I AM CHIKARA

You love movies.

Now imagine that every movie is a Michael Bay movie. They’re big. They’re dumb. They’re entertaining to the right audience, but they aren’t exactly what one would call art. A hundred movies are released every year and all of them have Shia LaBoof and robot nutz.

Except you’ve stumbled upon some indie films by some guy named Paul Thomas Anderson. Could you convince anyone that film can be an art form? That it can tell a meaningful story? That it can reveal something about the human condition? That it can make you feel something?

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I love professional wrestling. And in several days, I’m taking what amounts to a pro wrestling pilgrimage. I’m going to my first CHIKARA show.

If I needed to prove that professional wrestling can be art, about 85% of my evidence would come from CHIKARA or from WWE guys like Cesaro, Sami Zayn, or Luke Harper who once wrestled in CHIKARA.

Just one year ago, it seemed that CHIKARA had died. Continue reading

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Bioshock Infinite & Video Games as Art

(Ed Note: Spoilers ahead! All of them!)

The floating city of Columbia’s welcome center is perhaps the most beautiful setting in video game history. Sunlight breaks through the stained glass to the floor below. Marble statues tower over you. Beautiful music and the swishing of running water are all you hear. Flowers float past you.

Upon leaving Columbia, you step into the sunlight, greeted by statues of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson. Citizens drenched in red, white, and blue enjoy old-timey carnival games at a fair.

It’s paradise.

Until, of course, you are asked to assault an interracial couple. Then to defend yourself from attacking police officers. Then told you can initiate all sorts of gory executions using your Sky-Hook. Through all the violence and blood, the sun shines on.

Columbia is soon aflame, literally and figuratively, from civil war. As the embers of a burning city swirl around you, you come upon a young woman sitting on a crate amidst the chaos, singing a startlingly beautiful version of Fortunate Son.

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As soon as I set down my controller, eyes still filled with tears, I knew I had to write about Bioshock Infinite. Continue reading

In Defense of Professional Wrestling

I barely remember how I became interested in professional wrestling. I had a few middle school friends who essentially tricked me into watching a couple of pay-per-views. I was an elitist asshole back then too, so I would never have watched “trash” like WWF (as it was known before a World Wildlife Fund lawsuit) of my own volition.

One video game later, WWF No Mercy of course, and I was hooked. I watched religiously until graduation, even listening to Raw on scrambled cable like it was porn (Oddly enough, I never thought of watching actual scrambled porn). I never watched again until CM Punk’s infamous promo last summer caused enough buzz to pull me in once more.

For better or worse, I can’t shut off my brain and just enjoy a thing. I need to know everything. So, in addition to WWE, I began watching Ring of Honor, a company that stresses the “wrestling” above the “entertainment,” Chikara Pro, an American company with high-flying, lucha libre influences, and Dragon Gate USA, a Japanese promotion in the United States influenced by both lucha and pouresu, a Japanese style that uses heavy striking.

After a year and a half, I’m coming out of the wrestling closet. Continue reading

Surrealist Manifesto

During my recent trip to London, I finally came to understand what I enjoy about art. As I mentioned in a previous article, art was not always a part of my life. Heck, I wouldn’t say it’s a large part right now either, despite a newfound appreciation.

Although I won’t be mingling with socialites, sipping wine and nibbling on cheese at the next Walker fundraiser, I do lose myself in surrealist art in a way usually reserved for fire. Just as I could stare into a campfire for hours at a time, I could stand in front of a Salvador Dali or Yves Tanguy all day.

While stroking my beard thoughtfully. My beard is the source of all my intellectual power. Barely kidding.

While stroking my beard thoughtfully. My beard is the source of all my intellectual power. Barely kidding.

Dali and Tanguy are easily my favorite artists. Until London, I never understood why I loved these two and their fellow surrealists while I remained indifferent to nearly all others. Finally, as I stood stroking my beard in front of Tanguy’s Azure Day at the Tate Modern, I understood.

I love surrealism’s contrast. The known and the unknown. The beauty and the brutality. The logical and the impossible, Echoes of both the familiar and the deformed. It simultaneously could be, shouldn’t be, and is. It spurs me to keep looking within each work for an understanding that will never come.

I love the sense of possibility that surrealism’s provides. While the painting ends at its margins, the ideas go on forever. The frame encloses the work, but the mind cannot help but expand beyond its original borders.

Ultimately, this is why I love surrealist art.

Realism shows me one thing. It is what it is. The style and the method and the perspective changes, but mine does not.

Abstract art shows me nothing. It does, of course, try to express something, but I’m not going to do all the work for the artist. Meet me halfway. If your triangular box with a picture of Dave Foley at the center represents the emptiness of love, at least give me a hint.

Surrealism shows me anything. There’s enough there to draw upon what I know, but not enough for me to actually know. That contrast, and the possibility it creates, blows my mind every single time.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be over here with a Mich Golden, gnawing on a hunk of sharp cheddar.

Mmmmmm… sophistication.

/Gratuitous Simpsons Sound Effect

Some of my favorites after the jump. Continue reading

Appreciation

I grew up on a farm in south-central Minnesota as part of a conservative, Roman Catholic family. Due to what I can only assume to be a combination of genetic luck and positive influences at home and school, I became a pretty smart-ish (and handsome and humble!) dude. On the other hand, I was also pretty narrow-minded.

I went to a small school in a small town. It wasn’t really my fault, but I had no understanding of the world beyond the City of New Ulm. My family never went on vacation. My world ended at Duluth to the north, Sioux Falls to the west, Clear Lake, Iowa to the south, and the lakes of northern Wisconsin to the east. Later, I attended St. John’s University, another small school in another small town.

My horizons were so close I could reach out and touch them. I was smart, but I was ignorant. Three people changed that. This is my appreciation. Continue reading