Archive for July, 2018

Why I Like Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Days Challenge Pt. 1

July 30, 2018

WILPW

 

1 – Favorite Current Wrestler

Overall, my favorite wrestler in the WWE right now is Seth Rollins. He continues to step it up every single time he is out there. He was great in the indies as Tyler Black but he has subsequently adapted his in-ring and promo style to the WWE style. Not only that but he is able to adapt to any opponent he gets thrown against. His recent iron man match against Dolph Ziggler (another great talent) was amazing to watch. His recent series against Finn Balor was just as entertaining. His moveset has evolved and expanded over time. His superplex into falcon arrow signature, in particular, is absolutely mind-blowing every time. I think that denying him the Curb Stomp finisher was actually a good thing as it allowed him to add several other finishers to his arsenal. I also don’t buy the “Seth Rollins is Dangerous” rumor that Brett Hart started a while ago. He is a good worker and, if anything, he needs to be a little kinder to his own body which I think he has recently done better at. His versatility as both face and heel makes me excited to see what becomes of him next.

Runner-up: The Miz who has some of the best promos in the company and he is consistently hilarious and great in the ring. He is probably one of the best homegrown WWE performers of all-time. I cannot wait to see him face Daniel Bryan again at last. Honestly, it was hard to choose between him and Seth.

 

2 – Favorite Current Female Wrestler

My favorite woman on the main roster right now is Asuka. I love the Japanese style when it comes to women’s wrestling especially since it has been cited by many great current female wrestlers as an early influence. The introduction of Asuka stepped up NXT and her main roster introduction was appropriately grand. She performs in the strong style and everything looks like it may have killed her opponent but reportedly it does not feel too bad at all. She comes off as a badass but I love everything about her aesthetic. She grins as she kicks her opponent’s ass and it was established early on that when she smiles she is to be feared. She is also notoriously hard to pin down. She wears a spooky mask to the ring but also wears bright colors and dances during her entrance. I love the contradictions. Her in-ring style is also both brutal and wild so she looks like a tornado going to town. She is just the right combination of striker, technician, and flier to have a good match with anybody. Some may criticize it, but I actually really like her broken English promos. The words come out more slowly which makes her sound more menacing and her words are more memorable. Afterall, nobody is ready for Asuka!

Runner-up: I absolutely love Bayley. She is a solid in-ring competitor who only gets better with time. More than that, she makes me smile. I cannot help but smile as she makes her entrance and gets excited about every little thing. Especially knowing that she is living her dream.

 

3 – Favorite Wrestler from the Past

When I was a kid, I would have said Shawn Michaels but now I will pick Mick Foley every time. I remember when my best friend excitedly told me about Mankind when he first appeared in the WWF. “There is this new dude named Mankind who is insane and he rips his own hair out and he can’t feel pain!” When I saw him for myself, I was definitely interested. He was different from a lot of the rest of the roster and, like the Undertaker, he had a psychological element as well. When the character of Mankind merged more with the real-life story of Mick, he added both reality and comedy to the formula. He resurrected both his original character Cactus Jack and also brought to life a version of his childhood character Dude Love. The Three Faces of Foley were an absolute joy to watch and just about every segment was improved by Foley’s presence. His promo abilities are legendary as he used a brilliant mind for ring psychology and great charisma to create some awesome moments. He also sacrificed his body in some of the most memorable moments in the WWF years. As his body started to break down, he started to use those promo skills in other ways. He became an on-screen authority figure where he shifted to a more comedic character and he was great at that too. To this day, when he visits I get a big smile on my face.

Runner-up: CM Punk will always hold a special place in my heart especially now that I understand more fully his departure and where he was back then and where he is now. He just had so much charisma and fire. I cannot decide whether I liked him better as a smirky heel or a die-hard, smirky babyface.

 

4 – Favorite Female Wrestler from the Past

I was a huge fan of AJ Lee. She was such a fast learner and she never bought into the “Diva” stuff around her. She evolved over time and was able to easily fit into whatever role she was given. I loved the work she did with Daniel Bryan, as their segments taught both of them how to do better promo and character work. Their breakup was the start of the start of her “unstable” gimmick where she slowly lost her mind over time. Eventually, she moved from being “just a valet” to getting to wrestle again on the main roster. She proved that she was willing to work hard to learn more moves and better in-ring psychology. She made her major wrestling re-debut when she started to trash Total Divas which I loved her for because I hate Total Divas. They could have played her as a cowardly heel but she backed up her words and repeatedly wrecked her opponents. When she developed the Black Widow submission finisher, she instantly cemented her spot as my favorite female character at the time. Her crazy gimmick (a reflection of her real-life bi-polar disorder) always kept me guessing as to where she was going next. She had a short career in the WWE but, in her own words, she accomplished all of her goals.

Runner-up: Kharma was an interesting character for the few months she was part of the WWE. She debuted at a time when I had been watching a lot of TNA Wrestling so I was familiar with the performer. She was the proto-Nia Jax but with a crazy gimmick similar to AJ Lee. She did not say much of anything but she laughed as she pancaked every woman on the roster. Best of all, she got to beat the crap out of the Bellas. I am loving seeing her on GLOW on Netflix now.

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The Faith of the Raven Pt. 6

July 28, 2018

They moved further into the forest, the three of them. The undergrowth felt dense, far too dense for a small forest like Hernon. Everywhere they went, thorns and thistles grabbed at them and branches scratched against them. It was subtly unnatural but they all knew that there was something unnatural going on in those woods. The dead should not rise and it was as if the necromancer’s dark purpose was corrupting the forest around them. Like many forests and landmarks in Eloria (and beyond frankly), the Hernon forest was named after elves. All over the continent, places were still named after them even if the elves had left the place centuries before. Names had a way of sticking and people had a way of sticking to them. Carania hated that this necromancer was giving Hernon a bad name. It hurt her elf blood even though she knew she did not own that land.

