Media Update 9/21/17

September 21, 2017


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I like Guy Ritchie movies. He makes interesting films and has already proven that he can adapt things from a slightly different angle (see Sherlock Holmes). In this, he takes King Arthur and has him banished to the poor district as a baby. He lives in a whorehouse and scraps and fights to survive. This a little different from the usual boy king story we get in movies like The Sword in the Stone. It also has some pretty cool battle scenes including bare-knuckle fighting which Guy Ritchie is kind of known for at this point. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur in his path to the throne and gives him a bit of a harder edge. We get a more diverse group of knights with Djimon Hounsou standing out above all the others. Instead of Merlin, we get a female magic user who is a little more enigmatic. We also got Jude Law as the usurper of the throne and he was sufficiently slimy. Parts of the movie did move a little slow for me but when the movie got going it almost never stopped being interesting and exciting. This is why I like watching a lot of adaptations of stories I love because I will see a little something different each time. I definitely recommend this as it was visually appealing and an interesting angle on an old story.


Warcraft

Back in the day I owned and beat Warcraft and Warcraft II and then I subscribed to and played World of Warcraft for nearly a year. The first two games were endless fun as real-time strategy games where you unleash an army on your enemies. WoW is a game I still feel conflicted about but not because of the game itself. The Warcraft franchise allows you to play as either of two armies (or part of either of two armies in WoW’s case). You can play as the Horde which is a coalition of invaders from another realm and assorted races that feel disenfranchised. You can also play as the Alliance which is a collection of races native to the realm being invaded. The movie similarly covers both sides neither of which are all good or all bad. Instead, both sides have an enemy in the dark forces of Necromancy. They went to great pains to fill both sides with sympathetic characters as they knew that there are still players loyal to either side. A lot of the work of world building and art direction had already been done throughout the games so all they had to do was present that faithfully. They did that well. Even more, they gave the orcs more expressive faces which allowed the viewer to sympathize with them more. It starts slowly as they struggle to wade through the exposition but it gets way better as it goes and gets into the meat of its story. I definitely recommend it although non-fantasy, non-Warcraft fans might not be interested.


Mythica: The Dark Spore

I am a huge fan of the Critical Role stream on Geek and Sundry, yet another Dungeons and Dragons show that I listen to religiously. Through it, I have become a big fan of voice actor Matt Mercer and when I found out he was in a live-action movie then I had to check it out. Mercer is great at embodying characters. As the Dungeon Master of Critical Role, he plays over a hundred unique characters throughout. In this, he plays an evil necromancer and he’s really good it. The movie kind of feels like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign distilled into movie form. The heroes have been through a lot together and each has their specific role that they’re good at. They try plans that go wrong until somebody gets a good idea. It was also interesting to see a necromancer as a good guy (not Mercer, a female necromancer). I have seen it in stuff like Anita Blake but not in high fantasy. The beginning is a little muddled as they deal with events from the first movie (which I did not see). The budget is low and besides Mercer, the only actor I recognize is Kevin Sorbo who plays an advisory role like Gandalf. I think the series has a lot of potential and I may check out the other ones. I recommend giving it a shot but I would understand if it is not your thing.

 

Music of the Week:
Nothing More – Go To War

Sifu Hotman – Embrace the Sun

30 Seconds to Mars – Walk On Water

Camila Cabello – Havana

Charlie Puth – Attention

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “High Stakes High Fantasy”
– I finished White Collar
– I watched more Bojack Horseman Season 4
– I watched more Rick and Morty Season 3
– I watched more House of Cards Season 2
– I watched more Little Witch Academia Season 1
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 2

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Romance

September 18, 2017

I have been thinking lately of romance. It is not because I have met someone. In fact, it is just the opposite. I have not met somebody in a long time and I am alright with that. It is not that I am settling for something less than I want, either. I have never really pursued a romantic relationship in my life so far. I remember being at summer camp when we had dances with our sister camp Camp Netimus. We would travel to their territory or they would travel to ours. Under a big pavilion, we would have loud eighties and nineties music played at us and we would be expected to exist there until it was time to go to bed.

The first few times, I was bored out of my skull. I hung out with my friends but there was nothing to do. I wanted to sit and write or read or play Gameboy but it was not allowed. It was too loud to have a proper conversation. My friends urged me to start asking girls to dance. I had no interest in doing this. I love girls. I am attracted to girls. However, I felt like I was pressured into asking girls to dance. I did it poorly, I’m sure. For whatever reason, the majority of them did not want to dance with me. It was humiliating at the time to ask and get a no each time. Mostly because I did not want to ask in the first place. That probably showed.

