Wednesday, December 28, 2016

They Don't Want None



What a title match to round out a Phenomenal year. The kickout after realizing Corbin wasn't going to get there in time to break up the pin after Ziggler's superkick was the best running adjustment in a high-stakes environment I've seen in a long, long time. To think he pulled this off after working MSG on Sunday night, and with a bum ankle that is clearly nowhere near battle ready is so much mitigating overhead that I find that I am utterly incompetent to process its ramifications.

When the dust had settled after his debut at the Royal Rumble on January 24, the aftertaste was the kind of temporarily fulfilling but distinctly vacuous sensation that accompanies a climbdown after ticking something off your bucket list. That suspicion appeared to have been confirmed when he jobbed to Jericho at WrestleMania and was all but guaranteed to be ensconced in the welcoming arms of the upper mid-card for the remainder of his run. What has followed in the days, weeks and months since then, however, has demolished virtually every single stereotype that has been or could have been constructed around a 5-foot-10, 215 pound white boy from Gainesville, Georgia.

Onwards, then, to a date with John Cena in San Antonio. It may well be an exercise in futility to expect him to be put over Cena given how long a shadow 16 world titles are capable of casting but, frankly, I am done doubting what this man is capable of.

Each week, his arrival is announced by a loose, ungainly, almost unbecoming scattering song-spiel about blue collar boys, rednecks, southern boys and mack trucks; about feeling pain, giving respect, farmer strength and getting hands muddied. They may as well replace it with a simple sentiment that could have been made with confidence at pretty much any point over the last nine months but one that rings so true now that it admits for little disagreement: AJ Styles is the best clutch professional wrestler in the world today, and we haven't found a close second. 





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jewel Thief

Once upon a time, a merchant approached Emperor Akbar with a problem. A box containing some jewels was stolen from his house in the morning while he was away. “I don’t know who has done it,” he says, “but I am sure it is one of my neighbours.” Akbar refers the case to Birbal.

Birbal summons the merchant’s seven neighbours to the palace that evening at 8pm.

“One of you has stolen the jewels,” he says, “and I will catch the culprit by morning.”

“Here,” he begins, handing around sticks to each suspect, “these are magic sticks. They’re all the same size. They’re magical because they’re sensitive to the physical touch of a thief. If you’re the culprit, your stick will grow by two inches overnight (an idea an Italian author may or may not rip off in spirit three hundred years from now while writing a story called Pinocchio).”

“To make sure you can’t get away,” he continues, “you’ll be locked up in separate rooms in the palace until tomorrow morning. I’ll unlock the rooms in the morning, collect the sticks and catch the thief.”

The first suspect is the merchant’s next door neighbour. He knows both the merchant and Birbal very well, having helped them out with some business dealings in the past. The merchant trusts him too, so before the suspects are to be locked up for the night, he approaches Birbal and the merchant and asks them to let him go. The merchant agrees. Birbal sees no objection. The neighbour walks out into the cool evening breeze a free man.

The second man is locked in a room with a small window. He props open the window to let some fresh air in. He alerts the attention of a passerby who passes him some food through the window. He’s really upset about the rising crime in the neighbourhood and can’t wait to see the thief caught. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that Birbal is a genius. These are magic sticks, after all – what can possibly go wrong?  

The third man is in a room with no window and no light. He hasn’t eaten all day and has no idea why Birbal has locked up everyone like this. He didn’t even know the merchant had jewels in the house. Tired and hungry, he stays awake all night.

The fourth man is in a dark room with no window. Being locked up for the night is causing him extreme despair because he had to conduct private business with some traders this evening. The traders owed him a large sum of money, which he needed to feed his family. That opportunity is gone now, and he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to meet the traders again.

The fifth man stole a jewel from the merchant’s house last month and promptly sold it on. He doesn’t know if the sticks are actually magical, though, and that’s making him nervous. Desperate to find a way out of the predicament, he probes around the room and finds a loose panel in one of the walls. He has a confederate waiting outside, to whom he explains the situation. The confederate searches around outside and quickly finds another stick that’s the same size as the magic stick. The man then cuts off two inches from the magic stick. If the stick is magical, it’ll grow back overnight and be the same size. If it doesn’t, he’ll just show Birbal the second stick instead.

The sixth man is extremely sick. His room is completely dark and cold. He feels utterly helpless and is struggling to see out the night.

The seventh man knows he’s ruined. He stole jewels from the merchant’s house this morning. He checks his room carefully for any means of escape but doesn’t find any. There’s no way he can get rid of the jewels from his house before sunrise. More than that, he’s worried about the damn stick. Like a lamb to slaughter, he chops off two inches from his stick thinking it’ll grow back.

It doesn’t grow back, of course.

Birbal rounds up the suspects the next morning and proceeds to collect the sticks.

The first man left the previous evening. There is no stick to collect.

The second man hands over his stick with a smile on his face. When Birbal asks how he spent the night, he brushes off any concerns. “It was only a minor inconvenience,” he says.

The third man is confused, upset, tired and hungry but he dare not say anything to the mighty Birbal. Dejected that he has not even been compensated for the night in restraint, he quietly leaves.  

The fourth man is furious with Birbal. “Do you have any idea how much I have lost overnight?” he asks angrily. There is nothing he can do, though. He, too, leaves.

The fifth man has called Birbal’s bluff about the magic stick. He notices that the stick hasn’t grown, so he coolly hands over the second stick that was slipped to him by his confederate at night. Birbal doesn’t notice the difference in sticks and lets him go.

The sixth man’s condition has worsened considerably overnight. He needs urgent medical attention and is taken away. An unaltered stick is found in his room.

The seventh man is caught with a stick that is two inches shorter. Birbal declares him the criminal. He tells the merchant to go to the man’s house and recover the jewels.

The merchant is ecstatic. He goes to the seventh man’s house and finds the same box that he had left unattended the previous morning. He takes the box home and shows it triumphantly to his wife.

She unlocks the box, surveys the contents and goes, “WTF? These are only 6% of the jewels – where are the rest?” 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wow.

No talk, no intimidation, no octagon fright, no confusion, no panic, no kicks thrown until it really, really mattered.

Instead, assuredness, some excellent cornermen, the best angling off exhibition in women's MMA history and straight lefts thrown sweeter than I've seen for quite a while in a championship fight.

The rematch is going to be off the chain and, having seen this particular furrow of the sport in its infancy, I can't quite believe this is happening.

These are very, very exciting times.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Slightly under the surface, and remembering Benoit

The biggest learning for me from a slightly jagged and often frustrating June so far has been that clarity of thought isn't linear. This might not seem like a particularly spectacular conclusion but there's been a definite - if shrinking - and possibly extremely middle-class part of my mind that has always believed that chains of continuous and fruitful thinking aren't so much a matter of finding inspiration or reason but more just a function of removing the distractions and focusing hard enough on the links in the chain to the point where the solution is compelled to present itself to you.

I've found efforts in the latter direction entirely unsuccessful for the past three weeks or so. In true hard-thinking fashion, I attempted to blame it on everything around me until I was left with no other conclusion than the inevitable one - one that forced my mind to acknowledge, you know, no matter how much you try, you really aren't very good at answering these questions.

Perhaps equally surprisingly, this hasn't caused me to question whether I've lost the ability to 'switch it on again', whether I'm getting too old to dramatically clear everything off my metaphorical desk with one swish of the crook of my arm and take time off to just think or even whether, as I did through a disturbingly vacuous eighteen month spell in 2012-13, I've lost the desire to want to think - all it has really done is make me appreciate the vagaries of the accessibility of the thinking process, vagaries that, I now realise, aren't so much unfathomable as they are inconsistent in themselves.

So the process behind clarity of thought is vague, it would seem. Yeeeeeah. I'm just going to park that there. And not think about it again.  

Also: Eight years today since Benoit, and a wound that simply refuses to heal. However, with every passing year, I'm starting to accept that, while I will never be able to forgive what happened at the hands of Chris, the person, nor forget Chris, the wrestler, there doesn't have to be a personal explanation for why I feel the latter as strongly as I do the former. I'm just going to park that there, too. And think about it again and again and again.  

I'm not sure if there's a point to this story but I'm going to tell it again.

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India
I've been wilfully caught up in the self-defeating quest to get to know myself for years. I've never expected anything beneficial to result from such a quest. I tend to evoke extremely polarised reactions from people I get to know in passing. Consequently, only those people who know me inside-out would honestly claim that I'm a person who's just "alright." It's not a coincidence that the description I've laid out above has no fewer than, title included, eleven references to me (make that twelve). I'm affectionately referred to as "Ego." I think that last statement might have given away a tad too much. Welcome Aboard.

IHTRTRS ke pichle episode mein aapne dekha...

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