Monday, September 30, 2013

TV Review: WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW

I've been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. My dad was a fan--so was my mom, until she found out it was fake. (Back in the '50s and '60s, it wasn't as obvious as it is now.) Watching Wrestling at the Chase every Saturday night was the one thing we did as a family--wrestling and the B-horror movies that followed, usually accompanied by pizza.



I really enjoyed those Saturday nights. Even when it became more and more obvious that it was fake, it was still fun. Collin also grew up watching wrestling--by his time on cable, first on ESPN, then on USA, SpikeTV and Syfy. (Don't ask me why wrestling is aired on a channel that carries mostly science-fiction movies--the only thing they have in common is the cheesiness factor.)

Up until this year, neither of us would miss any wrestling programming. We got all the WWE pay-per-view events, too. We bought their DVDs and other merchandise. But in recent months, the storylines have gone from fun to outlandish to silly to downright annoying. Match outcomes are so predictable, they're no longer entertaining. These days, we only watch the 90-minute condensed versions on Hulu Plus to see what we already knew would happen. We've stopped watching TNA's Impact and Ring of Honor entirely.

This stuff makes soap operas look intelligent.

Example: The Shield. This is the second time in recent years the WWE has created a team of "rogue" wrestlers who seem to have invaded the WWE, disrupting matches and sidelining wrestlers. These three currently hold the US Title and the Tag Team titles. For months, they were undefeated. They came after their targets like a pack of wild dogs, proclaiming "justice."

Somebody needs to give the WWE's writers a dictionary, because there's no kind of justice going on there. Just a lot of beatdowns.

Example: Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton. In the absence of John Cena, Bryan's the crowd favorite--the audiences are on their feet, chanting and cheering when he enters arenas, and they go wild when he wins. Yet as the storyline goes, former champion/executive VP Paul Levesque (Triple H) and his wife, Stephanie McMahon, feel that Randy Orton, not Daniel Bryan, should be champion "because it's good for business." Oh, come on! Credibility has gone down the crapper at the WWE. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that what's best for business is the guy the crowds are on their feet cheering for.

Don't get me wrong. I like Randy Orton. He's a hometown favorite. But I don't like what they've done to him in his storyline. Randy isn't called "The Viper" for nothing. He's never had to have matches handed to him. He's never been one to wait for someone else to beat his target into submission for him. He's more than capable of doing it himself.

Triple H has been a favorite of mine as well. Especially when he and Shawn Michaels teamed up as Degeneration X. Now, the writers have turned him into one more arrogant suit, standing in the ring guarded by the Shield. Since when does the Cerebral Assassin need anyone to do his fighting for him?

Who writes this crap, anyway? Whoever they are, they need to be replaced ASAP!

*****

Be sure to check out William's latest offering at Ottawa Daily Photo--it's very intriguing!


Friday, September 27, 2013

TV Review: THE BIG BANG THEORY

I've been a fan of The Big Bang Theory almost from its debut, and I've lost track of how many times I've responded to the comments or actions of neurotic, self-absorbed genius Sheldon Cooper (three-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons) with "If he were my roommate, I'd have to kill him."

Parsons deserves every one of his Emmys.



As the show begins its seventh season, his roommate, fellow brainiac Leonard (Johnny Galecki), is away on a scientific research trip to the North Sea. Sheldon and Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Leonard's on-again-off-again girlfriend, actually bond in Leonard's absence. When Sheldon has a nightmare (of Leonard being snatched off the deck of the research ship by a Kraken, no less), he runs across the hall to Penny's door. Convincing her he should stay there to keep her from having nightmares (typical Sheldon!), he promptly goes into her bedroom, closes the door and goes to bed, leaving Penny to sleep on her couch!

