Thursday, July 25, 2019

Spicy Asian Fusion Garlic Spam-Ghetti

In this food-related post from last month, I mentioned that I can make three large servings of pasta in only a few minutes with just a few dollars' worth of ingredients. Well, today, by popular demand*,  I will share with you my recipe for what I call Spicy Asian Fusion Garlic Spam-Ghetti.
Now, understand, this is not fine dining. This is total bachelor chow pub food. That said, it really is quite tasty, believe it or not.


- One box angel hair pasta (the store-brand kind costs about one dollar and is more than sufficient for our purposes)
- One gallon of water
- Spaghetti sauce (I use the store-brand red sauce with the mushroom and onion flavoring, but just about anything will work)
- Spam (because I'm from Hawaii, where Spam is a staple food)
- Minced garlic (I use the squeeze bottle kind)
- Tabasco
- Soy sauce
- Black pepper
- Turmeric
- Dash of salt, optional


1. Bring the gallon of water to a boil in a large pot. Add a dash of salt.
2. Boil the pasta in accordance with the directions on the box (usually 5-7 minutes, until the pasta is reasonably soft)
3. Cut four slices of Spam, dice, and fry on medium-high heat (no oil) until lightly brown.
4. Add the spam to the pasta.
5. Add the sauce (no need to preheat) to the pasta.
6. Add minced garlic, Tabasco, soy sauce, black pepper, and turmeric to taste.
7. Say "itadakimasu" (optional, but it makes the food taste better for some strange reason) and dig in.

That's it! Man, now I'm hungry...

* Actually no one demanded it

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Volume Five Status Update: Draft One Is Done

Note: this post was originally published on November 30, 2017, except then I was talking about Volume Four, so some relevant details have been changed.
Yup, you heard right. The first draft of Joel Suzuki, Volume Five is officially complete. At the moment it's clocking in at a robust 78,000+ words, which - based on past experience - should grow to be around 81,000 (i.e., about 324 pages) by the time it's finalized. Woohoo!

So right now I'm just going to let it cool off for a little while before I come back to it in a few days. After that I'll do some more revisions and cleanups, and then once I have a "Draft 1-A" prepared (probably in a couple of months or so) I'll send that off to my editor for her to savagely rip apart - um, I mean, offer some gentle feedback after lots of careful and sensitive deliberation (Hi Susan!).

Once that part of the process is complete, I'll settle into full-on rewriting mode, which should take somewhere around 6-8 months. Or maybe less. Or maybe more! Either way, the target launch date for Volume Five is early-to-mid 2020, so I'm still right on schedule.

And what, exactly, is Volume Five about, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Or not! Suffice it to say that most of the action takes place not in Spectraland, but back on good old Earth, and a lot of characters who were just bit players in previous volumes will have much larger roles this time around. To say any more would be a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read Volume Four yet, so I'll stop there.

Anyway, I'll be disclosing more details in the weeks and months to come, so keep tuning in to this space for the latest updates. And if you haven't starting reading the Joel Suzuki series yet (gasp!), you can catch up right here:

Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell
Joel Suzuki, Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire
Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone
Joel Suzuki, Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Anime Roundup: No Opening Theme?! Edition

One of my favorite things about anime shows is the theme song. Or theme songs, I should say, as there's usually an opening theme as well as an ending one. As I believe I've mentioned before, Netflix will automatically assume that I want to skip the songs, which oftentimes will make me yell "No, play the song!" at the TV, which startles my cats. I don't know why most anime theme songs are so good. Actually, I do have a theory, but it's top secret for now because I'm integrating said theory into the plot for Joel Suzuki, Volume Five (seriously, I am).

I bring this up again because it seems like a lot of the recent crop of anime shows I've been watching don't have an opening theme song. Or either that, some of the episodes do have one while others don't. Or it takes a long time to actually get to the song. What is happening here, showrunners? Don't you know that not only does an epic opening theme song make your series that much better, but that it also offers an opportunity for bands - some of whom might be signed to the same company that is producing your show - to get their music out to a larger audience? I mean, epic anime theme songs are how I discovered a lot of my current favorite J-Rock artists, especially since a few long-running shows change up their themes each season or mid-season.

Anyway, let's get on with the Roundup, shall we? (Beware, for there may be spoilers.)

