TheodoreSLaBarbera.com

Since 2003, the off-ramp on the Information Superhighway.

Month: September 2016

What If? In 1993, Scott Steiner Stays in WCW and Turns Heel.

I’m an old-school fan of professional wrestling. I love the use of true in-ring psychology, such as working on a singular body part to wear down your opponent, and then having your opponent sell that injury for the duration of the match. For me, every match should begin with the standard collar-elbow tie-up, and move to the standing side headlock before pushing an opponent into the ropes to kick off the action. But that all being said, there’s nothing I love more than seeing some well-executed, old-fashioned power moves, like a tight, crisp suplex or power body slam. These high-risk, high-reward moves are visually appealing, tie back to classic amateur wrestling, and serve to differentiate the sport from its more striking-oriented cousins, boxing and mixed martial arts.

So, it’s no surprise that I love the work of Rick and Scott Steiner, from about 1989 through 1993. The two brothers, collegiate stars both at the University of Michigan, revolutionized tag team wrestling during the era and moved it away from the usual ranks of muscle-bound freaks and pretty-boy rockers. The Steiners were physical, and they were there to take your ass OUT with an array of high-impact throws. From the standard belly-to-belly suplex to the stiff and brutal Steinerline clothesline to the revolutionary at the time Frankensteiner flying vertical head scissions from a standing start, every move was fast, devastating, and utterly believable. When you got hit with the Frankensteiner, your were done and the match was over in decisive fashion.

Eventually, though, contracts expire, management sucks, and superstars bail to the competition. And so it was in 1993, when the Steiners would make their way from WCW to the World Wrestling Federation, in search of greater fame and fortune. While somewhat out of place in the more-cartoonish world of the WWF, the Steiners did earn their likely increased paychecks and standing, and you can consider their run there a moderate (if slightly disappointing) success.

But, what if WCW booker at the time Bill Watts had convinced the team to stay, or at least convinced Scott Steiner to break up the partnership and fly solo? We had a fleeting, tantalizing tease of this very possibility in early 1993. With Rick already on the way out, WCW continued to utilize the more-talented and less-doglike brother for the duration of his contract in a solo run that flashed heel tendencies. Scott’s matches became even more aggressive, and he tossed his opponents around with glee. Once, after suffering a loss in a tag team match, he turned on partner Marcus Alexander Bagwell and beat him to a bloody pulp. Finally, he dominated an absolute legend in Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat and convincingly beat him to win the WCW World Television Championship. Even the closing inside cradle looks stiff and like no opponent in the world would ever be able to kick out when Steiner locks it in, even a former World Heavyweight Champion like Steamboat! See the full match here, which occurred 23 years ago on this day:

Imagine if Scott had stayed and renewed his contract. Would he have gotten the next monster heel run after Big Van Vader, following a transitional but historic championship run by Ron Simmons? How would he have fit into the crowded ecosystem of top WCW heels, such as Ravishing Rick Rude, Stunning Steve Austin, Vader, Sid Vicious, and others? Remember, this was pre-Big Poppa Pump Steiner, but also after the point where he had shown enough promise to have already been considered for a world title run in 1990, allegedly. He was still at his absolute physical peak. Could his raw athleticism have propelled him to greatness years ahead of his world title run in late WCW of 2000? Could his anger and brutality overcome his relative inability to cut a decent promo? Imagine a run where Steiner was putting on world-class matches suplexing the shit out of Simmons, Sting, Ric Flair, Steamboat, and Cactus Jack. Could Steiner serve as a monster heel world champion to eventually be slayed by none other than Hulk Hogan one year later upon his debut? It seems unlikely, and perhaps it might have even devolved into a trainwreck, but those matchups prove a tantalizing missed opportunity lost to history.

The Worst Wing

Perhaps the single-worst part of any United States political campaign season is when all of the awful, sneering, jock-sniffing Hollywood celebrities come out of the woodwork to endorse their favorite liberal candidates and concerns. They all spout the same, tired, hyperbolic rhetoric no matter who is running: the opposition is a dunce, a buffoon, a threat to the very existential fiber of civilization! It’s become so tiring, and coming from these rocket scientists, it’s no wonder that nearly half the electorate is turned off from their message and is in a state of open rebellion by supporting an anti-politically correct, controversial, outspoken nominee like Donald Trump.

Case in point, the cast of the West Wing have reunited, and they are out on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton.

“There’s no question, this is absolutely the most qualified human being ever to run for President,” says [Bradley] Whitford, who played White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman. “She has been a leader in terms of giving people access to health care. And in her children’s health insurance program, equal rights for women, LGBT rights – she has been fighting the good for fight for 45 years.”

Healthcare and LGBT issues! If that doesn’t set someone up as deserving of the highest office in the land I don’t know what does! Pay no attention to how much unsafer the world has become thanks to her poor decisions and policies as Secretary of State. It’s not as if Russia used her infamous reset button to invade and conquer a close ally (and one-time NATO treaty applicant). Or that an Islamist revolution in Libya led directly to the deaths of American lives and further emboldened terrorist organizations such as ISIS.

The West Wing Cast

Seriously, though, look at these unwashed old hippies. Does anyone care what they think?

It’s even more funny (or sad) because–while the show certainly garnered critical acclaim amongst the intelligentsia–it’s not as if the West Wing or its cast were ever really very popular. The show cracked the Top 10 (and barely, at #10) in one year, 2001. Otherwise, it usually labored in the low-20’s or mid-30’s, ranking behind all-time classics such as The Bachelor, Fear Factor, and My Big, Fat Obnoxious Fiancee.

Keep on spreading the good word, folks. Each time you open your mouths and sing Kumbaya, Ohio turns a little deeper shade of red.

Hooray for the Wayback Machine!

Geek Soap BoxI’ve been writing and publishing stuff on the Internet since, by my count, 2003.

It started with a humble, hand-coded HTML and Cold Fusion-powered site located at this very domain, followed by blogs on an array of platforms from LiveJournal to BlogSpot to WordPress to SquareSpace to Tumblr. One “Instalanche” aside, it was never about attracting an audience or making big bucks; I wrote for me, as a catharsis for my soul and to entertain the small handful of close friends from the real world that stopped by to read and comment.

I did also wind up with one major, life-changing thing happening as a result of my writing, of course. I can remember it as clearly as if happened yesterday, when a random, unknown girl (then residing in Pennsylvania) who went by the handle “Miss Understood” started frequenting the blog and leaving her thoughts in the comments. Over time we became e-mail friends, then moved to the telephone, and then finally met one fateful weekend in Savannah, GA. Today, you know that lovely lady as my wife, teejcee. The Internet owed me for a Catfishing-like fiasco (before that was even a word) back in college, and boy did it pay me back in spades.

Sadly, though, nearly all of my writings have since been lost to history. I used to be rather masochistic and self-destructive, and would occasionally delete my entire site and archives entirely purely to spite myself over some bout of depression or anxiety or whatnot. Believe you me, that is a terrible way to live, and I’m glad those incidents are at a minimum these days, as I’ve learned to better love and accept myself and be comfortable in my own skin.

But looking back, man I miss those posts. It ain’t Shakespeare, but a lot of fun was had each night trying to come up with new, interesting content, and in engaging with my buddies in political discourse and the occasional smack-talk. I’ve forever regretted my rash moves to wipe all traces of myself off of the grid, and wish I could have it all back.

Well, maybe I can, at least a little. As fate would have it, the famed Wayback Machine managed to crawl and index some of my sites over the years, and those posts are still up at archive.org in a limited capacity. So far, I’ve managed to find and save maybe 50 or more posts dating from 2006 and 2011, covering topics from the War on Terror to Transformers to Anthony Weiner (who, amazingly, is still in the fucking news for doing the same shit this many years later!).

(As an aside, how ginormous does the Wayback Machine’s servers have to be? It’s a comprehensive archive of whole swaths of the Web over the course of decades now, not to mention all sorts of public domain media such as books, music, videos, and more. The pure size and power of all that data and accumulated knowledge and history proves mind-boggling.)

