Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!!

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season. Are you psyched for tonight's Doctor Who Christmas Special? I sure am.
I just saw the latest Hobbit film, and I have to say, despite the fact that I still think three movies for that book is just too much and the high frame rate continues to be a bit distracting, I really enjoyed it. I know that others disagree, and I admit, I did laugh when (spoiler alert?) Bilbo managed to fell a few orcs ("bred for war!") with simple stone tosses, but whatever. Heck, maybe Bilbo should try out for a spot in the Mariners' rotation - then we could trade Roenis Elias for a halfway decent bat.
Book Two Status Update: I am now halfway through the first draft of what I feel is finally the actual version of the book, and I must say, I am pretty stoked. It's shaping up to be a really fun and exciting story, and I can't wait to share it with all of you.

Anyway, gotta run. Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lists of Favorites

One thing that Joel and I like to discuss from time to time is our "Lists of Favorites" - i.e., a list of books, movies, video games, albums, etc. in the same series or from the same band, in order of preference from most favorite to least. Today, we'd like to share some of those lists with you.
Star Wars Films
Joel's list:
1. Episode IV
2. Episode VI
3. Episode V
4. Episode III
5. Episode I
6. Episode II
My list:
1. Episode V
2. Episode IV
3. Episode III
4. Episode VI
5. Episode II
6. Episode I
Harry Potter Novels
Joel's list:
1. Order of the Phoenix
2. Half-Blood Prince
3. Sorceror's Stone
4. Prisoner of Azkaban
5. Deathly Hallows
6. Chamber of Secrets
7. Goblet of Fire
My list:
1. Deathly Hallows
2. Prisoner of Azkaban
3. Half-Blood Prince
4. Order of the Phoenix
5. Sorceror's Stone
6. Chamber of Secrets
7. Goblet of Fire
Legend of Zelda Games (Top 5)
Joel's list:
1. Ocarina of Time
2. Majora's Mask
3. Twilight Princess
4. Wind Waker
5. Skyward Sword
My list:
1. Twilight Princess
2. Skyward Sword
3. Wind Waker
4. Ocarina of Time
5. Majora's Mask
Iron Maiden Albums (Top 7)
Joel's list:
1. Somewhere In Time
2. Seventh Son
3. Piece of Mind
4. Powerslave
5. Number of the Beast
6. Iron Maiden
7. Killers
My list:
1. Number of the Beast
2. Piece of Mind
3. Powerslave
4. Killers
5. Somewhere In Time
6. Seventh Son
7. Iron Maiden
Spectraland Saga Novels
Joel: Wait, what?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Random Thought Thursday

The new Star Wars trailer - epic!! Except, I don't care much for the title. Really, J.J., "The Force Awakens"? I'm not sure if you realize this, but The Force was already "Unleashed" a few years ago - twice - and now, it's going to "Awaken"? I mean, as I've said before, I'm a really forgiving fan, but c'mon...there are sooo many other options. Whatever, I guess - I suppose you know that I'm going to pay money to see your movie (probably several times) anyway.
The new Legend of Zelda is on its way, based on this new teaser video. Aaaaaggggh I can't wait!!11! Will you guys hurry up already? My Wii U is starting to gather some serious dust since I got my cats and don't really feel like playing Hyrule Warriors any more. Shooting arrows in slow motion as I'm jumping off of Epona? YES PLEASE. And by the way, nobody cares about the new Star Fox. Okay, that's not totally true, but really, I just want you guys to focus here. ZELDA
This past Sunday I attended the launch party for "Bash and Lucy Fetch Jealousy," the second book in the Bash and Lucy series by my good friend and P.R. person extraordinaire Lisa Cohn and her son, Michael. It was a lot of fun and the books are terrific - do yourself a favor and check 'em out.
Christmas is coming up quick, and you know what that means - the Doctor Who Christmas Special. I'm thinking that it's gonna be really good, and that it'll mark the end of Clara Oswald (not that the two things are related - I like Clara). In retrospect - and after multiple re-watchings - Season 8 has been nothing short of awesome (yes, even the first episode, which I now like despite what I still feel are its pretty obvious shortcomings.)
Nick Frost as Father it. So very cheeky.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Boots and Mittens

As if there aren't enough cat-related things on the Internet already, today I'd like to introduce the two newest members of my family: Boots and Mittens.
Kinda hard to tell where one ends and the other begins
Brother (Boots) and sister (Mittens) from the same litter, they were adopted from Second Chance Companions, a very cool pet adoption organization located in my area. They were named by the girl who originally found them, and we decided to keep their names instead of changing them to something like, oh, Destiny and Dreamer (the names of Joel and Felicity's slimebacks from Book One, in case you haven't read it yet.)

Animals play a big role in The Spectraland Saga. When I first started working on Book One, I asked my kids what they wanted to see included in it. My son said "powers," meaning magic spells or superhero-type abilities, and my daughter said "cute animals." So, that's where the idea for Sammy the silvertail came from. And he's not just a token character - he ends up playing a pretty big role in the story, and I have even bigger things planned for him in the books to come.

