Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Media Update 2/22/18

February 22, 2018


Black Panther

When my friend texted me saying that they had gotten our group tickets for a Friday showing of Black Panther, I was excited all week to see it. I had heard such good things not only from critics but also from celebrities whose tastes are aligned with mine who got to see it early. Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther was one of the best parts of Captain America: Civil War. The intelligence and emotion of the character were just as important of all the cool flippy stuff he did in battles. His movie is an even deeper dive into the character and his world and it also confronts a lot of social issues that always need confronting. It explores a lot of themes that include but are not limited to the black experience in the United States, the black experience in Africa, imperialism, isolationism, and foreign aid. There are also more intimate themes of family, doing what is right, honoring your past while looking to the future, dealing with the sins of the past, and so on. Boseman was even better than he was in Civil War. He was joined by the powerhouse team of Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett as possibly the strongest female characters I have seen on film. I am talking physical, emotional, and mental strengths by the way. It was awesome to see Daniel Kaluuya again and he gave a great raw, vulnerable performance. Michael B. Jordan earned his place as one the best Marvel villains so far if not the best. Andy Serkis was really fun (and not mo-capped!) and it is always nice to see Martin Freeman. The movie is nonstop enjoyment and I definitely recommend it.


Black Lightning

I was inspired to check out this show after coming home all jazzed from seeing Black Panther. I had heard good things and I love the relatively recent trend of good DC Comics shows. This show is more similar to Black Panther or Luke Cage than it is to the Arrowverse. The show is an adaptation of DC Comics’ first African-American superhero. Jefferson Pierce is a school principal by day and a superhero by night. The show explores a lot of what it means to be Black in an urban setting with all of the traps laid in the paths of America’s Black youth. Within the first few episodes, the show introduces a lot of great characters from the comic books. There are even Outsiders references as a nod to Black Lightning’s association with Batman and his daughter’s association with future iterations of the team. While the superhero stuff is compelling, watching Pierce and his family try to navigate personal relationships is just as interesting. I cannot remember another television show that attempts to capture the experiences of a school principal, at least not with the strong community connections Pierce has. Every character so far is deep and nobody is completely good or evil. I definitely recommend this one as it is just getting started and it is self-contained for now.


Sleight

I was not sure what to expect with this movie but I did know that it shared a producer with Get Out. Of course, producers are facilitators, not artists themselves. I knew that it was kind of heralded as a new kind of superhero movie. What it ended up being was much more than that. It definitely feels like a superhero origin story in certain ways. It has science fiction/science fantasy elements but it is really about a kid who has to take care of his little sister after their parents die. It felt a little bit like a Miles Morales/Peter Parker story because of that. The kid gets caught up in a bad scene and has to figure it out. Aside from the fantasy elements, the movie really felt like a great story about surviving as a young black man on the streets of Los Angeles. There are drug dealers, cops, and gangsters all around. Jacob Latimore plays the main character and he just obviously has a good heart and I found myself really rooting for him. Dule Hill plays the villain of the movie which was really cool because I have never seen him play a bad guy before that I can remember. I really liked the movie as it was and I would not be mad if this ‘superhero origin story’ was just a one shot. However, if they could come up with a good sequel I would be hungry for that as well. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
George Clinton – Atomic Dog

Kendrick Lamar, SZA – All The Stars

Migos – Stir Fry

Future – You Da Baddest ft. Nicki Minaj

Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Black Superheroes”
– I watched more of Happy! Season 1
– I watched more of Criminal Minds Season 11
– I watched more of Peaky Blinders Season 1
– I watched more of Mad Men Season 1
– I watched more of The Librarians Season 4
– I watched GT Live, Critical Role, Game Grumps, and KittyKat Gaming

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It Has to Stop

February 19, 2018

As usual, I do not want to talk about politics but today I feel like it is important to talk about activism. Heck, I think it is important to talk about activism every day. Activism has been an important activity since long before I was born and it will be important until the last human being dies. What spurs these thoughts should be obvious. Parkland, Florida is what I am talking about. But Parkland is just the latest incident in a long line of incidents that include but are not limited to Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine. At least, I hope Parkland was the most recent as I publish this Monday morning because we are averaging one a week now. Each one is a blow to the heart so I cannot imagine the pain parents and friends are going through. It makes me scared and it makes me angry. I warn you that I am probably not going to say anything you have not heard or read elsewhere but I feel the need to say it too.

I went to the same school from first grade all the way to graduating high school. I was lucky enough to go to a private school and I recognize that privilege for what it is. Good genetics and hard work from my family. I felt cradled in safety when I went to Friends School of Baltimore. Every day was routine and the most I had to fear was a run in with a school bully and eventually teen angst. We used to hear horror stories about Baltimore City public schools that were probably exaggerated. I remember nodding but letting those stories slide off of me like the plot of a television show somebody else had seen. I was a high school sophomore when Columbine happened but even then I thought that those kids were just psychos. The now familiar cry of “mental health”. As a country, we pigeonholed a whole group of kids (the goth/Matrix-y kids) to the point where I unintentionally scared people by running around college with a long black coat.

After Columbine, discussions that were started quickly stopped when they should have continued. How did these boys get guns? Why did they shoot up their school? Why did nobody see it coming? I can tell you one thing, it was not video games, Heavy Metal, or Marilyn Manson. I liked all of those things and I never shot a single person. I never even thought of shooting another human being. Not once. As a nationwide community, we agreed to stop talking about it because it made us uncomfortable and people had their scapegoats to chase after. Everything was settled except for the problem. We returned to our lives and tried not to think about school kids getting murdered at school. Some concerned schools put up metal detectors and other schools required kids to carry transparent backpacks. These were lazy solutions that just treated normal kids like criminals.

