Posts Tagged ‘J’

The Jester Rises – A Harley Quinn Elseworlds Story

April 12, 2021

Harleen Quinzel was fuming as she walked through the streets. She had never been rejected so harshly and so abruptly. She had gotten through school with flying colors and gotten her license to practice but she was too young to start her own practice and nobody was hiring. She had been desperate so she applied and was then hired by Arkham Asylum to be a staff psychiatrist. It was pretty rough. Some patients were nice but a lot of them were creepy or violent and totally obsessed with Batman. The work was definitely interesting but not very rewarding. Most of the patients had no interest in their treatment.

One inmate had started to draw her attention. She heard so many rumors and whispers about him that she could not help but be curious. He was a frequent guest in Arkham and he was back yet again. When she was assigned to do a series of interviews with him, she had gotten nauseous with fear. She swallowed it all down, put on her best professional demeanor and then stepped in to try therapy with The Joker.

Much to her surprise, it was not as bad as she expected. She knew Joker was playing with her but he was charismatic and interesting and engaged in her questions even if he rarely gave a straight answer. She even caught herself laughing at some of his sick jokes. She started looking forward to their sessions and made excuses to visit him more often. She started thinking about him at home, on the way to work, on the way home to work, and then all the time.

She finally broke down and turned off the security cameras and confessed her love to Joker. She told him that she could help him escape and that they could be together on the outside. He told her no. He told her that he was not interested in a groupie and that there was no way that she would understand his genius. He ratted her out to the administration and Harley had been summarily fired and sent home. She had never been so angry. She had been a fool.

If Joker was not going to be her partner, then she would beat him at his own game. She tested out her own clown makeup and had sewn her own costume. She borrowed some engineering books from the library to create her own gadgets. Not returning those books would be her first crime. Joker had made her feel like a fool so that is what she would be. Gotham would learn to fear The Jester. That would really piss him off. She had to figure out how to get on the news as fast as possible.

She briefly considered tracking down Catwoman for a team-up. She thought that another woman might be sympathetic to her plight and Catwoman was a total pro. Still, she was too stealthy for the splash that Harleen wanted to make. She thought of Poison Ivy but she knew her file and knew that she was more of an ecoterrorist which had no overlap with the Jester’s goals. Maybe sometime in the future. She seemed really smart and cool.

She also considered knocking on Aaron Helzinger’s door. The big guy, also known as Amygdala, would be an absolute powerhouse to team up with. She had built a rapport with him while treating him in the Asylum. However, he was completely unstable and tended to go on rage-filled rampages so he was not very dependable. Also, she would feel pretty guilty about recruiting him. She had adjusted his medication and returned him to enough normalcy to be released to a halfway house to see if he could be released outright. There was no need to bother the big lug.

That left her on her own until she had enough street cred to bring on henchmen. She was pretty sure that was how it worked. She geared up, carefully applied her makeup, and grabbed her gear. She broke into a car and drove it toward Gotham’s First National Bank. She gunned the car to top speed and drove it up the stone steps and through the front façade of the building. She climbed out of the car and shot the first guard with her boxing glove gun. She slapped the other guard with a hand buzzer that knocked him out.

Somebody in the crowd yelled out. “Who are you!?”

Harleen gave her best smile, eyes wide, posing for pictures. “You can call me The Jester.”

Jupiter and Mercury – A Sailor Moon Story

April 11, 2020

“I don’t know about all of this stuff, Amy,” Lita said. “How do you figure these things out?” She gestured to all of the technology lying around. Many machines and devices had been meticulously dismantled for parts and for study.

“I’ve always had a way with technology,” Amy said. “even before all of this. Early on after I accepted the power of Mercury, it seemed to adapt to that. It granted me the Mercury Visor and allowed me to make some sense of all of this. I understand technology more than I understand magic.”

“So our trip to the Moon must have been quite a trip for you, huh?” Lita asked.

“Well, it was definitely scary being among the ruins of an ancient civilization,” Amy said. “and the battle was incredibly intense.”

“It was majorly intense,” Lita said. “The doctors say that Mina’s arm will have to be in the cast for weeks.”

“How are your ribs?” Amy asked.

“Still really tender. Still fractured,” Lita said, she lightly touched her side and winced. The fractured ribs had been pretty nasty. “How is your leg?”

Amy glanced over and caught Lita looking at her leg and looked down at it herself. “The brace really helps,” she said and flexed her leg a bit with a smile. “I’m okay.”

“You’re like a cyborg with that thing,” Lita said. “All tricked out.”

Amy blushed slightly. “It’s just something I whipped up to keep me on my feet,” she said. “I could have done better.”

Lita smiled. “Don’t sell yourself short, Amy,” she said. “You’re super smart.”

“And you’re super tough,” Amy said which made Lita smile brightly. “and Serena is super optimistic, Rei is super determined, and Mina is super courageous.”

“We’re all super lucky the hospital bought our car crash story,” Lita said. “We didn’t need any more questions. That battle was brutal but we did it.”

“Barely,” Amy said. “We had each other and that’s the only way we made it through.”

“Luna and Artemis say that our magic should heal us quickly the same as always,” Lita said. “We’re fine. We’re the Sailor Scouts.”

Amy smiled and nodded. “We are,” Amy said. “Nothing’s going to stop that but I just think we could use some help. If I can utilize the Neo Moon technology we found with our current gear, we might have more of an edge against the next threat.”

“Really?” Lita asked. “You think that could work? That’s awesome.”

“Well,” Amy said. “I showed some sketches to Luna and we talked about it for a while. I think I can make something work.”

“So, why am I here?” Lita asked. “Other than bringing you some homemade lunch.” She gestured to the remains of the meal they had just shared.

“Thanks for that,” Amy said. “I kind of forgot to eat breakfast probably because I didn’t go to sleep last night.”

Lita looked worried, Amy pretended not to notice. “Amy, you have to take care of yourself.”

“I know,” Amy said. “I just get so caught up in things that I find it hard to stop. I’ll get some sleep after this. I promise.”

“At home?” Lita asked, pressing her friend for a promise.

“I promise,” Amy said. “Anyway, I invited you here because of your unique abilities.”

“My unique abilities?” Lita asked. “I’m guessing you don’t mean cooking or martial arts.”

Amy laughed. “No,” Amy said. “Those are good skills but I was talking about your lightning. I found some batteries and I need your help to charge them. Nothing on Earth is really doing the trick and Darian hasn’t scouted anything working up there.”

“Neat,” Lita said. “I can do that if you say I can.”

“Great!” Amy said and held out two cylindrical devices connected by thick cables. “Hold these and summon some lightning for me. Be gentle, please.”

“Gentle?” Lita asked. “I come on like a hurricane, Amy. I don’t really do gentle when it comes to lightning.”

“I think you can,” Amy said. “I think there are additional depths that our powers can reach. Just try for me. Take a deep breath and just be gentle.”

“Don’t I need to transform first?” Lita asked. “It’s kind of our thing.”

“I don’t think so,” Amy said. “I think at least some of the power is in us. I put out a fire the other day with a burst of bubbles.”

“Really?” Lita asked. “That’s so cool! Maybe I can jumpstart my mom’s car the next time it dies.”

“Maybe,” Amy said. “For now let’s focus on these machines, ok?”

Lita nodded and took a couple deep breaths. She focused on the place where the thunder came from. She whispered ‘Jupiter Thunder’ and she started to let the electricity flow. There were some sparks but nothing exploded.

“I think we’re in business,” Amy said, reading a meter that was steadily rising.

Jamming

April 11, 2019

Kath sat against the cool stone of the mini storage place on Elm Street. In the late afternoon, the sun had shifted so that she was now sitting in the shade. A kind stranger had gotten her a cool drink so she felt revitalized, ready to keep playing her guitar for the people. Her case was once again open in front of her, already jangling from the morning’s tips. She had pocketed some to encourage people to keep donating to her cause. The morning had been alright but she needed to keep going.

She was tooling her way through an acoustic version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. It had attracted some attention but it was a bit too hot out for anyone to linger to listen. The best she got was a few dollar bills, some quarters, some thumbs up, and one very good set of metal horns. It was not bad for a workday in the summer. She wondered how long she would have to play before taking shelter from the heat once again. She hoped she could go the distance.

A piece of paper fell into her case as she was starting into a Cat Stevens medley she had put together. The piece of paper was not green. Kath stopped playing and, out of curiosity, she leaned over to pick it up. She unfolded the sheet and saw that it was sheet music. She was a little confused. She looked up and saw a tall, thin man with wiry hair and big glasses. Before Kath could even open her mouth, the man spoke.

“Can you sight read?” the man asked.

“I can,” Kath said patiently. “I’m actually classically trained.”

“Are you very proficient?” the man asked, narrowing his eyes as he scrutinized her.

