Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Unbreakable

April 25, 2017

I have always liked superheroes ever since I discovered the joys of comic books. Back in the day (middle school mostly), I would save up my allowance and I would walk over two miles to the comic book store. I was proud of that. I still am. It made getting them back home all the sweeter, reading my comics after a quick shower to wash off all that good exercise. I used to spend my walk there and back thinking about the adventures I was about to read. I used to think about what it would be like to have superpowers. What if instead of walking, I was flying over the northern parts of Baltimore City. I thought about how much time I would save if I had super speed. Unfortunately, there were only tall buildings for part of the trip so I could not swing around like Spider-man or Batman.

I remember going to watch The Sixth Sense. This was the first movie from a relatively unknown director named M. Night Shyamalan and I was interested in seeing a cool ghost story. I was in high school by then and I was totally into horror movies by then not only as part of Halloween but as a 365/24/7 kind of deal. This was before we knew about Mr. Shyamalan’s penchant for twists at the end of the movies he writes and directs. Thankfully, the well-known twist from The Sixth Sense had not been spoiled for me so I enjoyed something that in retrospect was a little pointless and anti-climactic. Still, the journey was an interesting one and the movie was seen for a long time as the one good Shyamalan movie but there was another that I have not seen to this day. That is why we are looking at the superpowered tale of Unbreakable.

The movie starts off slow and quiet and the movie actually continues to be pretty slow and quiet throughout. Bruce Willis is the lead once again in this one but he plays a more blue-collar character. I am used to seeing him as brash and mouthy but he was quiet and unassuming. This kind of matches the other major character played with Samuel Jackson who is usually loud and intense but he is also subdued. It gives the movie an offbeat sort of feeling. We get a lot of slice of life of Bruce Willis’ character and everybody is pretty quiet. That was really unsettling the more I think about it.

This movie was a comic book movie in the truest sense of those words. In fact, it might be the purest comic book movie we have had yet. The plot is a superhero origin story but it is largely driven by actual comic books. If superpowers actually appeared in our world, we would probably pay a lot more attention to comic books. A lot of the concepts and language are derived from or are in purposeful conflict with comic books. For a guy who grew up with comic books and still reads them, that is a pretty cool concept. However, the movie lacks a lot of the excitement and charm that most superhero books that I like have. While Bruce Willis’ character is likable and relatable, I just did not really want to hang out with him. He was too sad.

Overall, I really liked the concept of the movie but I did not really appreciate the execution. They started with a good idea but Shyamalan just cannot write normal dialogue. Everybody sounds like aliens trying to act like humans. The life and energy of usually talented or charismatic actors are sucked out and we are left with a passable performance. I guess I do not regret watching this movie but I could not in good faith recommend it to people. I just feel really blah about it. I think I am officially closing the book on M. Night Shyamalan. He just does not do it for me.

Top 11 Favorite Anime Series

April 24, 2017

Top 11

I have read a few top lists for anime series (and movies) and there are some of the usual suspects and some that I have not seen yet. My top list may not be the most thoughtfully crafted, profound creations but I enjoyed them. A lot of these were also my gateway into the genre of anime and will be fondly remembered forever for that reason.


11 Record of Lodoss War

I did not see this one on any of the lists. I add this here because it combined anime with high fantasy. It is something that is Dungeons and Dragons-inspired. It is based on a bunch of Japanese fantasy novels but the look of it was definitely Western fantasy. It follows the hero Parn, the son of a dishonored knight who is trying to bring honor back to his family’s name. He is accompanied by his love, the high elf Deedlit, his mentor Slayn, Ghim, Etoh, and Woodchuck. The series eventually shifts to cover characters related to the first cast. It is basically a D&D party adventuring. The characters were always interesting and the adventure was fun to follow.


10 Lupin the 3rd

I love heist movies or heist shows (see Italian Job, Oceans 11, Leverage, The Sting, etc.). The twists and turns of the plans of legitimately skilled criminals are fun to watch. That is what Lupin the 3rd is about. Lupin is an infamous master thief who is descended from a family of master thieves. He pursues thievery with great joy and a flair for the dramatic. Of course, nothing goes right a hundred percent of the time so he is backed up by his crew of Goemon, Jigen, and Zenigata. All of them provide specialized skills to win the day. The art style was also really smooth and just had this international style. The show is mostly madcap capers with plenty of action and comedy.


9 Trigun

Cowboys. Who doesn’t love cowboys? Trigun was a great series about Vash the Stampede, also known as the Humanoid Typhoon. Wanted posters across the land bear the face of this more human than human gunfighter but he is actually a really nice guy. He constantly tries to protect people without blowing his cover. He is pursued by two agents named Millie and Meryl who are partners tasked with documenting the damage Vash inadvertently causes by combatting the bad guys. They and others get sucked into the combat, helping Vash save the day. The show has great artwork and stylistic, well-animated gun fights and combat in general. There is a lot of classic Wild West imagery thrown in with great science fiction technology. This show can get very dramatic but it has a lot of comic moments to lighten the mood.


