Danger! Danger! Music Time!

I’ve likely posted this one before, but it’s a great song and a great video. Thanks to that Forza 6 commercial for reminding me about it.

Pro-Wrestling: Due For a Renaissance.

School has been a mixed bag and I have been sick for about a week, and as a result I’m up well past midnight due to a midday nap. The good news is that it gives me some time to write. So here we go…

I’m sure you already read the title, so you know what I’m going to be talking about. Whenever a non-wrestling fan finds out I’m an adult wrestling fan, I get one of two questions: “You know it’s fake right?” or “Why would you watch that?” These are actually two of the three points I wanted to hit on tonight. Because I really don’t think people appreciate the art and history that goes into pro-wrestling. So let’s just dive in and talk about that thing non-wrestling fans is the elephant in the room:

Wrestling is fake

I can 100% tell you that any adult wrestling fan with sound mind understands that the matches and events in pro-wrestling are scripted. Frankly, I usually get insulted because that question implies that I have some sort of deficiency that prevents me from realizing very obvious things. We know it’s “fake.” We love that it’s “fake.” Comedian Ron Funches really has a great bit about this. So we’ve cleared the air. We’re all on common ground and understand that wrestling is mostly scripted and the physicality is very real.

Frank's Kayfabe HatBefore we get too deep I need to explain a term and concept that is the very core of wrestling: Kayfabe. Kayfabe is a term from within professional wrestling that basically means the illusion and story that wrestling projects. For example, Mark Calaway is just some MMA enthusiast with a really nice house in Texas and a hot wife. However, when Mark puts on some black clothes and steps through the doors of a WWE event he becomes the Undertaker from Death Valley. Real life Mark. Kayfabe Undertaker. Kayfabe is a noun and an adjective. So you have to protect Kayfabe, from things that aren’t Kayfabe. Also, Kayfabe is fun to say. I think you have the idea now.

The interesting thing to keep in mind is that when kayfabe was still intact, meaning people still thought it was real, the performers would go to extraordinary length to protect it. Good guys and bad guys could never be seen together in public. The faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys) would go as far as staying in separate hotels. In the rare instances that wrestlers knowingly put kayfabe in danger and were caught, they were often severely punished. Losing opportunities, money, and sometimes their jobs. On top of that, many of these guys took extreme pride in their craft. Pro-wrestling is perhaps one of the most insane and amazing forms of performance art ever created. For decades people would pretend to be someone completely different in public just for the sake of entertaining people and making a buck. People thought wrestling was real, and wrestling took every effort to keep it that way.

The Curtain CallWhich brings us to an interesting realization: professional wrestling acted as a legitimate sporting competition for decades. There were literally generations of people that lived thinking wrestling was real. There were rumblings about matches being rigged or that wrestlers weren’t actually trying to hurt each other, but it was basically accepted that it was real. By the end of 1996 it wasn’t. An incident happened called “The Curtain Call.” Two of the WWF’s top talent were leaving the company, and were joined in the middle of the ring by some of their friends for a bit of an organized farewell. The real problem with this is the fact that it had faces and heels publicly mixing. Not only that, but characters that were supposed to hate each other were hugging and high-fiving in the ring! An audience member caught it on tape, pictures were taken, and wrestling was never able to lie about its nature again.

Not lets take a moment and make this concept a bit more relative. What if tomorrow we found out that MMA or the NHL pre-determined the outcome of their matches? Pro-wrestling was actually regulated like boxing in many states and had to register with local sporting commissions. Not only has wrestling survived this revelation, but it’s actually been its most successful after kayfabe was broken.

rusevlanamagicNow here’s where it get’s even more interesting. Though the illusion of Kayfabe has been broken, it still exists. Pro-wrestling now lives in this crazy meta world where art imitates life and life imitates art. CM Punk hated being called by his real name by strangers while he was wrestling. In public CM Punk, and many other wrestlers, are their characters or at the very least still kind of hesitant to break character too badly. Their twitter feeds become this bizarre mix of their real lives and thoughts… and some nonsense from a staff writer to help further a story. Characters will break up on a show and actually buy a house together in real life (congratulation Lana and Rusev! I’m sure you’ll never see this, but you’re my favorite wrestling couple!)

Now whenever a wrestler gets injured in the ring, the internet instantly explodes in speculation. Did Dolph Ziggler really hurt his throat so badly he can’t wrestle or even talk? Oh wait… no reports say he’s actually just off filming a movie. To most adult wrestling fans, the meta speculation about real life, kayfabe, and where they meet is where most the appeal lies. One of the most curious effects of this is the emotional bond wrestlers forge with the fans. We know that 95% of everything they say or do in front of us is a lie, which makes those honest moments so much more powerful. That’s why I cried when Bayley won the Women’s Title at the latest NXT Takeover event. Here were these four amazing women who I only know as characters standing in the ring and actually being themselves for a brief couple minutes. It’s like that seeing your dad cry. Moments of sincere emotion in wrestling are perhaps some of the most amazing moments you will ever get out of any entertainment.

So we’ve dealt with the fact that wrestling is fake, or real, or really fake, or fakey real. Moving on.

Why would you watch that?

For all the reasons I just mentioned and more. Max Landis hit on some of those reasons in his amazing video “Wrestling isn’t Wrestling,” and even being “short” it’s 24 minutes long, but I highly recommend it just because it’s enjoyable as well as enlightening about the appeal of wrestling. Basically what his video boils down to is wrestling is an ever evolving long form of storytelling. 80-90% of all wrestling is pretty garbage, but that last 10-20% is amazing.

4 horsewomenLet’s look at Bayley vs Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover that made me cry manly wrestling tears. It was basically a story two years in the making. Both women arrived around the same time as jobbers (people who’s sole existence is to lose to make other people look better) in NXT. Both have been a vital part of Women’s wrestling rising to prominence in the WWE… however… Sasha has been the bad guy and Bayley has always stayed the good guy. Bayley has always been the underdog and one step behind Banks. Even in real life, Banks is getting called up to the WWE while Bayley remains at NXT for equally important (but not quite as glamorous) job of maintaining the integrity of the NXT championship. So there’s this feeling of Bayley just not being as good as Sasha both in kayfabe and in real life. The fans love Bayley. She has a great personality, but she never won the big match. So after two years of paying her dues and playing second fiddle to Sasha Banks, Bayley beats Banks and takes her championship.

The wrestling was amazing, and I don’t me “they were amazing for girls.” The emotion, the storytelling, the physical language they used, I would dare anyone to watch it and tell me it wasn’t a piece of art. That match is why I watch wrestling. Because of this, it’s not surprising that more and more of my geekier friends are coming back to wrestling.

Which brings me to the point of all this:

Professional wrestling is due for a renaissance.

The popularity of modern wrestling has been a bit of a social tidal system. You can count on every 15-20 years that wrestling will come back into style again. It happened with Hulkamania, it happened with the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWF in the ’90s, and I feel we’re due for another swell any year now. The writing is on the wall. The celebrity element is returning. Stephen Amell made headlines when he wrestled in ring at the recent WWE Summerslam, which MC’d by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. ESPN and Rolling Stone are covering the WWE. Even Japanese promotions like NJPW are having increased success and the independent wrestling scene in the US is at its best in years. WWE is actually finding success with two separate brands now the NXT is taking off. All the indicators is that we’re just waiting for our figure head wrestler like Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan to really flip the switch.

The WWE has positioned itself perfectly to develop that wrestler as well. Right now the WWE roster is already lousy with talent. They have so many good wrestlers that they’re struggling to get them all TV time. On top of that, they have a wealth of talent just waiting for their chance down in NXT. They have signed top Japanese talent like Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. They’ve signed indie wrestling darlings like Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. They’ve even recruited yet another Olympian in the incredibly promising Chad Gable. If anything, the WWE might have too much talent and it will be hard for them to find a long term replacement for the aging John Cena. The point being, they have a ton of talent and it’s only a matter of time before they find the guy or gal that captures America’s hearts and minds. Then we’re going to have middle school kids getting detention for whatever the newest thing is that isn’t a DX crotch chop.

I really think that geeks especially are going to re-find their love of wrestling. If there’s one thing that geeks have really latched onto lately it’s long form storytelling. Shows like Doctor Who, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and so many other long running shows that are at least moderately serialized are hits among the geeky TV watching community. Like I mentioned previously, wrestling is the ultimate long form story. Rivalries, triumphs, failures, injuries, and betrayals can all have lasting effects on the story. Stories can take weeks, months, years, or even decades to come to fruition and often those magical moments are sweeter the longer they take. Also, wrestling is basically cancellation-proof. So you’ll never have to worry about your new favorite show getting cancelled on a cliffhanger.

I mean, just watch this highlight collection from some of NXT’s recent special live events. You’ll notice pro-wrestling probably doesn’t look as fake as you remember, especially in moment in number one.

So now that I answered the two most common questions from non-wrestling fans, I have question for them. How can you watch that clip show above and not want to keep watching it!? Sure sometimes it’s goofy and most the time it’s actually only mediocre, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth it for the art, the physicality, the pageantry, and the special moments.

Napster, Driveless Cars, and Staying Ahead of the Curve

NapsterI just got done watching a very interesting documentary on Netflix called “Downloaded.” It’s a very interesting documentary about the development, the rise, and the fall of the now infamous peer-to-peer file discovery and sharing platform Napster. Regardless of your personal feelings on the topic of the ethical and legal issues surrounding Napster, you can’t argue that it has permanently changed the music industry. It opened the way for iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and a host of music services that are now ingrained into the daily lives of even the most modest of tech users. It also opened the door for most sophisticated and larger peer-to-peer platforms like BitTorrent. To keep it short, even after “legal” victories against Napster by the RIAA, the music industry was forever changed and many will argue that the music industry missed the bus on capitalizing on this new technonology because they were too busy trying to kill it.

I won’t put all the blame on the music industry though, because frankly how could they have known? They weren’t tech people. They didn’t understand the technology. Decades of stagnation had seen the music industry completely remove itself from the research and development of new recording technologies. They were completely unprepared, when compounded by an unwillingness to change, led to the faltering music industry we have today. An industry where many bands can circumvent the industry at large and make livings directly connecting to their fans.

I’m getting off course here. What happened with Napster and the music industry is done, but we’re never done with the growing pains of innovation. That’s why it’s important for us to learn from these sort of events and apply them to current (movies and television) and upcoming (driverless cars) disruptive innovations. Which brings me to the topic that this post is actually focused on: the emergence of driverless cars.

My friend Ed posted his concerns regarding automated vehicles on Facebook a couple weeks and it triggered an interesting conversation. One of the points that people are legitimately concerned about is how automated vehicles will affect employment in driving fields such as public transportation, private transportation, and commercial shipping.

If history is any indication, there will be quite a few people in the next few decades that will lose their job as a truck driver. At this point it is completely unavoidable because you can’t un-invent the technology and it’s only a matter of time before people run out of excuses to keep it stifled. A certain amount of jobs will be created to support these automated vehicles, but unfortunately it’s not likely that it will replace all the jobs lost.

However… theoretically once this technology is in place the cost of almost everything in America should drop. Around 70% of all commercial goods in the United States are transported via trucks. That means that eventually 70% of all items shipped in the US should decrease as their production and shipping cost decreases.

Let’s use a car factory as an example. What many people fail to realize is a factory for cars is actually less a factory, and more simply a fancy place where things are put together. Individual parts are rarely produced onsite. Companies have found that for various reasons it’s cheaper to make pieces at a highly specialized mass production factory and then ship them to the main plant to be used in assembly. Off the dealership floor something as simple as your brakes and rotors could be comprised of pieces that were manufactured in multiple states or even countries.

Doing the math, that means that the cost of shipping raw material to manufacturing plants will be reduced. The cost of shipping the parts to the assembly plant will be reduced. The price of shipping the finished car to storage or dealerships will be reduced.

Why is the shipping cheaper in theory? Well, people driving trucks cross country is expensive. You have to pay their wage and benefits, you have to pay insurance, and then you have any other costs from legal liability, etc. Yes, there will be initial costs to develop, purchase, and roll out the new technology, but as you can see eventually the cost will pay for itself and savings will occur.

Here’s where we can really get into a lot of trouble. This offset in price should help aid those that are negatively affected by the shift to automated shipping. So while these unfortunate men and women drivers will eventually find it hard to get a job in the field, the cost of living should decrease for them. But what happens if corporations instead decide to eat up the savings as profit and not pass them along as savings to the public?

This is when we start to further develop the possibility of a permanent underclass. Whenever innovation streamlines or eases production at the cost of employment, there should also be a benefit to the common folk. Assembly lines help produce a cheaper car, factory food production makes bread cheap and easy for all families to purchase, etc.

future truck cabin 876The other important thing to keep in mind is that this is a growing and developing technology. All truckers won’t find themselves unemployed within five or even ten years. This will be a slow roll out and people should have years to prepare for the inevitable change. Another thought is we’re also assuming that these trucks will be fully automated, and I find that very hard to believe. I think it’s much more likely that we’ll see truck drivers become more like train conductors, overseeing the general operation and only taking control when precision or judgement is needed.

That’s all for now. Just had some thoughts and decided to share them.

Recommendations for July 29th, 2015

Haven’t updated in a few days, thought I would check in. Nothing “important” to say today, so I thought I would take a few minutes to recommend some things in case you’re finding yourself a little bored these last few weeks of Summer. Going to cover some video games, TV Shows, movies, etc.

Let’s start with a fun little video game that can be picked up for $20 (or free this month if you’re a PSN+ Member):

Rocket League!

This highly competitive, fast paced game that combines soccer and cars is more fun than my description makes it sound. Right off the bat the game is frantic and fast, and as your skills increase the game only gets more insane. Eventually the skill level gets to the point that your cars are often used like rockets to deflect and strike the ball with “aerial” moves like this:

I’m not that good (click to see me play), but that doesn’t make the game any less fun. Due to the competitive and online nature, this game can be a little bit of a time suck if you’re determined to get decent. You’ve been warned.

Netflix Picks

Bojack Horseman Season 2 is out. If you stopped watching the show after the first couple episodes of Season 1 I don’t blame you, but I’ll be damned if you’re not missing out on one of the most heartfelt and tender comedies about nihilism, death, and rejection. Also, the voice acting cast. Season 2 is arguably better than Season 1 even after it picked up and I think will speak to a lot of people out there. A lot of sad, broken people. “Every day it gets easier.”

You might have also heard about a documentary about Chinese food that has been getting a lot of buzz on social media. I put “In Search of General Tso” on with zero shame as I ate the last Chinese meal during my little “let’s eat like an idiot because I’m on vacation” event. I was expecting a lighthearted documentary about Chinese food, and I wasn’t disappointed, however… the movie is much more than that. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Chinese history, Chinese immigration into America. Just so many fascinating and sometimes sad things. It’s also an amazingly uplifting story as you see how Chinese people have rose against adversity across multiple continents.

I’m sure I’ll remember some other things I meant to suggest soon, and I’ll likely keep posting this stuff in the future. If you have recommendations for me, hit me up on twitter.

Music Time: Don’t we all?

Music Time: I can read your mind

Music Time: Wandering or in the gutter

Prime Day: Reflections

It’s really my own fault. When a company like Amazon says it’s going to have “more deals than Black Friday,” it’s hard not to at least be interested in the hype train. Ever since I heard about the event I’ve been casually eyeballing it. I made sure to quickly trade in last term’s school books so I would have the credit on my account in time for Prime Day, but unfortunately my trade in is still pending. This is my own fault for putting it off so long, but that gives you a little context of how this sales “event” started for me.

To prepare for the Prime Day I compiled a couple quickly assembled and updated “wish lists.” Perhaps the thing I was most eager to check was my $600+ worth of books for next school term. If I could save 20% on even one of the books I was looking at saving $20 or more. Remembering a time when Amazon was exclusively an online bookstore, I kind of held hope that they would revert back to their old school roots and offer up some book deals. I should have known better, because here’s big problem #1 for the sale:

Prime Problem #1: It’s actually TOO big
Yeah, I know they openly claim it’s “bigger than Black Friday,” but why is this a negative? Basically Amazon fell into the trap of trying to please everyone. While there are some really cool deals with widespread appeal, those naturally get bought out earlier. The result is the few things that are popular sell out within minutes, and all that’s left has basically been compared to “garage sale” product. Oddly specific items, bundles of DVDs that are actually more expensive than if you bought them individually, and other strange little anomalies. There’s just too much stuff that most people don’t care enough, and not enough of the stuff people would logically want to purchase. Which leads to our next big problem…

Prime Problem #2: Navigation is basically impossible
This might be the most common complaint I’ve seen so far. Let’s be 100% honest here, for being the biggest game in town their site navigation can be kind of shit. Anyone that has tried to track their trade-ins, obscure “gift card balances” from promotions, or basically anything outside a general transaction knows what a mess it can be. For some unknown reason, Amazon thought this design which barely works for normal daily use would be acceptable for Prime Day. The end result is something like this:

prime day sucks1

In case you can’t read it, that’s 145 pages of upcoming deals that only display on average about 6-9 items per pages. This is compounded by the issue that you can only filter the displayed content by the most basic and generic categories. Looking for a deal on a bicycle? Good luck wading through the pages of “Sports & Outdoors” category, which includes everything from Zippo lighter kits to poker chips. When you factor in how much time you spend looking for deals, I’m sure that the discounts probably aren’t worth it.

Like I previously mentioned, I attempted to plan ahead for this and made a couple wishlists for various items I need and/or want, but even that isn’t that helpful as it doesn’t seem to notify you if and when an item goes on sale. One thing that can be said about Valve’s digital sales platform Steam is that it is build to sell you shit. It seems a weekly occurrence that I will receive “An item on your wishlist is on sale!” Is it so hard for Amazon to do the same? Hell, they might even offer this, but the website is so unmanageable at times I wouldn’t even know where to find such a setting.

Though in the end, I think if anyone is to blame for this, it’s us. We the consumers are just too easy to trick into buying into nonsensical commercial hype.

So in short, hope you guys were able to get some deals and weren’t suckered in by all the hype. But just encase you did buy into it all, don’t forget: