Thursday, December 5, 2019

My Japanese-Language Learning Experience, Part Three

Back in September I wrote what I said would be the last of a miniseries of posts about my Japanese-language learning experiences. Turns out, sore wa uso deshita (that was a lie).
For whatever reason, my fascination with the Japanese language and culture has continued unabated. A few weeks ago I took my kids and some of their friends to Kumoricon, an annual anime convention - it's like Comic-Con, only 99.5% anime-centric - held in the Portland/Vancouver area (or maybe I should say they took me; it was hard to tell who was having more fun). While there, I ran across a merchant table for a Japanese-language class at the local community college and proceeded to try out a little of my speaking skills on the instructor who was manning the table. Well, not really, actually; I asked all of my questions ("are these classes only for undergrads?" - yes; "do you have community ed classes at night for non-students?" - check our website) in English, but I did manage to end the conversation with what I hope was a fairly passable arigatou gozaimasu, yoroshiku onegashimasu (basically a long, polite way of saying thank you).

In the previous post I mentioned that I've been teaching myself the language with the help of some books, apps, and videos, and a lot of you have asked me which ones. Actually, sore wa uso deshita; no one has asked me that. But I'm going to tell you anyway! For books, I've been using Speak Japanese in 90 Days by Kevin Marx and Japanese for Dummies by Hiroko Chiba and Eriko Sato. For apps: Drops, Kanji Quizzer, imiwa?, and Japanese Word Dungeon. For videos: mostly That Japanese Man Yuta and Japanese Ammo. And right now I'm seriously considering signing up for a community ed class at the local community college called "Conversational Japanese II" which begins in January (yes, I checked their website).

To be honest, I'm not really sure why I'm so into this whole Nihongo thing right now. I know I previously said it was because of the anime and the J-Rock bands, but I'm starting to think that maybe there's more to it than that. Could it be that my fatewave* is leading me toward some Japan-related destiny? Only time will tell. Anyway, stay tuned, as I'm pretty sure this will end up becoming a ongoing series of posts. Mata ne (laters)!

* Don't know what a "fatewave" is? Check out Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave, written entirely in English.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Arigatou! Gracias! Thank You!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
We here at the Brian Tashima Blog just wanted to say:

Thank you for reading our weekly posts (even the ones that are about basically nothing).

Thank you for your support of the Joel Suzuki series and Autism Empowerment.

If you backed the recent Kickstarter campaign for issue #2 of Glorified and/or have helped to spread the word about Gloria's story, thank you.

Thank you for listening to Second Player Score's music and/or our podcast.

Thank you for being awesome!

and the entire SPSU family

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Favorite Classic Arcade Games

As you may have guessed by now, I used to spend a lot of time in video game arcades when I was young. In fact, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, a group of friends and I made daily treks to the nearest outlet of a mini-chain of arcades called Fun Factory, a business that still exists today, albeit in different locations.

For whatever reason, life has been sending me a lot of reminders about this lately, from the podcast episode that my band did last month where we discussed this very subject to the classic game arcades I visited in Las Vegas to the anime convention I attended with my kids this past weekend (which included a large gaming room). So, I thought I'd share with you some of my old favorites.

Mat Mania
Back in the day, due to a shortage of funds, I needed to find a way to stretch my quarters so that I could still make those aforementioned regular trips to the arcade and not have to sit around twiddling my thumbs while my friends used up their comparatively larger budgets. The answer, of course, was to find a game that I could get good enough at so that a dollar or so would go a long way. I'm not sure why (maybe my adolescent fondness for watching professional wrestling played a part), but this game ended up being the one. I got so good at it that I was able to last hours on a single token, even getting to the point where I could "flip" the score - i.e., amass so many points that the game's counter would reset to zero. If that sounds like I'm bragging, it's because I am. But then again, what I had in video game talent was directly offset by a lack of girl-attraction ability, so you decide which was more important.

Super Pac-Man
I liked the original Pac-Man, especially when it first came out, and I liked Ms. Pac-Man as well, but this one, for some reason, really struck a chord with me. I think it was probably the power rush that came from crashing through locked gates at a high rate of speed with a gigantic, invulnerable Pac-Man that did it. My skills with this game eventually reached the point where I entered a contest for it and took second place. Later, as an adult, I bought the home hand-held version and proceeded to set a high score that no one in my family has yet been able to beat (mind you, this is the only game that I'm better than my kids at).

Space Ace
Dragon's Lair, the original laserdisc game (for you younger folk, you may have seen it featured on Stranger Things), was HARD. At least it was for me. But maybe it was for other people as well, because this game seemed to be a little bit easier. Or perhaps I just liked the "energize" feature that allowed Dexter, the protagonist, to change into "Ace" in a manner similar to how Pac-Man could change into Super Pac-Man and then go around kicking some serious butt. Either way, I did manage to finish the game, albeit on the easiest setting *humblebrag*

Donkey Kong, Jr.
Okay, here's a game that I was never particularly good at, but for some reason I've always enjoyed it anyway, even 'til this day (it's one of my first choices whenever I visit a so-called classic game arcade). Lord knows I tried to get good at it when I was young, but I could never get past the second go-around of the fourth stage, where Junior finally rescues his dad. Could this all be due to some kind of repressed psychological angst stemming from my relationship with my real-life father, as documented here? Eh, probably not.

So there you have it, a foursome of my old faves (others include Gyruss, Q*bert, Joust, Defender, and many, many more). I'd love to hear what some of yours are, so feel free to let me know in the comments!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Learning To Fly

I'm back! Thanks (sort of) to Felicity for filling in while I was on vacation. This year, instead of going to Spectraland, I visited another exotic location known to most people as Las Vegas, Nevada. While I was there, I finally got to do something that Joel and Felicity learned how to do a while ago: fly. Or, well, as close as I could come to it without the use of a flying wavecast.
That's me on the Slotzilla Zip Line on Fremont Street. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it's a zip line that starts eleven stories up (for the longer, more expensive option) and travels five blocks down the entire street. You can read more about it here. The short review is: it's an exhilarating experience. Despite the fact that I, like Joel, have a slight (okay, maybe more than slight) case of acrophobia, I really wanted to do it as both a bucket-list sort of thing and also so that I could experience something close to what Joel felt when he first flew back in Volume One.

We were able to sign up and get on pretty quickly, which was nice - I think that waiting in a long line would have just exacerbated any nervousness I was feeling. Another good thing is that for the most part, you're not really aware of just how high up you are. The one iffy moment came when a woman in the group before us kind of freaked out once she was suspended in air and demanded to be let off. I thought, "is that going to be me?" I mean, it's one thing to think "yeah, okay, this will be fine," but then - based on my prior experiences with roller coasters and other scary-ish carnival rides - once you're actually in it, sometimes it's more than you bargained for.
To my relief, though, once I got going, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't nearly as frightening as I had expected. I think the key was - upon advice from my friend Adam, who had done it before - to not look down the moment you leave the gate. Would I do it again? Sure. The question is, would I (as suggested by my friend Monica) now attempt the Stratosphere Tower SkyJump on the Las Vegas Strip, which starts from 855 feet up? Well, I'll have to think about that one. I know that in Joel's subsequent adventures, he's flown from much greater heights, but let's face it - he's a lot braver than I am.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Anti-Greatest Hits

Yo. Felicity here. Brian is on vacation this week, so he asked me to fill in. Thing is, I had no idea what to write about, so I decided to be lazy - um, I mean, take a page from Joel's playbook and do a so-called "Greatest Hits" post, kind of like the one he did in February of last year where he listed the five most popular posts from this blog based on their view counts.
Being me, though, I'm going to do the opposite - I'm going to list the five LEAST popular posts, based on view counts. Ha! So, here we go:

#5 - Speech! Speech! - June 12, 2013

Proof that no one wants to watch you talking, Brian. Although the fake English accent is kind of funny.

#4 - Band Rec O' The Day - October 8, 2012

The Zoobombs are awesome, so I'm just going to blame this one on the fact that this blog was just getting started at the time.

#3 - Just Dad - July 31, 2012

Same goes for this one, as it was just the second post ever. Brian, I think if you had included a picture of your kids, it would have been more popular.

#2 - This Saturday - September 19, 2013

I guess no one cared what your weekend plans were back then, dude. Kind of a shame, actually, because the Hillsboro Farmer's Market is really cool.

#1 - On Originality - January 10, 2013

All right, I guess this one probably deserved a little more attention than it got, as it contained some pretty decent advice about creating stuff that's both original and appealing. Also, there was a picture of a maple bacon bar.

Aaaand now I'm craving donuts. So, Smith out.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Horror Roundup

Happy Halloween everyone!

Now, I'm not a huge horror fan (Kyle, our drummer in Second Player Score, is our resident horror expert), but there are still a few things in - or close to - that genre that I appreciate, such as:

Doki Doki Literature Club
I said basically everything I wanted to say about this amazing and terrifying game back in this post from 2017. We didn't write a song called "Just Monika," but we did end up writing something called "Blood Letter," which was directly inspired by Doki Doki Literature Club and will show up on Second Player Score's eventual fifth album. Oh, and for my birthday, my talented daughter drew the Monika portrait you see above.

Black Mirror
I said basically everything I wanted to say about this amazing and (mostly) terrifying series back in this post from January. Since that time, the show came out with three more episodes, which I will slot into my list of favorites at #10 ("Striking Vipers," displacing "Nosedive"), #15 ("Smithereens," displacing "Metalhead"), and #18 ("Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too," displacing "Fifteen Million Merits") - I actually enjoyed that last one quite a bit, but it seemed more like a mainstream dark comedy than an episode of Black Mirror.

The Monkey's Paw
And by this, I'm referring to the original 1902 short story by W.W. Jacobs, not one of the numerous adaptations of it that have come along since then. I first read this story back when I was a kid, and it's stuck with me 'til this day as probably the scariest piece of horror fiction that I've ever experienced.

The 1976 version. Come to think of it, I actually used to watch more horror back in the '70s and '80s, including The Exorcist, The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, and others, but eventually I just kind of drifted away from it for some reason (perhaps the fact that, as an adult, real life is plenty full of horror as it is). I guess I liked Carrie more than others because the killer - the protagonist, in this case - is a three-dimensional character who has clear reasons and motivations behind her actions, as misguided as they may be. Also, telekinesis! (P.S. I drew a lot of inspiration from this movie while writing the script for Nobody's Hero II.)

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Is this considered a horror movie? I guess so...Wikipedia calls it a "dark fantasy action horror film." Either way, I enjoyed this one a lot, and find it hilarious that it got such poor reviews at first (apparently it has since gone on to become something of a cult classic).

Happy Death Day
Is this considered a horror movie? I guess so...Wikipedia calls it a "black comedy slasher film." Either way, I also enjoyed this one, as I've previously said in this post from this past April.

I know, you're probably wondering "What about Get Out? Or The Babadook? Or The Conjuring?" Well, like I said, I'm not the biggest horror fan in the world, so you'll ask have to ask Kyle about those and others. Anyway, hope you all have a fun and safe time tonight!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Volume Five Status Update: Shorter Vs. Longer

The short version: Volume Five, Draft Two is done!
The longer version:

I finished the first draft of Joel Suzuki, Volume Five back in July. At the time, it came in at around 78,000 words, and I said that based on past experience I expected it to grow to around 81,000. Well, you can throw past experience out the window, because the opposite happened - it actually contracted to a little over 75,000 words (roughly 300 pages). But that's okay, because I think it makes for a much stronger story after I cut out all the stuff that I did. It still may expand after further revisions (my esteemed editor usually makes suggestions that end up requiring additional material), but if not, this will be the shortest volume in the series so far. But again, that's okay! Longer is not always necessarily better, and in the case of this particular story, I think a slightly leaner page count suits it perfectly.

So from here, I'll once again let it cool off in the oven for a bit before revisiting it and making any minor tweaks and changes that I feel are necessary. After that, it should be ready to ship off for a first round of editing. I know I said back in July that I expected to be at that particular stage by September or so, which puts me a little behind schedule, but in my defense, I got distracted for a while writing scripts and drawing storyboards for Issues #2 through #12 of Glorified (which, by the way, now has its own Facebook page and Instagram account). At any rate, Volume Five is still on track for a 2020 release, unless something changes (as the saying sort-of-goes: people plan, gods laugh - especially those who are in charge of literary deadlines).

All right, so what else do we know about Volume Five so far?

- Takes place mostly on Earth
- Minor characters from previous volumes will have larger roles
- Will be the "Blue" book
- The picture above is not the actual cover, nor is the subtitle the actual subtitle ("Duh," says Felicity)

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates!