Thursday, May 30, 2019

It Takes A Village 2

This coming Saturday, Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy is putting on their second annual It Takes a Village Conference from 9am - 4pm at Clark College in Vancouver, WA!
There will be a large, diverse group of service providers, panelists, and speakers there, including Autism Empowerment and yours truly. If you're in the area, please come by and check it out. Clark College is located at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Most Popular Pieces Of Pop Culture That I Have Not Seen Or Read...Yet

Now, most of you who read this blog on a regular basis probably know that I'm pretty well-versed in pop/nerd/geek/whatever-you-want-to-call-it culture. I'm capable of carrying on in-depth conversations regarding everything from big-name franchises (Star Wars, Harry Potter, the MCU, Doctor Who, Legend of Zelda, etc.) to the more niche-y stuff like anime, Killing Eve, Black Mirror, and so on.

But! Given the absolute wealth of great stuff out there these days, it's practically impossible to be on top of it all. Yes, even for a card-carrying nerd such as myself, there are still some seemingly ubiquitous pieces of pop culture that manage to evade one's radar for whatever reason, be it lack of access, lack of interest, or, simply, lack of time. Here are a few examples of stuff that I have had basically zero exposure to so far:

Game of Thrones (TV show)
Gasp, I know. I've actually read the first four installments of the book series upon which this show is based, but I've not seen one iota of the show itself except in previews, commercials, and still shots. It's mostly because it's only available (I believe) via HBO and Hulu, neither of which I subscribe to (yet). I did get some amusement out of all the public outcry over something Daenerys supposedly did in the recent penultimate episode, though; in fact, all that hubbub is what inspired me to write this blog post in the first place.

The Fast and the Furious
Somehow, while I wasn't looking, this little movie from 2001 about illegal street racing has turned into one of the biggest media franchises of all time. And yet, despite there now being nine full-length feature films, two shorts, multiple video games, toys, and theme park attractions, I've only ever seen bits and pieces of it in trailers. I've heard that there's an animated spin-off in development at a streaming service I actually do subscribe to (rhymes with "Yetflix"), so who knows, maybe I'll start there.

Stranger Things
Or maybe not, because even though I do subscribe to Netflix, I've never seen this particular show, which apparently is one of the service's crown jewels and is very popular with the other guys in my band. Actually, correction - the bass player for Second Player Score did try to have me check it out a few years ago, but about ten minutes into the first episode I started to get sleepy (the Korean BBQ we ate beforehand certainly didn't help), so he changed it to Kung Fury instead. And, well, if you've been following this blog for some time, you know how that turned out.

Maybe not so surprising? I mean, I don't know, the fact that it's paranormal romance shouldn't have been a factor, as I've read and enjoyed other works in that genre before, and as far as the alleged dubious writing quality goes, I've read lots of stuff that has prose - and even basic grammar and punctuation - that could be considered below-average at best, so I don't see why that should've deterred me from giving this series a chance. Besides, I've always been a proponent of not putting much stock into a preceding reputation without checking out the subject in question for myself first.

No, I think the real issue preventing me from reading these books has been my general snobby resistance to super-popular stuff that I haven't been on board with since the very beginning - a filter that even got applied to things like Harry Potter and Legend of Zelda, if you can believe that (a friend eventually convinced me to give Harry a shot, and my daughter did the same for Zelda, so I'm very grateful to both of them for that). So, if you have some compelling reasons why I should start on the Twilight saga now, let me know!

Star Trek: The Ones That Start With "D"
i.e., Deep Space Nine and Discovery. Oh, and the Enterprise prequel. I have seen just about everything else, though.

One Piece
As you're aware, I've been watching a TON of anime lately. I've managed to get pretty deep into most of the heavy hitters (Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, etc.), but one that I have not sampled yet is One Piece, a show based on the best-selling manga of all time. Why, you ask? Again, mostly because it's only available on Hulu. Man, maybe I'm really gonna have to just give in and sign up for that darned thing already (it does have other stuff I want to check out, like the second and upcoming third seasons of The Handmaid's Tale and the umpteenth-infinity-billion seasons of Bleach and Naruto, both of which ended on Netflix after only a few seasons). Then again, there really is only so much time in the day.

So there you have it, proof that even uber-geeks can have blank spots in their punchcards that need filling in. What are some of yours?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

You've Just Been Glorified

This is an Album Three status update. But it's also so much more.

The process for Second Player Score's third album started quite some time ago, but it was first documented in this blog post from December 2016. From there, I've written numerous other posts that tracked the progress of the album as it slowly worked its way toward completion.

If you've been following along, then you already know that there's also a companion manga-style comic book, shown here:
as well as a forthcoming minute-long trailer showing what Glorified could look like as an animated show. You also know that this project shares the same continuity and universe as all my other projects, including Joel Suzuki.

What you may not know is how this all got started. Well, here's the origin story.

On our first album, Fortress Storm Attack, there's a song called "Gloria." This song is important to Second Player Score lore in that it was the first song to which we applied our now-trademark three-part vocal harmony technique. It's also mentioned in Mystery of the Moonfire, Volume Two of the Joel Suzuki series (in one scene, Felicity plays a bit of it on her wavebow).

In the past we've often been asked "just who is Gloria, anyway?" and the answers have ranged from "a girl that I used to know in college" to "just a random word that seemed to fit the vocal chorus melody." But, as it turned out, the real answer was that Gloria - last name, Sin - was a woman living in a dystopian future who had been trained to be the best soldier of her generation.

The idea for this sprung from the song's opening line, "Did you remember to die today?" We examined what that line could possibly mean, and from there, Gloria's story arose. We then set about to build an entire album on that foundation, writing lyrics that would sketch out the arc of Gloria's journey.

Then, at a certain point, we thought (because we're a bunch of overly-ambitious nerds) "hey, wouldn't it be cool if we made a comic book out of this?" So we wrote a script for the first issue based on the lyrics for the first song on the album and had the first four pages illustrated. Those pages turned out well, but at that point we realized (because we're a bunch of picky, masochistic nerds) that what we actually wanted was to have them done in the style of traditional Japanese manga. So we commissioned a different artist who not only redid the first four pages, but also completed the entire first issue as well as the album artwork, shown below:
And so now, the next step will be - you guessed it - the album release party! Here are all the details for that:

Thursday, June 20
Lola's Room at the Crystal Ballroom
1332 W. Burnside
Portland, OR
All ages
$8 pre-sale/$10 door

Special musical guests will include Matt Danger, The Doom Generation, and The Fauxriginals, and there will be a free drawing for a Second Player Score-themed guitar signed and customized by us. We'll also be bringing along our usual video game merch booth setup while premiering a video narrative that will play in the background while we perform every track, in order, off the new album. On top of that, part of the proceeds from sales of the album and comic will be donated to the Oregon chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The release party isn't the end, though. We're still writing the scripts for the rest of the issues that comprise Volume/Season One (2-4 are done, working on 5-12 now) and hope to eventually get those produced as comics as well as - fingers crossed - the aforementioned animated series.

Oh, and where did the title "Glorified" come from, you ask? Well, there's a scene in one of the later issues where, after Gloria goes all Beatrix Kiddo on some bad guys, one of the other characters, enthusiastically appreciating Gloria's handiwork, tells the fallen baddies "You've just been Glorified, b***h!"* So, yeah, there you go.

* Not really a swear word - heck, it was used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - but I do try to keep this blog as family-friendly as possible

Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Post About Pizza

Apparently pizza and pop-punk music are a thing. I did not know this. There are even articles and podcasts and reddit threads devoted to and/or named after this subject.
I was pleased to discover this connection because I and my pop-punk - or #nerdpunk, as we like to call our own particular brand of the sound - bandmates in Second Player Score are, and have always been, huge fans of pizza. Collectively, we probably eat a football field's worth of the stuff over the course of a year (exaggeration? You decide.) So I guess it makes sense.

Here are my current favorites:

Twilight Pizza
Anyone who lives in my neighborhood knows this place. Or if they don't, they should. Every other Saturday, my kids and I will order an 8" cheese with no green sprinkles (for my daughter), an 8" pepperoni (for my son), and an 8" Mount Hood (for me), which is basically a supreme-style pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and olives. We're to the point now where they have our order basically memorized, which is how you know you've achieved "regular" status. I'm not sure what makes it so good, but my daughter has said that "there's just something different about it." Indeed, my dear, indeed.

Little Caesars
My go-to place when cheap, fast, and lots are the keywords.

Flying Pie
Speaking of lots - good lord. This place, with four locations around the Portland area, piles on the toppings like there's no tomorrow. Two slices of their Combo Supreme 1 and I'm done. Carrying out from the Gresham store has become a tradition whenever I'm hanging at Dan the Bassist's house to watch movies and/or play card games. Second Player Score has even performed an acoustic set at their Milwaukie site!

As far as frozen brands go, I've been eating this particular one for years. At four bucks a pop, you can't really go wrong - although I do tend to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting for whatever reason.

Gilbert Residence
Although all of the above are great, Kyle the Drummer's wife makes THE best pizza, hands down. She makes the dough from scratch, and her Garlic Chicken Pizza is especially to die for. They used to have pizza parties at their house and Second Player Score would perform (I work for pizza, but only if it's made by Kyle's wife). The parties became less frequent as time went along, a lamentable development that inspired me to write a script for a SPS-origin-story short film that includes a scene at a Gilbert Residence Pizza Party, partially out of historical accuracy but mostly so that they would need to throw another one. My dream is to one day start up a pop-culture-themed brewpub that would serve Kyle's beers and his wife's pizza so that everyone would have a chance to experience the sheer joy that comes with consuming such delights. I'll be the guy in the corner booth, passed out.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Anime Roundup: Following The Wave Of Fate Edition

Believe it or not, it's time for another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I managed to wait a whole ten weeks since the last one. Anyway, hajimemashou!

I had noticed that there were a bunch of different shows with the "Fate" name, so I decided to jump in and check them out. The first thing I did was look up answers to the age-old question, "which series should I start with?" The majority opinion I ran into on the Internet was to start with this one, because it's sort of a prequel to the entire franchise (even though, in Star Wars-style, it actually came out later in our-world-time). Normally, I actually prefer to be introduced to characters first before seeing their backstories (e.g., Obi-Wan Kenobi) because it makes for cool nerdy moments of easter-egg recognition, but I decided not to argue with the wisdom of the Internet masses.

So anyway, I found this one to be pretty slow going at first. I mean, for the first few episodes, there are a LOT of scenes where the characters basically just stand around and talk to each other at length. On top of that, it felt like many of said characters were tall dudes with spiky hairdos whose names all started with the letter "K." At times it was hard to keep track of who was who, to be honest.

But, as I learned, you need to have patience when watching anime. Madoka Magica was also a slow burn, but then it turned into probably one of my top three all-time favorites. And so I stuck with it, and was eventually rewarded with what turned out to be a pretty cool show. The real reward, though, was that it led into...

Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works)
Now, this show was fun to me because, while the prequel series was kind of dark and grim all the way through, this one had a good dose of humor and action (and even some romance) to balance out all the serious stuff. I always say that the best stories are the ones that make you feel a whole range of emotions, and this show did a good job of that. There was even a cool twist that I didn't see coming (although I probably should have), so, well done, writers. But then why does - spoiler alert - Sakura disappear for most of the series after it had been strongly hinted that she was a Master? I know that there's another series that shows her story in a kind of parallel-timeline dealio (apparently these shows are based on a visual novel where Sakura or Rin or Saber play bigger roles depending on the player's choices), so maybe I'll have to dig that one up.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Another one where patience pays off. If you recall, I had previously lumped this one into "Category B: Tried To Get Into Them But Just Couldn't For Some Reason; Might Try Again Someday" back when I used to use such categories. But boy, am I glad I came back to it. Once you get used to the mini-episode format, it is so much fun. The humor is witty and very meta, often using Saiki's psychic powers as an in-universe explanation for typical cartoon inconsistencies like why the characters don't age even though years pass by in real (and show) time. It wrapped up pretty neatly after two seasons, so when I heard there was a third season in production, I was kind of like, "eh...I don't know..." But, well, yes. Third season, please.

Black Butler
An unconventional and slightly quirky show, it combines a pretty dark storyline with moments of traditional anime slapstick, making for an interesting (and sometimes jarring) contrast. It also does something that a lot of other anime shows do, which is to make demons and reapers and other normally "evil" beings into somewhat sympathetic characters. Somewhat. Anyway, I didn't really love it, but it did contain some of the best catch phrases I've ever heard in an anime show.

Last Hope
The art in this show was absolutely gorgeous (especially the cityscapes). And the food scenes never failed to make me hungry, even if I'd just finished eating. The pseudoscience was also very cool, dealing with alternate realities and timelines and other such geeky stuff. There were some slow stretches, but also some pretty epic moments, including the climactic battle scene.

This show is a plot tease. It makes you think it has a plot, and then it digresses into long periods of time where nothing happens except for two impossibly large and indestructible gentlemen beating the living daylights out of each other, kind of like pro wrestling without the laws of physics. I'm serious - several episodes can go by without the title character appearing even once (except in the opening and closing credits). Maybe Part 2 (which was just released on Tuesday) contains more of an actual storyline?

Rilakkuma and Kaoru
I enjoyed this one a lot. You may think, because of its cuteness and TV-PG rating, that it's aimed at kids, but it isn't, really; the overall tone is actually kind of wistful and melancholy, and it spends a lot of time simply portraying the mundane aspects of life as a single twenty-something-year-old going through a quarterlife crisis. As mundane as life can get, I suppose, when your roommates are two bears and a bird who can hold down jobs and summon UFOs. It was kind of like Aggretsuko without the sugar rush. Oh, by the way, the stop-motion animation is absolutely stunning.

Continuing with my trend of catching up with at least one classic anime movie per roundup, I managed to get a hold of this one, which I'd heard is widely considered to be the film that paved the way for anime to break ground with Western audiences. And after watching it, I can see why. It wasn't really what I expected, but it blew me away. Highly recommended, if you can find it.

Well, that's it for now. Tune in next time, when the roundup will probably include things like Ultraman and Gunslinger Girl as well as more Fate titles. Until then, mata ne!