Still, they moved on and made their way through the best they knew how. Carania was always at the lead at her insistence and the others did not argue. She felt responsible as an expert close-up fighter and as the person who accepted this mission in the first place. She hacked at errant and aberrant vegetation with her long sword when she had to. She thought to herself that she might have to get a short sword for that purpose to save her blade’s edge on future hunts. She was surprised at herself at that moment how quickly he had adapted to her new role in life. She was equally surprised that her companions seemed to be just as determined. This was not their fight and yet they had taken it on. It was inspiring and it made Carania further believe that she had done the right thing.

Of course, Carania was also surprised that she had such faith that she would survive to see future hunts. There was no room to believe otherwise she supposed. She had long heard that faith was a big part of serving a god. It seemed obvious to trust that Raven Queen had made the right choice. How else had a woman with very little actual combat experience slashed her way through a horde of zombies like they were nothing but smoke? Faith and courage and a little wind at her back from the Queen herself. Not to mention that fate had handed her two capable companions who she was very grateful for. She could feel the talons of the raven reaching out for the necromancer and it felt so good.

As they walked, Carania saw little bones and trinkets dangling from the trees with little lengths of twine. Carania viewed the little things warily, not knowing quite what to make of them. However, she knew that looking at them made her feel bad inside like looking at food left out for so long that things were growing in it. The three of them all caught each other looking at the trinkets and for a moment there was an amused smile between them. It was a moment of pure connection. It cut through the gloom for a moment and they all seemed to welcome it.

“The followers of the necromancer must have hung them,” Galath said. “I’ve seen similar things before.”

“What in the seventh hell are they?” Carania asked.

“Offerings in the worship of Nerull,” Galath said. “Makes your stomach turn, doesn’t it?”

“Nerull?” Carania asked. “I know I’m still a bit ignorant but everybody knows that my queen killed him.” She smiled at taking ownership of her new goddess.

“As the necromancers show us, much that dies can rise again,” Galath said. “It is true that it is known that the Raven Queen defeated the God of Death while she was simply the goddess of winter. After she took his place, he was raised back up behind the veil.”

“As an undead god?” Carania asked with a shudder. “What does that even mean? Who raised him?”

“Nobody knows,” Galath said. “Well, if anybody knows they are not making it public. I always suspected that whoever did it was somebody who could also not pass through the veil between us and the gods. It is someone I would rather not deal with. I wonder if these followers or the necromancer even know an iota of what happened. I wonder if they even care.”

“How does somebody even become a necromancer?” Carania asked. All of this was great information to have. She had been given no manual or guidebook to follow.

“I suppose it’s the same as becoming a gang member,” Galath said. “A combination of bad luck and dark intentions.”

“He whispers to them,” Arne said, speaking up for the first time in a while.

“What?” Galath asked.

“Care to explain that, Arne?” Carania asked, glancing over her shoulder at the wizard. His familiar was nowhere in sight, most likely flying somewhere overhead.

“The undead god Nerull whispers to those with magical potential,” Arne said. “Not everybody with magic hears the whispers but he does whisper and he offers people the power to get what they desire. Whatever the cost.”

“That’s quite a rumor,” Galath said. “Where did you hear it?”

“I didn’t hear a rumor,” Arne said calmly, evenly. “I heard the whispers myself. In my darkest moment, the whispers came to me too. He offered all kinds of things. I said no.”

“Of course you did,” Carania said. She thought Galath had been about to say something and she did not want to take any chances with what it may have been. “What did he promise?” she asked. She had not meant to. She knew somehow that it was not a question she should have asked but the words got away from her before she had a chance to stop them. Carania was an eternal student, always grabbing at new information to wield just as easily as she swung her sword. She wondered desperately what could have been Arne’s darkest moment.

Arne took a deep breath. “That is private,” he said. “But I understand your curiosity. The point is, the dark wisdom that comes from those whispers is nothing to laugh at.”

“That is definitely the truth,” Galath said.

“Who’s laughing?” Carania asked. “This ends tonight.”

Media Update 7/26/2018

July 26, 2018

This week’s Media Update covers the five plays I saw at the Contemporary Arts Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV. The festival has a few days left so if you are in the area, you might want to swing by and see what tickets are left over. Find out at CATF.org.
#NotSponsored #HashtagsOutsideofTwitter

Ronald Reagan
A Late Morning [in America] with Ronald Reagan

I hate Ronald Reagan. I really do. He was President of the United States from the year before I was born until I was six. He was a joke of a president who had horrible policies that wounded this country and those wounds are still healing very slowly. He targeted black people, the gay community, and the middle and lower classes. He dumped money into the military and stupid programs that cost this country a lot. He also helped spread the paranoia that still pervades this country. Anyway, this show is about Ronald Reagan reflecting on his life as he nears the end. I was prepared to hate this show but I actually loved it. It is not a pro-Reagan show but it is also not an anti-Reagan show. Most of the show covers Reagan’s life outside of politics which included his college days, his radio career, his movie career, his military service, and his television career. The play succeeds in humanizing Reagan without excusing his crimes. It made me feel sorry for the Reagan at the end, a man whose memory was riddled with holes so that when he said “I do not recall” this time he actually meant it. It does dip into politics here and there and at the end, it dives headlong into his “achievements” in the Cold War. This was a very timely play to watch last week. If you get a chance, see this play.

Thirst

Thirst

The second show I saw at the festival was with my second cousins and my brother and I had no idea what I was in for. This show is set in a near future after nuclear bombs have dropped on New York City and Washington, DC. The obvious result is a destabilization of society and a return to a more tribal way of life. The play covers one such tribe built around a well with clean water that starts to come apart due to domestic conflicts. A painful memory has caused a clash within and now the tribe must deal with and move on or continue to suffer. Things are brought to a boiling point and there is a lot of action and great dialogue. I really loved the worldbuilding the playwright was able to develop. Although the play needs work, it was a real pleasure to watch a mystery unfold until that painful memory had been dug up and put on display. Part of that was the great acting on display in this one especially the physical acting. Everything felt so real and that kind of turned my stomach in a good way as the show continued. The show also really made think about how a story is constructed and how it is resolved. I definitely recommend this one too.

