Archive for July, 2019

#WeAreBaltimore

July 29, 2019

Lately, my hometown of Baltimore has been under attack. The President of the United States has lashed out at Baltimore because U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings criticized him. Elijah Cummings has been a major player in Congress’ investigation into the President and his staff. He had a lot of prominent moments in the hearing where Michael Cohen testified. He has now apparently made himself a target by speaking up against the man in the White House. I am still unsure about what that investigation will bring and how useful it is to the country. There are too many desperate conspiracy theories around for anybody to make real sense out of anything. Setting that aside, Trump obviously feels threatened whether this ends in his fall or not. He is lashing out from fear and ego and his target has been my city.

The thing is, Trump is not the only one attacking Baltimore. Many have been in the past few days and I am one of them. Now, I love Baltimore and my heart will dwell here for the rest of my days even if I moved on. However, recently yet another event has happened that makes me want to rail against Baltimore leadership. Keith Davis Jr. was recently framed by the police and the State’s Attorney’s Office and took the fall for a murder he most likely did not commit. However, that is not the only thing. Years ago now Freddie Gray died while in police custody and the new State’s Attorney Mosby tried the cops. She bungled it and they all got off scot-free. Three mayors in a row have now been plagued with controversy and scandal. Mayor Sheila Dixon stole gift cards intended for the needy at Christmas. Ineffectual Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a bad deal with the Grand Prix and bungled the Baltimore riots. Mayor Catherine Pugh went back on many of her campaign promises and was eventually caught in an illegal bribery and ethics scandal. I do not even need to go into the Gun Trace Task Force which did not do any tracing and instead robbed and framed people like crazy.

It can be really easy to rail against this corrupt town. The police and most of the politicians are absolutely and thoroughly corrupt. The crime rate is high, the murder rate is depressing, we are never far from another riot, and the cops and politicians are very racist. On a semi-humorous note, Trump was not wrong about the rats. Baltimore has famously huge rats. And yet, I still hold out hope. There are still politicians that I trust somewhat. I trust Councilman Bill Henry because we were friends back when I was in high school and he proved himself to be a good man. I trust Councilman Leon Pinkett (who presides over my district) somewhat as I have seen him connect with locals over concerns. I trust Elijah Cummings because he is a progressive and has proven himself to be a decent man. Of course, this trust can always be revoked as soon as one of them does something wrong.

More than that, I believe in the people of Baltimore. The good people who I have met in person or talked to online. There are good people I have protested with or bitched about the city with. There are plenty of people who are not racist or ignorant and eventually people will see the light. Something has to give and then hopefully the citizens of Baltimore will wake up and things might change. But Trump has no right to rail against Baltimore because Baltimore is afflicted with the same sicknesses that the rest of the country has. Sicknesses like racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, capitalism, nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and so many more societal ills. These are problems that many politicians including Trump have no interest in fixing. These problems distract the populace from the real problems we need to face and allow their status quo to continue.

So yes, #WeAreBaltimore because I have pride in the 410 forever but do not let this distract you for long. There is plenty to protest and plenty to fix and we will not do it feeling outraged for a slight against by a moron.

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The War Veteran

July 27, 2019

In the midst of the Battle for Hogwarts, Henry Redwell had been hit with the Cruciatus curse. He had been one of the many students who took up their wand against the Dark Lord’s army. It had never been his wish to be a fighter, to be in a war but it had been necessary. He still had no doubt that had they not fought back, He Who Must Not Be Named would have slaughtered them all after he had been done with Harry Potter. They had fought for their very survival and they had barely survived. Henry had done his best with what few lessons he knew but the students of Hogwarts were not really trained for such things especially with the meddling of Umbridge and Snape.

Henry’s older brother had been friends with Cedric Diggory and so Henry had met him on holiday several times before entering Hogwarts himself. The Redwell family had always been members of Hufflepuff going back ages and so Redwell had entered that house. His older brother had looked after him until graduation and by then Redwell had his own friends to keep him safe. The Redwells were loyal and so Hufflepuff made sense. They left the courage to Gryffindor, the usual champions against evil. Still, when the truth came out about Harry Potter trying to save Cedric’s life during the Tri-Wizard cup, Henry felt inspired by the story and all of the subsequent stories of Harry and his friends.

