Monday, May 31, 2010

Smarkass Comments: WWE Raw 05.31.10

I won't be doing proper reviews of the weekly wrestling TV shows that I watch, but wouldn't mind doing a random thoughts type of thing. Just share whatever thoughts I had on the show...

* The beginning of the episode with it starting in the middle of Edge and Evan Bourne having a confrontation made me think that the Score fucked up and that we missed the first 15 minutes of the show. (In Canada, the Score airs Raw at 9:15 after a 15-minute 'countdown' show that's just a recap. That way they have time to edit for content, which is bullshit and worthless now that the WWE has gone PG...)

* R-Truth going over Chris Jericho was the right choice and it was accomplished in an intelligent way.

* The viewer choice thing for next week's three-hour episode of Raw sounds awful. I genuinely hate the idea of viewer interaction in anything scripted. I was especially disappointed since I thought that Bret Hart might come out and announce that next week would be the 2010 King of the Ring tournament. That would have been good.

* Besides, a viewer choice episode of Raw won't yield the truly great matches. The two I would want to see: CM Punk/Bryan Danielson in a one-hour iron man match and Chris Jericho/Christian in a best 2-out-of-3 falls match. Give the four best guys they've got in the ring nice looooooooooong matches to show off their stuff. It wouldn't work for the WWE at all, but it would make people like me very happy.

* Am glad that Daniel Bryan picked up the win over the Miz, but the match was nothing. I guess they're going to build up to a bigger match...? But, yeah, Bryan needed to win here and the post-match stuff was good.

* Question: is it better to have a stereotypical Samoan wrestling character or a stereotypical black wrestling character? Because, sure, the Usos aren't the former, but they definitely seem the latter...

* Weird one-night push for Evan Bourne because...? Not that I'm complaining, but how about instead of inserting him in the main event where he won't be for very long (re: next week), why not just have him win matches against other midcarders where he'll be for quite a long time (re: the rest of his WWE career)?

* For some reason, I was expecting Triple H to return as Cena's partner and take Orton's spot in the fatal four-way match.

* The Zach Ryder/Ashton Kutcher thing was both awful and obvious.

That's all for this week. A pretty good show ignoring the Ryder/Kutcher and mixed tag match.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Post 001)

Third year of university? Was that when I first read Dostoevsky? Maybe it was second year. Or the summer between perhaps. It doesn't actually matter. It hasn't been that long and I haven't exactly read him extensively. I've read four novels and some short stories. Not exactly an expert on the man or his work. The thing about Dostoevsky is that you need to be in the mood for long reads, lots of Russian names, and even more Russian nicknames. It requires some dedication, not just casual reading. It took me three tries before I made it past page 50 of Devils (or The Possessed or Demons or whatever title the translator/publisher decided to use for its edition of the novel) and, when I did make it past page 50, I spent a solid week reading the book. Spending a good six hours a day at minimum reading and trying to keep it all in my head. But, it's worth it. I'm not sure how much I'll write about The Idiot, which I've read around 70 pages of so far. But, I'd like to start with what I've read of Dostoevsky so far...

The first book of his I read was Notes from the Underground, which was in an edition with The Double as well. I read them both together. Notes was disturbing. I liked the structure of laying out a series of ideas, concepts, beliefs, and arguments before delivering a short story to complement them. Interesting way to go about writing a book and also showing where Dostoevsky was at the time: not entirely ready to merge the two. In a sense, it's almost like a rough layout of what he often tries to accomplish in his work: the expression of philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and political ideas through narrative. The second part of the book isn't divorced from that, but he hadn't fully integrated things yet. The Double was an earlier work that's mostly forgettable, honestly. Not a bad novel where a man is plagued by a double that takes everything he has, driving him to madness. It ends with you wondering if there ever was the other man at all. You've no doubt seen stories like it since.

Crime and Punishment is as good and worthwhile as everyone says it is. A man convincing himself of the rightness -- of the nobility -- of killing another person... and learning that maybe he wasn't so certain about it. If you've never read it, you should -- but skip the epilogue as it's pure bullshit. Trust me on that.

Devils warrants a reread since it's much too large for a single reading. It revolves around various political ideas as a group of revolutionaries prepare for whatever it is that revolutionaries do. Unlike Crime and Punishment, which is very focused on one character, this is very much an ensemble piece. One of the central characters, Stavrogin, is about as horrible a character as you can imagine despite being at the core of the group of conspirators. Things do not happen in obvious ways here and does push a bit too far to the political/philosophical discussion at times to the detriment of the plot, but Dostoevsky does some great character work.

Actually, while reading Devils, I thought it would make a fantastic mini-series. Each chapter has the right amount of plot to work as a 45-minute-to-hour episode. And the censored chapter, "At Tikhon's" is brilliant.

I've also read several short stories, but only "White Nights" stands out. A nameless narrator who is lonely and cannot stop thinking. In many ways, Dostoevsky wrote a lot about the idea of the young man who has ideals or dreams that don't match with Russian society. The sad, lonely, pathetic life of the young man if you will. None of his central characters fit in or seem content with the world around them. Often, this leads to anti-social activities such as murder or revolution or smaller crimes.

The Idiot also contains a character like that, Myshkin, is the eopnymous 'idiot,' but his ailment is one where he doesn't overthink things, he relies on feelings -- he thinks with his heart instead of his brain, basically. While I'm not far in, he makes for an interesting contrast to other Dostoevsky protagonists that I've encountered. He's eager to talk, friendly and without any pretense. I read a chapter today where he tells a story of the village he'd stayed in for the past several years, abroad to treat his ailment and 'fits.' There, a young woman was seduced by a French merchant and ran off with him only to return days later, exhausted and hurt from walking back. She's scorned and mocked by the villagers -- treated like a reptile he says. Her mother calls her a disgrace. No one will give her work. Her mother barely feeds her despite her caring for the woman through a sickness that eventually takes her life. At the old woman's funeral, the pastor rails against the daughter, blaming her for her mother's death, turning the whole affair into another excuse to pile on Marie (her name). During this time, Myshkin notes the behaviour of everyone and is sickened by it. He sells a diamond pin and gives Marie the money. Some kids see him being kind to her and, at first, scorn him, too, but they soon begin talking to him and he basically brings them about to his way of thinking, which pisses off the villagers even more. They begin to bring her food and love her the way that Myshkin does (which is a pitiful love, not a romantic one). Eventually, she dies, too...

Myshkin is meant to be a representation of Christ and his ideals and while a little heavyhanded, it works so far. The story has only just begun, so I imagine we'll get plenty of complications -- and probably a lesson about how such ideals cannot work, even in Christian societies.

I also have The Brothers Karamazov, but aren't sure if I'm ready for that one yet. Certain works require a basic level of knowledge -- not just about literature, but about the world, a certain amount of experience, and I'm not sure if I have enough yet. Then again, first reads before you're ready are often good since they get that pesky plot shit out of the way and allow future reads to focus on the language, the subtext, and the larger ideas.

My next post on The Idiot in the coming days perhaps.

A welcome post!

Hi everyone!

This is my welcome and first official blogging post!

I'm really excited to get started in sharing my thoughts and opinions on all of the wonderful (and not so wonderful to some) shows, movies, and music that I watch and listen to! Even though Chad and I do watch a lot of things together, I have a sneaking suspicion that we will be discussing very different things. We also tend to have pretty different opinions on what we watch, so perhaps some 'interesting' discussions may arise, too!

I hope you enjoy reading our blog! :D

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Smarkass Reviews: WWE Judgment Day 2007

I bought this yesterday at Wal-Mart for five bucks. They had a bunch more like Judgment Day 2006, Cyber-Sunday 2006, and that awful December to Dismember ECW-only PPV. This one looked like the best of the bunch judging from the match list. Last month, when I was in Wal-Mart, they had the same DVDs, but I picked up The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA two-disc set for five bucks. That had a fantastic documentary feature on the AWA. Michelle loves the DVD sets with documentaries and I'm definitely with her there. We haven't watched many of the matches, though, after a couple were disappointing by not being the full matches. Anyway, moving on to the business at hand: Judgment Day 2007.

