Archive for July, 2022

The Harvest

July 30, 2022

The lonely hawk flew along the city walls, zig-zagging as it looked for a good perch. This part of the city was still mostly abandoned after the giant attack. Average citizens had no reason to frequent what were now ruins. Engineers and builders frequented the area but they did not have a large enough workforce to be everywhere. So it was that just like with other unused spaces, criminals moved in to use them. None of the criminals installed anything permanent but the area was perfect for uninterrupted secret meetings.

If the workers and criminals in the area bothered to look up, the hawk would have been fairly unremarkable. Some birds of prey did stray near the city and helped curb the rodent problem, especially in the damaged parts far from the hunting grounds of any feral cats. The part that was rather remarkable was that this hawk had a passenger. A tiny mouse clung to the bird’s neck feathers, managing to stay on even with the crosswinds up that high. The hawk made big swooping circles but finally came in for a landing in the remains of what must have been a wizard’s tower.

The mouse chittered and smoothed its fur before jumping off of the hawk. As it walked away, the mouse slowly transformed into the elven form of Becka. As she attained her normal form, she shivered and shook off the feeling of the magical transformation. She did not look pleased.

“That was weird,” she said. “That was really weird. I’m not sure if I hated it or liked it. My head is still spinning.”

The hawk shimmered and was instantly replaced by the form of the young druid Joshua. The young halfling was smug and gave a half-hearted shrug.

“That’s probably the effect of your intellect dropping to that of a mouse and then going back up,” Joshua said. “Though, in your case, it’s probably not that great of a difference.” He was perched a bit on top of a broken-down bit of wall. They were mostly enclosed in the top of the tower, giving them a bit of privacy.

“Watch your tongue, boy,” Becka said, her eyes narrowing with annoyance and the early rumblings of anger. “You know who and what I am.” She smoothed her cloak and tossed her auburn hair, an arrogant habit she had. She was a little more relaxed, sure that they would probably not be spotted anytime soon.

“Oh I know,” Joshua said with a smile. “The Harvest. The Coming Winter. The Butcher of Khull. I know all of your names and the reputation that comes with them.” 

“So you know that I could kill you in any number of ways,” Becka said. “I killed with a table leg. Ten soldiers with a table leg.” She gripped the hilt of her saber with a somewhat haughty expression.

Joshua nodded. “I’ve heard the stories,” he said. “I also know that you only kill criminals or enemy combatants. I am neither. You hired me to get you across the city.”

Becka’s eyes narrowed again. “Because you picked my pocket,” she said. “Which makes you a criminal. I also thought you would point me towards a shortcut through the sewers.”

“Sewers? Not ideal. You know what goes into the sewers, right?” Joshua asked with a smile. “Learning how to be a fish is kind of weird too. Fish are also somehow more stupid than mice.”

“We don’t have to be fish,” Becka said. “Do you ever just walk anywhere?”

“Ugh, not if I can help it,” Joshua said. “It takes forever. Look how quickly we flew.”

“Not exactly stealthy or safe,” Becka said.

“Look, we could sit around here discussing my methods or you could get on with the killing,” Joshua said.

“You’re not needed here,” Becka said, pulling out her bow to assemble it.”You can go.”

There was a long silence and then Joshua spoke. “Oh, what’s your exit strategy then?” Joshua asks.

Becka barely flinched. It was subtle but Joshua spotted it. “I’ll figure it out,” she said softly.

“Maybe I want to stick around,” Joshua said. “I’ve never seen an assassination before.”

“Suit yourself,” Becka said with a shrug. “If you get in my way, I will take you down.” She pulled out her quiver of arrows.

“Noted,” Joshua said and pulled out an apple to eat.

Media Update 7/28/22

July 28, 2022

The Gray Man

I love a good action movie that pits a one-person army against impossible odds. A convict is given a choice to become a CIA dark ops killer or rot in jail. Years later, he is forced to go up against his own government. Ryan Gosling plays the titular gray man and is good at being both charming and ruthless. Chris Evans plays a military contractor and is hilariously weird. Ana De Armas plays a regular agent who gets caught up in everything and is just as badass and charming as usual. Jessica Henwick and Regé-Jean Page played great bickering bureaucrat villains. Billy Bob Thornton is a great, gruff but loveable jerk with a heart of gold. The movie has a lot of great action coupled with both drama and comedy. I recommend this movie.

American Crime Story: Impeachment

I remember this media storm but I was young and uncritical at the time but this true event helped shape my political path. I am grateful for this series because it allows me and others to reexamine the events without the trashiness that I remember. Shows like this are always best with accompanying fact-check articles and guides. However, the acting is also really good. Beanie Feldman is so good at portraying Monica Lewinsky as fragile and naive but also not without her flaws. Sarah Paulson is great as the bitter yet complicated Linda Tripp. Annaleigh Ashford plays the naive and nice Paula Jones. Clive Owen is a pitch-perfect Bill Clinton, sleazy yet powerful. The rest of the cast is awesome but a special shout-out to Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter. She makes my skin crawl in all of the correct ways. I recommend this show.

No Time To Die

I have seen quite a few James Bond movies and Daniel Craig’s version felt like a breath of fresh air for the series. As Craig got tired of being in the series, I kind of felt the same about watching it but the moves were always full of great performances and action scenes. This movie is no different. Bond comes out of retirement to get his revenge on the organization that ruined his life. Craig is probably at his best here, portraying Bond with more heart and a lot of world-weariness. Léa Seydoux is great as the smart and tough doctor who Bond fell in love with. Rami Malek plays a creepy yet strangely sympathetic villain. Lashana Lynch shines as the snarky new 007. Ana De Armas has a really great brief role that made me love her even more. Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, and Ralph Fiennes return as their familiar characters. The movie was good and was a great close to the Craig version of 007. I recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

Devon Cole – W.I.T.C.H.

