Posts Tagged ‘N’

Nidoking of the Block – A Pokemon Story

April 16, 2020

Freddie took a deep breath and put his key into the lock on the door, turned it, and then opened the door and walked inside. It had been a long road but this was Freddie’s first day as the Gym Leader of Charm City. He had entered into one of several tournaments in the city and won. Winning the tournament had allowed him to be nominated as a candidate for the job. He had worked under the previous gym leader along with the other candidates and had done a lot of battling and training. It was a far cry from the way he had come up but he took to it well. Finally, the day to choose had come and Freddie was surprised that he had been picked. He stood in the middle of the room and smiled as he looked around.

The door opened behind him and a young girl rushed in and almost ran into Freddie. Freddie turned and caught her arm gently. Freddie was a large guy so he had always been careful to be gentle.

“Sorry I’m late!” the girl practically yelled. “I…” and then she stopped and stared at Freddie. “Who are you?”

“I’m the new gym leader here,” Freddie said. “You can call me Freddie.”

“Mama Folashade retired?” the girl asked. “When did that happen?”

“On Sunday,” Freddie said. “We had a big party which started with Mama Folashade and I battling one last time. We closed for a few days and now here I am. Where’ve you been?”

“Mama Folashade sent me to study abroad,” the girl said. “I just got back last night. Then I overslept. I’m sorry that I almost ran into you. It’s always dark in here.”

“Well, it is a dark type gym,” Freddie said. “Mama always said that it made sense to keep it dark. But I also think her eyes were getting too tired for any bright lights. I don’t plan to change that or anything, at least at first. I need to get my footing.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine if Mama Folashade trusted you,” the girl said.

“What’s your name, by the way?” Freddie asked. He walked toward his office and gestured for the girl to follow.

“Janae,” she said. “I’ve been here for a year and I never saw you.”

“I’m relatively new,” Freddie said. “I’ve been trained, though. I’m legit. Besides, you were studying abroad. Where did you go?”

“I went to Alola,” Janae said. “Four months of sun and sand. I studied with Acerola and Nanu. It was pretty wild but it was hard work too.”

“I bet it was pretty different from being around here, huh?” Freddie asked with a smile.

Janae shrugged. “Definitely,” she said. “I mean we have the ocean here but it’s a harbor. It’s different.”

“I studied abroad too,” Freddie said. “I got sent by Ryan Douglas over at the Harbor Pokemon Center. He footed the bill. I was making money from battles on the streets when he found me. We fought in an alley between the apartment building I lived in and the one next door. Sometimes we moved up to the roof. Ryan plucked me up and set me on a bigger path.”

“Where did that path go?” Janae asked. “Where did he send you?”

“He sent me to the Galar region where I studied with Piers,” Freddie said. “There aren’t a lot of dark gym leaders out there. It was a lot like here, actually. Piers is legit from the streets too. He’s just a bit more rock and roll. Still, he’s way more chill and he taught me a lot and cooled me off a lot. He taught me that you have to find the joy in it and the chill or it will eat you up.”

“For real?” Janae asked. “That sounds pretty good. I think I changed my mind. You might be a good gym leader actually.”

Freddie laughed. “Thanks, I think,” he said. “Now that you’re back, what do you want to do?”

“I want your job,” Janae said.

Freddie laughed again. “You’re a little bit too young right now,” Freddie said. “But you could get this crown someday. If you really want it.”

“I really want it,” Janae said with a grin. “I’m gonna get it.”

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Freddie said. “Show me what you’ve got.” He gestured toward a nearby open space.

Janae pulled out a pokeball and tossed it. “I got this guy in Alola,” she said as an Alolan Rattata sprung forth from the ball. He climbed up onto Janae’s shoulder.

“That sucker is fast,” Freddie said. “I like him.”

Janae brought out a Purrloin next which hissed at the Rattata and the Rattata hissed back. “She’s got a bit of an attitude problem,” Janae said. “She’s getting better.”

“I did too,” Freddie said.

