Thursday, September 26, 2013

Attitude, Charisma, Heart

Here's an early match by rising star ACH from four years ago, just his second match for Anarchy Championship Wrestling:

Amazing athleticism, buckets of charisma, though not quite enough to get him through his promos back then.  He had the habit of forgetting the beginning of his sentences before he finished them, so we'd get such gems as "I will be your next U30 Championship Belt", and "This ain't no ballerina!"

His recent matches lack the right vibe.  He's too goofy for ROH, where he was underused in "put all the black guys in tag teams against each other" matches, at least in the show I saw - I don't do ROH.  And he's not goofy enough for Chikara.  ACW was a good Goldilocks zone for him.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Mute, Underemployed Sketch Comedians of the Disney World Pre-Show

Over the last couple of decades, Disney has been using video pre-shows, either as part of a safety spiel or just to break up the long waits.  These videos are populated with actors of various star power, including some from our favorite sketch comedy troupes.  The voice of Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall opens Stitch's Great Escape!, while Monty Python's Eric Idle was the ill-conceived focus of the entire Imagination pavillion at Epcot.

Some of our other favorite sketch comedians have a smaller focus, a more narrow stage.  Oh, and no lines of dialogue.

Take Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride.  No, not The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, this is the one in Disney Quest.  From an era when the future of entertainment was envisioned as strapping a thirty pound TV to your face and wagering on whether your neck or eyes give out first.

As far as these things go, Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride was at least functional and moderately entertaining.  The video preshow has a mute John Ennis from Mr. Show nodding and gesticulating as an unseen narrator explains how the ride works, I think from the perspective of a used car salesman or something.  Somehow there is a square inch of Disney World that Martin Smith or PopSong1 haven't covered, so this is the best I could manage:

No dialogue, but at least he's the center of attention.  The State's Ken Marino has worked steadily in bit parts and crappy sitcoms, but there was a good fourteen years until his talents were put to good use again in 2009's Party Down.  In the middle of that, he earned a paycheck milking a background artist role, sitting in the foreground as a sound engineer in the preshow for Rock N Roller Coaster:

...pretending to turn knobs and reacting to everyone else's lines, as if anybody could steal focus from Steve Tyler.  A cast member is supposed to call out something about backstage passes for him to react to, but I love how now it sounds like he's just loving the idea the voices in his head suggest.

After Aerosmith drives away, Tyler flashing the shocker, and the crowds are shuffled off to the next line, I've lingered around to try to catch the video loop, as Ken sits there alone, pretending to mix a song that was recorded over thirty years ago.  He looks lonely, but at least he wasn't in Nearly Departed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Earworm: Haysi Fantayzee - Shiny Shiny

I know, this one's too short.  You want more ragamuffin British white boy rap from the 80s.  Try this:

No, not enough awkward shifting around in place.  Here:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life

Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life
Ivan T Sanderson, 1961

There are over 500 pages to Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, and almost none of it on the abominable snowman, in the sense of the yeti and similar.  Here, Sanderson uses the term to describe all hairy hominids, though he predicts that the term Oh-Mah is on the rise, unlike that ridiculous "bigfoot".

Actual sightings take up a small fraction of the wordage, the rest taken up with geography, botany, theology, and these gems:

"It appears that in certain circumstances human beings may give rise to just such faeces as depicted here. I have information on two such eventualities. The first is of Alaskan Eskimos who go on an almost exclusive diet of whale blubber in lean winters. This causes not just chronic constipation but a major blockage of the lower bowel which may result in retention for many weeks or months.
Then, the family group goes in search of certain willows, the astringent bark of which they strip and eat. This acts as a very violent purgative. As a result of this, they finally manage to eliminate but not without great pain, splitting of the anus, and a great loss of blood. The sorry process was most graphically described to me in a letter from a U.S. Government agent in Alaska.
The other example of this medical obscurity that I have on record is that of what are called in China 'Shensi-Babies.' These are single, enormous, extremely solid faeces, eliminated by confirmed opium eaters, and sometimes by opium smokers, who have gone into prolonged periods of withdrawal due to narcotization; during which evacuation is ignored or actually physically impossible. Resultant faeces, when elimination does occur, are said to be, on occasion, as much as 2 feet long and 4 inches in diameter."
"the yellow-skinned, glabrous Bushmen, with their steatopygy [or fat bottoms], the strange form of the male penis which is often permanently semi-erect, and the odd development of the female labia minora into huge flaps that may fall even to the knees, and which are known as 'Hottentot Aprons' "
Read it free here.

