Magical Earth Defenders Pt. 1

May 6, 2017

(This is part one of my take on the magical girl genre. Enjoy!)

Part One: The Light

Margaret Washington stood in front of the mirror. She took the deep breaths she had been taught in yoga class. Her parents would listen this time. They just had to. She was a Washington and therefore she was a born leader. People listened to Washingtons. Besides, Margaret knew she was on the right side of things this time.

She started to make the journey from her bedroom in the East Wing to the study in the West Wing. Along the way, she saw Marcie and her daughter mopping the front hall. Sometimes it felt like the maids were the closest thing she had to friends. She had no siblings and everybody seemed so guarded and selfish at the academy. She waved at the two women and smiled briefly but she kept walking. She was on a mission.

The Washingtons were amazingly rich. If all the math were done, the family probably ranged between the third and sixth-richest family in the city. It all depended on the way various international money markets and the stock market went each day, of course. Margaret knew how powerful all of that money was. That was what Margaret was counting on. Of course, her plans depended on the kindness in the hearts of her parents. She believed it was there because if it was not, then how could Margaret know she had kindness in her own heart?

She peeked into the study and saw her father at his desk. Her mother had the newspaper over on the couch. Her mother was away from her own office for once. Nobody was on the phone or terribly busy and that was a great sign. It was almost like this was fated to be the moment she made her pitch.

“Mom, Dad,” Margaret said. “I need to talk to you about something.”

“What is it, my dear?” Her mother asked. Both of her parents looked up from what they were doing.

“I need to ask you for a favor,” Margaret said. She felt herself starting to shake and she clenched her fist to stop it.

“A favor?” Her father asked. “What can I buy you this time?”

“No, daddy,” Margaret said with a gesture dismissing the idea. “It’s not like that. I want to start a foundation!” She smiled proudly.

“A foundation?” Her father asked. “What do you mean?”

“I want to feed the homeless,” Margaret answered with a smile. “I also want to start some shelters. Maybe one at first but we can open several more later.”

“Where’s your action plan? What returns can we expect?” Her mother asked.

Margaret’s smile faltered. “No returns, Mom. We would actually be helping people.”

“Cupcake, I don’t think our budget allows for that,” Her father said.

“Dad,” Margaret said. “Our budget is bigger than NASA’s. Besides, as soon as we start everything up, everybody will want to jump in and follow our lead.”

“Your father said ‘no’, sweetie,” Her mother said. “I say ‘no’ too.”

“We’re sorry, honey,” Her father said.

Margaret was completely deflated but she nodded dutifully. She was the intelligent, polite, and friendly Washington daughter. “Thank you for listening,” She said. “I will see you at dinner.” With that, she left the room before her parents could say anything else. She made an effort not to look too dejected and she fought back a tear or two. She also made an effort to glide gracefully as she walked instead of stomping or storming like she wanted to.

Here parents meant well but it seemed like they were constantly amassing money for the future of the family without a thought for the future of the world. Margaret just wanted to spread the wealth around. She was already donating most of her allowance to various causes but she dnot have the financial and organizational heft of a foundation at her back. The foundation could have done a lot of good especially if it was backed by her parents’ cunning minds.

Margaret did not remember the whole walk back to her room but she was glad to shut the door behind her. When she was safe inside again she picked up her hair brush. She began to stroke it through her straight, blonde hair that was the envy of many girls at the academy. And yet, she did not brush her hair simply to look good. It was calming to brush her own hair. She had asked to do it herself instead of the nanny at an early age. It made her feel a little more in control of her fate.

“You really want to help, huh?” A soft voice spoke from the bed.

Margaret whipped around fast and raised the brush to strike like you would grip a hatchet. There was only a cat on the bed. Well, it looked like a cat at first glance but it was actually subtly changing shape over and over as Margaret watched. Its fur was purple but even that was not staying stable. It was kind of hard to keep her eyes on the thing but staring was rude anyway. Margaret could only look puzzled, no answer forming in her head.

“What if you could really make a difference?” The cat asked.

“A talking cat!?” Margaret yelped. She immediately felt kind of dumb for stating the obvious. “What are you doing here? What do you want?”

“I want to help you realize your potential,” The cat said. “I have a feeling that your path does not really have to do with money. I think you could help save the world.”

“Save the world?” Margaret asked. “I’m all for it but you’re going to have to explain.” Somehow, the talking cat thing was getting more normal as the conversation proceeded.

“If you really want to help, take this charm and meet me at the address on the attached note,” The cat said. It placed a pretty little charm on the bed.

Before Margaret could think to respond again, the cat leaped through the third story window and left Margaret to contemplate the charm. The charm’s crystal went from green to white.

Media Update 5/4/2017

May 4, 2017


Little Witch Academia
(and Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade)

This was a, pardon the pun, completely enchanting experience. I basically look at these two short films as two pilots (an intro and a two-parter) for the television show that has not been released in America yet. The series follows a young witch named Akko living and learning at a all-female boarding school for practitioners of the magical arts aka witches. Unlike many of her fellow students, she grew up in a more human world and is behind everybody in her skills. Luckily, she is aided by her friends Sucy and Lotte (and others later). Sucy might just be my favorite part of what I have seen so far as she is creepy and funny and loves to brew bizarre potions and poisons but is still a good guy. Lotte summons faeries to aid her. Akko is basically a witch version of a magical girl, so basically a double magical girl. The animation is so fluid and it is so fun to watch everybody move. The American voice cast is sweet and endearing and I could not help but fall in love with the three misfits. I cannot wait for Netflix to finally start bringing the show to the States because they have done such a good job so far producing quality dubs. I definitely recommend what is on there so far.


Kill la Kill

I remember hearing a little about this show when it first got popular but I never got around to watching it for some reason or another. I probably did not have cable while it was on Toonami. I have heard the dub is very high quality but I watched the subtitled version on Netflix which was fine. (Seriously, give me an advertising deal Netflix). Anyway, the show is about a young schoolgirl who travels to a famous academy to discover who killed her father sho she can avenge him. Along the way, she becomes a bizarre magical girl through some magic clothes. Most magical girls fight for love and justice selflessly but this one just wants to beat the crap out of almost everyone she sees. It is basically a heavy metal version of the magical girl story. She has few friends at the academy and usually has her back against the wall in almost every fight. The one big thing I wanted to address with this one is the fanservice. There is a lot of male and female nudity and suggestive sexual language so far (4 episodes in). Some of it is funny, most of it is bizarre. I thought it was really sexist at first but over time I think it is just a bizarre sidenote that is neither sexist nor feminist. The animation and fight scenes are pretty cool and creative and I look forward to what happens next. I will recommend it but do not come knocking on my door if it offends you (there’s also a lot of blood).


Fairy Tail

With a name like that, I should have checked it out ages ago. It is set in a world that is full of mages trying to ply their trade by helping people for money through the use of bounty boards and quests. The series mostly follows Lucy who is a young, idealistic mage whose magic is devoted to summoning creatures and making contracts with them. It is a concept I love especially since she is very excited but also very nice about it. She is out to join the number one mage guild which is called Fairy Tail. Along the way, she befriends a fire mage named Natsu and a cast of kooky but awesome characters. It has some dungeons and dragons elements to it but it also has some fun One Piece and Seven Deadly Sins elements. The mix of comedy and action is really good. The two heroes are not the most experienced or competent so we get to see them fail until they succeed a lot early on. The humor comes from genuinely funny characters but also some absurdist humor thrown in as well. I am only a few episodes in but I like what I see so far and I cannot wait for more characters to be introduced to the story. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Eric B. & Rakim – I Ain’t No Joke

JI YEON – Never Ever

John Carpenter – Night

Windhand – Libusen

JoJo – FAB

Weekly Update:
– I watched more MST3K: The Return and it just gets better as it goes
– I watched more Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23
– I finished Iron Fist and I thought it was pretty good
– I started Legends of Tomorrow Season 2
– I watched more of The Crown
– I picked up The Get Down Part 2
– This week’s theme is “Magical Anime Series”

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Reflections

May 1, 2017

This was my third time going through the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and it was my most successful to date. Even though my life is kind of in upheaval lately, I never scrambled to get an entry done in time. The only time I did not have a buffer was going into the final Friday night. I solved that by writing up the last two posts and then I could relax. In fact, until the last week, I usually had a buffer of at least a week. I started working in February and it paid off. I would have had even more of a buffer if I could be more decisive about what each letter would be

This year was the first year that I had a theme which was “Getting to Know Me”. Every post had to do with me and my life. I told a lot of personal stories and I also pontificated on subjects that were on my mind at the time. I reviewed movies with subjects that I had a personal connection to. I wrote short fiction with themes important to my life. That last one probably was not completely clear. So, just for fun, I will run them down now.

Electrical Malfunction had to do with past health problems, fears that they will be future health problems and also about not being a morning person. Ion Flow was literally about my own self-discovery this month but also references to my love of research. The King is about the recent political unrest and how dissatisfied I am with the current “ruling party” in my beloved country. It is not literal. Radio is about the fear of death and my own brief fascination with working in radio. Finally, Victory Island and X Marks the Spot are about going and finding the tools to make my life better.

I had a lot more people stopped by and visited this year. From a traffic standpoint, this year I had three times as many views in April from when I started this challenge. I would like to thank all of you so much. This is a labor of love and I would do whether people visited or not but you guys and gals brightened up my days this month. I got so many lovely comments that it motivated me to go out and make thoughtful comments of my own. I hope that I brightened up somebody else’s day in return. I wish I had had more time to visit more than a handful of blogs each day.

My most successful post (most views and visitors) was Needles. That was full of very personal stories about one of my greatest weaknesses. That post, Electrical Malfunction, and Clarinet pussyfooted around a story that I am surprised to not find in my archives. It is probably one of the most important events in my life and I have never really fully gotten into it. I will be telling that story soon even if it is my first multi-part post. I want to tell it because people look at me funny when I tell it live and in person and it is fun to tell.

Finally, I have to thank you all again. Throw up your hands in exalted victory because, whether you were a writer or a reader, you made it to the end of this challenge. Cheers!

Edit (5/8/17):

The challenge has really inspired me to add to the posts that I want to write.  Instead of writing Sailor Moon fanfiction (as I said I might do) I am writing my own take on that kind of Magical Girl story.  I have also started talking about one of the biggest events of my life as I discussed above.  I am sure that all of the posts I wrote and the posts I read will continue to inspire me.

ZZZzzz

April 30, 2017

I think it is fitting that I close out this challenge by talking about how tired I am. While I love this challenge, there have been a lot of changes in my life that have caused me to have to run on all cylinders. I got a new job, I finished an internship, I marched for Science and I have been working harder on this blog among other things. I have been dedicated to this challenge and I decided that I would not be deterred from completing it. Still, it is an endurance trial, one that I will talk more about tomorrow.

I have always been a big fan of sleeping. I used to do a whole lot of it back in the day too. I used to work in live theater and that always caused such a weird sleep schedule. In college, I would have rehearsal until eleven at night and then I would have to do the paperwork afterward. By midnight, I was tired but keyed up and ready to hang out online. With classes during the day and rehearsal at night, I had to have some time to socialize even if it was online. At that point, I would be up as late as five in the morning.


I used to frown on people sleeping in class and then I did it.

In my freshman year of college, I had classes scheduled at eight in the morning. This was something my advisor did to me in the naive opinion that it would be good for me. After that first year, that would never happen again. Every morning I would crash before the sun rose (sometimes) and then I would sleep until lunch time before running off to class. It put me in a weird position with the rest of the world. I was often asleep when everyone else was awake and I felt disconnected from the real world and submerged into the fairytale world of theater.


I learned to draw on deeper energy reserves.

Once I got a job, that tendency to want to sleep until noon continued. Luckily, I was in a small regional theater. For the most part, work did not begin until ten in the morning because, once again, we all had rehearsal the night before. So, one again I spend a lot of time at night on my computer and I met all new friends since I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. I was continually tired and sore and crawling into bed at the end of the night was a welcome relief. By then, I had learned to sleep deeply in order to survive. Also, I learned to operate in a tired state and soldier on the best I could.


I wish that sometimes I did not wake with the sun.

Now that I have an office job, I am used to waking up bright and early at seven. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to sleep past nine even on my day off. Today, I planned to sleep until noon to recover from the recent excitement. The oncoming heat makes me restless when I try to get to sleep so once it cooled down, I looked forward to existing in dreamland for quite a while. I woke up at eight in the morning after getting to sleep at one. I still get about six to seven hours of sleep per night but now I feel like I have more of the day to do things. If I had gotten up at noon, I would have missed a surprise lunch with the office I interned at. I would have gotten so much less done. I am learning, bit by bit.

Your Friend Steve

April 29, 2017

I often feel very awkward in social situations. When it comes to hanging around with friends in a casual atmosphere, I have most of those skills down. It just takes a while to achieve that level of comfort and I am down for joking and razzing each other. Gender is not an issue as from an early age, I have been part of unisex play groups. Probably part of why I ended up being a feminist but who knows? Either way, I was just as embarrassed to have my head split open in front of the girls as in front of the boys.


Awkward.

What is awkward is being the third wheel. I have known quite a few friends before and after they started dating that somebody special. I get along well with nice people so meeting and befriending a new girlfriend or boyfriend is fairly easy. I am always so happy for my friends because all of my friends deserve to be happy and if a relationship is part of that then I am all for it. However, I am socially awkward sometimes or at least socially anxious. I worry that I am missing signals.


The human brain is a frightening place.

That is why the above song struck such a chord with me (like most Garfunkel and Oates songs). I consider myself a good and loyal friend but I know I do not hang around a lot because I worry about being a nuisance. I know that is kind of silly. My best friends are very good about letting me know when it’s time to leave. I read those signals just fine, I guess. I just really, really appreciate my friends and I do not want to overstay my welcome.


In spite of everything, I still believe in love.

When I was in high school, I met two homeschool kids who came into our school to supplement their education and participate in after school sports. Homeschool would not have been any good for me. These kids were outgoing and friendly but socially stunted. I generally avoided people on a regular basis. If I had been homeschooled, I would be a social wreck. I am lucky I was forced into social situations where I made equally weird friends. That way I can continue to make weird friends. It is an important part of my life.


This was cheaper than therapy. I guess I still gotta go, though.

I guess I should just relax more about it. I still get invites to stuff and people seem excited to see me at events. I must be doing something right. I am not a social butterfly but I do things with friends at least every other week. I participate in social media and I try not to be too clingy there either. I think I just talked myself down. Thanks, guys.

X Marks the Spot

April 28, 2017

The sand had been easy enough to get through. The dirt was a bit harder. I left most of the digging to Macan. That is one of the perks of being the captain of the ship. You do not have to dig if you do not want to. I still took a turn because that sort of thing is good for morale. Besides, I need a good workout now and then and it had been a while since the last good sword fight. It looked like my turn just might have been the last turn as my shovel hit something hard. The symbols above had indicated that something important was buried here. Pirates and buried treasure seemed a little too on the nose but I was not about to complain. Treasure is treasure.

“Agatha!” I called up. “I don’t really want to dent whatever this is any further. Could you bring up a little wind to clear off what I probably just dented?”

There was no verbal response. Instead, the air started to swirl around me and I covered my eyes, nose, and mouth as best I could. Agatha was a powerful sorcerer but she did not disobey orders even if it meant playfully taking the order a little too literally. The wind picked up and dirt and sand rushed out of the deep hole I was standing in and it did not feel great against my skin. I was tough and I was pretty sure I would survive. When the wind died down, I coughed a little and looked down.

There was a long flat box sticking halfway out of the dirt which intrigued me. Supposedly there were charms and artifacts that would draw out and amplify the powers and abilities of those who obtained them. That is why we had come to the Othersea and whatever was in the box might be the first step in making my small crew the most formidable crew around. I touched the box and I felt the hairs on my arm rise and I shivered a little.