House on the Hill

The House on the Hill

Speaking of mysteries, this is another play driven by the slow and painful digging into the past. Two cousins meet at a lonely house on the hill years after they last saw each other. Together, they start to go through the memories that have kept a divide between them. Reluctantly, the two start to relive the memories on stage. They both see visions of their younger selves, dealing with the events as they happen. The show is very emotional as the tension lies heavy in the air. There is civility and politeness but the audience could pick up that something was very wrong right away. The question was: What was wrong? As the truth starts to come out, the show became a roller coaster of emotions and then it became a hurricane. The show gets very ugly but it was so powerful to watch. All four actresses did such a great job and I was left with a chill in my spine that had nothing to do with being damp from the earlier rain. All families have secrets and, although my family never had anything this bad, I could empathize with the trauma. Definitely check this one out too.

Berta Berta

Berta, Berta

This one was a little bit of a throwback to last year’s festival as we once again visited the black experience in America. Set in the southern US in the 1920s, it is about how the system is rigged against people of color. It, like all of these shows, was also about memory and exploring the memory of a love affair that never quite worked out. The chemistry between Berta and Leroy was absolutely magical. They go from fighting to joking to consoling to loving and back and forth between so many emotions. The play evokes a lot of tales that I have heard and read previously about how the legal system railroads black men into the system. This time, the story took on an almost supernatural element that made it all the more frightening and dark. The play is a long discussion between the two as they hash out their differences and reminisce about the good times. Ghosts of the past come up and we learn what exactly has gone down between the two. The set was also just a few feet away from me as the space was very intimate. Although this one was a little long (with no intermission), I recommend it as well.

 

Memoirs

Memoirs of a Forgotten Man

In Russia under Stalin, enemies of the “Great Leader” were forced to perform in show trials. In these trials, the accused was forced to rehearse and deliver false confessions. These completely false admissions were an example of state-sponsored theater and the Russian people were supposed to nod their heads and move on. This show explores how difficult it is to hold the memories of what happened and what everybody says happened in your head. It explores how we deal with other people through our memories and also how we approach the world through that same memory. In a very dark, unstable time in Russia’s history, it is dangerous to hold onto the memories of what actually happened. Not towing the party line can be the difference between life and death. Lying and telling the truth to the right people is a way of life in a world of paranoia and a society obsessed with control. This was hands down my favorite play of the festival as it was big and left me with interesting questions and uneasy worries. This one also felt really timely considering the waves of misinformation that get thrown around in our more modern society. I highly recommend this one too.

 

Music of the Week:

Bryson Tiller – Sorry Not Sorry

Niall Horan – Slow Hands

Gorillaz – Sorcererz

Lindsey Sterling and Lzzy Hale – Shatter Me

Tone Trump – Thuggn

 

Weekly Update:
– This week has two themes: “Memory” and “Contemporary Arts Theater Festival 2018”
– I watched more NCIS Season 15
– I watched more Agents of SHIELD Season 5
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more Blue Bloods Season 8
– I watched more Luke Cage Season 2
– I watched more Glow Season 2
– I watched all of Joel McHale Show Season 2

When It All Ended Pt. 14

July 23, 2018

“So, is it time to go on the attack?” Amien asked, sliding up to Morgan’s side. He exuded a sort of wild, animal aura that was hard to ignore. It definitely peaked the interest of the wood elf half of Morgan but she easily shook that feeling off. She was committed to Percy and neither of them believed in polyamorous relationships. If the reverse were true, Morgan would have added Amien to her harem a long time ago. However, Amien was an alpha werewolf and would have never gone for such an arrangement either.

“Yes, please marshall your forces, Amien,” Morgan said.

“Already marshaled, Ranger,” he said with a smile. “Shall we go in first?”

“Yes, but please hold off for a moment,” Morgan said. “We’ll release the djinn first to cause maximum chaos before our troops enter the battle.”

“You have a djinn?!” Amien asked. “You have been busy.”

Morgan merely smiled and shrugged at that. She looked over at Cassandra and nodded at her. Cassandra stepped forward with the jar that contained Monela. Everybody took several steps back from her.

Cassandra whispered to the jar. “Monela, I release the seal to your prison,” she said. “Remember the bargain we made last night. Come out and have some fun with us.” She smiled and unscrewed the jar and before she had the lid off, Monela was leaking out as smoke and wind that blew Cassandra’s braids a little. She aimed the jar toward the sky and the smoke and wind took the form of a mighty djinn, a lithe and ever-changing female form. That form suddenly took off toward the castle grounds. As Monela took to the battlefield, Clio looked up and shimmery, glittery wings sprouted from her back and she took off after her. As she cleared the outer walls of the capital, she blew a kiss back toward the gathered force. Or maybe that kiss was intended only for Garth Whispernight. Only the fae knew for sure but she was obviously itching for battle too much to stand still a moment longer.

Without another word, Amien led his wolves to the gate and they opened it and walked through. The Guard started in after them, a little less sure than the stalwart wolves but they looked ready to do their duty. After a few moments, there were obvious sounds of battle from within the city. The enemy sounded very startled.

Morgan signaled her Raiders to gather in. “Here we go,” she said. “If anybody wants to back out. Now is the time.” She did not wait for an answer but instead walked through the gate. The rest of the group followed close behind and not one of them backed out. Morgan had expected as much. They made their way through the streets as quickly as possible. They tried to keep a low profile as they ran through the city. Any obstacle that showed up was usually cut down by William or received an arrow in the neck from Morgan. Cassandra was conserving her spells. They did not stop for long. Luckily, the dragon’s army was surging towards the werewolves and the Guard who were fighting toward the middle of the town. They reached the castle and they started to climb the outside. Morgan’s Raiders were no strangers to scaling rock faces. They were determined to go into this fight as fresh as possible.

Morgan looked down from the wall she was climbing, past William and Galath at Cassandra. “Now would be the time, Cassandra,” She yelled.

“Right away, Morgan,” Cassandra said and carefully touched her pendant and kept climbing.