Finally, Janae brought out a Murkrow. “Like Mama Folashade started with,” Janae said.

“Perfect,” Freddie said. “But we have to get you more friends. Three is not enough. You need at least six.”

“Well, what do you have?” Janae asked. “Show me what you got.”

“I’ll show you,” Freddie said. “Let’s head to the battleground. I’ll show you exactly what I’ve got.”

Janae laughed. “Deal,” she said.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

April 16, 2019

(SPOILER ALERT for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Go watch it and come back or read on at your own risk)

I am a huge fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I have written about the movie several times before. Last year, during the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I started a tournament bracket for best Disney Animated film and I took Nightmare Before Christmas all the way to the finals and the movie won the whole thing. You can find those words in the First Round, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, and Finals. Basically, I talked about how I have dealt with both anxiety and depression in my life and how the movie mirrored a lot of moments in my life. I also talked about how Danny Elfman’s music was probably the best he will ever achieve in this movie. I also related how I had experienced my own job-based depression and I learned to better balance my life and work. I also finally found a job that I love doing which allows me to kick ass by day and be creative by night. I am almost always thinking about this movie in one way or another so I want to express some of that.

A thought I literally had last night as I was driving home from work was sparked by the lyrics of “Town Meeting Song”. The song suddenly resonated with me even more when I realized a few things. First, I feel like the song is mostly about cultural differences but I will set that aside for the moment. The song takes place about halfway through the movie and Jack has just arrived back from Christmas Town. He is bubbling over with excitement about this huge discovery that he has made. Then he tries to explain something that he does not fully understand himself. He talks too quickly and when his audience does not get it, he keeps plowing forward instead of going back to clarify. This is so relatable. The more excited I am, the more I tend to ramble and throw things out there. It is excitement through the lens of anxiety. When I have a moment to breathe and maybe write things out, I do so much better at explaining everything in a linear manner. Part of the real emotional conflict of the movie begins here.

Even if Jack explained himself better, his endeavor would probably still be doomed. Jack loves Christmas because it is a shiny new toy but he does not really understand it himself. He proves that in “Jack’s Obsession” when he experiments and tries experiments to dissect Christmas. As I got older, I grew to appreciate this scene better. Jack is trying too hard. Christmas is not world peace or famine relief. It is a holiday intended to be a simple and good time. Sometimes you just learn to enjoy things by taking a deep breath and a break and coming back to things later. I have solved a lot of my problems by letting my mind wander and coming back to things. A problem that had bested me previously was now something I easily dominated. Jack also isolates himself from everybody else in the town. Sometimes another perspective can help you figure out a problem. Another set of eyes could have been just what Jack needed.

Continuing along that line of thinking, I was trying to think of what Jack could have done to actually succeed at his mission in this movie. He clearly got the citizens of Halloween Town excited about the possibilities of Christmas but he was having trouble getting everybody to see his vision. At first, I thought that Jack should have taken the townspeople in small reconnaissance groups to actually show them Christmas Town. That way they would have actually seen and understood what Jack was telling them about. Then I realized how stupid that idea was. It is just spreading the problem around. The secondary conflict of this movie is between Jack’s vision of Christmas and the rest of the world’s vision of Christmas. In order for Jack to succeed, those two visions should be one. If he had actually stopped to talk with Santa Claus then he could have set up a cultural exchange between the two towns. Of course, that would have stopped him from having a huge life event that allowed him personal growth and allowed him to overcome the main conflict of the story.

Of course, he does not stop and talk to Santa Claus because he does not believe he needs to. I feel that this is because he has a confidence problem stemming from depression. Jack has been the King of Halloween for a long, long time. We are never told but I always thought it was probably since the advent of the holiday (whatever that means). He has gotten really good at his job which means that everybody is always looking to him for guidance and saying what a good job he is doing. Part of his depression is that he is disinterested in his job because he is too good at it. He discovers Christmas and is happy at a possible new challenge. However, he is still stuck in that mindset where he is the king of all he sees. So he dives into Christmas with overconfidence. Shaking loose from depression is not that easy and he literally crashes and burns. It is only when he accepts who he is and learns to not be complacent that he truly starts to find happiness.

