Thursday, April 2, 2020

We Get Through It, Because We Get Through It Together

Originally posted on July 6, 2017, but seems especially relevant now

In the season ten finale of Doctor Who, the Doctor willingly risks his life to save a small farming community from an advancing army of Cybermen.
Thing is, though, with the Doctor, doing something like that isn't that much of a risk because - as fans of the show know - if the Doctor dies, he'll just regenerate into a new version of himself (herself?)

Most of us aren't quite as fortunate. If we die, we generally don't start giving off bursts of yellow energy before changing into someone else. Which makes it even more impressive, I think, when people who aren't the Doctor put themselves in harm's way to help others.

Here's an interview I did with James, a real-life Doctor - a firefighter paramedic, actually - from California who has been practicing his profession for almost two decades now. I hope you find his story as interesting, informative, and inspiring as I did.

(Editor's note: answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.)

Is your job something that you always wanted to do (and continue to want to do), despite knowing the risks? If so, why?

My first recollection of being interested in this job was when I was around 4 or 5. My grandfather was a fireman, and he would often tell me stories about what it was like. Also, one of the popular shows of the time was Emergency!, which made the whole job look like a series of adventures and good times - for a show about life and death there was very little death or downside depicted.

I don't really know that I had a real understanding of the risks involved even as I began taking some prerequisite classes. There were discussions of the dangers, but until I started working in the field it was all something of an abstract concept. As I've grown in the job, though, I've seen and experienced many of the risks first hand. I've lost colleagues and seen many of them injured at one point or another. I, myself, have been pretty fortunate over the course of my career to have only received cuts, bruises, and minor burns.

Despite that, I still believe that I have the best job in the world. I don't really know of anything else I would rather do. It makes me proud to be there when people need me, and to have the skills, knowledge, and experience to solve their issue or stabilize them long enough to facilitate transport to a higher level of care.

Do you feel fear and/or stress at any point, and if so, when? When you first get called to a situation, when you arrive at the scene, or at some other time?

Stress seems most often to be like background music to me at this point in my career. It's there, but it's almost always just below notice. For me, stress doesn't really start to play a role until something goes sideways during the call. We have treatment protocols for patients and standard operating guidelines for incidents that we start with, but occasionally things don't fit into those templates so we have to adjust on the fly.

If you do feel stress, how do you overcome it? Are you just naturally "wired" to deal with it, or does it take practice and experience?

I don't think anyone is naturally "wired" to deal with the stress that we endure at times. It takes practice and training to stay on course when things are going wrong.

Having relationships with your crew and coworkers helps. We drive each other. There is a collective confidence when I'm working with experienced and competent people that I've known a long time.

Is there a long-term stress factor? If so, how do you deal with that?

The short answer is "of course there is." Some of the things we see and deal with leave lasting impressions. I can still remember almost everything about my first pediatric CPR - the boy's name, the porch, his mother arriving on scene, her anguished wails as our efforts failed to bring her child back. Those things stick with me and occasionally I have dreams about it. It's all a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. My employer offers a counseling program, but therapy often begins once we get back on the engine. We talk out the situation on the way back to the station and that's pretty much the end of it most of the time.

How do you "psych yourself up" in dangerous situations? Is it the motivation of knowing you're doing a good deed? Is there a thrill or an adrenaline rush factor involved?

When I first got hired, it was easy to be wound up for every call. As I've gained experience, most of the time I'm more calculating than I used to be. There is an intrinsic reward for helping people, whether it be a small thing or truly making a difference. It's a validation of your training and your choices. My crew and I have saved people's lives, and that's an awesome feeling.

And yes, of course there's an adrenaline rush - any time you go crawling into a burning structure there's some sort of thrill involved. It's the feeling of going where almost no one else goes and getting the job done.

It really comes down to the fact that I work with good, experienced people who aren't going to let me do anything dangerous alone. My saying is "we get through it, because we get through it together."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Here Are Some Cat Pictures To Brighten Your Day







Thursday, March 19, 2020

Anime Roundup

Guess it's a good time to stay home and binge lots of anime, eh?

Girls und Panzer
Kind of like K-On!, but with tanks instead of guitars. My guess is that the creators of this show decided to employ the cognitive dissonance formula common to lots of manga and anime concepts and, during a brainstorming session, thought "what if we took a bunch of kawaii (cute) high school girls and...made them fight each other with tanks!" Okay, yeah, sure, why not. And, of course, it works.

Samurai Champloo
Continuing with the whole cognitive dissonance thing, this show blends a historical Edo-period setting with some cultural anachronisms like rap music, graffiti, and breakdancing. Great action, a simple yet compelling plot, and a good balance of drama and humor make this one a modern classic, in my opinion. I had plans to go see Shing02 - the rapper who performs the main theme song - at a show in Portland this month, but, well, you know. Maybe I'll just rewatch this show instead.

At first, you might think this is one of those animes about several teenage girls who all inexplicably like the same boring dude (yes, that's a subgenre), but...well, it is sort of like that, but it's so much more, as well. Based on a visual novel, it kind of meanders along slowly like a drowsy slice-of-life story for a while before it suddenly swells to a dramatic, emotional peak, settles down, and then repeats the process. Quite an entertaining roller coaster ride, if you ask me. Oh, and don't worry, they'll explain the whole girl-and-robot-on-a-different-world thing eventually, if you stick around long enough.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?
Yes, yes it is. But don't worry, this show isn't really about its title. It's mostly a D&Dish story about a teenage boy who becomes an "adventurer" in order to make ends meet and, to everyone's surprise (including his own), levels up and gains new powers faster than anyone ever has before. And yes, a few girls inexplicably become interested in him along the way, but that's just a minor part of the whole deal.

No Game No Life
A portal fantasy about a brother-and-sister uber-gamer team who are transported to another world where their considerable skills are put to the test. Kind of a neat idea, if you ask me. The climax to the first season even features a virtual world-within-the other world scenario, sort of like if Sword Art Online or Ready Player One existed in Narnia or Fillory. Oh, and as the TV-MA rating indicates, this is definitely not a show for kids.

This is a full-length animated adaptation of a live-action film from the '90s, which is pretty cool, because usually you see that kind of thing done the other way around. Anyway, the story is pretty much the dictionary definition of a romantic drama (or rom-dram, as opposed to rom-com), and it features a bit of magical realism/time travel, which I always appreciate. After you watch it, you, too, will be wondering: are fireworks round or flat?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

April and Lydia Predict The 2020 MLB Season

Today we have some very special guests joining us on the blog! You first met them last year in this post, and then heard more about them and their still-as-of-yet-unproduced screenplay in this SPSU update from last October. Please welcome: April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez!
Lydia: Where is that applause coming from?
April: I don't know, but it's kind of embarrassing.
Brian: Hello, ladies! Welcome back.
Lydia: Hey.
April: Hello.
Brian: So glad you could make it.
Lydia: Yeah, well, just remember our deal - no questions about my prediction from last year.
Brian: Right, not a word.
April: We almost kind of have to talk about it, though.
Lydia: No, we don't.
April: I mean, we thought that because of what we did with the whole dispelling-the-curse thing, that the Mariners would finally -
Lydia: Ah! Stop! (hold hands to ears) LALALALALA
April: Okay, okay, sheesh.
Brian: It's not to say that it still won't happen, though. The team does seem to have some promise to it, what with all the young players.
April: Lydia has a crush on Jarred Kelenic.
Lydia: I do not.
April: Liar.
Lydia: Heh.
Brian: All right, so, we're here to discuss what you folks think will happen this season. Any thoughts?
Lydia: Boo, Astros.
April: Let's not open that can of worms, please.
Lydia: Yeah, you're probably right. I could go on for hours about that subject.
April: And you have.
Brian: How do you think the M's will do?
April: I think they'll be a little better than most people expect, although still not enough to make the playoffs.
Lydia: Yeah, I'm thinking maybe 75 wins. Ish.
April: I know they've been saying that wins and losses are not the most important metric in what is supposed to be rebuilding year, but I think you do kind of want to see some progress in that department, at least.
Lydia: Maybe a slow start followed by a better second half.
April: Yeah. 'Cause then that'll show that the young players are growing, adjusting, and developing.
Lydia: And learning how to win at the major league level.
April: Exactly.
Brian: All right, so I'll put Lydia down for 75 wins. April?
April: I'll say 76.
Lydia: What is this, the Price is Right?
April: Oh, hush.
Brian: How about another prediction - which Mariner player, or players, will make the All-Star team?
April: Hmm, that's a good question.
Lydia: Kyle Lewis.
April: I'll go with Marco Gonzales.
Lydia: Really?
April: I mean, I guess?
Lydia: All right, whatever you say. Oh, and maybe Evan White for AL Rookie of the Year.
April: Wow. That would be cool.
Lydia: Right?
Brian: Okay, and finally - who will win the World Series?
April and Lydia, together: Dodgers.
Lydia: They kinda deserve it. Because, you know, karma.
April: Not to mention an incredibly stacked roster.
Brian: All right, there you have it! April and Lydia's predictions for the 2020 MLB season. Thanks so much for joining us today, and we'll check back in the fall to see how things turned out.
April: Thanks for having us.
Lydia: Where's the beer? I heard there was supposed to be beer.
Brian: Good night, everybody!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

TV Roundup, Episode Two

Welcome to the second installment of TV Roundup! I just realized (only now?) that - between anime, sports, and other shows - I watch a pretty incredible amount of television. The only reason it doesn't border on unhealthy levels is that, as a writer, I consider it to be homework of sorts, as well as inspiration. Also, I usually try to exercise while watching. I guess that's two reasons. Anyway, tread carefully, for there will be spoilers.

Good Omens
I finally got around to watching this one after hearing lots of good omens things about it. I also read the book in parallel; like, I'd finish a few chapters and then watch the episode that more-or-less corresponded to said chapters, which was kind of a neat and enjoyable experience. All right, so David Tennant was a great Doctor, but who agrees with me in thinking that he's actually better at playing bad guys?

(on Amazon Prime)

I love time travel plots. And plots where the character (and the audience) isn't sure whether they actually have powers or if it's all just in their mind. The rotoscoping animation was cool, too. And apparently there's a second season coming, which thank goodness because - spoiler alert - the first one ended on a "that can't possibly be the end"-style cliffhanger.

(on Amazon Prime)

Doctor Who
Being the nerd I am, I have to admit that I didn't really dig Jodie Whittaker's first season as the Doctor all that much, not because of her performance (she did - and is doing - a great job, in my opinion), but because of the lack of references and callbacks to the show's extensive canon and lore. This season has been a whole different story, though. I mean, I spent way more time than I should have contemplating where Doctor Ruth from "Fugitive of the Judoon" fit into the whole timeline, and now, with the retcon of the retcon of the multiple unknown Doctors from "The Brain of Morbius," consider my mind blown.

(on BBC America)

The Magicians
Remember this post from last year, where I said that this show has reached a point where I don't understand what's going on half the time but I still love it anyway? Well, with Season 5 (the first and apparently only one without - spoiler alert - Quentin Coldwater, who was surprisingly killed off at the end of Season 4), I think I don't understand what's going on almost all of the time now. But yes, I still love it anyway, and will miss it.

(on SyFy)

Miraculous Ladybug
In case you forgot, this is the show that led to me signing up for Netflix in the first place. Since then, my daughter hasn't kept up with it, but as the big kid I am, I have. With its surprisingly robust worldbuilding and bet-you-didn't-see-this-coming-twists, I must say that Season 3 completely blew my mind. I mean, it even has time travel now! I did think that the episode featuring - spoiler alert - a hypothetical future scenario where everyone knew each other's secret identities would've made for a good series finale (after removing the hypothetical part), but, well, what do I know.

(on Netflix)

Raising Dion
As a big fan of Gravity Falls, I have to say that whenever Jason Ritter's character spoke, all I could think of was Dipper Pines. Still, though, any show about regular people with superpowers is all right with me. And I totally did not see the big twist coming (even though I probably should have), so, you know, good job, writers.

(on Netflix)

I Am Not Okay With This
I'd heard that this was sort of Stranger Things-meets-Carrie, so naturally, I was interested. And yeah, that description is pretty spot-on. You know what I think is weird, though? Like, when I'm deciding whether or not to check out a new show, I look at how many episodes there are and how long each of them is. Then if - like with this show - there aren't that many episodes and each of them are relatively short, I feel like, "okay, I'll give this a shot." I mean, really, why should that make a difference? If there are lots of long episodes, who cares? If you don't like it, you don't have to keep watching it, Brian. I dunno, I guess I just like to finish what I start. Plus, whenever I actually do abandon a show, it's always sitting there in my "Continue Watching" queue, staring at me and making me feel guilty. Anyway, this show is very fun and watchable with a satisfyingly shocking season finale, so season 2, hurry up!

(on Netflix)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more television to watch.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Is It Spring Yet?

As of this past Sunday, the answer to that question was: no. No, it is not (unless you consider temperatures in the 40s with occasional rain showers to be Spring). But! It was a good day for a book reading event - titled "Is It Spring Yet? - a multi-genre reading" - with a bunch of awesome local authors.
I had the pleasure and privilege to share the stage with seven of my fellow writers, including:

Elizabeth Mitchell (who organized the event. Thanks, Elizabeth!) - suspense
Debby Dodds - young adult romance
Heather Ransom - young adult sci-fi
Margaret Pinard - historical fiction
Dede Montgomery - literary fiction
Lisa Todd - literary fiction
Beth Cook - young adult/middle grade

Check out their works at the links above! Also, I highly recommend paying a visit to Urbanite, the venue that hosted us. They have all kinds of sweet vintage items, antiques, furniture, lighting, art and other neat stuff that can be used to raise the coolness factor of any space by a factor of 10,000. AND they have a huge parking lot right in back of the store, which in downtown Portland is about as rare and unique as a silvertail in Spectraland (if you haven't read the Joel Suzuki series of novels yet, trust me, they're rare and unique).

Anyway, here's a short video clip of me doing my thing:
Looking forward to taking part in more events like this one!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Quickie Status Updates

Here's what I've been up to!
Joel Suzuki, Volume Five
I submitted the official first draft of the manuscript to my editor on December 30 and received it back with her notes on January 14. As always, she had tons of good feedback and suggestions, so right now I'm deep into rewriting mode. There's a lot of work to be done, but hopefully I'm still on track for a 2020 release. Or 2021. Whatever. We shall see. As we learned in Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave, things will work out the way they were meant to.

Glorified, Issue #2 ("Ragged Town")
All the pages have been thumbnailed, most of them have been sketched out, and a majority of them are already inked and complete. Very excited!

Second Player Score Albums Four ("Four-D") and Five ("200BPM")
Album Four has three songs with completed music, lyrics, and arrangement, and there are thirteen more in various stages of development.

Album Five has one song with completed music, lyrics, and arrangement - in fact, it's already been recorded! - and twelve others in various stages of development.

Facebook Live
The band and I are making plans to start livestreaming portions of our Sunday afternoon practices on Facebook. We did it once before, and it seemed to get a good response, so we figured we'd try doing it on a more consistent basis.

Second Player "Store"
We're also in the process of ramping up our merchandising efforts with more cool stuff and easier ways for people to get their hands on them.

Short Films
And finally, we're considering putting into production the short films that I discussed in this previous post, although possibly in a slightly different format, like breaking them up into even shorter segments and turning them into a webseries. We shall see.

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates!