The Week in Geek: WWE TLC(S), TNA Relaunch and The Steam Holiday Auction

Your weekly round-up of all things geek culture. This week: tables, ladders, chairs, stairs and Steam.

week in geek culture news

WWE’s Tables, Ladders, Chairs…and Stairs???

Tonight is the WWE’s sixth annual TLC pay-per-view event. As usual, the card is a mixed bag of predictability and wasted potential. The expected main event is a Tables match between John Cena and Seth Rollins, with Cena’s number one contender status on the line.

First of all, I’m really not a fan of the whole ‘pay-per-view named after a match type’ thing. It’s bad enough knowing I’ll get more than one Hell In A Cell match every 12 months; even worse that I know exactly when it will happen. A certain match type is supposed to enhance the storyline, not act as a placeholder for whoever’s feuding at that point in time. The original TLC matches between The Hardys, Dudleys and Edge & Christian served to add each team’s signature weapons into a series of amazing matches, but now we’re getting the likes of a Chairs match between Ryback and Kane (yawn), and – even worse – the debut of a Steel Stairs match between Erick Rowan and Big Show.

Think I’ll be skipping this one, folks.

TNA Relaunch on Destination America details

TNA Wrestling is not finished, so take that, past blog post. This week details have emerged of relaunch plans on TNA’s new home channel, Destination America.

I have literally never heard of Destination America, but apparently it’s owned by Discovery. Can we expect to see Impact sandwiched in between episodes of How It’s Made?

impact wrestling logo destination america

The rebranded Impact Wrestling will debut with a live two-hour episode on Wednesday 7th January before settling into its new timeslot of Friday nights – convenient since it’s the same slot recently vacated by WWE Smackdown, which is moving back to Thursday nights.

Once it’s finished at 11, DA viewers can then enjoy…the exact same programme again, every week. Why? I noticed that they do this with The Walking Dead too; don’t you Yanks have +1 channels?

I’m hoping this relaunch goes well for TNA, if only because WWE needs to stop being so complacent and get worried about the competition again. I can’t say the allure of Roode vs Lashley III will force me to tune in once it airs again in the UK, but good luck regardless.

The Steam Holiday Auction stops and starts again

Fancy using virtual items to bid for a new game on Steam? Well, bidding was quickly halted on the first Steam Holiday Auction after those wily hackers found ways to exploit the system, but as of today it’s all up and running again.

For your chance to win up to 200,000 games (assuming that’s x amount of games multiplied by x amount of copies of the game), head on over to Steam – and while you’re at it, they’ll be having one of their epic sales that serves to empty wallets and fill up hard drives. I’m in.

 

The Week in Geek Culture: PS1, CS and CSI:C – enough acronyms?

A round-up of the week’s big geeky announcements and anniversaries.

The PlayStation 20th anniversary

It’s twenty years this week since the original Playstation console launched in Japan. UK players wouldn’t be able to get their mitts on it for another nine months, but launching with a range of titles across all genres, the console got a big leg up on the competition almost immediately.

Famously developed after a cancelled collaboration with Nintendo, and a less famous one with Sega, Sony decided to press on with its CD-based console, and after the failed launches of various add-ons (and especially the horror that was the Phillips CD-I), Sony seized an entire portion of the gaming market by presenting the best attempt at 3D graphics yet.

Link: The Faces of Evil

(Yes, that CD-I.)

The console would go on to target a different part of the UK demographic, as this great article from the Guardian this week shows.

ESEA Counter-Strike weekend

If you’re a regular Twitch-watcher (Twitcher?) you’ll no doubt be aware of this weekend’s ESEA tournament, which is showcasing some fine Counter-Strike action. I’ve spent a good deal of yesterday and today so far watching it, despite having never played the game (it’s research for something else I’m working on. I may have said too much.)

That said, it’s quite fun watching the avatars in action, ‘smoking off’ (fnarr) and generally showing some real competitive spirit in trying to win the tournament which is promising almost $100,000 in cash prizes. The tournament ends later today (probably early tomorrow morning given UK-US timezone difference) and it’s worth jumping in for a watch if you’re a CS fan. I’ve yet to see anyone enjoying a game on a SMES console though.