All told, Henry Redwell had probably been destined for a Ministry job or to take over the family shop. All of that changed in the Battle for Hogwarts but a lot changed that day for a lot of people. He had been fending off the attack of a death eater when he was hit from behind with the Cruciatus curse. It might have only been a moment or it could have been the hours that it felt like but the pain was excruciating nonetheless. He had been saved by Professor Lupin who took out both Death Eaters. Henry’s future wife Felicity Partridge had pulled him to safety and tended to his wounds the best she could. A smart man would have left it there but Henry Redwell had found his bravery.

Henry spent his remaining years in Hogwarts working toward a new goal. He asked Felicity, a girl with a truly brilliant mind, to tutor him and he poured himself into his studies. His grades saw an immediate improvement and with that momentum, he pushed himself even harder. As he walked the halls of Hogwarts, he would not stand for bullying. When he heard about a problem, he set out to put it right. He tried not to use force if talking worked and soon his friends were following his example. He was no leader but he had started a small trend that helped everybody at Hogwarts. He wondered briefly if this was what Dumbledore’s Army had felt like. He humbly shook that thought away and continued working toward his goal.

When he graduated Hogwarts, he just barely had the grades to become an Auror. Part of his acceptance as an Auror was due to his extracurricular anti-bullying behavior. He had shown that he wanted to be part of the community in a positive way while also protecting that community. He was accepted into a new global task force. The British government had been briefly compromised by the rise of the Dark One. If there had been closer ties within the worldwide wizarding world, aid might have come to England and the Battle at Hogwarts might have been completely different. So much could have been different. This new task force would root out dark wizards and try to stop another Grindelwald or Voldemort from rising to power.

Many people in England wanted to call them The Snake Eaters but thankfully it was agreed that this was a bad call. Having been at Hogwarts, Henry knew that there was still a lot of animosity against the Slytherin House. However, Henry had forgiven most of the ones he knew and the world was starting to warm to the idea of giving second chances to the least complicit snakes of the world. Henry’s compassion led to him getting command of his own squad and he had put one together after a lengthy interview process. He had recruited his own wife, Felicity, as the team medic.

Henry had forbidden the use of any magical methods to coerce captives to give up their wicked friends. Torture or tricks would only create animosity which would make reform all the more difficult. This meant no Veritaserum, no Imperius Curse, and definitely no Cruciatus Curse. Henry had picked a squad with near limitless patience so that they could obtain information purely through conversation. His team armed Henry with all of the knowledge he would need to outthink and connect with the person across the table.

Henry walked into the interrogation room carefully, closing the door slowly behind him. He sat down in front of a young woman with an intricate snake tattoo on her face. They had chased her through Bath, lost her, and then found her again and caught her in Blackpool. Henry took a deep breath and smiled gently at the young woman. He set his folder down in front of him. The woman spat in Henry’s face, the wad of spit hitting where his nose met his right cheek. His file never faltered and he slowly wiped the spit off and opened the folder.

“Now then,” Henry said. “Let’s have a little chat.”

Media Update 7/25/19

July 25, 2019


A Welcome Guest: A Psychotic Fairy Tale

The subtitle of this show is definitely accurate as this is definitely a weird show. It is not exactly Theater of the Absurd (which is hard to make sense of) but this was in truth an interesting fairy tale. The show is set in a post-apocalyptic United States which has been devastated by some sort of disaster but continues on. In the rubble, dormant weapons dumps left behind by the military sometimes detonate and take out whole cities. The government has clamped down on everybody and has imposed a sort of stable martial law in order to protect the rich from all of the homeless refugees. The homeless are assigned derelict buildings to live in. One family who has lived a hard but noble existence now has a neighbor for the first time and he is really weird. The show feels a lot like a modern fairy tale, with so many lessons and metaphors for our own daily life. The cast of this one was really great at comic timing, feeling a bit like a sitcom on acid while we watched their adventures. A special shout out goes to Wade McCollum who plays the title character. He is so good at acting almost like a cartoon, a madman in the style of Daffy Duck. It takes every bit of his physicality and his vocal range but he pulls it off beautifully. I definitely recommend this one.


Wrecked

Horrible things happen many times in our lives, especially if we live long lives. Sometimes those horrible things are caused by us and then we have to deal with that trauma but also the guilt of what we have done to others. These events have been amplified by the invention of the automobile. I think you know where I am going with this. In the middle of a bad night, a couple must deal with the horror of tragedy, their own relationship, their minds, but also some unexpected house guests. How long can you keep up appearances with everybody else when your world is detonating? How long can you keep up appearances with yourself? This show could have been really dark but it keeps things light. It definitely explores both dark and deep subject matter but the dialogue remains witty and reminded me a bit of Neil Simon. The show explores both the twists and turns our mind makes when dealing with reality. It also deals with relationships and what makes a good one and what people think makes a good one. This one felt almost like a Twilight Zone without any supernatural elements. It was definitely a journey and I felt so satisfied when it was all over and the dust cleared. I recommend it for sure.


