Thursday, June 23, 2022

Coming Soon: Stuff

You know how when you write a weekly blog post and you know you're going to have a bunch of stuff to talk about in the coming weeks* but for one week there just isn't really much of anything to say? Well, this is one of those weeks. So in the meantime, please enjoy these pictures of food and cats.




* Including a new music announcement, status updates on Volumes Six and Seven, a TV Roundup post, and more

Thursday, June 16, 2022

I Knew Representation Was Important When I Was A Kid

As you've probably already guessed by now if you've been following this blog or any of my other activities, I'm a huge Star Wars fan. Have been ever since I was a kid. Even as an eight-year-old, however, I noticed that there was nobody in the original movie (Episode IV) that looked like me, specifically someone of Asian descent.
I didn't let this fact bother me or deter my fandom, however; I simply came up with the idea - apparently this process is now called "headcanon" - that all the characters in the film were technically aliens and therefore not of any one particular race or ethnicity, at least far as we know them on Earth (embarrassing admission alert: if I remember correctly, I believe I even wrote some short fanfic that said that Luke, Han, Leia et al were all descended from an original race called "Force-ians," or something like that.) Anyway, with that justification in mind, I was able to continue enjoying the subsequent entries in the franchise even though there were still no Asian actors (in George Lucas' defense, I've heard - whether this is true or not, I have no idea - that he originally wanted to cast Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan or Darth Vader, but was turned down).

Since then, diversity and representation in Star Wars and other works of pop culture in general has increased, which I obviously view as a positive development (there are many, many articles on the Internet that explore this topic in more detail; I'm just relating a bit of my own personal experiences here). Again, if you've been following this blog or any of my other activities, you know I'm a big proponent and supporter of diversity, inclusion, and representation. My Joel Suzuki series of novels has an Asian-American on the autism spectrum as its lead protagonist and includes a number of other characters from various minority communities. Some of my other projects (Glorified and Try Again Tomorrow being examples) also feature leads of Asian descent. I think it's important for kids to see reflections of themselves in the media that they consume, and so it's my hope that I'm doing my part so that nobody has to come up with a label as embarrassing as "Force-ian."*

* Although maybe Luke and Leia, being the children of Anakin who some theories say was directly conceived by midichlorians, could actually be considered "Force-ian"? Don't get me started

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Legend Of The Ghost Pepper, Revisited

In this week's episode of my band's podcast Second Player Speaks, we reminisce about the time almost ten years ago we went to local burger now-chain Killer Burger and attempted to eat their ghost pepper burger. I remembered that I had written a blog post about the experience, so for those of you who missed it or don't remember, I am republishing it today for your reading schadenfreude.*
Here's the confession of the day: I thought I was prepared for the "Marine" at local burger joint Killer Burger.

I love spicy food. I ask for extra jalapenos on my tuna sandwiches; I eat kim chee like candy; I pour sriracha sauce on my morning waffles. Okay, not really the last one, but you get the idea.

But this...this was not spicy. This was something totally different.

At Second Player Score practice one day, for some reason we started talking about ghost peppers. I'd never tried them before, but the word was that they were incredibly hot. I thought, "Mm, sounds good." So when, a week or so later, I saw an article in the paper about Killer Burger that mentioned their "Marine," a burger that contains ghost peppers, I thought, "Hey, we should try that!" So we put it down on the calendar as something fun we could do one day after practice. It even turned into an official band event of sorts, with band members' relations planning to bring cameras and such.

Weeks went by, and the event kept getting postponed by schedule conflicts and last-minute show opportunities. In the interim, I noted that Killer Burger makes you sign a waiver before you eat the burger, which I thought was a brilliant marketing move. "Oo, a waiver, how scary!" I also spent the time ratcheting up my Tabasco consumption, to the point where it hardly registered a tingle on my tongue. I was going to be ready for this.

Anyway, the big day finally arrived. We got there and saw the warning on the hand-written menu above the registers: "The Marine Hot! - DON'T ORDER THIS!!" I smirked. The cashier tried to talk us out of ordering it. I smirked again as I reflected on the genius business tactic of telling your customers not to buy your product. People will always do what you tell them not to do.

Ten minutes and a signed waiver later, they brought the burgers out with the same fanfare reserved for birthdays at chain restaurants. People looked at us like we were nuts. I thought, "Okay, seriously? Come on now, it's a spicy burger. Everybody relax."

I decided to start by dipping a french fry in their "lava sauce," which also apparently contains ghost peppers. THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE. The moment it hit my mouth, I could tell that this was no ordinary kind of spicy. You know how, when you're eating spicy food, the heat seems to accumulate over time? Well, there was no "time" involved here. This was an entire Thai-green-curry-with-the-"hot"-option-reaction condensed into a single second.

And it got worse from there. My eyes started to water uncontrollably as I tried to remain calm. My lips were on fire, but my mouth and head weren't - instead, they were on something beyond fire; it was like they had been transported to some kind of unholy realm of torture where someone was inserting power saw blades into my skull.

And it wasn't just my facial region feeling the wrath, my stomach was a helpless victim as well.

Stomach: I'm hungry, isn't it dinner time?
Stomach: Okay, great, here comes something.
Stomach: Whoopee, it's a french fry. Can't you do better than that? Wait, it's covered in some kind of sauce that -
Stomach: AAAAIIIIEEEEEEEEEE

And mind you, I hadn't even started eating the burger yet. Through my haze of agony I could barely make out some kid at a nearby table egging us on, saying things like "C'mon, it's like Man Vs. Food!" I figured, okay, I have to at least take one bite of this thing. THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE.

After a tiny bite, I was done. The pain and nausea increased exponentially until I was in a Homer-Simpson-Guatemalan-Insanity-Pepper-like state of psychosis. All I could do was sit there, staring into space, as my intestines quickly shriveled up and turned into dust. The kid at the nearby table was now saying things like "blrkjkg alijoit ghlkj ahiogh," or at least that's what it sounded like to me.

