Crazy is My Superpower: My Thoughts

For the longest time in WWE, the term “women’s match” was code for bathroom break.  It was a bit of a joke we, “the WWE Universe” had for the longest time…  Except after reading this book, I’m not entirely sure we were the only ones making that joke.  Or that it even was a joke in the first place.

Women’s wrestling IN GENERAL has had to make a lot of progress.  Especially after The Attitude Era basically reduced it to glorified cat fighting and bikini contests.  True, there were women like Lita and Molly Holly, who busted their asses and put on some pretty good matches…  But there were also people like Candis Michelle: a woman whose resume prior to WWE included “that video on PornHub where in I let a guy lick my feet for ten straight minutes.”

By the way, that’s actually a thing.  If you have to ask how I know that…  Let’s just say that’s going to do wonders for the foot fetish rumors.

Eventually, the WWE went PG.  Whether it was damage control following the horrible murder suicide of the Benoit family, or the fact Linda McMahon was on the verge of running one of the most laughably doomed senate campaigns in history at the time, who can say.  All I know is suddenly, matches were stopped the moment a wrestler started bleeding, DX started hanging out with a fucking leprechaun, and the top guy in the company was a whigger who dressed like a fucking seven-year-old with the most annoying entrance music since The Right to Censore.  Except at least with The Right to Censore, you could argue it was on purpose because they were the bad guys.  That little trumpet sample still haunts my nightmares.  All you people bitching about Roman Reigns being the handpicked guy…  I mean yeah, it sucks cronyism is once again in full effect, but compared to John fucking Cena, I’ll at least tolerate Roman Reigns.  At least he looks the part.

Oh, and also as a result of the PG era, women’s wrestling got REALLY AWKWARD.  They hired a bunch of models to basically look sexy for the camera…  Except with a PG rating, you really can’t be all that sexy.  The one time they tried a swimsuit competition in the PG era…  Well, let’s just say I hope you’re in to legs, because that’s about as much skin as you ended up getting.

By this point, the only women who were worth a damn were Natalia Neidhart and Beth Phoenix.  As much as I want to include Layla in that mix, I’m seriously one of those people who believes Team LayCool were TOO good at the heel role.  I could write a whole article on that alone, but I’m already having a hard time keeping my head in the game.

This situation was all in large part a result of The WWE Diva Search: a competition that started in 2004, continued into 2005 and I think 2006, and resulted in other models who couldn’t even SPELL wrestle, much less ACTUALLY WRESTLE, getting employed with the company.  In time, you saw fewer wrestlers like  Molly Holly and Victoria, and more “divas” like Kelly Kelly and the fucking Bella Twins: women who were hired for their looks…  And not much else.  No joke, Kelly Kelly once talked about how “Rafiki” inspired her to take up the stinkface as one of her signature moves.  For those out of the loop, she meant Rikishi: a four-hundred pound samoan whose ultimate claims to fame are portraying a headhunter, a sultan, and spending the last years of his active WWE career as a fat guy in a sumo thong that rubbed his butt in everybody’s face.  Look, I’ve forgotten about my share of professional wrestlers in my day (I didn’t even know Cizzarnie was a thing until I saw an article about him on Wrestlecrap.com), but despite being basically being a ginormous butt joke for the remainder of The Attitude Era, Rikishi was pretty well known.  How the fuck do you botch that!?

Enter AJ Mendez-Brooks: better known to “The WWE Universe” as AJ Lee.

AJ Lee, from what I remember of her, was a real “blink and you’ll miss it” sort of wrestler.  She wasn’t in WWE especially long, and I think she only ever had one or two divas championship reigns.

Ugh, the divas championship.  Can I just get this out of my system?  I know, I know, I’m just all over the place in this review.  Stream of consciousness is a bitch.  Also, I’ve had this in the proverbial shotgun for years now, and what other chance will I have to unload this shot?

The divas championship was fucking stupid.  No, seriously, it had to be the lamest title belt WWE had ever created.  When your division’s championship is so lame and tacky that Whigger McGee’s retarded little spinner belt has more credibility, yall done fucked up A-A-RON.  Hell, at least John Cena was the only one who ever carried around the spinner belt.  And maybe Rob Van Dam for a while, but I digress.  Every woman on the roster had to deal with the fact this joke of a title the fans affectionately referred to as “the butterfly belt” represented their entire division, and they had to put up with it for years!  And considering the previously mentioned Natalya and Beth were the only wrestlers worth a damn in the division at the time, it just seems like icing on the cake.