The problem is, that Columbine was not the first school shooting and it was not the last. If it was, there would not be much of an issue. We would have cried our tears and then thanked the universe that it was an anomaly, a blip in the system. Instead, it is a persistent issue. That sounds too weak. It is a constant crisis that our country is facing. I say our country because most other nations do not have to worry about school shootings. In fact, a lot of countries of comparable population density do not need to worry about mass shootings at all. Why? Because the smart ones got rid of their guns, something our country is unreasonably stubborn about doing.

To a certain degree, I understand. These are the United States of America. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave and we have a document over two hundred years old that guarantees the right to bear arms. Great. I can get into the whole debate about how there were also documents that said it was alright to own slaves or that black people were only worth 3/5 of a white person. Also, documents that declared it was alright to keep American citizens in camps because they happened to have Japanese heritage. But I will not go down that rabbit hole today because I am a student of the law and I could go all night. The point is, the law is not written in stone. We can leave that to the religions of the world. It is a living document and we can banish any part of it that is causing people in our world pain.

So we should. We should absolutely get rid of all of our firearms. We do not need them. It has to be cheaper, less time consuming, and less dangerous to go to the supermarket at this point. (Of course, we are not getting into the issue of food deserts here but google that term.) We do not need guns for self-defense. But I know that taking people’s guns away is a long way off. Instead, we need to focus on real solutions. Prayers and thoughts are like so much air. We need common sense gun control and we needed it more than a century ago. We need to turn away groups like the NRA at the door. We need to make it harder for people to get their hands on guns. We need to choke off the loopholes and the illegal sources. We need to change the whole culture.

If people want to cry out “mental health” every time this sort of thing happens then let us actually take action on that too. If you see a kid who needs help, then say something to somebody. Let us actually spend money on education that gives kids hope for their future. Let’s get some school counselors who do not have to spend their time on standardized tests but instead on talking to kids about where their head is at. Like gun control, we have to actually do something about people who are getting left by the wayside. That includes not treating mental issues like they should be something to be ashamed of. Therapy and medication are not dirty words if they can actually help us be healthier and happier and safer. I am tired of so many words being silenced by lobbyists.

There is good news. The kids who survived Parkland are speaking out. They are lashing out at politicians who pretend to protect them in order to silence talk of gun control. People are rallying around those kids in ways that I have never really seen before. Part of that is that social media allows people to speak their mind without corporate interests being able to shut off the signal. More and more people are getting tired of hearing the same old song. People are getting tired of 18 school shootings (so far) in the first two months of 2018. Eventually, the issue will have to reach critical mass. I have to believe that because believing anything else is depressing as hell. I hope that generations in the future will shake their heads in confusion at what we allowed to continue.

Top 11 Favorite 90s Characters

February 17, 2018

Top 11


11. Bob (ReBoot)

When I played my first video game on the Atari, I was hooked. Even though the games of my youth were next to impossible, I loved trying each and every game I could get my hands on. Computers were also becoming more and more of a thing as I entered my teen years. I spent a lot of time playing computer games and video games with my friends and we bonded over them. So when Reboot first premiered, I was instantly in love. The show is about the programs that live inside a computer city called Mainframe. The show’s main hero is Bob who is a guardian. Being a guardian means that Bob would enter the games the user played and would “reboot” himself as an enemy character and try to beat the user at the game. If he succeeded, he protected Mainframe and if he failed, that section of Mainframe was destroyed. So it set up most gamers as unintentional villains opposed by guardians like Bob. Bob was always level-headed and did not let fear override his thoughts as he could not afford to get distracted. Bob also had a multitool that could transform into a lot of gadgets he might need to save the day both in the games and out of them. Even with the danger, I envied Bob’s life of basically living in video games.


10. Freakazoid

As I was growing up, my sense of humor started to evolve and animation started to move beyond the laugh track humor of past cartoons. Instead of corny humor of shows like The Flintstones or He-Man, family shows started to really figure out humor. Just because you are putting out a PG product, does not mean that your humor has to insult even its youngest audience members. The makers of Freakazoid obviously embraced a lot of different types of humor. Most of all, they seemed to embrace smarter forms of humor like Monty Python or Bugs Bunny. Combining the silly and the surreal was what that sort of humor was about. Dexter Douglas is a young nerdy teen (like I was!) who got zapped by his home computer and was transported into the Internet. Let’s pause there because I would have loved to be able to be zapped into the Internet. That would have been a geek’s dream. The experience turned Dexter into Freakazoid, a manic but enthusiastic superhero. Freakazoid is always out for a good time but, like Bugs Bunny, he often has to take care of villains just to get back to the fun. Freakazoid was also the defender of Washington, DC which is close enough to my hometown for me to get a little excited. This show had the same humor as The Animaniacs (more on that later) with low humor blended with high humor. Freakazoid was impossible not to root for too.


9. Mega Man

I was an early adopter when it came to video games even though I have always been kind of in the middle of the pack when it comes to skill. Still, I have always loved the aesthetics that video game developers come up with. Even a lot of the worst games at least look interesting. When I was young, I immediately glommed onto Mega Man 2. It was an incredibly difficult game but I loved the franchise’s idea of having elemental-themed enemies with a high degree of character. The show combines the concepts from the video games with anime. Rock is a robot who gets redesigned for battle and uses an energy blaster to fight evil robots. He also had an onboard computer feature that could copy his enemy’s abilities when he touched them which was similar enough to the games. I just remember Mega Man being so cool and confident and I liked the idea of not being stuck with one power but being able to use your enemies’ powers against them. The cartoon was short lived but it included a lot of stuff from the franchise and Mega Man eventually teamed up with his future counterpart Mega Man X as well. What kid didn’t want to be a robot with a robot dog?


