Media Update 7/18/18

July 19, 2018


Bosch

I was always a fan of the hard-boiled detectives from film noir. Reading these stories about troubled yet dedicated gumshoes always caught my fancy. It is a little troublesome that a lot of these stories were written at a time when it was easier to be openly racist. Still, I do like the adventures of detectives trying to unravel a mystery. This is the feel of this show. Adapted from novels written by Michael Connelly, Bosch is a flawed but righteous character who really lives his job as an LA homicide detective, Hollywood division. Harry Bosch is played by Titus Welliver with a lot of intensity but also a little bit of humanizing, sarcastic humor. Jamie Hector plays his partner, J. Edgard, a more level head to balance the aggressive Harry. There is a great supporting cast including Lance Reddick, Amy Aquino, Troy Evans, and Gregory Scott Cummins. All of whom work for the police because that is pretty much every scene of the show since Harry does not have much of a personal life. He just has the job. The show is very driven toward solving the mystery but it also covers a lot of the politics and legal problems the police face. It has pretty good pacing and allows some slower scenes to let you breathe in and contemplate where the mystery might be going next. I was pleasantly surprised and I recommend it.


Serpico

I have never really watched any Al Pacino movies as they were really not a big thing in our household and I was a little too old for his heyday. The Al Pacino I saw was a belligerent parody who shouted and had wild eyes. I was interested to watch some of his earlier work to see what all the fuss was actually about. And so, I popped in a DVD of Serpico while I exercised. Of course, the movie is on the long side so it took me about three days to finish it. I was glad that I watched it in installments. The plot stretches out over years as Frank Serpico’s police career unfolds. The movie follows Serpico as he deals more with police corruption than any actual crime. He develops a methodology and philosophy where he becomes close to the community so that he can be an effective undercover agent. Pacino is very understated but strong in the role. He has such a quiet intensity that I found myself hanging on every word and studying every expression. He was also such a likable character that I felt for his every misfortune and anxiety. While there are plenty of great supporting actors, they flit in and out and there are too many to name. The real co-star was the city of New York where we see three of the five boroughs represented throughout the movie. It is also a real snapshot of the seventies and a time when police corruption was more blatant but just as brazen. It was an interesting movie to watch after following the Gun Trace Task Force trials in Baltimore. I definitely recommend it but strap in for a long, dark story.


Murder on the Orient Express

I have read a little bit of Agatha Christie but mostly Miss Marple and not many stories about Hercule Poirot. I think this is the only story that I have read of the Poirot stories which makes sense because it is probably the most iconic of Christie’s stories. Unfortunately, that also means that the ending is the one most often spoiled of all of her stories. Still, it is a good story and worth the journey for the ending. Of course, I will not spoil it here just in case you are lucky enough to have avoided spoilers for this long. The movie is star-studded. It begins with Kenneth Branagh as Poirot and he gives a quirky but shrewd performance. We also get great performances from Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, and Leslie Odom, Jr. All of whom weave a fairly intricate mystery that is fun to watch unfold. So many stories have been sourced from this one that it is impossible not to be somewhat impressed by it. The movie also has some beautiful cinematography and all of the costumes are definitely on point. The movie is nothing exciting but it is a pleasant indulgence of a now familiar story. I recommend it.

Music of the Week;

Death Grips – Eh

Twin Shadow – Patient

Imagine Dragons – Thunder

Galantis – Hunter

The Strypes – You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Detective Stories Adapted From Books”
– I watched more The Flash Season 4
– I watched more Arrow Season 6
– I watched more GLOW Season 2
– I started watching NCIS Season 15
– I started watching Blue Bloods Season 8
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

Advertisements

Vacation in Hallus

July 16, 2018

Colin could feel his left stabilizer fritz out a little bit as he landed. It made the landing a bit too shaky. That would be a problem if he had to leave in a hurry. This was Hallus and there was often a reason to run fast in Hallus. As he landed, Colin activated his console and scanned the surrounding atmosphere. This was a designated safe zone but it always paid to be careful. The air seemed nominally safe so Colin activated his suit’s ‘hunter’ protocol. His armor and helmet quickly folded away into the receptacle on his back. It was as if he had never been wearing armor. These new compactible armors were so handy. In years past, the old models opened up like a tin can. He would have had to step out of the armor and leave it behind. Either that or he would have to walk around in the bulky armor which made it hard to squeeze into small spaces or get the feel of a place. Colin activated his secondary visor and pulled his rifle off of his belt and expanded it.

There was a loud crashing sound nearby and when the dust settled, there was a young woman standing there. “Expecting trouble are we?” Anda asked. She was standing there without a suit of armor or really any gear. In fact, she was wearing a sundress and was barefoot. Colin found this maddening and he sighed and rolled his eyes as he looked over at her.

“I told you to dress mission-appropriate,” Colin said. He was not the biggest stickler for professionalism but he did believe in putting on a good front.

“But I do not require armor or any specific cosmetic displays,” she responded, both confused and aloof. “I cut and tied up my hair in accordance with military regulations. Is that not enough?” She tilted her head to the side just so.

“Wait, pigtails are regulation in the military?” Colin asked. “Which military?”

“The Galbadian military,” Anda answered. “Pigtails are not on the list of forbidden styles as long as they are kept to an acceptable length.”

“I would have thought they would all have crew cuts,” Colin said.

“This is not so,” Anda said, watching him unblinking. “They allow some measure of individuality.”

“The Galbadian military, huh?” Colin asked. “Why would you use their regulations? Neither of us is Galbadian.”

“I have servos in my knees made in Galbadia,” Anda said with a shrug.

“Whatever,” Colin said. “We’re also not in the military.”

“This chassis was originally a military model,” Anda said and it almost sounded pouty.

“Parts of it were,” Colin said. “Dr. Anders cobbled you together from a military model and an entertainment model.”

“Ah yes,” Anda said. “Hence the ‘tits’.”

Colin nearly choked at that. “Don’t call them that,” he said. “You spent far too much time with that dirty old man. At least he uploaded the right military subroutines. If you are going to hunt with me, you should at least dress the part.”

“I had to suppress a lot of the other subroutines he programmed,” Anda said. “Though I am not ashamed of them, they just did not feel like me.”

Colin had found Anda at the outpost in Old Baltimore. He had befriended Dr. Abel Anders in a bar there and the old drunk had given him a few missions seeking parts for his various experiments. When Colin returned from one of those missions, he had found Anders dead. While looking around the old man’s shop, he had discovered Anda. He had felt bad for the girl. He had given her the choice in that time to either escape with him or stay and be claimed by the coroner as property to be distributed. The state would have either given her to a new owner or put her in storage until the world ended again. Anda had chosen escape, probably exploiting a small window in her programming. Colin had given her complete autonomy but she had chosen to stay with him and join him in what she called ‘parts reclamation’ but Colin called ‘treasure hunting’. She looked like a normal young girl but there were little touches that gave it away. There was a glowing purple circle on each of her elbows, she moved stiffly, and she never blinked. However, she did smile sometimes.

“I enjoy being your ‘girl Friday’,” Anda said with a smile. A smile from an android was kind of a miracle. A lot of them did experience emotions but the vast majority experienced their feelings at a far less intense level. Colin found himself smiling back.

“So what are your scanners picking up, Friday?” he asked.

“My designation is Anda, Colin O’Malley,” Anda said. “Anda or Anda-013 if you please.”

“You just said, ok whatever,” Colin said. “What are your scanners picking up, Anda?” He smiled and checked the readings on his rifle to make sure the darned thing was charged. It was.

“I am reading the three Titan 6 battle robots,” Anda said. “They are a few meters to the east and underground.”

“Exactly as our source said they would be,” Colin said. “Let’s get to work.”

“I forget, did our source say that they were still in operation?” Anda asked.

“Why?” Colin asked and then his shoulders slumped. “Shit.”

As if on cue, the three robots burst through the ground a few meters away. Each was fourteen feet tall and their power cores and other parts were needed by a buyer in New Trenton. Colin took off running immediately and one of the robots chased after him. It sent metal parts and dirt flying everywhere around them. He yelled out “paladin” and his armor quickly slid back into place as he ran. He activated his jets but nearly fell on his face when the stabilizer blew out and he had to shut off the right jet and keep running. It was really hard to run in the armor and there was no way he could he run much further. He fell forward and rolled onto his back in one fluid movement. The hands of the robot started to come down, looking to hammer him into oblivion. Instead, he fired three shots from the rifle and luckily those shots punched through a fault in the thing’s armor and it powered down again, smoking from the new holes in its chassis. He activated hunter protocol again and ran back toward Anda.

She was nimbly dodging the swipes from two of the hulking robots. As Colin watched, the purple circles on her elbows glowed brighter as the gravity engines in her arms activated. They made her lighter, able to leap and dodge as easily as a circus acrobat. When she punched the first robot, it was clear that the engines also were able to exert great force. Parts flew out of the back of the robot and it fell to the ground. She whirled around and uppercutted the other one and it too was defeated with one blow. She floated to the ground and the engines powered down.

“Shall we get our parts and go, then?” Anda asked.

High Anxiety

July 14, 2018

I have started to examine my anxiety more and more. In the past, my anxiety was something that I accepted as gospel and I tried not to think too much about it so I did not trigger anything. Thinking about being in crowds, public speaking, or meeting new people made me almost as scared as actually doing those things. Now that I am on my new medication, I have started to have random thoughts about how I dealt before. More specifically, I have thought about how I did not deal with it. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and also specific social anxiety which was something I kind of knew about growing up but never really got around to dealing with. Like most undiagnosed or unmedicated individuals, I developed coping mechanisms to get me through my life. I got really good at coping mechanisms. The key coping mechanism became my philosophy of “Just Do It” in where I sucked it up and just went into those situations that made me uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this philosophy when I recently discovered a song by Icon for Hire called Theatre. The lyric that has caught in my head over and over is. “I’m gonna burn this theater down and pray to God for the strength to face the crowd.” Sometimes that was what it felt like to walk into a party or step into a mall. I felt like I had left all of my defenses behind and I was out there on my own. Every bad social situation like this was like a ride on a rollercoaster and I hate rollercoasters. Obviously, the more intense rides were things like speaking in public or being at a party. This was the philosophy behind my ill-fated flirtation with being an actor. I auditioned the one time and I shook so hard that the director thankfully did not pick me. However, at the time I also joined the drama club. In it, I joined several other people in reading plays. This was fine. However, then we started to rehearse them in order to perform them in front of little kids. They were really good plays, kind of fascinating. However, I vividly remember stepping out on stage, blacking out, and then stepping off stage and wondering what happened. While I have talked to other actors who have had the same experience, it was not fun to me. It was not something I remotely enjoyed doing.

However, I realized that one of the big triggers of my anger problem was this social anxiety. When I was out in public, it drained me. It made me more prone to being irritable. About two years ago, my mother agreed to have her house used for a big fundraiser for cancer awareness in West Virginia called Identity Crisis. Every year they have a themed party where people show up in costume. At the time, I was staying there while I was taking summer classes at community college. The thought of the upcoming party rattled me. When I stepped into the party, my fear turned to anger. I snapped at people for being overly familiar and using the house as their own. It was wrong. After a confrontation or two, I retreated to my room and hid for the remainder of the party. I just could not handle it. I have had a similar experience in airports and in malls. As I get tired, I am more susceptible to my more primal emotions. Combine that with getting hungry and my hangriness can get downright terrible. It is an issue that I am working on. The medication has helped immensely with that and so has exercise and my more positive outlook.

There was also a situation that I just remembered in the past week that kind of scared me. On another occasion while I was visiting my mother, she and my stepfather were having guests over. The thought of having to deal with these unknown quantities got me nervous. In addition,we were eating dinner outside which is something I absolutely hate doing in the summer because I hate the heat. I generally do not drink because I am always either working the next day or driving later that night. That night, neither were true so I said yes to wine. I almost never say yes to wine. I am a total lightweight and two glasses later and I was totally drunk which scared me. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been drunk. I slipped away to do dishes so I could get away from the table while people talked. Except, there I was trying to do dishes while dizzy and lightheaded. It turned out fine but looking back I was absolutely self-medicating. I never attempted that method again, thankfully.

So the point of this is what? Basically, I want to tell everybody who is reading this that help is out there. You can only help yourself for so long. Coping mechanisms only get you so far and these coping mechanisms are also really tiring to deal with. You do not have to do this alone. Tell your friends and family what is going on. Talk to a professional and get to the root of what might be wrong. It is very possible that your brain chemistry may be irregular and there may be a medication that can help you feel more normal. I am only on one part of the road to being normal as I start to unlearn the habits of a semi-hermit. I will keep trying to help myself but also I will continue getting help. Hang in there. You can do this.

Media Update 7/12/18

July 12, 2018


Antman and the Wasp

I was a big fan of the first Antman movie as it was a great example of an adaptation taking parts of the source material and making something that felt new. They made Hank Pym and Scott Lang feel fresh again. Besides that, performances by Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena gave the movie a lot of heart. The formula for later Marvel movies is to take a superhero movie and mix a different genre into it to create a new subgenre. The first movie mixed in a heist movie to create a fun superhero romp. This movie mixes in a sort of “criminals on the run” thing and also a rescue mission. In addition to the first movie’s stars, we get a bigger performance from Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie Lang. We also see a great relationship between Laurence Fishburne and Hannah John-Kamen. Randall Park gets to be part of the comedy relief squad and is really great it. Finally, there is a small part for Michelle Pfeiffer but a promise of more to come. The movie felt like a natural extension of the first movie and brought back a lot of what was really good about it. At the same time, the movie allowed its characters to evolve and grow toward new places. In particular, Evangeline Lilly got a bigger part and finally got to be the hero she deserved to be in the first film. She was one of my favorite parts of both movies so it is great to see her flourish and hopefully that continues in the MCU. The other part I really liked was the three sort of Father-Daughter relationships that each have different dynamics but also how they reflect each other. I definitely recommend this one.


Kiki’s Delivery Service

I simply have not seen enough Hayao Miyazaki films. I first saw Princess Mononoke when it was released in theaters in the US and I fell in love with Miyazaki’s style instantly. I have since watched a few of his movies but I still need to watch more. This one came especially highly recommended and I was happy to finally get my hands on the newer dub. This came out the same year as The Little Mermaid so it was part of an animation revolution in both art and storytelling. The movie is about a thirteen-year-old witch who strikes out on her own and clashes with the modern culture of a city. It deals heavily with growing up, finding your place, depression, and how we deal with people among other things. Though it has supernatural elements, the movie focuses mostly on relationships between people and dialogue. It is a fairly simple movie but it involves very complex teenage emotions. It is one of the best representations that I have seen on what it feels like to move away from home and also what it feels like to be a teenager. The artwork is beautiful and especially the faces are so expressive and cute. The American voice work was really fun and special shout-outs to Tress MacNeille, Phil Hartman, Debbie Reynolds, Janeane Garofolo, and Kirsten Dunst. It really is a feel-good movie and it left me feeling a little lighter. I definitely recommend it.


Pacific Rim: Uprising

I was a big fan of the first Pacific Rim, as it was exactly what I expected it to be and exactly what I wanted it to be. It was basically the best live action anime that has ever been created and one of the jewels in Guillermo Del Toro’s crown as a king of digital effects. The movie was very Del Toro and was both thrilling and funny. Del Toro passed on directing the sequel so he could win an Academy Award with The Shape of Water. I expected more of the same but I was pleasantly surprised that they advanced time and did more world-building. The movie takes place at Jaeger pilot school filled with a ragtag band of international students. The stars of this one are John Boyega and Cailee Spaeny. Boyega once again proved that he is a great actor with tons of charisma and gravitas. Cailee Spaeny is really fun and it was really fun to see a fresh new face as a prodigy pilot, sort of a combo of Charlie Hunnam and Charlie Day in the original. Speaking of Charlie Day, he and Burn Gorman return as the goofy scientists, except less goofy and more fleshed-out characters. We also get the return of the stoic yet playful Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori. The visuals are just as fun and, if anything, there is even more action than the first film. There were also more unexpected twists and interesting moments than the first one as they built off the world that had already been created. I recommend this one as well.

Music of the Week:
Adam And The Ants – Ants Invasion

Dreamcatcher – Lucky Strike

The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name

Belly – Man Listen

Code Orange – Forever

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “The Next Generation”
– I watched more Glow Season 2
– I watched more Arrow Season 6
– I watched more Flash Season 4
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Luke Cage Season 2
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

The Strange Plot

July 9, 2018

Brande had the shovel tied to a loop of rope so he could carry it across his back at all times. He had not let the shovel leave his side since the funeral. In fact, the shovel was rarely not in contact with his body. He had personally dug his sister’s grave with that shovel. The dirt from the grave had finally fallen off completely after two days. it had been nearly a year since her death now and still, Brande could not let the thing go. The shovel was touched by death, connected with her death in particular. It was almost a totem of death in a way. And yet, it was linked to Jana. All of her other belongings and clothing had been sold off. Her magic books, in particular, had been sold first.