One thing though – I know eSports is a big thing, but I don’t know how they manage to involve such strange commentary on it – it’s all very in-depth and useful, but I don’t know how they manage to make it sound like a game of Monday Night Football sometimes.

CSI: Cyber

While I was rejoicing over the fact that they’ve finally cancelled Two and a Half Men (I do not know a single person who enjoys this programme, so how did it stay on for 12 years?)  I noted that the new CSI spin-off has a premiere date set for early March.

CSI: Cyber

I used to love watching all three series of this programme, but one by one they dropped off for various reasons; Grissom leaving, the NY storylines suddenly losing all logic, and David Caruso quickly becoming a parody of himself. This new spin-off features a former medium, a former rapper, a a former eccentric lawyer and a former Dawson. Consider me intrigued. But don’t you think ‘Cyber’ is a bit of a weird name? It sounds like this pilot was conceived in 1994, when words like that were actually used – actually, in an old Sega ad come to think of it.

Oh, and the theme tune will be another Who classic. I’m in – at least for the first couple.

Doubts of a Geek Blogger

Geek Trading Cards – an ideal addition to any About Me page.

So, my 2nd birthday as a geek blogger came and went last week.

And sadly my #AskAS5 hashtag saw absolutely no action. Not a bean.

cropped-cropped-homepagelogo3.jpg

But don’t worry readers, I won’t hold it against you – because I sort of forgot about it too.

Thing is, I’m not even sure whether to regard myself as a geek blogger anyway. What I do is more reporting on the latest geek culture news than it is to react as a member of a fandom. And while I do cast my own criticisms and praise on cool and crappy things, there’s not much of a personal spin on it.

I think I just don’t like talking about myself all that much. And if you wanted to know, well, you would’ve asked last week, right? It’s not that I don’t feel I’ve got anything to say, because I do, but I’m not sure where it fits in with whatever I’m reading, or watching, or playing.

Which means, after all that, I’m still struggling to decide what it is I’m trying to achieve with Alpha Signal Five.

For now, there’s something I worked on a while back but didn’t get around to posting.

Geek Trading Card

geek blogger trading card

I think I’ll be displaying this card on my About Me page from now on. It’s a quick introduction to me, much quicker than writing about me would achieve, done in an interesting way. I’m not embarrassed to admit that this took me a lot longer to make than it would appear; I’m no designer, and I did spend a while trying to come up with the Top Trumps categories.

If you like it, I think it would be cool to try something similar yourself – a quick intro to your blog for new, returning or existing readers. Let me know if you fancy giving it a go!

 

The Death of WCW – 10th Anniversary Edition

A fascinating independent chronicle of the fall of WCW pro wrestling.

I don’t know if it was because I was purely a WWF kid, but the few times I tried to watch WCW programming in the UK, it just didn’t click.

Sometime in late 1997/early 1998 I will have happened across it on TNT; best known to people my age as the channel which began at 7pm when Cartoon Network went off the air.

The Death of WCW book

The colour scheme in the ring was entirely black and white, and various people I recognised – among them one Hulk Hogan – were strutting their stuff and not actually doing much wrestling. I don’t recall seeing a single wrestling match during this time; in fact, I wasn’t even sure it was actually a wrestling show but for all the various archetypes they had; entrance themes, big strong men and commentators not describing the action properly.

When Channel 5 showed it in about 2000, there was plenty of wrestling to go around – the only problem was that none of it made any sense. Having got back into the WWF when it came to Channel 4 at this time, the differences were clear: the WWF had great production values, young talent, well-defined characters and logical storylines; all sorely lacking from what I saw in the WCW product of the time.

I’ve managed to piece together what exactly happened to turn the WCW from a cultural giant in the mid-90s to the absolute shambles of a company it became at the turn of the millennium, but reading The Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez has more than filled in the gaps.

Death of WCW book

The 10th anniversary edition has been revised and expanded to include more quotes from the people involved, as well as the story of what has happened in the years since WCW was swallowed up by Monday Night War enemies the WWF in 2001 – and the cautionary tale of some of the same mistakes which are being made by TNA to this day (whose future is still not 100% safe according to some sources).

The book as a whole outlines the success of the old Jim Crockett Promotions during the late 1970s and 1980s; the move into a rivalry with Vince McMahon as the two then-biggest companies redrew their boundaries are prepared for war, as well as how a young producer named Eric Bischoff made some key strategic and financial decisions to give WCW more than an edge during the mid-90s – one of which was the addition of former WWF stars Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.

