Archive for April, 2015

Quiet! This is a Gym!

April 20, 2015

In the last few weeks I have returned to the gym for afternoon workouts after a lengthy hiatus. As an introverted person, going to the gym has always been an interesting affair. I do not mind working out. I often push myself and I hurt (the good kind of hurt) but I am able to tune it out with a good enough distraction. I tend to listen to Heavy Metal while I run or jog but the music can be anything as long as it’s upbeat or fast.

The problem I run into is when other people make themselves known. I will be in the zone when two people will pause nearby and start to chat, usually rather loudly because it’s noisy in the gym. That’s the moment I realize that people can see me. They know I’m exercizing and can easily watch me do it. Am I working out correctly?

I’ve taken to listening to Welcome to Nightvale while I work out since I’m so many episodes behind. Often I will be enjoying the bike when somebody sits at the next machine or a loud conversation occurs or a tour of the gym starts. I become self conscious about working out and reacting to the episode’s strange humor. I try to close my eyes and turn the volume up. I may be exagerrating a little but it is constantly on my mind. Some day I won’t feel so self-conscious.

Pokemon Alpha and Zulu

April 18, 2015

What follows is a partial outline for a Pokemon game I’ve kind of created in my head bit by bit.

So we begin with the normal selection of the girl or boy model and name selection. Your character starts in the lab of Professor Cole. You select your starter pokemon. I would say Vulpix, Poliwag and Oddish for the sake of argument but it would probably be new pokemon.

Once you have chosen, the professor starts to explain your new duties as his assistant. He tips his hand and lets slip that he’s working for Team Rocket. He abandons you and leaves you to face a member of Team Rocket. After that, you swear vengeance and begin the journey to earn gym badges and take down Team Rocket.

Along the way you face down several Team Rocket threats and plans. You also meet and travel with a young trainer named Carrie whose family is kidnapped by Team Rocket. She travels with your character which provides for plenty of double battle and versus opportunities. She starts with one of the starter pokemon and builds a balanced team on her own.

The player is separated sometimes from Carrie. At these points the player is alone or joined by another NPC. The player fights gym leaders and the Elite Four and various Team Rocket bosses. What follows is a list of gym leaders.

Gym Leader 1: Matt the Immovable Gym Leader
Type: Normal
Badge: Huge Badge
Pokemon: Snorlax, Slaking, Munchlax, Ursaring, Stantler

Matt is a lazy gym leader who enjoys his power as a gym leader more than he enjoys actually battling to keep his position. When the player arrives at the gym, Matt’s Slaking is blocking the door and taking a nap. After he is beaten, the player double battles him and Cooper before reaching the fifth gym. He was beaten by a trainer named Carrie who he wants to impress so he made her gym leader and is now trying to whip himself back into shape.

Gym Leader 2: Cooper the Party Gym Leader
Type: Grass
Badge: Party Badge
Pokemon: Ludicolo, Leavanny, Tangela, Roselia, Grovyle

Everybody in town loves Cooper because he throws the best parties or that’s how it used to be. The townspeople are tired of Cooper throwing all night parties all the time and have become embarassed that he isn’t trying harder to excel as a gym leader. He feels no motivation to try any harder since he has never lost a battle before. When he is beaten by the player and then Carrie, he sees that he must try harder. You and Carrie double battle him along with Matt later on as both have banded together to help each other train.

Gym Leader 3: Leo the Power Station Gym Leader
Type: Electric
Badge: Power Badge
Pokemon: Rotom, Pikachu, Emolga, Zebstrika, Galvantula

Leo is a hard worker and maintains the largest power station in the region. He is an expert in electrical engineering and splits his time between maintaining the power grid, battling and helping to teach less experienced trainers. After the player beats Leo, Team Rocket attacks the station and Carrie and the player must defeat them. In the ensuing battle, machinery is damaged and it is revealed that a legendary electric pokemon has been assisting in the operation of the power station. The player must then fight this legendary pokemon.

Gym Leader 4: Ariana the Circus Gym Leader
Type: Poison
Badge: Center Ring Badge
Pokemon: Arbok, Seviper, Skrelp, Victreebel, Nidoqueen

Ariana grew up as a child of circus performers and took her parent’s passion as her own. She combines that with her passion for pokemon and holds gym battles as part of her circus. Ariana loves snake pokemon in particular and they can be found crawling all over her circus and two of them are part of her team. She isn’t invested in the main storyline but is more than happy to battle the player for her badge. Before that she really puts the player and Carrie to the test in a series of double battles and solo battles.

