Since 2007, I've designed and published works under the title of Gredunza Press. My partner and I have helped a good number of books see the light of day, including two of my own. We've been a team member for the publication of roughly 20 books and journals, and we're really proud of the work we've done. But it's time to embark on new projects, and it no longer makes sense to call what we do a press.
This also means that the podcast wing of Gredunza is also shutting down. I've already communicated with all the incredible hosts and hope they find new homes for their shows. A few have chosen to shutter, since there still isn't an east, inexpensive solution for podcasting out there. I hoped to provide that, but the cost/profit ratio just doesn't work for that particular vision.
As for my freelancing work, which often included Gredunza as a brand for hire, that work will continue, just under my own name and site. If you follow my blog International Object, you'll soon begin seeing design work there (as well as news posts like this). But if you're interested in hiring me, take a look at my services page.
Thank you to everyone who helped us out along the way, and shared in the creation of some inspiring projects. I hope I get to work with all of you again in the future.
Two things: I have no idea how to do this natively. I took 5 screen shots (which is now volume-up and power, which is probably objectively better but takes getting used to) and then stitched them in Photoshop. The background is actually from OS X, which is still my favourite desktop background (I think it debuted in Leopard?) and it looks like it repeats because of the scrolling effect. There's a lot of apps there, and I won't go into all of them, but please let me know if you need any details.
At some point in The Harder They Fall, Humphrey Bogart's last movie, we hear an announcer speak to a small but passionate boxing crowd. He thanks them for coming, and mentions that there will be a wrestling show coming up which they can stay to watch. The crowd boos, presumably because they're here to see the real stuff, not that phoney wrestling garbage. The joke is that the boxing match was fixed, too.
At some point, we all get asked the question. You know the one.
When I was around 13 I used to say, yeah, its fake like hockey. That made my brothers livid. Hours-long arguments about how impossible it would be to fix hockey, and why would they, and no, see, because they'd get caught, and.... I pointed out the sportsline tickets in their hands, purchased by their dads for from at Macs. "That's why," I said. "Gambling." They would shake their heads and tell me myriad reasons why that wouldn't work. I didn't really want to undermine their faith in sport. I just wanted them off my back. I just wanted to be allowed to enjoy my thing.
I had the same argument in college. I was an English major, but my friends largely studied philosophy, dramatic arts, and business. Inevitably, I got the question. "Of course," I'd say. "It's fake like theatre. Like an opera or a ballet." My college friends took offense to the comparison. Wrestling was so far beneath what anyone would call an art. It was worse than any circus. They would defend the fine arts of mime, commedia dell'arte, and tumbling. They'd finally acquiesce in calling it a low and ugly art, maybe, something antiquated and embarrassing that should be taken behind the woodshed; a minstrel show at best. But nothing like real theatre.
Somehow or another, the subject of contemporary pro wrestling will come up. Probably you'll bring it up, since you're the only one who didn't immediately trash it. "Wait, you like that stuff?" is usually the first response. That's the appetizer query, with just enough derision to let you know its not too late—you can still say no. But you don't. You admit it, and come clean. And then the real question is asked.
They ask the question as if authenticity is the barometer of acceptable culture. As if we don't want to be lied to by our mediums, as if we don't sometimes yearn for a world different that plays by different rules, even if those rules are byzantine. They ask the question because they need to reassure themselves that you—their friend—are not a fool. We know why they're asking. That's not what's interesting about the question.
Eventually, I stopped defending wrestling from those who would kick it when I brought it up. For years, it was something I would consume and never talk about, a comfort food the world decided was bad for everyone. Wrestling has hooks; addictive storylines that never ended, captivating characters that fought for alluring macguffins, and wonderful moments only truly cherished by longtime viewers. There were reasons to stick around, but it's always seemed like the acceptable thing to do with wrestling was to leave it in the past.
You get asked the question because something about you has changed in their eyes, and the person asking wants to make sure that it's not too much. It's a bit like saying you're in a cult, but more accurately it's like saying you're really into a nerdy subculture. Like you have a job and a relationship and a stable of friends, but you also have a sweet Magic the Gathering collection and you might drive a pretty long while every few months to be in a tournament. And I'm sure Magic the Gathering fans constantly have a question asked of them that drives them nuts too.
Wrestling fandom is acceptable in polite society, but it exists in this sociological past tense. Nobody ever triumphantly declares how much they once believed in Santa, but sometimes in a pub you'll overhear a boisterous story about Randy Savage or Jake Roberts or Steve Austin. It will have been remembered incorrectly or with the exaggeration that comes with nostalgia, but the conversation never turns to the present. Getting the facts right is never a priority. I was made fun of for liking wrestling as a kid, as an adolescent, and as an adult, but at all three times found that there was some other time when wrestling was acceptable. As a kid, wrestling was something only grandpa's liked. As an adolescent, that stuff was for kids. As an adult, that stuff was for college dorms (which was the one time in my life I steered clear). It's okay to have dabbled in wrestling fandom, but never okay to be a current fan. It's incredibly frustrating, but clever as hell as a defense mechanism. How better to bring up something you love by framing it with the comfortable distance of nostalgia? Not that I think everyone who waxes on the past is a secret current fan, but some absolutely are, and are a little afraid to admit it.
The general consensus is that wrestling used to be great, but cannot be great now. It is bad now, and that's because it's faker than ever. It is predictably fake. It is overwrought with fakeness, and every maneuver is a paper lie, every façade a fraud. Where this falls apart is the "used to be," because that's not a time but a personal reference point that means nothing to even the person saying the words. Some people smush together the nWo with the prominence of the intercontinental title, even though those two periods were ten years apart. They'll talk vaguely about the Ultimate Warrior but be unable to say when any of his insanity occurred. Almost equally, another group will have no memory of that time at all, and point to the very late 90s, when wrestling more or less resembled Woodstock 99. And as time goes on, newer "used to be's" arise. The recent past creeps along.
Lapsed fans will often point to whenever they were either 8 or 17, which seem to be the most porous ages for letting wrestling in. I've already heard stories on tumblr about how Sheamus got people through high school, and how CM Punk gives hope to the isolated and lonely in a way no band or celebrity could. These are fans who left wrestling last year, or last month, who already talk about it as if it was stained in sepia. In time, these characters will be the ones people remember from "back when wrestling was good," but rarely at the time.
This is because wrestling is frustrating as all hell at the time.
It's frustrating as hell because in the moment, wrestling feels real. You know it's fake. You know it's scripted. But you can't help yourself. Whether it's a particularly well-choreographed sequence of reversals, or a cathartic and emptying array of punishing maneuvers that go too far, you take this ride. In that moment, you forget about the fact that it is choreographed and performed and executed for the purpose of garnering these emotional reactions. You forget the system around the moment, and you believe for just a few seconds that something extraordinary is really possible. And so when we get asked the question, there is a little part of us that wants to defend that moment, but also keep it to ourselves, lest it be wrecked by people who don't deserve to share that space, don't appreciate the feelings we've poured into them, and unintentionally wound us in a place where we become vulnerable.
I once held a viewing party for Wrestlemania III. I purposefully invited people who had no interest in wrestling. I would not have been able to pull this off with a new show, but this one aired in 1987, and features Andre the Giant, who is still the only pro wrestler that everyone—fan or otherwise—likes. It also features what many consider the greatest match of all time, between Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage. This is the Stargate match (I'm sure Stargate enthusiasts have a question too). It takes everyone from just about any age and every level of interest and makes them believe. I watched half a dozen people rife with the childhood wonder people talk about, when they drop the cynicism and doubt of adulthood, and just let the lies wash over them. While watching that match, the questions died down. The jokes got quieter. I could tell that moment widen and cover us. Afterword, I could tell there was a little embarrassment, that it was in fact so easy to get lost in it and become—for better or worse—wrestling fans.
And this is why we couch it in the past, so that when people as the question, which they absolutely always will, you don't sweat it. You say "Yeah, but Ricky Steamboat was pretty cool." It's a defense mechanism for a certain kind of pop cultural shame, that weird sense that you chose wrong but couldn't help it, and if you were more in control you'd never turn wrestling on. It's true guilt pleasure, the type that legitimately feels bad at times. That's why it's not so easy to just let your freak flag fly on this one. That's why the question is complicated. And that's why I have no idea how to really answer it, so I say something different every time. It usually comes down to context and how well I know the person asking.
What I'm enjoying is that every now and then, the question doesn't come up when wrestling does. It always surprises me, because I'm used to the one-two punch of "You like this?" and "You realize..." But more and more, I'm just getting a nod, or some kind of admittance to getting back into it, or a great memory with no shame whatsoever. It's not even ironic, I don't think. I think people genuinely love this stuff, and it seems lately it's easier to actually admit it.
To compare WWE's Monday Night Raw to RuPaul's Drag Race may seem like an easy punch line to those who dismiss both as lowbrow entertainment pitched to niche audiences. But those who indulge in both (almost assuredly a very small sliver of that particular Venn diagram) know better than to reject the notion out of hand. While that opening description focused largely on surface similarities, that's only the beginning of the resemblances. Dig more deeply, and you'll find that not only are the two shows comparable, but they're essentially one and the same.
This is the kind of thing I like to see when I show up to the internet.
If you were to see this scene in a film, completely out of context, you might look for a variety of clues to figure out what's going on. Some are straightforward: How are the people behaving? What's her tone of voice? What do their faces look like? How close are they sitting? If you've spent some time thinking about filmmaking, you might consider other things: How are they framed? What's the angle of the shot? Where's the light?
If you were to see this scene on Mad Men, however, you'd probably go to one question before any other: What book was he reading?
Holmes explains one of the great habits I have formed with Mad Men. Not only am I interested in the details and think about what they might mean, I then go online to find details I've missed, meanings I've missed. I'm not only unpacking the text, but participating in the discussion. I'm part of the palimpsest. And she's right: it's not that hard. But it is fun.
Wrestlemania XXX was either four hours or 46, depending on how you wanted to go. I watched the press conference, the first Wrestlemania Today, the 2014 Hall of Fame, Wrestlemania XXX proper, and Journey to Wrestlemania, a one-hour doc exclusive to the WWE Network, totaling roughly 11.5 hours. That 46 hour total includes a few reruns of previous Wrestlemania’s, but it doesn't count the other few hundred hours you could spend watching the WWE Network in the week leading up to the big show. "Journey" became available a little while after Wrestlemania, since it includes footage from the event (not even WWE is that good).
With the glut of programming, one might think I watched a lot of wrestling this week. They'd be only right under certain definitions. Of the 11.5 hours I watched, only four of them contained any bell-to-bell time whatsoever. I saw Daniel Bryan in a suit more often than in gear. But that's the first thing that fans have to learn about WWE: the actual wrestling is only one aspect to the entire show. This is more true than ever.
In fact, the first thing I thought of after Wrestlemania concluded was that I felt I'd seen actually little pro wrestling. Of the shows seven matches, four went over 15 minutes (and of the short ones, only the Battle Royal—featuring 31 men—went over ten). Just 120 of the 240 minutes spent were inside any particular match, leaving the rest to intros, promo videos, interviews, and highlight reels. WWE may have no reruns, but almost half of Wrestlemania was previously-aired footage.
It's an old argument to say that all the pomp and circumstance takes away from the actual "wrestling" part of the show. I have almost always disagreed with this notion. Videos, interviews, lengthy entrances, and even the odd silly sketch is all there for the purpose of making the audience care about these characters. WWE does all this so that when the performers are working their craft, you care about their wellbeing. WWE bets that you cheer or boo them largely on what they've done outside of wrestling matches.
Another criticism often lobbed at WWE is that they tend to forget that wrestlers can make a crowd sway for or against them simply by how they wrestle, and all that other stuff doesn't really need to be there. But if WWE ever needed an argument for the importance of non-wrestling segments on their shows, it was Wrestlemania XXX. HHH was widely praised for his performance in his match against Bryan. Bray Wyatt was not only cheered, but the crowd finally started to sway like they used to in NXT (not an easy task). Two of the biggest villains on the show fighting two of the biggest heroes, and they were all aided by this design. Of course, that opens up a Pandora’s box of wrestling etiquette. If a bad guy is performing well, do I cheer because I appreciate it, or boo because then I'm playing along?
Wrestlemania XXX was a different kind of wrestling show, and it seems impervious to these sorts of old complaints. Not enough wrestling? Are you kidding? Four matches drew close to thirty minutes each, and only one of them dragged. The two involving Bryan were exhausting in their quality. Stupid skits? There was one, and it promoted toys, and it was two minutes. Too much "entertainment" rather than "sport"? Are you nuts? Except for the six-man tag, no match was easily won. Everyone looked like they were giving it their all, as if this really was the biggest show of their career.