When a girl did say yes, I had no idea what to do and I was so self-conscious and shy. I moved around like she did but my introversion made it hard to feel anything other than a nonexistent searing-hot spotlight. After a song or two, I would thank the girl and never see her again. I do not remember their faces. Somehow I remember their names even less. I remember that they were kind to me and I was not unkind to them but I probably left the impression of a shy, uncoordinated boy. I also remember asking a female counselor to dance (she looked young!) and her declining politely. Instead, she proposed a group dance, a construct used by middle school dances everywhere.

When it came to school dances, I was friends with a group of nerds, geeks, and outcasts and so we were more interested in fooling around and having fun rather than going after the girls. At that point, girls were friends and not potential romantic partners. It was a hormonal time so there was a lot of physical attraction but I never pursued anything romantic. I remember very clearly looking at one particular girl who I thought was pretty. I had gone to the same school as her for nine years. I thought that she would be the one that I would date if I was going to date. I knew nothing about her. I just thought that everyone was dating and that, as a point of pride, I should probably be dating. Thankfully, I never pursued that. It was such twisted thinking.

College was a time of crushes. There were many crushes that drew me in and were really fun to think about and even obsess over. For the most part, they were fun and nice young women who treated me well. There was one who probably easily figured out my secret crush. She definitely played with me. I would have done a lot for her. She said I should shave my hair and get a tattoo. I said I thought that was a good idea. But even looking back I cannot see myself spending a portion of every day with her. It was physical attraction and the desire for love in general, not romantic love. I wanted to feel special. That kind of thing is not real to me anymore.

That is to say, if somebody comes along that inspires real and romantic love then I will pursue it. However, I am not really looking for it. I like my life. Well, I like what my life is becoming. I am bettering myself every day through therapy, exercise, and general self-improvement. I really enjoy living alone and being alone and entertaining myself. I venture out every so often to hang out with friends and laugh and connect. I think that is exactly what I need right now.

Sabin the IV

September 16, 2017

Cordell and Edmun were helping Sabin into his armor. This was nothing really new as Sabin had put on armor almost every day since he had turned twelve. Before that, he was often caught trying to wear his father’s armor or his older brother’s armor which was met with amusement and only a tiny bit of annoyance. His father had custom armor made with the family crest put on it and, as he grew, new armor was often given to him on his birthday. It was a comfortable second skin just as a sword was a natural extension of his arm. What was different today was that Lady Elena was trying to talk to Sabin during the process.

“Elena, please,” Sabin said, trying to turn his head to face her which made the rest of his body move which made the job of putting on armor more difficult for the servants. “It is immodest for you to be standing there while I am getting dressed!”

“But Sabin,” Elena protested. “You must speak to me. I have heard that you are going on a journey. Why must I learn of this secondhand, my love?”

“I apologize,” Sabin said. He walked to her, his armor half on and hanging off of his body. He ignored the frustrated sighs of the servants. “I did you a disservice but I have only recently resolved to go on this quest.”

“What quest pulls you from your home and my side?” Elena asked. She pressed her hand to his cheek and he placed his hand on her hand gently.

“It is a quest for you, my love,” He said. “You are the only thing that truly matters.”

“A quest for me?” Elena asked with a quizzical look on her face. “Why, I am right here, my lord. You did not have to travel far to find me.” She smiled sweetly and Sabin knew it was a joke but it was also partly earnest.

Sabin laughed softly. “No, my love. I am journeying for your hand, by which I hope to have the rest of you. Your parents have forbidden our marriage unless I prove myself worthy.”

Elena frowned. “And how will you prove yourself worthy? As if you were not already worthy.”

“Through adventure!” Sabin said with a smile. “Only through great deeds can a man (or a woman) be truly great. I will return with such tales that will spin the heads of your parents on their shoulders. They will beg me to marry you.”

Elena remained frowning. “As attractive as that sounds, could we not merely elope? I desire you as a husband and you cannot do that if you are carried back here a corpse.”

Sabin shook his head, his long brown hair shaking a little as he did. “Have a little more faith than that, Elena,” He said. “Besides, I want to do this the right way. I want your parents and my parents and all of our family to proudly stand by while we exchange our vows. I do not want our bliss to be a point of contention between our families. Moreover, I do not want to drive a wedge between you and your family.”

Elena sighed. Her blue eyes studied Sabin de Lesartesse carefully. Elena Loncroft was of a noble bearing, one of the richest, well-bred, and well-respected families in the area. Her family obviously had its doubts about most who pursued their crown jewel as such a marriage would be immediately advantageous to the suitor and those advantages would only increase after the natural death of Elena’s parents. Sabin was a young man in the prime of his life, a man who eagerly heeded any call to adventure. At a tournament, he had met Elena by chance and the two had talked so long he had nearly missed his turn. He dedicated the subsequent victory to her but in private so as not to put her on the spot. Since then, they had grown fond of each other and that fondness had turned to love.

“There is wisdom in that and it touches my heart,” Elena said. “However, I also surmise that you are eager to go on this adventure.”

