Archive for August, 2017

Media Update 8/31/17

August 31, 2017


Sing Street

I watched this one on monthly Movie Night with friends and, while I had seen the movie on the Netflix menu, I probably would not have watched it on my own. Anyway, I was three when this movie took place in 1985. All the same, I remember some of the fashions even when I was older which is what caused most of the shocked and delighted comments from my older friends. The movie is about a young boy who is forced to go to a Christian School by his parents where he is bullied. To cope, he decides to chase a girl by forming a band. Through the story, the music also becomes about him discovering his identity and his confidence and also bonding with his brother. There is a lot of original music inspired by bands of the eighties including various genres and subgenres of the time as the band struggles to find their own sound. There is also a ton of great music from the seventies and eighties (and there’s also Genesis). While this is a bit of a period piece, there is plenty that hit home for me. The relationship between brothers was particularly hard hitting for me. Also, the family on the verge of a breakdown. Anyway, I definitely recommend it as it will have you both laughing and feeling and singing along.


Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I had heard about this musical for a long time but I have never seen it on stage. I was excited when I found out that the movie stars the original stars of the stage show. The show stars John Cameron Mitchell as gender ambiguous Hedwig (who was born male) who is trying to get her music career off the ground. However, she ends up following the tour of a former friend/lover who stole all of her original songs. So, she tells each audience on her tour her story while singing songs associated with different parts of her past. We see flashbacks as she tells her story which is definitely not a happy one. I would compare this movie to The Who’s Tommy which has a similar musical genre and also had a lot of trippy imagery in it. There is a lot of emotional pain in the movie but somehow they manage to keep it light enough not to be too much of a downer. The movie also had a few moments that felt a lot like This is Spinal Tap. I would recommend it as it was pretty fun and definitely an interesting and uncomfortable ride.


Opening Night

I stumbled on this in the Netflix menu and I have been a fan of Topher Grace since I was introduced to him in That 70’s Show. He has definitely grown as an actor. He plays a Broadway stage manager and immediately his role is so familiar as are a lot of the situations backstage in the movie. The movie is a lot about the past and missed opportunities and whether you can find those opportunities again. Appropriately, the musical within a musical is called One Hit Wonderland and it is about showcasing all of the One Hit Wonders in music history and whether those groups could have had another hit. Topher’s deadpan delivery is my favorite thing about the movie but there is a whole cast of wacky characters played by Alona Tal, Anne Heche, Taye Diggs, Rob Riggle and Paul Scheer. Beside’s Topher and Alona’s central story, there are a lot of side stories that are often amusing. There are musical numbers on stage and also one hit wonders are sung backstage that apply to the current point in the story. I would actually recommend this as it was a pretty good romantic comedy (although it is a little raunchy for raunchy’s sake).

Music of the Week:
Jimmie Rodgers – Honeycomb

Royal Republic – Baby

ZZ Ward – Put the Gun Down

Against Me! – Crash

The LaFontaines – Release the Hounds

Media Update:
– This week’s theme is “Presentational Rock Musicals”
– I finally finished The Defenders
– I watched more White Collar Season 5
– I watched more Riverdale Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 6
– I finished Criminal Minds Season 12

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Interview Questions 10

August 28, 2017


Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

I have heard this one asked in numerous Q&A sessions and Reddit AMAs and apparently, it is a question that job interviewers have actually asked. I thought I would get it out of the way. I was just actually thinking about fighting water fowl on Saturday because I was reminded of how mean geese are. In my experience, ducks are pretty chill. I used to walk through fields of ducks in college and they just shuffled out of my way. However, if I were to meet a duck bigger than me, I would shudder to think what its response would be. Ducks eat fish, worms, and insects. These things are much smaller than a duck. I do not want to be consumed by a giant duck. I think I could take the horses eventually. I do not think the herd mentality translates into an attacking swarm of horses. I think the horses would probably barely fight back aside from kicking a little and trying to run away. I think it would be pretty sad but at least I would survive. I am usually going to pick the choice that allows me to survive. Wow, this got dark quicker than I expected but at least I am prepared to be asked this in the future.


If you were falsely convicted of a crime, how would you adapt to prison life?

Thankfully, not something I have to think about often but I have thought about it recently due to a really good story arc on Criminal Minds. Prison is really, really, really difficult. I live in the United States and our prisons are completely broken. Instead of being a safe atmosphere for criminals to explore their guilt and restart their lives, it is instead a repository where we stick both the criminals and the innocent. Prisons have become cauldrons where we mix some of the worst elements of our society (at least the worst of the poor parts) and then we walk away and let whatever happen. Prisons are dangerous places to be. While I am good at keeping my head down, I feel like I would eventually run afoul of somebody acting out their frustrations. I would live my life absolutely obeying the guards and counting the hours until I could be locked back in my cell. Then comes the mental effects. I think about if they would let me have pen and paper or even books. If not, I think I would probably go numb and shuffle about until I was released. That is if I was ever released.