So, what does this mean for today’s iteration of this site? Well, I think I am going to (very slowly) cut and paste and publish these old posts as I find them, tagging them with the correct dates and content. For some, history has taught us many lessons and the world is a vastly different place, so I might have a quick “TSL Update” at either the beginning or end to remark on what was and what has since come to pass. It will be a fascinating look back into my own personal history, as well of that of America, technology, and so much more. If you want to come along for the ride, you are always more than welcome, dear reader. If not, I’ll keep the new and fresh content up top like any good blog, so you won’t even notice.

What a ride it’s been! Let’s hope the journey in front of us proves just as fascinating and rewarding, if not moreso!

Micro-Review: The Revenant

The Revenant

A review in bullet points, mostly shamelessly stolen from my Twitter account.

  • Watched the Revenant last night with the Mrs. on HBO. I’m personally notorious for dozing off for long stretches of dramatic tilts, but, unexpectedly despite its over two-hour length, the movie managed to capture — and hold — my interest and attention the entire time.
  • Plot-wise, it made for a very good story, although nothing we really haven’t seen before. Despite being loosely based on the real-life tale of frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823, most of the primary storyline borrows from classic tropes regarding survival, revenge, and the eventual redemption of our hero. Perhaps that’s why it proves so compelling.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio deserves praise for conveying Glass’s pain, despair, and determination through essentially a series of grunts and groans (and without working legs!) for nearly half the film. That takes quite the talent, and Leo well deserves his Academy Award for a job well done.
  • Tom Hardy has become one of the go-to actors in Hollywood these days. It’s amazing how well he has performed in a series of diverse roles in some of my favorite movies of recent times, from Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to the titular character in Mad Max: Fury Road to the low-down, partially scalped cretin Fitzgerald in this movie.
  • Wow, the cinematography and scenery were absolutely stunning. Again, well worth the Academy Award.
  • The Bear Scene. One of the most brutal, painful, torturous scenes since The Passion of the Christ. Never mess with a momma bear, folks!

Donald Trump Plays the Media Like the Fools They Are

Mainstream MediaIt’s truly amazing that we’ve come this far, hasn’t it? As I write this post in mid-September, Donald Trump — real-estate mogul, reality television superstar, Internet troll extraordinaire — actually has a fairly decent shot at winning this November’s election and becoming President of the United States.

It hasn’t been easy along the way. The candidate has often done all that he possibly can to wipe out his own chances of success with his quick temper and free-flowing mouth. And certainly the mainstream media and collective intelligentsia have done all that they possible can to defame and discount this historic run, alternating between referring to him as “pure evil,” telling tales of impending nuclear disaster, or playing it loose and fast with the facts behind what he says in general.

But, behind it all, they don’t realize one thing; every time they talk, every ounce of hyperbole directed his way, all it does is boost Trump’s chances. There is a giant undercurrent of loathing and hatred in this country for the media elites, and if they are ripping on someone with profound condescension, to that vast undercurrent of “deplorables“, they are reaffirming why Trump is different and worthy of their support.

Case in point, the “Birther” issue. With two terms and eight years completed, it’s a bit nonsensical that we are even wasting our time with the debate over whether or not current President Barack Hussein Obama was born in the United States and technically eligible for the office he holds. Also, mind you not that this entire conspiracy may have gotten it’s start back in the early days of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for president, or that Obama’s camp did the thing no favors by stalling for seeming years to address the issue convincingly and factually. No, because Donald Trump used to make mention of it years ago–as many of us did at the time–we have to dig deep into the Wayback Machine and use it as a hammer to bash him after the fact.

Take this tweet from the Associated Press, which I singled out back when it was sent:

I’m sure some copy writer or intern at the AP was very smugly satisfied with the language and construction of that tweet. From the “BREAKING” tag to the tone, it’s filled with elitist sarcasm and “of course it was obvious all along” undertones that are designed to make Trump appear to be a buffoon for being so behind the times.

But that’s not really how it played out on television, though. In reality, Trump used the opening of his new hotel in Washington, DC as an opportunity to appear, well, dare I say…presidential. He came out, definitively declared the issue over, stated the facts, and then closed with the brilliant line, “Hillary Clinton started it, I ended it.” BOOM. That is the line that will resonate with voters throughout the country when its all said and done. And by covering the issue with unbridled enthusiasm in anticipation of meltdown, instead the mainstream media provided a forum for Trump to have one of his best days ever. Like Butch said in Pulp Fiction, “this is how you are going to beat them; they keep underestimating you.”

