Media Update 12/8/2016

December 8, 2016


Suicide Squad

I went into this movie with incredibly low expectations. I still have not seen Batman V. Superman and, at this rate, I may never see it. It helped that the movie was written and directed by a more competent man in David Ayer who made Training Day. The movie apparently had a lot of studio meddling in it. A lot of the movie felt like a music video with supervillains in it. I clocked at least three different popular songs in the first four minutes which just reeks of trying to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy. The highlight of the movie is Margot Robbie who is the highlight of most movies she is in. Her portrayal of Harley Quinn was heavily quotable and brought a lot of life and comedy to what otherwise could have been a much darker movie. A lot of people complained about Jared Leto’s Joker but I really think he did a fine job. What really bothered me was that he did not really need to be in the movie because he barely impacted the plot. They could have reduced his role even more, made the movie shorter and saved him for when he would have more impact later. Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman also really stood out as Amanda Waller and Rick Flag. Davis was especially great with her nearly sociopathic performance. While it was dark, it was in line with the comics and previous portrayals of the character in media. Kinnaman had a tough job of trying to stand out and remain likable but he really pulled it off. Will Smith should not play bad guys. He just was not believable as a contract killer to me. He was fun but he was not the one for that role. Overall, I liked the movie and I really think they should continue with this franchise instead of the Superman franchise. I recommend it but realize that it is still connected to the current DCU movies.


Yoga Hosers

I never saw Tusk (the first film in this trilogy) because it never appealed to me and I also listened to the podcast where Kevin Smith detailed pretty much the whole concept. I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith. Amid all the dick and fart jokes, a lot of Smith’s movies spoke a lot of truth about life. This movie was written and made while Kevin Smith was smoking a lot of pot and it kind of shows. However, that is not quite a horrible thing. It is a love letter from the US to Canada and also a family affair. This movie is very playful and has a lot of meta, self-referential humor similar to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The movie also has a similar kinetic energy to that movie. The power of this movie comes from the chemistry between its stars Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith’s daughter) and Lily-Rose Depp (Johnny Depp’s daughter). The two of them have been best friends in real life since kindergarten and that was definitely channeled into the movie. Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp are also in the movie. Smith is like a Looney Tunes character and his joke gets old but then suddenly gets funny again. Depp transforms into a character from Tusk, a pathetic French detective who enlists the young girls to combat evil. Finally, there was Ralph Garman who managed to work his celebrity impressions into the movie despite it not making any sense but he was still fun. There are also a ton of fun cameos. The movie really makes me want to see Lily-Rose in more stuff. I definitely recommend it for Kevin Smith fans and fans of goofy movies.


Jungle Book

I have been wary of watching this movie because the original was such a good movie on its own. It has some really good Disney music and some really good animation. It is a classic for a reason. When I saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it looked pretty but it was clear that it was not a musical. I kept hope that it was still a musical but it was not to be. Strangely, there is one single music number almost halfway through and again over an hour in. I would have rather they just left it out at that point. While I kind of missed the musical aspects (the score is nothing special) the movie is stunningly beautiful. It is incredibly hard to believe that this was shot with one child actor and a boatload of computer generated animation. The animals are all so lifelike and well-animated that they feel almost like real animals (except for the speaking perfect English part). The kid, Neel Sethi, is really good for his age. He put in a lot of work and does a lot of good acting and some stunt work. The voice work of all the famous actors they hired is fantastic. Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyong’o especially were fantastic. Scarlet Johansson was also excellent but she was only in the movie for less than two minutes. I think they should have cast somebody besides Christopher Walken. Bill Murray was good. I think what I liked about this is how much better the writing is from the original story. It added more lore to the story as well, drawing more of Kipling’s work. I recommend this one for sure.

Music of the Week:
Red Sun Rising – Amnesia

The Record Company – Off The Ground

Eli “Paperboy” Reed – Come And Get It

Blackalicious ft. Chali 2na & Lateef the Truthspeaker – 4000 Miles

Getter – Rip N Dip

Weekly Updates:
– I am now on Season 2 of The Office
– I continued to watch Season 2 of Dark Matter
– I am caught up on Season 2 of Ash vs. The Evil Dead
– This week’s theme is “Unlikely Heroes”
– I continued Season 2 of Parks and Recreation
– I continued Season 1 of Luther
– “Not expecting much but being surprised and happy” is probably a secondary theme this week

Interview Questions 6

December 5, 2016

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?

I would probably pick Houdini. Harry Houdini was a masterful magician and escape artist who delighted fans around the world. I love the art of stage magic since I was a little kid. A really good magic trick can fill your mind with wonder just as easily as actual magic would do if it were real. Houdini’s main trick was escaping from dire situations. He escaped from barrels filled with beer, straight jackets and even from burial. That is a fun trick to have up my sleeve. While I have stage fright, I do like entertaining people and perhaps being Houdini would spark a new side of me. He was also the president of the Society of American Magicians and that would have made good company. Houdini named himself after his idol Robert Houdin. Later, Houdini found out that his hero was a fraud and was able to survive and thrive. It inspired in him the desire to debunk and expose frauds who preyed on the weak and vulnerable. He exposed spiritualists who claimed they could communicate with dead loved ones. Exposing these horrible charlatans would have given me great pleasure and a feeling of accomplishment. Of course, if I was Houdini I would have died at age 52 but it would be on Halloween with a life well-lived.

Besides your family, who has influenced your thinking most? Why, and in what way(s)?

I would actually have to go with Mr. Pappas, my high school physics teacher. He was one of the first people to present me with options. My parents were Democrats and I went to a pretty liberal Quaker private school from first to twelfth grade. I met a lot of interesting kids in school who all came from different cultures and different walks of life. Even though there were a handful of Republican kids at school, I never thought I could be anything besides a Democrat. Mr. Pappas did two things to shake that firm belief. As a teacher at my school, he had a discount on tuition for his son. He decided to send his kid to the best public school in town instead. This was a clear message that maybe my private school was not the perfect golden palace of knowledge that I thought it was. He also handed me a copy of the Communist Manifesto and discussed it with me. Communist is a dirty word but we discussed it openly and honestly and I took a lot of the good elements to heart. I learned that being rich is not a virtue, it is a privilege. Using the power you have unselfishly is not only respectable but can also help everyone around you. Both of these actions made me think more critically about the world and convinced me that the status quo will not always be the status quo.

If you were at a business lunch and you ordered a rare steak and they brought it to you well done, what would you do?

I have learned over time that I prefer my steak rare or close to it. I especially like rare steak when it is prepared by a restaurant. Of course, this does not apply to dives but they do not usually prepare steak below medium anyway. Good restaurants prepare rare steak in a safe and flavorful way that is usually very tender. For the longest time, I was a no fuss diner and still prefer to act that way. If I ask for no tomatoes and there are tomatoes on my burger, I just take them off. I am not allergic to any food items and I do not mind managing my own food. Still, getting my steak overcooked is something that I would consider mentioning to the server. However, I would only mention it during a casual meal with friends or family. A business lunch is meant to be brief and the concentration should be put on business. Business lunches are also often supposed to be brief and professional. I would not interrupt a business lunch to complain to the server or the cooking staff about edible food. I know many people who mention these things in order to help the kitchen staff improve but I do not feel that is my place or my duty. I would focus on the task at hand and eat my well-done steak. I might ask for some sauce, though.

The End and the Beginning

December 3, 2016

Bron lay face down in the dirt. When he opened his eyes he could see it was dirt. He was not sure where he was or even if he cared where he was. He closed his eyes again. He tried to think about the night before and it was like pulling on a fishing line. As he pulled, the memories started coming to the surface.

All he had known was life in the Blacktooth camp. It was brutal and dangerous but there was a joy in joining the fight every single day. He had grown up believing in the survival of the tribe against all odds. The kids his age had made that hard. They had always ganged up on him. They had not cared that he had no father. Bastards were common enough. They were upset that Bron was only half-orc. They hated his human side.

Bron did not see it that way. His human half did not make him less, it made him more. The thought fueled him and the hunting and the hunting and constant challenges made him even stronger. Too strong for the elders of the tribe. They had told him that he would never be accepted. Bron had countered that eventually they would die and he would take over. Then he would have to be accepted. They promised that this would never happen. Bron had just laughed and walked away from that meeting. That was what he assumed was the day before.

In the night, they came for Bron. They dragged him away and into the wilderness and he fought but there were twelve of them. One against all is not good odds. Every time he fought back, they hit him with fists or clubs until he was dazed or blacked out. They pulled him to his feet in the middle of a field. He was face to face with Urka. He did his best to spit blood in Urka’s face. He succeeded.

“You’ve never beat me, Urka. So you needed your friends to join in,” Bron said.

“Your time here is done, Bron. Your words are useless,” Urka said.

“You will have to kill me to get rid of me.”

“Good.” There were no speeches, there were no announcements. Urka pulled out a long, wicked dagger and immediately Bron fought hard. He charged Urka but suddenly he was blindsided by an orc with a spear. Bron could feel it going through his body. Then another spear hit his other side and pierced him. Urka walked toward him, grinning like a devil.

The knife drove deep and Bron instantly knew that it was very bad. Urka cradled his head as Bron sank to his knees. Urka drove his knee into Bron’s face. Something cracked. He drove that knee again and again and there was warmth and wetness. The world turned black after that third knee landed.

So here he was. He had no idea how long he had been out. He pushed himself to his feet but the high sun was much too bright and Bron found himself blinking and shielding his eyes for a moment. Beneath his feet, there was a great pool of blood that had mixed with the dirt and then dried. There were two spears as well but no knife. Bron thought Urka must have taken it with him. Bron smiled to himself. He was not dead. He actually felt fine.

He turned and there was a small robed woman standing and staring.

“Who the hell are you?” Bron growled.

“Hmm. It is a long time since I had a name,” The woman said. As Bron approached to strangle her, she held her hand up and he paused. He was merely surprised at her courage. “You can call me the Noonday Witch for now,” the woman said.

“Whatever,” Bron said dismissively. “What do you want? I have necks to snap.”

“I healed you. I did not want to depart without making sure you were alright.”

“I’m fine,” Bron grunted.

“You did not look fine,” The woman said softly and carefully.

“There was twelve of them.”

“Twelve and you lived. Impressive,” The woman said with a slight smile. “The currents of fate may have something big in store for you yet.”

“Whatever. I’m going back there and I am turning Urka inside out.”

“Do you feel the pull of Grummsh that strongly?” The woman asked. The name sent pulses of dread through Bron’s body.

“I am half-orc. I do what I want.”

“If you do not share their ideals, you will never rule them and they will never rule you.”

“What do you care?” Bron asked. “It’s all I know.”

“My point is that there is more world out there. There are challenges more worthy of confronting,” The woman said.

“Like what?” Bron asked. He was suddenly interested. He loved a challenge.

“I see your path going that way,” she said. “If you go that way, it will be hard not to continue down the path.”

Bron squinted at the witch. “Those currents. Can you see the future?”

“Maybe,” she said and smiled cryptically.

“Maybe?”

“It depends on if you go where I suggested,” she said with a shrug.

“Maybe I will. Maybe I will show them my strength,” Bron said. Visions of new faces awed by his strength danced behind his eyes. Maybe he could create his own tribe. A new tribe to crush the Blacktooth for rejecting him.

“Maybe,” the woman and seemed to think about it for a moment. “I like maybe. I hope you will carve your own path some day.” She seemed to flicker like the flame of a torch for a moment and then she was gone. In her place, there was a great ax. Bron walked forward and greeted as if it was a new friend.

Media Update 12/1/2016

December 1, 2016


Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie

I originally skipped this because I thought it was a legit documentary created by Trump’s folks. It is not. It was created by Funny or Die after Trump won the New Hampshire primary and it is a satirical send-up of Donald Trump’s life. Unlike most things I have seen after the election, it is not as sad now. The conceit of the movie is that Ron Howard (yes that Ron Howard) found a copy of a super rare movie Trump made about the book he published in 1989. From a production standpoint, the movie is absolutely amazing. They put so much work into making it look a lot like a crappy VCR recording of a television movie. It really brought me back to when we taped stuff off of television a lot and just dealt with the poor quality. The movie is also really funny. The movie’s framing device is Trump explaining “The Art of the Deal” to a kid as he goes about the normal business of his day. There are several flashbacks as we visit points in Trump’s life where he made good business deals but at the cost of being a decent person. Here, they do not need to exaggerate and just tell the story pretty much straightforward. There are plenty of great actors who get to play actual historical characters but my favorites are probably Patton Oswalt as Merv Griffin and Alfred Molina as Trump’s real estate lawyer. Trump is actually played by Johnny Depp who undergoes a transformation and becomes the man he is meant to play. It is not unlike the methods he must have used in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You should definitely check this one out as it is only 50 minutes long.


Mascots

So, one of my favorite movies is This is Spinal Tap which is probably the best mockumentary ever made. It perfectly encapsulates the most important and the least appetizing parts of being a rock star. The highly improvised movie was directed by Rob Reiner but it was co-written by Lord Christopher Guest (among other people). Guest went on to create quite a few great mockumentaries in the same style with a lot of the same usual suspects. I have not seen them all but Mascots caught my eye as a Netflix original. (I should mention I’m not in any way sponsored by Netflix but I would make a deal in a heartbeat.) As with all of his mockumentaries, the subject matter ends up being pretty dark but Guest and his excellent actors have a great ability to bring lightness to the dark. These sports mascots have real human problems that they have to put on hold in order to perform. Most of the time that people are paying attention to them, they are embodying a character who is larger than they will ever be. Some of my favorites were Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Fred Willard and Guest himself. A special shout out goes to Chris O’Dowd (from the IT Crowd) who I was happy to see being an absolute slimeball. The movie was a lot of fun with a ton of dark humor and also some genuinely touching moments. I definitely recommend this one.


The Office (USA)

I have seen a little bit of The Office before this week. Actually, I have seen a little of both the US and the UK versions. However, the bulk of the American version was watched during my “I Hate Anything that is Popular” phase. The Office is a favorite of both of my brothers and a professor used clips of it to illustrate points in employment law. So, I thought I would actually give it a real shot from the beginning. My first impression of this show is that it is fueled by awkwardness and horribleness. It is kind of like a hybrid between Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Parks and Recreation. It is a comedy but a lot of it is not really laugh out loud funny. A lot of it is humor from misery. Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is very similar to Fred Willard in Mascots. He’s oblivious, racist, sexist and overly familiar with people he should be tactful with. He is not willfully malicious but ends up causing a lot of collateral damage. Obviously, the real stars of the show are Jim and Pam who are just two people trying to survive the day to day in an office. I also like a lot of the smaller parts of their coworkers who are just normal people trying to deal with all these weirdos. I have watched the first season and I like the show enough to keep trying it. I think Parks and Rec is a better show but The Office was not worthy of being dismissed out of hand. I would recommend it but you have probably all seen it already.

Music of the Week:
Justice – Stress

Manicomio – Cosculluela

Zebra-Tell Me What You Want

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Go Robot

In This Moment – Burn

Weekly Updates:
– I finished the season finale of Galavant and it was so good.
– I finished Person of Interest as well and it was the perfect ending
– I watched more Season 2 of Dark Matter
– I watched more of The Grinder
– I want to go to the movies to see Dr. Strange or Magical Creatures
– This week’s theme is “Mockumentaries”

Sometimes a Dog is Just a Dog

November 28, 2016

So, something new has happened in my life recently. I’m not talking about Thanksgiving which was an adventure worth having but, if given the choice, I would have taken tradition instead. No, I am talking about a dog. My brother has started fostering dogs for the local SPCA and that I agreed to help him since I am spending much of my time at home working on schoolwork. When he goes off to the gym or meets with a tenant, I get to watch his temporary dog. (The dog is temporarily his and yet permanently a dog) I really do not mind even though it can get a little distracting. I am working on final papers for the semester so I am not really out and about.