“I cannot lie,” Sabin said. “The idea of the wide open world does excite me. My mother used to read me tales of epic adventure. I always hoped that one day I would be the one they wrote stories about. Perhaps, a bard will write a song.”

“My nanny also read me those stories,” Elena said. “Very well, if your heart brings you elsewhere then I cannot keep you here.” She turned away, reaching to wipe away a tear from her cheek.

Sabin wrapped his arms around her from behind and hugged her close. “My heart does draw me away but it will also be what brings me back to you. I swear it.” He smiled and leaned over her shoulder, his hair falling against her hair, blonde mixing with brown. They stayed like that for a moment.

“I am proud of you, my lord, my Sabin,” Elena said. “As much as I hate to see you go, and that hate is considerable, I know that your journey will benefit us. You will come back stronger so you can protect me and, perhaps, our future children.”

“Elena, I would very much like to have children with you,” Sabin said. “As long as they take more after you than me.”

“You are beautiful to me, Sabin,” Elena said. “I would request that you remain beautiful. Make sure the brigands and monsters do not harm your face. I cannot stress this enough.” She smiled brightly at her own joke.

“I will do my best to make that request, each and every battle,” Sabin said. Both of them laughed softly. The sound was a little sad. “Go back to your chambers while I finish getting ready, my love. I will come and say goodbye when I am ready.”

Elena nodded and then turned in his arms and kissed him. Sabin kissed her back, his arm instinctually supporting her lower back as she went on tiptoe. That moment would be burned into Sabin’s memory along with a whole chain of similar memories. She broke the kiss eventually and stroked his cheek before leaving him to put on the rest of his armor.

Media Update 9/14/17

September 14, 2017


Silver Streak

I was astonished as I sat down with my folks this weekend, my mouth full of gauze from my wisdom tooth extraction, and started watching this movie. I thought I had seen it. Unless I was more drugged than I thought, I had not. I definitely would have remembered this movie. Gene Wilder was an absolute genius. His comedic performance often had an underlying depression and/or anger underneath it that just added such great layers to it. He is brilliant in this mystery aboard a train from Los Angeles to Chicago. There is plenty of slapstick, wordplay, great situational humor, and even some vaudeville style stuff. The other top-billed actor in this movie is, of course, Richard Pryor who does not show up for the first hour of the movie. This gives Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, and a great cast of character actors room to breathe. Richard Pryor appears in time to give the movie a good kick in the rear to get it going faster towards its conclusion. He works so well with Gene Wilder which is why they paired them together several times at the height of their careers. Somewhat inspired by movies like North by Northwest, this movie ups the comedy without losing the suspense of the thriller genre. I definitely recommend it.


Snowpiercer

If you look back at last year’s Halloween movie reviews, you will see how much I enjoyed Joon-Ho Bong’s The Host. It was a great take on what would happen if a city was actually attacked by a strange, alien creature. Bong is really good at taking fantastic ideas and then grounding them and making them relatable while still keeping them insane. This movie is about an Earth where the world released chemicals into the air to counteract global warming and accidentally froze the world. The movie takes place on a train that perpetually circumnavigates the world. The movie says a lot about class differences and what you are willing to forgive others for and what you are able to live with within yourself. It stars Chris Evans in arguably one of his most difficult acting roles. We also get great performances from seasoned professionals like John Hurt and Ed Harris. There is also Tilda Swinton in probably the best performance I have seen from her. Finally, we have Kang-ho Song, which adds a little more variety to this tense combination between a drama and basically a war movie. The movie is dark and not at all happy. Instead, like most futuristic stories, they show just what we are willing to do to each other. I definitely recommend it.


The Great Train Robbery (2017)

In 1963, 2.6 million pounds (which is 49 million today) was stolen from a train transporting cash through the Royal Mail system. After they got some inside information, a gang of fifteen thieves was able to get away with the money without firing a shot. Recently, a new dramatization of the crime was released on Netflix. I watched the first of two parts which was basically a movie about the heist itself. The movie follows the careful planning of the crime, its completion, and then the immediate aftermath after the criminals were not immediately caught. I am looking forward to watching the second half which is the investigation and arrest of the whole gang based on the mistakes they made. It is an interesting concept because I spent the whole first half getting to know the criminals and a lot of them are portrayed as likable. None of them are guilty of much violence and each of them walked away with a small fortune. They come off as kind of heroic so you forget that they are definitely criminals. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
The Fluids – Creatures

Chvrches – Broken Bones

BUCKY BOYS – Shadowpeople

TWRP – The No Pants Dance

Fab 5 Freddy – Change The Beat

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Mysteries and Secrets on Trains”
– I watched more Supergirl Season 2
– I finished Once Upon a Time Season 6
– I watched more White Collar Season 6
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 2
– I started watching the Mae Young Classic
– I started Bojack Horseman Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 1

Wisdom Teeth

September 11, 2017

I am sitting here seven hours removed from getting half of my wisdom teeth and a broken tooth removed. The surgery was a success and was fairly brief despite a few extra complications. I promised my brother I would try to write this post. We both thought it would be funny to read a post written while I was high as a kite. However, as you can see, I am a bit disappointed in that regard

I am currently on Hydrocodone. It took a while to kick in for this first dose, turning my torture into a dull roar. The bleeding is going down bit by bit but it is still impressive. So far so good. However, I am a little disappointed that I’m not goofy and babbling. You see, I really have never done drugs. I occasionally have a bit of whiskey, I have used Tylenol PM, and I have been in the same room while people smoked pot. I thought this might be my big chance to get high with a good excuse but no dice.

