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.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Haiku Hour

Yes, it's time for another Haiku Hour! To recap, a haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of seventeen syllables divided into three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Traditionally, they include references to seasons and/or have nature as a topic, but, well, whatever. Hajimemashou!
Free donuts, woohoo!
Four kinds of yummy flavors

M.H.A. blanket
Guess which character this is
All soft and wrinkled

New to band practice
Keyboards on the next album?
I guess we shall see

Saturday dinner
Salmon, broccoli, and shrooms
Might need more kim chee

Egyptian statue?
Or just two cats relaxing
Write your own caption

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Ten Years of Autism Empowerment!

This month, the awesome and amazing nonprofit organization Autism Empowerment celebrates its tenth anniversary!
I've had the honor of working with them from almost the very beginning, and I'm looking forward to many more years to come. To celebrate this milestone, the organization has put out a special episode of its podcast (that you can listen to here) as well as a feature story in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum Life Magazine (that you can read here). While you're at it, be sure to check out previous episodes and issues as well!

(Oh, and by the way - the Joel Suzuki Series is also featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum Life. See our article on page 26.)

Happy birthday, AE!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: Plot Holes Edition

Has it really been eight weeks since the last Volume Six Status Update? Yes, yes it has. Since then, a lot has happened. First of all, I got the draft of the manuscript up to about 62,000 words. Second, I discovered plot holes...not only in Volume Six, but *gasp* in an earlier volume of the series as well.
Specifically, Volume Four. Now, as I've mentioned a long time ago, I'm a total nerd when it comes to plot holes, continuity errors, and the like, and I try REALLY REALLY HARD (really) to make my own stuff as air-tight as possible. That said, it's probably inevitable - especially when your plot involves time travel - that some gremlins will sneak through. And sure enough, when I did a recent re-read of Volumes Two through Five (more on that below), I found a minor glitch in Volume Four that can't be explained away with in-universe reasons and probably needs fixing in a future edition. That said, it doesn't detract from the main story (in my opinion, at least) and is relatively hard to catch unless you're paying really close attention (again, in my opinion). If you think you know what it is, I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via email at

In defense of SOME plot holes, I think sometimes we expect too much from our characters. We think they should know all the answers to every problem right away, but the reality is that sometimes they make mistakes, too. Like when I complained about Voldemort leaving Snape alone in the Shrieking Shack before making sure he was dead...I mean, he's a busy villain, he's got stuff to do and places to be! (By the way, for all you authors out there, JK Rowling has admitted to making mistakes and plot holes in Harry Potter, and she's also fixed some of those mistakes in future editions, so don't feel bad).

Anyway, enough about that. Back to the Status Update! So, when I reached the 62,000 word mark, it was then that I felt like I was starting to spin my wheels and write stuff that had a high probability of being worthless, as opposed to being maybe-probably-good when read back later. It was like the point of diminishing returns, mainly because I was building upon what I suspected to be flaws and plot holes (okay, we haven't left that subject completely). It was then that I decided "okay, now's a good time to go back and patch stuff up from the beginning," and part of that process included a complete re-read of Volumes Two through Five, to get reacquainted with my world-building (since Volume Five was mostly set on Earth, it's actually been years since I was really immersed in the laws of the Spectraland universe). After the re-read was complete, I then went back to the beginning of my Volume Six draft and started building it back up from there. A lot of what I had has been usable so far, especially in the first act, but some of it had to be rewritten entirely - which I was totally expecting, because I've been here before. And now, the draft is back up to 28,000 words and coming along nicely, with less plot holes this time.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Anime Roundup: Crunchyroll Edition

For quite a while, I had been hearing a lot about a service called "Crunchyroll" where supposedly you could see bajillions of different anime, but for the longest time I had been under the impression that it was some kind of sketchy website with illegal uploads, so, as an artist and creator who has sworn not to engage in piracy out of respect to other artists and creators, I avoided it.

But then I started to hear that a lot of the stuff I wanted to watch - that wasn't on Netflix or Amazon Prime - was, in fact, among the bajillions of anime available on Crunchyroll (some of them are on Hulu as well, but like I've said before, heck if I'm signing up for yet another paid streaming service). So, feeling desperate, I looked a little deeper into Crunchyroll, and lo and behold - yes, it used to be sort of sketchy, but has been legit since 2009. And on top of that, it's available as a free (with ads) app!

So now, here I am, having unlocked what feels like an enormous and nearly-bottomless treasure chest filled with toys and treasure that will keep me busy for centuries. Some are shows that I've heard lots about but haven't seen yet, while others are additional seasons of shows that I've seen on Netflix or Amazon, but for only the first season or two (why those services don't carry these additional seasons is beyond me - probably some kind of legal licensing mumbo-jumbo). Anyway, here are the first few:

My Hero Academia
I had heard so much about this show peripherally that I almost felt like I had seen it all before I'd actually seen any of it. Once I started actually watching it, I almost immediately knew why it's so popular and prevalent. The basic gist of it is: (in movie trailer guy's voice): in a world where about 80% of the world's population has some sort of superpower, a boy born without powers but who still wants to become a superhero is discovered by the world's most powerful hero, who then shares his ability with him and gets him enrolled in a prestigious high school that trains students to become professional heroes. Got all that? Essentially, it's like if Harry Potter was a muggle but then Dumbledore somehow gave him magic and then got him into Hogwarts. Anyway, this show checks all the boxes on the "will Brian like this?" list and I seriously could not stop watching it.

Goblin Slayer
This one is like a R-rated Mandalorian in a Dungeons and Dragons world. The story basically goes like this: the Demon Lord, who was slain by the Sword Maiden years ago, has been resurrected and, along with his vast new army, threatens to take over the world - that is, until a Hero arises to defeat him. But wait! That's not actually our story here. While that stuff does happen in the background, what we're watching is just a dude whose sole mission in life is to kill goblins. This is actually way more compelling than it sounds, because the show makes the goblins so foul and despicable that a John Wick-meets-The Crow kind of vengeance tale will definitely have you rooting for the stoic protagonist. Also, buried underneath all the tragedy and gore is the message that sometimes, it's okay to ask for help.

Food Wars! The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Plates
I wrote about the first season of this show in this roundup post, and then I wrote about the second season in this roundup post. If you've read those posts, then you know that I really, really like this show. Really. In fact, after watching seasons three through five (the final season) on Crunchyroll, I think it just might have moved up from #3 on my all-time favorites list to...#1?? Gasp! I don't know, I just finished it, so I'll have to let it sink in for a while. It was funny because season four ended in a place where I thought, "that was pretty epic and wraps things up nicely, so where could they go from here? Could they possibly raise the stakes even higher?" As it turned out, yes, yes they could (I read that even the writer himself considered ending the manga series after the arc that was adapted into season four, but he realized that there was more story to tell).

Cells at Work! Code Black
A darker, gender-swapped spinoff of the original Cells at Work! (covered in this roundup post), this one features the anthropomorphic cells of an alcoholic dude who smokes and engages in other unhealthy activities. There are certain moments that could spill over into gross-out parody territory a la South Park et al, but the show does a good job at keeping its tone from ever reaching that point. It even gets downright dramatic and emotional at times. All I can say after watching this is: the human body is pretty darn amazing, but I sure wouldn't want to be the guy these poor cells have to live and work in.

Himouto! Umaru-Chan
Dan the bass player from Second Player Score recommended this one a while back, but I couldn't watch it because it wasn't on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But after I got Crunchyroll, I thought "it must be there, right?" And sure enough, it was! It's a fun and adorable slice-of-life comedy about a teenage girl who's a complete overachiever at school and in public (popular, attractive, smart, athletic, talented) but once she gets home she immediately morphs into a cola-swilling, junk-food-gorging, video game-playing, anime-binging, manga-reading lazy otaku (nerd) slob, much to the dismay of her older adult brother, who is in charge of the household in lieu of their absentee parents (which, if anime is to be believed, seems to be a common thing in Japan).

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Random Placeholder Post

This is a picture of a cat. A happy, sleeping cat that twitches occasionally because he's dreaming (I assume) of chasing and catching tiny fast-moving things.
This is what you post on your blog when your brain is too tired to come up with anything to write about because all of its Aura energy is being used on the sixth book of your young adult sci-fi/fantasy series as well as beginning boot camp for the next four songs from your band's upcoming fourth album and you have to come up with guitar solos that don't repeat licks from the solos on the previous three-plus albums and also because fourteen months or so into a global pandemic every day is starting to feel the same and it's like didn't I just write a blog post yesterday? No, no, that was last week. But it's all good because cats are awesome and the weather has been nice and have I mentioned that I've really been getting into Rick and Morty lately? I can't believe I haven't been watching that show even though the guys in my band have been huge fans for years (it was kind of the same thing with Stranger Things) but recently I started watching it because Cartoon Network plays reruns of it on Adult Swim at three in the morning which is when my cats have trained me to wake up and did I mention that cats are awesome? Rick and Morty is also awesome, if you haven't seen that show you should check it out because it's creative and brilliant and hilarious and provides good inspiration material for anyone writing a novel that has to deal with multiverses and jumping timelines and alien worlds which is what I'm doing now with that sixth book that I talked about earlier. Adult Swim in general is pretty cool, I've also been watching stuff like Birdgirl and The Boondocks because they usually follow Rick and Morty in the mornings and I ended up downloading their app and they have all kinds of cool stuff like the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack which I did not know was a thing. Anyway if you've made it this far thank you for putting up with my run-on sentences and lack of punctuation and I promise posts like this won't happen too often or maybe they will who knows but next week at least we should probably be back to something more typical. Probably.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

MCU Roundtable Discussion

Hey, Felicity here. Since we're in a short lull between MCU projects, I figured I'd get the gang together to talk about the stuff that's come out since the end of Phase Three as well as all the rest of the Phase Four shows and movies that are on the schedule, especially since Marvel recently came out with a little trailer for all of it. Oh, and if you care, there will be spoilers.
Felicity: Hey, an uncopyrighted Phase Four picture. Nice touch. The Impact font is kinda cheesy, though.
Brian: Oh, so now, you're organizing these discussions!
Felicity: What do you mean by that?
Brian: I mean, the last time, you didn't seem like you wanted to be there.
Felicity: I don't know what you're talking about. Anyway, Phase Four. Go.
Joel: I like Wanda and Sam's new costumes.
Felicity: They are pretty epic.
Fireflower: I am still confused by all the talk of a "cameo" in WandaVision.
Felicity: Let's not get into that.
Joel: I heard that they really did want to have Doctor Strange at the end, but then the idea got nixed.
Felicity: I just wanted Evan Peters to be the actual Quicksilver from the Fox universe.
Brian: Right? Multiverse stuff is fun.
Joel: I'm sure there will be a lot of that in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Fireflower: Personally, I am looking forward to seeing more Skrulls.
Felicity: Oh yeah - shapeshifting green people. Right up your alley.
Joel: They'll probably be in The Marvels. And Secret Invasion.
Brian: Do you guys think Sharon Carter was a Skrull?
Felicity: I actually hope not. I like her as a bad guy.
Fireflower: There are so many things coming out. It is almost overwhelming.
Brian: Are you guys looking forward to any of them in particular?
Felicity: All of them.
Joel: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings looks pretty cool.
Felicity: Yeah, Simu Liu is hot. But, you know, for once I'd like to see an action film with an Asian lead who doesn't know martial arts.
Brian: Well, if Secret of the Songshell gets adapted into a movie, then that would be one.
Felicity: Secret of the what-what?
Joel: What is that?
Brian: Never mind.
Fireflower: I know what the Songshell is. Are you saying that there might be a movie about it?
Brian: Let's move on. So, I believe that all together, there are eleven movies and thirteen television series in Phase Four, including a one-off Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special. That certainly is a lot.
Felicity: Fine with me.
Fireflower: It is amazing how they can produce such a high volume of motion picture stories in a relatively short amount of time.
Joel: I have all their release dates memorized. Want me to list them?
Felicity: No.
Joel: It won't take that long. Five of them are "TBA."
Felicity: Just suffice it to say that we'll have a lot to look forward to in the next couple of years or so. Anyway, let's wrap this up. I'm getting hungry.
Brian: I'm looking forward to the next thing coming up - Loki, on June 11.
Brian: Oh, right. Anyway, that show is supposed to feature the Time Variance Authority, and I love anything featuring time cops and time travel and alternate realities and such. Like in Volumes Four and Six of the Joel Suzuki series.
Joel: The what series?
Felicity: Joel Suzuki series?
Fireflower: There is a series about Joel?
Brian: Ahem. Again, I've said too much.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Nerd's List Of Reasons To Keep On Going

Hi! I'm Art, filling in this week for Brian while he works on something called "Volume Six" (no idea what that is). For long-time readers of this blog, you may remember me from the first two installments of "A Nerd's List of Reasons to Keep On Going," published way back on June 15, 2017 and September 27, 2018.
Since that time, I'm sure everyone has had their fair share of challenges in life, including one that we all pretty much have had in common, to varying degrees (I know you know what I'm talking about). But that's the reason behind these posts, which is to show that despite the hardships we inevitably face, there are always lots of reasons to hang in there and keep on going - especially if you're a fan of pop culture like me, Joel, and Felicity. Here are some of mine:

A Nerd's List of Reasons to Keep On Going (as of May 6, 2021)

1. Loki (coming to Disney+ on June 9)
2. All the other MCU shows on Disney+
3. Black Widow (coming - finally - July 9)
4. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3)
5. Rick and Morty, Season 5 (coming June 20)
6. Summer vacation
7. Eternals (November 5)
8. Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17)
9. Being able to see all the aforementioned movies in a theater
10. Four-D: The Autumn Suite, an EP from Second Player Score (Brian asked me to include that)
11. Issue #4 of Glorified, the comic book series, "Liberty's End" (another Brian request)
12. Hugs and handshakes
13. Kim's Convenience, Season 5
14. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (September 24)
15. Delicious food, in a restaurant
16. Traveling
17. Doctor Who, series 13
18. Cats
19. Sporting events
20. Comic-Cons

That's my list of reasons, which is by no means comprehensive. What are some of yours?

-- Art

(Editor's note: you can read more of Art's wisdom in the first five volumes of the Joel Suzuki series, listed below.)

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Ten Years of Joel Suzuki

Ten years ago, on this date (well, actually, April 30th, but close enough), I typed "The End" on the first draft of a manuscript called "Secret of the Songshell." Well, actually, I didn't really type "The End," but that was when I had finished it, at any rate.
The ensuing decade has been quite a fun and wild ride. A little over a year after I didn't really type "The End," Secret of the Songshell, Book One of the Spectraland Saga was published on July 17, 2012. This was followed by an audiobook version the following year, a second book (Mystery of the Moonfire) in 2015, a name change from the Spectraland Saga to the Joel Suzuki series, and then three more books - Legend of the Loudstone in 2017, Fable of the Fatewave in 2018, and Ballad of the Bluerock in 2021.

Because of these books, I've had the chance to meet so many wonderful people, and I've had many great experiences, from speaking to schools and autism groups to being a panelist at conferences and everything in between. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me and the series along the way - you're awesome, and, while the list is long, you know who you are.

As for the next ten years? Well, if all goes according to plan, we should see Volume Six in 2023, Volume Seven in 2025, and, quite possibly, Volumes Eight, Nine, and Ten in 2027, 2029, and 2031, respectively (Volume Eleven, the final one, will have to wait for a year during the following decade - meaning the ten years after 2021-2031. Hopefully 2033). Of course, you know what they say about plans, so we'll just have to see how it goes. But I promise that no matter what happens, I will continue to do my absolute best to keep telling Joel's story. Here's to more great years ahead!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Breakfast For Dinner

Just as Saturdays have become Steak Night at my house (as detailed in this previous post), Thursdays - that's today! - have become Breakfast for Dinner Night. Specifically, bacon, scrambled eggs, and rice (hold the eggs for my daughter, who hates them).
As with Steak Night, there's no need for a recipe, as obviously it's very basic. I fry the bacon first so then I can cook the eggs in the bacon oil. Also, I add a bit of milk to the scrambled eggs during the scrambling process. But both things are pretty common, though, right? 

The bonus to this is that the house smells like bacon the next morning. I guess that same effect could be achieved by actually making breakfast for breakfast, and then the house would smell like bacon all day, but whatever.

Another bonus is that for me, scrambled eggs are just a delivery system for my actual favorite foods (besides bacon), which are hot sauce and minced garlic (conveniently dispensed via squeeze bottle).
Also as with Steak Night, we don't do this every week, because too much bacon - oh, who am I kidding, we do this every week. For now, at least. Because, you know, bacon.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Anime Roundup

Here we are with another edition of Anime Roundup! No unifying theme this time, just an assorted grab bag of fun and awesomeness. Hajimemashou!

Code Geass
There's really no simple way to describe this one. It takes multiple genres and tropes (rebellion, mecha, magic, high school), mashes them together, and then weaves the resulting mixture into a complex, morality-questioning, socio-political narrative in such a way that totally shouldn't work...and yet it does. There's one line spoken by the main character in one episode that I think might sum it up best: "I'm trying to run a school festival and a coup d'etat at the same time!" Or I don't know, maybe not. You really have to watch it to understand the full scope, but I'll try again: in an alternate timeline where the Holy Britannian Empire has conquered Japan, an exiled Britannian prince acquires a power called "Geass" (which manifests in him as a sort of Jedi mind trick ability) and then uses it to try to overthrow Britannia as revenge against his Emperor father for letting his mother be killed *deep breath*. By the way, the prince's over-the-top mannerisms reminded me so much of Yuta/Dark Flame Master from Love, Chunibyo, and other Delusions (covered in this Anime Roundup post) that I had to go and rewatch that show. If you've seen both, you know what I'm talking about.

Kuroko's Basketball
A sports drama-comedy that reminded me a little of Haikyuu!! (also covered in this Anime Roundup post), this one is kind of about a high school basketball player (the titular Kuroko) whose only strength is the fact that he's very easy to overlook and so he can pull off these amazing touch passes; otherwise, he can't shoot, dribble, or basically do anything else effectively. However, when paired with a stronger player, this particular skill makes him really valuable. And so, he teams up with one such player and their school goes on to challenge other schools that each contain a former member of Kuroko's middle school team that was nicknamed the "Generation of Miracles" and won three straight championships. I liked how each member of that so-called "Generation" had a certain hair color, a name that matched said color, and an individual strength of cartoonish proportions - they were kind of like "monsters of the week." As with Haikyuu!!, it didn't - spoiler alert - culminate in any kind of typical final championship game, but that's because Netflix only has the first season.

Love and Lies
A rom-com-dram about a love triangle with a twist: in an alternate reality where the government forces teens and young adults into arranged marriages in order to increase the birth rate, one sixteen-year-old boy confesses his love to his childhood crush and finds out that his feelings are reciprocated, but then he receives a notice that he's been assigned a future wife - who, of course, is someone else. As you might expect, this leads to all kinds of complications. I enjoyed this one (especially with its catchy theme song), even though I felt that it - spoiler alert- didn't take full advantage of its premise and left me with some unanswered questions, like: why in the world would these girls fall in love with such a boring dude? Anyway...

The Way of the Househusband
A vignette comedy about an ex-yakuza boss who retires from crime to become a househusband, this one is so laugh-out-loud hilarious I watched all five episodes on Netflix in one sitting and I want them to keep making more and more of them as quickly as they possibly can.

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan
This is a spin-off of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (covered in this Anime Roundup post) that features one of the characters from that manga/anime, the titual Kishibe Rohan, a manga artist with the ability to read and write people like a book (literally). The manga was adapted into four OVA (original video animation - in anime parlance, a direct-to-home-video film or series) episodes, of which Netflix has all four (yay). The simplest way I can describe this show is that it's a horror anthology, which is kind of a unique subgenre for anime but not all that surprising considering its source material. Also, I am very jealous of Rohan's ability.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: Moving Right Along

I'm not sure, but it feels like that with this book, more so than on any of the others (except perhaps Volume One), I've really been sticking to the whole "just write whatever and fix it later" rule. Why do I say that? Because now that I'm coming up for air to assess where I'm at, I've discovered that I've made some pretty good progress, thank you very much.
As of the last status update in January, I was at 22,000 words, or about 88 pages. As of today, I've more than doubled that output, standing at 49,500 words, or about 198 pages. Of course, there's a 100% chance that large chunks of those words are piles of hot steaming garbage that will need to be immediately thrown out, but right now, I don't actually know, because I haven't stopped to re-read hardly any of it. My whole modus operandi has been "plow ahead, don't look back" for weeks now.

But it's all good, because that's how books get written! At least, that's how my books get written. And I think most writing advice will say the same thing: for your first draft, just get words down on the page, and worry about editing and revising and rewriting afterwards (believe me, there will be lots of that going on).

And while I don't know which parts will need the most help (I'm guessing mostly all of it except the first act, which is sort of solid?), I do know that I'll need to be doing a lot of filling in of the middle section, because at the previously-mentioned 49,500 words, I'm already well into the third act, which - according to my outline - wasn't supposed to start until about the 60,000-word mark or so. I sort of expected this to happen (something similar happened with Volume Three), because I've just been speeding along plot-wise, trying to move the story forward without stopping for things like description and exposition. It's like, so here's a new character from an alien planet and a different timeline, what does it look like? Who cares! We'll figure it out later.

Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment. According to my self-imposed schedule, Volume Six isn't due out until 2023, so I'm making good time...for now. As always, stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Glorified - Great News!

This week, I have good news, even better news, and great news. Okay, first, the good news: Glorified the comic book is going to be adapted into an anime series!
Actually, it's not (yet). April fools! Wouldn't that be cool, though? Anyway, on to the REAL foolin'.

First of all, the Kickstarter campaign for Issue #4 of Glorified was a success!

Much mahalos to all the awesome backers who supported it. We look forward to producing the issue, which will contain the likenesses of the backers who chose the packages that gave them the opportunity to appear as characters. Right now, we're looking at a launch date of sometime in July, so stay tuned for that.

And now, the great news: we've made the decision to donate 50% of the profits from the sale of any issue of Glorified in any format to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. Since I was already donating $1 for every sale of a Joel Suzuki book to Autism Empowerment, we figured that it just made sense to do something similar with Glorified in order to help make a positive difference in the world. We hope you'll join us in supporting these great causes, either by purchasing copies of the comic book or by simply making direct donations to the organization. You can find the first three issues of Glorified for sale in either print or digital format at the links below (none of which are rick rolls, I promise):

Arigatou! Gracias! Thank you!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Adventuring For Autism Empowerment!

Exciting news! Tomorrow evening, starting at 5pm Pacific, Dan (bass player for Second Player Score) and I will be participating in a livestreamed Dungeons & Dragons campaign on the Punky's Mixtape show on Twitch. Best of all, one hundred percent of all donations, subs, bits, and cheers will be going to benefit Autism Empowerment!
It's been ages since I've played D&D, but I've armed myself with the 5th Edition manuals (borrowed from my daughter), multiple sets of polyhedral dice, and various how-to YouTube videos. My character is a 3rd level high elf bard named Nairb, and Dan's is a 3rd level half-orc bard named Leinad. We're two-thirds of a traveling minstrel act called "Staging Plate" (long story, inside joke), and have found ourselves in a bind after our third member ("Elyk") challenged and defeated a powerful wizard in a drinking contest only to have said sore-loser-wizard polymorph him into a small animal of a yet-to-be-determined species. Now, we're following the trail of the wizard to a distant continent and having random adventures on the road while learning more about our adversary and trying to grow stronger in preparation for eventually facing them again. How will we fare? How long do we have to turn Elyk back? What kinds of allies and enemies will we make along the way? Tune in here to find out!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Interview With DJ Dex

Hey there! Just an announcement that tomorrow, Friday, March 19, from 3-6pm Pacific Time, I will be a special guest on 99WNRR radio with the illustrious DJ Dex as part of their 8th Annual Radiothon benefitting FACES4AUTISM Family Support Group, The Children's Air Ambulance, and David's Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation.
I'll be talking about the Joel Suzuki series and other stuff in between DJ Dex playing requests and taking donations to support the aforementioned organizations. $5 gets you one song, $10 gets you three songs, $25-50 gets you a special commemorative shirt and 5 songs, and $100 gets you two shirts, 10 songs, and the chance to be a guest DJ and announce your requested songs on the air! More details are at this link.

Hope you can check it out!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

April and Lydia Predict The 2021 MLB Season

In what is now becoming an annual (or biannual, in last year's case) tradition, we welcome some very special guests to the blog: our in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez! They'll be giving their thoughts on their predictions from last year, what they expect from the M's and baseball in general during the upcoming season, and more.
Brian: Hello, ladies.
April: Hello.
Lydia: 'Sup.
Brian: So - 
Lydia: I know what you're going to ask.
Brian: You do?
Lydia: Yeah. Something about Mather-gate.
Brian: Well, I was planning to bring that up at some point, yeah.
Lydia: Just more evidence that there's still a curse on the Mariners.
April: Well, now that he's gone -
Lydia: Thank goodness.
April: - maybe things will start to turn around.
Lydia: Let's hope so.
Brian: And that brings me, sort of, to what I was going to start off with - the M's record from last year's pandemic-shortened season. Let's see... (checks notes) April, you predicted that they would finish at 23-37, in last place. They actually ended up in -
Lydia: Third place, at 27-33. Ahead of the Angels and Rangers.
April: You really should let him finish his sentences.
Lydia: Oh, you're so polite.
Brian: No problem. But yeah, they seemed to have exceeded expectations.
April: And almost made the playoffs!
Lydia: Too bad the Astros didn't finish at 8-52, like I wanted.
April: Well, they did have a losing record. And the A's won the division.
Lydia: True.
Brian: All right, moving on - you folks thought, both in March and in July, that the Dodgers would win the World Series.
Lydia: And they did! We're psychic.
April: Well, I mean, with a roster that stacked, it was an obvious prediction.
Lydia: I still say we're psychic.
April: Okay.
Brian: What are your psychic predictions for this year? Let's start with the Mariners' record.
April: I'll go out on a limb and say 83-79, third place.
Brian: So, still no playoffs?
April: Yeah. Unfortunately.
Lydia: I'll see your limb and raise you: 92-70, AL West Champions. Shock the world, baby!
Brian/April: Seriously?
Lydia: Sure, why not? I mean, the bullpen looks better, the Big Maple is back, and we have the reigning Rookie of the Year. 
April: But -
Lydia: I know what all the projections say, and I don't care. Besides, aren't you the one always saying that we need to have hope?
April: Yeah, I guess.
Lydia: Also, I'm gonna say that Marco Gonzales, Kyle Lewis, and J.P. Crawford will be All-Stars. And Jarred Kelenic will be Rookie of the Year.
Brian: Wow.
April: This is certainly a big change from last July when you didn't want to predict anything.
Lydia: Well, I thought about what you just said about things starting to turn around, and I figured maybe you're right. Heck, maybe Mather was the curse!
Brian: I guess we shall see. So, what about the World Series Champs?
April/Lydia: Dodgers.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Haiku Hour

Yes, it's time for another Haiku Hour! To recap, a haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of seventeen syllables divided into three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Traditionally, they include references to seasons and/or have nature as a topic, but, well, whatever. Hajimemashou!
What the heck is this?
Snowstorm in February
Can't drive anywhere

(bonus points for the seasonal/nature reference)

Neko nihiki
Means "two cats" in Japanese
Warm lap on Sunday
Look, homemade hot sauce!
Red is hot, green not as hot
Thanks to Punky B.
Awesome custom lamp
Joel and SPS logos
Thanks to Daniel D.
Even more hot sauce
Carolina Reaper, yikes!
Thanks to DJ Dex

If you enjoyed that and you missed my previous two Haiku Hour posts, you can check those out here and here. Or not.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Anime Roundup: Big Name Edition

That's right, it's another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I'll be talking about some heavy hitters that, if you're even on the periphery of anime fandom, you've probably heard of before.

Attack on Titan
This one could also qualify for my previous Anime Roundup post in which I listed shows that I initially gave up on but then gave another chance to, because I actually tried watching it back when I first really started getting into anime but then stopped because of what I at the time called its "unrelenting bleakness." After I finished watching the Korean horror drama series Sweet Home, however (which you can hear me discuss with my bandmates from Second Player Score in Episode 69 of our podcast), I decided that there was no way this show could be bleaker than Sweet Home, so I restarted it, and behold! It was so much fun that, like a Titan eating humans, I consumed the whole 25-episode first season (which is all that's available on Netflix) in a matter of days. I now see why it's so popular, and I may have to sign up for Hulu just so I can watch the rest of it, dangit.

Demon Slayer
I had heard that a movie based on this series (a direct sequel to the first season) became the highest-grossing anime film of all time after it was released in Japan in late 2020, which is even more impressive when you consider that it happened IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC when going to the theater is generally not a thing. So, naturally, I was excited when I saw that it - the series, not the movie - was coming to Netflix. And wow, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. About a boy who wants to become a demon slayer after his family is killed by a demon (except for his sister, who is turned into a demon), its particular blend of action, drama, humor, and gore is right in my sweet spot (although the supporting character Zenitsu is more than a little annoying at times). Also, the whole "nine Hashira" and "twelve Kizuki" thing makes my inner nerd squeal with delight. So now my only question is HOW CAN I SEE THE MOVIE??

One Piece
This show, about a boy with Mister Fantastic-like powers who wants to become the next King of the Pirates, is based on the best-selling manga of all time. Personally, I don't quite get it (I know, all you One Piece fans out there are like, whaaaa?), but I've only watched a relative fraction of the zillion gajillion available episodes so far, so perhaps it's a slow burn like many other shows I grew to love over time. I'm still plugging away at it, because if and when it ever does really take off for me, I will have an enormous catalog to enjoy.

Neon Genesis Evangelion
A classic from the mid-nineties, I'd heard that this show basically jumpstarted the entire anime industry at a time when interest was starting to wane. I thought, "but it's just a standard mecha show with giant kid-piloted robots fighting giant monsters, right?" Uh, wrong. After watching stuff like Kill la Kill, Gurren Lagaan, and Madoka Magica, you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now. Anyway, once I realized that this particular edition of Anime Roundup was starting to take on the "big name" theme, I decided to check this show out, since it (and a couple of related feature-length films) was readily available on Netflix. And...well, holy cow. HOLY COW. Not to give anything away, but from the early episodes where the show was just establishing its premise, you could already tell there was something different and groundbreaking about it. Even moments that were supposedly lighthearted still had a subversive undercurrent of dread and foreboding - a sense of "there's something not quite right here." It's also so thematic that you could probably write a college dissertation about it (and I'm pretty sure some folks have). On top of that, great pacing, terrific character development, lots of action, and some downright trippy sequences make this one required viewing for any anime fan.

Your Name
This is a full-length feature (not a series) that is the third-highest grossing anime film of all time, behind only the aforementioned Demon Slayer movie and Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. And also, it is positively mind-blowing. Ostensibly a romantic dramedy on the surface, it blends a bunch of other tropes and genres in a way that you think wouldn't work at all, but it totally does, creating something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. I won't spoil anything even a little bit, but let me just say that watching this film was like a religious experience for me. It's only 107 minutes long but it feels like the journey of a lifetime (in a good way). My one complaint is that I could only find it in either English dub or Japanese with no subtitles, so I went with the dub version (curse my limited Japanese-language skills). By the time I was halfway through, though, I was so enthralled that it didn't matter. If you've been following this blog for a while and you feel like your taste in movies is anything similar to mine, do yourself an immense favor and watch this film as soon as you possibly can.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Glorified Issue #4 Kickstarter

Hey there! Just wanted to let everyone know that the creative team behind the Glorified comic book series has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the next issue in the series. I know that this is a tough time financially for many folks out there, but for those who can afford it, we have some fun rewards available, including the chance to appear as a character in the issue!
Issue #4 ("Liberty's End") shows Gloria and Gage stopping in a town called Liberty's End that is being terrorized by a local gang. In exchange for supplies, Gloria offers to train the townsfolk to defend themselves. But will they be ready in time? The answer might surprise you...

Anyway, the Kickstarter campaign can be found here, and Issues #1, #2, and #3 are available from the good folks at IndyPlanet. You can also find more information on the series itself here and here. Cheers!

/end commercial

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Four-D: The Winter Suite Launch Party And Other Interviews

In case you missed my band's virtual launch party for our new four-song EP Four-D: The Winter Suite, you can catch it at this link. It's nearly four hours long, but it's a whole lot of fun (especially as we get drunker and drunker as it goes along).
Huge thanks to host Punky Bruiser for having us, and for being a good friend and big supporter in general. We've been on his show a couple of times before (once for a general interview and another time to discuss our thoughts on Marvel's Wandavision), and we're planning on being on again in the near future, this time to play some good ol' D&D. I recommend checking out his other non-Second Player Score episodes as well, as he covers a lot of fun stuff from the worlds of music and pop culture.