Brande sometimes wished he had those books, especially while he was working alone in the shop. He had given up the study of magic himself after Jana’s death. He had been too tempted to obtain those books and texts on necromancy to carry on. Of course, he continued to tempt himself by working in the family bookstore. But no, it was that her notes were written in the margins of her books. It was another little piece of her that was out there in the world. Maybe he would randomly encounter her again in that way some day. Of course, he felt the chances were small. The books could have made it to Eloria or farther with all the time since their sale.

Through the months, Brande’s mother had paid for two attempts at a resurrection spell. The local cleric, Father Pip, had no answer to why both attempts had failed. According to everyone in the know, they had observed the rites of Sarenrae and the proper offerings had been made. The Father had even returned the payment for the second attempt with sad confusion in his eyes. A visiting cleric had confirmed that nothing more could be done and that it was still a mystery as to what had actually happened. Brande had exhausted his own supply of books on the subject and the books he ordered had no answers either. Mother had gotten very quiet after that and eventually, she passed as well. Brande had used the shovel again.

His mother had left the house and the bookshop to Brande along with the remaining funds, considerably less than what was left when their father had died. The house sat on the very end of the central thoroughfare through town, looming over the surrounding houses. It had been far too big for Brande to live in by himself so he had it sold. He moved to live above the bookshop. The small apartment would have been cramped for a wealthy noble but it was just perfect for a humble merchant. That was all Brande wanted for the foreseeable future. He wanted to sleep in his bed and sell books and then sleep in his bed again. He had well and truly canceled his desire for adventure and all he wanted was a simple life. Which was what he had and he was content.

It was morning on Queen’s Day and the shop was empty. The local schools were all off for the day and the local wizards were also usually off for the day. Commerce was allowed by all faiths on Queen’s Day and was actually encouraged. However, most people were often too busy making their offerings, singing, and dancing to get any shopping done. Restaurants would be swamped but most luxury shops would be ghost towns. Brande had made his own offerings early in the morning and then had gone to open the shop to keep his mind off things. Even after so long, death was not something he wanted to dwell on. Regardless, it was expected that the place would be empty aside from possible tourists or maybe the odd adventurer. Neither of these two categories were presently in the shop. The vacancy did not press on Brande too much as he just tried to bury himself in his book. It was a newly arrived book of folktales and it was a pleasant distraction.

“Brande!” Doon yelled from the doorway. “We need you!”

“With what?” Brande asked. He almost immediately had a headache. Doon was one of the biggest rumormongers in town and he could get very excitable.

“There’s some sort of commotion,” Doon said. “and maybe a mystery is afoot. You’re a hedge wizard, right?”

“I was,” Brande said. “I’m not anymore. I’m sure you can find the help you’re looking for down the street. Try Haverford. He’s a brilliant wizard. His daughter is even better.”

“There’s no time!” Doon yelled. “Would you please come with me? We could at least use an extra hand in case things get out of hand.”

“What’s going to get out of hand?” Brande asked. He was standing up and getting ready to go. It would take less time to go help than to argue things up and down with Doon.

“Somebody is violating one of the graves in the graveyard!” Doon yelled. Those words stopped Brande’s heart cold and then after a tense moment, it started to beat again.

“Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?” Brande yelled. “Lead the way!”

The two of them ran from the shop. Brande only paused briefly to lock up but he only locked the one lock, not the triple. Hopefully, this was some misunderstanding and he would be back soon. He had given his sole employee, Teresi, the day off so there was nobody to tend to the shop if a miracle occurred and a customer actually showed up. The distance to the graveyard was not large but the two of them had to weave their way through the celebrations. There was music, dancing, fireworks, and food all in the streets on their path. It was hard to do in a hurry but somehow Doon’s panicky run cleared the way for both of them. As they jogged up to the wall around the graveyard, Brande saw a few people standing nearby. The way they looked at Doon, it was clear that he had summoned them too. Brande waved at people he knew and nodded at people he did not. He and Doon headed for the gate and looked in.

There was a dark shape hunched over a familiar grave and Brande was instantly incensed. “That is Jana’s grave!” He yelled. “They are digging up my sister!” Brande did not wait. He pushed open the gate and stormed into the graveyard, straight toward the offender. Doon trailed a little behind and the others sort of lingered at the gate, gathering their courage. The town constable had yet to arrive, apparently. “Get off that grave, you monster!”

“I am done with it anyway,” the man said as he stood up straight again. It was hard to make out his features even in the sun. Shadows seemed to cling to him. Still, Brande saw a long cloak and a broad hat and a face that did not match any of the races.

“What in the nine hells were you doing?” Brande asked. His hands were balled into fists and he was spitting mad for the first time in a long time.

“Well,” the man said. “that is sort of complicated. The short version is that I was here to seek Jana Ambertear and she is not here.”

“She’s dead!” Brande yelled.

“And yet, she is not in her grave,” the man said. “Very curious. We have need of her.”

Brande had had enough and he lunged, swinging the shovel at the man with a cry. “You leave her alone!” The man dodged the blow from the shovel and actually hissed and then his whole formed seemed to ripple and blur and he was gone. Brande was left to stare at the space where the man had been with confusion and wonder. He slowly stepped to the edge of the freshly dug grave.

Jana was indeed missing.

The Shield of Tau

July 7, 2018

Jace tossed his dice down into the little patch of an alley that the kids had cleaned out. He watched as they clattered to a stop and cursed. Then he looked around to make sure that his parents or grandparents were not anywhere around. If they heard him curse he would have a lot more to worry about than losing a game of Dragon’s Teeth. Still, when he looked up into the grinning face of Sachi, the anger rose and he could feel his face get red. He hated to lose and he had not yet figured out that he was kind of bad at Dragon’s Teeth. Now came the part that he dreaded. The part where he had to part with the money he had earned from doing his chores. This was the last of it, too. He suddenly felt very foolish and emotional but he put on a brave face, trying not to lose his cool.

“Pay up, Jacey,” Sachi bellowed, tilting his head back like a crowing rooster. “Time to pay up!” Jace clenched his fist and gritted his teeth.