Look, I’m only the most tepid of Donald Trump supporters personally. There’s a lot to be concerned about, from his fundamental knowledge of some issues to his lack of depth on others, a frightening combination of arrogance and willful ignorance. However, to borrow from another sage proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and if Trump is going to continue to make the media look like the biased, pseudo-intellectual fools that they are, I’m going to gleefully laugh and enjoy the ride with each and every incident.

Never Forget

9/11 Memorial

15 years. Feels like 100 years ago, and yesterday at the same time. So much has happened, but nothing has changed.

Ad: Thanks for Giving Me Cancer, Mom and Dad!

At their most basic level, television commercials are designed to appeal to consumers on a raw, emotional level. You HAVE to have this product. You NEED this product. It’s all part of the “Ikea Nesting Egg Theory” made famous in Fight Club: how does this brand or product define you as a person?

Even more effectively, some commercials opt for negative reinforcement: instead of building you up, they go for the opposite. You find yourself publicly shamed and humiliated for not listing to the message (cue a sad Sarah McLaughlin song as starving puppies fill the screen). The ad is preying upon your primal fears and guilt to spur you to act from your safe, secure nest at home.

Case in point: this recent ad by pharmeceutical company Merck, in promotion of its Gardasil vaccine for the HPV virus.

So yeah, not only can you no longer get a boner without a little blue pill, because YOU didn’t get your kids this vaccine against the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease (perhaps because you are a God-fearing, Bible-thumping conservative mired deep in repression and denial about the activities of your progeny), you just ensured that they get cancer later on in life! Great job, mom and dad! Thanks!

I guess it’s still better than this head-scratchingly awful 9/11-themed mattress sale commercial, though!

Tim Tebow Takes Another Bow

Tim TebowFor a time, Tim Tebow had it all. He played an integral role on two college football national championship teams, and won the vaunted Heisman Trophy in 2007. Filled with charisma and a reputation as an all-around Christian, polite, good guy, there was little doubt that Tim’s raw talent would propel him into the stratosphere of professional sports. Surely, the day would come when his unorthodox style and leadership skills led some NFL team into the promised land of a Super Bowl championship.

Alas, it never happened. After a flash of tantalizing brilliance in Denver, Tebow flamed out during a disastrous run with the New York Jets. The once brash and confident superstar more accurately resembled a deer in the headlights in the face of the New England Patriots’ hard-charging defense, and, just like that, our hero found himself on the sidelines, a commentator for programming ranging from ABC’s Good Morning America to the SEC Channel’s weekly game-time coverage.

But that fire still burned, as it does for all once-great athletes. The competitive spirit can never be quenched. After failed comeback attempts with various NFL franchises desperate enough to take out a flyer, though, it all seemed for naught. But what about baseball? Tebow was a three-sport star in high school, excelling every bit on the diamond as he did on the football field. Less physically taxing, less mentally challenging, less directly responsible for the outcome of the game on every play, perhaps the Major Leagues could be a place where Tim could finally find himself home.

The dream became real today, with Tebow signing a minor-league contract with the defending National League Champion New York Mets. For the Mets, its a low-cost gamble with high payoff. At worst, the Mets’ young locker rooms get to see how “one of the great athletes of our time” (to paraphrase Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson in the article above) carries himself as a man before the media and shoulders the weight of great expectations. They get a teammate with great character and work ethic to serve as an example for their entire system. Should he make the big leagues one day, his stature and charisma will take the burden off of the other Mets superstars and allow them to more expertly focus on their craft while The Man gets all the press. And if he hits for power, as he displayed during open workouts? All the better, he’ll do it for us and not for a rival such as the Atlanta Braves, who were the rumored favorites to land his services.

And for Tim Tebow, it’s one last shot at glory. The grizzled veteran stepping up to the plate at sunset, looking for one last chance to write that storybook ending and be The Natural. It sure beats sitting in front of a camera and blinding lights, caked in makeup, talking about the players who have passed you by.

Ted Tebowing

Honorary pic of me, back in the days when I had hair, “Tebow-ing” upon news that the New York Jets had traded for the QB.