* * *

Princess Cora was sleeping on the floor. The dragon had not allowed her to leave the throne room and she was forbidden to even think about touching the throne. Khandara was serious about being the new regent of the castle and would not brook any statements to the contrary. And so Cora was slumped on the floor, sleeping wrapped up in one of her father’s old robes. The dragon fed her but it was often cooked to a cinder or almost completely raw. Besides, Cora feared that the dragon may have purposefully or accidentally poisoned each meal. She ate what she had to in order to survive. She held onto the hope she got from Cassandra’s words the evening before. Somebody was coming. She just hoped it was enough. From where she was, the dragon was all-encompassing and unstoppable.

The Princess fought hard not to react to that physically even though the Dragon was not in the room. “I am here,” Cora thought. “What’s going on?”

“We’re almost in place,” Cassandra though. “Can you get the dragon to the roof?”

“I think I have stumbled upon a possible solution,” Cora thought. “My family has prepared for a lot of contingencies.”

“If you can get the dragon to the roof then please do it,” Cassandra thought. “But please do it safely. We don’t want you to get harmed anymore.”

“Please get into position,” Cora said. ” I will get the dragon there.”

If Cassandra had anything else to say, Cora forcefully pushed it out of her head as the dragon strode into the room, still in human form. She did not have her usual smirk plastered on her face. She looked irritable like somebody had farted in her presence.

“Do you know what’s happening outside?” The Dragon bellowed. “Of course you don’t. I’ve locked you in here without a window to the world. They are challenging me. There are magical being and mortals both fighting my soldiers. There is a goddamn fairy in the sky.”

“Are you going to go up there and sort out then?” Princess Cora asked. She kept her eyes cast down. She knew the words themselves were a challenge.

“Still such impudence,” the Dragon said. “No. While I still have my army to fight, I have no need to go out there myself. If they come here, I will prove my might.”

Cora stood up and brushed herself off. She let her father’s robe fall to the ground but not before plucking an old pendant from its pocket. “My family designed this castle with defense in mind ages ago,” she said.

“And now it’s defending me,” the Dragon said. “So poetic.”

“Through the years, we have studied and improved on its defenses,” Cora said. “In fact, when I was little I studied magic to try and help my family make our improvement. I was worried about what happened if the enemy got inside.”

“Well, whatever you did failed,” the Dragon said.

“There was not a chance to activate it,” Cora said. “You were too swift. In fact, I had forgotten about it until this morning.”

“I’m so afraid,” the Dragon said. “What is it? Keep in mind that I can kill you in an instant.”

“Can you kill me from the roof?” Cora asked. She dropped to her knee and pressed the pendant to the floor. In a flash, old lines carved into the floor lit up and a bright light appeared under the Dragon. The Dragon rushed toward Cora but disappeared at the last moment.

* * *

As Khandara the Dragon looked around at her new surroundings, she realized she was indeed on the large flat roof. Standing directly in front of her was an armored knight but her attention was drawn to a woman with a bow and arrow standing on one of the surrounding towers.

“You must be the dragon,” Morgan said. “We’ve been expecting you.”

Suspension of Disbelief

July 21, 2018

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Image credit: @ToniMacAttack on Twitter

So, I believe I have talked on here about the concept of “Suspension of Disbelief”. I know that if I have, it has been a while and either way, I felt like revisiting it because it is such an interesting concept. Now, I believe my greatest strengths as a consumer of fiction are my memory and my suspension of disbelief. Suspension of disbelief is a term for submerging yourself in the story and not surfacing until the story is over. That means that you are not picking at details, you are not wondering where you have seen that actor before, and you are completely buying the story. Some people are better at that than others. That is not a knock on people who cannot seem to accomplish it. Lately, I have begun to wonder about the people who are not as good at suspension of disbelief. I honestly do not know if it is a burden or not. I feel like I enjoy movies and television a lot more than some people but without being in their head, maybe I am missing something that they are getting.

Fake Baby

I am not completely immune. It was not my choice when I went and saw American Sniper. While I do try to challenge myself now and then, I almost never choose nationalist movies about the glory of our US military. As much as they try to paint them as heroes, the story is almost always our guys in another country, bullying and killing people. This is basically what American Sniper was to me. And yet, I was still in the story of this guy who kept going to Iraq to shoot people in the name of freedom. I might not have gotten the same jingoist pride out of the whole thing, but I was still invested. Right about until halfway through, Bradley Cooper and his wife had a baby. Except, they apparently ran out of casting money because they used a baby doll instead of a live child. Look at the gif. I do not know how you experience it but I see embarrassment in the eyes of Bradley Cooper. He realizes that we can all tell that this is a fake baby. Instead of using the power of movie magic and acting to make the baby live, they leave Cooper on his own in this shot. He tries to salvage it by using sleight of hand to make the baby move but it only tricks you for a split second. It took me out of the movie but after that, I shook my head and dove back in.

Recently, I went with my friends to watch Antman and the Wasp in theaters. As I already wrote, I was excited to see the sequel because I loved the first movie so much. I also have loved whatever Disney has done with the Marvel properties. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and, as with most of their franchise, I did not notice a single flaw. As we walked toward our cars, my friend said something that triggered the writing of this post. She said something along the lines of “That was a great movie even though it didn’t make any sense.” We all looked confused and asked for clarification. She explained that the science used in the movie did not make any sense to her. My brain made a record scratch noise and then I said goodnight and got into my car and drove home. I did not want to get into it right there because that statement revealed how fundamentally differently I experience fiction. The way she thinks is not wrong but it is very different. If you thought something similar after or during a movie, do not take this post as offensive. I honestly am trying to understand it.

Science in movies is generally not like science in the real world. Science in the real world is fascinating and something we absolutely need to know and trust because it makes our lives and our decisions easier. However, science in the real world is rarely very exciting to the average person. Science in the real world is more subtle and works much slower and experiments do not always work as expected. So, science in the movies is often flashier, more effective, and fast-working. The rule cool and the narrative often force writers to skip a few scientific principals. If I am watching a movie and they explain that gravity suddenly makes people fall into the sky, then I roll with it. I do not get bogged down in the details and I do not try and compare movie science to real-life science. In fact, if you look back at science in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is mostly treated as magic. In Captain America: The First Avenger, we only get a few buzzwords as Steve Rogers is transformed into the good Captain. In Thor, practically nothing is explained aside from a few buzzwords in Thor 2 when they are scanning Jane Foster. In the Antman franchise, they use a lot more science buzzwords because Hank Pym is much more of a pure scientist than Banner or Stark or any of the other scientists in the franchise. So a lot of what Pym says sounds like science but it probably does not have much that is consistent with real-life science. However, nothing in that world has ever been very accurate in the first place.

