My Year in Hobbies 2019: July!

July 2019:

July 2019 can be summed up in two images…

An animated GIF of actor Joe Keery, a young man with white skin and brown hair, portraying character Steve Harrington from the television series "Stranger Things", in his red, white and blue Scoops Ahoy sailor-ish work uniform, saying "Ahoy" on a loop, with the word "Ahoy" written below him in white lettering.
An animated GIF of actor Joe Keery, a young man with white skin and brown hair, portraying character Steve Harrington from the television series “Stranger Things”, in his red, white and blue Scoops Ahoy sailor-ish work uniform, saying “Ahoy” on a loop, with the word “Ahoy” written below him in white lettering.
Logo for New Japan Pro-Wrestling's G1 Climax 29 wrestling tournament, sponsored by Heiwa, whose logo floats above the G1 Climax 29 logo. G1 Climax 29 logo is grey stone texture, black and white lettering, and gold trim, with a gold starburst in the center, and New Japan's logo (small) at the top of the G1 Climax 29 logo.
Logo for New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s G1 Climax 29 wrestling tournament, sponsored by Heiwa, whose logo floats above the G1 Climax 29 logo. G1 Climax 29 logo is grey stone texture, black and white lettering, and gold trim, with a gold starburst in the center, and New Japan’s logo (small) at the top of the G1 Climax 29 logo.

We’ll get back to Mr. Harrington in a bit.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling?

Professional wrestling?

OK, a detour that has little to do with 2019, but everything to do with why I used a lot of my time the way I did in 2019.

I’ve watched on and off since I was 10 years old, when Cyndi Lauper was a gateway drug to it pre-Wrestlemania I, though there’s been a lot of “off”. My mom took me to a closed-circuit live screening of Wrestlemania II at Convention Hall in Asbury Park (Thanks, mom!), I got a bunch of action figures (Really wish I still had all of the Remco AWA figures I had initially, and the wrestling ring, rather than just some and no ring), I read a bunch of the Apter mags, and I ended up watching, through the magic of cable competition, wrestling from WWF, pre-WCW Jim Crockett Promotions (when they were calling it the National Wrestling Alliance, before Eazy-E and crew made those initials stand for something else), AWA, World Class Championship Wrestling, and even Championship Wrestling from Florida when my local cable access station picked it up for a bit (though I did not get to see the Bruiser Brody/Lex Luger cage match until many years later).

I’m not sure why I stopped watching initially, in ’87, not too long after Wrestlemania III, but it may have been a combo of my inability to afford pay-per-views, and my annoyance as still-basically-a-kid at the Andre/DiBiase/Hebner brothers screwjob on Hogan, not even so much because I was a huge Hogan fan, more that screwjob endings never made anyone happy except a promoter.

A video game (WCW/nWo World Tour for Nintendo 64) got me back into it in late ’97, and had me watching and caring about WCW, WWF (eventually WWE), the little bit of ECW I was able to see, a tiny bit of Impact (which used to be TNA back then), and here and there, thanks to the Internet and weird grey-at-best-market sources, I saw some stuff from Japan for the first time during this stretch, which included me being blown away by the Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid series from ’82-’83, and having my idea of what pro wrestling should look like changed forever. I made it to a few live wrestling cards around this time, all independent promotions, but saw people like Gangrel, Steve Corino, and Christopher Daniels when they were still relatively new to the sport (and yes, it is definitely a sport, even if success isn’t quite measured in conventional wins and losses), and hadn’t gotten much, if any national attention yet. (Daniels was already being acknowledged as probably the best independent wrestler in the world when I saw him in ’02, but was still relatively new. He’s still working 17 years later in AEW.)

What got me to tune out again? In a name, Randy Orton. I REALLY didn’t like Randy Orton, and, as he was being pushed to the moon by Vince McMahon on some of the only viable television left after Vince bought WCW and ECW, he pretty much single-handedly caused me to lose interest for many years.

What got me to tune back in? Sort of unfortunately, it was a Vince McMahon product (albeit one run by his son-in-law), NXT. I’d first heard from a friend that the stuff happening in NXT was actually very good, and I was told about a woman wrestling there called Blue Pants, which I of course thought was a great name, and then I saw her and saw that she could actually really work, as could whoever I saw her wrestle against (this was at least 4 years ago now, probably closer to 5, and it’s been kind of hectic in my life lately, so while I wish I remember which one of Leva’s matches I saw and who her opponent was, I don’t). Not too long after that, I heard something, probably on Deadspin, about a Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn match (NXT Takeover Dallas 01/04/16, just under 4 years ago) that was off the charts, and I did, in fact, enjoy the hell out of it when I saw it.