8. Xena: Warrior Princess

Before I discovered the Evil Dead franchise, I discovered something else that Sam Raimi and his gang produced. That something was Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but, while it was a good show, Hercules was kind of a bland show compared to its spinoff. Xena was supposed to be a one-off character on Hercules, a brutal female villain for Hercules to contend with. At the end of her turn on Hercules, the audiences loved her so the decision was made for her to reform and to start her own legendary journey to right wrongs. Basically, she was fighting the patriarchy before most people were even using that term. She was also one of the first lesbian characters on television and even gawky preteen me understood that subtext. Xena was a total badass and she never met a situation she couldn’t fight, intimidate, or trick her way out of. She was also funny in the same way that Batman was funny which is funny without trying to be. She also fought a lot of the mythology that I had fallen in love with after reading The Oddysey, The Iliad, and other Greek/Roman tales. She also is one of three characters to get stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque scenario that ended up funny and interesting. (The other two are Sam Winchester and Phil Connors himself, of course). I also often have a soft spot for tough people who secretly have a heart of gold.


7. The Blue Ranger (Billy Cranston)

Power Rangers was a show that I was a huge fan of. I had no idea at all that it was edited from footage from a similar Japanese show. However, Saban was able to turn that into an unstoppable franchise that became its own animal. For me, Power Rangers was something I watched before leaving for school at one point. I remember being really interested in the idea of normal teenage kids becoming superheroes. It also scratched the same itch that magical girl shows would later also scratch. Billy, in particular, was my favorite because he had abilities beyond being a Power Ranger. He was yet another example of blue characters being the smart ones. He was an inventor who came up with a lot of the extra gadgets the original Rangers used and a lot of those gadgets continued into later series. He was also the awkward one, a little insecure about being among other people. When it came to actual Power Ranger powers, he was on par with everybody else. Episodes focusing on him often dealt with more real issues like rescuing a new girlfriend, phobias, or science.


6. Gambit (Remy Lebeau)

When I was a kid, I hated the Boy Scouts of America. I was briefly part of the Indian Guides (now thankfully called Y-Guides) and the Scouts were our rivals. Even today, I do not put much faith in the organization. But when I was a kid, I was kind of averse to “boy scout” characters like Superman and especially Cyclops. I much preferred to see more subversive characters like Wolverine, Rogue, and especially Gambit. Gambit was a thief from New Orleans who had the mutant power to replace an object’s kinetic energy with explosive energy. Anything he touched basically turned into a grenade. He did not wear a team uniform and instead wore a custom costume with a big trench coat. This was at a time when I was very tired of wearing uniforms for sports. While Gambit did not get nearly enough time on the animated series during the nineties, they meted out just enough of him to keep people wanting more. On top of that, I always wished I had his confidence growing up.


5. Darkwing Duck

This was officially my first experience with the combination of Disney and superheroes which would end up often being a very satisfying combination. Drake Mallard is a duck living in the DuckTales universe and he dresses up and fights crime as Darkwing Duck. He is basically Batman, James Bond, and The Green Hornet combined into one hero. He is a serious hero but the show was both a serious superhero show and a parody superhero show. The character of Darkwing Duck is a superhero who fell in love with being a detective and fighting crime. However, he also had a huge ego and tended to be rather clumsy at times. He often only saved the day when he managed to get serious and get out of his own way. He fought alongside Disney-fied versions of popular superheroes and fought Disney-fied versions of popular comic book villains and James Bond-esque villains. Unlike annoying heroes like Inspector Gadget, the humor did not come from him being incompetent but from Darkwing’s quips and physical humor. The character was also a good father to a little girl he had adopted who often helped to fight crime along with DW and his sidekick Launchpad (from DuckTales). As the show continued, Darkwing’s history was added to and there was a lot of great world-building.


4. Yakko Warner

The Animaniacs was a cartoon variety show that focused on a whole cast of zany Warner Brothers style characters updated for the nineties. The main focus of the show was the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot. They were cartoons deemed too zany and disruptive and were sealed in the water tower on the Warner Brothers lot. At the beginning of the series, they finally made their escape and the studio spent the entire series trying to acclimate them to polite society with no success. The kids were not evil, though. They were rambunctious and sarcastic but, like Bugs Bunny, they really only caused malicious chaos when somebody crossed the line and upset them. Their revenge was out of proportion but justified. Out of the three, Yakko Warner was my favorite. His form of comedy was mostly wordplay. He employed puns, sarcasm, and just good old-fashioned tricks with words. He was basically a cartoon form of Groucho Marx. He always seemed to be the smartest guy in the room and he leveraged that to make mean or rude people pay for their behavior. He also sang quite a few of the show’s most memorable songs including the highly educational Yakko’s World and Yakko’s Universe. Like Groucho, he usually ended up as the leader of his siblings and their spokesman. Inside my head, the words always flowed like Yakko but outside, especially as a kid, I was never as glib.


3. Sailor Mercury (Ami)

When I was sitting on my bed, watching episodes of Sailor Moon from Cartoon Network’s line up, I always loved Sailor Mercury the most. She never had the coolest power but in retrospect, her abilities usually gave the Scouts a tactical advantage such as fog or freezing the enemy. I mean, Sailor Jupiter obviously had the coolest powers. However, Ami was present from the fifth episode and it is a good thing that she was. She is by far the smartest of all of the Scouts and was the only Scout to be granted a magical supercomputer. There is only one episode of the original anime when she pulls out her Mercury Goggles which was basically a VR overlay visor for scanning things. That blew my mind because the combination of technology and magic was amazing. I identified with Ami because she was the “smart one” and my teachers kept claiming I was intelligent. I was also interested in the emerging technology of computers just as Ami was. Also, I was probably drawn to Ami because she was the shy and timid one and that was how I felt as well.


