Thursday, August 6, 2020

Fun Things To Look Forward To During The Rest Of 2020 (Hopefully)

We all need some fun pop culture things to look forward to right now. Here's my list, separated into categories based on probability (because, you know, who knows what will happen these days, right?):

Stuff That Will Probably Happen on a Particular Date
Season Three of Aggretsuko (August 27)
- Still my second-favorite anime of all time (behind K-On!). This promo picture fills me with questions. Is Retsuko learning the guitar now? Will she be forming a band? With Haida (who plays the bass and looks pretty aggro himself in this picture)? Who are those new characters with the matching purple bows? CAN IT BE AUGUST 27 ALREADY???

Bill and Ted Face The Music (September 1)
- Which will apparently be released simultaneously in both theaters and via on-demand/streaming. Pretty sure I know which option I'll be going with.

Season Two of The Boys (September 4)
- Looks like more gory fun. You can hear me discuss my thoughts on the first season with the guys from Second Player Score in the inaugural episode of our podcast, Second Player Speaks.

Mulan (September 4)
- To be released on Disney+ for an additional... $30? Seriously? Okay, fine.

Season Two of The Mandalorian (October something)
- Because, duh. You can read my thoughts on the first season in this post.

Stuff That Will Probably Happen But Not Sure Exactly When

Joel Suzuki, Volume Five
- Which is now formally scheduled for a final line edit in October. Assuming I do enough prep work in advance (like getting the cover art finalized) and I don't run into any snags on the back end with formatting and printing and such, I might be able to launch this thing before Christmas...maybe? Either way, keep a look out for an official title announcement.

Four-D: The Winter Suite (1st EP from Second Player Score's upcoming album)
- Studio dates have been tentatively booked for late September and boot camp is well underway. Hopefully by then, gatherings of less than five people that are not from the same household will still be allowed (it'll just be the three of us from the band and our engineer). Fingers crossed that we can get the songs released in time for Winter (a more detailed explanation of why is in this post).

Stuff With Release Dates, But Will They Really Happen?

The 2020 NFL Season (September 13)
- I really want to see what the Seahawks can do now that they have Jamal Adams. It will be strange to possibly witness home games at CenturyLink Field without fans, but it'll be better than nothing.

Wonder Woman 1984 (October 2)
- This thing has been rescheduled four times and apparently could have been released last year before all the you-know-what went down.

Black Widow (November 6)
- Disney is saying that this one won't get the Mulan treatment and be released on Disney+ for an additional fee, but we shall see.

No Time To Die (November 20)
- What might be even funner than the film itself (which will be the last one with Daniel Craig) is the speculation on which actor will play the role of James Bond next.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Favorite Five By Five

I was recently invited to play a game on Facebook where we would name our top five-to-seven favorite songs by Billy Joel, who just so happens to be one of my five all-time favorite musical artists. It was fun, so I decided to reprint my list here along with my favorite songs from the rest of my top five (and remember, these are just my personal preferences and in no way reflect the "best" songs by these artists, because all art is subjective. I'm sure you probably have your own list - which you can feel free to share in the comments).

Billy Joel
5. You May Be Right
4. Sometimes a Fantasy
3. All for Leyna
2. Vienna
1. Honesty

Iron Maiden
5. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
4. Infinite Dreams
3. Aces High
2. Killers
1. The Trooper

Metallica
5. Blackened
4. Damage Inc.
3. Seek and Destroy
2. Creeping Death
1. Battery

The Dambuilders
5. Shrine
4. Digitize
3. Smell
2. Drive-By Kiss
1. Slo-Mo Kikaida

Stereopony
5. Sweet Blue
4. Never Look Back
3. Stand by Me
2. Nakanaide
1. Hitohira no Hanabira

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Guest DJ Spot

Minasan, konnichiwa (hello everyone)! I have an exciting announcement. You see, every Thursday there is a radio show on 99WNRR.com from 2:30-4pm Pacific Time called "Gettin' Squatchy" hosted by my good friend DJ Dex where he plays the best pop-punk music from the Pacific Northwest and around the world - and for today's show, I will be the special guest DJ!
During those ninety minutes, I will be going by my alter ego alias "MC Manga" and I will be playing (with DJ Dex's help) some of my favorite pop-punk songs from - you guessed it - Japanese bands. Tune in and you'll get to hear hits from big-time anime theme song artists like Stereopony, Scandal, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation as well as awesome indie bands like Wait For Sunlight, Punk Ass Summer, and Sneakin' Nuts. A live chat room runs during the show so you can jump in on the fun and tease me about my substandard Japanese language-speaking skills. Anyway, hope you all tune in!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Talking Baseball With April And Lydia

The last time we spoke to our in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez - a zillion years ago on March 12, 2020 - they offered their predictions about the upcoming Major League Baseball season. Later that very same day, MLB cancelled the rest of Spring Training and pushed Opening Day back two weeks. Four days later, they announced that the season would be postponed indefinitely due to a global health issue you may have heard something about.
Since then, there have been labor disputes (which we won't get into), spikes in virus cases (which we also won't get into), and KBO (Korean baseball) games played in front of empty stadiums and televised in the U.S. at ungodly hours in the morning. Now, finally, Major League Baseball will be starting its 2020 season next week, July 23...hopefully. And so, here to talk about it once more are April and Lydia.