What commercial convinced you NOT to buy the product they are pushing?

Alright, this question is not sad like the first two. I watch a lot of YouTube and there is this one commercial that keeps repeating that has me really confused and not wanting to buy their product. I cannot remember which brand but it is for deodorant (Edit: It’s Dove). It just has a lineup of guys stammering about deodorant and perspiration while looking embarrassed. Then the narrator says “Guys don’t talk about antiperspirant” and I get confused. Is this a stereotype that I was unaware of? I do not think that anybody really talks about that particular product because it is a boring topic of conversation. Also, as a guy, I feel that if the topic came up I could easily talk about antiperspirant. Weird. Also, any commercial about Axe Body Spray. First, I have a sensitive nose when it comes to fragrance and this product was already a no go. However, the way they objectify women makes me want to disrespect any guy who actually uses that product. Really dumb.


If you could time travel, where would you go?

I think I may have already answered this question or a similar one but I have a different answer as of this week. I was reminded of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and how six of them have been destroyed. I would want to travel back and see each of those wonders. The Colossus of Rhodes sounds like an impressive statue that I would love to look at and see the massive feat of art. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon sound amazing and I have no idea what that would even look like. While I have seen plenty of modern lighthouses, I am intrigued to see an ancient one in the form of The Lighthouse of Alexandria. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia sounds exciting, similar to the Colossus but with the added bonus of artwork of one of my favorite mythological figures. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus would be cool because I would get to see a long dead religion and a working temple dedicated to it. The same goes for the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus where I could see how the ancient world dealt with their dead. As a bonus, I would love to stop by the Library of Alexandria even though I could not read a word of their collection.

The Symbol

August 26, 2017

Victoria had lived with the symbol all of her life. It was hanging over the front door both inside and out of her childhood home. It was carved into the center of the family dinner table. It was carefully tiled into one of the shower walls. It had been imprinted on the fence posts bordering her ancestral home. At age four it was meticulously tattooed onto her shoulder. It was a very traditional symbol that had been in her family for a long time. Some now confused it for a family crest but it was far more than that. It was a demon ward. It was designed to ward against a very particular demon.

That particular demon would be Solantria and she was a wicked one. Victoria’s ancestor, Leonidas Heathrow, had made a deal with the demon in order to gain the power to save the local town from a dragon. Her many-times-great grandfather had been between a rock and a hard place but he made the sacrifice for the right reasons. When it came time for Solantria to collect, Leo was not available. He had perished after the deed was done but his spirit, his bright and shiny soul had been taken away by the Great Dragon. Feeling cheated, Solantria decided that the family would have to settle their ancestor’s debt. Until the symbol, too many of the family had fallen to the wicked demon.

However, with the advent of the symbol, the demon was kept at bay and the family had flourished. What had started with but one Heathrow had spread to many different kingdoms. Many of them were not even Heathrows anymore but Victoria was. She was proud to be part of the original line. They had taken Leonidas’ sacrifice as a symbol and they worked to gather mystical knowledge to keep the world safe. Some strayed from that specific path but, for the most part, the family loved to be of some service. They left the world better than they had found it. All done while keeping a watchful eye for the demon’s inevitable attempt to return.

For her part, Victoria had become an expert in mystical artifacts. She had collected quite a few after she had grown up and left the family estate. She was currently in residence in Callia, a lovely little apartment scattered with magical items. Some of them Victoria had not yet figured out but that was the fun of it. She tended to crack every puzzle put in front of her eventually and she loved that daily challenge. She was partnered with several magic schools and universities who either sent items to her or summoned her to exam problems. Most every librarian in the world knew her name or would soon learn it. She was happy with that.

She had been examining a ring sent from several towns over when a note had been slid under her door. She walked over and unfolded it, adjusting her spectacles. Her friends wanted to go out for a drink. Victoria looked out of her big window and was surprised that the sun had gone down and the moon was traveling through the sky. Where had the time gone? She could always figure things out the next day. Friends were important. They were just another extension of family which was the most important thing besides your health. Victoria grabbed her coat and slipped it on. Her favorite weapons were almost always tucked inside.

She made her way down the street which was dimly lit by oil lanterns but she felt safe enough in this part of town. Besides, the tavern was not far. The ogre of a bouncer opened the door for her and she thanked him with a smile. She walked into the bar but did not see a single one of her friends. In fact, the place was fairly empty. Victoria frowned and wondered just how late it had gotten. Her stomach grumbled. She moved to sit at the bar and the hawk-nosed bartender smiled at her. She smiled back at him.

“What do you have for dinner tonight, Abram?” She asked.

“Dinner, Ms. Heathrow?” Abram asked with a playful smile and a toss of his blond locks. “It is a little late for dinner. Did you just now come back from the clouds?”

Victoria laughed softly. “Yes. I’m afraid so,” She said. “I really should get better at eating at regular times.”

“Why do what regular folk do when you can be interesting?” Abram asked.

“Interesting is fine but eating is healthy,” Victoria said.

“I can cook up some sausage with some onions and tomato sauce?” Abram asked.

“It sounds great, Abram. I’ll eat whatever you put in front of me,” She said.

“We’ll see,” Abram said with another laugh. He headed just out of sight to fire up the sausages. Victoria could hear as the pan bang against the brick of the stove.

It paid to be a regular. People were happy to give you more than they would give a stranger. Victoria did not have a lot of friends due to her bookish life but she cherished the connections she had made. She smiled to herself as she waited for Abram to get done. Maybe he would chat with her over her dinner and she would tip him generously despite his protests. She liked that whole song and dance.

Victoria barely even noticed the hooded woman sitting next to her, at least not at first. She only noticed her when the woman reached over the bar for a bottle and two glasses. She had grabbed some really good stuff. It was an aged scotch/whiskey blend from the kingdom of Shahl. Very expensive stuff and this woman was just helping herself.

“Hey!” Victoria said. “You can’t just help yourself.”

The hooded woman said nothing but poured two glasses of the classy booze and pushed one of the glasses toward Victoria. Victoria just looked at the glass.

“I think you’re going to need that,” The woman said. “Drink up.”

“Who do you think you are?” Victoria asked indignantly. She wished Abram would come out and chase this rude woman out.

“I think you know exactly who I am, Victoria,” The woman said. She drew back her hood. The woman’s skin was light purple, her hair raven black, her eyes blood red. There was a horn protruding from the left part of her forehead and a broken off nub protruding from the right part. All of this was proper evidence but the woman’s smile was what really spoke volumes. The look in her eyes told Victoria everything she needed to know.

“You!” Victoria yelled.

Media Update 8/24/17

August 24, 2017


The Defenders

I have raved on this blog before about how much I loved Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Marvel’s Netflix shows have been on point since day one. Sure, Iron Fist was the weakest link in the chain but it was still way better than a lot of stuff I have watched. This series combines all four previous heroes into one show. I was wondering how that work and then as the first few episodes rolled, I realized that they were not just throwing the heroes together. They were combining entire shows. Each previous show gets moments to show its strengths and each hero is accompanied by their surviving supporting casts. They acknowledge the events of each show in dialogue and they even acknowledge The Avengers (2011) as they did in the first episode of Daredevil. The two things that make me love this show and the other shows are the characters and the fight scenes. For example, I did not realize just how much I missed the character of Jessica Jones until her grumpy face showed up on screen in episode one. I definitely recommend this one but it is obviously better if you have seen the other four series first.


Descendants 2

I have said before that I am a huge Disney nerd and, while I have not talked about it much on this blog before, I definitely sample stuff from the Disney Channel sometimes. Yes, this includes some of the Disney Sitcoms. Anyway, a while back Disney created a franchise where we meet the kids of famous Disney Animated movies. However, the heroes of the franchise are the children of Jafar, Cruella DeVille, The Evil Queen, and Maleficent. They have been given a second chance to show that they are not evil like their parents and live among the good kids of the kingdom. They meet and befriend the children of Dopey, Beast/Belle, Fairy Godmother, etc. In this new movie, the now good “Villain Kids” must deal with some of the children of villains they left behind back in exile. These include the son of Gaston, the son of Captain Hook, and the daughter of Ursula. Oh, and this is all a live-action, straight to television musical. I love it because I am a huge Disney nerd and I like when they play around with their own lore (see also Once Upon a Time and Kingdom Hearts). However, I recommend it with the caveat that it is definitely not for everyone.


Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

Speaking of not being for everyone, Asylum’s Sharnado franchise is pretty crazy and seems to be polarizing. I am pretty sure most of my friends either dropped out after the first one or have not watched any of them. I like a good “bad” movie. The first movie had the heroes encountering a freak combination of sharks and tornadoes as a spoof on a lot of SyFy disaster movies. As they piled on the sequels, the movies became more and more self-aware. Now, they are a bundle of cameos, puns, sight gags, technobabble, and spectacle. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that there is not much space for such things as “coherent plot” or “good acting”. Mostly, we watch our heroes try to save their son in between celebrities getting murdered by flying sharks and the heroes murdering flying sharks. This one gets out of control with the crazy science fiction plot as now sharknados are plaguing the entire globe (including deserts). There is also time travel, teleportation, and advanced robotics involved. The most ridiculous part (at least to me) is the reveal of this ever expanding secret sisterhood that just happens to always be in the right place to help the main characters. It is not ridiculous because they are a secret sisterhood but rather it is ridiculous because they could not possibly predict where the heroes are teleporting next. It weird and strange but also kind of pleasing in a good bad movie kind of way. I do not recommend it. Save yourself.

