Thursday, December 30, 2021

New Year's Resolutions By People From The Joel Suzuki Universe

Happy New Year, everyone! What are some of your resolutions?
Joel: To spend more time outdoors.
Felicity: You already spend a lot of time outdoors in Spectraland.
Joel: I know. I mean when I'm at home on Earth.
Felicity: Whatever.
Joel: What are your resolutions?
Felicity: To drink less diet soda. That stuff will kill you.
Taylor: To play less video games and read more books.
Alison: To be more patient with people.
Art: That's a good one.
Alison: Well, it was your suggestion.
Art: I'll try to stop giving so much unsolicited advice.
Alison: That's your resolution?
Art: Yup.
Alison: Ha. Good luck with that.
Fireflower: "New Year's resolution?" What is that?
Felicity: It's when you say you're going to do something but then after a couple of weeks you end up not doing it any more.
Fireflower: I see. What a curious custom. In that case, I resolve to stop playing pranks on others.
Felicity: Nice one.
Lydia: I'll be 100% positive and hopeful during baseball season, no matter what happens.
April: Wow, seriously?
Lydia: Seriously. Also, you heard what Felicity said, right?
April: Oh. Right.
Lydia: What about you, Brian?
Brian: Hmm, let's see... I resolve to work hard every day on revisions and rewrites for Volume Six of the Joel Suzuki series in the hopes of publishing it before the end of the year.
April: What is the "Joel Suzuki series"?
Lydia: Sounds like a book series that has something to do with your cousin, obviously.
Joel: Who, me?
Felicity: Do you see any other April's cousins around here?
Alison: You're writing a book series about my son?
Brian: Okay, gotta run. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Happy Holidays!

From all of here at the Brian Tashima Blog and the Joel Suzuki Series, we hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season.
Felicity: Dude.
Joel: Me?
Felicity: Yes, you. Do you see any other dudes around here?
Joel: I thought Brian was here.
Felicity: Nah, he's mailing it in. The intro to this post is just a copy-and-paste from last year's.
Joel: Oh yeah, you're right.
Felicity: Anyway, I was gonna say - he's making us wear these badly-drawn Santa hats again.
Joel: I know.
Felicity: Isn't that irritating to you?
Joel: I guess.
Felicity: Well, it's irritating to me.
Joel: Okay.
Felicity: So, I say this year, we get back at him.
Joel: How are we going to do that?
Felicity: Let's put cat litter in his chili.
Joel: That seems pretty mean.
Felicity: You think so?
Joel: I do.
Felicity: Okay, well, do you have any ideas?
Joel: Hmm...
Felicity: Oh, I know, how about we hide the TV remote.
Joel: But then we can't watch TV, either.
Felicity: Yeah, you're right.
Joel: We should probably do something that is equally annoying to him making us wear these hats. That way, it'll be, you know, equal.
Felicity: True.
Felicity (snaps fingers): I got it. Duh, it was so obvious.
Joel: What was?
Felicity: This.
Joel: Good one.
Felicity: I know.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Anime Roundup

Time for another edition of Anime Roundup!

Tokyo Revengers
When a 26-year-old video store clerk learns that his ex-girlfriend and her brother have been killed by gang violence, he travels back in time to when he was a middle school delinquent-wannabe in an effort to change history. It's kind of like Erased crossed with, I dunno, West Side Story? Sons of Anarchy? I don't actually watch gang-related stuff, normally, but this show had a lot of hype and ended up being a pretty fun (and violent) ride. Question: just how many crowbar hits to the head can a teenage gang member take without going down? Answer: Many, apparently.

Cowboy Bebop
A classic show from 1998 about a group of bounty hunters in the year 2071 who bounce around the solar system trying (and usually failing) to scratch out a living while occasionally facing people and events from their traumatic pasts, I can see why it's considered to be one of the most groundbreaking and influential anime series of all time. I also sampled the live-action version, which I found to be a pretty cool reimagining/remix of the original. I know some people might disagree with me on this, but I think it's too bad that it's been cancelled (the live-action version, that is).

Komi Can't Communicate
A slice-of-life comedy about a high school girl who suffers from extreme social anxiety, this is a fun show that manages to deftly handle a variety of potentially sensitive subject matter while still being entertaining. In a departure from their usual modus operandi, Netflix is only releasing one episode a week, so as of this writing I'm not done with the first season yet, but rest assured that I will watch it to the end. Do Komi and Tadano eventually get together? We shall see! (manga readers, don't tell me.) Also, Najimi is just the best.

Crunchyroll has a category of shows called "anime about anime." After watching Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, how could I resist? Anime-Gataris is a kawaii (cute) show that starts off like a light and fluffy slice-of-life comedy about a group of teenagers who form an anime club at their high school, but then eventually grows into - spoiler alert - something much more meta as it goes along, eventually culminating in one of the wildest finales I've ever seen for something of this genre (and, as a fan of meta-ness, I loved every moment of it).

