Redcross Pt. 9

August 19, 2017

Redcross

It was not so much a sound that woke Sarah in the middle of the night. At least, it was not a sound that Sarah consciously heard. The Redcrosses had always been famous for their powers of observation, even while deep asleep. At least, that is what her father had told her when she had tried to sneak out of the house back in the city and here in Essex. She believed it was true as the skill had served her well through her short career as Sheriff so far. She caught more mischief with a keen eye and a hard look than with a gun. Of course, she went out into the scrubland outside of town to practice with her pistol and the rifle that hung over her desk. It did no good to get out of practice.

She was glad that she had that training under her belt as she easily reached for that pistol and checked the ammunition. It was full. She pulled on her pants under her nightgown and idly wondered if she should buy some pajamas like her father used to wear. She went without her boots when she heard the sound outside. It was a scratching sound that she did not recognize and that had her concerned. No one would dare prowl around the home of the sheriff. Her little home was just behind the office and nobody wanted to get caught that close to where Sarah could easily lock them up for the rest of the night. She stepped outside, pistol in hand.

That is when she saw the wolf. Actually, it was not so much a wolf as it was the biggest wolf that Sarah had ever seen in her life and she had seen plenty out in the wilds of the Arizona Territory. This one was easily twice the size of a normal wolf. She froze. She knew if it had not noticed her yet then it was only a matter of time until it did. She needed a moment to think. If she faced the animal on its terms, she would not last long. Out here, you grew up learning to respect nature or you ended up a bunch of bleached bones out in the desert. Sarah would not let that happen to her, that was not the way a Redcross or a Sheriff should die. It also sounded incredibly painful.

The wolf was facing the opposite direction from Sarah and luckily the wind was blowing in such a way that she was still upwind. That could shift at any moment. Sarah decided to sprint for the office, a much more secure building than the tiny shack that was her ancestral home. She pushed off and ran as hard as she could. The wolf, confused in the moment, found it hard to pivot to chase her at first but it soon remedied that and the race was on. She pushed herself harder than she had ever pushed herself and she got the back door of the station open and got inside before she slammed the door and threw the deadbolt. She stood there, breathing hard and shaking a bit.

That relative peace did not last for long. The door shook hard as the wolf threw itself against it. Sarah stepped back and aimed her gun at the door, taking a deep breath to stop shaking from all of the adrenaline. She closed one eye and aimed carefully, slipping her finger from the trigger guard to the trigger. She was prepared to kill this thing if necessary. From somewhere in her mind an idea flitted through her concentration. She wondered if this was one of the things that had killed that man out in the desert. The image of the body all torn up flashed behind her eyes and she shook her head and took another deep breath. There was no time for that now.

The wolf rammed the door again and it splintered and the hinges twisted. Sarah had thought at best the wolf would get its head or paw through a hole in the door. Now it looked like either the entire door would shatter or the hinges would come out. Either meant that Sarah would be facing down a seemingly angry and definitely determined wolf with no barrier between them. This was not a good strategy. Sarah backed up into the office and that is when she had her idea. She grabbed the keys from her desk, ran into the cell to her left and closed the door. She backed up against the wall and wished that she had also grabbed the rifle hanging above her desk.

She heard the door’s hinges fail as the beast lunged at the door a final time. There was a moment of stunned silence and then she heard the thing stalking into the Sheriff’s office. Her office. She felt powerful, unreasoning anger welling up in her. The thing knew right where she was. It could smell her fear and sweat and it wasted no time in searching the place. Instead, Sarah could hear it coming right towards the cells. She readied the pistol again and hoped the thing was not stronger than iron bars.

As it rounded the corner, she could see its amber eyes, almost aflame with excitement and fury. It looked into the cage and for a moment Sarah could have sworn the thing let out a raspy laugh. It looked unconcerned with the iron bars of the jail cell. She squared her shoulders and sighted down the barrel of the gun. This thing was going straight to Hell. It lunged at the bars, its jaw moving dangerously as it stuck between the bars. Sarah closed one eye, took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. Sparks flew from one of the bars near the thing’s shoulder.

Again, she could have sworn the thing laughed at her. She pulled the hammer back and fired again. This time she drove a bullet right into the chest of the cat. She thought that might be where its heart was and the thing stopped short and fell from the cell door with a thud. It was completely and utterly still on the floor and there was a small pool of blood forming. Sarah started toward the door but the cat jumped up and roared but it turned and ran back toward the door, obviously in pain. Sarah could have sworn she had killed the thing but she guessed she had only won the battle for now.

Media Update 8/17/17

August 17, 2017


Riverdale

When I was growing up and I was still fairly small (and yes, I am still kind of short), I had a bunch of relatives who knew that I liked comic books but understandably they did not know what I was buying with my allowance or what my friends were loaning to me. So, those relatives wanted to be nice and so they bought me Archie’s Double Digest comic books. These small books were chock full of Archie comic stories either reprinted or newly written. The Archie comics I read were full of puns and salt of the earth teenage characters trying to be happy in some decade long before I was born. It was simple and harmless and took a few minutes to read through. Now, they have released this new show called Riverdale which is an updated CW version of those characters and their adventures. All of the things I took for granted, like Archie not being able to decide between Betty and Veronica, Jughead’s apathy, and Reggie’s bullying are brought out in a different light. Reinterpreted, everything looks a little less innocent. Throw in a murder mystery arc and we have ourselves a darker version of Archie than I am used to. The show is pretty much a trashy soap opera but the mystery and characters have got me hooked. I have to praise the show for its cast diversity so far and their kind treatment of the LGBTQ community from what I can see. I recommend it but know you are heading into something less than dignified.


Vampire Academy

On a whim, I decided to check this out because I have loved vampire lore since I was pretty young and I am always up for checking out some different takes on the lore. Vampires vary so much in fiction and each take can be even just a little bit unique like a snowflake. This movie is apparently based off of a series of books. It adapts the rarely used dhampir legends instead of just using straight vampire lore. The story follows a school for both Moroi and the Dhampir. Moroi are vampires that must drink blood to live but are not physically strong or resistant. Instead, they all have magical power over the classical elements. They are protected by the Dhampir who are Half-Moroi/Half-Human and are physically tougher. The goal is to keep the Moroi safe from humanity and the Strigoi who are more like classical, bloodthirsty vampires like Dracula. The movie was actually pretty good as the acting was pleasant and they did not stray too much into the dreaded Twilight territory. It was also refreshing to follow competent, confident female characters in a vampire movie. I liked the different look at vampire lore and the various social and biological hierarchies. The romantic subplots did not seem to intrude too much on the mystery and the main plot and actually felt more organic than I thought they would be. A lot of the movie is about gossip and teenage angst while being vampires but it did not come off as annoying to me. I would recommend it but I would understand if it is not your cup of tea.


Reign

Since I grew up in the United States, I do not know a whole lot about British history. As you might imagine, there is way more written British history than written American history. So, when I first heard about Mary Queen of Scots, it was in an audio sketch from Monty Python and it taught me nothing about her (except that she was murdered). So, it was with some interest that I gave this show a shot. I have spoken about my studying (through film) of the modern royal family but I know nothing of French/British history from that far back. The show is full of intrigue so far. It is also full of teenagers trying to navigate the politics of royal/noble life, torn between duty and a pursuit of happiness. Since the show is about a time when there was no divorce, no media, and fewer social norms. All of this leads to a very chaotic atmosphere where everyone is sleeping with everyone and everyone is smiling while holding a dagger behind their back. I have not seen much so far but the show definitely has some substance to it. When I think of royalty, I do not think of them being young and reckless and emotional, I think of them as old and regal. Bringing humanity to these real life characters is an interesting way to go. I will most likely be watching a little more of this to see if I like it. I tentatively recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Paigey Cakey – Pattern

Volbeat – Black Rose

Shudder To Think – Speak

Jimin Park – CHEER UP

Boards of Canada – Dayvan Cowboy

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Teenage Drama”
– I started watching White Collar Season 4
– I watched more Criminal Minds Season 12
– I started watching Glitter Force Season 2
– I watched more of Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more Little Witch Academia Season 1

Camp Pt. 3

August 14, 2017

One of the things that have gotten me thinking about summer camp lately (besides seeing kids running wild) is the reemergence of Wet Hot American Summer. When I watched the First Day of Camp miniseries much of it was familiar. Part of that was the inclusion of Camp Tigerclaw across the lake. When I went to Camp Shohola we had our own rival camp across the lake. Since we were on Lake Greeley, the camp was appropriately (and maybe unoriginally) named Camp Greeley. They were our rivals. I recently found a letter I mailed to my mother about competing against them in sports. Of all things, I was made part of the baseball team and, according to my letter, we demolished them 12 – 1. They were also one part of my sailing team’s competitors. They were within sight across the thinnest part of the lake (where both camps were situated) and I often wondered what their camp was like. We had a negative opinion of them but that was a camp tradition so I am not sure what they were actually like.

Camp Shohola was also where I cemented my passion for geeky, nerdy, and artsy pursuits. When you first got to camp, you got to sign up for activities based on what was offered and the spots available. The limitations also kept kids from strictly doing arts and crafts or only doing land sports and suffering heat stroke. However, there was a building at camp called the Comm-Tech building which became my desired destination for most activities. It was where I sent some of my first emails when that was still a novelty. I took photography classes which mostly consisted of me wandering around the camp with a camera and taking pictures. Then I had to return to the darkroom where I would develop them by hand Ghostbusters 2-Style. While I was there, it was probably when channels like MTV were at their highest point in terms of both popularity and quality. I teamed up with a couple people to film and edit music videos. We mostly made They Might Be Giants videos but, in a departure for me, I made a video with a Marilyn Manson fan who shaved his own eyebrows off.

I spent a lot of time in that building. I felt a kinship with the misfits that were also drawn there. I took circuitry classes where I learned to solder and how to follow instructs to create little kits. I created little devices that I can barely remember. I do remember creating a little sound modulator that you could shift in pitch to make interesting yet annoying sounds. I also created a strobe light at some point. I never became very adept at designing or repairing anything but soldering circuits together were pretty fun. There was also just a lot of time that I spent hanging around the building, seeing what was new in tech. I learned a lot about my future passions by sitting around and talking about music, movies, and the emerging Internet. Of course, then I would go back into the sunshine, usually thinking about returning later.

The Comm-Tech building was so-called because it was both technology and communications. The communications part was mainly a radio station with an FM station called WCSR or Camp Shohola Radio. There was also an AM station but few people messed with it. The radio station had regularly scheduled shows where people could call in and make requests. I loved listening to the radio station and I hung around the building a lot so it was almost inevitable that I would make a connection. A friend of mine had a regular radio station and I would assist him. I would pull albums off the shelf while he talked to people on the phone and sometimes I would help screen calls for him. Eventually, I took tests and got my own radio license. I rode solo on exactly one show in which I went mad with power and played whatever I wanted including liberal use of an actual record player. Eventually, my enthusiasm was rewarded and I became a regular co-host of a news show where I read stories off of the AP wire. It was a lot of pressure to be on the radio but I felt really important doing it even if people might have been tuning out instead of listening to the news.

Finally, we had something in Camp Shohola called Color Wars, a summer-long competition between two halves of the camp. The camp was divided into a Green Team and a White Team which normally did not impact day to day operations. When events came up, the two sides were very competitive. In my years at Camp Shohola, I ended up on both teams at different times. The cool thing was that the types of competition actually varied. The two teams played each other in games like soccer and baseball but there were plenty of other events to tap into non-athletic skills. I competed on the trivia team at least one year, using my sponge-like memory to come up with obscure facts and bits of information. There was also a camp-wide scavenger hunt where clues were broadcast on the radio station and you had to figure out who or what you were looking for to earn points.

My favorite event was an epic relay race that went back and forth across the entire camp. This was no ordinary relay race, though. Each leg of the race was an individual event where some task had to be completed before the next camper could compete in their event. I loved participating in this because the team leaders were good at figuring out people’s strengths and weaknesses and finding a good event for them to compete in. I cannot remember all the wacky things I had to do but I do remember two of them. The first was that I had to set an entire table as quickly as possible. As I mentioned before, I had gotten really good at carrying mugs on my fingers without dropping them. I had become really good at setting the table at that point. The other was because I had been taking golf lessons all summer. I had to hit a golf ball from the outfield and hit home plate and I completed that task way before the other team did, earning a lot of pats on the back.

Well, summer is almost done so I think I will pack away camp stories for now. Maybe I will do this again next year.

Bron: Past and Present

August 12, 2017

Bron looked out over the town and took it in. Even this far above, he could see people bustling around. People sat near shop fronts. He saw two children chasing each other near what must have been there home. Bron had slept outside most of his life, the thought of sleeping inside made him nervous. It seemed so easy. Too easy. Bron almost never sought out the easy way to do things. If he did, he would definitely not receive so many injuries from the orcs that should have been proud to have him around. Instead, he raised his chin and dared them to hit again.

A blow landed on the side of his jaw that shocked him from his simple thoughts. It was Lorgar, one of the orcs Bron’s age who was less abusive. Bron found himself growling and reaching for his axe. He had taken the axe on a raid and he had refused to give it up to the rest of the tribe. The tribe took everything but this one thing belonged to Bron and Bron alone. A long shadow came over Bron and Lorgar and they both looked up. It was Korak. He was standing on a rock above them, sparks from his ever-burning staff drifted into Bron’s eyes but Bron did not dare take his eyes off the Warlock.

“Get angry, Bron,” Korak said. “That town is ours. The humans cannot have what they cannot keep from us.”

“Too easy,” Bron said. “There is no challenge down there.”

“If you do not go down to there,” Korak said. “I will burn you to ash. One body part at a time.”

Bron glared but did not doubt that Korak could do just as he promised. Korak had promised himself to a demon, a thing Bron had never seen. The demon’s power was clearly powerful as it had given Korak spells to do great harm. Korak used these spells against the enemies of the tribe but also as punishment against the tribe itself. He was deeply unpopular but feared so the tribe let him lead. As for Bron, he thought it was all too easy. Submitting yourself to some thing instead of your own strength was stupid. It was like how the tribe submitted to the god Grummsh. Too easy, too boring.

Korak gave the order and the raiding party ran down the hills toward the town. Bron ran, his great axe held high. He let his anger at the constant annoyances, the injustices, the stupidity flood his body and he felt the rage flow through his body. He growled and yelled incoherent things and then he was swinging his axe. He clashed with several guards. He felt their spears and swords and arrows pierce his flesh but he did not care.

In the end, nothing would stop him. He was inevitable. He was the oncoming storm and anyone who did not take shelter would be washed away in a sea of blood. These were not the thoughts he had because thought was a limited resource in that state. He saw red and in that red, there were targets, trifles, and allies. How easy it would be for those so-called allies to become targets in the heat of the moment. Not a single one cared about him and yet they pushed him to attack to feed the tribe.

What had the tribe ever done for him besides tolerate his presence? That was the best case scenario. A lot of the time they just abused him. They poked him so much that he could not remember not being angry. The people fleeing in terror around him had been happy a moment ago. One day Bron would be happy when he had dominion over his tribe. They would have to do as he said instead of some Warlock taking the easy way out. It was a clear path. If he became the strongest, he would inevitably be in charge.

* * *

It had seemed such a clear path before his death. Now, Bron did not feel so sure of it. The tribe had turned on him. Although, this was not the correct word. You cannot betray what you never accepted in the first place. Bron idly wondered if his own mother had been killed too. She had only been his mother biologically. There was no bond between them. His original idea was to get stronger and go back there and dominate the tribe, grind it under his heel. Now, it all seemed so pointless.

The Witch had said that there were bigger things out there. It had been too long in coming. He got used to working in that tavern in Neverwinter. Some great challenges drank there and drink made them want to fight. Bron had been happy to oblige. Bron rarely actually got paid. His pay was docked for all sorts of stupid things. He kept damaging the door, either by taking it off its hinges or ‘forgetting’ to open the door before throwing defeated, drunken customers out of the tavern. He also had acquired a taste for the ale that stupid dwarf sold which was taken out of his pay in advance. Also, the dwarf just did not like Bron and the feeling was mutual.

Now Bron had a lot of gold and it meant next to nothing to Bron. He had no armor to buy, no weapons to acquire. He laughed at creature comforts. He could hunt his own food, track down his own water. He had lost a javelin in a cave but he had obtained two more by pulling them from his own flesh after defeating the Bugbears that had thrown them. He wanted nothing but new challenges and following the current party he was paired with brought those challenges. He could even take the abuse from the human girl. It almost felt familiar, like the words of the orcs she detested so much.

Bron did not know what the future held. He lived in the present, not worrying about where the path led. He knew the others respected his power. He knew that they could not help but respect it. They backed him up in combat though he hardly needed it. The human girl even healed Bron despite her hate for him. Bron was starting to think that maybe this party could be his new tribe. They may have mocked him sometimes but they respected what he could do. In that way, it was much better than the past.

But what had the witch planned? Was it this? Did it matter? Probably not. Bron did not believe in fate, in fortune tellers. He would make his own fate. If she pulled at his strings too much, he would pull back.

Media Update 8/10/2017

August 10, 2017


Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

Anybody who has read this blog in the last year or so knows that I am a fan of Wet Hot American Summer and I will be forever. The original movie was a funny, sweet and nonsensical movie about the last day at a Jewish Sleepover Camp in 1981. A while ago, they released a miniseries detailing the first day of that summer which was even crazier but awesome. At the end of the movie, there is a quick scene where the main characters promise to have a reunion in 10 years. So instead of the eighties, we get to see the characters’ adventures at camp as twenty-somethings in 1991. This series saw the closing of story lines raised in the prior two adventures and what appeared to be a wrapping up of the series. This one had a lot of zany things happening but, as usual, it also spent plenty of time focusing on relationships. The main cast from the last two returns with the exception of Bradley Cooper who is replaced by Adam Scott due to scheduling problems. We also see the addition of Mark Feuerstein and Marlo Thomas as two counselors who were apparently just off screen during the prior two adventures. There are also great performances by Alyssa Milano and Jai Courtney to add a little more conflict into the picture. I definitely recommend watching this and all the Wet Hot American Summer pieces.


Ghost in the Shell

I used to hate anime but at some point, it grew on me. The same actually goes for Science Fiction as I usually gravitated towards Science Fantasy and regular Fantasy. Of course, in the Venn diagram of those two things is the Ghost in the Shell series which I liked. I watched quite a bit of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex as it felt like a cyberpunk/film noir/police mash up. This movie felt very much like a pretty solid adaptation of some episodes I remember. Much has been said about how Scarlet Johannson should not have been cast in the lead in an anime adaptation but she is a good actress. She did a good job of portraying a machine finding her humanity again. The movie was kind of slow but it picked up speed as it went along. It is a mystery and most mysteries start slow. There is plenty of technobabble and plenty of philosophical questions similar to those posed in Blade Runner and I, Robot. If you have seen the anime series then this will feel kind of nostalgic but if not, it is a pretty good movie on its own merits. This movie was pretty middle-of-the-road and inoffensive. I recommend it but frankly, I was working on other stuff while I watched it.


Passengers

This one got bad reviews but I decided to watch it anyway as I am a big fan of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. This was kind of a stripped down science fiction adventure without a lot of the adventure part. In it, Chris Pratt plays a man who gets woken up 90 years too early from suspended animation in a spaceship headed to colonize a planet. A lot of the movie is more about the psychological effects of loneliness, forgiveness, and what you would do with your life if you were effectively stranded. There are pretty much only four actors in the movie and it makes the movie feel lonely which I believe was the intended effect. The special effects were really good, I believed they were on a futuristic space ship. I found it interesting that the actors actually had working tablets programmed with a UI designed in UNITY as consoles throughout filming. There were a lot of good yet uncomfortable themes explored in the movie. The love story was definitely problematic and there is not much room to argue that point. It is definitely not a ‘nice’ movie to watch. I would recommend it but it is a little soul-crushing in its bleakness.

Music of the Week:
The Tarantulas – Bullrushes

Kings Of Leon – Reverend

Alyson Stoner – Sweet

Motionless In White – LOUD (F**k It)

Nadia Rose – Skwod

Weekly Update:
– This Week’s Theme is “The Future”
– I finished NCIS Season 13
– I started watching Criminal Minds Season 12
– I continued Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more of Little Witch Academia
– I started watching Rick and Morty Season 3
– It is awesome. Go watch all of it.
– Dan Harmon was on Game Grumps
– I want to go to the movie theater again

Summer Camp Pt. 1

August 7, 2017

I have been thinking lately of my summer experiences as a kid. When I drive down the streets of Baltimore City, I see school-aged kids walking on the sidewalk and I suddenly remember that school is still out. When you reach an adult age and you have no kids of your own, you kind of forget that summer is a magical time where school is out and you get to play. Most of my play during summer was structured because my parents believed in not leaving me to my own devices and also believed in having relative adults keeping me safe. So, like a lot of kids, I went to summer camp.

The first camp I went to was called Camp Glencoe situated out in Baltimore County, not far from my home but far enough that it was my first time away from home. I had been to day camp before but this was my first shot at sleeping away from home for longer than a day or two. Glencoe’s specialty was kids with dyslexia or learning disabilities but they also prided themselves on taking care of kids with other health difficulties. At the time, I was having some difficulties with my ADD and I was definitely starting to have a lot of complications from my Double Aortic Arch which had been diagnosed as asthma. So, I do not remember doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff but I did stuff when I could.

One of the most memorable things about Glencoe was that we were told of a camp legend pretty close after arrival. There was a ninja that stalked the grounds of Glencoe. Nobody knew the identity of this ninja even though kids constantly investigated. Some swore they had found black clothing in their counselor’s room but I never believed that the real ninja would be so careless. During large public events at the camp, the ninja would run out of hiding and strike. His weapon of choice was whipped cream pies. He would run out and score direct hits and then he would run away. This was a camp tradition. The first time it happened, I was blown away and kind of scared. The second time I joined in the camp tradition of pretty much every kid in camp running after the ninja, trying to catch him. We never did.

I remember doing a lot of reading. I had daily tutoring sessions where I did math and English with teachers. It was not as bad as it sounds. I am a nerd so I never really hated the actual school aspects of being in school. This is also where I got all of my summer reading done for school. I know some kids do not enjoy summer reading, wanting to play sports, hang out with friends or do anything else. I always loved reading and having the assignments gave me an excuse to spend a lot of time reading and discussing the books with the tutor. I did not have dyslexia so math and reading were easy to me, I just had a concentration problem to work on. So, I remember spending a lot of time doing homework in between meals, swimming and occasionally doing outdoorsy activities.

I had done a few sleepovers at that age but only for a night or two. It was not until middle school when I started to stay over at friends for longer periods of time. As I said, Glencoe was the exception to that rule since it happened before my fifth-grade surgery. We lived in large dorms with rooms packed tight together. The hallways were patrolled by counselors at night, making sure we were not up to anything. I found that I was not really that homesick which was a happy discovery. The only truly bad experience I can think of is the boy’s dorm once had a huge building-wide pillow fight staged by the counselors. It was like a prison riot. I remember a younger boy dropped his pillow and opted to punch me in the face instead. I was stunned and angry and I was still chasing him when the pillow fight came to its natural end. It took me a while to cool off and that incident helps fuel my sense of fair play in a fight.

I also remember a camp-wide water gun fight we had at one point. Everybody had a full Super Soaker or two and there were buckets full of water balloons scattering the camp. Again, we had another riot but this one was a lot more fun. We happily blasted each other with water, running all over the camp to cool off. No points were scored and there was no object to the game besides pure mayhem and pretending I was a cool army of one fighting through the masses. I even remember filling up and firing from within the shallow end of the camp swimming pool, wading chest deep like I was in some eighties action movie. That is a fond memory and I do not remember getting too winded thankfully. I thought, for such a structured camp that catered to younger kids, that this unstructured, chaotic game was an amazing feat by the counselors.

Ultimately, I started to excel more at school now that new ADD medication was kicking in and I had a solid grasp on my studies. I started to enjoy learning for learning’s sake more and I never got poor grades all the way through high school (and only a few bad grades in college). Once I had my surgery, I did not need to go to Camp Glencoe and my folks started looking for other summer options for me. I did not really have any close friends at that camp so I was not really sad to leave it. I was ready for normalcy. An ‘asthma’ -free experience with no homework. I got that experience, sort of. I will talk about it next Monday!

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 10

August 5, 2017

The girls looked around the alleyway and saw that suddenly the whole place was clear of any damage or debris from the brief fight. They walked around as if to make sure and then there was the sound of a siren and all the girls froze. In the chaos, they had not thought about the authorities.

“The police!” Natia said, her voice a little louder than it should have been with her sudden nervousness.

“How were we supposed to get back?” Maya asked.

“Arafina, we need to return now, please,” Margaret said softly. The ground around them started to glow with a soft light. The cops rounded the corner, there were two of them.

“Who are you?” One of the cops asked.

“We’re the Defenders,” Kelsey said. “We’re here to save the world.” She posed heroically for effect.

As soon as the words left her mouth, the girls were suddenly back in the castle courtyard. They adjusted to the sudden change of scenery for a moment. Margaret in particular thought she felt nauseous for a moment but it passed. Arafina walked up to them an expectant look on her face.

“So,” She said. “I gather it went well?”

“The police saw us!” Natia shouted.

“Calm down, Natia,” Kelsey said.

“She has a point,” Lennon said. “What if they recognize us around town?”

“That’s not possible,” Arafina said. “The magic of the transformation charms hides your identities to protect your loved ones.”

Natia waved her hand over her face. “We don’t have masks.”

“And you do not need them, your faces will appear differently to outsiders magically,” Arafina said.

“Well, that’s comforting,” Margaret said. All of the girls nodded and vocalized their agreement.

“I’m finally a superhero,” Natia said. “It’s about time.”

“To answer your earlier question,” Kelsey said. “We demolished all of our targets and we met one of the things pulling the strings of those monsters. It did not give us its name.”

“It looked like a clown, though,” Maya said.

“A clown?” Arafina asked.

“Big nose. Exaggerated features. Goofy.” Lennon said, closing her eyes to picture the thing.

Maya waved her hand and a large hand bag appeared out of thin air. She rummaged through it and pulled out a pencil and a pad of paper and started to sketch. After a few moments, she had a pretty good drawing of what the clown had looked like. She held it up for everyone to see.

“Like this, right?” She asked.

“Exactly!” Kelsey said.

“Oh dear,” Arafina said. “He was at the vanguard of the invasion of my world. If he is showing his face, so to speak, then the true invasion is not too far off.”

“How far off?” Lennon asked. “I mean, I know that there are a lot of variables but how long do you think?”

“I am not sure but no more than one year,” Arafina said. “Of course, they will now want to eliminate you before they make true landfall. You are the cog in their machine.”

“Good,” Kelsey said. “We worked really well together today. We can only get better.”

“Wait,” Margaret said. “Who put you in charge?”

“I must have missed that vote before I officially joined the team,” Maya said. She put her sketch book away.

