Too much choice makes me unhappy and tired

At the risk of sounding like decadent, capitalist Westerner scum for the next 700 words or so, the one downside to having extensive free time away from work is having to decide what to do with it.

With family responsibilities fulfilled and a fairly hefty haul of wonderful Christmas presents to show for it, I’ve spent the last day or so at home with some time on my hands…and a little bit of anxiety that it’s difficult to choose what to do with it.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2016 worked like a charm. When I’ve wanted to create, I have created. And when I haven’t wanted to, I haven’t made myself feel bad about it. So the solution appeared to be…stop creating. My SoundCloud page has prospered, but my blog has suffered tremendously for it – but I’m really okay with that because it seemed that I wasn’t up for being so wordy after all.

I’ve read almost 20 books in 2016 – more than I have for many, many years. Two weeks swinging from a honeymoon hammock will do that for you. And when I look back on the sheer disaster of a year that was 2016 in all other aspects of life, I’ll look back on it with some considerable happiness myself, having done a marry in July.

But when my wife departs for a shift at work shortly, I’ll have an entire afternoon stretching ahead of me, and feel paralysed by choice.

deathtostock_medium6

I know, I know. Decadent Westerner, with no dependents and a Netflix subscription – not to mention social network feeds full of smiling kids, whose parents I see at work or on a much-needed night out, who would kill me for that password and/or two hours to themselves to watch something.

But the struggle is real.

The paradox of choice

Paradoxically, it’s precisely because we’ve never had it so good, us decadent capitalist scum, that we sometimes feel ‘spoilt for choice’. Try this when you’re deciding what to spend your Christmas gift vouchers on: just choose something. You can’t, can you?

As a kid it was much easier, because the gifts I got for Christmas were usually something I’d had my eye on since May. And the vouchers were much more quickly spent – and followed with many a round of ‘are you sures’ from Mam and Dad – because it will often have been the first thing I seized upon in the shop.

Barry Schwartz calls it ‘the paradox of choice’, and finds that you can have too much of a good thing. Faced with a sample table of either six jams or 24, 30% of those given only six to try would go on to buy one of them, compared to 3% given a choice of 24.

It can be so bad that you’ll defer from any decision at all just to stay away from the overwhelming feeling of choice paralysis. Whatever it is you’re sitting watching, even if you don’t like it, turning off the TV entirely doesn’t seem like an option when there’s no clear-cut alternative to spending your time.

As a kid, my choice is blinkered; this shiny thing or that one? As a grown-ass man (who doesn’t feel anything like one at the best of times), the blinkers are off and I’m left wondering how best to spend the commodity I’ve got all too much of today: time.

I thought that maybe just describing my feelings and checking that such a thing exists would be enough. But Schwartz has given me more food for thought: setting a goal.

Set your goals

Find out what it is you want, and what the easiest way to achieve that is. I wanted to moan about something, and my wife’s gone out. Short of calling a friend and talking their ear off (one who isn’t back at work), blogging about it seems to have done the trick.

But when I close my laptop and stand up, what next? My goal for the day is: be entertained. Well, my PS4 just blinked. I could go back and put another ungodly amount of hours into Stardew Valley as I did yesterday. And then there’s that book about Bowie I got for Christmas oh god it’s happening again.

Setting a goal, analysing the simplest route towards it, the one that will expend the least amount of time, energy and stress, and working towards it. That’s a start. Polishing off the rest of my selection box? Aye, why not.

Five Halloween costumes for couples

So, obviously I’ve been sorely lacking in blog posts lately, please do forgive the gap but I’m going through a bit of a ‘writing different stuff / lacking decent ideas’ phase.

Upfront honesty: I’ve never been the biggest fan of this whole Americanisation of a good old pagan holiday. I probably haven’t actually cared about Halloween since my last disappointing neighbourhood trick or treat run as a child. But steadily over the years, seeing the excitement of grown-ass men and women getting dressed up as their favourite spooky characters for a night on the town has finally got me convinced that this year it might be worth a go.

Since I did a marry  I’ve been trying to think of the best way that me and my lady together could pull off a great Halloween couples’ costume idea. So here are five, completely off the top of my head and 80% not actual couples, but still great double acts all the same.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.

If you’re both sticklers for colour-coordination then this first choice should see you right. Celebrate one of the best video games of all time by dressing up as Italian plumbers – but not any old Italian plumbers, obviously. Also obviously, you will need at least one fake moustache.