Okay, I’m done.  I’ll try to get back to the book review.  Key word is TRY.

I’ll own up to have only seen AJ Lee on the main roster.  It didn’t really occur to me that I could look up Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) on YouTube…  Nor did it interest me, really.  I also own up to not watching the NXT season she appeared on after hearing it was going to be between divas.  Sue me: the words “diva’s competition” in that era of WWE programming filled me with dread and loathing.  What does it say about your program when heel Michael Cole wailing on a gong that he just happened to have near the commentators’ booth for no explainable reason is the most entertaining part of your show?  And the only reason I even knew about THAT was because it was a meme for about a week or two.

So yeah, I don’t know a whole lot about AJ Lee’s past.  I just know she was one of the EXTREMELY few women on WWE programming who could actually wrestle, she was definitely the SHORTEST woman on WWE programming, and that the smartmarks absolutely loved her.  Which you’d think means WWE creative HATED her, considering how they’ve treated audience darlings like Zack Ryder, Daniel Bryan, and currently Becky Lynch…  But I actually got the impression there was more indifference than anything else.  And not even towards AJ Lee herself.  As far as they were concerned, she was another woman trying to enter a division where your only requirements were look pretty, pull off maybe two or three halfway decent looking wrestling moves, and try not to be too shocked when Kelly Kelly ends up rubbing her flat bony ass in your face.

The book seems to focus more on AJ Mendez-Brooks growing up than it does on her wrestling career.  Partly because, as I said before, her career was surprisingly short.  It was sort of the inverse of Bob Holly’s Hardcore Truth in the sense she accomplished a shit ton in just two or three years.  Also…  Well, I think it goes without saying, the story of growing up in the Mendez family is a lot more interesting.

I don’t want to get too deep in this, but I know what it’s like living with a parent with…  Issues.  Granted, I don’t know what it’s like having a psychotic mother checking my period blood to make sure it’s actually period blood and not a broken hymen, but I do know what it’s like having to spend your entire day walking on egg shells, knowing that you’re either going to get the happy joke time family member, or the pissed off at everyone and everything family member who watches your table manners with a sniper scope, just waiting for you to make a mistake so they can just unload on you about how “it’s like you’ve never eaten in front of real fucking people before!”.

Also, unlike the Mendez family, I was an only child in a family that, while far from rich, was definitely financially stable.  I’ve definitely never had to go dumpster diving for furnature for an apartment that we’d eventually be getting kicked out of.  Although I DID scavenge my current computer desk from a curbside, but that doesn’t even come close.

This is truly an amazing story, if only because it’s so depressing that this is how some people are forced to live.  Being so broke that family won’t even take you in, dumpster diving for basic essentials, having a bipolar mom who was gracious enough to pass down her bipolar disorder to you…  This is the sort of life I pray I never have to live.  And she survived it all.

Whether it be her family life, or her time as a wrestler, AJ Mendez-Brooks’ story was gripping, and engaging.  Right up until the last couple of chapters where in I got an EXTREMELY lengthy feminist lecture.

On one hand, UGH!  I GET IT!  Men suck!  Straight white men in particular.  Lord knows I don’t get enough of feminist Twitter filling my newsfeed with their bitchy, angry, “stop mansplaining stuff!” tweets that remind me of this.  Semi-related note: why did I want a Twitter account again?

On the other hand…  There are some stories within the lecture of sorts that creep even ME out.  And you should see some of the shit I have in my Audible.com account if you want to talk creepy.  The most horrifying anecdote, hands down, is the story of how a hotel manager broke into one of the women’s hotel room at 3:00 in the morning.  That is just wrong on SOOO many levels.

I find myself once again asking myself: “Am I really part of a fringe minority of men?  A fringe minority who treats women with respect, understands that nobody wants a dick pic, and that nobody likes being patronized?”  Trust me, as someone with a vision impairment, I get my share of patronizing bullshit, so maybe I’m more aware of what constitutes patronizing comments?  Seriously, what the fuck?

Much like Bob Holly’s Hardcore Truth, Mendez-Brooks peppers in little interludes.  Unlike Bob Holly, who mostly decided to talk candidly about certain wrestlers and the business, Mendez-Brooks fills these segments, titled Diary of an Unfit Mind, with therapist homework, messages to a future child, and other amusing little tidbits.  The one that made me laugh was when she encouraged her future child not to worry about people googling their mother’s name with the word “ASS SHOT”.  I don’t really remember AJ Lee having much in the way of a butt-oriented gimmick.  Personally, I’d much rather be the proverbial fly on the wall when Brooke Tessmacher’s kids get old enough and discover people on YouTube have made ENTIRE MONTAGES of their mom stinkfacing random women back when she wrestled for IMPACT.

The book is read by the author, which is always a positive for me.  Also, her performance is probably one of the better ones I’ve heard in my time collecting wrestler autobiographies.  I’ve mentioned before that as much as I love Jim Ross, it’s very obvious that he was reading from a script.  I’ve also mentioned that in Daniel Bryan’s autobiography, he reads like he really wants to get this over and done with.  But Mendez-Brooks?  Her reading of her book felt genuine.  It felt like she actually wanted to be there, and wanted to give the audience a memorable performance.  Definitely a plus.

All and all, this book is worth your time.  I highly recommend it.

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The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell: My Thoughts

It could just be my specific little corner of the internet, but it seems like everybody and their fucking mom is in love with this show.  I’ve seen several people tweeting about it on Twitter, I’m pretty sure a coworker or two have brought it up in conversation…  Basically, there’s a considerable amount of hype involved here  And that’s usually what turns me away from shows.

I’ll own up to being a bit of a contrarian when it comes to stuff the mainstream loves.  I think I’ve made it clear at least once how I feel about Orange is the New Black and Moonrise Kingdom.

Also, we’re talking about the internet here.  Outside of shopping, pornography, and shopping for pornography, the internet is a wasteland of pop culture references, horrendous spelling errors, and constant negativity.  Oh, and I guess ASMR, too, but mostly the other stuff.

The internet at large tends to be fond of a lot of things that make me hang my head in shame and regret spending so much time here.  It’s thanks to the internet that My Little Pony, a show intended for seven-year-old girls, has a fanbase consisting almost entirely of thirty-year-old men.  It’s thanks to the internet anybody actually remembers who Rick Astley even is.  And while it’s a bit of a jump from point-A to point-B, I have to point out that it was the internet that showed me the definition of “voreraphilia”.  I am never looking at that episode of Mighty Morphing Power Rangers featuring The Terror Toad the same way ever again.  But I digress.

So naturally, when the internet decides it loves something to death…  I generally avoid it.  Easier said than done, considering that when the internet loves something, they meme the shit out of it.  The same way they decided to meme the shit out of something they HATE.  Which really makes things confusing in the grand scheme of things…  But again, I digress.

I resisted as long as I could, but in the end, I caved, and I checked out a few episodes of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.  And…

*sigh

Okay, internet, you win.

This show, in short, is what I imagine it would look like if Mortisha Addams had her own cooking show.  And that cooking show was written by the same people who wrote Food Party.  By the way, if you’ve never seen Food Party, you totally should.  True, Curious Creations isn’t NEARLY as twisted as Food Party.  Whether or not that’s a GOOD thing or not is probably up for interpretation.

I’m usually not all that fond of shows that play up the creepy and the spooky for camp value…  Well, okay, I proudly admit to liking The Addams Family, but aside from that, I usually think shows that go for that angle tend to be more tacky than anything else.

Curious Creations isn’t without its cheese, but the balance between dumb jokes and fascinating crafts is very well done.  I do think they abused the “who is she talking to?” joke a little bit in the first couple of episodes, but even then, it’s still amusing.

Christine McConnell herself is a terrible actress…  But I’m a bit convinced she’s reading her lines the way she does on purpose.  Not to mention that this is a cooking and crafts show at heart.  A high budget cooking and crafts show featuring muppets, but a cooking and crafts show all the same.  So maybe as far as line reads go, maybe set your standards a little lower.

It’s a pretty episodic show (something unusual for Netflix originals), so there’s really no insentive to bingewatch it.  On the other hand, I don’t mind that at all.  Lord knows the last thing I need right now is ANOTHER show to bingewatch after work.

I’ll own up to not being much of a cook outside of flipping burgers and boiling pasta…  And there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever get gutsy enough to try some of the recipes Christine McConnell shows us on her show.  But it’s still pretty fascinating to watch her make things like gingerbread haunted houses, or shortbread Ouija boards.

Overall, I say give it a watch.  Even the internet is allowed to get one right every now and then, I guess.

Space Opera: My Thoughts

Boy, someone REALLY wants to be Douglas Addams.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, you could do significantly worse than Douglas Addams (Elron Hubbard comes to mind almost immediately), but there’s showing influence, and then there’s outright ripping off.

The concept of influenced by Vs. ripping off has been a topic of debate on the internet forever.  There was a time when making game reviews on the internet meant thousands of idiots would accuse you of ripping off The Angry Video Game Nerd, even if your style was nowhere near the loud, profane, fecalphiliac style of AVGN.  If you wanted to be a ranting raving lunatic with his own website designed in the most basic HTML, you were accused by thousands of ripping off The Best Page in the Universe, even if you didn’t copy his misogynistic, egocentric style.  Those are just two examples of this debate that I’m VERY familiar with.  I’m sure it goes on to other platforms, other mediums, and other creaters.

And a book like Space Opera gets me thinking more or less two chapters in that the comparisons to Douglas Addams are inescapable at best.  So is Space Opera a ripoff, or is it just heavily inspired.

Honestly, I’d go with the heavily inspired route.  Largely because while Catherynne M. Valente clearly goes out of her way to incorporate Douglas Addams esque narration about outer space and its various residents, the plot doesn’t even come close.

Space Opera has been described in one of two ways to me:

A. Eurovision in space.

B. That episode of Rick and Morty with the giant head demanding “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT!”.

I’m not especially familiar with Eurovision, but I’m assured by friends within my book club that it’s a glorious trainwreck.  B was what ended up selling me on it.

Aliens gather far and wide to perform on the grandest stage of them all.  A stage so grand, Vince McMahon’s WrestleMania looks like a Podunk house show in a stinky old armory out in rural Kansas by comparison.  A stage so grand, various species have been known to convert entire planets into musical instruments just to stand a chance.  And every grand prix, new species are brought to the stage to determine whether or not they’re worth keeping around or not.  New contestants don’t have to win in order to avoid absolute annihilation, but survival depends entirely on avoiding last place.

Naturally, Earth eventually gets discovered, and is invited.  And after learning that all of Earth’s greatest musicians are dead (my favorite being The Insane Clown Possy ending up killing themselves as a result of something to do with magnets), Earth’s only hope ends up being Decibell Jones and The Absolute Zeroes.

Comparisons to Douglas Addams aside, this is an interesting challenge.  How the hell does one write about music?  Music is purely an audible experience, while reading is visual.  I’m going to take a wild guess and say Valente didn’t include sheet music in the print copy.

The story mentions several hybrid genres like barber shop quartet death metal, and symphonic dubstep just to name a possible few.  I would legitimately like to hear how all of these sound.  Even if dubstep is for pussies, integrating it into several other genres would be interesting to see.  The whole concept of mishmashing genres was really what made nu-metal so appealing to me.  True, every third band in the subgenre ended up being a collective of whiney bitches in hindsight, but that aside, combinations and mashups have always fascinated me, and I’d love to hear some of these genres.  It’s too bad that this is a BOOK, or else someone would probably try.

And no, there’s no attempt at replicating what these genres MIGHT sound like in the audiobook.  in fact, Valente really kind of just glances over the genres, or just mentions them off-handedly more than anything else.  Sure, they’re good for shits and giggles, but I’m that guy who has to actually ask out loud, “I wonder what that would sound like?”

Speaking of the audiobook, the audiobook is read by Heath Miller.  He does a pretty good job with the source material, reading it in that sort of dry style that makes British humor so great.

Any downsides to the story has less to do with the performance, and more to do with the source material itself.  I understand that it’s important to get a history of The Glactic Grand Prix, but this seemed to be the part of the book that got exceptionally old in a hurry for me.  There had to be a better way of emplamenting all this instead of making every even numbered chapter a brief history of this alien race or that alien race.  Surely!  It reached a point where these chapters felt like the single most elaborate form of padding I’d ever seen.  For all the impact the “knifeosaurus” people, or the 321, or ninety percent of the other aliens had on the overall story, I found myself wondering at the end just how necessary this information was.  Then I came to the conclusion that the book would’ve been, like, ten chapters if they weren’t in there.  Nothing necessarily wrong with ten chapter long books (Simon R. Green’s Nightside novellas almost never make it past ten from what I remember of them), but I remember trying to get for-real published means having to meet a very specific wordcount.

The book overall…  Is okay.  It had parts I liked, it had parts I could’ve done without.  The worst I can say about it is that it’s harmless.  The best thing I can say is that I’m glad I read it…  But I don’t see myself picking it up again in the distant future.  It killed about a week’s worth of boredom, but that’s about it.

That being said, I’d still recommend checking it out.

The Summer of “Math Horror”?

It’s only been one month in what we normally consider “the summer months”, but as I look through all my favorite Let’s Players on YouTube, I see a fascinating trend.  A trend that I personally refer to as “Math horror”.  What is math horror, you ask?  Well, allow me to explain.

Somewhere around early June (possibly earlier), I became aware of a game known as Baldy’s Basics in Education and Learning.  It’s often abbreviated to simply Baldy’s Basics, and I plan on using that from this point onward.  It’s a game that has stolen the hearts, and the imaginations of countless people on YouTube, and it’s not necessarily hard to see why.

Baldy’s Basics, in short, is what you get when 1990s edutainment games and Slenderman have a baby.  You have the popular Slenderman trope of wandering around some random location, collecting seven things, all the while avoiding the big scary dude who wants to eat your face off or whatever.  Then you have the edutainment portion of the hybrid, where in Baldy makes you do math problems before you can truly collect the thing.  Not to mention everything in this game looks like it was drawn in Paintbrush (the drawing program that would eventually become MSpaint).

I myself am very familiar with the old edutainment games.  Being the son of a first grade teacher, my mom often used me as a test audience for videos she thought about showing to her class, or games she thought about putting on the computer (more so the first one).  I played with such forgettable “games” like Hanging Out at the Treehouse, Fatty Bear, and…  Well okay, I forgot the name of it, but it was basically a Busy Town game.  Some of these were adequate, although I never really felt like I was learning anything outside how the game itself worked.  Others…  Were dumb at best, and patronizing at worst.  But regardless, this is not unfamiliar territory for me.

Then we get to the Slenderman portion.  I’m just going to come out and say it: I never understood the appeal of Slenderman.  I mean yeah, the idea of being chased around by a big spooky scary guy who wants to murder me to pieces is fine, but why am I collecting these notes?  How the hell did I end up in this forest?  What did I do to make Slendy so god damn angry at me!?  Or is it more of a wrong place at the worst possible time sort of deal?  It’s one of those concepts where when you’re booting it up for the first time, it’s fun, it gives you a scare, and you’re willing to forgive things like the abstract nature and the udder lack of plot…  But when you decide to play it MORE than once, it kind of starts to unwravel.  Especially if you’re like me, and find yourself overthinking things.

Also, Slenderman has been around long enough to where the fan games and the spin-offs wore out their welcome a long time ago.

The first time I watched a Baldy’s Basics playthrough, I was suspecting it was going to be more of the same.  Collect seven notebooks while something spooky chases you.  And yes, that technically is what Baldy’s Basics does.  However, there’s so much more to Baldy’s Basics than just the standard Slenderman ripoff formula.

For starters, there’s other characters whose one goal in life is to inconvenience you EVEN MORE than the angry bald guy in the green sweater ominously slapping the ruler on his palm, reminding you that he’s going to “spank your rump” the moment he catches you.  You’ve got a principal who monitors the halls to make sure you can’t run, or use items like soda to repel Baldy, or food to regain stamina.  You’ve got a little girl who seems oblivious to the fact you’re about to get spanked into oblivion, and wants you to stop and play jump rope with her.  You’ve got a bully that swipes items from your inventory.  Recently, the developer added a…  Robot, thingy, that can either give you a speed boost, or smoosh you in a corner and leave you a prime target for Baldy.

Then, there’s the math problems.  You have to do math in order to collect the notebooks, and at least one out of every three problems is complete and total jibberish.  [INSERT ALGEBRA JOKE HERE.]  The more problems you get wrong, the angrier, and the faster Baldy gets.

The math problems are what have led to a lot of intrigue with Baldy’s basics.  I’ve heard people liken Baldy’s Basics as a whole as an allegory of American education.  IE, you don’t learn anything in school because it’s useful, but rather, because society beats you to the ground if you don’t.  Then you exit school, and realize you didn’t even NEED a generous chunk of what you learned there.  [INSERT ANOTHER ALGEBRA JOKE HERE.]

Another theory I’ve heard is that Baldy HIMSELF is an allegory for the frustrated teacher.  The teacher who wants his children to learn, but gets frustrated to death with the fact his kids are dumdums, or government keeps flopping down nonsensical standardized testing like No Child Left Behind or Common Core, etc.  So much so, in fact, that when a child can’t even do basic math, it sends him in a rage.