I will tell you a few things I remember from the event this morning. It’s blessedly little. I got to the office and signed in and was escorted to my throne. I talked to one of the nurses and got a chance to bash Tom Brady a bit together. I noticed that while I sat there, they were blasting classical music in the hallways. Curiously, this included the French National Anthem and the 1812 Overture. Great, I was going to get teeth extracted while the French Revolution was going on in the hallway.

Then the surgeon walked in who is a really suave straight shooter. The first words out of his mouth were how Hurricane Irma had just canceled his 35th wedding anniversary in January at St. Bart’s. This should have been in poor taste but it made me laugh, disarming me. (Edit: This is now in poor taste again). Then he put me out and I woke up to be taken to meet my family members who were waiting to haul me out of there.

I noticed that I had an ice pack tied to my head. I thought I must have looked like Jacob Marley. Everybody kept insisting on talking to me while my mouth was full of gauze. Then they told me not to talk. No fair. But, I can’t fault my loved ones for trying to engage me to make sure that I was alright and to keep me from worrying about the impending pain and blood. I am sitting here desperately waiting to be able to take the gauze out so I can talk again. I have so far only gobbled a single yogurt all day today. (Edit: In the next 36 hours I only had yogurt).

The medicine does make me doze every so often. I will wake up and watch some YouTube or browse the web on my phone but social media are forbidden until I can trust myself. I’m already bored! I’m allowed to be. If I do get loopy, I will post it here in whatever form it takes.

Edit: It is now Sunday night and things are looking up. There is not much pain but the left side of my lower lip and part of my chin are still numb. I have a huge bruise on the left side of my face. I am carefully chewing food on the right side of my mouth but it makes me paranoid. The bleeding has long since stopped and the swelling is down. This has been no walk in the park and it is not over but I feel a lot better about everything.

Redcross Pt. 10

September 9, 2017

Redcross

Sarah poked her head through the door to the street and saw Reverend Simmons on the roof of the church carefully unloading his rifle at even more beasts that were running in the streets. There were a few others firing from their windows in the night. She watched as a bullet landed on one of the beasts and it slumped to the ground but then it got back up again in a moment. She aimed her own rifle and started to fire but she worried it would not do any good. Still, she managed to land a few hits of her own which at least slowed the things and kept them from attacking anyone.

A single wolf’s howl rang out in the night and then a chorus of howls answered it. A pack of wolves ran into the town and before Sarah could aim, she watched one of the wolves slam into one of the mountain lions. The wolf sank its teeth into the hide of the big cat and there was a spray of blood onto the dirt. Sarah was astonished. Why would a pack of wolves run into town to fight a pack of mountain lions? That was stepping around the odd thought of why a pack of mountain lions would randomly storm a town like Essex.

Sarah raised her hand high and shouted. “Hold your fire! Don’t hit the wolves!” She could almost feel the confusion in the air but the gunfire stopped after a moment. She could feel the Reverend’s gaze all the way from on top of the church. She chose to ignore it at that moment and instead watched the wolves and the mountain lions fight. The fighting was fast and bloody as animals almost moved faster than the human eye at times.

After a few tense minutes, the mountain lions decided to turn tail and run out of town. The wolves gave chase, nipping at their heels. One of the wolves stopped in the middle of the town, a few feet from Sarah and looked at her. Sarah stared back into the eyes of the wolf, stunned. She held her hands up, knowing that accidentally looking it in the eye could be seen as aggressive. She tried to look as innocent as possible, holding her rifle above her head. The wolf cocked its head and then ran to catch up to its pack. Sarah let out her breath and looked around the town.

“Is everybody alright?” Sarah called out.

She could see a lot of the men and women of the town filtering out of their homes. They looked rattled but nobody looked injured. It looked as if the town had been very lucky. She scanned the buildings and saw that the door of the doctor’s house had been torn apart. She jogged over and made her way past the broken pieces of the door. She kept her rifle ready.

“Doctor?” She called out. “Are you alright?” Her heart hammered up against her rib cage and she took two deep breaths to calm herself as she made her way up the stairs. The doctor appeared at the top of the stairs.

“I’m alright,” She said. “The thing had just about gotten through the door when somebody shot it in the back. My guess is I have the Reverend to thank.”

