Thursday, May 16, 2019

You've Just Been Glorified

This is an Album Three status update. But it's also so much more.

The process for Second Player Score's third album started quite some time ago, but it was first documented in this blog post from December 2016. From there, I've written numerous other posts that tracked the progress of the album as it slowly worked its way toward completion.

If you've been following along, then you already know that there's also a companion manga-style comic book, shown here:
as well as a forthcoming minute-long trailer showing what Glorified could look like as an animated show. You also know that this project shares the same continuity and universe as all my other projects, including Joel Suzuki.

What you may not know is how this all got started. Well, here's the origin story.

On our first album, Fortress Storm Attack, there's a song called "Gloria." This song is important to Second Player Score lore in that it was the first song to which we applied our now-trademark three-part vocal harmony technique. It's also mentioned in Mystery of the Moonfire, Volume Two of the Joel Suzuki series (in one scene, Felicity plays a bit of it on her wavebow).

In the past we've often been asked "just who is Gloria, anyway?" and the answers have ranged from "a girl that I used to know in college" to "just a random word that seemed to fit the vocal chorus melody." But, as it turned out, the real answer was that Gloria - last name, Sin - was a woman living in a dystopian future who had been trained to be the best soldier of her generation.

The idea for this sprung from the song's opening line, "Did you remember to die today?" We examined what that line could possibly mean, and from there, Gloria's story arose. We then set about to build an entire album on that foundation, writing lyrics that would sketch out the arc of Gloria's journey.

Then, at a certain point, we thought (because we're a bunch of overly-ambitious nerds) "hey, wouldn't it be cool if we made a comic book out of this?" So we wrote a script for the first issue based on the lyrics for the first song on the album and had the first four pages illustrated. Those pages turned out well, but at that point we realized (because we're a bunch of picky, masochistic nerds) that what we actually wanted was to have them done in the style of traditional Japanese manga. So we commissioned a different artist who not only redid the first four pages, but also completed the entire first issue as well as the album artwork, shown below:
And so now, the next step will be - you guessed it - the album release party! Here are all the details for that:

Thursday, June 20
Lola's Room at the Crystal Ballroom
1332 W. Burnside
Portland, OR
All ages
$8 pre-sale/$10 door

Special musical guests will include Matt Danger, The Doom Generation, and The Fauxriginals, and there will be a free drawing for a Second Player Score-themed guitar signed and customized by us. We'll also be bringing along our usual video game merch booth setup while premiering a video narrative that will play in the background while we perform every track, in order, off the new album. On top of that, part of the proceeds from sales of the album and comic will be donated to the Oregon chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The release party isn't the end, though. We're still writing the scripts for the rest of the issues that comprise Volume/Season One (2-4 are done, working on 5-12 now) and hope to eventually get those produced as comics as well as - fingers crossed - the aforementioned animated series.

Oh, and where did the title "Glorified" come from, you ask? Well, there's a scene in one of the later issues where, after Gloria goes all Beatrix Kiddo on some bad guys, one of the other characters, enthusiastically appreciating Gloria's handiwork, tells the fallen baddies "You've just been Glorified, b***h!"* So, yeah, there you go.

* Not really a swear word - heck, it was used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - but I do try to keep this blog as family-friendly as possible

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Post About Pizza

Apparently pizza and pop-punk music are a thing. I did not know this. There are even articles and podcasts and reddit threads devoted to and/or named after this subject.
I was pleased to discover this connection because I and my pop-punk - or #nerdpunk, as we like to call our own particular brand of the sound - bandmates in Second Player Score are, and have always been, huge fans of pizza. Collectively, we probably eat a football field's worth of the stuff over the course of a year (exaggeration? You decide.) So I guess it makes sense.

Here are my current favorites:

Twilight Pizza
Anyone who lives in my neighborhood knows this place. Or if they don't, they should. Every other Saturday, my kids and I will order an 8" cheese with no green sprinkles (for my daughter), an 8" pepperoni (for my son), and an 8" Mount Hood (for me), which is basically a supreme-style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and olives. We're to the point now where they have our order basically memorized, which is how you know you've achieved "regular" status. I'm not sure what makes it so good, but my daughter has said that "there's just something different about it." Indeed, my dear, indeed.

Little Caesars
My go-to place when cheap, fast, and lots are the keywords.

Flying Pie
Speaking of lots - good lord. This place, with four locations around the Portland area, piles on the toppings like there's no tomorrow. Two slices of their Combo Supreme 1 and I'm done. Carrying out from the Gresham store has become a tradition whenever I'm hanging at Dan the Bassist's house to watch movies and/or play card games. Second Player Score has even performed an acoustic set at their Milwaukie site!

As far as frozen brands go, I've been eating this particular one for years. At four bucks a pop, you can't really go wrong - although I do tend to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting for whatever reason.

Gilbert Residence
Although all of the above are great, Kyle the Drummer's wife makes THE best pizza, hands down. She makes the dough from scratch, and her Garlic Chicken Pizza is especially to die for. They used to have pizza parties at their house and Second Player Score would perform (I work for pizza, but only if it's made by Kyle's wife). The parties became less frequent as time went along, a lamentable development that inspired me to write a script for a SPS-origin-story short film that includes a scene at a Gilbert Residence Pizza Party, partially out of historical accuracy but mostly so that they would need to throw another one. My dream is to one day start up a pop-culture-themed brewpub that would serve Kyle's beers and his wife's pizza so that everyone would have a chance to experience the sheer joy that comes with consuming such delights. I'll be the guy in the corner booth, passed out.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Anime Roundup: Following The Wave Of Fate Edition

Believe it or not, it's time for another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I managed to wait a whole ten weeks since the last one. Anyway, hajimemashou!

I had noticed that there were a bunch of different shows with the "Fate" name, so I decided to jump in and check them out. The first thing I did was look up answers to the age-old question, "which series should I start with?" The majority opinion I ran into on the Internet was to start with this one, because it's sort of a prequel to the entire franchise (even though, in Star Wars-style, it actually came out later in our-world-time). Normally, I actually prefer to be introduced to characters first before seeing their backstories (e.g., Obi-Wan Kenobi) because it makes for cool nerdy moments of easter-egg recognition, but I decided not to argue with the wisdom of the Internet masses.

So anyway, I found this one to be pretty slow going at first. I mean, for the first few episodes, there are a LOT of scenes where the characters basically just stand around and talk to each other at length. On top of that, it felt like many of said characters were tall dudes with spiky hairdos whose names all started with the letter "K." At times it was hard to keep track of who was who, to be honest.

But, as I learned, you need to have patience when watching anime. Madoka Magica was also a slow burn, but then it turned into probably one of my top three all-time favorites. And so I stuck with it, and was eventually rewarded with what turned out to be a pretty cool show. The real reward, though, was that it led into...

Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works)
Now, this show was fun to me because, while the prequel series was kind of dark and grim all the way through, this one had a good dose of humor and action (and even some romance) to balance out all the serious stuff. I always say that the best stories are the ones that make you feel a whole range of emotions, and this show did a good job of that. There was even a cool twist that I didn't see coming (although I probably should have), so, well done, writers. But then why does - spoiler alert - Sakura disappear for most of the series after it had been strongly hinted that she was a Master? I know that there's another series that shows her story in a kind of parallel-timeline dealio (apparently these shows are based on a visual novel where Sakura or Rin or Saber play bigger roles depending on the player's choices), so maybe I'll have to dig that one up.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Another one where patience pays off. If you recall, I had previously lumped this one into "Category B: Tried To Get Into Them But Just Couldn't For Some Reason; Might Try Again Someday" back when I used to use such categories. But boy, am I glad I came back to it. Once you get used to the mini-episode format, it is so much fun. The humor is witty and very meta, often using Saiki's psychic powers as an in-universe explanation for typical cartoon inconsistencies like why the characters don't age even though years pass by in real (and show) time. It wrapped up pretty neatly after two seasons, so when I heard there was a third season in production, I was kind of like, "eh...I don't know..." But, well, yes. Third season, please.

Black Butler
An unconventional and slightly quirky show, it combines a pretty dark storyline with moments of traditional anime slapstick, making for an interesting (and sometimes jarring) contrast. It also does something that a lot of other anime shows do, which is to make demons and reapers and other normally "evil" beings into somewhat sympathetic characters. Somewhat. Anyway, I didn't really love it, but it did contain some of the best catch phrases I've ever heard in an anime show.

Last Hope
The art in this show was absolutely gorgeous (especially the cityscapes). And the food scenes never failed to make me hungry, even if I'd just finished eating. The pseudoscience was also very cool, dealing with alternate realities and timelines and other such geeky stuff. There were some slow stretches, but also some pretty epic moments, including the climactic battle scene.

This show is a plot tease. It makes you think it has a plot, and then it digresses into long periods of time where nothing happens except for two impossibly large and indestructible gentlemen beating the living daylights out of each other, kind of like pro wrestling without the laws of physics. I'm serious - several episodes can go by without the title character appearing even once (except in the opening and closing credits). Maybe Part 2 (which was just released on Tuesday) contains more of an actual storyline?

Rilakkuma and Kaoru
I enjoyed this one a lot. You may think, because of its cuteness and TV-PG rating, that it's aimed at kids, but it isn't, really; the overall tone is actually kind of wistful and melancholy, and it spends a lot of time simply portraying the mundane aspects of life as a single twenty-something-year-old going through a quarterlife crisis. As mundane as life can get, I suppose, when your roommates are two bears and a bird who can hold down jobs and summon UFOs. It was kind of like Aggretsuko without the sugar rush. Oh, by the way, the stop-motion animation is absolutely stunning.

Continuing with my trend of catching up with at least one classic anime movie per roundup, I managed to get a hold of this one, which I'd heard is widely considered to be the film that paved the way for anime to break ground with Western audiences. And after watching it, I can see why. It wasn't really what I expected, but it blew me away. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Well, that's it for now. Tune in next time, when the roundup will probably include things like Ultraman and Gunslinger Girl as well as more Fate titles. Until then, mata ne!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Volume Five Status Update: The More You Write, The More You Write

I'm happy to report that Joel Suzuki, Volume Five (the "Blue Book" in the series) is coming along quite nicely, thank you.
At the last status update eleven weeks ago, I told you that although I was at 35,000 words (roughly 140 pages), I had reached the usual "Stop, Regroup, and Rewrite" point that I'd encountered while working on Volumes Two through Four.

So, I poured some hot tea (or cold beer, depending on the time of day) and backtracked. I believe I ended up retreating to around 17,000 words or so, cutting out a bunch of stuff in the process. From there, I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, and with the help of being able to reuse some of what I had already done, I was able to catch up to where I was, and then some. As a result, the Blue Book (I have a subtitle, but as usual, I'll be saving it for a future announcement) is now up to - drum roll - 44,000 words, or roughly 176 pages.

The funny thing is that it seems like the more stuff I'm working on at the same time (in addition to Volume Five, I'm concurrently writing additional issues of Glorified), the more I seem to be able to crank out. It's probably because writing is like exercise - when it becomes a regular part of your routine, it just gets easier to do. Or at least it seems to.

Anyway, at this rate, with any luck I'll be able to finish the first draft sometime this year, which puts us on track for a 2020 release - sooner than expected. We shall see!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Favorite Time Loops

Time loops are fun. I love time loops! They're like Froot Loops (trademark: Kellogg's), but time-ier. Actually, no, they're nothing like Froot Loops at all. Forget I said that. They're like the movie Groundhog Day. Remember that one? With Bill Murray?
That was a classic. And certainly a favorite. But it's not alone; there are lots of other time loops featured in films and TV shows. It's a very popular plot device. It's a little different from "standard" time travel in that one of the characters - usually the main protagonist - gets stuck in a loop (hence the term) that they usually have to, and/or want to, break out of. Or, sometimes it's used to their advantage. Here are some of my favorites (WARNING: contains major spoilers. Which, now that I think about it, actually seems kind of appropriate for a post about time loops):

Happy Death Day
Okay, this isn't so much of a spoiler, since the movie's logline specifically says that the main character gets stuck in a time loop. But anyway, even though I'm not a big horror buff, I actually really enjoyed this film. Possibly because it was, in my opinion, more dark comedy than horror. Was that a spoiler? Anyway, I especially loved how they name-checked Groundhog Day near the end. I even managed to find a similar screen shot (see above)!

Doctor Who
Naturally, you would expect a long-running series whose main character is a "Time Lord" who travels through time and space to feature at least one, if not many, time loops. And sure enough, Doctor Who does! My favorite is the modern-era ninth season episode "Heaven Sent," where the Doctor - okay, this is a spoiler, for sure - uses the fact that he's trapped in a loop to chip away at a super-thick mineral wall over the equivalent of billions of years until he's able to escape.

Russian Doll
A lot of stuff was said about how this show was basically copying Happy Death Day's premise (the main character, a woman, gets stuck in a time loop on her birthday, which always ends in her dying), especially since it premiered right around the same time that Happy Death Day's sequel was released. But although the basic premise is similar, they really are two totally different things. If you watch them both, you'll know. It's kind of like how Captain Marvel, Battle Angel Alita, and Glorified (the companion graphic novel to my band's third album) could all be summed up as "amnesiac female warrior/soldier embarks on a search for her identity" but their actual stories are all quite divergent.

Doctor Strange
In the first MCU Doctor Strange movie, the good doctor uses a time loop to - spoiler! - defeat the seemingly omnipotent Big Bad by basically annoying the living heck out of him during the climactic battle sequence. I mean, if you had to hear Doctor Strange say "Dormammu, I've come to bargain" a million times over (or however many it was), I think you'd be ready to quit, too.

Madoka Magica
Naturally, anime also has its fair share of awesome time loops! Quite possibly none more awesome than the one from this show. It's a major, major spoiler (the picture above already gives you a hint) so I won't disclose too much, but suffice it to say that learning the existence of this loop was one of the moments (out of a lot) I had while watching this show where my mind was completely blown.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
I'll say more about this show in the next installment of Anime Roundup, but I just wanted to mention it here because I LOVE LOVE LOVE how they use the time loop plot device to explain why multiple years of show time pass by while the characters always remain the same age. Sooo meta.

Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave
One of my favorite scenes in this book was - spoiler! - when Joel inadvertently ended up in a time loop while trying (and failing) to stop Blackspore from getting shot by the Six States ships.

So, there you have it: a baker's half-dozen of some of my favorite time loops. What are some of yours?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April and Lydia Predict The 2019 MLB Season

Well, I figure that the time has come. Normally, I wouldn't want to introduce new people to my readers before their stories are officially published, but something - probably the hot start by the Seattle Mariners combined with the fact that I can't seem to stop mentioning them in other posts - is compelling me to do this now. So, please welcome the stars of my yet-to-be-produced spec script involving baseball, anime, philosophy, and magic: April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez.
Brian: Good morning, you two.
April: Good morning.
Lydia: Morning. Or "ohayou," right? Isn't that how you say it in Japanese?
B: It is, yes.
L: I knew it! Man, watching all these anime shows with April is really starting to pay off.
A (laughs): Yeah, you'll be fluent in no time.
L: Hey, you hardly know the language yourself.
B: All right, so - why don't we start off by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves.
L (to April): You can go first.
A: Okay, well, I'm April Hayashi. I'm twenty-four years old, I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, where I now live, and I work as a product manager for Amazon.
L: And I'm Lydia Sanchez. Everything she said is the same for me, except that I'm a programmer at Microsoft.
B: And you're both big Seattle Mariners fans, correct?
A: Correct.
L: Yep.
B: What do you think of how the season's going so far?
A: Couldn't be happier.
L: Ditto. But, you know, I can't say I'm exactly surprised.
B: Why's that?
L: Well, you know...I mean, how much can I say about the script?
A: Don't want to give away too many spoilers.
L: Let's just say that April and I are the ones who are responsible for all the winning that's going on right now.
A: Well, not completely.
L: Mostly, though.
B: I heard that the script actually predicted the exact date that the Mariners got eliminated from playoff contention last season.
L: It totally did! Almost like magic - which, by the way, we found out is for real. Right, April?
A: I guess.
L: What do you mean, you guess? Remember that card from Wendy's store? And the -
A: Lyd, spoilers!
L: Right, right.
B: So, on another subject - April, you're first cousins with Joel Suzuki, right?
A: Yeah, I am.
B: But your story doesn't overlap with his.
A: No, it's a completely separate thing. Although, there is a small connection...
L: Hey, who's giving away spoilers now?
A: I wasn't going to say any more.
L: Sure, yeah.
B: Back to the Mariners, what are your predictions for how the 2019 season is going to turn out?
A: Well, I don't want to sound too overconfident, but -
L: World Series champs, baby.
B: Seriously?
L: Yup. You heard it here first.
B: April, do you agree?
A: I...I guess?
L: Oh, c'mon, Hayashi, we were just talking about this other day. Remember, we won't be jinxing the team by saying it.
A: Okay, okay. Yeah. World Series champs.
L: Woohoo!
B: Well, there you have it, folks. April and Lydia have predicted that the Seattle Mariners are going to win the 2019 World Series. Ladies, thank you so much for stopping by today.
A: You're welcome.
L: Anytime.
B: I hope your story gets produced soon. Either way, though, please come back in the fall so we can revisit your prediction and see if it came true.
L: Both things are gonna happen, I'm telling you.
A: We will. And thanks for having us.
L: Always so polite.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Active Acceptance

This is April. No, not the April who is the main protagonist of my baseball/anime/philosophy/magic screenplay (I've never introduced you to her before? Whoops), but April the month, aka Autism Acceptance Month.
You may have heard it referred to as "Autism Awareness Month," and that's okay too, but I like "Acceptance" because it goes a step further.

Acceptance is one of my favorite words, one of my favorite concepts. In fact, the main theme of the Joel Suzuki series - and a lot of my other works - is acceptance. Not passive acceptance, like when you allow yourself to be taken advantage of, but active acceptance, where you are the one making the choices.

You choose to forgive.

You choose to love.

You choose empathy. Sympathy. Compassion.

You choose to embrace who you are and who others are despite our differences and disagreements.

You choose to appreciate and emphasize the positives in spite of all the challenges that life throws at you.

You choose to be okay with whatever happens, good or bad.

You choose to not be a victim of circumstance, but rather a patient yet active participant who strives to make the world a better place for as many people as possible in whatever ways you can, big or small.

To paraphrase a line from the first Joel Suzuki book: you choose to be happy.

Happy Autism Acceptance Month, everyone. Let's make it a year-round thing.