So those are a few thoughts I have had recently and I hope they let you love this movie a little bit more. Please tell me what you think about The Nightmare Before Christmas or tell me why I am wrong about it being the best Disney movie.

 

(Written on 4/11/19)

Ninja Sex Party

April 16, 2018

Over two years ago, I started to fool around with YouTube. The platform is really great for people to self-publish. With less time and money to actually play a lot of video games, I discovered that I could watch others play them on YouTube via Let’s Play videos. Among the content creators I found, I still watch the Game Grumps (Arin Hanson and Danny Avidan). When I found out that Danny was also in a band, I had to check it out. At the time, he was the singer and one half of a band called Ninja Sex Party. All of their music videos were on YouTube so I could easily see what they were all about. I was an instant fan. Part of that was who the members of the band were.

Leigh Daniel Avidan was always a weird, fun-loving guy. At least, that is what I take away from all of the stories I have heard from him. He loved music from an early age and it shows. While he never had that much formal training, he grew up wanting to do something with music. His parents nurtured that creativity and joyous spirit and Danny first joined The Northern Hues and then later Skyhill as a singer. Both were serious music acts. After he left Skyhill, he searched for a new band to sing for. In the meantime, he started to take classes from Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in New York. While he was there, he met Brian (more on him later) and realized that comedy and music could be his path forward. While Danny seems like a kind soul, the character he portrays is definitely not while still being a fun-loving guy. While in NSP, he dubbed himself “Danny Sexbang”. He is a character who is at once arrogant and pathetic. He brags of how awesome he is but the reality quickly reveals how wrong he is. His character practically begs for sex, gets in trouble for his big mouth, and just ends up being comically bad at everything (except singing, of course). His stage outfit was originally based on Owen Hart’s Blue Blazer persona.

The other half of Ninja Sex Party is Brian Wecht. Brian was a geeky and brilliant guy as he grew up. He was a constant valedictorian who had a wicked sense of humor. He had formal training in music in college but he also really got into quantum physics and eventually got a PhD in particle physics. It was around this time that he met Danny while doing some comedy music gigs and working as a postdoc. While he started NSP with Danny, he was also starting a family and searching for teaching positions. He eventually became a professor in England, a position he eventually quit so he could do NSP full-time. His comedy comes from a sarcastic, dry place as he is well known for playing pranks and taking the piss out of his friends. He is NSP’s keyboardist and chief composer. The character he created is “Ninja Brian”, a silent ninja who covers his face and tends to enjoy murdering people as much as he likes playing music. His silent act is a great contrast to Danny’s loud and boisterous nature kind of like famous acts like Penn and Teller or The Marx Brothers.

The duo started as a comedy music act and they took gigs wherever they could. Eventually, they started writing songs to release on an album. Being friends with a lot of people on YouTube, they made a lot of connections and started to put out music videos. At the beginning, it was just the two of them. Brian was on keyboard and a lot of his sound was similar to stuff being done in Chiptune genre. The music was bouncy and fun. Danny’s vocals are great because he has a really rich voice and at some point he developed a process of doubling his voice by recording multiple tracks. In a time when everybody was being autotuned, he came up with a different method to stand out a bit. Their songs were written together, often with them spitballing song titles or lyrics at each other to see what made them laugh the most. Their songs were full of purposefully juvenile humor, songs about sex from characters who have never had it and were also full of cartoon violence. Their music videos are colorful and often as nonsensical and weird as their songs.


Take on Me

In late 2015, they were really growing their brand. They had three albums out and their style was really evolving and they were gaining legions of fans. I went and saw them in their first official concert at Magfest where they had their biggest crowd yet. At the time, they were just releasing an album of covers of music from the seventies and eighties. In order to do so, they decided to team up with another band named Tupperware Remix Party to provide more to their sound. This added drums, guitar, bass guitar, and a second keyboard to their sound along with background vocals. This added so many new layers to their sound and having a few non-comedy songs to sing at gigs did not hurt either. Their relationship with TWRP only grew and the two bands became intertwined with Danny providing vocals on some of TWRP’s songs. For the first time, the two groups were regularly touring together and that grew their audience even more.