“Again, I’m classically trained,” Kath said. “I’m pretty good if I say so myself.”

“This needs to be played with absolutely perfect precision,” the man said. “No mistakes. ‘Pretty good’ is not good enough.”

“Did you want me to play this?” Kath asked. “What is it?”

“Only if you are sufficiently proficient,” the man said. “You’re not a spy, are you?”

“Who are you?” Kath asked, laughing a little bit.

“I don’t see how that matters,” the man said. “Can you play it? Perfectly?”

“My name is Kath,” Kath said and stuck her hand out to shake hands. “Some people call me Kath Kat. And you are?”

“Can you play the song or not?” The man asked.

Kath paused for a moment and stared at the man. “And you are?”

There was another long pause.

“Fine,” the man said. “You may call me Edgar.”

“Nice to meet you, Edgar,” Kath said. “So you want me to play this song? Is it special?”

“More than you realize,” Edgar said, pushing his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose.

“Did you write it?” Kath asked.

Edgar’s eyes narrowed again. “You never answered whether or not you are a spy.”

“I’m a music major,” Kath said. “and I’m not a spy.”

“Fair enough,” Edgar said. “I suppose whatever you said I could not verify your claim. Things have progressed and I must test my hypothesis. Before you ask, it is too complicated to explain.”

“Fair enough,” Kath echoed. “So should I play the song now?”

“Begin the experiment,” Edgar said. “Whenever you are ready, of course.”

Kath grinned and shook her head before taking a deep breath. She scanned the notes on the page and looked for any surprises or tricky bits. It was all surprises and tricky bits. This was unlike any music she had ever played before. For a moment, she wondered if she was proficient enough. She shook it off and arranged her fingers and began to play. She gave her all into and out of her guitar came strangely beautiful discordant music. Each note reverberated through her being and the air around them. She could almost feel the pressure waves from each and every note.

She wondered how other people on the street might be reacting to the weird music. She looked up and saw Edgar hurriedly writing on a pad of paper he had fished out from a pocket. He looked excited. She looked to her right and saw a tall shadowy being walking on two legs, Edgar stepped out of its way, snapping pictures of it with his phone. She saw a bird with two sets of wings swoop by, plucking a cockroach off the side of the building across the street. The building seemed to be covered with cockroaches. To her left was another group of those shadowy figures. The landscape around her seemed to flicker and change like static on a television set. She reached the bottom of the page and stopped playing and it all stopped. It was just a normal city street again.

“What the hell was that?” Kath asked. She stood up and looked around wildly.

“The other dimension,” Edgar said. “The experiment worked!”

“Um,” Kath said. “What does that mean?”

“Please come back to my lab,” Edgar said. “We have to keep going.”

“Sure,” Kath said. “I guess I can’t just walk away from that. I’m inviting a friend, though. No offense.”

“None taken,” Edgar said. “They’re not a spy, are they?”

Kath shook her head with a laugh. “No.”

Journey to the West 2 (2017)

April 11, 2018

In 2015, I watched a little known (in this country) called Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. The movie is an adaptation of the book version originally published in the 16th century in China. The story follows a Buddhist monk who is journeying to retrieve Buddhist sutras (religious writings). On the way, he tussles with several demons. In the movie, it follows a Buddhist monk who also must contend with various monsters and demons. Many of China’s most enduring mythological characters are present in the story but especially the legendary Monkey King. The movie was absolutely wild and crazy but it was also touching in various ways. It had adventure, comedy, pathos, and so much weirdness. Although, I am not sure if the weirdness sprang from me being a westerner although I am not completely unfamiliar with Asian pop culture. The movie ended with the young monk with three new allies, walking off toward new adventures together. I had heard there was a sequel but I just have not gotten around to watching it.

As a point of order here, I should probably quickly explain what the word ‘demons’ means in Chinese culture as compared to how people in my culture talk about demons. In the West, we think of demons as related to Satan/Lucifer. Lucifer and his kin were fallen angels and dwell in Hell where they torture those who have sinned against God. While there is a whole Christian mythology that tells of the origins of demons, that is usually ignored in favor of fearmongering about Hell to keep people in line. So, this mythology is centered on Hell and the theme of punishing sins. In China, demons are known as Yaoguai and are kind of different from how we view demons. From what I understand, yaoguai are either ascended animal spirits or fallen celestial beings (which admittedly is similar to Lucifer). These creatures come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but the main goal of most yaoguai is to achieve immortality and thus become a deity. They also seem to like consuming people for various reasons. For example, a pig demon who starts consuming people because humans consume pigs all the time. The fastest ticket to immortality for a demon is to consume the flesh of a holy man. So, holy men really must be on their guard when it comes to demons.