Kelsey shrugged. “I’m used to it. I am the lacrosse team captain back at school.”

“I’m fine with it,” Maya said with a shrug of her own. “I do say that we should each get a voice on this team.”

“I agree,” Margaret said. “We vote on important things and we should talk to each other.”

“Communication is key,” Lennon said.

“Good because I can’t keep my mouth shut sometimes,” Natia said. Everybody laughed.

“Right,” Kelsey said. “And I’m going to rely on your skills to help me help you. Lennon, you have the fire and the brains. Natia, you’ll bring the noise and the creativity. Margaret, we need your light and your strength. Maya, lend us your shadows and your magic. We’ll learn from each other.” They all nodded at that.

“Speaking of learning,” Lennon said. “We have a lot of studying to do to figure all of this out.”

“True,” Kelsey said. “and speaking of studying, Natia you have to come back to school with us.”

“Wait, what?” Natia asked. “I don’t really want to.”

“You’re our teammate now,” Kelsey said. “We have to look out for each other and it’s best if we stay close.”

Before Natia could object again, Maya spoke up. “No, that’s a good idea. Things are about to get crazy for us. Embracing normal as much as possible will help us, right?”

“I’m glad you said that,” Kelsey said. “You’re coming to school with us too.”

“But, I don’t have anywhere to live,” Maya said.

“You can live here,” Arafina said. “There is plenty of space and I can transport you to school in the morning.” Maya nodded, the witchy, gothic girl suddenly looking even paler than usual.

“What about you, Margaret?” Kelsey asked. “What’s your story?”

“My name is Margaret Washington and go to <> Academy.”

“Ooh, very fancy, Washi,” Natia said. “I guess you’re covered.”

“Wait,” Lennon said. “You’re part of that Washington family?”

“Yes,” Margaret said. “I don’t like making a big deal of it. I love my family and I’m proud of them, though.”

“It’s cool,” Kelsey said. “You seem like a good person to me.”

“I try,” Margaret said with a smile.

Natia yawned. “Is it safe to go home now? I’m tired.”

“Yes,” Arafina said. “Your charms will now protect you from being tracked. They will also transport you back and forth from this castle. You are free to go, of course.”

“And we’ll see each other in the morning,” Kelsey said. “Let’s get some rest, we’ll need it.”

They all focused on their charms and they transformed again. This time it was just a simple flash of light and they were back to their street clothes. Lennon landed in her wheelchair and she looked disappointed for a moment but much happier than she had that morning. The forms of Kelsey, Lennon, and Natia flickered and disappeared. Margaret turned toward Maya with a smile.

“If you need anything, I’ll be happy to help you out,” Margaret said. “I know you’ve had a really rough time of it.”

“Thank you,” Maya said. “I’m OK for now though.”

Margaret nodded and smiled. “See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” Maya said. Margaret’s form flickered and disappeared.

“Now, let’s get you fed and pick you a bedroom,” Arafina said. “Follow me.” Maya followed her into the castle.

Media Update 8/3/2017

August 3, 2017


Spider-Man: Homecoming

I was a huge fan of Spider-Man growing up and therefore I bought a lot of Spidey comic books with my allowance in the mid to late nineties. So I got both good and bad storylines including my favorite Maximum Carnage. I do not read the comics anymore because I have fallen behind and the One More Day storyline kind of convinced me that I was done with Spidey comics for an indefinite amount of time. However, any animated or live action version is something I feel compelled to check out. Therefore, I was beyond excited to see the character in Captain America: Civil War. This is the first stand alone Spidey film in the connect Marvel Cinematic Universe. There was a definite John Hughes vibe to the non-action parts (and some of the action parts) which I read they were going for. Tom Holland is the youngest version of Peter Parker to date and he did a great job bringing out that part of the character. He was a kid, he made dumb decisions and made mistakes but with the purest of intentions. They also redesigned the costume to give it expressive eyes so that we did not get the action figure quality from the first Spider-Man film and he did not have to take off his mask to convey emotion. They had a great supporting cast with Robert Downey, Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Connelly, Zendaya, Jon Favreau and newcomer Jacob Batalon. Michael Keaton played an excellent villain with a blue collar vibe to him which felt like just the right inaugural villain for this new Spidey. I definitely recommend it.


Justice League: Gods and Monsters

DC Comics loves its elseworlds stories and frankly, I like a lot of them because I like theories on alternate universes. In this story, we get an alternate Justice League caused by changes in the timeline. In this timeline, General Zod’s son is sent to Earth when Krypton explodes instead of Kal-El and his trajectory places him in the care of a pair of migrant workers (they seemed to be from Mexico). He grows up with a distrust of authority but a strong sense of justice and the desire to defend the weak. Bekka, the wife of Orion, comes to Earth to escape a massacre and names herself Wonder Woman with no Diana of Themyscira in sight. A young Kurt Langstrom tries to cure his cancer with a biological/nanite solution and accidentally turns himself into a vampire and he calls himself Batman. As far as we see, a lot of familiar faces from the comics do not make the move into becoming heroes and villains and the Justice League spends most of their time fighting terrorist cells. All three kill freely with varying degrees of regret. As usual, the animation and voice acting are on point for yet another DC Animated feature. There is plenty of action but the movie ends up being more of a mystery than a straight superhero thing. With the minimal cast, we get more time to explore each character in more depth. If you are a fan of these sorts of things then I definitely recommend it.