Wrestlemania was an excess of delight for the wrestling fan, and presumably even the crotchety old wrasslin’ fan who cares about snowflakes and workrate and pays for newsletters. They'll spend the next few weeks writing about why it was a terrible decision for WWE to end the streak or have John Cena beat Bray Wyatt or whatever but ignore them. They loved it. They designed Wrestlemania XXX to please, from the first twenty minutes of nostalgic hoopla to HHH's tiger suplex to Batista & Orton's powerbomb/RKO into the Spanish announce table. It was also built to shock, awe, inspire, and ultimately be watched over and over again, as it was the first Wrestlemania in history to be available to re-watch almost the second it was over. It was the first major show since the Network launched. It has set an impossibly high precedent.
A lot of people come out for Wrestlemania. More people watch it than any other WWE special event. More people show up. More people care. There's absolutely an audience that only shows up for this show. Why watch Wrestlemania and not Raw (or Elimination Chamber)? Maybe they know WWE spends a lot of it's year building to this, and they're smart enough not to put themselves through the emotional roller coaster. Maybe they only want to watch wrestling when they know it'll be good. Obviously, WWE would like to convert these fans into Network subscribers, but if they only care about Wrestlemania, what are the chances? I have to say, probably not high. The customer who only shows up for four hours of wrestling will not be tempted to watch thousands more. That option was always there for them. Sometimes four hours is all you want.
Then again, show them these four hours, and you might just convert some people. And I don't just mean the once-per-year fans, I mean people who might have completely disregarded the product. Wrestlemania was built like a celebration, echoed in the opening video, and the show felt like half its actual runtime. When it was over, I couldn't believe it. WWE gave the fans every single thing they wanted. On top of that, they accomplished something few believed they could: they made it seem like they planned it all in advance. But I'll get to that.
Wrestlemania, like Monday Night Raw and in general all of wrestling, was an ensemble production built to showcase a roster of characters. Yet not since perhaps Wrestlemania X was there such an obvious star of the show. Daniel Bryan, like Bret Hart before him wrestled in the first and last matches. And just like Bret, the first match was better. Hard-hitting, suspenseful, and dynamic, HHH vs Bryan was the type of wrestling match you could use to make fans out of people. Seriously. Show that match to someone who thinks wrestling is a waste of time. Watch them go from making fun of you to biting their fingernails. I used to use Savage and Steamboat when defending pro wrestling. Now I have this.
Bryan's second match was a completely different kind of performance. If beating HHH made the bad guy pay, the triple threat paid back all the times the bad guy won. For people unfamiliar with pro wrestling, the first match was as close as you can get to a pure, perfect exhibition. The second match was all spectacle: copious interference, double-teaming, cheating, international objects, and a crooked referee. These are the things bad guys use to beat good guys. These are tools of the nefarious, the cheap, and the lazy. Both inside the narrative and without, these things are used to ruin matches. And yet Bryan cut through it all, a superhero by any other name. The bad guys beat Bryan with all these things for the past 8 months. That's why they were effective. All that was missing was to have Shawn Michaels kick the poor guy in the face again.
The middle of the show held it's own, even if Bryan outshone everyone. When the lights went out and they introduced a voodoo dancer, I thought that she was for John Cena's entrance. John has a long history of great entrances, and they often include a local flavour. But he hasn't had a good one since 2011, so I guess maybe they've dropped that aspect of his character. It's too bad. He deserved a better entrance than he got.
I don't have much to say about Cena vs Wyatt. It was the most normal match of the evening, but it had fun shades of Hart and Piper from Wrestlemania VIII, with Cena tempted to cheat, his enemy urging him to take the easy way out. Bret-Piper had a strange message: refuse the temptation, and you still might lose. This story made more sense. I believe Cena won because Undertaker lost, though. I think it was a kind of mercy. There's only so much the kids can take.
Over time, we have come to believe that The Undertaker is in charge of his career. We believe he wrestles when he wants, against only who he wants, and if he wins or loses, it is because he has chosen to. Not since Hulk Hogan in the 90's (with politics) or Andre the Giant (with invincibility) has there been a man more in charge of his own career. We believe this because we have no faith in WWE keeping up the steak in this way. It had to have been a wrestler. HHH has gone on record saying the streak should never be broken, and I take that to mean WWE meant to never break it if they could help it. If we believe that, then we have to believe The Undertaker insisted on losing, or Brock insisted on winning, or a combination of either.
