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Thursday, November 8, 2018

What Happened With V'Ger?

A few weeks ago, someone on Facebook asked what movie has the highest death toll. I proposed Star Trek: The Motion Picture, because V'Ger digitized "planets, moons, whole stars" on it's way to Earth. At the end of the movie, when Decker, Ilia, and V'Ger merge, what happens to all of that data? Presumably, like Ilia, the patterns could have been used to recreate everything that was stored, down to the molecular level, essentially bringing them back to life.

My theory is that, like Spock said, "all of this is V'Ger". V'Ger wasn't a Voyager probe that collected enough data that it became sentient, it was a collective consciousness, controlled by the Voyager programming. So, when V'Ger, Decker, and Ilia merged, everything that made up V'Ger merged. That means that all of the stored data that made up V'Ger's consciousness, as well as the physical parts of the "ship", were all joined together into a new being.

Now the question is, what happened to that new life form? We don't see it after the flash of light that the Enterprise comes out of. Since the dialog in the movie includes talk of "Other dimensions. Higher levels of being" it seems reasonable to assume that this is where it went to, never to return. Why never? If the Voyager programming was still in control, as well as Decker & Ilia's Starfleet training, then the new being would want to explore the entirety of whatever dimension it found itself in. Once that was done, it would continue on to many of the other infinite possible dimensions out there.

What do you think? Am I way off the mark? Do you have your own theory? Please let me know, since this is one of my favorite movies of all time.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Family Halloween Costumes

This year we decided we to do a theme with the Halloween costumes. Part of the reasoning behind this is that we would all be able to go out for trick-or-treating this year, so why not match? We watched the anime "Interviews with Monster Girls" over the summer, and the fact that one of the main characters is pretty much Kira (except for the character's bad grades) made the costumes a lock. It didn't hurt that there wasn't any outlandish clothing involved.

Kira went as Hikari Takanashi, a very sociable and bubbly vampire.

Michelle went as the math teacher, and succubus, Sakie Satō.

And I went as the human biology teacher Tetsuo Takahashi, who is the one doing the interviews.

I think we pulled them off pretty well, considering that we couldn't get an exact match to Sakie's track suit and the hairstyle that Hikari has is REALLY difficult to pull off. Also, I had to let my hair grow out and shave my beard for my costume, but if I was going to dress up I was going all the way with it.

Anyone else have some Halloween costumes they want to share? Put them in the social media comments.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Claymation Comedy of Horrors

One of the staples that our family watches every year for the Holidays is "A Claymation Christmas Celebration" done by Will Vinton, who passed away earlier this month. In honor of his work, and because it's a tradition for me to post a video for Halloween, I present to you the "Claymation Comedy of Horrors". Enjoy.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

What were the Lessons in The Nightmare Before Christmas?

25 years ago (geez, I'm getting old) the stop motion film "The Nightmare Before Christmas" came out. This is one of those films that I think everyone likes, and many of us love. It also manages to straddle the entire time between October and January, making it not only really re-watchable, but worth it for Disneyland to do a makeover every year on the Haunted Mansion.

One thing that isn't so obvious, though, is what the movie is trying to tell the audience. I have it narrowed down to two possibilities, one constructive and one destructive. Let's tackle the destructive one first, since it's quick and I'm less fond of it.

"Stay in your box with your friends and leave everyone else alone." Not a great lesson, but one that it pretty easy to see in the film. Jack tries to branch out of what he normally does and royally screws things up. Santa verbally slaps him down and goes on to fix things. We're left with Jack realizing that he should have just left well enough alone and focuses again on Halloween. Like I said, I'm not fond of that lesson, so let's go on to a more positive take.

"It's great that you want to learn new things, but don't ignore the input of others." This is a much easier pill to swallow, since we see Jack trying to figure out everything to do with Christmas on his own. Not only does he sneak around and not actually talk to Santa or anyone in Christmastown, but he ignores Sally's warnings. All of this results in Jack setting off on a quest without knowing everything that he should, and makes a mockery of Christmas. Santa reinforces this lesson by telling Jack to listen to Sally, which leads Jack to the realization that she means more to him than he thought. We end with a possibly good, possibly bad situation where the rest of Halloweentown are enraptured by snow the way Jack was earlier. Hopefully he's learned enough to know how to focus them and will work with Santa in the future.

Those are my takes on the "messages, morals, and meanings" (to steal something from Mission Log) of the movie. What do you think? Do you have an alternate take on the movie? Let me know in the comments.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sexy ... Michael Myers?

Did you ever come across something and you do the dog hearing an odd noise head turn? That was me when I came across this in a story by Otaku USA Magazine.
Yes, that is a sexy, female Michael Myers statue. I know that these statues exist for many anime and manga characters. They're not my thing (as all I see is dust gatherers) but I know some people are into that. When I saw this one, complete with the bloody knife, I just had to stare at it as my brain tried to decipher what was going on. Then I found out that the series also includes Ash from Evil Dead and Pinhead from Hellraiser, and I just gave up.

If this is what you're into, I'm happy these exist. For me, though, I'll continue to do this:

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Castlevania Requiem

Last week, the video game company Konami announced that it was updating two of it's games exclusively for the PlayStation 4. Here's the announcement trailer:

That's right, I will be able to play Symphony of the Night on the PS4! That is one of my all time favorite games, and one of two that were the reason I got an original PlayStation way back when. Plus, I will be able to play Rondo of Blood for the first time! SotN is actually a sequel to RoB, so it will be very interesting to see where some of the story elements come from.

The game is downloadable only, and is currently available for pre-order. If, like me, you're a PlayStation Plus member, you can get it at a 20% discount, which means that it's only $15.99! For two classic games, that's a pretty decent deal. The game drops on October 26th, which is the same day that Season 2 of the Netflix Castlevania series comes out. I think my plans for that weekend are set.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

PlayStation Spider-Man

With all of the hype recently about Spider-Man on the PlayStation, I couldn't help but jump on the band wagon. Fighting the comic book villains, swinging through NYC, using the cheat code to get the Amazing Bag-Man costume ...

Wait, you thought I was talking about the new game? Nope, I'm talking about the game from 2000 and the original PlayStation. That game was great, with a nice little story element preventing you from going to ground level with the poisoned gas. For the time, the graphics were pretty good and, while not a true open world, the map was pretty extensive. And let's not forget the narration by Stan Lee himself!

The story was on par with what was going on in the comics at the time, and I was really happy that the main villain was Doc Ock and not the Green Goblin. While there wasn't a time limit, there was a web fluid limit, which tied right in with the comics and really made you think about what you wanted to do. You could get a couple of costumes, like the Symbiote or Captain Universe, that gave you unlimited webbing but in most cases you had an upper limit on what you could carry. The Amazing Bag-Man one that I mentioned above could hold a maximum of two cartridges, for example.

This was one of those games that anyone could play, but those of us that knew a lot about Spider-Man would really enjoy. Here's a video that has the costumes and game play for your viewing pleasure.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Lost Art of the Long Shot

My wife and I have started a watch through of St. Elsewhere on Hulu and one of things that I noted is the number of long, uncut shots they have. What I mean here is having a single camera, using it to follow a character but then switching to follow another character or conversation, and maybe even switching AGAIN before finally having a cut to a different camera shot. What this does is just immerse the viewer in the world by making it feel like a real place.

I know exactly why this isn't used more often, since if even one person flubs a line/action, you have to start all the way back at the beginning. Add to that the expense of moving the camera around as necessary and it does seem like a hard thing to pull off. I still miss it, though. The feeling like you're walking through a real place, with all these little things going on around you, just pulls me into a show more than anything else.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Universal Table Explained

The Universal Table - Root of the FASERIP system
Adam Worth and I have recently started another podcasting endeavor, this time it's a live role-playing podcast were we play the original Marvel Superheroes FASERIP game. It's called Class 1000: A Marvel Super Heroes Live RPG, or The Class 1000 Podcast for short.

For those of you that have never played in the system, but want to follow along, I thought that I should explain the Universal Table (pictured above) and just how it gets used. You see, every Ability and Power in the game is assigned, pretty much randomly, one of the levels you see on the chart. They range, starting anyway, from Poor (4) to Monstrous (75). When you want to do something in the game, you find the rank on the table, roll percentile dice (giving a result from 1-100), and see what the color result it. Here's a quick example:

A hero wants to punch an opponent. The hero has a Remarkable (30) rank in Fighting and it attempting a "Blunt Attack", since he's just using his fists. Let's look at the possibilities.

  • A Blue result is a Critical Fail. Not only does he miss with the punch, but now he's so out of position that his enemy has an easier time hitting him, or even just getting away.
  • A White result just means that the punch misses.
  • A Green result is a straight up hit. The hero does his Strength rank in damage, unless he was pulling his punch, to the enemy.
  • A Yellow result means that the enemy was hit but he also might be Slammed for additional damage or effects.
  • A Red result, the highest possible, was a hit that might also result in a Stun effect.
OK, so what happens on a Stun or a Slam? Well, the enemy rolls on the table as well, but this time he rolls his Endurance and sees what color he comes up with. Let's look at the Slam results first.
  • A Blue result is still a Critical Fail. This guy gets Grand Slammed and has to roll on the Stun table.
  • A White result means that he is Grand Slammed, which is what you would see from a Sal Buscema drawing with one of the characters flying away from the hit.
  • A Green result means that he was knocked back one Area (the unit of distance measurement for the Marvel system).
  • A Yellow result means that the enemy was only staggered. No additional damage, but he gets a minus on his next action.
  • A Red result means that he resisted the Slam entirely.