8 Gurren Lagann

This was a later find for me thanks to a tip from Ross O’Donovan. I like this show because of the unbridled sense of optimism you get from it. No matter what the obstacles are, the characters find some crazy way to overcome it. It is famous for the line “Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in the Kamina that believes in you!” A line used to instill confidence in a character who constantly suffers from anxiety and low self-esteem. The show is full of all sorts of craziness with action, drama, and plenty of wacky comedy. It is about two young guys who emerge from an underground city in a post-apocalyptic land and recover two battle mechs. They team up with a rebellious faction to fight off the monsters and villains that plague the dangerous terrain around them. While things often look hopeless, they are a shining light in the darkness. It is pretty inspiring and sometimes very funny.


7 Naruto

This is kind of the anime I hear people refer to the most. Naruto follows a ninja student who is trying his hardest to be the best person he can be. Naruto was cursed to contain a demon beast inside of himself and he battles that with the help of his friends. The show also follows Naruto’s graduating class at the academy who are all interesting characters. The supporting cast is huge and there are so many characters I identify with and cheer on. Each ninja has their own signature set of powers and abilities that they use to fight with like manipulating the elements, cloning themselves, mind merging with a dog and changing shape among many, many powers. The show constantly surprises me with how dramatic it can be considering half of the characters are happy go lucky goofballs. The thing is, most of the characters are young and they act like you would expect young people to act. The animation is generally super bright and fluid which makes for excellent action scenes.


6 Mobile Fighter G Gundam

When I grew up playing a lot of video games, one of the biggest things in the arcades was fighting games. One of the most iconic fighting games of all time would have to be Street Fighter II where all the fighters represented their countries of origin. That is the feeling I got from watching G Gundam. The show is about a world where futuristic societies in orbit around Earth hold giant robot battles to settle political differences instead of fighting wars. The main protagonist is the representative from Neo-Japan but there are other main protagonists from Neo-America, Neo-France, Neo-China and Neo-Russia. Most episodes are about matches between the giant Gundam mechs who each have their own style of fighting and weaponry which often represent their country somehow. While I like earlier and later Gundam series, this one was so optimistic and energetic and was such a breath of fresh air.


5 One Piece

This one has the potential to be controversial not because this series is not popular but because I first fell in love with it during the 4Kids dub days. Luckily, they kept the same voice cast when the even better Funimation dub started up. Anyway, this is is a story about a young man with magical stretchy Mr. Fantastic powers who has a dream to be King of the Pirates. His goal is to recover a treasure in the most dangerous part of the ocean that will allow him to inherit the power and wealth of the famous Jolly Roger. Along the way, he forms a crew of misfits and underdogs who become a formidable team together. The action scenes are so fun as there are super-powered fistfights, sword fights, gun fights and so much more. The show is also pretty surreal with all kinds of animal people, altered humans and so many other creatures and all of it adds to the action and comedy of the show.


4 Fullmetal Alchemist

This show came when I was just about ready to get back into anime during college. It really resonated with me because it is about two brothers hanging together no matter what and that is how I feel about my brothers. The show is about a world where humans have discovered real workable alchemy and use it as a system of magic in combat. The animation is fluid and beautiful, especially during action sequences where the characters are using alchemy to battle one another. The show is about the conflict between the military, the people and the monsters somewhere in between the two. The Elric brothers stick together through thick and thin as dogs of the military, investigating threats to the nation and eventually uncovering something much bigger. The show is probably the darkest one on this list as the brothers deal with death, resurrection, atrocities, genocide and other grotesque things done by heroes and villains alike.


3 Cowboy Bebop

From the first notes of the show’s theme song, the show has a great jazz feel to it. The animation has mostly muted, softer colors and deep beautiful shadows. The show takes place in a science fiction world but it definitely has both a film noir and a wild west feel to it. The show is about three bounty hunters who do not always get along or work together and yet they share a ship together. Spike is a well-dressed, slick adventurer. Jet is a muscle-bound, older tracker. Faye is a charmer and a con artist. Along the way, they are joined by a girl genius named Ed and her hyper-intelligent dog Ein. The show is inspired by Lupin the 3rd but they took it even farther in feel and execution. There is a great central plot thread but they approached each episode as if it was a movie and it shows. Each episode is pretty much a self-contained story about these characters with a clear story arc. The show has a lot of light, funny moments but it also has a lot of poetic, darker moments.


Sailor Moon

I talked about this show yesterday but it bears repeating that this was such a great show. After I wrote yesterday’s post (which is actually more about me than the show), I watched the show again. Serena is told by a talking cat that she is the legendary Sailor Moon, guardian of love and justice. She is joined by a whole team of Sailor Scouts mostly made up of her school friends. Together, they battle against the evil denizens of the Negaverse who want to hurt the citizens of Earth. The characters are so memorable to me and remind me of a lot of people I have known over the years. I have worked in a lot of female-dominated work environments in the past. It was also the first television show I watched that had gay characters in it which is amazing. Also, there is a male character who aids the female protagonist not by fighting her battles for her but by helping her remember who she is and how powerful she can be.