Gnome – Wenceslas

Cannons – Hurricane

Mckenna Grace- You Ruined Nirvana

Mashup of the Week:

B29 Mashups – Monet X Industry Baby

Weekly Update:

  • This week’s theme is “Secrets”
  • I watched a ton of YouTube and Twitch: Game Grumps, Barry Kramer, Gabi Belle, Super Beard Bros, Attorney Tom, Impact Wrestling, All Elite Wrestling, Major League Wrestling, Games Done Quick, Cruel World Happy Mind, Emily D. Baker, Super Horror Bro, GTLive, Wendigoon
  • I watched more Riverdale Season 5
  • I watched more Umbrella Academy Season 3
  • I watched more The Flash Season 8

An Exhaustive Summary of the Batman: Arkham Games Pt. 3

July 25, 2022

Last time in Arham Games: The League of Shadows engineered a plan to wall off the Gotham slums in order to murder the criminals of Gotham. Batman pulled triple duty by facing off with the criminals of Gotham, a government-contracted militia, and a fatal blood poisoning gifted to him from The Joker. It ended with the death of Hugo Strange, Ra’s Al Ghul, and The Joker himself. We left Batman emerging from the iconic Monarch Theater, cradling Joker’s dead body as authorities (and Harley Quinn) look on.

Eight years prior to the events of Arkham Asylum, the city of Gotham is rife with crime. The days of the mafioso are waning and the first supervillains are emerging. The police force and government, in general, are horribly corrupt. 

The game begins on Christmas Eve and a riot has broken out in Blackgate Prison. Somebody has broken into the prison on the night that Julian Day aka “The Calendar Man” is set to be executed. Batman has arrived uninvited to help with the crisis even though he is a target of police investigation himself. He infiltrates the prison which is spiraling into chaos as several inmates are already free. Batman rescues Warden Joseph only to have to fend off the Warden’s attack as well. He moves on after declaring that he is there to help.

Batman hurries further into the prison, close on the heels of the intruding force. It becomes clear that Black Mask has arrived with Killer Croc who is the muscle allowing him to bypass security. Batman struggles to keep up with the villains as he is forced to stop to fight escaped inmates in order to rescue guards and reporter Vicki Vale. Along the way, he also spots a drone following the path of destruction. Another mystery. Croc eventually destroys the drone much to Black Mask’s annoyance as he wanted the drone to be studied. Batman is able to recover the drone’s data storage before moving on. He arrives at the gas chamber just in time to watch Black Mask force Police Commissioner Loeb to take Calendar Man’s place in the execution. Batman is too late to save Loeb’s life.

Batman chases Black Mask and Killer Croc to the roof where a helicopter is waiting to whisk Black Mask and his men away. Killer Croc smells Batman’s scent and decides to remain behind to fight the Dark Knight. Batman fights Croc in close quarters on the roof as the helicopter keeps depositing Black Mask’s men to aid Croc. Of course, the murderous giant has no regard for Black Mask’s men and is just as likely to hurt them as he is to hurt Batman. As Batman defeats Killer Croc, the helicopter retreats as the GCPD approaches. Batman interrogates Croc who is smugly confident that Batman is screwed since “they” are coming for him. The police rush the roof and Batman comes face to face with Detective Jim Gordon for the first time. Batman avoids arrest by jumping off the roof so the Batwing can swoop in and allow his escape.

Batman quickly returns to the Batcave and he and Alfred access the chip he retrieved from the downed drone from Blackgate. He searches the footage and finds tape of a meeting held by Black Mask as he puts out a bounty for eight of the world’s deadliest assassins. The first is Killer Croc who Batman has already beaten into submission and remanded to police custody. There are still seven assassins out there, hunting for Batman for a $50 million bounty. Those assassins are Deathstroke, Bane, Lady Shiva, Deadshot, Electrocutioner, and Firefly. Alfred implores Batman to just spend Christmas Eve at Wayne Manor with Alfred. No Batman means no bounty. Batman points out that the assassins will simply harm innocents to draw Batman out and he cannot live with that. He sets out to figure out where Black Mask is to put an end to it.

Batman has a lead on an illegal arms sale that is linked to the brand of drone that infiltrated the prison. He flies off toward The Bowery to stake out the sale but the Batwing’s navigation systems are scrambled. It seems that somebody has hijacked the proprietary technology that Batman has attached to radio towers throughout the city. Batman is forced to land at one of the towers and make his way to the top to investigate the interference. Several thugs are protecting the tower. Batman easily defeats these criminals, saving repairmen who have been taken as hostages. As he flushes the hacker’s presence from the tower’s systems, he comes face to screen with a mysterious man who has plans to release the secret information of officials throughout Gotham on Christmas Day to cause a societal collapse. He warns Batman against interfering.

Batman travels to make it to the arms sale and stakes it out. He interrupts the sale and beats up and interrogates the seller, Ricky “Loose Lips” LeBlanc who unwittingly sells out The Penguin as his boss. He tries to figure out the location of Penguin’s hideout but is forced to hack into three of Penguin’s listening posts to help triangulate his position. He figures out that Penguin is set up on an old cruise ship that Penguin had renamed The Final Offer where his normally illegal deals are legal due to a maritime law loophole. Batman makes his way down into the ship and finds that Penguin has built a black market and is hosting a fight club. Batman interrupts the fights only to come face to face with the second assassin, Lester Buchinsky aka “The Electrocutioner”. 

And then the Electrocutioner gets dropped.

The Penguin retreats and Batman must chase Penguin and his assistants Candy and Tracey through the labyrinthine ship. Batman fights through the derelict ship, taking out any criminals he can find. The Penguin has been selling arms to some of the assassins. Along the way, Batman finds out that Penguin is feuding with the Falcone family, the oldest mobster family in Gotham. Penguin has taken advantage of the conflict between the Falcones and Black Mask, using the opportunity to oust Falcone from power. He has captured mob boss Carmine Falcone’s son Alberto who he is torturing in his office. Batman interrupts this torture and starts trying to interrogate Penguin who lets slip a comment about a murder at Lacey Towers.