Whether these, and other theories are what the developer was going for, or if this is typical game theorist “seeking meaning where there is no meaning for that sweet sweet YouTube revenue” fair is something that either remains to be seen at the time I’m writing this, or has been explained and I just don’t know where to look.  Either way, it really says something about your game when people are trying to find meaning in a game mostly designed to be a cheap edutainment themed Slenderman clone.

In recent days, I’ve found that the fan community has begun the march towards Baldy fan games.  For the most part, these fan games focus more on concepts like “play the game as Baldy”, or “play the game as the principal”.  All novel ideas on paper, but they wear out their welcome within the first minute or so.

However, there are newer games that basically lift the concept of doing math and running from not-Slenderman popping up here and there.  The most well known of which being Advanced Learning with Victor Strobovski.

Strobovski takes the Baldy’s Basics formula of having to do math and running for your life, but cranks up the creepy factor even more by making the school look even more grotesque, and cranks up the difficulty even more by adding a SECOND antagonist who wants you to forget about running for your life and attending his cooking class.  Otherwise, he comes looking for you, drags you to the cafeteria, and kills you himself.  I think.  Also, the principal’s detention system comes with warnings now, and while nobody I’ve seen has maxed out their warnings, I’m about ninety-nine percent positive that three warnings results in you getting killed to death.

On top of the horrors of the school itself being ramped up to impossible levels, the math problems are significantly harder, too.  Not exactly algebra, of course, but definitely more advanced than Baldy’s 2+5 and 5-3.

While Victor Strobovski is the only other game like this I’ve found so far, I know trends.  And I have a really good feeling that the trend of math horror will only grow from here.  We will most certainly see other math horror games throughout the summer, and possibly even the rest of 2018.  A lot of them will suck, no doubt, but whether the game sucks or is actually halfway good is irrelevant.  Math horror is popular right now, and the likes of Markiplier, JackSepticEye, PewdiePie, and 2LesbiansPlay will probably be subjecting us to a lot of it in the oncoming weeks.

As it stands right now, though, I’m okay with that.  So far, the concept has held my attention, and I’ve liked what people have come up with so far.  Much like the Five Nights at Freddy’s games, I can guarantee immediately that these games will wear out their welcome just as quickly, but for now, I’m liking this concept a lot.  Probably because I’m not much of a math person.

 

Ballmastr: My Thoughts

I have no fucking clue what I’ve just watched.  It seems like I’ve been saying that about Adult Swimming since they had the audacity to give Tim Heidecker and Eric Wereheim their own show, except where as I wished Tim and Eric would hurry up and die already…  I’m more confused than anything else.

Ballmastrz is…  I guess a parody of anime.  Yeah, there’s an original topic for parody.  Sure you didn’t have any Star Wars gags you wanted to throw in for good measure?  Or maybe Family Guy bought the rights to those.

In any case, the show is built around “The Game”: a pseudo bloodsport that seems like a breeding ground for ADHD with all its quick cuts, flashing colors, and announcer who’s more than happy to tell you how you SHOULD be feeling so you don’t have to actually think.  There’s only two rules in “The Game”: use balls to score, and use balls to kill.  From there, the sky is the limit.

I saw the commercials for this back in March, and…  I won’t lie, it looked fucking horrendous if you went by the commercial.  The show…  Well…  It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  For sure, the commercial doesn’t do it justice.

It’s probably not the most original idea on the planet, even by parody standards.  Gaz Digzy is your stereotypical case of being a master at the sword, and an absolute fuck up at life.  I guess the fact it’s a GIRL character is progressive, if that sort of thing matters to you, but frankly, I get the feeling I’ve seen this before.

I really can’t make up my mind on this show.  Again, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be…  But I definitely hesitate to say this show is GOOD.  Dana Snyder as Baby Ball is probably the high point, but that’s probably because Dana Snyder is a man of one voice, and every time Baby Ball is on screen, I immediately think Master Shake.

I think this show has potential.  At the same time, though, I’m keeping my expectations for the remainder of it VERY low.  Even by Adult Swim standards, I am so fucking confused right now.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: My Thoughts

I love David Wong.  Admittedly, I wasn’t around for PWOT, and I don’t really follow Cracked all that much (I’m also guessing WISECRACKED is a completely different entity), but his books have entertained me over the many…  Four years.  I found out he existed around the time his second book, This Book is Full of Spiders, was new.  I ended up enjoying the shit out of it, and even picked up the legendary John Dies at the End right after I finished that one.

