Thursday, January 25, 2018

Evidence That We Are Living In A Simulation: Sports Edition

Last summer I wrote this post about the possibility that The Matrix might be real. I gave three examples and promised that there would be more to come. Today, I shall fulfill that promise.
As I said in that previous post, there's been a lot of stuff written about this subject over the years, so I'll try not to go over any ground that's already been trod upon. Instead, I'll just provide you with my own personal observations. If someone else has already cited the examples that I've listed below, please let me know, as any additional corroboration for my theories would be most welcome.

So here we go.

1. The New England Patriots
All right, maybe Bill Belichick's coaching style is just that good. Or maybe they are, in fact, cheating. Perhaps it's a bit of both. But still, that doesn't quite explain how a NFL team in the salary-cap era (which, for you non-football-fans, basically means that a team can't spend more than a certain amount of money on player salaries) can win double-digit regular season games in sixteen out of seventeen years as well as five Super Bowl championships, all while consistently plugging in cheap and/or unknown players at key positions and then turning them into stars. I mean, did you watch last year's Super Bowl when they came back from being twenty-five points down late in the third quarter? Seriously, there have got to be some other forces at work here. (EDIT: I actually drafted this post before Sunday's AFC Championship game. Then the Patriots fell behind 20-10 in the fourth quarter. Did I ever once think about the possibility of having to rewrite this post? The answer: no.)

2. Tiger Woods
I know, I know, he hasn't been the same for a while now, but remember that incredible run he was on before everything just sort of fell apart? Look, as all of us weekend hackers know, golf is HARD. Like, ridiculously hard. That's why we enjoy watching professional golfers, because they can do some pretty amazing things that hardly anyone else on the planet can do. But this is - or was - a guy who other professional golfers were amazed by. Winning four major tournaments in a row is an accomplishment that probably has no equal in sports, the closest thing being maybe winning five Super Bowls and going to three more (see above). An episode of Married With Children speculated that perhaps Mr. Woods had sold his soul, but my guess is that he made a deal with an Agent from The Matrix that he later somehow reneged on.

3. Stephen Curry
When he and the Golden State Warriors emerged as NBA powerhouses a few years ago, my first reaction was "wait, what?" I mean, sure, he was a great college player and finished second in the balloting for NBA Rookie of the Year, but his performance level appeared to dramatically shoot up from decent to elite once he came back from an injury-shortened season in 2012. In nerdy terms, it was almost like he went from being a Padawan learner to a Jedi Master overnight. There are a lot of theories out there as to how this happened, but I, of course, am going guessed it: the Matrix.

So that concludes this special Sports Edition of "Evidence That We Are Living In A Simulation." I will continue to look for examples and provide you with additional updates as they become available. In the meantime, remember: there is no spoon.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Okay, So I Finally Signed Up For Netflix

I had resisted signing up for Netflix for the longest time. My main reason? Because I had a hunch that once I did, I would fall into a binge-watching black hole that I would never emerge from. Also, I didn't need yet another monthly bill.
I finally caved in last month, however. I knew the moment would come once I learned that season 2 of Miraculous Ladybug, a series that both my daughter and I enjoy, would premiere exclusively on Netflix for American audiences in December 2017. So, right before winter break (when I figured we'd have some time to watch the show), I took the plunge.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that season 2 WAS NOT YET AVAILABLE. Apparently, the premiere date had been pushed out to the infuriatingly imprecise time frame of "Spring 2018." After growling at my computer while making repeated - and futile - attempts to search for season 2 ("They're kidding, right? It's gotta be on here!"), I finally accepted my fate. I briefly considered cancelling my account, but, with a heavy sigh, I decided to sample some of the other programming I'd been hearing about from my friends for years.

Well, no, actually, that's not quite true. In reality, I began with a show that no one had told me anything about: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I had seen super-tiny clips of this show on those T-Mobile/Netflix commercials, and something about the title character's smiley perkiness (perky smiliness?) seemed amusing to me, so I looked up its description online. When I read the tagline "determined to be seen as something other than a victim and armed only with a positive attitude, Kimmy decides to restart her life by moving to New York City," I was further intrigued, as I'm a big fan of positive attitudes. The show proved to be light, fun, and oh-so-slightly subversive - basically exactly what I expected.