Princess Mononoke
Since the time I really started getting into anime (back in May of 2018, to be precise), I've watched over a hundred shows (at least the first season) or movies. No, seriously, I have. But I don't think you can consider yourself a "true" anime fan unless you've seen the Studio Ghibli catalog. So, to that end, once I got HBO Max I started with Spirited Away, and the moved on to this 1997 classic. The basic summary is that it's a story of the struggle between humans and nature involving mostly a young prince and a girl raised by wolves, but there's so much more to it than that. You really have to watch it to get a complete understanding. Just know that you're not going to get a simple good-versus-evil kind of tale, and that at times it will be hard to know exactly who to root for. It's complex, groundbreaking, mature, and totally deserving of all the accolades.

Android Kikaider: The Animation
Not sure how I missed this one? A 2000-2001 anime adaptation of the live-action tokusatsu show from the '70s, it's a much darker interpretation of the story that also takes care to patch a lot of plot holes and inconsistencies from the original (like why Jiro would often abandon Mitsuko and Masaru at the end of episodes). I have to admit, when I first started watching it, I didn't care for it - I think my exact words were something like "this makes more logical sense than the live-action version, but it completely drains it of the fun and the charm. It's just all sadness, all the time." But as it progressed and my mind stopped subconsciously comparing it to the original, I got used to the tone and by episode 7 or so (out of 13), I was completely enthralled. I especially appreciate how it tried to be its own thing (and succeeded) while still paying homage to its source material. Also, the classic anime art style is pretty nifty. Do people still say nifty? I just did.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Volume Seven (?!) Status Update

While Volume Six is with my esteemed editor this month, I have started working on (gasp) Volume Seven.
Can you believe we've gotten to this point already? I mean, I know I've been doing this whole Spectraland Saga/Joel Suzuki/blogging thing for nearly a decade now, but...c'mon. It feels like just yesterday that I was struggling with Mystery of the Moonfire/Volume Two (actually, it's been eight years).

In case you're new here, Volume Seven will be the final entry in the main story arc of the Joel Suzuki series. There are plans for four additional volumes, but they will be "post-stories" that deal with events that happen after the primary adventure is complete (there will still be stakes and conflicts, possibly even very large ones, but that's a subject for another day).

I'll save details about Volume Seven for future status update posts, but for now, suffice it to say that I am up to 1500 words, or about six pages. Yes, I know, not much, but everything has to start somewhere. My hope is to finish at least the first chapter or two before the end of the month when the Volume Six draft comes back from my editor and I start the revising/rewriting process in earnest, but seeing as it's the holiday season, who knows if I'll actually get there. At the very least, I'll have a little bit of something to read several months(?) from now (when Volume Six goes back to my editor for a line edit), after which I will either say "well, that's off to a pretty good start" or "what the heck was I thinking?"

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Boots Does Not Care That You Are Trying To Watch Avengers: Endgame On Cable TV

Me: Excuse me, sir.
Boots: Wot
Me: Move, please.
Boots: No
Me: Aw, c'mon.
Boots: Why are you even watching this, anyway?
Me: What do you mean
Boots: I mean, you've seen this movie a million times already.
Me: I know, but -
Boots: While you're watching this, there are tons of other shows and movies you haven't seen, yet claim to want to. I mean, have you checked your streaming queues lately?
Me: Right, I get your point, but sometimes I just want to veg out with something familiar.
Boots: If that's the case, then why are you watching this on cable?
Me: Um...
Boots: You do know you have Disney+, right?
Me: Yeah.
Boots: Then why aren't you watching this on that? It's commercial-free and you're already paying for the service.
Me: This is just easier since it's already on.
Boots: It takes literally four clicks of a remote to pull it up on your Fire stick.
Me: True, but there's just something communal about watching it on live cable TV. It's like, you're subconsciously aware that there are other people watching this at the same time you are.
Boots: Humans are so weird.
Me: We are. So could you scoot over, just a little?
Boots: Nah


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Random Thanksgiving Thoughts

The tryptophan in turkey does not make you sleepy. The overeating does. And, depending on your beverage of choice, the overdrinking. And also quite possibly having to watch the Detroit Lions play football (hey, the Seahawks are 3-7, so my favorite team's not doing so hot, either).
Speaking of football, which would you rather have as an official national holiday: the day after the Super Bowl, or the day after Thanksgiving? My answer: how about both? And get rid of Daylight Saving Time while you're at it, please.

On the subject of giving thanks: thank you to Dan, the bass player in my band Second Player Score, for turning me on to this hilarious song & video by the popular Malaysian recording artist Namewee. It's been stuck in my head on a continuous loop for days, and during the rare times that it hasn't, I've consciously reminded myself about it due to its effect as a natural antidepressant (your results may vary; do not take medical advice from a writer/musician).

The word "bakayarou" (Japanese for, let's call it, "big idiot"), as heard at the end of the aforementioned song/video and in a good amount of anime shows is, besides being very rude (WARNING: DO NOT SAY THIS WORD IN JAPAN!) is also probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest, Japanese words to pronounce. It's spelled "ba-ka-ya-ro-u" but is pronounced something more like "ba-ka-yaero" with a sort of weird combination "ah-eh" sound. What this has to do with Thanksgiving, I have no idea (Brian, you bakayarou).

Speaking of Japan, turkeys are not really a thing there, at least from what I've heard (despite my seeming expertise, all my knowledge about Japan actually comes secondhand from books, anime, and the Internet). Something about there not being enough space to raise turkeys, or whatever. But Kentucky Fried Chicken at Christmas is a big deal.

For some reason, I seem to have a thing about writing scenes that take place on Thanksgiving. Like in Volumes Four and Five of the Joel Suzuki series. Or in the unproduced screenplay currently known as Jinx, featuring Joel's cousin April Hayashi. Here's an actual excerpt from the script:

    Ralph goes back to eating. J.J. leans over to April.

    J.J.: Sorry about that. I don't know why Thanksgiving family drama always has to be a thing.
    April (chuckles): No worries. If you think this is bad, wait until you meet my family.

This raises all kinds of questions for me. Like, since April's family is basically Joel's uncle, aunt, and grandparents, would whatever drama that occurred have been confined to them, or would it have included Joel and his immediate family? And if so, would this have been before or after Joel's parents got divorced? What kind of drama took place? And could said drama be the reason why Joel and his family are eating Thanksgiving dinner by themselves during the events of Volumes Four and Five, even though they live in the same city (Seattle) as April and her parents? I'm really curious to know the answers...oh, wait, I guess I would need to write them, wouldn't I? Maybe I should work on that while Volume Six is with my editor next month...

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Portland Holiday Market

Do you live in the Portland/Vancouver area* and are looking for something fun to do this weekend that doesn't involve staring at your computer screen? Then consider checking out the new Portland Holiday Market at the Portland Expo Center! It's going on from Thursday (today) through Sunday, 10am to 6pm each day. It'll be a great place to do your holiday shopping, especially if you are interested in BOOKS.
I say that because one of the exhibitors is none other than the illustrious Northwest Independent Writers Association, who will be there with all kinds of great books for all kinds of great people, including the Joel Suzuki series (I won't be there, but my books will, pre-signed). Of course, there will be lots of other cool stuff there as well (including Santa), so definitely check it out! You can find more information on the event here.

* or elsewhere and have access to a mode of long-distance transport, like a car, an airplane, or a TARDIS

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Dates For December

No, not dates as in "meet-me-for-drinks" or "dinner-and-a-movie,"* but actual, literal calendar dates when cool stuff is happening next month:
November 24: Hawkeye on Disney+ (okay, it's not starting in December, but close enough)
December 3: Release date for the first single from Second Player Score's upcoming EP, Four-D: The Autumn Suite
December 16: Aggretsuko season 4 on Netflix
December 17: Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters AND the release date for the second single from Four-D: The Autumn Suite
December 22: The Matrix Resurrections in theaters and on HBO Max
December 29: The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+
December 31: Due date for the initial manuscript edit/evaluation for Joel Suzuki, Volume Six
December 5, 12, 19, 26: boot camp pre-production sessions for a special Second Player Score project (details forthcoming)
January 1: Doctor Who special (okay, not technically December, but close enough)

Fun and exciting times!

* Felicity says: "are those really the best date ideas you can come up with? No wonder you're still single."

