Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Third Reich 'n' Roll

The album that put the Residents on the collective map...

** Side One:  Swastikas on Parade

** Side Two:  Hitler Was A Vegetarian
* Note German censorship of album cover

Noted psychoanalyst Erik Erikson professed that humans go through eight stages of psychosocial development in their lifetime; the most significant stages, obviously, being the earliest.  According to Erikson, all early stages were meant to prepare the human for stage seven: Middle Adulthood (35-55). 

When I was eight years old, my Uncle Larry (AKA: Donald to you) felt it time to introduce a 'proper music education'.  In his infinite wisdom, the first album he ever played for me was the Residents' Third Reich 'n' Roll.  Within minutes, I became so disturbed that I began to cry.  His reaction, at least initially, was to turn up the volume and laugh at me.

Being ten years older than myself, I have no doubt that the end result that day was exactly what he intended.  Teenagers, after all, have cruel streaks in them.  Had he known that his act of sonic terrorism would set me on a bohemian-laced, avant gardening path, he probably would have been twice as pleased with himself.

We all could use an Uncle Larry in our lives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Come On Story

Or... Obscurity never sounded so good.

Artists do their purest work in obscurity, with minimum feedback from any kind of audience. With no audience to consider, artists are free to create work that is true to their own vision.

In an attempt to educate my daughter without the benefit of spoken word (because the spoken word is passe these days), I went through a spell several years ago where I wrote mini blurbs on the various musicians I feel important enough to share with her.  Considering I have only gotten her into two point five of the artists featured, I am leaning towards learning Sign Language as means of communication.

I could probably get more across.

R-L: George Elliott, Ralf Mann, Jamie Kaufman, Elena Glasberg, Page Wood

One such blubbering blurb that caught her eyes and ears concerned the '70s No/New Wave band Come On.  Actually, she thought Elena Glasberg cute enough to give them a try.    "She's surrounded by boys!"              "I bet they made her wear that shirt..."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Irv Muchnick's Born-Again Bashing

A couple of celebratory, pro-Von Erich posts at the Kayfabe Memories forum reminded me of an article I read by Irv Muchnick several years ago.  As it is fairly hard to find these days - and in the name of historical context, I felt it would be good to post a copy & paste.

Originally published in Penthouse magazine, Muchnick attempts to reconcile Jack Adkisson's evangelical stance in the 1980s with the ever-mounting family tragedies that befell him.  Outside of a couple of questionable spins (which is not at all new to him), Muchnick's piece was - and still is - quite powerful.   

So without further adieu...

Born-Again Bashing
By Irvin Muchnick


October 1988

MAY 11, 1987. LESS THAN A month after his brother Mike killed himself because he felt he couldn't live up to the family name, Kevin Von Erich was working the main event in Fort Worth when something rare happened: a moment of spontaneous, unmediated terror. As the television cameras rolled, teenage girls squealed, and spectators shouted for blood, Kevin and his opponent crisscrossed off the ropes. No doubt they were setting up the usual wild finish - perhaps a variation on the patented Von Erich Iron Claw, or a violent collision followed by an out-of-control brawl outside the ring, or maybe a miscarriage of justice with the ref taking an accidental bump and failing to see the heel clobber the baby face with a foreign object.

We'll never know what the climax of this match was supposed to be. For suddenly, without being touched, Kevin Von Erich's abused body defied the script. Instead of snapping smartly off the ring's taut ropes, he sagged heavily against the strands. Recoiling, he wobbled toward the center of the canvas, then collapsed, torso convulsing, pupils rolled heavenward.

The fans in attendance at the Will Rogers Coliseum probably thought they were witnessing the first documented case of a professional wrestler falling into holy rapture. What they were actually seeing, though, was the champion of the World Class Wrestling Association simply passing out in the middle of the ring in the middle of a match.

No matter what those in legit sports and others of respectable breeding may think, wrestling is a subtle, extemporaneous art form; experienced pros pride themselves on their ability to salvage even the most sour finish. But Kevin Von Erich's swan dive supplied more grim reality than any ordinary eight-man tag-team match could bear. Chaos reigned at ringside. The bell rang. The TV cameras were switched off. Wrestler Tommy Rogers scrambled through the ropes and performed C.P.R. on his fallen partner, who was turning blue.

Later, after being released from Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, Kevin explained on television how he'd nearly been killed by a dreaded new oriental neck punch, courtesy of his hated rival, Brian Adias. Kevin vowed to avenge the blow the next time they met, whether it be in Fort Worth or Dallas or Mesquite or Lubbock or ...

With the heady brew of half-truth and chutzpah that only the hypemeisters of wrestling could concoct, a genuine brush with mortality became just another angle to sell tickets. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Chloraseptic® Dreams

... Or:  When Memories Punch Back

While surfing around looking for local band information from the 'good old days', I stumbled across a funky slice of nostalgia. 

I liken it to gazing into a mirror, then getting punched in the teeth by your own reflection...

In the late 80s a couple of buddies and I formed a Parma hardcore band - Public Execution.  As locals bands like LEK, R.F.I., and Domestic Crisis were so much cooler than us on the Social Idiot Index, we figured we would give it a whirl.  We stuck it out for about a year, wrote some nifty tunes, finally got a decent sound down (thanks to second drummer Jim Konya), then broke it up for reasons best left unsaid.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Retro Gaming Blast from the Past!

The other night my youngest had a school choir recital.  It was a very nice program.

But my eldest and her friend (the bigger sister to a friend of the youngest), were bored out of their minds. Being resourceful kids, they pulled out a notebook and started playing games, writing notes back and forth - the typical girl stuff. 

It reminded me of what I used to do when bored out of my skull at their age.  When we returned home I promptly showed my wife.  She laughed at my ingenuity.  Or my idiocy.
I am not too sure.

The Mechanics:
  • Take a piece of paper and a sharpened pencil with a good eraser.
  • Balance and angle the tip of the pencil onto the paper just so, with your index finger lightly on the eraser.
  • Gently push the eraser downward so that a straight line shoots off the skidding pencil onto the paper.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

... And how to make it Better.

When last I left off, I was trying to used car salesman Adam Ryland's Wrestling Spirit 2 as a viable entry to any gaming library. But like all used car salesmen, I wasn't entirely up front concerning the less than shinier bits.

While there are several tournament-type modes in Wrestling Spirit, the drawing card of the game is in its Career Mode. It is there that you have the option of either starting your own wrestler from scratch, or taking on an existing wrestler and guiding their career. Promotional inner workings (card lineups, title matches, hirings and firings, etc.) was largely built off the core of Ryland's Total Extreme Wrestling 2004.

Frankly, it never really worked for me. Besides the actual 'fight engine', for lack of a better phrase, the single most important aspect to a wrestling game needs to be a logical method of match-making.

Mr. Ryland's booking engine works... for Total Extreme Wrestling. After all, the player is doing the booking of their own promotion in that series. What the AI-controlled promotions do is always on the peripheral - and even when studied, makes enough sense.

In Wrestling Spirit, the AI controls all promotions; your character takes the bookings assigned to them. Sometimes those bookings make sense. Sometimes not so much.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Adam Ryland's Wrestling Spirit 2...

Adam Ryland is known as the King of Text Based Wrestling Games. It's true. You can ask him yourself.

If modesty prevents him from admitting as much, his fans will certainly back it up.

Mr. Ryland started his ascent to the throne by way of his freeware Extreme Warfare series of text-based wrestling promotion simulators. After hooking his fans with a heroin-like addiction, he would eventually tire of providing freebies to the masses. Total Extreme Warfare, released in 2004 out of the now defunct .400 Software Studios, was his commercial breakthrough.

The following year, and to incredulous looks by no man, Ryland would cement his status as the wisest of the wise. Not only would he jump from .400 Studios to Grey Dog Software - a much more stable company, he would also change the completely inappropriate name of his series to Total Extreme Wrestling. The TEW series, as it would come to be known, would see updates in 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Never one to beat a dead horse - unless the glue factory demanded it, Ryland released part one of the Wrestling Spirit trilogy in 2004. Rather than plot a successful wrestling promotion, Wrestling Spirit focused on the individual's career in the 'Sport of Kings', as Mr. Gordon Solie called it. Being text-based, the game was an imagination-fueled depiction of life as a professional wrestler; finding bookings, making friends backstage, earning money from fight purses... basically everything a fan of kayfabe wrestling 'believed' to be true of the 'sport' (wink, wink - nudge, nudge).

The game pretty much sank like a rock*.

* = in relative, uninformed comparison to Mr. Ryland's previous titles.

Monday, February 13, 2012

RPGs for Kids, Take One: Adventures in Oz

Inspired by an online article entitled, ‘RPGs for Kids’, I have sought out some of the better role-playing games for children on the market. In the upcoming weeks I will be offering various sized reviews of the games I find notable for my own children.

Whether or not I ever play all of these games with my kids is another story.

Today I will be reviewing the print version of one of those games I have played with my girls... F. Douglas Wall’s Adventures in Oz (also available in both pdf and epub formats).
Mr. Wall self-publishes the print copy using the print-on-demand service, which I have found to be respectable. The book is 135 pages, Perfect-bound paperback on 6.0” x 9.0” paper. Illustrations are by Loraine Sammy, Adam Dickstein, Amanda Webb, Brad McDevitt, and Brian Fowler; all are black & white, and all handsomely fit and benefit the source material.
The book is obviously a labor of love by Wall, Art Director K.A. Green, and Jessica McDevitt, who is responsible for the layout. The cover, alone, shows much intelligence in Mr. Wall’s approach: Ojo, riding the Hungry Tiger, is joined on the Yellow Brick Road by Scraps the Patchwork Girl and Captain Fy-ter. Similar enough to the quartet of characters familiar to fans of the 1939 MGM movie, yet different enough to conceivably pique the interest of those very same fans, the cover nails the adventurous side of Oz quite nicely.

It must be stated that Mr. Wall’s game is a faithful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s series of Oz related books (14 in all). Those looking for darker, more mature slants on the Oz mythos might want to look elsewhere – though you would certainly be missing out if you did. The author provides detailed write-ups of the various countries in Oz, including geography, citizens of note, and adventure hooks. All-in-all, there is a ton of great information for any Oz setting.

That isn’t to say that a group of players could not go a darker route using Adventures in Oz as a base system. While Mr. Wall celebrates the light-hearted wit of Baum and the subsequent ‘official’ authors in the series, he does provide story ideas that can take less idealistic turns. One interesting adventure hook asks ‘what if Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, wished to enslave Princess Ozma and rule all of Oz herself?’ Another gives the option to turn the Baum era notion of radium into the cancer-causing radioactive property it really is.

Heady stuff.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Death of the Territories, aka 'The Wrestling Game'


An interesting cat named Charlie Warren runs an even more interesting blog entitled, The Semi-Retired Gamer. As the name implies, Mr. Warren is an old school gamer (and game designer), mainly focusing on tabletop role-playing games. His recent discussions on game design have provoked a lot of thought amongst his followers; myself, included.

One thing his musings have inspired me to do is to finally post this here bloggy bit. I've kept it in dock for several years now simply because it clashed with the disjointed (and low key) concept here.

Tip of the hat, Mr. Warren.


Games have pretty much been in my blood for as long as I can remember.

My father inspired in me a great love of dice and chits and game boards. Countless games were played between us during my more formative years; Stratego, Dogfight, Mille Bornes, Dungeons & Dragons, Brian Blume's Boot Hill, and TSR's Vampyre: Game of the Hunt for Dracula; Frankly, I've forgotten more titles than I can remember.

Another thing the old man gave me was a healthy dose of do-it-yourself creativity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Chorus declares, "Barest of Bones!"

** spoken in the voice of Homer Flynn of The Residents **

You smell that sound? Huh... Do ya?

It's anger. Pure, unapologetic anger.

Look around! Anger in the news. Anger in music. Anger in comments left at the Betty Crocker forum. Anger in the half-played axis and allies game board collecting dust on a forgotten table somewhere.

Even in the eyes of your 40 year old Teddy Bear.

And he's pissed.

It's scary, man. But I've got a plan.

I'm gonna collect all those people that matter to me; all those people that I love. I'm gonna collect them and tell them there ain't no more anger. Or bitterness. Or cynicism.

Those days as an angry young dog are behind me.

Are they behind you?


But then I get to thinkin'.

Hey, Dad! Remember the time you were called in to pick me up at the Parma Police station at 3 o'clock one Saturday morning? Remember how you spit in my face and declared me a disgust?

I do.

I remember it like one of those grainy VHS tapes of something recorded off late-night t.v.; low contrasted and jagged-edged with just a whisper of disjointed sound crackling through the static.

Still... I do have to admit my admiration. With nothing but Colt 45 and saliva, you managed to create a black hole.

There isn't a scientist alive who can say the same.

I kid myself more than I kid you all.

The angry young dog will always morph into a mistrustful hog, rooting not for truffles - but for fragmented memories.

Finding slim pickings, self-consumption typically begins with the tail and ends at the snout.


But I do got a plan.

I'm gonna collect all those people that mattered to me; all those people that I loved. I'm gonna collect them and bury them like a dog does his bone.

Those days as an angry young hog are behind me.

Are they behind you?