Brian: Welcome back.
Lydia: Uh...yeah.
April: Thanks.
Brian: So, I was -
Lydia: You know, I'm starting to think that maybe this was a bad idea.
Brian: Why do you say that?
Lydia: No reason.
April: Lyd thinks that WE might be the curse.
Lydia: April, shh!
Brian: Wait, what do you mean?
April: Can I tell him?
Lydia: Ugh, all right, fine.
April: Okay, remember how you guys made a deal not to talk about Lyd's prediction from last year?
Brian: Because it seemed to have jinxed the Mariners?
April: Yeah. I mean, the day you published that post, the M's were 13-2 and in first place. Then after that, they went on to lose six games in a row en route to a 55-92 record the rest of the way and another last place finish.
Lydia: And then this year after we made all these predictions for this season, the whole thing blows up right after that. I mean, all we wanted for the team in 2020 was for the prospects to develop and get experience, but did that happen? No! Instead, the entire minor league season gets cancelled!
April: They'll still get experience.
Lydia: As part of that taxi squad, or whatever? You know that's nowhere near the same thing.
April: I guess.
Lydia: Plus, what if a bunch of players test positive and then even this 60-game-dealio gets scratched? I could definitely see that happening, especially since we're here, talking about this.
April: Lyd, we are not the curse. Seriously.
Lydia: I dunno...
Brian: Okay, let's hope we're not and then make some predictions for this shortened season, assuming that it does get played to completion. All right?
Lydia: You go, April.
April: Me?
Lydia: Yeah. I'm-a sit this one out.
April: Oh, c'mon.
Lydia: Nope.
April: Really?
Lydia: Yup.
April (sighs): All right. Well, I still think the Dodgers are going to win the World Series.
Brian: Fair enough. What about the Mariners?
April: In a shortened season, anything could happen, so it'll be kind of interesting. But in the end I'm going to say...23-37.
Brian: Last place?
April: Yeah.
Lydia: Nah, ahead of the Astros, who will finish 8-52!
April: I thought you were going to sit this one out.
Lydia: I'm still mad about those guys. And besides, if we're using our jinx powers here, me saying that they'll be bad will cause them to be good, but then since the season will get cancelled anyway, it won't matter in the end! Mwuahahaha!
April: I think you need some professional help.
Lydia: Nah, just a beer. Or three.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Haiku Hour

For those of you who don't know, a haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of 17 syllables divided into three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. I used to write these for fun when I was younger (I once wrote a collection of them for a college creative writing class assignment and called it "Haikus from Hell," much to my instructor's amusement) and I figured that since I've been getting back into Japanese culture that I would try my hand at them again. Bear with me:
Bunny in my yard
What could it possibly want?
I have no carrots
Intruder alert
Enemy cat detected
Wait it's just TV
Band rehearsal space
A stage show in my garage
Practice on Sunday
Look I made a meme!
Almost no one got the joke
Play Doki Doki
Why buy fancy beds?
Cats love cardboard containers
Boxtown, U.S.A.

As Captain America says: I can do this all day. But I'll spare you and stop here. For now.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Pandemic Products Review

All right, today we're going to talk about pandemic products - not products that are directly related to the pandemic (masks, etc.), but rather, products that I've tried out due to shortages of the stuff that I usually buy. And here to help me out are special guests Joel and Felicity.
B: Say hi, you two.
J: Hi.
F: Whatever.
B: Okay, so first off - due to the lack of regular Spam that I mentioned in this previous post, I ended up buying something called "Bacon Spam."
J: I thought Kyle brought over a bunch of Spam from another store.
B: He did, but I bought this before that happened.
J: Oh.
B: So, yeah, what did you guys think of this?
J: I thought it tasted fine.
F: Anything "bacon" has to try hard not to taste good.
B: It did have a richer flavor than regular Spam, I will say that.
J: Actually, what you used to buy all the time is Spam Lite, not regular. And regular Spam is actually called Spam Classic. And Bacon Spam is actually called Spam with Real Hormel Bacon.
B: True.
F: Surprisingly, Spam Lite has more sodium than Bacon Spam.
J: But Bacon Spam has twice as much saturated fat. And two-point-five-times as much regular fat.
B: Yikes. Okay, so what's the verdict - would we eat this again?
F: I would.
J: Since Kyle brought over a bunch of Spam - officially, Spam Less Sodium - shouldn't we eat all of that first?
B: Yeah, good point. All right, moving on.
B: So here we have "antibacterial ripe melon" hand soap. Which, for whatever reason, has been more available than the types of hand soap I used to buy.
F: Which were...
B: The "pear and coconut" and "honey citrus and shea butter."
F: Oh, right - you liked the "pear and coconut" because it's green and supposedly matches the color scheme of the house.
J: It really doesn't, though.
B: I didn't care for this "antibacterial ripe melon" at first because it doesn't lather up as well and is harder to wash off. But after using it for a while, I started to get used to it.
J: I thought Kyle also brought over a bunch of hand soap that he wasn't going to use.
B: He did, and we're using them in a couple of the rooms now, but the kitchen sink still needs the old-style soap containers, partially due to the size and also because the cats will probably attack anything that's different from what they're used to.
F: Ah, cats. Gotta love 'em.
B: Anyway, you guys have used this "ripe melon" soap, right?
J: Yeah.
F: Sure.
B: So, verdict?
J: I don't like it.
F: Me neither.
B: All right, I'll try to look for alternatives. But we still have a couple more to use up first.
F: Really, though, I'm just grateful that we have soap at all.
B: Sounds like you absorbed the lesson in appreciation that I was trying to impart in Volume One.
F: What? Volume One?
J: What is that?
B: Never mind. Okay, finally, we have -
B: "Select-a-sheet" paper towels. Which, for those who don't know, are the kind where the perforations come at smaller intervals so you can just tear off what is essentially half a sheet.
J: That seems smart to me.
F: What I don't understand is why you didn't use them before.
B: I actually did, but I had been finding that I never really used less than a "whole" sheet anyway, and I was paying a little extra for the additional perforations.
F: Ah.
B: But since the full-size sheet option seems scarce now, I went back to these. And you know what?
J: What?
B: I kind of like them. Having to use these has forced me to figure out ways to be more efficient with my paper towel usage and get by with a half sheet where before only a whole would do.
J: Well, that's good, but you already were pretty efficient with paper towel usage.
B: I was?
F: Yeah, because you'd reuse sheets. That's why there are always those little balls of used towels by the sink.
B: True. Anyway, I think I'll continue to use this variety even if and when the full-sheet option becomes more available.
F: Okay. Can we go now?
B: Sure.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Statii Update

It's hard to be productive at the moment. Even though I'm used to working at home by myself (or with cats), there are - obviously - a lot of world-event-level distractions going on, and frankly, it's all a bit exhausting. That said, I'm trying my best to keep pushing forward, little by little, day after day, making as much progress on my projects as I can even if that means just writing one paragraph in a draft that might get thrown away later, or coming up with a vocal harmony for a single line in a chorus. Here's the latest on what I've been up to:
Music
The virus-induced lockdown threw a wrench into the plans for Second Player Score's fourth album, as we were neither able to get together for rehearsal nor did we know when we might be able to go back into the studio. After three months our area moved into Phase 2 reopening which allowed the three of us to be in the same room together once again, so now we're starting to get back on track. Since the fourth album (entitled Four-D, more details here, here, and here) will be split into four seasonal "suites" of four songs each, we targeted the "Winter Suite" as being first up since it seemed to be the most likely one that we'll be able to bootcamp (i.e. do pre-production on), record, and then release during the time period in which it's set (the winter). Two of the songs are already fully written and arranged, which leaves two others in need of things like lyrics and vocal harmonies. Oh, and a guitar solo.

Writing
I recently wrapped up yet another read-through of Joel Suzuki, Volume Five, making a few updates and edits along the way before I sent it off for a sensitivity-reader check. While that's being done, I've actually started on Volume Six(!), crafting a basic outline along with around 2000 words or so. Granted, said words are pretty terrible, but I needed to - as part of the process for Volume Five - at least get the beginning of the story down on paper, making sure that the continuity jives so that I don't find myself stuck in a corner that I can't write myself out of later on.

I also finished a seven-week script-writing workshop with Jonathan Stark and Tracy Newman, two Emmy Award-winning writers who created the Jim Belushi show According to Jim, among their other numerous accomplishments. It was a fun and educational experience that I got to share with a group of writers from L.A. and elsewhere (all done via Zoom, of course), all of whom are extremely cool and talented people. Each week, we took turns critiquing one another's scripts (I submitted Hold My Beer for consideration) and exchanging ideas. It was supposed to end after the sixth week, but John and Tracy were generous enough to add an extra week where we would each write a single five-page scene and then we would review them all and try to guess who wrote what. For my scene, I wrote a fictionalized account of the time when my son asked me to write him a book (which, as you probably know, was the actual genesis of the Joel Suzuki series). Everyone's scenes went over so well that we're all now developing them into full pilot scripts that we will send to John and Tracy later and possibly meet up again to discuss at some point in the future.

So that's mostly what's been going on, along with managing the Kickstarter campaign for Glorified Issue #3 (which ends next week), applying for a screenwriting development program from Imagine Impact (writers, you should check it out), continuing to learn Japanese (kanji is so dang confusing), and recording weekly episodes of the Second Player Speaks podcast. If that sounds like a lot, understand that I'm just doing it all in bite-size chunks in between checking the news and watching anime. It's like if you eat three blueberries every day, after a little over a month you'll have eaten a hundred blueberries. Okay, never mind, terrible example, but I think you get the idea. The important thing is that, like a shark, you just have to keep moving - and that's my productivity tip of the week.