My Lord, What a Night

In the late 1930s, famed singer Marian Anderson performed in Princeton, sponsored by a program for young black artists which she was happy to do to inspire the next generation. After the performance, she was barred from the whites-only hotel in town. Albert Einstein, who had attended her performance, invited her to stay at his nearby home. A lifelong friendship was formed between two people who seemed, on the surface, unlikely to be friends. The truth is that Albert Einstein was a fervent supporter of the American Civil Rights movement because of his experiences as a Jew in Nazi Germany. This play tries to imagine what that night must have been like, the meeting of two incredible people. It plays a little with history by also adding in Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, an activist, and a DC school teacher. Abraham Flexner is also imagined to have been present, a renowned college professor and education reformer. Ms. Terrell and Einstein’s activist spirits clash against the more timid philosophies of Flexner and Anderson. The show is funny and deep and explores humanity and the best ways to go about saving humanity from itself during some of the most pivotal moments in each person’s careers. I definitely recommend it as it has a lot of great messages and warm dialogue.

Music of the Week:
Wallows – Scrawny

Baby Goth – Mary

SonReal – Parachute

Lizzo – Boys

The Regrettes – I Dare You

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “CATF 2019 Pt. 1”
– I finished Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more Slasher Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more Riverdale Season 3
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more Defunctland and also the similar Yesterworld
– I finished Designated Survivor Season 3

Character Classes Pt. 3

July 22, 2019

Clerics

The holy messengers of the gods, clerics are agents of the church and the gods. Most clerics live to carry out the mission of the departed gods in the world they left behind. They channel the power of divinity to use magic. Because there are so many gods, there is a whole rainbow of clerics. Each cleric usually takes on the aspects and mission of their god. Thus they are categorized into different domains based on what the cleric’s life mission or specialty is. Those include Life, Light, Knowledge, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War. Many gods overlap domains so devotees can have different focuses on the tasks before them. Clerics also take on many different missions. Some become priests and clergypeople in cities and towns, others travel to spread the good word, and others seek out evil in various forms to destroy it. Different clerics also act differently. Some are evangelists, seeking to convert those around them to the will of the gods. Others are satisfied with simply providing a good example of what a good life can provide to people. Of course, there is such a thing as neutral or evil clerics who base their actions on the worship of the fallen gods. However, they tend to work in secret while good clerics work to make the world a better place in the public eye.

 

Paladins

Paladins are often the more force-based arm of the church. Like clerics, paladins are also in the service of gods but they are more often the stick than the carrot. The paladin is the picture of the knight in gleaming armor but they are many other things. They can look like many other character classes as well. There are few paladins who linger in stationary service, many heed the call to adventure. They have made an oath to their particular god to fight for truth and righteousness. Paladins are a shining example to other followers of the faith and while their personal strength is important, they also inspire strength from those around them. Most paladins are selfless, devoted to fulfilling their oath instead of their own worldly gain. Paladins attend schooling in both divinity and combat to learn the skills needed for the tough road ahead. Like clerics, Paladins also bring people closer to the gods and the church. However, they do it less through proselytizing than through being an example. They are literal symbols of their gods that walk the world with the church’s symbols on their gear.

 

Monks

Masters of martial arts, Monks have learned how to battle through feats of skill and athleticism. They do this by learning how to tap into inner reserves of energy called Ki. Ki is inner energy that comes through their minds and bodies from the very fabric of the universe. Monks are able to obtain this ability through monastic tradition and rigorous training of mind and body. The training of monks is mostly secretive and many legends have been created that most schools do not actively try to dispel. More than any other character class, monks are amazing at hand to hand fighting. Their rigorous training and strength of will make the vaunted nine points literal magical weapons. Monks are also proficient with exceptional and exotic weapons that others have rarely seen before. Monks journey on the road to adventure to achieve physical and spiritual growth. While monks are often raised apart from society in order to hone their great abilities, they also realize that the purpose of these skills is not for themselves. What is the forging and honing of a blade without using it for some purpose? Monks are not trained to desire violence (although some do) but obviously recognize its use in self-defense and for the good of the people.

 

Rangers

Rangers are trained to be hunters, experts at tracking and incapacitating or killing their prey. It is not uncommon for small villagers to have a few rangers around to keep the food supply up. Others work in law enforcement, sent to track down dangerous criminals on the run, lost in the wilderness. Others are leaders in monster hunts or in hunting down dangerous animals. Like some druids and barbarians, rangers are not as used to be among the people of the world as they are trained to roam the lonely wilderness. Rangers are trained to hunt both alone and with a pack of other rangers. Rangers also have an affinity for animals as they can also be trained to form an affinity. Rangers are also traditionally really good with bow and arrow and other projectile weapons. Rangers also do a lot of studying of their surroundings and the monsters they might face. They have what are called favored terrain and favored enemy. Favored terrain is often the land that the ranger was trained in and they know a lot about it that will help with the hunt. A favored enemy is the one type of creature the ranger has observed or studied the most and therefore they know a lot about how to hunt it and hurt it.

Whitecrest Harbor

July 20, 2019

The swaying of the ship usually did not bother Val Stonecut but there had been so many storms on the way into Whitecrest Harbor. The deck had been raked with lightning, rain, and high winds. Mending spells were not going to do anything more than a few cosmetic fixes. Carpentry was the only thing that would really help but it would take time to make repairs on the boat. This was when it paid to not actually be part of the crew. Val was free to go ashore as long as he did not reveal the crew’s legal status as it were.

When Val had stepped off the ship, the ship’s one-eyed cat, Wink, had wanted to come along. He and the cat had gotten along as he fed food to her in his hammock below deck and the two of them sometimes shared the sun on the deck. Wink was a good cat. Val could see that the cat had also had enough of the water-logged vessel for the moment and agreed to take the poor thing along. Besides, if Val had a tail he would nervous to be around all of the swinging hammers too.

Wink was pleasantly clinging to Val’s shoulder, excited by all the smells of the city of Whitecrest had to offer. The cat was as excited as Val was to be in a new place. They both eyed food stands with steaming hot, fresh food. Though Wink was obviously a bit more interested in the fresh, raw fish. Val could also feel Wink dig her claws into his leather vest every time somebody got too close as if to make sure they did not get separated.

Val stopped short when he felt rather than saw a piece of wood press against his chest. A short human or a tall halfling stood in front of Val, poking him with some sort of wooden truncheon. Val smiled politely and held his hands up and empty in the universal symbol of peace and non-violence.

“Am I being robbed?” Val asked, only half-joking.

“Are you a criminal?” The woman asked. She kept the truncheon in place, eyes narrowing as she looked directly into Val’s eyes.

“Not the last time I checked,” Val said. “Do I have that look about me?” He looked about him as if he was looking for some outward sign of wickedness.

The woman laughed. “Sorry,” she said. “Sometimes that works.”

“Really?” Val asked.

“You’d be surprised,” she said and held up a platinum badge with a blue gem embedded. “Cora Clayline. Guard captain. <> District.”

Val stuck out his hand. “Val Stonecut,” he said. “So you’re bored?”

Cora shook his hand. “Basically,” she agreed. “I usually stroll through this area about now and catch plenty of pickpockets within an hour. It’s a slow day.”

Val had personally spotted three pickpockets while they had been standing there talking but he was not about to snitch. He had respect for the profession. “What a pity,” was all he said.

“So,” Cora said. “You have a lot of tattoos.”

“Is that a crime here?” Val asked. He was amused at this halfling cop and her idle attention. If only she knew.

Cora reached up toward Wink and Val stooped a bit to make it easier for her to scratch behind her ears. “Of course not, I just wondered what it is you do.”

“Oh I’m just very interested in art,” Val said. “As for my profession, I travel in order to draw maps of the world.”

Cora nodded. “And you need to carry around that fancy sword to do that?”

“One never knows in this world when one will need to defend one’s self,” Val said, purposefully diplomatic and obtuse. “The sword is mostly for show in order to frighten away weaker willed crooks. I’ve rarely used it.”

Cora looked doubtful but let it drop. “I suppose many people carry weapons,” she said. “That one is just particularly pretty.”

“Thank you,” Val said. “It was a gift from the forge of a Prince of Kofrain. I mapped a particular set of ruins for them.”

Cora nodded. “Oh,” she said. “You’re very worldly.”

Val laughed gently. “I do my best,” he said. “Now if you’ll excuse me. My cat and I are famished and we must resolve that before we pass out on your streets.”

Cora smiled. “I owe you a meal and a drink for delaying you, then,” she said. “Allow me to accompany you. My treat.”

Val smiled despite not wanting to eat lunch with a cop but thought it would be a worse idea to turn her down. “Lead the way,” he said. “I’m sure you know the best places.”