And it wasn't over. After feeling like I had recovered somewhat, more waves of pain ensued. This evil cycle continued for about an hour afterwards before I was finally confident that I had escaped from the ghost pepper dungeon.

So yeah, they weren't kidding about the waiver.

Once coherency had returned, I did some research and found out that the ghost pepper, or Naga Bhut Jolokia, is roughly TWO HUNDRED TIMES hotter than Tabasco sauce. And that it can be used as a weapon. Well, duh.

I thought I could handle spicy foods. Turns out I had absolutely no idea.

Originally published 9/17/2012

* Pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Super-Easy Surf 'N' Turf: A Recipe In Haiku

Easy surf 'n' turf
A recipe in haiku
Results may vary
The ingredients:
Twelve pieces pre-breaded shrimp
Ten-ounce ribeye steak

One can of mushrooms
White rice, quantity to taste
One cup of green beans

Cook rice like always
Trim steak, add salt and pepper
Don't forget both sides

Preheat the oven
Follow directions on box
For the breaded shrimp

Add some oil to pan*
How much oil? Just a little
Set stove to seven

Cook the steak to your
Desired doneness level
Turn heat down to five

Remove steak from pan
Drain water from the mushrooms
And also the beans

Add both to the pan
Turn heat down to one
Stir, wait, stir, wait, stir

If you followed all
The directions for the shrimp
Then they should be done

Remove 'shrooms and beans
Combine everything on plate**
Make sure stove is off

This makes two servings
Total prep and cooking time
Thirty-five minutes

Crack open a beer
Take picture, post to Facebook
Sit down and enjoy

* Believe it or not
Yes, "oil" is one syllable
"Oi" is a diphthong

** Also, "everything"
Is really three syllables
English is so weird

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Tale Of The Missing Twelve-Pack

Recently, Facebook reminded me of a post I had written (on Facebook) five years ago called "The Tale of the Missing Twelve-Pack." I read it and thought, "Wow, that's actually a pretty cool story. I wonder why I didn't turn it into a blog post?" I couldn't think of any good reason why I didn't, and so, five years later, here is that story.
Last week Wednesday I bought, among other things, a twelve-pack of Laurelwood IPA from my neighborhood Fred Meyer. At home about an hour later, I thought, "Okay, maybe I'll have a beer with dinner." But when I looked for the beer, it was nowhere to be found!

I looked in the usual place that I store beer and other beverages. Not there. I thought, "Okay, it must still be in the car." I looked in the car. Not there. I thought, "Really? Where else could I have put it?"

After checking every possible location multiple times, I came to the conclusion that the beer was simply not anywhere within the vicinity of my house. I mentally retraced my steps. Could I have left it on the Fred Meyer U-Scan? Not likely. Could I have left it in the shopping cart? Possible, but not probable. Could it have been stolen by wizards, or perhaps somehow lost in the Matrix? That seemed to be the most logical explanation, so I decided to chalk it up to a learning experience and then forget about it.

Then this evening, there I was, back at the Fred Meyer U-Scan once again. As I was scanning groceries and making sure to bag cold stuff with other cold stuff, the attendant comes up to me and says, "Hey, did you lose a twelve-pack of beer last week?"

Me, attention piqued: "Why, yes. Yes, I did!"
Him: "Laurelwood, right?"
Me, pleasantly surprised: "Indeed!"
Him: "I remember you! Yeah, someone found it in a cart in the parking lot and turned it in. If you go over to customer service they might still have it."

I went over to customer service. They did not have it, but they did have a record of it. A very nice young woman there suggested that if I go over to the beer and wine department, I should be able to pick up this long-lost (okay, week-lost) twelve-pack of beer.

So I did. And the two gentlemen there were very courteous and helpful. I reclaimed my lost treasure and headed out, faith in humanity restored. At least for the moment.

Moral of the story: Fred Meyer is awesome. And so is the person who decided to turn in my purchase rather than take it home and drink it themselves.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Anime Roundup

It's time for another edition of Anime Roundup! I know, it's only been four weeks since the last one, but I've been trying to cram in as much anime as I can before other shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi (finally!) and the new season of Stranger Things (also finally!) come out.

Spy x Family
A brand-new show with a fantastic premise: a James Bond-ish superspy takes on a mission that requires him to pose as a family man, and so he adopts a young girl - who unbeknownst to him is a telepath - and enters into a faux-marriage with a woman who is actually a master assassin. All three of them have their own motives for staying in this arrangement, and only the girl knows the true identity of her "parents" (but won't reveal anything). I mean, that practically writes itself, doesn't it? Although I do wonder at times just how good of a spy the "father" really is if he isn't at least a little suspicious of his "daughter's" precociousness or his "wife's" amazing hand-to-hand combat skills. Oh well, I'm sure the plot will thicken as the show goes along; it's doing the slow-drip release strategy with only six episodes (out of 25) out so far. Manga readers, don't tell me what happens!

