Monday, February 24, 2014

Ugh... Chamber kills the Yesmovement.

The first time I legitimately cared about Pro-Wrestling was way back when Macho Man Randy Savage busted Tito Santana open with a foreign object in order to win the Intercontinental Championship. It was the start of a long reign that saw Savage defend that title against George Steele and several other wrestlng legends before finally being defeated by Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania 3 in what I think was one of the greatest matches in the history of the business. It stole the show and it left me a rag doll on the floor at my Uncles' friends house where we saw Mania broadcast live. It was amazing.

And now we flash forward to last night and the Elimination Chamber- specifically the moment where my suspension of disbelief ended and I just stopped giving a shit. The moment Kane walked down the aisle to put another screwjob finish to Daniel Bryan's opportunity to headline Wrestlemania. Let me be clear- I understood that he was small, that he didn't have the right "look" that the McMahon family wants, and I would have even been happy to see John Cena headline the event against Batista, I would have accepted just about any person at all in the Main Event at Mania. I'm not able to accept Orton vs. Batista. I'm not able to accept it. I realize that I'm a mark or a smark or whatever else the WWE wants to call me and I'm just one fan out of millions, but I was still a fan. And last night's end of the Chamber didn't end with me angry, or booing, or much of anything- I just gave a sigh, felt numb, and I felt like I was finished. I just don't care.

I've had high points and low points as a wrestling fan. There have been huge moments that left me breathless with excitement, left me filled with rage, left me insulted, left me overjoyed, and I have felt every emotion there is to feel from a live on-going storyline that has stretched on some thirty + years for me... from the moment Wrestlemania 1 hit a Video Store shelves and captured my imagination. But I've never felt empty before. Even the worst night I ever experienced as a fan when I woke up from a surgery to discover that Chris Benoit, a man I virtually idolized, was dead- and then found out less than a few hours later that he had died from his own hand after killing his wife and young son. The moment when a hero turned into a monster and I felt like I couldn't even watch wrestling anymore because of the pain- even then, I eventually found my love for the business again and came back to watch a few Pay Per Views and shows and found what it was that held my attention so deeply all those years ago.

Having Daniel Bryan get screwed out of the WWE title for the umpteenth time isn't a travesty, it isn't a horror, it isn't the end of the world. It's just another moment of time in the waning days of a company that forgot what it meant to entertain their fans. And they'll keep doing it because they have no competition and they're not afraid of losing a few customers here and there, because they're not losing them to a competitor. They're losing those customers to disinterest and boredom. They're losing those customers because they're tired of being told who they're supposed to cheer and who they're supposed to boo. I'm done with the WWE for the foreseeable future- I have no interest in the network, no interest in Wrestlemania 30, and no interest in watching a part-timer who happens to be in a future Marvel film get the headlining gig at Wrestlemania in order to face off against a blank slate.

And I get that the company is trying to throw a bone by having Daniel Bryan face off against HHH. And I know that enough people will accept that so that the company can buffer their losses a little bit, but I'm not going to be pacified. I'm just done.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dad's Porn Stash: The review from Shane Dallmann as I'm not going to review my own play.

Reposting from the Facebook Note Review of noted Video Watchdog reviewer Shane Dallmann. 
 The original link is here, I'm posting it on my own blog for posterity's sake. This is a review of the original show I've written.

February 7, 2014 at 11:06pm
While this isn't my first theatre review of the year, I feel that my traditional disclosure/disclaimer is especially appropriate in this case. Not only have I worked with most of the people involved in this production, I also happen to have known the playwright personally for numerous years. And now that I've said that? If you believe that I would give a false impression of a show I went and saw of my own free will; either to score "points" or to give an undeserved "boost" to a friend "just because," then please don't read my reviews. I'm driven to attend movies and live theatre, and I'm equally driven to write about what I watch; and to use a hackneyed phrase, I call them as I see them.

If you've decided to keep reading but still harbor doubts as to my unbiased integrity, I can only ask you to try and track down anyone else who attended the world premiere of "Dad's Porn Stash," the first staged play by local writer/actor Mark Cunningham (who does not appear in the show himself). Any and all of them can and will tell you about the loud, raucous laughter that echoed through the new Paper Wing Fremont theatre (the former home of the Stardust Playhouse) as the simultaneously outrageous and sincerely human story unfolded.

The story itself? Barbara Hanson (Taylor Noel Young) is days away from her wedding to fellow "geek" (comic books, martial arts films) Eric (Taylor Landess), to the combined delight and jealousy of her older sister Ellen (stage newcomer Courtney Haas-VanHorn). We join the sisters at such a time as they're still living with their respectable, church-going mother (Kate Faber), but when dear old Dad has passed away. With Barbara looking to start her new life, the sisters explore their attic in search of Dad's possessions... which should they keep for family memories, and which might be worth investing elsewhere? The comic books (one of the bonds Barbara had with her father) might be valuable... but what's THIS? A boxload of porn videos? Oh, Dad, how COULD you? Does MOM know about this? Wait a minute... you were IN these???!!!

The revelation of their father's past is more than enough to unsettle the sisters. And the newlywed-to-be, completely understandably, lets her fiance in on the secret. So the situation gets more and more... "weird." That word, coupled with a familiar expletive, is one you'd best get used to hearing. And justifiably so.

So you discover that your late father was a 70's porn star ("I did SOME stuff in the 80's...). Is he no longer your father? Is he now completely defined by what he did in the groove of the past? The sisters certainly seem to think so... and their complete and total re-evaluation of who their father was causes his porn persona "Brock Darling" (Michael T. Alliman) to take on a life of his own in the attic (it's telling that we never learn Dad's real name). And now that everybody knows that Brock existed? He's going to exert his influence over the entire family. As for Eric? He's the only character who never gets to meet Brock in the... er... flesh... but now that the secret is out, even he faces stiff (sorry) competition for Barbara's respect. Is Brock all there is now? Or is there any way to reclaim the memory of... Dad? One thing's for sure: once Brock runs interference on Barbara's own secret fantasy of battling a ninja assassin (Ari Reyes), something's got to give...

DAD'S PORN STASH (the title itself is an adult-film pun you shouldn't have any trouble figuring out--and if you do, picture Harry Reems ABOVE the waist) was directed by Paper Wing founder Koly McBride herself (with the redoubtable Jay DeVine handling tech) , and her casting leaves no room for error: Young's natural charm and dancing talents are equally well-deployed; Haas-VanHorn more than holds her own as the sister who has to come to terms with past and present with equally conflicted feelings, and Alliman is quite simply a riot as the archetype of the 70s adult-film arena (and this IS total-immersion theatre, so don't be surprised if Brock has a word or gesture for YOU in the process... I SCARCELY need mention that this show is intended for adult audiences in its own right). If you want dirty jokes, raunchy puns and racy gyrations, you'll get all of that from beginning to end... but this play has just the right amount of "something extra," because the question at its heart is a legitimate one and always was. So your father was a porn star. Is that ALL he was and all he ever will be? And if you disapprove of pornography, does that make the participants necessarily "bad?" In the end, this is still a show about people... and you're going to recognize each and every one of them.

DAD'S PORN STASH will play Fridays and Saturdays through March 8th. Visit for more information.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The End of an Era: My Local Game Store Closes.

The first time I wandered into the Game Habitat, I was overwhelmed. 

There were just so many games, there were so many products, and I felt a little weak at the knees to have found a place such as this. It was wall to wall games! There was a small place in New York that carried similar products, but they were focused primarily on selling paint ball supplies. It was called Dragons Den and there were two whole shelves dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness, and Palladium products. They carried a very small number of miniatures, but nothing on the scale of this treasure trove in California. I'd never seen anything like it. There were board games, there were card games, there were Role Playing Games, there were miniatures and large tables covered in battle terrain, and signs posting events and a bulletin board for people who were looking to join a game.It was a paradise for my gaming eyes!

Diana Atwater introduced me to a couple of games that day, including Legend of the Five Rings. This was the game that would have the largest impact on most of my life as it really sparked a huge interest in Japanese cinema for me and provided me with a way to connect to various people that would become great friends over the years. Her husband owned the store, and Jonathan Jackson was both a teacher and a friend when it came to learning various new games. I asked him to read a passage when my wife and I were married, they were important people in our lives, and I appreciate the impact they’d had on my life more deeply than I think they realized.They were some of my first friends upon moving to California. They gave me a bridge with which to meet so many other people. From Tom Doolan to Richard Bennett and Joe Papp- I've made some great connections over the years thanks to their store. 

I'll remember the L5R league nights as being some of the best nights of my life. The excitement of Gold Edition decks, the storyline tournaments, picking my clan, fighting for the honor of my favorite heroes. I remember the D&D nights, falling to the corruption of a dark god, finding redemption and dying in battle with my Ranger... both blades flashing in the midst of a war. Spycraft, 7th Sea, Feng Shui, and straight on down into the Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane. I ran a few games, I played a few games, and all in all I had a great time in the building.

When they decided to move on, they sold the store and life coincidentally got much stranger and harder at roughly the same time. It was a struggle to just stop in for a random game or two with the new owners, I just couldn’t get the money or the time to stop in and pick up a regular purchase. But I did still stop in, and I did still pick up the random purchase here and there, and I did try to spend some time there and check out the bulletin board whenever possible. But many games began to die ignoble deaths to time and entropy-

I just discovered the Game Habitat closed. It breaks my heart in many ways, it feels like the passing of an old friend, and it certainly feels like the end of an era. I wish I could revive the experience I had during the past 14 years. The camaraderie of rolling dice around a table as a dungeon master led us from one quest to another, the spectacle of miniature gamers and their painted armies marching into battle on an all terrain table, the pure exhilaration in defending my last province as I eked out another Honor victory against my enemies, and everything that went with all of that.