A to Z Theme Reveal 2018

March 19, 2018

So it has come to this. This is my fourth year taking part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. The first year was such a thrill, trying like heck to finish each post before the deadline. I thought I was in over my head that first year but somehow I hung on and I finished everything on time. I was exhausted. However, I was also immediately brought into the larger blogging community and I felt like a legitimate badass. I knew I had to do it again. About that time I renamed my blog and began to get serious about things and started to work towards a regular schedule. For the next challenge, I wrote a lot of it ahead of time. For the third challenge, I was done writing halfway through April. I am ready to go again and I look forward to another fun (and weird) April.

So who am I? I go by the tag Wolf of Words for a reason. Growing up, my mom was a transplant from South Carolina who moved up to my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Her family did not understand her desire to move north among the Yankees. This only made her grow closer to another family member who had moved to the north to Ohio. My Great aunt supposedly taught my mom to howl at the full moon. My mom, in turn, passed that on to her children. It taught me not to take life so seriously and not to be so self-conscious. It also made me stop and appreciate the world around which in turn brought out my creative side. So why words? I have been a writer ever since I could remember. My brain is a constant fountain of words and at some point, I decided to harness that instead of letting it go to waste. Writing is easy for me because words just fall out of me, tumbling onto the page both good and bad.

What is this blog normally? This blog is usually a mish-mash of what I find interesting. I never settled on it being just one thing and I made my peace with that a long time ago. The blog encompasses my interests and I am overjoyed if those interests ever intersect with your interests. My normal schedule is Monday – Thursday – Saturday each week and I have kept to that schedule for a long time now. Thursdays are always a feature I creatively named Media Update. It is a feature where I watch three new things a week (television, movies, stage plays) and then I do quick spoiler-free reviews. Saturdays are often for fiction writing and I have several ongoing stories and one-shots that make an appearance. Mondays can be anything I want but I often want to do something personal on that day. You can see archives of the regular features on this blog to the right.

So, I should probably get to the reason why many people might be reading this. This post was supposed to be a theme reveal for the challenge so I should probably get on with it. This month’s theme is:

Geek Pride

I am a big ol’ nerdy geek and, while those words were used as insults in the past, I have long since decided to own who and what I am. I take pride in knowing a lot about pop culture and trivia. I also take pride in the many pop culture fandoms that I belong to. (Shout out to fellow Critters, Tweethearts, and Lovelies just to name a few!) So posts this month will generally have to do with my geeky interests. This is a bit of a cop-out since most posts the rest of the year are the same but what are you going to do? Report me? To the theme police? As I write this, I pretty much have my first week written and I am still trying to work ahead. You can expect movie reviews, personal messages, media commentary, short stories, and probably fandom gushing. So get ready because I am getting fired up myself.

I will be reading other people’s blogs and responding to any serious comments left on my posts. This challenge is about writing for me but it is also a major chance for me to connect with other people. Many of the blog links to the right come from people’s blogs that I subscribed to. If you read my blog and think that we might be kindred spirits, give me a shout in the comments. There are so many blogs that participate that it is easy not to see everybody’s blogs even in a month. I would love to hear from you with your suggestions. I love my geeky pursuits, fiction, non-fiction, and the American judicial system just for starters. If you do not guide me, I will just wander around like I usually do.

If you are still reading this far, I feel compelled to plug a very personal part of my blog. Please consider coming back here in October. For the whole month of October, I honor my favorite holiday which is Halloween. For me October is Halloween. So, if you feel the same way or you are just a bit curious, please come back. I will be reviewing several horror movies and it is also the one month during which I write fanfiction. All of the reviews on this site have little to no spoilers. Full-length reviews talk just as much about how I connect with the movie or why I watched the movie as how the movie itself was. So come get spooky with me later this year.


When It All Ended Pt. 9

March 17, 2018

William Havelock and Garth Whispernight were sitting at the bar downstairs. During his exile from his homeland, William had learned to really enjoy a good tavern. There was usually fellowship, decent ale, and there was the possibility of a good brawl breaking out. William had earned his title when he was knighted. He did not come from nobility but he had instead made a name for himself in the tourneys all over Shera. He had fought threats to the land alongside prissy rich boys and girls and gained fame through hard work and bravery. However, it was not until he had officially become a full-time adventurer that he had downtime to discover the simple joys of drinking with friends. Of course, there was a time when it looked like William and Garth would never be friends.

Garth had come a long way himself, even farther than Shera. He had fled Kofrain himself when the desert had figuratively gotten too hot. When he had joined the party he would have been the first to admit that he was a scoundrel. He was proud of it. He called himself the world’s greatest thief but he had always done it for fun and not riches. William and Cass had been the ones to finally catch him and Morgan was the one who convinced him to join the group. What started as reluctant do-gooding turned into an exciting thrill ride which in turn led to him being as addicted to saving the day as the others were. The war of words between him and William had grown from animosity to petty fun and finally to real friendship. Garth had turned over a new leaf and while he still did not follow the laws of the land, he definitely used those powers for good.

“You are very quiet over there, Whisper,” William said, setting his mug down. “You also look a little green. You’re not scared are you?”

“Scared?” Garth asked with an incredulous look that had indeed been a look of dread a moment before. “Unlike you, I will never even be seen by the dragon. It won’t know what hit it when I get the killing blow.”

William laughed. “You? I’m sure you meant to say that it will be me who scores the killing blow and I will do it as I look that dragon in the eye. It will know who ended its life.”

“Will you two ever stop arguing?” Galath asked as he walked up and climbed up onto a stool. The older dwarf man had taken off his customary mail and cloak and he looked a lot more casual as a result. The party was used to him being so formal.

“I’m afraid not,” William said. “You and Morgan just might be stuck watching over us forever, old man.” He and Garth smiled at each other, they would be done sniping at each other for a while.

“True,” Galath said. “It’s not as if we’ve been able to unload either of you along the line.”

“We’re hard to get rid of,” Garth said proudly. “But who would want to get rid of a crack thief like me?”

“All of the nobles of Eloria for starters,” Galath said. “Usually I find your bravado a bit tiresome but we need your legendary confidence tomorrow, Whispernight.”

“I keep racking my brain for any more allies we could call on but I am separated from the Knights of Shera and most of the friends I personally made during our adventures are on the front lines,” William said. He reflexively looked over at the sword he carried with its hawk head pommel. He felt a brief guilt that he was not with his fellows in Shera or in the thick of battle with the brave Guard of Eloria. Then he remembered that if he had been, he would not be here to face the dragon and that was strangely comforting.

“Yes,” Galath agreed. “I too have been searching my heart for allies but to no avail.”

“What about Carania, Galath?” Garth asked.

Galath flinched at that. It was not a negative thing but just proof of how much that name affected him. “She would be very effective here but last I heard from her, she was dealing with a problem in the Underdark. Even if she was not down there, she would be on the front lines dealing with the undead that are rumored to be fighting in the war.”

“That’s a shame,” William said. “She really would be helpful even if this kind of strays from her mission from the goddess of death.”

“We all go above and beyond what we are asked to do, Mr. Havelock,” Galath said. “Also, I’ll remind you that she is no grim reaper but is as much a defender of life as she is a defender of death.”

“True,” William said. “I’m sorry for implying anything wrong with the lady. She has done right by us a couple of times now and I just wish she could be here now.”

“So do I,” Galath said. “But I’m sure that we will see her again.”

“I bet you will,” Garth said with an elbow to the dwarf’s ribs. “If you know what I mean.”

Galath coughed and shook his head. “I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” The dwarf took a long sip of his tea, so much that the cup refilled as soon as he set it down. It was a bit of an irregularity for a dwarf to not be a drinker but Galath always wanted a clear head and sometimes drinking just reminded him of the friends he had lost when he had been petrified. He looked around and realized that all three of them were men separated from their original homes. While they were not the same, that thread had tied them together in the midst of a party of adventurers. “You know, maybe you two can go home after this.”

“Maybe I don’t want to go home,” Garth said. “Maybe there’s no real home to go back to.”

“Surely your home did not crumble to dust like mine did,” Galath said. “It is probably still there.”

“Not the structure, Galath,” Garth said. “Maybe I like it here better and maybe this is sort of my family now.”

“Has the thief grown a heart?” William asked with a smirk.

“No!” Garth yelled and then there was an intense silence. “I always had one, I guess.”

“Of course you did,” Galath said. “and I know how you feel. I will never forget the bond we have forged together.”

“Neither will I,” William said. “It is as strong as the vows I took as a knight. Maybe stronger.”

The three men drank to that.

Media Update 3/15/18

March 15, 2018

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

I love fairy tales, folktales, and mythology and I really should buckle down and read more of the 1001 Nights. I am not extremely familiar with Arabian/Muslim lore beyond Ali Baba, Aladdin, and djinn. Lucky for me, those three are what this anime is about. Basically, Ali Baba is a fruit peddler/shipping working who dreams of making his way into and through a legendary magic dungeon to get at the riches and magic items inside. Aladdin is a naive little boy who has made friends with a djinn who resides in a magic flute. Together, they set out to accomplish their dreams. I love media where different stories are reimagined and mashed together (see Once Upon a Time). This series is pretty zany and a little bit adult kind of like Kill la Kill. Similarly, all of the adult humor is in good fun and there is nothing malicious or too racy or the average viewer. I am excited to see where this leads as I like stories that have strong archetypes who are fleshed out into real characters (like American McGee’s Alice or various Oz adaptations). The animation is beautiful but also unexpected at times, kind of like FLCL. I have watched very little so far and I imagine that soon it will really pick up. I definitely recommend it. Besides, watching the trailer just now, I have to at least get to the part with Matt Mercer in it.

Sword Art Online

I had heard that many people did not like this anime but I did not want to research why because of possible spoilers. I decided to check it out for myself and I at least found a reason for myself. Without major spoilers, I did not like how there were huge time jumps going to episodes 2 and 3. I felt like I missed a lot of interesting adventures. However, from what I have seen so far, it is a fairly good anime. The premise is that a whole bunch of people sign up for a virtual reality MMORPG and the programmer traps them in it. If they die in the game, they die in real life and they cannot log out or be removed from the VR apparatus. The whole game operates in a fantasy setting that focuses on (wait for it) swords and the art of using them. The animation is very pretty and the character design is interesting. As expected, the anime is not light-hearted in the least as it deals with mostly young people dreading the next battle which might cause their death. I hope the series slows down a bit so I can really get into it. I guess I recommend it although it is a bit dark and there are plenty of other good anime series out there.

The Irregular at Magic High School

When I hear ‘magic school’, my interest is immediately piqued. I wish I could have gone to magic school and, somewhat related, I wish that magic was real. I guess I was expecting somewhat of a more grown-up version of Little Witch Academia (which was whimsical and dramatic) but instead I got something else. Something else that was not exactly bad once I started to settle in. In the world of the anime, magic is known to be real the world over and it is readily combined with technology to improve its use. This and other details make magic a very specialized thing where people almost have magical majors that they focus on. Families are known for certain techniques and magic is intimately connected with intellectual aptitude and studying. I definitely immediately got a Naruto vibe because of this but it is way slower and more drama-based. Still, I am very interested to find more about the seemingly complicated system of magic. I do have to drop a spoiler here because something really bothered me. The show centers on a brother and sister and the sister totally has the hots for her brother. I thought it was my imagination at first but yeah, it is made clear in the second episode. Based on Internet comments, it is one-sided and neither makes a move but it is fairly disturbing to me. Just a friendly warning. Because of that, I would not recommend it but also because it just did not grab me. There are plenty of high school dramas in English that I could watch.

Music of the Week:
Red Velvet – Stupid Cupid

The Regrettes – Come Through

Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

Foo Fighters w/Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

Attila – Bulletproof

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Anime Magic and Fantasy”
– I started watching Jessica Jones Season 2
– I continued watching iZombie Season 4
– I continued watching the Joel McHale Show
– I continued watching Fate/Apocrypha
– I continued watching Freaks and Geeks
– I watched a ton of Barry Kramer on YouTube
– As usual, I watched Game Grumps, GT Live, and Critical Role on YouTube
– I am so proud of those who participated in the National Student Walkout Day


Fandom: Passion vs. Toxicity

March 12, 2018

Being part of a fandom is a great thing. Fandom used to be a more solitary thing. If you loved a television show, for example, there was a limited group of people you could share that with. If the other people at the dinner table or the water cooler did not also enjoy the thing you loved, you would just get polite nods or eye-rolls. You became an island unto yourself at least when it came to that one subject. Sure, there were conventions and fan club newsletters but mainly you just loved content quietly. That is, until the dawn of the Internet. The Internet connected people on an unprecedented scale and suddenly it allowed people of similar interests to find each other over humongous distances. This was the point where fandoms really took off as communities. These fandoms can be a powerful force for good and for bad. The difference is the line between passion and toxicity.

I was a big fan of a show called Community although I only discovered it well into the fourth season. When the creator, Dan Harmon, teamed up with an old friend, Justin Roiland, to produce a new cartoon show, I was ready to get in on the ground floor. The show they created was Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty started life as a parody of Back to the Future but evolved into a clever dark comedy science fiction adventure that still includes fart jokes. It juxtaposes insightful, reflective moments with parody and absolute silliness. I love the show because it is intelligent but it also does not take itself too seriously. The show has seen a very positive response from fans who definitely get the show. However, there is a section of the fanbase that even the creators disavow. These are the same people who hated the third season because it felt more progressive and they blamed that on the creators being forced to hire female writers. These are the same kind of people who use “SJW” as an insult. These are also the same people who threw fits when they could not obtain Schezuan sauce from a McDonalds Rick and Morty promotion. It makes me so embarrassed to have these people as part of the fandom and when that news story broke, I quickly explained to friends that I was not part of that.

Readers will know that I am a big fan of professional wrestling. This is really a loaded fandom when it comes to public perception. I will just set aside the whole problem I have with the alt-right connections the WWE leadership has. The fanbase for sports entertainment is incredibly passionate. Everybody has their favorite performers and everybody is quick to praise or criticize storylines as they are happening. I have seen plenty of positive discussions online about certain performers and their merits or flaws. I have disagreed with some of it but I can definitely respect when somebody has an opinion. For example, I love Finn Balor but if other people just are not feeling his energy then so be it. However, I have read comments on websites that are so negative. It is apparently a big thing in the fandom to hate performers because everybody else hates them. This phenomenon is still so weird to me. I have read plenty of comments from people who want fewer matches with women because they just seem to hate all the female performers which is kind of a red flag. I have read so many comments that seem to spew so much hate against the performers and not the characters they play. I just wish the WWE fandom, in particular, could be more positive about things.

I don’t talk about it much but I watched a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As a guy who once wanted to be an animator when I grow up, I retain a big interest in animation and I watch a ton of it. When the show started to gain a huge fandom, I wanted to check it out. When I did, I genuinely liked the show for being witty and creating interesting characters and a deeper plot than I see on most shows intended for children. It enjoyed a lot of deserved popularity as everyone had fun with it. Then I found about the “bronies”. Hoo boy. Bronies (a portmanteau of bro and pony) are grown men some of which seem to obsess over this show in a very creepy manner. I am all for fighting gender stereotypes as I have loved plenty of stuff with a mostly female demographic. Erasing gender stereotypes and going against toxic masculinity is a great thing. However, when you start to crowd the original intended audience out of their own events and fandom, you need to self-examine. This one is not completely negative but I was glad when bronies got their own convention and seemed to start to divide themselves from the main fandom.

It’s not all negative, though. The vast majority of fans that I have met are positive and passionate about things they like and apathetic about stuff they don’t like. I would hope that most people do not have time to sit around talking about how much and why they hate something in pop culture. Those people are out there but I do not really wish to know them. I made a decision more than a year ago to try and be more positive about things in general and I have been trying to follow through with that. I hope that anybody who reads this really thinks about how they approach fandoms and try not to be too negative. Also, don’t hate women. Reminder: Don’t crap on something too hard because somebody out there might like it and it hurts when somebody craps on your thing.


Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 12

March 10, 2018

Magical Earth Defenders

Lennon, Natia, and Kelsey were already sitting at the lunch table when Margaret arrived. Kelsey and Lennon had brought their own lunches. Lennon had studied and planned what she should be eating and everything was just so. Kelsey had two sisters so she had what she managed to grab on her way out of the door. Natia was eating her fries from the cafeteria lunch line much like a great white or maybe a piranha. That is if piranhas could brood. Margaret walked up carrying a tray of cafeteria food. She looked a bit out of place with her clothes just so but the girls waved her over.

“Hey new kid!” Natia yelled out, loud enough that even Lennon gave her a look. “You might have made a mistake.”

“What?” Margaret asked. The usually poised young girl suddenly looked worried and an even paler shade of white. People never talked to her at her old school and now she was blowing it with the few people she knew at her new school. “What do you mean?”

“She means we usually avoid the cafeteria food if we can help it,” Kelsey said helpfully.

“Except the french fries,” Natia said, her mouth half full. The other girls rolled their eyes which made Margaret smile and calm down a bit.

“Sit down, Margaret,” Kelsey said. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“At the very least, you won’t die,” Lennon said with a smile. “Most of us pack our lunches to guarantee edibility and nutrition.”

“And because it’s cheaper,” Kelsey said.

Margaret smiled and sat down. “Thank you, ladies. I’ll take that under advisement.”

“How are things going on your first day?” Kelsey asked.

“Things here are less complicated than the academy,” Margaret said. She smiled. “and more welcoming. The academics are comparable. I’ll do fine here as soon as people stop staring.”

“We’re happy to have you, Mar,” Natia said.

“So how was your talk with the Principal?” Margaret asked. “They whisked you away from us for quite some time.”

“What’s the damage, Natia?” Kelsey asked. By now, they all knew how often Natia had been skipping school and they knew the school would be displeased at the very least.

“I somehow got away without detention but I have a ton of work I have to catch up on. I have to get a tutor,” Natia said. She punctuated that last bit by grumpily dipping two fries into the ketchup before shoving them in her mouth.

“You’re lucky that you got off with just a tutor,” Lennon said. “Principal Evers can be strict. By the way -“

“I need a tutor too,” Maya said, interrupting. Nobody had noticed her walking up to the table. She sat down carefully, purposefully ignoring all of the stares she was getting. Margaret was briefly thankful not to be the center of attention before her empathy kicked in and she felt bad for Maya. She wondered how much worse the attention might be if Maya had not bespelled her tattoos away. Maya was thinking about that as well.

“Where did you come from?!” Natia cried out before Kelsey put a hand over her mouth.

“I came from the castle,” Maya said with a shrug. She had a brass plate in front of her that she was eating salad from.

“And grabbed a salad from the castle’s fridge?” Lennon asked.

“From the garden,” Maya said.

“Wow,” Kelsey said. “Good for you for eating healthy.”

Maya smiled. “Thank you. It’s the only way I survived so long on the run. At some point, I just became a vegetarian which was cheaper but hard on the run. Anyway, I don’t think I should invite a tutor over to the castle. Can I borrow space from one of you?”

“You can invite the tutor there if I’m the tutor,” Lennon said. “I can tutor both you both.”

“Don’t you already have special projects for independent study?” Kelsey asked.

“How did you know about that?” Lennon asked. She did not think taht a popular girl like Kelsey would know about that.

“I’m nosy,” Kelsey said. “I know things about people.” She shrugged with a smile.

“Well, I can still tutor them,” Lennon said with a smile. “You guys can be my new special project.”

“I’m not sure I enjoy being referred to as a special project,” Maya said.

“Yeah, watch your phrasing, Red,” Natia said.

Once again, Kelsey covered Natia’s mouth with her hand.

“Please don’t use codenames when we are in civilian gear,” Margaret said.

“I was just kidding,” Natia said. “Are those really our codenames? They’re only kind of cool.”

“We’ll have to discuss it at some point,” Maya said

“We have a lot of things to discuss,” Kelsey said. The girls all nodded in agreement. “Speaking of tutoring, we also need magic tutoring.”

“And superhero tutoring,” Natia said.

“We can do all the tutoring at the castle,” Lennon said. “It’s safer there and we won’t get interrupted.”

“Making a castle our hangout? Yes please!” Natia said with a smile.

“Just as long as you all stay out of my room,” Maya said. Natia stuck her tongue out at her which made Maya smile and almost laugh.

“We also have to keep all of this a secret,” Margaret said.

“Exactly,” Kelsey said.

“Duh,” Natia said. “Of course, that’ll be hard.”

“I have to agree,” Lennon said. “My parents seeing me walk again would make their year.”

“We’ll have to make sacrifices for this,” Kelsey said. “We’re trying to save the world.”

“You’re right,” Lennon said. “It’s definitely worth it. If we lose, extradimensional aliens take over the world. We can’t let our parents or the government interfere with that.”

“Wow,” Maya said. “I never thought that would be my life and I ran from the things for years.”

“Well you have real friends now, Maya,” Kelsey said. She looked out at the table full of former loners. “You all do.”

“I never thought that would be my life either,” Maya said.

“Me either,” Lennon said. “I was always too shy.”

“I’m too loud!” Natia said with a big grin.

“Too rich,” Margaret said.

“Well, none of you are too much for me,” Kelsey said. “We’re a team.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet blue!” Natia said and they all laughed.


Media Update 3/8/18

March 8, 2018

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

I was not really planning on watching this show and when I decided to watch it, I expected to let it play in the background while I did other things. I had never watched The Soup and I was instead familiar with Joel McHale from Community mostly. McHale has a fun arrogant charm in his delivery that ends up making as much fun of him as his targets. The show is a continuation of The Soup as it makes fun of media on a week to week schedule. It mainly targets reality television (McHale seems to have sworn an oath of enmity against The Bachelor) but there are plenty of other clips he makes fun of. He pokes fun at his new bosses (Netflix), soap operas from around the world, daytime television, and even pro-wrestling. He plays clips which he comments on but he also does plenty of lighthearted skits with cameos from the kind of celebrities who don’t take themselves too seriously. (Kristen Bell!) The show is light humor and a nice break from a lot of the more political humor that I watch elsewhere. I am eagerly awaiting the next episode after shotgunning the first three. I definitely recommend it for the surreal skits mixed with crazy TV clips.

Other Space

I got really curious about Paul Feig after watching him make cameos on the Joel McHale show. I decided to look up some of his other television shows since I have not been overjoyed over his movies so far. And so it was that I stumbled upon this show he made that probably very few people watched because it is only on Yahoo Screens. The show is about a crew who accidentally get transported to another universe that is unexplored. In a way, it is kind of a parody of Star Trek Voyager combined with The Office. It focuses on a small group of characters who are trapped on a ship and thrown together in different situations and forced to interact. The ship is captained by a character played by Karan Soni who most moviegoers may know as Dopinder from Deadpool. His weak-willed but kind character is in charge of a group of misfits and tries his best. He is backed by his abrasive and by-the-book sister played by Bess Rous. The ship’s navigator is Milana Vayntrub, probably most known for her AT&T commercials. The ship’s computer is basically a flighty model (played by Conor Leslie), more interested in people liking her than doing her job. The crew is rounded out by the comedy talents of Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, and Neil Casey. It is a really quirky, offbeat show that was canceled quickly but I recommend it.

Freaks and Geeks

I had heard a lot about how great this show is and how sad that it was canceled after one season. It started the careers of a lot of people who would go on to become very famous. This is a union of two of the most popular current Hollywood directors. Paul Feig (the reason for the season this week) was the writer and creator of the show. He obviously went on to create other TV shows but also hit movies like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and the Ghostbusters remake. Judd Apatow was the executive producer on the show and directed a few episodes and he went on to do all the stuff you already know about. The show is largely about two kids growing up in 1980. The first is played by Linda Cardellini and she is a high schooler who is tired of being a good girl and starts hanging out with the resident high school burnouts (Freaks). The other major character is her brother played by John Francis Daley who is a nerdy kid just trying to survive freshman year in high school and maybe get a date with his crush (Geeks). Each of their plots intersects in each episode since they live in the same house and go to the same school. The Freaks are played by James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel. The rest of the Geeks are played by Martin Starr and Samm Levine. The show is really fun and the dialogue and the characters are believable. They capture the ridiculousness and the ennui of high school but also the bond between school friends. I will definitely be watching more of this and I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You

Red Handed Denial – Trespasser

Yours Truly – High Hopes

CL – The Baddest Female

She & Him – In The Sun

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Paul Feig Television”
– I finished Criminal Minds Season 11
– I watched more Peaky Blinders Season 1
– I continued watching Black Lightning Season 1
– I started watching iZombie Season 4
– I started watching Schitt’s Creek Season 3
– I watched Game Grumps, Barry Kramer, LordMinion777, KittyKat Gaming, and Critical Role on YouTube.
– I think I will eventually have to give Bridesmaids and The Heat a shot.


The Very Bad Audition

March 5, 2018

When we are young, a lot of experiences can both open our eyes and open paths to our future.  In the end, nothing we do is really all that inconsequential.  When I entered high school at Friends School of Baltimore, I was a total geek.  Now, if you have read this blog you know that geek is a word I use with pride when I refer to myself.  I was really into comics, video games, and letting my imagination run wild.  I was getting good grades and, for the most part, I was pretty much enjoying school.  However, I was still a shy and solitary kid.  I had my friends, two of whom I had spent eighty percent of my social time with for years.  When it came to public speaking, I shriveled up in what was probably a close cousin of a panic attack.  My mother told me point blank that she was worried about whether I would be able to speak in public in the future.  However, thanks to my younger brother, she had a solution.

And so, it was that I was sitting in the auditorium, waiting for my turn to audition for Tartuffe.  On a side note, Tartuffe is an excellent satire by Moliere which is also called The Hypocrite and The Imposter.  I definitely felt like an imposter while I was sitting in the old red-cushioned steel chairs.  I had no desire to perform, I was just there to get over a fear.  I took my turn up on stage, auditioning for the part of Damis, an angry young man.  The monologue I delivered that day was intended to be angry, but I could feel my knees shaking and it must have been clear how scared I was.  Director and English teacher Tom Buck thankfully saw that I was not cut out to be an actor and passed the role onto one of my classmates.  Walking away, I realized that I did not want to act but I realized that I did not need to audition to be on the Stage Crew.

The Stage Crew met after school and on Saturdays.  They welcomed me with open arms and it was cool to hang out with sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  For the first time, I felt like I was actually in high school instead of in the fourth year of middle school.  I started to form friendships outside of my little friend group or the youth group at church.  I started to grow as a person and I realized that I had a passion for the building part of show business. When they asked who would run the lighting board for Tartuffe, I volunteered when nobody else stepped up.  I ran that lighting board for the next four years.  You got up to the board through a Spanish classroom in the rear of the auditorium, so they eventually gave me a key to that classroom.  There were definitely some awkward collections where I had to walk through Spanish or Russian classes.

I eventually became co-Head of Stage Crew and then Head of Stage Crew.  I also started to dabble in the design part of things as I eventually designed the lighting for each show.  Although I was a little distant, I felt a fellowship with the cast of the all of the shows I worked on.  Things really kicked into gear when we all put on Fiddler on the Roof and I teamed with Michael McVey as well.  By the end of my time at Friends, I had kind of become friends with Tom Buck, sadly a teacher I never had in high school.  My only regret was that I realize now that I never trained anybody to take over for me because I wanted to be the go-to guy until the end.

My experiences in Friends School Stage Crew inspired me to seek out more experiences with show business.  I got into community theater down at Fells Point Corner Theater.  I volunteered a lot of my time running sound for all sorts of shows.  Eventually, I started working for Mobtown Theater and, at the age of 16, I joined their board of directors.  Suddenly, I had all these new experiences outside of Friends School and new friends most of whom had graduated from college years earlier.  Those experiences were magical, and I felt like part of the greater theater community of Baltimore City.  It drew me away from Friends, as I spent a lot of my time in Fell’s Point rather than on campus.  I felt a little more disconnected from my classmates which I feel like I eventually remedied but I feel good that this was a positive path that Friends helped put me on.  In fact, that connection to community theater later sparked a connection to the school paper and helped reignite the love of writing that I still have today.

Of course, I then went on to major in Stage Management and minor in Sound Design in college.  I took that degree and I got a job for years and years in a regional theater in New Jersey.  All of that grew from one afternoon I spent trembling on the stage of the auditorium.  I am a little sad that that auditorium does not exist anymore as it has been completely remodeled but I am happy that the Friends students of today and tomorrow will have an excellent facility to experience what I did.  Not because they should all go off and major in theater but because going to that audition ended up accomplishing my goal.  By connecting with the people in Stage Crew, eventually being in charge, and then finding my voice in community theater, I became better at talking to people.  I felt more comfortable speaking in public and communicating my ideas.  I do not hold back like I did as a young kid.  For that, I feel very thankful.


When It All Ended Pt. 8

March 3, 2018

Morgan went to the chest in the bathroom and pulled out her pack and placed it on the bureau before she started to go through it. It was a small bag since they had a bag of holding for the majority of the items the team had picked up in their travels. Her personal bag was full of items she used regularly and personal mementos of their journeys. It was all carefully and efficiently packed so she did not have to paw through it too much to find what she needed. After only a moment, she found the side pocket with a smooth stone with runes scratched into its surface. According to Cassandra, the enchantments were very rare. The meaning of that was not lost on Morgan. She had to continue to be clear that she did not want anything romantic to do with Amien.

“Do me a favor?” Percy asked. “Tie your robe a little tighter? Maybe get your armor back on?”

“Sylvanus save me,” Morgan said but she was grinning and shaking her head. “You are really jealous, hmm?”

“Insanely,” he said with a smile. “I trust you. I just don’t want him getting the wrong idea.”

“Believe me, if I could have somebody else do this I would,” she said. “Here goes nothing.”

She took up the stone in her fist and focused her will into it. Thankfully, the stone did all of the work as Morgan did not have a great aptitude for spellcasting. The stone reached out to connect with its twin stone in the possession of Amien, a one time ally of their adventuring party. She had never used the stone before but she imagined or at least hoped that it would alert Amien in some way that a call was incoming so that he could make the connection. She half-wished that he would ignore it because dealing with romantic drama was not something she enjoyed.

After a moment, the air shimmered in front of Morgan and the lean, muscular form of Amien appeared, shirtless as always. At least, the upper half of him showed up, floating like an apparition in front of her. She could only assume that only the top half of her was showing up for Amien. She was definitely alright with that arrangement.

“The stupid thing doesn’t even work,” Percy said impatiently.

“Shh,” Morgan said. “It’s working fine.”

“Whoever is with you cannot see me,” Amien said. “The artifact projects my image into your mind and nobody else’s.”

“Understood,” Morgan said. Keeping things in a military tone felt like the right thing to do. “I guess you must be wondering why I am contacting you.”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Amien said. “I left this line of communication open for you but you made it clear that it would only be used for business purposes. Did you run into something you cannot handle?” He grinned at her.

The teasing only made her bolder. “Hardly. We can take on a Green Dragon easily. We just would appreciate help with crowd control.”

“A green dragon?” Amien asked. “You are still as bold and brave as I remember. I feel that your team will have no problems but I would be happy to commit my family to your cause. What do you mean by crowd control?”

“We have a plan for the wyverns in the air but how are you with lizardmen?” she asked.

Amien laughed a deep yet feral laugh. “I have a pair of boots I made from a lizardman,” he said. “They are no match for our kind. Where is this happening and when?”

“We will be fighting at the Capital of Eloria, you will be fighting lizardmen in the shadow of the Royal Palace,” Morgan said. “The battle is set for tomorrow. I know you’re not exactly a city wolf.”

“I have never set foot on those or any other streets,” Amien said. “I grew up in a small town before the change came over me.”

“I didn’t know that,” she said. “But I suppose that there’s a lot I don’t know about you.”

“Indeed,” Amien said. “Our time together was brief. We will travel before dawn and we will assist you.”

“The crown will be grateful for your assistance,” she said.

“Will you be grateful for my assistance?” Amien asked. His ice blue eyes seemed to look right through her to the core of her being.

She swallowed. She was in a relationship, not dead. “I will and so will my team. Do you want to say hello to Percival?”

Amien snorted but then he smiled. “You’ve made your point. I will see him tomorrow, I imagine. I will see you too. May we meet again after that when the battlefield is decorated with the blood of our enemy.”

“Very vivid imagery,” she said. “I will see you in the morning then.”

“Yes,” he said and then his image flickered away and he was gone. Morgan hurriedly put the stone back in her bag in case he changed his mind and came back. She took a deep breath.

“Well? Percy asked. “What did he say?”

“He’s willing to help us out,” she answered with a smile. “We’re going to have a lot easier time if we don’t have to worry about getting stabbed in the back by a lizardman.”

“Or a lizardwoman,” he said. “Though, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a lizardwoman.”

“I’m sure we’ll see plenty tomorrow,” she said.

“Do you really think we stand a chance tomorrow?” he asked. He wrapped his arms around her again.

“I think we can do anything as long as we stick together,” she said. “We’ve been through so much and somehow we’re still standing.”

“I think so too,” he said. “It’s your determination that leads us. None of us would be here if it weren’t for you.”

“I’m not sure if you should be thanking me then,” she said with a smile. “At least not until the fight is over tomorrow.”

“Oh, I have plenty to thank you for,” he said. “Shall I thank you all night?”

“Unfortunately, we have to get at least some sleep,” she said with a smirk.


Media Update 3/1/18

March 1, 2018

Lady Bird

Seeing this movie this past week was fortuitous as I have reconnected with the alumni association of the school I went to from first grade through twelfth. This was a fantastic movie that kind of covered the spectrum of human emotion. The movie is about a young girl who calls herself Lady Bird who is on the verge of becoming a woman in the last years of high school. It is also about Lady Bird’s mother and a good portion of the movie is about their relationship. However, this is a movie without a traditional plot. There are a lot of stories that cover Lady Bird, her mother, and all of the other characters in their life. Much like Moonlight, it is a slice of life movie that covers more character arcs than story arcs. Except that this movie covers two years in a young girl’s life as she rages against the machine while also trying desperately to fit in somewhere. It is a love letter to Sacramento, a city that I knew next to nothing about. It was so easy for me to get caught up in the lives of the characters from the first few minutes. I laughed at the great humor, cheered on the characters, and then I was crying at the end but there was some joy in those tears. The movie belongs to Saoirse Ronan who plays the title role in such a way that I saw a lot of girls and women and people in general that I have known through her. Laurie Metcalf evoked a lot of older women I have known, the authority figure who shoulders that burden beautifully. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie.

Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro is a magnificent filmmaker when it comes to creating compelling characters who operate in fantastically crafted worlds. On top of that, his penchant for spectacular visual effects is well known at this point especially when he is creating creatures. He goes back and forth between fantastic dramas and more blockbuster-y action movies but no matter what he is doing, it has a lot of heart and thought behind it. This movie is no different. This movie is a modern-day fairytale that comes at the right time. It is a great story of accepting The Other and also accepting ourselves. The heroes of the movie are a disabled orphan, a black woman, an illegal immigrant/communist, a gay man, and an aquatic creature. It is set in the sixties in Baltimore (!!!) and all these people are definitely marginalized in society. I mean, a lot of them would still be marginalized but we have made a little progress. While the movie is definitely out there, it is a beautiful story as soon as you let go and compare it to fairytale stories like older versions of Beauty and the Beast. To me, the story was about The Other, connection between people, reclaiming one’s power, fighting the system, and doing what is right instead of what is safe. On top of that, the movie has great jazz music. I definitely recommend this but leave your hangups at the door and just enjoy it.

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbings, MO

This movie is another Oscar contender with strong social messages and like Lady Bird, it has a lot to do with following the lives of characters around one location over a period of time. Legendary actress Frances McDormand plays a mother who is hurting and tries to take the police to task, something we as a society are trying to do more and more of. The movie is about grieving, it is about accountability, and it is about how a community deals with criticism and a whole bunch of other interesting themes. Sam Rockwell kind of plays the villain but things are not so black and white as they are not in life. Woody Harrelson is his usual charming self and plays a major character that moves the plot along. While Ebbing, MO is not a real place, they did a great job of making it feel like a real place with a real heart. Even the so-called bad guys were people that I remember from my life. The movie was funny, sad, and it had a lot of great messages. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Gin Wigmore – Black Sheep

Tonight Alive – Breaking & Entering

Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

Metric – Gimme Sympathy

The Ting Tings – Do It Again

Weekly Update:
– This Week’s Theme is “Female Empowerment During Awards Season”
– I finished watching The Librarians Season 3
– I continued watching Criminal Minds Season 11
– I continued watching Mad Men Season 1
– I continued watching Peaky Blinders Season 1
– I continued watching Black Lightning Season 1
– I watched Game Grumps, KittyKat Gaming, and Barry Kramer on YouTube
– This week included a double feature at the Charles Theater


Mercer Holliday

February 26, 2018

Mercer Holliday was an android assigned to cleaning up sector 7G of the Haverford Complex for the Titus Corporation. Of course, that was not something that he had any interest in doing. Mercer was loyal and would never abandon his duty but he had different ideas. He knew that he had been constructed for this purpose or a purpose closely related to it. He knew that he owed his manufacturers his life. He had been happy to be a janitor for a long time, never doing a bad job and never leaving a single spot uncleaned if he could help it.

The question was posed a long time ago that if androids dreamed, what did they dream of? The cute answer had been electric sheep. Mercer could tell you that he dreamed of being a hero. After an efficient cleaning of his area of the facility, he would go back to his small home. He was an android and he did not need much which was good because he had very little. Still, when he returned to his abode, and before he powered down to recharge, he always watched a movie. He watched a lot of different genres but he had fallen in love with the ‘Western’ of the American Southwest of the planet Earth. He had never been there but he loved the tales of gunfighters who took on crowds of ne’er-do-wells with nothing but their grit.

He wished that was him. He did not want to be a war machine like those war droids who had been programmed for fighting. He wanted to be a defender, a seeker of truth like the gunfighter, the superheroes, and the knights from the stories he liked so much. He did not know if it was possible but he spoke of it whenever he had the chance to whoever would listen. He wanted to be the guy that people called on when they needed help when nobody else could help them. The dream burned within him and it perhaps once again raised the question whether androids had a soul and what that soul might be imagined as.

“Mercer!” A voice called out that broke Mercer from his reverie. He had been mopping on autopilot, an ability that made it obvious why you would utilize androids as workers instead of biologicals. It was Dr. Toma Wright, the young rebellious prodigy who had arrived a few months earlier. Unlike many, Toma did not ignore those around her and excitedly discussed whatever with the menial workers in her sector. That included Mercer.

“That’s my name,” Mercer said. He tried to blink realistically and Toma laughed, appreciative of his efforts to appear lifelike.

“Yes it is, Mr. Holliday,” she said. “I’m glad I caught you.”

“Holiday is not part of my official designation, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said. His official designation was Mercer-2547 after the scientist who had designed him, Victor Mercer. Most androids had no need for an original name.

“No, of course not,” Toma said. “However, I think it suits you after you recommended Tombstone to me. Doc Holliday was one of the most famous historical gunfighters of Earth.”

“I am aware, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said. “I admire him very much although he had many ethical failings throughout his life. In the end, he was very loyal to lawman Wyatt Earp.”

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?” Dr. Wright asked. She watched Mercer as if his face would give away some emotion. Of course, he did not even blink.

“Yes,” Mercer said. “If I had my way, I would be a hero like Mr. Holliday or Mr. Earp or Mr. Eastwood in his many roles.”

“Yes,” Doctor Wright said, cutting off a rant she knew might be incoming. “I’m aware you prefer Mr. Eastwood over Mr. Wayne.”

“I just find Mr. Wayne’s dialogue so stilted,” Mercer said.

Toma choked back a laugh and shook her head. There was something profound there perhaps but it was not worth pursuing. “Maybe I can help you achieve your dream.”

“How so, Doctor?” Mercer asked.

“Come with me,” she said. She led him back to her lab and she pressed a button and opened a few compartments. She pulled out a few chips and loaded them into a gun-like device. “Please expose your upper port.” Mercer trusted the Doctor and so he reached up to his neck and worked loose a panel and exposed a communication port.

Toma took up the device and plugged it into Mercer’s neck and pulled the trigger on the device. Information flooded into the construct that was analogous to Mercer’s brain. He suddenly knew how to operate weapons. Guns, knives, and hand to hand combat were suddenly second nature to him. He also suddenly knew more about computers and he had the first inkling about how to perform a ‘hack’, something he would never have even thought of previously. If androids could smile, Mercer would be grinning ear to ear. This was indeed a great gift.

“I’ve also included a program that modifies your hazardous materials containment device,” Dr. Wright said.  “It will now create a protective shield that will allow you to protect yourself and others.”

“Why have you given me these things, Dr. Wright?” Mercer asked.

“I want you to go out there and find some way to protect people,” Dr. Wright said.

“But my position is here,” Mercer said. “I must clean Sector 7G. Forever.”

“Somebody else will fill your position, Mercer,” Dr. Wright said. “I think that your passion will help you be a better hero. I think there are heroes out there without half of your passion. Besides, I have another gift for you.” She opened up another compartment and there hung a long brown duster. Mercer instantly grabbed it and put it on, a little unaccustomed to wearing actual clothes instead of panels that simulated clothes to make humans more comfortable.

“Thank you, Dr. Wright,” Mercer said.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “I have a few contacts that I can hook you up with and soon, you will be on your way. Meet me back here tomorrow and I will have your ticket to your first job. Once you have your foot in the door, nothing will be able to stop you.”

“I will be here as you say,” Mercer said.


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