Archive for February, 2020

Hesper’s Web Pt. 2

February 29, 2020

Mariel, Dimitri, and Asher bought the supplies at the local herbalist and made their way back to the house. The whole way back, Asher jokingly complained about footing the bill once again. He was the wealthiest member of their group by far even before they had become successful adventurers. Dimitri and Dina had come from a wealthy family but they had each forsaken their birthrights for different reasons. Asher’s fame and intermittent concerts kept him fairly well off. He never spent too much beyond good food and drink for the party and held much of it in reserve for emergencies and supplies. When they arrived at the house, Mariel appropriated the kitchen table to set out all of the supplies.

“All of that’s necessary for the ritual?” Luther asked. He really had no mind for magic but he was always curious.

“Well, we had to make do with some substitutions due to being in a small town,” Mariel said. “I think it should all still work. What really matters is the prime ingredient.”

“What is it?” Luther asked. “Is it dangerous?” He trusted Mariel but he also mistrusted a lot of the world of magic.

Mariel fished a vial from her bag of holding. The dust inside was gray but when it caught the light, it had a rainbow shimmer to it. “It’s dream powder,” Mariel said. “It’s very important.”

Luther’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull. “Dream powder!?” he hissed. He looked around desperately to make sure nobody else was lurking close to the kitchen. “You know that’s an illegal drug in most of the world, right? Do you know how many authorities we’ve dealt with while you’ve held onto that?”

“I know,” Mariel said. “I’ve been ready to ditch it at a moment’s notice but it’s really hard to come by. I just couldn’t ditch a good reagent.” Mariel was mashing the ingredients into a thick paste with mortar and pestle. She was efficient and careful about her work.

“I dealt with a lot of people addicted to the stuff in my past life,” Luther said. “It was no joke.” Luther’s criminal past was not a secret as he was an open door as part of his atonement.

“I’ve seen a few addicts myself,” Mariel said. “Near the orphanage. I wouldn’t even suggest this ritual if it wasn’t the only thing I can think of to help that girl and stop Hesper.” Mariel’s past was not much brighter.

Luther thought about that for a few moments. “You’re right,” he said. “I’d do just about anything to help that innocent girl. We have to do this.”

Mariel nodded. “We do,” she said. “Sorry. This is going to be one of our strangest adventures. If it helps, I’ve really researched this a lot. It’s a very interesting ritual that I am repurposing from worshippers of Somnus. They used to use this to dream walk in order to connect with each other and bond closer as a community.”

“They regularly used dream powder?” Luther asked.

“Well,” Mariel said. “Somnus worshippers are rare. As you would think, they spend a lot of time asleep or in a waking dream state. They end up being really disconnected from reality.”

“None of that really makes me feel better about what we’re about to do,” Luther said. “Please assure me that this will go well.”

“I assure you that this will go well,” Mariel said. “We’re in this together.” The two of them smiled at each other and almost shook their heads in unison. They had all done a lot of dangerous things together. This would be no different.

“Well, any adventure we can walk away from is a good one,” Luther said. “As long as everyone can walk away. That includes little Gwen.”

“We’ll do our best as always,” Mariel said. “That will have to do.”

Dimitri entered the room. “I just need to get my armor on and I’ll be ready,” he said.

Mariel shook her head. “No armor and no weapons,” she said. “This is a purely psychic journey. We’ll be in the Plane of Dreams, specifically in the corner dedicated to Gwen.”

Everybody else had filtered into the room by that time. “Well,” Dina said. “Are we going to do this thing?”

“Let’s do this before I have to think about it too much,” Luther said.

They headed upstairs and stood around Gwen’s sleeping body. Mariel smeared the paste in designs on each of her friend’s foreheads and then her own. Finally, she drew a design on Gwendolyn’s forehead. She was so gentle. She started to intone an ancient prayer to Somnus and then everybody slumped to the floor at once. Their bodies lay sleeping where they had been standing. Though, to the adventurers, it felt like they were all water and Nina was the drain. They swirled around and around and then sank into her and then there was blackness.

Media Update 2/27/20

February 27, 2020


Jojo Rabbit

Thor Ragnarok made me absolutely fall in love with Taika Waititi’s style and each thing I see after has cemented my fandom of him. I love his sense of humor that blends so well with really deep thoughts. When I found out that he was planning a movie where a young Hitler youth has Hitler himself as his imaginary friend, I was immediately all in. I knew right away that Waititi would not engage in simple shock humor or milk the gag inappropriately. I was correct. This movie is indeed about a young boy who gets sucked up into the Nazi movement (all his friends are doing it!) during the tail end of Germany’s involvement in World War 2. Roman Griffin Davis is so great as the impressionable yet curious little boy, JoJo. Scarlett Johansen puts forward probably the best performance I have ever seen as Jojo’s hard-working and idealistic mother. Thomasin McKenzie is great as the soft-spoken yet dominant young girl that challenges Jojo. Sam Rockwell is great as a screwup Nazi officer who just seems to be a dumb jock with a secret. Of course, Taika Waititi is excellent as the zany imaginary Adolf, a cross between a wild faery and Hitler himself. The movie is a great story about growing up, learning that the people around you don’t know everything and that you should not follow the crowd. I definitely recommend it.


Frozen 2

The first Frozen was such a revelation of a movie for Disney. Along with Tangled, it really reinvigorated the animation studio and brought it up to the level of Pixar. It added that classic Disney flavor with the technical mastery that Pixar had. When the first trailer was released for the sequel, I was absolutely amazed. It upped the stakes and I knew that they would do great things with the established characters. This movie revisits the memorable characters but dives deeper, letting us know even more about these characters. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are so good as Elsa and Anna that I would watch a hundred movies with them in it together. Anna and Elsa are such good characters. Additionally, we get to go deeper with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (Josh Gad). They did not get much depth in the first movie but here they get their moments to shine. Sterling K Brown, Jason Ritter, and Rachel Matthews are really good as new characters. This is another franchise that I am absolutely happy if it ends here but I would also love to see what happens next. They opened up so much more of the world that I am fiercely curious to know more and see more. Besides, the new movie had some really great new songs. Into the Unknown is a complete banger of a song that I have been humming for days. I really recommend this one.


Wrinkles the Clown

When I heard about this movie, I thought it was just another documentary about the clown phenomenon from a few years ago. In reality, it is a surprisingly deep look at so much more than that. Primarily, the documentary is about the legend of Wrinkles the Clown. Wrinkles is a creepy old clown who hires himself out to adults to scare their kids straight. Through viral marketing tactics and the power of modern folklore, he was able to create a legend. Kids began to buy into the legend and it became a YouTube thing and then it took off. Then people started to get inspired and the famous clown sightings across the country began. People took it too far but by then it was out of everybody’s control. The documentary covers so much. It covers the legend itself, a crazy story that built over time. It interviews modern folklorists about the spread of new legends (like Charlie Charlie, Bloody Mary, Momo, etc.) It explores how something goes viral. It explores child psychology and how trading physical punishment for severe psychological torture is not the answer. I was expecting there to be more of a horror element but it actually ended up being a fairly wholesome documentary. A lot of the people involved are dreamers and it was actually a bit inspiring. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Orville Peck – Queen of the Rodeo

David Bowie – Helden

Rita Ora – Only Want You

Crazy Lixx – “Wild Child

Blanco Brown – The Git Up

Weekly Update
– This week’s theme is “Childhood Trauma”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2019/2020 and SGDQ 2019
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Bates Motel Season 1
– I watched more Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 1
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more What We Do In the Shadows Season 1
– I watched more The Witcher Season 1
– I watched more Locke and Key Season 1
– I finished October Faction Season 1

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Local Indy Show

February 24, 2020

WILPW

So almost two weeks ago, I was invited by my mother to a local indy pro-wrestling show out in West Virginia where she lives. It turns out that an acquaintance of my mom and stepfather was involved in a promotion. They knew I might enjoy it and they needed a guide in their first foray into going to a live wrasslin’ show. I was immediately excited. I had been to a few live shows but Ring of Honor’s Best in the World 2012 was the smallest show I had been to. That was still national television. The show was this past Saturday so let’s run it down.

We traveled to Inwood, WV and got there well before bell time so that we could settle and take it all in. We got ringside seats (second row out of three) and we watched the ring ropes go up. We were at a National Wrestling League show at the Randy Smith Rec Center. I went in with pretty much no foreknowledge of any characters or storylines. The only performer I kind of knew was The Patriot from his brief 1998 run in the WWF.

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Show Open

The show opened with a young lady whose name I did not catch who was singing the national anthem. She briefly mentioned an attack she had suffered previously which had injured her eyes. This brought out a villainous British manager (the KR Superstar) who threatened to have the girl injured again. He was accompanied by his Tongan client Asaafi. The two villains were headed off by the appearance of The Patriot who sent the two heels retreating to the back.

First Match – Reggie Collins (face) vs. Sean Denny w/KR Superstar (heels)

Apparently, Sean Denny (one half of the Geordie Bulldogs) is the guy who injured the young lady in the first segment by spraying green mist in her eyes. He is a stocky guy working a British Hooligan gimmick. He was tough and great at working with his manager (KR Superstar again) to cheat. He was facing the tall and skinny Reggie Collins. Reggie was out of his element as the scrappy underdog unable to really get much going against the tougher man. In the end, Denny sprayed mist into Reggie’s eyes behind the ref’s back and Reggie had to get helped to the back by his tag partner Wes Rogers.

Second Match – “Safety First” Wes Rogers (face) vs. “Chesapeake” (I didn’t catch his name) (heel)

I was immediately struck by the heel being booed as he walked to the ring with the Maryland flag draped across his back. The West Virginia crowd was ready to let him have it. He hailed from Ocean City, MD and was working a lifeguard gimmick. He was up against Wes Rogers who was very focused on safety, a tall nerdy looking dude who looked kind of like Danny Sexbang. These two worked so well together. They were both working comedy gimmicks which led to a lot of great moments. The best was when <> went for his lifeguard whistle and Wes started beating the crap out of him with the whistle still in his opponent’s mouth. With each blow, the whistle sounded over and over. So great. Wes was able to put away his opponent after a competitive match.