Thursday, November 4, 2021

April and Lydia Recap the 2021 MLB Season

Hey there, baseball fans! Yes, now that the World Series is over, it's time to do our traditional recap of the season with our in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans, April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez.
Brian: Welcome.
Lydia: Or, you mean, youkoso. That's Japanese for "welcome," right?
Brian: It is.
Lydia: See, April? I've been studying.
April: Good for you.
Lydia: Did you know what that word meant?
April: I did not, actually.
Lydia: What? What kind of Japanese person are you?
April: The American kind?
Brian: Okay, let's get to baseball, please. What did you think about the World Series?
Lydia: At least the Astros didn't win.
April: Kind of interesting that an 88-win team took it.
Brian: Gives you hope for the Mariners.
April: Exactly.
Brian: Speaking of the Mariners, let's move on to them, since there's a lot of ground to cover.
Lydia: For sure. Fun differential, baby!
April: Your new favorite expression.
Lydia: That's right.
Brian: The end of the season was pretty fun, actually. Winning 90 games and almost making the playoffs was a pleasant surprise.
April: For a while there, I thought they were going to make Lydia's preseason prediction of 92-70 come true.
Lydia: But then the Angels had to go and mess it all up.
Brian: What do you think should be the team's priorities for the offseason?
Lydia: You go first, Grape Ape.
April: Well, I know lots of people are saying that the Mariners should open their wallets and spend big on free agents. Personally, though, I'm kind of wary of that.
Brian: How come?
April: A number of different reasons. For one, getting locked into an expensive, long-term contract can really hamstring your flexibility down the line. Two, you really have to be sure of the reasons that a free agent's current team isn't trying harder to retain them. Is it a budget issue? Are they rebuilding? Do they have a young player at the same position they want to see play? Or is it that maybe they just don't value the free agent player enough? And three, you also have to be sure of the player's character - like, once they cash in, so to speak, will they lose some of their motivation? I just think you have to be really careful with free agency, overall.
Brian: I guess a lot of it depends on how much you trust the judgment of the front office.
April: Yeah. I do like their philosophy of trading for well-regarded prospects who are blocked with their current teams. I think that's the new Moneyball. So, I prefer that route.
Brian: What about you, Lydia?
Lydia: I want them to sign Kris Bryant, Marcus Semien, and Max Scherzer! Oh, and that Suzuki guy, too. Not your cousin, April, the outfielder from Japan.
April (laughs): I know who you're talking about. Are you serious? You want them to go all in like that?
Lydia: Heck yeah. Live for today! Besides, I think the fan base would riot if they didn't sign at least one of those guys.
Brian: Maybe the amount of options in the market will help keep the prices reasonable.
April & Lydia: I doubt it.
Lydia: Jinx!
Brian: Yeah, you're probably right.
Lydia: Besides, honestly, I think they really have to go for it over the next year or so. I mean, you can always trade those guys later if it doesn't work out. Or, if you get stuck with an albatross contract, at least you know you gave it your best shot.
April: True.
Brian: Okay, how about we wrap up with predictions for the regular season awards. Go.
April: You first this time, Lyd.
Lydia: American League MVP, Vlad Jr.
April: Not Ohtani?
Lydia: I still have a grudge against that dude for signing with the Angels.
April (laughs): Okay.
Lydia: Cy Young, Gerrit Cole. Rookie of the Year, Not Jarred Kelenic, obviously. I'll go with Wander Franco. And Manager of the Year, our own Scott Servais.
Brian: Those are some good choices. What about the National League?
Lydia: I don't care about those guys.
Brian: Very well. April?
April: AL: Ohtani, Robbie Ray, Arozarena, and Servais. NL: Soto, Wheeler, Jonathan India, and Kapler.
Brian: All right, well, we'll see what happens on November 18th. Thanks for being here today.
April: You're welcome.
Lydia: You mean, dou itashimashite.
April: Wow, you really have been studying.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Anime Roundup

That's right, it's time for another edition of Anime Roundup!

Fire Force
Kind of like Avatar/Legend of Korra, except everyone is a firebender? Sort of? Actually, not really, but there is a lot of fire being thrown around. Basically, (cue movie announcer voice) in a world where a special fire brigade called the Fire Force is fighting and investigating cases of spontaneous human combustion, one boy with special pyrokinetic powers (that are more special than other people's "regular" pyrokinetic powers) and who flashes a creepy smile whenever he's nervous joins the Fire Force in order to become a hero while discovering who was behind the murder of his mother (who was, naturally, killed in a fire). Fun fact: the manga upon which it's based is made by the same guy who made Soul Eater!

Fena: Pirate Princess
As you may know, I watch a lot of stuff on both Crunchyroll and Adult Swim (Rick and Morty, etc.), so this show being an original joint production of the two, I had been getting routinely bombarded with ads and promos for it. It looked like an interesting story with some fantastic art, so I decided to give it a shot. And was not disappointed! A historical fantasy about an orphan girl rescued from an arranged marriage and swept up into a quest to find the meaning behind her late father's last words, it's a new show that is made in Japan (by Production I.G) but comes out in the U.S. first, which is an interesting twist.

Star Wars: Visions
Star Wars and anime together? Yes, please! This is an anthology of original anime shorts set in the Star Wars galaxy that were created by some of Japan's finest animation studios, including the aforementioned Production I.G. Totally awesome and mind-blowing, although my only gripe is that I couldn't figure out how to change the Disney+ settings to Japanese with English subtitles, which a few reviewers of this series recommended doing (and is how I watch all my anime). Editor's note: I have since figured out how to change it and am considering doing a full rewatch

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
With a title like Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, I was expecting a lighthearted romantic comedy romp along the lines of Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro! or maybe even Toradora! What I got instead was a wistful, melancholy drama with some really cool supernatural elements (time loops, body swaps, doppelgangers, etc.) that reminded me more of something like Clannad. Once I got used to the tone (and got past the third episode, which seemed like it was the natural ending for the story but totally was not), I really got into it, especially as it started landing one surprisingly deep and emotional moment after another.

Love is Like a Cocktail
A series of short episodes about a hard-working office woman and her stay-at-home husband who dutifully mixes her favorite drinks for her at the end of a long day, I liked this one so much (being a fan of light and fluffy slice-of-life rom-coms) that I wanted each episode to be thirty minutes instead of three. Bonus points for the actual cocktail recipes at the end of most episodes.

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Two high school girls discover that they not only have a mutual passion for anime but that they are also super-talented artists - one is great at character design, the other at backgrounds. Meanwhile, a third girl (the best friend of one of the two) is not an artist but has expert-level business acumen. So, what happens? Naturally, they form an anime club - which is technically called the "film club" because their school already has an anime club - and set about to create the ultimate anime. This show, which started off good and got better and better as it went along, is a must-watch for anyone who is interested in going into the anime industry and/or just wants to know some of the things that might be going on behind the scenes of their favorite shows (sleepless nights, creative differences, budget issues, etc.)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Special International Livestream Podcast

If you've been following this blog, then you know that one of the many things I do with my band besides playing music is a more-or-less weekly podcast called Second Player Speaks, which I previously wrote about in this post.

Normally, we record each episode on Sunday before band practice, and then publish them on Tuesday. But this week, for the first time, we're doing something new: a livestreamed episode!
For this occasion, we'll be welcoming a special guest: a YouTube personality named Gabriela, whose channel is called "Amateur Youtuber - A bit of everything." She's based in Italy(!) and does reaction videos mostly to various anime shows, although she also has videos about food, exercise, and even computers (a bit of everything, for sure).

How can you watch it live? Well, it'll be broadcast on Second Player Score's YouTube page (here's the direct link to the stream) starting at 10pm Pacific Time on Saturday 10/23, which is 7am Sunday 10/24 Italy time and 2pm Sunday 10/24 Japan time (Gabriela has a lot of fans in Japan). We'll be talking for an hour or so about anime and whatever other subjects come up while drinking Italian beer, so it's sure to be a lot of fun! Check it out if you can, and also be sure to check out Gabriela's channel (yes, she has reaction videos to Squid Game).

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: The First (Real) Draft Is Complete!

Last time on Volume Six Status Update (which was over FOUR MONTHS AGO, whaaat?) I said that I had reached the 62,000-word mark but then I realized that I was spinning my wheels and was quite possibly building on a flawed foundation so I went back and started again from scratch and got it back up to 28,000 words.

Well now, I'm done.
As in, I've finished the story according to how I originally mapped it out, resulting in a draft that is 90,000 words (approximately 360 pages) long. I know there are still some things that need to be cleaned up, and I'm sure the third act is a bit of a mess, but otherwise, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. A few weeks ago, I adopted a daily mantra of "it's only the first draft, just write anything," which really helped me get it to the finish line (you would think that, six books into this whole deal, I would've adopted that mantra a lot sooner, but, well, to paraphrase the Doctor, forgetting is a human superpower).

So now, as per the usual process, I'm letting the draft cool off for a little while before I go back and submerge myself in the revision and rewriting process. My guess is that I'll have something ready to send to my editor early next year, which would keep me on track for a late 2022 or early 2023 release, right in line with the overall schedule for the series (i.e. a new volume every other year or so). Editor's note: the draft will be sent for editing in December!

I can say that this volume is probably the most ambitious so far, not only because of its length (which, if it holds, will make it the longest Joel Suzuki book to date) but also because it has so much stuff going on and, as the penultimate entry in the main 7-book story arc, really raises the level of stakes, action, and character development (do Joel and Felicity finally kiss?* You'll just have to wait to find out).

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates!

* Felicity: do we what, now?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Words & Pictures Festival 2021

This year's Words & Pictures Festival (the 5th annual) will once again be virtual! It worked out really well last year, so I'm confident it will be just as good this time around.
What's changing this year is that it will be two days instead of one, so twice the fun! It's this Saturday, October 9th from 10am-5pm and Sunday, October 10th from 10am-3:15pm. I'll be kicking off the Saturday festivities with an author reading at 10am, followed by Karen Eisenbrey and Kristin Burchell and then a Q&A until 11am. On Sunday, I'll be in a panel called "Marketing & Social Media for Authors, Part 2" along with Heidi Mason and Gretchen McLellan from 11:15am-12:15pm. Of course, there are lots of other great workshops, readings, and events happening for aspiring writers, children, and families, so it's totally worth checking out all day long on both days. And best of all, it's free!

You can see the entire program, bios of all the participating writers and illustrators, and the registration link here. Hope to see your smiling faces (and, perhaps, cats?) on Zoom!

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Joel and Felicity Try Virtual Reality


A young man is here, sitting on the couch and watching a baseball game. This is JOEL. After a few moments, a young woman enters, carrying a box. This is FELICITY.

F: Dude, check it out.
J: What?

Felicity opens the box.

F: I got an Oculus Quest 2.
J: Oh, nice. Did you buy it?
F: No, I stole it.
J: You did?
F: Kidding. Of course, I bought it.
J: How?
F: I still have Brian's credit card.
J: Oh.
F: Anyway, c'mon, we should try it out.

MONTAGE: Felicity and Joel setting up the Oculus Quest 2. After they're done -

F: Okay, you can go first.
J: Really?
F: Yes, really.
J: Thanks.

Joel puts the headset on and picks up the controllers. A couple of minutes go by, during which he looks around and moves the controllers, but doesn't say anything. Finally - 

F: Well?
J: Well, what?
F: How is it?
J: It's...okay, I guess.
F: Just okay?
J: To be honest, it's a little boring.
F: Are you trying to be sarcastic?
J: No, I'm not. It's just that...well, I think for an average person who hasn't tried virtual reality before, it would be awesome. But I've traveled through time and dimensions and alternate realities and all of that, so this is actually sort of...what's the word? Anticlimactic.
F: Okay, let me try.

Joel takes off the headset and gives it and the controllers to Felicity. She tries them out for a while.

F: Hmm, you know what? You're right.
J: I know.
F: Heh. I mean, yeah, I'm sure this is pretty cool for regular folks, but for us, it's like, we've already experienced stuff like this and more in our real lives.
J: Yeah.
F: Unless...what if our real lives are a simulation?
J: Huh?
F: You know, like in The Matrix. Or that South Park episode from 2014 where the kids were lost in virtual realities.
J: 2014? Isn't it 2013 right now?
F: Dude, it's 2021.
J: It is?
F: That's what I just said. Or maybe it isn't. I dunno, it's hard to tell sometimes. Because, you know, time travel.
J: You might be right, though. It's possible that our lives are just a creation of some other power that dictates our actions and controls our destinies.
F: Right? I get that feeling sometimes, too.
J: In which case, we would be living in a super-advanced version of virtual reality.
F: Like an Oculus Quest 2000.
J: Or 20,000.
F: Or 2 million.

Joel and Felicity trade awkward glances. Then-

J&F, together: NAH

They laugh.

F: Let's download Beat Saber.
J: Okay.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Give More 24!

Today is Give More 24! What is that, you ask? Why, it's 24 hours in which you can make a positive difference in the world by donating to any one of the awesome nonprofit organizations based in the Southwest Washington area. "Sounds great," you say, "but which organization should I donate to?" Well, each organization is definitely worthy of your support, but allow me to make a suggestion: Autism Empowerment.
Why, you ask? Well, because not only are we dedicated to improving the quality of life for people and families in the autism community both locally and worldwide via our various programs, support groups, events, resources, and more, but also because we promote a global culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

If that sounds good to you, then simply go this link and make a donation. Even just the minimum of $10 will be greatly appreciated. All donations are 100% tax-deductible, and best of all, giving feels good! I know this first-hand, because not only will I be donating today, but I also donate to Autism Empowerment (on an ongoing basis) one dollar for every Joel Suzuki book that is sold.

Thank you! Mahalo! Arigatou Gozaimasu! Gracias!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Post That Is Sort Of About Football: 2021 Edition

I know I'm a little late with this, seeing as how the season has already started, but, hey, whatever, right? Initial thoughts and way-too-early snap judgments: (1) I don't care for the 17-game schedule, purely for purist, change-resistant reasons (as they say in Doctor Who, "You've redecorated. I don't like it"), (2) the NFC West looks like a division of juggernauts, amirite? and (3) the quarterback carousel that's going on this year is making my head spin (see multiple notes below). Anyway...

Arizona Cardinals: JUGGERNAUT

Atlanta Falcons: seem to still be suffering from the acute case of Brady-itis that they contracted back in 2017.

Baltimore Ravens: "Raven" seems to be a popular name for fictional characters (Teen Titans, X-Men, That's So Raven, etc.). Kind of like "Finn" (Star Wars, Adventure Time, etc.). And "fins" is a nickname for the Miami Dolphins (see below). Where am I going with this? I have no idea.

Buffalo Bills: I sort-of-predicted that they would be division champs last year, and well, whaddya know? Although this season has sort of started with a thud.

Carolina Panthers: are now starting Sam Darnold at quarterback? I was like, wait, what? When did that happen?

Chicago Bears: are now starting Andy Dalton at quarterback? I was like, wait, what? When did that happen? (although they're probably going to be starting Justin Fields on Sunday)

Cincinnati Bengals: are now starting Joe Burrow - oh, right, he was there last year, he just got hurt. I'm sure they're glad he's back.

Cleveland Browns: could maybe, finally, be starting to turn the corner?

Dallas Cowboys: back in 2016 I described this team (who I used to follow when I lived in Hawaii due mostly to a lack of options) as like "an ex, where you just peripherally take notice of stuff they're up to but you try not to get too involved." I did, however, watch their season opener against Tampa Bay and was actually sort of rooting for them. Oh well.

Denver Broncos: are now starting Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback? I was like, wait, what? When did that happen?

Detroit Lions: are now starting Jared Goff at quarterback? I was like...oh, actually, I knew about that one.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers' singer-songwriter State Farm commercial is pretty funny.

Houston Texans: are now starting Tyrod Taylor at quarterback? And supposedly turned down three first-round draft picks for Deshaun Watson? And still won their first game?

Indianapolis Colts: are now starting Carson Wentz at quarterback? Good game on Sunday, by the way (not being sarcastic. Seriously).

Jacksonville Jaguars: are now starting Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, but I knew that because I'm a semi-football nerd who watches the annual draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: I always find it funny when I watch game highlights and they're all like "Patrick Mahomes this, Patrick Mahomes that" but then you find out that the Chiefs only won by several points after finally taking the lead late in the fourth quarter. You would've thought that they had won by ten touchdowns or something. But, well, as a Seahawks fan, I can relate.

