A Call To Action: Tweet Your Period

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A Call To Action: Tweet Your Period

A painting of mine from 2006. Actual period doesn't look precisely like this.

A painting of mine from 2006. Actual period doesn't look precisely like this.

For the past few months now, I've had this idea. You see, over 50% of the population of the entire human world menstruates, has menstruated or will menstruate. Not exactly a newsflash. And yet, we never talk about it. Not with as much openness as I think the experience warrants.

Why not? Why do we never see it? Why do commercials for period products feature blue water? I'll be 30-years-old on Thursday, and not once has blue water come out of me, no matter how many Blue Hawaiians I drink. The narrative of our menses is largely hushed out of popular cultural space.

It has always bothered me that the period is so taboo when it's not a proclivity, a defect, a perversion or even a problem. It's a normal, biological process. I'd like to live in the kind of world where we can speak openly and frankly about our periods, not be shamed for having them.

So since the start of my period on Thursday, I have taken to live-tweeting about it, sharing updates on what's physically happening, ruminating on the shame I still feel while it's happening, explaining some of the difficulties that come with it, and of course, occasionally posting a photo or two. (As a writer, I guess I'm used to sharing.)

This shouldn't be shocking, offensive or even noteworthy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the same process that gives us adorable babies is systematically maligned when we don't particularly want to be pregnant in a given month.

Let's change the narrative. Let's put our bodies front and center on our own terms for a change. Physical female perfection will always be the standard to strive for in a culture where men won't even acknowledge what happens to us once a month. Let's start a conversation. Let's make this a #RedSummer. Be brave, and join me when your time comes.

#tweetyourperiod

 

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Free WWE Pitch #3: Ronda Rousey

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Free WWE Pitch #3: Ronda Rousey

BOOM! That's right. Ronda Rousey.

Rousey has already become the most recognizable MMA fighter in the world. Her professional record at the time of this writing is 12-1. She has never won without submitting or knocking out her opponent. And of her 12 wins, only one of them took her more than one round to achieve. She is a powerful fighter. She makes her living trying to hurt people until they beg her to stop. If that's not a listed definition for the word "badass" on Urban Dictionary, it should be.

The WWE has a successful history of employing people from "real" sports. Ken Shamrock was an accomplished MMA fighter. He was one of the earliest UFC fighters who helped put the sport on fight fans' radars. UFC Hall-of-Famer Dan Severn, another early adopter of the sport who actually beat Shamrock at one point, made the jump to pro wrestling in the late 90s. And then of course there's WWE's current "Beast Incarnate," Brock Lesnar, who just happens to be one of the most frightening people ever constructed by nature.

These guys made the leap from taking severe and more importantly intended punishment in their MMA bouts to taking bumps and doing flips in the ring with people who were specifically working with them and trying their damndest not to hurt them. To say that wrestling is safer isn't necessarily true (just ask Daniel Bryan). But at least the objective in each WWE "fight" isn't actually to fight. The objective is to put on a good show. No one is expected to win because of their talents as fighters. The true job of a pro wrestler is to pretend that it hurts. Actual injuries are due to error and accident only.

Rousey is young. The career of an MMA fighter can only be so long before losses outnumber wins and wins become physically too difficult to achieve. And concussions are becoming an increasing concern for fighters. Controversy aside, it just makes sense for a fighter to work on ensuring a future free from the debilitations of repeated head trauma. Rousey's so damn marketable, she can spend her days post-UFC still in the limelight using her various other talents. But doing commentary, writing books, giving speeches, etc. becomes less of a possibility if her eggs are scrambled.

Again, I'm not implying that concussions and injuries aren't possible in the WWE; but I can guarantee that they are far less likely for one particular wrestler: Brock Lesnar. We're talking about a guy who doesn't get out of bed for a Monday Night RAW unless it's right before, or right after, a Pay-Per-View event. Brock can get away with only doing a few months of actual work per year because he was in a position to negotiate for such a sweet deal. And what put him in that position? The large audience of UFC fans who couldn't get enough of this behemoth of a bruiser. I think Rousey could negotiate an even better deal. 

I mean, have you seen her lately? Sports Illustrated front cover. Maxim, ESPN Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire. The list goes on, and the fans eat it up. The camera loves her, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. If her body wasn't grabbing enough attention, her opinions are. And whether you agree with her or not about mental health, gay rights, etc., she's not going to stop speaking out anytime soon. Apparently she likes Pokemon and Dragonball Z, and her particular nerdiness makes her even more appealing, especially to wrestling fans, who often overlap with anime nerds in Venn diagrams I could make if I felt like it.

I felt like it.

I felt like it.

And then of course there's her budding film career. Expendables 3, Fast 7, Entourage, and apparently Roadhouse?! The videocamera loves her, too, and I suspect she'll be in movies and TV shows for years to come, regardless of her professional MMA career. 

So why add wrestling to this mix if she already has so much going on? Apparently she likes it, since she attended Wrestlemania 2015 and jumped into the action long enough to lay the smackdown on Stephanie McMahon. Plus, she could get away with doing it only a month or two per year and still make money from it. Aforementioned crossover fans would eat it up. Additionally, she could still engage in active combat instead of relegating herself to "she used to be great" status too early (and she wouldn't have to trade hard blows to do it). 

The WWE would be good for her image. She could maintain herself as a badass by throwing down in the ring but also have the opportunity to develop a personality. Let her make up some hardcore finishing move. Let her come up with a slogan to shout when she puts her signature submission lock on someone. These repeatable words and actions will wiggle themselves into our collective cultural consciousness, along with Rousey herself, and stay there.

But here's the real opportunity: Rousey can command a serious shakeup within the WWE. National attention would shift to the WWE for getting Rousey on board. What to do with that spotlight? So glad I made you ask.

Wrestlemania 32. Kalisto is going to defend the United States Championship. Who will he be up against? It doesn't matter, because at the last minute, that person is going to be kayfabe injured. This will happen right before the match begins. And who will come out to fight for the title? Rowdy. Ronda. Rousey. And she'll win.

Yes, she'll come out and immediately take a title from the men's division. It will be a long, difficult match, not just a celebrity grab. After it's over, she and Kalisto will shake hands. There will be mutual respect. Then, the title, and a mic, will be handed to Rousey. Ideally, she will thank Kalisto for a good match in English and in Spanish (because that's the ultimate sign of respect, and he deserves it). Then she will look at the title, contemplate it for a moment, and say, "This works, for now."

For now. Because she'll have her eyes on a bigger prize. Wrestlemania will continue. Rousey will be shown watching the Divas Championship match, but won't betray any particular reaction.

She'll also watch the Dean Ambrose/Brock Lesnar fight, creating this idea of a connection between Rousey and Lesnar. Part of what makes Lesnar such an imposing figure in the WWE is the fact that he used to punch people in the face for real. Lesnar will always be taken just a little more seriously than anyone on the rest of the roster because of this. Rousey will have to be viewed in the same way. Rousey watching Lesnar's fight will almost make them seem like old friends from The War, as though they were in The Sh*t together. This creates a possibility of some future storyline between them. (Not implying that MMA fighting is in any way as important as serving in real combat. That's just the type of narrative I'm pitching.)

One of the most controversial bouts in the upcoming Wrestlemania will undoubtedly be Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker. Old Guard and New Guard will clash for control of the company. What this actually means, I am unsure. I'm guessing it's just a storyline. I'm guessing it's a good way for the Undertaker to make his exit, if that's what he wants to do. But my pitch is a bit different.

Taker. Shane. The future of WWE on the line. Generally speaking, The Undertaker doesn't lose. But in this case, he's representing Vince McMahon, and Vince McMahon is the guy who still thinks the WWE is a children's program. He still thinks buffer is better. He still thinks wrestlers are "superstars." He still thinks black people aren't good enough to be Heavyweight Champion (unless they are Samoan and black). He still thinks Foreigners vs. Americans is an appropriate storyline. He still thinks he can tell us who to like. He's got to go. It's only due to the codependence of the fans that the company stays afloat. If we weren't all a little masochistic, we wouldn't put up with this lack of quality. Shane McMahon must save us from ourselves.

But The Undertaker is The Undertaker. Shane won't win easily. In fact, he won't win on his own. Just as he's about to hear the third count on the pin Taker's got him in, a surprise disruption from Ronda Rousey. That's right. Since they'll be in Texas, Steve Austin could be in on it, too, but Rousey will be the only debuting wrestler to actively disrupt a match against her new boss. She'll jump in and knock Taker off Shane and maybe she and Stone Cold can pummel Taker enough for Shane to squeeze in a pin on him.

After "control" of the company goes to Shane McMahon, he will say something to the effect of, "I'm not the only one here who thinks it's time for things to change." Rousey and Shane McMahon can hold each other's hands up, signaling the start of a new regime. (The result of Reigns vs. Triple H is sort of a moot point in this scenario, but if Roman lost, it could be a true indicator of the company's willingness to change.)

This will be one of the most explosive debuts in WWE history. Rousey's addition to the roster could be the catalyst for the company finally joining the 21st century. (This is a free pitch for a reason. WWE's history suggests they have no balls, and their enslaving contract with Mattel almost guarantees they won't want to upset that deeply troubling relationship.)

I don't believe that a pink butterfly belt is good enough for Ronda Rousey. I don't think the UFC Bantamweight Champion, a real title given by a real martial arts organization, can be followed up by the "Divas" Championship. It would seem like a joke. So after Wrestlemania, Rousey will have a few regular matches as United States Champion, but then Shane McMahon will ask her to change up the women's division. Yes, I said, "the women's division." Because Rousey's presence there will mean that it has to start functioning like a women's division again.

"Diva" is an insulting term. The WWE have done a great job of branding their female wrestlers as "divas" both in the ring and on their E! reality show Total Divas. From a marketing standpoint, I can completely understand why they want this consistency. But participation in Total Divas seems to be optional for the members of the WWE roster. Not everyone who shows up on RAW or Smackdown makes an appearance on Total Divas. At its heart, Total Divas is not a wrestling show. Smackdown, RAW, and all 12 of the Pay-Per-Views, are wrestling shows. 

And Rousey is no diva. Rousey is a serious competitor. With all her endorsements and multi-media cameos, I very much doubt she'd agree to be part of that awful "reality" show. Chances are, if anything, she's got one of her own in the works already. For the WWE to get Rousey, I think they'd have to squash any dreams they might have of controlling her image outside the ring. I think they'd have to squash the Divas Championship, too.

If the WWE is serious about their so-called "Divas Revolution," who better than to lead the charge than the most powerful woman in sports? But under Rousey, it wouldn't be a "Divas Revolution" anymore. It would be so much more important than that. It would have to be. Rousey demands respect in the world of sports, and she therefore can command respect from the WWE and their fans. (By the way, I refuse to call them the "WWE Universe." The fans have the right to decide how they designate themselves.)

So eventually Rousey will have to go after the Divas belt, and this could be a real "clash of Titans" scenario between her and Charlotte. Or, it could be the start of a really cool feud between Rousey and Sasha Banks (somewhat like the current feud between "The Beast" and the smack-talking and charismatic Dean Ambrose). Either way, Rousey will win the belt after a 30-minute Iron Man match. No one ever sees Rousey fight for an extended period of time, so that would be a draw. And we all know that Banks can deliver on that front. Save it for a Pay-Per-View, and it will get record numbers.

Also in attendance will be all of the "divas." Every single one. When she wins, she'll pull an Alundra Blayze, but instead of throwing that awful pink belt in the trash, she'll cut it into pieces and toss the pieces at all the female wrestlers present. "Here's a piece of the past for each of you. The past is now over. This is the Women's Division again. This is the Women's Division forever."

The following week, a new belt will be created. A real belt. A Women's Championship belt. Rousey won't take it. Instead, she will decree (with the power vested in her by Shane McMahon) that a match be held for it. What kind of match? The rare pearl: a Women's Ladder Match. Who will win? Not Rousey. She won't even compete. She'll probably go make a movie at this point. But she'll say, "I'll be back." And she will. After those initial few months are over, she'll drop to a Brock Lesnar-style schedule. 

And in her absence, newer, better storylines for the women's division will be implemented. No more squabbling. If that sort of thing continues anywhere, it'll be on Total Divas only. Because there are more female wrestling fans now than ever. They need heroes. Bayley can't hold it all on her shoulders alone. And until they bump her up the main roster, she'll still be only a positive role model in NXT. And although the male fans of NXT appreciate women's wrestling, there's a lot of men who only watch the main roster. They need to learn to take these women seriously. If there's one woman you have to take seriously, it's Rowdy Ronda Rousey.

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Free WWE Story Pitch #2: Adrian Neville

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Free WWE Story Pitch #2: Adrian Neville

Some call him the Prince of the Skies, but since Neville's debut on the WWE main roster, he's been pretty grounded. The pattern of pulling thriving talent out of NXT only to bury it on RAW and SmackDown is a continual one. Neville is just another casualty in McMahon's War with Logic. But what if the elvish Brit were actually given a fair shake by the WWE? Here's one way that might pan out.

The silly League of Nations decides as a "PR move" to "mentor" smaller wrestlers in the WWE, AKA torture them. This could set up four different storylines involving Triple H's latest company goons as well as four mid and lower-tiered guys. We can confirm that the LON are getting sadistic with their power and keep thumping that David and Goliath dynamic that works so well with little guys.

Think of it: Sheamus brings up Finn Balor just to continually beat him down. Del Rio, even though he was bested in the ring by Calisto, can nonetheless torment him outside of it. Sami Zayn, by sheer lack of a Canadian counterpart, gets saddled with Rusef, and Bad News Barrett gets to snatch poor Neville out of the air.

This can slowly play out over a month or two with the little guys deciding, of course, to form their own faction to overthrow the LON. But here's where it gets hairy: Kevin Owens will not leave Sami Zayn alone, even though he will be knee-deep in an epic feud (hopefully) with the newly-rostered AJ Styles.

So when the big battle between Big Guys and Little Guys inevitably goes down on RAW, an interruption from KO will take Zayn out early on. This will free Rusef up to double down on Calisto with Del Rio, and soon it'll just be Balor and Neville, back to back against four giants. 

With the odds stacked against them, Neville will do the unthinkable: he'll whale on Balor. Why? In case you hadn't noticed, Balor tends to turn into a demon. So the LON, being a bunch of main roster guys, will just sit back and laugh, because Neville will be doing their job for them. They won't believe all the hype about Balor. They're big and strong and he's just a pup from Developmental.

Of course, Balor won't like being tossed around and landed on by Neville, with whom he is friends. And soon, they will be brawling. Finally, like an infernal beast, one hard smack to the face from Neville will send Balor into a demonic rage, and even though he won't have his makeup on, the good folks in Lighting can do something red and spooky. 

The problem with demons is they don't discriminate. The demon, having awoken in Balor, will look around the ring and see one man inside it: Adrian Neville, who will probably gulp as he realizes his plan has just backfired. The beating that will ensue will be fast and crazy until Calisto and Zayn manage to get to their feet long enough to pull Neville out of the ring.

And who is left on the apron? The League of Nations, of course. And they will scatter like the chickensh*t heels they are. But Balor will manage to catch the slowest (doesn't matter who) and it'll take the rest of the League jumping on top to get him out of Balor's supernatural clutches. This will be the end of RAW: all four giant guys in the LON, eventually joined by The Game himself and possibly corporate Kane if he's around, holding down Demon Balor as the rest of his old NXT buddies look on in bruised horror.

On SmackDown, Sheamus will come out with his giant compatriots at the opening to cut a promo about how things got a little bit out of control on Monday night, and as a consequence, the League of Nations will be shuttering their mentor program. Balor's music hits, and he comes out, flanked by Calisto and Zayn. Although spooked, the LON will interrupt Balor's promo about how they don't need mentors by remarking how strange it is that Neville isn't with them. Balor will get a mournful look in his eye, and then a look of dread, as Neville's music hits.

Out he'll limp, clutching his bandage-wrapped stomach and being steadied by some backstage hand. He won't make it down the ramp, preferring instead to address the whole gang from the top. Dipping into his reserves of babyfaceness, he'll forgive Balor for tearing him up. Balor will get choked up, as will the audience, because when you actually let Neville speak, he's genuine and eloquent. "I forgive you," he'll say. And then he'll turn to the League.

"But you, Barrett, and all your buddies, will pay for what you've done. We challenge you to a no holds barred elimination match... at Wrestlemania!"

Zayn and Calisto will be stunned, but Balor will look at Neville and they'll nod in understanding. Maybe Barrett will attempt the old, "We're not going to fight you pipsqueaks" routine, but Triple H will come out to assure him that oh yes, they will.

Triple H will be angry at how they've been neglecting their duties of beating the crap out of Roman Reigns on his behalf of late. He will, of course, still underestimate the little guys and reason that the LON needs to be taught a lesson, but they shouldn't be so roughed up by the end of Wrestlemania that if he needs them they can't still help. The remaining lead-up to the "Super Bowl of Sports Entertainment" will show Neville infrequently as he fights to gain his strength back. 

The final battle between Davids and Goliaths will see Neville leading the charge and a non-demon Balor determined to win without the benefit of uncontrollable supernatural powers. (By the way, Balor vs. Kane, demon vs. demon, would be a fantastic feud.) The Goliaths would get their comeuppance from Calisto, Zayn, Balor and their high-flying leader Neville, who would get to pull the craziest, "I-can't-believe-he-just-did-that," inhuman move ever to finish off Barrett, who will be the last giant standing by virtue of his ability to hide and be forgettable.

Revenge will be sweet, and sweeter still since Triple H would lose his backup. Don't worry. I'm not pushing for a Reigns victory, just a flabbergasted Triple H, since he's so good at looking shocked (and sounding like he's been drinking fiberglass insulation milkshakes). 

There are endless things you can do with a guy like Neville. He's calm and reserved, which makes him the right sort of guy to create compelling drama when someone finally ruffles his feathers. Having him initially take a severe beating, but come back stronger and more voracious than ever could solidify him as a courageous face. He could almost be a Superman archetype, except he can be hurt. He's also a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is incapable of subterfuge. He could be betrayed and it could be heartbreaking.

Picture someone beating up someone he randomly gets put in a tag team match with, and him having to drag the guy to safety. Or picture him patiently sitting through a verbal berating about his ears being like bat wings, only to turn and speak from the heart about how it's not about looks, but deeds. He's even a bit, dare I say, Daniel Bryan-ish? Hurt someone he cares about and watch him go righteously nuts. Play up the underdog angle for this leaping goblin-guy and watch him endear himself to the hearts of fans everywhere.

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Star Wars VII: Motivation does not equal character development

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Star Wars VII: Motivation does not equal character development

NO SPOILERS! My guarantee to you.

Han Solo's motivation when we first meet him in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, was greed. He wanted as much money as he could get, and fast. In order to make money, he became a space pirate. The life of a pirate is synonymous with that of a hustler. And the outlaw lifestyle cannot be sustained long by an honest, goodhearted man. Han Solo adapted. He became what many people would be like if they had to hustle to survive: devious, boastful, and as a hazard of the job, proficient with a blaster. 

None of these things really describe Han Solo as a character, however. They just describe what he does because of what his motivations are. I doubt anybody wants to be judged solely by what they do in real life. I recall reading a study where most people described themselves as "a good person" regardless of their walk of life, or regardless of their past deeds. Likewise a character in a piece of fiction would probably describe themselves more kindly than their actions alone might suggest.

Fictional characters should have goals, dreams and a trajectory they'd like to follow. And we want to watch them as their trajectories are disrupted. How they cope, and how they change, are definitely influenced by their motivations, but also by their circumstances. This is how they arc as characters, and this is how we get to know and care about them. (Han doesn't want to get involved in the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, but over the course of A New Hope, we see him change.) 

But some things that make us love them as characters have nothing to do with how they change. Some things came before we met them, and they don't have to change unless it's relevant to the story. Setting aside the wonderful things Harrison Ford added to the Han Solo character ("I love you. "I know.") there were things about the character that were written in from the start.

Han Solo is smarmy and arrogant. He's impatient and sometimes rude. He's got no qualms about taking another's life (Rest In Peace Greedo). He seems to have one friend in the whole galaxy, and we get the feeling it took a long time to build that relationship. The aforementioned exchange with Princess Leia only serves as further proof that he's got a fear of commitment. In short, he's flawed. 

Part of what makes characters memorable, and what makes them work, is their flaws. And that's flaws, plural. It can't be just one. Even if their flaws stem from one event, there is rarely one symptom of a sickness. Their shortcomings and traumas have to manifest in multiple ways. As an audience, we know ourselves to be flawed in many ways, and that's how we sympathize with great characters.

Think about Martin Riggs from the Lethal Weapon series. Sure, he's brave, funny, badass, and governed by a strong sense of right and wrong. But that would make him seem like some inhuman Golden Boy if we left it at that. The flip-side is he's prone to extreme violence, overreaction, homophobia and suicidal tendencies. His motivation is his morality, his trauma is the death of his wife, and his resulting flaws have accumulated from the 30-some-odd-years his life developed before we meet him onscreen. 

Action movies don't always have time to be character studies, but without at least some development, the actions of a flat character also tend to feel flat. This is one of my most frustrating issues with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. Aside from old characters we already know and love, the characters of this film are mostly two-dimensional. Rey, Finn, Maz Kanata, Snoke and Hux have motivations, but nothing else. Poe Dameron is funny, but then he disappears for most of the film.

Kylo Ren has character development for days, but on this he stands alone. He seems at first deadly and frighteningly calm, but then deteriorates into a tantrum-throwing spoiled brat. This shows another characteristic: subterfuge. It's believable that he would try to hide the emotional turmoil he's in when it's go-time on Jakku. Something happened before we met him that took him from the light side of the Force to the dark side, and he's still struggling with it, with devastating results to all caught in his wake. He is a character who is actually unsure of his motivations, which is a refreshing spin.

Compared with Han Solo, Kylo Ren has even more going on. So even though his character is inherently unlikable, he's still incredibly well-developed. It's as if the writers put all their effort into fleshing him out, and perhaps ran out of time to work on any other characters.

There was plenty more I found problematic with The Force Awakens, but I wanted to highlight character development as a significant culprit to show that millions of dollars cannot make the audience care about anyone. Only good writing and good execution can do that. I'm hopeful Star Wars VIII will be better.

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Free WWE Story Pitch #1: Bo Dallas

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Free WWE Story Pitch #1: Bo Dallas

Last night on RAW, delusional motivational speaker Bo Dallas decided to provoke an infuriated Brock Lesnar. There was not one possible outcome of this that could have been in any way favorable to Dallas. He was simply offered up as a sacrificial lamb to The Beast because they needed to throw someone in there, and Bo has delusions of grandeur.

This is a major issue with the writing of the WWE: they severely underutilize the majority of their roster at any given time. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head the last time I even saw Bo Dallas before he strutted out in his white codpiece to receive the beatdown of a lifetime.  Add to that their infamous inability to stack a decent midcard, and you get lackluster lulls in the deep gulf that is the 9 o'clock hour of RAW. 

Another piece of media with its own "universe," complete with a whole universe worth of characters which springs to mind is Game of Thrones, a series of books written by one ailing, old man. I admit I've never read the books, but I do watch the show. Never have I tuned in and felt like a character was boring me. Everyone in the dog-eat-dog world of Westeros has a goal. Sometimes it's simply to stay alive. Sometimes it's to ascend to power. Sound familiar? Both are worlds of fierce, even deadly competition. Yet George R.R. Martin seems to have no trouble keeping every character working toward something. Along the way, he reveals things that show us who they are and give us insight into why they do what they do in the way that they do it. These books are tomes. They are gargantuan. And they are all written by a single man.

The WWE has a team of writers. Why don't this past Summerslam and last night's RAW reflect that? I'm asking because I genuinely don't know. But I challenge you to find a fandom more continually frustrated by the thing they love so much. The WWE is like your good-for-nothing nephew who tested incredibly well but just can't get his sh*t together. You love your nephew, but each time you see him, you come away sad. Why we indulge this sort of toxic relationship with the WWE I cannot say. Why we put up with generic and inferior plots in our top tier wrestling promotion escapes me, too.

So because I, among many others, am dissatisfied with the WWE, I've picked one character to mess with. If I get any sort of feedback at all, I might do another one. I'm not going to pretend this is the most brilliant idea ever and the WWE are fools for not doing it. I just want them to do something with the characters who are so often discarded. There's real talent here. Why waste it?

So, Bo Dallas was presumably carried out of the ring and into an ambulance last night. From there, he goes to a hospital and is treated for multiple injuries. We don't see him again for at least a month (sorry Bo). 

Finally, on Raw there's a backstage segment where someone mentions Bo is out of the hospital. "Why yes, he's in his dressing room, but I don't think he's scheduled for a match tonight. In fact, he hasn't been out of his room since he got here."

Later, Stephanie McMahon herself, accompanied by an annoyed Triple H, goes to his room, gently knocking on the door and asking Bo to let her in. A meek "leave me alone" is his only response. Eventually, Triple H takes matters into his own hands and bashes the door open. A shocking image: Bo Dallas, in multiple casts and bandages, is squatting Golem-style on the counter of the dressing room ripping at his dressings like a wild animal. Stephanie gasps and Triple H looks disgusted. Security is called and Bo Dallas is strapped to a Hannibal Lector-like gurney and wheeled away.

Another month goes by, and suddenly he shows up on Smackdown, all smiles and handshakes. The atmosphere around him is one of uncertainty, but he seems genuinely better. The following Raw, we see him chumming up to some fellow fighters. Later, we see them all win their respective matches.

In the months that follow, two things begin happening with increasing frequency:

1) He gets in ears, giving advice that seems smart but is long-run harmful to his peers. He plays one against the other, then hurts different people entirely, all under the guise of being helpful. He is surface-level reformed, but is really sowing seeds of discord. 

2) In a series of bizarre flashback packages, we begin to learn about Bo's time in the insane asylum. He was never officially released. He got better at being a manipulative motivator as the only way to keep from devolving into a comatose puddle after the beating and humiliation he received from Brock Lesnar. He looked at his own soul, and found it so mangled and unrecognizable that he turned away from it.

In other words, he had to become even crazier and more out of touch with reality in order to survive. By the time his month has gone by, he simply walks out of the place by befuddling and psychologically damaging every orderly and doctor he comes across. Brock Lesnar has accidentally created a monster.

A third problem has also been brewing, not with Bo Dallas but with Bray Wyatt. While Bo has been gone and come back, the Wyatt Family has become a serious faction. They got the new guy Braun Strowman (who I hope replaces the Big Show as the new Giant-in-Residence), and I'm sure Erick Rowan will return once he's ready. So they emerge as a serious splinter force in the WWE.

The problem with Bray Wyatt though is that he's crazy too, and somewhat erratic in whom he chooses to focus his bad juju on. Eventually, it gets to be too much for his lackies, and they lose faith, abandoning him.

And who is there, a fellow manipulative and charismatic leader with no flock? Bo Dallas. They're both nuts, and they both love to control and psychologically destroy their enemies. Also, because of the aforementioned nuttiness, anyone can be their enemy.

Boom! Real life brothers. Kayfabe tag team partners. A Reign of Terror begins.

Not only do they mercilessly destroy their opponents physically in the ring, but they shake these men down to their emotional cores. It gets nasty, vindictive and sinister. The twosome set into motion a series of disputes that get even the most loyal of friends to turn on each other.

Alliances are formed that never would otherwise in order to stomp out this menace. The former Wyatt Family members team up with the New Day. Dean Ambrose ("There's only room for one crazy guy in the WWE, Dallas, and it sure as hell ain't you!") and Roman Reigns reluctantly work with Seth Rollins (OMG Shield Reunion you guys!) and Triple H himself to rout them out... to no avail! This is a solid mid card that could last at least a year, easy.

But of course, us white people are great at destroying the best things we have (she said wistfully, with a touch of bitterness), so it all comes crashing down the only way it can in an entertainment sport dominated by big sweaty dudes: Bro Betrayal. Bray Wyatt turns on Bo Dallas in the middle of some balls-out match against perhaps the former Wyatt Family, who welcome Bray back as their leader (if you can't beat him, become his bitch). 

Bo is all alone now, bitter and deranged. He decides to focus his confused and traumatic rage at the one who made him. He decides if he's going to go down, there's only one man worthy and who will be guaranteed to get the job done: 

Brock. Lesnar.

It's a challenge no one saw coming, but when it arrives, everyone kicks themselves. Bo Dallas challenges the great Brock Lesnar to a fight at one of the big PPVs. "You made me, Brock. I'm your son. You made me this way and you will acknowledge me, even if it's only long enough to destroy me. I have nothing to lose! " He's shaking, nearly crying with rage.

Paul Heyman skips down the ramp and makes a big show of saying how unworthy Bo Dallas is to call himself the Son of the Beast and laughs in Bo's face. But surprisingly, Brock Lesnar accepts, albeit disinterestedly. 

The night of the event, Bo for once keeps his mouth shut. He's somber for a change. The gleeful insanity has been replaced with what you could almost call clarity, if not for the fact that Dallas is damaged beyond repair.

Of course the fight is Lesnar's, but Bo surprisingly holds his own long enough to pull some choice moves. After Brock viciously suplexes Bo ten times in a row, he hops off the apron and walks away. But then, he turns and gets back in. He seems a bit confused, unsure. He stands over Bo for almost a full minute, trying to decide whether to help his "son." Bo is barely conscious but he manages to get one hand up to reach for Brock.

Brock reaches down, picks Bo up in his arms like a child... and fudging SLAMS him again! Oh my gosh, it's terrible. But they don't call him the beast for nothing. He walks off for good this time and Bo is all but dead in the ring.

The lights go out, and out comes Bray Wyatt with his lantern and his "family" in tow. Braun Strowman lifts up the dead weight of Dallas like he's nothing, and Bray Wyatt leads them all up the ramp like it's a funeral procession.

Is this just a final courtesy to Bo from Bray, accompanying him to the Underworld? Or does it mean a possible rekindling of their alliance? What will Bo Dallas be like when, or if, he recovers from this second complete destruction at the hands of the Beast, Brock Lesnar?

Stay tuned... (or don't since this isn't real. But then, what is?)

@Gavin4L contributed to this post.

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The Six Phases of a Big Project

Last night as my Production Designer and I were tooling around Rutherford location scouting some of his old haunts, he mentioned the "Six Phases of a Big Project," a humorous list I only vaguely recalled. He slipped it in, I suppose, as a gesture of solidarity as I enter the final week before the first day of shooting a music video for the band Tigerman.

In case, dear reader, you are unfamiliar, the phases are as follows:

1. Enthusiasm

2. Disillusionment

3. Panic / Hysteria

4. Hunt for the Guilty

5. Punishment of the Innocent

6. Reward for the Uninvolved

Any good system with phases can and must exist within, without, or mutually exclusively to other systems or other sets of phases. The phases of the moon have to do with the rotation of two celestial bodies which exist within the larger rotation of other celestial bodies around the sun, and the sun functions within a larger galaxy of other solar systems, which functions within the larger system of the universe, etc. (Pardon the scope. My need to ground my peanut existence within the larger cosmos and some unknown "grand scheme," much like the universe itself, is ever expanding.)

One can compare two systems to see which overlap, as a bored kid in a school library draws Venn diagrams. Here are the generally accepted phases of the creation of a film, short, feature or otherwise:

1. Development

2. Pre-production

3. Production

4. Post-production

5. Distribution

Forgive my incredibly rushed Photoshoppitry, but here's how I believe these two sets of phases overlap:

Development is the most fun. The project is like a rolling plain stretching out in the dawn before you, and you get to populate that plain with ideas of all sorts. Development is imagining possibilities, hence the enthusiasm.

But give it some time, and reality will set in upon you. Now you have to take those ethereal abstractions and give them definable features. The word "schedule" begins to fall out of your mouth as from a meal consumed for nourishment, not pleasure. "Budget" is another soul-sucker of a word, and it will sound sharply in your ears despite the softness of its vowels.

In the time leading up to the actual days of shooting, PANIC will gallop its prickly fingers up your spine and then ceaselessly poke at your brain like some sinister version of your twin sibling. "Mom, he won't stop touching me!"

Then the shooting begins, and it's like a loudly-uttered scream you only hear the echo of. It's the Doppler Effect, whipping past you so fast you think it must have missed you, but it hit you alright, as you find out when instead of going to sleep that night you just sort of blink out of existence for several hours and are suddenly brought back to life with none of reincarnation's rejuvenating qualities.

And once the shooting is over and you have mentally recovered enough to begin to torture yourself once more, post begins. Now your dream not only has a face, but a wrinkly one. Is that a copy of the script in the shot? How did I never notice the fella playing my leading man has two wildly different sized ears? I could have sworn we got at least one good take here. Did the intern really log the footage with only numbers?!

Some feelings are bound to be hurt, because even if your entire production was touched by an angel, blessed by a shaman or financed and produced by your sweet uncle Marty S., nothing will ever truly manifest that amorphous, ephemeral vision your flawed and lovely brain concocted. That vision got you high, and now you're crashing, hard. Somebody's got to pay, and the ones nearest and dearest who senselessly stuck around are the closest targets. (Sorry in advance, everyone.)

But once it's done (just kidding, it never is) you get to send it, like a sparrow, off into the world. Why did you let it go? Now it will never really feel like yours again. Everyone from the little shit P.A. who got high in the walk-in freezer and was fired immediately to the "producer" whose sole contribution was a ShopRite cheese platter is gabbing on and on about their new project. "The more people talking about it, the better," you console yourself, but does it have to be those assholes? Even thanking your parents feels hollow and cheap. "I didn't ask to be born, Dad. This baby is mine!"

Now, the "Six Phases" do come across as resentful ones. But there's a beautiful side to each sour coin. For disillusionment to exist, there must be pride, belief in one's self and one's mission. Doubt is natural, but can't be permanent.

Panic is just a symptom of caring, of passion. If anxiety is the worst part of giving a damn, I'll take it with no hesitation.

And while I will undoubtedly become a crazy bitch while I'm editing, those that survive the scorching of the earth around me will earn a level of my loyalty so intense that when they eventually do call on me, my very presence will trigger feelings of calming reassurance if not outright tranquility. I will come through so fast and so hard it will make those who don't know me well quite uncomfortable. Where's the Kool-Aid? Give me the whole GALLON! Reciprocity is the real currency of the world. 

As for the freeloaders, the disingenuous who pad their résumés or their wallets unearnedly, I can't speak to that sort. As a creature chronically honest to my own detriment, I can't imagine taking credit for the work of others. So while it may not be true consolation to some, those of us who cloak ourselves in tragic morality can rest on the unkempt laurels of our prideful compasses, shaking our heads at the system-gamers and feeling the sort of smug righteousness we can only earn when we actually do something instead of just talking about how majestically we would do it. Basically, if someone's stealing morsels from your plate, that means you've at least had a worthy meal.

So good luck out there fellow filmmakers, fellow creators, fellow doers. By hanging your asses out in the wind for all the dangers that entails, you are heroes. Whether glory shines upon you or not, a hero is still a hero in the dark.

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Directing a Music Video

Tigermanlogo.jpg

I'm pleased as punch to announce I will be directing a music video for the band Tigerman!

We're going to begin shooting at the end of July. This will be a labor of my love for Tigerman and their music. More details and production stills will follow. 

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Questions - #AWM2015

"How much have you written in the first week?"
Not one word.

"How do you feel about it, positive or negative?"
I'm okay with not writing. Writers spend the majority of their time not writing. It's natural to want to go outside, to eat, to sleep, to talk to our loved ones or our tolerated ones. Beyond that, many of us have jobs or other obligations which demand our attentions even during times when we would actually prefer to write, or so we tell ourselves. But just because I haven't touched pen to paper doesn't mean I'm not mulling it over, not letting words wash up on the beaches of my mind. The process is already begun. 

"Do you have a set goal in mind or could all your plans change tomorrow?"
My plans do change, with every tomorrow.  

"What's the most difficult part of writing so far?"
Apparently the writing part.

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Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror - #AWM2015

Lamplighter has asked the writers to realize that "our interpretation of the art is highly reflective of our own self." No doubt, that's true. In fact, screenwriters and fiction authors spend many a frustrated hour trying to scratch their way out of their own skin, trying to exchange the lens with which they view the world for the lens of their characters. 

Don't ask me to stop that ceaseless struggle and focus even more on myself than I already do. Not to be the crotchety old one in the herd, but I feel as though we Millennials are a tad too introspective.  Narcissism has gone from being tolerated to being encouraged in popular American culture.

This isn't a new rant, so I won't let it fly. I'm just quite ready to think about someone else for a change.

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Questions - #AWM2015

The lovely folks at Lamplighter have given me a list of questions to answer, but I don't much like them. So I'll answer the one question that I do like: What do you expect to accomplish while participating in the project?

Well, no pressure, Lamplighter, but I fully expect my participation in the Artist Writer Mashup to lift me out of the cold fog that grips many a writer in the long, dark winter months. May my shaggy coat lose the glisten of frost. May I sleepily, cautiously, push my head up through the crust of ice that has entombed me and discover snowbanks dripping in the suddenly touchable sun.

I hope to be reinvigorated. I hope to use the AWM to stretch my compressed writing muscles. And may the end result not suck. :)

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Why I Am Not An Artist - #AWM2015

...And so it begins. I'm excited to participate in Lamplighter's Artist Writer Mashup on its inaugural voyage. I'd better be excited, as this is my very first blog post on my newly minted website.

I don't know that I'm supposed to share the illustration I was assigned. It feels a bit silly not to, but then again, it also feels fun. Let it be a secret. Let me tantalize you with hints of it, wisps and whisperings.

My assigned illustration, I will say, made me smile. The white space it lives against is vast and stark, which I enjoy. I like to pretend that the white in an artist's piece (when it's present) represents the air that occupies all the space around us which we think of as being empty. 

Another thing I like about the piece is that, while there are very few things depicted therein, what items do appear do so in twos. I've always had a nagging feeling that duality was the "correct" mode of humanity and perhaps the surrounding world. Yin and Yang, right and left, right and wrong, on and off - these things always felt instinctively correct to me. Light and dark have for many years been two of my favorite opposites. One could argue that my fascination with pairs, doubles and opposites stems in some way from my birthday which designated me a Gemini. But who really knows?

The name of this blog prompt is "Why I Am Not An Artist." I'm not an artist because I can't draw. If I could, I'd be speaking with paints and scissors and cameras and complex software programming. A picture's worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. Nevertheless I shall endeavor to use words to make something new of what Lauren Clarke has done.

Wish me luck.

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