Media Update 7/18/19

July 18, 2019


Skyscraper

Unless he does something dastardly in real life, I will be a fan of The Rock for the rest of his career. I became a fan watching him act like a jerk in 1997 on WWF programming and he has only built his skill set ever since. What I went into this movie with was an expectation that it was a big dumb action movie. I received more than that. The movie is about a new, state of the art skyscraper built in China that is more than twice as tall as the Burj Khalifa. The Rock plays a security consultant brought in to sign off on the security system for insurance purposes. He gets caught up in the chaos of crime and flame. The movie is one part crime movie and one part disaster movie. While there is a lot of action, there is a lot of interesting mechanics having to do with building design, infrastructure, and computer science. This leads to a lot of action sequences for The Rock which also includes great fight scenes. There is also great drama in the movie, allowing the Rock to show off his acting chops which just get better. Neve Campbell plays his wife and gets to be a bit of action star herself with plenty of neat sequences (with two small children too). Chin Han is good as the enigmatic building owner. Roland Moller plays the perfect mercenary asshole villain. I went in knowing I would like this movie and ended up liking it even more. I definitely recommend it.


The Meg

I also really like Jason Statham. He has that rugged charisma that is hard to ignore even when he is being a jerk or a sadistic villain. This movie has been in development since the publishing of the book in 1997 and I had heard about many different treatments. Statham plays a deep-sea rescue expert who comes to the rescue at an oceanography station. What he and the cast of scientists must confront is the legendary Megalodon, a shark big enough to take down a T Rex and bite blue whales clean in half. Once again, this movie exceeded my expectations. The cast is so good. Statham is tough but a lot of fun, playing it a little looser and nicer than he usually does. Bingbing Li plays a marine biologist who gives Statham a run for his money as an action star. There is a great smaller role for Ruby Rose as a punk rock vehicles expert. Cliff Curtis, Masi Oka, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jessica McNamee, and little Sophia Cal all have their moment to shine. Rainn Wilson shows up as the main comic relief as the rich boy backer who gets mixed up in all of the chaos. There is plenty of shark action and plenty of good character moments and I liked the twists the plot took. I recommend it.


The Art of the Steal (2013)

This is the only movie this week that was not a big-budget blockbuster. This one is definitely more of a heist movie in the style of a low budget Oceans 11. This is not meant as an insult. The movie stars Kurt Russell who is always fun as the laid back dude who just wants to have a good time. He plays a former getaway driver/conman who has now become a motorcycle daredevil. He gets summoned back into the game by his old crew and must unite his new crew with his old crew for the heist of his life. Jay Baruchel plays his plucky comic relief sidekick, an old school street thief. Matt Dillon plays his brother, the ‘face’ of the old crew who burned things to the ground and now is trying to make amends. Jason Jones plays the Interpol agent trying to track them down, an inept mess of a man who is almost a cop. He is joined by an art theft informant played brilliantly by Terrance Stamp all world-weary and snarky. The rest of the group are not as known but all three are fun character actors who add to the plan in their own way. The movie is not perfect but it has a lot of fun elements and dialogue and I liked the weird philosophical groove to the movie. I recommend it as well.

Music of the Week:
Fredo Bang – Dawg Gone

JINJER – Pisces

Kane Roberts – Beginning Of The End

Colleen Green – Maybe I’ll Get Hit By A Car Tonight

Jay Bovino & Hannah Sands – Hideaway

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Fast and Furious Franchise Alumni”
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more Supergirl Season 4
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I watched more Designated Survivor Season 3
– I watched more Defunctland

Character Classes Pt. 2

July 15, 2019

Fighters

The term ‘fighter’ encompasses a lot of types of people. Fighters are soldiers, guards, sellswords, farmers and much much more. Fighters are anybody who picks up a weapon and becomes skilled at using it. Fighters come from literally all walks of life and all social and economic backgrounds. There are academies that teach fighting styles all over the world that cater to the wealthy but also to those who wish to enter military or law enforcement fields. There are also plenty of fighters who learned through messy life experience. There are highly skilled and educated fighters but even they can be defeated by a fighter with heart and soul. Fighters basically break down into three categories which are champions, battle masters, and spell swords. Champions are those who rely on physical power and precision over skill. Battle masters are those who focus more on skill and strategy to help control the battlefield. Fighters are also not precluded from using magic as some have learned to imbue or accompany their weapons with magic similar to Warlocks and Wizards. Any weapon is very deadly in the hands of a fighter with or without magic.

Barbarians

Barbarian is kind of a loaded term that covers more than just the stereotypical barbarian. Those barbarians are people of the wild places who are often nomadic. Specifically, barbarians are those who have learned to harness the primal rage that every being has inside. They are able to tap into that well of rage to increase their strength, speed, and durability. There are generally two schools of this discipline. There are those who draw fully from the mind and soul of the barbarian, the so-called berzerkers. These barbarians’ skills are more physical-based. There are also those who draw from animal spirits called ‘totems’ that come from nature. The use of totems allows barbarians to channel aspects of animals to enhance their own skills. Barbarians are among the toughest of the character classes as they often live a rougher life which hardens them against the rigors they might face in battle. In other words, they know how to take a hit. In addition, ‘rage’ is not necessarily gibbering and raving anger although it can be. There is such a thing as cold rage and some barbarians experience intense joy when they unleash their rage.

Bards

Bards are usually performers of some type. They spend their life traveling the world and spreading their particular type of entertainment. Bards are people who are gifted with the magic of turning emotion and imagination into power. They are masters of swaying people to their cause in order to smooth the way forward. Of course, not all of what bards do is actually magic. Even without the use of actual magic, they can also help through sheer force of charisma. Bards are often the more charismatic members of a party of adventurers but that does not mean they are always the voice of the party. Bards come from many different backgrounds. They are actors, musicians, poets, writers, politicians, carnival performers, and so on. There are different classifications of bards (though bards can be hard to pin down) and these classifications are called colleges. The two most prominent ones are lore and valor. Bards of Lore are gatherers of information and more likely to take on wizardly aspects. Bards of Valor seek to encourage and inspire people with their tales and actions and their magic is more tied to actual physical violence.

Druids

Druids are those people who are attuned with nature. This is a deeply spiritual connection that often goes beyond any connection with the gods. This, of course, does not mean that druids are not religious but their power comes directly from nature itself. Druidic magic is passed down from generation to generation in an informal setting, often but not always through familial bonds. Druids have mastered nature-based spells that others find challenging. Their connection with nature usually means that they live in the wilderness, cut off from society but not always. There are such things as village druids who live on the outskirts of cities and villages and are sometimes consulted for healing, dealing with abominations, and other nature-based problems. Though rare, there are also urban druids who sometimes inhabit the sewers and green spaces in cities. Druids have a particular skill to change into wild animals that they have seen for various purposes, a power greater than a simple polymorph spell. Druids operate in societies known as “circles”. These circles allow people who live lives in the lonely wilderness a sense of community even if they live alone. Of course, druids can also easily talk to animals so they are never truly alone.

Snake Skin Pt. 2

July 13, 2019

Mera and Clark walked cautiously into the huge, empty warehouse. It smelled like a renovation site for sure but there was the scent of something wild underneath it all. Their wands did not cast nearly enough light but it gave them a perimeter. Mera watched the rear as Clark watched the front and was, therefore, leading the way. Their wands were at the ready, just as they had been so many times before. Mera knew that whatever was in the warehouse had seen her and Clark. She also knew that Clark must have realized that too. It was a measured decision, though, since neither could fight blind.

As they stepped beyond the light shining from the door, some movement suddenly entered their small circle of light. It was absolutely silent and an absolute blur of motion. Whatever it was, it had claws which stretched out toward the two wizards menacingly. Clark’s wand snapped up and he called out “Protego!” and a blue shield appeared in the air. The claws scraped against the energy of the shield and sounded like knives on steel. The shield flickered and failed but the beast had already disappeared back into the darkness.

“Shit!” Clark muttered. “It’s pretty damn big!”

“Too big for you?” Mera asked. “It’s no bigger than an Erumpet and we’ve taken care of two of those.”

“Not helping,” Clark hissed. “Watch yourself. It’s fast. What is it? You’re the scholar between us.”

“I’m not sure yet,” Mera said. “I need more info than just the claws.”

They kept moving through the darkness. Now that they knew that the creature was a hunter, they could not stay still out in the open. A few yards further and another shape loomed in their light but this time it was at ground level. Mera saw a glimpse of gray and a feline structure and she reacted immediately. She pointed her wand and called out “Reducto!” and the shape crumbled to dust violently.

“Um, Partner,” Clark said. “Did you just disintegrate our target?”

“No,” Mera said. “I had a hunch on what it might be and I was right.”

“Well, then what is it?” Clark asked.

“It’s called a Forge Tiger,” Mera said. “It uses available materials to create statue clones of itself to confuse and corral its prey.”