Music of the Week:
Amon Amarth – Destroyer of the Universe

GiedRé – LES ROIS DES ANIMAUX

Maluma – Cuatro Babys

Katy Perry – Chained To The Rhythm

TWRP (w/ NSP) – No Pants Dance

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Epic Teams”
– I watched more Glitter Force Season 2
– I watched more Criminal Minds Season 12
– I finished White Collar Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 1

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Monster Heels

August 21, 2017

As part of my ongoing series on heels, I would like to talk about a classic type of heel called the “Monster Heel”. This is a pretty straight forward idea. This type of heel is usually very large and very strong. Like the monsters in movies or fairy tales, they are big, scary, and violent. They attack with overwhelming force and, again like a horror movie, they are really hard to hurt and if they are hurt, it is not for long. The business has a long history of them.


Kane

The first monster heel that I experienced, was Kane. Kane was billed as the brother of the Undertaker, who was already a prominent supernatural figure in the WWF. In Undertaker’s backstory, Kane was thought to have died in a fire accidentally set by Undertaker as a young boy. That belief was a mistake as Kane had survived the fire and he showed up in the company to exact vengeance on his brother for the perceived attack and the death of their parents. He was unstoppable, regularly defeating whole crowds of wrestlers by himself. He destroyed everything he touched, even his brother (temporarily). On top of that, he was billed as (and is actually close to) being seven feet tall.


Awesome Kong

When I used to watch TNA Wrestling close to 2005, there was a lot to like. There was a lot of potential. One of those bits of potential was a woman who had made a name for herself in Japan and was booked as an absolute beast. She had no mercy for her opponents, partially because her character did not even speak English. She was strong and she was nothing like a lot of the female wrestlers on television at the time. Everybody else seemed to be a fitness model and there were more catfights than technical wrestling matches. Kong would flatten her opponents like she was a force of nature. She was strong and resilient and she frightened people. Best of all, one of her finishing moves was called the Implant Buster, a knock on the looks of her more lithe opponents.


Tomasso Ciampa

He might be the smallest person on this list but there is a good reason why Tomasso Ciampa is often labeled “Psycho Killer”. When he hit his stride in Ring of Honor, he was brutal and sadistic and he would stalk his victims just as well as Jason. While he did throw a lot of his opponents around, it was his devastating knee strikes that made an impression on me. His attacks looked like a wild beast, like an unhinged man. His character was a man who did not care about his opponent. I really believed sometimes that he may have knocked his opponent’s teeth and irreparably damaged the soft tissue. I am interested to see what he can do now in NXT that he has turned heel yet again.


Mil Muertes

Lucha Underground is definitely a very different wrestling program. The world of Lucha Underground is supernatural and nobody bats an eye at all sorts of crazy thing happening. So, the existence of Mil Muertes, the man of 1000 deaths, is not a surprise. Mil is a man who has died several times throughout his story but death is not the end. Each time he only comes back stronger. He is summoned back to life by his association with the deadly Catrina and black magic. In the ring, it takes so much for him to be stopped and his moves are beyond destructive. He finishes off opponents with the Flatliner and has in-storyline murdered several people and then used their skulls to adorn his throne.


Vader

Then, of course, there was Vader. I was not present for some of his best work. By the time that I first saw him, he was in the WWF and he was being used more for comedy than as the monster heel he could be. I have since watched the archival footage and read personal accounts from back in the WCW days and I see what people saw in him. Vader never had the most impressive physique but he was strong and he was relentless. He was the master of the powerbomb long before everybody was doing one. The powerbomb is a legitimately dangerous move if you do not complete it correctly and is still no fun if done perfectly. In a memorable moment, he powerbombed Cactus Jack on the concrete outside of the ring, potentially ending his career. He was mean and he made his attacks look real because a lot of them were.

Redcross Pt. 9

August 19, 2017

Redcross

It was not so much a sound that woke Sarah in the middle of the night. At least, it was not a sound that Sarah consciously heard. The Redcrosses had always been famous for their powers of observation, even while deep asleep. At least, that is what her father had told her when she had tried to sneak out of the house back in the city and here in Essex. She believed it was true as the skill had served her well through her short career as Sheriff so far. She caught more mischief with a keen eye and a hard look than with a gun. Of course, she went out into the scrubland outside of town to practice with her pistol and the rifle that hung over her desk. It did no good to get out of practice.

She was glad that she had that training under her belt as she easily reached for that pistol and checked the ammunition. It was full. She pulled on her pants under her nightgown and idly wondered if she should buy some pajamas like her father used to wear. She went without her boots when she heard the sound outside. It was a scratching sound that she did not recognize and that had her concerned. No one would dare prowl around the home of the sheriff. Her little home was just behind the office and nobody wanted to get caught that close to where Sarah could easily lock them up for the rest of the night. She stepped outside, pistol in hand.

That is when she saw the wolf. Actually, it was not so much a wolf as it was the biggest wolf that Sarah had ever seen in her life and she had seen plenty out in the wilds of the Arizona Territory. This one was easily twice the size of a normal wolf. She froze. She knew if it had not noticed her yet then it was only a matter of time until it did. She needed a moment to think. If she faced the animal on its terms, she would not last long. Out here, you grew up learning to respect nature or you ended up a bunch of bleached bones out in the desert. Sarah would not let that happen to her, that was not the way a Redcross or a Sheriff should die. It also sounded incredibly painful.

