.Crass Pitch for Submissions

If you're a writer, send some of your shitty work to the fine editors, Your Monk included, at Dead Letter Quarterly. I told you it was going to happen. You didn't believe me, Theoretical Reader. It happened! I'm now onboard a literary journal!

Friday, August 10, 2007

#148. No More Pen Name, Dead Letter Quarterly, Poetry

I guess I've decided to finally do away with the "pen name" (Sean McKenna) here, partly because I've actually published a book and didn't use it....

I almost turned this blog into a social advocacy forum recently, but then I remembered I'm not a Charles Buckley character, so I decided against it....

I'm starting a literary magazine with a few pals from Paperback Reader, and am crossing my fingers for the name "Dead Letter Quarterly" to convince them. I'll let you know when I do....

Did I mention I have a book? Fools! You've been able to read the story at my NaNo blogs for years! Bwahaha!....

Every time I think about poetry, I wonder why my life hasn't become completed engrossed in it. A friend whose last day at Borders is tomorrow (Borders is where I work, but you may have known that from my PBR column, The Quarter Bin) recently told me he has a poetry blog. A former college mate has a blog of his favorite poems. Sometimes I write some here, too. Mostly, I go the recluse way, because I've somehow mabaged to convince some really good poeyry buddies from another college that I'm not worth tracking....

(I remembered yesterday I actually have two collections ready to be published, if I can convince someone to. I swear no one would regret it.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

#147. Buying Cloak of Shrouded Men

Oh! So, maybe if you actually want to read, Theoretical Reader, the book I've just published and the story I've been talking about (not that you haven't been reading the blogs, yes?) for the past few years. Anyhoo, Amazon is one place you can find it, but iUniverse, the publisher, certainly has it, too!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

#146. Author Copies

Houston, we have the author copies of Cloak of Shrouded Men. Repeat, the book is real. The journey only begins...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

#145. Benoit Tragedy

With a bunch of time passed now, the Benoit tragedy is, if not more easily understood, easier to grasp, to contextualize. Wrestling has certainly been thrust into the public eye again, and for every news program looking for a spin from competitors, past and present, it's been interesting to see who would show up, and what they would say. Brian Lawler was an early interview I saw, and he came off as nutty, even though his defense of wrestling was mostly spot-on. The best representative yet has been Chris Jericho, who has been quick to point out what's been obvious to everyone but the media and probably most of the public, that for whatever else it was, the Benoit tragedy was not an indication of wrestling itself, its past or ongoing issues, but of Benoit himself, and, based on how it's been taken, on the public and its perspective, warped as it is, on wrestling, which is a sport that, while sometimes wildly popular, can only ever truly seem to be understood by its fans.

Another recent statement came from Kurt Angle, a wrestler many have remarked as being as obsessed or if not moreso as Chris Benoit with the appeal of the ring. Angle made headlines last year when, despite efforts by WWE to retain the star by giving him time rest (and apparently to put him right back on the same full-time schedule as before, despite notable exceptions for this grueling commitment to past stars such as Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar), he jumped ship and right back into the ring for TNA, which is a promotion that demands less on the body with a lighter load of work. Some interpreted it as Angle refusing to give up on the thing that seemed to be, as with seemingly so many stars, killing him. In the Benoit statement, Angle only confirmed what many have been arguing, that the lighter schedule is exactly what he needed all along, and maybe what other stars do, too. Even though this doesn't seem at this point to have any real bearing on the Benoit tragedy (the guy literally made the schedule work for him, excluding the wear to his body), it marks the first time Kurt has acknowledged publically what the decision to join TNA has meant for him. It's that kind of honesty that will get wrestling somewhere, in the midst of all of this. It's just another barrier being shattered. That, and the exposure the drug culture is getting, perhaps at exactly the right time. WWE has already made a considerable commitment to cleaning up its act in the wake of Eddie Guerrero's untimely death. Now it's bound for the next and perhaps final step in the process.