Gym Leader 5: Jack the Sanctuary Gym Leader
Type: Flying
Badge: Wing Badge
Pokemon: Talonflame, Aerodactyl, Noctowl, Skarmory, Staraptor, Altaria

Jack’s gym sits on the roof of the Cindelle City department store and is a sanctuary for flying pokemon and also a research center. Jack balances the responsibilities of being a gym leader with trips into different regions and areas to look for flying pokemon. He is friendly but always determined to come out victorious. The player can meet him again on Victory Road where he’s all to happy to get a second chance at winning.

Gym Leader 6: Alex the Fighting Star Gym Leader
Type: Fighting
Badge: Spectacle Badge
Pokemon: Hawlucha, Hariyama, Mienshao, Hitmonchan, Gurdurr, Sawk

Alex comes from a long family tradition of fighters and has incorporated that into his Pokemon battling. However, when he was five years old he got bitten by the showbiz bug and started working toward the first television station in the region. When he inherited his family dojo, he converted it into a television studio as well. He eventually also made it a Pokemon gym when he earned that title. His family wants him to treat the honor with more respect but he is blinded by the lights of the cameras. Eventually he’s able to compromise and bring honor to his TV show.

280 sq ft/18 boxes

Gym Leader 7: Captain Heather the Enforcer Gym Leader
Type: Steel
Badge: Iron Badge
Pokemon: Doublade, Lucario, Bisharp, Metagross, Steelix, Escavalier

Captain Heather is a detective for the police and hard on the trail of the new boss of Team Rocket. She appears at the end of most of your run-ins with Team Rocket to arrest any members left on the scene. She also teams up with the player and Carrie during the battle to take down the boss once and for all. She’s more than pleased to take a break and battle the player for her badge. Once she has been met she hands out sidequests to the player.

Gym Leader 8: Mira the Studious Gym Leader
Type: Ghost
Badge: Spirit Badge
Pokemon: Mismagius, Haunter, Hoopa, Golurk, Spiritomb, Litwick

Mira is a bookish and quiet young woman who regularly communes with the dead, creeping out many in her community. Still, she’s fiercely loyal to her town and her region and protects both with a furious vengeance. Most think of her as a meek librarian type but when she’s challenged she is a dominant opponent who easily eliminates many threats. She secretly helps the player against Team Rocket by sending her Mismagius and Litwick to help with puzzles. She also fights alongside the player and Carrie on Victory Road.

Olivia Hunter, Monster Hunter Go!

April 17, 2015

Olivia stretched out on the lawn, laying down on a towel with her sunglasses on. She had been reading her book but Tracy had stopped by and kept interrupting so she had given up and pretended to take a nap. As the sun warmed her skin, that pretend nap was quickly becoming a real nap. Any minute now it would reach critical mass and she would be sent off to dreamland probably until she got hungry or one of the ultimate frisbee people tripped over her. She was thankful she had remembered to pack extra strong sunscreen.

She thought that maybe she would get a smoothie after the park and stop by and see what Janey was doing. Maybe she would see if Scott was at the gym. Maybe he wanted to do something together. She was having trouble working up the nerve to talk to him. If she could summon the courage she would ask him out but her face slowly turned hot and crimson whenever she thought of such things.

Suddenly all of those plans were canceled as what felt like an explosion rocked the earth under her. She sat bolt upright and jumped to her feet in time to dodge the crowd of people fleeing from the direction of the Revolutionary War Monument. She took in the scene but couldn’t see much through the trees. All she saw was people running in a blind panic and a plume of smoke coming from somewhere in that direction. Maybe it was the monument or maybe it was just something in that direction.

“Bolt Magic Unleash!” Olivia yelled out and touched the bracelet on her left wrist and it shimmered and then shined and began to spark. Instantly more fabric formed around her even as her bikini changed and stretched. She could feel a tugging on her long blonde hair. After a few moments she stood there in what looked like a yellow sundress with yellow and gold boots. Her messy hair had been tied into a more manageable pigtails. She felt a surge of energy run through her body and then she was sprinting towards danger faster than any human being. She was Lightning and she was a monster hunter and a superhero.

The pavillion at the monument was flooded with what looked like little goblins. Olivia slammed her fist into the nearest one’s face and it tumbled through the air and landed with a thud. It disintegrated into a pile of sparks and smoke as Olivia started punching and kicking some more goblins. The sundress was easy to move in and made hand to hand combat easy. It also magically kept in a modest position which was a definite plus.

“Lightning Shock Wave!” She shouted, pointing her palm at a crowd of goblins. Her palm crackled with light and then a huge wave of electricity launched from her hand. The goblins were engulfed in the energy blast and one by one they exploded violently. Olivia couldn’t help but grin at how awesome it was to wield the awesome power of lightning.

“Careful, Lightning! Take these goons out fast so they can’t surround you!” A voice echoed in her head. She could feel it coming from the bracelet but knew it was Ariel, the strange being that had given her these powers.

“Relax, I’ve got this. Lightning Bolt Go!” She shouted as she unleashed an arc of electricity that took out several more goblins. There weren’t so many more goblins at this point so she set about punching and kicking her way through them. It felt good to get a little action out of her system. She was definitely going to need that nap now though.

A huge two-headed goblin burst through the treeline with a terrific roar. It collided with a column on the pavillion and sent chunks of stone everywhere.

“Hey! That’s city property, Jerk!” Olivia shouted. She hated to see a great monument damaged like that.

“That guy is bigger than the other ones were! Shift into Dragon Armor Mode!” Ariel shouted.

“Right! Lightning Mode D Activate!” Olivia shouted. She traced a lightning bolt across her chest with her left hand and the bracelet shined brightly and then became more of a high tech watch. She slammed the big gold button on the watch and there was an explosion of light around her. She was always amazed at the speed that the armor formed around her body. She was equally amazed that she was never injured in the process. When the light cleared she was dressed head to toe in golden armor. She drew a golden sword.

“Lightning Blade Go!” Oliva shouted and charged the two-headed goblin. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as she ran past her target and slashed her sword hard. She felt it as she made contact and she slid to a stop a few yards behind the monster. There was an agonizing moment and then the goblin exploded. She grinned and pumped her arm. “Yes!”

“Good job, Lightning! Another threat eliminated. Of course, you could have waited for the team to arrive.”

“Eh, I work better alone anyway.”

(Yeah I threw Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors and Power Rangers into a blender.  I kind of love it though. It’s really fun to write.)

A to Z Phase 3

April 16, 2015

So yeah, I’ve scheduled some stuff that I’ve ended up not doing.  I like reviewing movies and television but I’ve realized that I don’t want to review anything that I don’t have enough interest in seeing.  Love’s Labours Lost just didn’t wow me so I ended up not watching it.  I’ve already seen a funny review of The Nutjob and I already know it’s awful so I can let that slide.  I got story ideas that I found far more interesting so I pre-empted the movie reviews.  Movie reviews are also more time consuming.  It’s nice that this challenge has made me rethink how I’m going to proceed in the future.  I’d rather do short fiction and personal blogs and then just the occasional review.  I will be thinking a lot more as I proceed.  I definitely hit a wall during phase 2 but I think I can pick things up in phase 3 and hopefully grind through phase 4. Though I hasten to add that this is still pretty fun, it just got stressful for a bit.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I have planned next:

April 17 – Olivia Hunter, Monster Hunter Go! : A short piece in the style of Power Rangers, Sailor Moon and Ronin Warriors (aka Male Sailor Moon)

April 18 – Pokemon: I sort of wrote the outline of a Pokemon game I came up with

April 20 – Quiet. I’m Exercising: A few notes on my recent experiences returning to the gym

April 21 – Redcross, Part 2: The second part in my ongoing supernatural western story

April 22 – The Sword Part 3:  The third part in my ongoing “rural fantasy” story

April 23 – Top 11 “Iconic” Films from my Childhood: You’ll get to see some of the fiction that formed me

April 24 – Underworld: A movie I’m actually interested in and haven’t seen yet

April 25 – Vampire’s Kiss: Come hell or high water I will find a copy of this movie and I will review it… or I’ll do something else

No Strings

April 16, 2015

The whir and click of Jole’s servos was starting to wear on me. This was supposed to be a stealth mission so why had I thought that bringing the android along would be a good idea. Maybe because I couldn’t tell anybody else about this and I didn’t want to do this alone. Nobody went in to Phoebus Labs. Well, of course people went in and androids and robots too. They all worked their though. They had a purpose there. Nobody walked in there off the street and here we were strolling through the second sub-basement. Here we were, the biggest fools of them all.

Doctor Amle had jury rigged several different devices to mask us from electronic, thermal and sonic sensors. She even had a device that caused the human eye to just not notice you. The spheres containing the devices orbitted around us in a tight perimeter at an even pace. If we didn’t bump into to to many walls, I thought we would be fine. At least, that’s what Sheila had told us. I didn’t have the fancy degree so I couldn’t quite follow all the schematics and technical terms. I’m no James Bond, I’m just the guy they sent in here. The guy they didn’t mind not getting back.

“Michael, what are we doing here?” Joel asked, not bothering to modulate his speaker’s volume down to a more stealthy level. It made me wince a little but no alarms went off so I guessed that Amle’s tech was working.

“We’re investigating this place for Doctor Amle. She thinks there’s some shady stuff happening here. I’m here because I’m too curious for my own good and you’re here because your body is loaded with sensors.”

“Those sensors are picking up rather strange signatures throughout our immediate area. Several heretofore unknown technological advancements must be in use here.”

“Well, this is known as the bleeding edge tech lab for a reason, right?”

“This is beyond the bleeding edge, Michael. I posit that you will not be disappointed by our results but you may regret this visit.”

“That’s on me but you’re right, this place is pretty creepy. I have a bad feeling.”

“Are we to wander the halls indefinitely?” It was almost as if the android had a sense of humor but I was sure that wasn’t possible.

“No. You’re right again. Let’s start poking our heads into some of the labs and see what we can see.”

The first few labs were less than interesting, at least visually. There were banks and banks of servers that, of course, didn’t do a thing when we entered the room. The third of these large rooms was a little different. The servers only filled half the room and in the other half of the room there was a single server that was colored black instead of the sleek silver and white of the others. The lights were red and not the green of the others. There was a physical barrier about a foot and a half around the server as if it was a museum piece but it was hooked up to power and nothing else.

As we got near it, Jole began to falter in the normal precision of his steps. I looked at him and he said nothing but stared at the black server.

“Joel. What’s going on? Are you operating right?”

“I do not know, Michael. I feel strange.”

“You ‘feel’ strange? You don’t feel, Jole. You’re a machine.”

“I am aware of this fact, Michael. And yet it is the only word I could have used at that particular moment. I suggest we vacate this room immediately. Something in that server is drastically different. I will attempt to link remotely to other servers but this one is dangerous.” Something in the android’s mechanical voice actually sounded afraid which was enough to make my blood run cold in turn.

“That’s fine. I wouldn’t want to endanger my partner. We’re leaving here together.” I smiled at him and he nodded slightly before we headed through the door back to the hallway. If I wasn’t sure it was impossible I would have sworn that Jole looked relieved. We pressed on.

There were plenty of rooms with exotic looking flora and fauna that I had never seen before and probably will never see again. Some of the creatures looked dangerous but we took pictures of them all and recorded audio and downloaded what files we could get our hands on. The break-in was beginning to get tedious. No guards checked in on the labs or patrolled the hallways. I was prepared to fight our way out but it looked like we were free an clear.

“You came here because you like Sheila, did you not?” Jole said, breaking what felt like hours of silence.

“She prefers Doctor Amle. You know that.”

“You prefer to call her Sheila. It is a fitting name.” Jole said, turning to face me.

“Yeah, I guess I do and yeah I like Sheila a lot. She hasn’t really noticed but I’ll be there when she does.” I smiled at the thought of Sheila’s tough exterior cracking just enough to let me in. One day she would look up from her research and see me there smiling and holding flowers and that would be it. We would be together and happy even with the Phoebus Corporation making our lives dark and miserable.

“I can’t let that happen.” Jole said simply. The words were staccato and almost overenunciated.

“What? Wait, since when do you use contractions?” My eyes went wide as I turned toward Jole to say more but he gripped both hands around my neck. I gasped for breath and tried to tear his hands from me but they were metal powered by servos and machinery and I had no hope. I could barely breathe as he carried me into a lab.

“Sheila will be mine. She will never notice you. She will never notice that you’re gone.” Jole said, his eyes going red. Red like that server a couple rooms back. The server that had troubled Jole so much. What happened? What was happening? I felt an icy chill as he dumped me into a giant vat of some liquid. I found some energy reserves deep down and I fought back again but I couldn’t hit anything vital on him. There was a shower of sparks as I kicked at his shoulder but he easily held me down.

As fluid filled my lungs I thought of Sheila. If only I could warn her.

The Mystery Part 3

April 15, 2015

The Mystery

Naps are overrated. Scott always felt even more out of commission when he eventually woke up. Still, he stumbled to his feet and somehow got into the shower. As the water cascaded down his back, he tried to plan his routes across the city to try and find Trixshot. Scott felt like it was his responsibility to bring her down. She was too good at evading the cops and she could injure someone with those arrows even as accurate as she was. He wished her accountant career had gone better so that he didn’t have to deal with this. He hated thoughts like that.

He headed outside and walked five blocks to the motorcycle he used as the Mystery. For what it’s worth, that wasn’t a name that he had chosen for himself. The press had branded Scott as the Mystery after he had been spotted fighting the Ace in the Hole gang. WIYY had called him a “Mystery Man on the scene” but by the next day had shortened it to just The Mystery. The Beacon had picked it up and once it was on the air and in print it was practically written in stone. It would require a public announcement to change it now but that wasn’t something Scott was interested in risking.