But what if the writers just pitched a great ending? What if Vince thought that this year was going to be the year? What if Undertaker losing was, for lack of a better term, best for business? We have trouble with these ideas. Surely, this wasn't the story they'd go with? Well, why not? Because you didn't like it? That's the risk authors take. Every tweet, blog post, poem, short story, essay, manuscript, screenplay, and yes, pro wrestling storyline ships with the absolute possibility of flopping. All you can do is your best. And I think they did their best.
I think the best guy won. It's always a surprise when I hear how young Brock Lesnar is. We've known him forever, but not really. His second tenure in WWE has now been longer than his first. You know what I saw in Brock Lesnar's eyes as he defeated the Undertaker? Enjoyment. He was having fun out there. I think Brock Lesnar is finally falling in love with pro wrestling. He mugged for the cameras like a kid on Christmas. He's finally home.
If you believe they did it on purpose, you have to give them credit. It may not have been a classic, but much like The Rock at Wrestlemania XXIX, one has to grade on a curve. There was an injury. Pro wrestling is a tight-wire, dangerous art form, and injuries are going to happen from time to time. Sometimes they're going to end careers. Sometimes you wish they'd just stop before it happens. But we're just not good enough people to make that happen. We demand performers give us their all, until there's less than nothing left. It's for this reason I've come to loath "one more match" chants. Do they prop up at every Hall of Fame speech? It's selfish, and it made Jake Roberts Cry. Warrior was right to look out at the crowd, look at all those demanding people and scream "no." Maybe it would have been better for everyone involved if the Undertaker just went out to pick up a pack of cigarettes, and never came back.
If the crowd wasn't into Undertaker vs Lesnar, it's because going in, the match was heavily suffering from predetermined outcome syndrome. Not a single person honestly bet on Brock Lesnar to win. But holy crap, did they wake up.
I've seen a lot of great crowd reactions. I was sitting just over a dozen rows back from Hogan and Rock. I've studied Hart and Austin like a college class. And my childhood memories get all warm when I think of Savage defeating Flair. But great historical reactions are often of jubilation, ownership, or a reckoning. Wrestling deals in the payment of catharsis. But what is the opposite? What do you call a feeling where the entire platform drops, and the floor opens up underneath you? What happens when a fictional god dies? You're left with a little less magic, and a world sadly more real. Any written account of this moment ends up equally hyperbolic and not nearly enough. WWE also trades in childlike wonder, but in a single unexpected moment, they made us all grow up. I choose to read the Undertaker's loss as a decision made by one man, and then crafted by a team. It was on purpose and inevitable, as all great fictional tragedies have to be. It's sad if you go in with both eyes open, as we all eventually did, and in the end, we're left with everything we haven't lost.
There were other matches, but they didn't really matter. If anything, they only fortified the overall theme of the night: we did this on purpose. The Big Show was the favourite going into the battle royal so he could be bodyslammed, and the only person on the roster who has a precedent for being super strong is Cesaro. (And welcome back to being the butt of Wrestlemania, Big Show. We missed you). AJ Lee got to squash every other woman on the show, and The Shield got a moment to be dominant heroes. It was all there to say, look, these are our new stars. Trust us. We have plans. But how much do we believe that? God knows WWE has done this before. How can we trust that they actually know what they're doing? How do we move from our current attitudes to actually giving the entire team at WWE credit when they get something like Wrestlemania this right?
Faith in authorial intent is the next thing. We simply don't believe that WWE planned to do this all along. We have trouble giving them credit. That’s the old criticism, right? Get the writers out of the way and let the wrestlers do what they do best. But the fact is, Wrestlemania can't happen without the whole team. That little commercial where they talk about all those feet of cable, all the trucks, all the equipment, that's all really real. The only part of Warrior's Hall of Fame speech was when he suggested a yearly award for a member of the crew (named after Jimmy Miranda, a late employee who worked the merchandise booth). That should happen. And the writers should qualify.
That brings us to Journey to Wrestlemania, a documentary starring Daniel Bryan. It weaves Bryan's entire career into the recent story between him and WWE authority, as if they're somehow responsible for him being smaller than Hulk Hogan. It's cute, inspiring, and an easy hour to spend. And since the hour features extensive talking-head time with Brie Bella and John Cena, it's basically the best episode of Total Divas ever.
Watching this doc, its easy to believe that WWE has been consciously telling this story since Bryan arrived, like it is actually all one connected narrative. Even Bryan's brief derails feel like chapters in this story, because his is a story of a guy who shouldn't be a star. Of course he struggled. Of course it felt like he was going nowhere. On our podcast last week, Rich dismissed the possibility that they'd been consciously writing this story. He said "It's easy to go back and make a video making it make sense." That video is definitely Journey to Wrestlemania. And he's probably right. This likely wasn't the plan. The authors of this story didn't force this to happen. You can make a video with equally inscrutable events with Bryan. You can easily tell the other side of this story.
What the writers did do was allow a story to be communicated in this way. The fact that it can be read as a consistent narrative at all is an impressive feat. You just can't do that with HHH, or CM Punk (in comparison, huge chunks of their careers are missing from their recent docs). They allowed the text to be read this way. It might have been a coincidence. It may have been unconscious. But the text can read this way. You can interpret the last four years as a singular narrative starring Daniel Bryan. And you can choose to believe it was the authors' intent to make it so, which is a victory. I’ll take it.
When I was 20, a friend of mine would randomly suggest driving to the Falls late at night. We'd pile into his Hyundai hatchback at 1am and make the hour and half trip just to stand before the waterfall for a few minutes. Then we'd eat breakfast at Denny's and go home. 10 minutes at the Falls. Three hours of driving.
It was never a disappointment.
Growing up, Niagara Falls was always the entranceway to America for me. It's where the US sorta bleeds into Canada. And I grew up in Calgary. As a kid, I thought of America as equal parts chinsy, lame, tiring, and amazingly grand. That's definitely Niagara Falls.
2013 brought severe haemorrhaging of the TNA roster. I haven't checked in with the show in a while, so I thought I'd go through their roster and see what's left. Here's their roster as of Friday, April 11, 2014.
51 people. Now, let's remove the part-time guys who have probably never actually had a real match.
Now, let's remove the announcers and commentary crew.
Let's remove the pallette-swap characters.
All right. That gives us a better idea of who's actually on the show. Actually, let's get rid of the men. The TNA Roster is composed of 32 men and and 8 women. Okay, now let's just get rid of the men, who are all really a drag on this show.
Obviously the TNA roster is a small one. Only 8 women? That's probably not enough for long-term storytelling. Still, it's not as bad as people say. I think this company has a shot.
This is an important point: Bike lanes don’t cause a lot more congestion if you put them on the right streets. If you cut down the size of streets that are already near capacity, you’ll create severe congestion. But if you start with roads that are well under capacity, you’ll only increase the congestion a little bit. And it may not even be noticeable. Slimming down these roads that are too “fat” is known as a road diet — and yes, that is the technical term.
Road diet is now my favourite cycling-related term.
Moments later, still in the stage spotlight, the former secretary of state reflected calmly on what she called “an atmosphere and attitude in politics” that she said rewards inflexibility and extremism.
Inflexible and extreme attitudes? Sounds like just another day at the office for federal and international politics. At some point she's going to have to get used to that.
Last year after Wrestlemania, Rich and I recorded seven episodes about Mad Men Season 6. They're some of my favourite episodes to return to, even though I know lots of people didn't like that we entirely changed the show's focus.
Mad Men is premiering this coming Sunday, and just to warn you, there's going to be lots about it for the next few weeks on the blog.
These episodes are still so, so good.
K Sawyer Paul and Rich Thomas begin talking about Madmen, class Structure in Canada, US, and England, TV and movie formats in the 2010s, the loss of Dick Whitman, soap opera aging, whether Peggy will ever see that baby again, and How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, starring Bertram Cooper.
Week 2 of our Madmen series details a very special episode of Madmen where they tackle the MLK assassination. Rich Thomas, K Sawyer Paul, and Eisee Sylvester discuss The Flood, racial integration in 1968, Planet of the Apes, Roger Sterling's silver tongue, and more.
This week, K Sawyer Paul and Rich Thomas discuss "For Immediate Release," merging company rules, the Chevy Vega, Joan's rage, and why you need to change things up every now and again, even if it drives everyone you know totally crazy.