The wolf was facing the opposite direction from Sarah and luckily the wind was blowing in such a way that she was still upwind. That could shift at any moment. Sarah decided to sprint for the office, a much more secure building than the tiny shack that was her ancestral home. She pushed off and ran as hard as she could. The wolf, confused in the moment, found it hard to pivot to chase her at first but it soon remedied that and the race was on. She pushed herself harder than she had ever pushed herself and she got the back door of the station open and got inside before she slammed the door and threw the deadbolt. She stood there, breathing hard and shaking a bit.

That relative peace did not last for long. The door shook hard as the wolf threw itself against it. Sarah stepped back and aimed her gun at the door, taking a deep breath to stop shaking from all of the adrenaline. She closed one eye and aimed carefully, slipping her finger from the trigger guard to the trigger. She was prepared to kill this thing if necessary. From somewhere in her mind an idea flitted through her concentration. She wondered if this was one of the things that had killed that man out in the desert. The image of the body all torn up flashed behind her eyes and she shook her head and took another deep breath. There was no time for that now.

The wolf rammed the door again and it splintered and the hinges twisted. Sarah had thought at best the wolf would get its head or paw through a hole in the door. Now it looked like either the entire door would shatter or the hinges would come out. Either meant that Sarah would be facing down a seemingly angry and definitely determined wolf with no barrier between them. This was not a good strategy. Sarah backed up into the office and that is when she had her idea. She grabbed the keys from her desk, ran into the cell to her left and closed the door. She backed up against the wall and wished that she had also grabbed the rifle hanging above her desk.

She heard the door’s hinges fail as the beast lunged at the door a final time. There was a moment of stunned silence and then she heard the thing stalking into the Sheriff’s office. Her office. She felt powerful, unreasoning anger welling up in her. The thing knew right where she was. It could smell her fear and sweat and it wasted no time in searching the place. Instead, Sarah could hear it coming right towards the cells. She readied the pistol again and hoped the thing was not stronger than iron bars.

As it rounded the corner, she could see its amber eyes, almost aflame with excitement and fury. It looked into the cage and for a moment Sarah could have sworn the thing let out a raspy laugh. It looked unconcerned with the iron bars of the jail cell. She squared her shoulders and sighted down the barrel of the gun. This thing was going straight to Hell. It lunged at the bars, its jaw moving dangerously as it stuck between the bars. Sarah closed one eye, took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. Sparks flew from one of the bars near the thing’s shoulder.

Again, she could have sworn the thing laughed at her. She pulled the hammer back and fired again. This time she drove a bullet right into the chest of the cat. She thought that might be where its heart was and the thing stopped short and fell from the cell door with a thud. It was completely and utterly still on the floor and there was a small pool of blood forming. Sarah started toward the door but the cat jumped up and roared but it turned and ran back toward the door, obviously in pain. Sarah could have sworn she had killed the thing but she guessed she had only won the battle for now.

Media Update 8/17/17

August 17, 2017


Riverdale

When I was growing up and I was still fairly small (and yes, I am still kind of short), I had a bunch of relatives who knew that I liked comic books but understandably they did not know what I was buying with my allowance or what my friends were loaning to me. So, those relatives wanted to be nice and so they bought me Archie’s Double Digest comic books. These small books were chock full of Archie comic stories either reprinted or newly written. The Archie comics I read were full of puns and salt of the earth teenage characters trying to be happy in some decade long before I was born. It was simple and harmless and took a few minutes to read through. Now, they have released this new show called Riverdale which is an updated CW version of those characters and their adventures. All of the things I took for granted, like Archie not being able to decide between Betty and Veronica, Jughead’s apathy, and Reggie’s bullying are brought out in a different light. Reinterpreted, everything looks a little less innocent. Throw in a murder mystery arc and we have ourselves a darker version of Archie than I am used to. The show is pretty much a trashy soap opera but the mystery and characters have got me hooked. I have to praise the show for its cast diversity so far and their kind treatment of the LGBTQ community from what I can see. I recommend it but know you are heading into something less than dignified.


Vampire Academy

On a whim, I decided to check this out because I have loved vampire lore since I was pretty young and I am always up for checking out some different takes on the lore. Vampires vary so much in fiction and each take can be even just a little bit unique like a snowflake. This movie is apparently based off of a series of books. It adapts the rarely used dhampir legends instead of just using straight vampire lore. The story follows a school for both Moroi and the Dhampir. Moroi are vampires that must drink blood to live but are not physically strong or resistant. Instead, they all have magical power over the classical elements. They are protected by the Dhampir who are Half-Moroi/Half-Human and are physically tougher. The goal is to keep the Moroi safe from humanity and the Strigoi who are more like classical, bloodthirsty vampires like Dracula. The movie was actually pretty good as the acting was pleasant and they did not stray too much into the dreaded Twilight territory. It was also refreshing to follow competent, confident female characters in a vampire movie. I liked the different look at vampire lore and the various social and biological hierarchies. The romantic subplots did not seem to intrude too much on the mystery and the main plot and actually felt more organic than I thought they would be. A lot of the movie is about gossip and teenage angst while being vampires but it did not come off as annoying to me. I would recommend it but I would understand if it is not your cup of tea.