Warren made his way through the door behind Sarah slowly. “Is everything alright?”

“We won’t be needing your services, Mr. Chilton.” The doctor said. Sarah had to smile at that little joke.

“I’m glad of it, ma’am,” Warren replied with a smile. “I don’t really want my skills to be in high demand.”

The doctor descended the stairs now that she knew that things were as safe as they were going to get. She was in her nightgown, her spectacles balanced on her nose. “Are you alright, Sarah? I can see the sheen on your forehead.”

“One of them attacked me outside of my home,” Sarah said. “It broke the back door of my office when I ran. I scared it off.”

“With that famous Redcross marksmanship, I suppose?” Asked Warren.

“Yes,” Sarah said. “But after I shot it, it had the nerve to get back up. It was not natural. I have never seen anything like it.”

“Curious,” The doctor said. “Healing of that magnitude is definitely not natural.”

“Do you not also find it curious that these beasts tried to get into the both the doctor’s office and the sheriff’s office?” Warren asked. “I have long scratches on my door that would seem to prove that these animals had an agenda.”

“What kind of agenda would a pack of mountain lions have?” Sarah asked. “And why would a pack of wolves have an opposite agenda?”

“There is more at work here than is normal, I believe,” Warren said.

“Are you actually considering he supernatural, Mr. Chilton?” Marion asked.

Warren waved the question away with his hand. “Ridiculous. There is still no proof.”

“I don’t know about that, Warren,” Sarah said. “Things are getting really strange around here.”

“And do you recall the wounds on our mystery body?” Marion asked. “I told you that I thought they looked feline in nature. Now we are invaded by wild cats. Is that merely a coincidence.”

Warren was about to say something but Sarah cut him off. “No, it can’t be,” She said. “I believe those animals are the same ones that killed the man. Now, what that means is still up for debate.”

“I agree,” Warren said. “Surely we must gather more evidence before making a conclusion.”

“Of course, I agree as well,” Marion said. “However, even though my hypothesis would have me laughed out of several universities, I still believe that we are dealing with the supernatural.”

“I don’t know whether I want you to be wrong or right, Doctor,” Sarah said with a shiver. “Either way, we better be on our guard from here on out. You should stay with me until we can get your door fixed.”

“You’ll get no argument from me, Sheriff,” Marion said. “I promise to be a good house guest. I know you have your rounds ahead of you, I will meet you back at your home.”

“Goodnight ladies,” Warren said. “And be careful.”

Media Update 9/7/2017

September 7, 2017


Kong: Skull Island

I have seen every version of King Kong to date (including vs. Godzilla). I remember the last one in 2005 and I remember liking it because the characters felt more fleshed out. This one was even better. This is yet another reboot of King Kong but this time it is set at the tail end of the Vietnam War. John Goodman plays an explorer looking for access to vast caves full of giant monsters. He and his group are accompanied on an expedition to Skull Island by a photojournalist, a mercenary tracker, and a group of soldiers fresh from Vietnam. This version plays out more like Heart of Darkness with giant monsters which was a really refreshing take on things. Spoiler: There are no scenes set in New York City and there are no scenes where a wide-eyed female character entrances King Kong. Instead, we just watch the characters try to survive in an environment twenty times more dangerous than the jungles of Vietnam (during the war). They brought out some excellent actors which especially includes John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly. The movie is tense but interrupted with good moments of comedy. I definitely recommend it.


Shin Godzilla

The last Godzilla movie I watched was the awfully boring 2014 American version which I could not even finish watching. I have fond memories of watching Godzilla movies but mostly for the Godzilla action. My favorite is actually Godzilla vs. Biollante which is a good movie where Godzilla is still a threat to Japan but he takes on a giant plant monster. When I heard that there was going to be a new Japanese reboot and that it was critically acclaimed, I decided I should check it out. When I was a kid I was bored by all the parts in between the actual Godzilla parts but that is not true anymore. This movie was definitely inspired by the recent tsunami that hit Japan and the resulting nuclear fallout from the Fukushima and how the problem was approached. A lot of the movie focusing on the frustrating bureaucracy as Japan tries to figure out how to best approach the Godzilla problem. Another huge theme is how the government fails to listen to the scientists until the last minute. The Godzilla parts are probably the best I have seen, a great blend of practical and computer generated effects. The acting in between is really believable, well-paced, and interesting which was a huge contrast with the 2014 version. I definitely recommend it.


The B. F. G.

