The Escape

August 17, 2019

Alvus Silverleaf and Berry Lampwick slowed to a stop in a clearing in the woods. Actually, they were forced to stop as Alvus had to catch his breath, not accustomed to running in the first place and definitely not up to it after being held in captivity for so long. If his captors had allowed him to sleep, he could have boosted his speed with magic but they had taken to purposefully keeping him awake and unrested in between tests. It had been two days since the last test and Alvus was exhausted so he could only look at Berry helplessly. She looked about worriedly.

Berry Lampwick was the best mercenary in the region for infiltrating hazardous buildings on missions. This particular jailbreak had been tricky but it was almost over. If they got a little farther away, there was no way they could track them fast enough. She was beginning to have doubts about Silverleaf’s constitution holding up long enough to get through the woods.

“Are you alright, Lord Silverleaf?” Berry asked, drawing her twin daggers just in case.

“Well,” Silverleaf said. “other than not sleeping for two days and being captive for two weeks, I’m fine. Not that I’m complaining, but who are you?”

“Berry Lampwick, sneak thief for hire,” Berry said. “Your sister hired me to come and get you.”

“Well, I’m not going to complain about somebody coming to pick my locks,” Silverleaf said. “Wait, you called me Lord Silverleaf?”

Berry took a deep breath. “I hate to be the one to tell you this but your father was killed when you were kidnapped,” she said.

“So he’s dead, huh?” Silverleaf asked. “I thought it would be a long time before I would take over. He didn’t deserve to go out that way.” He looked away so that Berry could not see his face. She could see his shoulders slump, though.

“I’m so sorry,” Berry said. “Your sister is waiting for you. We need to get you to safety.”

Silverleaf took a deep breath and looked back in the direction they came, clenching his fists. “You’re right but those people will burn,” he said. “As soon as I regroup with my sister, we’ll rain down fire on that place.” He was suddenly so much more tired than he had been a moment earlier.

“That place is obviously owned by the Heartsongs,” Berry asked. “Why did the Heartsong family kidnap you, anyway?”

Silverleaf paused from glaring back in the direction of the manor. “This is one of Lord Heartsong’s secret manors,” he said. “They have apparently been kidnapping sorcerers and keeping them in hidden locations. They are running tests to see what makes a sorcerer.”

“Involuntarily no less,” Berry said. “What a bunch of assholes. Do you think they have learned anything?”

“I was as uncooperative as I could be,” Silverleaf said. “but I have no idea what they have learned. If they figure out how to reliably make sorcerers, that will definitely not be a good thing. We have to stop them.”

“I might consider giving you a discount for helping out with that mission,” Berry said. “I’ll help you stop these kidnappings.”

A voice echoed from the edge of the clearing. “You’ll stop no one! You’ve crossed the Heartsongs,” the voice said. “Nobody does that twice. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lord Heartsong.” Berry felt her body seizing up and she could not move a muscle. At the same time, a tall tiefling appeared standing dramatically on a stone.

“I will do more than cross you, Heartsong,” Silverleaf said. “I will see you and your gang of hoods hang for this.”

“Unfortunately, I am about to kill your halfling friend there and take you back to my manor,” Lord Heartsong said. “You’ll have to wait a long time to get your revenge.” He laughed loud and long.

Silverleaf grinned. “You dumb bastard,” he said. “You made a fatal mistake.”

Lord Heartsong walked toward Berry, a knife drawn to slit her throat. “I don’t make mistakes, Silverleaf,” he said. “You’re the one who is mistaken.”

“Fool,” Silverleaf said. “My sister sent this woman and my sister is a Silverleaf. A Silverleaf does not spare a single copper when something is important.”

A crossbow bolt sailed out of the woods and sank into Lord Heartsong’s arm. Berry Lampwick was suddenly free and she leaped up and sank a dagger into Lord Heartsong’s eye. Heartsong vanished in a puff of acrid-smelling smoke and soldiers emblazoned with the Heartsong symbol rushed into the clearing. Berry moved to protect Silverleaf while the other mercenaries rushed to their aid and started combatting the Heartsong forces. The battle was brief. Lord Heartsong should have brought more underlings.

“Come and help Lord Silverleaf to his feet,” Berry said after the battle was over. “We need to leave this place before that lunatic comes back with more people.”

Two mercenaries moved to lift up Silverleaf and help him as they moved through the forest. Berry led the way, making sure her charge was kept safe. Silverleaf actually fell asleep before they got back to the carriage on the road. Berry saw that he was safely tucked into a makeshift bed before climbing aboard herself for the ride back to Silverleaf Manor. The Lady Silverleaf would pay her handsomely but honestly, she was just happy to see the man safe. She had heard stories of how honorable the Silverleaf family was and was happy to help. If that meant staying on for a war against the Heartsong family, so be it.

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Media Update 8/15/19

August 15, 2019


Witness for the Prosecution

Another old classic that I had yet to see. I bought this movie for my mother since we have watched many of the ABA Top 10 Law Movies together. As with many of the movies I watch, I wish I had watched it sooner but it ended up perfectly anyway. The movie is about a defense lawyer in England played by Charles Laughton who is being forced to quit taking criminal cases because of his health. However, he is presented one last intriguing case. His client is Tyrone Power, a clean-cut guy who swears his innocence. Along the way, he must deal with Power’s enigmatic wife played by Marlene Dietrich. He also has to put up with his meddlesome but well-meaning nurse played by Elsa Lanchester. The movie is based on the work of Agatha Christie and so part of the movie’s charm is an almost film noir mystery full of intrigue. The other great part of the movie is the over the top wit of Charles Laughton, especially when he is battling Elsa Lanchester or making objections in the court scenes. Laughton is hands down the star of the movie but there is plenty to love. I definitely recommend it.


Megamind

I am still working my way through Dreamworks animated films as I have always been a Disney guy. I had heard good things about this movie as one of the underrated selections from Dreamworks. I have to agree. Will Ferrell voices an alien (Megamind) who is sent to Earth at the same time as an alien voiced by Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt’s character constantly overshadows Megamind which convinces him to become a villain in order to balance things out and get a reaction. In a parody of many superhero franchises, he forms a close bond between villain and hero. He is constantly kidnapping a reporter voiced by Tina Fey. He has a henchman voiced by David Cross. Jonah Hill plays Tina Fey’s cameraman. The movie parodies superhero films in a way that is not over the top or corny. Also, unlike many Dreamworks movies, there are very few dated references which makes this movie more timeless and easier to watch compared to other Dreamworks offerings. The movie explores why we do bad things and whether we can change and whether people will let us change. I recommend it.


The Bad Batch

I have still yet to see a Jason Momoa film that I have liked and once again I am disappointed. I thought that based on the movie having Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, and Jim Carrey in it, the movie might be fun. All three of those actors are incredibly charismatic. The movie stars Suki Waterhouse who is sent to a weird post-apocalyptic desert prison in Texas. She has to deal with a new world of criminals and cannibals with no law to protect her. Keanu Reeves plays the cult leader who controls the one safe place and Jim Carrey is one of his people. Momoa plays a wastelander, a man of few words. The movie was very pretty and well-shot but the script left me wanting. The movie is listed as a dark comedy but I saw no laughs and only darkness. It was not even interesting darkness. It was just brutality for brutality’s sake. I guess some message about how easily we can descend into madness. The usually charismatic actors and Suki were all apparently directed to be slow, plodding, and lacking emotion in their performances. More than that was the horribly slow pacing, long lingering shots of either something or nothing. Needless to say, I do not recommend this movie.

 

Music of the Week:
Amanda Palmer – Drowning in the Sound

Starcrawler – Bet My Brains

HAIM – Summer Girl

Ice Cube – Arrest The President

Halford – Undisputed

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Anti-Social”
– I finished Arrow Season 7
– I finished Glow Season 2
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more Defunctland and Yesterworld
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 3
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 3
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I started Star Trek: Voyager Season 4
– I started watching iZombie Season 5

Talking Kings and Successions

August 12, 2019

Lately, I have been thinking about the Lion King a lot. It is not because of the recently released full CGI version in theaters right now. People are all up in arms about it but I will eventually see it and form my own opinion. Actually, I have been thinking about the original Lion King movie because the music is in regular rotation on my Pandora account. Well, really, it is just two songs. I had the cassette of the soundtrack when I was a kid. The movie came out when I was about ten years old. I played that cassette until it wore out.

The song I listened to the most was “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”. It is by far the most uptempo, fun song musically in the whole movie. The other song I listen to a lot now that I’m older is “Be Prepared”. I’ve felt that I love the villain songs more and more as I have gotten older. I still love both songs but recently I have realized they are kind of the same song from different angles. I will warn you that this post is now going to get a little political but not really specific to our current climate. Although, you can draw your own conclusions. Also, Lion King spoilers.

“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is a song sung by young Simba as he plays with Nala. He sings the song mostly as a way to distract his chaperone, Zazu, the King’s advisor so that he and Nala can sneak away to explore the Elephant Graveyard. Zazu and the King have forbidden he go there but he cannot help himself. He sings about how excited he is to become King (leaving out the part where his father needs to die in order for that to happen). He thinks about how he won’t be pushed around anymore when he is in charge. He will be free from responsibility now that nobody will be in charge of him.

This is the short-sighted thinking similar to your average political candidate. Someone who is excited to have the glory of a leadership position but does not think of the burdens. I think this is obvious to most viewers. Simba has no plan on how he will rule as the only monarch in a large area of Africa. He is thinking of freedom and legacy and glory and no responsibility. Zazu and his father continuously try to rein him in. The King’s subjects join in the song but mainly because of fun and because when the prince sings, you join in.

“Be Prepared” is a song sung by Scar, the King’s brother and Simba’s uncle. He is the villain of the movie, heavily inspired by Claudius in Hamlet. The song is a literal command to his secret hyena army. He is telling them of his plan of regicide and succession. As soon as the King is dead, the hyenas need to be ready to protect Scar’s claim to the throne. Scar knows how people think about him and needs the extra muscle to support his new regime.

It is clear that Scar also has no clear plans on ruling the Pridelands. I mean, he certainly has sinister plans but no plans on how to rule efficiently. It is clear that he does not want to burn everything down (even though that is how it ends up). He wants fawning subjects and glory. He wants the easy life of luxury that only a successful monarch gets. When we find him later in the story after he has gotten what he wanted, he has screwed it up and has already descended into madness.

The thing is, at the time that both songs take place, neither Simba or Scar would have made good leaders. Obviously, Mufasa was a great leader and everybody was weirdly happy with his bloody rule as a predator over the Pridelands. However, Mufasa was not an option anymore as Scar and the hyenas had to go and kill him. If Simba stayed in the Pridelands and had been tapped to become King, he would have been out of his depth even with the help of his mother, Zazu, and Rafiki. This was actually explored in Kingdom Hearts 2 showing the events soon after the end of the movie where Simba has a crisis of confidence because he does not have the wisdom to lead. So neither choice was especially good and this is why rulers should not be murdered. As if Julius Caesar had not already taught us that.

The Fifth Floor

August 10, 2019

When I got in the elevator at work this morning, I guess I was not paying attention when I pressed a button. When the door opened, the indicator said I was on the fifth floor. The sign on the side of the elevator door and the sign on the hallway wall both said ‘five’. Big red ‘fives’. 5. The red was unsettling.

I had not been aware that our building even had a fifth floor. I had never gone higher than the second floor. Well, that was not entirely true. I went up to the third floor the one time to steal toilet paper when our floor ran out. I had truly never ventured to the fourth floor but I had heard the echoes of peoples’ footsteps descending from it in the stairwell.

There I was, halfway out of the elevator on the fifth floor. I did not know what to do. I mean naturally, I had to get back on the elevator and ride down to my floor. But did I not have a duty to explore? I certainly had the opportunity and might never get it again. Work would always be there but this mystery might be fleeting. This was my opportunity.

I stepped into the hallway and the door closed behind me. The decision was made. I walked slowly down the hallway. I do not know why I was so cautious. There was no need to fear anything in an office building. Was there? The carpet seemed like our carpet, the walls seemed like our walls. It is always in moments like these that we realize how little we observe.

All of the signs were that disturbing shade of crimson red. The names were all foreign to me. I could not pronounce half of them. Nothing on the signs indicated what the offices were for. No “Dr.” prefixes and no hint of an “Esq.” or “CPA”. There was a definite dearth of evidence in plain sight. I would have to go deeper to figure things out. I was not sure if I wanted to do that. This was getting strange.

I headed back to the elevator but there was no button there on the wall. There was no indicator of what floor the elevator was on. I stood there and waited as if I could mentally summon the elevator. Obviously, nothing happened although I would not have been surprised by it with how weird the events of the day had been. Still, nothing happened. I could almost hear my heartbeat in the silence. I had to give up. My anxiety rose as I realized that I would have to go into one of the offices and ask somebody.

But which one would I try? I walked back down the hallway and stared hard at the office signs. I walked toward one door and at the last moment, I thought better of it. I thought about it a little longer and picked the sign that was the most comprehensible to me. I thought about knocking but you don’t knock on office doors, right? I tried to be as confident as possible as I opened the door. I put on a smile but I did not get a word out.

“Great,” the lady at the desk said, rising to her feet. “You’re finally here.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked. “I’m a little lost.”

“Are you thirsty?” she asked. “Do you want some water?”

“Actually,” I said. “Yes. Water would be great.”

The lady stood up and began to pour into a mug. “Once you drink this, we can begin,” she said.

“Begin?” I asked. “I don’t even know where I am.”

The lady tilted her head back and laughed. She stopped abruptly and held out the full mug. “How true,” she said. “I often feel like that too.” She handed me the mug.

I swished the liquid around in the mug and it made a strange bubbling, hissing sound.

“Is this blue?” I asked. “I don’t think this is water.”

“Oh dear,” she said. “It’s time.”

I felt a sudden strike to the back of my head and I lost consciousness.

* * *

I turned to the other bird on the branch. “So,” I said. “That’s basically how I got here.”

The other bird continued to ignore me.

Media Update 8/8/19

August 8, 2019


Hobbs and Shaw

I have been a big fan of the Fast and Furious movies ever since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was added to the mix in Fast Five. This is also when they seemed to find their formula of an ensemble movie with comedy, crazy action, and a little bit of drama. Recently, they decided to separate The Rock’s character Luke Hobbs off into his own attached franchise. Luke Hobbs is part of the Diplomatic Secret Service which is basically being an International cop. In this new franchise, he is forced to team up with disgraced British military man Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who became a mercenary. Both are tapped by the CIA to stop a bioterrorism plot. They are up against Idris Elba and team up with Vanessa Kirby. They do a really good job of separating the movie from the Fast and Furious franchise. While many of the events and character backgrounds draw from events in Fast 6, 7, and 8, they do not require you to know all of that. They highlight the important parts and provide new information to flesh these characters out. Part of that is infusing Luke Hobbs with Dwayne Johnson’s real-life Samoan heritage. The real draw of this movie is the unforgettable chemistry between Statham, Rock, and Vanessa Kirby and the incredible action scenes. There are also a couple great surprise cameos but personally, nothing tops Roman Reigns getting a moment in the spotlight. I definitely recommend this one and I cannot wait for the next one.


African Queen

I was way past due to watch this movie but sometimes it just takes a while to watch the classics. This movie is entirely filmed in Africa and set in Africa during the first World War. The star of the movie is Katharine Hepburn who is a British missionary in Uganda when Germany attacks, mobilizing resources and soldiers in their African territories against other European forces.  She is forced to flee with a Canadian steamboat driver, played by Humphrey Bogart, as they try to make it down river to meet up with British forces in the Belgian Congo. There are other people in the movie but what really matters is that ninety percent of the movie is the Hepburn and Bogart alone on a boat going down the river. A proper English gentlewoman and a roughneck smuggler who slowly get to know each other and change their lives for the better. The two must face off against not only the Germans but the elements, the local wildlife, and their own madness at different times. This could have been a really lowkey and depressing movie but they keep things light and fun. This makes sense as this movie was the inspiration for Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride.  It was also directed by the legendary John Huston. I definitely recommend it as an essential classic.


Split Second

I was searching for something else to watch this week and I stumbled upon this movie for free on Amazon Prime. With the recent passing of Rutger Hauer, I was in the mood for a crappy genre film. The movie is set in 2008 (which was the future then) in a London that is suffering from the effects of global warming. Much of the city is flooded and even passable roads have at least six inches of water. It makes for a messy, miserable city and probably still a possible future for London and other coastal cities. Rutger Hauer stars as a cop obsessed with tracking a serial killer that killed his partner ten years prior. He is a miserable bastard and has zero friends on the force and would always be extremely close to getting fired if he was not ‘the best’. He is partnered with Alistair Duncan, a bookish and intellectual detective who is a serial killer expert. The two begin the hunt for the serial killer anew by combining Hauer’s honed instincts with Duncan’s intelligence. The movie also stars Kim Catrall as the love interest of Rutger Hauer/Widow of his partner. Sometimes it is fun to watch a movie this cliched. It is like a science fiction film noir combo that really feels good. Rutger Hauer makes the film with his gruff charm. I recommend it. (Fun fact: This movie was written by the same guy who wrote the Fast and the Furious in 2001)

Music of the Week:
Brittany Howard – Stay High

Lizzo – Tempo

Bring Me The Horizon – sugar honey ice & tea

YUNGBLUD – Kill Somebody

The Highwomen – Redesigning Women

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Unexpected Pairings”
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more Defunctland and Yesterworld
– I watched more Wynonna Earp Season 3
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 3
– I watched more Charmed Season 1
– I finished Supernatural Season 14
– I finished The Flash Season 5

Snow White’s (Scary) Adventures

August 5, 2019

Recently, I have been watching shows like Defunctland and Yesterworld and I am starting to branch out from there to like-minded shows. All of these shows delve into the history of theme parks and their rides and attractions. They mostly explore those attractions that have been removed from theme parks. As I explained in my review of Defunctland, they explore things through business decisions, tactical decisions, and creative decisions. All of these decisions effect each other, obviously. It has been endlessly fascinating and has inspired me a lot in my own creative choices. However, it has also served another purpose. It has let me know in great detail that my memory was correct when I was scared by rides.

I have spoken before on a particular nemesis of mine when I was a little child but let us set the scene a little more. There was a time before my brothers when I spent a lot more time taking joint vacations with my mom, my uncle, and my cousin, Brantley. Brantley is the oldest of the cousins on my mom’s side and over time she became a sort of leader when there were eventually six of us. Early on, there were just the two of us though and she and I were fast friends. I remember in particular a visit to New York City together and a visit to Walt Disney World. The visit to the Magic Kingdom (aka the real happiest place on Earth) had a lasting effect on me even though I cannot remember a lot of it now.

Disney parks are an experience as many of the good theme parks are. When you enter, you are entering another world, a self-contained city of pure entertainment. There is so much to do that you could spend a week there and not finish doing absolutely everything. It has always been this other world that I have been interested in and not exactly the actual thrill rides. I do not remember riding Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or any of the particularly big rides. I know we went on some of the more sedate rides for sure. I vividly remember It’s A Small World and I am strangely not very annoyed by the song now because I was inoculated to it young. I think I almost remember going on the Jungle Cruise which seems like it would be a fun time. Journey Into Imagination is an attraction that has really stuck with me. I remember going on Pirates of the Carribean and getting scared while in line but once the ride started, I was enamored by the fun scenes unfolding in front of me.

When Disney created the Fantasyland section of the park, they wanted to adapt their movies based on popular fairytales. That is why the icons of Disneyland and Disney World are both storybook castles (Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella respectively). They ended up creating a bunch of rides based on Disney animated movies where the riders took the place of the main character of the movie. (Which ended up flooding the park with complaints). When I visited in the early nineties, one of those rides is the focus of this post: Snow White’s Adventure. While on the trip, at some point my mother and my uncle went off to do something. In order to occupy we children, we were put on one of the dark rides. How scary could Snow White be? Well, there is a reason why they changed the name of the ride to The Scary Adventures of Snow White in 1994.

The ride would not be so bad if they had simply followed the movie. Instead, they made it into a straight horror movie. Instead of only showing up once, the Wicked Witch (the Evil Queen in disguise) shows up tons of times. Her animatronic jumps out at the riders over and over, cackling with murderous glee. Among other things, she tries to offer the riders the iconic poison apple, tries to ram them with a minecart, tries to attack them head-on, and finally tries to smash them with a giant boulder. She is more like Wile E. Coyote than the sneaky witch she is in the movie. My little heart could not take it. The relentless witch and the ominous darkness of the ride sent me into full-on panic mode. I ended up covering my eyes and crouching down into the vehicle to make myself as small as possible. If I had even thought of coming back up for air, I swear I heard the witch cackle and call out “Don’t Cover Your Eyes, Sweetie!”

I swear that last part happened even though I cannot find it anywhere on the Internet. In fact, the first results in google are my own blog from a previous claim I made. Still, I have irrefutable and well-researched evidence that proves that the ride was scary. Many people have backed up those words and I have now seen plenty of footage. The witch was relentless and hilariously and needlessly aggressive. I look back and laugh now but I was pee-my-pants scared during that ride. I really believe that it was one of the formative moments that led to me being a fan of the Horror genre. Which is not to say that I was scarred by the experience but maybe somewhat inspired.

I do not blame the Imagineers who made the ride for making it scary. In fact, that was kind of a theme in Fantasyland. The rides there were scarier than the Haunted Mansion ever was. Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan’s Flight were originally also pretty scary. It is alright to scare children a bit. A little darkness shows them about the world in a safe way. I also don’t blame my mother as she had no idea and was there to hug me afterward and assure me that it was going to be alright. I was in the sunshine and everything was safe. At least, safe from the Evil Queen and all the imaginary horrors that would become an obsession later in life.

The Cave Witch

August 3, 2019

In the morning, the town would burn the swamp witch. She was accused of poisoning the crops outside of town and leading several youths astray through her potions. Nobody knew quite who the witch was. Everybody else in the town of Canterstone had been born within town limits and had grown up there. Like many small towns, the citizens’ reaction to outsiders ranged from curiosity to distrust. Those tides could also change quickly and when magic was involved. The witch had just appeared one day on the outskirts of town in the woods. Nobody was quite sure when she had actually moved into the cave as a hunter had spotted odd smoke coming out of it one day and that was that. She had arrived, evicting an old bear, and set up a home and shop far from prying eyes.

Little by little, some of the townspeople came to timidly visit her cave. Some were merely curious and wanted to catch a glimpse of the witch. Others came to browse here wares and see what a witch could give them for a little coin. She had not been very interested in coin but seemed to be more interested in offering services for barter. While this was not unheard of in a small village, it was a bit peculiar for what was technically a shop. Local law enforcement also visited the little cave and shouted questions from the safety of the mouth. The answers they received were sometimes straightforward and sometimes less so. She claimed to offer only peace but her status as a mystery made people nervous. Children were told to stay away and they disobeyed as children are wont to do.

Then things had gone all wrong and the peace was broken. Some crops had withered unexpectedly, threatening the town’s food supply. So close to harvest was not the time to lose crops like that. The village had grumbled about it but the local druids had moved on and could not be called on to investigate. Suspicions grew as the farmers did not want to admit that they might have failed and ruined a bit of the harvest. After that, a few of the young people were found to be goofing off instead of doing their work for their families. The timing was off as people were already looking for an excuse. One of the wayward teens blurted out something about the witch in the cave and that was it. This outsider had turned against the town and it had to be stopped. They took her captive while she slept and then she was doomed.

They had tied her to a pole in the middle of the town and left her there. In the morning, they would pile firewood and kindling around her and send her to the Hells. She slumped against the pole bound and gagged and sadly resigned to her fate. She had no tricks to pull to get out of her punishment. Gavin Flintshade’s mind would not settle and sleep would not come so, while everyone else slept, he stepped out to watch the witch.

“I wish I could know whether you were guilty or not,” Gavin said.

The witch said nothing, being gagged. It was hard to gauge her expression as she was absolutely encrusted with dried mud and bits of grass and her long hair covered a lot. However, her eyes said enough. Her glare was at the same time angry and pitying.

“I don’t suppose I could ungag you?” Gavin asked. “Would you promise me no tricks?”

The witch seemed to consider this. After they had stared at each other for some time, the witch nodded. Gavin thought he must be crazy or bespelled for even thinking of doing it but he walked up and ungagged her. She spat from the taste of the dirty cloth that had been her mouth but otherwise made no moves.

“My name is Gavin Flintshade,” Gavin said.

“My name is Rina,” the witch said.

Gavin waited for her to finish before he spoke. “Just Rina?” he asked.

“I am only Rina now,” Rina said.

“You don’t seem too dangerous to me, Rina,” Gavin said.

Rina smiled, the mud cracking at the corners of her mouth as if it was a foreign expression for her. “Looks are almost always deceiving,” she said. “But I never meant any harm to this town or its people. I wished only to live in peace.”

“How many years have you lived out there?” Gavin asked.

“Many,” Rina said. “Many without incident.”

“Exactly,” Gavin said. “That’s what troubles me. That’s what makes me think the people here have rushed to judgment.”

Rina paused and thought of what to say next. “In the cities, they would have had some sort of trial,” she said at last.

“We’re not equipped for that here,” Gavin said. “and I don’t think anyone’s inclined to hear you out.”

“I beg to differ,” Rina said. “You are listening.”

“I’m just one person,” Gavin said.

“We are all just one person,” Rina said.

There was a long pause after that and then there was a crack of thunder and it began to rain. Gavin and Rina looked around at all the houses but nobody stirred or made a move to protect the witch from the rain. She was only going to burn in the morning, anyway. Gavin stood there struggling with his own conscience but as he watched, a transformation began to happen. The rain started to wash the mud from Rina and Gavin was not prepared for what he saw. The palest white skin came into view as the mud fell away. Her hair was revealed as a wig made of some sort of woven grass. This was no human. This was not even an elf. It was nothing Gavin had ever seen before.

“What are you?” Gavin asked, his eyes wide.

“You have never seen one such as me,” Rina said. “I am Drow.”

Gavin gasped. “I thought your kind was a myth,” he said. “Aren’t you supposed to have black skin?”

Rina shrugged. “We had jet black skin soon after creation but ages of life underground away somehow changed our skin,” she said.

“And all the vicious rumors about your kind?” Gavin asked. “Are any of them true.”

“I can only imagine what the humans and elves and other races have invented,” Rina said. “However, most of my kind are still bitter against the races of the surface. However, there are many like me who escaped to the surface for a more peaceful life.”

“And then it all got ruined,” Gavin said. “By my kind.”

“It seems so,” Rina said.

There was another long silence and then Gavin stepped forward and moved to cut the ropes restraining Rina.

“What are you doing?” Rina asked. “Don’t.”

Gavin looked up in surprise. “This is not fair,” he said. “I can’t let this happen.”

Rina shook her head and spoke some arcane words and disappeared and reappeared on the ground, the ropes going slack without her form to hold them in place. “It would be incriminating if they found the ropes cut,” she said. “Go back to bed, Gavin Flintshade. I will depart in peace.”

“Good luck,” Gavin said and backed away to go back to his house.

“Goodbye,” Rina said and disappeared into the night.

Media Update 8/1/19

August 1, 2019


Support Group for Men

When I saw this title, the ridiculous concept of Men’s Rights groups flashed into my head but I knew that a festival like this would not do something like that (unless maybe it was satire). Instead, this is about a group of guys who meet regularly to talk about their problems and their thoughts. They are comfortable with each other and things can get a bit deep and they try to be there to support each other. An unexpected visitor interrupts the meeting and changes it, sending all of the guys in different trajectories. The play examines masculinity, how we treat others, and how we treat each ourselves. The show was so good about putting a lot of positive messages about there about old school machismo, homophobia, gender identity, dating, age, mental health, and so many other issues men are presented with. Some of those topics are things that most men try to ignore but must be confronted with. The show deals with a lot of these deep moments with lots of healing humor. Which is to say that the show definitely takes important topics seriously but keeps things light and sweet to make the medicine go down. I definitely recommend it if you can find it.


Antonio’s Song/ I Was Dreaming of a Son

This was the one-person show of this year’s festival which is always interesting. A one-person show is often like listening to an audiobook. One person plays all sorts of different characters and must act out the whole show by themselves. This is a risky kind of play to write and perform because when it does not work, there is no way to get it back. It helps that this play was at least partly autobiographical. The actor, Antonio Edwards Suarez, was also one of the playwrights. He tells the story of his life from growing up in Brooklyn. He is the child of a Black man and a Latinx woman. He is stuck between two worlds but is also stuck in a world of gang violence brought on by toxic masculinity. The show is ostensibly about being caught in and trying to break out of a generational cycle of violence and anger. It is also about how creativity and the arts can help kids find who they are and who they want to be. It approaches defying traditional gender roles, cultural classifications, and trying to rise above where we should be. It is a really touching piece full of hope. Parts of it made me feel uncomfortable but that was obviously its intention. I also recommend it if you can find it.


Chester Bailey

I do not want to play favorites in this festival but I really, really liked this one and not only because I was able to meet and talk with its stars, Reed and Ephraim Birney. The show reminded me a bit of shows like Equus except that it was way lighter and smarter. The show follows a psychologist dealing with his patient in a mental hospital after a horrible accident. This all takes place during World War II when young men who were not overseas were embarrassed. Ephraim plays the patient, a young New Yorker who was struggling to find himself when one of the worst things ever happens to him. Reed Birney plays a snarky but highly insightful doctor who is dealing with his own personal problems when one of the most difficult cases of his career lands in his lap. The play has a lot of twists and turns and presents a lot of intriguing psychological problems. It does not dwell too long in tragedy but definitely has a dark edge. The show is told mostly in dueling monologues, sounding like journal entries from the characters told directly to the audience. The few scenes between the actors are charged with energy and definitely help drive the play forward. In this way, the show is kind of like two one-man shows that repeatedly collide. I definitely recommend it if you can find it.

 

Music of the Week:
Ashnikko – Hi, It’s Me

Dirty Heads ft. Rome of Sublime – Lay Me Down

Ferals – Gone

2 Chainz – Stay Woke Freestyle

Alice Chater – Hourglass

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “CATF 2019 Pt. 2”
– I finished Game of Thrones Season 3
– I finished Slasher Season 1
– I finished Losers Season 1
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I watched more Supernatural Season 14
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more Stargate: Atlantis Season 1
– I watched more Defunctland and Yesterworld
– I started Wynonna Earp Season 3

#WeAreBaltimore

July 29, 2019

Lately, my hometown of Baltimore has been under attack. The President of the United States has lashed out at Baltimore because U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings criticized him. Elijah Cummings has been a major player in Congress’ investigation into the President and his staff. He had a lot of prominent moments in the hearing where Michael Cohen testified. He has now apparently made himself a target by speaking up against the man in the White House. I am still unsure about what that investigation will bring and how useful it is to the country. There are too many desperate conspiracy theories around for anybody to make real sense out of anything. Setting that aside, Trump obviously feels threatened whether this ends in his fall or not. He is lashing out from fear and ego and his target has been my city.

The thing is, Trump is not the only one attacking Baltimore. Many have been in the past few days and I am one of them. Now, I love Baltimore and my heart will dwell here for the rest of my days even if I moved on. However, recently yet another event has happened that makes me want to rail against Baltimore leadership. Keith Davis Jr. was recently framed by the police and the State’s Attorney’s Office and took the fall for a murder he most likely did not commit. However, that is not the only thing. Years ago now Freddie Gray died while in police custody and the new State’s Attorney Mosby tried the cops. She bungled it and they all got off scot-free. Three mayors in a row have now been plagued with controversy and scandal. Mayor Sheila Dixon stole gift cards intended for the needy at Christmas. Ineffectual Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a bad deal with the Grand Prix and bungled the Baltimore riots. Mayor Catherine Pugh went back on many of her campaign promises and was eventually caught in an illegal bribery and ethics scandal. I do not even need to go into the Gun Trace Task Force which did not do any tracing and instead robbed and framed people like crazy.

It can be really easy to rail against this corrupt town. The police and most of the politicians are absolutely and thoroughly corrupt. The crime rate is high, the murder rate is depressing, we are never far from another riot, and the cops and politicians are very racist. On a semi-humorous note, Trump was not wrong about the rats. Baltimore has famously huge rats. And yet, I still hold out hope. There are still politicians that I trust somewhat. I trust Councilman Bill Henry because we were friends back when I was in high school and he proved himself to be a good man. I trust Councilman Leon Pinkett (who presides over my district) somewhat as I have seen him connect with locals over concerns. I trust Elijah Cummings because he is a progressive and has proven himself to be a decent man. Of course, this trust can always be revoked as soon as one of them does something wrong.

More than that, I believe in the people of Baltimore. The good people who I have met in person or talked to online. There are good people I have protested with or bitched about the city with. There are plenty of people who are not racist or ignorant and eventually people will see the light. Something has to give and then hopefully the citizens of Baltimore will wake up and things might change. But Trump has no right to rail against Baltimore because Baltimore is afflicted with the same sicknesses that the rest of the country has. Sicknesses like racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, capitalism, nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and so many more societal ills. These are problems that many politicians including Trump have no interest in fixing. These problems distract the populace from the real problems we need to face and allow their status quo to continue.

So yes, #WeAreBaltimore because I have pride in the 410 forever but do not let this distract you for long. There is plenty to protest and plenty to fix and we will not do it feeling outraged for a slight against by a moron.

The War Veteran

July 27, 2019

In the midst of the Battle for Hogwarts, Henry Redwell had been hit with the Cruciatus curse. He had been one of the many students who took up their wand against the Dark Lord’s army. It had never been his wish to be a fighter, to be in a war but it had been necessary. He still had no doubt that had they not fought back, He Who Must Not Be Named would have slaughtered them all after he had been done with Harry Potter. They had fought for their very survival and they had barely survived. Henry had done his best with what few lessons he knew but the students of Hogwarts were not really trained for such things especially with the meddling of Umbridge and Snape.

Henry’s older brother had been friends with Cedric Diggory and so Henry had met him on holiday several times before entering Hogwarts himself. The Redwell family had always been members of Hufflepuff going back ages and so Redwell had entered that house. His older brother had looked after him until graduation and by then Redwell had his own friends to keep him safe. The Redwells were loyal and so Hufflepuff made sense. They left the courage to Gryffindor, the usual champions against evil. Still, when the truth came out about Harry Potter trying to save Cedric’s life during the Tri-Wizard cup, Henry felt inspired by the story and all of the subsequent stories of Harry and his friends.

All told, Henry Redwell had probably been destined for a Ministry job or to take over the family shop. All of that changed in the Battle for Hogwarts but a lot changed that day for a lot of people. He had been fending off the attack of a death eater when he was hit from behind with the Cruciatus curse. It might have only been a moment or it could have been the hours that it felt like but the pain was excruciating nonetheless. He had been saved by Professor Lupin who took out both Death Eaters. Henry’s future wife Felicity Partridge had pulled him to safety and tended to his wounds the best she could. A smart man would have left it there but Henry Redwell had found his bravery.

Henry spent his remaining years in Hogwarts working toward a new goal. He asked Felicity, a girl with a truly brilliant mind, to tutor him and he poured himself into his studies. His grades saw an immediate improvement and with that momentum, he pushed himself even harder. As he walked the halls of Hogwarts, he would not stand for bullying. When he heard about a problem, he set out to put it right. He tried not to use force if talking worked and soon his friends were following his example. He was no leader but he had started a small trend that helped everybody at Hogwarts. He wondered briefly if this was what Dumbledore’s Army had felt like. He humbly shook that thought away and continued working toward his goal.

When he graduated Hogwarts, he just barely had the grades to become an Auror. Part of his acceptance as an Auror was due to his extracurricular anti-bullying behavior. He had shown that he wanted to be part of the community in a positive way while also protecting that community. He was accepted into a new global task force. The British government had been briefly compromised by the rise of the Dark One. If there had been closer ties within the worldwide wizarding world, aid might have come to England and the Battle at Hogwarts might have been completely different. So much could have been different. This new task force would root out dark wizards and try to stop another Grindelwald or Voldemort from rising to power.

Many people in England wanted to call them The Snake Eaters but thankfully it was agreed that this was a bad call. Having been at Hogwarts, Henry knew that there was still a lot of animosity against the Slytherin House. However, Henry had forgiven most of the ones he knew and the world was starting to warm to the idea of giving second chances to the least complicit snakes of the world. Henry’s compassion led to him getting command of his own squad and he had put one together after a lengthy interview process. He had recruited his own wife, Felicity, as the team medic.

Henry had forbidden the use of any magical methods to coerce captives to give up their wicked friends. Torture or tricks would only create animosity which would make reform all the more difficult. This meant no Veritaserum, no Imperius Curse, and definitely no Cruciatus Curse. Henry had picked a squad with near limitless patience so that they could obtain information purely through conversation. His team armed Henry with all of the knowledge he would need to outthink and connect with the person across the table.

Henry walked into the interrogation room carefully, closing the door slowly behind him. He sat down in front of a young woman with an intricate snake tattoo on her face. They had chased her through Bath, lost her, and then found her again and caught her in Blackpool. Henry took a deep breath and smiled gently at the young woman. He set his folder down in front of him. The woman spat in Henry’s face, the wad of spit hitting where his nose met his right cheek. His file never faltered and he slowly wiped the spit off and opened the folder.

“Now then,” Henry said. “Let’s have a little chat.”


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