“Are you telling me we are dealing with an actual copy cat?” Clark asked.

Mera groaned. “Yes. That’s where the term comes from.”

“And why is it not attacking us?” Clark asked.

“My guess is that it’s pouting because we destroyed its statue,” Mera said.

“Then let’s destroy some more,” Clark said.

“You got it,” Mera said.

They started moving again and when they saw a statue, they hit it with a destructive spell and took them apart. Six statues crumbled one by one and the last one looked hastily constructed. As that last statue fell, there was a roar of challenge and desperation. A brilliantly purple tiger leaped out of the darkness, claws out. Clark pointed his wand at it and called out “Manus Fortis!” and a gigantic glowing blue hand reached out and snatched the tiger out of the air.

As Clark lowered the tiger to the ground, Mera pulled out a glass vial. It was a powerful sleeping draught that she had brewed herself as she had learned in the dungeons of Hogwarts. She unstoppered the steel flask and held it up, pointing her wand at it. She called out “Caligo!” and the liquid evaporated into a small cloud. She guided that cloud to the tiger and as soon as the tiger started to breathe it in, it fell asleep. It stopped struggling against Clark’s spell. Clark pointed his wand again and calmly said “Incarcerous” and the beast was suddenly bound in ropes.

“Good job, partner,” Clark said. “Let’s drop the copy cat off and then I owe you a crab cake.”

“I think I deserve two crab cakes,” Mera said with a smile. “and a beer.”

“A beer?” Clark asked. “It’s a deal.”

Mera smiled and thought to herself that maybe snakes can shed their skin. Maybe people can change for the better and then their life does the same. She was living proof. She hoped that her old housemates out there were doing the same. She hoped that they were happy. She hoped that the good times were finally here and that the darkness was well behind and the world was safe. She hoped and sometimes that was enough.

Media Update 7/11/19

July 11, 2019


Defunctland

I am one of the biggest fans of amusement parks who also does not really like going on rides. I did not like them as a kid and I have shied away from them ever since. However, I am a huge nerd when it comes to the construction and design of amusement park rides, attractions, and haunted houses. Recently, I discovered this YouTube documentary series which charts the rise and fall of amusement park elements and whole parks. It explores the creation and destruction of rides and attractions that range from the nostalgic to the super obscure. The show tackles all of the creative, bureaucratic, and logistical decisions that led to each subject and their demise. For example, the series charts the entire career of Michael Eisner, a household name from my childhood. While the series is largely Disney-based so far, it also covers Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and some more obscure independent parks and attractions. There are also two companion series in the form of DefunctTV and podcasts. The podcasts are often hour-long interviews with people like puppeteers, Imagineers, urban explorers, cultural historians, and many other experts in their fields. DefunctTV is a series of deep dives on now-defunct television shows, usually involving puppets. They are currently telling the entire history of the Jim Henson Company from Sam and Friends currently up to the Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and everything in between. I definitely recommend this series.


Slasher

I love horror movies and the slasher movie is part of the popularity and longevity of the horror genre by giving the genre a boost in the seventies. This show is a tribute to that subgenre with each season exploring a different story about a costumed serial killer. Each season also has to do with the main characters having to deal with the buried past and what happens when that past comes back to haunt you. I am currently on the first season which concerns The Executioner and it definitely feels like a comfortable tribute to horror. There are elements of The Silence of the Lambs, Scream, Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, and Prom Night. The show definitely has both horror and mystery elements as the main characters try to figure out who the killer is and who will be targeted next. As a horror buff, I do not find the show to be very scary as the jump scares are not frequent. However, there is definitely quite a bit of gore in some of the kills. Not insane amounts but a few so far have surprised me a bit. The show has a great ensemble cast but a special shout out to star Katie McGrath who struggles between playing detective and running from her past believably. I definitely recommend this one too.