Cool Patrol

Some might look at a band like Ninja Sex Party and roll their eyes and dismiss the band as juvenile. I see them as two guys who love to have fun and put out a kind of humor that is highly accessible. I look at their chief inspirations, Weird Al Yankovich and Tenacious D. While Weird Al wrote clean lyrics, both bands have silly and crazy lyrics. Also, both bands have developed larger than life characters that they play instead of being exaggerated versions of themselves. Their lyrics are clever and the humor behind them is a great example of self-deprecation. Both Danny and Brian are inspired by bands like Lonely Island, Flight of the Conchords, Weird Al, Tenacious D, but also non-comedy bands like Rush. The band continues to work toward getting better and better and it shows with each new release. They have further integrated TWRP as their touring band and they have really stepped up their songwriting. It is clear that Brian and Danny are both ambitious. They recently released a new cover album and are set to release their fourth album of original songs. So go out and check them out. If they are not your jam, then at least let me thank you for allowing me to gush about them a bit.

No

April 16, 2016

For me, ‘no’ was a very hard word to learn. When you are a kid, the word is not really feasible to use. As a kid, you fold your arms, plant your feet and say no when you do not want to do something. Just about every time I did this, I ended up doing what my parents or grown ups wanted me to do in the first place. Sure I grumbled and sulked and may have even done a substandard job but I did it. In the face of adults, the word no does not hold a lot of power. At best it is met with a ‘why not?’ before they dissect your reasons and get you to do it anyway. It is true that parents use it all the time but that never made it easier to use later in life.

I went off to college and I studied theater. Specifically, I studied stage management which is pretty much the art of herding cats. A stage manager has a dual role in theater. They are both in charge and they also serve the needs of everyone in the process. If somebody has a request, it goes through the stage manager who gets them their answer. Theater is a very collaborative art form and everybody has a voice. In that gaggle of voices, the director’s voice is usually the most powerful and important. The stage manager usually speaks in the director’s voice. However, often stage managers must use their own voice which is the voice of reason.

Gauging the difficulty level of requests is an important part of being a stage manager (and being a human being, of course). When somebody would request something of me, my answers would range from ‘Of course’ to ‘I’ll see what I can do’ to ‘No’. The last one was the most difficult. I never wanted to impede the flow of creativity especially since I am a creative myself. In my mind, saying no was the same as becoming the enemy of art. I really wanted to please the people I worked with. I wanted to ‘yes and’ their world and let it be smiles and rainbows forever. It was easy to fall into the trap of using ‘I’ll see what I can do’ as a delayed ‘no’. It was hard to start saying ‘no’ when I really should be saying it. When the answer really is no then you need to be truthful and upfront about it.

To this day, I still struggle with the word no but I have gotten better about it. I try to catch myself when I give a hesitant yes and explain to the person why it should be a no. I also try to figure out when I should be saying yes. Honestly, it can be hard to tell the difference.

No Strings

April 16, 2015

The whir and click of Jole’s servos was starting to wear on me. This was supposed to be a stealth mission so why had I thought that bringing the android along would be a good idea. Maybe because I couldn’t tell anybody else about this and I didn’t want to do this alone. Nobody went in to Phoebus Labs. Well, of course people went in and androids and robots too. They all worked their though. They had a purpose there. Nobody walked in there off the street and here we were strolling through the second sub-basement. Here we were, the biggest fools of them all.

Doctor Amle had jury rigged several different devices to mask us from electronic, thermal and sonic sensors. She even had a device that caused the human eye to just not notice you. The spheres containing the devices orbitted around us in a tight perimeter at an even pace. If we didn’t bump into to to many walls, I thought we would be fine. At least, that’s what Sheila had told us. I didn’t have the fancy degree so I couldn’t quite follow all the schematics and technical terms. I’m no James Bond, I’m just the guy they sent in here. The guy they didn’t mind not getting back.