Our Madmen miniseries rolls right into crazytown this week, and we're sorry if you feel a little bit like Burt Peterson in the process. We discuss "Man with a Plan," Don's Domming, Benson's coffee-fetching skills saving Joan, and Ted's aviators. Then, we veer into larger territory, trying to figure out why people discount an entire series simply because they hated the ending. That brings us to Douglas Coupland (who can't write an ending), the writers of LOST (not the best at managing expectations), and why relationships with products can sometimes be like relationships with actual people.
After a two-week hiatus, Rich and Kyle get back on the horse to find a plethora of conspiracies on both Mad Men and Monday Night Raw. Bob Benson is revealed (sort of). Pete's gun shows up to taunt Kyle, Megan Draper is either Sharon Tate or a Ghost, narrative bias is killing us, Brad Maddox may have never survived his ride in the ambulance, and just whose fate is worse, Pete's or Don's (orDaniel Bryan's?) We settle on a serious discussion of concussion-based entertainment and the will of the vomitorium (probably poorly used).
Rich Thomas and K Sawyer Paul discuss "In Care Of," the season finale of the most challenging and enjoyable season of television in a long time. They touch on Tom and Lorenzo's fashion critiques, and how the Kodak pitch and the Hershey's pitch were two sides of the same coin. Rich reminded Sawyer about when Pete tried to learn to drive, the continual unravelling of Pete, Rich's theory about where the whorehouse was in Pennsylvania, Rich's website about people dreaming about Bill Gates from 1996, and whether or not Don is now finally, finally, finally capable of moving forward. Also, that logo.
There's going to be a lot of people giving their opinions on Warrior today. I've already linked to a few, and I may write more later, but for now I'll give Tom Keiser the last word:
As I near 30, I appreciate pro wrestling in different ways than I did growing up. To wrestle is to risk shortening your life in order to perform dramatic yet supremely childish acts; it is, often, to take drugs which will screw your body and your mind while still having to cut promos about the dangers of cigarette smoking. There are heroes, and there are survivors, and by the end of the Ultimate Warrior’s life, he seemed to me more a survivor than a hero.
Scrubs was my favourite show, but Zach Braff's movie career hasn't been inspiring. Garden State came out ten years ago(!). I have high hopes for Wish I Was Here, and this trailer affirms them. Here is the sweet mixture of optimism in the face of tragedy that I've been missing.
The Ultimate Warrior died yesterday, but wrestling fans have long held up a rumour that he'd died once before, and was replaced by a different performer back in early 1992.
And for anyone looking for clues, the Ultimate Warrior's career sent off many more signal flares than did all of the Beatles' album art and reversed tracks after Paul McCartney "died." There were the thanatophilic promos, the morbid feud with the Undertaker, and now, upon his return, a new grudge against voodoo doctor Papa Shango, another mystical overseer of the hereafter.
There are three types of people who care about the Ultimate Warrior's death: 1) former wrestling fans who know nothing of his post-career episodes of homophobia, racism, and other Republican nonsense (those are the adults on Twitter going "Oh my god, he was my favourite!"), 2) current wrestling fans who know all about it but are maybe too young to have seen him in his prime, 3) lifelong wrestling fans who have seen it all and feel conflicted about it, since he was likely a terrible person who played a great character. All three probably feel differently about the first time he "died," too.
Warrior seemed like a man who was very aware of what he wanted his legacy to be, so he grew up a little, swallowed some pride, and allowed WWE to give him the legacy he felt he deserved. I liked that. I liked that he felt the character of The Ultimate Warrior embodied believing in oneself, taking responsibility, and pushing forward. That might not actually have been what was on television. The character may have just been a screaming lunatic with face paint, but who are we to judge if you or me or Jim Hellwig can find something positive?
Warrior rubbed a lot of wrestling fans the wrong way with his opinions, his general attitude, and even his wrestling performances. But there was also something to a few things he said during his Hall of Fame speech that were arguably true: he was one of the boys, because you wouldn't last if you weren't. He did finish those matches, blown-up or not. And he did live by a set of principles, even if many of them seemed out of touch. His family seemed genuinely proud to not only see him get recognized but also to just be around him.
Timing aside, I thought his speech on Monday was manic and inspiring, and that's how people should probably remember him.