I have talked about how I read the entire works of Roald Dahl at a very young age. The BFG did not make as much of an impact on me as the other books so I could not remember a lot of the story. The movie is about an orphan girl trying to navigate the world of giants with the help of the only friendly one. The movie is absolutely anchored by Mark Rylance who breathed depth into the Big Friendly Giant and his odd way of speaking. He is joined by Ruby Barnhill who is very cute and did a great job playing off of Rylance. The movie’s plot takes more than half the running time to actually kick in. It wanders and meanders for a long time as they set up bits of exposition and allow their main characters to bond. The actual plot really starts in the third act. It annoyed me at first but the movie is so charming that I eventually forgave it. It is a touching Disney adaptation of the dark yet endearing Roald Dahl. It is directed by Steven Spielberg and who does endearing better than him? I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
K.Flay – Blood In The Cut

Jason Charles Miller – You Get What You Pay For

The Sisters Of Mercy – This Corrosion

Summer Camp – Pink Summer

Roxanne Shante – Have a Nice Day

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Giants Attack”
– This morning I will be going in to get some of my wisdom teeth taken out
– I finished White Collar Season 5
– I watched more Riverdale Season 1
– i watched more Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 6
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 2
– I am so very much into Critical Role and Dice, Camera, Action now

Summer Camp Pt. 2

September 4, 2017

(Oops this was supposed to post weeks ago.  Pretend I posted it before Part 3. Happy Labor Day!)

The other major summer camp I went to was Camp Shohola up in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The camp is situated on Lake Greeley and down the road a couple miles from actual Shohola, Pennsylvania which always confused me a little bit also for reasons I will get to in a minute. This was my first taste of real independence. Mom and Dad and my brothers were all a four-hour drive away and none of my other relatives were any closer. It was my first shot at being out there ‘on my own’ and I jumped into it with wild abandon. Not that I hated my folks at all but I guess I needed a little bit of space. I was given the option to go to summer camp for four weeks or eight weeks and I chose eight. I know my mother was astonished but my folks agreed. I was off to the wilds of Pennsylvania near the New York border.

When I arrived, the grounds seemed so big and they were. They were huge. While we were not far from the road, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. I was introduced to my cabin. That was a big adjustment. It was the first time that I had shared a room with other people aside from motel and hotel rooms on family vacations. It helped that our cabin banded together pretty quickly. I was such a good kid but it was cool to hang out with a bunch of tricksters and jokesters. It definitely added new elements to my young personality to be able to break the rules and test the boundaries. I have fond memories of all of us lying awake in our bunk beds late into the night. Our bunk counselor usually went over to the staff lounge or elsewhere until later in the night which was the norm. There were assigned patrols that watched the cabins to make sure we did not get too out of control. We definitely drew the ire of the patrol now and then. I especially remember pulling out my camera and flipping on the bright flash and just setting it off in pitch blackness to blind my bunkmates.

The food was delicious. I remember looking forward to meals a lot because there was always plenty of food and the cooks were dead set on making each meal delicious. They knew they were catering to over a hundred boys of various ages and they never got into exotic territories. Meals were always a flurry of passing of platters and pouring of drinks as we all devoured meals like sharks. For each meal, there were assigned ‘biddies’ which meant that you had to go to the dining hall early and set your assigned table. It taught me that setting the table was not really that hard and not the arduous chore that I thought it might be. Plus, I learned how to carry eight mugs at once. Every Sunday we got ice cream at the end of lunch and if your bunk had won that week’s cleanliness award, you got two scoops instead of one. It was a much sought after prize. We also had a weekly visit to the canteen where we were alotted one soda and one candy bar. I often traded my candy bar for another soda.

From early on I was way into waterfront activities. I have always loved to be in or near the water. I guess that goes hand in hand with growing up in a city like Baltimore. I was never a big fan of structured swimming because I find laps tedious and exhausting. Instead, I loved to sail. Our camp had little two-person Sunfish sailboats. A friend of mine and I worked really well together in those boats and we actually won quite a few races that first year of camp. Of course, in order to sail I had to do an enormous amount of laps without touching the H dock to prove that if the boat went down, I could still swim back to camp. I hated it so much but in the end, it was worth it and I completed the test each year so I could sail, canoe and raft.

Yes, I said raft. The camp was very good at getting us out on trips every so often. They organized trips that you could sign up for so you could escape the routine now and then. I went rafting on the Yough<>, I went hiking at High Point State Park (in Jersey), I went to musicals, I went to ballgames and so many more things. That is not to say that I did not love a lot of the activities actually on camp grounds. Camp Shohola was the first place I ever fired a gun in Riflery, learning to respect the power of firearms. It is also where I happily fired bow and arrows and learned that I was pretty good at it. I may not have gotten jazzed over stuff like soccer but I loved the geekier sports. I even got to do horseriding regularly and I really enjoyed it. It was scary at first but I felt powerful and tall for the first time in my life on the back of a horse.

On rainy days, we were chased inside to a big barn of a building with a movie screen and plenty of floor space to sit on. I do not remember them ever showing us any movies in that place, though. I remember them showing a lot of sports highlight movies, I suppose as an effort to continue the sports mindset despite the rain. I remember them showing a lot of compilations of football (soccer) goals. The volume was turned low as most of the commentary was in Spanish anyway (which I was studying at the time). Impressive soccer goals are really fun to watch but I remember seeing those videos enough that I got bored. As long as we stayed calm, we were allowed to talk amongst ourselves. So I would find somebody I knew and we would just hangout and have a chill time. It was a little boring but sometimes it is good to be bored.

I have a lot more to say about Shohola so tune in next Monday for the end of Summer Camp for the year. (Just in time for school to start!)

The Symbol Pt. 2

September 1, 2017

“You!” Victoria yelled out as she jumped from the stool she was sitting on and backed up. She slipped some iron knuckles onto her hand. She stroked some runes along it and it suddenly blazed with a bright white light and there was a crackling sound in the air. She also ripped her blouse from her shoulder and placed her palm on the family protection symbol.

“Whoa!” Solantria yelled out. “I mean you no harm!” Her eyes looked panicked for a moment but her face slowly calmed and a warm, charismatic smile formed on her lips. The words made no sense but they did sound nice to Victoria’s ears. Almost comforting.

Victoria shook her head. “Bullshit!” She went to take a swing at the demon with her blazing white fist. Solantria barely stepped back and out of the way.

“I swear it, Victoria,” Solantria said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to prove it to you.” She had her hands up in her best attempt at placating Victoria.

“You killed six of my family members!” Victoria yelled out. She poured will into the symbol on her shoulder.

“Oh shit,” Solantria said before she was repelled and she hurtled out through the door and tumbled into the street. She got up and steadied herself before taking a breath and counting to three. She calmly walked back into the tavern. “That was well over two centuries ago. I think it’s almost three. I’ve changed.”

“The Heathrow family will never forgive you for those deaths,” Victoria said. “I will use everything in my power to end you.”

“Um, I’m immortal,” Solantria said with a smile. She still had her hands up.

“Then I’ll do what I can to make this a very bad night for you,” Victoria said, her eyes narrowing.

“I need your help,” Solantria said. There was a long silence. Very carefully, she reached over and grabbed her glass of whiskey from the bar and downed the whole thing. She kept her eyes on Victoria the whole time.

After a few moments of stunned silence, Victoria actually started laughing despite how angry and afraid she was. “You need my help?” She asked. “You know what I say to that? Suffer.”

“I need your help to save the world,” Solantria said. She sat back on the stool and poured herself another glass of whiskey. Another confused and stunned silence came after that statement. Victoria’s brain seemed to halt for a moment or two.

“What?” Victoria asked finally.

“I need you to save the world. With me,” Solantria said. She sipped her whiskey and smiled. “It’s kind of imperative at this point. It’s also getting rather urgent.”

“I don’t believe you and, even if I did, why would a thing like you want to save the world?” Victoria asked. “Everybody knows demons live in one of the Hells. Just go home.”

“Have you ever been to Hell?” Solantria asked. “It’s brutal and boring. Brutally boring. Besides, I’ve grown quite fond of this world over the last century. I have my reasons for wanting to save it.”

Victoria scoffed at that. “My family’s greatest enemy is asking for trust and yet it keeps secrets. It’s almost funny.”

“Can you not call me an ‘it’?” Solantria said with a pout. “I may be a demon but I am all woman.” She punctuated that with another sip of her whiskey.

“Tell me your secrets,” Victoria said, completely unamused. She still had her hand on the family symbol, ready to repel the demon again and again.

“All of them?” Solantria asked and then tilted her head back to let out a laugh. “That would take more time than we have. More to the point, after the sordid business with your family ended with my humiliation, I would not dare show my face in any Hell. After a decade, I left my grudge against your family behind me and started to explore this world. For once, my focus was not on the deal but was instead on pure exploration. I had a lot of fun. I grew attached to this world. I changed.”

“Wait,” Victoria said. “You don’t want to kill my family?”

“Did you notice I haven’t shown your kin my face for a long time?” Solantria asked. “It’s not just because of that symbol. Oh and nice tattoo by the way. It is because I decided to drop the issue. Neither side was blameless but I definitely overreacted. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Victoria asked. “My parents raised me with stories about how you might come back one day. I had to sleep with the light on until I was fourteen. I had nightmares. Actually, I still have nightmares. And you’re sorry?”

Solantria looked embarrassed and said weakly. “I’m very sorry? I had no idea how badly I had affected you. Maybe even ‘infected’ would be a better word. I really am sorry for that. I was born among beings with no conscience. In fact, the one I have grown is still pretty new to me. What can I do to make it up to you?”

“Nothing can be done now,” Victoria said and then she sighed and took off her spectacles. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes for a moment. She replaced her glasses and eyed the demon quizzically. The immortal centuries must have been rough on Solantria, she did not look as majestic as Victoria had imagined. She just looked more ordinary than Victoria had always imagined after studying the sketches her ancestors had drawn. “However, you said earlier that you need my help to save the world.”