“Throw down a rope!” I called up. When the end of the rope came down, I tied it to a ring on the box. “Macan! Pull the rope!” I called out and I started to scramble out of the hole. As I reached the surface, Macan was grabbing the rope and he pulled hard. I watched as the box shot up to the surface and fell with a thud in the sand. Everybody was instantly crowding around the box but I elbowed my way to the front of the crowd as only somebody in charge can do.

Hooded Kartha was standing next to me. Her robes were encrusted with salt and seaweed and all sorts of bits of nature. She was wise beyond her young years and I valued her counsel. “What do you think it is, Captain?”

“I can only guess,” I answered. “I feel its magic. Can you detect any?”

There was a shiver of magic in the air and Kartha’s barely visible eyes went white for a moment. “There is powerful magic at play but it is in the box. The box, while pretty, is just a container. It is safe to open.”

I knelt down in the sand and smoothed my hands over the box and I felt both the thrill of discovery and something else. I felt the strong magic that Kartha spoke of as well. My excitement reached its peak as I flipped the latches one by one. I gripped the lid and I opened it. Inside was a large sword and I could feel my heart thudding in my chest. There were murmurs from the crew behind me. The clear consensus that this one was for me. I found it hard to argue that point.

I gripped the blade’s handle and mysteriously it began to shrink. It quickly reformed itself into a copy of the soldier’s rapier that I already wore at my side. There were gasps from behind me and I admit that although I was expecting magic, I was not expecting that. I swung the sword around a bit and it felt really good. It felt faster and smoother than any sword I had ever held in my hand. I had held a lot of swords over the years.

“What do you think, Captain?” Oni asked. I turned and saw a very curious crew and I felt myself smiling, not realizing when the smile had started.

“It’s powerful. It’s fast. Once I get used to it, I think I could be even more unbeatable.” I said with a smirk. You can only call it cocky if you cannot back it up. I can back it up. “I just wish it was a little sturdier, a little stronger.” And just like that, the sword transformed into a two-handed claymore. “Nevermind, it’s a magical shape changing sword.”

“Wow,” Oni said. “So what now?”

“We keep searching,” I said. I grabbed up the sword’s sheath and slid the sword into it and slung it over my shoulder. “The tools to conquer the seas are here and we will find one for everybody.”

Media Update 4/27/2017

April 27, 2017


Fate of the Furious

When I saw the first Fast and Furious movie, I was not very impressed. I thought Vin Diesel was cool but it was a pretty formulaic action/undercover movie. I did not seek out the sequels, in fact, I could not explain why there were sequels. Especially a movie called Tokyo Drift starring a very, very white man. However, I checked back in when The Rock joined the cast in Fast Five and I was sold. In Fast Five, the series took a hard turn into the ridiculous and never looked in the rearview. The movie combined ridiculous car stunts, awesome fights, crazy comedy and melodramatic drama. Every movie is balls to the wall insane and I love it. This one is no different. While we have lost Paul Walker (who grew on me), Gal Godot and Sung Kang, we get a lot of great people returning including Jason Statham. The comedy between Ludacris and Tyrese never fails to make me laugh. I really want to sit here and explain all the awesome and fun scenes but you should really see it for yourself. It is basically like a high-level D&D party constantly rolling high because impossible odds are something that does not matter in a movie like this. I wholeheartedly recommend this one but leave your brain at the door.


Lucky Number Slevin

Pick your brain back up because you are going to need it to watch this movie. This movie feels like a Guy Ritchie movie but it’s not and it is a little bit different. It is one part mistaken identity film, one part quirky comedy, one part mystery and one part crime movie. It is one of those movies that has all these simple working parts but it still surprises you how it comes together. Our main character is Josh Hartnett who is pretty funny as he stumbles from situation to another. He is in the middle of a war between Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman. Lucy Liu plays a very plucky woman determined to solve the mystery when it seems that the hero is not as interested. Morgan Freeman is great as a smug, self-satisfied boss who knows he cannot lose. Ben Kingsley is great as a psycho Rabbi/mobster. I do not want to give any more away so I will just say to go see it for yourself.


XXX 3: The Return of Xander Cage

I was a huge fan of the original XXX back in the early 2000s. At the time, we were beset by ridiculously corny and horrible James Bond movies so we needed a new secret agent character. Along came XXX and they did things a little differently. The first movie is a great undercover movie mixed with an extreme sports action spectacular. Vin Diesel played it cool while fighting terrorist in Eastern Europe. I kind of half-watched the sequel but only because there was no Vin Diesel which in retrospect is kind of unfair. It was a decent enough movie for what it was and I think the Darius Stone character is also a fun action star. This movie is less of an undercover movie and more of XXX meets the Expendables which sounds like it could be bad but it turned out alright. It is great to see Vin Diesel back as Xander Cage, a secret agent with plenty of snark and a bad attitude. This time he is joined by all sorts of friends who are just as crazy as he is. I was surprised to see both Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen but I shouldn’t have been. There was plenty of girl power too with Rubyrose probably being my favorite psycho sniper. The movie had its trademark sex scenes but they were actually tamer this time and there was a little bit of a nod and a wink. The movie took a bit to get into but once it hit its gear, it was plenty of fun. I definitely recommend it and the first two movies as well.

Music of the Week:

New Mortal Gods-Let Us Burn

Mooked Out – Made It My Job

Freak Kitchen – Freak of the Week

Caravan Palace – Lone Digger

Gorillaz – Saturnz Barz

Weekly Update:
– I finished Season 6 of Blue Bloods and now I am taking a break
– I finished the entirety (1 season) of The Crazy Ones
– I watched more MST3K: The Return
– I am almost done Season One of Don’t Trust the B
– I watched more Glitter Force
– I finished the entirety of Haven
– I went to the DC Science March
– This week’s theme is “Inevitable”

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Catchphrases NXT Edition

April 27, 2017

WILPW

The W slot was always going to be an edition of Why I Love Pro-Wrestling which is a regular feature here on the Wolf of Words. I have been thinking lately of how I connect to the business of sports entertainment and how it can inspire me. Most inspiring to me lately is World Wrestling Entertainment’s NXT show. It has always had a fresh and refreshing energy to it and the performers have gimmicks that are really fun to watch. So I started thinking about slogans (most of them on t-shirts) and I applied them to my own life.


#DIY – Nobody Will Do it For You

Setting aside the funny notion of having a tag team named “Do It Yourself”, I really like the energy of this team. Lately, in my life I have really started doing things for myself because they do not lie, nobody can make your life better than you can. I have a new job and I am about to graduate from my second stint in college. Obviously, DIY does not just mean actually going it alone. It is an energy where you initiate and act in a proactive manner. Also, I feel a little bit of myself reflected in the team composition of DIY. Tomasso Ciampa is known as the “Psycho Killer” while I have had a history of anger problems that I have largely gotten a handle on. Johnny Gargano is a talented, happy go lucky guy which I think is a big part of the other side of my personality.


“The Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger – The Numbers Don’t Lie

A little while back, Tye Dillinger started calling himself “The Perfect 10” and the crowd ate it up. He is also correct about the numbers not lying. Lately, when I start to doubt myself while I am applying to jobs, I start to think about my numbers. I have a 4.0 grade average in Legal Studies. The numbers don’t lie. I am good this. My self-doubt has to take a back seat to the reality that I have worked my tail off showing how suited I am to my new profession. Beyond the slogan, Tye Dillinger is a guy who has been around the company for years, always trying to catch a break. Recently, he finally made it to the main roster. That is inspiring. To watch somebody work and work and finally succeed gives me hope that eventually, I will get where I want to be.


American Alpha – Ready, Willing, and Gable

Goofy pun on Chad Gable’s name aside, I really like this simple slogan. That is what we all want to be, prepared for what lies ahead with the energy to do what needs to be done. Lately, I have been hitting the challenges in my way hard and it is paying off. I feel proud in knowing that while I am not the best, I am a hard worker who does right in the end. It is one of the most positive slogans in the WWE right now and it works because they are a really positive team. I always hope I can work with people as well as Jason Jordan and Chad Gable seem to. I try and sometimes I succeed.


Finn Balor – Summon the Demon

The anger problem I mentioned came from what felt like a deep well of rage that I could feel deep inside of me. You never really get rid of that. That is where “summoning the demon” comes in. As Finn Balor explains, the demon inside of you can have good uses. When I am doing a physical chore and I feel like I am at the end of the rope, focusing the anger in a constructive way really helps. Letting that anger lance through my brain when I am out of it and tired makes for better concentration as long as I keep it reined in. There are positive ways you can focus your anger if you only try.

Victory Island

April 26, 2017

As the ship careened straight into the depths of the whirlpool, I could not be any prouder. Everything was going according to plan. We had fought long and hard for the map I held in a case across my back. It was one of a kind and it had required sacrifices both willing and unwilling. The crew had done their part but everything was on my shoulders. I was the captain of my ship and I needed to be sure I was heading in the right direction. Things were questionable there for a while but I had shown my most confident face. Now, as the ship began to glow, I finally knew I was on the right track.

As the legend went, there was a whirlpool off the western shore that only appeared every thirteen years. Most people wisely avoided it as sailors should avoid all whirlpools. They are dangerous even to the most experienced sailors. However, this whirlpool was obviously special. (Why else would I be talking about it?) It is a portal to another place, a place of extreme danger but also of great opportunities for wealth and power. It was a place called the Othersea. It was here that I brought my crew to see what we could find. When we reached the other side of the sea, the island was right in front of us.

“What’s that island, Captain?” Agatha asked. As usual, she was impeccably dressed without a hair being out of place even after going through rough seas and a whirlpool. It must be one of her magic spells or maybe she was just that good.

“I don’t really know the true name of it. Perhaps we’ll discover that” I said. “But the legends call it Victory Island.”

“Victory Island?” Oni asked and it was as if a piece of the mast has suddenly come to life. He had been leaning against it so still. “That’s quite a boast.”

Macan grunted from where he was tying a line back in place. During the stormy seas, the line had come loose and Macan had anchored it using only his enormous strength and his massive body. “Do you doubt the Captain?”

“Nobody doubts the Captain, Macan,” Agatha said. “We followed him this far, after all. We’re just in awe of this journey and this place.”

“I’m touched,” I said with a smile. “I’m pretty much in awe of the place too. I have only read the legends and even they couldn’t do this place justice.”

“Why are we here?” Oni asked. He was a very direct person. You generally knew where you stood with Oni, as getting on his bad side usually earned you a solid kick to the face.

“The island should have items of great power,” I said. “A pirate crew could benefit from them. Especially in a fight.”

“What items?” Agatha asked. “Like a sword? You’re deadlier with a sword than you are with a cannon and you already have one of the most well-crafted swords in the seven seas.”

“Well, this is the eight sea and things are different here,” I said. “No, the things here are not just weapons. They are focuses. They allow a person to tap into the talents, skills and abilities already present and allow the user to use them more freely. We’re already powerful, this will just give us that extra edge.”

“I don’t need an extra edge,” Macan said. “I’ve got two fists.” Macan was a simple man. He never held a weapon except for that one time he had thrown the extra anchor at a ship they were trying to board. It was a good thing they were in shallow water so they could dive for the treasure.

“Some of us weren’t born with a dragon’s strength, Macan,” I said.

“I don’t need to use weapons either,” Oni said with a smirk. The martial artist was a living weapon, one kick ended a tavern brawl.

“All this talkback is sounding a bit mutinous,” I said. I ran my palm along the hilt of my sword which elicited a chorus of ‘Sorry Captain’ even from crewmembers who had not participated in the conversation. “That’s better. We’re going to see what’s on that island. Besides, we need to find something to fund repairs on the ship.”

“Can we explore the Othersea after that, Boss?” Agatha asked. “There has got to be so much to see out there.”

“That’s a good plan,” I said. “Good thing it’s the plan I made a week ago.” Always ten steps ahead, or your crew will never respect you.  It was time to brave the island and look for victory.

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.


susanne matthews

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