Blue Period
This one is an emotional drama (adapted from an award-winning manga) about a smart but directionless high school student who discovers that his life's passion is making art. The storyline mainly revolves around his efforts to get into art school, while also delving into the dramatic details of both his own personal life and his friends'. I especially liked the show's depiction of one of said friends and their gender identity issues (and the use, in the English subtitles at least, of the pronouns they/them). There are moments of levity here and there and the overall tone is optimistic, creating a nice balance with some of the heavier themes...kind of like a painting, I suppose? I don't know, I'm a writer/musician, not an artist.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
A vignette-style rom-com about two high school students - the president and vice president of the student council - who have crushes on each other but no one wants to make the first move out of fear that it'll put them in an inferior position to the other (kind of like the whole "hand" thing in the Seinfeld episode "The Pez Dispenser.") I mean, we've all been there, right? Top-notch humor writing, impeccable comic timing, and a ridiculously catchy theme song make this one tons of fun (if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. Sing it with me now: "Love is war / Love is war / Love is waaaaaaar")

Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, So I'll Max Out My Defense
Don't you just love that title? I did, so I had to check it out. What I found was what I think can be most accurately described genre-wise as slice-of-life meets virtual reality isekai (portal fantasy) - kind of like K-On! crossed with Sword Art Online. Seriously. The main character is a girl with limited experience in video games who, at the behest of her gamer friend, begins playing a VRMMORPG (virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game, say that ten times fast) and, not wanting to get hurt, puts all of her experience points into her defensive stats while neglecting everything else (strength, agility, etc.). It's a strategy that on paper shouldn't work, but when combined with her resourcefulness and general naivete, leads to her leveling up so much that she quickly and almost accidentally becomes one of the game's strongest players. In true slice-of-life fashion, most of the show just focuses on her and her growing group of friends/co-players playing the game and leveling up without much in the way of real stakes or drama - if you die, you just log back in the next day - and believe it or not, it works. (Maybe the stakes get higher later on? Manga readers, don't tell me what happens!)

Den-Noh Coil
Now here's a show that was ahead of its time. It came out in 2007 and depicted a near-future where AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) technology is immersive and commonplace, with most schoolchildren owning and wearing AR glasses that allow them to interact with their environment (while also doubling as phones). In addition, it features other tech that wasn't really established in 2007 but is more well-known now, like wearable computers, self-driving cars, and virtual currency. Netflix recently picked it up and I was drawn to it since my own project Four-D also features kids wearing smart glasses, although they use it not for AR but to see into the fourth spatial dimension (if that sounds good to you and you are an executive producer or investor or someone with deep connections in the entertainment industry, let me know).

Until next time, mata ne!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Volume Six And Seven Status Updates

At the last update eight weeks ago, I said that Joel Suzuki, Volume Six was ready for a line edit, and that Volume Seven was up to 16,000 words (around 64 pages).
What a difference two months makes! Since that previous post was published, Volume Six has been fully line-edited, and all the accepted editorial revisions have been applied. I even finished the back cover copy. Now, it's just a matter of doing the formatting and getting the cover art done. Look for a subtitle announcement in the near future!

As for Volume Seven, it's now up to 30,000 words (around 120 pages). The way it's going so far, when this volume is finished I think it'll be the longest installment in the series by far at an estimated 100,000 or so words (400 pages, yikes!), surpassing Volume Six's 90,500 words (362 pages). I hadn't originally planned it that way, but I guess it makes sense considering that it will be the epic finale to the whole seven-book arc.* We shall see. Either way, I'm really enjoying writing it, which is always a good sign. Stay tuned for more updates!

* Long-time readers of this blog and/or fans of the Joel Suzuki series may recall this post that talked about the possibility of there being Volumes Eight through Eleven, which, if they happen, will probably be "post-adventures" that happen outside of the main seven-volume story.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Happy Children's Day!

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post celebrating Hinamatsuri, or Girls' Day, which happens every March 3rd in Japan and Hawaii. Since it fell on a Thursday/blog day this year, I figured that a post would be appropriate.

There's another Japanese holiday that happens every May 5th that used to be called Boys' Day but was apparently changed to Children's Day ("Kodomo no Hi") when I wasn't looking BACK IN 1948 WHAAAT? This year, it too falls on a Thursday/blog day, hence this post.
The funny thing is that I always knew it as Boys' Day, even though I've lived literally my entire life during the time after the name was changed (I'm old, but not THAT old). Maybe Hawaii just never got the memo. Suffice it to say, though, that I completely approve of the change.

In Japan, Children's Day caps off something called Golden Week, which is the period between April 29 and May 5 in which four separate holidays are celebrated and a lot of people just generally take the entire week off. The history of Golden Week is rather complicated, with days changing and moving and being added or subtracted (during the early days of Covid it was rebranded as "Stay Home Week" and extended in both directions) but the bottom line is that it sounds like a fun time that I wish we had here in the States.

Anyway, Happy Children's Day to all!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

IG Live Interview

This past Tuesday I was fortunate to be a guest on Multicultural Children's Book Day's IG (Instagram) Live series for Autism Acceptance Month! I interviewed fellow author (and fellow gamer!) Meg Eden, whose credits include Post-High School Reality Quest, Drowning in the Floating World, and the forthcoming Selah's Guide to Normal.
We spoke for about twenty minutes about her work, her neurodivergent identity, and, of course, which Fire Emblem game is her favorite. If you missed it, you can check it out here!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Anime Roundup

As I mentioned in this previous post, I took an unintentional break from anime because there was a sudden glut of non-anime shows that I wanted to watch. In addition to the ones I listed in the post, there was also the second season of Raising Dion, the rest of The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, and Letterkenny. But, well, you can't keep an anime otaku away for too long, now, can you? (WARNING: CONTAINS SLIGHT SPOILERS)

Weathering With You
A full-length feature film brought to you by the same writer/director behind the brilliant Your Name (featured in this previous Anime Roundup post), this is a rom-dram with fantasy elements (similar to Your Name) that is about a teenage boy who runs away from home, goes to Tokyo, and meets a teenage girl who can control the weather - kind of like a slightly more subtle Storm from the X-Men. It starts off a little slow but gets real good, especially in the third act. The background art is some of the best I've ever seen in an anime, with near-photorealistic depictions of Tokyo that (I assume) are completely accurate. It's a great story with likeable characters, lots of emotion, and some humor sprinkled in. The secondary climate change theme is pretty relevant, as well.

Kotaro Lives Alone
This vignette-style dramedy takes the anime trope of kids living on their own without parents or guardians to the logical (illogical?) extreme, focusing on a four-year-old boy who lives by himself in an apartment complex. It does a good job of exploring exactly WHY a young child would be in a situation like that (as opposed to some animes where it's never explained where the parents are) and it delves into some pretty heavy and serious topics, like child abuse/neglect, divorce, etc., without getting overly dark about it. In fact, the overall tone is pretty light and optimistic, and I found myself breezing through all ten episodes of the first season in no time at all. Apparently there is also a live-action version, so Netflix, get on that, will you?

Soul Eater Not!
I was and am a big fan of the original Soul Eater (discussed in this previous Anime Roundup post). So when I found out there was a subsequent spinoff and it was on Hulu, I was all over it. Then, after a couple of episodes, I realized why it's called "Soul Eater Not!" - because although it's set in the same world as the original show (and, in fact, contains extended cameos by original characters), its tone is markedly different. Whereas the original was more of the shonen genre variety (plot-heavy action-adventure targeted at a teenage male demographic), this one is more slice-of-life/comedy/high school (in the middle of the second episode I was like, oh - I get it. "Not.") There is an in-world explanation of the "Not," with the main characters of this show being in the "NOT" class of their school, which focuses on simply controlling your powers, while the characters of the original are in the "EAT" class, where training to become heroes is the goal. Eventually the show does dip into some drama and peril, but then it quickly gets right back to being fuwa fuwa (light and fluffy). Or does it? Yes, it does. OR DOES IT??

Death Parade
This is a psychological thriller about a purgatory-like place, if said place was a bar where you play bar games (billiards, darts, etc.) to determine whether you go to "the void" or get reincarnated. Kind of like Squid Game, except not (also, this show came first). After the first episode it starts to veer away from the main premise a bit - which is good because otherwise it would get stale pretty fast - and injects an element of what I would call workplace drama as the various entities (called "arbiters") who run the purgatory-like place clash with each other. The penultimate episode features a fun cameo for hardcore anime fans, or at least fans who have watched anime shows that start with the word (HINT/SPOILER) "death."

Himouto! Umaru-Chan (Season 2)
I talked about season one of this show in this previous Anime Roundup post. Then recently, while sifting through my various streaming services for stuff to watch, I stumbled upon season two on Amazon Prime. Why they have season two but not season one, I have no idea. But it doesn't really matter - because of the slice-of-life style of the show, you don't need to have seen the first season to know what's going on (but you really should watch it anyway, it's on Crunchyroll). This second season basically continues the "story" of Umaru, the teenage girl who's a total overachiever at school and in public but a lazy otaku (nerd) at home, this time kind of delving more into her blossoming friendships with a few of her classmates, one of whom constantly says DESUWA?! (Japanese for "indeed") at the end of every sentence. Surprisingly, this is not as annoying as it sounds; in fact, now I find myself adding "DESUWA?!" at the end of my own sentences when I'm talking to my cats. One question I do have for the show (that I only thought of now for some reason) is: if Umaru wants to keep her slobby "Himouto" personality a secret, then why do her brother and she herself refer to her as "Umaru" when her friends are over? And why do said friends not catch on? It's not like they know tons of other people named Umaru. Maa, nandemoii (well, whatever).

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Snow? Cats. Snow? Cats.

Snow in April??
Yes, said the cats.
Shall we play?
No thank you, said the cats.
THE END

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Zomie Media

While my band Second Player Score is waiting for Beer & Ramen to be served, we took a little detour to record one song with our good friend Chris Hahn, guitarist/singer for Old Cross and the owner/engineer of Zomie Media.
Which song, you ask? Well, it's a cover song, one that we've been playing since the band started over ten (?!) years ago. It even predates most of our original material.
And its title is... actually, we're going to announce it on our podcast, so you'll have to listen to that to find out!
Or, I guess, you can just wait until we release it sometime this summer. Either way (and no, it's not Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know"). At any rate, we had a great time and a terrific first experience recording with Chris, so we're definitely going to be doing it again!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

What's For Lunch

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you're no stranger to my food-related posts, among them being things like Eating On A Budget and various Spam or Spam-adjacent recipes. This week, I figured I'd document what I've settled into as a pretty steady lunch (chuushoku or ohirugohan in Japanese) routine:
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
- Spinach salad w/fat-free vinaigrette dressing
- Broccoli florets and baby carrots w/Sriracha ranch dip
- Oven-roasted turkey slices (3) w/pepper jack cheese on wheat; light mayo, hot mustard, black pepper, and turmeric
- Salt & vinegar chips
- Lemon seltzer
- Green tea (afterwards)
Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays
- Spinach salad w/fat-free vinaigrette dressing
- Broccoli florets and baby carrots w/Sriracha ranch dip
- Chunk light tuna (in water, unflavored, 6 oz. pouch) on white rice, seasoned with turmeric
- Side of kim chi, spicy
- Lemon seltzer
- Green tea (afterwards)

This has been going on for a while now, and I'm not sure when it'll change. Previously, I used to eat frozen entrees every day, but that didn't seem healthy or cost-effective after a while, so I switched to the turkey sandwiches and then added in the tuna-on-rice after that. I know you may or may not care about my dietary habits, but since this blog is really just a public online diary, I thought it might be fun - for me, anyway - to capture this moment in time so that one day I can look back and see what I was having for lunch at this stage in my life. If you got this far, thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Evidence That We Are Living In A Simulation?