Scott was actually pretty astonished that the police weren’t hunting him down like the similarly costumed villains. He actually had no idea whether they were hunting him or not but he hadn’t actually been chased yet. He put a big stylized M on all of his stuff just in case he needed some goodwill with the authorities in a tense spot. His legend was kind of growing from further glimpses and cell phone videos featuring that logo. He respected the police though and he swore he was only stepping in because they’re stretched so thin. Besides, he mostly only track the deranged wackadoos these days anyway.

He was in luck, the police scanner on the Mystery Bike gave him a Trixshot sighting almost right away. Scott gunned the bike to life and put on my mask and helmet. She had been seen in Charles District which was a pretty swanky area of town. There was no doubt the targets there were ripe and fruitful if you could get past tougher security. He had faith that Trixshot would have no problems with security systems.

He pulled off Main Street and into a back alley. He hung his helmet on the handlebars and climbed off the bike. Almost as if on cue a familiar shape vaulted down from the roof and swung to street’s level from a fire escape with the practice of a professional gymnast. Her blonde hair was spiky and unkempt from hair gel. Her makeup was thick around her little domino mask. Her clothing was all colorful spandex and black leather accents. She was a far cry from the accountant she had been in a past life. She was now more suited for a comic booked-themed rave.

“Fancy meeting you here, Mystery. I thought you’d get the point last night. Thought you’d stay away from me.” She said, grinning under the street lamps.

“Wow, did you take all day to write that line? Drop the loot and I’ll go easy on you. Behave and the cops should get you to central booking without any bruises.”

“That doesn’t sound like any fun. Instead, how about I pin you down again and this time I get a peek at your real face. Maybe I’ll even give it a kiss. ” She said as she drew an arrow from her quiver.

Scott grabbed his retractable bo staff from his belt and quickly extended it to its full length of three feet. He had taken Savate since he was little but recently I had started taking bojitsu and eskrima lessons as well. He was getting pretty good but he was facing an opponent who had the superior reach of a bow and arrow. He should have bought that stun gun but he had chosen the alleyway for its close quarters and dim lighting. He hoped it would challenged Trixshot.

She drew and fired, a twisted little smirk on her painted lips. Scott had already been running toward her so he had to juke right to barely avoid being skewered again. He swung his staff and it felt like she was still miles away but he still swung for the fences anyway. The very tip of the staff connected with her forearm. It caused her to drop a second arrow somewhere behind her.

Her eye was drawn to the clatter for a moment, looking for the fallen arrow. Scott swung again and she barely blocked the blow with her bow. She was on the defensive now as Scott swung again and again from slightly different angles. She tried to say something but he cut off her flirty, sarcastic remark by swinging again and again. Finally he swung low and knocked her into the brick wall of the back of a french bakery. Before she could rally again he pushed her up against the wall with the bo and pinned her there.

“Come on, take it easy.” She coughed out.

“You kind of shot me last night. I’m not in the mood.” Scott responded and grabbed the arrows in her quiver and tossed them aside. He knocked her bow aside and sent it bouncing down the cobblestone until it noisily came to a stop. He still held her against the wall with one arm and the bo while he reached for the taser on his belt. It seemed like the most humane way to take her down.

He never had a chance as some sort of disk landed on Trixshot’s temple and he had to jerk back as he felt electricity surge through her body. Some of it arced to his arm and he felt his arm go numb. It stopped after a moment and he bent down to check her pulse. Still breathing, heart still beating.

“She is merely incapacitated. I would not have anyone interfere in our little talk.” A voice said from the shadows.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

April 14, 2015

Book Cover

The original plan was to review Love’s Labour Lost on Netflix today but I came down with a case of the I don’t want want to do thats. I love Shakespeare but I don’t really feel like watching an adaptation of a play that I’ve never been super thrilled with. He’s written better. I could be shortchanging myself here but there’s no buzz and there’s been a lot of mediocre Shakespeare adaptions out there. Some of them are just awful movies. Instead, I’ll do something that I almost never do. I’ll write a brief book review. I rarely write book reviews because, unlike movies, I really don’t want to spoil a good book which is an intensely personal journey. Still, there’s so many books that I would recommend.

I first came in contact with this book because a friend of mine handed to me. There have been dozens of books that I heartily enjoyed after a friend or family member handed it to me. In fact, I might not have been as into fantasy if a relative hadn’t given me a bag full of every book in the Belgariad and the Malloreon when I was pretty young. This book was handed to me on a trip to Virginia in my late twenties. I could barely put it down once I gave it a try.

