In a tradition laid down only a few months ago, I thought it adequate use of my quiet afternoon to sort my second lot of wrestlers into a pack of trading cards. A rather different style, this time, as I feel this bunch is generally edgier than the last – this has allowed me to go rather Photoshop happy with gradients. There’s no wildcard this time, sadly, but the much sought after ‘supercard’ has made a return visit!
Whether any more will come in the future, I’m not sure. They’ve again been great fun. Throughout these series I’ve been progressively ticking off a list of potential candidates, and many are left waiting. I do have some other ideas in terms of execution, too – we’ll have to see if they pan out!
For now though, what better way to round off the year than with a class photo?
They may look a troupe of burly, unforgiving chaps, but they ask me to wish you a very peaceful and prosperous 2017. Indeed, I’d like to say the same; enjoy yourself this evening if you’re up to mischief, and I hope next year brings you all that you want from it.
Oh, and speaking of traditions… though I’m not sure the Countdown clock takes into account this ‘leap second’ business – hat tip to JP and Guido, there – so you’ll have to bear that in mind!
The annual Christmas weariness is well and truly here; stuck in that seemingly unending in-between stretch before we’re all forced to be jolly once more. Yay! Perhaps as a means of killing time, nostalgia is rife at this time of year. Last year, I ended up revisiting Doom – as indeed I have this year, too! – this year, in my lethargy I found myself drawing a windmill; a good old two-dimensional drawing of the thing, rather than a model, for the first time in quite a while – a miniature throwback of its own. It was a relative quickie, coming in at just over an hour, but it was nice to be ‘sucked in’ and rescued from my wandering – I suppose I ought to have known by now, I can always turn to a windmill!
The mill you see is Swim Coots Mill, a drainage mill that also ground animal feed. Situated in the village of Catfield just beside Hickling Broad, and indeed owned by a family who ran several mills in Hickling, it was built in the early nineteenth century and makes for a charming little structure, with its tiddly sails atop a tower with a very pronounced batter. The mill worked until the mid-twentieth century, when, like many of its colleagues, it was obsoleted by electric and oil pumps; the tower still stands, but is today capped by a rather unsightly tin helmet.
What intrigues me the most is the chap in the reference (there were others, but in my haste they turned out really quite badly, so I removed them). Who is he? The miller? Me in a past life? Both…?
Finally…The Rock has come back….. to Jaywalks! Cue the cheap pop! And so it is that The Rock marks the final chapter in this series of superstars, last but not by any means least.
As a young man, Dwayne Johnson always hoped to make it big in football, playing for both Miami Hurricanes and Calgary Stampeders. However, in the mid-nineties a combination of injuries and cuts left him in a deep depression, to the extent that, when called back, he declined and instead looked to a new path in professional wrestling. This didn’t come on a whim; wrestling reached far in the family. His father was wrestling star of the seventies and eighties Rocky Johnson, and his grandfather ‘High Chief’ Peter Maivia. Several of his uncles and cousins are noted performers past and present.
The first third-generation performer to wrestle in WWF, his lineage was blended to give the name ‘Rocky Maivia’ and he made his debut in the summer of 1996, pitted against legendary Brooklyn Brawler in a series of trial matches. Johnson was so strapped for cash that he had to borrow an uncle’s trunks. Epitomising the clean-cut, smiling blue-chipper, his impact on fans was modest, to put it lightly. It wasn’t really until a year or so later, when he became part of the Nation of Domination, that audiences really felt the extent of Maivia’s prowess. Ditching the bright blue gear and going by the far harder moniker of The Rock, his sassy insults and entertaining mic work saw him propelled to leader of the stable, and subsequently Intercontinental Champion throughout 1998, giving fans all the more fuel to shout, “Rocky Sucks!”. Some hard-fought rivalries with crazy Ken Shamrock, and later Triple H, put on impressive shows and made promising signs of things to come. His SummerSlam ’98 ladder match with HHH stands out as one of my favourites of all, and indeed the first ever wrestling figures I bought were commemorative of this contest.
The sheer entertainment value of Rocky’s turns, however, would win fans over, and soon he was being cheered even as a villain. He’d be World Champion before 1998 came to a close, and later his escalating popularity was fully embraced with a turn to good guy, hailing himself ‘The People’s Champion’, and ‘The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment’. It’s hard to disagree; The Rock had already become one of wrestling’s most influential draws, and soon ended up appearing on all manner of TV shows across the world. People just seemed to love him. Shows and video games were being branded on the strength of his slogans and catchphrases.
After spending much of late 1999 battling The British Bulldog and then forming an inspired tag team with Mankind as Rock ‘N’ Sock Connection, 2000 would consist largely of trading the World title with Triple H. The two collided month after month, but it was ultimately young Olympian Kurt Angle to whom Rocky would drop the belt. He’d regain it in February of 2001, only to drop it to Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XVII, with Austin turning heel in a moment many claim to be the death of the golden ‘Attitude Era’. Rock disappeared for several months to film his first movie, The Scorpion King. Acquiring a taste for the silver screen, this was the story of The Rock for the next couple of years, really; return for a few months, lose the title and then disappear to make another movie. Fans started to resent this, and by late 2002, chants of “Rocky Sucks” could be heard for the first time in years.
Returning the next year, The Rock became ‘Hollywood Rock’ – essentially capitalising on the prior reactions of the crowd, branding WWE a stepping stone and no longer a priority. Though the stint was brief, it was some of Johnson’s best work. After beating Hulk Hogan (for the second time) and Steve Austin at consecutive pay-per-views, he came unstuck against Goldberg and then vanished again – this time, actually leaving WWE to become a film star. He made one more special appearance at 2004 for the twentieth WrestleMania, but wouldn’t wrestle again until 2011, where he appeared to make a fairly substantial return and continues to drop in to this day.
A recent article identified Johnson as the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, earning $64.5million in a year, so it seems he’s certainly found a way to transfer his in-ring skills with great effect. He comes across as a very humble and charitable person, both in and out of the ring; he always seemed quite happy to go out there with a young star and make them look good, for the benefit of business. And of course he was hugely entertaining… if you smell what The Rock is cookin’!
What better way of spending Christmas Eve than at a concert – a Rock concert, no less? In the pomp of his ‘Hollywood’ run, we were gifted a performance from the man himself. It is pitch-perfect. Rarely have I heard such heat from a WWE crowd.
It’s only a week until Father Christmas comes! Is there any better time to experiment?
In perhaps the height of my festivity so far this year, I got hold of a free snow plugin for Cinema 4D, MagicSnow. On being pleasantly surprised at its ease of configuration, I got bullish and went about subjecting dear Mill Cottage to a generous helping of white stuff.
It soon became clear that it was not designed for use on such impossibly complex/poorly-constructed models, and indeed so much snow had fallen that my computer froze for about fifteen minutes. Undeterred, I repeated the process of snowfall but with the various elements – floor, trees, house etc. – in separate files and then brought them together in the ensemble you see. Some parts are questionable, but in general it seems the plugin works really well and definitely warrants further experimentation. Hopefully, before next year!
In a fit of unforgivable laziness, I decided not to cast my own snowman but ship one in. The snowman model you see is available here.
How I love the snow – it’s been so long since we’ve had any. Could we have just a little bit this year, do you think? It’s not too much to ask, shirley?
There have been some interesting performers stepping through the ropes over the years, many of whom have cropped up in this series. Goldust has to be tangling with the best of them. Cryptic, twisted and spooky, every outing with Goldust promised something different.
In a mode that seems at odds with the eighties hangover that was the WWF of 1995, this Oscar-esque figure would take down foes not just inside the ring, but out of the ring also. Sneak attacks, secret messages and stalking were all textbook Goldust, but an apparent favourite was to mess with his opponent’s head via flirting. With their guard down, Goldust would pounce and, unleashing his enviable ring skills, seize victory.
Meddling with minds from the get-go, Goldust notched up victory after victory before coming unstuck (and undressed, for reasons I’m glad I can’t recall) against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania XII. Around this time, a smoking valet by the name of Marlena, she too dressed entirely in gold, had begun accompanying him to the ring. To complete the gimmick, she would not stand at ringside but sit in a specially commissioned director’s chair, smoking a golden cigar.
When the pair went their separate ways in late 1997, a new look was called for: enter The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust. Over this brief but colourful period, he would appear not in his trademark golden jumpsuits but in attire to mimic rival grapplers and various celebrities – we were gifted appearances from Chynadust, Hunterdust and MarilynMansondust, among many, many more. After a subsequent run under his real name of Dustin Rhodes, Goldust was revived in 1998.