The Spider 006 - Citadel of Hell

The Spider 006
Citadel of Hell
Norvell Page as Grant Stockbrdge
March, 1934

The Spider faces a conspiracy of firebugs that threaten to destroy America's food supply.  Not a lot of detection in this one - the first full half of the book is one extended action sequence as the Spider tries to find clues while evading the police, who are after both the Richard Wentworth and the Spider for murder.  He gets close, gets captured by the police, does something clever to escape, his ruse falls through, gets captured by the police, wash, rinse, repeat.

The scale of the menaces the Spider faces has been steadily increasing as the magazine goes on, and by this issue thousands are killed and the entire nation is starving.

Aside from the manic pace, what stands out is massive car chase involving the police, the gang cars, the Spider in a double decker bus, and an absurd amount of firebombs and explosions.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hawker 1 - Florida Firefight

Hawker: Florida Firefight
Carl Ramm
1984 Dell Publishing

"Demanding justice, he was a one-man SWAT team in a daring raid on an island of death"
"A walking arsenal skilled in every lethal art, he lived outside the law - to battle the forces no law could touch"
"James Hawker was Chicago's most decorated cop...until he gunned down a ruthless terrorist instead of serving him a summons.  That "mistake" cost Hawker his badge and turned him overnight into what some men called America's deadliest vigilante.
Hawker - a man tough as gristle.  Armed with the technology of the electronic age and a white-hate rage for justice, he was a hunter stalking the modern jungle, uncompromising, fearless, determined to turn its predators into his prey."
Hawker is a Chicago police sniper who gets suspended for vague political reasons because he shot a Honduran during a hostage situation after he opened fire on a group of rich teenagers.  He gets a two week suspension, which causes him to quit in a cliched scene Dell Publishing is for some reason so proud of they included it in the preface.
"Hawker, Captain Cheznik says I should be giving you another medal instead of suspending you.  But I don't have much choice.  You didn't play by our rules, so you left all of us wide open to criticism from every bleeding-heart politician and liberal who wants to be quoted in the press."
Hawker is contacted by the Buddhist Texas millionaire father of a boy that was killed, and offers to fund him in a one-man right-wing vigilante death squad.

Hawker is a high-tech vigilante, and has a top of the line 128 K computer, along with a set of discs a hacker gave him that will let him hack into any computer connected to a phone line.

His first assignment is to investigate a small Florida town that is overrun by Colombians.  Of course they're drug dealers, don't even worry about it.  Hawker doesn't, as he murders men in cold blood for the crime of guarding stuff as he inspires the non-Colombian Floridians to raise arms.

There's some non-PC humor attempts when AIDS jokes were acceptable ("I think you have a candidate for AIDS disease here."), but the plot is too cliched and the action too flat.  The few action scenes are practically written out as "He opens the door and shoots the gun and the bad guys fall down dead."  And the final showdown has the line: "It seems I have underestimated you, Mr. James Thornton Hawker," he hissed. "But I assure you it be will be the very last time" with no irony or embarrassment.

The sample pages of the next installment are more fruitful than the entire first book, but this one was too dull to give this series a second read.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Clown sightings in Northampton

While these are likely a combination of pseudo-performance art and internet flash meme whatevers, they are reminiscent of a more sinister rash of clown attacks that plagued Chicago in the early 90s by Homey the Clown...

... in one of the least original urban myths.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

They Call Me the Mercenary 2: The Slaughter Run

They Call Me the Mercenary 2: The Slaughter Run
Axel Kilgore (aka Jerry Ahern)
Zebra Books 1980

"Assassination in the Swiss Alps...terrorism in the Central Americana jungle...treachery in Washington...and Hank Frost right in the middle! The wise-cracking mercenary captain is up to his eyepatch in brutal violence, torture, and betrayal. There's the presidential bodyguard force he'd be a fool to trust; the fighting right-wing general whose republic is aflame with revolt; his seductive wife who'll have Frost as her lover—or have Frost dead; and the Communist Terrorist Army that's out for a final bloodbath!"
Hank Frost is the mercenary that they call the mercenary. The second volume opens straight into the action with Frost fleeing from assassins in the Swiss Alps. From there he's coerced by the State Department to protect the military dictator of the fictional Central American country of Monte Azul. The dictator is one of the good guys.

Monte Azul is overrun by communist terrorists, and the US won't give them arms unless they restore civil rights. This is a bad thing. Frost protects the dictator because he believes he is necessary in the fight against international communism. He also has strong feelings of personal loyalty to the man, going so far as to say he may love him, in a totally not gay way. He expresses this devotion by banging the dictator's wife and young daughter, giving him a heart attack. This is what the good guy does.