Apparently, I was significantly late to the party when it comes to his third book, but hey, the important thing is I got to it.  Eventually.  A year later.  STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!

Unlike his previous novels, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits doesn’t follow the demon hunting shinanigans of David and John.  Instead, it follows the story of Zoey: trailer trash turned millionaire.  And for the record, my spellchecker is thoroughly bitching me out over the spelling of the name ZOEY, but according to the page on Audible.com, I’m spelling it right.  So fuck you, spellchecker.  ALWAYS NAY-SAYING!  Dick.

The audio book is read by Christy Romano, and she is absolutely perfect.  She’s got a wide range of voices, her reading style never gets tedious, and her timing is on the mark.  I enjoyed this performance very much.  Which is good, because this book is a wee bit tedious in spots.So…  Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before, but a fat girl from the trailer park suddenly becomes an ultra-billionaire upon her father’s passing, and inherits a mansion the size of a small town.  She also finds herself in a town where there are no laws, no regulations, and no cops.  A libertarian dream come true…  Right up until you get to the part where everybody’s AWARE of the fact there’s no rules and regulations, and ultimately turn the city into a personal playground for killers, a safe haven for every illegal substance on the planet, and the battleground between the team of Zoey and “The Fancy Suits”, and one of the most psychotic people I’ve seen in fiction in quite a while.  I’ve literally seen Dragon Ball Z villains with more subtlety to them than the villain of this book…  But I guess when you don’t have to hide in the shadows, and your entire self worth is based on how many Twitter followers…  Excuse me, BLINKER followers you have, there’s probably no point in being subtle, is there?

I’ll give Wong this much: the world he’s built is fascinating.  There’s plenty of detail that has me thinking someone’s on the verge of writing a wiki.  Hell, if there’s more than one book in the series, that just might happen.  They made a wiki for Punch Out of all things, so why not?

While I know it’s played up for laughs, I actually don’t have a difficult time believing people would sooner switch on their blinker cameras on their glasses and stream a murder happening right in front of them in the name of subscribers than…  You know, actually helping the victim?  Or even running away in terror, for that matter.  The idea of a futuristic anarchy zone like Tabula Ra$a (I’m guessing on that spelling based on the few hints the audio book has given me) reminds me of similar settings I’ve encountered over the years.  It’s like a more futuristic Nightside, or a less demonic Midian.  But while the core concept sounds has a bit of a “SIMPSONS DID IT!” vibe to it, The city as a whole is original enough to where you don’t even think about it when you’re reading it.

If I have one problem with the book, it’s how Wong milks the suspense for everything it’s worth.  I go into this book knowing full well Zoey’s not a fighter.  She has no cybernetic parts like the villains, she has no martial arts training…  Hell, her only real skill is that she gives really good “massages”.  I went in knowing she was going to get taken hostage at least once.  I’m also aware the villain of the book is a bit of a drama queen, as is everyone in this universe.  I just wish the attempt at building suspense and tention didn’t go on FOR FUCKING EVER!

Look, I can appreciate good banter between hero and villain.  A villainous monologue can be pretty epic, and the hero’s moment of pure helplessness can be pretty intense when done right.  But man, I wish the punchline would hurry up and get here.  It’s one thing to know in your heart of hearts that the bad guys aren’t going to succeed in burying someone alive, and it’s another thing for it to drag on, and on, and on, and on.  All the while, you already know the punchline is coming, which ultimately kills the attempt at suspense dead.  Admittedly, I didn’t see the EXACT punchline coming, but I knew something was going to come along and save the day.

And it wouldn’t be an especially big problem if it didn’t happen over and over and over again.  By the time it got to the final battle, I felt absolutely no sense of urgency.  Hell, despite Romano’s performance, I actually wanted to hit fast forward just to get to the god damn punchline already!

The book is a whopping seventy chapters long, but much like Nax Barry’s Jennifer Government, it becomes significantly less intimidating when you realize the chapters are ridiculously short.  Half the time, chapters end in the middle of conversations, and the next chapter picks up right where the conversation left off!  I wouldn’t say it’s annoying, but it does make me wonder out loud why the author went that route.