This season opens with some new and fun situations: astrophysicist Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and engineer Howard (Simon Helberg) attend a function at the university where they both work. Raj, finally able to speak to women without being drunk, but still socially awkward, has a conversation with the recently-divorced human resources director which may be opening the door for him to finally have a relationship. Meanwhile, Howard's microbiologist wife, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Sheldon's neurobiologist girlfriend, Amy (Mayim Bialik) attend a conference together. When a couple of strangers buy them drinks in the hotel bar, it leads to an argument between the two women--and a scary revelation.

But for me, one of the funniest scenes involves Howard and Raj trying to determine the extent of the effects Howard may be experiencing after weeks of applying an estrogen cream to his mother's skin (this is what he gets for being a good Jewish son with an unhealthy attachment to his mom). I almost fell off the couch laughing when Bernadette walked in on the two guys with their shirts pulled up, squeezing each others' breasts!

Most sitcoms go stale after a few seasons--or, like Two and a Half Men, lose their stars and end up with less-than-great replacements. (Replace Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher? I thought they were kidding. Sheen may be a loose cannon, but at least he was funny.) The Big Bang Theory, however, just gets better each season.

Maybe this will be the year Sheldon and Amy finally have sex. (Right...and the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series and the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup. Soon thereafter, the world will end....)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

TV Review: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

It was inevitable, after all.

Given the billions Marvel's Avengers movies (The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk--so far) have earned, it was only a matter of time before they decided a TV series would be a good idea. Tuesday, the same day Iron Man 3 was released on DVD, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered, starring Clark Gregg as the unflappable Agent Phil Coulson.



Wait a minute. Wasn't Agent Coulson killed by Thor's psychologically-damaged adopted brother Loki in The Avengers?

Well, yes...and no. Coulson was dead, very briefly--for a matter of seconds. But this is the Marvel universe--in the Marvel universe, as in soap operas, being dead isn't as final as it is in real life. Marvel characters get do-overs, and in this case, I consider it a good thing. Coulson is one of my favorite characters. He rarely even raises his voice. He's like the eerily calm eye at the center of a superhero hurricane.

In the aftermath of the events of The Avengers (in the series known as The Battle of New York), Coulson and SHIELD Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) supervise a team of young agents who investigate strange occurrences. Though their cases are new, fans of the movies will recognize a lot of familiar elements: the supersoldier formula (Captain America), gods (Thor), the big green monster (The Incredible Hulk), Tony Stark, Extremis (Iron Man), Chitauri (The Avengers). My personal favorite: Coulson's reference to Loki as "the Asgardian Mussolini."



Like the Avengers, most of Coulson's team (Ming-Na Wen,Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain DeCaestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge really don't want to be on the team. But his calm persistence always wins, in the end--after all, how can you have an argument with someone who won't argue? His approach to recruiting one new agent is original, effective--and downright funny.

Can the show's writers come up with new ideas for each episode that maintain the quality of the first episode? That remains to be seen. But I'm willing to bet they can.

Have you seen it? Do you agree or disagree with me? I'd love to hear your take on it!

*****

Don't miss:
William's latest photoblog at Ottawa Daily Photo
His excerpt from a book that doesn't yet exist at Speak of the Devil
and our joint blog, Basking in the Afterglow....


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TV Review: THE BLACKLIST

Too often, when a new series is hyped to the degree The Blacklist has been hyped, the audience ends up disappointed. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I was definitely not disappointed.



Twenty-four years ago, Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) was a government agent. En route home to his wife and daughter for Christmas, he disappeared. When he finally resurfaced, he was selling secrets to the highest bidder. (No, not like Edward Snowden--this guy actually is brilliant, and doesn't appear to only be trying to make a name for himself.) Today, he has abruptly resurfaced, walked into FBI headquarters, and surrendered himself.

Why?

This is also the first day on the job for FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a young woman with a past that bears some similarity to Reddington's--though she swears she has no connection to him when he insists upon speaking only to her. Liz grew up without her parents and now, by her own admission, seeks to rewrite her past by starting a family of her own. On this first day on the job, she and her husband Tom (Ryan Eggold) are also scheduled to be interviewed by an adoption agency. Neither of them have any idea how drastically their lives are about to change....