Third Match – LA Starr (face?) vs. Willie Radical (heel)

This was the first match without obvious alignments. I figured out at some point during this match that these two are cousins. Apparently, they were tag team champions together until Radical betrayed his cousin/partner. This was a pretty heated match that went back and forth and Radical attacked before the bell. Starr seemed to regret having to hurt his cousin but Radical was not as hesitant. Sadly, I cannot remember who won but really nobody wins in these sorts of grudge matches. I liked both of these guys’ styles and enjoyed the match immensely.

Fourth Match – The Patriot (face) vs. Asaafi (w/ KR Superstar) (heels)

This was when I learned that The Patriot is a native of Inwood, WV the very place we were at. They did this bit at the beginning where The Patriot stole the Tongan flag. I never really bought into the nationalist stuff. At first, I thought Patriot was going to subvert expectations because he got the ref to help him fold the flag up neatly and respectfully. Then he rubbed the flag against his taint. He’s supposed to be the good guy. Once we got past that, The Patriot showed that he still has it and he is in phenomenal shape even in semi-retirement. Asaafi played the cowardly yet sadistic heel well and worked well with the KR Superstar to cheat at every opportunity. The match ended weirdly with The Patriot accidentally hitting the ref with a Stinger Splash in the corner which caused a disqualification … in favor of the Patriot? Wes Rogers came back out and helped The Patriot fight the KR Superstar’s two present clients.

Intermission

There was a raffle in support of pro-wrestler Andrew Staley, a young kid who is fighting cancer. We bought several tickets (it’s a good cause) and I ended up winning the drawing! I won an NWL t-shirt (my size!), a Jon Moxley/Tyler Black DVD, an AJ Styles DVD, a mug, signed photos of Kylie Rae (with AEW logo) and ACH. It’s funny that I got pictures of two wrestlers who famously left companies with globally televised shows who quit under mysterious/shady circumstances. I also won four ringside tickets. I can’t wait! I hope Andrew Staley gets all the help he needs fighting this thing and that he recovers.

D.A.D. Rules

Daniel Allen Dabrowski came out to the Family Matters theme song and chose to lecture the audience on their fitness. He recommended we drink Diet Coke and do about six assisted pushups a day. During his hilarious promo, he mixed up the names of social media terms and grounded his daughter who was ringside. Good stuff.

Fifth Match – “The Steel City Sex Pistol” Shane Malice (heel) vs. “The Red Prince” Tiberius Sykes (heel)

Getting me to boo a heel from Pittsburgh is a no brainer. Also, Malice reminded me of a young AJ Styles (before he was flat earther and a homophobe?). Seeing Sykes was great because it was the first person of color I saw at the event. He hailed from Baltimore and had the best gear of the night. The two were pretty much at the top of their game but Shane had an answer for pretty much anything Sykes had. Sykes posed too much and paid for it. In the end, Shane got a pair of brass knuckles confiscated only for Sykes to pull out a pair of his own. In the chaos, Shane hit Sykes with his own brass knuckles to end the fight.

Sixth Match – Antony Atom (face) vs. Doug Delicious (heel) – NWL Heavyweight Title Match

This was a really good match and obviously, these two guys are experienced. Delicious had a really, really good look as an arrogant and gruff pretty boy heel. He played a cowardly and devious heel who got so much reaction for very little work. Antony Atom is the current heavyweight champion working sort of a Spartan gimmick. He ran up against the muscular and intelligent Doug Delicious but refused to quit. He pulled out the victory and also fought off the post-match attack by Shane Malice who might be his next challenger. There was a really great story to this match that was so easy to follow and the crowd was hot for Atom and absolutely hated Delicious.

Seventh Match – Deuce Donatelli, Shorty Smalls, and Jimmy Cicero (faces) vs. Ethan Cross, El Maton Cizzko, and Cory Bush (w/ Humphrey J. Dupont IV) (heels)

Apparently, there was a gag where the faces replaced the heels’ entrance song with Baby Shark which led to the heels being furious and getting taunted. The Dupont Family obviously represented money and privilege and at the last minute, Humphrey substituted hired gun Cory Bush in for himself in the match. The blue-collar faces tried their best to fight against blatant cheating at every turn. I was impressed with how good Jimmy Cicero looked and he was obviously the faces’ top dog. In the end, the match broke down into chaos and Deuce was knocked out by a blow from Humphrey’s briefcase and then pinned. This set up a match between Cory Bush and Deuce Donatelli for the NWL Vista Championship.

Overall, I loved the show and our whole group definitely went home happy. I will be going back since I won those tickets but honestly, I would probably go back at some point anyway. The company has a lot of heart and apparently a lot of it is on YouTube.