Reign

Since I grew up in the United States, I do not know a whole lot about British history. As you might imagine, there is way more written British history than written American history. So, when I first heard about Mary Queen of Scots, it was in an audio sketch from Monty Python and it taught me nothing about her (except that she was murdered). So, it was with some interest that I gave this show a shot. I have spoken about my studying (through film) of the modern royal family but I know nothing of French/British history from that far back. The show is full of intrigue so far. It is also full of teenagers trying to navigate the politics of royal/noble life, torn between duty and a pursuit of happiness. Since the show is about a time when there was no divorce, no media, and fewer social norms. All of this leads to a very chaotic atmosphere where everyone is sleeping with everyone and everyone is smiling while holding a dagger behind their back. I have not seen much so far but the show definitely has some substance to it. When I think of royalty, I do not think of them being young and reckless and emotional, I think of them as old and regal. Bringing humanity to these real life characters is an interesting way to go. I will most likely be watching a little more of this to see if I like it. I tentatively recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Paigey Cakey – Pattern

Volbeat – Black Rose

Shudder To Think – Speak

Jimin Park – CHEER UP

Boards of Canada – Dayvan Cowboy

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Teenage Drama”
– I started watching White Collar Season 4
– I watched more Criminal Minds Season 12
– I started watching Glitter Force Season 2
– I watched more of Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more Little Witch Academia Season 1

Camp Pt. 3

August 14, 2017

One of the things that have gotten me thinking about summer camp lately (besides seeing kids running wild) is the reemergence of Wet Hot American Summer. When I watched the First Day of Camp miniseries much of it was familiar. Part of that was the inclusion of Camp Tigerclaw across the lake. When I went to Camp Shohola we had our own rival camp across the lake. Since we were on Lake Greeley, the camp was appropriately (and maybe unoriginally) named Camp Greeley. They were our rivals. I recently found a letter I mailed to my mother about competing against them in sports. Of all things, I was made part of the baseball team and, according to my letter, we demolished them 12 – 1. They were also one part of my sailing team’s competitors. They were within sight across the thinnest part of the lake (where both camps were situated) and I often wondered what their camp was like. We had a negative opinion of them but that was a camp tradition so I am not sure what they were actually like.

Camp Shohola was also where I cemented my passion for geeky, nerdy, and artsy pursuits. When you first got to camp, you got to sign up for activities based on what was offered and the spots available. The limitations also kept kids from strictly doing arts and crafts or only doing land sports and suffering heat stroke. However, there was a building at camp called the Comm-Tech building which became my desired destination for most activities. It was where I sent some of my first emails when that was still a novelty. I took photography classes which mostly consisted of me wandering around the camp with a camera and taking pictures. Then I had to return to the darkroom where I would develop them by hand Ghostbusters 2-Style. While I was there, it was probably when channels like MTV were at their highest point in terms of both popularity and quality. I teamed up with a couple people to film and edit music videos. We mostly made They Might Be Giants videos but, in a departure for me, I made a video with a Marilyn Manson fan who shaved his own eyebrows off.

I spent a lot of time in that building. I felt a kinship with the misfits that were also drawn there. I took circuitry classes where I learned to solder and how to follow instructs to create little kits. I created little devices that I can barely remember. I do remember creating a little sound modulator that you could shift in pitch to make interesting yet annoying sounds. I also created a strobe light at some point. I never became very adept at designing or repairing anything but soldering circuits together were pretty fun. There was also just a lot of time that I spent hanging around the building, seeing what was new in tech. I learned a lot about my future passions by sitting around and talking about music, movies, and the emerging Internet. Of course, then I would go back into the sunshine, usually thinking about returning later.

The Comm-Tech building was so-called because it was both technology and communications. The communications part was mainly a radio station with an FM station called WCSR or Camp Shohola Radio. There was also an AM station but few people messed with it. The radio station had regularly scheduled shows where people could call in and make requests. I loved listening to the radio station and I hung around the building a lot so it was almost inevitable that I would make a connection. A friend of mine had a regular radio station and I would assist him. I would pull albums off the shelf while he talked to people on the phone and sometimes I would help screen calls for him. Eventually, I took tests and got my own radio license. I rode solo on exactly one show in which I went mad with power and played whatever I wanted including liberal use of an actual record player. Eventually, my enthusiasm was rewarded and I became a regular co-host of a news show where I read stories off of the AP wire. It was a lot of pressure to be on the radio but I felt really important doing it even if people might have been tuning out instead of listening to the news.

Finally, we had something in Camp Shohola called Color Wars, a summer-long competition between two halves of the camp. The camp was divided into a Green Team and a White Team which normally did not impact day to day operations. When events came up, the two sides were very competitive. In my years at Camp Shohola, I ended up on both teams at different times. The cool thing was that the types of competition actually varied. The two teams played each other in games like soccer and baseball but there were plenty of other events to tap into non-athletic skills. I competed on the trivia team at least one year, using my sponge-like memory to come up with obscure facts and bits of information. There was also a camp-wide scavenger hunt where clues were broadcast on the radio station and you had to figure out who or what you were looking for to earn points.

My favorite event was an epic relay race that went back and forth across the entire camp. This was no ordinary relay race, though. Each leg of the race was an individual event where some task had to be completed before the next camper could compete in their event. I loved participating in this because the team leaders were good at figuring out people’s strengths and weaknesses and finding a good event for them to compete in. I cannot remember all the wacky things I had to do but I do remember two of them. The first was that I had to set an entire table as quickly as possible. As I mentioned before, I had gotten really good at carrying mugs on my fingers without dropping them. I had become really good at setting the table at that point. The other was because I had been taking golf lessons all summer. I had to hit a golf ball from the outfield and hit home plate and I completed that task way before the other team did, earning a lot of pats on the back.

Well, summer is almost done so I think I will pack away camp stories for now. Maybe I will do this again next year.

Bron: Past and Present

August 12, 2017

Bron looked out over the town and took it in. Even this far above, he could see people bustling around. People sat near shop fronts. He saw two children chasing each other near what must have been there home. Bron had slept outside most of his life, the thought of sleeping inside made him nervous. It seemed so easy. Too easy. Bron almost never sought out the easy way to do things. If he did, he would definitely not receive so many injuries from the orcs that should have been proud to have him around. Instead, he raised his chin and dared them to hit again.

A blow landed on the side of his jaw that shocked him from his simple thoughts. It was Lorgar, one of the orcs Bron’s age who was less abusive. Bron found himself growling and reaching for his axe. He had taken the axe on a raid and he had refused to give it up to the rest of the tribe. The tribe took everything but this one thing belonged to Bron and Bron alone. A long shadow came over Bron and Lorgar and they both looked up. It was Korak. He was standing on a rock above them, sparks from his ever-burning staff drifted into Bron’s eyes but Bron did not dare take his eyes off the Warlock.

“Get angry, Bron,” Korak said. “That town is ours. The humans cannot have what they cannot keep from us.”

“Too easy,” Bron said. “There is no challenge down there.”

“If you do not go down to there,” Korak said. “I will burn you to ash. One body part at a time.”

Bron glared but did not doubt that Korak could do just as he promised. Korak had promised himself to a demon, a thing Bron had never seen. The demon’s power was clearly powerful as it had given Korak spells to do great harm. Korak used these spells against the enemies of the tribe but also as punishment against the tribe itself. He was deeply unpopular but feared so the tribe let him lead. As for Bron, he thought it was all too easy. Submitting yourself to some thing instead of your own strength was stupid. It was like how the tribe submitted to the god Grummsh. Too easy, too boring.

Korak gave the order and the raiding party ran down the hills toward the town. Bron ran, his great axe held high. He let his anger at the constant annoyances, the injustices, the stupidity flood his body and he felt the rage flow through his body. He growled and yelled incoherent things and then he was swinging his axe. He clashed with several guards. He felt their spears and swords and arrows pierce his flesh but he did not care.

In the end, nothing would stop him. He was inevitable. He was the oncoming storm and anyone who did not take shelter would be washed away in a sea of blood. These were not the thoughts he had because thought was a limited resource in that state. He saw red and in that red, there were targets, trifles, and allies. How easy it would be for those so-called allies to become targets in the heat of the moment. Not a single one cared about him and yet they pushed him to attack to feed the tribe.

What had the tribe ever done for him besides tolerate his presence? That was the best case scenario. A lot of the time they just abused him. They poked him so much that he could not remember not being angry. The people fleeing in terror around him had been happy a moment ago. One day Bron would be happy when he had dominion over his tribe. They would have to do as he said instead of some Warlock taking the easy way out. It was a clear path. If he became the strongest, he would inevitably be in charge.

* * *

It had seemed such a clear path before his death. Now, Bron did not feel so sure of it. The tribe had turned on him. Although, this was not the correct word. You cannot betray what you never accepted in the first place. Bron idly wondered if his own mother had been killed too. She had only been his mother biologically. There was no bond between them. His original idea was to get stronger and go back there and dominate the tribe, grind it under his heel. Now, it all seemed so pointless.