Rhodes left the WWF in 1999 after a string of brisk and uninspiring storylines. All revolved around Goldust lusting after [wrestler]’s female valet, and him coming up short before moving on. It’s curious, with the WWF at the time really pushing the envelope as they were at that point, that Goldust, a character with perhaps the biggest scope for craziness in both deranged and comedic modes, wasn’t pushed and didn’t seem to much benefit. If there were any big plans for Goldust, as was continually rumoured, they simply didn’t materialise. It was almost as if he was lost in the mix, which seems a crazier prospect than anything the character ever did!
Goldust came and went several times throughout the 2000s, most notably for me providing comedy gold a-plenty as a tag team with Booker T in 2002-3. A decade later, he seems to have settled into the WWE full-time, still running with the gimmick and recently tagging with younger brother Cody Rhodes, who even adopted the name Stardust for the union.
Goldust is quite a ridiculous character. I understand the character was quite heavily ridiculed in its infancy, which in the context of the wrestling ring must take quite some doing. But I expect those critics are silenced somewhat by the sheer fact that, more than twenty years after his debut, Goldust is still going strong and continues to evolve. In fact, many of the comments I’ve read in research claim that Rhodes is putting on some of his strongest showings today, at nearing fifty years of age. It’s all testament to the man beneath the gold and his dedication to the performance, for there are generations of wrestling fans who will never forget the name, Goldust.
Slithering into the spotlight next, we have Jake Roberts. With his long, lean physique and intimidating presence, very early on in his career, he’d earned himself a nickname, ‘The Snake’. Upon 1985 and his arrival in the WWF, it seemed only right for Roberts to further embrace the moniker and actually come to the ring with a snake, Damien. It certainly made for one of the more iconic images of the period.
The intimidation and menace of this enigma came to the fore immediately, with devious Roberts dominating opposition before unleashing Damien on their fallen prey. Watching Damien wrap himself around these men – who would then apparently convulse and foam at the mouth – makes for unsettling viewing, particularly harrowing in the context of eighties WWF, and is probably part of the reason I still won’t go near a snake. But it worked; Damien gave Jake an edge that literally nobody else had, and his notoriety skyrocketed for his slithery companion.
He wasn’t just intense in the ring, either. Jake Roberts was one of the most skilled talkers wrestling has ever seen. Locked onto camera with an ice-cold stare, he wouldn’t have to raise his voice or spout catchphrases, instead just speaking in a chilling quiet tone. To capitalise on his charisma, he was even given his own talk show-style segment, The Snake Pit, which was used for him to develop his own plots as well as storylines of other superstars.
Jake Roberts proved so engaging that he became a good guy after a couple of years, and it says much of just how popular he was in that he didn’t really change his character that much at all. He was still devious, still all about mind games, and still employing the assistance of Damien as an illegal equaliser. Most notable of his rivalries in this period was probably “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and André the Giant, who, it turned out, was absolutely terrified of snakes and, in another tasteful plot line, suffered a heart attack when Damien got too close. In their clashes throughout 1988 and 89, it was certainly different to see André exhibiting vulnerabilities in such a way; Jake was perhaps the only person beside Hulk Hogan who you felt could get past The Giant.
Though it seemed he could do no wrong, he did go a step too far when, in 1991, he sent the ‘newly-engaged’ Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth a box full of cobras, and later had Savage bitten by another serpent when tied up in the ring ropes. He formed a delightfully dark partnership with The Undertaker, but even the gruesome ‘Taker showed heart and refused to go after Elizabeth, as Roberts had ordered. When The Snake lost to Undertaker at WrestleMania VIII in 1992, he vanished from the company, apparently to take care of personal problems.
Behind the monumental in-ring success, dependence on drugs and alcohol had dogged much of Roberts’ career. There was a return to WWF four years later, which gave fans promise, but it was clear he wasn’t in a great place, mentally or physically, and this ultimately lead to a brisk dismissal. With the reputation of being unreliable, no big promotion would sign him up, so Roberts travelled the world, picking up work wherever he could. But perseverance won the day, and a few years ago enlisted the help of fellow wrestler and friend, Diamond Dallas Page. With DDP’s assistance, Jake was able to not only get back in shape but also kick the habits, and I understand now lives a healthy life. He has since been inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame and made several appearances on their programming.
Having been out of the loop for so long, it’s great to read this about Jake. All too often, we who grew up watching these performers have to deal with terribly sad realities – it’s nice to be uplifted once in a while. Furthermore, it’s great that WWE are now rewarding him with greater recognition, exposing his excellence to young fans of today, because he really was a massive part of what many call a golden era. One of those so superbly entertaining that they didn’t ever need a championship for artificial elevation. Just Jake and Damien will do.
I don’t normally post works in progress, but this is rather a large work, and so the progression might warrant a change to the usual. After much needless hesitation, I have finally set about recreating the glorious Futuristic Zone of The Crystal Maze in 3D… the proper, crankyFuturistic of the nineties, that is, not the boring white void that is the new Experience’s blueprint. Behold, for what we are looking at is an abandoned space station of the 23rd century…
It made sense to start at the space station’s ‘entrance’ and work from there. You see, it wasn’t just a case of picking where to start and mopping up crystals from there – the teams first had to enter the Maze by passing an obstacle outside their first zone. With Aztec sending people overboard boats, and Medieval putting them gingerly over a rickety portcullis, Futuristic’s ‘answer a Key Stage 2 Science question to unlock the door’ always felt a bit underwhelming, but it did at least allow for a bit of throwaway banter between the host and star of the Futuristic zone, the keeper of knowledge and guard of gateways, The Computer.
An intriguing but outrageous mish-mash of goodness knows how many appliances and cables all welded together, this omniscient contraption certainly was the most time-consuming part of this exercise. I completely under-estimated just how long it would take! It started to deviate from the real deal a little toward the end, but I don’t think that’s too bad a crime – its essence is there. It was freeing to just throw pieces together, it prevented the process from ever becoming a frustration. It was very therapeutic, actually. There’s more to come of this ilk throughout the zone, so I look forward to doing it again!
I’m already spotting important little bits I’ve missed, so there are a few things that need doing before I can move into the zone itself. Three days in, though, this has been a hoot so far – I only hope my own computer, not nearly so powerful as Futuristic’s behemoth, will play ball with enough generosity for me to complete the zone!
I’m almost finished, look!
More to come in the future, hopefully! This looks to have all the makings of a nice long-term project; I shan’t bore you with minutiae, but will endeavour to log major developments here. For those deprived souls who know not of the Futuristic Zone or even The Crystal Maze altogether, the clip below should give you an idea of what the heck I’ve just been waffling about, and a look into some wonderful set design.
Yes, it’s that time of year again. The C word. I can’t believe it, does it seem five minutes since the last…?
It probably feels that way because, while Christmas is a wonderfully static holiday, Chri$tmas starts flinging itself at you earlier every year. I try to remain blind to it until December. Even as a child, the festivity only truly struck once school was done with, the tree had gone up – normally about a week before the big day – and the lights started blinking. As such, it’s that cosy window where it strikes me as an adult.
It was always great to decorate the family tree, for the box of ornaments is more a time machine than anything else. Faded and jaded Santas of decades ago sit alongside shinier, younger but less charming counterparts. Little knitted stockings for my four siblings and I, courtesy of our grandmother and dating back to our first Christmases. Snazzy glitterball baubles emblematic of the millennium excitement. It certainly takes you back, ongoing though it is, the story furthered each year before its return to hibernation.
On these musings and it now being December, I set about putting up a Christmas tree. In Cinema 4D, of course! I’d been wanting to meddle with trees for a little while actually, so this seemed potentially useful in virtue of finally sorting out my troublesome Norfolk landscape scenery, so I can stop whingeing about it!
I can’t claim to have built the (evidently artificial!) tree from scratch. That is largely the handiwork of the MagicXTree plugin – very handy indeed, and far gentler on my machine than C4D’s Hair renderer utilized by their preset trees. There are lots of configurations for this regarding branches and leaves – density, length and so on – so it’s possible to generate quite a variety of Christmas trees.
Baubles were relatively simple, mostly a fun texturing challenge. The lights are locked to a spline, meaning that it can follow any route you want. Fun for decorating trees, or creating seasonably flashy messages:
Great fun, but it’ll still be a while before I’ve erected the real deal. Perhaps, in 2017 and beyond, I’ll return to this with similar reflection to the actual Christmas tree – hopefully I’ll be able to build a snazzier one by then!
Whatever your stance, I hope you enjoy the season!