2. Spider-Man

In the middle of the decade, Marvel finally got its crap together and started to put out really good animation. Spider-Man is a character who I have always loved. His origins are as a nerdy and shy high schooler who got to magically transform into a superhero after being bitten by a radioactive spider. As a kid, I dreamed of finding my own radioactive spider (figuratively, of course). He also got to work for a newspaper in a sort of creative job all while studying cool science in college. That cool science enhanced his gear with gadgets but his main deal was his brain, his strength, and his speed. The cartoon in the 90s was great. It really captured a lot of what I loved about reading Spider-Man comics and it included pretty much his entire rogue’s gallery. They really captured both Peter’s internal monologue and the quips that Spider-man uses to disarm his foes mid-battle. The show also explored a lot of the angst that a young superhero felt while also trying to juggle a career, school, and a girlfriend. The show and the comics made me feel at the time that I could be Spider-Man which is one of the main strengths of the character. Anybody can be under that mask as long as they have radioactive spider blood too.


1. Batman

When I was a little kid, reruns of the 1966 Batman show came on and, while I enjoyed it, I never really engaged with it. It was better than I Dream of Jeannie reruns because it had superheroes even though Adam West was never really super. My relationship with Batman drastically improved when Bruce Timm and Warner Brothers released Batman: The Animated Series. B:TAS was everything that I wanted Batman to be and it became the bar by which I measured future Batman stories. The Animated Series was an amazing mix of both light and dark. I welcomed the darkness which was so sorely lacking from the campy Adam West series. I realized that Adam West was never really Batman. This was Batman. Kevin Conroy’s strong voice matched the shadowy, adventurous character on screen. His voice could be scary, brave, warm, vulnerable, and even funny at times without losing the character of Batman. The writing made it clear that Batman was not perfect but he lived in a world that believed he was. He put the weight of the world on his shoulders and then still saved the day the best way he knew how.

Media Update 2/15/18

February 15, 2018


Happy!

I have been a Christopher Meloni fan for years. I became a fan when I first watched Law and Order SVU but I had a feeling that he could do more than that character. I was right. I had watched Wet Hot American Summer long before SVU but I never made the connection. When I recently rediscovered WHAS, I was astonished to see Meloni in a quirky and funny role. This show has him in a darkly comic, weird role that really makes me laugh but I also feel for the character. He plays an ex-cop who is now basically a homeless hitman who is being given a second chance to be a hero. He has a death wish so his nonplussed reactions to danger are both scary and funny. He is guided on his mission by a little girl’s imaginary friend played by Patton Oswalt. Patton’s character (the titular Happy) is a pure innocent who is slowly corrupted by traveling through the bowels of society all while struggling to stay good and loyal. Patton must have drawn on both his stand up’s dark humor and his experience doing kids animated movies. I am only a few episodes in but I really want to see where this is going. I wholeheartedly recommend it but it is dark.


Cloak and Dagger

I stumbled upon this now-obscure movie because I was suddenly interested in imaginary friends after watching some episodes of Happy!. I consulted TV Tropes and I was intrigued by the basic premise of this movie. Also, I found out that it was written by Tom Holland (who would go on to direct such great movies such as Fright Night). Holland and the director’s intention was to create a suspense/thriller that is for kids. The movie is about a young boy named Davey whose mother recently died and he is being somewhat neglected by his hardworking father. He is obsessed with a game about a spy and he has gotten a little girl and a game store owner obsessed with the game too. You might already see where this is going. He stumbles upon a real spy plot and finds out what that world is actually like. Along the way, he is guided by the fictional spy he idolized (and played as). The boy is played by Henry Thomas and he plays the internal conflict between excitement and fear really well. His neighbor and best friend is played by Christina Nigra and she is appropriate sassy and surprisingly capable for a really little kid. Dabney Coleman plays both the boy’s father and the spy the boy idolizes forming obvious but charming symbolism. The movie is very suspenseful but it is also very charming and I really enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. I definitely recommend it.


Donnie Darko

This is a weird movie but I knew that going in. I have wanted to watch this movie ever since it came out but I just never have for reasons. The movie largely deals with issues of time travel through supernatural and not science fiction means. It also deals with human psychology, sociology, and religion. The movie also deals with the rising anti-intellectualism that was sweeping the United States during the early 2000s and still takes root today. The main character is played by Jake Gyllenhaal who is great at playing a disaffected youth who is caught in the middle of insanity and forces beyond his control. Along the way, he is shepherded by teachers played by Drew Barrymore and Noah Wyle. He is opposed by ignorance in the form of Betty Grant and Patrick Swayze. He has allies in sassy Maggie Gyllenhaal and intelligent Jena Malone. This is the kind of movie that is hard to describe without spoiling it. It is also hard to capture with just a description because this movie is just a lot to take in. The movie puts forward a lot of interesting ideas about a lot of subjects, most importantly causality and time travel. Along the way, there is a lot of dark, offbeat humor mostly from characters who are easy to hate and characters who are very warm and inviting. Of course, it does not hurt that the movie is set in my favorite month. I definitely recommend this movie as it is something you kind of have to see yourself.

Music of the Week:
Metric (and Brie Larson) – Black Sheep

Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension

Nate Wants to Battle – Delete Me

The Black Satans – The Satan Of Hell

The Struts – Kiss This

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Imaginary Friends”
– I started watching Criminal Minds Season 11
– I started watching The Good Place Season 2
– I started watching The Librarians Season 4

– I watched more Mad Men Season 1
– As usual, I watched some of my YouTube shows like Game Grumps, DCA, GTLive, KittyKatGaming, and Critical Role
– I have also watched some Barry Kramer and RubberRoss on Twitch

Valentine’s Day 2018

February 12, 2018

Heart

Why yes, I did learn how to make Animated GIFs. (Hard G 4 Life)

Well, dear readers, once again Valentine’s Day approaches. This holiday usually comes and goes rather quickly through my life, here and gone in a flash. After all, I have never had a girlfriend. I have had relationships but no actual girlfriend. As I posted before, this is not something that really troubles me when I think about it. For some reason, the holiday has gotten stuck in my head this year. It might be that all of the advertising for flowers, pajamagrams, chocolate diamonds, and chocolate covered berries. Maybe it’s all of the magical girl stuff I have been watching lately. Maybe it’s the sum of all of pop culture around this time pointing us toward showing affection to our significant others.