So far, I've written two posts on this subject, the first one back in July 2017 and the second one in January 2018. Since then, it seems like public interest in this subject has only grown, with more and more books and documentaries being released that explore the subject of whether or not we are living in a simulation (I've read - and recommend - The Simulation Hypothesis and The Simulated Multiverse, both by Rizwan Virk). My own interest is, of course, ongoing, and a few recent incidents have prompted me to write another one of these "evidence" posts:
1. The Rock Chip Incident

Several months ago, I was driving from Portland to Vancouver on the I-205 freeway. As I was crossing the Glenn Jackson Bridge, I found myself behind a big rig truck that subsequently kicked up a rock at my car. The rock hit my windshield, creating a small rock chip. I went to Jiffy Lube, who said that the chip wasn't large enough to warrant a full repair, but that they would apply some sealant and call it good (the chip was still evident). Then this past weekend, as I was driving from Portland to Vancouver on the I-205 freeway and crossing the Glenn Jackson Bridge, I found myself behind a big rig truck that subsequently kicked up a rock at my car that hit my windshield IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT AS THE PREVIOUS ROCK CHIP. How do I know this? Because after I got off the freeway, I parked and inspected the windshield and found absolutely no evidence of the previous chip (which I already knew to be in roughly the same area as the new chip). So, either (1) the previous chip had somehow repaired itself while I wasn't looking (improbable); (2) a one-in-a-mega-million-chance event had just occurred (possible); or (3) the simulation had rerun the same incident in a Matrix-black-cat kind of way. Which is the correct answer? You decide. (P.S. I went to Jiffy Lube again and this time they fixed it.)

2. The Ant Side Quest

I've been having an issue with ants in my kitchen lately (no, not the aunts of Geico commercial fame). I consider it sort of a side quest in the video game of life because it's one of those minor inconveniences that I just tend to from time to time in between major story events (plus, it's more fun if you make a game out of it). So the other day, after I, um, removed a few ants from my countertop, I looked away for a split second, only to look back and see that several more ants had taken their place. Now, mind you, this is in the middle of my countertop, where there are no nearby crevices for the ants to crawl out from or any other places where they could have been hiding. Seriously, it was like they had just appeared out of nowhere. So, either (1) I had somehow not seen them along with the other ants that I had removed (possible, but unlikely); (2) they have super-speed and had darted out from somewhere during the split second that I had looked away (improbable); or (3) the simulation had respawned them, just like bokoblins that appear out of nowhere in The Legend of Zelda.

3. Letterkenny

This one comes courtesy of Kyle, the drummer in my band Second Player Score. He and his wife are fans of the comedy show Letterkenny, on Hulu (which I've just started watching, by the way). Well, recently they started a rewatch and noticed that the characters Reilly and Jonesy are especially fond of saying the word "ferda," which apparently is a hockey term meaning "for the boys," an action that a player takes that is beneficial for the team as a whole. Now, normally this wouldn't be unusual, except that Kyle and his wife both swear the first time they watched the show, which started in 2016, they don't remember those characters saying that word AT ALL. They know this because they find the word to be so distinctive (and possibly annoying) that they definitely would have noticed it the first time around. So, either (1) the show has been reshot with new dialogue (highly unlikely); (2) both Kyle and his wife just somehow forgot about or didn't notice the word before (if it was just Kyle, possible, as he's dealing with long-Covid symptoms, but for both he AND his wife, who isn't prone to making stuff up, to forget? Unlikely); or (3) the simulation has shifted into a different version of itself, causing a Mandela Effect-like effect).

So there you have it, the latest examples of possible evidence that we are, in fact, living in a simulation. If you have some of your own, feel free to share. In the meantime, I'm going to go watch Free Guy again.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Volumes Six And Seven Status Updates

In this post from January 13, I said that I had received the developmental edit of Joel Suzuki, Volume Six back from my editor, and also that Volume Seven was up to 5268 words (that's kind of an oddly specific word count, not sure what I was thinking).
Well, today, I'm happy to say that Volume Six is now ready for a line edit, which will be done by a new editor* and be finished by the end of April! Also, Volume Seven - which had made it all the way up to 14,000 words before I had to do my usual backing-up-and-starting-over process** - is now up to 16,000 words and has a pretty solid outline on top of that.

So, if all goes according to plan, we can expect Volume Six to launch before the end of the year, which would be ahead of schedule***. Fingers crossed, and stay tuned for more updates!

* My other editor, Susan DeFreitas, is still the developmental editor for the series, but she's gotten so busy and successful - rightly so! - with her other projects that she no longer does line edits

** Because sometimes you have to actually write the thing before you realize that the thing you wrote is not the thing you wanted to write

*** I've been on an every-other-year schedule, with Volume One launching in 2012/2013, Volume Two in 2015, Volume Three in 2017, Volume Four in 2019 - um, I mean, 2018, I was ahead of schedule back then as well - Volume Five in 2021 (January!), and now, hopefully, 2022 instead of 2023 for Volume Six.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

So This Happened On Tuesday

When I wrote this Post That Is Sort Of About Football last month, I thought it would be the last one of its kind at least until the start of next season. Or maybe even for several more years after that, given my track record.

But then some stuff happened this week.
The funny thing about last month's post is that at the time, I was convinced that the Packers were going to trade Aaron Rodgers, and I suggested that several teams, the Broncos included, should try to acquire him.

As it turned out, Rodgers signed an extension with the Packers and instead, SOMEONE ELSE was traded to the Broncos, an occurrence that I (and many others, apparently) was not expecting in the least.*

I'm not going to say a whole lot else about it, as this isn't a sports blog and you can find tons of insight and analysis elsewhere**. I do think the trade makes logical sense, but in situations like these it's sometimes hard to separate logic from emotion.

So anyway, thanks for a fun decade of football, Russell Wilson. Among me and the guys in my band, your name became a verb meaning "to mount a great comeback," as in "Let's see them Russell Wilson their way out of this one!" Also, you were name-checked in Volume Five of the Joel Suzuki series, which is always a great honor. Best of luck in Denver.

* I also predicted that the Bengals would win the Super Bowl, so, yeah

** I will say this: maybe try to trade for Jordan Love?

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Happy Girls' Day: An SPS-Verse Skit

INT. BRIAN'S LIVING ROOM - DAY

Five young women are here, milling around. They are: FELICITY, 19, SUZI, 17, APRIL, 24, LYDIA, 24, and GLORIA, 24.

LYDIA: So, like, do any of you know why we're here?
FELICITY: No clue.
APRIL: But don't you live here, with my cousin Joel and that guy who's always interviewing me and Lyd about baseball?
FELICITY: I do, but that doesn't mean we tell each other everything.
GLORIA: This is very odd. All of you are dressed like you're from some bygone era. What year is this?
SUZI: 2022.
FELICITY: Or 2013.
APRIL: Or 2018.
GLORIA: What?
FELICITY: Don't worry about it. It's complicated.

A middle-aged MAN enters. This is BRIAN. He is carrying a tray of mochi (Japanese rice cake).

BRIAN: Hinamatsuri omedetou! Happy Girls' Day!
FELICITY: Girls' Day?
BRIAN: Yeah, it's a Japanese holiday that happens on March 3rd. We used to celebrate it back in Hawaii, too.
LYDIA (to April): Did you know about this?
APRIL: Nope.
LYDIA: What? What kind of Japanese person are you?
APRIL: The fifth-generation that was born and raised on the mainland kind.
BRIAN: It's only the second time that it's fallen on a blog day, and the first time since I started getting into Japanese culture, so I figured we'd have a small celebration.
GLORIA: That is very kind of you, but I believe we are too old to be considered girls.
SUZI: I'm not, technically.
BRIAN: Well, these days it's for women of all ages.
FELICITY: Hey, works for me (takes a piece of mochi and eats it). Mm, this is pretty good.
BRIAN: Everyone, please, douzo. Help yourself.

Everyone takes a piece of mochi and eats it (Gloria sniffs hers first) except Suzi.

FELICITY (eating a second piece): You really should try this. You're missing out.
SUZI: Thanks, but I'm on a diet.
LYDIA: What for? You must weigh, what, a hundred pounds, tops.
APRIL: Probably as a result of said diet.
FELICITY: Aw, c'mon, one won't kill you.
SUZI: Oh, okay (takes a piece and eats it). You're right, it is good.
BRIAN: Anyway, I just wanted to get you all together here and say thanks for being such incredible members of the SPS-Verse, with Felicity and Suzi from the Joel Suzuki series, April and Lydia from what used to be called Jinx but will probably be changed to something else, and, of course, Gloria from Glorified.
LYDIA: Huh?
GLORIA: What is he talking about?
FELICITY: He goes off on weird tangents like that every once in a while. Just humor him.
SUZI: Actually, I think I've heard of this. It's kind of like a multiverse where we all exist in the same timeline or reality, but just in different scenarios within the same continuity.
APRIL: I do recall him saying something about how Lyd and I were the stars of some movie script, or whatever.
FELICITY: Yeah...and wait, isn't there another one, called 200 BPM or Civil or something like that, that features a woman? Shouldn't she be here, too?
BRIAN (looking sheepish): Uh, true, but...
FELICITY: But what?
BRIAN: She's a bit, well...not good with mixed company, let's say.
FELICITY: Oh.
SUZI: She's a serial killer, right?
BRIAN: Uh...yeah.
LYDIA: Are you serious?
BRIAN: Yeah. But don't worry, she only kills people who are jerks.
FELICITY: Well, you didn't invite her to this party, so that just might make you a jerk.

Cue OMINOUS MUSIC as the camera PANS to a window in the house where a MYSTERIOUS FIGURE is lurking and watching the proceedings.

CUT TO BLACK

TO BE CONTINUED...MAYBE

Thursday, February 24, 2022

TV Roundup, Episode Five

I've been watching what feels like an extraordinarily large amount of "TV" (i.e., streaming series) lately, so much more so than usual (which is already a lot) that anime has - gasp - sort of taken a back seat for the moment. So, I figured I'd write a TV Roundup post. Then I found out that the last TV Roundup post I did was from November...not 2021, but 2020. What the heck? Did I go a whole year+ without watching any good shows? No, I just got distracted. That happens. Also, I've been talking about a lot of shows on my band's podcast instead of in this blog, so there's that (those shows include Alice in Borderland, Sweet Home, Rick and Morty, Shadow and Bone, Dota: Dragon's Blood, Titans, Squid Game, Solar Opposites, Inside Job, Hellbound, Arcane: League of Legends, Peacemaker, and The Legend of Vox Machina).

Anyway! (and beware, there might be slight spoilers)

The Book of Boba Fett
I'm familiar with all the criticism, and I agree with some of it, but I feel like the question you have to ask is: did I enjoy watching this show? And the answer is yes, yes I did. So, isn't that sort of the point? To be entertained? The one thing that does still bother me is that (spoiler alert? Has anyone reading this blog NOT seen this show yet?) a Naboo starfighter is not really the best mode of transportation for a bounty hunter, even if the vacated droid port makes a perfectly cute baby seat for Grogu.

(on Disney+)

All the Marvel Shows on Disney+ So Far
Have I not talked about any of these yet? Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, What If? Yes, I've watched them all, of course (along with their associated "Assembled" making-of specials). Heck, they could make up their own TV Roundup post. Suffice it to say that Disney/Marvel can't put these things out fast enough.

(on Disney+)

As We See It
A dramedy about three autistic young adults navigating life, this show is a breakthrough for representation in that its leads are all actually autistic. I've read some of the criticism from the community, and trust me, I totally get it. Still, though, I think it's another step in the right direction, so progress is being made, even if it's slow. Heck, the show even casts neurodiverse people in neurotypical roles. If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you check it out and decide for yourself - aside from the autism angle, it's really pretty touching and heartfelt.