Professional wrestling deserves respect. As incredible as it may seem to say so, the Benoit tragedy may be the moment people come to realize that, and it'll be thanks to stars like Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle that this triumph is attained.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

#144. Chris Benoit Tragedy

Funny, that I haven't yet converted the wrestling news site link to something I'm using myself. Left Power Wrestling probably sometime last year, but I've been a WrestleView regular for a while now. One of their columnists has summed up my continuing understanding of the Benoit tragedy quite well here.

(Incidently, I'd still patron PW if it weren't infested with pop-ups, which WV is free from, so I'll leave that link up in case some (theoretical) readers can sidestep that malady.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

#143. Chris Benoit

Can't believe the news today...

Yesterday I was finishing up my latest column for Paperback Reader, well aware that it was stretching past the half hour mark at 8, when Raw was broadcasting another three hour edition of its regular programming. So when I finally got out into the living room, I had my sister switch to the USA network, because she hadn't been aware of the event. We found ourselves watching Steve Austin speaking about Chris Benoit. I didn't understand what was happening. I knew that Chris had pulled out of Vengeance the previous evening so he could go home for personal reasons, so I thought we should call my other sister, who might know what was really going on. She hadn't been watching (had, in fact, also forgotten about the altered start time), but the only thing she knew was what she'd been reading on the Internet recently, that it was illness that caused Chris to exit so abruptly. That wasn't what I'd heard.

Then the television made it all but clear. Chris, his wife and his son, were all found dead earlier in the day. Just like Eddie Guerrero, a personal hero, a favorite wrestler, was gone.

I had to decide if I was going to go to work today. I could've called out last night, but I was so baffled by the sudden news, I still couldn't figure out what to do, even by the end of the program. This morning, I still didn't know what I would do. Finally, I made the decision to call out, because I had to know what the world knew, not just that he and most of his family were dead, but what was being reported as to the cause. I also wanted to know if his death would be reported in the paper. It was, and this was the first time, after hours of dreading what it could be, that the first suspicion was that he had killed his wife and son on the weekend, and then himself on Monday.

And I can't believe that. I've spent the last few hours scouring, as the name of the blog implies, and that's as much the conclusion as anyone's reached, based on what we've been told. And I still can't bring myself to believe it. As with anything else, death has become a prominent fixture in wrestling, be it Eddie Guerrero two years ago, Owen Hart, the Von Ehrichs, and on and on, but this is the most difficult one to understand. We watch these men compete week in and week out. They literally become a part of our lives. They may compete in a sport where most of what happens is predetermined, but what they go through is as real as it can be. Some have speculated that the stress of the ring, of the wrestling experience, finally got to him. And it probably wouldn't be too hard to understand how. Aside from Eddie, Chris can be likened, more than with any other current superstar, to Kurt Angle, who became famous not because of his prowess, but for his inability to walk away, even to his own personal harm, to the point where he went from one company to another, when he was supposed to be taking some time off, just so he could continue to compete.

I'm not condemning Angle. And I'm not condemning Chris, whose dedication was legendary. More than any other wrestler in the modern era, Chris Benoit was the epitomy of commitment. He truly loved this business of professional wrestling. And so I can't come to any easy conclusions to how his life could have ended like this. In many ways, someone elsewhere made the proper allusion when they referenced Phil Hartman, the great comic who was involved in another such incident a decade ago. It's just so hard to understand.

I cannot conclude any other way than to express my gratitude for having had the privilege of watching Chris over the years in the wrestling ring. No, he was never the top star. But he was always the best. Back in 2004, when he and Eddie captured heavyweight titles and Pro Wrestling Illustrated picked him over Eddie for the top position on their annual PWI 500 ranking, I couldn't help but be angry, because I felt Eddie deserved, despite not having that Royal Rumble win, or the WrestleMania main event, that honor. But that was something Eddie didn't need. More than anyone, Chris truly deserved the recognition, to be named, for one brief moment, the top man in the game. Eddie was the showman. But Chris was the spirit of the sport.

