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“The tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)”*…

I am a game designer with experience in a very small niche. I create and research games designed to be played in reality. I’ve worked in Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), LARPsexperience fictioninteractive theater, and “serious games.” Stories and games that can start on a computer, and finish in the real world. Fictions designed to feel as real as possible. Games that teach you. Puzzles that come to life all around the players. Games where the deeper you dig, the more you find. Games with rabbit holes that invite you into wonderland and entice you through the looking glass.

When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people. (cue ominous music)

QAnon has often been compared to ARGs and LARPs and rightly so. It uses many of the same gaming mechanisms and rewards. It has a game-like feel to it that is evident to anyone who has ever played an ARG, online role-play (RP) or LARP before. The similarities are so striking that it has often been referred to as a LARP or ARG. However this beast is very very different from a game.

It is the differences that shed the light on how QAnon works and many of them are hard to see if you’re not involved in game development. QAnon is like the reflection of a game in a mirror, it looks just like one, but it is inverted…

Read on for a full and fascinating (and frankly, frightening) explanation from Reed Berkowitz, head of Curiouser LLC (@soi). Playing with reality: “A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon.

Then consider Roland Barthes‘ (painfully–prescient) “The World of Wrestling.”

Merriam-Webster’s definition of “apophenia.” See also “Being Amused by Apophenia.”

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As we wrestle with reality, we might recall that it was on this date in 1856 that Millard Fillmore was nominated for the Presidency by the (altogether-accurately named far-right nativist) Know-Nothing Party.  Fillmore, who had been elected Vice President in 1848 had ascended to the presidency in 1850, when Zachary Taylor died, but then failed to get his own party’s– the Whig’s– nomination to run for re-election in 1852.  In 1856, Fillmore turned to the Know-Nothings in (an ultimately unsuccessful) attempt actually to be elected to the highest office.

He was finally trumped by Gerald Ford, who was not even elected– but was appointed in 1973 by Richard Nixon– to the Vice-Presidency, then assumed the top job on Nixon’s resignation in 1974.  Ford beat back a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan to win the Republican nomination in 1976, but lost to Jimmy Carter.

Millard Fillmore, by Matthew Brady (1850)

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Written by LW

February 18, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Wrestling is not sport, it is a spectacle”*…

Your correspondent has been musing on Roland Barthes’ eerily-prescient essay on wrestling, and on its relevance to the Manichean dramas playing out in the political arena today. At the dawn of his career, your correspondent had a close encounter with wrestling (on the television production crew of a weekly wrestling show in Charlotte, NC), so you can imagine his interest in the following, from that same period…

One Friday morning in the spring of 1971, Geoff Winningham picked up the sports section of the now defunct Houston Post. At the time, Winningham had just begun teaching photography at Rice University, but at night, he’d grab his camera and head wherever he could find a crowd to shoot. In the paper, he saw an ad for a wrestling event happening that night at the Sam Houston Coliseum. “I’d bet there be some crowds there,” he thought.

Winningham was familiar with wrestling; he’d grown up in Tennessee, watching Saturday night fights on TV. Yet what he saw at the coliseum that Friday floored him. “I walked in and walked down the aisle, through the crowd, and toward the ring,” he remembers. “All these bright spotlights coming down on this white mat with the ropes around the ring, crowds screaming, and big guys throwing each other through the air and jumping on each other and torturing each other. It was madness.”

The coliseum’s promoter, Paul Boesch—who also served as the ring announcer—welcomed Winningham, and the photographer became a regular, returning to the revelry night after night. Boesch let him photograph locker rooms, gave him access inside and outside the ring, and introduced him to the wrestlers. With that, Winningham—who became known inside the coliseum as the professor of wrestling—spent the next nine months photographing the Houston wrestling scene, capturing the villainous heels, heroic baby faces, and fervent fans…

Almost fifty years later, Winningham—still a professor of photography at Rice, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—has revived the spirit, grit, and excitement of those sweaty wrestling nights in Friday Night in the Coliseum. The book, which was first published in 1971, saw its second edition released in February of this year.

Geoff Winningham‘s glorious record of baby faces, heels, and their fans: “Houston’s 1970s-Era Friday Night Wrestling Come Alive in a Stunning Photo Book.”

* “There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport. Wrestling is not sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of suffering than a performance of the sorrows of Arnolphe or Andromaque.” – Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling,” Mythologies

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As we roll off the ropes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that the first of five hour-long “Davy Crockett” adventure-dramas aired on ABC as part of Walt Disney’s Disneyland series. While the form became popular in the mid-1970’s with limited series like Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots, “Davy Crockett” has some claim to the title “first mini-series on American television.”

Fess Parker in “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress”

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Written by LW

December 15, 2020 at 1:01 am

“In wrestling, nothing exists unless it exists totally”*…

 

As Jesse Ventura once explained, professional wrestling is “ballet with violence.”  Reuters photographer Thomas Peter spent time recently exploring the world of Japanese women’s pro wrestling.  He reports that “professional women’s wrestling in Japan means body slams, sweat, and garish costumes. But Japanese rules on hierarchy also come into play, with a culture of deference to veteran fighters. The brutal reality of the ring is masked by a strong fantasy element that feeds its popularity with fans, most [but certainly not all] of them men.”

More (and several more photos) at “Professional Women’s Wrestling in Japan,” and at “Japan’s women wrestlers fight to win.”

* “In wrestling, nothing exists unless it exists totally, there is no symbol, no allusion, everything is given exhaustively; leaving nothing in shadow, the gesture severs every parasitical meaning and ceremonially presents the public with a pure and full signification, three dimensional, like Nature. Such emphasis is nothing but the popular and ancestral image of the perfect intelligibility of reality. What is enacted by wrestling, then, is an ideal intelligence of things, a euphoria of humanity, raised for a while out of the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations and installed in a panoramic vision of a univocal Nature, in which signs finally correspond to causes without obstacle, without evasion, and without contradiction.”

– Roland Barthes, Mythologies

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As we slam the mat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that the first Induction Ceremony was held for the WWE Hall of Fame.  The Hall had in fact been created the prior year; it’s inaugural inductee, (the recently-deceased) Andre the Giant.  But that honor had simply been announced during an episode of Monday Night Raw.  The class of 1994 included Arnold Skaaland, Bobo Brazil, Buddy Rogers, Chief Jay Strongbow, Freddie Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon, and James Dudley.

Bobo Brazil (Houston Harris), who is credited with breaking the racial barrier in professional wrestling

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Written by LW

June 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Wrestling is ballet with violence”*…

 

“You call it wrestling, they term it ‘working’ … As Shakespeare once said: ‘A rose by any other name,’ etc.” So Marcus Griffin began his groundbreaking 1937 book on the ins and outs of the pro wrestling business, Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce. It’s a good place to start, because any discussion of the grunt-and-groaners (as Griffin would call them) inevitably involves an examination of the artifice that undergirds the endeavor, and that artifice — be it the antediluvian secret that the whole show is a put-on, or the modern-day pretense that both actors and audience interact as if it’s legitimate — is itself bolstered by an intricate, seemingly inane vocabulary of lingo, idiom, and jargon.

Every subculture has its lingo, but the subbier the culture, the more unintelligible the dialect can be. Couple that with an industry conceived on falsehood and dedicated to keeping the lie alive, and you’ve got a rabbit hole that even the most stalwart of linguists would think twice before exploring. We take a stab at it here. The most obvious of terms, those used in common parlance outside the wrestling world — pin, feud, dud, etc. — are mostly omitted, despite their prevalence inside the biz. Some terms are listed within other definitions for readability’s sake. As with anything of this sort, this list is far from complete — and as with anything so idiomatic, the definitions are frequently debatable. Though some of the terms are obscure, their purpose is larger. The terms obscure the industry’s realities, sure; they function as a secret handshake among those with insider knowledge, obviously; but moreover, they try to describe a unique, oddball enterprise in terms of its own bizarre artistry…

From…

angle (n.) — A story line or plot in the wrestling product, as in, “They’re working a classic underdog angle.” It can be employed in either small-bore usage — i.e., the angle in a match — or in large-scale terms to describe a lengthy story. The term is borrowed from the archaic criminal/carnie phrase “work an angle,” which means figuring out a scam or finding an underhanded way to make a profit.

and…

Andre shot (n.) — A trick by which a camera is positioned beneath a wrestler, looking up, so as to make the wrestler look bigger. Famously used to make the 7-foot-4 Andre the Giant look even bigger than he was.

to…

workrate (n.) — A term for in-ring wrestling quality, used primarily by wrestling journalists to rate the physical and psychological performance of a match. The field of wrestling critique is often associated with journalist Dave Meltzer, who rates matches on a star scale; great matches throughout history are often referred to as “five-star matches” in reference to Meltzer’s rubric.

and…

zabada (n.) — A catch-all term for an arbitrary tool used to fill in a hole in anangle, usually used when the tool is still undefined, as in, “He’ll come out, cut a promo, run-in, zabada, then the finish.”

…it’s all in “Grantland Dictionary: Pro Wrestling Edition,” along with illustrations like the one above (for “chain wrestling”). Check out Grantland‘s other delightful dictionaries here.

* Jesse Ventura

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As we feel the frenzy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1906, in a game against Carroll College, that St. Louis University’s Bradbury “Brad” Robinson hit Jack Schneider with a 20-yard touchdown toss– the first legal forward pass in football.

“E. B. Cochems [the coach at St. Louis University in 1906] is to forward passing what the Wright brothers are to aviation and Thomas Edison is to the electric light.”

– College Football Hall of Fame coach David M. Nelson

1906 St. Louis Post-Dispatch drawing of Brad Robinson’s epic throw

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Written by LW

September 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

Lucha Libre!…

Mike Powell and Juergen Horn are living a peripatetic dream…

We’re lucky enough to have jobs that don’t require a steady address and since we both love traveling, we’ve decided to see the world… slowly. Always being tourists would get lame, but eternal newcomers? We can live with that. So, our plan is to move to an interesting new city, once every three months. About 91 days.

They are currently in La Paz, and are documenting their stay– from the Valley of the Moon to the inmate-run prison, San Pedro—  on their blog, for91days.com.  The highlight of the visit (at least for your correspondent) is their visit to the the local wrestling palace…

We recently attended the famous Lucha Libre at a sports facility in El Alto. Bolivians are wild for wrestling; posters of famous American wrestlers are everywhere, and you can’t go a block in La Paz without seeing seeing it on a curbside television set. Bolivia doesn’t have a professional league on the same level as the USA’s WWE, but El Alto’s Sunday afternoon Lucha Libre makes a solid substitute….

Rayo Azteco, Hombre Lobo, Mr. Atlas and Commando fought and provided plenty of fun, but the show really got going once the cholitas* were introduced. Alicia Flores was the first to enter, dressed in traditional garb, dancing around the ring to the delight of the fans. Her opponent was a guy, her assistant was a midget woman and, once the fight got going, none of them held back. Face-slapping, ball-grabbing, midget-stomping, high-flying action. It was awesome. At one point, after throwing the guy against the ropes, Alicia lifted her skirt in his face, knocking him to the canvas in shock.

The evening’s highlight was the Cholita vs. Cholita main event: Jenifer Two-Face against La Loca. No one has ever so completely owned her nickname as La Loca. This woman was crazy. As soon as the fight started, it got out of control. La Loca threw Jenifer over the barriers, into the foreigners section. Then she hopped over herself, grabbing coke bottles and spraying them over the crowd, howling like a beast. She kept at it, throwing chairs into the crowd and smashing Jenifer’s face into the bleachers just a meter away from us. Jenifer was a game fighter and brought the match back into the ring, but La Loca was just too loca. Soon enough, foreign objects had entered the melee, and the (fake) blood began to fly. With a little help from the evil ref, La Loca eventually pinned her opponent and exited the arena to the boos, whistles and shocked applause of the crowd.

* “Cholita” was coined by colonialist Spaniards as a denigration of the Andean population– in this feminine form, Andean women– but has since been adopted by the very people it was meant to injure.

 

As we practice our pins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Die Hard premiered.  Directed by John McTiernan with the precision of a Hong Kong action film, Die Hard was a huge hit; building on lead Bruce Willis’ wise-cracking TV (Moonlighting) persona, and on the precedent of Mel Gibson’s half of the “buddy duo” in the prior year’s hit, Lethal Weapon, it cemented the place of the funny, flawed hero in Hollywood action pictures.  Die Hard introduced American audiences to Alan Rickman… and, of course, made an A-List star of Bruce Willis.

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