I remember hating Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. We had to bring Valentine’s Day cards into class and we had little mailboxes on our desks. I hated having to come up with a cheap valentine for each member of my class. I hated receiving all of them because I knew that everybody had to bring a card for everybody in the class. I was shy and unpopular and I was stuck between a desire for validation and wanting to hide in plain sight. I do remember liking seeing my favorite superheroes on the Valentine’s Day cards which I had my mother buy even though I’m sure not everybody in the class liked the X-Men. Of course, I had yet to find girls who liked the geeky stuff that I liked. I also thought the whole thing was kind of pointless as we were little kids and it really was not going anywhere. Thankfully, a lot of that disappeared in later years of school.

In later years, I saw boyfriends and girlfriends in school giving each other gifts. It was cute but it kind of ratcheted up a sort of pressure in me. At times, that made me want a girlfriend but not because I actually wanted to spend a lot of time with a girl, but because I felt I was supposed to. Of course, that is the dark side of Valentine’s Day. Those who have somebody feel content and those without somebody feel like something is missing. When I grew up a little more, I realized that the pressure came from within and not from society as I had originally thought. Once I let go of that pressure and embraced just being friends with people, I felt way better. Later, I found out that “aromantic” is an actual thing and it may be where I am at. So now, I am way more at ease with Valentine’s Day.

This year, whether you are with somebody, somebodies, or alone, I urge you to first learn to love yourself. That is something that I have struggled with in the past. I have struggled with anxiety and depression where I just knew that I was not good enough. Lately, I have been doing my best to turn that around. It is part of my larger goal to accentuate the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. It is something that Commander Holly (of YouTube and Dungeons Dragons fame) taught me. She yelled it out “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anybody else?” at the end of a Game Grumps Valentine’s video and I loved it. Ever since I heard that, I have tried to incorporate it a little more into my life each year.

Please don’t view this post as an indictment of regular Valentine’s behavior. Go out and buy jewelry or don’t. Go on a date or don’t. This year, I am naming you guys as my Valentine. I love waking up to notifications that somebody has subscribed to this blog or liked a particular post. I love you guys so that’s why I am giving you a little piece of my heart not just for Valentimes but also three days a week year-round (and more during April and October). Whatever you intend this Wednesday, I hope you have a good one.

The Frozen Star

February 10, 2018

(This is going to be an ongoing series where I describe the Tabletop RPG campaigns that I have been a part of and the characters that I chose to play. There are already some short stories and descriptions on this blog but I have not really gone in depth about what the game was actually like. At the end of each description, there will also be a short song playlist that will attempt to capture how my character felt about their situation)

The first actual in-person tabletop gaming game I joined was at my friend’s house and it was a real awakening. You see, I was not actually friends with any of the people I still play with yet. In fact, I had only met two out seven of my new companions. I petitioned to be part of the group through my cousin’s brother in law who said he would ask the group. I was nervous as hell because I had never played at the table before and I really wanted to impress these people. When I arrived, they briefly interviewed me to gauge my experience and desire which came from listening to D&D podcasts and studying Vampire books in high school. They allowed me to join their campaign.

The campaign was a space opera-type adventure already in progress when I arrived. The Frozen Star was a spaceship crewed by a ragtag group of mercenaries in the tradition of a lot of science fiction stories. The ship was captained by a being made of pure energy. The crew also consisted of a computer expert who was of an insect race, a deadly birdperson sniper, a lizard-like engineer, a turtlewoman, and a speedster human. I first joined as a charismatic new “Faceman” but I was too shy and new to pull it off. Instead, I joined the crew as an ex-soldier human who had super strength powers. As James Garen, I wielded a laser longsword and prized loyalty above everything else.

My character had attended academy with one of the crew so that was my “in” so that I trusted them and they trusted me. As soon as I joined, we were off and running. We were dodging a galactic government, dealing with a crime syndicate, and also with terrorists. Along the way, my character got to show off his immense strength and prowess in battle but I was still green when it came to actually roleplaying. The simple character helped as I was still getting the hang of things and I was able to watch the other characters. I also got to know everybody in the group a little better and everybody seemed to become more accepting and relaxed about the new addition.

I saw my first player character deaths as the turtlewoman and the insectman argued until both were brutally killed by a hacker sabotaging the lab they were in. I became enthralled as I watched our story unfold. I learned how to deal with my first Game Master, learning what he was into and also what our group liked to do. We like to advance the story a lot but we also take time out for comedy and a little character progression. Roleplaying is something we do not always actually engage in. However, even if we do not talk out every conversation, we do write full backstories for our characters. Having a backstory really helped me to immerse myself in the story. I had to play catch up but I eventually started to figure things out.

Disturbed – Indestructible

James Garen was a soldier like his father before him and his grandfather before that. At the time, I was drawing on my own family’s history in the military (which thankfully stopped before it got to me). Also, this song hits as hard as James could.

Black Sabbath – Neon Knights

After choosing that my character should be human and that he should have super strength, I was given the choice of what his chosen weapon would look like. The weapon I chose was a laser longsword that I poured some of my energy into to make it ignite. Also, at one point, I hit a space dragon in the face with it.

John Entwistle & Alice Cooper – Space Pirates

James was briefly part of a crew that was killed by space pirates before running into the other player characters. It was also at this point that I learned that you do not blurt out your entire backstory the first time you meet the other characters. I totally blurted out that my former crew was dead which did not inspire much confidence in my character’s abilities. Oh well.