Today, wrestling mourns a giant.

Monday, June 18, 2007

#142. Cloak of Shrouded Men Proof, 2007 Draft

Oh shiiiit! I just got the proofs back on my book! First, there will be some textual corrections. Second: Cooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool!

Sorry if that seems corny to you. But it's my book! My honest-to-god, I'm-going-to-be-published-even-if-I-had-to-do-it-myself book!

Okay! Now that that's behind us, the 2007 WWE draft. And there were some big moves, from last Monday to this past Sunday's lottery picks. Raw and Smackdown each got ten, while ECW drew five less. But really, I think everyone can celebrate:

  • King Booker - I really thought he was making this move two years ago, but here he's finally going. He's been played out on Smackdown, even had a lengthy championship run, and one major character change (which I hope disappears in the brand switch). He's proven that he's a valuable member of the WWE roster, no matter where he is. On Raw, maybe he won't be a top contender, but he won't be overlooked. Raw is like the big family filled with big personalities right now, where the company's attention is clearly focused. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and you'll see why with Booker.
  • Bobby Lashley - There was so much talk that Umaga was basically a part of ECW's roster that everyone overlooked the obvious: that Lashley was being groomed for the big stage. He's proven that the company's faith in him isn't wasted, that he can take big spots and run with them, even if he isn't a top performer in any category. He's game, that's what really makes him worth every penny, game for whatever's thrown at him, because he'll sell it, and still come out strong in the end. The dude lost his title to Vince McMahon. And nobody thought he lost anything, regardless of the circumstances. That's a power you can easily overlook. Well, no more.
  • Snitsky - He's the kind of patented psycho monster the company loves so much, first and best embodied by Sid. He's better than when he was last on the brand. If he's used as is, he'll be another Umaga.
  • Mr. Kennedy - WWE wants another big star; by placing him on Raw, the company is finally going to have him. Bottom line, end of discussion. Misssssssterrrr Kennedy!
Kennedy! John Cena? Meet your match! The champ is here!
  • Paul London and Brian Kendrick - Despite the near-constant threats that if London does his flying off turnbuckles once more, his star only continues to rise. And here his team is, out of the reach of cruiserweights, which can only mean the company's confidence in them has grown. Brothers, they really are the future of the tag team.
  • The Sandman - Certainly introduces a unique element to the brand, and perhaps, among all these other names, will be the one to watch, to see how he's going to be used. We know at this point that he can actually wrestle. But is that what he's going to do? One way or another, the face of ECW has changed once more, and another of its favorite sons is given the chance to break the mold. That's what this guy does, right?
  • William Regal - He's besmirched! Oh, come on! You all know that's exactly what you've been waiting for!
  • Jillian Hall - Even Smackdown's Divas graduate to Raw. There goes another! Sing, baby, sing!
  • The Great Khali - Somebody for Mark Henry to feud with. And possibly Batista. There's still life left in this giant, and opportunities.
  • Torrie Wilson - Never seemed at home on Raw, anyway. Welcome home!
  • Chris Masters - And here, finally, we see Smackdown's achievement. Masters is clearly being shifted so he can have a chance to shine, outside the clutter. There was just no room for him on Raw, and it was only going to get worse. On Smackdown, with its more intimate setting, superstars are free to be as big as they can be, and be celebrated as much as for what they do as for who they are. Masters can do that here, but...
  • Ric Flair - ...can do it better! Who better than Naitch? Wooo! And, really, hasn't this been natural all along?
  • Kenny Dykstra - Same deal as Masters. Raw prepared him, but now he needs Smackdown to go the rest of the way. It's ironic, that Smackdown develops the next generation superstars in some respects, while nurturing others left suffering at the same time. It's the paradox of Friday nights.
  • Hardcore Holly - Imagine this guy in a feud with Finlay. Wooo!
  • The Major Brothers - Uh, new contenders for Deuce & Domino's tag titles!
  • Victoria - Really intrigued by this one, to see where she's going to go on this brand, where the Divas don't wrestle as much as they give attitude. Hey, wait, in some respects, that's Victoria! So, save your knees!
  • Eugene - A wrestling savant. He's like Smackdown personified!
  • The Boogeyman - Kevin Thorne, meet the thorn in you side. Worms intended.
  • Chris Benoit - Ever since Kurt Angle jumped ship (alas! only this title eluded you!), this brand's been looking for the kind of fully-functional star who can take the extreme in every degree, who will develop what's there and make every look good in the process. Now, just imagine the first Benoit-CM Punk match...
  • Viscera - The 2007 ECW Show!
  • The Miz - Be it Hardcore Holly or Rene Dupree, ECW's been quietly attempting to rehabilitate careers for superstars who've been unfairly kicked to the curb (carrying on a company tradition, in fact). Guess what, Mizfits? This guy's in that category, too.
  • Johnny Nitro - This is perhaps the most interesting draft choice of all. Why Nitro? Why ECW? He may be the missing piece of the puzzle on this brand, that's why, that's what.
And just like that, you understand that WWE is one company that knows how to make a few smart moves. When they aren't exploding people.