A short history of myself and wrestling: I grew up watching it because my dad watched it. He gave up on it before I did. I gave up on sometime near the end of high school/beginning of university, somewhere in the 2000-2002 range. I would occasionally stop on it if I came across it, so I have a vague awareness of certain things, but, for the most part, didn't watch it. In September 2007, I moved in with a fellow grad student and friend, Adam. Adam was a big wrestling fan and he quickly got me back into it and I've been a loyal watcher ever since. I watch WWE pretty steadily same with TNA and a little bit of indy stuff. Judgment Day 2007 took place on May 20, 2007, a good five months before I got back into wrestling. So, this is all new to me. I know pretty much everyone involved and am aware of some of the feuds, but not everything. Immediately, I'm amused that, out of the 20 wrestlers involved on the card, 12 of them are no longer with the WWE, though two of them (Carlito and Batista) are very recent departures.

One good thing about WWE pay-per-views is that they usually pad them out a bit with video packages that explain feuds -- something that makes randomly dipping into DVDs from the past pretty easy. I had a basic understanding of a lot of the feuds with these matches, but it definitely helped Michelle have some idea of who some people were or what the story going into the match was.

Match #1: Ric Flair vs. Carlito
The story here is that Flair saw something in Carlito and being the legend that he is, decided to take Carlito under his wing and make him into a superstar. Carlito refused and Flair responded by calling him unmotivated and arrogant... so, basically, this match and story was a summation of Carlito's entire time in the WWE: a talented performer that could (and should) have done so much more, but was held back by a lack of motivation and a sense that he was better than others. The match was an odd choice for an opening bout. Usually, you want something that will get the crowd hot and this didn't do it for the most part. Sure, people cheered Flair, but that's what people do. By this point, Flair was coasting on his status -- making this feud even funnier. His offence in this match consisted of chops to the chest and... well, he won with a Figure Four. Carlito, meanwhile, stuck to working Flair's left arm for some reason. Carlito is normally quicker and more acrobatic, and this style definitely didn't suit him. He displayed some nice passion, but was pretty boring otherwise. The closest we got to his regular style was a dropkick outside the ring to Flair's arm while it was resting against the ring post. Carlito seemed to be wrestling a Ric Flair match instead of his own match and considering he needed to look good here, it was a little baffling. It wouldn't have been so bad as a five-minute match, but it just went on and on and on and on...
Winner: Ric Flair [*1/2]

Match #2: 3-on-1 Handicap Match for the ECW World Championship -- Mr. McMahon (C), Shane McMahon & Umaga vs. Bobby Lashley
At Backlash (the previous PPV), Vince McMahon won the ECW title from Bobby Lashley in this very match: 3-on-1 handicap match. Now, the rematch with Vince bringing along his son and Umaga for insurance. The crowd was solidly behind Lashley and the match was mercifully short with Lashley dominating, taking out Shane and Umaga in short order, and getting the pin on Shane for the win. After the match, he yelled at Vince to come back to the ring and, just as Vince was going to enter, Umaga attacked Lashley, knocking him out with the Samoan Spike. McMahon got on the mic and said that Lashley may have won the match, but not the title since he didn't pin Vince. The match was energetic and quick, very nicely planned out, but this was an angle, not a match. Pretty sure the video package for it was longer than the match.
Winner, but NOT new ECW Champion: Bobby Lashley [1/2*]

Match #3: CM Punk vs. Elijah Burke
Since I didn't watch ECW when I got back into wrestling (as it was on Fridays nights at midnight here at the time), I pretty much missed Elijah Burke in the WWE despite him being around for a few months when I was watching. I dig him in TNA as "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero and, judging from this match, he's definitely a better fit in TNA with that character. He and Punk put on a pretty good match. This probably should have kicked things off since it was definitely more energetic and exciting than the Flair/Carlito match. The story here is that Elijah Burke was the leader of a faction called the New Breed that was feuding with the ECW Originals (as ECW was its own company in the '90s and these stars were part of the company then), and Burke wanted CM Punk in his faction. Punk joined, but quickly betrayed the New Breed, wanting to destroy them from the inside. Since then, he'd worked his way through them until this match. Solid story and the match was based around Punk's injured ribs, which were taped up. Punk was clearly a guy who was going places, while Burke didn't seem entirely comfortable yet. Lots of good back-and-forth with some solid false finishes. At this point, it was easily the best match of the night. CM Punk picked up the win and looked very good in the process. Who doesn't love the Go To Sleep?
Winner: CM Punk [***]

Match #4: Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Orton
Earlier in the show, we got briefed on the backstory of this match: Michaels suffered a concussion at the hands of the Great Khali, which was only made worse by Orton punting him in the skull. During this recap (which was during a backstage interview), Orton attacked Michaels and slammed him face first into a metal beam. Michaels was later told by a doctor that he wasn't fit to compete. So, Orton came out and demanded that he be announced as the winner of the match by forfeit. Just as it was happening, Michaels's music hit and he comes stumbling out. No one could do injured/tired/out of it like Shawn Michaels. He was the master. He looked drunk, which seems the right way to play up concussed and barely conscious. He barely got in the ring and the match began. Orton just beat on him until Michaels got off a move or two, even climbing the ropes for his trademark elbow drop, which he hit. All that was left was Sweet Chin Music, but when it came time for it, he just fell down. The ref stopped the match and, after, when the ref was helping Michaels up, Orton nailed him with the RKO just for fun. Michaels was taken out on a stretcher with his wife crying by his side. Not much of a match, but entertaining nonetheless because of Michaels selling the injury so well. Also, nice to see the old Randy Orton entrance with his old music and the pose.
Winner: Randy Orton [*]

Match #5: World Tag Team Championship Match -- The Hardys (C) vs. Trevor Murdoch & Lance Cade
I don't have much to say about this. The Hardys did their usual routine and this match was a little too long. Nothing special and showed why Cade and Murdoch never really went anywhere. Though, I will say that Cade looked in great shape. He had potential, definitely.
Winners and STILL World Tag Team Champions: The Hardys [**]

Match #6: World Heavyweight Championship Match -- Edge (C) vs. Batista
This match happened because of two injuries. First, the winner of Money in the Bank at WrestleMania that year, Mr. Kennedy, was injured, so they had him drop the briefcase containing a contract for a title shot to Edge. Then, the World Heavyweight Champion the Undertaker got injured, so they had Edge cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase and take the belt after a cage match with Batista. Batista, having lost the belt to the Undertaker at WrestleMania insisted it was his and Edge stole it. This match was surprisingly weak. I was expecting more from the two, but it was just under five minutes of pretty tame action with an abrupt finish. Was Batista also injured in real life at the time? If so... yikes.
Winner and STILL World Heavyweight Champion: Edge [*1/2]

Match #7: 2-Out-of-3 Falls Match for the United States Championship -- Chris Benoit (C) vs. MVP
Okay, a match featuring Chris Benoit. My position on Benoit is that I view his wrestling and the actions of his final days alive as two separate things. I can appreciate his in-ring work while hating what he did to his wife, son, and himself. Some people can't and I respect that, but that's not my position. This match is especially a little difficult with that regard coming only a couple of months before that horrific weekend. But, at the same time, this shows why Benoit was so well respected in the ring by so many. This was definitely the best match of the night with Benoit making sure MVP looked incredibly strong in his victory. The first fall would have been a pretty solid match alone with the two matching one another well. The story here was that MVP had slowly gotten better and better against Benoit with this being his chance to prove himself completely and win the US belt. Lots of good counters and equal shows of strength. After their various confrontations, both men knew one another well, and it was hard to say who would get the upper hand, especially when Benoit locked in the Crippler Crossface. But, MVP eventually nailed the Playmaker for the first fall victory. The second fall was just MVP dominating. No matter what Benoit did to counter or try to mount a comeback, MVP countered himself and beat Benoit down again. MVP even applied a genuinely painful-looking submission hold that was a variation on a single-legged boston crab, but with the leg pulled by both legs over the back of MVP neck, so he could apply more pressure. Benoit sold it well. By the time MVP actually scored the pin, he looked like he could be going after a world belt. Benoit knew what his job was here and that was putting over a younger guy. Not many better ways than dropping two straight falls to him in a 2-Out-of-3 Falls match since usually those use all three falls. I've never seen MVP look this dominant and fantastic since.
Winner and NEW United States Champion: MVP [****]

Match #8: WWE Champsionship Match -- John Cena (C) vs. The Great Khali
One of the WWE's attempts to recreate Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant with John Cena and a big man. Khali looked unstoppable, Cena was unafraid, and Cena eventually won in a pretty typical match for its type. Not a bad match at all, and Khali hasn't done much better work that I've seen. But still, not a fantastic bout, and the STFU finisher would have worked better if Khali's foot didn't keep hitting the rope. It also makes the later story where Cena couldn't get the STFU on the Big Show look even dumber than it was.
Winner and STILL WWE Champion: John Cena [**]

Overall, not the best PPV I've ever seen. Only two matches really rose above a mediocre level, which isn't a good sign. Then again, the Michaels/Orton one was entertaining. Especially disappointing were the world belt matches.

Show Rating: 5.0 (out of 10)

Sunday Morning Listening: "No Cities Left" by the Dears

On Sunday mornings, Michelle usually goes to the gym, while I edit this week's Splash Page Podcast and write my 4Rs review of TNA Impact. It's a nice little routine of busy work and writing usually with some music playing since I almost always have music playing. Today, it's No Cities Left by the Dears. The Dears are a Montreal band that I got into back in 2004, I believe. In 2004, I joined the Columbia House CD Club since I just couldn't resist their "15 CDs for two bucks" (or whatever it was) offer. Turns out that finding so many CDs was hard. I had read a positive review of two of No Cities Left and made it one of my selections. I got into a few artists this way -- like Ryan Adams, who continues to be one of my favourites. With so many albums, I didn't get to the Dears immediately. But, eventually, it was No Cities Left that got put in my discman as I headed to do my workstudy job on campus. I did that on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer. I don't remember much of listening to it on the way to campus or even during workstudy (if I had it on then at all). I do remember listening to it on the way home. The bus I took to campus, the 31 Orchard Park, shared a route with the 32 Windermere, switching over when it hit campus. A combination of construction changing where buses had to go, the bus being late, and drivers having a habit of not immediately changing the sign on the bus had me mistakenly get on the 32 that day instead of the 31. So, I spent an extra hour or so on the bus with nothing but No Cities Left to listen to.

This is a story I sometimes tell when people ask why I prefer CDs and listen to them instead of getting an iPod or mp3 player. I like the limits of CDs. I like being confined to that single album/disc. I like having a lack of options. After all, sometimes you're in a position where you have to listen to an album you don't know that well more than you thought you would and you discover something amazing. Maybe I would have loved the album eventually, but who knows. I have plenty of albums that I listened to a few times and never again. Riding the bus that day for an extra hour or so, watching the strange route with the Dears as my soundtrack -- it was great. I fell in love with the album then.

No Cities Left is epic. It's big. On the first page of the booklet, it reads:

No Cities Left performed by The Dears
Produced, Written and Directed by Murray A. Lightburn

It's a movie in music form. Telling a big story, not through a lyrical story, but through the feeling of the music, through the different songs. You can almost see scenes at times. Right now, "Warm and Sunny Days" is playing, a song that's complex and a little sad. It oddly reminds me of walking in the snow, but suggests a romantic discussion before seguing into "22: The Death of All the Romance," which is the best song ever written about staying with someone because you don't want to hurt them. It's also one of those rare rock duets.

The album sounds like an indie rock album (whatever that means) -- very melodic, lots of guitars and synths and keys... Lightburn writes some amazing songs. Broad, well-constructed with interesting lyrics. He's very good at producing feelings and moods with the songs he writes. I tend to react to the Dears on an emotional level first. The album they did after No Cities Left, Gang of Losers is like that, too -- though, if this album is an epic, large movie, that one is an indie flick.

Sorry, I haven't written about music in a long time. Hopefully, I'll get better at it as I go. Back to writing about wrestling.

Welcome to the butterbeatleblog

Hello there. This is the butterbeatleblog and I'm Chad Nevett, one of the people who write for it. Odds are, if you're reading this opening post when it's been posted, you already know me and my writing and may be wondering why I've started another blog. Well, there are two reasons:

1. I've long wanted an outlet to discuss movies, TV shows, books, music, and other non-comics areas of popculture, and didn't want to change the focus or direction of GraphiContent to do so.

2. My girlfriend Michelle can join me here and it can be a fun little thing for us to share. When I mentioned the idea of us sharing a blog to discuss the things we watch and listen to and read, she was really excited. She's never blogged before and doesn't have much of an online presence. Odds are, you'll all like her more than you like me.

Hopefully, we'll both post on a regular basis. We watch a lot of things, mostly together, but some apart. We almost always have a TV series on DVD going plus we both watch wrestling two or three times a week. So... that's it, I guess. Welcome to our butterbeatleblog.