The inspiration for the story about Nibbles the hamster in Chapter 16 came from a actual experience with one of our previous pets, Scampers the gerbil. Shortly after we got Scampers (and his brother, Midnight), he suddenly became very ill, late at night. It seemed like he wasn't going to make it. Instead of waiting until the next day (by which time it was probably going to be too late), we searched through emergency pet hospitals in the area until we found a 24-hour clinic that treated any kind of animal, including gerbils. We took him in, he got treatment and medicine, and he was eventually nursed back to health. He ended up living a long (for a gerbil, anyway) and comfortable life.
Anyway, it's very possible that you will see some new animal characters inspired by Boots and Mittens in an upcoming entry in the Saga. So stay tuned!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


One of the major themes of Secret of the Songshell ("Book One") is the concept of appreciation and being thankful for the things that you already have. As Art says on page 5, "You can simply choose to be happy with life the way it is, rather than chasing after things you don't have." So, in the spirit of today's holiday, I've asked some of the Book One folks to tell us one thing that they are thankful for. Have a great day everyone!
Taylor: "My Nintendo 3DS."
Darkeye: "Knowledge, which translates into - hic - power."
Alison: "My wonderful kids, Joel and Taylor."
Greenseed: "..."
Suzi: "Health."
Chief Raintree: "A good meal and a nice hot cup of lifepod wine. Well, I suppose that is two things."
Art: "Everything."
Suntooth: "My fellow villagers."
Julio: "This awesome band that I just discovered."
The Queen Lightsnake: hssssssssss
Nineteen: That I am alive and well.
Chief Fourfoot: "World domination!"
Fireflower: "The Aura."
Marshall: "Rock stardom."
Felicity: "Diet soda."
Joel: ", I guess?"

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Bad Guy 101

As I mentioned in a blog post from back in January, it seems like most fictional villains all go to a school called Bad Guy University (BGU), where they learn how do to things that eventually lead to their own defeat.
Here are a few more recent examples (spoiler-heavy, so they're hidden under the jump). It's good to see that BGU is still churning out quality graduates!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Liveblogging With Felicity: Doctor Who Season 8 Finale

I've watched "Death In Heaven," the Doctor Who Season 8 Finale, a couple of times already, but since we haven't done a liveblog in a while (and since I can't stop thinking about the episode), I'll be watching it once more with Felicity, who you all know and love as Joel Suzuki's co-star in The Spectraland Saga. So, here we go! (obviously, spoilers to follow)
F: U know that I've never watched this show before, right
B: Ur kidding
F: Why would I be kidding
B: You've never seen any episodes of Doctor Who, at all?
F: I just said that
B: Ok well I think you'll really like it
F: How do you know
B: Hold on it's starting
B: That's cool and hilarious how they put Clara's eyes in the intro
F: If you say so
F: So she's Doctor Who?
B: Well, no
F: I thought it was this old guy
B: It is
F: Confusing
B: Just keep watching
F: Those things are like Iron Man
B: They only just started flying in this episode
F: Oookay
F: Hey Joel can do that and he doesn't have OCD
B: he has the Sight
F: Right
F: Why did they stun the old guy Doctor Who
B: You'll see
F: So the rain turns dead people into Iron Men
B: Yeah basically
F: Okay then
F: Ima grab a soda
B: Come back quick
F: Whatever
B: Hurry up commercials are over
F: I assume you understand what they're talking about here
B: Actually I had to look up a couple of the references
F: Shame on you
F: Turn in your nerd card
B: Ha
F: Old Guy Who is kind of a jerk
B: Now ur getting it
F: President of Earth? Seriously?
B: Just play along
F: I assume they'll explain why one Iron Man just killed the other ones
B: Correct
F: How did fake Doctor Who get into that graveyard
B: That's actually kind of a good question
F: I like that lady
B: Missy?
F: I guess
B: Yeah, she's fun
F: It's Hey Mickey, not Hey Missy
B: Right
F: Really? glasses girl is gonna go over there? That's like so classic horror movie stupid
B: I know I know just go with it
F: okay, what is the deal with those guards??? did she freeze them beforehand or something??
B: Yeah ok this part is a little strange i'll give you that
F: that bugs me
B: Just keep watching
F: So I guess Danny is her bf
B: Yup
F: Why is this monk dude answering the phone
B: That's the Doctor
F: I thot the old guy was the doctor
B: I'll explain later
F: y would she just throw her phone away, those things are expensive
B: Ha
F: Wait, is old guy who her bf too or something? its like a love triangle
B: Why do you say that
F: Seems like Danny Iron Man is jealous
B: No, it's complicated
F: This whole show is complicated
B: Just keep watching
F: Hey u have one of those screwdriver things on your desk
B: I do!
F: You get ur nerd card back
B: Thanks
F: Mary Poppins? Really?
B: It's funny! and subversive!
F: If you say so
F: Shouldnt Mickey have made more of an effort to get her remote back
B: Yeah I thought so too
F: Shouldnt michey try to get her bracelet back while danny iron man is yelling
B: Yes yes I know
F: Shouldnt she run away or something while they're deciding who's gonna kill her
B: I suppose, but there's more to it than that
F: Of course there is
F: hey that blue color means she's not dead
B: You caught that!
F: Joel's not the only one who can notice stuff like that
B: I'm impressed
F: Whatever
F: Who is this guy now
B: The Brigadier
F: The what
B: I'll explain later
F: I need another soda
B: help yourself
F: I"m actually kinda digging this unhappy ending
B: I kinda figured you would
F: Oh wow his reaction to her special thing reminds me so much of Joel
B: Yeah
F: Santa Claus? Seriously?
B: Sure why not
F: So are they gonna have Einstein and Sinatra too?
B: Wait, what did you say?
F: Nothing
B: So you have been watching the show!
F: Ur out of soda again

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Release Party Recap

I got down to the Sandy Hut early, about half an hour before the official load-in time. I know that's not very rock 'n' roll, but I like to be able to find parking (I got a space right next to the front door), settle in, and soak up the vibe of the venue. Plus, I had band merch to set up.

Shortly thereafter, a couple of the guys from Laurelhurst arrived. We hung out at the bar and talked music and Trailblazers basketball for a while, and then the rest of my band showed up, as well as the guys from Kings and Vagabonds. After a short meeting with Jimmy, the booker/soundguy, we proceeded to load in our gear as well as the rest of the merch.
Once that was done, I was sitting at the merch booth fiddling with my phone (I have to take off the case in order to use the credit card reader) when a familiar guy walked in and sat down. At first, I was like, "hey what's up" before a split second later, I realized that the guy was my good buddy and ex-bandmate from Hawaii, who had made a surprise trip all the way up to Portland! Turns out, the other guys in my current band were in on the surprise as well, so we all had a good laugh. It was definitely a very cool way to get the night started.
The show began soon after, with Laurelhurst taking the stage. I had never seen them before, but I had heard the one song they had up on their Reverbnation page and I really liked it, so I was looking forward to hearing them live. They didn't disappoint. They played a fun, rocking set of pop-punk tunes that included a cover of "She" by Green Day which I shouted along to.
The next band up was Stab In The Dark, a heavy yet melodic hardcore punk band that we had played a bunch of shows with before. They are always awesome and I enjoy being on the bill with them, because then I get to rock out in the audience.
After Stab was some band called Second Player Score.
Finally, closing out the night was Kings and Vagabonds, an eclectic, funky, super-tight group that is reminiscent of early Chili Peppers. They really brought the energy (I headbanged so much to their set that I had a good old-fashioned neck ache the next day) and were a great way to cap off what was an awesome and fun night.
Much mahalos to Jimmy and the Sandy Hut, all the bands, and everyone that came out to celebrate the release of Fortress Storm Attack with us.
See you at the next show!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CD Release Party!! And Other Happenings

For all of you in the Portland/Vancouver area, come on down to the Sandy Hut this Saturday for Second Player Score's CD release party!
Three other awesome bands will also be performing: Laurelhurst, Stab In The Dark, and Kings and Vagabonds. We'll have CDs, T-shirts, and other swag for sale. Feel free to wear your leftover Halloween costume from the night before. Should be a rockin' good time! If you can't make it, our CDs are available here, or as digital downloads here.

Other random quick hits:
- I'm still playing Hyrule Warriors. I thought I would have gotten tired of it after a relatively short period of time, as there isn't much to it beyond wiping out hordes of enemies, but even after completing Legend Mode (in three different difficulty levels) and unlocking all the characters in Adventure Mode, it's still a lot of fun. I guess button-mashing can be a really cathartic release after a long day of rewriting dialogue and fixing up plot holes.
- I've been enjoying Star Wars: Rebels and the current season of Doctor Who much more since their debut episodes, which I thought were kind of meh. Speaking of which, the latter is almost over already, can you believe it? The previews look great - can't wait.
- Speaking of great previews/can't wait, I'm sure you've all seen this. Can it be May already?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Believe Me, I Am Still Working On Book Two

You know what's crazy? That there is a Kikaida reboot movie out and I didn't know about it until a couple of weeks ago. You know what else is crazy? That I have been working on Book Two almost every day now for nearly twenty-six straight months.
Yes, over two years.

Now, the last time you heard about it from me was back in July (three months ago, holy cow), at which point I said that "the Book Two rewrite is coming along nicely - not much else to report there."

Well, that was true, at the time. Since then, though, I've actually gone back and pulled elements from some older drafts and synopses and incorporated them with some new ideas, all in an attempt to craft a story that is as strong as it can be while still following the overall series arc that I've envisioned. I've always been a stickler when it comes to plot holes in other people's works, so I like to try and make my own stuff as airtight as possible.