Hesper’s Web

February 22, 2020

Gwendolyn Conli had been asleep for a month when the party had arrived in town. Famously, Gwen had recently had an encounter with the spider devil, Hesper. When Asher had turned up that information, Mariel and Dimitri had pushed to visit the town of Redstone to see the young girl. Mariel was sure that the devil-touched young girl might provide them with a link to the devil or at least a lead on how to get at her. The team had traveled to the sleepy little town and had made their way to the bedside of young Gwendolyn. The rumor mill had clued them into the connection to Hesper but not the poor girl’s seemingly eternal slumber. Now all six of them stood at Gwendolyn’s bedside along with the town’s mayor and the girl’s parents.

“Is there nothing to be done for Gwendolyn?” the mayor asked.

“None of us are especially skilled healers,” Dimitri said. “We have some skill but we’re more defenders and eliminators.” Dimitri could call upon his connection with Lathander to heal, Fern could use the healing power of nature, and Asher had some healing ability through his music. Luther, Mariel, and Dina were mostly on offense in tight situations.

“That’s the truth,” Luther said. “We’re very sorry. However, we do want to get our hands on the creature that did this.” Hesper’s corruptive effect was well known and the call had gone out for adventurers to send the devil back to Hell.

“But how are we going to get any devil info out of her if she’s still so sleepy?” Dina asked. Obviously, Dina was a bit more goal-oriented than the rest of the team. The worried looks on the mayor’s and the parents’ faces

“Dina!” Mariel scolded. “Have some respect. There must be a solution here that can satisfy everyone.” More often than not, Mariel found herself falling into the role of team mom. She really had not wanted that job but she could not stop herself. Besides, she was decades older than most of her friends.

“Right,” Luther said. “We never give up. A magical problem must have a magical solution. Do we have any ideas that might work here? Even crazy ones.”

“We only have crazy ideas,” Asher said with a smirk. The whole party seemed to think about their wild, adventurous history.

“He’s not wrong,” Mariel said. “However, I have been doing some obscure research. Mrs. and Mr. Conli, it would not be without its risks but almost all of those risks would be to us.”

“Uhh,” Dina said. Everybody looked nervous. Well, Fern did not really look nervous but she was not very expressive. Fern may have actually been asleep in the corner.

“It should be perfectly safe,” Mariel said. “I just don’t think this has been attempted in over three centuries.”

“Why don’t you explain your idea, Mariel,” Luther said. “Then we can decide whether we’re doing it.”

“Oh, we’re probably doing it,” Asher said. “We always do.”

“I have been studying some texts written by worshippers of Somnus,” Mariel said. “What I propose is a ritual where we enter Gwendolyn’s dreams. We would be exposed to her dreams, her nightmares, and a landscape more unpredictable than the Faewild. Also, somewhere in there is probably an avatar of Hesper.”

“We’d have to have your permission,” Luther said, looking at the parents.

“Know that we would rather be harmed ourselves than allow more harm to your child,” Dimitri said.

The parents looked at each other for a moment. “Please help our little girl,” Mr. Conli said. “If you do nothing, she might stay like this.”

“We’ve heard of you,” Ms. Conli said. “We trust your reputation.”

“I’ll prepare for the ritual then,” Mariel said. “Rest up everyone, this will be difficult.”

“What can we do?” the mayor asked.

“Seal off this house,” Luther said. “Defend this family while we go in. We’ll handle the rest.”

“I’ll take Asher to go get supplies for you,” Dimitri said to Mariel.

“Actually, I will have to go with you but I could definitely use your assistance.”

“Great,” Luther said. “Meet back here in a few hours.”

Media Update 2/20/20

February 20, 2020


Locke & Key

Unfortunately, I never read the comics but I have heard they are excellent and now I definitely want to. This show is so good. It is one part mystery, one part horror, one part fantasy, one part drama, and one part comedy. It blends so many genres together into a really interesting show that ends up being a roller coaster of emotions each episode. I also really like the magic of the world that they built. It feels a bit like a story I worked on years ago called The Key (total coincidence) that I faltered on. It follows a family after a tragedy, trying to put their lives back together in their ancestral home. That is when they stumble upon the supernatural and must make sense of a whole new world. The kids are played by Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones, and Jackson Robert Scott and they are instantly likable and I want to know them better and follow their stories. Darby Stanchfield plays the mother and she is just trying to keep it all together. Laysla De Oliveira plays a delightfully fun and snarky villain. I am only a little ways in and I am absolutely hooked. I definitely recommend this show.


Toy Story 4

I was surprised when I woke up on a Monday and heard that this movie had won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. However, now that I have actually watched it, I can see it. Somehow, this franchise actually gets better and better. The previous films’ enormous, all-star voice cast returns and they are all so good. We also get some awesome new additions like Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, and the return of Annie Potts. Tony Hale’s character (Forky) who you may have seen in advertisements seemed like a weird joke but he adds so much life and depth to the movie that I kind of wish he had shown up earlier. Christina Hendricks plays such a good villain and, in the Toy Story tradition, she is not just a blackhearted villain. The movie has such heart and explores even deeper implications to the Toy Story universe. It is such a great way to cap off the franchise if they want to but it also a really good new beginning should they wish to continue. Either way, I feel like I will be content. I definitely recommend this movie.