This show has been touted as being full of twists and turns, and it most certainly is that...though I suspect most viewers will guess the connection between Reddington and Keen early on. He knows things about her only someone very close to her would know...like, say, a blood relative. He acts like her mentor rather than a prisoner, teaching her to "think like a criminal." He offers her access to his "Blacklist"--politicians, mobsters, spies and international terrorists, saying they're going to make a great team....

Five stars--I'd give it ten if I could!

Friday, September 20, 2013

What Else Could Possibly Go Wrong?

That's the one question no one should ever ask.

I had an appointment with my cardiologist on Wednesday. Collin wanted to go early and have lunch at the IHOP across the street from the University Club Tower (well, actually, he wanted to see his former supervisor, Dempsey, who now manages that restaurant). So we got an early start. I figured taking the Metrolink would be convenient, since the station is right behind the Tower.

If only it had been that simple.

As we approached the building, I noticed there was some construction going on. The parking lot seemed to be blocked. Collin started to climb some concrete stairs that would have given a mountain goat pause. I looked up at him. "You've got to be kidding," I told him.

"It's the only way in," he said.

"Now you tell me."

I managed to make it to the top, but I was really out of breath by the time I did so--and we still had to cross the parking lot, pass the hotel next door, and cross the street. And IHOP's parking lot was uphill. By this time, I was wishing I'd stayed home.

Fortunately, we had time to relax over lunch. I'd never met Dempsey before, and found him to be everything Collin had described: upbeat, friendly, an all-around great guy. It would be impossible to not like him. Lunch was great, too--if you go to IHOP, I can strongly recommend the Bananas Foster Brioche French Toast. Yum!

On to see the cardiologist, Dr. Vidic. First things first: an EKG (or, for those sticklers for accuracy, ECG--an electrocardiogram). He came in, listened to my heart and talked to me for a while. He was concerned that I get out of breath so easily. I've had high blood pressure for years, and had a heart attack ten years ago. And let's not even discuss the family history (thanks, Mom and Dad--wonderful inheritance there!).

Congestive heart failure or a blockage were suggested as possibilities. Just what I wanted to hear...not! I had a rather nasty cold, so he scheduled my stress test and echocardiogram for next week.

Believe it or not, the worst part of the day was yet to come.


We took the bus home. Two buses, actually...and that was where the nightmare began. Just before we reached the transfer point, it started to rain--not the shower that was forecast, but a downpour. Neither of us had brought an umbrella, and we had a twenty-minute wait for our connection--not to mention a half-block walk from one bus stop to the other. It was raining so hard, we could barely see where we were going. Collin was holding onto to me to make sure I didn't fall. A woman came running out of a building--she must have seen us from her office window--and gave us an umbrella. We were grateful, even though we were both already soaked to the skin.

The bus finally arrived--an air-conditioned bus. The next twenty minutes seemed like hours. I think I finally stopped shivering yesterday....

PS: Be sure you check out William's new photoblog. There's no end to his creative talents!


Monday, September 16, 2013

She Pursued Him...Until He Caught Her!

Today, I'm plugging a book--no, not one of my own, but a new memoir by my blogger friend Hilary Grossman. Hilary's book has been published in spite of some major setbacks she's had to face--the death of her beloved cat, and the wrath of Hurricane Sandy...which makes me feel like a real wuss when I think about the excuses I've made for not finishing anything in the past nine years!



SYNOPSIS:

Hilary had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship--why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose. But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn't ready--and their friends' meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year's Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.

In this relatable, lighthearted, and playful memoir, Hilary reminisces about her life before Marc--from the insecure and awkward teenage years she spent in a back brace and dealing with the loss of her father, to her early relationships and, finally, to the day she met Marc and realized that she really wanted to see him again. Through their first date--even though Hilary was technically seeing someone else at the time--and the ease of their early time together until Marc first decided that they were moving too quickly, up until that fateful New Year's Eve, Hilary shares the details of their relationship and how Marc's inability to commit led her to find an inner strength and confidence she didn't know she possessed.
For anyone who has ever dated a commitment-phobe, who has found their patience wearing thin with the one they love, or who has sat around wondering if he is ever going to pop the question while trying to remain the very picture of patience and grace, Hilary's humorous and honest story will hit home.