Media Update 2/8/18

February 8, 2018


Mad Men

I let the craze for this show pass me by. I don’t watch a lot of live television and I do not own any DVR device so the shows I watch are limited. In fact, I just cut the cord and I am without cable and feeling fine. Once again, Netflix has my back and delivers a lot of the shows and movies that I missed. (Not sponsored) Jon Hamm is a heck of a charismatic actor, of course, and I had heard so much about how real this show is. Readers of this blog know that I have been enjoying a lot of period shows lately but this is a different animal. This show is about advertising workers on Madison Avenue (hence “Mad” Men) trying to climb the ladder or hold on to the ladder. It is also about the women in the business (mostly in the secretarial pool) who have a much more brutal path to survival. It is the sixties. Everybody drinks and smokes, everybody wears a suit or a dress. Everybody is also hiding something or working a secret angle to get either what they deserve or what they should have never had. So far, there are no heroes. There are no good people to root for as everybody comes across as cynical and sinister but we shall see how that shakes out. I recommend this one but know that it is a pretty dark show.


A Futile and Stupid Gesture

I remember watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation without knowing exactly what “National Lampoon” was. Because I did not know, it was just something my eyes slid over whenever I encountered it after that. When I heard interviews with guys like Conan O’Brien and other Simpsons writers, I had heard of the Harvard Lampoon but never connected the dots. This movie is the story about how two former editors of the Harvard Lampoon (a comedy publication at Harvard) created a national version. It was a mix of clever humor and extremely crass humor and it eventually employed most of the first staff and cast of Saturday Night Live (who had to tone it down a bit for television). Primarily, the movie is about Doug Kenney who seemed to be the driving force and the heart of the magazine. He was a man who thought the world was one big joke and it led him to high highs and low lows. He had a brief life and he created a magazine and two movies (Animal House, Caddyshack) that helped change the face of comedy. The movie includes many of the funniest people of the current era of comedy playing a lot of the funniest people of the seventies. Will Forte plays Doug Kenney and he portrayed why Kenney was both so likable and so frustrating to those around him. I recommend this as it was a funny and sweet movie.


American Made

I have liked pretty much everything I have seen Tom Cruise in. His personal eccentricities aside, he is a highly charismatic actor. He also has seen the writing on the wall and has started to take roles aside from action again because he knows he’s getting older and maybe he got bored of those sorts of roles. This movie is a comedy/ drama about a pilot who gets caught up with the CIA, the Contras, and Pablo Escobar in the middle of the eighties. He is just a regular joe who tries to navigate difficult political waters to make a living for his family while also trying to actually survive. This is a great look at the dumb and dangerous sorts of things that were happening under Reagan. Heck, they could still be happening for all I know. Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who gets bored and jumps at a dangerous new career. Domnhall Gleeson plays his CIA contact and shows that the CIA are not the mysterious, cool guys that are usually depicted in movies. I also really loved Sarah Wright as Seal’s wife who will do whatever it takes to keep her family together through a very tumultuous period. I definitely recommend this one as it was a lot of fun and did not go exactly where I expected.

Music of the Week:
Marilyn Manson – KILL4ME

Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still

2NE1 – I AM THE BEST

Toots & The Maytals – Premature

LCD Soundsystem- Daft Punk Is Playing At My House

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Outrageous Behavior”
– I continued watching Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 1
– I continued watching Gurren Lagann
– I continued watching Little Witch Academia Season 2
– I continued watching Peaky Blinders Season 1
– I continued watching K Season 1
– I am so hyped for Black Panther

Media Update 2/1/18

February 1, 2018


Blade Runner 2049

I had heard mixed reviews of this movie but then I remembered the one really bad review I got was from somebody who does not seem to like movies in general. I love the original Blade Runner for its world-building, characters, and settings. I did not like its pacing but it was really my one issue with the movie. That is actually my big issue with this movie. Well, pacing and also length. I watched the movie in two installments because my schedule has gotten tighter on a regular basis. That is not to say that the movie is boring, though. Far from it. If I had been in theaters, I probably could have made it in one shot. The two movies gave me the same feeling. There is kind of a hopeless feeling to watching things that look like humans try to survive being killed off by somebody just doing their job. Ryan Gosling plays the titular blade runner this time and he has a great subtle performance as he tries to solve a big mystery. Robin Wright plays his boss, a woman who does not suffer fools. Ana de Armas was one of my favorite parts of the movie, as a very interesting character that made me smile but also made me sad. I also really loved the technology and implications of Carla Juri’s character. Finally, of course, there was Harrison Ford who felt like he fell right back into his role from the original but properly aged as he would be. If it feels like I am talking too vaguely, it is because I do not want to spoil anything for you. That is because I definitely recommend this one.


Peaky Blinders

I had heard about this show off and on for a while now but the name threw me a bit. After three episodes, I am sure not sure what that name actually means. It is largely immaterial. The show is about a small gang in England who are trying to move up in the world. They are a band of brothers back from World War I and still feeling the effects of the trenches but believing they have something left to prove. They have a lot of obstacles. The IRA is around, still stinging from recent losses to the English government. Communism is starting to take hold and workers are threatening to strike. There other British gangs both ones that pretend to be gentlemen and gypsies. Above all, there is a new chief inspector brought over from Ireland, formerly an IRA hunter and he tolerates no nonsense. The head of the gang is played with a lot of good layers by Cillian Murphy. His chief rival, the no-nonsense inspector, is played by Sam Neill. The show is gritty and dramatic but definitely without a sense of humor. The interplay between the different factions of Birmingham, England make for a very volatile plot that could shift at any moment. I definitely recommend watching this one.


The Pinkertons

I have heard about the historical Pinkertons for a long time. From what I had heard, they mostly helped to protect trains but I did some research and found out that they are security guards and private detectives. The show follows that narrative. In the show, Allan Pinkerton (the founder of the nationwide company) teams his son up with a female agent in Kansas City. William Pinkerton is a ne’er-do-well who gets by on his street smarts, likability, and physical toughness. He is assigned a new supervising partner in Kate Warne, a by-the-book agent who loves science and it feels like she operates a bit like Holmes. The show deals with dark subjects like murder and the aftermath of the Civil War but it does so with a light touch. I would liken the show to stuff like Warehouse 13 or Brisco County Jr. The chemistry between the two stars is fun to watch. Yes, the story is set in the south during the reconstruction period and that is addressed. People are still very hurt and angry. People are also still rocked by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This is the landscape in which the two heroes are trying to solve crimes while also not being official law enforcement. I recommend it as I will be checking out the rest at some point.

Music of the Week:
The Fall – Telephone Thing

Sigrid – Don’t Kill My Vibe

Becky G – Todo Cambio

Vince Staples – Norf Norf

Red Sun Rising – Amnesia

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Detectives and Criminals”
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 1
– I watched more Gurren Lagann
– I watched more K
– I finished Season 2 of Schitt’s Creek
– I watched more Little Witch Academia Season 2
– As usual, I watched more Game Grumps and Critical Role
– I also watched the Royal Rumble and Takeover: Philadelphia

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Raw 25

January 27, 2018

WILPW

As I have said repeatedly, I have been a fan of Pro-Wrestling/Sports Entertainment for about 22 years or so since I first watched WWF’s Mania, a Saturday morning recap show at my friend Farris’ house. The first match I can remember is Shawn Michaels vs. Salvatore Sincere (does anybody remember him?) for the World Heavyweight Title. Shawn made his opponent look like a sincere threat and showcased his legendary resilience in the ring. I remember the moment that I became a fan was when Shawn hit Sincere with his elbow off the top. When I saw Sweet Chin Music, I was already hooked. Not long after that, I was able to put an old television in my room so I could watch Monday Night Raw undisturbed. So, I basically started to watch right as the Attitude Era fully launched.

So, it was a no-brainer that I was going to watch the entirety of the 25th-anniversary episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Raw has a rich history and one that I have been mostly present for. When I heard there was a pre-show on the network, I figured I would watch that too. I fired up the network for the second time that day (after catching up on NXT and the first Mixed Match Challenge episode). I usually skip pre-shows because it is a lot of talking with few actual promos and maybe one match. There was Renee Young, David Otunga, and Joe Rosenberg (Who?). Otunga and Young shared a lot of their favorite Raw memories while Rosenberg fanboyed. It was kind of pleasant to watch a lot of the memories that I remembered. There were also short bits from Eric Bischoff, Bayley/Trish Stratus, and a few other brief moments.

After the preliminaries, Raw actually began and it started with Stephanie and Shane McMahon coming out together, apparently putting aside their feud temporarily. These two were a big part of Raw when I watched in my teen years. They acted gracious and thankful for all of the support of the fans. They were interrupted by Vince McMahon. His kids offered him a plaque funded by Gofundme (aren’t they millionaires in their own right?) and Vince cut an awesome heel promo on his kids and the fans. It was the classic villainous Vince. Which, of course, summoned his greatest foe Stone Cold Steve Austin who looked really in shape (although his jeans were a bit too tight). At this point, Stephanie McMahon knew what was up and seemed to evaporate between camera shots which made me laugh. Vince claimed to be a senior citizen now so Austin had to lay off. Instead, he offered up Shane as a sacrifice and then tried to appease Austin with beer (although it wasn’t Broken Skull IPA so he screwed up there). After a very surreal hug, Austin stunnered Vince and then gave a second one to Shane who really should have rolled out of the ring and retreated.

The pre-show had set up the return of the Acolyte Protection Agency card game this time with the APA, Rhyno, Heath Slater, and Ted Dibiase (who kept giving loans to Heath). As the night wore on, the game got bigger and bigger (which thankfully meant that JBL got fewer and fewer lines). MVP, Titus Worldwide, Natalya, Jeff Hardy, The Usos, and the New Day all joined the party eventually which made for some great trash talking. The joke here was that every time they cut to the game, Heath Slater was laying out crappy hands only to get beat and lose more money. This led to the so dumb it was funny line from Dana Brooke: “I crunched the numbers and you have lost a lot of money.” It’s nice to see Dana embrace the weird character she was given, I just wish she would wrestle in the spotlight again. She was on the cusp of winning the Raw Women’s title at one point. Finally, Heath won a hand by cheating which led to a match with Titus Worldwide and a 3D from the Dudley Boys. Rhyno also totally pushed Heath into the ring to sacrifice him to the Dudleys, probably as part of Rhyno’s ongoing mission to toughen up Heath. Come on, Rhyno, the guy’s got kids.

The matches were pretty good. We only got one women’s match with Alicia Fox and Nia Jax strangely teaming with Absolution against Asuka, Bayley, Sasha, and Mickie. It would have been nice to have at least two women’s matches during the course of the night since the division has become a big draw lately. Also, this is the go home show for their first Royal Rumble. There was the aforementioned Slayer/Rhyno vs. Titus/Apollo match which was really short but fun. Woken Matt Hardy faced off against Bray Wyatt and, although I love both characters, the match barely made an impression except that Bray finally won a match. There was a match between The Revival and Gallows and Anderson with DX and Finn Balor watching. The best match of the night was an Intercontinental title match between Roman Reigns and The Miz. Of course, The Miztourage was also at ringside. All four guys know each other pretty well by now and the match flowed really well. The Miz cheated every chance he got and won his 8th Intercontinental title.

What was basically the end of the show was a Degeneration X reunion with some funny bits between Shawn Michaels and Triple H who always had great comic timing. They brought out X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws and paid tribute to the fallen Rick Rude and Chyna. Then, for some reason, Scott Hall came out as Razor Ramon which was probably the most awkward thing of the night. Then Finn Balor came out with Gallows and Anderson and the former Kliq did the “too suite” gesture with them. It was kind of an approval of that splinter faction of The Bullet Club using the gesture that the Kliq first came up with. It was a weird moment but it sort of made sense. Then the Revival came out and got beat by Gallows and Anderson before getting finishing moves from most of DX. WWE needs to give the top guys a break and let them stretch their legs now that they are uninjured.

There was also a brief confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman which was far too rushed. That was kind of a theme of the night. Anything having to do with the current roster felt rushed and too short. This was the go-home Raw for the Royal Rumble, one of the biggest shows of the year. It was also a celebration of the last 25 years. They absolutely nailed the showcasing of legends and characters from the last 25 years with skits and promos. It should have been the other way around. They should have used the opportunity to showcase the best of their roster while they probably had additional eyes. They should have sprinkled little bits of nostalgia in between longer matches. There was a missed opportunity when they did not have a match with Goldust in it, a character that was born 22 years ago. They could have shifted a lot of the skits and promos to the pre-show instead of basically making it a cross between The Chris Farley Show and a clip show. Only one champion wrestled throughout the night and that is a bit weird.

Overall, it was an enjoyable night. It was nice to see a lot of the performers of the past alive and well. It would have been nice if they had done more with the women of the past but the night already felt cramped. The show was just about exactly what I thought it would be. I knew it was going to be a nostalgic love letter mostly to the Attitude Era. It was also a reminder of why I am glad we eventually left the Attitude Era and why I am glad we are not going back. The night awakened memories of sitting on my floor and watching Raw is War which made me tired at school the next day. The Royal Rumble is shaping up to be really fun and will be a return to the WWE’s present and it will hopefully shake up the landscape a bit.

Media Update 1/25/18

January 25, 2018


Baywatch

I never really watched Baywatch when it first aired or since. I was aware of the show, though, and all of its quirks and weirdness. It was an odd show that only got odder as the seasons went by. I know all about the slow-mo, lifeguards pursuing criminals, Hollywood good looks, and cheesy lines and plots. This movie knew exactly what it was. It was part-parody, part-tribute to a show from the nineties. I would compare it to The Brady Bunch Movie. There were a lot of callbacks to the show but there was a lot of self-referential/meta-humor. The movie had its cake and ate it too by pointing out the flaws in the show and then embracing them. The Rock was great as usual. He has a magnetic charisma that is impossible to ignore. Zac Efron is funny as the douchebag who learns some humility and redeems himself. Alexandria Daddario ends up being the smartest character in the movie which is not saying much but still. Ilfenesh Hadera was just as badass as the Rock, basically a highly-capable, female version of his character. Finally, Priyanka Chopra was a great card-carrying villain who had Hanibal Burress as her henchman. I understand why people dismissed this movie or did not like it but if you saw the trailers, you knew exactly what you were getting. It is a strange movie. However, I still recommend it if you can go in with few expectations and a good mood.


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

I was a big fan of the original Jumanji film. It was during the heyday of Robin Williams and it had a great big budget for both CGI and practical effects. Also, the concept of a board game coming to life and threatening the players was a fun idea. The movie had comedy and adventure. This movie was an attempt at an update with a sort of sequel. Instead of a board game, the four kids find a video game that transports them into Jumanji, a setting previously unexplored. Not only does it transport them into the game, it transports their minds into video game avatars. The Rock (yep again) is a nerdy scaredy cat who transforms into a musclebound hero. Kevin Hart is a football star who transforms into a short sidekick. Karen Gillan is a brainy geek who transforms into a brutal fighter. Jack Black is a self-obsessed teen girl who transforms into a bookish professor. The point of the movie is to watch these actors play against type and slowly try to adjust to their new roles. The movie is not a reboot but an unconnected sequel. It was oddly charming to me. Sure, there were some bits that were a little overdone to me but overall it was a fun movie. I recommend it if you like a fun actiony movie with cute humor and a very fluffy plot.


CHIPS

I really do not know much about CHIPS beyond seeing it parodied and listening to an episode of TV Crimes about it. It seemed like a weird show that I would not like. This is, of course, from the perspective of somebody on the outside looking in. Anyway, the movie tried to do the same thing that Baywatch did. It was both a parody and a tribute. However, it did not quite work for me. Dax Shepard plays Jon, an ex-stunt biker who wants to be a cop to impress his wife (Kristen Bell! What a waste!). Michael Pena plays Ponch, his partner who is trying to investigate a crime covertly. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain and he is usually a great villain but he had very few scenes to strut his stuff in. Most of the movie is spent on the interplay between Pena and Shepard who are an odd couple. Shepard’s character is touchy-feely and psychoanalyzes everything and Pena is crass and rude. In the end, I guess I just did not really like their characters. Also, I feel like the movie was oddly sexual with at least half of the jokes being about sex or nudity in some way. That was not really necessary or desired. The movie ended up being alright but not the fun romp that I wanted it to be. I do not recommend it but use your own judgment since it is not that bad.

Music of the Week:
Miike Snow – Genghis Khan

Von Iva – Not Hot To Trot

J Balvin – Safari

She Wants Revenge – Tear You Apart

Big Data – Get Some Freedom

 

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Action Comedies from the Past”
– I finished watching Longmire
– I finished Season 2 of The Magicians
– I started watching Glitter Force Doki Doki
– I continued watching Gurren Lagann
– I continued watching Little Witch Academia Season 2
– I continued watching DuckTales
– I am almost done Schitt’s Creek Season 2
– I finished Puella Magi Madoka Magica
– I have been hitting the gym lately and watching anime there


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