Agatha and the Truth of Murder

It took me a long time to do so but recently I finally read some Agatha Christie books and now I see why she is so iconic. While not all of her books are for me, I recognize that she is one of the true giants who helped grow the Mystery genre. A while ago I discovered the famous tale about 11 days that were missing from Agatha Christie’s life. She had apparently blacked out and could not remember where she had been for nearly two weeks. This urban legend has now been proven false by historians. The truth is that Christie checked into a spa for that time while trying to mentally deal with her failing marriage. This movie tells a story trying to fill in those 11 days by sending Christie on a real-life murder case. The story dips into the real reasons behind her disappearance but in a more fanciful, positive way. The movie starts slowly with a lot of nods toward Christie’s early career. I was about ready to give up on the movie but then it kicked into gear and I ended up really liking it. It plays with a lot of Agatha Christie tropes and archetypes but also real-life criminal investigations. Ruth Bradley is a great, spirited Agatha Christie who learns how to turn things around in her darkest hour. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Billie Eilish – ilomilo

Logic – 1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid

Blue October – How to Dance in Time

Chloe x Halle – The Kids Are Alright

Ed Sheeran – BLOW (with Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars)

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Digging Up the Past”
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I finished Legends of Tomorrow Season 4
– I started watching Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I started watching Designated Survivor Season 3

Character Classes Pt. 1

July 8, 2019

I thought I would work on developing some thoughts I have had on the player character classes to be used in my Dungeons and Dragons setting. Some of my thoughts are based on expanding the concepts of each class. Some or all of these thoughts have probably been thought of before but I want to expand my own thinking beyond the stereotypes of the genre. The short stories I have written so far also strive to explore each of these roles and I will continue to do so as I keep expanding this world. Anyway, here is part one of three.

Wizards

The most common magic user in the whole of the world. Wizarding comes from study, practice, experimentation, and knowledge passed down through the years. Wizards stand on the shoulders of giants. Well, not literally, but they work off the foundation that their forebearers and teachers built for them. Wizards are a dime a dozen as anybody with a good enough head on their shoulders can learn spells. And so many people know a few spells but are not anything to write home about. These local wizards are more often known as ‘hedge wizards’ and they use what spells they know to help their local villages. True Wizards are something else entirely. They can often be found as adventurers or hired by nobles and royalty. Wizard training is usually done in a formal setting in schools where admission is based on aptitude, wealth, and/or lineage. The third kind of wizard is somewhat rare and that is the witch. Witches are generally rural wizards who have less formalized training mostly based on knowledge passed from person to person. Wizards also make up the entirety of utility magic users like enchanters. Enchanters usually do not become adventurers and tend to stay put to provide for the needs of the people for coin.

Warlocks

Warlocks are less common as magic users but there are still plenty around. Warlocks gain their magic from non-human patrons from beyond the world of man. They are therefore conduits of magical power and knowledge that comes from making deals with these beings. People make deals with all sorts of beings from the planes beyond the material. The first of these are the faeries who dwell in the Feywild in the chaotic maelstrom of wild magic. The second of these are the devils who dwell in the Nine Hells and impart their infernal knowledge. The third group is the celestials though not the angels or the deities themselves but the enigmatic beings that moved into the Upper Planes along with them. The fourth group is the most mysterious as some Warlocks call on beings from beyond, most of them nameless and shapeless and of unknown origin but could be more proof that there was something before the Gods. It can be hard to fully trust a Warlock as their deal with their patron sometimes drives their decisions. Haunted by dreams and voices from beyond, warlocks often have difficult choices to make that concern the clashes between free will and their supposed calling.

Sorcerers

The rarest of the magic users, Sorcerers are fewer and farther between than any other magic user in the world. Sorcerers are people who are born with the power of magic flowing through them which they can use to approximate the spells of other magic users. Except their magic does not operate the same way that it works for others. Their magic is less predictable and comes from inborn wells of power and intuition and practice. If anybody knows how sorcerers are made, they have not revealed it to anybody. Theories abound but nobody knows how they are made for sure or how to test those theories. Some think they are created when a child is born near a place of magical fallout. Others think that they have something to do with the blood of dragons, faeries, celestials or demigods. Others think the power comes from something much older than Gods and much more mysterious. Sorcerers remain a mystery but they are much revered and sought out for their unique magical abilities.

Rogues

Rogues are often the sneaky individuals who roam the world sticking to the shadows and the hidden places. The most commonly known rogue is the thief. Men and women with quick fingers who fleece the rich and they are the balancing force that opposes the law. These burglars and cutpurses are sometimes good to have along with adventuring parties as their nimble fingers and criminal experience allows them to disable traps. There is also the assassin, a killer who strikes from the shadows for coin. Assassins are not necessarily criminals as many governments employ killers for their own purposes. There are also the rogues who dabble in magic called arcane tricksters. These rogues use magic and practical methods much like their purely practical counterparts. Of course, many officers of the law and bounty hunters can also use the techniques of a rogue. Detectives and soldiers often study their prey enough that they learn to act as they do and use the shadows to their advantage. Rogues tend to be secretive folk and tend to blend into society. Many of the best of them are employed by big gangs or thieves guilds.


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