Batman’s questioning of Penguin is interrupted by the arrival of Deathstroke who challenges Batman to a fight he cannot refuse. The battle with Deathstroke is fast and furious as Deathstroke is a master at combat. He comes at Batman with a bo staff, a katana, his rifle, and a special remote claw device that he uses to launch propane tanks at Batman. The two fight hard but Batman finally knocks Deathstroke unconscious with his own sword. Penguin had been watching the fight but immediately locks himself away when the fight concludes. Batman is forced to leave The Final Offer, begrudgingly satisfied that he beat two more assassins and saved Alberto Falcone from possible murder. He also has the lead of a crime scene to investigate at the Lacey Towers apartment building. 

Batman arrives at the apartment crime scene and finds two dead bodies. The first is a woman known to be a mistress of Roman Sionis aka The Black Mask. The other dead body is wearing the outfit of The Black Mask. This seems to be where the police were satisfied and stopped investigating. Batman looks further and finds evidence that helps him reconstruct the events of the struggle. The mistress arrived at the safehouse, rattled by a criminal known only as The Joker. She was murdered and hung from the chandelier as a psychological message. Black Mask suspected that his mistress’ call may have been a trap and sent in a decoy who was promptly murdered. Black Mask then attacked the intruder but lost the fight. 

Batman has never heard of this mysterious Joker before and, after discussing his options with Alfred, decides to infiltrate GCPD headquarters to access their national criminal database. Batman makes his way inside, knowing that he has to be stealthy as alerting the whole cop shop would end badly for him. The headquarters are in disarray after the murder of Commissioner Loeb with SWAT lieutenant Branden representing the bloodthirsty and corrupt faction within the police. 

Batman listens in to a conversation between James Gordon and his visiting daughter Barbara Gordon. In the server room, Barbara surprises Batman and reveals that she is a fan of his and helps him hack the server. She also reveals that he will need to access the data line in the sewers beneath to gain permanent access. Batman is discovered in the building and Branden rushes with his men to kill Batman for Black Mask’s bounty. Gordon intervenes, wanting to arrest Batman instead. In the heat of the standoff, Batman saves Gordon from being killed by Branden and his men and flees. 

Batman makes his way down to the sewers where he finds that Black Mask has a personal vault at Gotham Merchant Bank only accessible with Black Mask’s biometrics. Batman deduces that this is where Joker took the criminal kingpin. Batman rushes to the bank and the heist is in progress. The bank is full of the dead bodies of its employees. Batman encounters Black Mask who has the bank manager captive. The bank manager has a horrible, uncomfortable grin on her face. Black Mask postures and then is disappointed that people are not playing along. He brings out the captive Roman Sionis (the real Black Mask). The fake Black Mask unmasks to reveal The Joker, a murderous clown. He confirms Batman’s suspicions that he posed as Black Mask days earlier to place the bounty on Batman. He and his men grab Sionis and escape in an ambulance before setting off a bomb that destroys the vault. Batman examines the deceased bank manager who died from some sort of toxin.

Pt. 2 Coming Soon

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Endgame Pt. 6

July 23, 2022

Genie had conjured up a large table for everybody to sit at in the morning. Enchantress was a bit annoyed that Jasmine had sent so many people home already but Godmother had insisted that this was fate and she believed that they had who they needed. Enchantress had retorted that it was hard to believe in fate when their aspects of Chaos and Hope both existed. Jasmine eventually asked Genie to physically separate the two as their bickering escalated. Everybody filtered in and settled into their impromptu council meeting. They did not have an army but there were thirteen people, five fairies, and one genie at the table. It was nothing to sneeze at.

“You disappeared last night, Enchantress,” Belle said. “We let it go since we were so tired but now you will have to explain what you were up to.”

“I am as transparent as a window and open as a book,” Enchantress said. “I took the liberty of taking Yzma to her cell alongside Gothel. I then interrogated both of them.” Enchantress was just as smug as ever and her self-satisfaction unnerved everybody.

“Did you harm them?” Adam asked, folding his arms across his chest. He had let people around him get hurt, physically and emotionally and he was not about to let that happen again. Not without a fight.

“Really?” Enchantress asked. “These two may have been the most incompetent of this little coven but they did try to kill you just like Maleficent and Ursula. You would still show them mercy?” Her tone was playful and Godmother rolled her eyes, knowing the truth almost all at once.

“We don’t want to hurt people,” Tiana said. “If we have hurt people, it was to protect ourselves or stop them from doing something unspeakable.”

“Agreed,” Elsa said. “We do not torture people. I for one am working on being a better person, not sinking to new depths.” She still felt guilty about hurting her sister twice in her life and nearly destroying her own kingdom. She really was trying to do better moving forward.

“Relax,” Enchantress said. “I did not hurt even a hair on their heads. That almost never elicits true information anyway. They also were mostly left in the dark and would not have been able to scream their truth even under extreme duress.”

“Then your interrogation was a waste of time?” Aurora asked. Early on, she had tried to interrogate Ursula’s mind-controlled minions to no effect. Thankfully, Ursula’s death had freed them of their curse.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Enchantress said. “There are magicks one can use to bring a mind to an awareness of things they may have ignored or forgotten previously. Between the two of them, they had the information I needed. All of this was done without harm or any undue invasion of privacy. I know each of your codes of honor.”

“What information is that?” Godmother asked, her eyes narrowing as she asked.

“Why, the location of the final battle, of course,” Enchantress said. “We needed access. Those two were there but did not remember it. I combined their scraps of recollection. I can now open up a portal to the final battleground.”

“Where?” Godmother asked. “Where is it?” If she was asking that, there was no reason for concern for the witches. Godmother would have ended her truce with Enchantress even over the harm of the wicked.

“I could withhold it but as another sign of my loyalty, I will divulge the location,” Enchantress said. She was a born entertainer with an audience of one. Herself. “The final witch and her master are in a place called Bald Mountain.”

“We know witches,” Merida said. “But what manner of creature is this ‘master’?” She had indeed had a lot of experience with witches and distrusted all of this. She wanted to be ready for whatever was next.