The Lies of Locke Lamora was pitched to me as “Oceans 11 in the Middle Ages” which is pretty accurate, at least for the first book in the series. The main character worships a secret 13th god in the pantheon that watches over liars and thieves. So the book’s heroes are con men who are involved in heists and elaborate long cons. If you’re a fan of shows like Leverage or movies like the Italian Job where the protagonists are crooks with a heart of gold then you will probably enjoy this book.

The beginning of the book kind of felt a little like Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book. I love the back story but I’m a fan of the hard luck kid who makes good because he’s just smarter and more skilled than the people putting him down. Locke is a great character because he makes the kind of choices you’d expect a real person to make. Beyond that, practically every single character feels pretty rich and rounded and people you can definitely picture in your head. Jean Tannen especially sounds like a guy I would love to hang out with.

What I was most impressed with is the author’s world building skills. There’s nothing I love better than a well-crafted world. Just look at the Belgariad, the Dresden Files and Lord of the Rings for some prime examples of this. I love where I can imagine the geography and the culture of a foreign world and I do mean foreign here. Almost nothing really operates like the politics of our world although it seems to take place on an Earth-like world (give or take a few moons and suns).

This was a story that I was invested in as early as a few pages in and I only became more and more interested. I actually wanted to go to bed earlier so that I could read this good book. I went on to read the second book Red Seas Under Red Skies which was just as good if not better. It’s hard to tell since I enjoy the world-building and meeting new characters so much. I have the same problem determining my favorite Dresden Files book since I’ve loved every single one so much. I am currently reading the third book in the series, The Republic of Thieves, and I tell you it’s awesome too so far. I especially like how it goes back into the character’s back story again and fleshes it out even more.

So go out and find this book or any of the other books I mentioned or get them in the digital format you prefer.

(PS. The title has three Ls in it. That’s extra points, right?  Oh right there’s no points.)

The Key Episode 7

April 13, 2015

The Key

Robin and the Beetleman found a little privacy on Carly’s balcony. Inside the apartment Kim fussed over a wounded Puppet Girl who was laid out carefully on the sofa. She was still breathing so it wasn’t time to panic and call a doctor yet. The girl hadn’t woken up yet though and that worried Robin but Kim looked like a capable caregiver. Maybe having kids unlocked that sort of behavior in human beings.

The Beetleman cleared his throat. He was leaning against the railing of the balcony. He had draped his trenchcoat over the railing and he had rolled up the sleeves of his button-up shirt. Even without the mass of the coat the balcony felt smaller with him on it. He was so big and tall and there was a force to his presence. He had the gravity of an action hero and it was hard not to look at him. She found herself staring at his caramel face, dark chocolate eyes and pitch black hair. He must not have gotten time to shave but he looked good. He looked really good actually.

“Earth to Robin. You wanted to talk?” He asked, cocking his head to the side ever so slightly.

“Oh. Yeah. Yeah I did. I just don’t know exactly where to start.” Robin said while trying not to blush.

“It’s all kind of terrifyingly complicated. I don’t blame you.” He nodded slowly, turning to look out over the surrounding wholesome neighborhood. The sirens in the square had died down by then.

“Can we maybe start with your name? I still don’t know it.” Robin said, tense with how awkward that question felt. It seemed that they had been so intimate in the bar and he had saved her life. It was ridiculous that she hadn’t asked yet, right?

“That’s weird. You used it last night.” He said, a curious look scrunching his face up. He didn’t quite trust her just as much as she didn’t trust him.

“Long story but that wasn’t me.”

“That wasn’t you? You look like the same tattooed, semi-goth bar waitress from before. Are you sure you didn’t get a concussion in the square?” He asked. It was Robin’s turn to look out over the neighborhood. She could feel him studying her and this time she couldn’t stop herself from blushing.

“I don’t reawlly know how it works but there is another Robin in my head. She knew your name, I guess. I don’t. I’m not crazy or at least I wasn’t before yesterday.”

“I guess that would explain the strange accent from last night.”

“The what!?”

“Just kidding.” He said with a chuckle. “You really are clueless about what’s going on, aren’t you?”

Robin grinned but tried very hard to frown instead. “I know that they’re bad and I’m good or at least I’m trying to be. I know that there’s another me that goes around and getting tattoos and apparently talking to strange men. Could you just tell me your name, already?”

“I guess I owe you at least that much but there’s a problem with that.” He frowned and paused long enough for someone to drive a truck between his words. “I don’t remember my name. I don’t remember much of anything and that includes my name. I know it’s R… something. It starts with an R.”

Robin felt bad for the guy but that lasted only a moment before the fear response hit. What was she up against that could do this? Why did she have to be up against it or anything else? She thought she might just have another panic attack right there on the balcony. She gripped the rail tight and felt her stomach do barrel rolls inside of her. She made small, involuntary sounds that were clearly not words and showed just how vulnerable she felt. The word “Why” rang through her head like a pealing church bell.

“Are you ok?” R asked which was a nominee for dumbest but most thoughtful question of the year.

“I’m sorry it did that to you.” Robin managed to croak out. It was inadequate but the best she could muster.

“It’s ok now. I have a feeling that you’ll help me get it all back.” R said. He said it so matter-of-factly that Robin started to believe it herself. “Maybe if we solve your mystery it will help solve mine.”

Robin sighed. “I’ve tried to solve it already.”

“Really? Ok. What have you tried?”

“I’ve…” The words died in Robin’s throat. “I can’t remember.”

“So she gave you tattoos. When was the first tattoo?”

“Fifteen. Well, the first one, the key, was when I was a baby but the rest didn’t start until I was fifteen.”

“Your parents didn’t complain about the tattoos? Ground you?”

“I… no I guess they didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“I..” Robin began but simply shrugged. Why hadn’t her foster parents ever said anything?

“What did the doctors say about your blackouts? About the tattoos?” R continued, the interrogation was starting to get unsettling.

“What doctors?” Robin all but squeaked. There had been doctors, hadn’t there?

“Any doctor. Any pediatrician or school nurse or anybody.”

“There… wasn’t one. Jesus Christ, there wasn’t one. Why didn’t anyone ever do anything? Why didn’t I?”

“Either you already had the answer or something didn’t want you looking for it. It didn’t want anything looking for it.”

Robin was hyperventalating now. She was leaning hard on the railing and nearly retching over the side. R reached out to steady her but she jerked away hard and landed in the corner of the balcony. The bars rang after her shoulder blades collided. The world spun around several times before she shut her eyes.

“What am I?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know, Robin. Let’s figure it out together. Ok?”

“How do I know I can trust you when I can’t trust myself?”

“You don’t.”

There was a long near silence which was filled only with the sounds of Robin trying to get her breathing back to normal. After what seemed like hours she gripped the railing and hoisted herself to her feet in the gathering twilight.

“Let’s go see if we can talk to the girl. I’m sick of not knowing.” Robin said and pushed past R and into the apartment.

Just Music

April 11, 2015

(General warning for language in the videos attached to this post)

A couple of weeks ago, a friend surprised me by referring to rap music as ‘disgusting’. Now, everybody is entitled to their opinion but the thought ground my gears. It’s not disgusting. It’s just music. I didn’t respond immediately because that’s not the hill I want to die on. I also knew that I wanted to write about it but I didn’t want to write angry and I wanted to think about it for a while. Hopefully I’ve let my emotions sift to the bottom and my thoughts to the top.

Now the track in question was this little ditty:

Nicki Minaj – Anaconda

Would you say that’s disgusting? I asked the question of myself and tried to stay objective. It’s very sexual and I guess somebody who wasn’t comfortable with that would have issues with that aspect. Still, it’s no worse than I’ve seen Madonna put out back in the day so I personally have no issues with it. It’s heavily sampled so from a musical standpoint it’s not entirely original which I guess irks me just a bit. Still, it’s different enough that I can let it slide. So what’s left? Is it just that it’s rap music? Is that such a bad thing?

Let me be perfectly honest. I railed against rap music when I was a teenager at a time when rap music was exploding in popularity. I wanted nothing to do with it but looking back I think that’s because as a middle class white kid I was supposed to not like it. I was a supposed to be a good boy and listen to rock and roll like my parents and authority figures would prefer. However, once rap and hip hop became more mainstream I actually gave it an honest try. I was hooked. I loved it. I went through a period where that’s all I listened to. Now I listen to it when I’m in the mood or when something new is released. I’m no expert but I know what I like.

NWA – Fuck Tha Police

Listening to this track again I have to admit it goes way overboard in some parts and I do not condone violence against law enforcement in any form.  However, I wouldn’t even call that “disgusting” since the words are coming from a different perspective.  I see the police in an entirely different light than a person of color might especially during a period following the LA riots where there was a lot of anger and frustration over police actions. The only experience I’ve had with the police are a few tickets and knowing my uncle who worked for law enforcement.  The music and lyrics flow very well and if you listen there’s actually a fairly eloquent yet emotional indictment of police brutality/profiling if you get past the shock value of the name.