While that was in progress (I decided to take a break from Kimmy partway through season 2), I polished off season one of Atypical. I had heard mixed things about this one, but in general, I enjoyed it well enough. Was Sam's character an accurate and respectful portrayal of someone on the autism spectrum? In my opinion, partially. But as I said in this article, any representation is a good start and this show certainly pushes the trend in the right direction. Really, you should check it out for yourself - if you haven't already - and come to your own conclusions.

From there I moved on to Black Mirror, a series that seems to be all the rage at the moment (the drummer for Second Player Score heartily endorsed it). I've watched two episodes so far and okay, yeah, I get the hype. "Fifteen Million Merits" was pretty good, but "Be Right Back" (featuring Bill Weasley/General Hux and Peggy Carter!) was amazing. Quiet yet creepy, the show - so far, to me anyway - seems to be the kind of subtly disturbing psychological horror that I enjoy.

I also decided to sample Death Note, another show I had heard a lot about. I haven't finished all 37 episodes yet (EDIT: yes I have), but so far all I can say is: wow. I actually had been thinking recently about how cool it would be to have a story where - mild spoiler alert - the protagonist firmly believes he's the good guy but in reality he's the big bad, and this pretty much fits the bill.

So that's where I currently stand in the Netflix binge-watching black hole. I know, I know, I can hear you all screaming from here: "What about Stranger Things? Or BoJack Horseman? Or any of the Marvel shows?" I'm sure I'll get around to those eventually. I actually sampled Stranger Things at my bass player's house a while ago, but for some reason I just couldn't get into it. Gasp, right? I'll probably give it another shot later on. After all, there's still some time before "Spring 2018" arrives...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Movie Roundup: Is It 2018 Already? Edition

Man, does time sure go by fast. I can't believe that the last proper Movie Roundup I did was over five months ago. Anyway, here we are, talking about a bunch of films that came out over this past holiday season as well as one that was released during the previous year's holiday season that I finally got around to watching. Also, here are the usual disclaimers: these are not really reviews, these are just my random thoughts about movies I've seen, and oh - there may be massive, massive spoilers.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
This one was worth it just to see Elton John as a foul-mouthed action hero. Think they'll figure out a way to bring Lancelot and Merlin back? Yeah, me too.

Thor: Ragnarok
As I said in my special MCU edition of Movie Roundup last November, this one was a lot of fun and was easily the best of the three solo Thor films. In fact, it actually made - in my opinion - the first two retroactively better. Everyone in it seemed to be having a great time, and Matt Damon's cameo was hilarious. Also, Hela's deer antler helmet = epic.

I really enjoyed this one. Doesn't Miguel look a bit like Marco Diaz from Star vs. The Forces of Evil, though, with the reddish-orange hoodie and everything? I suppose they're both Disney properties, so what the heck. Either way, I love the fact that there's another young male protagonist who plays a stringed instrument to go along with Kubo and some other dude named Joel Suzuki.

And now it's catch-up viewing time. I had heard good things about this one but never got around to seeing it in theaters. It was quite a change of pace from my usual diet of super-whiz-bang action flicks, and I liked it a lot. The whole idea of the heptapods experiencing all events at once was fascinating. Also, Lois Lane and Hawkeye getting together? Scandalous! Wait, that's the super-whiz-bang action flick part of me talking.

Justice League
Speaking of super-whiz-bang action be honest, I had put off seeing this one for a while because of the negative reviews it received, but - surprise - I actually had an incredibly good time! It was concise, punchy, funny, and Henry Cavill's upper lip didn't appear uncanny-valley-ish to me at all. Sure, Steppenwolf was one-dimensional, but that's basically how it goes with stuff like this. And, I mean, Cyborg had to say "boo-yah." I would've been very disappointed otherwise!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Porgs look delicious.

And that concludes my Movie Roundups for 2017. Tune in next time when I will probably offer short and random thoughts about Please Stand By (can't wait for that one), Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Joel Suzuki Is Now On YouTube!

On behalf of the Joel Suzuki series, I am pleased to announce that we are kicking off the new year with our brand new YouTube channel!
Imani Chapin, the awesome and talented young filmmaker who directed Second Player Score's music video for Liberty's End, has created a playlist of short videos collectively called The Insider's Scoop with author Brian Tashima. In these videos, I talk a little bit about Joel's origins before going into some exclusive insider info about each individual book in the series so far, including (insert drum roll here) Volume Four.

Imani also made a video titled "Young Readers" that features actual real-life fans of the Joel Suzuki series discussing what they like about the books, fun facts about themselves, and more.

Check out all of these videos here!