Thursday, November 30, 2023

Neighborhood Toy Store Month

November is Neighborhood Toy Store Month! And yes, while today is the last day of November, our wonderful neighborhood toy store Kazoodles Toys is holding a bonus event this Saturday, December 2nd, called "Celebrate Local."
The day - or, more accurately, the five hours between 11am and 4pm - will feature brands with local (the Vancouver, WA area) ties, including MarmalsEarth Grown KidDoughs, Mukikim, Mirus Toys, eeBoo, Tonies, and yours truly, the author of the Joel Suzuki series.

So if you're in the area, stop on by and get your holiday shopping done!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving Gratitude Post, Kumoricon Edition

I'm grateful for so many things (including the now-complete cast and crew of Hold My Beer), but I figured that just to be different, I'll list a bunch of stuff related to my attendance this past Saturday of Kumoricon 2023, the massive anime convention held in Portland, OR.
- The fact that Kumoricon is back and I was able to attend. The last time I went was in the before-times, in 2019.

- Even though the registration line took almost three hours to navigate (I really don't remember it being quite as long four years ago), I was still able to make it in time to get a couple of autographs that my son really wanted.

- I made it all the way to the "late night dance party" (pictured above) without needing a nap.

- The grilled chicken sandwich from one of the vendors, despite being naturally overpriced, was actually pretty good.

- The couple of panels I attended (Q&A with Anime Animators; Manga vs. Comics) were entertaining and informative.

- Even though the parking lot in the convention center was full (of course), I was able to find an alternate parking location that had lots of open stalls, was reasonably priced (yes, $20 is reasonable under the circumstances), had friendly attendants, and was good until midnight (handy, since I stayed for the aforementioned late night dance party).

Looking forward to next year!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Words & Pictures Festival 2023

By the way, I forgot to mention (actually, I didn't really forget, it's just that I had a bunch of stuff all happening at around the same time and I only do these blog posts every Thursday for reasons that I can't even explain myself) that I, once again, took part in Vancouver's very own annual Words & Pictures Festival!
(Thanks to fellow author Gretchen McClellan for the photo. Check out her books. Seriously.)

As always, it was a lot of fun, and in addition to selling books (thanks to everyone who bought one!) I also got to do a presentation called "Song & Story Structure," where I talked about how songs and melodies that are catchy (like the "Happy Birthday" song, for example) are structured like stories, and also why anime theme songs are SOOO GOOD. Big thanks to library branch manager Rachael Ries and the staff at the Cascade Park Community Library for having me and for being such awesome hosts.

Looking forward to next year!

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Exciting Hold My Beer Update!

Happy and excited to introduce the young adult cast of Hold My Beer!
From left to right: Lydia Pearl Pentz, Ethan Blackwelder, Andrew York, and Ian Engelsman (the old guy on the far right in the Blazers shirt is the writer/director/producer). All four have extensive acting experience and we're very grateful to have them on board.

More updates to come!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Southwest Washington Autism Conference

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the 13th Annual Southwest Washington Autism Conference in Centralia, WA (about 90 miles north of Vancouver) presented by the Lewis County Autism Coalition.
It was a one-day conference packed with informative panels, terrific vendors, and an amazing keynote speaker (more on that below). I was there as both a board member of Autism Empowerment as well as the author of the Joel Suzuki series, of which we donated a full seven-book set as a raffle prize.
Even after so many years of being involved in the autism community, I still find it awesome that almost wherever you go, you can find groups like the Lewis County Autism Coalition who are working to help make the world a more inclusive and accepting place for people of all abilities.

Oh, and the keynote speaker? None other than Autism Empowerment's own Karen Krejcha.
Karen did a fantastic job with a speech that was emotional, heartfelt, passionate, inspiring, educational, and, yes, empowering.

Big thanks to Karen and her husband John for allowing me to opportunity to attend the conference, and to Nicole Miller and the Lewis County Autism Coalition for putting on an awesome event.

Next, this coming Saturday I will be once again participating in the annual Words & Pictures Festival at the Cascade Park Community Library! This year, I'll be presenting a mini-workshop for young people called "Song and Story Structure," with tips on how to craft catchy tunes and captivating novels using examples from popular culture (anime theme songs, anyone?) as well as my own stuff. My workshop runs from 2:00-2:45pm, but the festival itself is from 10am-4:30pm, with lots of other great panels and presentations by local authors. There's also a virtual track for those who want to participate remotely. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Hold My Beer Status Update

The film project known as Hold My Beer is coming along!
Since the last update post five weeks ago, we have:

- Increased the number of filled speaking roles to seven out of ten, with leads on a few more;
- Shot test footage at two of our locations, Loowit Brewing and Seize the Bagel;
- Cut together the first scene of our workprint (basically, a rough draft of the film with the Second Player Score guys filling in for the actual actors);
- Completed some grant administration work; and
- Made progress on securing another (big) location

So far it's been a fun and exciting process (despite a few Living in Oblivion-worthy moments), which is good because I need something to keep me busy now that Joel Suzuki and 4-D are both basically done.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Woolly Bear

Appropriately for this Halloween-ish time of year, I recently discovered a black-and-orange fuzzy caterpillar in my backyard.
Being from Hawaii, I had no idea what it was (even though I've been living here in Vancouver, WA for over 23 years now, this is the first time I've seen one of these). So I looked it up, and apparently it is called, in very adorable fashion, a "woolly bear." According to Wikipedia, it eventually turns into something called an Isabella Tiger Moth, which has to be one of the most epic moth names ever. Legend has it that the orange section of the caterpillar predicts the severity of the coming winter - a wide band indicates a mild season, while a narrow band portends the next Snowpocalypse. I don't know what this particular one was trying to say; its orange band contracted and widened as it crawled along. So maybe a little of both? I wouldn't be surprised.