Kanye West – Jesus Walks

Now, this is one of the most political rap songs that I’ve heard (again, I’m no connoiseur) and it has a very high production quality. Of course, it comes from an artist who thinks he’s the second coming and a musical genius. All of that aside, it’s an interesting track about one man’s views on the world around him.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Jimmy Iovine

This track comes off as violent and harsh at first because of the vocal effects and anger and some violent imagery. This is all apparent until you realize the artists are using the power of metaphor and symbolism. What they’re really talking about here is how the record companies give new artists a raw deal which is sometimes akin to indentured servitude. It’s a tirade against the current business structure that favors the record companies over the artists instead of a true partnership. It’s something they were obviously passionate about and it is a message I can get behind.

Trey Songz – Bottoms Up ft. Nicki Minaj

We finish off with the track that introduced me to Nicki Minaj in the first place. For the record, I was a fan of Nicki Minaj since the first time I heard this. The speed and accuracy that she achieves is amazing and I often find her funny and a little insane. Not all tracks are deep and meaningful. Sometimes you just want to party with a bouncy song about a night on the town.  It’s like the difference between American Pie and Highway to Hell. Sometimes you just want to listen to fun music.

So those are a few rap songs that I like. I feel like I could go on like this for ages but I think a small sampling makes my point well enough. Obviously I’m not going to change everyone’s mind but I feel that cutting off a whole genre is unfair and close-minded. I always give everything a fair shake before I condemn it. I don’t put down movies I haven’t seen and I don’t condemn a whole genre of music because I don’t like a few artists. I went through the same thing with country music, pop music, disco and so many others. It just takes one good track to open your mind. Maybe you can go find your track.

I, Frankenstein

April 10, 2015

I have been a fan of the Frankenstein story since I read it as young kid one summer because it was a classic and all I had ever seen was Young Frankenstein. I wanted the story straight from the horse’s mouth. I was also a big fan of Greek and Roman mythology so the title Prometheus Unbound also grabbed my attention. Frankenstein is a rich tale full of complex thoughts on ethics, morality and the nature and compostion of a man. I expected that I, Frankenstein would be none of these things. I was shockingly wrong.

I went into this movie thinking that it was just going to be an action romp that I would forget almost as soon as it was over. Instead, it was an action romp that followed through with a lot of the themes and thoughts from the original book. Adam Frankenstein is now trying to find a place in a world that fears and despises him and he also gets caught up in a war between good and evil. The character acts believably when confronted with obstacles that you would expect would be thrown at him.

The characters are all written pretty well and with a surprising degree of subtlety given what I thought I was getting myself into. The villains are charming and intelligent which makes sense as they are demons. The female protagonist is a fairly rounded and strong character without being action girl. I wish she had a little more screentime so that we could get a little more insight into her character but this was an action fantasy and they weren’t going to do that. The gargoyles are actually a pretty mercenary lot and make surprising choices. Actually, there were a lot of surprises in this film. Places where the movie turned right when I expected them to go left.

Here’s a few thoughts I had during the movie.

“Wait, this is an almost sequel to the book? Wow.”

Yeah, I was not expecting them to actually recount some of the story from the book. Of course, they change the ending so that Frankenstein’s Creature lives but movies have been doing that for a long time. The ending to Prometheus Unbound was poetic and beautiful in a way but I often wonder what would have happened if the creature lived. What if the creature clung to humanity instead of allowing his creator to debase him into being the expected monster?

“Ok I laughed at the cheap ‘It’s alive!’ callback. Sue me.”

It’s a line that’s been attached to every single depiction of Frankenstein since the book. It kind of had to be thrown in there. It actually comes about pretty naturally and therefore kind of funny.

“He’s fallen in with a militant sect of supermodels.”

The gargoyles are all ridiculously pretty and slathered in baby oil so that everyone has a sheen to their skin. It actually got a little better as the film progressed but  I found it kind of funny in the moment.

“Why is everyone else British?”

Yeah. I know it takes place in England (I guess) but why are all of the supernatural creatures speaking with a British accent? I guess you could explain away the demons who interract with human locals on a day to day basis. The gargoyles tend to have a sort of no contact rule like the Prime Directive in Star Trek so there’s no need to have a local accent. Whatever.

“Microwaving a dead rat isn’t going to bring it back to life. Oh wait, Frankenstein is fantasy not sci-fi.”

I’ve always classified Frankenstein as fantasy even though the word science is all over it like white on rice. However, there’s next to no technobabble and nobody is ever able to explain how he did what he did. It’s more or less treated like magic in countless adaptations and I approve. I’m definitely more a fan of Fantasy than I am of Science Fiction.

I would definitely suggest people see this movie if you’re into urban fantasy and action.

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