The Blackcoat’s Daughter

This will be the fifth A24-distributed horror movie that I have seen and I have loved every single one. (Green Room, The Witch, Life After Beth, Hereditary, and this one). Also, fittingly this movie takes place in February. However, the reason why I chose to watch it was Kiernan Shipka who I have grown to love as an actress. The movie is deeply atmospheric and oozing with creepiness. If I had known about this movie, I would have been sure that Shipka could exist in a horror setting before Sabrina premiered. She is so good in this, a quiet but dominating presence. Lucy Boynton is such a delicate flower that I worried for her the whole movie. Emma Roberts is absolutely sinister. James Remar is so kind and peaceful. Lauren Holly is so lost. The movie kind of plays as a mystery. I was so lost through probably the first half until I started to realize what was happening. A24 has such a good ability to pick and distribute atmospheric, slow-burning horror movies that just apply pressure the entire runtime. Director and writer Osgood Perkins did a really good job and it definitely makes me want to see some more of his work. I recommend this movie but it is not for the faint of heart.

Music of the Week:
TOKiMONSTA – Fried for the Night

Elvis Perkins – In the Garden

Squarepusher – Terminal Slam

Beach Bunny – Painkiller

Audrey – Comic Sans

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Left Behind”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2020
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more The Chilling Tales of Sabrina Season 2
– I watched more Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 1
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more What We Do In the Shadows Season 1

Games Done Quick

February 17, 2020

It has been years since I first watched my first Let’s Play, something that I still really enjoy watching. A “Let’s Play” is when you watch somebody play a video game online usually with running commentary over it. There are so many games that I cannot buy and play them all so this is often a way to stay in the loop without breaking the bank. Also, sometimes I want to check out a game before I buy it and watching a Let’s Play is a great way to make sure the gameplay looks interesting enough. However, the real reason to watch is because of the personalities of the players. Currently, I have moved on from YouTube to watching a few streamers on Twitch (BarryisStreaming, MissDeerface, Gamblord, etc.). Their personalities are less polished and feel more real especially since they communicate with chat in real time as they play.

Anyway, a while back Barry Kramer more or less introduced me to the world of speedrunning. Speedrunning is a community in itself where players work to complete video games or tasks in video games as fast as possible. It always sounded stressful to me but the community has grown by leaps and bounds since the early 2000s. It especially grew once streaming was established. However, I watched speedrun races on Barry’s channel and I was fascinated. What I watched was something called Speedrun Bingo. The two competitors pick any games they want to in order to accomplish specific, generic tasks. The competitiveness and fun of trying to think one’s way through memories of games were great to watch. Barry’s mentor in this was BubblesDelFuego, a professional speedrunner.

It was also through Barry that I learned about Games Done Quick. Several times a year, the organization gathers together tons of speedrunners for a marathon streamed over a period of several days. The two main events are Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick. Both of these are huge charity events for the Prevent Cancer Foundation (and sometimes other charities like Doctors Without Borders). Viewers and attendees donate throughout the week-long events. In return for their donations, they can vote in polls to make things harder and/or funnier for the players. Gameplay is timed and can last anywhere from five minutes to several hours.

I finally decided to watch some of it and I started with the highly recommended run of Animorphs on the Gameboy which was run this year by Keizaron. The game is hilariously difficult and poorly programmed but the presentation made it so enjoyable. First, each run is commented on by the player and their friends/colleagues sitting on a couch behind them. It allows the couch to explain things or run commentary during parts where the player needs to concentrate. It keeps things running and entertaining with no dead air.

A few weeks of watching videos from January’s AGDQ event and I finally realized how best to explain the event. It is speedrunning’s equivalent to TEDtalks. In fact, a lot of the runs feel like they are structured like a TED talk. The player and the couch often explain things about programming, graphics, and mechanics with visual aids. There are plenty of jokes and it is packaged for easy consumption. I have learned things about video games and the community that I had never known before even after decades of playing video games. I have laughed hard enough to have to pause videos. It is absolutely fascinating and I never expected it to be. It is also a very inclusive event, inviting people from all over the world (as long as they can afford to travel to the USA). I wish there were more women speedrunners but they are definitely not excluded and are very popular.

It is also a really positive event. The gaming community at large has a lot of toxic individuals in it but GDQ seems to have figured out how to invite only those with positive attitudes. Everybody is having a really good time playing and everybody really wants to be there and put on a good show. Even when they are playing some truly awful games, they make the best of it and turn it all into a party. They also really want to drive donations to a good cause. Unlike other areas of gaming, women and LGBTQ+ people are all accepted and encouraged to engage with the community. I was absolutely blown away when I was watching videos from the event and I saw people being introduced with their pronouns under their name. It made me so happy. It means that they are accepting of nonbinary and trans people which was so amazing and wholesome to me.

I would encourage you to watch some of these amazing events just to get a window into a positive world with much to teach. Also, it’s just hilarious. I have embedded a few choice videos for that purpose.

As Time Goes By Pt. 6

February 15, 2020

The city sentinels were quick to arrive on the scene. When a building, even just a cottage, collapses, it is always cause for concern. Following close behind them was the building’s owner who was a sturdy old woman who was definitely freaking out. Many expletives were slipping from her mouth. The sentinels were cautious as the dust had not settled yet. The strongest of the sentinels were closest to the scene, ready to lift and dig through rubble and debris should anybody be trapped inside during the partial collapse.

“Hullo!” the commerce district shift captain called out. “Anybody in there?”

“A few of us,” Luther called out. “Sorry for trespassing.”

“Are you alright?” the astonished captain called back.

“We’ve got some unconscious wounded,” Luther yelled. “We’ve stabilized them but we’d appreciate some help before we get arrested. We’ll come along peacefully.”

The captain looked at a subordinate and pointed toward the nearest temple. The young woman ran off to fetch some clerics. “Agreed,” the captain said. “Holy healers are on their way.”

“Good,” Luther said. “I’m coming out unharmed to parlay.” He walked out of the rubble with his hands up and weaponless.

“What the devils did you do to my haunted cottage?” the landlady yelled at him.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Luther said. “We’ve un-haunted it.”

The woman narrowed her eyes. “Bloody, adventurers.”

Mariel woke up in a bed in the back of a temple dedicated to Asherah. She knew it immediately from the banner on the wall. She blinked in the dim light. She muttered a few words and the lamps burned brighter. As the light expanded, she saw Luther step forward from where he was standing in the corner. His eyes were kind and there was a smile on his face.

“Take it slow, Mariel,” Luther said. “Everything’s fine. You’re safe.”

She was not sure she wanted to ask any questions because, despite his assurances, Mariel was not sure she wanted to hear the answers. “What happened?” she asked, her voice shaking a little.

“You and Asher pushed yourself too hard,” Luther said. “You both passed out mid casting. Dimitri and Fern made sure you two were stable. You and Asher blew up the cottage. Fern and Dina slipped away as wolves just in case things didn’t go well with the authorities. The city sentinels were agreeable enough but Dimitri had to sweet talk a very upset landlady. Apparently, she was using the cottage as a haunted attraction without knowing what exactly was going on. We’re in the clear but I had to drop a lot of gold to smooth things over. I also volunteered Dimitri, Dina, and myself to do the physical labor of repairs for the cottage.”

Mariel gave Luther a stern look. “Luther,” she said and his name resonated almost with a magic of its own. “What about my parents?”

“They’re still recovering but they’re alive,” Luther said. “Apparently, time travel takes a lot out of you. The clerics think that they’ll recover consciousness in the next day or so. You did it. You brought your parents back.”

Mariel laid back for a moment with a big smile. “Remind me to thank Asher,” she said.

“There will be plenty of time for that,” Luther said. “He’s still asleep but we’ve all decided to stick around here until your parents are alright. Oh, and we have a cottage to rebuild.”

“Are you sure?” Mariel asked. “Don’t we have lives to save? Also, I interrupted everybody’s vacation.”

“Stop feeling so guilty about that,” Luther said. “It was obviously worth it. You and Asher can continue your vacations in recovery. As for the rest of us, hanging out and building a cottage is way more relaxing than fighting monsters. I’d say it’s still a vacation.”

Mariel smiled and for a moment thought she might cry. “You guys are the best,” she said softly.

Luther smiled warmly and shrugged. “We need you, Mariel,” he said. “We’re happy to see you happy.”

“And you told me that you were a bad, bad man when we met,” she said. “You’re really just an old softie.”

“Don’t tell anybody,” Luther said. “I’m going to go check on Asher. Rest up and I’m sure you’ll be able to talk to your parents soon.”

Mariel felt her eyes getting heavy and she yawned. “Maybe you’re right,” she said. “I’m just going to take another nap.” She was asleep before Luther made it out the door.

Media Update 2/13/20

February 13, 2020


Birds of Prey

I will be blunt and say that DC poisoned their own well when it comes to movies so I will eternally be wary of what they produce from here forward. However, when I first heard of this movie when it was announced, I was excited that it would be produced by Margot Robbie. Back then they were calling it Gotham Sirens but I was excited about a movie directed, produced, written by, and starring women. One of the two DC movies that appealed to me in the past ten eight years was directed and starred a woman. However, I will say I liked this one better. The movie stars versions of Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya. Part of what made me love this movie is how much fun it looked like Margot Robbie was having as Harley. She was so much fun and a lot more complex than her previous outing. Jurnee Smollett-Bell (as Black Canary) stole a lot of the scenes she was in with how cool she was and how much I loved her character. Rosie Perez shone as the brassy and tired Renee Montoya. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was so funny and loveably awkward as Huntress. Ella Jay Basco played an innovative version of Cassandra Cain who I want to see more of. Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina were the perfect villains. The movie felt like it was practically directed by the character Harley Quinn which is a credit to director Cathy Yan and Christina Hodson (the latter of which has already been hired to write two more DC films!). I recommend this movie for a really good time.