The Witch had said that there were bigger things out there. It had been too long in coming. He got used to working in that tavern in Neverwinter. Some great challenges drank there and drink made them want to fight. Bron had been happy to oblige. Bron rarely actually got paid. His pay was docked for all sorts of stupid things. He kept damaging the door, either by taking it off its hinges or ‘forgetting’ to open the door before throwing defeated, drunken customers out of the tavern. He also had acquired a taste for the ale that stupid dwarf sold which was taken out of his pay in advance. Also, the dwarf just did not like Bron and the feeling was mutual.

Now Bron had a lot of gold and it meant next to nothing to Bron. He had no armor to buy, no weapons to acquire. He laughed at creature comforts. He could hunt his own food, track down his own water. He had lost a javelin in a cave but he had obtained two more by pulling them from his own flesh after defeating the Bugbears that had thrown them. He wanted nothing but new challenges and following the current party he was paired with brought those challenges. He could even take the abuse from the human girl. It almost felt familiar, like the words of the orcs she detested so much.

Bron did not know what the future held. He lived in the present, not worrying about where the path led. He knew the others respected his power. He knew that they could not help but respect it. They backed him up in combat though he hardly needed it. The human girl even healed Bron despite her hate for him. Bron was starting to think that maybe this party could be his new tribe. They may have mocked him sometimes but they respected what he could do. In that way, it was much better than the past.

But what had the witch planned? Was it this? Did it matter? Probably not. Bron did not believe in fate, in fortune tellers. He would make his own fate. If she pulled at his strings too much, he would pull back.

Media Update 8/10/2017

August 10, 2017


Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

Anybody who has read this blog in the last year or so knows that I am a fan of Wet Hot American Summer and I will be forever. The original movie was a funny, sweet and nonsensical movie about the last day at a Jewish Sleepover Camp in 1981. A while ago, they released a miniseries detailing the first day of that summer which was even crazier but awesome. At the end of the movie, there is a quick scene where the main characters promise to have a reunion in 10 years. So instead of the eighties, we get to see the characters’ adventures at camp as twenty-somethings in 1991. This series saw the closing of story lines raised in the prior two adventures and what appeared to be a wrapping up of the series. This one had a lot of zany things happening but, as usual, it also spent plenty of time focusing on relationships. The main cast from the last two returns with the exception of Bradley Cooper who is replaced by Adam Scott due to scheduling problems. We also see the addition of Mark Feuerstein and Marlo Thomas as two counselors who were apparently just off screen during the prior two adventures. There are also great performances by Alyssa Milano and Jai Courtney to add a little more conflict into the picture. I definitely recommend watching this and all the Wet Hot American Summer pieces.


Ghost in the Shell

I used to hate anime but at some point, it grew on me. The same actually goes for Science Fiction as I usually gravitated towards Science Fantasy and regular Fantasy. Of course, in the Venn diagram of those two things is the Ghost in the Shell series which I liked. I watched quite a bit of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex as it felt like a cyberpunk/film noir/police mash up. This movie felt very much like a pretty solid adaptation of some episodes I remember. Much has been said about how Scarlet Johannson should not have been cast in the lead in an anime adaptation but she is a good actress. She did a good job of portraying a machine finding her humanity again. The movie was kind of slow but it picked up speed as it went along. It is a mystery and most mysteries start slow. There is plenty of technobabble and plenty of philosophical questions similar to those posed in Blade Runner and I, Robot. If you have seen the anime series then this will feel kind of nostalgic but if not, it is a pretty good movie on its own merits. This movie was pretty middle-of-the-road and inoffensive. I recommend it but frankly, I was working on other stuff while I watched it.


Passengers

This one got bad reviews but I decided to watch it anyway as I am a big fan of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. This was kind of a stripped down science fiction adventure without a lot of the adventure part. In it, Chris Pratt plays a man who gets woken up 90 years too early from suspended animation in a spaceship headed to colonize a planet. A lot of the movie is more about the psychological effects of loneliness, forgiveness, and what you would do with your life if you were effectively stranded. There are pretty much only four actors in the movie and it makes the movie feel lonely which I believe was the intended effect. The special effects were really good, I believed they were on a futuristic space ship. I found it interesting that the actors actually had working tablets programmed with a UI designed in UNITY as consoles throughout filming. There were a lot of good yet uncomfortable themes explored in the movie. The love story was definitely problematic and there is not much room to argue that point. It is definitely not a ‘nice’ movie to watch. I would recommend it but it is a little soul-crushing in its bleakness.

Music of the Week:
The Tarantulas – Bullrushes

Kings Of Leon – Reverend

Alyson Stoner – Sweet

Motionless In White – LOUD (F**k It)

Nadia Rose – Skwod

Weekly Update:
– This Week’s Theme is “The Future”
– I finished NCIS Season 13
– I started watching Criminal Minds Season 12
– I continued Supergirl Season 2
– I watched more of Little Witch Academia
– I started watching Rick and Morty Season 3
– It is awesome. Go watch all of it.
– Dan Harmon was on Game Grumps
– I want to go to the movie theater again


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