These complaints aside, I actually enjoyed this story.  Admittedly, not as much as the David and John stories, but if Wong writes a sequel to this novel, I might consider giving it a read.

The Three Body Problem: My Thoughts

The Three Body Problem is a series of novels by Cixin Liu.  While I have a grasp of how Chinese works (not enough to speak it, but enough to pronounce most of the words I encounter), I honestly have no idea how to pronounce Cixin.  I’ve heard it pronounced SIX-IN, KEE-SHEEN, KEE-SHIN, and even CHEE-SHIN.  None of which appear to be correct.  But I digress.

As of this writing, there’s two novels in the series.  Also at the time of this writing, I’m still slogging my way through book 2 of the series.

Earlier in the month was actually the second time I tried reading book 1, and honestly, it’s a miracle I made it through in one piece the first time.  About this time a year ago, I’d commented that The Three Body Problem was kind of an ordeal to read through at best.

I’m willing to forgive a lot, considering this was originally a Chinese series being translated into English.  Believe me, I know a thing or two about terrible English translation.  Maybe I don’t speak a lot of Japanese, or any Asian languages, but when you watched anime as religiously as I used to, you kind of get used to a lot of it.  Somewhere around the mid 2000s, English dubs got a lot better than the stuff I had to endure, but I digress.

The Three Body Problem as well as The Dark Forest have pretty good English translations…  But sometimes, I get the feeling the plot might be a little too ambitious for its own good.

The plot, simply put, is that a race of aliens is coming to Earth with all the intention of destroying humanity.  Humanity is more than willing to fight back…  Except we’ve figured out that it’ll take about four-hundred years for the alien fleat to get here, and it’s up to us as a species to unite and stay united in the time left to us.  As you expect, humans are dicks, and this doesn’t end up being an easy feat.  It’s a pretty original approach to the clichéd alien invasion angle, but that’s where the positives come to an end, and a lot of the awkward “I don’t know, bruh” moments begin.

Maybe it’s because the audio version of The Dark Forest doesn’t feature Luke Daniels as the reader this time.  It’s always a little jarring to go from one reader to another where audio books are concerned.  My favorite example comes from one of my all time favorite series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  The first Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book is read by Steven Fry, but then the other four books are read by Martin Friedman (I think that’s his name anyway).  Great, now I have to get used to some other guy’s interpretation of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s manner of speaking.  Hope you like New Yorker accents!

I want to cut the new guy (whose name escapes me at this very moment and I’m too lazy to look it up) some slack.  Luke Daniels is awesome.  He’s made the audio versions of The Iron Druid Chronicles truly some of the most memorable readings I’ve ever sat through.  It’s a pretty big act to follow…  And unfortunately, the new guy just isn’t doing it for me.   It also doesn’t help that he doesn’t tell you when it’s a new chapter.  Dude just keeps on reading as if everything’s one gigantic, continuous block.  For all I know, it might actually be, but not having the eye sight for print anymore, I can’t guarantee that one way or the other.

It could also be that Cixin Liu is getting a little too pretentious for his own good.  All I know is it’s usually a sign that the author is bouncing around in the background, bellowing “ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!  ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!” when the prologue is from the perspective of an ant.  Yeah, I get the reference.  Is it necessary?  I’d like to think no, but then again, I’m not the one writing the book.  Also, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m not above being pretentious.  Hell, have you read HikikoMorey?

Compared to book 1 in the series, which focused primarily on two characters’ perspectives at absolute most, The Dark Forest seems to bounce all over the god damn place.  I don’t even remember anybody’s names half the time!  The only character that seems to be returning from book 1 is the chain-smoking detective, and I still can’t remember his name!

Also, I tend to have a real love-hate relationship with hard scifi.  I love that they’re going out of their way to try and keep it as real and down to Earth as possible, but at the same time, there are moments where the angry mob from Monty Python and the Holy Grail are screaming “GET ON WITH IT!” in my head, and I have to agree with them.  Sad to say, both books have this problem in spots, but especially book 2.

I really wanted to give this series a chance.  Really, the fact I could finish book 1 twice is nothing short of spectacular.  Unfortunately, by the time I get to book 2, I’m just not enjoying the ride.  I’m already finding myself checking the chapter count on my audible.com app, and groaning in annoyance when I see how much I have left.  I don’t even know why I bother continuing instead of doing the logical thing and abandon the book completely in favor of the next Hap and Leonard novel in my cue.  Oh well, at least I tried.