Descendants 3

We all know that I am a Disney nerd and, as the years go by, I am only becoming a bigger one. The Descendants is the perfect series for me. A musical movie series that is adapted from the entire library of Disney’s animated canon. The central cast from the beginning has been the daughter of Maleficent, the daughter of the Evil Queen, the son of Jafar, and the son of Cruella Deville. They are played respectively by Cameron Dove, Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart, and Cameron Boyce (RIP). There is an island where all Disney villains were banished to but now their kids are starting to be given a chance at redemption and a better life by the world the heroes built. It ends up being quite a fascinating look at what good and evil mean as it explores a lot of the gray areas of morality. The heroes can do bad things and the villains can do good things. The usual cast from the last two movies comes back but we get some great additions. I have to give a special shout out to Sarah Jeffery who plays Audrey, the daughter of Aurora and Prince Phillip. She was not new but I have to mention how good China Ann McClain who is so likable as Ursula’s daughter. I also really liked Cheyenne Jackson as Hades, he was funny yet way deeper than I expected. I think that is part of why I love this series because it does get deeper than I expect each time and the writing makes sense and it draws from a deep well of stories. It also has a really fun, poppy musical-style soundtrack that I love. I recommend the whole series for Disney fans.


The Saint (2017)

Interestingly, this was supposed to be a pilot for a new The Saint television series (a remake of the 1960s series). The show was never picked up and the pilot was to remain unaired until Roger Moore died and the decision was made to air it as it was one of the last things he filmed (also he was the original star of the 1960s series). Adam Rayner is very charismatic and fun as Simon Templar, the quick-witted and funny master thief who steals from villains and gives to charity. His partner in crime/crime-fighting is played by Elisha Dushku who is why I watched this movie in the first place. I love her so much and she is so stylish in this. I really wish the series had been picked up because it would have included great characters from Greg Grunberg, Yani Gellman, Enrique Murciano, and Sir Roger Moore. The writing is a lot of fun and the two-episode pilot shows a lot of promise. Dushku and Rayner work really well together and their dialogue shows loads of chemistry. I recommend this as well.

Music of the Week:
Joji – Run

Grupo Firme – La Estoy Pasando Mal

Tones and I – Dance Monkey

Steam Powered Giraffe – Hot on the Trail

Galantis – San Francisco feat. Sofia Carson

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Good is the New Bad”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 9
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2020
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more The Chilling Tales of Sabrina Season 2
– I watched more Ducktales Season 2
– I watched more Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3

Stardew Valley and My Time at Portia

February 10, 2020

I have stopped re-watching television shows and movies because there is just too much to watch to repeat anything. There is always something I have not watched that I want to watch. However, that rule really does not apply to video games. There are plenty of video games that I have replayed over and over because they are just so enjoyable. I am well known to have replayed Dark Cloud 1 and 2. I just replayed the Kingdom Hearts series. I have repeatedly played Final Fantasies VII, IX, X, and X2. Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands the Pre-Sequel were built for replays. The list goes on. However, those are not what I am here to talk about today. Instead, I would like to talk about two games.

The first game is Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley took the gaming world by storm when it was released. It is the kind of game that appeals to gamers who like a very chill experience. The game is a lot to describe. I never played Harvest Moon but people have compared it to that franchise. However, Stardew is delightfully different. The plot of the game is that your character (male or female) visits their grandfather on his death bed. He gives you an envelope to open on a day when you need it most. One day, at your soul-crushing corporate job, you cannot take it anymore and you open the envelope. You have inherited a farm. You travel by bus to the quaint town of Stardew Valley.

Upon arrival, there is so much for you to do. You have your farm on which you grow crops and raise animals. Each season, you have a list of viable crops that you can grow. That is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole cast of colorful characters in town that you can get to know over time. Little by little you can befriend them all and learn more about their lives as you become friends. In addition, there are ten young people who are available to date. Five guys and five girls. They all have distinct personalities and all of them are available for opposite sex or same-sex relationships. There are also dungeons and mines that you can explore, fighting monsters and collecting treasure. The game also has the best fishing minigame in it. Finally, there is a very intricate crafting system.

Stardew has a simple art style that is very cartoony and endearing. The 16-bit graphics allow for a very cute, expressive animation style. During dialogue, you see close up portraits of the characters so that you can see them emote. Through play, you get to know all of these characters and the world around them. It is a world shared with monsters, ghosts, dwarves, goblins, and all sorts of other magic. It has a rich story that includes a morality system of sorts. The game is full of choices. Evil choices lead to greater wealth but good choices lead to a better world. It is up to you. The next time I play, I am finally going to choose the evil side and I am frightened. The game is still being updated and I am fascinated by all of the new stuff that comes up.