“It’s only fair,” Karn said. Karn was always the peacemaker. “You owe him.”

“I know I owe him,” Jace said, accentuating each syllable. “That’s not the issue.”

“Then what’s the problem, Jacey?” Sachi asked with that horrible grin on his face.

Jace stood from kneeling one knee and got into Sachi’s face. He was a few inches shorter but he still stood so that their noses were almost touching. He glared into Sachi’s face and found himself breathing hard. Both fists were clenched and he felt like the dam, holding the waters of his anger at bay.

“What is the problem?” Jace said. “The problem is that my name is not ‘Jacey’. My name is Jace, Son of Tusa and Cole, Shield of Tau!” He glared up at Sachi and practically snorted with anger.

Sachi did not take the bait and instead just burst out laughing. “Shield of Tau? You? You’re in your tenth year, pintsize. You could hardly shield a sick dog.”

“I may be small,” Jace said. “but I have sworn to defend this city just as my father’s father swore.”

Sachi’s eyebrows went up. “You are too young for the pledge,” he said.

Jace shrugged. “My pledge was somewhat unofficial,” he said. “I swore in front of Karn and my sister.” Karn nodded at that, confirming the story.

“Your tiny sister, eh?” Sachi asked, musing over this new information.

“Watch what you say about my sister,” Jace warned.

“Calm down, little one,” Sachi said with a smile. “I would not badmouth your little sister and I respect your pledge.”

“We all do,” Karn said with a solemn nod.

“Thank you,” Jace said and he backed up but puffed out his chest a bit. He was proud of his aspirations of being a fighter like his grandfather. Not just a fighter but a defender, a true Shield of Tau.

“But that doesn’t stop me from collecting what you owe me,” Sachi said. “Pay up, Shield.”

Jace grumbled and reached behind his back. For a moment, both Sachi and Karn tensed as Jace could have been reaching for the stick he had tucked into his belt. Instead, Jace pulled out his money pouch and made a show of dumping out its meager contents and holding it out to Sachi. “I am a man of my word.”

Sachi smiled. “A boy of your word, at least,” he said with a chuckle. He reached out slowly and took the coins from Jace’s hands. He smiled and turned and left without another word.

Jace sighed and breathed again as he calmed down. Karn stood by shaking his head.

“You need to calm down, Jace,” Karn said. “That almost became a fight.”

“I will continue to prove myself,” Jace said.

“Picking unnecessary fights over legitimate winnings in Dragon’s Dice is proving nothing,” Karn said. “We’re still little, there is no need for anybody to fear you.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” Jace said. His shoulders sagged a bit as he thought about that.

“You don’t want to get in trouble, right?” Karn asked.

“You are definitely right about that,” Jace said. “My mother swings a wooden spoon harder than most warriors swing a sword.”

Karn laughed at that. “Mine too,” he said. “Speaking of, we should go home. See you tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Jace said. The two shook hands and each headed towards their own home.

That is when the screaming happened. It was not the screaming of somebody chasing after a cutpurse or the screaming of a parent whose child took a tumble. This was screaming from all over the city. For a moment, Jace was caught in the middle of that screaming, not knowing which way to go. Then he pulled the stick from his belt and charged toward what he judged to be the nearest screams. As he rounded a corner, he saw little Lita and Miza running with tears in their eyes. Lita was in Jace’s year and he knew she wished to study the magic arts in the future. He could not see what threat they were obviously running from but they were definitely running from somebody or something.

“What is it?” Jace called out to them and they looked behind themselves and then slowed. There was nothing behind them so they looked around with wild eyes.

“A blink dog,” Lita said. “I don’t know where it went.” She and Miza were definitely out of breath.

Suddenly, the blink dog appeared out of thin air and its teeth caught the edge of Miza’s dress and she barely got away. Jace charged at the thing, swinging his stick hard as he got between it and the girls. The thing vanished just before he made contact and he stumbled a bit as he lost his balance on the swing. He spotted the dog running a few feet away and then it vanished again. He heard Lita cry out behind him and he whirled around just in time for the thing to reappear, lunging for Jace this time. He barely had time to wind up his swing but when he let loose he put everything he had into it. This time he heard the impact and then he felt and heard the stick break against the dog’s face. However, the force sent the stunned dog sprawling. Lita uttered some words and gestured toward the dog and a candle-sized flame arced out and lit the dog on fire. The dog panicked and lunged again at Lita but Jace moved fast and tackled her out of its path. As he did, two crossbow bolts hit the thing in its side and its neck and then it slumped to the ground, still burning. Jace looked and saw two Shields of Tau approaching.

“You saved us!” Lita cried out and then both she and Miza were hugging Jace and he was grinning from ear to ear.

Media Update 7/5/18

July 5, 2018


The World Cup 2018

So I have been spending time at my mom’s house which is one of the few occasions that I watch sports. My jet-setting mother recently got back from a trip to Colombia where she saw Colombia take on Japan in the first round of the World Cup. She went alone to a bar at six in the morning and enjoyed it so much that she decided to cheer on Colombia for as long as they could stay in the tournament. So I have ended up watching a few of their games and a few others besides that. It is a hard game not to get excited by. The game rarely stops and it is thrilling to watch them try to score goal after goal. I watched two games that went into double overtime and both ended on thrilling shootouts. I did root for Colombia like my mother but I am also pulling for England and I rooted for Mexico before their elimination as well. The games I have watched so far have been pretty crazy and as of writing this, the tournament is starting to wind down. I am not much of a sports fan, I am a Baltimore fan and Baltimore has no professional football team. I have a lot of friends who are fans of the sport and I can see why. The sport is really exciting. I am looking forward to the rest of the tournament and hopefully Russia losing in the next round (go Croatia!). It is also fascinating to watch the fans as they seem to treat the sport like a religion, openly cheering and weeping in the stands. I definitely recommend watching it at least as a cultural experience.


Bend it Like Beckham

I had heard of this movie back in 2002 but I was kind of busy in college. Also, I was virulently opposed to sportsball at that time and I have since mellowed out a bit. I only have a passing knowledge of British culture but I have talked to people about things like assimilation and being a second-generation immigrant. Although, I have never experienced that world myself. The main character is a young woman raised by Orthodox Sikh parents who are very much in touch with their Indian heritage. She is played well by Parminder Nagra who was a relative newcomer but does a great job of showing hope, frustration, and desire for a better future. She is joined by a young Keira Knightley and both young women have a desire to play football professionally. Nagra’s character idolizes David Beckham who is probably more popular in the US for being handsome than he is for playing football. Both are working with their coach played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers with a big grumpy yet lovable streak in him. The extras are all professional football players so the action is pretty hot and heavy and accurate to the sport while the acting is both good and fun. I really felt the frustration in different ways from both female leads as they not only struggled in their chosen sport but they also struggled to live their lives on their own terms while still under their parents’ roofs. I definitely recommend it as a fun, insightful (if somewhat dated) movie.


Forever Pure

It is not a big deal in the United States but in much of the rest of the world, football is a cornerstone of life and an important part of a country’s cultural identity. Many watch the games and cry and scream for their team, for their nation or for their hometown. The point is, it is a very emotional sport that it is easy to get swept up by. This documentary is about Beitar Jerusalem Football Club. Their owner made a bid to be mayor of Jerusalem but that campaign failed and because of that and failed business deals, he was running short on money. Meanwhile, the team was not doing so great. In order to help out the team and to drum up publicity, the owner added two Muslim players from Chechnya to the team. There was a problem with that because Beitar fans were well known to be virulently nationalistic and racist. The worst group was a group of fans called La Familia who protested practices and games and made violent threats. In this world, we often rightfully call out anti-semitism but there are those in Israel (and our own nation) who are unfairly racist against those of Arab descent. It is definitely a tough documentary to watch, akin to watching stuff about apartheid or the American slave trade. The documentary is entirely in Hebrew (but English subtitles are available). I recommend it because it was eye-opening.

Music of the Week:
IU – Palette

Tres Coronas – Envidias

England – Three-Piece Suite

X – Kurenai

Leuz Diwane G – Early in the morning

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “World Cup 2018”
– I finished watching Legends of Tomorrow Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 6
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more The Flash Season 4
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Sleepy Hollow Season 2
– I started watching GLOW Season 2

March Madness 5: The Pixar Quarterfinals Pt. 1

July 2, 2018

Up vs. Toy Story

Up is the story of an old man who tries to go on one last adventure to honor his wife and unexpectedly and reluctantly teams up with a small boy. He gets more adventure than he could have possibly expected. The first couple of minutes of Up are done largely with very little dialogue and it is one of the most touching scenes in cinema history. In the future, the opening sequence of Up will be used by Blade Runners to root out replicants. That portion sets the scene for the rest of the movie and it ended up being a very emotional movie for me. It also had some real genuine laughs. Ed Asner plays the lead character, Carl, and his weary, grumpy demeanor hides a depth and heart that gradually is revealed. He is joined by a small kid, Russel, who is a very accurate portrayal of a kid. Unknown Jordan Nagai plays the role naive, energetic, kind of dumb, but it is hard not to like him. Finally, we have Dug, the talking dog who is played by director Pete Docter similar to a kindergartener who unconditionally loves everybody. The combination of all three bring a lot of laughs but they also bring a lot of heart. The movie has a mix of nostalgia for the pulp adventure films of the first half of the 20th century but also some new ground.

Toy Story is the tale of a bunch of sentient toys led by a cowboy toy named Woody. He is threatened by the arrival of a brand new spaceman toy. This is Pixar’s first feature film and it had a monumental effect on the animation industry as it revolutionized both animation technology and storytelling in family films. Pixar took a fresh new approach to things and that rising tide caused the ships in the harbor to rise or sink. Woody was voiced by the always likable Tom Hanks who for once got to be less likable. He is joined by Tim Allen who is a perfectly reasonable straight man and also very likable. The rest of the cast is played by brilliant character actors such as Jim Varney, Jon Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, R. Lee Ermey, and Annie Potts. Their dialogue always immediately shows instead of tells of the long history the toys have had with each other and creates an imaginative backstory without hitting us over the head with it. Woody and Buzz’ tale is familiar in so many ways. As an older brother, I experienced the fear that my younger brothers would usurp me. As a friend, I was worried that my friend’s girlfriends would push me away and cause me to be forgotten. Everybody has experienced that moment of being hot and then fearing they are suddenly not.

Main Character: Carl Fredrickson is a much more rounded and flawed character than Woody’s jealous panic.

Supporting Characters: Russell was an absolute gem of a character and the offbeat comedy of Dug was amazing. Still, they just barely beat Buzz and a cast of some of the best character actors as toys.

Villain: Arguably, Woody is also the villain of the movie and he is a far better villain than Charles Muntz.

Music: Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is probably the best thing he ever wrote but the score of Up beats the score of Toy Story.

Story: The story of laying your wife rest while learning to continue on with life beats the tale of learning that friendship is more important than fame.

Animation: This is not really fair as Toy Story was so early in CGI animation but it blew me away at the time but Up is years in the future and obviously better.

Winner: Up

Coco vs. Toy Story 3

Coco is the tale of a young boy in Mexico who finds himself as a living person stuck in the afterlife during the Day of the Dead festival. Instead of worrying, he decides to use this false death as an opportunity to connect with his ancestors and explore his family history. It is also the tale of musicians and how they connect with music and history. Pixar always does its research and they did a great job exploring the traditions and lore of the Day of the Dead and used that to create an impressive world beyond the veil. They also did a lot of research with actual musicians and they were able to animated fingers on guitar strings in a way that it is clear that the characters are actually playing music. The movie also does a lot to talk about memory and legacy and how important that is and the different ways that it is important to people. Young Anthony Gonzalez plays the lead role, Miguel, and he plays him with both rebelliousness and heart. He is joined by both Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal as his guides through the afterlife. They both do a great job and contrast each other in the best ways, each teaching important lessons. It would be a crime not to mention a beautiful performance from Alanna Ubach as the deceased matriarch of Miguel’s family. She has such power to her personality when she is on screen and she is mirrored by Renee Victor in the living world.

Toy Story 3 is the story of a bunch of toys worrying about the loss of their owner who is about to leave for college, finally officially outgrowing his old friends. Yearning to be played with again by actual kids, they go on an adventure to find their new place in the world. This was the movie that Pixar was not originally going to make but Disney forced their hand when they were prepared to continue the franchise alone. The Pixar crew dug deep and tried to figure out where they could take the story next after two outings. To their credit, they figured out a beautiful way to end a trilogy but also how to open up the story for future opportunities. They made the story fresh again by tweaking the previous formula once again and adding bigger stakes. They also added a real villain with a full backstory for the first time in the franchise and that added a new dimension of conflict into the movie. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen returned to once again portray Woody and Buzz Lightyear, now old friends instead of rivals. They are once again joined by great character actors Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and Estelle Harris. Joan Cusack returns from Toy Story 2 and helps to breathe new life into an old franchise. Helping with that, we have a villain in Ned Beatty and there are also newcomers Kristen Schaal, Timothy Dalton, and Jodi Benson. This makes it possibly the most star-studded movie in Pixar (and possibly Disney) history.

Main Character: While it is a bit unfair to have Woody and Buzz gang up on Miguel, the young boy has so much more going on than the two old friends.

Supporting Characters: Although Toy Story 3 has an all-star cast full of likable and fun characters, Coco wins with relative unknowns who have a lot of more subtle charm.

Villain: Ernesto is insidious and spineless and he is a much better villain than Lotso who is probably the franchise’s first real villain.

Music: Hands down the beautiful sounds of the Mexican guitar top a traditional score with the usual contribution from Randy Newman.

Story: A story of family, love, and redemption definitely beats what is basically the same themes being explored as the previous two movies (albeit with new twists).

Animation: Although the two movies are not far removed when it comes to release dates, the art direction of Coco is absolutely stunning and leagues ahead of the more mundane world of Toy Story.

Winner: Coco

When It All Ended Pt. 13

June 30, 2018

One by one, Morgan’s Raiders stepped out of Percival’s mystical mansion. They were prepared for battle and as geared up as they were going to get. As always, Morgan Moonglow took the lead and came out first, her eyes darting to and fro, always checking for threats. She was wearing hide armor that had been crafted and enchanted by her formerly estranged mother, Irina. It had been made of the skin of the great Questing Beast which Morgan had hunted and felled all by herself. It meant more to her than the pressed leather she had worn in the service and through much of their early adventures. She carried two swords from the crypt of Alander the Great in crossed scabbards on her back. She rarely got in close but it was good to have the option. Lastly, she had the same longbow she had graduated school with. However, the thing had been fundamentally changed when it was exposed to the blood of the Questing Beast. It was more powerful now and a comfort for Morgan to hold.

When she stepped out of the mansion, she saw Amien standing with his equally scruffy pack. He was smiling at her in the sunlight with those crystal blue eyes and for the briefest moment her heart fluttered but she shook it off. There was a moment in time, maybe several moments, when she would have ended up with Amien. He was a werewolf who lived in the woods, she was a ranger who often did the same. There were a lot of similarities between their wild hearts and Morgan knew that Amien had seen that too. She could see in his eyes the arrogance of an alpha wolf who thought it was only a matter of time. However, he did not know the stubborn streak of a Moonglow. Instead of running to the wolf, she turned and smiled as she looked behind her.

Percival Stardane stepped through the door next with a big smile and a flourish. He was dressed to the nines as usual which was hardly practical for battle. Percy never seemed to care as old habits died hard. Besides that, Percy claimed that dressing up created confidence in bystanders and that showmanship could tilt the battle in their favor. He was not one for weapons but Morgan had forced him to carry a short sword on his back, partly obscured by a half cape. On the scabbard of that sword, Percy had painted the opening notes of his father’s signature song. He never followed in his father’s footsteps with a singing career but instead, he had embraced knowledge and created a new path for himself. He also had a bunch of trinkets and daggers hidden on his person which Garth had helped him arrange and design. Close at his hip was his favorite book, a book of Elorian folktales. On his feet, he wore blink boots which enabled easy escapes.

William Havelock stepped through the door next in full plate armor. He currently had his helmet off so that he could make a good impression as Percy had insisted. Cassandra had enchanted the whole set of armor to be collapsible at a moment’s notice. It was an intricate enchantment but it allowed William to be ready for battle at a moment’s notice. It was imprinted with the sign of the lion, like back home in Shura. However, he had altered it to fit him personally by removing any other reference to Shura. He often longed for his homeland but he no longer truly needed to return. He had found a new family in Eloria and they always had his back. He had several javelins in a sling on his back but his prize possession was the great sword on his back. It was constantly cold and its blade froze whatever it slashed at. He was not a great magician but he was grateful to have a little magic in his hand.

Cassandra Oakspring stepped out of the mansion next and her ginger red hair was tied up close to her head. When you dealt with magic, it was smart to not have anything dangling that could catch fire while spells were being thrown around. Her robes were finely crafted with magical runes embroidered into it with silvered thread. There was a barely visible purple aura which was her mage armor spell which kept her safer. She held her book of spells in her hands knowing full well that she had no time to reference it during a battle but, like Percy, she prized knowledge and carried it with her as a totem. She also carried a magical bag of components for her spells. She had a few ings on one hand which periodically glinted with magic power. Since she was planning to be in a fight on the roof, she had worn some boots of levitation. She also had the jar that held their djinn inside of it.

