Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Fun Fact

Hey there! A big thank you to everyone for reading this blog, supporting my various projects, and generally being awesome through what has definitely been a challenging year for us all.
I'm going to keep this one short, but here's a fun Thanksgiving fact: in case you didn't already know, the entire story of Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave - and the beginning of Volume Five, Ballad of the Bluerock - takes place on Thanksgiving day, Thursday, November 22, 2012, the same day that this previous blog post was written.

Of course, Joel goes to Spectraland during that day and has a whole host of adventures before returning to the same place and time that he left from (owing mostly to the temporal differences between the two worlds - time moves much more slowly on Spectraland than it does on Earth), so there's enough goings-on to fill a whole 361-page book, but still, it's essentially a Thanksgiving story.

And no, he never does finish his pie.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

TV Roundup, Episode Four

As you may know if you've been following this blog, I watch an incredible amount of anime. But I also watch an incredible amount of non-anime shows as well. Of course, since I'm a writer, it's all in the name of research, homework, and inspiration...and not me simply being a lazy couch potato...okay, well, that may be part of it too. Fine. Anyway, I've recapped a few of the shows I've seen in these previous TV Roundup posts, and now here's the latest batch!

Cobra Kai
I admit, I resisted watching this one at first, partly because it was on yet another subscription service that I didn't have, and partly because I thought, "it's probably just trying to cash in on cheesy '80s nostalgia." Then I started hearing good things about it. Then it moved to Netflix. Then Onofre Ramiscal of Taking the Lead Media appeared as a guest on my band's podcast and highly recommended it. So then I was like, okay, fine, I'll give the first episode of season one a chance. And boy, am I glad I did. Onofre, you were right. This show is one of those where I say out loud to my TV several times an episode "this is so good!" Sure, it references the original films and packs in the Easter Eggs for those of us who are fans of them, but you don't even have to be familiar with them to enjoy this show. It's fast-paced, balances drama and comedy with expert precision, and plays the "nobody is actually the good guy, we're all just flawed human beings" card to maximum effect. And the scenery is sooo Los Angeles (despite most of the show being filmed in Atlanta)! If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and watch Cobra Kai immediately. I can't wait for Season 3 in January.

(on Netflix)

Tokyo Girl
I had heard that this one was sort of like Aggretsuko minus the death metal karaoke, which provoked a mixed reaction from me - I mean, I love Aggretsuko (still my second-all-time-favorite anime), but without the rage-screaming, how fun could it possibly be? Answer: lots. A made-in-Japan dramedy, it follows the life of a woman from age 23 to 40ish as she navigates the choppy waters of work, relationships, and all sorts of existential first-world angst. Once I got used to the numerous fourth-wall breakage narrations (which are delightfully Japanese in nature, by the way), the jarring time jumps, and an initial teenage version of the main character who looks nothing like the older version you see throughout the rest of the show, I was hooked.

(on Amazon Prime)

Blood of Zeus
I loved Greek mythology as a kid, and the Percy Jackson novels as an adult, so I should've been all over this one right away, but for some reason it languished in my queue for a while until the bass player from my band recommended it. So then I watched it and was like, okay, yeah, I should've started on this earlier. Netflix calls it an "anime" but I'm including it here in TV Roundup as opposed to an Anime Roundup post because I'm one of those annoying purists who consider "anime" to be, by definition, an animated show produced in Japan. How about we call it "anime-style"? You know, like how I call the Glorified comic book series "manga-style"? Anyway, it has a cool retro animation look that I envision could be used for a possible Glorified anime - I mean, anime-style - show, and it is oh-so-gory. It also employs the "nobody is actually the good guy, we're all just flawed human beings (and superpowered godlike beings)" trope, which I always enjoy. You can hear me talk more about it with the guys in my band in episode 59 of our aforementioned podcast.

(on Netflix)

Dash & Lily
Okay, as a writer of young adult fiction, I watched this one - which is based on a popular YA novel - purely for research purposes. So, when you analyze the - oh, who am I kidding. I'm a sucker for light and fluffy rom-coms, especially when the leads are introverted bookworms whose courtship takes place not in person but via anonymous written messages in a notebook that they pass back and forth...which I guess makes it, instead of a Death Note, a...Love Note? Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway, I binged this thing in less time than the male lead's namesake from The Incredibles would take to run a 100-meter, um, dash. Sorry again. ANYWAY...