Frost protects the dictator as he goes around dictating, and does a horrible job trying to make us believe that he's a good guy at heart. In one scene he is shocked to find that the children of a village are starving, and that his close friend and military underling has not been distributing supplies. Imagine that, in a military junta with no accountability. The dictator swiftly creates a civil buearcracy to handle the job with a system of checks and balances and begins the process of free elections.

Of course not. He executes the traitors without trial and the children are promptly forgotten about. Remember, we are somehow supposed to like this man and not sympathize with the rebels who are trying to overthrow him.

Pretty soon the inevitable happens and Frost is forced to flee the country with the dictator, all of his family members that he's porking, and members of the US embassy. The second half of the book is a chase across the country in an antique steam train. There is a brief detour involving big corporations who want world peace at any price, that price being handing Mexico over to Russia and having homosexuals touch Frost's testicles. It's really not as weird or cool as it sounds, and just seems to be shoe-horned in to give us a reason to dislike the government beuracrats who otherwise seem completely reasonable.

This is a Jerry Ahern book, his second as far as I can tell. Solid, well written action that never really pushes the WTF barrier enough to be really fruitful. The characterizations are more blah here than in the Defender or Survivalist series, with the closest thing to a personality being that Frost makes jokes about his eyepatch. Jerry Ahern is a man who writes entire books about handgun holsters. He is not known for his wit, and Frost's quips regularly fall flat.

The dedication is to Death Merchant author Joseph Rosenberger. "The Professor's Been Paid, My Friend"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013

More cargo nets

Sesame Place was a Sesame Street theme park that had a brief existence in Irving, Texas from 1982 to 1984.  At 8 acres it wasn't so much a tiny amusement park as a ginormous playground, with an indoor computer lab with interactive activities.  Here's a fairly exhaustive overview:

The Computer Gallery had various terminals with rudimentary programs.  The one I remember is a text based lemonade stand simulator, where you had to account for the cost of sugar, set prices, etc.

There was a Shadow Room with photosensitive walls.  Every ten seconds or so a flash would go off, and your shadow left an impression that gradually faded before the next flash.

There was a mock up of the front steps of the Sesame Street set, and as you can see children were allowed to crawl in Oscar's trash can.  On my visit I climbed into one of the opened topped crates behind the trash can, only to fall a good six feet or so to the subfloor below.  I was afraid I'd get in trouble if I called for help, so I managed to shimmy my way back up on my own.  I don't think I needed worry.  Looking back, there wasn't a lot of adult supervision.  The only attendant I recall was at the top of the waterslide, and by the end of the day he was letting kids slide down backwards, five at a time, whatever.

There seemed to be a lot of danger in the outdoors play area.  From the three story maze of cargo nets that begged to snatch limbs as kids flipped and rolled around, to the enormous ball pit that you could lose a nursery school in.  Shaky suspension bridges thirty feet off the ground with rope railings?  Perfectly safe for unattended six-year-olds.  Tons of fun, but I kept having the nagging dread that my parents would only find me after closing when they cleaned up all the corpses.

There was one in Japan, and one is still open in Pennsylvania, though it looks to have turned into a more conventional theme park with rides and parades and meet and greets.  Lots more available at Big Bird Bridge.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Throne of Satan

Throne of Satan
by James Dark (James Edmond MacDonnell)
Signet Books, 1967

"Today Dominat is the demon scientist who conceived Operation Sugarstrike.  Tomorrow he will be World Emperor...unless Intertrust agent MARK HOOD can wrest him from his volcanic lair."
Opens mopping up from the events of the last novel, Caribbean Striker.  Agent Tommy Tremayne is in the clutches of the villanous Borja.  Mark Hood investigates the sunken ship they were believed to have perished in, and gets in an underwater knife fight.  This is all Mark Hood does the entire novel.

Most of the books slim 128 pages is Tremayne being given the grand tour of the volcano lair of Dominat.  The text is painfully aware that having the villian explain his plot to his captive is cliche, and proceeds to do so anyway without a hint of irony.  There is a great deal of Dominat lording over Tremayne, while at the same time desperate for his approval.  This kind of inferiority complex seemed a bit out of place and heavy handed, until I learned that the title of the original Austrialian printing was Black Napoleon, with the tagline "A black extremist is the quary of spyman Mark Hood". 

Mark Hood, meanwhile, hooks up with a couple of women who both betray him.  One was kind enough to bring him to the volcano lair, which I couldn't figure if Hood even knew existed.  From there, his oriental manservant Murimoto does the fighting for him, the volcano erupts, the end.

Throne of Satan, the seventh in the Mark Hood series of James Bond knock-offs, reads like a fifth grader recapping You Only Live Twice, which was released earlier the same year.