"Dangled Carat Sparkles with humor and shines with wisdom. It is a gem of a book." - Christina Baker Kline - New York Times Best Selling Author of Orphan Train.

"Fans of Sex and the City - Grossman makes a reference to Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big - will enjoy the story, but its real-girl charm should draw an even wider crowd." - Kirkus Reviews 

Links:



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

Yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on our nation that changed the world irrevocably and shattered our sense of security. When I was growing up, my father always said no war would ever be fought on American soil. I wonder what he would have thought that sunny September morning, when two hijacked passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon, and a fourth in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, taken over by passengers determined to keep it from reaching its target....



We all remember where we were when such major events occurred. I was at home that morning. Collin had just left for work. I was getting ready to leave for the library when the Today show was interrupted with the first of what would be several days of nonstop news broadcasts. I was on the phone with Collin when the Pentagon was hit. And I was on a computer at the library when news came of the fourth plane crashing in Shanksville....



I remember where I was when news came of other tragedies--and when Osama bin Laden got what was coming to him. That night, Collin and I were watching a WWE pay-per-view event, so there was no "Breaking News" interruption. Only when the event was over and we switched to a local channel did we see President Obama addressing the nation live to inform us that bin Laden was dead at last.

I also recall clearly....

The Columbia disaster--I was online, exchanging emails with my friend Mets (a nickname, no connection to the baseball team), who works at the space center in Florida, when I got a message from her that read: "We've lost Columbia...."



The Challenger explosion--again, I was at home--working in my home office in the basement. I remember Dad coming down the stairs and telling me, "The space shuttle just exploded." I couldn't believe it at first....



The JFK assassination--yep, I was around then. I was ten years old, in my fifth grade class at Meramec Heights Elementary School. My teacher told all of us. Even as a child, I was in shock. It didn't seem possible that our President could have been killed. It wasn't like being taught about the assassination  of Abraham Lincoln--this was happening in real time.



Do you remember where you were when these events or any others happened? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this....


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

DVD Review: STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS

I thought this review might be too long after the fact, since I didn't post it when the movie was in theaters--but now that the DVD has been released, I have a second chance!



I've been a fan of the Star Trek films and TV series for many years now. My favorite of the films remains Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home--but I've really enjoyed J.J. Abrams' take on the Trek universe. What I've loved most about this franchise overall, however, is not the sci-fi elements or the adventure or the special effects (which were amazing!), but the characters. The crew of the Enterprise is a wildly diverse group that has somehow produced just the right chemistry. They're not just a crew, they're a family. In the face of overwhelming danger, they come together in the way families do.

I'm pretty sure this is no longer a secret, so no spoiler alert--in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and company have their first face-off with the notorious Khan, who appears on Earth with an offer to help a couple whose child is dying. He can save her, he promises. But his offer comes with a price...one that will lead to the deaths of many members of Starfleet, including Kirk's mentor, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood). Kirk and the Enterprise crew set off in pursuit--straight into Klingon territory.

The young Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is what anyone familiar with the character in his later years would expect: brash, stubborn, daring--but always with the best intentions. And with a middle name like Tiberius, one can assume he learned to fight at an early age. He is, as Admiral Pike puts it, Starfleet's "only genius-level repeat offender."

Spock (Zachary Quinto), by contrast, is still trying to be all Vulcan, in spite of his half human side. Kirk brings out that human side, which frustrates Spock. Kirk has a nasty habit of giving a single-finger salute to logic. He might not break the rules, but he'll bend them beyond recognition, the way Uri Geller used to bend spoons.