So, in a nutshell, the rewrite has not been progressing in a smooth, linear fashion - it's been a lurching, stop-and-start process, to say the least. At one point I found myself wishing that I had some kind of magical book, you know, I'd dump my several hundred pages of notes and drafts into it, push a button, and then - voila - out comes a delicious smoothie of a perfect, completed book that kept all the best ideas and strained out the not-so-good ones. I guess that's not really what a blender does. But you know what I mean.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that I have not forgotten about Joel and Felicity's next great adventure - quite the opposite, actually. Just bear with me, and I promise, we'll get there eventually. Probably not by the time the Kikaida reboot movie comes out on DVD (which is this December - can't wait!), but hopefully sooner than later.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 16: The Harmonies Change Everything

All right, so as you know from the last episode, I had reunited with the drummer from Upper80, and we had been knocking about sort of informally, just having fun and playing some tunes from the old days. It was a welcome distraction from whatever else was going on at the time, and after a while, we decided to get a bass player and give it a go - but, of course, only as a hobby, definitely not meant to be anything serious.
As is always the case (because - say it with me - no one actually wants to be a bass player), we cycled through a bunch of bassist candidates, even finding one that I thought would last for while, before finally, one day, we crossed paths with a dude who - despite the fact that he originally played guitar - actually did want to play the bass, was a good fit, and was even from Hawaii, to boot. We settled on a name that I had been wanting to use for some time (this is where it came from), and off we went.

At first, we played a mix of originals and covers, including everything from Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" to "Seek And Destroy" by Metallica to "Synchronicity II" by The Police. We did a bunch of shows around town, including the launch party for Book One and the Rock For Autism fundraiser for The Children's Occupational Therapy Charitable Trust. It was a rockin' good time, but, again, that's all it was really meant to be.

Then, one day - I don't remember exactly when - we decided to try and add some vocal harmonies to one of our songs, specifically, "Gloria." I don't really know why we did it; I suppose it was just something fun to experiment with. After a lengthy trial and error process, we finally got it, and the results were...pretty dang amazing, actually. Seriously, it was like we were playing an entirely different song.

So, encouraged by that success, we figured - in true mad scientist fashion - "why not add harmonies to all of our originals?" We started that process while we played a bunch of shows that featured punk rock versions of '80s classics (including an "'80s Night" at Mickey Finn's - Devo hat FTW), until eventually, the newly-harmonized originals just sort of took over and we decided to focus completely on doing our own stuff. In fact, it was so much fun, we found ourselves booking time with a recording engineer that I had worked with before to make some sweet-sounding tracks.

And what do you know - just like that, without even really realizing it, I was back in the band business. And, this time, it was fun. It just felt right. We finished recording ten songs with the aforementioned engineer and decided to release them as a proper album, which we chose to call - nerd alert - Fortress Storm Attack.

And that pretty much catches us up to today. Thanks for coming along on this ride through history with me. Honestly, it really feels like it's all gone by in a flash. But that's how it is when you're having a good time - most of the time, anyway.

Hey, so tonight, tune in here as we do a live interview on Anarchy Radio starting from 8pm Pacific Time!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Random Thoughts About Random Stuff

So, the new Star Wars show. Wasn't this supposed to be the live-action series? I had been looking forward to that. Anyway, I watched the premiere, "Spark of Rebellion," and I thought it was...okay. Now, I'm not one of those fans that want everything Star Wars-related to be super dark or whatever, and I consider myself to be pretty forgiving when it comes to new additions to beloved franchises (I didn't hate the prequels, and I also didn't hate Metallica's Load and Reload albums), but my reaction to this new show - the first episode, anyway - was mostly "meh." (WARNING: Mild spoilers to follow, although if you plan to watch this show you probably know all of this stuff already)
It wasn't really the familiar tropes (Ezra=Aladdin=Wan=etc.) or the creepy-looking Wookiees that I had an issue with, it was just...I dunno, the whole thing came off as kind of flat to me. The dialogue, which was often very Star Wars-y if you know what I mean, didn't feel like it was delivered with the kind of conviction needed to pull it off successfully. And since Kanan is taking such pains to conceal his Jedi identity, shouldn't he have killed all the Stormtroopers once he finally busted out his light saber? Or, at least, taken them all prisoner or something?

Anyway, on to something new that I really do like, and that's Hyrule Warriors. I had never played Dynasty Warriors, but I had a feeling that I would enjoy HW not only for its Legend of Zelda-based characters and setting, but also for the mindless button-mashing bad-guy-smashing gameplay. As much as I appreciate the puzzles in a "standard" LoZ title, one of my favorite things to do in those games is to take my Master Sword and slice up a bunch of bokoblins, so HW indulges me in a pretty serious way.
Also, the co-op feature allows me to play the game with my daughter, which is all kinds of fun. Believe me, the two of us being able to say things like "I'll take care of Ghirahim, you go check on the Allied Base!" to each other is a major highlight of the whole parenting experience. And yes, she totally gets the difference between fantasy violence and real violence, so don't worry, I'm still doing my job as a dad in that respect.

