Thursday, July 8, 2021

Dream Journal, Entry #1: Battle Brigade

Dreams are fun. They're like short films created by your subconscious. I've decided to start keeping a dream journal, out here, in public, for everyone to see. I have dreams often, usually several each night, and most of the time they're pretty vivid. I've even had lucid dreams before, where I was aware that I was dreaming and could thus control (to some extent) the events of the dream. Unfortunately, I haven't had one of those in a while, nor have I had prophetic visions of the future or helpful conversations with alternate versions of myself like Joel Suzuki and other Wavemakers have had...yet.
Anyway, the other night I dreamt about a logo of sorts that had two letter Bs back to back, one of them inverted (I guess I must like things like that, because the Second Player Score logo has an inverted letter S that also doubles as the number two). The logo then turned into a design for a mask or a helmet or some other such facial covering that included horns on both the top and bottom. My subconscious then proclaimed that this was the mask of a group called "Battle Brigade," which makes sense given, you know, the two letter Bs. I guess this so-called brigade was supposed to be a bunch of fighters or warriors or soldiers in the vein of the Yiga Clan from Breath of the Wild or one of the many types of disposable henchmen from the various tokusatsu shows I used to watch or even perhaps clone troopers/stormtroopers from Star Wars.
After I woke up the next morning, I immediately drew the picture that was in my dream and then looked up "Battle Brigade" on the Internet to check if I had just been channeling an existing intellectual property that I may have seen in passing somewhere. But lo and behold, it was completely original! Or at least I think so*. The only thing close that I found was a video game for the Switch called Battle Chef Brigade that is like a combination of Tetris and Puyo Puyo in a cooking setting (which sounds amazing, by the way) with no mask-helmet-wearing henchmen in sight. So who knows, maybe the Battle Brigade will make an appearance in the SPSU one day.

*There's also The Bad Batch, a Star Wars/Clone Wars spinoff on Disney+ that features a squad of rogue clone troopers called (you guessed it) the Bad Batch whose initials are, obviously, two Bs. It's possible that that show could've been a subliminal influence, but there's no double-B logo or anything like that in it, so I think I'm good.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

2021 MLB Season: The Halfway Mark

Now that we've reached the halfway point in the current Major League Baseball season (which, hilariously, is twenty-one games longer than the entire 2020 season), I thought we'd check in with our in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez.
Brian: Welcome back.
April: Thank you.
Lydia: It feels like we were just here.
Brian: Actually, it's been over three-and-a-half months.
Lydia: Huh. How about that.
Brian: So, anyway, we'll start off with the state of MLB in general. Your preseason World Series favorites, the Dodgers, don't seem to be doing as well as predicted.
April: They've been better lately, though.
Brian: True. It seems weird that the team they're chasing isn't the Padres, but the Giants.
Lydia: There's a lot of season left. Things can still happen.
Brian: So are you both going to stick with your prediction?
April: I am.
Lydia: Sure, why not.
Brian: Okay, moving on. What are your thoughts on the whole umpires-checking-for-foreign-substances thing?
Lydia: It's dumb.
April: I agree.
Lydia: Wow - April Hayashi, voicing an opinion!
April: What are you talking about? I'm always voicing opinions.
Lydia: In private. When you're drunk.
April: Hmm.
Lydia: Anyway, and of course, it had to be a Mariner who was the first one to get ejected.
April: Of course.
Brian: I guess that brings us to the Mariners. It's been a strange season for them so far, don't you think?
Lydia: Oh, totally.
April: At one point, I was convinced that there really is a curse on the team.
Brian: You mean, still is.
April: Huh?
Brian: You know, that whole story about how you and Lydia discovered the source of the curse and then got it removed, or at least you thought you did...
April: No idea what you're talking about. Lyd?
Lydia (shrugs): Doesn't sound familiar to me.
Brian: But...you guys have talked about it before. It's all in that script I wrote. Remember?
April & Lydia: (silence)
Brian: All right, anyway, yeah, things were looking pretty rough there for a while. But then they've started to turn it around as of late.
Lydia: But again, there's still a lot of season left. Plenty of time for more stuff to go south.
Brian: Sounds like you're pretty pessimistic.
April: What happened to the Lydia who was predicting a division title?
Lydia: She's retired. Remember how I said "the bullpen looks better, the Big Maple is back, and we have the reigning Rookie of the Year?" Well, then those last two guys go out and get injured and are out for the season.
April: At least the bullpen is sort of better.
Lydia: Meh. And then I also said that Jarred Kelenic would be Rookie of the Year. Yeah, that didn't quite turn out the way I was hoping. So, I'm through with predictions. And optimism.
April: But you also said that J.P. Crawford would be an All-Star, and he's looking like he has a chance. And other guys have stepped it up, like Kikuchi, and Flexen, and Jake Fraley. And it looks like Logan Gilbert just might stick.
Lydia: I guess.
April: That's my line.
Brian: April, it looks like your prediction for the M's of a third-place finish with a record just over .500 is tracking so far. Are you going to stick to that?
April: Yup.
Brian: Lydia?
Lydia: I told you, I'm done with predictions. For real, this time.
Brian: Fair enough. Okay, well, thanks again for coming in today. Before you go, I just want to point out that this is post number five hundred for this blog!
[cheers and confetti]
April: Who's that cheering?
Lydia: And where's the confetti coming from?
Brian: Yup, we here at the Brian Tashima Blog have now been doing this for five hundred straight weeks now. Or, well, actually a little less, because at one point we did a bunch of posts in a row, but it's close enough. So, thanks for helping us mark this special occasion!
April: Is there cake?
Lydia: And beer?
Brian: Uh, no.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Looking Back On Junes Past

The fun thing about having this blog is that since it's kind of like a diary (albeit one that is publicly assessible by the ENTIRE WORLD), every so often when I'm feeling wistful and nostalgic I can go and check out what I was up to at various points in time. This week, I thought I'd have a look back at the month of June in years past.
June 2013
I announced the production of an audiobook version of what was then called Book One (now Volume One) of the Spectraland Saga (now the Joel Suzuki series). Book One was also selected as the Book of the Week by Indie Writers United. Book Two was slogging its way along. And I gave a speech and reading at the Hillsboro Bards and Brews.

June 2014
My band Second Player Score recorded three songs for our first album. And in my pre-Netflix days I was apparently watching a lot of Teen Titans Go! and How I Met Your Mother.

June 2015
I was playing a game called Splatoon and making Joel and Felicity do my blogging work for me because Book Two was STILL NOT DONE

June 2016
Second Player Score was in the middle of working on our second album, Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls were the shows of the day, and Book Three was coming along at a much faster pace than its predecessor.

June 2017
A very busy month. I did a school visit at Woodland High School, made good progress on Volume Four, played my first out-of-town show with Second Player Score in Cottage Grove, OR, started pre-production for our third album, and finished Breath of the Wild. Also, my son graduated from high school.

June 2018

June 2019
Glorified, both the album and the comic book series, was launched!

June 2020
In the middle of a pandemic, I managed to make some progress on songs for Second Player Score's fourth album and Volumes Five and Six while also taking a screenwriting workshop via Zoom, managing the Kickstarter campaign for Glorified Issue #3, and recording a weekly podcast. I also cooked.

June 2021
I am writing this post.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Haiku Hour

Yes, it's time for another Haiku Hour! To recap, a haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of seventeen syllables divided into three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Traditionally, they include references to seasons and/or have nature as a topic, but, well, whatever. Hajimemashou!
Free donuts, woohoo!
Four kinds of yummy flavors
Twenty-twenty-one

M.H.A. blanket
Guess which character this is
All soft and wrinkled

New to band practice
Keyboards on the next album?
I guess we shall see

Saturday dinner
Salmon, broccoli, and shrooms
Might need more kim chee

Egyptian statue?
Or just two cats relaxing
Write your own caption

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Ten Years of Autism Empowerment!

This month, the awesome and amazing nonprofit organization Autism Empowerment celebrates its tenth anniversary!
I've had the honor of working with them from almost the very beginning, and I'm looking forward to many more years to come. To celebrate this milestone, the organization has put out a special episode of its podcast (that you can listen to here) as well as a feature story in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum Life Magazine (that you can read here). While you're at it, be sure to check out previous episodes and issues as well!

(Oh, and by the way - the Joel Suzuki Series is also featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum Life. See our article on page 26.)

Happy birthday, AE!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: Plot Holes Edition

Has it really been eight weeks since the last Volume Six Status Update? Yes, yes it has. Since then, a lot has happened. First of all, I got the draft of the manuscript up to about 62,000 words. Second, I discovered plot holes...not only in Volume Six, but *gasp* in an earlier volume of the series as well.
Specifically, Volume Four. Now, as I've mentioned a long time ago, I'm a total nerd when it comes to plot holes, continuity errors, and the like, and I try REALLY REALLY HARD (really) to make my own stuff as air-tight as possible. That said, it's probably inevitable - especially when your plot involves time travel - that some gremlins will sneak through. And sure enough, when I did a recent re-read of Volumes Two through Five (more on that below), I found a minor glitch in Volume Four that can't be explained away with in-universe reasons and probably needs fixing in a future edition. That said, it doesn't detract from the main story (in my opinion, at least) and is relatively hard to catch unless you're paying really close attention (again, in my opinion). If you think you know what it is, I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via email at joelsuzukiseries@gmail.com.

In defense of SOME plot holes, I think sometimes we expect too much from our characters. We think they should know all the answers to every problem right away, but the reality is that sometimes they make mistakes, too. Like when I complained about Voldemort leaving Snape alone in the Shrieking Shack before making sure he was dead...I mean, he's a busy villain, he's got stuff to do and places to be! (By the way, for all you authors out there, JK Rowling has admitted to making mistakes and plot holes in Harry Potter, and she's also fixed some of those mistakes in future editions, so don't feel bad).

Anyway, enough about that. Back to the Status Update! So, when I reached the 62,000 word mark, it was then that I felt like I was starting to spin my wheels and write stuff that had a high probability of being worthless, as opposed to being maybe-probably-good when read back later. It was like the point of diminishing returns, mainly because I was building upon what I suspected to be flaws and plot holes (okay, we haven't left that subject completely). It was then that I decided "okay, now's a good time to go back and patch stuff up from the beginning," and part of that process included a complete re-read of Volumes Two through Five, to get reacquainted with my world-building (since Volume Five was mostly set on Earth, it's actually been years since I was really immersed in the laws of the Spectraland universe). After the re-read was complete, I then went back to the beginning of my Volume Six draft and started building it back up from there. A lot of what I had has been usable so far, especially in the first act, but some of it had to be rewritten entirely - which I was totally expecting, because I've been here before. And now, the draft is back up to 28,000 words and coming along nicely, with less plot holes this time.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Anime Roundup: Crunchyroll Edition

For quite a while, I had been hearing a lot about a service called "Crunchyroll" where supposedly you could see bajillions of different anime, but for the longest time I had been under the impression that it was some kind of sketchy website with illegal uploads, so, as an artist and creator who has sworn not to engage in piracy out of respect to other artists and creators, I avoided it.

But then I started to hear that a lot of the stuff I wanted to watch - that wasn't on Netflix or Amazon Prime - was, in fact, among the bajillions of anime available on Crunchyroll (some of them are on Hulu as well, but like I've said before, heck if I'm signing up for yet another paid streaming service). So, feeling desperate, I looked a little deeper into Crunchyroll, and lo and behold - yes, it used to be sort of sketchy, but has been legit since 2009. And on top of that, it's available as a free (with ads) app!

So now, here I am, having unlocked what feels like an enormous and nearly-bottomless treasure chest filled with toys and treasure that will keep me busy for centuries. Some are shows that I've heard lots about but haven't seen yet, while others are additional seasons of shows that I've seen on Netflix or Amazon, but for only the first season or two (why those services don't carry these additional seasons is beyond me - probably some kind of legal licensing mumbo-jumbo). Anyway, here are the first few:

My Hero Academia
I had heard so much about this show peripherally that I almost felt like I had seen it all before I'd actually seen any of it. Once I started actually watching it, I almost immediately knew why it's so popular and prevalent. The basic gist of it is: (in movie trailer guy's voice): in a world where about 80% of the world's population has some sort of superpower, a boy born without powers but who still wants to become a superhero is discovered by the world's most powerful hero, who then shares his ability with him and gets him enrolled in a prestigious high school that trains students to become professional heroes. Got all that? Essentially, it's like if Harry Potter was a muggle but then Dumbledore somehow gave him magic and then got him into Hogwarts. Anyway, this show checks all the boxes on the "will Brian like this?" list and I seriously could not stop watching it.

Goblin Slayer
This one is like a R-rated Mandalorian in a Dungeons and Dragons world. The story basically goes like this: the Demon Lord, who was slain by the Sword Maiden years ago, has been resurrected and, along with his vast new army, threatens to take over the world - that is, until a Hero arises to defeat him. But wait! That's not actually our story here. While that stuff does happen in the background, what we're watching is just a dude whose sole mission in life is to kill goblins. This is actually way more compelling than it sounds, because the show makes the goblins so foul and despicable that a John Wick-meets-The Crow kind of vengeance tale will definitely have you rooting for the stoic protagonist. Also, buried underneath all the tragedy and gore is the message that sometimes, it's okay to ask for help.

Food Wars! The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Plates
I wrote about the first season of this show in this roundup post, and then I wrote about the second season in this roundup post. If you've read those posts, then you know that I really, really like this show. Really. In fact, after watching seasons three through five (the final season) on Crunchyroll, I think it just might have moved up from #3 on my all-time favorites list to...#1?? Gasp! I don't know, I just finished it, so I'll have to let it sink in for a while. It was funny because season four ended in a place where I thought, "that was pretty epic and wraps things up nicely, so where could they go from here? Could they possibly raise the stakes even higher?" As it turned out, yes, yes they could (I read that even the writer himself considered ending the manga series after the arc that was adapted into season four, but he realized that there was more story to tell).

Cells at Work! Code Black
A darker, gender-swapped spinoff of the original Cells at Work! (covered in this roundup post), this one features the anthropomorphic cells of an alcoholic dude who smokes and engages in other unhealthy activities. There are certain moments that could spill over into gross-out parody territory a la South Park et al, but the show does a good job at keeping its tone from ever reaching that point. It even gets downright dramatic and emotional at times. All I can say after watching this is: the human body is pretty darn amazing, but I sure wouldn't want to be the guy these poor cells have to live and work in.

Himouto! Umaru-Chan
Dan the bass player from Second Player Score recommended this one a while back, but I couldn't watch it because it wasn't on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But after I got Crunchyroll, I thought "it must be there, right?" And sure enough, it was! It's a fun and adorable slice-of-life comedy about a teenage girl who's a complete overachiever at school and in public (popular, attractive, smart, athletic, talented) but once she gets home she immediately morphs into a cola-swilling, junk-food-gorging, video game-playing, anime-binging, manga-reading lazy otaku (nerd) slob, much to the dismay of her older adult brother, who is in charge of the household in lieu of their absentee parents (which, if anime is to be believed, seems to be a common thing in Japan).