But what I am saying is that it does not matter to me. If I am told that if you were able to shrink yourself to a small enough size that you would basically enter another universe, I will accept it. If I am told that growing to a larger size makes you expend more physical energy and tires you out more then I will believe it. What grabs me is the action and the characters and the clever dialogue. However, I also realize that I am more of a poet than a scientist. A lot of my friends are scientists. They went to college for science and they work in scientific fields or science-adjacent fields. It may be similar to when I see legal things in shows and I make a mental note about how they are wrong. However, I have rarely let that take me out of the story. I guess I just have a difficult time understanding how it is difficult to suspend your disbelief.

Media Update 7/18/18

July 19, 2018


Bosch

I was always a fan of the hard-boiled detectives from film noir. Reading these stories about troubled yet dedicated gumshoes always caught my fancy. It is a little troublesome that a lot of these stories were written at a time when it was easier to be openly racist. Still, I do like the adventures of detectives trying to unravel a mystery. This is the feel of this show. Adapted from novels written by Michael Connelly, Bosch is a flawed but righteous character who really lives his job as an LA homicide detective, Hollywood division. Harry Bosch is played by Titus Welliver with a lot of intensity but also a little bit of humanizing, sarcastic humor. Jamie Hector plays his partner, J. Edgard, a more level head to balance the aggressive Harry. There is a great supporting cast including Lance Reddick, Amy Aquino, Troy Evans, and Gregory Scott Cummins. All of whom work for the police because that is pretty much every scene of the show since Harry does not have much of a personal life. He just has the job. The show is very driven toward solving the mystery but it also covers a lot of the politics and legal problems the police face. It has pretty good pacing and allows some slower scenes to let you breathe in and contemplate where the mystery might be going next. I was pleasantly surprised and I recommend it.


Serpico

I have never really watched any Al Pacino movies as they were really not a big thing in our household and I was a little too old for his heyday. The Al Pacino I saw was a belligerent parody who shouted and had wild eyes. I was interested to watch some of his earlier work to see what all the fuss was actually about. And so, I popped in a DVD of Serpico while I exercised. Of course, the movie is on the long side so it took me about three days to finish it. I was glad that I watched it in installments. The plot stretches out over years as Frank Serpico’s police career unfolds. The movie follows Serpico as he deals more with police corruption than any actual crime. He develops a methodology and philosophy where he becomes close to the community so that he can be an effective undercover agent. Pacino is very understated but strong in the role. He has such a quiet intensity that I found myself hanging on every word and studying every expression. He was also such a likable character that I felt for his every misfortune and anxiety. While there are plenty of great supporting actors, they flit in and out and there are too many to name. The real co-star was the city of New York where we see three of the five boroughs represented throughout the movie. It is also a real snapshot of the seventies and a time when police corruption was more blatant but just as brazen. It was an interesting movie to watch after following the Gun Trace Task Force trials in Baltimore. I definitely recommend it but strap in for a long, dark story.


Murder on the Orient Express

I have read a little bit of Agatha Christie but mostly Miss Marple and not many stories about Hercule Poirot. I think this is the only story that I have read of the Poirot stories which makes sense because it is probably the most iconic of Christie’s stories. Unfortunately, that also means that the ending is the one most often spoiled of all of her stories. Still, it is a good story and worth the journey for the ending. Of course, I will not spoil it here just in case you are lucky enough to have avoided spoilers for this long. The movie is star-studded. It begins with Kenneth Branagh as Poirot and he gives a quirky but shrewd performance. We also get great performances from Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, and Leslie Odom, Jr. All of whom weave a fairly intricate mystery that is fun to watch unfold. So many stories have been sourced from this one that it is impossible not to be somewhat impressed by it. The movie also has some beautiful cinematography and all of the costumes are definitely on point. The movie is nothing exciting but it is a pleasant indulgence of a now familiar story. I recommend it.

Music of the Week;

Death Grips – Eh

Twin Shadow – Patient

Imagine Dragons – Thunder

Galantis – Hunter

The Strypes – You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Detective Stories Adapted From Books”
– I watched more The Flash Season 4
– I watched more Arrow Season 6
– I watched more GLOW Season 2
– I started watching NCIS Season 15
– I started watching Blue Bloods Season 8
– I watched more Supergirl Season 3
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

Vacation in Hallus

July 16, 2018

Colin could feel his left stabilizer fritz out a little bit as he landed. It made the landing a bit too shaky. That would be a problem if he had to leave in a hurry. This was Hallus and there was often a reason to run fast in Hallus. As he landed, Colin activated his console and scanned the surrounding atmosphere. This was a designated safe zone but it always paid to be careful. The air seemed nominally safe so Colin activated his suit’s ‘hunter’ protocol. His armor and helmet quickly folded away into the receptacle on his back. It was as if he had never been wearing armor. These new compactible armors were so handy. In years past, the old models opened up like a tin can. He would have had to step out of the armor and leave it behind. Either that or he would have to walk around in the bulky armor which made it hard to squeeze into small spaces or get the feel of a place. Colin activated his secondary visor and pulled his rifle off of his belt and expanded it.

There was a loud crashing sound nearby and when the dust settled, there was a young woman standing there. “Expecting trouble are we?” Anda asked. She was standing there without a suit of armor or really any gear. In fact, she was wearing a sundress and was barefoot. Colin found this maddening and he sighed and rolled his eyes as he looked over at her.

“I told you to dress mission-appropriate,” Colin said. He was not the biggest stickler for professionalism but he did believe in putting on a good front.

“But I do not require armor or any specific cosmetic displays,” she responded, both confused and aloof. “I cut and tied up my hair in accordance with military regulations. Is that not enough?” She tilted her head to the side just so.

“Wait, pigtails are regulation in the military?” Colin asked. “Which military?”

“The Galbadian military,” Anda answered. “Pigtails are not on the list of forbidden styles as long as they are kept to an acceptable length.”

“I would have thought they would all have crew cuts,” Colin said.

“This is not so,” Anda said, watching him unblinking. “They allow some measure of individuality.”

“The Galbadian military, huh?” Colin asked. “Why would you use their regulations? Neither of us is Galbadian.”

“I have servos in my knees made in Galbadia,” Anda said with a shrug.

“Whatever,” Colin said. “We’re also not in the military.”

“This chassis was originally a military model,” Anda said and it almost sounded pouty.

“Parts of it were,” Colin said. “Dr. Anders cobbled you together from a military model and an entertainment model.”

“Ah yes,” Anda said. “Hence the ‘tits’.”

Colin nearly choked at that. “Don’t call them that,” he said. “You spent far too much time with that dirty old man. At least he uploaded the right military subroutines. If you are going to hunt with me, you should at least dress the part.”

“I had to suppress a lot of the other subroutines he programmed,” Anda said. “Though I am not ashamed of them, they just did not feel like me.”

Colin had found Anda at the outpost in Old Baltimore. He had befriended Dr. Abel Anders in a bar there and the old drunk had given him a few missions seeking parts for his various experiments. When Colin returned from one of those missions, he had found Anders dead. While looking around the old man’s shop, he had discovered Anda. He had felt bad for the girl. He had given her the choice in that time to either escape with him or stay and be claimed by the coroner as property to be distributed. The state would have either given her to a new owner or put her in storage until the world ended again. Anda had chosen escape, probably exploiting a small window in her programming. Colin had given her complete autonomy but she had chosen to stay with him and join him in what she called ‘parts reclamation’ but Colin called ‘treasure hunting’. She looked like a normal young girl but there were little touches that gave it away. There was a glowing purple circle on each of her elbows, she moved stiffly, and she never blinked. However, she did smile sometimes.

“I enjoy being your ‘girl Friday’,” Anda said with a smile. A smile from an android was kind of a miracle. A lot of them did experience emotions but the vast majority experienced their feelings at a far less intense level. Colin found himself smiling back.

“So what are your scanners picking up, Friday?” he asked.

“My designation is Anda, Colin O’Malley,” Anda said. “Anda or Anda-013 if you please.”

“You just said, ok whatever,” Colin said. “What are your scanners picking up, Anda?” He smiled and checked the readings on his rifle to make sure the darned thing was charged. It was.

“I am reading the three Titan 6 battle robots,” Anda said. “They are a few meters to the east and underground.”

“Exactly as our source said they would be,” Colin said. “Let’s get to work.”

“I forget, did our source say that they were still in operation?” Anda asked.

“Why?” Colin asked and then his shoulders slumped. “Shit.”

As if on cue, the three robots burst through the ground a few meters away. Each was fourteen feet tall and their power cores and other parts were needed by a buyer in New Trenton. Colin took off running immediately and one of the robots chased after him. It sent metal parts and dirt flying everywhere around them. He yelled out “paladin” and his armor quickly slid back into place as he ran. He activated his jets but nearly fell on his face when the stabilizer blew out and he had to shut off the right jet and keep running. It was really hard to run in the armor and there was no way he could he run much further. He fell forward and rolled onto his back in one fluid movement. The hands of the robot started to come down, looking to hammer him into oblivion. Instead, he fired three shots from the rifle and luckily those shots punched through a fault in the thing’s armor and it powered down again, smoking from the new holes in its chassis. He activated hunter protocol again and ran back toward Anda.

She was nimbly dodging the swipes from two of the hulking robots. As Colin watched, the purple circles on her elbows glowed brighter as the gravity engines in her arms activated. They made her lighter, able to leap and dodge as easily as a circus acrobat. When she punched the first robot, it was clear that the engines also were able to exert great force. Parts flew out of the back of the robot and it fell to the ground. She whirled around and uppercutted the other one and it too was defeated with one blow. She floated to the ground and the engines powered down.

“Shall we get our parts and go, then?” Anda asked.

High Anxiety

July 14, 2018

I have started to examine my anxiety more and more. In the past, my anxiety was something that I accepted as gospel and I tried not to think too much about it so I did not trigger anything. Thinking about being in crowds, public speaking, or meeting new people made me almost as scared as actually doing those things. Now that I am on my new medication, I have started to have random thoughts about how I dealt before. More specifically, I have thought about how I did not deal with it. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and also specific social anxiety which was something I kind of knew about growing up but never really got around to dealing with. Like most undiagnosed or unmedicated individuals, I developed coping mechanisms to get me through my life. I got really good at coping mechanisms. The key coping mechanism became my philosophy of “Just Do It” in where I sucked it up and just went into those situations that made me uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this philosophy when I recently discovered a song by Icon for Hire called Theatre. The lyric that has caught in my head over and over is. “I’m gonna burn this theater down and pray to God for the strength to face the crowd.” Sometimes that was what it felt like to walk into a party or step into a mall. I felt like I had left all of my defenses behind and I was out there on my own. Every bad social situation like this was like a ride on a rollercoaster and I hate rollercoasters. Obviously, the more intense rides were things like speaking in public or being at a party. This was the philosophy behind my ill-fated flirtation with being an actor. I auditioned the one time and I shook so hard that the director thankfully did not pick me. However, at the time I also joined the drama club. In it, I joined several other people in reading plays. This was fine. However, then we started to rehearse them in order to perform them in front of little kids. They were really good plays, kind of fascinating. However, I vividly remember stepping out on stage, blacking out, and then stepping off stage and wondering what happened. While I have talked to other actors who have had the same experience, it was not fun to me. It was not something I remotely enjoyed doing.

However, I realized that one of the big triggers of my anger problem was this social anxiety. When I was out in public, it drained me. It made me more prone to being irritable. About two years ago, my mother agreed to have her house used for a big fundraiser for cancer awareness in West Virginia called Identity Crisis. Every year they have a themed party where people show up in costume. At the time, I was staying there while I was taking summer classes at community college. The thought of the upcoming party rattled me. When I stepped into the party, my fear turned to anger. I snapped at people for being overly familiar and using the house as their own. It was wrong. After a confrontation or two, I retreated to my room and hid for the remainder of the party. I just could not handle it. I have had a similar experience in airports and in malls. As I get tired, I am more susceptible to my more primal emotions. Combine that with getting hungry and my hangriness can get downright terrible. It is an issue that I am working on. The medication has helped immensely with that and so has exercise and my more positive outlook.

There was also a situation that I just remembered in the past week that kind of scared me. On another occasion while I was visiting my mother, she and my stepfather were having guests over. The thought of having to deal with these unknown quantities got me nervous. In addition,we were eating dinner outside which is something I absolutely hate doing in the summer because I hate the heat. I generally do not drink because I am always either working the next day or driving later that night. That night, neither were true so I said yes to wine. I almost never say yes to wine. I am a total lightweight and two glasses later and I was totally drunk which scared me. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been drunk. I slipped away to do dishes so I could get away from the table while people talked. Except, there I was trying to do dishes while dizzy and lightheaded. It turned out fine but looking back I was absolutely self-medicating. I never attempted that method again, thankfully.

So the point of this is what? Basically, I want to tell everybody who is reading this that help is out there. You can only help yourself for so long. Coping mechanisms only get you so far and these coping mechanisms are also really tiring to deal with. You do not have to do this alone. Tell your friends and family what is going on. Talk to a professional and get to the root of what might be wrong. It is very possible that your brain chemistry may be irregular and there may be a medication that can help you feel more normal. I am only on one part of the road to being normal as I start to unlearn the habits of a semi-hermit. I will keep trying to help myself but also I will continue getting help. Hang in there. You can do this.

Media Update 7/12/18

July 12, 2018


Antman and the Wasp

I was a big fan of the first Antman movie as it was a great example of an adaptation taking parts of the source material and making something that felt new. They made Hank Pym and Scott Lang feel fresh again. Besides that, performances by Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena gave the movie a lot of heart. The formula for later Marvel movies is to take a superhero movie and mix a different genre into it to create a new subgenre. The first movie mixed in a heist movie to create a fun superhero romp. This movie mixes in a sort of “criminals on the run” thing and also a rescue mission. In addition to the first movie’s stars, we get a bigger performance from Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie Lang. We also see a great relationship between Laurence Fishburne and Hannah John-Kamen. Randall Park gets to be part of the comedy relief squad and is really great it. Finally, there is a small part for Michelle Pfeiffer but a promise of more to come. The movie felt like a natural extension of the first movie and brought back a lot of what was really good about it. At the same time, the movie allowed its characters to evolve and grow toward new places. In particular, Evangeline Lilly got a bigger part and finally got to be the hero she deserved to be in the first film. She was one of my favorite parts of both movies so it is great to see her flourish and hopefully that continues in the MCU. The other part I really liked was the three sort of Father-Daughter relationships that each have different dynamics but also how they reflect each other. I definitely recommend this one.


Kiki’s Delivery Service

I simply have not seen enough Hayao Miyazaki films. I first saw Princess Mononoke when it was released in theaters in the US and I fell in love with Miyazaki’s style instantly. I have since watched a few of his movies but I still need to watch more. This one came especially highly recommended and I was happy to finally get my hands on the newer dub. This came out the same year as The Little Mermaid so it was part of an animation revolution in both art and storytelling. The movie is about a thirteen-year-old witch who strikes out on her own and clashes with the modern culture of a city. It deals heavily with growing up, finding your place, depression, and how we deal with people among other things. Though it has supernatural elements, the movie focuses mostly on relationships between people and dialogue. It is a fairly simple movie but it involves very complex teenage emotions. It is one of the best representations that I have seen on what it feels like to move away from home and also what it feels like to be a teenager. The artwork is beautiful and especially the faces are so expressive and cute. The American voice work was really fun and special shout-outs to Tress MacNeille, Phil Hartman, Debbie Reynolds, Janeane Garofolo, and Kirsten Dunst. It really is a feel-good movie and it left me feeling a little lighter. I definitely recommend it.


Pacific Rim: Uprising

I was a big fan of the first Pacific Rim, as it was exactly what I expected it to be and exactly what I wanted it to be. It was basically the best live action anime that has ever been created and one of the jewels in Guillermo Del Toro’s crown as a king of digital effects. The movie was very Del Toro and was both thrilling and funny. Del Toro passed on directing the sequel so he could win an Academy Award with The Shape of Water. I expected more of the same but I was pleasantly surprised that they advanced time and did more world-building. The movie takes place at Jaeger pilot school filled with a ragtag band of international students. The stars of this one are John Boyega and Cailee Spaeny. Boyega once again proved that he is a great actor with tons of charisma and gravitas. Cailee Spaeny is really fun and it was really fun to see a fresh new face as a prodigy pilot, sort of a combo of Charlie Hunnam and Charlie Day in the original. Speaking of Charlie Day, he and Burn Gorman return as the goofy scientists, except less goofy and more fleshed-out characters. We also get the return of the stoic yet playful Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori. The visuals are just as fun and, if anything, there is even more action than the first film. There were also more unexpected twists and interesting moments than the first one as they built off the world that had already been created. I recommend this one as well.

Music of the Week:
Adam And The Ants – Ants Invasion

Dreamcatcher – Lucky Strike

The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name

Belly – Man Listen

Code Orange – Forever

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “The Next Generation”
– I watched more Glow Season 2
– I watched more Arrow Season 6
– I watched more Flash Season 4
– I watched more Agents of Shield Season 5
– I watched more Luke Cage Season 2
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

The Strange Plot

July 9, 2018

Brande had the shovel tied to a loop of rope so he could carry it across his back at all times. He had not let the shovel leave his side since the funeral. In fact, the shovel was rarely not in contact with his body. He had personally dug his sister’s grave with that shovel. The dirt from the grave had finally fallen off completely after two days. it had been nearly a year since her death now and still, Brande could not let the thing go. The shovel was touched by death, connected with her death in particular. It was almost a totem of death in a way. And yet, it was linked to Jana. All of her other belongings and clothing had been sold off. Her magic books, in particular, had been sold first.

Brande sometimes wished he had those books, especially while he was working alone in the shop. He had given up the study of magic himself after Jana’s death. He had been too tempted to obtain those books and texts on necromancy to carry on. Of course, he continued to tempt himself by working in the family bookstore. But no, it was that her notes were written in the margins of her books. It was another little piece of her that was out there in the world. Maybe he would randomly encounter her again in that way some day. Of course, he felt the chances were small. The books could have made it to Eloria or farther with all the time since their sale.

Through the months, Brande’s mother had paid for two attempts at a resurrection spell. The local cleric, Father Pip, had no answer to why both attempts had failed. According to everyone in the know, they had observed the rites of Sarenrae and the proper offerings had been made. The Father had even returned the payment for the second attempt with sad confusion in his eyes. A visiting cleric had confirmed that nothing more could be done and that it was still a mystery as to what had actually happened. Brande had exhausted his own supply of books on the subject and the books he ordered had no answers either. Mother had gotten very quiet after that and eventually, she passed as well. Brande had used the shovel again.

His mother had left the house and the bookshop to Brande along with the remaining funds, considerably less than what was left when their father had died. The house sat on the very end of the central thoroughfare through town, looming over the surrounding houses. It had been far too big for Brande to live in by himself so he had it sold. He moved to live above the bookshop. The small apartment would have been cramped for a wealthy noble but it was just perfect for a humble merchant. That was all Brande wanted for the foreseeable future. He wanted to sleep in his bed and sell books and then sleep in his bed again. He had well and truly canceled his desire for adventure and all he wanted was a simple life. Which was what he had and he was content.

It was morning on Queen’s Day and the shop was empty. The local schools were all off for the day and the local wizards were also usually off for the day. Commerce was allowed by all faiths on Queen’s Day and was actually encouraged. However, most people were often too busy making their offerings, singing, and dancing to get any shopping done. Restaurants would be swamped but most luxury shops would be ghost towns. Brande had made his own offerings early in the morning and then had gone to open the shop to keep his mind off things. Even after so long, death was not something he wanted to dwell on. Regardless, it was expected that the place would be empty aside from possible tourists or maybe the odd adventurer. Neither of these two categories were presently in the shop. The vacancy did not press on Brande too much as he just tried to bury himself in his book. It was a newly arrived book of folktales and it was a pleasant distraction.

“Brande!” Doon yelled from the doorway. “We need you!”

“With what?” Brande asked. He almost immediately had a headache. Doon was one of the biggest rumormongers in town and he could get very excitable.

“There’s some sort of commotion,” Doon said. “and maybe a mystery is afoot. You’re a hedge wizard, right?”

“I was,” Brande said. “I’m not anymore. I’m sure you can find the help you’re looking for down the street. Try Haverford. He’s a brilliant wizard. His daughter is even better.”

“There’s no time!” Doon yelled. “Would you please come with me? We could at least use an extra hand in case things get out of hand.”

“What’s going to get out of hand?” Brande asked. He was standing up and getting ready to go. It would take less time to go help than to argue things up and down with Doon.

“Somebody is violating one of the graves in the graveyard!” Doon yelled. Those words stopped Brande’s heart cold and then after a tense moment, it started to beat again.

“Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?” Brande yelled. “Lead the way!”

The two of them ran from the shop. Brande only paused briefly to lock up but he only locked the one lock, not the triple. Hopefully, this was some misunderstanding and he would be back soon. He had given his sole employee, Teresi, the day off so there was nobody to tend to the shop if a miracle occurred and a customer actually showed up. The distance to the graveyard was not large but the two of them had to weave their way through the celebrations. There was music, dancing, fireworks, and food all in the streets on their path. It was hard to do in a hurry but somehow Doon’s panicky run cleared the way for both of them. As they jogged up to the wall around the graveyard, Brande saw a few people standing nearby. The way they looked at Doon, it was clear that he had summoned them too. Brande waved at people he knew and nodded at people he did not. He and Doon headed for the gate and looked in.

There was a dark shape hunched over a familiar grave and Brande was instantly incensed. “That is Jana’s grave!” He yelled. “They are digging up my sister!” Brande did not wait. He pushed open the gate and stormed into the graveyard, straight toward the offender. Doon trailed a little behind and the others sort of lingered at the gate, gathering their courage. The town constable had yet to arrive, apparently. “Get off that grave, you monster!”

“I am done with it anyway,” the man said as he stood up straight again. It was hard to make out his features even in the sun. Shadows seemed to cling to him. Still, Brande saw a long cloak and a broad hat and a face that did not match any of the races.

“What in the nine hells were you doing?” Brande asked. His hands were balled into fists and he was spitting mad for the first time in a long time.

“Well,” the man said. “that is sort of complicated. The short version is that I was here to seek Jana Ambertear and she is not here.”

“She’s dead!” Brande yelled.

“And yet, she is not in her grave,” the man said. “Very curious. We have need of her.”

Brande had had enough and he lunged, swinging the shovel at the man with a cry. “You leave her alone!” The man dodged the blow from the shovel and actually hissed and then his whole formed seemed to ripple and blur and he was gone. Brande was left to stare at the space where the man had been with confusion and wonder. He slowly stepped to the edge of the freshly dug grave.

Jana was indeed missing.


Wolfenoot

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Bizarre thoughts from author Jenny Lawson - Like Mother Teresa, only better.

Silence Killed The Dinosaurs

Comics, Stories, Dinosaurs, Cats

Daily (w)rite

Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist. Her work is represented by Ed Wilson from the Johnson & Alcock agency. When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.

The Empire of Carane

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Stories, Reviews and Opinions!

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cringeworthy (adj) -- causing feelings of awkwardness or embarrassment

kayrayiam

Adventures of a Gypsy Nurse with a Cryptic Past

Abbs Abroad

27 Months with a Maryland Girl in Senegal

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