Seven Deadly Sins

This is a show I discovered last year and I am desperately waiting for Season 3. Season 2 was only four episodes long and the cliffhanger was awesome. Anyway, this show is about a group of seven legendary knights who were the best squad in the military service of a country called Leonis. They are the titular Seven Deadly Sins and they have been framed for crimes of treason and are actively being hunted. At the same time, they catch wind of a great danger to the nation and ride off to the rescue. There is so much to explore with this show and the best part is that I get to explore it with characters I would love to hang out with. The action scenes are some of the best I have seen, animated or not. The show just sparks my imagination in ways that few shows do. The show is not for children as there is plenty of gore and risque behavior but nothing feels gratuitous and, so far, there is always a happy ending right around the corner. The finale of the first season was also the first time I teared up in a while and also the first time I cheered at the screen at moments. It probably makes number one on this list because it is still ongoing and I desperately want more so badly.

Sailor Earth

April 22, 2017

In 1998, I was sixteen years old and I had fully embraced being a huge geek. Part of that was learning to love things that I had previously dismissed, something that drives me crazy these days. I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons but anime eluded me largely because I found it hard to connect to something in a different language. That is not to say that I do not enjoy watching things in their original language with subtitles, but when I was younger I needed anime dubbed in English to emotionally connect. One of my friends was a superfan of Dragonball Z and I made fun of him for it because it is fun to bust your friend’s chops. Then the show debuted on Cartoon Network and I fell in love with the art style and the drama of the early episodes. However, of all things shown on Cartoon Network’s Toonami, it was Sailor Moon that captivated my attention.

Sure, the animation on Sailor Moon was a little repetitive but I loved the characters and the light humor and dramatic touches resonated with me somehow. As a child of the eighties, I was exposed to the usual toxic masculinity that would have forbidden me from falling in love with a show like Sailor Moon. However, I always loved the characters on the show and I excitedly taped and watched every episode Toonami showed. I also liked the repetition of the show. Hearing phrases like “In the Name of the Moon, I will punish you!” over and over sounded badass. I loved watching the Sailor Scouts become more and more confident as they fought bigger and badder monsters each episode. The themes of friendship, teamwork, and love conquering hate were good to hear for a kid who had few but strong friendships. Those themes are even more important now.

I had a separate post on the backburner of my mind for ages now about something that is kind of specific to anime. Well, I guess it’s also used on shows like Power Rangers too. I am talking about calling out your attacks and magic spells as they are used. I have yet to come up with an explanation of why I love this trope of fiction. Maybe it is the familiar cadence of their voices accompanied by the satisfying destruction of a monster. Maybe it was the voice actors doing such a good job at showing the confidence that those attacks would solve everything. As an awkward teen, I was drawn to confidence.

I started to write what I now know is fanfiction. I loved the show but I started tweaking it on paper and in my head to have the same heart and soul but better animation. I started specializing the scouts just a little more to show off their individual strengths a bit. I think a lot of us who love fictional worlds so much find ourselves wanting to improve them not out of hate but out of pure love. Of course, a few seasons in and I became fascinated with the one male ally of the protagonists, Tuxedo Mask. As much as I liked the Tuxedo Mask imagery, I wanted him to eventually evolve a bit (he did but not in the way I expected). I wanted Darian to be granted his own symbol. The scouts (inner and outer) had the planets, Darian was basically Sailor Earth.

Out of tape and a Halloween safety light, I created a transformation charm with the Earth symbol that Tuxedo Mask might have used. I carried it around all the time but secretly in my pocket or in my backpack. I hid it at the time but it really was not unlike cosplay prop products that makers around the country work on these days. I imagined using that charm to transform to fight crime much like a lot of the heroes of shows like Sailor Moon, Power Rangers, Digimon, Megaman.EXE and Ronin Warriors. I have been thinking about it lately and I know I daydreamed of being Tuxedo Mask at the time. Not because I wanted to date Sailor Moon but because I wanted to fight alongside the Sailor Scouts while still being a guy.

Media Update 4/20/17

April 20, 2017


Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

I was a huge fan of the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 (although I was more of a Mike guy than a Joel guy). When the Kickstarter hit, I was both excited and scared. I never contributed but only because, when asked, Mike and the gang said they had no hand in it. However, as they announced more stuff, I was all in. Jonah Ray, Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day are all performers on the show and that alone would be enough. Add in writing credits from Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, Paul and Storm and others and you have a show that has so much potential. I fell in love with the new show right away. It does not hurt that Jonah Ray is a charming guy with an A plus in sarcasm. I am still getting used to the new bot’s voices but their characterization and comedy are on point. They have added all sorts of new stuff (like the bots moving around during the movie) to the show to make it their own. Three episodes in and the movies are not too painful and the jokes are great. I definitely recommend it as it felt like coming home after some cool renovations.