(on Netflix)

Kim's Convenience
I actually watched all four seasons of this show a while ago, but I love it so much that I just had to include it in this roundup (which is saying something, because there have been a lot of other shows that I've really enjoyed that have never been mentioned in this blog for space and timing reasons). About a Korean-Canadian family who runs a convenience store in Toronto, it's sharp, witty, and laugh-out-loud funny. And it's been renewed for two more seasons, hooray! Oh, and for fans of The Mandalorian - Captain Carson Teva from the second episode of season two is the family patriarch in this show. And for Marvel fans, his son is going to be Shang-Chi in the upcoming MCU film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Anyway, I'm going to plug my band's podcast one more time and say that you can hear us talk about Kim's Convenience in episode 42. Okay, see you!

(on Netflix)

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Volume Five Title Announcement!

Joel Suzuki, Volume Five is back from editing! So to celebrate, I'm going to announce the official subtitle in 5, 4, 3...
The official subtitle of Joel Suzuki, Volume Five is "Ballad of the Bluerock." And here's the official back cover copy:

(WARNING - Contains major spoilers for Volume Four)

"After a disastrous concert festival that claimed the lives of thousands, Joel Suzuki's archenemy is now, quite possibly, all-powerful. The only way Joel can undo the damage and save the universe is to return to Spectraland, complete his training, and fulfill his destiny as the Virtuoso - the greatest Wavemaker of them all.

Trouble is, Joel is stuck on the Bluerock (Spectraland's name for Earth) with no idea of how to get back, and he has only a few months before the gateway between the two worlds closes forever. What's worse, the one person he thinks can help him - and that he can trust - doesn't believe his story.

Then there's the pesky private eye on his trail, investigating the disappearance of Joel's friend Felicity, who was tragically killed at the concert festival. Or was she? With no solid proof that Spectraland exists, Joel starts to question whether the island of music and magic was even real in the first place...or was it all in his imagination?"

So now the next steps are for me to polish the manuscript, finalize the cover, and get all the ducks lined up for a possible launch date either late this year or early next year. I can't wait to share Joel's newest adventure with all of you!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Anime Roundup: New Seasons Edition

Over the last few months or so, Netflix has released new seasons of some of my favorite anime shows. Well, not exactly new new, as all of them (except for one) had already been out for a while in Japan and probably some other places. But they hadn't been available on the streaming service until now, so naturally I was pretty excited to check them out. What did I think of them? Read on and find out!

Food Wars!
I had been looking forward to the third season of Sword Art Online (see below) for quite a while. When the time finally came, I discovered that - without much in the way of advance notice - season 2 of Food Wars (called Food Wars! The Second Plate) had been released the very same day! So what did I do? Why, I put SAO on hold, of course, and devoured this one (heh) in short order. Most of the show is just an animated, dramatized version of Iron Chef, so I really don't know why it's so compelling, but it is. In fact, after I finished the new (not really new - it came out back in 2016) season, I bumped it up on my list of all-time favorites to third place, behind K-On! and Aggretsuko but ahead of Madoka Magica, Akame ga Kill, and others. There are three more seasons, the final one of which just finished its run in Japan, so hurry, Netflix, and serve them up already, would you? 

Sword Art Online
Okay, and then I moved on to Sword Art Online. The third season (which ran from 2018-2020 elsewhere) adapts the "Alicization" story arc of the original manga, which introduces some new characters (one of whom is named "Alice") and takes place mostly in a new virtual world setting called, naturally, the "Underworld." Overall, it's still very watchable, albeit a bit slower-paced than the first two seasons - there is a LOT of expository dialogue, with characters sitting or standing around, talking and explaining things to each other, even in the middle of battles - and much darker in spots, with one scene in particular that is pretty disturbing and definitely not for the younger viewers who may have been following the show up until this point. Also, semi-spoiler alert: what Netflix apparently considers "Season 3" doesn't include the whole second half of the arc, so we'll just need to wait for, I guess, "Season 4."

Aggretsuko
The only actually "new" season in this roundup. I've already said everything I wanted to say about it in this post.

Blue Exorcist
This show's second season (called "Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga") - which has actually been out since 2017 - is shorter than the first and mixes some fast-paced action with continued character development, apparently retconning part of season 1 to be more faithful to the original manga (I kept thinking, what is Yukio talking about? Everyone knows he's [SPOILER]).

Black Butler
I was little surprised to see that there was a new season of this show (although I shouldn't have been - it came out back in 2010) as the first season seemed to wrap things up pretty nicely (or maybe "completely" is a better word). At first I thought it was maybe just some random one-off adventures until I realized that there was actually a new storyline going on, complete with a new rival lord with his very own demon-butler. It's faster-paced and a little less quirky than the first season, and it weaves the main arc through the various episodes in an interesting fashion, culminating in a cool twist near the end. And then there's a "season three" as well, which is not the actual third season - which came out in 2014 - but rather a bunch of OVA ("original video animation" - the explanation of which is here) episodes that are more like what I was expecting of season two, with random one-off adventures that may or may not be part of the true continuity, including an absolutely delightful meta episode in which the characters play themselves as actors on the show.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020 Major League Baseball Season Recap With April And Lydia

Hey there! So, it's been a little over three months since we last spoke to April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez, our own in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans. Since then, Major League Baseball has actually managed to complete a full - albeit truncated - season with expanded playoffs and all, so I thought we'd bring April and Lydia back to share their thoughts on their predictions, the Mariners, and more.
Brian: Welcome, ladies.
Lydia: Hey.
April: Hello.
Brian: Okay, let's get right down to it. April, back in July you predicted that the Dodgers would win the World Series.
Lydia: And you were right!
April: Well, they were the logical choice. I mean, that lineup is stacked.
Lydia: They almost didn't even make it out of the NLCS, though.
April: True.
Lydia: So, I say you're psychic.
April: Heh. Sure.
Brian: All right, next one. You said that the Mariners would finish 23-37 and in last place. They ended up in third place, at 27-33, and were actually in contention for a playoff spot up until close to the end.
April: Yeah, they exceeded my expectations, which was nice.
Lydia: Except for that kinda-sorta contention deal. Teasing us, once again.
April: Which is pretty Mariners, when you think about it.
Lydia: No kidding.
Brian: And Lydia, you said that they would finish fourth, ahead of the Astros, who would be [*checks notes*] 8-52. The Astros actually came in second, at 29-31, and almost -
Lydia: Yeah, yeah, I was being facetious. Remember, I also said that the season would be cancelled altogether.
Brian: True.
April: Thank goodness it wasn't. Even some baseball was better than no baseball.
Lydia: What, the KBO wasn't good enough for ya?
April: Only you get up that early.
Brian: Anyway, moving on. Despite not making the playoffs, the M's did have some bright spots, especially with the young players.
April: Oh, for sure.
Lydia: Kyle Lewis for Rookie of the Year, woo!
April: And even though guys like Crawford and Evan White had struggles at the plate, their defense was pretty terrific.
Lydia: And Sheffield looked like he could be solid.
April: Yup.
Brian: Okay, so let's turn our thoughts to next year. First question: do you like the expanded playoff format?
April: Sure. Keeps more fanbases engaged for longer.
Lydia: Nah. When the M's finally make it back in, I want them to have really earned it. I don't like teams getting into the playoffs with a losing record *cough*Astros*cough*
April: What if the M's win the division?
Lydia: Then that's fine.
Brian: Next question: do you like starting off extra innings with a runner on second?
April: No.
Lydia: Absolutely not.
Brian: Fair enough. Okay, last question: with the pandemic still going on, do you think the 2021 season will start on time and play a full 162-game schedule?
Lydia: Do we really have to answer this?
April: I keep telling you, Lyd, we do not have jinx powers.
Lydia: I dunno...
April: I'll say yes.
Lydia: Always so optimistic.
April: Hey, you gotta have hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Steak Saturday

Saturdays have recently become steak nights in my house. The three-bears picture below shows dinner for me, my daughter, and my son.
And no, they're not too hot, too cold, or just right - they're medium rare (me), medium (my son), and well-done (my daughter).

No need for a recipe, as it's pretty simple: I just cook it in a little canola oil with salt and pepper on both sides and it comes out great. We don't even use steak sauce. The sides are white rice (of course) and sliced mushrooms sauteed in the leftover steak oil with some garlic oil and butter added to it. My daughter doesn't eat the mushrooms - she hates mushrooms - but they're a big hit with my son (and me).

We don't do this EVERY Saturday because it's good to limit your red meat consumption, or so I've heard. But once in a while is nice. And, despite the current high prices of beef, it's still a pretty cost-effective way to feed three people, especially when compared to buying take-out (which we actually do quite a lot of. Support your local restaurants!)

Anyway, I -

Felicity: Yo. Where's OUR steak?
Brian: I...I didn't make any for you guys.
Joel: Why not?
Brian: You...don't actually eat.
Felicity: Sure we do. All the time.
Brian: I mean...
Felicity: Oh, is this that "you guys are fictional characters" argument that you always bust out whenever you don't want to spend money on us?
Brian: Well, it's just that -
Felicity (to Joel): C'mon, man. We'll go get our own dinner.
Joel: Um, okay. But we don't have any money.
Felicity (quietly): I still have his credit card from last time.
Brian: I heard that.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Anime Roundup: Plot Twist Edition

This recent batch of anime that I've watched all seem to have one thing in common: cool plot twists. Then again, I guess a lot of good shows have them, so maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Anyway, hajimemashou!

Erased
What would you get if you took Big or 13 Going on 30, flipped the original age differences of the protagonist, mixed that with Groundhog Day, and then changed the result from a drama/comedy into a twelve-part murder mystery/thriller? You'd end up with this show, which is pretty darn awesome. Although, the original Japanese name for it translates to "The Town Where Only I Am Missing," so I'm not sure how they got from that to "Erased"...oh well. Anyway, the basic gist of it is that a 29-year-old struggling manga artist (who also works as a pizza delivery boy to help make ends meet) has an ability he calls "revival" - no explanation for this is given, and none is needed - which involuntarily sends him back in time usually just a few minutes to a point right before a fatal incident occurs, allowing him to prevent it from happening. For the most part he treats this power pretty nonchalantly, occasionally saving lives like it's no big deal before resuming a mundane daily schedule. But then his mother is murdered by someone who frames him as the suspect and his ability sends him back not a few minutes, but eighteen years - and then the real story begins. With its compelling plot, interesting twists, and satisfying story beats, this one definitely makes my list of favorites. There's also a live-action adaptation which remixes the anime a little bit and plugs a few plot holes but basically follows the same storyline and is also a fun viewing experience.

Toradora!
A rom-com/dram about a boy and a girl who have crushes on each other's best friends so they scheme to set each other up while in the meantime it's pretty obvious they're actually a perfect couple, this one takes a few twists and turns - including the introduction of a fifth-wheel interloper - before eventually arriving at the place you knew it was going to all along. Or does it? Yes, it does. OR DOES IT??

The Promised Neverland
You already know something creepy is up when the show starts off with a bunch of happy orphans living in the same house, wearing the same white uniforms, with numbers tattooed on their necks. Oh, and a caretaker who seems nice but is obviously hiding something. This is not really a spoiler because the plot is revealed pretty early on: the kids are actually being raised as food for demons. So, of course, one day they discover the disturbing truth by accident and then spend the rest of the season trying to figure out how to escape. By the time you get to around episode six or so, you think to yourself "even if they get out, there is a LOT more to this story than this, kind of like in The Maze Runner" and sure enough, a second season is coming out next year (yay!) and you find out that the original manga upon which the show is based actually ran for four years over twenty volumes (181 chapters, of which the show's first season adapted 37).

Great Pretender
A crime comedy about a con artist who tries to con someone who is actually an even better con artist than he is so he ends up having to work for him, this show is fun and fast-paced with an original art style and some surprisingly deep character work. I like to watch all my anime in Japanese with English subtitles, but I get the feeling that this one might actually be better with the English dub since I think the characters are supposed to be speaking in English most of the time. My only question is: Netflix, since you own this show, why didn't you release all four cases (blocks of episodes that focus on one particular plot thread) worldwide at the same time?

A Lull in the Sea

A gentle drama with an interesting premise: two civilizations living side-by-side, one on land, one in the sea. The sea people are just like regular people but with something called "ena" that allows them to breathe underwater (no gills here) and dries them off instantly whenever they come to the surface. They also watch TV underwater, which I don't know how that works exactly, but whatever. Anyway, against that backdrop (and an "A" plot of a looming environmental disaster that threatens the surface), there's a coming-of-age story (the "B" plot) that starts off as a love triangle but then evolves into more of a love dodecahedron that you will need a scorecard to keep track of. The overall tone is pretty mellow, but it never gets slow or boring, and for the most part the show has the art of the episode-ending cliffhanger down pat.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Words and Pictures Festival 2020

This year's Words & Pictures Festival (the 4th annual) will be, of course, virtual! 


Like the graphic above shows, it's taking place this Saturday from 10am-6pm. I will be doing a reading at 10:30, a panel on indie publishing from 12-1, and a meet-and-greet from 5-6. But there are lots of other awesome local authors (including keynote speaker Fonda Lee, whose novel Jade City is being adapted for TV by NBC Peacock) and author resources participating, so it's totally worth checking out all day long. Best of all, it's free!

You can see the whole day's program and author lineup at this link, and registration is here. Hope to see your smiling faces on Zoom!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Statii Update

In spite of everything, things are still happening. Somehow.
Music
Boot camp is done! We are going into the studio today and tomorrow to record tracks for Four-D: The Winter Suite, a four-song EP that will eventually, when combined with the Spring Suite, the Summer Suite, and the Fall Suite, be part of a full sixteen-song album. Look for a January 2021 release (of the Winter Suite EP, that is).

Books
The manuscript for Volume Five was shipped off to my editor yesterday for a line edit, and work on the cover art is underway. If all goes well, it could be ready for a December 2020 release...maybe? I've also made progress on the first draft of Volume Six, getting it up to 5500 words (22 pages).

Comics
All the art for Glorified Issue #3 is complete. Now it's just a matter of confirming some information with our Kickstarter backers and then we can send it off to print. Release date: November 2020. Can't wait! (Also, I've been working on the storyline for Issues #13-25, which is "Volume Two" of Gloria's saga. Oh, did I mention that the scripts and storyboards for Issues #1-12 are already done? Well, I just did.)

Podcast
We published our one-year anniversary/season one finale episode last week, and we started with season two this week. Our listener base has really been growing as of late, so if you're one of the people who has helped contribute to its growth, thank you very much! We're glad you're enjoying the program. If you're not (yet), you can check it out - for free - here.

Nihongo
My current main sources for my continued quest to learn the Japanese language have been an app called Drops, a website called Wanikani, and a book called Speak Japanese in 90 Days. Oh, and of course, watching anime and listening to J-Rock bands. I recently found myself able to read an exchange on Twitter between the ex-guitarist and ex-bassist of Stereopony without having to use the translate function, which was an achievement that totally made my day.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Give More 24!

Today is Give More 24! What is that, you ask? Why, it's 24 hours in which you can make a positive difference in the world by donating to any one of the awesome nonprofit organizations based in the Southwest Washington area. "Sounds great," you say, "but which organization should I donate to?" Well, each organization is definitely worthy of your support, but allow me to make a suggestion: Autism Empowerment.

Why, you ask? Well, because not only are we dedicated to improving the quality of life for people and families in the autism community both locally and worldwide via our various programs, support groups, events, resources, and more, but also because we promote a global culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

If that sounds good to you, then simply go this link and make a donation. Even just the minimum of $10 will be greatly appreciated. All donations are 100% tax-deductible, and best of all, giving feels good! I know this first-hand, because not only will I be donating today, but I also donate to Autism Empowerment (on an ongoing basis) one dollar for every Joel Suzuki book that is sold.

Thank you! Mahalo! Arigatou Gozaimasu! Gracias!

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.

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.