Now onto the Stun possibilities.
  • A Blue result means that the enemy is knocked out for anywhere between 10 to 100 rounds, which is a LONG time for encounters.
  • A White result means that he is only knocked out for 1 to 10 rounds.
  • A Green result means that he was knocked out for a single round only.
  • A Yellow or a Red result means that he resisted the Stun entirely.
That's the basic idea of what's involved in making the rolls for this game. I hope it clears up any possible problems you might have listening to the show. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the Facebook Group we have, so the other listeners can get in on the conversation.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Statistically Speaking, Flying is Still the Safest Way to Travel.

I will say that there wasn't a huge amount of planning that went into how we're getting down to Florida for the cruise. We had the same three options to get down there, driving, auto train, or flying. This time we opted for flying and the main reason being, we won't need a car in Florida. The whole point of going down there is to get on the ship, so ground transportation isn't a huge deal.

So I went over to Priceline and checked out what our options were. Frontier was off the table, since they don't book this far out, so that pretty much left us with American Airlines. They had flights in the right time-range for us to get down and back with a good buffer in case of flight or ship delays. One thing that I did do is spring for First Class. This is for both money and comfort reasons. The comfort is self explanatory (bigger seats), but you might be wondering about the money.

Well, one of the things that pretty much all airlines are doing is charging for checked bags. American is charging $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second. I'm estimating that we'll be checking two bags each, which would bring us to $180. The premium for upgrading us all to First Class was only about $100 each, which would be $300. First Class passengers also get free checked baggage, so that means the premium seating is only costing us $120, or $40 each. I would say it's well worth that money.

You might be wondering just how it is we'll be getting between the airport and Port Canaveral. Not to worry! This is Disney we're talking about. As I mentioned in my last post, we're going to be using Disney's Magical Express, a bus service that will not only take us to the ship, but also pick-up our baggage for us! At $70 per person, I think that will save us a lot of hassle, and I know that we'll have a dedicated service to and from. Plus, it get's us in the Disney mindset right off the plane. Just look at the bus:

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

What a Lovely Night for Ravenloft

Two days ago, there was an update for Neverwinter, the Free to Play Dungeons and Dragons Massive Multiplayer Online game that I play through the PS4. This update is not only right up my alley, but it is timed very well. What does this update do, you ask? Why, it introduces Ravenloft into the game!

For those not in the know, Ravenloft is D&D's Gothic Horror setting. The realm is named for Castle Ravenloft, the seat of power for the vampire Strahd Von Zarovich. I ran a brief campaign in Ravenloft back in college and I have always enjoyed the idea behind the setting. Basically, it's a very Tales from the Crypt-esque way of telling a story. The Evil (yes, with a Capital "E") that permiates the land allows for only Pyrrhic victories, so the adventurers' goal might be achieved but maybe one of them is turned into a werewolf, or they have to kill the character they were sent to retrieve because they are actually a vampire.

It's going to be a fun play through, and just in time for Halloween. (Yeah, it's still August, but there's Halloween candy in the stores already.) I'm going to have a good time getting Rothgar, my Level 70 Guardian Fighter, through the Mists and finally facing Strahd in the titular castle. Maybe I'll stream some of it on Twitch for you all. Let me know if you'd be interested in that or, if you're a Neverwinter player, maybe we could team up to take down the head vampire.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Why Quasar?

One question that I get whenever I tell anyone that one of my favorite comic book characters is Quasar (after "Who's Quasar?") is "Why?" Well, here's my in depth answer to something that's pretty simple.

First of all, I discovered Quasar when his own series came out in 1989, which means that I was 13. This is when my tastes were solidifying, so what I was into then is what pretty much set my tastes for the rest of my life. That means that Superman, Batman, Quasar, Captain America, Thor, etc were all destined to be among my favorites. It also helped that my buddy Adam Worth was also reading about Wendell Vaughn, so we could talk about what was going on.

The major reason that Quasar has stuck with me, though, is that he's "us." Wendell is a geek and a superhero groupie. He wasn't able to be a field agent for SHIELD because he didn't have that "killed instinct" that most of us also lack. Whenever he's around Captain America he becomes flustered and either trips over his words or just falls into "Yes, sir" or "No, sir".

Something else that I like about the character, but I also admit can get a bit grating, is his self doubt. This is a guy who just fell into the job of being "Protector of the Universe." He's not fearless, doesn't have invulnerability, and isn't a master strategist. No, he's just Wendell. He's doing the best job he can, but he often wonders if he can do better or if he's made the wrong decision. Which one of us hasn't had doubts like that?

Adam and I make fun of some of the business stuff, or other "adult" things, on the podcast, but we genuinely love the character. More than any other character in DC or Marvel, Quasar is the one that is most like the reader, and that means a lot.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Let The Planning Begin!

I'm pretty sure you all know by now that I'm a planner and like to get things set up WELL in advance. So I was looking at where we might go on our family vacation next year. The original plan was to head up to New England but, to be perfectly honest, nothing up there was "grabbing" me. The time shares available didn't look to be worth it and I kept thinking, "Just how bored will Kira be doing this?"

So I shifted gears and looked South. I ended up checking out beach resorts in the Carolinas, which all looked very nice. The problem being, there really wasn't anything to do but beach stuff. Having grown up at the Jersey Shore, I'm pretty much over just "going to the beach", especially for a week. Plus, I tend to get a bit antsy if all I'm doing it sitting around. I'd rather DO something, and there's only so much to do on a beach.

Just as an impulse, I then checked out the Disney Cruise Line, to see what was available. They do sail out of New York, but only in September, October, and November, which is no good since we don't like taking Kira out of school. That lead me to Port Canaveral, Florida and Caribbean cruises. It turns out that the had a sailing for just the week that Kira is on Spring Break. Looking at the options, it was fairly reasonable and, after discussing it with Michelle and Kira, we decided to go for it.

We got a fairly reasonable rate, too, considering that we'll be in a Type 5E stateroom, which is at the aft of the ship and has a veranda. I already booked the ground transport to and from the Orlando airport (via Disney's Magical Express) and pre-purchased the pictures. Now I just have to get the plane tickets (so this will be Kira's first plane ride as well as cruise) and we all need passports, since we'll be visiting the British Virgin Islands.

I think that this vacation is going to be a split between my super-detailed planning when we go to Walt Disney World and this past, laid back vacation. I don't have control over where we go, but we can plan for what to do when we get there. We'll also have the days at sea where we can just do what we want as the mood strikes us.

Stay tuned for more updates as events warrant.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Disney's Buyout of Fox is Perfectly Timed

As I'm sure we all know by now, the deal where Disney has bought the asserts of 21st Century Fox has been approved. That means that Marvel properties like The Fantastic Four and The X-Men now have their movie rights back with Marvel Studios. This could not have come at a better time. As I've stated before, all of reality will be altered when those heroes who remain after Infinity War will try to bring back everyone. This allows for the perfect opportunity to bring these characters into the MCU proper.

Just imagine, if you would, a scenario like I suggested way back when. The original Avengers, as well as the heroes like Rocket Raccoon who are still around, defeat Thanos. Adam Warlock or Nebula gets a hold of the Infinity Gauntlet and tries to set things right, but something happens and reality and time are warped. We get any new actors for roles like Iron Man and Captain America, but we also see Wolverine* (played by someone other than Hugh Jackman) and The Thing (hopefully in pants) in the crowd. No explanation is given, they're just there.

Now we have a new starting point where anything can happen, because not all of the history up to this point had to have happened. This kind of soft reboot will allow for Hank Pym to have invented Ultron, or the Fantastic Four to have existed in the 1960's, or even Captain America fighting along side Namor & the original Human Torch as The Invaders during World War II. This gives them an "out" to modify what they need to, but not have to completely scrap what has come before.

* This is assuming that the X-Men will be integrated with the MCU, which I would rather they didn't do since I think Mutants (and anti-mutant hysteria) work much better on their own.

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Last Jedi Questions

Having recently re-watched The Last Jedi, this time with the RiffTrax going, a few questions popped into my head. The main source of tension is the white bronco like slow chase between the First Order star destroyers and the last three Resistance ships. We know that the reason the First Order found them is that there's a tracking program on board the main cruiser and that they can't jump to hyperspace because of low fuel levels and the tracker.

So the first question is, if the First Order just wants to destroy the cruiser, which they do seem to want to do as soon as it runs out of fuel, why are they waiting? The star destroyers aren't running low on fuel. Why can't they pull a Picard Maneuver and do a mini-jump head of the cruiser, or, better yet, jump all around it since there are five of them, turn and kill it? What's the point of waiting?

Assuming they don't want to destroy the ship, which is contrary to what we're shown, then why do they jump in in force? Wouldn't trailing them be better served by using a small ship that can track the Resistance movements and not be spotted? Then the main base, if that's what they're after, could be uncovered and nothing is lost.

Lastly, who planted the tracker? In order to track something, there needs to be some connection. That's what Rose and Finn were on their "foiled by illegal parking" mission to disrupt. So, who is the traitor? Is this something that will be glossed over in the next film or will it be part of the main plot?