Friday, June 15, 2007

#141. Cloak of Shrouded Men Editing, A.C. Hall, Paperback Reader, Books, Wrestling

Well...I suppose updating once a month is better than...nothing?

Anyhoo, Cloak of Shrouded Men has kicked and screamed through its final revisions (I hate that stuff! even when it produces necessary and beneficial changes!), meaning it's that much closer to being published via iUniverse, which I can't be more excited about. I keep entertaining myself with all the possibilities of how great people are gonna think it is. I'm so happy for myself! Still haven't heard back about The Jingle Jangle, but I can be patient sometimes, really! Though I really hope to hear positive word on it...

One way or another, I'm still writing. A.C. Hall, a fellow columnist at Paperback, has invited me to contribute a story for a fiction anthology his other haunt, Stumblebum Studios, will be putting out, and based on the theme, I've cobbled together something about a time-traveling Nicola Tesla, whom I last encountered in Christopher Nolan's superb The Prestige (to see my ideas of good movies, be sure to stop by the Observation Lounge at Lower Decks, which has now completely segued from a Star Trek site to a general genre lair, which I've become comfortable with; I'm working on a flashbacks feature for Lost, the first thing I'll have done in relation to that site since a 40th anniversary Star Trek story last fall, the first in a potential series, if I have the time). And I think I'm closer to writing a poem worthy of 9/11 (after all those anniversary pieces were lost in the Great Crash of '05) and the Iraq war, to be called "'Cause You Want to Believe She's Infallible." I can't wait to find the time...

Speaking of Paperback Reader, the recent return of a past contributor, along with a site redesign by operator Bart Gerardi, has me thinking again how much I appreciate my ongoing work there. It's made me that much more engaged in the landscape of comic books, and given me a regular platform to write about them, even if my reviews have slowed to a trickle, though the weekly column persists. I was set to write two reviews, and I've been on the computer long enough now, this evening, but the column only seems to command those thoughts more and more, now that my commitment to 52 is over (I reviewed every issue of that breakthrough weekly DC series). If you can't find me here, chances are you can always find me there!

Or at work. Sometimes, it seems that's what I do, besides eat and sleep. But I read, too! And at the bookstore, I keep finding more things I won't be getting around to reading very soon (I've been stuck reading William Least-Heat Moon's River-Horse for months now). But I'll get more into that later.

Another thing I'll be returning for is thoughts on the new WWE draft (begun the night Vince McMahon "died"). But I'll leave with this thought: at this year's WrestleMania, John Cena-Shawn Michaels was an instant classic. And this was definitely a year to have something like that. But, as I said, more thoughts in a few days...