Las Vegas Raiders: once in a while I find myself wondering, "why doesn't Las Vegas have a MLB and/or NBA team?" Don't ask me why I wonder stuff like that.

Los Angeles Chargers: I'm still not used to them not being in San Diego.

Los Angeles Rams: are now starting Matthew Stafford at JUGGERNAUT

Miami Dolphins: Are also known as the "fish." Dolphins aren't fish. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that.

Minnesota Vikings: According to Wikipedia, "Vikings is the modern name given to seafaring people primarily from Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), who from the late 8th to the late 11th centuries raided, pirated, traded and settled throughout parts of Europe." It's also the name of a historical drama TV series for the History channel.

New England Patriots: last year, I said "the first real test to see if the Patriots are Belichick or Brady." I guess I have my answer.

New Orleans Saints: are now starting Jameis Winston at quarterback? Seriously? I guess it seems to be working out so far.

New York Giants: They Might Be Giants were not kidding - old New York really was once New Amsterdam.

New York Jets: are now starting Zach Wilson at quarterback, but I knew that because I'm a semi-football nerd who watches the annual draft.

Philadelphia Eagles: there's a restaurant near my house called Philly Bilmos that has awesome cheesesteak sandwiches. I haven't been there in a while. I need to go again.

Pittsburgh Steelers: are still starting Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, who is actually somehow younger than Tom Brady.

San Francisco 49ers: JUGGERNAUT

Seattle Seahawks: on the first offensive drive of the game against the Colts, I was like, "this new offense seems a lot like the old offense: run, run, Russell Wilson runs for his life when the pocket collapses and somehow gains a first down, run, run, Russell Wilson chucks it into the end zone and somehow Tyler Lockett comes down with it, touchdown." But I guess more educated football minds than me saw that the run schemes were different (could've fooled me) and as the game went on, there really was more tempo and quick-pass shenanigans. Either way, I liked the end result, which was a strangely low-stress affair. I just hope they can keep this up. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: last year, I said "the first real test to see if the Patriots are Belichick or Brady." I guess I have my answer. Sure wish that dude would retire and give someone else a chance.

Tennessee Titans: they play the Seahawks this coming Sunday, so I will keep my mouth shut.

Washington Football Team: weren't they supposed to have a new name by now?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Glorified Issue #4 Is Here!

That's right, the fourth installment of Glorified, the manga/comic book series by Second Player Score, is now available!
Print copies are being sent out to select Kickstarter backers soon. Also, the issue is for sale in both print and digital formats at IndyPlanet. Additionally, you can read it (with subscription access) at GlobalComix.

As a reminder, we are donating 50% of the profits from the sale of any issue of Glorified in any format to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. You can find the first three issues at the links below:


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Anime Roundup

Hey, I'm back with another edition of Anime Roundup! I know, it's been a while, right? Usually I've been doing these every five or six weeks or so, but this time the last one was over three months ago. The main reason for the gap was My Hero Academia, which, after I talked about it the last time, quickly because my new all-time #1 favorite show (sorry, Food Wars) and was basically all I was watching for a while. But once I got caught up (it's still ongoing in Japan, and new episodes only come out once a week) I was able to turn my attention to other stuff, like:

Black Clover
Crunchyroll kept feeding me ads for this one, and I'd heard a lot about it, so I finally decided to give it a shot. And I'm glad I did! I love the premise, which is: in a world where basically everyone has magic, one boy without magic is still determined to become the Wizard King so he can help save the world from demons (and also marry his childhood crush). It's kind of like Piers Anthony's A Spell for Chameleon meets Naruto. I also love the main character's indefatigable spirit and inspiring catchphrase ("Not giving up is my magic!"). It's nice when you discover an anime that you enjoy that is new to you but has a billion episodes already out (actually 170, but close enough) because you know that you'll have something to watch for a long time.

Jujutsu Kaisen
I'd heard that this one was considered the next big thing in manga/anime, being fairly new (the manga started in 2018, the anime in 2020), so I also put it on my post-My Hero Academia list. A fun and watchable mix of a lot of different influences, it's basically about a teenage boy who inadvertently becomes the host of a powerful Curse (like an evil spirit) and then joins a school for something called Jujutsu Sorcerers whose job it is to fight said Curses. You can tell that it sort of follows a Naruto-like template, but it puts its own original spin on it, and the juxtaposition of standard anime-style humor and grotesque horror imagery makes for an interesting contrast.

Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro!
A light and airy rom-com about a high school girl who, um, flirts? I guess you could call it? with a shy and quiet otaku (nerdy) upperclassman, this one is, yes, a little racy and un-PC and definitely not for younger or sensitive audiences, but it never really crosses the line and eventually (spoiler alert? sort of?) showcases a wholesome and touching side with themes about love, friendship, and confidence.

Spirited Away
If you're an anime fan, you've probably heard of this Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki classic. On the surface, it's a seemingly simple Alice-In-Wonderland-like tale about a young girl who stumbles into a spirit world and has to find her way out, but there's actually a lot more to it than that, with underlying themes that deal with spiritualism, consumerism, environmentalism, and more. It's deservedly won a boatload of awards (including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature) and was the highest-grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years until it was finally surpassed in 2020 by the Demon Slayer movie that I mentioned in a previous roundup post.

Okay, so "nya" is the Japanese equivalent of "meow." Therefore, "Bananya" is a cute and silly show made up of short (two-to-three minute) episodes that feature cat-banana hybrid creatures living in regular households, sometimes alongside regular cats (how that works, I have no idea). Season one showed them in everyday situations (or, as everyday as life can be for cat-banana hybrid creatures), while season two was a little more origin-story-ish and explained where they came from (another planet, sort of) and had magic and science fiction-y elements and other stuff. Lots of lovable fun for those times when you don't want to think too hard. Also, after every episode when the credits started rolling, I was like, "that was SO Japanese."

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Tanjoubi Omedetou, Neko (Happy Birthday, Cats)!

This week, Boots and Mittens are somehow, unbelievably, SEVEN YEARS OLD. Time flies when you're having fun (and waking up humans at 3am).
I've heard that developmentally, cats reach the equivalent of 15 human years by the end of their first year, then 24 by the second, and then four years per year after that, which would make these two...44?? Holy catnip! That then begs the question, do cats have mid-life crises? (My guess is: probably not.)

Anyway, here's to many, many more!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Big In Japan?

I'm excited to announce that Second Player Score has started up a partnership with the Japan-based media company VisualReel Inc.!
As of now, they've produced a Japanese website for us (that you can see here), but there's much more to come. Could this be the Japan-related destiny I talked about in this post from a couple of years ago? Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Four-D Status Update

This is a status update on Four-D. Not Four-D, the music album*, but Four-D, the card game!
If you've been following this blog and are familiar with the SPS-Verse (formerly known as the SPSU), then you know that along with Second Player Score's fourth album (titled Four-D) there will be an accompanying card game that is also called Four-D. We actually designed and tested the base gameplay (which is similar to War or Trumps but with some fun extras) over two years ago but have recently gone back and started polishing up the finer details; most notably, the names of the individual elementals that the players use to "battle" or "challenge" each other (the final verb is still up for debate). With that, we now have an upgraded test deck - hand-scribbled by yours truly - that we have retested and found to be in proper working order. If all goes well, the card game will be released simultaneously with the music album in Summer 2022.

There's also supposed to be an accompanying light novel or novelette or novella that tells the story behind the songs on the album, but so far, that's been a bit more of a challenge... I actually wrote most of one draft, didn't like it, started over and wrote (and finished!) a completely new draft, didn't like it either, and am now wondering what direction it should take. We shall see. Either way, even if something doesn't come out at the same time as the album/card game, it'll eventually take shape and see the light of day in some form or another...

* For a status update on the album, see this post

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The SPS-Verse

If you've been following this blog, then you're probably familiar with something called the SPSU, or Second Player Shared Universe. I first introduced it in this post from October 2018, where I described it as "the connecting hub and overarching umbrella for a number of related franchises that are all loosely centered around my band, Second Player Score." It was mentioned in passing a few more times after that before getting an update post a year later, where I described in further detail the ten different projects that made up the SPSU.
Since then, some of the projects have changed and evolved as their development has continued; for example, Four-D now features a nonbinary cat-person from another planet as its main protagonist, while 200BPM is now called CIVIL and has had its underlying story altered pretty significantly. Also, the SPSU itself has undergone a rebranding - it's now known as the SPS-Verse.

This change came about because, in the course of working on Joel Suzuki, Volume Six and Four-D concurrently (and also watching Loki on Disney+), I came to realize that all the different projects in the SPSU actually existed not in a universe, but a multiverse (also, "SPS-Verse" is more catchy and won't be confused with Southern Polytechnic State University).

Along with the new name comes a new description: "the SPS-Verse is a collection of interconnected original intellectual property franchises that each contain four elements: (1) music and media, such as film, TV, books, comics; (2) food & beverage; (3) toys, technology, and merchandise; and (4) philanthropy. The first three elements represent the individual strengths of each cofounder (meaning the guys in my band), while the fourth is a shared passion and interest."

Otherwise, our goal remains the same: to help make the world a more positive place through the proliferation of pop culture!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Album Four Status Update

Hey, I'm back! Where have I been, you ask? Well, last week I was holed up in the recording studio, laying down tracks for my band's next album, Four-D.
We finished four songs (which will collectively be known as "The August Suite"): Game On, Trading Blows, Level Up, and Beat Everyone. Eight more to go! We're trying to push the timeline so that we can get the album - along with, hopefully, the accompanying novelette and card game - out by May/June 2022. Wish us luck!

(P.S. Yes, that is a keyboard you see in the picture. There will be a keyboard part. Seriously.)

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: 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.