If you've read Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell, you may recall that there was a creature called a ratworm, which was described as a "thin, foot-long, furry snake" that reminded Joel of "pictures of furry caterpillars (that he'd seen) in science class." When I wrote that part, was I foretelling my eventual discovery, many years later, of a furry caterpillar in my backyard?

Eh, probably not.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Stuck In The Daily Grind

Hey, so remember this post from six weeks ago where I mentioned that my band was making a video for our song "Daily Grind?" And I posted a picture from the set where there was a green screen behind a desk? Well, whether you remember or not, here is the completed video!
In preparation for our work on Hold My Beer, we scripted, storyboarded, directed, and edited this all on our own (with an assist from my son Torin). It was a lot of fun to make. Here is some behind-the-scenes trivia about it:

- The opening wake-up shot of me was filmed in my bedroom with my actual alarm clock that I don't use, because I'm usually woken up by cats. Kyle's shot was filmed on my couch, while Dan filmed his shot in his room at home.

- All the "getting dressed" shots were filmed in my house. Yes, that's my 20-sided die mug (a present from Dan) and my Portland Trail Blazers miniature basket.

- We considered several different options for the "sitting in traffic" shots, like actually sitting in traffic, or filming in a garage somewhere with giant screens behind our cars, but when we realized a tight shot of us in the driver's seats would be sufficient, we just did it in my driveway.

- The offices are all green screen images, in case you haven't already guessed.

- Torin shot most of the "playing in the garage" scene.

Check it out!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Anime Roundup

Yes, it's finally time for another Anime Roundup! Hisashiburi ("it's been a while"). But even though the last roundup was back in January (and was just for one show, Attack on Titan), I have been mostly keeping up with my requisite viewing of anime, in between all the Ahsoka and Ladybug stuff. Besides the new seasons of Ultraman, Mushoku Tensei, and Demon Slayer, here are some of the other shows I have consumed/am consuming:

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
This is another entry in the subgenre of "middle-aged guy dies and then wakes up as someone or something else in a parallel, D&D-type universe" type of portal fantasy, along the lines of the aforementioned Mushoku Tensei and Uncle From Another World (both of which I talked about in an Anime Roundup post from last December). In this one, our hero is reincarnated as a small, gelatinous blob that would ordinarily be at the bottom of the totem pole of creatures in his new home, but instead he's able, through a combination of lucky breaks and his own wits, to accumulate so many skills and abilities that he eventually turns into a borderline-overpowered entity who oversees an entire country. It starts off a little slow but eventually picks up speed and, like other similar shows, has all the things I enjoy (action, magic, drama, comedy, romance).

Kimi No Todoke
This is a gentle and wistful coming-of-age romantic comedy about a shy teenage girl who is teased and shunned by classmates - because she looks like the character from the Japanese horror film The Ring - until one day a popular ikemen ("hot guy") classmate talks to and befriends her, causing her life to change. There's also a live-action adaptation that I watched more-or-less concurrently (always a fun experience) and, despite the fact that it ended up in a place that you could - spoiler alert - basically expect, I've heard there will be a new season coming in 2024. I will be there.

KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!
Yet another "main character dies and is revived in another world" portal fantasy! But this one puts its own twists on it, like making the protagonist a teenager rather than middle-aged, and instead of gaining new powers, he takes the entity (in this case, an absent-minded goddess) who was responsible for his reincarnation along with him into the new world. I had been wanting to check it out for a while, but for some strange reason all the places I could find it in only had it in dub, and as you know if you've been keeping up with these roundup posts, I am a subtitle-only snob. Then it finally showed up on Hulu with subs, and I was like, yatta (yay)! But then to my dismay, I soon discovered that after the first couple of minutes of each episode, the subtitles started to lag behind the actual dialogue, making for a very disorienting viewing experience (my tourist-level Japanese-language skills were of little help). At first I thought this might be a one-episode issue, but no, it's ALL OF THEM. Naze ("why"), Hulu, naze??

My Happy Marriage
A romantic drama where people have supernatural abilities in an otherwise realistic 19th-century setting? Yes, please. It's about a young woman who, because she was born without powers, is treated with contempt and forced to be a servant in her own house by her abusive stepmother. Things seem to get worse when she's arranged to be married off to a military commander who is rumored to be basically a jerk. Turns out, though, that he's actually a pretty cool dude (not to mention an ikemen), and her life starts to look up...until more stuff goes down, as it tends to do. Full of satisfying emotional beats, this was one of those shows that made me say "man, this is SO GOOD" aloud several times to my TV over the course of its twelve episodes.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
I swear, manga and anime creators are geniuses at coming up with fun and interesting premises. Like this one. Yes, it's about a zombie apocalypse, but instead of mourning the loss of civilization, the young adult main character welcomes it with cheerful enthusiasm, as it frees him from the drudgery of his boring office job and allows him the opportunity to enjoy life and do the (wholesome) things he's always wanted to do (hence, "Bucket List of the Dead"). As you might imagine, this idea practically writes itself. There is a live-action movie adaptation that Netflix dropped around the same time, but since the anime episodes are being released weekly (biweekly? randomly?) I haven't watched the movie yet, since I don't want to know how the story ends. Manga readers, don't tell me what happens!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

4-D Is Here!