20161123_190036

Here she is.  Who’s a good dog?  Rizzo is.

Of course, this is Baltimore so there is one breed of dog that is likely to be hanging out at a shelter in the city. Yes, my brother picked up a bonafide purebred pitbull. Her name is Rizzo and yes that name is based on the character from Grease even though she looks nothing like any of the actresses I have seen in the role. In fact, her coloring ends up making her look more like a cow than any dog I have ever seen. She is a sweet dog at age two and she still has a lot of energy and not a lot of focus. She will lie down on her bed next to my couch as I type away at this computer just fine. Then, the door opens or some weird sound happens from somewhere nearby and she is up on her feet. It is cute but a little distracting. I think she will grow out of that.

Unfortunately, “pit bull” is a dirty word in American society today. Pit bulls were originally created by breeding terriers with bulldogs. The idea was to combine a terrier’s agility with the bulldog’s bite strength. The reasoning for this was to create a creature bred for violence and specifically the pit bull was made for dog fighting. Unfortunately, that is what a lot of them are still used for these days. Their behavior leads to people vilifying the poor misguided things. I was always skeptical of labeling pit bulls inherently dangerous. Now that I have met Rizzo, I am sure that the reasoning is flawed.

Rizzo is strong as hell. In a lot of ways, she is much stronger and faster than I am. I have seen her savage objects with her teeth and I know how capable she is at destruction. She could destroy me and not even work up a sweat while she did it. While she is very capable, Rizzo is not interested in that. I have seen her meet a few people now and she is just excited as your average Labrador retriever or hound dog. That excitement has never translated into an attack or any indication of violent behavior. So, I don’t believe any domesticated animal is inherently dangerous. It is all in how the dog is treated. If you train a dog to be violent,  it will be violent. If you treat the dog with love and respect then it will do the same. Whoever adopts that dog will be lucky.

The Story Pt 1

November 26, 2016

She sat across from me as I studied in the library. I was leaning toward getting some Chinese takeout but besides those potentially dangerous thoughts, I was keeping to my work. I had three major papers due in the next two weeks and I was trying to focus on those. Of course, I had plenty of normal deadlines in the meantime. Sleep was slipping away from me as I slowly receded into the world of the mind. On top of all of that, I was trying to wrap my head around some new works by some colleagues in Ireland.

I am a dramaturg by trade or at least that is what I was studying to be. A dramaturg researches plays and writes about the dramatic arts. While I was working on my degree, I was critiquing and editing plays written by my friends and the friends of my friends. I love getting into the guts of other people’s stories. There was an upcoming festival in Dublin that had an approaching submission deadline. A friend of mine had sent a play for me to look at. Several of her friends had followed suit and I have trouble saying no.

She was moving. I realized that she had been silently watching me this whole time. She was sliding her hand across the table to get my attention. I tried to ignore her. I had no time for random women in libraries, even if they were redheads. She was persisting, leaning over farther and farther to get into my field of vision. It was starting to get annoying. Could she not just get a librarian? I did not have enough sleep under my belt to deal with this.

“William Park?” She asked in a tiny library voice. My name is William Park. Wait, how did she know my name? I looked up at her sharply.

“How do you know my name?” I asked. Her eyes were very green. The green of a healthy field of grass. I once had a collection of Marlowe plays bound in that exact color.

“I know it because I am supposed to know it at this point in the story.” The woman said.

“Okay,” I said. “Am I supposed to know your name?” I asked. Her answer was weird but also kind of funny to my sleep deprived mind. I smiled in spite of myself.

“No, but I tell it you right now. My name is Helen Booker,” She said. I found myself shaking her hand when she offered it.

“‘Booker’. Funny, you keep talking about a story,” I said. “That’s weird. I’m not sure what you’re talking about or what you want from me. Thoughts?”

“The story is the world and the world is the story. A lot of it is not written yet. We want to make the rest of it more interesting,” She said with a flip of her hair and a big grin. I noticed there were thick goggles pushed up on her head and tangled in her hair.

“Did you say Booker or Bonkers? Please leave me out of whatever you’re planning to do,” I said. With no small amount of drama, I looked back down at my work. Of course, it was hard to concentrate but I hoped the act would convince her to move on. I glanced up a few moments later. I could not help it. She was now less delightful and more impatient.

“We do not have time for this. Now that I have made a move, they will be trying to prevent this from happening.” She said. Her eyes darted around the room nervously.

“What exactly would they be preventing?” I asked. I started shoving myself into my bag. I had a feeling it might be better to work back at my place.

“I made contact,” She said as if that meant more than I thought it did. “I am here to recruit you.”

“You’re going to fail. Whatever you’re recruiting me for, it is not going to happen. That saves them the trouble of preventing anything,” I said.

“Nobody has ever said no before,” She said with a frown.

“Read my lips-” I began saying before Booker covered my mouth with her hand. Her frown quickly turned into a silly grin again.

“You haven’t gotten the whole sales pitch yet. Now come with me, I think the editors are coming.”

“Editors?” I asked.

As if on cue, there was a popping sound coming from the stacks. Booker reached out and yelled something I couldn’t understand. Some objects that moved very fast hit the tables behind me.

“What the hell was that?!” I yelled. There were holes in the table directly behind me. Booker held up her hand dramatically and opened it and a piece of metal fell to the floor.

“Bullets. Run!” She said and ran. I ran after her. I looked over my shoulder and saw a clean cut man exit the stacks with a determined look on his face. I turned and nearly ran into the front doors. We pushed them open and started down the marble steps. I nearly fell twice but I managed to barely keep up with Booker’s long strides. Three was a whole line of cars parked at the bottom of the steps. In unison, all of those cars detonated, forming a wall of intense flame. Booker hung a sharp right and I managed to keep up with her in the staggering heat coming from the cars. We squeezed through a gap between the cars and the fence and ran toward some trees.

Booker held up some sort of emblem that looked like a white rabbit. It shone brightly for a moment and then a hole opened up in the ground a couple of yards ahead. She performed a perfect baseball slide into the hole to my astonishment.  I hesitated for a moment and heard a bullet hit a nearby tree trunk. I dove headfirst into the hole and found myself tumbling through an immense empty space. I tried to look up but I could no longer see the hole I had come through.

Media Update 11/24/2016

November 24, 2016


The Grinder

I knew I was going to watch this show when I heard the premise around the time I started thinking about studying the law. After the election, I decided to watch it and it is a very funny and relevant show right now. Rob Lowe plays Dean Sanderson, an actor who played a lawyer on television. He has now decided to help out at his brother’s actual law firm. It is a great story about a man with a ton of ideas but no training trying to bluster his way through being successful. Meanwhile, his intelligent and well-trained brother comes in and saves the day. It is a great story about how you cannot just charge into a situation and be successful without knowing the rules. The rules matter and watching somebody with great confidence fail and adapt is very funny and interesting to me. Fred Savage, who plays Stewart Sanderson, often acts as the last sane man and tries to reign in his brother. Happily, Savage is not viewed as the villain for doing this because he is both correct and Lowe’s character is usually being flagrantly ridiculous. A lot of the humor comes from the clash between the everyman and the celebrity. There is a big of vaudeville in Fred Savage’s performance and a ton of melodrama in Rob Lowe’s performance. The two characters slowly start to affect each other so that they can take on a bit of each other’s positive characteristics. They are backed by a great cast and great guest stars. The first episode even has Kumail Nanjiani in it. It is a little unfortunate that a good show like this went off of the air so quickly but there is a lot of that going around. I definitely recommend it, especially for how it tears apart shows like Boston Legal, JAG and Law and Order.


The Big Short

I was glad to have an excuse to make myself watch this one because I have had access but had not gotten around to watching this movie. It was right up my alley. First, it had Christian Bale in it and that is an automatic point in favor of a movie for me. Christian Bale does not really play sane and normal people and this movie is no different. Here he plays a guy in charge of managing an investment fund who is a genius who is good with math but not people. He sets in motion a chain of events which leads to himself and others shorting the US housing market in 2007. Everybody thinks they are crazy because up until 2007 the housing market was mostly stable. As we know, the subprime mortgage crisis along with horrible banking practices created a financial crisis that we are still recovering from. Early on, the movie is actually kind of funny and quirky as we meet our characters. As it continues, it becomes more of a horror movie as the characters begin to realize just how messed up things are and how doomed the economy is. It is also a story of realists vs. optimists as we see professional economists and bank representatives try to paint on a smile as the world starts to burn around them. The movie could have been much more melodramatic but one of the things that breaks the tension a bit is the constant breaking of the fourth wall. The characters (who are based on real people) turn to the camera and explain the economic and banking concepts involved or explain what happened in real life. They also cut to famous celebrities three times to help explain things which is great because it gets a bit complicated. Slowing down to explain the concepts really helped the movie. It ended up being a really good but sickening movie because a lot of the stuff in it really happened. I definitely recommend it.


Dice, Camera, Action: The Curse of Strahd

The tabletop roleplay gaming group that I am in is gearing up to play Dungeons and Dragons. While I have watched my share of streams and listened to podcasts, I am not completely in tune with the new fifth edition rules. As I have stated in the past, I am a huge fan of “Commander” Holly Conrad who is a YouTuber and a cosplay wizard. I am also a fan of Chris Perkins, who has become kind of a dungeon master to the stars as a Wizards of the Coast employee. So, it was a no-brainer to start watching episodes of this stream. Watching it reminds me of our gaming group and how our characters instantly like or hate each other and all of the group dynamics. The story is also interesting as it covers a module called The Curse of Strahd which is set away from The Sword Coast or the Forgotten Realms. Instead, the players are magically transported to a new but dark land where vampires are the main threat. This makes the story pretty dark and Halloween-y but the players manage to keep it light. For instance, they call themselves the Waffle Crew and constantly bicker and snark at each other. I was not as acquainted with the other players but I really like NateWantsToBattle and Jared Knabenbauer who both know their stuff. I have absolutely fallen in love with the sunny, silly portrayal of a paladin that Anna Prosser Robinson achieves. Of course, I love Holly’s socially awkward tiefling warlock and her epic weirdness. I am way behind on this show but I will continue to watch it.

Music of the Week:

Cashmere Cat – Trust Nobody ft. Selena Gomez, Tory Lanez

Slapbak ft. Miss Aleida “Dance All Night”

Television – See No Evil

Em Sea Water- The Box Theory

Train – Play That Song

Weekly Updates:
– I watched more Galavant and it just gets better and better
– I watched a lot of Markiplier’s Undertale streams
– As I mentioned, I watched a ton of WWE programming
– I watched a bit more Lucifer
– I continued Once Upon a Time Season 6
– This week’s theme is “The Importance of Rules”
– Happy Thanksgiving!

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: Thanksgiving 2016

November 21, 2016

WILPW

I spent much of this weekend catching up on watching some WWE and Lucha Underground so I thought this week was a good time to focus on a few things I am thankful for. Even if things are not perfect, it is important to focus on what you are thankful for. Much like the New Day, I like to spread the power of positivity and I have been holding onto that power hard in the last year. We are going to need the power of positivity going forward so let us work on igniting the sparks that make us feel jazzed. So let us dip a little into what got me jazzed lately in the world of sports entertainment.

Rich Swann and James Ellsworth

I am from Baltimore and when I see anybody representing Baltimore in a positive way, I feel happy. A little light goes off in my brain and I get excited. When I was watching the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network, I spotted Rich Swann and I thought he was awesome. I love his high energy, party guy quality. I love it even more since his character focuses up as soon as the bell rings. When he first showed up on Raw, he teamed briefly with Cedric Alexander. The pairing was a little questionable as it looked a little racially motivated but I was sad to see that short-lived team break up. Lately, he has been teaming with No Way Jose on NXT which makes a bit more sense as they are both fun-loving, party guys.

James Ellsworth just got officially signed to Smackdown Live and I am happy about it. Ellsworth became a viral sensation when he got stomped by Braun Strowman but went into that match with determination. Before then his main claim to fame was being in a local tag team called Pretty Ugly and he was not the Ugly one. He has since gotten two wins over the WWE Heavyweight Champion in two very funny matches. I am very interested to see where his character goes next. Will he remain a jobber or will he start to build to something else?  After listening to his interview on Talk is Jericho, I want to see more from this humble yet confident man.

Aztec Warfare

I love battle royales. I have been a big fan of the Royal Rumble since its inception and Aztec Warfare is actually an improvement on that concept. I like that only pins or submissions can cause eliminations which gets rid of a lot of the awkward jockeying for position and clinging to ropes. Lucha has been really good for me this season. I love the way Lucha weaves all of their storylines together and makes them collide in this one match. Everybody was gunning for Matanza but it always felt like the Cueto brothers were always ten steps ahead of the roster. That is why it was so shocking when Matanza lost the title and maybe even turned on Dario. Sexy Star leveraged the allies she made and her own fighting spirit to win the top prize in the company. I thought that Joey Ryan would at least be safe from Matanza this year but unfortunately, he ran afoul of Mil Muertes instead.

It is still shocking to me that Prince Puma and Ivelisse were not actually in the match but it just makes their stories more of a surprise going forward. As far as I know, only Mil Muertes is the only person on the roster to come back from the dead but maybe Prince Puma will be the second. A lot of people have (kayfabe) died on the show including Konnan, the Disciples of Death, Mr. Cisco and also Big Ryck. Hell, Big Ryck’s skull was part of Mil Muertes’ throne in Season 2. I love the unpredictability of Lucha Underground and how storyline threads hide for a long time before popping up again. I mean, we got a bona fide appearance of the Black Lotus Triad during Aztec Warfare. So much happened and so much can happen in the future. I’m excited.

NXT TakeOver Toronto

While I do not keep up with NXT as much as I should, I really enjoy the energy of the show and seeing both fresh faces and familiar faces from the indies and other companies. I watched a few episodes leading up to checking out the latest Takeover and I loved what I saw. The Dusty Classic Tag Team Tournament was absolute awesomeness. Every team that I saw was awesome and had good energy and good ring psychology. The final match between TM 61 and the Authors of Pain was awesome, even with the somewhat silly stipulation of Ellering dangling over the ring. It was excellent but it was overshadowed by the two out of three falls match between DIY and The Revival which pretty much stole the show.

Asuka vs. Mickey James was great. As great as it was to see Mickey back in a WWE ring, they kind of treated her like she had just been sitting on the couch the whole time. She was very over in TNA and, among other places, has been killing it in Maryland Championship Wrestling lately. Of course, Asuka has been an amazing addition since she first debuted and remains undefeated. I absolutely loved “Glorious” Bobby Roode (and his amazing entrance) going up against “Ther Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger. I remember Roode from back when I watched TNA and Tye has worked hard for this new push. Finally, Shinsuke Nakamura is a force of nature and his entrance blew Roode’s out of the water. The match between a “Kodiak bear” and a “rabid dog” was a great story and both Samoa Joe and Shinsuke would have deserved that championship.

Survivor Series

I have loved the build to this year’s Survivor Series. I know a lot of people have said that it does not make sense to see rivals having to be on the same team but I like it. Lucha Underground is the king of strange bedfellows tag teams making kidnapping victims tag with their kidnappers and other crazy teams. People have remarked how weird it was to see people who hated each other, working together. Why would they do that? Because their boss told them to. Besides, all of those rivalries paid off and became either strengths or weaknesses. AJ Styles accidentally got Dean Ambrose eliminated. There was a callback to Ellsworth’s short lived rivalry with Braun Strowman. Sasha and Charlotte could not work together and Charlotte blasted Bailey after their win. The women’s division match was great and possibly opened up at least one new storyline. The men’s division match was great and there were a lot of surprises. Most importantly, we might have seen the end of LOL Roman Wins and a reemergence of the Wyatt Family as a credible threat. Even so, my favorite match was actually the tag team match because I have never seen such a fluid 20-man tag team match. I really liked the pay per view and I am excited to see the fallout from it and the now unpaused storylines.

Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure 11

November 19, 2016

Felix Osaka

Felix, Makoto and Jun ran from the warehouse and out onto the street. A few of Daisuke’s troops were lying on the street, obviously injured. It looked to Felix like they were mostly stable but that was diagnosis at a glance. The dragon was lying on its side and was not moving. Then Felix’ eyes caught sight of a human body, lying on the pavement with smoke still coming off of it. There was a small crowd of Sentinels crowded around the body. Felix was already running in that direction when he heard Jun call out.

“Father!” Jun yelled as she started running as well.

Felix realized the man practically still burning on the streets of Osaka must be Daisuke Inoki. Thankfully two of his Sentinels grabbed Jun and held her back and let Felix past. The red cross on his bag was very helpful for making it clear that he was a doctor. Felix could see how bad it was now that he had gotten closer. He knelt down and started to check Daisuke out.

That was when the dragon started to move. Felix went to get up to try and protect his patient somehow, even as a human shield if it was necessary. Makoto was already moving toward the dragon. Before it could go anywhere, she drove her staff into its eye. Blood drenched Makoto and the dragon started moving again. She turned toward Felix.

“Heal him!” She barked at Felix.

Felix turned back to his patient and extended his willpower. He reached for the well of power where his healing came from. The well was dry.

“I have nothing left! I couldn’t carry any potions on the stupid plane, either. We need to get him to a medical facility so I can treat him!” Felix yelled at Makoto who nodded grimly.

“Arrange that!” She yelled at a nearby deputy who started running for their vehicle, pulling out their radio. “I fear he will not make it, Doctor.”

Felix was about to argue with that statement when Jun elbowed the two deputies holding onto her and rushed to her father’s side. She fell to her knees and embraced him with tears sliding quickly down her cheeks.

“Father!” She cried out again.

Felix kept checking his vital signs. “Jun, please. I need to work. If you don’t move he’ll die,” Felix said. It was necessary to hurt her to save the patient. At least, that’s how Felix felt at the moment and it was not a moment for second guessing.

Instead of moving, Jun started to glow softly. That soft blue light extended to Daisuke slowly. Felix recognized what that magic was. It was a deep, untapped well of healing magic. He blinked and checked vital signs again and noticed Daisuke’s heart beat was getting steadier. The burns were now healing quite quickly. He stood up and looked at Makoto in surprise.

“She’s healing him!” Felix said in surprise.

“The world is full of surprises,” Makoto said in her familiar flat tone but she had a small smile of relief on her face which was mirrored by Felix. Ren had helped May out of the warehouse and they were witnessing it as well. They were lit by the now pulsing blue glow of Jun’s healing light. Everybody was touched by it. Felix briefly pictured that part of his own story when he saved hiss sister.

* * *

So many things happened once Daisuke Inoki stood up again. The scene was cleaned up as everybody was moved to the hospital’s secret floor. Everybody seemed to be OK. Still, Felix found himself floating from room to room and checking on everybody. This is why Felix found Jun sitting alone in a waiting room.

“How are you doing, Jun? I find nobody asks the healer how they are,” Felix said as he entered the room.

“Everything is going to change now,” Jun said, looking down at her hands. “I have always worked to develop my father’s strength in myself. My father has so much strength to bring evil to its knees.”

“There are different kinds of strength, Jun. He was helpless before you brought him back from the brink. That is not weakness.” Felix said. He briefly wondered if Jun had thought he was weak.

“It is just that I have trained so much in martial arts,” Jun said. “I don’t know what to do.”

“That time was not wasted,” Felix said. “You know that martial arts teaches discipline and focus which are both things a magic user needs. Besides, nobody is telling you that you have thrown your last punch. I took oaths to do no harm which I take very literally. You may be a different kind of healer.”

“So what do you think my path forward is?” Jun asked. Felix felt that her humility and search for a new truth was a good sign.

“I can’t tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do. My cousin May is a great person to know in the area and Makoto’s little team could use a healer when I go home. If nothing else, I think May would be glad to lend an ear to you. I am also only a phone call or an e-mail away. Most importantly, I can see how much you value your father’s guidance. You need to talk to him,” Felix said.

“Yes. I believe there is wisdom in that. Do you think that I am a Legend now?” Jun asked.

“Do you think you are?” Felix asked. He knew the answer and, from her smile, he knew Jun knew it as well.

“Yes. Something my father never quite achieved,” Jun said with a satisfied smile. “I will make my family proud.”

“I think that is a good attitude to have. I think you’re going to do a great job,” Felix said. He had great faith in Jun. She had impressed him in such a short time. He had seen residents in hospitals with less nerve and way less fortitude.

“I have much to do,” Jun said. “Will I see you again before your vacation is over?” she asked as she stood. Felix got the message.

“Sure. We should all have dinner together before I leave. Your father is invited too.”

“I would like that. I will ask my father,” Jun said. She looked ready for what came next and Felix envied her for it. He held out his business card and Jun took it.

“See you later, Jun,” Felix said.

“I will see you again, Doctor Graham.”

“Call me Felix.”

“Felix,” she agreed and smiled.

Felix walked from the room and turned right and walked down the hall. Makoto was standing there with her arms folded. Behind her was May and Ren. May was wearing a big grin while Makoto and Ren were neutral as usual.

“The magical terrorists have been thwarted, Doctor. We found a lot of explosives in that warehouse that could have been used to hurt more people. We also found hostages that have been treated and released. We would not have been able to do this without you,” Makoto said.

“So, do you want to do some sightseeing now?” May asked.

THE END
(of this tale, Felix’ story continues in the current campaign I’m roleplaying in. I will probably write more stories as well)

 

Media Update 11/17/2016

November 17, 2016


Westworld (2016)

Everybody has been raving about this show. I never read the book even though I devoured Jurrasic Park when it came out. I also never saw the movie from the Seventies but I cannot imagine a movie being able to handle the complexity of the show. I had always heard that Westworld was just “Jurrasic Park with Cowboys” and I have realized that this is a criminal oversimplification. When you are manufacturing humans for a theme park, there are going to be a lot more themes than “Playing God” and “Human Overreach”. The show asks a lot of philosophical questions about what it is to think, feel and what it is to be human. The show plays with memories and perception of reality. The guests in Westworld are playing a game and it is really interesting to see the different ways people game in a more realistic way. I have played a few MMORPGs and a lot of the guests’ behavior is very familiar. I am four episodes in and there is an amazing deeper story unfolding. All of this deep, thoughtful stuff has a great layer of Western action on top which makes it all the better. The acting is really great with a whole cast of people I do not recognize with great stars like Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris and Evan Rachel Wood tossed in as well. The show is dark but it draws me deeper and the first season is only ten episodes long. I cannot recommend this one enough, steal an HBO Go password from your friend if you have to.


The World’s End

I felt like this week was the time to finally finish the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Each movie in Edgar Wright’s trilogy is similar but each has a different energy. Shaun of the Dead is a goofy parody of zombie movies. Hot Fuzz is a parody of gun-happy action movies. The World’s End is a parody of science fiction alien invasion movies. Yet, they all have central messages that get echoed as the trilogy goes along. Friendship is important. You have to grow up eventually. You can never go home again. Free will is a great gift but it has to be used responsibly. Somehow, Wright snuck meaningful messages for our lives in three genre films. This was a great end to that trilogy. As usual, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are great as arguably the two central characters. We also get all the old regulars from the first two films returning in sometimes different roles but all of them are great. This felt like the most expensive film of the trilogy but that might be because everything looked so good. Part of that can probably be attributed to how much Edgar Wright has learned as a filmmaker. This movie also seemed to be better written which is saying a lot considering the other two are so good. This one did a better job of establishing backstories for each character and creating a world around them. I definitely recommend it. It is very strange but it has a great message, I think.


Screamers 2: The Hunting

I was thinking about what movie would be best to watch to finish out this week and I was a little stumped. I wanted to make the theme a good one and just watching any old science fiction movie felt like it would be a cop out. I did not really want to watch Ex Machina or The Stepford Wives so I kept thinking. Then I remembered that I had already watched Screamers, a movie adapted from the work of Phillip K. Dick that had robots posing as humans in it. Then I looked it up and found that there was a sequel. Then I found out that the sequel has Stephen Amell in it and I was sold. Once again, we have a somewhat schlocky sci-fi action movie with a lot of fun bits. This is a cheap sequel to a cheap movie but I still like the combination of Tremors, Aliens and Invasion of the Body Snatchers that this movie seems to represent. While the movie is cheap, waiting fourteen years to make a sequel means that this movie has much better digital and practical effects. Obviously, Stephen Amell is the best part of the movie after the Screamers themselves and they could have used more of him. This was before his rise to stardom thanks to Arrow. Some of the plot points are really dumb but I kind of enjoy B-Movies. I only recommend this if you have seen the first one and you love cheesy sci-fi movies with bad writing.

Music of the Week:
Ninja Sex Party – Cool Patrol

The Weeknd – Starboy ft. Daft Punk

Thomas Rhett – Star Of The Show

Rae Sremmurd – Black Beatles ft. Gucci Mane

twenty one pilots – Stressed Out

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Robots That Look Like Humans”
– I started Season 2 of Galavant
– I started watching Dice, Camera, Action (a Wizards of the Coast stream)
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 6
– I started watching Lucifer Season 2
– I caught up on Lucha Underground


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