“Yes!” Solantria said excitedly, a dazzling smile forming on her face for a moment before she turned it down a few notches. “I consulted with a seer who told me that I needed to go to Heathrow’s Victory to start my quest and here you are. Victoria/Victory. Get it?”

“I get it. I’m recognized by several academies and universities as a very intelligent woman so I definitely get the not so subtle wordplay there,” Victoria said.

“Will you help me?” Solantria asked. She looked hopeful and sincere to Victoria.

“I don’t think I could ever help you,” Victoria said. “However, I may be willing to help our world.” She paused and looked around. “Wait, did you do something to my bartender friend?” She looked suspiciously at Solantria.

“Oh, of course not,” Solantria said. She pulled a small stone out that kind of looked like the top of a sundial. “The enchantment on this stops time for those I choose. I gave him a break.”

“Unfreeze him,” Victoria said. “Unfreeze him and I will consider your proposal. Meet me at my apartment tomorrow afternoon.”

Solantria smiled and pulled out a small cloth bag and set it on the bar and it made a little jingling sound. “For the whiskey.” Then she held out the little stone sun dial. “And this as a sign of good faith.” She put the stone on the bar next to Victoria and walked out of the tavern.

“Here’s your sausage, Victoria,” <> said with a smile and set down the plate.

Victoria swept the stone off of the bar and then pocketed it. She took a sip from her glass of whiskey. She did her best to cover up her shoulder quickly. “Thank you, so much.”

“What happened out here?” He asked.

“Just somebody with sticky fingers,” Victoria said. “I encouraged her to pay up.”

“Are you alright?” He asked, a concerned look on his face.

Victoria took another sip of whiskey, eyeing the empty glass still on the bar. “I will be.”

Media Update 8/31/17

August 31, 2017


Sing Street

I watched this one on monthly Movie Night with friends and, while I had seen the movie on the Netflix menu, I probably would not have watched it on my own. Anyway, I was three when this movie took place in 1985. All the same, I remember some of the fashions even when I was older which is what caused most of the shocked and delighted comments from my older friends. The movie is about a young boy who is forced to go to a Christian School by his parents where he is bullied. To cope, he decides to chase a girl by forming a band. Through the story, the music also becomes about him discovering his identity and his confidence and also bonding with his brother. There is a lot of original music inspired by bands of the eighties including various genres and subgenres of the time as the band struggles to find their own sound. There is also a ton of great music from the seventies and eighties (and there’s also Genesis). While this is a bit of a period piece, there is plenty that hit home for me. The relationship between brothers was particularly hard hitting for me. Also, the family on the verge of a breakdown. Anyway, I definitely recommend it as it will have you both laughing and feeling and singing along.


Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I had heard about this musical for a long time but I have never seen it on stage. I was excited when I found out that the movie stars the original stars of the stage show. The show stars John Cameron Mitchell as gender ambiguous Hedwig (who was born male) who is trying to get her music career off the ground. However, she ends up following the tour of a former friend/lover who stole all of her original songs. So, she tells each audience on her tour her story while singing songs associated with different parts of her past. We see flashbacks as she tells her story which is definitely not a happy one. I would compare this movie to The Who’s Tommy which has a similar musical genre and also had a lot of trippy imagery in it. There is a lot of emotional pain in the movie but somehow they manage to keep it light enough not to be too much of a downer. The movie also had a few moments that felt a lot like This is Spinal Tap. I would recommend it as it was pretty fun and definitely an interesting and uncomfortable ride.


Opening Night

I stumbled on this in the Netflix menu and I have been a fan of Topher Grace since I was introduced to him in That 70’s Show. He has definitely grown as an actor. He plays a Broadway stage manager and immediately his role is so familiar as are a lot of the situations backstage in the movie. The movie is a lot about the past and missed opportunities and whether you can find those opportunities again. Appropriately, the musical within a musical is called One Hit Wonderland and it is about showcasing all of the One Hit Wonders in music history and whether those groups could have had another hit. Topher’s deadpan delivery is my favorite thing about the movie but there is a whole cast of wacky characters played by Alona Tal, Anne Heche, Taye Diggs, Rob Riggle and Paul Scheer. Beside’s Topher and Alona’s central story, there are a lot of side stories that are often amusing. There are musical numbers on stage and also one hit wonders are sung backstage that apply to the current point in the story. I would actually recommend this as it was a pretty good romantic comedy (although it is a little raunchy for raunchy’s sake).

Music of the Week:
Jimmie Rodgers – Honeycomb

Royal Republic – Baby

ZZ Ward – Put the Gun Down

Against Me! – Crash

The LaFontaines – Release the Hounds

Media Update:
– This week’s theme is “Presentational Rock Musicals”
– I finally finished The Defenders
– I watched more White Collar Season 5
– I watched more Riverdale Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 6
– I finished Criminal Minds Season 12


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