Now that every track on Second Player Score's latest release 4-D has been launched, it's time to reveal the official entire album, complete with cover art!
It features the main characters of the underlying story, Wynn and their fourth-dimensional companion Gogo. As for the story itself, some of the details have changed over time, but the main plot (inspired by things like Pokemon and Avatar: The Last Airbender) is essentially the same: four kids become involved in a high-stakes scavenger hunt to retrieve powerful objects from the fourth spatial dimension in order to make their dreams come true... but, of course, nothing is as it seems.

The tie-in novella that was originally planned has been put on the shelf for now, but the associated card game is still in production. And we also have concepts and ideas for a possible TV show adaptation. In the meantime, you can check out the rest of the album's artwork and order a CD copy of it (do people still listen to CDs? Of course they do!) at this link.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Hold My Beer In Progress

Preproduction on Hold My Beer has officially begun! I mean, we already had a script, storyboards, a few actors, and a couple of locations lined up, but now that we've been approved for the grant from the Vancouver Culture, Arts and Heritage Commission (as mentioned in this previous post), activity is ramping up.
This past weekend, we did our first filmed chemistry read with two of our cast members, Karen Krejcha and Kevin Coy, both of whom knocked it out of the park! So now we'll be working to fill out the rest of our cast (which is kind of the priority, since if we don't have a cast, we don't have a film) while juggling any number of other items on the to-do list. Ah, the joys of indie filmmaking...

Also, tomorrow Second Player Score will be dropping the final track off our latest album 4-D, titled "Everything's Fine." It's a mellow, acoustic (with ukulele!) song meant to evoke images of sitting around a campfire during the denouement chapter of the story, where the heroes are licking their wounds and celebrating their victory over the bad guys. Here are the lyrics:

Things will always change and they will never, ever be the same
But well, hey, that's okay
Didn't really like them anyway

Beaten up and broken down from playing all your games
Bottom line, I won't whine
As long as there's a sun still left to shine

'Cause everything's fine

Take a breath, and calm yourself
Stay focused on the now
Like they say, come what may
Get a little better every day

Don't you worry, just relax and it will all work out somehow
So unwind, clear your mind
And wait for life to send some kind of sign

'Cause everything's fine

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, September 14, 2023

I Was A Production Assistant On A Film Set!

For the past three days, I had the privilege and pleasure of being a Production Assistant on the set of a brilliant documentary-in-progress called Our Mr. Matsura. Directed by my good friend and awesome independent filmmaker Beth Harrington, it tells the story of a photographer named Frank Matsura who journeyed from Japan to live in rural Washington state in the early 1900s.
Beth was kind enough to let me join the production during the time it spent filming in Seattle, where I had the opportunity to learn and observe the ins-and-outs of filmmaking while performing typical Production Assistant duties like watching equipment (a job apparently called "Fire Watch" in show biz language), moving equipment, driving crew members around, and picking up lunch. Locations included a store called Vintage Posters, Photographs, Postcards and Ephemera, the Lake View Cemetery (where Bruce and Brandon Lee are buried!), and the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (pictured above).

Big thanks to Beth and the incredible, gracious crew (Nora, Kevin, Asia, Caitlin, and Jordan) for being patient with me and answering my questions. I learned a lot and had a great time while (hopefully) lending a helping hand. All in all, it was a terrific experience and an invaluable education as I attempt to level up my filmmaking skills in preparation for Hold My Beer.

Oh, and tomorrow, my band/multimedia production team Second Player Score will be dropping the second-to-last track off our latest album 4-D. It's an anime-theme-song-inspired, six-minute-plus epic affair titled "Battle Royale" that, in the grand concept album scheme of things, is about the climactic final confrontation between the heroes and the villain, but can also apply to any fight you have in real life (which is hopefully not as violent as the one in our story). Here are the lyrics:

I lost the war before I even began
This whole charade was just a part of your plan
You only wanted someone else you could blame
Well now I've gone and changed the rules of the game

And you won't take me down tonight
'Cause all you have is selfish spite

So yes, I guess it's finally come down to this
And no, you won't be someone that I will miss
'Cause only one of us will stand in the end
My lone regret is that I called you my friend

And you won't take me down tonight
'Cause all you have is selfish spite
And I will take you down tonight
'Cause we both know that I am right

And you won't take me down tonight
'Cause all you have is selfish spite
And I will take you down tonight
'Cause we both know that I am right