The negatives? I was disappointed that a pivotal scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was borrowed in this movie, reversed to have Kirk dying to save the Enterprise as Spock did in that film. If one is going to rewrite Trek history, don't include retread scenes! Also, I never bought into the relationship between Spock and Uhura--there was never anything in the original series to even hint at such a relationship, and it seemed to me it was contrived to give the character a stronger presence in the story. It wasn't necessary. Uhura is and always was a great character without the romance angle.

All of the actors (Pine, Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin are spot-on in their roles. (Okay, I do have one question: how is it that Scotty, in his later years, has so much more hair than young Scotty? He really is a miracle-worker--or those 23rd-century replicators are just that good!) Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan brings just the right degree of brilliance and menace to the role. I would have preferred he be a more complex villain, like Tom Hiddleston's Loki in Thor and The Avengers, but still I'm glad the character wasn't killed off--there's always the possibility he'll return in a future installment (and I do hope there will be future installments).

PS Be sure you check out William's blog--in addition to getting acquainted with his new toy, he has a fascinating story to share!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

The War with Technology Rages On....

If you've read my partner in crime William's most recent blog post, you already know I gave him a smartphone. I knew he wouldn't buy one for himself--he's resisted the idea of having any kind of mobile phone for as long as I've known him. He's the only person I know who's fought being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century harder than I did! But the need for a digital camera finally won out.

Now, I think he actually likes it!

When I got my first cellphone ten years ago, I had a few reservations--okay, I had a lot of reservations. The idea of anyone being able to call me wherever I was did not appeal to me at all. I left the house to get away from our phone--I didn't want to take it with me!

Collin, however, did want one. For him, it made sense. He was working evenings at the time, and had to walk several blocks from the bus stop to our place. He needed to be able to call home in an emergency. And after seeing how convenient it was, I decided to get one for myself.



Our first cells were simple phones--just phone calls and text messages. The next phones we bought, three years later, also had cameras and very limited web access. In a few years, we traded up--I got an HTC Dash from T-Mobile, a great little phone that had some very useful features, like a video camera, digital voice recorder and music player. It also did email.








Within a year, we moved up to our first smartphones, the Samsung Intercept, which had too little memory for my needs, so we soon traded up to the Kyocera Rise, an inexpensive, easy to operate phone which has too many apps to list here. I can edit my manuscripts, read ebooks or magazines, listen to music or audiobooks, take photos or video, do email or text messaging, catch up on the news and weather, get times for movies or public transportation, post to Facebook, Twitter--and my blog. It reminds me of appointments and birthdays and tells me when to take my meds. I keep copies of all important documents and works in progress on it. My smartphone is smarter than I am!



On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper once predicted that when the machines began their uprising, ATMs would be leading the charge. I disagree. I think my phone will be calling the shots....





Monday, September 2, 2013

"You Hit Like a Girl!"

Today, I have an excerpt from one of my upcoming novels, Sucker-Punched (working title) about an unlucky-in-love restaurant owner from St. Louis who falls in love  with a pro wrestler....



Amelia
I couldn't believe it.
That is, I couldn't believe I was here, that Amy and I had flown all the way to Los Angeles to attend a wrestling event at the Staples Center. Who am I kidding? I still couldn't believe I was dating a pro wrestler. No...that was something Amy would do, not me. I always figured I'd end up with somebody more...stable. Like an accountant. Or maybe a funeral director. Definitely not a guy who beats people up for a living.
When I imagined my ideal guy over the years, well, it wasn't Paulie. He only had two of the traits on my wish list: a good heart and a great sense of humor. But then, those two were the traits that mattered most to me.
He'd gotten us front-row seats. We had an unobstructed view of the ring. This was the first time I'd actually attended one of his matches—and I wasn't sure what to expect. Yes, I'd watched him wrestle on TV, but I knew everything was scripted. They knew who would win the match before they entered the ring. Still, wrestlers did get injured, sometimes seriously. If this was all staged, how could that happen? I had so many questions....
He'd told me about his opponent. He said his feud with Mad Dog Mueller wasn't just part of the act. He and the current World Champion really did not get along. How had he put it? Oh, yes—"I hate the dumbass, but tonight, I get to take the belt from him."
That was why he wanted me to be there. He wanted me to celebrate his victory with him. He wanted Amy and me to meet the rest of his family—his parents, his sister, and his brother-in-law, the artist. Meeting his family suggested he was ready to take our relationship to the next level.
I was well past ready. I loved him. I wanted to marry him.
I took a deep breath as the program got underway. Maybe the World Championship wasn't the only thing we'd be celebrating before the night was over....