Finally, just a few notes about some cool things that are going on with my band, Second Player Score. Our debut album, Fortress Storm Attack, is now officially available as a physical CD or digital download - you can get it here, or, if you're in the Portland area, you can come to our release party on November 1st at The Sandy Hut. We're also on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify if you're into those kinds of things. And next Thursday (October 16th) we'll be doing a live interview on the Anarchy Radio Show starting at 9pm PST, so check it out here. Call in and we'll give you a shout out!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 15: A Second Chance

As I said at the end of Episode 14, after Council Crest came to a close I was feeling pretty burnt out. Honestly, I was ready to hang up the band-playing-boots for good. All the hassle of inter-band drama, lugging around heavy gear, and playing shows on Tuesday nights at 1am just didn't seem worth it anymore.
Not to mention, by then I had discovered a new creative outlet, something that I had always wanted to do but never really had the time for: writing. It seemed to be some kind of divine coincidence that, right around the moment when Council Crest started to peter out, my son asked me to write a book for him.

I figured that this still-to-be-named novel would replace playing in bands as my life's work. It was fun, exciting, and a little scary to be embarking on this new journey, and I felt rejuvenated. Writing was going to be everything that playing in bands was not. It would be the anti-band. I would have complete creative control, I wouldn't have to deal with other people's schedules or temperaments, there was no gear to lug around (besides my laptop), and I could write on my own time. And yes, I know I tried the solo music thing before, but playing music alone just didn't feel right. Music, to me, is a social thing, while writing, by nature, is a solitary activity, so I didn't have the same kinds of doubts.

But then, a couple of months into the drafting process for what would become Book One, something strange happened. The drummer from Upper80 - remember that band? - contacted me and said that he had received an electronic drum kit for Christmas. Why is that significant, you ask? Well, if you recall, Upper80 had ended mostly because we had been evicted from our practice space. But, with an electronic kit and its adjustable volume levels, we would now be able to play just about anywhere - my garage, his living room, whatever.

So, despite my reservations, I accepted his invitation to get together for a casual jam session. The jam session went well and we had fun, and before you knew it, "jam sessions" turned into "practices," and we started looking around for bass players and open mics to play at. Honestly, I really hadn't meant for it to happen, but it was like the proverbial call of the siren, and I couldn't resist.

Still, I felt sure that, this time around, the band thing would be nothing more than an informal distraction, kind of like a regular weekend golf outing with buddies. Little did I know what was in store....

Next: The Harmonies Change Everything

P.S. If you're in the Portland/Vancouver area, don't forget to come check out the NIWA Writers' booth at the Portland Fall Home & Garden Show this weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Talkin' With Joel: Most Annoying Zelda Mini-Games (#8 - Horseback Archery Range)

Howzit everyone! In honor of tomorrow's release of Hyrule Warriors, today we're continuing our review and discussion of what I consider to be the most annoying mini-games from the Legend of Zelda series. And, of course, with us is our very special guest, Joel Suzuki of The Spectraland Saga!

B: Hey, Joel. So, are you excited about Hyrule Warriors?
J: Sure, yeah. Although technically, it's already been released - it came out in Japan on August 14th, in Europe on September 19th, and in Australia on September 20th.
B: Right! Okay, so, let's get on with it...

#8 - Horseback Archery Range (from Ocarina of Time)
B: My problem with this one - and a lot of the other shooting-type games - is that I have a really hard time lining up my aim quickly and accurately with the analog stick.
J: Okay.
B: And even when I get it lined up - like when I'm shooting the pots, for instance - for some reason it gets offline again and then everything gets all messed up. I think I tried this game forty or fifty times before I just gave up and moved on.
J: What was your high score?
B: I dunno, like 500 or something. What did you get?
J: 2000.
B: Whoa - isn't that a perfect score?
J: I think so, yeah.
B: That's just...amazing. I have no idea how you did that.
J: Me neither. But it actually wasn't that hard. Took me just a few tries.
B: You're kidding.
J: No.
B: Wow.
J: It's just a pattern, and knowing where your arrows are going to hit depending on where you're aiming.
B: Sounds like the Sight at work once again!
J: Huh?
B: Well, that's all the time we have for today. Don't forget - Hyrule Warriors, coming out tomorrow.
J: In North America.
B: I can't wait. See you next time!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Give More 24! And Other Happenings

Over the next 24 hours, you can do something awesome! From 7am on September 18th through 7am September 19th (Pacific time), you can help support Autism Empowerment by taking part in Give More 24, an online donation challenge organized by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington. It's easy - just go to this link to make a donation. Yes, I know, you want to keep reading my blog, but I'll wait right here, I promise....
You're back! On behalf of Autism Empowerment, I thank you very much for your support.

So, what else has been going on? Oh yeah? Cool! As for me, I've been pretty busy on the band front. Second Player Score now has CDs, a stocked locker full of merchandise - t-shirts, stickers, buttons, picks, you name it - an official website, a YouTube channel, as well as airplay on a bunch of different online radio stations and podcasts. We've also booked our CD release party for November 1st at The Sandy Hut in Portland, with special guests Shot of Mercury, Stab In The Dark, and Kings & Vagabonds. Here's the album cover, designed by my son (he is awesome with the Adobe Illustrator and whatnot):
Any of you know which late '80s/early '90s video game inspired this? Hint: it spawned a popular "Engrish" Internet meme....

As for book-related happenings, I couldn't believe it myself, but it's almost time once again for the Portland Fall Home & Garden Show, featuring your friendly neighborhood NIWA authors. The show will take place from October 2-5 at the Expo Center, and I plan on being there Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Saturday morning. So mark your calendars!

And finally, in video game news, the verdict on Earthbound is in: it's really cool. I am so glad I discovered it.
It's fun, challenging, and quirky, and although other RPGs like The Last Story and Xenoblade still rank higher on my list of favorites, this one is right up there. Check it out if you haven't already.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Bulls-Eye Landing Coincidence Syndrome

One thing I never fail to notice - and that I like to think about from time to time (nerd alert!) - is an occurrence in movies and TV shows that I call the Bulls-Eye Landing Coincidence Syndrome, or BELCS, for short. This is when a character, usually the protagonist, arrives on a planet in less-than-planned fashion and immediately ends up right next to his or her intended destination. Not sure what I mean? Here are a couple of the best-known examples:

1) Luke Skywalker and Yoda
In Episode V, Luke is headed for the swamp planet of Dagobah (on a related note, why do entire planets always seem to be devoted to one type of terrain? Is the whole thing really just one big swamp?) where he needs to find a legendary Jedi master named Yoda. Then, basically, all of the instruments in his X-Wing fail, and he goes blindly plunging through the atmosphere until he crashes somewhere on the planet's surface. Not long afterwards, he runs into a small creepy green creature who turns out to be - voila! - Yoda. Wow, how about that?

2) Young Kirk and Old Spock
In the 2009 Star Trek reboot movie, Young Spock dumps Young Kirk off on an arctic planet (there we go again with the single-terrain planet thing) called Delta Vega after a failed mutiny attempt. Young Kirk gets chased by a big mean creature and then basically runs right into Old Spock, who had himself been dumped off on Delta Vega by Nero, a Romulan who wanted Old Spock to watch the destruction of Vulcan.

In both of these examples, entire planets are reduced to areas that are seemingly not much bigger than, say, a football field or so. And yes, I realize that this is done in order to move the plot along and keep things in sync, but it just seems funny, is all.

Also, both of these examples have been explained, more or less, in an Expanded Universe novel and a deleted scene, so, okay, I'll accept it. And sometimes, don't we all experience fortunate coincidences in our own, actual lives? So, as this article says, as long as BELCS isn't overdone, then hey, it's cool with me, and probably with you, too.

Although, just for fun, one day I'd like to see a movie where the main character lands on a planet and then travels for decades through all sorts of different landscapes in search of whoever it is he wanted to find. Or, well, maybe not...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 14: Inazan Turns Into Something Else Entirely

Inazan got off to a good start. We played our first show at one of the few local venues to sport their own marquee, and it was pretty cool to see "Inazan" - spelled correctly, even - in big letters visible from the other side of the street.
After the show, however, there were signs of discontent. For my part, I didn't feel that my vocals suited our particular sound, and frankly, I wanted to take a break from singing anyway and just concentrate on playing guitar for once. We carried on with the status quo intact for a while until one day, I suggested that we look for another member - preferably, someone who could take over the vocal chores.

So it was back to Craigslist we went. Not long afterwards, we found a singer/guitarist who fit in well, and we officially became a four-piece. With the new sound and direction, we decided that we needed a new name as well (besides, people were having a hard time pronouncing "Inazan.") After a lengthy and exhausting process - why is picking a band name always so difficult? - we finally settled on Council Crest, the name of a hill in Portland that is popular with hikers.

Council Crest motored along for a few years, and it was a good time. I got to play at a bunch of clubs that I hadn't played at before, and being just the "lead guitar" guy instead of the frontman and de facto band manager was a welcome change from what I had grown accustomed to. We had some personnel changes along the way, even expanding to a five-piece at one point, but overall, things were pretty stable.

For a while, that is. Eventually, the momentum started to slow down - bass player #3 (or was it #4? I can't remember) decided to quit, we had moved to a public practice space, and honestly, the whole thing started to feel more and more like work instead of fun. And so, Council Crest, formerly Inazan, was put to rest.

At this point, I was feeling pretty burnt out. It was a different feeling from when Upper80 ended - at that time, I wanted to take a break, but I think I always knew (maybe subconsciously) that I would get back to it one day, probably sooner than later. But this time, I seriously considered the possibility that this was it - that I was done playing in bands for good.

Next: A Second Chance

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Random Thoughts: Doctor Who & Video Game Update

I didn't love the new Doctor Who episode as much as I thought I would. (WARNING: Spoilers to follow) Maybe my expectations were too high, I don't know. I mean, Peter Capaldi was great and all, but the plot just seemed a little too thrown-together. Like, didn't the Doctor jump into the River Thames to chase after the guy that turned out to be the head cyborg? If so, then how come the next thing we see him doing is rummaging through a back alley wondering about his new face? (either way, "Independent state of eyebrows" is hilarious.)
Also, if Clara had that thing that she could call the Paternoster Gang with, why didn't she do it earlier instead of hoping that the Doctor didn't actually leave? Was that part of a plan to get information from the cyborg? If so, then it just seemed weird how the whole thing was portrayed - Clara seemed genuinely frightened, and you (at least I) didn't get the sense afterwards of "oh, okay, that was a plan. Brilliant!" And I know there was that whole "moral ambiguity" moment at the end - "did the Doctor kill the cyborg, or did the cyborg kill himself?" - but I mean, seriously, why would the cyborg kill himself? Wouldn't he have put up more of a fight? Anyway, on to the video game update...
I just finished my fourth play-through of The Last Story, which is still my favorite game along with Okami, Xenoblade, and the Zelda series (which, for convenience's sake, I lump together into one thing.) In a search for something new to play, I tried (1) Sonic and the Black Knight and (2) Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. The former was okay, but after about forty-five minutes it became clear that it was not what I was looking for. The latter kept me occupied for a little while longer, but eventually it became rather repetitious - basically just a lot of climbing, jumping, and more climbing.
I think that with some good background music, more varied gameplay, and a story that moved along quicker, it could have been a really good game, but oh well. So then I went looking some more, and luckily I uncovered a hidden gem: EarthBound on the Wii U virtual console. So far, I'm really enjoying its storyline and its what-are-now-considered-cool-and-retro graphics and turn-based combat system. Hopefully it'll keep me occupied until Hyrule Warriors comes out next month...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 13: Hiatus, Then A Chuck Palahniuk Novel Reference

Following the loss of Upper80's practice space and the general lack of reaction - good or otherwise - towards our 4-song EP, I decided to take a little break from playing in bands. After all, I had now been in bands non-stop for about fourteen years or so, and I felt that it would be a good time to just be alone for a while and do some quality introspection (I swear, playing in bands sounds a lot like being in relationships, no?)
That didn't mean I would stop writing and playing music, however. As any of you musicians out there know, that would be like giving up one of your essential bodily functions.* So, I dove into the world of home recording; I bought a Mbox and Pro Tools LE and began working on stuff in my living room, with some dude named Dr. Rhythm as my drummer. I recorded a handful of songs and even released a few of them as a lo-fi, homemade EP (I burnt the CDs on my computer and photocopied the inserts). I also performed several solo acoustic gigs, playing my own songs as well as covers of some of my favorite '80s tunes (like this one).

This went on for four whole years before I started to get the itch again. Or, in retrospect, maybe it never really went away; the whole time, there was always something a bit unsatisfying about making music on my own. Even though I had more control over the situation (I could practice and record in my own house without worrying about other bands setting fire to the place - for the most part, anyway), something about it felt cold, sterile, and vaguely, haven't I tried this kind of thing before? Oh yeah, I have.

So once again, I was reminded that rock music - at least the way I wanted to play it - just wasn't rock music without other actual living, breathing musicians (sorry, Dr. Rhythm), including the ones who aren't in your band that get you kicked out of your practice space. Because, I guess, isn't that the whole essence of rock 'n' roll, anyway? The chaos, the drama, the unpredictability?**

So, after one last gasp for the solo deal where I recorded a couple of songs with an amazing engineer that I had found (more on him later), I declared the hiatus to be over and put out an ad in Craigslist (yes, now there was Craigslist) for musicians. Almost immediately, I met up with a drummer who could not only play drums, but whose house actually had a basement that we could practice in -  I'm telling you, it was like magic.

Then, after cycling through a bunch of bassist candidates, we finally settled on one - who wasn't a converted guitar player, gasp! We threw together a bunch of songs and called ourselves Inazan, after a fake pharmaceutical in the Chuck Palahniuk novel Survivor. And thus, the whole band cycle began anew...

Next: Inazan Turns Into Something Else Entirely

* Which one, I leave up to you
** Answer: Yes

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Talkin' With Joel: Most Annoying Zelda Mini-Games (#9 - Salvatore's Squids)

...Aaaand we're back with our special guest, Joel Suzuki of the Spectraland Saga! Today we're going to be continuing our review and discussion of what I consider to be the most annoying mini-games from the Legend of Zelda series.

B: Morning, Joel. How's it going?
J: Good.
B: Do anything fun since our last show?
J: Yeah.
B: Like what?
J: I dunno...lots of stuff.
B: Okay, cool! Well, let's continue...

#9 - Salvatore's Squid Battleship Game (from Wind Waker)
B: This one is annoying because it's so random. There's really no consistent strategy that you can use other than spray and pray.
J: Yeah, mostly.
B: It wouldn't be as bad, I think, if it didn't cost rupees each time. 'Cause what always happens to me is that I play a bunch of times, run out of money, and then I have to go back out and smash pots and stuff until I can play again.
J: Yeah.
B: It's really just a lot of luck - not much skill involved.
J: My best score is ten.
B: Whoa - how did you pull that off?
J: It was mostly luck, but there are some things you can do to maximize your odds. Like, once you get a hit, look at the spaces around your hit and identify the more likely directions that you should try to go in - you know, like if there's more empty squares, or whatever. I dunno, I'm not really sure how to explain it. It's like Battleship, basically.
B: Hey, yeah, Battleship...isn't that the strategy you used to pass the Heatwraith's first test in the Flaming Fields?
J: What?
B: Oops, that's all the time we have for today! Join us next time as we count down to number eight....

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Talkin' With Joel: Most Annoying Zelda Mini-Games (#10 - Fun Fun Island)

Today, my special guest in the studio is none other than the star of the Spectraland Saga, Joel Suzuki! We'll be talking about a very important subject that is near and dear to both of our hearts: the most annoying mini-games/side quests from the Legend of Zelda series.

B: Hey Joel, thanks for being here.
J: Um, okay.
B: So, the first thing I want to say before we begin is that I haven't actually played all of the games in the Zelda series, just so you know.
J: All right. Which ones have you played?
B: Mostly just the console-based ones. Not really any of the DS-only ones.
J: Does that include, like, virtual console?
B: Yeah, I guess.
J: What about the Famicom Disk System? That's technically a console, although it's an add-on. And what about the GBA? That's a handheld, but still technically a console, and you said that you didn't really play any of the DS-only ones, but you didn't say anything about the other handhelds. And, you know, actually, the DS is also technically a console, so what you said doesn't really make sense.
B: Hmm, yeah...good point. Okay, let's put it this way - the games that I've played are: A Link To The Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, and a little bit of A Link Between Worlds.
J: Ocarina of Time or Ocarina of Time 3D?
B: Just the regular Ocarina of Time. The non-3D one.
J: Wind Waker or Wind Waker HD?
B: Both.
J: Okay.
B: Great, let's begin!

#10 - Fun Fun Island (from Skyward Sword)
B: This one was super hard. So hard that I started calling it "No Fun Island."
J: Okay.
B: But I eventually did do it, so I guess it couldn't have been that bad.
J: How many tries did it take you?
B: I dunno, like dozens. I spent several hours on it.
J: Wow.
B: What about you?
J: What about me?
B: How many tries did it take you?
J: Two.
B: You're kidding.
J: No.
B: How did you do that?
J: Once you know how to dive, then the rest is just timing. I almost had it the first time, but Taylor was bothering me.
B: That's amazing. Well, that's all the time we have for today. Join us next time as we continue counting down the list!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Musical History, Episode 12: Evicted

After a handful of shows, Upper80 wasted no time in prepping a few songs for recording. For a studio, we chose Jackpot! Recording, since I had met the owner/engineer (Larry Crane of Tape Op magazine) at the NxNW music festival and he seemed like a really cool guy.

So, we went in and laid down four tunes, including a version of something that you may have heard in Second Player Score's set. Then, we decided to name the EP...oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself...
Holy cow, look at that hair!!
Right around the time that this was all happening, there was an interesting little incident at our practice space. If you recall from Episode 11, the space we were renting was a storage unit in downtown Portland - basically a small room in a building where the other tenants were mostly just people looking for a place to stash their excess junk.

Portland, however, is home to approximately two-and-a-half gajillion bands, and the amount of available practice space is so limited that most places have a waiting list longer than whatever is super incredibly long. So, once word got out that our landlords were renting out storage units to bands (us) and letting them (us) practice there, other bands descended upon the building like a mad swarm of hungry termites.*

Next thing we knew, we had tons of new neighbors that not only practiced their music at the place, but also did a lot of...let's call it "hanging out." Now, I'm not judging them one way or another, but what ended up happening was that, one particular night - when we weren't there, mind you - a fire was accidentally set in one of the rooms. Yup, that's right, a fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt and nothing was really damaged, but needless to say, the landlords were not too pleased. They immediately terminated the leases of every band that was renting a room there, including us.

So now, we were out of a practice space. Fortunately, we were already well-rehearsed for the already-booked recording sessions, so that wasn't an issue, but since we had no place to practice once the sessions were finished, the forecast for Upper80's future was cloudy at best (see what I did there? Upper80, like a weather forecast? You know, "high temperatures in the upper 80s, lows in the lower 70s"...okay, never mind. You can stop groaning now)

Oh yeah, so to memorialize our getting kicked out, we ended up naming the four-song EP Evicted. We sent it out to a few places, sold a few copies, and then slowly faded away into the place that bands fade away into when they have no place to rehearse.

Next: Hiatus, Then A Chuck Palahniuk Novel Reference

* If the building were made of wood, which it wasn't, but you know what I mean