I don't care
And I swear
To mend the broken little pieces of my heart

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

More New Music Tomorrow: Divide and Conquer

If you've been following this blog for the past five weeks, you know that my band and multimedia production team Second Player Score has been dropping a new track off our latest album 4-D every Friday. The first four were from the "Summer Suite" (4-D is divided into four seasonal suites), while the next four, which began last week, are from the "Spring Suite" (graphic below).
Tomorrow's new song is "Divide and Conquer," which is a song about, well, dividing and conquering. You see, 4-D, like all our albums, tells a complete story while still having lyrics that are relatable to everyday life, and "Divide and Conquer" is told from the Big Bad's point of view near the beginning of the final act right before the climactic fight with the heroes. This song is probably the album's least relatable one (unless you are an evil supervillain), but it's still a rocking, energetic track that is perfect for a good shout-along (fun fact: it used to be slower tempo-wise and didn't really work until our drummer Kyle, inspired by an Offspring song, suggested that we play it a lot faster). Or, I don't know, maybe you can relate to it, read the lyrics and judge for yourself:

And now that we're at the final battle
They come together like herding cattle
Since when they gather, they drive you bonkers
You'd so much rather divide and conquer

Alone you know they won't last much longer
And joining forces will make 'em stronger
To kick their britches from here to Yonkers
You're gonna have to divide and conquer

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Things Are Happening

Exciting times!
First of all, remember the film project tentatively titled Hold My Beer? In the last status update post about it back in April, I mentioned that I was working on an application for a grant from the Vancouver Culture, Arts and Heritage Commission that would help fund the project. Well, on Tuesday, it was announced that the grant has been awarded! (it's going to Autism Empowerment, who is coproducing the film with my band/multimedia production team Second Player Score). So now, we can move full speed ahead, which means you'll be seeing a lot more status update posts. In the meantime, Second Player Score has been developing our filmmaking chops by creating a music video for "Daily Grind," the song mentioned in this previous post (the picture above shows one of the sets of the video, complete with green screen).

Second, the secret recording project that I talked about in this post has been unveiled! It's called "Welcome to Punky's MixTape," and it's the new theme song for the internet variety show "Punky's MixTape" on Twitch. We've been good friends with the show and its host/creator, Punky Bruiser, for a number of years now (you may recall us having a virtual launch party on the show back in February 2021, and also playing Dungeons & Dragons as a fundraiser for Autism Empowerment a month after that), and we are honored to now be the official soundtrack for their opening credits. You can check out the song and its awesome accompanying footage on YouTube at this link, and be sure to tune in to Punky's Mixtape every Wednesday on Twitch at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern.

And finally, tomorrow another track off of Second Player Score's new album 4-D will be released! It's from the album's Spring Suite, it's called "Fourth Quarter Comeback," and it's about...well, it's basically about what it says in the title. Also, it features guest backing vocals from Dan's wife Molly and Kyle's daughter Fallon. We wrote it with the idea that it would make a good anthem for high school football games across the country. Here are the lyrics:

Let's see those rally caps go on
We'll seize this chance before it's gone
Stay calm I know we got this now
It's not too late to show them how

We're never giving up
We're never giving in
We're never gonna stop
Not until the end

You know there's still a lot of time
And fortune can turn on a dime
It isn't over 'til it's done
And then we'll see just who has won

We're never giving up
We're never giving in
We're never gonna stop
Not until the end

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Volume Nine Status Update

That's right, I said Volume Nine!
In this previous post from last month recapping the Volume Seven launch party, I said something along the lines of Volumes Eight and Nine possibly being short story anthologies featuring "bonus fan material" that would fill in gaps from the main series. Also, in this other previous post from January, I said that I was considering taking a break, maybe even a very long one, before writing any more Joel-related material.

As it turned out, I did not take a break. Not a long one, anyway. Instead, I ended up writing the first draft of a 9,000-word (approximately 36 pages) short story told from Felicity's point of view that fleshes out some events of Volume Seven. You don't have to know what happens in this story to enjoy and understand Volume Seven, but I think that for those who have finished Seven, you would find this bonus material to be interesting and entertaining (I hope). And since it is related to Volume Seven, it will probably, eventually find its way into Volume Nine, which, as the "ultraviolet book," will expand on the story contained in the "violet book," i.e., Volume Seven. Hope that all made nerdy sense.

Anyway, with that done, I will put it away for a while before starting work on revisions (at which point I'm sure it will expand to probably around 10-11,000 words), and in the meantime, I'll turn my attention back to other projects...or, I might work on an idea I had for Volume Eight, which, as the "infrared book," will expand on the stories contained in the "red book," i.e., Volume One. We shall see.

Speaking of other projects, tomorrow will bring the launch of another new track off Second Player Score's new album, 4-D! This one is called "This Won't Be So Easy After All," which is basically a warning not to underestimate your opponents (like when the Mariners played the Royals recently). Here are the lyrics:

Thought I had it in the bag
But I suppose it was too soon to brag
Because the moment that I felt so smart
Was when it all began to fall apart

I tried to walk before I knew how to crawl
I tried to run but then I hit the wall
I could've won if I hadn't dropped the ball
Guess this won't be so easy after all

Feeling overconfident
I underestimated your intent
I overlooked the things that you can do
So now I've bitten more than I can chew

I tried to walk before I knew how to crawl
I tried to run but then I hit the wall
I could've won if I hadn't dropped the ball
Guess this won't be so easy after all

Assuming this would be a snap
You wandered right into my trap
Expecting just a piece of cake
You found out what it would really take

You tried to walk before you knew how to crawl
You tried to run but then you hit the wall
You had my number, I won't return your call
Guess this won't be so easy after all

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

So, I Have Thoughts About The New Miraculous Ladybug Movie

As long-time readers of this blog may know, I am a fan of the French children's animated series Miraculous Ladybug (officially, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir). Heck, it was the reason I signed up for Netflix in the first place. I was originally turned on to it by my youngest back in 2016, but while they've outgrown it, I am still watching it to this day, since I am a fifty-something-year-old with the heart, soul, and mind of a fifteen-year-old er, I mean, who is a kid's fiction writer that needs to keep up with the latest marketplace trends.
In case you're not familiar with it, here's a brief description: it's a superhero show that is like a cross between Sailor Moon and Spider-Man where the two leads, Ladybug and Cat Noir, are high school students by day and secret identity superheroes by...well, still mostly day, and they have huge crushes on each other. Only, she likes him when they're regular kids, he likes her when they're in costume, and neither knows each other's identities even though it's totally obvious to us, the viewers (the show makes some in-universe explanations about how the costume distorts other people's perceptions of you). It mostly follows a monster-of-the-week format and is currently in its fifth season. For some reason that I'm sure has to do with complicated licensing and contractual rigamarole but ends up feeling like the film studio equivalent of a coparenting arrangement, Disney+ has all five seasons plus some bonus material, while Netflix has seasons one through three plus a newly-released full-length movie that is based on the show and is the subject of this post.

WARNING: Spoilers to follow!

Okay, so I watched the movie and...well, I have thoughts. Like:

- Why is it billed as "the long-awaited origin story"? The show has already devoted a lot of time to telling the origin story of its heroes. Also, I'm not sure I care for the movie's version of the origin story. In the show, Marinette (Ladybug) originally dislikes Adrien (Cat Noir), thinking that he's just a snobby rich kid, but ends up falling for him after Adrien proves to instead be a nice guy (if I recall correctly, he lends her his umbrella). In the movie, she basically just seems to be smitten right off the bat by his good looks. I get that you don't have as much time in a movie to flesh these things out, but to me it makes Marinette a shallower version of herself.

- Along those lines, I found Movie Marinette to be much more annoying than Show Marinette. I don't know about you, but I thought she was whiny and insecure (yes, Show Marinette is like that once in a while, but aren't we all? Movie Marinette was kind of the distilled essence of that). And wasn't it weird that Gabriel (Adrien's dad and also the Big Bad, Hawk Moth) was a hippie when he was young? The whole thing was like an alternate universe version of the Ladybug world where people randomly break out into song - oh right, I forgot to mention, it's a musical. Which also threw me off, because Marinette's singing voice sounds so much different from her speaking voice.

- I got the impression that the whole "watermelon" joke (as in, Ladybug's red costume with the black spots makes her look like a watermelon) was derived from some fan comments that the writers decided to incorporate into the script in a meta, self-deprecating kind of way.

- The movie, since it was a self-contained, entire arc, ended up resolving the main conflict of the show, which is basically derived from the fact that Marinette, Adrien, and Gabriel didn't know each other's secret identities. As the credits rolled, I wondered - now that the movie has done the "Big Reveal," how is the show going to top it?

- I did like the use of the Wilhelm Scream.

Anyway, I will say that I was entertained, and am still a fan of the franchise in general. And the fact that I have these thoughts only means that I care. I will simply think of the movie as the aforementioned alternate universe version (the show does have time travel, so it would make sense) while I continue to enjoy catching up with Season Five (Disney+ did not alert me to the fact that it had come out last fall).

On another subject, tomorrow will bring the release of another new track off Second Player Score's new album, 4-D! This one is called "Daily Grind," whose title basically says it all. Here are the lyrics:

The time goes flying by so why am I not having any fun?
'Cause when I get up, I'm so fed up I just want it to be done
Don't wanna die, don't wanna live, I'm sick of giving all I've got but fooling no one
This can't be all there is, it's like I'm free but I'm still in a prison

I'm gonna lose my mind, can't take it any more
Stuck in the daily grind, I'm tired and I'm bored
I've got to find some kind of brand-new line before I break down

I'm like a player in a game that's all the same and much too real
Go through the motions, no emotions, now I'm way too numb to feel
Don't wanna live, don't wanna die, I'm simply trying to survive through this ordeal
I know my place in the rat race is right here on the hamster wheel

I'm gonna lose my mind, can't take it any more
Stuck in the daily grind, I'm tired and I'm bored
I've got to find some kind of brand-new line so I can break out

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

More New Music Tomorrow: Challenge Accepted

Continuing with my band Second Player Score's once-a-week new music drops, tomorrow will see the debut of "Challenge Accepted," the second track from the Summer Suite and the 4-D album as a whole.
The song is an upbeat, no-frills pop-punk tune in the vein of Green Day and other similar bands about, well, accepting challenges. It's the sunny, optimistic beginning to the story behind the album (before things start to go sideways, as they always do). Of course, you could always interpret it independently from the story and just apply its positive message to your own life circumstances. Here are the lyrics:

Minding my own business when today you came along
Offering an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong
You said, "You don't have to do it," but I said, "Oh, I insist"
Because that's the kind of challenge that I just cannot resist

Bring it on

People always have their doubts, but they don't bother me
When they say that something can't be done, I tend to disagree
I don't look at obstacles and get discouraged or depressed
I just find a way to persevere and keep on doing my best

Bring it on

Living in the moment while pursuing some big dream
That I thought might be impossible or so it may have seemed
But the harder something is, the more I want to make it real
You may think I'm being stubborn, but, well, that's just how I feel

Bring it on!

Check it out on all the usual streaming platforms!

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Band Update: Ridgewalker Brewing and New Music

This past Sunday, the guys in Second Player Score and I had a great time hanging out with our good friend and SPS super-fan Jeff Alberghini at Ridgewalker Brewing in Forest Grove, OR.
Ridgewalker (discovered by drummer Kyle) is just our kind of place, with pop/nerd-culture decor and themed beers, including the India Pale Jones and the Last Cascade IPA and the Predator-inspired If It Brews, We Can Drink It! lager. About an hour drive from Vancouver, WA, we highly recommend checking it out, especially if you're into the same kind of stuff as us.

Also, starting tomorrow Friday 8/4, we will be dropping a new track off our finally-finished-after-four-years fourth album, 4-D, every Friday for the next eight weeks, at which point the album will be officially released in its entirety. First up will be the lead track from both the Summer Suite and the album as a whole, something appropriately titled "Dimension No. 4." It's an especially nerdy song that serves to sort-of-explain the whole fourth spatial dimension concept (including references to obscure historical figures like Charles Howard Hinton and Ambrose Bierce) and will also be the introductory theme song to the 4-D animated series if when it gets produced. Check it out on all the usual music streaming platforms!

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Volume Seven Launch Party Recap (Where Do We Go From Here?)

The launch party and book signing for Joel Suzuki, Volume Seven: Vision of the Virtuoso rocked!
Big thanks to Leah and the staff at Kazoodles Toy Store for hosting us, and to everyone who came out.

So now that Volume Seven is officially out in the world, what is next for Joel and company? I know I've talked about Volume Eight in this post from January and potential Volumes Nine through Eleven in this post from 2017, but are those books really going to be written?

Honestly, I'm still not sure.

Part of me feels like (mild spoiler alert) Joel and Felicity's story came to such a perfect conclusion (what that conclusion entails, you'll have to read the books to find out) that there just isn't anywhere else to go.

But then again, maybe there is.

Like I said in January, I have notes for what I think could be potential ideas for Volumes Eight through Eleven, and right now it's looking like the frontrunners are to make Volumes Eight (the "infrared book") and Nine (the "ultraviolet book") short story anthologies containing "bonus fan material" that would fill in some of the gaps in the main series, with some of the stories from Joel's point of view (after all, his name would still be in the title), while others would be from others' POV (nothing new, the main series has already done that a lot). Then Volume Ten (the "black book") and Eleven (the "white book") would be a duology telling a new, original story set some time in the future. But we shall see!

In the meantime, I'll be turning my attention to other projects, some of which you already know about, like Second Player Score's new album 4-D and the film project Hold My Beer, and others that are still in the gestation stage. As always, stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Talking Baseball With April And Lydia

Editor's note: this interview took place on Thursday, July 13th, the last day of Major League Baseball's All-Star break. So if anything significant with regards to the Seattle Mariners or baseball in general has happened since then - like the Mariners trading for Shohei Ohtani or going on a big winning or losing streak - it will not be reflected here.
B: I'd like to welcome back to the blog our in-house baseball experts and die-hard Seattle Mariners fans April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez. Welcome, ladies.
L: Hey.
A: Hello.
B: First of all, I'd like to apologize for not having you on back in March for our usual season preview.
A: No worries.
L: Eh, whatever.
B: Anyway, how was the All-Star break for you two? Having the game and the draft and everything in Seattle must have been great.
A: Oh, it was amazing.
L: It was cool, except downtown was soooo crowded.
B: Were you able to attend the game?
A: Unfortunately, no.
L: We watched it on our couch.
B: Oh, well. What did you think of the crowd chanting "Come to Seattle" to Ohtani?
L: That was awesome.
A: And the fact that he said some nice things about the city and that he actually lived here for a while was good to hear.
B: Do you think he might actually sign with the M's?
A: As much as I would love that, no.
L: Hey, what happened to hope?
A: Well, I'm not completely giving up on the idea, but the Dodgers just make too much sense as a fit.
B: How so?
A: They're consistently in contention, and he's said that winning is the most important consideration. Then if you add to that the fact that they can afford to outbid just about everyone else, and that he would be able to stay in L.A., it just makes the most sense.
B: I guess also not to mention that he would avoid the awkwardness of going to a division rival, as well as having the opportunity to be only the second player ever to win league MVP in both the AL and NL.
L: And maybe the first to win multiple MVPs, depending on what happens this year.
B: Ah, true.
A: Yeah, so I'll say 80% he signs with the Dodgers, 10% he resigns with the Angels, and 3.33% each for the Giants, Mariners, and Padres.
L: I'm gonna think positive and say he comes here. I mean, can you imagine having him, Castillo, Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Ray in the same rotation? With Marco, Miller and Woo as depth?
B: That brings me to my next question. What do you think the M's are going to do before the trade deadline? I've heard lots of discussion about them trading from their pitching depth to shore up the offense.
A: I'm actually not so sure about that.
B: Really? Why?
A: I don't think the pitching is as deep as it seems. Robbie Ray will be out until probably the middle of next year. They'll have to shut down Woo early at some point. And who knows when Marco is coming back. So the team might find themselves come late August with just four starters. If anything, I think they'll actually try to trade for a rental starter, someone who can eat up some innings with at least an average level of performance.
L: All the more reason they should sell out for Ohtani in the offseason. Come on, Stanton, do it!
B: Don't they need more offense, though?
A: The next couple of weeks should determine that. We'll see if Mike Ford can keep up what he's doing at DH.
L: And I mean, besides, if they bring in a new position player, someone will have to go to the bench or get cut. And if Ford is still holding his own - the dude has the highest OPS of anyone on the team - who else would you displace? The Caballero/Wong platoon? Maybe, but good luck finding a big bat second baseman on the trade market.
B: Fair enough. On another subject, what did you folks think about the M's draft?
A: I liked it.
L: Me too. Some high-upside young hitters backed up by a bunch of college pitchers that the development people should be able to turn into serviceable arms.
B: I guess that about covers it. Thanks for coming in. Any early Word Series predictions at this point?
A: To say Tampa versus Atlanta might be too obvious at this point, so I'll go... Baltimore versus Cincinnati.
B: Hmm, interesting. Lydia?
L: Mariners over whoever, baby! Wooo! Go M's!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Volume Seven Sneak Peek

In case you haven't heard, Joel Suzuki, Volume Seven: Vision of the Virtuoso is coming out next Monday!
And so, I figured I'd give readers a short sneak peek (WARNING: spoilers for Volumes Six and Seven to follow). 

If you've been following along, then you know that at the end of Volume Six, Joel and Marshall simultaneously attained omnipotence, a state that - because of the paradoxical nature of having two all-powerful beings at once - essentially broke reality. And so, the beginning of Volume Seven features Joel and Marshall wandering through weird scenarios that don't seem related to anything else (although some plot points are established that will be important later). My intention was not only to show the effect of reality breaking down, but also to have the first few chapters read almost like a mini-anthology of surreal short stories - in fact, the first three chapters are homages to three of my favorite surreal fiction authors/books. If you can figure out who and which ones they are, let me know and I'll send you a prize!

Anyway, here's the sneak peek:

Chapter One

Joel awoke feeling like he'd just had the scariest nightmare ever but wasn't able to remember any of it. The room - his room - was dark, with only the faintest slivers of sunlight filtering between his window curtains. Lying in bed on his back, he glanced over at the digital alarm clock on his nightstand. 8:42 a.m., it read.
   Oh no! I'm going to be late for school!
   He shot up - or tried to, anyway. His body was much heavier than he remembered. The effort to sit bolt upright resulted only in his head raising off his pillow. From this vantage point, he saw that his body, not covered by any blankets, was that of a scaly reptilian humanoid with three arms and three legs. His face had an elongated snout, like that of an alligator.
   What the heck?
   Starting to panic, he squeezed his eyes shut.
   This is a dream, he told himself. It has to be. A continuation of whatever nightmare I was having. Any moment now, I'll wake up for real, open my eyes, and everything will be normal.
   He counted to three, then opened his eyes. He looked down at himself. Nothing had changed. He was still a reptile.
   He glanced around his room. Everything looked normal enough, with his black Gibson Les Paul guitar on its stand near his bed and his computer on the desk across from him. One thing caught his attention, however: the calendar on his wall ("Sixteen Months of Star Trek") was set to July 2023. This was significant to him for two reasons: (1) it was summer, apparently, so he wasn't going to be late for school after all, and (2) he distinctly remembered the year as being 2013, not 2023.
   Okay, something really weird has happened.

And there you have it! Hope to see you at the launch party!

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Secret Recording Project!

Fresh off Second Player Score's first show at Dante's, we went into the studio - the new digs of our pal Chris Hahn from Zomie Media and Old Cross, to be specific - to work on a special recording project unrelated to our upcoming release, 4-D.
What kind of special recording project, you ask? Well, like the title of the blog post says, it's a secret! You'll just have to wait until it debuts next month, at time and place to be announced. In the meantime, enjoy these photos:
(Editor's note: enterprising readers might be able to make educated guesses about the nature of the project by examining these pictures closely)

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Show Recap

Had a ton of fun performing with my band Second Player Score at Dante's in Portland last Saturday! It was my second time playing there (first time was with a previous band) and first time with SPS.
photo by Lexi Winkler
(photo by Lexi Winkler)

Despite what people say about rock 'n' roll and Murphy's Law, the whole evening went off in incredibly smooth fashion, from the parking to the load-in to the sound to the schedule and everything in between*. Everyone involved was super cool and all the bands rocked.

Much mahalos to the following: Dante's, of course, including staff and soundman; Kingbanana Presents; Craig James & The Hawthorns; Still Golden; All Hype; and everyone who came to see the show (some of whom apparently were just walk-ins from off the street)!

* With the small exception of almost losing my voice in the middle of our set. At one point I was wondering what we could play in place of our last song, which is a bit vocally taxing. Fortunately I bounced back in time. Note to self: don't eat - especially pizza - right before playing. You should know this by now!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Volume Seven Launch Party!

The launch party for Volume Seven is on the calendar!
As usual, it'll be at the awesome and award-winning Kazoodles Toy Store in Vancouver, WA. I'll be signing books as well as holding a raffle to give away a copy of each volume in the Joel Suzuki series, One through Seven, to one lucky winner. There will also most likely be candy. Skittles, perhaps.

The event is all ages and free to attend, and sales of the books will help support a local small business (the aforementioned Kazoodles) as well as Autism Empowerment. Here are the details:

Saturday, July 22, 2023
Kazoodles Toy Store
13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd Ste B-3
Vancouver, WA

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Volume Seven Proof Copy and Pre-Order!

The proof copy of Volume Seven is here, and it is good to go!
And so, we have an official release date: Monday, July 17th, 2023 - exactly eleven years to the day since the release of Volume One.

And for the first (and last?) time ever, you can now PRE-ORDER your copy! That's right, you can get a jump on things by either going to Amazon at this link (for the paperback) or this link (for the eBook) or Barnes & Noble at this link.

Or, if you live in the Vancouver/Portland area and want to get your copy in person (and signed by me!), there will be a launch party at Kazoodles Toy Store shortly after the official release date. Stay tuned for details!

P.S. Also, check out this awesome article about Volume Seven and Joel Suzuki in the Summer 2023 issue of Spectrum Life Magazine!

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Volume Seven Cover Reveal!

Here it is, courtesy of artist extraordinaire Jill Colbert of Manfish Inc.
And here's the back cover copy:

(WARNING - Contains spoilers for Volume Six)

"The race to omnipotence has ended in a draw - which is a conundrum, because the very notion of not just one, but two all-powerful beings is a paradox that defies definition. It's up to Joel Suzuki - one of the aforementioned all-powerful beings - to capture and suppress his counterpart before everything descends into complete disorder.

But how can one omnipotent being overcome another? And what prison would be strong enough to contain such an entity? Joel should just be able to automatically divine the answers to these questions, but because his own power is part of the problem, doing so would simply accelerate the decay of reality.

He needs to tread carefully as the final game plays out, being careful not to reveal his hand while avoiding defeat. Will he be able to pull off this delicate balancing act in time to save existence from his archenemy once and for all?"

Next step: the proof copy! Stay tuned...

P.S. The show that was announced a couple of weeks ago has been moved from Twilight Cafe & Bar to Dante's, 350 W Burnside St., Portland. All tickets will be honored at the new venue. See you there!

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Volume Seven Title Announcement!

We are getting very close to finalizing Volume Seven of the Joel Suzuki series! And so, here's the official subtitle:
That's right, the official subtitle is "Vision of the Virtuoso." It's the first (and last and only, probably) book in the series where the subject of the "Of The" is not one of my confusing, made-up compound words (see: Songshell, Moonfire, Loudstone, Fatewave, Bluerock, Darkeye). It also has two words that start with the letter "V," which lines up nicely with the intended color of the cover - violet - which also starts with the letter "V," and... okay, yeah, I'll stop there. What can I say, I'm a sucker for nerdy alliteration.

Coming next: the cover reveal!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Show Announcement!

Yes, despite all the other things we do, Second Player Score is still a band. We even play live every once in a while!
And the next time we will do so is in a little over four weeks, at the brand new incarnation of Twilight Cafe & Bar in Portland, OR. We'll be a part of a killer lineup that includes All Hype, Still Golden, and the headliners Craig James & The Hawthorns who will be performing an entire set of Blink 182 covers (featuring our own Daniel Downs on guitar).

So mark your calendars for Saturday, June 24th, and get your tickets pre-sale for only $10 at this link. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

No Time To Blog

Partly because of Tears of the Kingdom, yes, but also:
- Mixes of the remaining tracks for 4-D are back! So, as always, they need to be listened to over and over again several times in different conditions (open air, car, headphones) in order to make them the best they can possibly be.

- Cover art for Joel Suzuki, Volume Seven is done! So now, proofs and eBook conversions need to be ordered, final info forms need to be filled out, and preparations for a launch party need to begin.

- Preproduction for Hold My Beer continues, with grant applications, cast searches, and general film school-style-learning all going on simultaneously.

Busy, but exciting times! (And big thanks to my youngest who told me that walking on the pipe to reach one of the shrines in Great Sky Island is not the way to do it, saving me hours of stress and heartbreak.)

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Tears Of The Kingdom Is Out Tomorrow!

And I have my copy on preorder! My copy of Tears of the Kingdom! Which is coming out tomorrow!
Did I mention that Tears of the Kingdom is coming out tomorrow? Because it is! Coming out! Tomorrow! In case you don't know, Tears of the Kingdom is the latest entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise, which is my and my youngest kid's all-time favorite video game franchise. We each have our own Switch now, but we'll be sharing the same copy of the game... not sure how long that arrangement will last. Anyway, from what I can tell by watching the game previews and trailers, any semblance of free time that I may have had will now be a thing of the past. Because Tears of the Kingdom is coming out tomorrow!