(on Amazon Prime)

Brews Brothers
This comedy about two brothers who run an independent brewery/brewpub actually came out in 2020 but for some reason I just found out about it recently. Needless to say, its setting, premise, and juvenile gross-out sense of humor are all right up my alley.

(on Netflix)

Invincible
A superhero show from last year that is based on a popular comic book series that ran from 2003-2018, despite its family-friendly appearance this one is definitely not for kids...it's more for fans of things like The Boys. Which I guess makes it that much more subversive.

(on Amazon Prime)

The Wheel of Time
I actually tried reading the first book of the series upon which this show is based a few years ago after hearing how good it was, but - sorry, Randlanders - I just couldn't get into it for some reason. I think I had more patience for extremely long descriptive passages when I was a kid, but now it's kind of my least favorite thing not only to read, but to write as well (which is partly why I love writing screenplays, because they're mostly action and dialogue). I picked up the book again when this show came out in an attempt to do a simultaneous read-and-watch sort of thing, but, well...the show just kind of took over. For what it's worth, I did enjoy the show a lot and especially love the world-building. Looking forward to the next season.

(on Amazon Prime)

The Chair
I actually watched this one, a dramedy about a newly appointed English department chair at a fictional university, when it first came out last summer. I enjoyed it (the celebrity cameo in the penultimate episode was especially fun), and I was reminded to talk about it here because Sandra Oh is returning in the fourth and final season of Killing Eve next week.

(on Netflix)

Blade Runner: Black Lotus
I mentioned this show in this previous Status Updates post, saying that it could be technically considered an anime but I decided not to count it as such for various reasons that I didn't want to get into. And I still don't! Anyway, it's an Adult Swim/Crunchyroll joint production (like Fena: Pirate Princess) and is part of the whole Blade Runner continuity, focusing on a period of time in between the events of Black Out 2022 and 2036: Nexus Dawn. I think it captures the moody, broody noir style of the franchise perfectly, and it contains a lot of fun Easter eggs for hardcore fans (like me). Also, the animation - especially the fight scenes - is absolutely breathtaking.

(on Crunchyroll)

So yeah, that really IS a lot of TV! This roundup didn't even include new seasons of old favorites like Cobra Kai and Miraculous Ladybug, or The Man in the High Castle (which I didn't talk about because I'm still in the middle of catching up with it - no spoilers, please!) I know I've said before that I don't consider it unhealthy because as a writer, it's sort of my job to keep up with this stuff (and also, most of the time I exercise while watching), but...man. Either way, I'm sure it won't take me another fifteen months to post episode six of this roundup series (or maybe it will, who knows).

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Second Player Score Live Interview Tonight!

That's right - tonight at 6pm Pacific, my band Second Player Score will be doing a live interview with our good friend Bob Minter from WCZR Code Zero Radio in Wisconsin!
We'll be talking about our latest projects as well as all things in the SPS-Verse. Be sure to check it out at this link!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Beer & Ramen

Last week, my band Second Player Score hit the recording studio to lay down tracks for our latest upcoming EP. Which EP would that be, you ask? Well, since the previous two EPs were Four-D: The Winter Suite and Four-D: The Autumn Suite, then it must be either Four-D: The Spring Suite or Four-D: The Summer Suite, right? Wrong.

It's Beer & Ramen (yes, that's the title).
That's right, we're interrupting our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a project that was born partly out of our recently-formed partnership with Visual Reel Entertainment in Japan and partly out of my desire to fulfill a years-long jonesing to sing and record songs in Japanese.
There will be seven tracks on the Beer & Ramen EP (three covers and four originals):

- Ue O Muite Arukou, or, as it's more commonly known in the states, Sukiyaki.

- Go Go Kikaida!! the main theme song to the '70s tokusatsu show that I talked about in this previous post. If you've read that post, then you know that when I was five years old, I spontaneously volunteered to sing this song to my kindergarten class for who knows what reason... foreshadowing, perhaps?


- An as-yet-to-be-titled song that, right now, is called "The Collab Song." It's called that because it'll be a collaboration between us and the CEO of Visual Reel, our buddy Andrew Kaiama. It's a tribute to the anime series Tokyo Revengers (covered in this Anime Roundup post) and we're doing the choruses (in English, boring) while Andrew will be doing the verses (in Japanese, since he's way more fluent than I am). Once he finishes his lyrics, we'll be giving the song a new title. Or maybe not?

- Gloria (off our first album, Fortress Storm Attack), Eye of the Needle (off our third album, Glorified), and Ragged Town (ditto), all redone with the verses in Japanese. Yes, I'm singing them. I even did the translation, which I'm hoping is acceptable (Andrew proofed it, so I'm sure it is). Weird thing is, I did those translations a while ago just for fun, thinking that maybe it would be cool if one day they could be used as the theme songs to an anime adaptation of Glorified. Little did I know that years later, we'd actually be recording them! And while the anime adaptation is not a thing just yet, who knows what might be in store...

Anyway, we're hoping to release the EP in May or June, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Kikaida's first broadcast date in Japan on July 8th. Stay tuned for more details! (and yes, we'll be resuming our work on Four-D later this year)

Thursday, February 3, 2022

A Post That Is Sort Of About Football, Post-Season Edition (Plus Bonus Super Bowl Prediction)

This is the sixth time I've done one of these posts. The first five times were prior to the 2016 season, the middle of the 2016 season, the end of the 2016 season, the beginning of the 2020 season, and the beginning of the 2021 season. Why so random and sporadic? Because, as regular readers of this blog know, random and sporadic are how we do things around here.
Arizona Cardinals: I called them a "JUGGERNAUT" (yes, in all caps) in the aforementioned beginning-of-2021 post, which was not actually written at the very beginning of the season but after they had blown out the Titans in the season opener. They continued their juggernaut-y ways for a while after that, winning their first seven games before wilting down the stretch. Jinxed? You tell me.

Atlanta Falcons: Not much to say here.

Baltimore Ravens: That backup quarterback of theirs looks pretty good? I guess?

Buffalo Bills: Note to selves: don't start celebrating until the game is actually over.

Carolina Panthers: Maybe try to trade for Aaron Rodgers?

Chicago Bears: Honestly, I had never heard of Matt Eberflus before now.

Cincinnati Bengals: In my pre-2020 post, I said "Joe Burrow? Well, I guess he won a national championship." Then in my pre-2021 post, I said about Joe Burrow, "I'm sure they're glad he's back." Just how glad they would end up being, I had no idea. Honestly, even now, Joe Burrow is the only guy on this team I can name. But look, I was rooting for you guys throughout the playoffs, and now I'll be rooting for you in the last game of the year (see "Super Bowl Prediction" below).

Cleveland Browns: In my pre-2021 post, I said "could maybe, finally, be starting to turn the corner." Um, well... hey, at least those Baker Mayfield commercials are pretty hilarious.

Dallas Cowboys: I swear, I have sworn off schadenfreude. It's not good for the soul.

Denver Broncos: Will Hank Scorpio buy the team and give it to Homer Simpson? And then try to trade for Aaron Rodgers?

Detroit Lions: So I guess Matthew Stafford wasn't the problem...?

Green Bay Packers: Look, I know you all are saying that you want Aaron Rodgers back next year, but I mean, c'mon, you're eleventy billion dollars over the salary cap, you have another quarterback that you traded up to draft in the first round entering the third year of his rookie contract, and, well, what has Mr. Rodgers really done for you lately? I know, it's probably just good P.R., since it seems like he'll be the one to decide that he wants to leave or retire. Then again, maybe this is all just overblown quarterback drama (trust me, I know all about that).

Houston Texans: Eeeyeah...

Indianapolis Colts: I can feel your pain. From here. Still.

Jacksonville Jaguars: At least you have the number one overall pick in the draft. Again.

Kansas City Chiefs: Apologies, Chiefs fans, but I was actively rooting against your team in the playoffs. Only because I'm jealous of how good that Mahomes guy is.

Las Vegas Raiders: It's funny, because I've been talking about the Seahawks trying to get Gus Bradley to come back for years now. Could this be the year? Probably not.

Los Angeles Chargers: See what happens when you move from San Diego? Now you're like the younger kid brother to the most popular guy in school (see Los Angeles Rams, below).

Los Angeles Rams: I called them a "JUGGERNAUT" (yes, in all caps) in the beginning-of-2021 post, and, well, looks like I was right. No jinx there...yet (see "Super Bowl Prediction" below). But seriously, this team is stacked. They're like the Los Angeles Dodgers of football, or something. I mean, Cooper Kupp AND Odell Beckham Jr.? Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, AND Von Miller? Ugh.

Miami Dolphins: Did you know that dolphins can go without sleep for up to five days?

Minnesota Vikings: Maybe try to trade for Aaron Rodgers? Although, I guess Kirk Cousins got selected as a Pro Bowl alternate, so whatever.

New England Patriots: Now you know how that whole getting-blown-out-by-a-team-that-is-running-up-the-score thing feels.

New Orleans Saints: I couldn't believe that Sean Payton had been there for 16 years. I still remember when he was an assistant at Dallas.

New York Giants: Honestly, I had never heard of Brian Daboll before now.

New York Jets: I guess the extra first round pick from the Seahawks last year didn't help that much? Honestly, I don't even know who you guys used it on. Jets fans, can you tell me? Oh, and as far as this year's first round pick goes - you're welcome. Use it wisely.

Philadelphia Eagles: Hey, at least you guys made the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers: So, Ben Roethlisberger has finally retired. Maybe try to trade for Aaron Rodgers?

San Francisco 49ers: I called them a "JUGGERNAUT" (yes, in all caps) in the beginning-of-2021 post, and, well, they made it to the NFC championship, didn't they?

Seattle Seahawks: Well, now, THAT didn't quite work out, did it? Really, though, even with the whole Russell Wilson injury thing, they lost five games by only three points or less. Turn those five around, and suddenly you have a 12-5 record instead of 7-10. Anyway, I've heard a lot of talk about how the team needs more "stars" and that maybe they should follow the Rams' model and trade all their first round picks for the rest of eternity for said "stars." But! In my post-2016 season post, I said that the team has become "too star-dependent." Yes, I really said that! And it's not like they DON'T trade high draft picks for "stars" - see: Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham, Jamal Adams. I actually think this team works best when they take "non-stars" who have been overlooked and thus have chips on their shoulders, and then let them unleash their vengeance on an unsuspecting league (also, the Rams actually have more "homegrown" players than you would think). Anyway, I think that if you can get the late-season version of Rashaad Penny to play like that all year next year (FINGERS CROSSED, KNOCK ON WOOD, LIGHT SOME INCENSE, ETC.), and you hire a defensive coordinator who knows how to get the best out of Jamal Adams, then things should be okay. I hope.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: FINALLY. So... maybe try to trade for Aaron Rodgers?

Tennessee Titans: Not much to say here.

Washington...Commanders? Okay, then.

BONUS SUPER BOWL PREDICTION: I really want the Bengals to win, not only because it's a cool story, but also because there's usually a Super Bowl hangover for the loser of the big game and I would looooove it if the Rams were not as annoyingly good next year. That said, like I mentioned above, the Rams are stacked. So, I'm conflicted here. Do I go with what seems like conventional wisdom (the Rams are currently favored by something like 4.5 points, it fluctuates) and say Rams 23, Bengals 19? Or do I go with my feelings and hope that the positive thinking vibes will help propel an underdog team of unknowns to their franchise's first title? I say... the latter: BENGALS 28, RAMS 27 (I'm not betting any money anyway, so who cares)