Nick Offerman: American Ham

The character of Ron Swanson was pretty much built off of how Nick Offerman actually is. The evolution of the character was basically the writers allowing Offerman to shine through. This comedy special is a list of ten rules to make your life better. They are offered in a joking way but the list actually makes sense and promotes low technology, feminism, and a love of nature. Offerman’s relationship with his wife (Megan Mullaly) is one of the most inspiring relationships I have ever seen. Also, one of Offerman’s central messages is finding your passion in life. This is so important. Offerman also wrote a whole bunch of parody songs (available on Youtube) but was not allowed to air them on Netflix and it is a great running gag. I definitely recommend it.


Ghostbusters (2016)

I finally decided to take the plunge to watch this one. The movie started with a lot of points against it (at least for me) by casting Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. I think, once again, that Melissa McCarthy was the biggest drawback of the movie. I feel like the movie leaned too much on nostalgia like a crutch. It could have lightened up on the references to the original movie and it could have instead been a little more of its own thing. That being said, it is not bad. Kristen Wiig was actually understated for once and Melissa McCarthy was doing her best Bill Murray impression. Leslie Jones is a lot of fun and is the most normal person in the group. Hands down, Kate McKinnon’s weird character Holtzmann is the breakout character in the movie. She has way more charisma than anybody else in the movie. They also updated the movie so the technology looks a little flashier and the ghost effects look a little sharper which is not really better or worse, just different. I could have done without the cameos from the original cast of Ghostbusters. This movie was alright but I would probably not recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Rose of Avalanche – LA Rain

Radiskull and Devil Doll – Bring on the Pain

Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

The Rezillos – Flying Saucer Attack

Brooke Candy – Living Out Loud

Weekly Updates:
– I am still watching Season 6 of Blue Bloods
– I watched more of Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23
– I am still watching The Crazy Ones
– I watched more Glitter Force
– I rewatched some Sailor Moon
– Most of my watching was YouTube
– This week’s theme is “Not to Be Taken Too Seriously”
– It’s 4/20, man.

Quaker School

April 20, 2017

I will not show you the picture of the killer. This is the man he killed, though.

A little while ago there was a news story where a white military veteran traveled to New York City specifically to kill a black person. He succeeded and killed an innocent man who lived a life of charity and nonviolence. Even if the man he murdered had been a horrible person, it still would not have been right. The police said that the killer was racist since he was a little boy. To my horror, it was brought to my attention that this crazy man was from Baltimore, my hometown. Further, not only was he from Baltimore but he was also a student at the school I went to for twelve years. Friends School of Baltimore is a private school just inside the city lines, situated near a lot of other private schools. The killer went to Friends six years behind me so I never knew him and he is also younger than my brothers who also briefly went to Friends.

I spent twelve years here and it had such an impact on my life.

The news that this man went to the same school as me is baffling. You see, Friends School is very well-known in this area for being a good school with good values. While Bill Clinton was president, he and Hillary Clinton sent their daughter Chelsea to a Friends School nearer Washington DC which was very similar. Friends is a Quaker school which is nothing to sneeze at because Quaker is more than a religion in my eyes. Like Buddhism, Quakerism is a way of looking at and dealing with the world and the inner self. Quakers are by and large non-violent, anti-war, and seek simplicity in all things. We worked to be humble but also to use your gifts to leave the world a little better than you found it.


Our school song.

More than that, we learned how to identify with other people. I may have lived through a slightly sheltered childhood but I learned how to listen to all sides and all groups in a situation. I was also exposed to diversity. I met people from all sorts of backgrounds. There were families from so many varied ethnicities and fellow students of a whole rainbow of skin colors. We were taught about the civil rights movement, we talked about the LA riots, and we learned about the Holocaust too. In every lesson we had, if racism was present then it was a villain in the story. Our teachers made it absolutely clear that our human journey should not only be filled with tolerance but acceptance and love as well. We were not taught to be wide-eyed, naive students but we were told to do our best to love other people.

Imagine this, filled with people and stare at it in silence. Speak if the spirit moves you.

Peace was a prized experience that Friends gave me.  Once a week we walked up as a class to what was called Meeting.  Quakers do not have an experience similar to other religious organizations.  The room is full of benches in rows but not all of them were facing the same way.  There was no central focus to the room because there were no sermons or bible lessons.  For the most part, we sat in silence.  When the spirit moved you, you could stand up and talk about something you were thinking about.  Being little kids and then awkward teenagers, very few of us ever stood up to say anything but it was nice having a peaceful half hour to just sit and think.  It made me value peace even in the midst of a chaotic day.


Embedded into the wall of one of the Baltimore meeting houses.

So, wherever this killer got this racism and hate from, he did not get it from the school I went to.  If anything, the school has gotten more even more progressive in the years since I went there.  If this man claims to have had such virulently racist thoughts since he was a kid, I wonder how he felt going to Friends where he was told repeatedly that he was on the wrong side of history.  He was in the Army, and I wonder what effect that had on his psyche.  There are so many factors that it is difficult to parse out why he did what he did.  All I know is that Friends has nothing to apologize for.

