Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Post That Is Sort Of About Football, Post-Season Edition

I know, I know, the season's not completely over as there are two more real games - the Pro Bowl doesn't count - left to go. But it is for the Seahawks, so as far as I'm concerned, it's time for a post-season post that is sort of about football. Confused? Check out the season-opening post here and the mid-season post here.
Even my new blue-and-green sonic screwdriver could not save the Seahawks.
Arizona Cardinals: it's hard to be annoyingly good every year, isn't it?

Atlanta Falcons: congrats on your Madden-like offense.

Baltimore Ravens: two months ago I said "please beat the Cowboys this weekend (check back in January to see what kind of effect this statement had.)" Apparently it had a jinxing effect.

Buffalo Bills: they had the top rushing offense this year? How did that happen?

Carolina Panthers: I kept my mouth shut and the Seahawks beat them handily. Earl Thomas did get injured in that game, though, so there's that.

Chicago Bears: Mike Ditka looks really old in those new commercials for whatever it is he's selling.

Cincinnati Bengals: I can't believe those striped helmets have been around since 1981.

Cleveland Browns: hey, at least you won a game. And you still have the first pick in the 2017 draft.

Dallas Cowboys: last time I said "now the ex has gotten a new makeover and/or a fancy car and suddenly looks way hotter than you remember them." Well, now the ex has been dumped by whoever paid for that car and you're trying to take the high road and not bask in the sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

Denver Broncos: hey, at least you won last year's Super Bowl.

Detroit Lions: good game, fellas. Let's do it again sometime.

Green Bay Packers: two months ago, I said that they were jinxed. Well, yeah, maybe not so much now. Between them and the Falcons, I think the last team to have the ball on Sunday is going to win.

Houston Texans: hey, at least you made the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts: I only just realized now, after five seasons, how cool and appropriate - albeit a little on-the-nose - it is for this team, with its horseshoe logo, to have a quarterback named "Luck." Seriously, you can't (and shouldn't) make up stuff like that.

Jacksonville Jaguars: so they did what I talked about last time and fired Gus Bradley. Seems like the odds of him coming back to Seattle are pretty slim, though, since Kris Richard didn't get the Buffalo job.

Kansas City Chiefs: I guess loud stadiums don't always pay off (look, the Seahawks lost to the Cardinals at home, blowing their chances for the #2 seed, so I feel ya.)

Los Angeles Rams: I will say nothing about their new coach since it will probably come back to bite the Seahawks next season.

Miami Dolphins: hey, at least you made the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings: hey, at least you have an awesome new stadium.

New England Patriots: how does this team do it? They're the only ones to win a bazillion games every single year, no matter who is playing what position. Some people say it's because they cheat, but I'm thinking it's more because Bill Belichick is like the Gregg Popovich of football. Or maybe they cheat on top of that, who knows.

New Orleans Saints: do you guys want Jimmy Graham back? Great player, just no room for him in the Seahawks' scheme.

New York Giants: don't feel bad, the Seahawks ran into the Aaron Rodgers buzzsaw as well, as did your hated division rivals. I still remember when that guy was sitting in the green room of the 2005 draft looking morose and unwanted.

New York Jets: hey, at least you guys are based in New York, which seems like a fun city.

Oakland Raiders: Vegas-bound?

Philadelphia Eagles: I kept my mouth shut last time, and that seemed to work.

Pittsburgh Steelers: somehow I just knew you were going to end up back in the AFC Championship game. You're indestructible, like that Roethlisberger guy.

San Diego (Los Angeles) Chargers: I hate that new logo.

San Francisco 49ers: did they not want Tom Cable, or did he not want them? The world will (probably) never know.

Seattle Seahawks: I'm not a football expert by any means, and I defer the serious analysis to others, but it seems to me like the Seahawks, like most teams, have become too star-dependent - Earl Thomas being example A. They have a lot of stars, and Pete Carroll seems to do a good job, which is why they've reached the divisional round of the playoffs for five straight years. But can you imagine them going 3-1 without Russell Wilson, like how the Patriots did without Tom Brady this season? If they want to be more than the second- or third-most consistent team in the NFL (and I think Carroll has said that he "wants to do this better than anyone") then I think they have some stuff to figure out. Or, you know, maybe they can cheat.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: super-glad the Seahawks aren't on their schedule next season.

Tennessee Titans: hey, at least you guys are based in Nashville, which I hear is a great music town.

Washington Redskins: helping to raise the profile of The Slants' trademark case.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

And Now, The Big Announcement!

Remember three months ago when I wrote a teaser post about some "big announcement"? Well, the time has finally come to...you know what, I'm just gonna skip my opening remarks and get right to it. Joel Suzuki, come on down!
Joel: What? Already?
Me: Sure. You know what to say. No sense putting it off any longer.
Joel: Um, okay.
Joel: (clears throat)
Joel: As of today, January 12th, 2017, the Spectraland Saga will hereby be known as...should there be a drum roll?
Me: Good idea.
Me: (makes fake drum roll noise)
Joel: ...the Joel Suzuki Series!
Me: Woo!
Felicity: I never got to vote on this, by the way.
Joel: Yeah...sorry about that.
Felicity: Not your fault, dude. I blame this guy over here.
Me: You know why we did this.
Felicity: Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm just kidding. Mostly.

So as Joel just announced, the Spectraland Saga is now known as the Joel Suzuki Series. Why the change, you ask? Well, there are five main reasons:

1. Probably the most important one is that this series is, at its core, Joel's story. It's his coming-of-age journey as he progresses from being a childlike teenager to a confident young man (or, at least, that's where he might be headed. There are still many books to go!) My editor (the brilliant Susan DeFreitas of Indigo Editing - check out her debut novel Hot Season) pointed this out as she was working on Book Three, and I thought, you know, she's right. As always. So really, it just made sense to make Joel, and not Spectraland, the focal point of the series title.

2. It makes even more sense when you realize that Spectraland is not even the primary setting of Book Three. Most of the story takes place in another location called the Mono Realm. And not to give too much away, but future books in the series will introduce additional settings as well.

3. Moving from art to commerce, another reason is that I discovered that a lot of people seem to have trouble spelling, pronouncing, and/or remembering the word "Spectraland." I have to admit, even I do a quick double-check, just to be sure, whenever I type that word myself. In contrast, "Joel Suzuki" is a lot simpler and more familiar (thanks, Suzuki Motor Company), and I think that, in general, people connect better with the name of a person than the name of a place. There's obviously no way to know for sure, but I'd bet that Harry Potter wouldn't have been quite as popular if the series had been called "The Hogwarts Chronicles."

4. Sometime last year, I stumbled across a production company on the Internet called Spectraland. Now, just for the record, they started after me (Book One came out in 2012, while they began - publicly, at least - a year later), but I figured why not avoid confusion if at all possible? Also, there's now a movie out on Netflix called Spectral.

5. Speaking of movies, as you may have read in the recent Spectrums Magazine article, one of my goals is for this series to become a movie franchise. And I don't know if you've noticed this, but movie franchises (besides James Bond) generally like to have a unifying title for each film - e.g., the second and third (and fourth, sigh) installments in the Hunger Games movie adaptations weren't just called "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay," they were called "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay." And frankly, I just couldn't imagine casual viewers going to see something with "The Spectraland Saga" or even "Spectraland" as its unifying title...

     Dad: Can we get two adult and two children for Specter...uh, I mean, Septra, um, I mean...forget it, kids. Let's just watch "Cars 5" at 7:30, okay?

     Kids: Awwww

With all of these reasons coming together at roughly about the same time, I thought, "okay, well, maybe this is a change I finally need to make." I actually had thought about doing it earlier, but - as I mentioned in the teaser post - there was one major sticking point, which was that I didn't want to be too Harry Potter-ish and create something along the lines of "Joel Suzuki and the Secret of the Songshell." But now, I basically had to do it. So as I stood there in the shower on the morning of October 1st, 2016, I thought, "How can I do this but still make it my own? It has to be something that's different, something that captures the essential vibe of the series."

That's when it hit me: volumes. Of course! I would subtitle each book as "Volume one," "Volume two," etc. Because, you know, volume...music...right? You see what I did there? So Book One would now be "Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell."* That was it! That was the answer! Excited, I cut my shower short and ran downstairs to my computer to write this idea down.

Once I did, I realized something else: if I was going to do this, I would have to go up to eleven. I mean, as all of us Spinal Tap fans know, you can't use the word "volume" and NOT go up to eleven. But did that mean...I would have to expand the series to eleven books?

As some of you may remember from this post, there was a specific reason why I decided that the Spectraland...um, I mean, the Joel Suzuki Series would be seven books: mainly, because each book would correspond to a color on the visible light spectrum (Book One is the red book, Book Two is the orange book, then yellow, then green, etc.) But now, with eleven books, would I have to abandon that idea? I certainly didn't want to.

So I did some quickie research, and you'll never guess what I discovered. Lo and behold, it turns out that there are additional colors outside the visible spectrum, and that there are...wait for it...exactly four of them. Infrared, ultraviolet, black (the absence of all light), and white (the sum of all the colors). This could not get any more perfect. I was already thinking that since I had the whole seven-book story arc sketched out, any additional books would have to be "outside" the main storyline, and this just fit that idea to a T. The whole thing seemed like destiny.

And there you have it. The Big Announcement. There will be more in the coming weeks as we get closer to Book Three, um, I mean, Volume Three's launch, including cover reveals for all three books (because along with the new titles, we are getting all new, original, hand-drawn cover art by the incomparable Jill Colbert, who did the cover of Second Player Score's Nobody's Hero) and another exciting development that I will talk about later.

If you already own the first two books (which I know all of you do, right?) don't worry, the interiors are not changing...much. I had Susan do an edit of Volume One (she wasn't the original editor when that book first came out) just to make things consistent, but the story itself hasn't changed. Spectraland, as it appears in the books, is still called Spectraland. Of course, you could always just keep those copies as collector's items and buy the new versions for the cover art alone (wait 'til you see it).

Stay tuned!

* I know, it sounds just as long as something like "The Spectraland Saga: Secret of the Songshell," but it's punchier, and "Joel Suzuki" as the unifying title is simpler and looks better on a movie marquee than "Spectraland" or "The Spectraland Saga." Plus, unless they've been living in world without motorcycles, mom or dad should be able to pronounce it. It also sounds way better when you say it in that movie announcer voice - you know the one. C'mon, say it with me: "JOEL SUZUKI, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell. Now playing." Aww yeah, that's the stuff.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016: A Highlight Reel

Is it backwards that I did a 2017 looking-forward-to post last week and now I'm doing a 2016 retrospective after New Year's Day? I don't think so, because I had to make sure 2016 was over before I put this post together. I mean, who knows, some other awesome stuff could've happened during the last few days of the year!*
With that said, here are the highlights of the year and their associated blog posts, in chronological order:

January
When my friends from Los Angeles and Hawaii came to Book Two's launch party at Shanahan's. I had a great time hanging out with them. I also can't believe that Book Three was only about 40% done (and just the first draft!) at that point.

February
So much to choose from in this month! I think it's a tie between all the cool news coverage that Joel and company received and the author visit I did at my daughter's school.

March
READCON at Shahala Middle School was the highlight of this month, hands down. It even beats the fact that I finished the first draft of Book Three (which I will read one day and laaaaaugh).

April
So many cool things happening during Autism Awareness Month...Neue Regel Radio's annual 24 Hours For Autism Radiothon, Autism Empowerment's annual bowling tournament...and on top of that, I finally got to see Iron Maiden live.

May
Maybe it was discovering an awesome writing routine that really seems to work for me. Or maybe it was going to dinner at K-Town. Hard to decide.

June
Autism Empowerment celebrated our 5th birthday!

July
The drafts of Book Three and Album Two were completed, and the month was capped off with the super-fun Autism Empowerment picnic at Salmon Creek Park.

August
My son got his driver's license! Yes, this is a highlight, trust me.

September
My friends Charles and Kirsten got married in Hawaii! Yes, this is a highlight, trust me. Oh, and Comic-Con and the Zelda concert with my kids. Wow. What a month.

October
By far the high point of this month came when I had this revelation in the shower.

November
Album Two was released. And my daughter drew me a portrait of Joel and Felicity for my birthday. Awesomeness overload.

December
This article came out in Spectrums Magazine. My friends Mike and Tiff had their first child (yes, this is a highlight, trust me). My friends from Hawaii and Hawaii/Portland came to Album Two's release party. Rogue One.

Here's to an equally-or-even-more awesome 2017!

* No, I'm not being facetious. I'm choosing, for the sake of this post, to be positive

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017: Stuff I'm Looking Forward To

2017 seems to be shaping up as a pretty big year in terms of fun stuff - movies, TV shows, video games, etc. - coming out. The big question is, with all of this stuff, how will I ever get anything done? We shall see.

Movies that I plan on watching and writing about in future Movie Roundup posts:
- Wonder Woman. Yes, I will give it a chance. Don't let me down again, DC.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Because, Marvel movie.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming. Because, Marvel movie and it's Spider-Man.
- Logan. Because, an R-rated Wolverine film? Finally
- Thor: Ragnarok. Because I think I may be the only person on the planet who liked The Dark World better than the first one.
- Power Rangers. Will this be anything like the gritty 2015 short film? I'm guessing no.
- Justice League. Assuming Wonder Woman is at least ok. Oh who I am kidding, I'll probably see it anyway.
- The Lego Batman Movie
- Despicable Me 3
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
- And, of course, some little flick that doesn't even have an official title yet known only as "Star Wars: Episode VIII."

TV shows that I will clear time in my schedule for because I don't have a DVR:
- Doctor Who. The new Christmas special was silly and fun. It's cool that they're keeping Nardole around.
- The Magicians. Oh man, I cannot wait for this. Is it January yet?
- Miraculous Ladybug. Assuming they actually show it in the U.S. Comcast, why did you take this off of your On-Demand list? It's your best show
- Legion. Maybe. I'll watch the first one and see if it hooks me.

Video games that my daughter will watch me play while she creates her amazing artwork:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Duh. I've only been talking about this for a few years now.

Assuming that I'll be able to get anything done amidst all of this fun stuff (and I will, I promise), there is also a little something coming out in March or April called Legend of the Loudstone. Stay tuned for the Big Announcement.

P.S. "Rejoice for those around you who have transformed into the Force." - Yoda

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Movie Roundup: Holiday Edition (Feat. Rogue One)

I can't believe I'm writing this post, because it means that the year is almost done. Time goes by so quickly that I guess we must be having a lot of fun, right? Fun = a partially-functioning TARDIS that only sends you forward in time. Anyway, I'm getting off track here. Welcome to the holiday edition of Movie Roundup! If you've been here for previous Roundups, you know that (1) these are not really reviews, they're just my random thoughts about movies I've seen, and (2) there will be massive, massive spoilers. So if this is your first Roundup, consider yourself warned.

Doctor Strange
I was really excited to see this movie for some reason, despite the fact that I was never a huge fan of the character in the comic books. Although, I have been enjoying the iteration of Stephen Strange in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, and the previews looked amazing. So did I like it? Yeah, I guess I did. The effects were pretty mind-blowing, although the story itself was kind of meh. The way he defeated Dormammu in the end was cool, although it reminded me a bit of another Doctor and how he broke out of the Confession Dial prison last season (a fantastic episode).

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
My first impression of this film after I watched it was "you know, I liked that more than I thought I would." I guess I didn't really know what to expect going in. Does anyone else think that Newt Scamander is on the spectrum? Oh, and Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald - no thanks. Not sure why they didn't just get Jamie Campbell Bower to do it. Maybe they felt like they needed some kind of flashy hire, like the Los Angeles Rams trying to lure Jon Gruden out of the announcer booth?

The Jungle Book
I wanted to see this one because they apparently filmed the whole thing in a Los Angeles sound stage and created the entire jungle environment with CGI. My thinking was that "hey, if that approach works for this movie, then they could do that for the Spectraland movies as well." So did it work? I thought so. It also helped that this was just a great, well-done story (yes, the original source material is terrific, but modern reboots can sometimes muck up old classics). I think I actually enjoyed this one more than the first two movies in this Roundup.

Rogue One
And that brings us to our headliner. This is a movie for Star Wars fans. If you're not a fan, you will probably be bored and confused. If you are a fan, then let me tell you, you are in for two hours and thirteen minutes of sheer bliss (in case you're wondering, I fall into the latter category). It's like the best Star Wars fan film ever made, which makes sense when you consider that the director is a fanboy himself and he had a gazillion-dollar budget to work with.

Bullet point thoughts:

- I had heard bad things about the Tarkin and Leia reconstructions going in, but I thought they were fine.
- Vader's gait was kind of a feminine sashay, don't you think? His boarding scene at the end was awesome, though. Wow.
- I have to admit, Chirrut Imwe's mantra started to become a little annoying after a while.
- I love love love how they made the Death Star flaw into an actual thing. You know what I mean.
- The music was serviceable, but not memorable.
- Why would Vader and his crew even consider the possibility that the Tantive IV was on a diplomatic mission at the beginning of New Hope? Didn't they see it coming out of the rebel flagship that had just attacked the Imperial facility on Scarif?
- Please, Lucasfilm, don't make it so that Jyn survived and becomes Rey's mother or something like that. I'm begging you.
- I plan on seeing this one again. And again. And again, probably.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Snow Day, Spectrums Magazine, And Book Three Title Announcement!

All of us here at the Brian Tashima Blog are taking a snow day today!
But be sure to come back next week when we'll be doing the special holiday edition of Movie Roundup, including my comments on Rogue One (which I already have IMAX RPX 3-D super ultra mega awesome smellovision tickets for so no amount of snow is going to keep me from seeing it). See you then!

UPDATE: We are featured in the hot-off-the-presses current issue of Spectrums Magazine! Check it out here. We're on page 18, but the whole issue is worth reading. There will also be print versions distributed throughout the Portland/Vancouver area over the coming days, snow or no snow. Big thanks to Spectrums for the article!

UPDATE #2: I just realized that I made a first-time announcement about Book Three's title in the Spectrums article, so go check it out! A direct link to it is here. Man, this snow day turned out to be pretty eventful!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Status Report!

It's been ten weeks since the last set of status updates, so you've all probably been wondering what's been going on, right? Of course you have! Well, wait no longer...
Book Update: I finished 10,000 words (approximately 40 pages) of Book Four's first draft when I received the Book Three line edit back from my editor, so now I've switched out my writing hat (which I imagine looks sort of like a fedora) for my incorporating-the-edits hat (a Doctor Who-type fez). The cover art process is also underway, so right now we're still on track for the planned launch date of March or April 2017. And as I promised in this post, there will be a big announcement to come.

Also, this coming Saturday I will put on my reading/signing/selling hat (a beanie) for the third annual Holiday Litera-Cheer event at Another Read Through Bookstore in Portland from 1:30-3pm.

Band Update: I'm a big believer in second chances, so if you missed the first CD release party in Vancouver, you can still join us at the Ash Street Saloon in Portland tonight!* Festivities start at 8pm and we will again be playing every song off our second album, Nobody's Hero, in order from beginning to end. Also on the bill are the ever-rockin' Cellar Door and the always fun Kings & Vagabonds.

The writing process for Album Three is well underway. We have ten songs that are basically done music-wise; now I just need to hunker down and crank out some lyrics. It's looking like this record will also be a quasi-concept album (like Nobody's Hero), and this time it'll focus on a female protagonist named Gloria whose prequel story was told back on our first album, Fortress Storm Attack. More on that later.

Video Game Update: While we all anxiously await Breath of the Wild, I've been passing the time with the virtual console versions of Spirit Tracks and (at my daughter's request) Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team. Spirit Tracks is fun and challenging - because it's a Zelda game, duh - but I have to admit that the dungeon I'm on now (Tower of Spirits, Part 6) is so long and difficult that even with a walkthrough, it was starting to feel like work. So I switched over to Blue Rescue Team, which is light and fluffy but gets a bit repetitive after a while. Been eyeing up Tokyo Mirage Sessions FE and wondering if I should plunk down the sixty bucks...

TV Update: Speaking of light and fluffy, I've been pretty good at keeping up with Supergirl, which moved to The CW for its second season. I also started Attack on Titan, which is definitely not light and fluffy (nor young-kid-friendly) by any means. Can't wait for the Doctor Who Christmas special and season two of The Magicians starting next month.

So there you go, Captain. And Mr. Sulu was just kidding about the entire ship being underwater, I promise.

* If Snowmaggedon 2016 doesn't happen, that is