Having grown up in Hawaii, I was always more a fan of Ultra Seven than of his predecessor, Ultraman. Nevertheless, I was still very interested in checking this show out. And I'm ultra-glad I did (insert well-deserved groans here). So far, through the first season the show has established itself as a darker, grimmer take on the original that explores some of the real-world ramifications of being Ultraman; not only the collateral damage aspect, but also the moral dilemma involved with killing aliens, even if they're bad guys. It balances that darker tone well with some humor and lighter moments (I loved the Rena's hat-and-glasses disguise joke), something that I really appreciate.

I also appreciated all the easter eggs that called back to some of the original tokusatsu shows, like Dan as a sort-of-Ultra Seven and Seiji as a sort-of-Ultraman Ace. Oh, and also the fact that the statue of the original Ultraman in the SSSP museum has the little eyeholes that the actor used to see through.

The CG art and animation is very video-gamey, which is not a criticism. I suspected, based on the movements of the characters, that they were using motion capture, and sure enough, when the ending credits rolled, I was able to use my rudimentary knowledge of katakana to see that there were "motion capture actors" and "motion capture animators." The show is rated TV-14, but it pushes right up to the border of that rating and sometimes, in my opinion, crosses over into TV-MA territory with its somewhat gratuitous use of blood, violence, and profanity (not a problem with me, but just in case you're thinking this might be a good show for young kids).

Note: this show has no opening theme song. Nevertheless, can't wait for season two!

Gunslinger Girl
This show was definitely not what I expected. Based on the description, I thought it was going to be some sort of Sailor Moon-meets-Hit Girl kind of deal, where an ensemble of young women with extraordinary fighting skills routinely take on and wipe out cadres of bad guys before going home and having tea and cake. And, granted, while there is a fair bit of that happening in this show, it goes a lot deeper than that, exploring - like the new Ultraman does - a lot of complex moral issues. The slow, quiet moments actually outnumber the violent ones, and (spoiler alert) there isn't really a story arc to speak of, which makes the proceedings feel very realistic - or as realistic as a show about preteen cyborg assassins can get.

Note: this show has no opening theme song.

Fate/Extra Last Encore
In the last Anime Roundup post, I said I'd probably check out more Fate titles after having watched Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works). And, well, I'm a man of my word. This show was interesting to me because it basically took a bunch of the more familiar characters from the other series and gave them entirely new personalities. There was really no continuity with the other shows aside from a few similar worldbuilding elements, and the storyline somehow managed to be very simple but also extremely complicated at the same time. But guess what? None of that means that I didn't enjoy the show - in fact, I liked it a lot. I also loved Saber's catch phrase (or catch word, I suppose): "Umu!"

Note: the first episode had no opening theme, which prompted me to say "Really? Another show like that?" Yes, I talk to my television a lot. But then, starting with the second episode, the show introduced a pretty rockin' opening song, so, whew.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Bizarre adventure, indeed! This show, while embodying all the stereotypical over-the-top attributes normally associated with anime, was so, so watchable. I guess that explains why there's an entire franchise built around it that I haven't even started to scratch the surface of yet. I love how some of the characters are named after classic Western rock bands (REO Speedwagon, AC/DC, The Cars, Dio, etc.), and the ending - which wasn't actually an ending, as there are lot more episodes that aren't available to me at the moment - was pitch-perfect.

Note: the first episode had no opening theme.

Ingress: The Animation
This was a fun show. Very Matrix-y. Each episode went by really quickly. I did not know that it was based on an actual existing augmented reality game until afterwards. The concept of "XM" (exotic matter) was very cool, as was the idea of "Sensitives" (people with XM-powered abilities). I kind of wished that Sarah had played a bigger role instead of being a standard damsel-in-distress for most of the season, but oh well. Everything kind of wrapped up neatly at the end (despite the cliffhanger) so I'm not sure where, exactly, they would go with this for a second season assuming there is one, but if there is, I'll be there.

Note: it took a while to get to the opening theme in the first episode, nearly prompting me to talk to my TV yet again, but it got there eventually.

In keeping with this recent trend of "darker and grittier" (see Ultraman, above), it seemed to me that this show sort of wants to be to the isekai (portal fantasy) and mecha (giant robot) genres what Madoka Magica is to the "magical girl" genre, with unexpected twists, realistic characters (or as realistic as these things can get), and sometimes shocking moments. Despite plot developments that left me confused at certain points (I thought Milo was going to return to 2010 much earlier than she did) and a supposed main protagonist who was thoroughly annoying and unlikable for most of the season (there were a couple of fun meta moments when the writers themselves seemed to be aware of this), I found this show to be incredibly watchable; when the end credits for each episode started to roll, I always thought "wow, that went by fast." I also liked how the season wrapped things up nicely but still left plenty of room for more. Bring it on, I say!

Note: this show had a cool opening theme song from the get-go.

In This Corner of the World
To fulfill my one-feature-length-anime-per-Roundup requirement, I chose this one, which isn't a classic (yet) along the lines of Akira or Battle Angel Alita but is nevertheless highly acclaimed, having won a boatload of awards since its release in 2016. A fictionalized account of a woman's life as she grows up in Japan pre- and during-WWII, it's slow and gentle in tone while still being unflinching in its depiction of the horrors of war. The fact that you, the viewer, knows what's coming - namely, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima - lends an undercurrent of somber uneasiness to the whole proceedings, which are otherwise basically slice-of-life vignettes that follow the main character as she grows up, gets married, and tries to live a simple and honest life. At two hours and nine minutes, it's on the long side, but very well worth it. Strongly recommended.

In the next roundup, probably: Hunter x Hunter, March Comes in Like a Lion, Fairy Tail, A Silent Voice, and more!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Spectraland Cuisine

Continuing with the "food" theme from a few weeks ago, I decided to take a closer look at what kind of meals are eaten in Spectraland. Now, for readers of the Joel Suzuki series, you've probably noticed that the foodstuffs in the "other world" are often described in a less-than-palatable-manner, but that's just because we're looking at them from Joel's point of view, and he's a somewhat picky eater. The reality is that, in most cases, they're more delicious than they would seem.
Here's a list of what's been on the table so far, and a little commentary for each:

Volume One, Secret of the Songshell

1. Plumeria Juice: the first thing that Joel was served in Spectraland, this drink is described as being of a "sickly green color" and smelling "like plumeria flowers." He didn't try it, but if he did, he would have found that it was actually quite good, as it tastes something akin to orange juice.

2. Unidentified Brown Soup: described as a "murky brown fluid," Joel didn't eat it, but if he did, he would have found that it tasted similar to miso soup, which is actually something that he likes.

3. Fuzzy Roast Beef: Joel actually did try this, and it was okay! See, Joel, you just need to be a little more adventurous.

4. Lifepods: the staple food of Spectraland, a lifepod is a small, round blue fruit that tastes like banana and watermelon, with a slight minty aftertaste. Everyone, especially Felicity, consumes a lot of it over the course of this and subsequent volumes.  I've even attempted to replicate it here on Earth, with varying degrees of success.

Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire

1. Stripeclaw Steak: this was seen being eaten by Chief Raintree in the form of a "big green bone that was shaped like the capital letter A." Made from an animal called, naturally, a stripeclaw, it looks odd but tastes like a cross between beef and pork.

2. Spiral Landing Stew: described as a "black liquid that smelled like old milk" that contained "various pieces of unidentifiable solids (that) bobbled up and down in it like little buoys," this dish is actually...well, yeah, all right, this one is an acquired taste, even for Spectraland natives.

3. Burnt Leg of Bullrat in Sunseed Sauce: this wasn't actually seen or eaten in the story, but the recipe for it was mentioned by Chief Sandthroat. Basically, it tastes like sesame chicken.

Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone

1. Cloudrunner Six with Extra Crystal: a jet-black alcoholic beverage in the Mono Realm/Six States Beneath the Shroud, which is where most of the action in Volume Three takes place (rather than in Spectraland). Joel, being underage, doesn't try it.

2. Thin Wafers: crispy and tasting like a sugar cookie, this is one of the few things in the other world that Joel actually eats and enjoys.

Volume Four: Fable of the Fatewave

1. Lifepod Cake: invented by Felicity, this is made from lifepods (see above) and flour created by grinding up the cattails from the Groaning Geyser.

2. Rat Skewers: okay, I admit, these don't sound very appetizing ("small rat-like animals that had been burnt, skewered, and drizzled in a thin red sauce that may or may not have been blood"), but they're really not all that bad...if your name is Andrew Zimmern or Bear Grylls. Just kidding. Mostly.

3. Lifepod Wine: another lifepod-based creation, this is an alcoholic drink that was actually replicated here on Earth for the Volume One relaunch party back in 2013.

And there you have it! So, if you're ever lucky enough to find yourself in Spectraland or the surrounding areas during your lifetime, don't let Joel and Felicity's experiences deter you from trying the food. You might just discover a new and surprisingly tasty culinary experience.