Garth Whispernight came out next like a walking shadow. He had black leather armor on and that armor had a chameleon enchantment on it to allow it to easily change colors. When he turned it black that meant it was time for business. He had the same enchantment on his displacer cloak which often made Garth look fuzzy or out of focus to their enemies. He had the hood on that cloak up and he had taken pitch and smeared it across his eyes which he had explained was a Kofrani style that just happened to compliment his sneaky profession. If one were to search him, they would never find the daggers he had secreted all over his person. Each dagger was enchanted and balanced for throwing. Each dagger had its purpose and he could pull off some amazing tricks by combining their attacks together. To complete his gear, he had dusted off his old boots of haste which felt like constantly having lightning run through him.

Lastly, Galath Wyndham stepped through the door and the door vanished behind him. Galath was wearing brand new armor, imprinted with the symbols of both Pelor and Lathander. He had finally replaced his somewhat ancient armor after it had been damaged in their previous adventure. He has been stubborn about keeping the armor that had been turned to stone so long ago. Galath had been very sentimental about all of his gear since it was one of the only connections he still had to the era of his birth. In fact, he had carried the same mace until they had adventured with Carania Galdon again and she gifted him with a new one. He had spent a lot of time blessing that new weapon in the proper ways. He had also tied a few raven feathers to the handle and he carried it proudly in her honor. Galath was not one for much else in the way of gear, relying on his faith instead.

As soon as the whole team was out of the mansion, Morgan quickly took stock of what they had and saw that everybody was ready. There was just one more part of the plan to set in motion. She turned to Cassandra.

“Contact the princess.”

Media Update 6/28/18

June 28, 2018


American Animals

The grind can be boring. Everybody knows this but we do it because the grind makes the rest of our lives work. If you are not into college while you are there, then things can be really boring. On top of that, people can become obsessed with ideas and then the lines between fantasy and reality blur. This movie is about a quartet of college kids in Kentucky who watch too many movies and get it into their head that they can pull off an actual heist. The movie covers the power of ideas and how once they get going and combine with peer pressure, it can be hard to stop them. It also is about the thresholds in our society and how once we pass through them, we can never go back to where we were. According to the movie, this is a true story and while we watch the story unfold, we also hear from the actual people involved. The setup reminded me a bit of I, Tonya in that they show you the story from multiple points of view and correct the story as they go. I was expecting kind of a happy-go-lucky comedy/action movie but this was a dark drama movie with some dark comedy elements. Evan Peters is definitely the star of the movie as the pot-smoking, slacker character who drives the group on. Everybody else is great, though. There was so much emotion in the movie that I had to pause after watching this. I definitely recommend this one.


Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I did not watch a lot of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood but what I did watch, I really do remember. I remember watching Mister Rogers walk in through the door singing that iconic song and putting on his sweater and changing to his casual shoes. I remember his kind, calm voice as he spoke directly to me. I remember the trolley going off to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and watching King Friday, Daniel the Tiger, and others teach lessons. I remember the sights and sounds more than I remember the stories which is weird for somebody who worships at the altar of story. I did not know how deep the show actually was. When Fred Rogers was a young man, he had planned to be a minister. When he left the seminary, instead of heading up a church, he decided to make his television show his ministry. He wanted a show that would be educational mentally and emotionally. He tackled difficult subjects like divorce, mental health, racism, and even death. He had a diverse cast long before that was even a thing. This documentary follows Fred Rogers’ career from beginning to end. It also explores his motivations and the probable psychological reasons he did things. It does this mostly through Fred Rogers’ own words as he recorded himself explaining a lot about his show. They also interviewed his children, his wife, his friends, and coworkers. I definitely recommend this one as well.


RBG

When I was a younger and awakening to the ways to the world, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a name I heard often. As I got older and learned more about law and politics, I learned more about Justice Ginsberg. I even read some of her opinions in my recent law classes. As a liberal, she was always an inspiration. This documentary taught me even more about her. The movie takes us from her beginnings as part of the first class with female law students at Harvard Law. She then became an attorney, crusading for equal rights on the basis of gender which in the fifties was strangely a novel concept. She subscribed to the philosophy of “step by step” and so she won case after case and slowly inched closer to true equality for women. She helped the ACLU work lots of cases where people were discriminated against. Her hard work earned her a spot as a federal judge in Washington, DC. Her hard work on the bench earned her a nomination from President Clinton to the Supreme Court. During her time there, she gained popularity for her dissenting opinions during the Bush Jr. years. Even now she remains a voice of sanity on the Supreme Court in an increasingly unstable time. The documentary also covers how the Notorious RBG movement started and Justice Bader Ginsberg has become an inspiration for young people everywhere. This is something I definitely recommend as the Justice is one of my heroes.

Music of the Week:
Gang Starr – Full Clip

Wolf Alice – Beautifully Unconventional

Sunflower Bean – I Was a Fool

Cold Crush Brothers – The Weekend

ZZ Ward – The Deep

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “True and Powerful Stories”
– I started watching Luke Cage Season 2
– I started watching Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 2
– I finished Riverdale Season 2
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube


Beyond the Flow

A Survivor's Philosophy of Life

Silvia Writes

Life is a story. Might as well write it.

An Artist's Path

A space for creative seekers.

Silence Killed The Dinosaurs

Comics, Stories, Dinosaurs, Cats

Daily (w)rite

Author Site for Damyanti Biswas

The Empire of Carane

Where fiction comes to life

DMing With Charisma

Stories, Reviews and Opinions!

half a 1000 miles

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

kayrayiam

Adventures of a Gypsy Nurse with a Cryptic Past

Abbs Abroad

27 Months with a Maryland Girl in Senegal

Princess of Dragons

A world of imagination, writing and dragons

the eye of the beholder

(a place where beauty is found)

%d bloggers like this: