The Brilliance of Players

I remember when I saw a teaser for Players on Paramount; it became apparent quickly that it was about esports, and shortly afterward, it was evident that it was about League of Legends.  And then the drama about a headcase League player blathering on about how he wants to win something before he retires.

The thing is, based on that alone, I actually thought it was something serious.  It wasn’t until I had already taken the bait and looked up what this show actually was, did I learn that it was a fictional mockumentary, and then I was like ohhhhhhh that explains why anyone would even attempt to talk about being a League of Legends champion, that wasn’t in Korea.

Upon further discovery of the series, and finding out that it was done by the same team that had done the American Vandal mockumentaries, I was sold, because both seasons of that show were brilliant, and colliding two things I enjoyed seemed like a recipe for something I would like.  Even more so when I found out that the format of the series was going to borrow heavily from The Last Dance documentary about the Chicago Bulls, which I also enjoyed immensely.

Needless to say, I was optimistic about the series, and upon finishing it, I think my instincts were pretty good about it.  As a whole, I found Players to be very entertaining, downright hilarious at many points, and having been pretty deep into the League scene at a point in my life, a lot of ohhhhhh moments at reminiscing about the scene in general.

Creamcheese is a brilliant character in the sense that he’s basically every obnoxious stereotype there is about a professional gamer wrapped into a singular package and then have the volume turned up to 11.  He’s no physical specimen, but he acts all hot shit because he plays games at a high level, and is just so unlikeable and obnoxious, but you can’t help but be amused at the avalanche of bullshit he’s just always selling.

The show makes no effort to hide the fact that they are speaking to a very niche audience, primarily League players past and present themselves.  But everyone I’ve pitched the show to, who aren’t even or never weren’t League players who gave it a shot, all seemed to enjoy the show all the same, just because it’s just that well executed.

But the show digs deep with all the references that only really long-time League players would understand, and it really doesn’t shy away from a lot of the behavioral tendencies that have emerged from internet culture and the League scene, from memes, the way that the internet piles on, latches onto jokes and references that become unforgettable no matter how much you try, etc.

But one of the most brilliant things about the show is that it’s not officially sponsored by Riot Games themselves, the developers of the game.  But their involvement in the show is unmistakable, considering almost all of the casters and commentators of the professional scene are all willing participants in the show, reprising their handles and identities.  Regardless, in doing such, Riot kind of takes a lot of the steam behind most criticisms about the game, the scene, the culture, effectively out of the equation based on their general involvement, regardless of how palpable or not.

By owning a lot of the jokes and criticisms, in the show, it takes a lot of the power away from those flinging the stones on the internet, and they’re basically controlling their own narrative of how the League scene really is, by participating in the show and letting it happen the way it does.

But all in all, it’s just a well-executed show.  It’s endlessly entertaining the way utilizes flashbacks in the exact same manner that The Last Dance does, but instead of talking about Michael Jordan and basketball, it’s talking about a bunch of video game geeks and a video game known for its ridiculous fanbase.  But it does so with a tone and seriousness that of a real documentary, and as a whole package, it’s just such an easy show to be snickering and laughing along with.

It almost makes me miss playing the game, and being a part of the scene, but with two kids in the picture, ain’t nobody got any time for any more League these days, so good on Players for coming into existence and helping me remember the good times, and all the time I’m not blowing playing game after game of ARAM.

An observation about Obi Wan Kenobi

*No Plot Spoilers*

I went in blind as Ray Charles with Obi Wan Kenobi.  Didn’t even know it was in the works, didn’t know when it was going to drop, didn’t know a single plot point behind the entire series.  But when I heard that it had dropped, I figured why the heck not, considering mythical wife and I have mostly enjoyed all the other Disney+ original series based on Star Wars properties thus far.

So as stated above, I will give nothing away because I don’t feel like writing about anything other than the impetus to this post, and frankly nobody reads my shit anyway so it’s not like I have anyone but myself to appease.  But if there’s absolutely one observation that I feel like bringing up from the first two episodes of Obi Wan, it’s just, what the fuck are all these Asians doing in a Star Wars production?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for and support moar Asian representation in media, but there’s been no secret that racist-ass Lucas hasn’t exactly been sprinting to the forefront at including Asians into their hallowed universe.  But two episodes into Obi Wan, and I’m seeing so many Asian people in the cast, credits and as extras, I’m beginning to wonder if this whole series is an HK knockoff that D+ absorbed the rights to or something and released themselves.

And Sung Kang in the show, as a presumable regular?  Get the fuck out of here.  Han from Fast & Furious, as a character in Star Wars.  This is unbelievable and unprecedented.  Surely, he has to be the first Korean guy to crack a visual role in Star Wars, right?

We’ll see what happens to his character as the season progresses, but I for one am tickled pink at just how laughably blatant the Star Wars universe is trying to inject diversity into the IP.  Because nothing says progress like corporate initiatives, statistical evidence and the need for representation in order to tap into demographics and their wallets!

Love Death + Robots S3: The magic is gone for me

I don’t have a lot of time to myself much less time to watch television, so I really do have to put a lot of time and thought into just what exactly I want to spend my limited time watching.  When I saw that Love Death + Robots was dropping its third season, I made a point to prioritize that, since I was a fan of the first two seasons.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the second season wasn’t really that close at capturing the magic of the first season, and I had hopes that S3 could work out all of the shortcomings of S3 and deliver a banger of a season that would be the perfect reprieve from daily life, at very time economical and bite-sized episodes that I really relish at this stage in my life.

Well unfortunately, it saddens me to say that such was not the case, and as was the case with S2, season 3 continued that downward trend for me.  The best way for me to describe it would be saying that David Fincher began to turn the knob up on how David Fincher-y he could make the series, in the sense that he’s notorious for allowing things to go off the rails on a long enough timeline, and by the time Jibaro, the last episode in the season was over, I was just sitting there thinking, what the fuck?

The funny thing is that Fincher served as a producer and the one episode that he directed was actually my favorite one, but the collection of stories as a whole were a little too all over the place, and if I really had to put my finger on it, I’d say that the season as a whole was definitely lacking in the whole Love part of Love Death and Robots.  I feel like the first season captured a good balance between the three core elements of the series which is why it was so good, and as the series and seasons progressed, the stories began to lack the balance which made it to alluring.

That being said, S3 still had a moment or two of collective brilliance, and if anything at all, the technology and varying artistic executions of each episode are still respectable and visually stimulating to see the variety.  I don’t think I’ll be as excited for future seasons, if there are any in the pipeline, but I’d still watch them, but perhaps at a much lower priority, because as much as I loved the first season, the magic is gone for me now.

Regardless, here’s my rankings of the episodes, as I’ve done with the prior seasons:

  1. Bad Traveling (#2)
  2. Swarm (#6)
  3. Night of the Mini Dead (#4)
  4. Mason’s Rats (#7)
  5. In Vaulted Halls Entombed (#8)
  6. Three Robots: Exit Strategies (#1)
  7. Jibaro (#9)
  8. Kill Team Kill (#5)
  9. The Very Pulse of the Machine (#3)

The forced watching of Doctor Strange 2

The worst part about big blockbuster and/or Marvel films is the feeling that if you don’t see it immediately, as in opening night immediately, you will inevitably get spoiled in some capacity within the next 24 hours.  Be it some passing graphic on social media, a news feed analyzing a massive spoiling plot point, or some rando internet friend who thinks they’re way more clever than they actually are and giving away something critical, if you don’t watch the film with some sense of urgency, you will without uncertainty, have something ruined for you.

Ironically, I’m not even really that big of a fan of Doctor Strange.  I wasn’t ever a fan of his in the actual comic books, despite knowing he was something of a big deal considering just how many crossovers he ended up in.  The MCU, as it has demonstrated on numerous occasions, made him somewhat cool and digestible, and I think Benedict Cumberbatch has breathed adequate life into the character. 

The first film, I didn’t even see in a theater and instead watched it on an international flight, since I had 8-13 hours to kill in the air, which wasn’t too bad.  The funny thing is that he’s way more interesting in other characters’ films than his own, but obviously for the sake of moving the entire MCU phase plot along, of course he’s going to get his own film(s) from time to time.

Spider-Man: No Way Home was a no-brainer of a film that had to have been seen with urgency and I’m glad that I did.  And Doctor Strange was pretty good in that film as well as an extremely critical player in the grand spectrum of the plot.  But ultimately, it ended up being more obnoxious and feeling like a sense of inconvenience that I had to put forth the same effort in order to see Doctor Strange 2, even if it seemed like this was going to be a critical film in the overarching MCU phase storyline; it’s still Doctor Strange, a character that I’ve always been kind of ambivalent about, in general.

Regardless, mythical wife and I made a point and made some arrangements to where we were actually able to go out for a night and watch Doctor Strange 2: The Multiverse of Madness.  My general theater experience was tarnished by the shitty quality of service we had and I never got my actual fucking entrée and they had the audacity to try and get me to pay for it, but as far as the film itself went, it wasn’t that bad.

Cumberbatch once again makes Doctor Strange not so much of a square, and injects some actual personality into the character.  And I suppose it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that the film basically ends up becoming the film sequel to WandaVision, seeing as the Scarlet Witch was primarily featured in the post-credit preview of the film after Spider-Man, not to mention Elizabeth Olsen is very predominantly featured on all film advertising.

As predicted, the film does kind of blow open the MCU in general, and between this film, the events from the Loki television series, and a lot of the shit alluded to in No Way Home, it’s almost brain-bending on how Marvel is even going to proceed from here, not to mention they’ve unlocked the ultimate plot devices that effectively allows any and all properties to be retconned and revised at a moment’s notice.

But as a standalone film, I’d say that DS2 is about a 6-7 out of ten.  A lot of crowd-popping cameos and ah-ha moments don’t really mask that the core plot of the film was a little on the weaker side of things, and there’s some pretty big plot holes that are poked open in WandaVision that beg to be asked.  The film effectively acts more like a vehicle to the overarching phase and tends to lose track of the fact that it’s still supposed to be about Doctor Strange, but all in all, I was still entertained and walked out of the theater ready to discuss and try to suppress excessively mansplaining anything that mythical wife might not have been familiar with.

However, back to the original hypothetical, on whether or not Doctor Strange 2 is worthy of being a must-see on an opening day?  I wouldn’t say so.  But solely because of the fact that I didn’t want to be spoiled to any MCU-isms and ah-has, I still felt like I was forced to do so, which makes me feel a little bit resentful of the way social media and the internet has created such a dynamic.  Fuckin’ ruins everything.

Completing the blet wall: time to get a new house

What we have here, are the newest additions to my collection: blet #24 – the 2014 PG-era WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and #25 – the John Cena Spinner US Championship.

As has been the case with the last nine blets I’ve purchased, these have been primarily financed by money earned through doing online surveys.  Which is great in the sense that I haven’t used any of my earned income in order to purchase such frivolities, but when I write out that I’ve basically bought 11 blets, I’m trying not to add up the dollar amount and not wince at what maybe a little more productive or substantiative things I might’ve been able to have done with such a slice of coin but whatever no regrets

The thing is with #24, I never really thought about getting another WWE World Championship blet, since I had the Attitude-era winged eagle blet, but whether it’s just random blet itch scratching, or when I was happy when Big E won the championship, the idea of getting one didn’t seem that unappealing.  That’s sometimes all it really takes for me to want to get a blet; acceptance of a current holder, a good deal, or just plain wanting a new blet for the sake of getting a new one.

Also, I was sitting on a small cache of Amazon gift card and gift card codes, and instead of putting myself through the rigors of I don’t know what to spend this onnnnn, once I learned that WWE actually sells some things through Amazon, including blets, and makes them subject to Prime benefits, I knew what I would be saving up towards, instead of bullshit consumables like soaps and socks.  So once I hit the price threshold for a 2014 WWE World, I pulled the trigger and here we are.

The bigger story though, would be the John Cena US Spinner that I had long been waiting out.  For years, friends would “troll” me and tell me that my collection would never be complete if I didn’t have this blet, and truth be it, when it was actually on TV way back when, I wasn’t a fan of it.  I didn’t think it was cool for John Cena to be above everyone else and have his own edition of the historic United States championship, and I was up on a purist high-horse scoffing down on a spinner blet in the first place.

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In praise of Miguel Cabrera’s quietly good career

Hearing about Miguel Cabrera’s closing in on 3,000 hits, my mind at first was a little surprised that he was at that stage of his career, seeing as how I still feel like it was yesterday that this spry thin third baseman for the then-Florida Marlins was showing off impressive power for his age.  But when I actually put more than five minutes of thought behind it, I realize that it’s really of no surprise at all that he’s at this stage of his career, because basically there’s never been any season where Miguel Cabrera has played where he has been an ineffective hitter.

Even way back, I always had pegged Miggy as a guy that would probably be an MVP-caliber guy, seeing as how he broke into the majors at like 20 years old.  But the thing is, he showed up at a time where guys like Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez were the marquee hitters of MLB, and sluggers like Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero and Frank Thomas were still around.  It was easy for a guy like Miguel Cabrera to kind of get lost in the shuffle.

But nearly 20 years later, most of those guys are gone, be it through retirement, collusion, age, degradation of skills or any combination of the above.  Albert Pujols is the only guy still active, and he’s at the twilight of his career where he’s doing his farewell tour for the team that brought him into the world, after a pretty unimpressive contract with the Angels.

And Miguel Cabrera is still around; although age is catching up to him, taking some power away, he’s still hitting the ball for a decent average in a period of the game where batting averages are bordering on historically bad.  Honestly, my knee-jerk thoughts were wondering on where Cabrera stood on possibly being the greatest of all-time, or just the best player for a generation, but clearly I’ve been not paying enough attention to the numbers or the game in general, and upon a closer examination, the last few years haven’t been as kind to him as I thought they might have been.

All the same, I felt like writing some words in appreciation of Miguel Cabrera.  Father Time might have grabbed him by the scruff five years ago, but up to that point, the guy was probably on track to be as good as Hank Aaron from a consistently great standpoint.  And I think it’s still safe to put Miggy on the pedestal of possibly being the greatest player of his generation, because when you look at his personal accomplishments throughout his career, there’s only some really snug and exclusive company in numerous categories: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Albert Pujols.

But when you factor in the fact that Miguel Cabrera has hit for the triple-crown (traditional and the geeky sabermetric) on top of everything else, that literally puts him in a category of his own; Triple-crown winner, MVP, 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. 

Statisticians tend to poorly favor those who decline quickly, like Cabrera has been over the last five years, which will likely take him out of the GOAT debates, but there’s no mistaking that with his body of work and all his achievements throughout his career, Miggy’s name definitely deserves to be mentioned frequently as one of the GOATs.  It’s just hard to imagine that in a game rich with history and numbers, that my generation would be one to have been able to witness and watch one of them rise, thrive and produce throughout his career.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge fails at first impression

While mythical wife and I were down at Disney for #1’s birthday, we earmarked one evening to go see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios.  Paid for the lightning lanes, made reservations at Oga’s, etc.  Capitalize on one evening away from parenting to see something with a monumental amount of hype behind it.

Now I like Star Wars just fine.  I’ll admit I’ve soured over the last few years because the fandom of the property has become insufferable and taints everything the IP produces, and I’m over other fans and the property itself at invalidating my fandom because I happened to really like all of the novella in the past, like Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson’s respective trilogies.

But I like Star Wars enough to watch all the movies and Disney+ originals with expediency, and enjoy them as is without even trying to entertain the idea of seeing what others have to think on the internet.  It works out best that way.

So I was looking forward to visiting Galaxy’s Edge, mostly to ride the new rides, as well as hoping I could maybe find some place that might sell reprints of the storyboard sketches from The Mandalorian or Book of Boba Fett.

Conditions were great to have a good first impression; the Florida evening was not hot and not was rather pleasant. The lightning lane mythical wife paid for would help us avoid oppressive lines, and the park itself wasn’t stupid crowded, going right at closing.

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