Buffy & Angel

Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel

Looking to hit the town as a fictional power couple? Add some bite to the traditional night out by setting yourself up as the Slayer and her favourite squeeze. And for extra geek cred, bring along a ‘Smile Time’ puppet version of Angel! Alternatively, blond dudes may prefer to go for Spike – dodgy Cockney accent optional.

Mr Robot and Elliot

Mr Robot Christian Slater

I got the flash of inspiration for both this post and the Halloween costume for me and my wife when I bought a black hoody the other day. Mr Robot has been unmissable Thursday night viewing during this second season, and I think it would make a very good conversation piece – especially if either of you fancied talking to yourself during the course of the night without fear of social awkwardness.

Bill & Ted

Bill and Ted costumes

Inspired by watching Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey earlier tonight, I do think this would make a great Halloween costume for couple – if not one of the most difficult to nail down. Where exactly does one get their hands on a red and orange jacket with a yellow smiley face on the back, anyway?

Clowncore

It’s a pretty striking idea for a couples’ costume at Halloween, but even better in a social emergency. If you’ve always wanted to gather up eight mates and go to a party as the members of Slipknot, but two of you arrived as the Clown, it’s easily fixed – just tell everyone you’re Clowncore instead.

Are you thinking of teaming up for a super-effective Halloween couples’ costume? Let me know in the comments!

Defeating ‘The Nag’ – My New Year’s Creative Resolution

So. We’re into the year 2016, and I’m already struggling to keep up with my New Year’s Resolution. Not because it’s impossible – it’s not like I’ve promised to run a 10k by this time tomorrow – but just because it requires my patience, and my mental discipline, and not to feel so bloody tired all the time.

I’ll show you what my resolution is, because it involves a bit of the task itself.

My New Year's Resolution(1)

My two-part resolution: to feel more productive, and to be okay when not feeling productive.

Because it’s one thing to be productive – I’ve read more books (nearly two) since Boxing Day than I have in the last six months – but it’s another not to let it nag me when I’m not feeling productive.

Thanks to some hand-wringing at my angelically patient fiancée earlier this evening, I’ve come up with a name for it: The Nag. We’re only four days into the new year, and The Nag is already getting at me to get something done.

Which, again, would be fine if I’d spent the 93ish hours of 2016 so far doing absolutely nothing. But I have been doing things. Plenty of things. I just about managed the first day back at work today after a good long break, and I’ve done plenty of reading. I’ve even broken the back of the main storyline of Fallout 4, if we were really struggling to list any achievements.

But I shouldn’t be struggling to say I’ve done anything in 2016, for two main reasons:

  • I’ve definitely been productive.
  • We are less than 100 hours into 2016.

Pretty unreasonable, right? A brace of blog posts ready to go in the coming days, plenty of writing done, nearly two books read. But there’s The Nag.

TheNag.jpg

Ay, there’s The Nag.

It’s kind of a vicious cycle, really. If I’d been markedly non-prolific on a regular basis, I’d have been okay with The Nag because it would’ve kept me creating. But it persists now despite all my efforts. And my writing about The Nag in an attempt to reveal all its petty, silly demands and make it sound silly, is beginning to make me sound silly.

100 hours into 2016? I’ve only had Fallout 4 for about six weeks, and I’ve almost certainly put 100 hours into that too. Playing the game non-stop for an equivalent amount of time now would be (heaven, and also) conceivably a waste of my time.

But when I’ve stopped being productive for the day, The Nag persists. That’s why I’m making it my resolution; to be productive when I want to be, and not to let The Nag get to me when I don’t.

If any of that made sense to you, please, share your battles to stay content. I’m off now to Nag some raiders, and gunners, and deathclaws.

2015 – The Blogging Year in Review

I was hoping to write a fairly in-depth analysis of Alpha Signal Five’s year, but before I knew it it had turned 7pm on New Year’s Eve, so you’ll just have to settle for something a little briefer while I wait for my takeaway to arrive.

So. In 2015 (and at the time of publishing, as we might yet squeeze in a few more tonight) Alpha Signal Five received

  • 6,732 views
  • From 5,120 visitors

That’s pretty bloody great isn’t it! I’m well chuffed with the fact that the site got more than 5,000 (not unique) visitors. Compare it to 2014, which got

  • 5,107 views
  • From 3,883 visitors

And I’m extremely pleased with the improvement. Certainly enough to pay my WordPress bill when it’s time to renew in the next few weeks.

According to that Year in Review thing which I got from WordPress the other day, I wrote 74 posts in 2015 (not sure if that includes the one about Guitar Hero Live which I’ve got saved in Drafts right now). That’s 1.42 posts a day, roughly one every four days.

That’s not too bad actually. But I certainly wish I’d got a few more in, maybe 100 or so. I know that there were long spells where I’d been a bit neglectful, and given myself some internal grief as a result. I’ve sort of arrived at a decision about that…a resolution, if you will…but we’ll get to that next week.

ALPHA SIGNAL FIVE

Most-viewed posts of 2015

My top five most read posts of 2015, also written this year (cos god knows we shouldn’t be talking about that guy – the most read of 2015 overall – any more.)

Happy Birthday, nWo! Hulk Hogan’s 1996 WCW Heel Turn

Oh crap, there he is again.

Who will win the 2015 Royal Rumble?

Not a classic match by any means, but the Rollins-Cena-Lesnar match was my favourite of the year.

The Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition is BEAUTIFUL…but not for me

A look at the expensive side of geek culture, and the first of three this year on what’s definitely been my gaming highlight of 2015.

Why did Tom DeLonge leave Blink 182?

A bit of a shocker, this, but I enjoyed a trip back into teen nostalgia while celebrating a lifelong favourite band.

WWF – the story of Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon

Inspired by the story of the genuine articles joining WCW, and the WWF’s completely weak response.

Mainly wrestling, but unlike 2014 when I promised not to write about it for the sake of writing about it, these pieces have met that promise as I had genuine interest in the topics at hand.

Improvements on 2014

I make a regular habit of saying ‘I’m not in the habit of making resolutions’, which I clearly am. So let’s take a look at last year’s equivalent post and see what went right.

The one thing I know I’ve worked on here is writing for myself; I’ve binned the news in brief posts and instead concentrated on news when I’ve actually got something to say about it, instead of just regurgitating the news and ending with a summary of my brief thoughts.

There’s only that, really. But I don’t mind. I’ve done my best to make the blog into something a bit more ‘me’ and I think I’ve achieved that.

And now as we get into 2016, I’ll be off to a pretty good start with some posts already in the making. Let’s see what the new year brings. Have a good one, dudes – and thank you for being on the other end of this mass of tubes they call the internets, reading the stuff I write. It’s a good feeling.

 

 

The Samsung Galaxy VR – best enjoyed while drunk

On Saturday night, at a friend’s stag do, I saw a glimpse of my future – but enough about whatever my best man has planned for me, because I also got to try out some VR tech.

We’d just called it quits on our poker game for the evening – which I was definitely winning – and decided to have a game of Wii bowling. While the others were setting up, my friend produced a Samsung Galaxy VR headset from the storage room and urged me to try it out.

I’d made my feelings clear about the ‘fad’ that was VR only a little bit incoherently earlier in the night, when asked if I fancied a go. I thought to myself, it’ll be fun, and it’ll certainly be impressive enough, but will it really be a mind-blowing time?

VR Troopers

Best stag do ever.

Since everyone went spare over the Oculus Rift – and the ability to walk around a virtual copy of Jerry Seinfeld’s flat from his sitcom – I’ve felt fairly cynical as to how stunning the experience can really be.

I’ve been burned before.

Nintendo Virtual Boy

Not that I ever owned one, but the 1990s were a heady time for video game commercials. Convinced that getting myself a Cyber Razor Cut would be awesome, and that playing an Amiga 500 would be the greatest gaming experience of all time (to be fair, the amazing song is to blame for that, too), I’m glad I never saw this advert for the Nintendo Virtual Boy at the time of release because it would’ve been the end of me.

The nerve. Honestly, the gall of Nintendo to have people thinking this would be anything other than a disaster. It lasted less than a year and, 20 years hence, remains Nintendo’s lowest ever selling console.

 

CyberZone

Predating that shambles of a console by two years, was BBC Manchester’s shambles of a 1993 gameshow which attempted to bring the possibilities of virtual reality to the masses. Naturally, a similarly ahead-looking presenter was needed, so in came Craig Charles – between filming series of Red Dwarf down the corridor – to welcome us ‘cybernauts’ to the virtual reality bonanza.

I was eight years old when this played on BBC2. Even at the age of eight, I could see just how bloody clunky it all looked; from the awkward poses of the ‘cyborgs’ controlled by players using the early 90s equivalent of a Dance Dance Revolution mat, to the puzzles that were thematically poles apart from the game’s concept – “welcome to the future, cyborgs. Now pick up this virtual ball and throw it at that virtual hoop”. Even at the age of eight, I could tell we had a long way to go.

 

The Lawnmower Man

Don’t even get me fucking started on The Lawnmower Man.

 

Samsung Galaxy VR

So, back to our evening of revelry last weekend. Engage.

Finding myself in an empty cinema I glanced up at my entertainment options, and chose a little VR trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron – coincidentally, one of only two films I’ve ever watched in 3D at the cinema.

And as I followed the path of Thor’s hammer and Cap’s shield across Avengers HQ, snapping pool cues in half and crushing robot heads – all in slow motion, naturally – I was stunned. The AR capabilities were fantastic, as I looked up and down and all around me to see what else was going on in this massive battle.

I also watched a music video by Squarepusher called ‘Stor Eiglass’ which has been published on YouTube 360, allowing you to get the same immersive experience I did, only by moving your mouse rather than your head.

And again, I thought this was absolutely stunning. It helps that I quite like Squarepusher anyway so the music didn’t detract from the experience, but the relatively inexpensive piece of kit that comes from combining some goggles with a smartphone managed to massively surpass my expectations.

I was absolutely blown away by the tech.

Confession: I was also pretty drunk, so there’s a good chance my eyes were already fairly goggly, but I’d recommend this experience to anybody, just to see how far VR has come since the days of Mario Tennis and Craig Charles’ Cyber Zone. And with Sony’s Playstation VR set to hit the shelves in 2016, we could finally be in for that all-encompassing, all-conquering VR experience that the likes of Craig Charles and Pierce bloody Brosnan couldn’t give us before.

MCM Manchester Comic Con 2015

Don’t you hate it when you get a present and aren’t allowed to play with it? Well in the case of the tickets I got back in February as a birthday gift from colleagues, I wasn’t actually able to use them until the weekend just passed – and for me and my travelling companion it was well worth the wait.

In case I haven’t said it before, I bloody love Manchester. I went to university there and, despite the reservations I’d been brought up to have about the place (as a Leeds United fan), I was lucky to spend three years in that great city. I still go once a year for their Christmas Market which, I promise you, is a million times better than the Leeds one.

So with two of my loves coming together – Manchester and comics – I knew it would be a great weekend at Manchester Comic Con.

We spent the Friday walking around town and doing some shopping – plus we found a place that does bubble tea called I Come From Taiwan, it was delicious. At Fopp Records I picked up two My Bloody Valentine albums to satisfy the secret shoegaze fan inside me, (damn, secret’s out) and we had an awesome fish and chip dinner before retiring for the evening to our digs in Castlefield.

beetham tower manchester deansgate

This was the view from our room; the rather ugly Beetham Tower, whose rather ugly aerodynamic shape at the top means the wind blowing through it causes a low hum which can be heard for miles around. We heard it a lot.

Oh, and we were staying in room 316. Cue the incessant Steve Austin/room service impersonations.

stone cold steve austin 316

I don’t do well on Saturday mornings. Scratch that; I don’t do well most mornings, but planning an early wake-up after a full day’s walking around town didn’t have me raving to start the day. Multiple coffees and a big breakfast solved that problem, and just before 9am we headed out to Manchester Central, which was hosting the MCM Manchester Comic Con.

First things first; the amount of cosplayers there was incredible. Even as we joined the queue we were overwhelmed by the number of attendees showing up in their costumes, representing every nook and cranny of geek culture. It was really encouraging to see so many people expressing themselves so avidly – go take a look at any MCM Manchester-related hashtag right now for the evidence.

The line to get inside moved quite speedily, and before long we were cast into the huge convention hall with what had to be thousands of other attendees, even at that early hour. It was all quite overwhelming actually, and I really, REALLY don’t do well in crowds so was quite upset for quite some time.

To get away from it all, we crept into a panel being held by the guys from All The Anime, who were discussing upcoming releases and answering questions from the assembled audience. Most of the questions and answers being supplied sailed clean over my head, as I don’t watch much anime at all – certainly nothing current, my knowledge is limited to old Studio Ghibli and Akira – but I really dug their enthusiasm and easy-going nature as they answered questions and shared opinions on what’s happening in the wide world of anime.

Most of the day was spent checking out the merchandise on offer at the various stalls, and what a selection – everything from comics, video games and clothing to cosplay props, imported food and drink and even a few film-makers, like Redshirt Films who made the excellent Nights At The Round Table.

We even saw a live Robot Wars event – my goodness, that was fun. My lady was always a bit partial to the metal mayhem of a weekday evening on BBC2, and it was really cool to see it happen live. Only issue for me was that every one of the robots competing in the same round was a ‘flipper’ type – you know the sort I mean:

robot wars flippers

So there wasn’t any real harm done to the combatants – any time one got flipped over, they just re-flipped themselves back into action. Apart from that, it was a lot of fun to see.

Someone also recognised the Scrivens 3.14 t-shirt I was wearing on the day. That was a highlight.

In one of those who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-Vincent moments, sadly I didn’t pick much up in the way of sweet merch from the con – although I did pick up a copy of The Everyday by Adam Cadwell, who has not only written a funny and touching autiobio anthology but was also a lovely bloke to chat to at the end of a long day.

I also got this t-shirt, because I had to.

adventure time finn t-shirt

 

And that’s yer lot. We had a bit of a mad dash to Piccadilly for the train home, but thanks to my ninja shortcut skills we were there in plenty of time. The con was a lot of fun, and Manchester is always lovely to me whenever I visit. It’s been emotional.

 

Heroes of Geek Culture: Isaac Asimov

I’ve been watching the Channel 4 sci-fi series Humans, and aside from the whole kitchen sink drama/conspiracy thriller side of things, one of the matters which took me greatly by surprise is how well they’re doing the whole existential, philosophical side of things.

And when I heard one of the synths mention that their ‘Asimov lock’ prevents them from doing harm to humans, well, that was just a brilliant touch in honour of the sci-fi writer who helped bring the whole discussion to light.

Born in Soviet Russia somewhere around 1920, Isaac Asimov was one of the world’s best-known and most prolific science fiction writers, known to have had a hand in writing some 500 novels. Asimov was also a PhD-qualified biochemist, and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine – though he was said to have taken a low-key role in order to focus on his writing.

isaac asimov bio geek culture

Truly a brilliant mind, Asimov was also a member of Mensa International, and he wrote many non-fiction titles alongside his staggering collection of novels, including many academic texts in wildly varying areas of science. He was something of a Shakespeare expert too.

Asimov was among the pioneers of the science fiction genre as we know it today, writing many extremely popular works about space travel, galactic diplomacy struggles and, as mentioned, the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence. Across many of his works, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics come into play:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

These rules are absolutely an essential part of sci-fi canon these days, as the morality and ethics of artificial intelligence continue not only to form part of stories like Humans, but are starting to vest themselves in the artificial intelligence we continue to create. When you first heard about Siri, were you not a little…unsettled…about its development like I was?

I recently read Asimov’s very first novel, Pebble in the Sky, and became engrossed in the story of an Earth empire which has spread so far and wide across the galaxy, and become so sophisticated, that they’d assumed a snobby attitude towards their lowly ancestors and those who remained on our planet. It’s a great mix of diplomatic, chess-like strategies and all-out violence written in a style that, while somewhat dated, has all the greater impact on its story for it.

For his brilliant, inquisitive mind as well as the huge body of work that spans decades and has influenced so much of today’s science fiction (here I’d make a joke about it being the Foundation but it’s awful and I’m now annoyed at myself for thinking of it), Isaac Asimov is very much a hero of geek culture.

The Week in Geek: MITB 2015, Kickstarter’s Revenge and Kaboom Comics

Welcome to this week’s geek culture news, featuring the build to the next WWE PPV event and an interesting follow-up on a previously-covered Kickstarter campaign.

week in geek culture news

The Doom That Came To Erik Chevalier

When designer Erik Chevalier cancelled his Kickstarter project for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City about two years ago, backers were sceptical as to what had been done with the £80,000 they’d raised to fund it.

