Thursday, September 17, 2020

Random Life Tips That Work For Me

Here's a list of some life tips (or "hacks," as they are now popularly called) that I have found to be personally useful and/or beneficial. Some of these I learned from other sources, while some of them I discovered on my own. I present them this week with hopes that you, loyal blog reader, may find them helpful in your own life.

(Disclaimer: view any bits of advice given to you by a writer/musician with a healthy amount of skepticism. Except for maybe the ones that have to do with writing or playing music. Or, perhaps, organizing your daily schedule.)

Finances

- Pay off your credit card balance in full every time. And then get one of those cards that gives you cash back on purchases. Seriously.

- Set up an automatic transfer at your bank that will move a certain amount of money from your checking account to your savings account each month.

- Use coupons. Also, buy the generic brand equivalent of things that don't depend on taste or texture (e.g., vitamins, aspirin).

- Don't buy too many expensive cat toys. They will not care. Cardboard boxes, crumpled-up sticky notes, and a flashlight will do just fine.

Health

- To fall asleep faster, use the following four-step routine: (1) relax your face - you'd be surprised how tense that thing is, I know I was; (2) release the tension - imagine it escaping through your pores like pollen floating away; (3) clear your mind - let the thoughts fly in and out like butterflies; (4) focus on your breathing.

- When you don't feel exercising, tell yourself you're going to do just one (easy) thing. And then just one more. And then just one more. Before you know it, you'll have done your entire workout. Honestly, the hardest part is getting started.

- Wash your hands a lot, even when there isn't a pandemic.

Writing

- A standard page in a book is roughly 250 words. So, if you just write 250 words (less than the length of this blog post so far) every day, you'll have a completed 300-page manuscript in under a year.

- Don't stop to self-edit. Just keep writing. Fix it later. Also, whatever you're writing is probably better than you think it is while you're writing it.

- For sci-fi/fantasy authors, listening to epic music soundtracks while writing might be helpful and even inspirational. I know it is for me.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Post That Is Sort Of About Football: 2020 Edition

I haven't done one of these posts since the 2016-2017 season (when I did three of them), so I figured it was time. Hopefully I won't be jinxing the entire season - which is scheduled to begin tonight - by doing so.


Arizona Cardinals: apparently you guys are supposed to be pretty good this year, especially with your shiny new DeAndre Hopkins. We shall see.

Atlanta Falcons: did you know that Fort Storm, from my band's comic book series Glorified, is modeled after Mercedes-Benz Stadium? Well, it is.

Baltimore Ravens: one of those teams with annoyingly good luck at drafting quarterbacks (at least recently, anyway). I'm sure Cleveland hates you even more now.

Buffalo Bills: apparently you guys are supposed to be even better this year - maybe even division champs. We shall see.

Carolina Panthers: are not scheduled to play the Seahawks during the regular season for what feels like the first time in forever.

Chicago Bears: So, not Nick Foles, then? Remember, like Jason Mendoza said in The Good Place, "that guy won a Super Bowl!"

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow? Well, I guess he won a National Championship.

Cleveland Browns: yeah

Dallas Cowboys: back in 2016 I described this team (who I used to follow when I lived in Hawaii due mostly to lack of options) as like "an ex, where you just peripherally take notice of stuff they're up to but you try not to get too involved." So...contract issues with Dak? Releasing Clinton-Dix? Okay, whatever, I'll look away now. 

Denver Broncos: So, wait, who is your quarterback this year? Drew Lock? Honestly, I lost track after Manning retired.

Detroit Lions: I have friends who moved from Portland to the Detroit area, so there must be something to it.

Green Bay Packers: another one of those teams with annoyingly good luck at drafting quarterbacks... or not?

Houston Texans: I still kinda feel sorry for this team for blowing a 24-0 lead in last season's divisional playoff game.

Indianapolis Colts: Philip Rivers? Sure, why not, I guess.

Jacksonville Jaguars: not tanking for draft position, huh? Right...

Kansas City Chiefs: I'm sure will be missing their crowd noise as much as the Seahawks will. Congratulations on last season, by the way.

Las Vegas Raiders: I went to Las Vegas last year when doing stuff like that was still a thing. It was fun.

Los Angeles Chargers: will always be San Diego to me.

Los Angeles Rams: that new logo... 

Miami Dolphins: So, not Tua Tagovailoa, then? Oh well, whatever.

Minnesota Vikings: you guys got Ngakoue from Jacksonville for just a 2nd and a conditional 5th? Man, why didn't the Seahawks do that? I mean, since we're trading the future for the present anyway (see "Seattle Seahawks" below)...

New England Patriots: the first real test to see if the Patriots are Belichick (great Subway commercial, by the way) or Brady. Although, Cam Newton isn't exactly a slouch.

New Orleans Saints: I wouldn't mind going to New Orleans one day when doing stuff like that is a thing again.

New York Giants: I wouldn't mind going to New York one day when doing stuff like that is a thing again.

New York Jets: enjoy all those first-round draft picks you got from the Seahawks.

Philadelphia Eagles: the team that the aforementioned Nick Foles won a Super Bowl with (see "Chicago Bears" above).

Pittsburgh Steelers: your city reminds me of Stranger Things, season 2.

San Francisco 49ers: I'm hoping for a post-Super Bowl-loss hangover. Because rivalries are fun, but I prefer when division opponents are just flat-out bad.

Seattle Seahawks: honestly, I think this year is kind of Super Bowl or bust. After all, you traded away a million draft choices for Jamal Adams, who you're going to have to pay a billion dollars to starting next year, not to mention the other guys in the secondary along with some other key players. Also, Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson are not getting any younger. So, you know, Go Hawks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: the first real test to see if the Patriots are Belichick or Brady. Although, you do have that Fournette guy now.

Tennessee Titans: no offense to Chiefs fans, but I wanted you guys to make it to the Super Bowl last year.

Washington Football Team: I like that they're finally changing the name, but doesn't "Football Team," even as an interim moniker, seem a little, I dunno, sulky? Or spiteful? Kind of like, "SIGH okay, fine, I'll change the name...to this. Happy now? Huh?"

Thursday, September 3, 2020

OTMGirls Rule: Aggretsuko Season 3 Bullet Point Reaction Post

This is not an Anime Roundup post. Nor is it a review (there are lots of other good places for that on the Internet). This is simply a spoiler-filled reaction post to Season 3 of my all-time second-favorite anime, Aggretsuko (which I finished watching in two days).
- I love that Retsuko felt more satisfaction from earning a little bit of money from her work as the accounting manager for OTMGirls than she ever did as a corporate OL ("office lady").

- I also love that Manaka is 26 years old but still chasing her dream of becoming a pop music idol - while working part-time at a konbini (convenience store).

- Haida can really rock the bass. And his origin story ("I started out on acoustic guitar, but then my friends and I formed a band and we needed someone to play bass") is pretty much the origin story of all bassists everywhere. Because, as you know if you've been reading this blog for a while, no one ever starts out wanting to play the bass.

- Speaking of Haida, my opinion is that he should give up on Retsuko. I mean, c'mon, man, you already told her how you felt back in the Season 1 finale, and she rejected you. That ship has sailed. Move on.

- Haida and Inui seem like a perfect match - their meet-cute in the vinyl record store was classic - but hey, I get it. He's just not that into her. Better to be clear about that up front rather than settling or stringing her along. That said, see the bullet point above. Maybe you should just stay single and start a new band instead, Haida-san.

- Speaking of bands, Hyodo making the OTMGirls learn how to play instruments reminded me of how the K-On! voice actors had to do something similar. That whole bit about the F chord being an impenetrable wall was hilarious.

- Speaking of voice actors, I think the OTMGirls' voice actors are actually an idol group in real life? Does anyone know for sure?

- Fenneko is the best.

- Anyway, can't wait for Season 4!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Happy Birthday, Cats!

How is it that these two are SIX YEARS OLD ALREADY?? HOW?? I swear, some kind of timey-wimey shenanigans must be afoot.
Anyway, tanjoubi omedetou (happy birthday), Boots and Mittens! Here's to many more. To help celebrate, here are links to some previous cat-related posts:

Boots and Mittens
Kat Birthday
Happy Birthday, Boots And Mittens!
And Now, Cats!
Here Are Some Cat Pictures To Brighten Your Day

And yes, catnip will be forthcoming...

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Whoops! I Forgot To Mention Glorified Issue #3

Two weeks ago I wrote a post called "Fun Things To Look Forward To During The Rest Of 2020 (Hopefully)." The list therein included a couple of my own projects - Four-D: The Winter Suite (the 1st EP from Second Player Score's upcoming fourth album) and Joel Suzuki, Volume Five. For some reason, I forgot to mention a third, very important project: Glorified, Issue #3.
Our Kickstarter campaign for Issue #3 back in June was successful (yay!) thanks to the support of 29 awesome backers, so production on the issue has been moving along nicely and we're on track for the targeted release date of November. A couple of backers will appear as characters in the issue, and another couple will be guests on upcoming episodes of Second Player Speaks (the official podcast of Second Player Score).