That sort of opened the door, but then, about a year later, the door got blown the hell open a year later when I saw Kazuchika Okada fight Kenny Omega for the first time. And the second. And then the third. And finally, the fourth. At that point, I knew that the best wrestling in the world was in Japan, but it was just starting to try to inch its way across the ocean, and I had a bunch of other stuff going on, so I didn’t get to it right away.

In the meantime, I dealt with as much WWE as I could until the WWE in Saudi Arabia deal happened and made it completely unpalatable to do any kind of business with the McMahons once and for all (it was always bad, but that was next-level disgusting), and also found out about a bunch of different indie wrestlers who were doing great work and entertaining people a bunch like Keith Lee (now with WWE, alas), Marko Stunt and Orange Cassidy, so they kept me busy until I could clear time on the schedule. It took me until this July, after a bunch of urging from a friend because the G1 Climax was about to start, to order NJPW World, New Japan’s streaming service.

So, that brings us here. What is the G1 Climax? It is a month long pro wrestling tournament in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, where (at present) 20 of the world’s best wrestlers fight each other to see who the best one is. If that doesn’t set you on fire, or you don’t quite grasp the drama of all of that from 1 sentence, you can watch these English-language instructional videos on it, hosted by Kevin Kelly (at present, he’s the best play-by-play guy in wrestling), which go over the history (and pre-history) of the tournament!

And, as 54 hours of pro wrestling is a LOT to catch up on, if you’d like to be brought up to speed on how things went in this year’s G1 Climax (or “G1 Climax…TWENTY-NINE!”, as their lead announcer, Baron Yamazaki, so dramatically enunciated it this year), the video below is an hour-long recap of the tournament, complete with English subtitles.

G1 Climax 29 is widely considered to be the best edition of the tournament in history, even without Kenny Omega participating (he left to help form AEW in January), and watching it live at odd hours of the morning (as it was held near-entirely in Japan, and there’s some time zone differences there) was one of the most rewarding experiences of not just my time watching wrestling or sports in general, but my time watching television. It was incredible, and everything that’s followed since has been incredible.

Television seasons binge-watched in July 2019 (1): Stranger Things Season 3 (Oh, and Stranger Things was pretty good, too. Nah, it was my second favorite season so far, the “Hero’s Journey” of Steve Harrington is amazing, and then there’s that bit with the song toward the end…)

Comic books cancelled or ending in July 2019 (2): Assassination Nation (Image Comics) and Shuri (Marvel Comics). Assassination Nation was, I believe, Erica Henderson’s first book post-The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and while it was decidedly NOT as all-ages as Squirrel Girl, it was a lot of fun. I thought it was supposed to be an ongoing series, and that might’ve been the plan initially, but they dialed it back to one story arc. Shuri was also a lot of fun (I especially enjoyed the amount of shade thrown between characters), and Nnedi Okorafor is a writer to watch, both in comics and sci-fi/fantasy novels, if those are your thing. (My spouse has been reading Nnedi’s books for a while, and loves them.)

My Year in Hobbies 2019: June!

June 2019:

On the same day I had a few of these finds, at the same flea market, I got a Wii in decent shape, finally. Not bad for one flea market! Unfortunately, I really haven’t used it much. Wii games require space, and our living room isn’t set up for it yet. Happily accepting recommendations of sleeper Wii and GameCube games (yes, I know about Mario Kart/Smash Bros. etc., so tell me about the stuff I don’t know about) to get me moving on this.

A large group of Mego-scale action figures, too many to list in a polite image caption, are pictured.
A large group of Mego-scale action figures, too many to list in a polite image caption, are pictured.

Barring a Mego-scale skeleton that I’d get later in the year, I got the last of the Mego-scale figures that I got for the year in June, too. First, I got The Creeper (yep, right in front; I waited 40 years for that figure to exist…). Then, I added Uhura, Freddy Krueger, Bruce Lee, The Invisible Man, and Count Orlok from Nosferatu to this party…

Mego Glow In The Dark Frankenstein action figure in original packaging. Action figure of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein's Monster (a white skinned humanoid with black hair, in a black suit and grey shirt) in shackles, in bubble on red card with painted Frankenstein image.
Mego Glow In The Dark Frankenstein action figure in original packaging. Action figure of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s Monster (a white skinned humanoid with black hair, in a black suit and grey shirt) in shackles, in bubble on red card with painted Frankenstein image.

…and decided to keep glow-in-the-dark Frank on his packaging, because I had regular Frank at the party already, and because the packaging for this is great.

A red bin filled with hundreds of Heroclix super-hero game figurines.
A red bin filled with hundreds of Heroclix super-hero game figurines.

Does anyone need any Heroclix? No, really, I’m serious. Get ahold of me if you’re interested.

A close-up picture of a decaying Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist dummy's head. White skin, orange hair, brown eyes and eyebrows, red lips, white dots for teeth, red bowtie with white polka dots, brown jacket collar. Paint visibly chipped throughout the face, especially on the jaw.
A close-up picture of a decaying Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist dummy’s head. White skin, orange hair, brown eyes and eyebrows, red lips, white dots for teeth, red bowtie with white polka dots, brown jacket collar. Paint visibly chipped throughout the face, especially on the jaw.

Another Jerry Mahoney turned up at the flea market, this one far more cursed than the last.

Picture of seven 1952 Topps baseball cards, all featuring men with white skin and brown hair in baseball uniforms, on a black table. Top row: Bobby Hogue (Yankees), Ferris Fain (Athletics), Solly Hemus (Cardinals), Paul LaPalme (Pirates), pictured as painted portraits against various backgrounds. Bottom row: Johnny Wyrostek (Reds) swinging a baseball bat, 3/4 full body shot), Hank Edwards (Reds), and Eddie Kazak (Cardinals), the last two being portrait shots against various backgrounds.
Picture of seven 1952 Topps baseball cards, all featuring men with white skin and brown hair in baseball uniforms, on a black table. Top row: Bobby Hogue (Yankees), Ferris Fain (Athletics), Solly Hemus (Cardinals), Paul LaPalme (Pirates), pictured as painted portraits against various backgrounds. Bottom row: Johnny Wyrostek (Reds) swinging a baseball bat, 3/4 full body shot), Hank Edwards (Reds), and Eddie Kazak (Cardinals), the last two being portrait shots against various backgrounds.

These turned up the same day, though, so I can’t complain.

Television seasons binge-watched in June 2019 (1): Jessica Jones Season 3 (liked it better than season 2, but the series is…complicated…the whole way through)

First-run movies watched in June 2019 (1): Deadwood: The Movie (LOVED it. Really nice and finally a proper send-off to the series, if it is indeed a send-off.)

My Year in Hobbies 2019: May!

I didn’t forget y’all! Just had some other business to tend to.

May 2019:

Visited NJ in May, hit my old local, and got a little closer to finishing ’72 Topps.

Two 1972 Topps baseball cards, one of Johnny Bench In Action (a white man wearing a grey uniform and red catching gear trying to catch a baseball with another player in the background, framed by red, yellow, and white borders), and one of Ted Williams (a white man in a red baseball cap, a blue wind breaker jacket and a white shirt, with his name written below him and "RANGERS" written about him, bordered by a yellow frame and a white outer border).
Two 1972 Topps baseball cards, one of Johnny Bench In Action (a white man wearing a grey uniform and red catching gear trying to catch a baseball with another player in the background, framed by red, yellow, and white borders), and one of Ted Williams (a white man in a red baseball cap, a blue wind breaker jacket and a white shirt, with his name written below him and “RANGERS” written about him, bordered by a yellow frame and a white outer border).

Added to my DC Direct collection a fair deal this month.

A picture of approximately 25-30 action figures of DC Comics super-hero characters.
A picture of approximately 25-30 action figures of DC Comics super-hero characters, mostly by DC Direct, with some DC . Visible in picture: Batwoman II, Vigilante II, Batwoman I, Batgirl II, The Question I, Black Manta, Batgirl I, Hawkwoman, Blue Beetle, The Phantom Stranger, Bat-Mite, Ace the Bat-Hound, Eclipso, Killer Moth I, Captain Marvel (Fawcett Comics), Catwoman, Catwoman’s black cat, Changeling, Adam Strange, Red Tornado, Hawkman II, IB’Wana Beast, Metamorpho, Changeling (in green monkey form), Kid Flash (Kingdom Come), Hourman I, Wildcat I, Atom I (second costume), Robin (Carrie Kelly), Atom I (first costume).

Oh, and I made it to the top 500 in May.

A screenshot of multiplayer wins statistics from MobilityWare Solitaire for iOS, showing that the author is in 500th place overall.
A screenshot of multiplayer wins statistics from MobilityWare Solitaire for iOS, showing that the author is in 500th place overall.

June soon, as May was quiet.

The Last Card of 2019, and the First Card of 2020!

Hopefully, this ends up summing up the transition between years pretty well…

Here’s how 2019 ended, the last card I pulled from a box I got from Marc at Remember The Astrodome right at the end of the year…the rest of the really generous trade was MUCH more exciting (Thanks again, Marc!), and I’ll very likely circle back to some of it soon, but sets gotta get finished, even goofy ol’ 1989 Bowman (I never seem to find those $5 factory sets when I have money to burn on 1989 Bowman), and sometimes, you just gotta take your Wally Joyners where you can get ’em. He was the last face that emerged from the box, so he gets the honors for 2019.

1989 Bowman baseball card of Wally Joyner.
A 1989 Bowman baseball card of Wally Joyner. Against the backdrop of a blue sky, Angels 1st baseman Wally Joyner (center), a smiling man with white skin and brown hair in a blue, red, white and grey baseball uniform, swings a barely-visible baseball bat behind his back. A fascimile autograph of Wally Joyner’s appears across the bottom third of the card. The card has a white outer border, a red inner border, and a Bowman logo that resembles a baseball field (green field, brown outfield warning track) with a red B in the middle of it, with “Bowman” written in black letters around the edge of the outfield.

As the year began, I got another really awesome box of cards from Kerry at Cards on Cards, and this was the top card in the package, when I opened it.

A 2019 Panini Rookies baseball card of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr..
A 2019 Panini Rookies baseball card of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.. Against a leathery textured brown, denim blue and beige background, Blue Jays 3rd baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (center), a man with black skin and blonde dreadlocks, wearing a blue and grey uniform, swings a beige baseball bat.

Kerry got me pretty covered on ’19 Vlad Juniors and a bunch of other stuff, so thanks again, Kerry!

My Year in Hobbies 2019: April!

April 2019:

Screenshot of someone getting the "To Live Forever" Trophy in the video game No Man's Sky. A faint, greyish-green sunburst in the center of a black screen, with the "Trophy earned!" Playstation Network icon at top left.
Screenshot of someone getting the “To Live Forever” Trophy in the video game No Man’s Sky. A faint, greyish-green sunburst in the center of a black screen, with the “Trophy earned!” Playstation Network icon at top left.

As I mentioned, I did hit 100% on No Man’s Sky’s trophy achievements in April. I had a lot of help on the “Reach the center of the universe in Permadeath mode” part. I found someone who had been alive in that instance for over 2 years, and had a base built 1 warp from the center of the universe, and they sent me an invite to their game after friending me. Before that, I had probably invested over 100 hours in my various attempts (though I’d probably be able to do it again, and more efficiently, if I tried now), and got close a few times.

Interior screenshot of Second Life nightclub Heck. A human with white skin and black hair, in black clothing (front and center), is seen at a DJ booth from behind. The building has black walls, accented by purple furnishings and green arrows that function as the club's teleport buttons. Photographs hang on the left and right hand wall. A tip jar sits on the stage to the left of the DJ booth.
Interior screenshot of Second Life nightclub Heck. A human with white skin and black hair, in black clothing (front and center), is seen at a DJ booth from behind. The building has black walls, accented by purple furnishings and green arrows that function as the club’s teleport buttons. Photographs hang on the left and right hand wall. A tip jar sits on the stage to the left of the DJ booth.

I returned to Second Life after a fairly extended hiatus in April, wrote about it in May, and events, if sporadic, continued at my club there, Heck, throughout the year, and will continue in 2020. I’ve also been DJing periodically at Vegetal Planet and The Velvet, and DJed at SL16B, Second Life’s 16th birthday party, on June 25th.

A Marvel Legends Black Knight action figure stands on a wooden window sill, with green foliage in a window behind it. Human figure in a blue tunic with a red insignia and red trim, blue, gold and grey armor, a brown utility belt, and blue boots and gloves, holding a large black sword with a gold hilt.
A Marvel Legends Black Knight action figure (a human figure with white skin in a blue tunic with a red insignia and red trim, blue, gold and grey armor, a brown utility belt, and blue boots and gloves, holding a large black sword with a gold hilt) stands on a wooden window sill, with green foliage in a window behind it.

I don’t buy a lot of Marvel Legends, but I couldn’t pass on The Black Knight.

An empty glass display case, center of picture, rests up against maroon walls, with some white boxes on a black shelf to its left.
An empty glass display case, center of picture, rests up against maroon walls, with some white boxes on a black shelf to its left.

Picked up an IKEA DETOLF display case for a corner of what we call “the study” in my house. Fit perfectly, and helps me display some more things like this…

Various toys and sculptures sit on a shelf: Ideal's KRUSHER doll, a green monster with orange trim; ROM The Spaceknight, a grey robot with red trim; Hugo, the Man of a Thousand Faces, a bald puppet with white skin wearing a blue denim shirt; a statue of a vampire version of comic book character The Joker; a green, pink and white ceramic statue of a sad looking dog with large green and black eyes; A green duck wearing a pink cowboy hat, being ridden by a pink cowboy.
Various toys and sculptures sit on a shelf: Ideal’s KRUSHER doll, a green monster with orange trim; ROM The Spaceknight, a grey robot with red trim; Hugo, the Man of a Thousand Faces, a bald puppet with white skin wearing a blue denim shirt; a statue of a vampire version of comic book character The Joker; a green, pink and white ceramic statue of a sad looking dog with large green and black eyes; A green duck wearing a pink cowboy hat, being ridden by a pink cowboy.

From left to right, bottom row: ceramic dog bank that’s been photographed and used as Heck’s mascot since it opened; Zimot Industries cowboy riding a duck sculpture.

From left to right, top row: Krusher The Gruesome Growing Reptile; ROM The Spaceknight; Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces; Joker vampire sculpture by Eli Livingston.

Not a bad first shelf.

An overhead shot of the basketball courts of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. approximately 15 people play basketball near a number of basketball hoops, in a circular basketball gym with pictures of famous basketball players off in the distance.
An overhead shot of the basketball courts of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. approximately 15 people play basketball near a number of basketball hoops, in a circular basketball gym with pictures of famous basketball players off in the distance.

Finally made it to the Basketball Hall of Fame with some visiting friends in April. The museum was mid-renovation, which I didn’t know at the time, and it seemed like a significant section was closed off, but we still had fun…

The Michael Jordan display case in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. A Chicago Bulls #23 jersey, white with red trim, once worn by Michael Jordan, a red and white Nike Air Jordan sneaker, and several inscribed basketballs are visible in the case in this picture.
The Michael Jordan display case in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. A Chicago Bulls #23 jersey, white with red trim, once worn by Michael Jordan, a red and white Nike Air Jordan sneaker, and several inscribed basketballs are visible in the case in this picture.

…and I got to see some other old friends.

The Julius Erving display case at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. A University of Massachusetts maroon and white basketball jersey, an inscribed red, white and blue basketball, and a white Converse basketball sneaker with red trim are visible in the case, along with a placard that is not legible.
The Julius Erving display case at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. A University of Massachusetts maroon and white basketball jersey, an inscribed red, white and blue basketball, and a white Converse basketball sneaker with red trim are visible in the case, along with a placard that is not legible.

First-run movies watched in April 2019 (1): Avengers: Endgame (I have really mixed feelings about the story directions and deviations of course they chose for various characters, to put it mildly, but I still think it’s amazing to see live action, George Perez-level super-hero crossover events done well. (I haven’t watched the Berlanti-verse Crisis On Infinite Earths yet, so I can’t speak from a position of authority on that one, but obviously the budgets are very different there.)

Comic books cancelled or ending in April 2019 (1): West Coast Avengers (Marvel Comics). This was another great series that I really wish more people had picked up on. Lots of fun, a great new take on a few older concepts, and I wish it had more time. Jeff the Shark forever!