And yesterday those suspicions were confirmed, as the BBC reported on a finding by The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that Chevalier spent much of the money he’d raised on relocating and rent – not to mention commencing work on an entirely different project.

The FTC also found that Chevalier had not yet refunded any of his backers, despite promising to do so in the Kickstarter page’s final update.

In a settlement reached between the parties, Chevalier is banned from misrepresenting himself in any future crowd-funded campaigns – including pledging rewards that he doesn’t deliver on and how he intends to spend the money.

In return, an order that Chevalier must repay all of the money he was awarded has been suspended on the grounds that…he can’t afford it. However, if this turns out to be untrue then the order will be reinforced.

The lesson here, kids, is make sure you know what you’re getting into the next time you’re looking to back something.

 

WWE Money In The Bank 2015

Just two weeks after the last WWE event, Sunday night sees the return of the most valuable briefcase in sports entertainment with the annual Money In The Bank pay-per-view.

As always, the marquee match is the Ladder Match for the Money In The Bank briefcase; I would list the seven competitors involved but recent form suggests that I’ll name Roman Reigns as the sole favourite and leave it at that.

Other big matches slated for the event include a rematch from Elimination Chamber between John Cena and Kevin Owens, and the WWE World Heavyweight Title match; another prize to be hung above the ring and contested by champion Seth Rollins and his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose.

Ambrose isn’t going through the best booking right now – when was the last time he did? – but fans sadly can’t quite get behind the antics of the belt-stealing, mad-looking Lunatic Fringe. (And that one bounce-through the ropes spot is getting a bit old if I’m honest.)

There’s a very interesting theory doing the rounds, but for me the timing wouldn’t quite be there to be pulled off convincingly. Word is, once Reigns has (obviously) won the briefcase, he’ll cash in on the very same night…by turning heel on a victorious Dean Ambrose. WWE writers have done a pretty good job of buddying the two men up, so imagine how shocking this turn of events would be!

Except, it wouldn’t. As much as he’s improved since Wrestlemania (and even during; that main event match was spectacular), I still don’t buy Reigns as a credible threat whether with the fans or against them. There’s still too much to the Shield breakup that hasn’t been straightened out, and this isn’t the time to get into it.

Nor do I buy Ambrose as WWE Champion to lose it, sadly, and that’s partly down to the Dusty Finish (RIP) we got at Elimination Chamber which gave and took away that credibility in a matter of seconds.

 

Kaboom Comics

And just in case you missed it, I did an interview with Dave from Kaboom Comics earlier this week – go give it a read!

Five For Friday: Worst Wrestling Gimmicks

This week’s Five For Friday examines five very interesting career moves by wrestlers and mythical beasts alike. You can find previous entries in the Five For Friday series here.

Worst Wrestling Gimmicks 

To make it in the world of pro wrestling you need three things: the athletic talent, the charisma, and a unique look. Tie all these together and you’re a guaranteed star.

The Rock. Triple H. Dare I say it, John Cena. These men have it – that special combination which makes them superstars. Even two out of three ain’t bad: Mick Foley certainly had the look and the charisma, even if he was never gonna win any races. Much as it pains me to admit it, Bret Hart was an absolute god in the ring and was devoted to his character, even if he was lacking on the mic.

Whether you’ve got it or you haven’t, some people are able to use what they get to try and make it to the top of the wrestling tree.

And then there are these poor sods. Ladies and gentlemen, the Worst Wrestling Gimmicks.

 

Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese

dukedroese 

[image: GaryColemanFan]

As Stewart from the New Generation Podcast laid out for us in a recent interview, Vince McMahon certainly loved his ‘double gimmicks’ in the WWF – wrestlers who were seen to be moonlighting in the ring because they, in kayfabe, had another job to be getting back for.

Whether it’s a comment on the number of 80s wrestlers who had to combine their real love with something that actually paid the bills, or just a weird creative genre that never really went away (The Miz, anyone? Brock Lesnar? Oh no wait, that really was a different job) – the absolute bottom of the trashcan came in the form of Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese.

From what I remember he was a decent enough competitor, but then again I’ve since been proved wrong about most of my childhood wrestling memories from listening to that afore-mentioned podcast and watching the relevant matches. Droese wrestled in the WWF for two years – most notably gaining some upset victories over a young Hunter Hearst Helmsley – before agreeing on a release from his contract in 1996.

 

Mantaur

MOO. Enough said? No? Fair enough. This might do it.