Pokemon: My Life as a Gym Leader

April 19, 2017

I came up with the idea for this post after the release of Pokemon Sun/Moon and the release of Pokemon Go. Recent readers of this blog know that I am still playing Pokemon Go. After hearing about challenges where people play through the game only using one type, much like a gym leader. Last year I invented gym leaders based on a game I wanted to write. This year, I thought about what I could have been based on my life so far and the world of Pokemon.

Pro-Wrestler
Fighting Type – Heavyweight Badge

When I was younger, I had less control of my anger. I thought about taking up something like boxing but my obsession from a pretty young age was professional wrestling. In this version of me, I would have pursued that dream and used it to focus my rage. I would have formed a bond with my starter pokemon and we would have trained together to be stars and then I would train others. My gym would be a place where trainers could challenge me but also where people could train physically along with pokemon.

Emboar – A young boy with an anger problem, I eagerly picked the fire pokemon Tepig as my starter pokemon. We learned to master our anger together.

Primeape – The mankey I caught was the embodiment of the unbridled and untactful anger that I was experiencing but we learned to calm down after a bunch of losses.

Machoke – The art of grappling was my first foray into more disciplined fighting and taught me that there was more than swinging fists or throwing fire.

Hitmonchan – The sweetest science helped further develop conditioning and accurate strikes.

Hawlucha – Of course, I was going to hunt down a Hawlucha ally after gaining respect for the faster, high-flying style of lucha libre.

Mienshao – Catching a Mienfoo sparked an increased interest in the broader spectrum of martial arts. In return, I gained an increased ability to focus my negative emotions.

 

Parks and Rec
Ground Type – Park Badge

A couple people have said that I would have been well-suited for a career in parks and recreation. Whether it is designing activities for people to do or just walking the parks. I love walking around and exploring and lately I have been haunting my local city park a lot. In this version of me, I would have embraced the outdoors more and walked around protecting people. Gym battles would be done by appointment or if the challenger found me walking out in the woods or the fields. It would add a degree of challenge to not know the battlefield beforehand.

Golem – Most people say that Geodude is shaped like a boulder but I thought that she was shaped like a friend. She was a good starter pokemon as I started to hike through the wilderness looking for Pokemon.

Sandslash – As I journey off the beaten path, I sought out a Sandslash to cut through the underbrush and through the competition.

Krokorok – I grabbed a Sandile so I could train an enforcer with dark type moves.

Rhyhorn – Rhyhorn is useful for moving fallen rocks and trees off of paths and crushing the competition.

Gliscor – My eye in the skies on those days where I am deep in the woods and he fights like a superhero in the gym.

Onix – Opponents tend to quake with fear when they see my largest pokemon. In a pinch, Onix is also big enough to provide transportation for a wilderness rescue.

 

Theater Electrician/Designer
Electric Type – Spotlight Badge

For five years, I worked as a technical director for a regional theater in New Jersey. I could not have stayed there (the theater folded shortly after I left) but I could have stayed in the business instead of moving on. I love the theater and I loved hanging lights and making them do what I wanted. I loved seeing my designs (and hearing my sound designs) in real life stage productions. In this version of me, I would have stuck with the theater and would still be haunting a theater. In between swinging a wrench and drawing lighting plots I would take on challengers. I would get permission to use the theater stage as a battleground for big showy battles.

Electabuzz – When I started with my Elekid, he was not super impressive but he was a friend. Now that he has evolved, he is another hand on the job and a true partner.

Magneton – Levitation is handy in getting tools from the ground up to where I am up on a ladder or the catwalk.

Emolga – A little friend who can scurry up and check the plugs on the lights if necessary. He can also glide from pipe to pipe to check things out.

Rotom – The best board operator is one who can literally possess the board and control it from within.

Raichu – For a kid with a thing for electric type pokemon, a pikachu is a welcome addition to the team.

Flaafy – A gentle reminder of my family’s pastoral history and a personal symbol of my family. The lamb.

 

Agent of the Law
Steel Type – Marshall Badge

When I was a teen, I wanted a badge. My uncle worked with the police but I never wanted to be a cop, I wanted a little bit more freedom. Some of these feelings have been stirred up lately by my legal studies and my brand new career as a paralegal. Law enforcement in the world of Pokemon always seemed really mixed up with the world of champion trainers. In several of the games, members of the Elite Four investigate crimes and fight terrorists. In this version of me, I would help keep the peacce and troubleshoot criminal or terrorist threats. My battlefield would also double as a headquarters for crimefighting.

Aegislash – My Aegislash is evolved all the way from Honedge which was my starter pokemon. Usually, giving a sword to a child is a bad idea but I respected the blade and gained discipline.

Skarmory – My Skarmory has the advantage of the high ground and speed for ruthless attacks to hopefully end the battle quickly or chase down criminals.

Empoleon – Empoleon’s size is a great thing to have as back up and his water moves act as a non-lethal method for resolving tricky situations while also dominating gym opponents.

Registeel – Who doesn’t like a giant robot acting as a shield when necessary?

Lucario – A great partner for practicing hand to hand combat and a great tracker.