The other game that I want to talk about is one that I started playing this past weekend. The game is called My Time in Portia and it is similar but also different from Stardew Valley. I will say that most Stardew players would enjoy it as well as it scratches a lot of the same itches. The game starts in a similar manner. You have inherited your father’s old workshop just outside the gates of the town of Portia. You work to become the number one builder in town through filling out commissions given out by the bureaucracy. The crafting system is so much more robust and I am astonished by how much I have seen and I have only scratched the surface.

Everything in My Time in Portia feels more complicated but still manageable. There is a relationship mechanic where you can meet and get to know all of the various people in town. However, there is a bit more at stake. For example, you have a rival who does not really like you that you have to deal with. There are also criminals. While Stardew deals with marriage and kids, Portia deals with that and also deals with breakups and divorce. I have no idea who is off-limits for romance yet (although presumably the children and married couples). There are also so many more people. There are also both dungeons and mining although they are entirely different systems. The game is so much bigger than Stardew and I am absolutely hooked. Even with the game crashing a couple of times, I still really want to play it.

As Time Goes On

February 8, 2020

The team followed behind Dina who was leading them toward the source of the high-pitched sound that only her canine senses could perceive. They walked through the city’s winding streets carefully. Dina was focused on the sound which was obviously causing her stress. She ignored the people in the street so Fern had to occasionally nudge her so she would not run into other people. Mariel’s heart was thudding as she struggled to keep up. Of course, Luther’s legs were shorter but he seemed so nimble. It could be frustrating. She kept going, trying not to get her hopes up. She was failing miserably.

They made their way through the streets and arrived in a less populated part of town. Dina found her way to the door of an abandoned cottage and she started to pull the boards off of it. Dimitri was suddenly at her side with a hand axe, chopping the boards to pieces. Dina smirked and opened the door and slipped in before anybody could say anything Everybody scrambled in after her and Mariel’s heart thudded harder and faster. She was close to being unable to keep her footing her knees were so weak.

In the cottage, there was a scene unlike anything any of them had ever seen. Mariel did not even need to use her detect magic spell. There was stone shrapnel everywhere but it was flickering and fluttering. There were all sorts of debris in a similar state floating in the room. Everybody stopped and stared just inside the door. Mariel slowly walked forward and the objects in the room phased through her. The others subsequently heard their wizard scream louder and longer than they ever had. They rushed forward and there in the very center of the cottage, they saw what Mariel had screamed about. Suspended in the air were two figures. They flickered and blinked but everybody could see that they were elves and there was a certain familial resemblance.

“Those are my parents,” Mariel said, turning toward her friends. “They might be alive. We have to do something!”

“We’re at your disposal,” Luther said. “You’re in charge here. Guide us.”

“Please just do it fast,” Dina said. “The sound is driving me crazy.”

“I have no experience with this sort of magic,” Mariel said. “I can’t think straight.”

“Wait,” Asher said. “I think I have an idea.”

“Really?” Mariel asked. “Please do tell.” She watched the bard with bright, curious eyes. She was shaken but she was hopeful.

“In the search for the perfect sound, I have long searched for new methods,” Asher said. “This includes, of course, infusing my music with magic and vice versa.” The bard could be fond of his own voice and loved an audience. This was the most wrapt he had gotten his friends to be.

“Asher!” Dina shouted. “Stop talking and do it! I’ll be outside. I can’t stand that sound anymore.” She turned to walk out.

Asher caught her arm in his hand. “Not yet,” he said. “I need you, Dina.”

“What are you talking about?” Dina asked.

“You’re the only one who can hear the sound and I need your ears,” Asher said.

Dina clapped her hands over her ears. “You maniac,” she said. “Leave my body parts alone.”

Asher laughed. “No,” he said. “I’ll use a new trick I’ve learned. It’s called a telepathic bond. It won’t hurt.”

“I trust you,” Dina said and took a deep breath. Dimitri stepped up and took hold of her hand to comfort her.

Asher began to hum and then his and Dina’s eyes flashed briefly light blue. Then he and Dina’s thoughts began to blend and suddenly Asher could hear the high pitched tone. It was loud and it was unique.

“You’re right, Dina,” Asher said. “This is painful.” He pulled out his lute and started to pick at the strings. There was a rush of magic as he put everything he was into the instrument and the sound that came from it. Soon nobody but Dina and Asher could hear his plucking. He was obviously trying to find a certain note. He found a counter note and something resonated through the cottage. It was something everybody could feel deep inside. “I’m using counterspell, Mariel. Care to join me?”

Mariel pulled out her magic wand and pointed it at her parents and spoke the words and willed an end to magic. She poured everything she could into the spell, pushing it all at her parents. She saw Asher doing the same thing. She had never attempted anything like this before and she was sure Asher had not either. She felt her very soul falter for a moment and she heard Asher grunt. She closed her eyes and prayed to whatever Gods would listen. There was a powerful wave of anti-magic and then there was an explosion that knocked one wall of the cottage to pieces.


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