“Chernabog is a being of pure dark magic that is linked to vast forces of darkness,” Godmother said. “What you saw with Maleficent and Ursula pale in comparison to the devils that Chernobog can unleash. If it becomes powerful enough to traverse the worlds, it will break reality as we know it.”

“Chernobog has to be linked to a mortal soul,” Enchantress said. “It has latched on to this evil queen, Grimhilde. If you take out Grimhilde, Chernobog will follow.”

“There isn’t another way?” Tiana asked, hesitant to kill anybody. She was a chef, not a killer.

“I’m afraid not,” Godmother said. “It’s too late for Grimhilde.”

“If it makes you feel any better,” Enchantress said. “She was killed once before. This is what she did with her second chance.”

Nobody looked happy about this but there were some nods. Second chances were important but so was the fabric of reality. This was a difficult thing to put on mortal shoulders.

“When do we leave?” Aurora asked.

“That’s the major hitch in the plan,” Enchantress said. “Chernobog knew what a threat fairies and other magical beings could be and banished most of us to this prison or elsewhere. We are barred from Bald Mountain.”

“Does that include me too?” Genie asked. “I’m ready to kick butt and chew bubble gum and I’m all out of bubble gum.”

“Sadly, you too, Genie,” Godmother said. “We will not be able to help.”

“Sorry, buddy,” Genie said to Aladdin.

“It’s ok, Genie,” Aladdin said. “Jasmine and I have beaten the odds before. You taught me that I can do anything if I trust in myself.”

“Aww, Al,” Genie said and hugged Jasmine and Aladdin.

“Then we’re on our own,” Belle said.

“No,” Anna said. “We’re in this together. We’re going to save all of our worlds.”

“We gear up and move out after another meal,” Aurora said. “Consult with Flora if you need weapons and armor. We can end this quick and go home safe and sound.”

Media Update 7/21/22

July 21, 2022

Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Spider-Man was always one of my favorites growing up and much of my allowance went to Spidey and Marvel. One of the characters that I always liked seeing was Venom because, once they got to the point where he was an antihero, he was funny and exciting. That is the spirit that this movie embraces. The movie picks up where the first movie left off with Eddie and Venom trying to navigate their relationship. Tom Hardy is incredibly sassy and fun to watch in the role. He also is great as Venom, giving the character both a know-it-all bitchiness and childlike naivete. The movie just works because of Hardy’s chemistry with himself but he has great chemistry with everybody. Woody Harrelson is a great hammy villain. Naomie Harris is wicked and interesting in her small part. The movie’s effects are fun to watch and easy to understand despite all of the moving parts and complexity. I recommend this movie.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)

I absolutely lived for Disney Afternoon in the eighties and one of the absolute best shows was Rescue Rangers. It was Disney’s version of shows like Magnum PI and A Team with the violence ramped down and the comedy ramped up. The characters were fun to watch. This movie cashes in on that nostalgia but it is so much more. It is a crazy mishmash that comments on the entire history of animation and revisits a lot of concepts originally brought up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. John Mulaney is an excellent Chip, sarcastic yet clever. Andy Samberg is a great Dale, clueless with heart. Will Arnett always plays a great villain. Kiki Layne provides a lot of the heart to the movie. The movie is absolutely a technical achievement but also has great acting and is surprisingly deep. I recommend this movie.

Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge

As often happens with my third choice, this was a surprise even to me. A late eighties adaptation of the classic Phantom of the Opera story lead to a less than classic but cheesy good slasher film. Years after a young man died, somebody is haunting the mall where his house once stood and people are dying. Kari Whitman plays the kind ex-girlfriend and main character, finding herself at the center of an unwanted mystery. Rob Estes plays the dumb yet good-natured hero. Pauly Shore plays the most subtle role I have seen him in as the weird friend. Gregory Scott Cummins, Jonathan Goldsmith, and Morgan Fairchild are scenery-chewing villains. Derek Rydall plays the titular antihero. This is a cheesy and enjoyable movie. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:

Ashe – Angry Woman

Amon Amarth – Get In The Ring

Halestorm – The Steeple

Megan Thee Stallion – Plan B

Mashup of the Week:

J3ff_K1ng – Gimme more DARES

Weekly Update:

  • This week’s theme is “Together Until the End”
  • I watched a ton of YouTube and Twitch: Game Grumps, Barry Kramer, Gabi Belle, Super Beard Bros, Attorney Tom, Impact Wrestling, All Elite Wrestling, Major League Wrestling, Games Done Quick, Cruel World Happy Mind, Emily D. Baker
  • I finished Blacklist Season 8
  • I finished Ms. Marvel Season 1
  • I started Riverdale Season 5
  • I watched more Umbrella Academy Season 3

Top 11 Fictional Objects From Television

July 18, 2022

The rules that I imposed on myself are thus:

1. The object has to be useful in my ordinary life

2. One object per show

3. The object is not part of an architecture

4. No time travel. Too dangerous.

11. Gills of Hamachi

(First Appearance: Xiaolin Showdown S02E14)

The magical objects in the animated show Xiaolin Showdown are called Shen Gong Wu and are part of a struggle to protect the world from them falling into the wrong hands. The Xiaolin monks constantly face off with the wealthy and evil Jack Spicer, Chase Young, and the witch Wuya. for control of these magical items. The Shen Gong Wu grant the user fantastic and strange abilities, most of which can be used in battle or the titular showdowns. Most of these would be useless to me in my everyday life, but the one that sounds awesome to me is the Gills of Hamachi. As one would expect, they grant the user the ability to breathe underwater. I love to swim and the idea of being able to stay underwater indefinitely is attractive. The only downside is that the gills must be deactivated when surfacing or you will suffocate.

10. Kamilla Hwang’s Camera 

(First Appearance: The Flash S06E10)

I like photography and, if I had more time, I would work on my digital art and video editing more. What would help with that? A camera. In the Arrowverse, Cisco Ramon is one of the most legendary scientists and the foremost tech guru. His girlfriend Kamilla is a professional photographer and Cisco gifted her with this high-tech camera. Cisco did not invent it but picked it up during a walkabout to figure out where he was going in his life. The technology of the camera is supposed to be bleeding edge. While we do not get to see all of its capabilities, it is advanced enough to detect an extradimensional clone. I would probably not want to hunt alien invaders but it has to be better than any camera we have available in the real world.

9. Personal Shield Emitter

(First Appearance: Stargate: Atlantis S01E03)

The world is a dangerous place. It would be nice to have something to help protect myself. The device was invented by The Ancients, a mysterious race of beings who ruled over Atlantis long before it was discovered by Stargate Command. The device is fairly simple to use. It is a palm-sized device that activates through thought, turning on in an instant to protect the wearer. As the name suggests, it projects a force field around the user and will only shut off when the energy is depleted or the wearer wills it. It would certainly help when walking around traffic and even while driving myself.

8. Honjo Masamune

(First Appearance: Warehouse 13 S01E07)

The artifacts of the titular Warehouse 13 are imbued with special abilities and properties based on their history and their connection to the people around them. The agents of the Warehouse are meant to collect the objects considered dangerous and store them in the Warehouse, away from the world. In the continuity of the show, Gorō Nyūdō Masamune forged this sword during the Edo period (similar to the history of a real sword which is a national treasure of Japan). The care that the legendary swordmaker put into making the blade resulted in an edge so sharp that it can bend light, rendering the user invisible. As somebody with social anxiety, the ability to walk around invisible sounds like a relief. Plus, I would have a cool sword to hang on my wall.

7. Sonic Screwdriver 

(Version First Appearance: Doctor Who 2005 S01E01)

The technology of Doctor Who has traditionally looked very simple because there was not a very high budget for science fiction at the BBC in the sixties. I’ve always loved that simplicity when it comes to the devices used by The Doctor. This one has been used in some form since the very first Doctor but the technology has improved over time. Each iteration had increased capabilities but nothing too crazy. The version that appeared in the hands of the ninth Doctor and was later held by the tenth Doctor has a lot of fun uses. First and foremost is the screwdriver’s ability to pick locks. It can also lock a door from a distance. It can project sound and light, detonate mines, and act as a portable x-ray. It sounds like a great utility tool to have. 

6. Bag of Holding

(First Appearance: The Magicians S04E07)

The world of The Magicians is one where incredible and strange magic is lingering just beyond the veil of the observation of normal human beings. This mostly comes from the human world coming into contact with magical worlds beyond our mundane world, similar to The Chronicles of Narnia. However, most of this magic is incredibly dangerous which is reiterated many times on the show. So picking something to take from this show was enticing but dangerous. This item works the same way that the Dungeons and Dragons item works. It is a portable bag that is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can hold way more than the bag should hold and one can access the huge inventory in the bag by thinking about the object they want to pull out. This would greatly help in organizing my life and make for an epic go bag.

5. Federation Communications Badge 

(Version First Appearance: Star Trek Voyager S01E01)

The Federation is kind of like the Space UN but with way more power and its own military which is the primary focus of the television shows. They have developed their own proprietary technology throughout their history which constantly gets better. A lot of their really neat technology is larger than an object or item (ex: transporters, holosuites). That is why I chose the communications badge and specifically the version that first showed up in Voyager. I would not use it primarily for communication purposes but if I could, I would. The world of Star Trek has an invention known as the Universal Translator which enables the communication between different races in the universe. It also can use linguistics to decipher unknown languages. By the time of Voyager, this system has been made so compact that it fits in a tiny comm badge.

4. The Batmobile 

(Version First Appearance: Batwoman S02E1)

The reason that I thought to do this list. In the Arrowverse, Batman has been missing from Gotham for years and, by season 2, we are presented with a new Batwoman. In the show, Batwoman adapts a lot of Batman’s classic gear and also newer technology to fight crime. One of the first things she grabs is the Batmobile. The Batmobile has had a lot of different versions over the years, ranging from the cool to the very cool. This is the most lowkey version that I have seen. The car is black on black with zero highlights and no visible bat symbol. It looks like it was built to blend somewhat into traffic, unlike its more ostentatious cousins. It is still heavily armored, bulletproof, and a high-performance vehicle. One of the most attractive features is the most subtle drive assist programming that helps the driver correct human error. It was so subtle that Batwoman drove it for months without noticing it.

3. Legion Flight Ring

(First Appearance: Supergirl S03E10)

The Legion of Superheroes is a massive team of superheroes that operates throughout the universe, made up of aliens from many worlds. All of the members of The Legion have different powers. Some can fly and others cannot. To facilitate teamwork tactics and travel, members are given a flight ring. What looks like a simple piece of jewelry actually allows the user the ability to fly through force of will. The user flies in the direction that they think of. The rings work through advanced anti-gravity metallurgy but also allow the user to fly in the atmosphere and in space. The utility of this is pretty easy to see. I could choose to fly to work instead of drive and I could travel quickly at a moment’s notice.

2. Senzu Bean Plant  

(First Appearance: Dragon Ball Red Ribbon Army Arc)

The only living object on this list. Son Goku and his friends met a lot of weird characters and saw a lot of strange things as they searched the world for the Dragon Balls. One of the craziest parts of any Goku story is all of the weird training he went through to get superhumanly strong. One of his teachers was Korin, a giant cat who lived in a giant tower and dared Goku to catch him and made him reclimb the tower. Korin eventually became friends with Goku and the Z fighters and offered them access to his crop of Senzu Beans. The beans are known to instantly heal a person from grievous injury and fatigue and provide a body with nutrients for up to ten days. A great thing to have around in case I get hurt or need a quick shot of healthy food.

1. The Anywhere Key 

(First Appearance: Locke and Key S01E01)

The Locke family forged mysterious keys made of whispering iron, a metal fashioned from the remnants of demons. Each key has a different ability, some of them more dangerous than others. There are a lot of cool keys but many of them feel way too dangerous to me in multiple ways. One of the keys with no known downside is the Anywhere Key. It is a simple metal key. When you approach a door, the key will automatically fit in whatever lock is attached to it. You turn the key while thinking of where you want to go. When you open the door and walk through it, you will emerge from a door in the location you wanted to go. It has no known limitations on distance or location. All you need is two doors, one at the departure point and one at the arrival point. You also have to have seen the door you’re going to. This means an instant commute, instant visit to friends/family, and makes it very easy to move.

Butcherbirds

July 16, 2022

Mouse crept out from behind the crates they had been hiding behind. As the smallest member of the Butcherbirds, the halfling was the perfect lookout. Mouse always had their blanket draped around them. Very few people had actually seen anything but Mouse’s eyes and they had often been disregarded as a pile of rags by most people. This was by design. Mouse crept below the window and looked for signs of life. Nobody was about so Mouse pulled out a whistle and blew on it before flouncing against the wall and acting like detritus. There was a long beat of silence.

Dinah strutted into the alleyway and then reached up and cinched the band of cloth holding her matted hair up and out of her face. She looked up at the window and used her hands to measure things and do some calculations in her head. She checked the gear tucked into the silk tied around her waist. She sighed softly.

“This isn’t a fashion show, D,” Griffin said. “Can we just get on with it?” He crept out of hiding, looking up and down the alleyway with his one good eye. His constant paranoia could be annoying but it did keep them safe. He fidgeted with a dagger, flipping it every few moments. It was his most prized possession. He was the fighter, the scrapper, the leader.

“You’re such a dingus, Giffin,” Dinah said. “This should be at least a little fun, right? If it’s not fun, we should go straight to an orphanage.”

“You’re just a lot, you know?” Griffin said. “Stop being all girly.”

“I’m an artist,” Dinah said. “And things need to be perfect if this bird is going to fly.”

“Whatever,” Griffin said. “Come on, Five. The coast is clear. You didn’t fall asleep again?”

A large mound of trash started to move as Five crawled out of it. His green-gray skin was splattered with dirt and grime from all sorts of things that were best not thought of. He seemed unbothered by the mess decorating him. He grunted.

“Gods, you smell so bad!” Griffin said. “This plan did not hinge on you hiding in garbage. We could have put you in a crate, big guy.”

“I don’t know, I think he might smell better than usual,” Dinah said. “Ready to go Five?”

Five grunted and nodded. He was non-verbal and nobody knew why. They had guessed that it might have something to do with one of his tusks being broken but nobody wanted to press the half-orc on the issue to confirm. Five was the muscle of the team which meant that he was less sneaky than the rest of the Butcherbirds but just as welcome. He had earned their trust and a place in their weird little family. Five had moved under the window and cupped his hands together. Dinah nodded and ran at Five, jumping into his cupped hands so that Five could launch her up toward the window. 

Dinah’s slight half-elven frame made her lighter than most and she shot up and landed gracefully on the windowsill. She braced her legs and pulled out her crowbar and shoved it under the window. She stomped on the crowbar and she heard the window’s lock break. Just like they thought, the place was too old to have good security. She tucked her crowbar away and opened the window slowly. She attached an anchor and dropped a rope below. Griffin climbed up and shut the window. Five and Mouse would shuffle off somewhere in earshot in case they were needed.

“So what do we have here?” Griffin asked. “There had better be something worth it in here.”

“Plenty,” Dinah said. “I mean, there has to be. It’s old.”

A familiar bird landed on a chair nearby and stared at the two child thieves.

“Oh no,” Griffin said. “What are you doing here?”

“Be nice,” Dinah said. “He’s one of us.”

“He keeps going off on his own,” Griffin said. “He keeps screwing things up.”

At that, the bird promptly turned back into a young boy. The problem was that he was still perched on top of the chair and that chair tipped over and dumped the boy face first onto the floor. He instantly sprang back to his feet and tried not to show how much that hurt.

“I do not screw things up,” Kant said. “I might have made a few mistakes but I’m here to help.”

Griffin sighed. “Fine,” he said. “Less magic, more thievery. Don’t touch anything troublesome. We’re only stealing the good stuff.”

“Which means stuff we can eat, use, or sell,” Dinah said.

“Got it,” Kant said. He could not really control his magic too well. It was innate magic that came from his blood. He had been abandoned in the streets as a toddler so he did not remember where that blood had come from. His wild magic often misfired at inappropriate times but he meant well. When his magic worked, it worked well for the Butcherbirds.

The three thieves set about looking for the best things to take with them.

Media Update 7/14/22

July 14, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder

I am a huge MCU fan and I have been a fan of the Thor movies since the very first one. When I heard about this one, I was very excited. Thor struggles to find himself after all that he has been through as a new threat and old, familiar faces come into his life. Chris Hemsworth is back as Thor and he is great at being funny, charismatic, deep, tragic, and so many more emotions. Tessa Thompson is back as Valkyrie and she is somehow even more of a badass. Natalie Portman shows how much work she has put in and how much growth in her skills has occurred. Christian Bale is amazing and I would not be surprised if he wins some awards. There are great smaller roles from Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Jaime Alexander, Chris Pratt, and others who are all so memorable. This movie was a roller coaster and I loved it from start to finish. I recommend it.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters 3 has been a long time coming but it was worth waiting for. Egon Spengler’s estranged family tries to investigate what happened to him back in the day, revealing a new threat. The star of the movie is McKenna Grace, who does a great job of playing a young girl descended from Egon. Finn Wolfhard plays a great snarky teen. Carrie Coon is great as a relatable mom. Logan Kim is a quirky, cute little boy. Paul Rudd adds a bit of slapstick comedy to the movie. The movie has a really nice slow burn and a really strong story that does something new with plenty of nods to the past. I recommend this movie.

Demons (2009 TV show)

I stumbled across this show and thought I would give it a shot. A young man discovers that he is a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing and destined to hunt things that go bump in the night. Christian Cooke plays a very relatable teenage Van Helsing, struggling to do what is right and feeling a bit like Buffy Summers. Phillip Glenister plays the gruff and snarky mentor. Zoë Tapper plays the legendary Mina Harker, an empathetic psychic. Holliday Grainger is the real heart of the show as the perfectly normal but hilarious best friend. The show has a great monster-of-the-week feel to it with each villain being incredibly fascinating and charismatic. I recommend this show.

Music of the Week: 

Dove Cameron – Breakfast

WARGASM – Fukstar

Em Beihold – Too Precious

I Prevail – Body Bag

Mashup of the Week:

Natasha Arts – Can’t Touch Rico

Weekly Update:

  • This week’s theme is “Legacy”
  • I watched a ton of YouTube and Twitch: Game Grumps, Barry Kramer, Gabi Belle, Super Beard Bros, Attorney Tom, Impact Wrestling, All Elite Wrestling, Major League Wrestling, Games Done Quick, Cruel World Happy Mind, Emily D. Baker
  • I finished watching Archive 81 Season 1
  • I started watching The Umbrella Academy Season 3
  • I started watching The Flash Season 8
  • I watched more Scream Queens Season 2

Ripper (1995) – A Quick Look at the FMV Game

July 11, 2022

I absolutely love Full Motion Video games. They started in the eighties which stemmed from  Laserdisc technology becoming more available to consumers. The ability to preprogram stop and start times on video allowed for more interesting possibilities. A lot of that ended up in the arcades with games like Dragon’s Lair. Those possibilities started to hit overdrive in the early to mid-nineties when the most popular FMV games came out. Personally, my first was 7th Guest. I feel like the medium lent itself to horror but other options were available. There was a glut of games in the nineties and then the fad was over. FMV games are not completely dead but they are not nearly as prevalent as they once were.

An FMV game is basically what it says on the tin. The developer gets a bunch of actors, some costumes, some sets (and/or a green screen), and some cameras. The actors follow a script much like a normal movie except that they have to cover all the possibilities including player failure. Imagine the branching tree of a Choose Your Own Adventure book (or Black Mirror: Bandersnatch). The acting is often over-the-top and melodramatic to make sure everything is clearly conveyed to the player. That means that even the worst FMV game has goofy and fun acting that is hard to not find entertaining. The gameplay is usually point and click adventure game which means that you are hunting for clues, collecting inventory, and solving puzzles.

Ripper is set in New York City in 2040, a science-fiction future that actually still feels like it is feasible which is rare. It is built in the grand tradition of cyberpunk, reminding me somewhat of what bit of Shadowrun that I have experienced. The story hits the ground running as we are introduced to Jake Quinlan (played by Scott Cohen), a rumpled journalist for the city paper and a callback to characters like Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. He does not seem to be that great at his job but he is assigned to the crime beat. In a nod to the Zodiac, he has been receiving messages sent to him by a new serial killer calling himself The Ripper. Quinlan never asked for this responsibility but now finds himself thrust into the middle of a mad scramble to find the mysterious killer.

Unfortunately, he is unwittingly in the middle of being scooped by his co-worker, Catherine Powell (played by Tahnee Welch). This will annoy Quinlan when he finds out because A) it’s his story. B) he and Catherine are sleeping together, and C) she’s better at her job than he is.   Catherine notifies Quinlan that she has a lead on the identity of The Ripper. Quinlan gets another message from The Ripper who tells him that the next target is Catherine who has gotten too close. Quinlan rushes to meet up with and protect his lover only for her to fall into a coma right before his eyes. A coma deeper than previously thought possible.

Catherine is taken to the Meta-Cognition Center at the hospital to be treated by Cybersurgeons, equipped to scan and possibly infiltrate her mind to repair it. This is obviously where the cyberpunk stuff starts to really come into the story. I will not be running down the entire plot but the basic point of the rest of the game is thus: To repair Catherine’s mind, Quinlan must follow Catherine’s clues and leads in order to slowly discover the identity of The Ripper. Transmitting facts of the case will allow Catherine to piece together the identity of The Ripper in her mind and wake from her coma. Doing this will also obviously allow authorities to capture The Ripper.

The action of the game happens in the real world and in cyberspace. Quinlan solves intricate puzzles in the real world in all of the spaces that Catherine was investigating. Quinlan also re-questions Catherine’s informants and all of the new people suddenly involved in the case. Puzzles are usually solved by either collecting items and using them in the right places or fiddling with devices based on environmental clues. The other part of the game involves regular trips into cyberspace, an activity that is called “decking” in the world of the game. Deckers navigate areas of cyberspace which is basically treated like a mix of Tron and the virtual reality from The Lawnmower Man franchise. It is really unsettling and I am glad we have not gone in that direction in our world.

The major strength of the game is the impressive cast of characters built from surprisingly high-profile actors all of whom chew the scenery like crazy. 

Christopher Walken as Detective Vince Magnotta – Walken steals every scene that he is in and is so memeable and quotable. Magnotta is an openly corrupt cop who is seen tampering with evidence, beating suspects during interrogation, and taking part in all sorts of stuff that cops do in real life. This is also a world where cops are paid bounties for solving cases. Magnotta hates Quinlan for sticking his nose in the case and threatening his bounty.

Karen Walker as Doctor Clare Burton – Walker plays a straightforward cybersurgeon who takes the case to treat Catherine Powell. She is cold and distant and confuses everybody by stalling Catherine’s treatment and trying to push Quinlan away. She is a top-notch scientist specializing in the human brain and using cyberspace technology to interact with neuroscience. 

David Patrick Kelly as Joey Falconetti. Sidenote: I kept hearing his name as “Falcon Eddie” and I can’t unhear it. Falconetti is a hardcore gamer and decker. He often spends days in cyberspace with the help of nootropic drugs. He is a brilliant mind but his criminal past has precluded any legitimate career. He also has a predilection for horrific and violent imagery. On top of that, he comes off as aggressive and snarky which rubs everybody the wrong way.

Paul Giamatti as Doctor Bud Cable. He picks up the slack and works on Catherine behind Doctor Burton’s back when treatment gets stalled. He coaches Quinlan on how to help with Catherine’s recovery while giving him updates on her condition

John Rys-Davies as Vigo Haman. Vigo is a gangster who surprisingly has had dealings with Doctor Burton in the past, leading to revelations about her shadowy past. 

Burgess Meredith as Hamilton and Covington Wofford. These two brothers are older than most of the rest of the cast and are involved in cyber architecture. Hamilton created a game environment for The Ripper before being murdered. Covington has become a fearful recluse without his brother and has lost his grip on his sanity. You eventually meet an AI version of Hamilton.

Ossie Davis as Ben Dodds. Dodds is Quinlan and Catherine’s boss and he is gruff but fair. He uses his contacts to help Quinlan get some background information on Catherine’s leads. He pushes Quinlan to get the story but also cautions him when things start to get too dangerous.

Jimmie Walker as Soap Beatty. Soap is a computer hacker who was Catherine’s informant but also runs a store. He schools Quinlan on the ins and outs of decker technology and gives him leads and fills in information based on that community.

Richard Bright as Doctor Karl Stasiak. Stasiak is a forensic photographer who has developed a friendship with Quinlan as they met at crime scenes often. Early on, Stasiak is a source for Quinlan within the police department but gets spooked by The Ripper and flees the city.

The long and the short of it is that The Ripper seems to be targeting the Decker community in particular. Slowly, it becomes clear that all of the victims were somehow involved in an old game themed in Victorian London as part of a gaming club. The club would play a game based on the murders of Jack the Ripper. Hmm. Quinlan has to dig up the dark shadows of the past and present of the club to solve the mystery. A mystery that the game changes each time you play, by the way. Quinlan finds out that The Ripper is not doing his ripping in person but is instead infecting people over cyberspace with code that makes their body’s internal pressure rise until their abdomens explode outward. Quinlan figures out who is The Ripper and is able to trap them in cyberspace and destroy their mind (in self-defense, of course).

Poor Unfortunate Souls: Endgame Pt. 5

July 9, 2022

Aurora set down her sword and took a deep breath before she started to unstrap her armor. She could not remember when she last removed her armor. It felt like weeks but it was probably only two days. Always being battle-ready took its toll and while the armor had mostly prevented physical scars, it did not protect her from the mental and emotional ones. She knew that she had gotten tougher but even the strongest person had their limits. She had definitely reached hers several times but she still had survived. She set one of her gauntlets next to her sword and flexed her fingers.

“Aurora?” the unmistakable voice of Fauna echoed through the chamber. “Is that you?”

Aurora smiled and turned to face the three fairies who had always been there for her. “Am I that hard to recognize under this armor?” she asked.

“We’d never fail to recognize you,” Merryweather said. “You are our sweet Aurora.” Her adorable smile warmed Aurora’s heart. That smile had helped her through some hard times.

“I’ve learned to be less than sweet when I need to be,” Aurora said. “I’m not sure that’s what you had in mind for me.”

All three fairies instantly rushed to hug her all at once, enveloping her with their love. It instantly brought another smile to her face as she hugged them back. 

“All we ever meant for you is to live and be happy,” Flora said. “We could never be disappointed in you, child. Well, not so much of a child now.”

“Besides, we approved of Prince Phillip riding to slay the dragon,” Fauna said. “It would be hypocritical of us to judge you for protecting yourself and others even with violence.”

“Hear, hear!” Merryweather called out. “Seeing you combine beauty with strength is a blessing that we would have gifted you if we could. I think our only objection is the poor state of your armor. We could have made much better armor.”

“In fact, we will,” Flora said. “We’ll design you and the team new armor.”

“Without arguing over the colors?” Aurora asked with a sly smile. “Again?”

“I beg you pardon?” Fauna asked.

“I’m sure we can take any design input that your heroes have to offer,” Flora said, putting a hand on Fauna’s shoulder. Merryweather put a hand on Fauna’s other shoulder. “That should cut down on any arguments.”

“Good,” Aurora said with a smile. “We could always use better equipment.”

“Speaking of better equipment,” Flora said. “We gave Phillip the Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue. We can give it to you now.”

“I’m honored,” Aurora said.

*               *                 *

“My princess!” Naveen shouted as he ran across the hall. He was his typically theatrical self, louder than life. It made Tiana smile.

“Naveen!” Tiana shouted as they embraced and kissed for more than a moment. It was like heaven, angels sang.

“It’s so good to see you safe again, my love,” Naveen said. “And just as beautiful as ever!”

“Mmm hmm,” Tiana said “What have I told you about doubting me and the excessive sweet talk?”

“Doubting you is foolish because you are an unstoppable Queen,” Naveen said. “Sweet talking you too much makes you nervous that I have an ulterior motive. There is no ulterior motive. I’m just so glad to see you again.”

“So you behaved yourself this time?” Tiana asked with a smirk.

“More than that,” Naveen said. “In fact, I fought honorably to liberate this place.”

“My love, forgive me if I say that sounds surprising,” Tiana said. “You’re not much of a fighter.” She smiled at him to let him know that this was only slight criticism.

Of course, it was Naveen so he deflected easily. “I’m a much better musician for sure,” he said. “It was difficult but I would climb mountains and ford rivers just to see you again. What are a few swords?”

Tiana gasped. “You’re not hurt are you?” she asked, stepping back to inspect Naveen who returned the favor. 

“No,” Naveen said. “Are you?” There was uncharacteristic fear in his eyes

Tiana shook her head. “I found some good new friends who protected me,” she said.

“I found the same,” Naveen said. They both relaxed, knowing that they were both well and truly safe.  “But it will be good to return home together.”

Tiana shook her head and placed a hand on Naveen’s chest. “Not yet,” she said. “There’s one more threat on the horizon. We can’t abandon them all now.”

Naveen nodded. “Whatever you want, Tiana,” he said. “I am by your side no matter what. I will walk through fire with you.”

“Well, hopefully, it won’t come to that,” Tiana said. “We’ll be back in the Big Easy before you know it and I’ll cook you a whole plate of beignets. We’ll get back to the restaurant and our family.” 

“When you say it, I believe it,” Naveen said. “What’s next?”

“We dig a little deeper and fight one last battle,” Tiana said.


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