Bronzong – A literal heavyweight for protecting myself from criminals and challenges to my badge.

 

Haunted House Owner
Ghost Type – Scare Badge

I have loved Halloween since I was a little kid. Lately, I have visited some haunted houses and watched some documentaries on how they are put together. It has gotten into my head lately that I would love to design haunted houses given the chance. In this version of me, I would own and operate an ever-changing haunted house that people could get amazing scares and thrills from. The battles would take place in a spooky, dark basement meant to unnerve my opponents. The huge basement would be below the haunted house so that people could hear periodic screams and laughter while battling. It would be so fun.

Gengar – Travelling to real haunted houses as a spooky little kid, I would have embraced a Gastly instead of a ‘normal’ pokemon for my starter.

Mismagius – How could I not want a ghost that looks like a witch and evolves into a wizard.

Trevenant – Spooky plants are a must for a haunted house and I knew this guy would make a very scary tree.

Chandelure – A well-controlled fire can scare the pants off of visitors just as much as any other ghost in the house.

Dusclops – A powerful ally and a formidable scary opponent. You want to be on the right side of this creepy pokemon.

Sableye – A creepy little guy with gem eyes. Victims can see his eyes sparkle in the dark before he scares the crap out of them.

 

Professional Writer
Water Type – Penstroke Badge

I have thought about being a professional writer and maybe that still lies somewhere in my future. For now, I love writing here for whoever reads this blog and for myself when I am not working or out playing. If I had become a professional writer, I would want to live where I could take a break and swim in nature. In this version of me, my gym would be alongside a large lake. My chosen battlefield would be on the lake using a series of rafts so my water pokemon could swim among them. I would write pages and when a challenger came, I would take a break and we could have a lot of fun on the water.

Wartortle – A traditional starter pokemon, the squirtle evolution track always made think of superheroes.

Azumarill – A water pokemon with excellent hearing, it could help listen out for fellow fishy pokemon under the waves.

Kingdra – I could imagine this horsea hanging out in a bucket next to my desk sometimes.

Ducklett – A pokemon who can fly but can also dive deep to evade enemy attacks.

Sharpedo – Sometimes a writer needs to use a scary monster to further the plot.

Kingler – The krabby evolution line is surprisingly powerful, especially when facing moves like crabhammer or guillotine.

Ocean’s Thirteen

April 18, 2017

I am not much of a gambler but there are not so many obvious reasons for that. I was raised as a Methodist by a family that came from the South. The extreme wings of the Church in the American south have always frowned on the gambling industry (and really any kind of fun). The churches we attended never gave sermons on gambling. Really, how can games of chance be thought of as sinful? Instead, I just thought gambling for money was dumb. There is a phrase that always holds true “The House Always Wins”. I have studied enough probability and statistics to know how unlikely it is to win. Everything is not in your favor and the risk/reward calculation will almost never come out right. So, when I was growing up I steadfastly refused to gamble for money. I was kind of a dick about it.

Lately, I have changed my mind about things a bit. While I still think that ambling into a casino and dropping big money or spending your paycheck on the library is ridiculous, I can see the fun in a little gambling. In past years, I have gone to the racetrack at Charlestown to watch the horses run and have dinner with family. That is when I got started on making a few dollar bets on races. Of course, you would think that an educated person would carefully pick the right horse and the right races to get the most out of a bet. Not so. I am a sucker for a horse with an interesting name. Since I am only betting one dollar, I find myself thinking less about numbers and more about the experience. A goofy name with bad odds wins me over every time. I would be embarrassed if it was less fun.

The Ocean’s Eleven series of movies are a throwback to the original movie and the unwritten codes that casino operators had to follow and keep in business. While I have never been to Las Vegas, I always like that old Frank Sinatra feeling of respect and honor. Casinos may have been run by criminals back then (or not what do I know?) but they were run under a code of proper conduct. The large cast of these movies makes a point of mixing older actors and younger actors to drive home the idea of respecting tradition. The bad guys do not respect it while the good guys do. Of course, traditions are only worth following if they are good ones and the movies drive that point home too.

The cast, as I said, is huge. This is the second movie I have reviewed this month starring George Clooney who is always super charming. I love the familiarity he now has with Brad Pitt and Matt Damon’s characters forming a core of characters who talk to each other like friends do. They bust each other’s chops and know each other’s minds. You can look up the whole list of awesome character actors on your own but once again this movie had a super impressive cast. This time, the guys are up against Al Pacino who is putting in a good performance. Recently he has been doing cartoony roles in Adam Sandler movies so it was nice to see him return to form.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was a cool little popcorn movie to watch on a lazy afternoon as I put up my feet and relaxed. The values of honor, trust, and standing up for your friends are good messages to put out there even if the main characters are criminals. The world is full of shades of gray and I will always favor the lesser evil over the greater evil. Besides, the heroes never enrich themselves unjustly and there is a Robin Hood mentality. The bad guy falls because he bets against them and that is when the house finally loses.

Needles

April 17, 2017


What, you thought I would put up a picture of a needle? Nope.

