Posts Tagged ‘A to Z Blogging Challenge’

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.”

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.

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.

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.


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