Van Helsing (2016)

I really like Wynonna Earp and I like vampire lore so I thought I would give another Syfy series about a famous ancestor a shot. As you might expect, this series follows the modern day (2019) descendant of fictional vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, Vanessa Helsing. She was born with special blood, a mystery I have not yet seen solved on the show. In fact, there are a lot of mysteries that have yet to be solved in the few episodes I have seen so far which is great. What is known in the first episode is that Mt. Saint Helens has exploded again, scattering ash over a large portion of the United States. As soon as the eruption happens, people mysteriously start attacking and trying to drink blood from other people. Without direct sunlight, these vampires have free reign of the outdoors now. Most of them are feral and attack like rabid animals without provocation. There are intelligent vampires but what their role in things is not yet clear. However, the rational vampires do fear Vanessa Helsing because she is said to be the key to eliminating all vampires. The show starts slow but picks up in the second episode as we start learning more character backstories and the driving forces behind the show. I am interested in seeing more. It is pretty gory as you might expect but I recommend it as a pleasant diversion if you are looking for something a little scarier.

Music of the Week:
The xx – Dangerous

Spankin – Smith and Pyle

Anilah — Warrior

PUP – Sleep In TheHeat

Against Me! – Crash

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “With Great Power…”
– I finished Season 1 of Glitter Force
– I finished Season 4 of Agents of Shield
– I watched more NCIS Season 14
– I started watching Criminal Minds Season <>
– I watched more Blood Drive
– It is August which means we are in the commercial Halloween season

30 Days Video Game Challenge Pt. 3

July 31, 2017


Day 21 – Game with the best story.

I am actually going to go with Borderlands 2 which was a whole lot of fun. The original Borderlands was fun but I felt like it was lacking something. What it was lacking was the more fleshed out story and characters of Borderlands 2. I am not a fan of first person shooters in general partly because I am bad at the gameplay elements but also because they don’t have enough story for me. They were also banned from my childhood house and I did not really see the appeal when I played Doom or Unreal Tournament at a friend’s house. There are exceptions, of course. I like Fallout 3 and New Vegas because exploring is really fun and the characters are interesting. However, back to Borderlands 2, the game surprised me several times throughout the storyline. There were parts that shocked me, made me sad, made me angry, scared me, and made me laugh. The game built up to several climaxes that left me needing to save the game and take a break but they made me eager to start again the next day. The game was written by Anthony Burch (of HAWP fame) and it really shows with relatable characters in a fantastic setting.


Day 22 – A game sequel which disappointed you.

This may seem wrong but actually, I would pick Jak 2, the sequel to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. I loved Jak and Daxter so much despite being annoyed by Daxter’s constant yammering. The game play was so intuitive and it felt both unique and nostalgic at the same time. It had levels that felt like they were part of a greater world which had a long and mysterious history. There was plenty to do and plenty to collect along with some whimsical humor. The sequel, while an OK game, felt like a futuristic take on GTA 3. The GTA and some other sandbox games are fun for a little bit but I often got bored with them. I would play some missions until they got frustrating. Then I would just want to explore but a lot of areas are off limits until later in the game. Then I just wanted to run around and blow stuff up and that got boring quickly. And so it was for Jak 2 and Jak 3 was even less of a game. It was just the arena mini-game from Ratchet and Clank with different guns.


Day 23 – Game you think had the best graphics or art style.

I am going to go with Arkham City for the best art style. So much detail was put into crafting a vast playground for you to Batman around in. More than any other game it is one that I love just paging through the concept art. The re-envisioning of the characters for starters is great. There is a unified style but everybody looks unique and interesting while paying tribute to their comic book origins. There are so many easter eggs thrown in that I was geeking out every few minutes. More than any other sandbox-ish environment, this was one that I could wander around for hours without actually accomplishing anything. They lovingly crafted an environment where you could really crawl into the story. They brought new elements into the Batman universe but also rejuvenated older elements. In a lot of ways, I thought this was the perfect game and part of that was just how excited I was at how it looked. The other Arkham games (Asylum and Origins) work too but City remains my favorite. I have not played Arkham Knight yet.


Day 24 – Favorite classic game.

Strangely enough, Bubble Bobble. I have really fond games of playing this simple game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was so satisfying to trap enemies in a bubble and solve jumping challenges. It was also a game that I could easily play alongside my brothers without being competitive. Cooperative gameplay is way more fun. Something about the simple, repetitive game always made me excited. It was uncomplicated and back when I had an NES I loved to put two televisions side by side and play video games and watch television at the same time. Also, I have fond memories of playing it with my brothers.


Day 25 – A game you plan on playing.

Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for sure. I love pirates (I am a pirate descendant after all) and I loved the earlier Assasin’s Creed games. The earlier games were difficult at first but they were actually pretty intuitive and forgiving in the end and fun to run around and explore in. Adding a boat and the pirate culture sounds like fun.


Day 26 – Best voice acting.

This thing says video games but I am going to cheat a little and pick The Stanley Parable. The voice acting is pretty much just a single narrator but it is some of the weirdest and funniest stuff I have ever heard. In fact, most of the fun of the game is doing stuff and listening to what the narrator says because there have to be hours of unique dialogue for various situations. From the same developer, there is also Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald which also has some really great sound effects to go with the great narration. As long as I am cheating, I have to heap some praise onto Gone Home, a simple yet very emotional game. There is a lot of pivotal and incidental narration and voice acting that really sucks you into the deeply personal story the game is trying to tell.


Day 27 – Most epic scene ever.

I think that Shadow of the Colossus takes the cake on this one. The first colossus you encounter is mind boggling and I just shook my head and wondered how anyone could defeat such a thing. Each successive colossus is more epic than the last, ending of course with the final one. The fights are some of the tensest, awe-inspiring things I have done in video games. The deaths of each colossus are also full of epicness.


Day 28 – Favorite game developer.

Easily Take-Two Interactive which has developed some of my favorite games of all time. That includes the Borderlands series, Firaxis titles like Pirates!, Red Dead Revolver, WWE 2K games, and Bioshock among others.

Day 29 – A game you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving.

I cannot really think of one. I do not have the time or money to buy games that do not look good to me.


Day 30 – Your favorite game of all time

For the reasons mentioned in earlier questions, I would have to pick Arkham City which is still the best Batman game of all time.

Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 9

July 29, 2017

Curtains

The five teenage girls appeared back in the alleyway they had disappeared from, now in their brand new armor. When they looked at each other, they could all see the same nervous excitement in each other’s eyes. They were supposed to be Earth’s new super heroes but they were new at this and there was no telling what would happen. Kelsey stepped forward first.

“Come on, we have some streets to clean up, girls!” She shouted.

They took off in a run because they could not stand to walk and running felt so good. Each one of them felt much faster and more energetic than they ever had before. Especially Lennon who felt an exhilaration in running much faster than her wheelchair could ever go. At some point, Maya took the lead since she was the only one of them present at the scene of the crime and Kelsey slowed a little to let her have the lead. They skidded to a stop in the alleyway.

“They were right here!” Maya yelled.

They looked around and there was nothing there, not even scorch marks. Of course, there were also no bystanders around either. They were probably startled by the craziness that had ensued earlier, running off to see who would believe them. However, in the very center of this alleyway was a dog-eared copy of a script.

“Look at this,” Lennon said and bent down to pick the script up.

“Did your friend drop it?” Margaret asked.

“Yeah, I mean, we weren’t exactly friends anymore but we used to live next to each other,” Kelsey said. “She got into drama big time after her family moved.”

“I remember seeing her in shows,” Lennon said and shivered. “She looked happy up there.”

“I remember that too, actually,” Natia said. She did not remember as much from the previous year but she did remember any excuse not to go to class and Daffney had been in drama previews during assembly.

“They left it behind deliberately,” Maya said angrily. The other girls nodded.

“There’s something written across this page,” Lennon said and she held up the script so they could all see. The word “CURTAINS” was written in jagged pink letters across the page. Lennon could have sworn the word had not been there when she picked the script up.

“Curtains?” Margaret asked. “What does that mean?”

“It means it’s curtains for you, little girls!” A disembodied voice yelled out.

“What? Who said that?” Natia asked as all of the girls looked around.

“Show yourself!” Kelsey yelled.

On the wall near them, a face started to form on the brick. It was wicked looking, sort of a cruel parody of a clown. It grinned wickedly with far too many teeth and everybody gasped.

“Not yet,” the thing said. “We are not ready to step into your world.”

“Cowards,” Margaret said, her eyes narrowed.

“What did you say!?” The thing yelled, seemingly shocked by the words.

“She’s right,” Maya said. “You are a coward. I know what that’s like but I am done running.”

“We all are!” Natia shouted, slinging her guitar off of her shoulder.

“Well good for you,” the wall thing said sarcastically. “Very well, let’s play!”

Monsters began to form from the brick walls and the blacktop once again. The girls backed off a bit, making space to fight. The things were slow to form. Kelsey started calling out targets and nobody argued.

“Aqua Shot!” Kelsey called out. She focused on her hand and thought of playing softball with Daffney and the other neighborhood kids when she was little. She felt a large amount of water form and she threw it as hard as she could. She watched the water slam into one of the constructs. It tried to stand for a moment, putting its hand first into the water but the impact knocked it back into the wall where the thing shattered on impact. The girls cheered.

“Sonic Rush!” Natia called out. She thought of the thrill of performing and her love of being loud and strummed her guitar hard. Green waves and a rush of sound rocketed out of the guitar and slammed into one of the constructs. It started to panic as its body vibrated, it fell to its knees as it fell apart. Natia strummed on her guitar for good measure.

“Inferno Rocket!” Lennon called out. She raised her hand and pointed her palm at one of the constructs. She focused on all of the weekends she had spent building model rockets in her family’s garage and firing them off with her dad. She poured all of the flames of her anger, her disappointment, and her desire to destroy all of the obstacles in her way into that rocket. She let the thing fly and a burning fireball shot into one of the constructs.

“Shadow Chain!” Maya called out. She closed her eyes and thought of all the dark corners she had hidden in, the darkness she had embraced to survive and she let it out. She felt it form itself into a chain made of solid shadow. She felt that chain snake around her body, floating through the air. She opened her eyes and pointed at one of the constructs and the chain shot out towards it, it wound around the construct and then Maya squeezed her hand and the chain constricted and the thing was crushed into pieces.

“Bright Arrow!” Margaret called out. She remembered all of the archery lessons her parents had bought her since it was such a noble sport. She reached behind her back and pulled an arrow made of light from thin air. In her other hand, a bow made of light formed and she strung the bow, drew it back and there was a bright flash as she let the arrow go. It streamed toward the last construct and pierced right through it. It came out of the other side of the construct and hit the wall, right in the middle of the clown face. It frowned and faded away just as the construct exploded in a shower of sparks.


susanne matthews

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Stories, Reviews and Opinions!

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cringeworthy (adj) -- causing feelings of awkwardness or embarrassment

kayrayiam

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A world of imagination, writing and dragons

the eye of the beholder

(a place where beauty is found)

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