Monday, May 07, 2007

#140. Santino Marella, Cloak of Shrouded Men

Tried making a post a few weeks ago. Didn't work out. Hoping Santino Marella, WWE's newest Intercontinental champion (and blatant attempt to woo back Bruno Sammartino, not that this is a bad thing) will appear tonight on Raw...

But the real sense of this note is the fact that The Cloak of Shrouded Men is now in pre-publication! I ended up going with iUniverse (please don't be mad, Bart! even though that Paperback Reader Quarterly seems to have...not published), and started the process last Tuesday. Can't wait for the whole process to have run through. My book! In print! And the day earlier, I sent a query for The Jingle Jangle. I can only hope good things for the poetry collection, too...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

#139. WrestleMania 23 Preview

Well...haven't done this in a while: Let's talk wrestling!

And let's start by noting how different the scene is today than just nine months ago, at least as far as WWE is concerned. Nine months ago, ECW was still a big question mark. How was it going to return, exactly? Could it sustain its own show? Rob Van Dam had cashed in his Money in the Bank at One Night Stand II and was now WWE as well as ECW champion. Sabu was a major player. Kurt Angle had just jumped brands (brands, not promotions, at this point) for the second time that calender year. Rey Mysterio was World champion, worrying about JBL, the Great Khali, anything but King Booker (who wasn't even King Booker yet). Batista wasn't even back yet.
And then in the span of a month, everything started to change again. RVD and Sabu sabotaged their momentum on the side of the road, Edge won the WWE title, Big Show got the ECW belt, and King Booker bested Mysterio. Heck, even Batista was back, finally. Now, if you will, flash-forward to the present.

John Cena is champion again. Heck, people don't even seem to mind anymore. He's being embraced. Batista is champion again. You might call this a flashback to 2005, but the circumstances have wildly changed for both stars. Batista's past is long behind him now. Now, he's the beloved champion who was once forced to surrender his title, but made a heroic comeback to reclaim his thrown from pretenders. Bobby Lashley has the ECW title, and a third era for that brand has begun, one for the first time without Paul Heyman. This is the era set for WrestleMania 23, and it may make for the best WrestleMania in years.

  • At the top of the card you have Batista defending his championship as he challenges the Undertaker's legendary undefeated streak. Naysayers have been suggesting he won't be able to snap it, because his bosses see him as too little dedicated to the sport, that Batista being the man to end the streak wouldn't be appropriate. They call him the new Ultimate Warrior, a fairweather wrestler, like Goldberg, or Brock Lesnar. Me, I don't see that. Batista is his own man, and I believe in his commitment. I believe that he may even see his career as a debt owed to Eddie Guerrero, the man who truly ushered him into the ring. When he gave up that title more than a year ago, I believe it really pained him. If he lacks commitment to any degree, it's because he knows his body can't withstand the rigors required of most other competitors. Two major injuries in his WWE career may already have made that point for him. The Undertaker has come a long way since I proclaimed his career over when he feuded with JBL some two years ago. I believe once again that he's as great an asset to the company as he has ever been. But sooner or later, his days in the ring will become so far in between that he won't truly be considered a contender, but a special attraction. Will he deliver a match for the memories? There's no doubt about it. But does he have another championship run in him? I think this year he loses. Whatever it ultimately means in Batista's career, however long that is, however much longer he's champion himself, this moment belongs to him.

  • On the other end, there's Cena defending his own title against Shawn Michaels, another monumental figure in WWE lore, who has proven time and time again that you can never count him out. Win or lose the actual match, John Cena going to be the real winner here, just because he's been given a match against HBK at WrestleMania, where the Showstopper stops the show each and every year.

  • In the Battle of the Billionaires, Umaga will defeat Lashley, likely because Chris Masters, irate over his Masterlock finally being broken, will interfere. However, if that's not how the match finishes, Lashley wins, simply because it's far more likely Vince McMahon will volunteer to have his head shaved than Donald Trump. Either way, there's Steve Austin here!

