Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Death in Heaven"- Steven Moffat and Doctor Who

Fair Warning:  I'm delving deep into two of my fandoms here- Doctor Who and Pro-Wrestling.  I'll try to explain to a non-fan as much as I can.

So- The Eight Season of the Revamped Doctor Who ended last night with the second half of a two part episode.  This isn't a review of that episode- for reviews of the episodes, I highly recommend "The Reluctant Optimist".  Instead, I want to talk about why this season has been so frustrating for me as a fan.

It's got nothing to do with the acting.  I think Peter Capaldi has been great as the 12th Doctor.  It took me a while to appreciate Jenna Coleman as the Doctor's Companion, Calra Oswald, but she has really done an excellent job acting.

It's just too bad the scripts were so awful.

Steven Moffat is the showrunner- not only the main writer, but the person who drives the direction of the show.  He took over from Russell T. Davies just as we went from the 10th Doctor to the 11th.  

If you're a pro-wrestling fan, you'll get this analogy:

Steven Moffat is the Vince Russo of Doctor Who.

If you're not a pro-wrestling fan, let me explain.

Vince Russo used to be the head writer for the WWE back in 1998- then in 1999 jumped ship to the competition, WCW.  Back in the WWE, he had the owner of the federation, Vince McMahon, act as his editor (much like Davies could be for Moffat).  In WCW, he had no editor at all.

Both Russo and Moffat love to write the Markout Moment- the line/scene/moment where the character says or does something that you as a fan will remember and share with your friends.  It can be a moment of awesomeness, of heartwarming, of funny, of anger- anything to make you mark out.

That would be fine.  The problem is that both Russo and Moffat (a) throw so many markout moments that they lose the impact and (b) forget the consequences of what they wrote five minutes ago.

An example from Russo's reign- he had the biggest face in the fed lose a match by having someone betray him three months in a row.  At that point, you stop rooting for the good guy to get revenge and start thinking he's an idiot.

Or, from last's night Doctor Who episode (SPOILERS!)...



... OK, five minutes are spent with the Doctor and Clara agonizing over a decision-.  Her boyfriend, Danny Pink, has been turned into a Cyberman, but still retains his emotions.  He's in a ton of pain.  In addition, if they inhibit his emotions, he'll hook up more with the hive mind and be able to tell the Doctor the Cyberman's plans.  But shutting off his emotions will turn him fully into a Cyberman, losing his independence and he'll be lost to Clara forever.

So it's one of those morality decisions.  They spend a lot of time before finally making the call to turn on the inhibitor.  Big moment, right?  

Pink reveals the Cyberman's plans, they confront the big Bad- and not FIVE MINUTES LATER, Pink is revealed to still have his independence and feelings.

So what the hell was all that buildup for?

This entire season has been like that- big buildups to moments, that are then forgotten about before the next commercial.  And so, any markout moment is lost, because it doesn't mean anything.

(In addition, Moffat has decided to spend this year having the Doctor mock and condemn any soldier.  It's always great to see a fandom you like being used to insult a group of people you respect.  Really.)

So... yeah.  My wife has turned me into a Doctor Who fan.  But I don't think I'll pay much more attention until they replace Moffat as the showrunner. I'm not interested in what he's selling.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NBA Predictions 2014-2015

Eastern Conference:
1. Cleveland
2. Toronto
3. Miami
4. Chicago
5. Indiana
6. Charlotte
7. Brooklyn
8. Washington

9. Detroit
10. New York
11. Atlanta
12. Orlando
13. Milwaukee
14. Boston
15. Philadelphia

Western Conference:1. San Antonio
2. LA Clippers
3. Oklahoma City
4. Golden State
5. Dallas
6. Phoenix
7. Portland
8. Minnesota