“Michael, what are we doing here?” Joel asked, not bothering to modulate his speaker’s volume down to a more stealthy level. It made me wince a little but no alarms went off so I guessed that Amle’s tech was working.

“We’re investigating this place for Doctor Amle. She thinks there’s some shady stuff happening here. I’m here because I’m too curious for my own good and you’re here because your body is loaded with sensors.”

“Those sensors are picking up rather strange signatures throughout our immediate area. Several heretofore unknown technological advancements must be in use here.”

“Well, this is known as the bleeding edge tech lab for a reason, right?”

“This is beyond the bleeding edge, Michael. I posit that you will not be disappointed by our results but you may regret this visit.”

“That’s on me but you’re right, this place is pretty creepy. I have a bad feeling.”

“Are we to wander the halls indefinitely?” It was almost as if the android had a sense of humor but I was sure that wasn’t possible.

“No. You’re right again. Let’s start poking our heads into some of the labs and see what we can see.”

The first few labs were less than interesting, at least visually. There were banks and banks of servers that, of course, didn’t do a thing when we entered the room. The third of these large rooms was a little different. The servers only filled half the room and in the other half of the room there was a single server that was colored black instead of the sleek silver and white of the others. The lights were red and not the green of the others. There was a physical barrier about a foot and a half around the server as if it was a museum piece but it was hooked up to power and nothing else.

As we got near it, Jole began to falter in the normal precision of his steps. I looked at him and he said nothing but stared at the black server.

“Joel. What’s going on? Are you operating right?”

“I do not know, Michael. I feel strange.”

“You ‘feel’ strange? You don’t feel, Jole. You’re a machine.”

“I am aware of this fact, Michael. And yet it is the only word I could have used at that particular moment. I suggest we vacate this room immediately. Something in that server is drastically different. I will attempt to link remotely to other servers but this one is dangerous.” Something in the android’s mechanical voice actually sounded afraid which was enough to make my blood run cold in turn.

“That’s fine. I wouldn’t want to endanger my partner. We’re leaving here together.” I smiled at him and he nodded slightly before we headed through the door back to the hallway. If I wasn’t sure it was impossible I would have sworn that Jole looked relieved. We pressed on.

There were plenty of rooms with exotic looking flora and fauna that I had never seen before and probably will never see again. Some of the creatures looked dangerous but we took pictures of them all and recorded audio and downloaded what files we could get our hands on. The break-in was beginning to get tedious. No guards checked in on the labs or patrolled the hallways. I was prepared to fight our way out but it looked like we were free an clear.

“You came here because you like Sheila, did you not?” Jole said, breaking what felt like hours of silence.

“She prefers Doctor Amle. You know that.”

“You prefer to call her Sheila. It is a fitting name.” Jole said, turning to face me.

“Yeah, I guess I do and yeah I like Sheila a lot. She hasn’t really noticed but I’ll be there when she does.” I smiled at the thought of Sheila’s tough exterior cracking just enough to let me in. One day she would look up from her research and see me there smiling and holding flowers and that would be it. We would be together and happy even with the Phoebus Corporation making our lives dark and miserable.

“I can’t let that happen.” Jole said simply. The words were staccato and almost overenunciated.

“What? Wait, since when do you use contractions?” My eyes went wide as I turned toward Jole to say more but he gripped both hands around my neck. I gasped for breath and tried to tear his hands from me but they were metal powered by servos and machinery and I had no hope. I could barely breathe as he carried me into a lab.

“Sheila will be mine. She will never notice you. She will never notice that you’re gone.” Jole said, his eyes going red. Red like that server a couple rooms back. The server that had troubled Jole so much. What happened? What was happening? I felt an icy chill as he dumped me into a giant vat of some liquid. I found some energy reserves deep down and I fought back again but I couldn’t hit anything vital on him. There was a shower of sparks as I kicked at his shoulder but he easily held me down.

As fluid filled my lungs I thought of Sheila. If only I could warn her.


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