  • MitB III will be the best yet, simply because the caliber of competitors is at an all-time high. Edge seems destined to win, simply because of his own undefeated streak at this event, but the climax will definitely involve Randy Orton, because these two are going to be feuding very soon.

  • Kane beats Khali, more than likely.

  • Ashley captures the Women's championship from Melina.

  • Chris Benoit will likely retain the U.S. championship over MVP.

  • The ECW match will be interesting. I peg the ECW Originals as winners, but the reverse could work, too, if someone steps up to provide an awesome finish for the group. Either way, it's nice that RVD and Sabu get to cap their work over the past year with something like this, even if they've been not exactly given the same opportunities throughout.

  • I project Carlito to wrestle Ric Flair, probably announced next week on Raw, and emerge triumphant. I'm so glad they're doing this for Carlito, who completely deserves what is fast becoming Chris Jericho 2.0, an improved version that may shoot past Y2J's success into the realm of The Rock.

  • I also see Paul London and Brian Kendrick defending their tag team titles against M-N-M, and probably retaining.

  • And Chavo Guerrero defending his cruiserweight title against Gregory Helms, though the winner could be either one. Though these final two matches, if they happen at all, as much as I'd love for them to happen on the main card, may take place on Heat, or something to that effect.

I'll usher updates as they become available. Two weeks left!

Friday, March 16, 2007

#138. A.C Hall, Poetry, Comic Books, Cloak of Shrouded Men, Paperback Reader

Okay, okay...Am I at the right blog? Yes! Okay! Safe to continue!

Now that last entry's...unpleasantries are past us, let's move forward, shall we? There may be guests. Fellow Paperback Reader contributor A.C. Hall moonlights at another comics site, Stumbebum Studios (I don't get that, either), where he writes a column called Ring Psychology (still lost, Ace, which is something I've been callin' ya, bud, in my head; at least now it's out there). Several months ago, he came 'round with a few writing prompts for a few of his friends, to use for the column, and among them was one that asked those friends to reimagine the concluding arc of The Matrix. This week, Ace included my version, which was one of the few responses I still remain proud of. If you liked it, too, that's why I'm writing this post, because I probably owe ya, in case you followed that link and found your way here and wondered if there was anything actually worth reading.

Sometimes there is.

Sometimes! And I'm not even speaking of the regularity, or lack thereof, of the actual blogging on this blog. If you review the archives (and brave ye those waters, if you must), you'll discover that when I began, I pretty much stuck some slappy things every days at this old Monk.

I think now would be a good time to apologize for some of the things I'm saying, because I'm saying them funny. I don't do that. Much. You can find poetry at the Scouring Monk. I won't apologize for that, not on your life, my new and good friend. Anyway, speaking of poetry, while I was home, fretting over Midtown shipping matters you might discover in my own column, I sculpted a new poetry collection out of the material available on my parents' computer, where I wrote most of my formative work upon leaving the college workshop. This one ended up being called Card Games. But you aren't really interested in that at this time, are you? Ah, well, I'll get you another time.

I wrote up that Matrix plot basically around the existing material for Reloaded and Revolutions, and maybe that's sometimes clear and maybe sometimes it's not. I hope Ace uses my write-up for the RoboCop prompt, because I like that one even more. But I'm not always basing all of my ideas on other people's ideas. My spanking new ComicSpace page, which you can find here, boasts about three original comics projects I've been working at for a couple of years now, Bandit, The Astrals, and The Conformists. If you'd asked me three years ago which one I'd prefer and were most eager to pursue, it'd have been Bandit, no question, and it wouldn't have been just because, at that time, it was the only one of the three extant. That one's got the longest story. The Astrals mythology has been expanding since its original proposal to the aborted Cabal from my Digital Webbing days, but it's a story that's more easily contained and thus might be easier to introduce first. The Conformists is a concept of characters more than anything, and I love those characters, but the more I think about them, the more I wonder if they have a specific story to tell as well. I have other concepts, one that the boys behind the Death Lurker Saga have in their court, others sprung from other prompts. Many of my favorite ideas come from prompts, actually. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't come up with something good just because someone asked you before you thought of it yourself. That's the story behind Lost, after all. In my earlier years, I wasn't quite as good at it as I would become, but I've really come to value the method.