9. Memphis
10. New Orleans
11. Houston
12. Denver
13. LA Lakers
14. Sacramento
15. Utah

More notes:
• My surprise team of the year- Minnesota. Very young, very athletic- I could see Wiggins as the rookie of the year and Bennett as the most Improved player of the year. In a loaded Western Conference, I think they make the playoffs
• Houston- last year I thought they’d gel and be real contenders. I’m no longer a believer. Harden+Howard+ role players no longer seems like a good combination, especially in this era of three point shooters.
• But damn, the West is Loaded. The #10 team here could contend for a top three spot in the East.
• While the Eastern Conference is better this year than last year, it’s not because the top teams are great- it’s that the mediocre teams are taking a few steps forward
• I’m not a believer in Washington. I think they overplayed their starters, don’t have any bench, and got lucky with health last year.
• I have no idea how Chicago, Miami, or Indiana will do. I could see any of the three challenging for the top spot in the East; I could see any of the three collapsing completely.
• Complete wild guesses on the lottery: 1) Utah 2) Philadelphia 3) Denver. They will vote to ‘flatten’ the lottery, but it won’t begin until 2016
• In the Western Conference, I will keep picking San Antonio until they prove me wrong. And in the Eastern Conference, I think the Cavs are more talented and healthier than any other team in the conference. And in the finals…
• Damn. Last year was the single most frustrating year I have ever experienced as a sports fan. Watching a team you expected to take a step forward just fall apart and become a disaster was painful. I have been a longtime Mike Brown fan, but he was the wrong coach for this team. It was ugly.
• And then, karma payback. The Cavs won the lottery. They went in a completely different direction with the new coach, and picked someone with a worldwide reputation for being an offensive genius. They didn’t panic and drafted the person I thought was the best player. I was thrilled long before LeBron came back. And then he came back- something I never thought would happen.
• I’m a Cleveland sports fan. I’ve come to dread the worst. Right now, I’m terrified how something that seems to be put together so perfectly could fall apart. But everything seems set up so perfectly. On paper, this works… San Antonio is a year older. Cleveland is younger than Miami, deeper, and hungrier. The Cleveland Cavaliers end the Curse and win the NBA Championship in six games.

(Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be hiding under the bed))

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Top 10- Epic Rap Battles

Next Month, Epic Rap Battles returns to Youtube.  Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd have had three seasons of mixing rap battles with celebrities, and they've been consistently hysterical.  I thought I'd put up my ten favorites of the first three seasons:

(Some cursing)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons- 5th edition

Wizards of the Coast is releasing the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  I've played DnD since I was ten, back in first edition.  Currently, I'm in a campaign using DnD 3.5 (third edition with some rules modifications).  Some initial thoughts looking over the new Player's Handbook:

* Some background- the 1st edition was groundbreaking- but it was also complicated as hell.  If you ever read the comic Knights of the Dinner Table , with their ridiculous charts and tables?  Yeah- 1st edition was like that.  A lot of groundbreaking work- but enough dice rolling to make your eyes bleed.

Second edition started off by simplifying things- but then they brought out splat books.  Books with variations of classes and races.  And with so many splat books out, it wasn't hard for people to find unbeatable combinations.  It was really unbalanced (all of the editions have some class balancing issues- but 2nd edition was extremely bad on this one)

Third edition- my favorite version, easily.  Allowing people to constantly switch classes gave them variety without the ridiculous rules from the 1st edition.  It was complicated, but nothing like first edition.  All in all, the best version of the game.

Fourth edition- it was a MMORPG (computer game) on paper.  It felt like less of a role-playing game and more of a combat tactical game.  And everything was so damned cookie-cutter; Every 8th level fight was one of two types.  I bought the books and tried to play, but lost interest.  Now it sits collecting dust on my bookshelf.

With all of that in mind, here's some thoughts on the new version of the game:

* Fifth edition- my first thought is that it's back to being a RPG.  Less tactics, more character development, more options.  Considering that I wasn't interested in fourth edition at all, this is a plus to me.

* It appears simpler than 3rd edition- the proficiency bonus goes up by overall level, so no more skill points.  There are backgrounds instead of feats

* I would really like to have seen some sample characters to see how everything fits together.  Just reading the descriptions, all of the powers seem jumbled together.  Some examples of each of the character classes might help clean things up.

* Balance issues?  I'm sure there are some.  Everyone who plays DnD min/maxes (aka, tries to find the best angle to help their characters succeed).  The rule in DnD used to be that wizards were really weak at lower levels and really strong at high levels.  They've strengthened spellcasters at lower levels (more spells, more HP)- so I'm curious if they've also lowered their potency at the high levels compared to other classes.