Scott Hall Kevin Nash WCW NWO

Look at the adjective! “Play!”

What follows in the pages of this book is the story of how WCW went from being atop the wrestling mountain thanks to Hall/Nash being the origins of the phenomenally successful NWO, to shedding viewers and box office like they were going out of fashion through bad booking, dodgy contracts and no sense of continuity or playing to the crowd; using inside stories, gossip and cold hard numbers to tell a very entertaining story of the at times bewilderingly logic-free decisions which caused the downfall of WCW.

Reynolds and Alvarez combine great wrestling journalism with great storytelling and plenty of humour to produce this fine work. It’s essential reading for wrestling fans, no two ways about it.

Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD

The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic gets a long-overdue documentary.

One of the highlights of what was another great weekend at the Thought Bubble Comics Festival was a screening of the documentary ‘Future Shock!’ which tells the story of 2000AD comic, from its inception in 1977 to the present day.

future shock 2000ad documentary

Since launching to meet an upcoming wave of science fiction films such as Star Wars, the comic has gone through many creative and commercial peaks and troughs to not only survive but thrive in 2014.

The documentary features interviews with the core group of writers and artists including founder Pat Mills, Judge Dredd co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, previous contributors including Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison and Kevin O’Neill, and celebrity fans including Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Neil Gaiman (also a previous contributor).

The documentary really brought home for me just how vital the comic was in establishing British talent; one need only visit a comic book shop to realise just how many of the industry’s biggest names were at one point involved in writing or drawing for the weekly anthology comic.

 

Such themes are explored throughout the documentary, as talk turns to the mass exodus of British talent to the States, culminating in seminal works like Watchmen. The often outspoken Pat Mills (in this film if not 24/7) is right in claiming some of the credit for the resurgence of comics into the American mainstream in the late 80s and early 90s – after all, he gave much of their creators their first big break in the industry on this side of the pond.

Without the supporting talent on deck to take the reins, the comic suffered a decline in the 90s; with controversial editor David Bishop bravely contributing to the documentary, we realise the tough decisions he faced to keep the title afloat during his time at the comic. Of course, he was merely trying to keep the guys upstairs happy; but as the publishers at the time treated 2000AD as something of an afterthought it received only criticism rather than support.

Things picked up again for the comic once it had changed hands in the year 2000, with new publishers Rebellion ready to take on the brand and inject it with the freshness and originality which had steered it through the twenty years previous.

Even during those lean years when I read the comic, there was nothing on the shelves like 2000AD. Each week brought visits to strange new worlds and time periods. Even if something in there wasn’t to my taste one week, it would be gone again in six weeks max. And of course, Dredd is one of my all-time favourites – despite his ideology, it was satire before I even understood the concept. Reading this comic every week for a good few years was a big part of the foundations laid in my current realms of geekdom, which gives me a lot to be thankful to the comic and its staff for – which makes Future Shock! a wonderful celebration of that fact.

Future Shock! does a great job of telling the story of The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic through its key figures and biggest fans, and is a very enjoyable watch. Look out for it soon.

A Tune For Tuesday – ‘Civilization’ from Fallout 3

The Andrews Sisters and Danny Kaye, with a standout track from a game that’s already brimming with soundtrack quality, Fallout 3.

To celebrate the fact that I’ve put a silly amount of time into another playthrough of Fallout 3 during some holidays from work, I thought I’d share one of my favourites from the game.

Of course it’s from Galaxy News Radio – because I’m not about to share anything from Enclave Radio (unless it was ‘Stars And Stripes Forever (hopefully not forever)’ from The Simpsons.

“That’s some nice flutin’, boy.”

I don’t know how popular The Andrews Sisters were – before my time, obviously! – but they’ve also featured in BioShock, Mafia II and L.A. Noire – so they must be the go-to group for that old-timey feeling when setting the scene.

This is ‘Civilization’, recorded with Danny Kaye.

Which is your favourite song from the GNR soundtrack? Leave your answers in the comments!