This movie picks up almost right where it left off, with Tang and his three demon assistants traveling towards India for the sutras that are Tang’s goal. (A quick note, they changed the character’s name to Tang to match the book instead of the actual historical figure). He is played here by Kris Wu and he does a great job approaching is the role similarly to the previous actor. Even though he has officially achieved monk status, he is still the same goof that he was but he also still has that huge heart that helped him win the day previously. As one would expect, he has trouble dealing with the demons he had previously defeated. The Monkey King is played by Kenny Ling and he is a hot-tempered demon who fears his master’s power but ultimately wants to do good. He is such a jerk but it is done in such an endearing and comic way that I could not help but like him. The Pig and the Fish are their companions and they are both loveably pathetic.

This one is a little bit more action/comedy instead of an action/comedy/romance like the first film. Also, the main characters are much more powerful this time around which is to be expected. All of this means that the action setpieces and fights are way more involved but not much crazier. Both films have crazy fun action. The CGI, practical effects and makeup do a great job at bringing this otherworldly adventure to life. The creature designs of the principles and the various enemies are really inventive. They lead to a lot of unexpected moments where I thought I knew how things worked and then things abruptly changed. Some of it is very natural-looking and some of it is reminiscent of live-action Looney Tunes. The latter is par for the course when Stephen Chow is involved in a production. The costumes and set design are all very pretty and feel very much like what mythical and ancient China should feel like. The stunts and fights are a lot of fun with plenty of fluid motion that reminds me of combat in anime.

Overall, I loved this sequel a lot more than I expected to. I was initially disappointed that Stephen Chow was not directing and was only producing but Tsui Hark did a great job in his place. Also, the movie is still written by Chow. The movie is very funny and exciting. I would best describe it as a combination of Mel Brooks, Jackie Chan, and FLCL. Things just happen in the fights because the filmmakers thought they would be cool and if they do not make sense then who cares? In between these awesome fights are comedy set pieces with ridiculous characters. The movie is basically a series of stories bound together by the ongoing arc of the journey and the conflict between Tang and Monkey. Amongst all of the ridiculous fun, there is real emotion and we get to know the characters even more. I definitely recommend this and the first film.

Jazz

April 12, 2016

I like Jazz music a lot. It was some of the first music that I used to expand my horizons beyond what was popular when I was a kid and what my parents were listening to. The genre has become connected with Thanksgiving and Christmas as it is neutral music that the whole family can listen to. Jazz is also often the ultimate chill music because even the hottest jazz can make me feel peaceful. So let’s explore some pieces that were formative in my jazz education.


Scott Joplin – Maple Leaf Rag

I remember being loaned a history of Jazz cd from our library in my freshman year of high school. I don’t remember why the librarian handed it to me but I don’t remember asking for it. I copied it and I remember listening to that CD all the time. I remember lying in bed and listening to this track over and over and just trying to let the teen angst drain out of me. Later I would fall in love with the soundtrack from The Sting.


Ella Fitzgerald – Blue Skies

I discovered Ella in a music class during high school. By this point (and later in college) music classes were largely spent sitting and listening to music and having a teacher explain it to us. It was both the easiest and the hardest class sometimes. Anyway, one day we sat listened to jazz music and we listened to Billie Holiday who I liked but I really liked Ella Fitzgerald. She has a certain joy to her voice that is absolutely inspiring.


Kenny Burrell – Chitlins Con Carne

At some point, I was introduced to stuff beyond elementary Jazz by my friend Cooper. I always thought that Cooper was a bit of a Jazz snob but I realize now that he was just passionate about what he liked. He tried to educate me and I did like just about everything he gave me. Kenny Burrell made great, cool Jazz and I really liked discovering him. I may not have liked the more experimental stuff I was taught but I appreciate the education.


Sara Vaughn – Speak Low

When I went off to college, I went into a theater program where I studied how to be the best stage manager that I could be. While that was fun at first, I much preferred the design and production track and I found myself spending a lot of time there. I started to hang out in the sound studio and learned to become a bit of a professional sound designer. I worked on a 1920’s version of As You Like It and so I listened to a lot of Kurt Weill because the director was obsessed with this one song. Of course, Weill was a gateway to more theatrical jazz that is just great stuff.


The Oneups – Green Hill Zone

So I already told the story of my Magfest 2016 trip back in February and how I was going to attend a Ninja Sex Party/Tupperware Remix Party concert. While I was waiting for them to hit the stage a group called the Oneups hit the stage. It was a video game and music festival but it was the last place I thought I would encounter jazz music. It just goes to show you that even video game music can be jazz in the hands of the right musicians. Jazz is everywhere and so varied. Go out and find some good stuff.

I was going to end this post right here but in the interest of proving my point about always discovering new music I pushed a little deeper. I thought I’d randomly pull up three tracks that are new to me.

Pharoah Sanders – You’ve Got To Have Freedom

David Gilmour – The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Crusaders – My Lady

Just Music

April 11, 2015

(General warning for language in the videos attached to this post)

A couple of weeks ago, a friend surprised me by referring to rap music as ‘disgusting’. Now, everybody is entitled to their opinion but the thought ground my gears. It’s not disgusting. It’s just music. I didn’t respond immediately because that’s not the hill I want to die on. I also knew that I wanted to write about it but I didn’t want to write angry and I wanted to think about it for a while. Hopefully I’ve let my emotions sift to the bottom and my thoughts to the top.

Now the track in question was this little ditty:


Nicki Minaj – Anaconda

Would you say that’s disgusting? I asked the question of myself and tried to stay objective. It’s very sexual and I guess somebody who wasn’t comfortable with that would have issues with that aspect. Still, it’s no worse than I’ve seen Madonna put out back in the day so I personally have no issues with it. It’s heavily sampled so from a musical standpoint it’s not entirely original which I guess irks me just a bit. Still, it’s different enough that I can let it slide. So what’s left? Is it just that it’s rap music? Is that such a bad thing?

Let me be perfectly honest. I railed against rap music when I was a teenager at a time when rap music was exploding in popularity. I wanted nothing to do with it but looking back I think that’s because as a middle class white kid I was supposed to not like it. I was a supposed to be a good boy and listen to rock and roll like my parents and authority figures would prefer. However, once rap and hip hop became more mainstream I actually gave it an honest try. I was hooked. I loved it. I went through a period where that’s all I listened to. Now I listen to it when I’m in the mood or when something new is released. I’m no expert but I know what I like.


NWA – Fuck Tha Police

Listening to this track again I have to admit it goes way overboard in some parts and I do not condone violence against law enforcement in any form.  However, I wouldn’t even call that “disgusting” since the words are coming from a different perspective.  I see the police in an entirely different light than a person of color might especially during a period following the LA riots where there was a lot of anger and frustration over police actions. The only experience I’ve had with the police are a few tickets and knowing my uncle who worked for law enforcement.  The music and lyrics flow very well and if you listen there’s actually a fairly eloquent yet emotional indictment of police brutality/profiling if you get past the shock value of the name.


Kanye West – Jesus Walks

Now, this is one of the most political rap songs that I’ve heard (again, I’m no connoiseur) and it has a very high production quality. Of course, it comes from an artist who thinks he’s the second coming and a musical genius. All of that aside, it’s an interesting track about one man’s views on the world around him.


Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Jimmy Iovine

This track comes off as violent and harsh at first because of the vocal effects and anger and some violent imagery. This is all apparent until you realize the artists are using the power of metaphor and symbolism. What they’re really talking about here is how the record companies give new artists a raw deal which is sometimes akin to indentured servitude. It’s a tirade against the current business structure that favors the record companies over the artists instead of a true partnership. It’s something they were obviously passionate about and it is a message I can get behind.


Trey Songz – Bottoms Up ft. Nicki Minaj

We finish off with the track that introduced me to Nicki Minaj in the first place. For the record, I was a fan of Nicki Minaj since the first time I heard this. The speed and accuracy that she achieves is amazing and I often find her funny and a little insane. Not all tracks are deep and meaningful. Sometimes you just want to party with a bouncy song about a night on the town.  It’s like the difference between American Pie and Highway to Hell. Sometimes you just want to listen to fun music.

So those are a few rap songs that I like. I feel like I could go on like this for ages but I think a small sampling makes my point well enough. Obviously I’m not going to change everyone’s mind but I feel that cutting off a whole genre is unfair and close-minded. I always give everything a fair shake before I condemn it. I don’t put down movies I haven’t seen and I don’t condemn a whole genre of music because I don’t like a few artists. I went through the same thing with country music, pop music, disco and so many others. It just takes one good track to open your mind. Maybe you can go find your track.


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