So, if everything goes according to plan, we should see three SPSU projects all released within roughly the same time period of late 2020 - early 2021. Keep watching this space for more details, including title announcements and cover reveals!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Anime Roundup: New Favorites Edition

If you've been following along with these Anime Roundup posts, then you know that my list of top favorites includes K-On!, Aggretsuko, Madoka Magica, Akame ga Kill!, Re: Creators, and others. Well, now they may have some new company...

Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
When I first really started getting into anime over two years ago, I was somewhat daunted and intimidated by the fact that the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise had TWO long-running series based on the original manga, one called "Fullmetal Alchemist" and the other called "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood." I was like, which one to watch? Where do I start? So confusing! But since then, I have become a grizzled anime veteran who has navigated his way through dozens of series including multiple incarnations of the "Fate" franchise, so two iterations is nothing to me now. The explanation of why there are two different series can be found all over the Internet, but here's the short version: the original 2003 series was made while the manga was still going on, so about halfway through its run it started to make up its own storyline, Game of Thrones-style. The 2009 "Brotherhood" series was made after the manga was complete, so it's a more "faithful" adaptation. I guess that explanation wasn't very short at all. Anyway, while you can watch either of them in any order, I decided to watch them more-or-less concurrently, and let me tell you, it's kind of a trip. They both start off basically the same (although Brotherhood condenses the beginning of the story into fewer episodes) but then eventually they seem like parallel universes or alternate timelines where you have the same characters (and the same voice actors!) doing vastly different things. I prefer - and would recommend, if you're only going to watch one - Brotherhood, as it's faster paced and more expansive in its world-building, but the original has its moments and wraps up certain threads in a more satisfying fashion. Both are now among my top favorites.

Food Wars!
I had gotten a sample of this one at my bass player's house, so I was pretty stoked when I heard it was coming to Netflix. And then once I started watching it, it quickly developed into one of my all-time favorites. I mean, most anime have depictions of food that make me hungry (I'm looking at you, ramen shop from Naruto), but this is almost too much. Every dish on this show looks and sounds delicious - maybe with the exception of the stuff that Soma and his dad try to make disgusting on purpose - and they seem like things that can actually be made in real life (in fact, my bass player made an omelet recipe based on one from the show). And it's not only the food that makes me enjoy this show so much - the dialogue is witty, the characters are interesting, and the plot moves along at a nice, brisk pace. I devoured the entire 24-episode first season in record time and found myself wanting more. Much, much more. I then discovered that there are, in fact, four additional seasons, which prompts me to ask: why do you not have them, Netflix? WHY?? Anyway...

Dropkick on My Devil!
Slice-of-life meets supernatural in this fun comedy about a witch who summons a demon but doesn't have the spell to send her back, so they end up as roommates who alternate between unsuccessful attempts by the demon to kill the witch - the only way she can return to Hell - and cooking hot pot dinners for themselves and their friends (I swear, I just love the premises that manga and anime creators come up with). Everything about this show is delightfully over-the-top, from the hilarious theme song (which, naturally, is kawaii-metal) to all the super-meta references (their own maga/anime exists as a real in-universe thing within the show) and fourth-wall breakages.

Made in Abyss
Despite its kawaii-ish appearance, this is definitely not a show for young children, as it's a beautiful yet slow-paced, harrowing depiction of what could actually happen if a couple of barely trained kids went down into a certain death trap filled with vicious monsters and other life-threatening hazards. In other words, the consequences - injury, fatigue, etc. - are about as realistic as you can imagine given that one of the kids is a cyborg who can fire a killer death ray from his right hand (note: this does not solve as many problems as you might expect). Not to give too much more away, but if you make it all the way to the end of the first season (there's a sequel movie yet to be released in the U.S. that continues the story), be prepared for some major feels.

A Whisker Away
This one is a feature-length rom-dram that was originally meant for a theatrical release in Japan, but due to the pandemic it was sold to Netflix instead. Which I guess was a silver-lining result for all of us around the world who love rom-dram, anime, and/or cats. Anyway, it's a cute and touching story about a girl who accepts the ability to turn into a cat from a mysterious mask-seller in order to get closer to her crush. What could possibly go wrong? (Lots, naturally.) I recommend this one because behind the fable-like magical realism premise there's actually a lot of emotional depth that I think would resonate well with audiences of all ages, so round up the family (even if all it consists of are cats) for a weekend movie night and enjoy.

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.