What do you think, dear reader? Are these valid questions or am I thinking too much again?

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ensemble Casts

One thing that we've seen more of on television in my lifetime is the ensemble cast, which I really like. That's not to say that shows with specific stars are bad, but you get more story possibilities with a large group. I think the best example of this is Hill Street Blues, and it's not necessarily because of the writing or acting, both of which are outstanding. No, it's because of the various types of characters.

Unlike NYPD Blue or Dragnet, which focused on the detectives, or Adam 12, which focused on the patrolmen, this show looked at everyone in the precinct from the Captain on down. This is something that most shows don't bother with. Just look at any Star Trek show and you'll see the focus on the senior staff, which is why "The Lower Decks" is always brought up as a great change of pace.

Seeing the same events from all sides, and being given completely identifiable, and flawed, characters from all walks of life was just great. I know that having regular casts of this size is cost prohibitive, but I'd really like to see more of this kind of thing. I understand wanting to focus on the "movers and shakers", but showing how it affects the people lower down, or even how the decisions of those lower down affect those above, adds a really nice dynamic to the storytelling.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite ensemble shows?

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wonder Woman Is Not Bulletproof

I'm not sure why, but I've been hearing a good amount of questions regarding Wonder Woman and whether she is bulletproof or not. The reasoning goes that she can take a punch almost as well as Superman, so her skin should be tough enough. Well, it's not quite that simple.

Diana is tough, no doubt about it. However, the Goddesses granted her enough resilience to handle her powers, but they didn't make her invulnerable. Think of it this way, a normal human can take a blunt impact, like a punch or even just running into a piece of furniture, and get away with, maybe, a bruise. An arrow, on the other hand, would pierce the skin and cause serious injury.

It's the same way with Wonder Woman. Blunt impacts, or just impacts that can be spread out over an area, will hurt but aren't deadly. Bullets, or anything with a large impact over a small area, will hurt or even kill her. That's why she has to use her super-speed and indestructible bracelets to deflect bullets.

I should point out that my information comes from the Post-Crisis Era of DC, after the George Perez revamp. If you're talking about Post-Flashpoint, then all bets are off as I have no experience with that version of Diana.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cartoon Interlude

Things have been on the busy side around here lately, so here's a classic Disney cartoon to tide you over.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Reversing The Snap

I'm going to assume that everyone reading this has either already seen Avengers: Infinity War, or has heard what the ending it. If you haven't, please skip this post until later.

Still with me? Good.

I've been hearing a lot of talk on the social medias about the "Snap Heard 'Round The Universe" and how those killed in the movie before that "obviously can't be brought back". I'm sorry, but that's not obvious at all. Let's get a run down on the Infinity Stones, shall we?

Space Stone - Admittedly, being able to have instant access to any point in the universe isn't going to help us here.

Mind Stone - As with the Space Stone, this one is probably not going to help in this situation.

Soul Stone - Most people agree that Gamora's soul got sucked into the Soul Stone, so getting her back would be easy. It might be possible that everyone from The Snap is also in there, but that's not the problem we're addressing here.

Power Stone - Now we're getting somewhere. You see, the Power Stone has the ability to supercharge the other stones, making them more effective.

Time Stone - This one allows the user complete control over time, which means that someone could go backwards in time and change events to prevent

Reality Stone - Let's ruminate on the name here. Reality Stone. What's it's power? It can RESHAPE REALITY! The Reality Stone, backed by the Power Stone, can do ANYTHING, even bringing people back from the dead. Or, as in the comics, hit a universe sized RESET BUTTON!

So don't tell me that it's "obvious" that those not killed by the snap can't come back. The wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet can, literally, to ANYTHING. Once Adam Warlock get's his hands on it, everyone's coming back. They may not be the same as they were (changing actors, etc), but they will be back. There's no doubt about it in my mind, so ...

For more on the Infinity Gems and the original Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, check out the latest episode of The Quantum Cast.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Anime Recommendation: The Ancient Magus' Bride

Michelle and I recently finished up watching The Ancient Magus' Bride and I thought I'd share my impressions with you. First of all, I should point out that Michelle is the one that suggested that we watch it. She read the review in an issue of Otaku USA Magazine and thought it would be a good idea for us to give it a shot. I would say the indoctrination is complete. :D

The basic story here is that Chise, who can see various magical beings that others can't, has lived a very hard life. Her father abandoned her and her mother, and then her mother killed herself after trying to kill Chise. She was passed around from family to family and has lived a life of fear and neglect. It turns out that she's something called a Sleigh Beggy, a being that can both generate an absorb great amounts of magic. Unfortunately, this takes quite the toll on a human body, and most sleigh beggies don't live very long. Knowing this, and without any other option, the 16 year-old puts herself up for auction.