But I'm still just a hack who isn't actually being published. I'm editing my first novel at the moment, woven from three acts written during successive NaNoWrMos. It's called The Cloak of Shrouded Men and I'm going the indy route, self-publishing. It's called taking fate into my own hands. And I was sure I was done the story, too, but I'm come up with a coda, which I may include in the volume, a most appropriate conclusion to the affair, much as I discovered a new beginning a few years ago.

And did I mention writing for Paperback Reader? Y'know, that's something I'm constantly struggling with. You may have come here after having read something I wrote, but you've got to understand, my experience with my writing is that very few people actually end up reading it. A decade ago, it would have been because I didn't show it to anyone. Now, though, now I just don't know. I do know that I've been writing a weekly column for nine months now, and I've not once gotten a response, beyond my colleages, from it. I'm constantly thinking of pitching the whole thing in. Why bother, right? Well, maybe because if I'd never written for Paperback, not a single review, not a single column, Ace'd never have asked me about those prompts, and you would've never come here. Strange kind of way, how things happen.

Well, things'll keep on happening, one way or another, and I will continue blogging away at the Monk, and I will add more friends at ComicSpace, and someone will read what I write, and I will be published, one way or another. I will tell my stories, and everything will sort of work out.

But yeah, you came here for The Matrix?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

#137. Blogger Complaints, College Friends, Swearing

Stupid stupid "improvements"! I don't like stupid change! Blogger has for months now been pestering me about switching to the new "and improved" version of its service, and now that it's forced that change on me, I have only found continued misery with the service in the one area it desperately needed improving. What the hell is wrong with these people?!? Why can't they figure out that "copy and paste" would be a useful addition?!? I just lost the start of this post because I discovered that I was blogging in the wrong blog, because the new "dashboard" (the starting page for bloggers with more than one blog, as I do since I've been blogging Nano for three years) is worse than the original version. Is that really progress???

Fuck! Now you've done it. I don't believe I've ever sworn in this thing before. The Monk has never sworn! Look at yourselves! A monster! A monster!

Anyway, (and yeah, seriously, fuck you), I'd been typing about my friend Rich from the Mercyhurst days, how he recently made an announcement to his friends that he deleted his myspace account, and how it was through this announcement that I first learned he wrote poetry. I remarked how I didn't know this, and how little I knew the guy, even at college, since I was the guy, as I always am, who didn't outsize himself, and thus was more or less lost in the pack. Trust me, it was more elegant the first time. Anyway, Rich has a blog with these Uncle Fuckers (just go with me on this, because this may be the only time you hear me talk like this, all two of you who have ever read this blog, each of you fans of the lamentably cancelled Help Me Help You), which he said was going to be his backup for myspace, which he left and deleted himself from (why oh why do people do that, etc.), where he doesn't put his original poetry so much as My Favorite Poems. I think it's a neat idea. There was more previously, and I'd intended to put more before I realized what had happened, but I'm too peeved now to continue.

Instead, I will continue to lament stupid, stupid "progress." Yeah, we all know how awesome Google is, and how awesome it is that Google continues to add awesome new things to its repertoire, such as Gmail (which I continue to adore). But, goddamnit, why the fuck does Google think that everything it gets into its tiny little, information-packed head, is so goddamn important? If these improvements were so fantastic, they should have been automatic. Instead, everything I've noticed so far only sucks! How is that even possible???

Fight the power!

And fuck "layouts"! That seems to be the only thing they really added! Fuck'em!


That will be all.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

#136. Cloak of Shrouded Men, Poetry, Wrestling

Is this really to be the first blog of the new year? Can I really say "new year" any more? Two months in! I'm so ashamed!

The biggest news is that I'm in the midst of editing my first novel, The Cloak of Shrouded Men, which is of course a collection of the three Colinaude tales written during successive Nanos. Funny thing is, late last year, probably last November (before I'd written the phrase in Cotton's War I would subsequently adopt for the whole saga), I asked a Magic 8-ball if the working title I had for the time would be what it was going to be known as, and the ball said no. I guess I soon found out why. Funny thing is, I'm still set on the self-publishing route, even though I now know that Bart Gerardi at Paperback has two of our regular contributors lined up for the site's upcoming publishing line. The reason is quite simple, and it's not to slight Bart. Hardly. He's gotten me writing weekly for a website, for the public. I haven't been able to say that, well, ever. In college, I wrote for the paper, but that took breaks every time the school did, and I invariably wrote about prompted material, not what was important to me. At Paperback, that's what I do every week. Granted, it hasn't gotten me an actual readership, but I have no idea of knowing how big Paperback's readership in general is. I see comparable sites, and see greater complexity, more writers, and a larger potential readership. Maybe Paperback isn't at that point yet, even if it's been around for a number of years (I know because the review archive says so, and I myself have been around for about a year now). Or maybe it is and I just don't know. I do know that of primary sources of communication were cut off because of spammers, and no solution has been made since, and that was months ago. In some ways, it seems the site has actually gone backward since I got there, after an initial, impressive boom.

Which is sad, but my perrenial struggles with whether or not I'll stay have nothing to do with that. Them's personal matters, personal demons.

I've also got an even stronger determination to see The Jingle Jangle (my collected edition of Ex Patriot and Waking the Sandman, two collections of poetry I've written about before) published than ever before. I want to believe that I'm as significant a poet as I've seemed in the past, and as I feel I should be. (Every poet should be significant. If they're not, they're not writing to an audience. That's poetry.)

This is potentially the last month I see the girl I've developed a working relationship with, a struggle that turned on the basis (to some degree) on a TV show. Circumstances have consistently betrayed my intentions to see where else it could go, but I hope we can end things on better terms. By the time she comes back to the States, I'll be moved on as well, and I still have no idea what I'm doing next. That accounts for the two ambitions I speak of above, the desire to make a stand about what I've been doing up to this point in my life. I'm entering a new chapter once again, and I want to say that what I've been doing has everything to do with that chapter. I want it to be about what I've done. Invariably, I've been building with every other chapter. I'm ready for Act II, so to speak.

In wrestling, I'm excited that WWE is getting people interested again, and I'm gratified that it's Smackdown leading the way, since I've been its champion for years, even during the lean time when everyone else was calling it, at best, the B show. Well, guess what, Vince was right. He can support two brands. Three, even. TNA couldn't do this, not when it can hardly support one. It's about creating a show, not just showing someone's personality, or skill sets. WWE has always done those. But they know how to tell a story, and that doesn't mean just the talking. In many ways, Monty Brown/Marcus Cor Von illustrates this best of all (or Kurt Angle, mind you, since he's basically brought WWE to TNA, which is something none of the other transplant, B level stars have been able to, including two time champ Christian Cage). Monty was a poser in TNA. He had his stock phrases (including one for the finisher WWE still refuses to name, even though it lives on at the back of his tights), and stock poses. And he was always supposed to be someone huge, even though he never quite got there. Marcus, in the first match I saw him competing for ECW, looked quite different. He wasn't Monty anymore. He looked completely different, not anything resembling a Goldberg or Lesnar. He looked a bit like an '80s wrestler. How odd! Strip a man of his pretensions, and you discover what you really have. Someone who hasn't quite learned the ring yet (which I say not the denegrate the '80s, but to suggest what I've gleaned from my own experience, that wrestling began to look more real around the time we learned it was fake, which in essense forced wrestlers to become more athletic).

I'll leave the Monk at that. And promise to write back sooner!


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