I am going to approach a very difficult subject here today. My skin is crawling just thinking about it but it was a very formative set of experiences in my life and it is important to talk about. I will forgive anyone who walks away right now. Consider the title of this post a trigger warning, something I do not often do because I do not often need to do it. I will be talking about my dark history with needles today. I do not have many fears that could be considered phobias but needles are definitely one of them. I have hated and dreaded needles since I was old enough to form memories.


Any word from the warden?

When I was little, I remember when the pediatrician started to require blood work when I had my check up appointment. I was fine with stripping down and letting the doctor look me over and ask me questions. It was awkward but it was kind of relaxing in a way. Then they brought in a nurse/technician and I knew the jig was up. It was at that point that the waterworks started. I started to beg my way out of it like I was on death row and my own parents were going to pull the switch. My parents and the doctors were just doing what was best for me but all I knew is that it would hurt and the idea of it drove me crazy. I would sob, cry, and then resort to actual physical combat. I was probably a terror for those nurses and I am sure my parents felt bad too. By the time they drew blood, I was completely exhausted and an absolute wreck.


Imagine either the Kill Bill siren or the Psycho music here

It never got any better, either. When my youthful medical problems really started to gain steam, I had to go to a lot more doctors. Thankfully, this usually meant talking to a specialist and having them listen to me breathe. There was plenty of blood work too, though, and that drove me absolutely insane. Now that I had a double digit age, I could no longer really throw a fit but I was practically climbing out of my own skin as I sat waiting for those now familiar needles. I remember sitting in a Johns Hopkins facility after some breathing tests where I was assigned to a nurse to draw blood. Nervous as I was, this nurse acted like this was a routine activity while I squirmed. She stuck me with the needle once, twice, and then I got angry. She could not draw blood and I was suffering for it. Her supervisor saw it and swooped in and got it done. I laughed about it later but it was actually pretty devastating at the time.


I hated running because I was basically disabled.

A little bit later, they imposed a test that was every bit like some sort of medieval torture. I got to my local pediatrician’s office and I was in for one of the hardest physical experiences of my life. As soon as I got there, I was told that they needed to take some blood. Awesome. Thankfully I had grown up a bit and I did not fight it but it was extremely unpleasant. Then the excitement really picked up. I was told that I had to run laps around the complex of buildings, the equivalent of several blocks. For a young kid with breathing problems, this was super difficult. When the lap was over, I was told it was time to draw more blood. They stuck me with needles but I was tense and they could not draw and by then I had calmed down too much.


So tired. Send video games and pancakes.

So I was on my feet again and out the door and running laps again. I was running around with bandages on my arms. I was dead exhausted and I prayed for the running part to be over but at the same time, I knew what would happen when it was. It was probably one of the fastest heartbeats I ever had. Even now, over two decades later, I remember feeling a little like a wounded and hunted animal. When the second round of laps was over, I crumbled into a prone position and did not even put up a fight when they stuck me this time. Finally, the ordeal was over and I was sent home to recover but not before I got to have a big breakfast with my mom at the local diner. It was the usual place of bribery for a doctor’s visit.

Meyers-Briggs

April 15, 2017

The Meyers-Briggs test is a great tool for determining who you are and how you fit in. It is not the entirety of you but it helps form working model of how you tick. It also helps managers and bosses figure out how you might work in a team. I have taken the test several times over the years and I have gotten the same results over and over.

INTJ

 

I is for Introvert

I am an introvert which is not necessarily as debilitating as it is sometimes made out to be but it comes with its own set of rules and obstacles. An introvert is not a shrinking violet or a wallflower. Extroversion and introversion are mostly now classified on recharging of the batteries. Extroverts get energy from being around people and Introverts get their energy back from being alone and having time to themselves. After a long day at work or a long party, I cherish my alone time. Given the choice, I usually do not want to be around people but I do like people for the most part. The strength of an introvert is that we are more likely to go off and think about a problem. I love being given tasks and going off and completing them. I love relaxing on my couch at home while I write for this blog or create a new D&D character or just relax and watch a movie. When that is done I feel refreshed and ready to tackle social situations again.

N is for Intuitive

Intuitive people live the world of the mind. Specifically, Intuitive people see the big picture and are very good at grasping concepts and ideas as opposed to concrete facts. I love ideas and concepts sometimes for their own sake. That is partly why I enjoyed working in the theater. We worked a lot at things that we had to imagine that we could not yet see. As a stage manager, I had to mind the details but I always had to keep an eye on the big picture. I like the big picture because it is something everything needs to fit into. Facts and details are important but you must always arrive at the bottom line. Finally, intuitive people like to visualize and explain concepts in a figurative or poetic way. I am constantly, trying to find an analogy or a story to explain something just after somebody explains it to me. It helps me break down and understand what I have just been told.