She is bought by the mage Elias, who is a an odd fey being. He appears to be a humanoid, but his head is the skull of a wolf with goat horns. He takes his new purchase home and intends to teach her magic as she teaches him about human emotions. The problem is that neither Elias or Chise is very talkative, so there are many times where they end up at crossed paths.

This was a great series to watch. It is visually striking and has some really intense moments, but there are plenty of more light hearted times to even things out. The world is really well thought out and, being based in England, manages to bring in the native Fey seamlessly. There are several points where you are worried for the characters, whether it is due to internal or external conflict, and the cliff hangers make you want to watch the next episode immediately.

Both Michelle and I were really satisfied with the experience and I would recommend it for any adults out there. There's no fan service or anything like that, it's just way too intense for kids.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Cosplay Gallery

To coincide with the most recent episode of The Hammer Podcasts!, which is all about Cosplay, I thought I'd do a gallery post of some outfits that my guest, Vera Wylde, and I have worn over the years. Sorry, but you'll have to suffer through mine to get to her's.

This is the Macho Man outfit that I mentioned. My buddy Fred managed to catch me on the home stretch of the run.

This was taken at the wedding of our friends Danny and Alycia, which was Halloween themed. I was dressed as the Imperial Guard and Michelle was the Biker Scout.

 Here I am as Lt. Commander Robert Lupia from the Tales of the Seventh Fleet fan series. As you can tell, this is prior to the weight loss.

Here's a pic of Vera as Fix-It Felix, Jr. 

Vera as the Arkham version of Harley Quinn.

If you're going to do a  Janine Melnitz cosplay, then why not go for The Real Ghostbusters version?

 Vera got crafty with this Poison Ivy cosplay. I think it turned out great.

And now the one you've all been waiting for, the Wonder Woman cosplay that we talked so much about. I can see why a little girl would run up and hug her.

Anyone else have some cosplay pics they'd like to share? Head on over to the Facebook Page and post them as comments.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Cell Phone Addiction

Kira's dance recital was this past weekend and they had an announcement before the show. No flash photography - OK. No video recording - Sure. Please turn off your cell phones - This one people apparently had a problem with.

One guy the the row behind me said, "Yeah, that's gonna happen." I'm giving this a pass because he could have said it sarcastically, and I didn't see what was going on behind me.

Another guy in the row in front of me would take his phone out every now and then to check text messages. I'm going to give him a pass as well, since it could have been something important that he needed to check on. Plus, it wasn't constantly. He probably checked five times in the three hours we were there.

The one person that I'm NOT giving a pass to is the woman sitting right next to me. She had her phone out for the whole show and do you know what she was doing on it? Playing a GAME! Seriously? You came to a dance recital for, presumably, someone who care about and that's how you're going to spend your time? The person sitting next to her even had to nudge her during the acts that she was supposed to pay attention to! We're talking a woman at least in her 40's here! If the show was that unimportant to you, then why even bother going? Just stay home, sit on the couch, and have your face stuck to the phone there. You'll save everyone a lot of aggravation.

Is it really that hard for people to not be with their cell phones? It just doesn't make sense to me. This past winter I saw someone shoveling snow that took at least three times long than they should have. Do you know why? It's because after every second shovel, out comes the phone because Odin forbid they went more than a MINUTE without seeing someone's status update.

My phone gets turned off when I get home from work and doesn't get turned on again until the next morning. I've got better things to do with my life than stare a 4.5" x 2.5" screen constantly, especially when my family is involved.

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Anime Recommendation: Your Name

A couple a weekends ago, my family sat down and watched the anime movie "Your Name". The basic idea is that high school boy Taki from Tokyo and high school girl Mitsuha from a small Japanese village randomly switch bodies with each other when they fall asleep. This leads to some pretty dramatic changes to their lives, as each tried to influence the other in what they see as a better direction. As this goes on, Taki and Mitsuha communicate back and forth via journals on their phones, and begin to find comfort in each other.

The two never speak or meet face to face, and when Taki tries to call Mitusha's phone, the call doesn't go through. Then, as suddenly as it began, the switching stops and we're left with Taki trying to find out why this all happened in the first place and what happened to Mitsuha. That's where the twist comes in, and what a twist it is. I'm not going to spoil it for you but I can say that I didn't see it coming and it is handled beautifully.

This is a movie that could have worked in both live action and animation, but I think the animation gives it the freedom to do some things that would have been harder to do in live action. The writing and acting are terrific and you really get sucked into the story. I think that all three of us gasped at the reveal of what was going on, and that's not something I can say very often.

I would highly recommend this to, well, everyone. It's probably not great for young children, but there's nothing objectionable. Kira, who is 9 at the time of this writing, was completely engrossed in the movie and barely spoke through the run time.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Top 10 Favorite/Most Influential Cartoons

There's something going around social media that asks people to list their Top 10 Favorite/Most Influential Cartoons. That sounded like a blog post topic to me, so here we are. I'm going to list these in no particular order, basically as they come to me. Also, I'm going with the "Most Influential" side of the equation, since "Favorite" would take too long to narrow down.

The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour

No conversation about cartoons would be complete without talking about Looney Tunes. These cartoons showed me many layers were possible in storytelling, and my whole family loves them. Heck, there will be times when we'll just start quoting Bugs & Daffy cartoons out of nowhere.

Star Blazers

This is a no brainer. I remember seeing Star Blazers when I was very young and that started my love of both anime and long form storytelling. The fact that this was a self contained quest, with a beginning, middle, and end fascinated me. American cartoons just didn't do that.


I love many Disney cartoons, and many of the shows from the 90's, but none has resonated with me as much as Gargoyles. An equal mix of Mythology, Arthurian Legend, Shakespeare, and Superhero, this cartoon seems like it was made for me. Add to that the fact that the cast is just lousy with Star Trek actors, and I'm hooked.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I've told the story on MotU-Cast about how I won a He-Man contest from Burger King as a kid. I was already a big He-Man fan, though. The idea that strength was to be used to the benefit of others, and wasn't a goal in itself, was a great message.

Battle of the Planets

As much as I hate, and I do mean HATE, 7-Zark-7, I can't deny that Battle of the Planets was a treat for me to watch as a kid. I don't remember seeing it with any regularity, so stumbling across it was always a special occasion. Plus, it lead me to Gatchaman, which is the FAR superior source material, so I can't ignore it.

Challenge of the Superfriends

I could list most of the Superfriends here, but the one that was my favorite (and, coincidentally, didn't have any Junior members) was Challenge. The intro sums it all up, "The Justice League of America versus The Legion of Doom." What more could you want?

The Incredible Hulk

When someone mentions The Incredible Hulk, this is the music that plays in my head. Much more than the wonderful Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno show, this is the comic brought to life. No, it's not 100% faithful, but Bruce Banner, Betty Ross, and Rick Jones are present, along with General Ross and Major Talbot. Plus, this Hulk can speak!

Record of Lodoss War

One of the first Anime that I saw when I was in college was Record of Lodoss War, which is, essentially, a Dungeons and Dragons session animated. Like with Star Blazers, this was a very definite beginning, middle (which was at the start, for some reason), and end. It was wonderfully animated and had some great characters.


I'm a mark for Rankin-Bass, Science Fiction, and Superhero cartoons. This is a combination of all three, with the caveat that the heroes are actually space cops fighting the space mob. Plus, it had lessons about the solar system at the end, which is better than the "You see, Timmy ..." stuff that the other shows of this era were doing.

Flash Gordon

I love pretty much all of the Filmation adaptions, The Lone Ranger, Zorro, Tarzan, Star Trek, but Flash Gordon holds a special place in my heart. Again, this was long form story telling, but there really wasn't an end to it, since every time Ming was defeated, he would just escape and come back. It did build on itself, though, which was really nice.

How about you, dear reader? What are your top 10 cartoons?

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Avengers Viewing Order

Before we went to see Avengers: Infinity War my dad said that he had no desire to see it, because he didn't want to watch 20 movies in order to understand the plot. That got me to thinking, just what movies would you HAVE to watch in order to know what's going on? I think I have an answer, and I'd like to get some feedback on it.

I would argue that everything you need to know is contained in the Captain America and Avengers movies.

In The First Avenger, we get a baseline for the "Infinity Stones" with the Cosmic Cube/Space Stone. We also get the relationship between Cap and Bucky, which plays into so much of the later films. Not to mention a great performance by Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull. The other Phase One films were terrific, but this one lays a lot of the groundwork.

The Avengers got the team together, showed the interactions between the members, and gave a good introduction to all the characters. It also gives us the Mind Stone, not that we knew it, and Thanos at the end. Knowing the Avengers is necessary to getting what's going on in Infinity War.

Going on to The Winter Soldier, we get more of Cap's life and it brings Bucky back into the fold. We also get the stakes going up with the reveal of who is controlling SHIELD, and the introduction of Crossbones & The Falcon.

Age of Ultron gives us the real start of the rift between Cap and Iron man, and lays the ground work for both Civil War and Infinity War. The original Avengers break up and we get the new team, lead by Cap, which goes right into Civil War.

Civil War is where it all goes to hell. The Avengers are caught up in a major incident, which prompts the UN to pass a resolution on Superhero Registration. Cap and Iron Man are on opposite sides of the issue, leading to the existing, and one new, heroes choosing sides. That leads us right into the events of Infinity War, where everyone is scattered and have to come together to fight against Thanos.

The other movies are nice and give you a lot of information, but these 5 are the ones that I think you NEED to watch in order to understand what's going in in the latest release. Of course, I could be wrong. What do YOU think is absolutely necessary to see before Infinity War?

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Goblin Songs

It's no secret that I love pretty much everything done by Rankin-Bass, from Rudolph right up to Thundercats and Silverhawks. The one that really got me as a kid, though, was their adaption of The Hobbit. Yes, some things (like Beorn) were trimmed for time, but the overall story is incredibly faithful to the book. Heck, they even use the lyrics that Tolkien wrote for the songs.

It's those songs that I want to talk about today. I think that they did a great job translating them for the screen and I really enjoy each one. However, it seems like the Goblin songs are the ones that tend to be a bit more toe-tapping. I think it's because of that, and my love for classic rock type music, that they tend to stick out in my mind.

The Hobbit has two of these songs in it. The first is "Down to Goblin Town", which is sung as the Dwarves and Bilbo are captured while crossing the Misty Mountains. Here it is:

The second is sung while the Goblins and Wargs have the party trapped in the pine trees:

Both of these are really down songs, being about how the goblins are going to do horrible things to our heroes, but they've got an infectious beat that just sticks in my head.

A third song exists, from the adaption of The Return of the King. This is a completely original song, but it keeps the same style as the first two. More of a rock tempo, even with the upsetting ideas behind the lyrics. Check it out:

So, am I just odd (don't answer that) or do others gravitate towards the goblin music?

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Convention Report - Zenkaikon

Jad Saxton's Q&A Panel. Note Kira in her Sailor Moon shirt right up front.
This past weekend our family traveled back to Lancaster, PA to attend Zenkaikon. This was the first Anime specific convention that any of us had been to, so it was an interesting time. We attended more panels than we normally do. This was partially due to more stuff that we were interested in and partially because there wasn't much else to do there.

Let me start out by saying that this is not a huge convention, but it's also not tiny. It took up pretty much every room of the Lancaster County Convention Center and I would say it was moderately attended. There wasn't any point that I felt it was over crowded, which is my normal complaint with conventions.

Kira with Sarah and Jad. She was HUGELY excited both before and after this.
Our primary draw to this convention, other than it being convenient, were two of the guests, both of whom are from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon MaidSarah Wiedenheft (who plays the titular maid, Tohru) and Jad Saxton (who plays Kira's favorite dragon Kanna). We were able to get autographs from both ladies and Kira got pictures with them as well. I also gave them each a business card and an invitation to appear on Anime Freaks, should they have the time.

Kira asking how Jad relaxes
We attended the Meet Jad Saxton panel you see above, where Kira was able to ask her two questions, and the voice actors panel which also had Jessica CalvelloQuinton Flynn, and Phil LaMarr. They had some interesting stories to tell, but if anyone is looking to become a voice actor just read this rather than asking, since that was their standard answer.

On the panel side of things, the first one we attended was on Saturday morning where Brandon DeCoster presented different anime openings and what they look like around the world. This isn't just a language thing, either. Apparently different countries have varying standard lengths of openings, which means things need to be added/subtracted depending on where you are. They also shift focus depending on who they think the anime is targeted to, like adding more costume changes to Gundam Wing in Italy, to help target girls.

Saturday afternoon we went to a panel conducted by a group called Manly Battleships titled "Before An Unexpected Journey: The Anime Legacy of Rankin/Bass". They went over the outsourcing of animation, both stop action and hand drawn, to Japan and how many of the creators went on to work on some important anime. They also agree with me that the Rankin Bass Hobbit is far superior to the bloated Peter Jackson movies.

Sunday we attended another Manly Battleships panel, this one about the career of Don Bluth. It has Mrs. Brisby in the title, so we weren't going to keep Michelle away. There were many interesting points brought up, and they even touched on some movies that I didn't know about. Kira now wants to see Thumbelina, so I need to find that somewhere.

A couple of cool cosplayers. Sailor Moon on the left and the Red Dragon Emperor from High School DxD on the right.
The rest of our time was spent people watching and going through the dealer's room, which only had one booth selling Anime & Manga, and another that was just selling Manga. The rest were artists and merchandise vendors. We bought some stuff (probably too much) and generally had a good time. They've already announced their dates for next year, and we'll think about going back. It all depends on scheduling, both of our activities and their guests. I would certainly recommend this convention, though. At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, it's just the right size and mixture of things to see and do.

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