Paulie
Mad Dog was in a foul mood. To say he wasn't crazy about the idea of losing the championship—especially to me—had to be the understatement of the century.
"I may have to let you have it, but I don't have to make it easy for you, Cantwell," he growled as he yanked open his locker. "You just might be having your victory party in the hospital."
I laughed, even though a part of me thought the douchebag might be serious. "Just don't forget your trunks this time," I told him. "I can take a lot of abuse, but the sight of your junk flappin' around in the wake of me body slammin' you would be cruel and unusual punishment."
Mad Dog looked at me, eyes narrowed—and growled!
Mike and J.J. came into the locker room. "Hey, Mad Dog—goin' commando for the TV cameras tonight?" Mike asked as he dropped his duffel on the bench.
J.J. laughed, too. "Nobody saw anything last time," he said, pulling off his shirt. "The camera crew would have had to have at least one camera on zoom to catch anything that small—"
Before he could finish, Mad Dog grabbed him and slammed him against the wall, almost choking him. It took both Mike and me to pull him off our kid brother. "Let him go, you stupid dick!" I yelled.
He reluctantly released J.J. and turned his venom on me. "It would be worth getting fired just to be able to keep you from getting this." He snatched up the championship belt and shoved it in my face for a minute, then pulled it away and headed for the exit.
"Like you could!" I called after him.
Mike looked at me, worried. "He's a powder keg tonight," he said. "You better be careful out there."
"Think he meant it?" J.J. wondered aloud.
I tried to shrug it off. "I can handle Mad Dog," I assured them. But I was wondering, too. It was no secret that Mad Dog and his manager, a loudmouthed, brain-dead moron who looked more like Jabba the Hut than a real human being, had vehemently protested the relinquishment of the belt. They'd tell anybody who'd listen that Mad Dog was getting screwed.
Personally, I thought that would make Mad Dog happy. That's the closest to screwed he's ever gonna get.
*****
Finally. Time to head for the ring.
It felt like an eternity, watching match after match on the monitors while I waited for my turn. I wanted to get it all over with, take the belt and get out of here. The championship would have meant more to me if I could win it honestly, but that wasn't going to happen. It's not how things are done in our business. But tonight wasn't really about the championship. It was about Amelia and me. It was about my parents and Robyn and Alex meeting her and her sister, Amelia and Amy getting to know them....
I poked around in my duffel until I found the box—the jeweler's box with the ring inside. Amelia loved rubies, so I got her a ruby and diamond ring—an engagement ring. I was going to pop the question tonight—I'd ask her as soon as we were alone. I'd tell her I'd been thinking of a short engagement and let her decide when and where we'd get married.
I just hoped I wouldn't be popping the question in the emergency room.

Amelia
I looked toward the ramp as Paulie's entrance theme started to play. AC-DC's Shoot to Thrill...Paulie was an Iron Man fan and thought it the perfect entrance theme. He appeared at the top of the ramp, wearing only black spandex trunks. “He looks pretty hot,” Amy told me.
He looks even better without them,” I replied, unable to not smile.
He did something called a crotch chop, then started down the ramp toward the ring. As he climbed up on the ropes, he looked down at me and winked.
I waved and wondered if I'd be too much of a distraction for him. Maybe I shouldn't have come.
"It's like watching a gladiator about to go into battle for the hand of the woman he loves," Amy said, seeing a romance to this spectacle that completely escaped me. As much as I loved Paulie, to me this seemed to me more a reality TV show—and like all reality shows, there was little in the way of reality going on.
Then, his opponent emerged to the sound of wild booing and Who Let the Dogs Out? The guy who called himself Mad Dog looked like a rabid dog—a big, incredibly ugly rabid dog. I almost expected him to hike his leg and pee on the ring post to mark his territory.
"Is he actually wearing a dog collar?" Amy asked, amazed.
I hadn't noticed before Amy mentioned it, but he was—he was wearing a thick leather collar with metal spikes. His manager was holding something—he had his client on a leash!
It's hard to tell which one belongs on the leash,” Amy said. “It's a clear case of the owner being uglier than the dog.”
I think it's a toss-up,” I disagreed.
"Hey, Harvey!" Paulie called out. "When you gonna get that ugly critter neutered?"
"I'll neuter you!" Mad Dog shouted.
"And maybe a flea dip, too," Paulie taunted. "It's hard to pin him when he stinks like that!"
Mad Dog jumped up onto the ring apron, then turned his attention to me. "Say goodbye to your little friend and his little friend," he snarled. "He gets this belt over my dead body!"
"Hey, MD—you don't have to give me an extra incentive," Paulie shouted.
The bell was rung to start the match. It didn't get off to a good start for Paulie. Mad Dog was tossing him around like a rag doll. "It's like watching the T-Rex fighting the raptors in Jurassic Park," Amy commented.
I might have laughed, had anyone but Paulie been in the role of raptor. This was scripted? Paulie was being paid to have his bones broken? I wanted to jump into that ring and take on the monster myself. "This looks too real," I said in a low voice.
"Paulie's going to become champion tonight," Amy reminded me. "They have to make it look good."
It didn't look good to me at all. Stop it! I screamed internally. Leave him alone! The beating seemed to go on endlessly. “How's he supposed to win the belt if this monster keeps beating the crap out of him?” Amy wanted to know.
I don't know,” I said, concerned. Paulie had told me they had to make it look good for the fans, but this beatdown was scaring me.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, they took the battle outside the ring. They were fighting brutally on the ramp, hitting each other with trash cans, metal folding chairs, ladders, anything they could get their hands on. Then they disappeared backstage.
This can't be right,” I worried aloud. “They're supposed to fight out here, where the fans can watch. Paulie was right. This guy's out of control.”
It's got to be part of the act,” Amy disagreed.
I don't think so.” I kept my eyes on the entrance at the top of the ramp, waiting for them to come back. Then, abruptly, an image appeared on the jumbo screen above the entrance. Mad Dog was slamming Paulie's head into the front of a truck. Paulie's head was bleeding. “This isn't put on,” I gasped. “They're fighting for real.”
I don't think so.” Before Amy could do anything to stop me, I pushed my way through the barricade separating the audience from the ring area and ran up the ramp.
Who's that?” one of the commentators asked.
I think it's the Punisher's girlfriend,” his colleague said, also for the entire arena to hear.
The Punisher has a girlfriend? And she's human?”
She kinda looks human.”
I ignored them. I ran to the backstage area to put a stop to the brutality. I found them near the production trucks. Mad Dog was still slamming Paulie into the front end of the truck. I looked around for something to use that might actually stop the brute. I found an empty beer bottle, grabbed it—and smashed it over Mad Dog's head.
He never knew what hit him. He fell to the floor in a heap.
Mad Dog Mueller just got taken out by...a girl!” one of the commentators shouted.
Paulie got to his feet and stared at me for a moment. “Amelia—what are you doing back here?” he asked.
I couldn't let him keep beating you,” I said, dropping what was left of the bottle.
Do you realize what you've done?” he asked.
I think I just saved your butt.”
He nodded slowly. “And cost me the championship,” he said slowly. “It's a DQ, a disqualification.”