(To be fair, that’s a hell of a belly-to-belly suplex he hits.)

Mike Halac counts ECW and WWE among his career highlights, but in this guise he was pretty much doomed from the get-go. Even with all-time great booker and manager Jim Cornette in his corner, Mantaur failed to grasp gold, and only lasted about six months. It must have been the exact six months that I watched WWF because I remember this guy very clearly. If only for the make-up and the mooing.

 

Dean Douglas

Right guy, wrong gimmick: you might know Shane Douglas as the man who threw down the NWA World Title after winning it in a tournament, in favour of declaring himself the first ECW World Champion and spitting on wrestling tradition in one fell swoop. He was instrumental in establishing ECW as the third main player in the business…so when he turned up in the WWF dressed like this:

Dean_Douglas_at_RAH2

[Dean Douglas at RAH2 by Mandy Coombes – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandycoombes/6921270651. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

We knew there’d be a problem.

Douglas was a pretty talented bloke, no question, but Vince’s obsession with a double gimmick didn’t endear the education-loving snob to fans one bit, and not even in the heel heat way. Sadly he fell foul of the Kliq in 1995 and made a pretty hasty exit, but not before winning and losing the Intercontinental Title in the space of about 15 minutes thanks to some particularly dickish politicking from Shawn and Razor.

Just Joe

If you watched Sunday Night Heat during its time on Channel 4 in about 2000, you might remember ‘Joe. Just Joe’, a man whose sole purpose in the WWF was to go backstage and inform Wrestler 1 that he’d just overheard Wrestler 2 saying he was going to kick Wrestler 1’s ass, or that Diva 1 was spotted getting close with Wrestler 1’s manager, much to the annoyance of Wrestler 2. On and on this went without any real, actual point to the man. Plus, as Kevin points out in a recent episode of The Attitude Era Podcast, he wasn’t even billed correctly – going from “Joe” to “Just Joe” and back again in a matter of seconds.

 

JustJoe

Sadly for Joe, his ideas outlived his own short time in the backstage area; he’s said to have been the man who first pitched the idea of a group of wrestlers who were out to censor the WWF – which one Steven Richards would actually head up instead.

The Yeh-TAAAAAY (Yeti)

Yeti

Why does this so-called Yeti look more like a mummy? If you’ve never had the misfortune of watching WCW Halloween Havoc 1995, you may be very surprised to know that this was not THE question everyone was asking that night.

No, that honour referred to the onscreen Monster Truck Match which took place atop the stadium between a debuting Giant (Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight) and the Immortal(ly lame) Hulk Hogan. At the conclusion of their epic rooftop battle, The Giant would attack Hogan and appear to fall off the roof of the stadium, to his death.

Just a few minutes later though, the Giant would show up for his World Title match against Hogan as if absolutely nothing had happened.

As for this gimmick…well, apparently he would go on to become a ninja. You know, those stealthy dudes? Yep. This bumbling shambles of a man would soon become a ninja.

Because WCW. Oh, and the reason he’s dubbed the Yeh-TAAAAAY is that the commentator couldn’t pronounce the word ‘yeti’. Simple as.

Interview: Kaboom Comics

There’s this bloke I used to work with called Dave. (Actually, there are two, but the other one doesn’t warrant a mention right now because he’s not into comics. Plus I hate him. (That was a joke, Dave. You git.))

Anyway. The Dave in question recently launched a service called Kaboom Comics; an online comic store which stocks the latest releases from the big and small comic publishers. Given that I’m now branching out into this interviewing lark I decided to have a quick chat with the man and see what’s cracking down at Kaboom HQ.

 

Kaboom Comics online store

 

Who are Kaboom Comics?

We’re two ordinary guys who love comics and all manner of other geeky things. We were sick and tired of being given little to no choice when buying comic books online. Our closest comic book shop was in Leeds, which was a bit of a pain to go to. Other than that, we could order off Forbidden Planet online but the experience wasn’t great when simply browsing.

How did you get started?

Coming from an online marketing background, we thought we could do things better than what is currently out there. So we’ve put our money where our mouth is and went ahead and set up Kaboom Comics. We like to think that our site is crisp, clean and easy to use, and laid out in such a way that no matter what you’re looking for, you can always find something else.

We think our customers agree, as we’ve had loads of people ordering a wide array of comics from different publishers! We also wanted a place for a community to flourish. We love hearing about the latest news from the comic book and wider film and TV worlds, and we want to bring this to Kaboom and generate discussions with our customers. We’ve got big plans on how we aim to expand this side of Kaboom, but more on that later!

What do you love about working at Kaboom Comics?

I love seeing all the great comic book artwork as it comes through the doors at Kaboom HQ. I’m a bit of a sucker for design so it’s great when we open those boxes and see fresh comic books laid there. It’s also pretty cool getting to sell something you love.

I also really enjoy everyone’s passion for comic books. Everyone thought they were going out of fashion, but they’re really making a comeback. But everyone who gets into them has a real passion, and to know that we’re helping people enjoy something they love is a really great feeling.

You stock a diverse mix of comics across different titles, genres and publishers. Do you find customers tend to gravitate towards books by the Big Two or is there a wider range of customer tastes?

This one shocked me quite a bit, because we see a real mix. Some of our best sellers have been from publishers such as IDW Publishing and Dark Horse, and that was always important for me from the outset. We want to give people the choice to read what they want. So we stock a wide range of comics across a lot of publishers, but we also allow people to request comics from us if they can’t find what they want. We want to help our customers as much as we can so it’s not just a buyer/ seller relationship.

What are the biggest challenges facing an online comic book store and how do you overcome them?

I think it’s difficult for online comic retailers sometimes because they are such a visual, tangible thing, and of course you can’t convey that online.  That’s why we aim to put nice big pictures of covers on our product pages, so that you can really see the detail and get a feel for what it looks like. We’d also like to start putting previews of comics on our blog, as we think it would be great to give people that sneak peek.

Delivery can also be an issue, but we like to think we are competitively priced on delivery and we give people enough choice when it comes to type of delivery. All of our comics are sent in plastic protective sleeves to minimise damage in transit, and again this was something that was really important to us from the outset – to offer the best all-round service possible.

The comic book industry has never been so popular than right now. To what do you attribute this (ka)boom in demand? Are there any particular books or films which you think caused the explosion?

Nice pun, Vincent! I think comic books tell really great stories, despite what some people may say. They also cater for every demographic, which I think adds to their popularity. Maybe it started with the Batman films, but we can probably all forget about the early ones (*cough* George Clooney *cough* Bat Nipples *cough*). I think we owe Christopher Nolan a lot for the rise in popularity of comic books. Batman Begins really set the bar high in terms of the standard of superhero movies, and he carries that on in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

They’re pretty serious films though, so I think The Avengers has helped, and Guardians of the Galaxy really ramped it up. Man that film was great. There’s something for everyone in those films. It also went to show you don’t have to just make a film about the really famous guys. I bet a lot of people hadn’t heard of Guardians before the film, but we see a lot of Guardians comics go out the door now, and I’d expect that to continue this June with the release of Groot #1.

And its success shows, with DC rolling out films about some of their maybe lesser known characters in the next few years.

Where does comic book culture go from here? Can we really expect to see an Avengers film every four years for the next 25 or 30 years?

Again, this is a tough one. I’d like to think film makes won’t get complacent and roll out Avengers 53 – Thor’s Sex Change in 30 years’ time. That would be a crying shame because there are loads of great characters to explore. I think it would be great to see the girls kick a bit more ass as well, with comics like A-Force #1 being released I think we’re seeing a shift towards more female orientated books, and there’s some fantastic series such as Ms Marvel, Spider-Woman and Wonder Woman all being produced.

Personally I’d love more TV shows such as Daredevil to be released exploring more back stories. It was a great series and lets you get deeper into the story than a film. Finally I think we need some fresh blood when it comes to characters. We have these really talented people creating comics, so I think it’s time we came up with some new heroes!

What’s the future for Kaboom Comics?

We’ve got loads of exciting things planned. We really want to make the most of our blog, with previews, opinons and reviews all planned, as well as feature artists and bloggers to try and give something back to the community.

We’re going to have some competitions running as well to give away some cool clobber, and if you’re at some of the upcoming MCM ComicCons (we’ll be in Manchester first) then we’ll be milling about outside, so come say hello! There may even be a special offer in it for you. Some awesome Kaboom t-shirts will be coming soon as well!

Cheers Dave. You can visit Kaboom Comics at www.kaboomcomics.co.uk, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.