The Weekly Rip on Gotham: Spirit of The Goat

I think I might start doing this in bullet-point form, every week; for as much as I can pick at the themes, story and performances every week – as well as wonder where the programme itself is heading off into – it’s much easier just to pick fault with individual things that are happening on screen, like this:

 why I'm ready to stop watching Gotham

  • At the latest crime scene, ­Detective Bullock flat out calls Dr Nygma, “Enigma”. Did absolutely everyone miss this before it made it to air? Or even off the set that day? Unless Nygma’s trying to hype up some sort of rap name around the office, this was ridiculous.
  • While we’re on the topic, Nygma has more screen time this week, for no reason at all except to tease either a) a romance with Kringle from Records, or b) his turn into the Riddler – which would be completely unwarranted at this point. I just don’t like him very much, there’s no need for that character to be Nygma; a crime lab guy to fulfil the police procedural aspect alone would be just fine; no need to make him a future Bat-villain.
  • A newspaper report on Young Master Bruce’s pinboard says “Rumours swirling of Falcone-Maroni mob war”. If I were either Falcone or Maroni, I’d have that journalist taken ‘off the job’ for good, writing stuff like that. Maybe just me.
  • I jokingly said “she did it” at the first character onscreen who wasn’t immediately summed up with a catch-all description – and she bloody did. I’m not psychic, I just know when the details are being withheld for future plot progression. It’s not good writing.
  • And from the Cliché File: At one point, about Bullock, Dix literally says the line “he’s a loose cannon”. Jesus.

Follows on from ‘Why I’m Ready To Stop Watching Gotham’

Why I’m ready to stop watching Gotham: Part 2

Last time out, I addressed the need for the creators of FOX’s Gotham to slow their roll on the fast and furious character setups in the Batman mythology. Here I look at the other role which it attempts to fill, and why it isn’t doing police procedural properly.

why I'm ready to stop watching Gotham

Gotham as a police procedural

Considering its setting inside the city’s justice system – to expose the weaknesses that a grown-up Bruce Wayne would fight under the hood – Gotham needs to set out its stall as a solid police procedural drama.

And considering that Danny Cannon, whose previous producing credits include the three CSI series to date, is on board as executive producer, you would hope that at least some of the tenets practiced and preached on those programmes would be faithfully drawn from in order to satisfactorily solve each week’s case.

(And I’m not even talking about all the ones that don’t make sense here; y’know, the ones where they can identify the killer by blowing up a grainy photograph of the reflection in someone’s sunglasses – I’m talking about the ones where leads are accrued, followed up on and chased to their natural end both logically and inside a storyline.)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve yet seen a case in Gotham which was solved through good deduction, proper procedure (that’s fair enough though, it brings the conflict) and any semblance of logic. When Gordon and Bullock visit a snitch in prison, he’s more than willing to give up information on the pokey-eye thing killer for no more than two cartons of cigarettes. Is that really all it took to get this info? Or did they simply need to bridge the gap between “we know nothing about Pokey Stick Man” to “we have everything we need on Pokey Stick Man” in as short a span of time as possible? The story development always threatens to make absolutely no logical sense, and that’s my biggest concern for the programme – there’s only so much “because Batman” they can get away with when such things are not even in the frame.

Bullock is my prime example here. When he gives Gordon that look of “relax rookie, I got this” I know that the very next thing we’ll see is Bullock slapping about a suspect who we have either a) no reason to suspect, or b) not even seen prior to this beatdown. There’s no logic, no rhyme or reason as to why we’re seeing Bullock doing his bad cop thing, except only to get over that he’s the one who does the bad cop thing. It doesn’t progress their investigation any, which is why it seems like a waste of screen time and nothing more than a show of ineptitude.

Harvey Bullock Gotham

Speaking of ineptitude, seeing Donal Logue attempt to channel a worn-down, world-weary detective doesn’t inspire any confidence that Bullock’s actually any good at his job. This is where Gotham metaphorically slaps the viewer in the face by saying “see, this is why the city needs Batman”, to which I reply “yeah, but I’m not expecting him to be in this programme for its entire duration, so why am I even watching it?”

As if you needed another example of Gotham’s finest incompetency, when The Balloonman’s second victim, Lt. Cranston, floated into the air, we caught a glimpse of his holster with gun inside. Such was the obviousness of the gun in the camera shot, I absolutely assumed he was going to use it to shoot the balloon and fall safely back to earth. But he didn’t. I was astonished.

Just as I was when Gordon found a piece of paper in the next episode with the letters “C, L, M” written on it. Because it’s a police procedural, we were treated to a shot of him having a really good hard think about that piece of paper. It may be just that I watch a lot of cop shows but I immediately assumed it was a list of surname initials. And it was. Fair enough, I didn’t know whose, but I definitely would’ve started looking for a match sooner than Jim did.

My argument here is this: if Gotham is a police procedural, then it’s one of the most watered-down and ineffectual ones I’ve ever watched. But if it isn’t, then what the hell else is it supposed to be?

Gotham has fast dropped to the bottom of my priority list of viewing. Business really needs to pick up soon if I’m to continue watching. And by that I mean, it needs to know which tone to concentrate on. More Batman villains? Great, chuck ‘em in, but set them up properly. Police drama? Great, but give them something more difficult to crack and don’t set the entire police force up as incompetent. I know Gotham needs a hero, but it’s going to need one sooner than I thought at this rate – which is contrary to the whole point of its existence.

CM Punk to write Thor for Marvel

CM Punk and Marvel Comics are to team up on a Thor issue out in January.

Not content with being one of the most popular and talented WWE Superstars and pro wrestlers in living history, the man formally known as Phil Brooks will write an upcoming story for Marvel Comics’ Thor annual.

CM Punk Marvel Comics Thor

According to the story on Marvel.com, Punk will be teaming up with fellow Marvel debutant and Eisner Award winner Rob Guillory (Chew, Image Comics) on a contribution to Thor Annual #1, out early next year.

Fans of CM Punk the wrestler will know of the five-time World Champion’s love for comics; having also written the foreword for the hardback edition of the Avengers vs X-Men crossover, for years he borrowed a catchphrase from Ben Grimm aka The Thing – “it’s clobberin’ time!” – during his ring entrance.

When asked by Ryan Penagos how all this came about, Punk confessed to having “pester[ed] people at Marvel” during the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con – where he also appeared at a WWE-Mattel press conference during his storyline of unemployment between contracts – where he met Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso among others.

Being so busy on a full-time wrestling schedule prevented Punk from taking up the opportunity sooner, but now that he’s retired from the ring, Punk has been able to work on his very first comics commission.

Thor Annual 2015 #1

Thor Annual #1 cover by Rafael Albuquerque

“So the idea was, let’s do a story about young Thor as kind of a brash, bratty teenager who’s like, ‘I’m totally worthy of this hammer…’ And it’s more or less like a drinking story. He’s gonna be sitting around with a few choice characters…and they’re all gonna be drinking, and Thor’s gonna basically be complaining about essentially why his dad won’t give him the keys to the car.”

Punk wants The Punisher

Any aspiring comics writer would kill for the chance that Punk’s got here, but as one of comic fandom’s most famed proponents (think Kevin Smith but with decades of physical graft to show for it) Marvel will definitely benefit from the opportunity to bring in new readers. It’s certainly the case for me; I’ve got very few Thor stories in my collection but I’ll certainly be interested to see what flavour CM Punk brings to the God of Thunder.

But according to Punk, Thor wasn’t the first character on his list.

“In my mind, for some odd reason, I’ve just got this Punisher story in my head, and I think it’s super, super awesome…I think that my Punisher story is pretty badass. So everything I do for Marvel is going to be leading up to, “Please just let me write my Punisher story.” So until they let me do that, you’re gonna get all kinds of other stories about all kinds of other characters until they satisfy this need I have to write Frank Castle.”

Now that will be something.

A Tune For Tuesday – from Mirror’s Edge

This week’s Tune For Tuesday is by a Swedish singer named Lisa Miskovsky. She’s an established Swedish musician who, among other achievements, performed at the final of Melodifestivalen 2012 – the national qualifier for Sweden’s Eurovision entry.

Her song, Why Start a Fire?, finished ninth while the winning entry, Euphoria by Loreen, went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest that year with the highest number of 12-point awards given by the judges in history.

But this one’s better anyway; it’s the official song to EA’s Mirror’s Edge soundtrack, sung with passion and drive, and itself with almost a million YouTube views. Not too shabby I’m sure you’ll agree, considering the game’s worldwide success.