 

T is for Thinking

Thinking people are level-headed and reasonable. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but everybody thinks they act this way. Of course, this is not to say that the people who are the alternative (Feeling) are total loose cannons. It is just that people who lean toward Thinking are more likely to approach decisions in an impersonal way. When I was studying the law in college recently, people would protest the law as we had to write about it. “That’s not right!” they would say and I would agree with them but it does not matter. The law is the law and it makes decisions a lot easier when I am doing paralegal work. I like making practical decisions because I more often do what is needed or what is right. Of course, we can debate until the sun goes down what ‘right’ is but by then I have already made the decision. I value justice and fairness, part of what makes me a bleeding heart liberal. Thinking people also like tearing arguments apart which is really fun and a great benefit to my work as a paralegal. While I wish sometimes I could be a little more Feeling (and when it comes to anger sometimes I am), I like to think things out more.

 

J is for Judging

Now, this last one has more potential to get me into trouble. Judge is already a word that has bad connotations in popular culture and in reality. The only people we want judging people are actual professional judges and we barely agree on that. But this Judging is not so much about criticizing or passing judgment on people. Judging people always want matters to be closed. I love finishing tasks but more than that, I like decisions to have finality. I do not like open-ended situations. When I make plans, I get bothered when the plans have to suddenly change because of somebody else. It makes me a little bit inflexible although I am learning to be a little better about it. I just really like know what I am getting into on any given day and, while I enjoy a little adventure, I want that adventure to be on my terms. It is hard for me to be social on a whim and that figures heavily into who I am. It also makes me want exactly what somebody wants from me explained instead of vague instructions. I just prefer things written in stone. Like all the others on this list, this is a strength and a weakness.

Legally Haunted: Stambovsky v. Ackley

April 14, 2017


Our childhoods warp us all.

There are many things that I think I have made abundantly clear on this blog that I love on this blog. I am here today to talk about two of them. The first is the supernatural. I am a skeptic so I do not actually believe that much of the supernatural actually exists. Unexplained phenomena are just things waiting to be explained by science. However, I still love fantastic stories for the great fiction that they are. Ghost stories are particularly epic and can vary on a spectrum from touching to terrifying. Even the most benign stories used to chill me to the bone until it dawned on me that all of the stories were unproven. Still, it is still fun to suspend my disbelief and get a little scare now and again.


I mean, I learned more law from this guy than my folks.

The second thing that I have gotten into more recently is the law. I am currently very close to getting a paralegal certificate at the local community college. My parents are both lawyers and so I grew up just outside of the legal profession. You see, anyone in the legal profession really cannot talk about their cases too much due to confidentiality issue. Also, it is probably best not to talk about such things in front of children as a lot of cases are either boring or inappropriate for kids. Now, I am facing the same thing as I work on an internship. So, you will never see me tell stories on here about my work and that is probably for the best anyway. However, that does not count for famous cases that I was not involved in.


I mean how can you tell that it’s haunted. That’s profiling.

When Karen Ackley and her family moved into their house in the 1960s, they were warned by neighbors that the house was haunted. She was pretty sure, after her own observations, that there were three ghosts haunting the house. One was a Navy Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and the other two were Lord George and Lady Margaret who lived in the 18th Century. She brought in two of the usual charlatans (who I will not publicize) who confirmed her suspicions that the place was haunted. The hauntings mostly centered around experience Ackley’s daughter and grandkids had but there were one or two reports from Ackley herself and the man who would marry Ackley’s daughter. Ackley specifically wrote a piece for Reader’s Digest detailing, among other things, that the ghosts gave gifts to the children. These gifts disappeared later.


Who you gonna call? A lawyer!

Later, her family sought to sell the house and they did so to a Jeffrey Stambovsky. To his horror, he found out that the house he had just signed a contract to purchase was haunted by poltergeists. In any fictional world, he would hire some Ghostbusters to just clean the place out and have the Ackleys pay for it. In the real world. you apparently go to court. He filed for an act of rescission which is, in this case, a request for the courts to revoke or cancel an agreement. He wanted to back out of buying the house because he felt that the Ackleys owed him a duty to inform him of the poltergeists before he moved in. The argument was that the law should not compel performance of a contract that is not fair and open. By concealing the information about the ghosts, Ackley tainted the contract by not acting good faith. The dissenting opinion talked about the doctrine of ‘caveat emptor’ which is ‘let the buyer beware’. They insisted that Stambovsky should have done his research but the majority opinion granted the cancellation of the contract.


It was the biggest case of its kind since State v. Stantz, et al.

Nevermind that this whole ‘haunting’ was mostly made up of stories from children or adults who were breathing in paint fumes or were half awake. The New York courts had ruled that ‘haunted’ was an actual condition for real property to have. However, thankfully, at no point do they speak as if ghosts are a known thing that actually exists. The ruling is based on the bad reputation that calling a house haunted causes. Once you get past the Ghostbusters and Shakespeare quote in the opinion, the actual opinion is more about whether a seller should be able to get away with concealing information. The court held that taking advantage of a buyer’s ignorance is distasteful and should not be able to be hidden behind a doctrine like caveat emptor. It was a decision that helped promote fair dealing in the real estate market in New York. So now you know!


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