* Personally, I'm happy with third edition.  But if a player thought 3rd edition was too much paperwork, I could see where 5th edition would appeal to them.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014-2015


New England 11 5
Miami 9 7
NY Jets 5 11
Buffalo 3 13

Cincinnati 10 6
Baltimore 8 8
Pittsburgh 7 9
Cleveland 6 10

Indianapolis 10 6
Tennessee 7 9
Houston 7 9
Jacksonville 4 12

Denver 11 5
San Diego 9 7
Kansas City 8 8
Oakland 4 12


Philadelphia 11 5
Dallas 8 8
NY Giants 7 9
Washington 6 10

Green Bay 11 5
Chicago 10 6
Minnesota 9 7
Detroit 7 9

New Orleans 10 6
Atlanta 9 7
Tampa Bay 8 8
Carolina 6 10

Seattle 13 3
San Francisco 10 6
Arizona 7 9
St. Louis 5 11

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pro-Wrestling and appealing to two audiences

(Warning:  This post is about a meta-analysis of the WWE.  Consider yourself warned)

There’s two audiences the WWE is trying to appeal to:  The young kids and the teenagers.  Sure, there’s longtime fans like me- but we tend to stay with the fed thick and thin.  The WWE thrives as a business when they appeal to one or both of those audiences.

In the Hulkamania years they appealed to the 7 year olds.  And it worked- until the 7 year olds grew into teenagers who thought that Hogan wasn’t cool, and they weren’t able to recapture his appeal with anyone else (Luger, Diesel)

In the “Attitude” era, the appealed to the teenagers.  And they were incredibly hot for about five years.  But then the teenagers grew out of wrestling- and since they hadn’t appealed to kids, they was no next generation of fans ready to watch them.

So since then, they’ve been trying to appeal to both.  And in this John Cena was a boon.  He was the uberface the kids could get behind- so the WWE could always rely on him, and concentrate on appealing to the teenagers with other cool faces (HHH, Orton. Punk).  They had other faces that appealed to the kids- Undertaker, Rey Mysterio- but Cena was the absolute cornerstone.

((As an added bonus, Cena was so fun to hate for the teenagers that whoever Cena was facing would usually get face heat from the teenage crowd))

But now Cena’s nearing the end of his run.  He’s been the face for a decade- twice as long as Hogan, Rock, or Austin.  That’s incredible.  But it’s ending- and while the WWE has people to fill the ‘cool face’ role to appeal to the teenagers, who is going to fill the role for the 7 year old fan?

They’ve tested out other guys to be that uberface- remember smiling Shaemus?  But it hasn’t taken. 

I’m suspecting that the reason Brock Lesnar is getting such a megapush is that they want to build the next kids uberface- and what better way to launch him than to beat the guy who broke the Undertaker’s Streak and damned near squashed John Cena?

Right now, they are looking at Roman Reigns for that role.  And honestly?  He’s probably their best bet.  I don’t know if he can appeal to kids the way Hogan or Cena did- but I KNOW guys like Shaemus can’t fill that role.  Reigns might be able to (notice the emphasis on the ‘Superman punch’?  Tell me that’s not appealing to kids)

In retrospect, losing Daniel Bryan really hurts- because Bryan was the only guy who appealed to both sets of audiences equally.  The kids loved him because of the “YES” chant, the beard, and that he was so small that he was the underdog.  But he pulled off fantastic matches and had enough snark (“Mr. Small Package”) to appeal to teens. 

But they have guys who can appeal to teens- Ambrose leads the pack right now.  Ziggler might be able to do that.  Hell- I still have hope for Cody Rhodes. 

But they need that uberface for the kids- and I think the whole purpose of building up Lesnar is to sacrifice him for that next uberface to the kids.

And if I’m wrong and he loses the belt back to Cena- or to a part-timer like the Rock?  Then it tells me the WWE doesn’t think they don’t have another uberface close to being ready.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Crowning Moment of Awesome- 07/19/2014

Weird Al Yankovich has a new album and is revealing 8 videos over 8 days on his website.

My own opinion is that the first three videos ("Tacky","Word Crimes", "Foil") are especially incredible- funny and brilliant music parodies.  Weird Al has been putting on fantastic work for over 30 years.  Watch and enjoy.