We were also lucky enough to be recent guests on a bunch of other cool shows: the Beers With Bands podcast, New Rock City, and No, This Is Mattrick! (hosted by Matt, the guitarist from No, This Is Patrick!) Check out those episodes at these links:

And, of course, you can hear our new EP (as well as the rest of our catalog) on Spotify or basically anywhere else music is to be found online. Cheers!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Four-D: The Winter Suite EP

Today is the official release date of Four-D: The Winter Suite, the new EP from my band Second Player Score!
The EP, which is only available digitally, consists of four songs: "The Flow," "That Escalated Quickly," "Winner Takes It All," and "Dark Night of the Soul." It will eventually, when combined with the Summer Suite, Autumn Suite, and Spring Suite (all of which have been written but are yet to be recorded), be part of the full-length 16-song album titled, naturally, Four-D - of which there will be a physical CD and, hopefully, a companion card game and novella.

Four-D is, of course, a concept album, one that tells the story of a boy who chooses to compete in an interdimensional game for the prize of a single wish, only to find that the game is much more than he bargained for. Musically, we took on the challenge of making every song on the album just four chords, after we noticed that a lot of the best songs in pop music history are constructed in exactly that fashion.

We had also noticed that "four" seems to be sort of a magic number not only for music, but for the universe in general - four-chord songs, 4/4 time signature, four elements, four seasons, four compass points, four blood types, four mathematical operations, four DNA components, four forces of nature, and so on (in some East Asian cultures, the number four is actually considered bad luck, kind of like thirteen in the West, because the word for "four" - shi - is also the word for "death." But, well, death is just a natural part of life, right?)

So, since this was our fourth album, we decided to try to incorporate as much of that as we could into it. Along with having sixteen songs divided up into four EPs of four songs each, each EP would correspond to a season of the year, with the predominant key signatures for the songs representing that particular seasonal element - F# for fire/summer, A for air/autumn, E for earth/spring, and D for winter/water (D standing for water's chemical name, dihydrogen monoxide).

Basically, it's next-level nerdiness.

But while the songs together tell an overall story, individually they're grounded in common emotions that anyone can relate to. "The Flow" is a short and speedy rocker about when you're in the zone, whether it be creative or athletic. "That Escalated Quickly" reflects the feelings you have when things are getting out of control. "Winner Takes It All" is an inspirational ska-influenced number for when your back is against the wall and you have to pull out all the stops. And "Dark Night of the Soul" is for when you feel like all is lost, but some small light at the end of the tunnel keeps you going.

Anyway, you can now find all four songs on Spotify, Apple Music, and all other streaming outlets. We're also going to be having a virtual release party TONIGHT on the Punky's Mixtape show on Twitch from 5 to 5:30pm PST, so be sure to tune in to that!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Volume Six Status Update

With Volume Five now officially out in the world, I have turned my full attention (or, at least, the part of my attention devoted to writing stuff) to - gasp - Volume Six.
That's right, work on the next installment of the Joel Suzuki series - which will, of course, be "The Indigo Book" (official subtitle to be announced later) - is well underway. I had actually started on it earlier, while Volume Five was in editing, and as of October 1st of last year I was at 5500 words, or about 22 pages. So far, there's been the usual amount of false starts and early rewrites, but since I now have five books - and a bunch of other projects - under my belt, I know that this is just standard operating procedure and that I just need to keep plugging away. As a result, I am now up to (drum roll)...

22,000 words, or about 88 pages!

(Some of which will get thrown away and/or rewritten, but like I said - standard operating procedure. Either way, it's progress, folks.)

To give you a little advance taste of what it's about, suffice it to say that while Volume Five took place mostly on Earth, this book will not only return the series to its otherworldly origins, it will expand it greatly, delving into multiple timelines and alternate realities. Because, of course, it's the penultimate chapter in the main seven-book arc (Volumes Eight through Eleven - remember when I announced them? - will be "post-adventures"), so naturally it needs to escalate things pretty dramatically.

Anyway, it's coming along quite nicely so far, and I'm having a lot of fun writing it, which is always a good sign. Stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Glorified Issue #3 Now Available!

Great news - Issue #3 of Glorified (titled "Broken Ecstasy") is now available for general sale on IndyPlanet!
In case you don't know, IndyPlanet is an awesome online store that offers titles from indie comics creators from all over the world in both print-on-demand and digital download formats. To order copies of Glorified's new issue (and the previous two as well), just go to these links:

Also, a little bit of status update news - work on Issue #4 ("Liberty's End") is well underway, with all of the thumbnail sketches complete and preliminary line art for the first five pages in progress. A new Kickstarter campaign for the issue will be launching soon, which I will announce here when it does!