Tag: Social Media

The fatal flaw in Crimes of Grindelwald

The fatal flaw in Crimes of Grindelwald

With Screen Actors Guild and Visual Effects Society voting for academy awards approaching, my family has been spending the last few days watching a lot of movie screeners we’ve been accruing. Hence my (not so) little review of Aquaman last night and my intent to do some more 2018 movie discussions this weekend.

Today we watched two movies with interesting points I wanted to talk about, but Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald wound up being a much more impassioned subject than I expected. So I think I’ll save Green Book for later.

Gotta split up my writing a little bit, get some mileage for my daily writings.

I’ll be focusing more on one specific point that I feel did this film and the themes it creates a huge disservice, so the post as a whole won’t be as much of a general ‘go see or don’t see’ review. Those elements will be there, but I’ll be a bit more open with spoilers and such.

So if that concerns you, you’ve been warned.

There’s no reason to hide the fact that I’ve always been a big Harry Potter fan. Grew up reading all the books with my Mom, and we’ve seen the movies together too.

I’m not exactly that super-fan who remembers each detail about the series, as that’s a kind of person I’ve met and felt pretty inadequate next to. But I am a huge fan all the same, and I’ve been excited to see Crimes of Grindelwald.

A lot of that excitement actually stems from the fact that I quite enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie in its own right.

It had a very fun energy to examining wizards in America, rather than Britain, in the 1920’s. But that along wouldn’t have carried the movie quite as well without Eddie Redmayne taking the helm as Newt Scamander.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always something charming about the copacetic magic of Daniel Radcliffe and his friends evolving from innocent school kids to warriors in a world-changing duel against wizard Hitler.

But after eight movies following those kids, it was pretty refreshing to watch someone new, and Redmayne was definitely something new and refreshing.

I actually don’t think I fully understood what was so nice about his character until I watched this video by the Pop Culture Detective about the actor’s more nontraditional take on a usually hyper-masculine hero archetype and how it goes to enrich the movie’s themes.

I’d highly recommend watching that, because it puts some nice perspective into what made Newt’s hijinx-filled journey through New York so fun.

Crimes of Grindelwald takes things in a vastly different direction than the original Fantastic Beasts. From the first few moments Newt is present, it’s revealed that the fun adventure in Fantastic Beasts was all in service of a young Albus Dumbledore (played fairly well by Jude Law) trying to get the protagonist involved in a fight against Johnny Depp’s older wizard Hitler, Grindelwald.

The second movie takes on a far darker tone and digs way deeper into the lore of the universe (much like the later Harry Potter stories), and this tonal shift colors the first with an interesting bit of hindsight.

Depp’s character perfectly highlights the weird and uncomfortable air this change creates. He’s sometimes doing a goofy Jack Sparrow-esque routine of glancing into windows wide-eyed, but those moments happen concurrently with scenes where he and his people are slaughtering families.

I wasn’t sure I liked the dichotomy being played out until later scenes came up that showed how his almost goofier, more relatable side makes him an enticing figure in the wizarding world, the kind of leader people will follow no matter how monstrous his means to an end are.

It plays well into the rise of fascism undercurrent to the movie (which conveniently takes place before World War II and uses the impending war as a plot device), and in the end I loved the way every character’s story weaved in.

… Except for one of them, which became such a problem for me that I’d almost say it ruined a significant chunk of the movie.

Ezra Miller’s Credence was a huge part of the first movie, as it was revealed the boy who essentially housed a demonic creature was being conditioned by Grindelwald to help destroy the government. As the Pop Culture Detective lays out in his video, part of the tragedy that made Fantastic Beasts so compelling comes when Newt cannot save Credence before he’s torn apart by magic attacks.

It was a really powerful scene…

Until you get to this movie and find out he’s somehow still alive?

Unless I missed something, there’s no explanation as to how or why Credence survived. Just that fact that Newt won’t help the government try to kill him again.

As a result of this early reveal, most of the plot lines for main characters are extremely reiterative of the first movie. They’re searching for Credence before he can be used by Grindelwald for evil.

It made me feel like the first movie mattered far less, and Miller’s portrayal of a far more darkly-influenced Credence was a less compelling compelling subject to save than the scared child of Fantastic Beasts.

My problem wasn’t that his character has developed, it’s that his character should have been dead.

Without that, it felt like so much of the world and it’s characters took too many steps back from their developments.

That was enough of a problem for me that no matter how much I enjoyed the slowly-converging plot threads, the lovely European backdrops and the beasts that made the first movie so fantastic, the overall package felt much more empty.

… Oh, and for some reason all of the advertising focuses a lot on the Deathly Hallows imagery, but I don’t believe any of that showed up in the movie. Just saying.

That’s just my opinion on what really hurt an otherwise great movie, though. But if you have a different take on the issue, feel free to let me know!

I’m always up to opening a den of discussion.

New adventures (real and fake)

New adventures (real and fake)

So I broke my New Year writing streak yesterday. Unless you want to substitute in that day I did two posts in one, in which case I’m right on track!

But if you don’t count that, I have a good excuse.

It was raining a lot, and that made me lethargic.

Plus I was playing a lot of Breath of the Wild.

That’s right, after talking all about my desire to return to Hyrule earlier this week, I actually went through with my threat and popped the game back in.

Frankly?

After a year-and-a-half break, everything about this open-world Zelda experience feels fresh again. It seems like I’m getting through the map way faster with just as much of a fine-toothed comb.

I actually cleared out two portions of the map in just the last two days, which included finally making my way into Death Mountain…

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… finding my second Divine Beast…

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… and destroying the blight inside…

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… to bring peace to Goron City!

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Primed and ready to fire.

I think the most astounding thing about Breath of the Wild to me is how easy it was to pick up and play again after so many months.

It only took a few minutes to re-familiarize myself with the controls before I was running all across Hyrule, solving puzzles and slaying baddies with a bunch of very powerful weapons I saved up. Even most of the side-quests came right back to me as soon as I saw brief reminders in the Adventure Log.

For having such a large map, Breath of the Wild actually has a lot of landmarks that made it feel like I haven’t taken a single day off. It’s a bit uncanny, honestly.

Oh and in case that video I put on Twitter didn’t make it clear, I’m having a blast doing neat things. Plus the NPCs are far funnier than I remember!

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I don’t know who you are random Hylian lady, but you have a great little backstory packed into one line.

So yeah. Breath of the Wild has actually been a godsend for the end of my Winter Break, where I haven’t had too many chances to see my friends. Perhaps it’s less of a godsend for the work on my novel I was planning to finish but…

I’ll get that done.

I swear.

To be fair, BotW hasn’t been the only distraction in my life. I went on a strange adventure with my Mom today.

About a week ago I got a letter from the State Controller of California.

As it turned out, I apparently had some dormant savings account at a bank that isn’t what my family uses. We don’t remember making it or anything, but the Controller let us know there was about $80 in the account — and that if we didn’t claim it soon, the money would go directly to the State.

I’m not one to let $80 slip away that easily.

So I followed through with that bank and went over there with Mom today, assuming she set it up the account considering it has been dormant since 2010.

However, when we arrived, it turned out there was no longer that much in there.

For some reason the information we got from the State Controller just a week ago was accurate to the balance over a year ago? As a result of the upkeep cost, by the time we showed up there was only about $20 to pull out.

Hurray.

Don’t get me wrong, $20 is $20 and I was happy to get a little extra cash in my pocket. It’s just strange that we had gotten such a misleading number from the State.

So… I guess moral of the story is… Get your records together State Controller Yee.

The rest of my afternoon was right as rain — in the rain. Mom and I got coffee, then picked up my sister, came home and I pretty much just played more BotW.

Before stopping to write this post, of course.

I’ll probably be playing Zelda a lot in the next few days, so I’ll try not to bother you all with it unless some really cool stuff happens. It just felt pertinent to give the world an update on how my prior indecision turned out to be a net positive.

Sometimes the world just needs some feel-good stories like that.

Jason plays the Pokémon Trading Card Game

Jason plays the Pokémon Trading Card Game

Time to say good-bye to the last strands of my dignity.

I’m sure it’s no secret that I love Pokémon, as I spent months building up to Pokémon Sun and Moon on this blog when it was announced. However, I haven’t spent too much time talking about the Trading Card Game.

Which is strange considering how much I talk about Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links — even pulling out old childhood memorabilia when it became relevant.

Yet I have plenty of experience collecting Pokémon cards as well! Looking back at my most recent room renovation, you can actually see a Jirachi card hanging out with my other mythical wish-granter merchandise:

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Just on the rightmost side.

But that and the Gardevoir set I keep under my desktop keyboard for good luck…

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… is only the tip of the iceberg.

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My parents like to tell the story of how they had original card packs for one of the first sets in the Pokémon TCG, which would have been amazing collectors items today. However, I had no interest in them at that point.

So they got rid of them.

Hilarious considering how much I wound up getting into collecting the cards:

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Back when I collected most of these, it really did just amount to collection. Like with my physical Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, I never actually played the game.

My first real exposure to playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game came in 2015 when I first watched a Let’s Play of the GameBoy game by TheKingNappy and ShadyPenguinn.

I was so interested in it that I downloaded the game off the 3DS eShop.

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Despite the game having come out in 1998, I would still argue it has some of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard in a video game. Just listen to the Club Master Duel theme.

However, it was mostly the video game’s interface and music that kept me really engaged. I still never went so far as to play with real cards.

Thus it was kind of the end of my experience with the Pokémon Trading Card Game.

… Until this most recent December, when ProJared began to upload a Let’s Play of the GameBoy TCG game.

Game.

Watching it get played again inspired me to jump in. But this time I didn’t go back to my 3DS.

I re-downloaded the official Trading Card Game online.

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I say re-downloaded because I did have a brief attempt at playing the game before (as you’ll see from my cringe-worthy screen name based on some half-assed character), but it didn’t stick quite as well as my recent deep dive.

For those of you who have never played the Pokémon Trading Card Game, I figure a very brief synopsis of how it works is in order.

Each player starts with a 60-card deck, out of which they draw seven cards for a hand and six prize cards. There are two primary win conditions in the game. You either draw all of your prize cards by defeating a Pokémon, or you defeat all of your opponent’s Pokémon so they can no longer play.

There are six kinds of cards in the game:


  • Pokémon: The monsters are your primary players. Each has a set amount of health, specific moves they can use when given energy and sometimes abilities that can affect your play environment.
    • Pokémon can evolve by placing the next stage card on top of a basic card, but not on the same turn that basic card is played.
    • There are also “EX” or “GX” cards that are powerful and have strong abilities, but allow your opponent to draw two prize cards instead of one if defeated.
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Legendaries are typically basic Pokémon, but require a lot of energy.
  • Energy: Energy is required in specific typings to use an attack, unless that requirement is a basic white star — any energy can fill that requirement.

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  • Items: Provide a variety of effects from healing to drawing cards. Can be used as many times as they are drawn per turn.

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  • Supporters: Typically based off of major characters or NPCs from the video games, these cards are usually advanced versions of items that can only be used once per turn.

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  • Tools: Can be attached directly to one Pokémon as a buff, such as increased damage or defense.

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  • Stadium: Applies an effect to both sides of the field, similar to certain abilities. Only one can be in-play, and playing a second Stadium overturns the first.

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The balance of Pokémon and energy placement, where only one is active at a time and players can set up the team in their back row, feels a lot more complex than Yu-Gi-Oh!’s basic gameplay style.

However, all of the Trainer cards seem a lot more focused on draw power and health restoration than Yu-Gi-Oh!’s Spells and Traps, which have a daunting amount of variety and often incentivize playing to a narrowed archetype.

That said, I love both games.

Here’s an example of me playing with a Psychic-type deck I built.

Video’s a bit choppy, so be warned. Though it shouldn’t be nearly as bad as my Armagetron video.

As you can tell, the primary focus of my deck is to build up to Gallade or Lunala (mostly the latter).

I don’t have quite as many GX or EX cards as a lot of players who have clearly been playing longer, but Lunala being a Stage 2 legendary means card designers balanced the trouble of getting her out with some powerful attack output.

It has worked wonders for me thus far, and I’ve been building up my digital card collection using booster packs from the Trainer Challenge mode…

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… As well as theme decks bought using coins from Versus duels…

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… To create a few different decks.

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A Metagross deck is currently being tested, though it’s not quite as well-developed.

While I think the card game itself has some unique complexities that stand out compared to Duel Links (which I’ve fallen out of favor with and replaced my vice apparently), what really keeps me going with the Pokémon TCG is how amazing the card art is.

See Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are always the same for a given card, unless they get altered for balance down the line.

But Pokémon cards for each monster can have a variety of attacks, abilities and even types in different printings. Each of those new prints also has a new piece of artwork.

Here’s a small slideshow of some of the really cute cards I’ve found in my relatively short time playing.

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That’s the real charm of the Pokémon TCG. That’s what keeps me playing.

So… Yeah.

I’m sure many of you saw ‘Jason plays the Pokémon Trading Card Game’ and groaned. Hopefully I gave you enough visual spectacle and explanation to understand why I’ve been so hooked on this stuff.

Because as much as I keep joking about how playing this game out of everything I could be doing in 2019 will ruin my reputation… What can I say.

I’m just a sucker for a fun card game.

Yearning for games prematurely abandoned

I was originally going to spend part of today writing the post that will probably ruin my reputation once and for all. A post about my recent relapse into playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online.

But uhh… I got lazy and didn’t put the effort in.

So sorry about that! Maybe tomorrow.

Now to be fair, it wasn’t pure laziness that kept me away. I may or may not have slept late after staying up real early, but then I did spend a good amount of time working on stuff for Gladeo and my novel this afternoon.

Plus there were a good amount of chores getting done. There’s only about a week left until the new semester starts, so I’ve gotta get through them while I can.

However, I didn’t want to skip out on writing anything tonight. Not when keeping up the craft outside of work-related pursuits is something of an unofficial New Year’s resolution.

So I think I’m instead going to chew on my sudden desire to return to an experience… Somewhat long-since abandoned.

It all began with Smash Bros. Ultimate, actually. Despite how long it has been since the game came out, I still find myself playing quite a bit. Maybe not as intensely as I did when I was grinding through World of Light, but I’m still hoping to improve so I can have more fun matches with my friends.

Then the other day I was playing on the new Great Plateau Tower map, griping about how I wished Link was his Twilight Princess design since I personally prefer it (in spite of the fact that Breath of the Wild Link has his own interesting mechanical complexities that are arguably more diverse).

Playing in the background was the theme song to BotW. But something about part of the song brought to mind the 2016 reveal trailer for the game.

When I first saw that at E3, I was fucking hooked on it like a drug.

No joke, I played the trailer on repeat just to hear the music (even while showering), at times on the verge of tears from how beautiful it looked and sounded. I’m not sure a trailer for a game has ever had that effect on me before.

I was so obsessed with it that I wrote a blog post back before it was something commonplace.

In fact I didn’t even realize that post was more about Pokémon Sun and Moon than it was Breath of the Wild, because I only recall the Zelda trailer leaving an impression!

Once BotW came out, for a long while I was disappointed that I didn’t have the Nintendo Switch to play it on. The Wii U version seemed like it might be inferior, so I avoided it.

Which to be fair means I’m probably part of the reason why the Wii U failed. Whoops.

Eventually I did get the console, and the summer of 2017 becoming the summer of Zelda as a result. I played the game obsessively, combing through the vast environment until I literally got sick of it.

Seriously, I completed one of the Sacred Beast temples and explored a good quarter+ of the map before giving up because I was too overwhelmed with how I was playing it. I may have put it in my top games of 2017 list, but I haven’t looked back.

Yet remembering that trailer gave me flashbacks to the gut feeling of awe.

A feeling which only got more intense as I discovered a new YouTube obsession with KingK.

The guy does extended retrospectives on different game series. The 3D Zeldas, 2D Sonics, Kingdom Hearts, etc. I find his videos really compelling because they don’t strictly focus on the same arguments you’ve likely heard a million times. They seem more about his personal, emotional connections with each game.

All still mediated by tough analysis.

He has some great content and I’d highly recommend watching it.

KingK became important to this conversation because I happened to come across his (no joke) hour-and-a-half long analysis of Breath of the Wild soon after getting the feels over that trailer again.

Frankly? I think it primed me to want to jump into the game again.

I’ve always said I have a complicated relationship with BotW. I love the game but could never complete it.

Nearly two years later, I think it might finally be time to delve into the Hyrule of the Wild once again. Hopefully to see its story through to the end.

This little silly post actually wound up being longer and a bit more self-reflective than I expected, so hopefully you all don’t find it too superfluous.

I’d love to know if you’ve had any experiences with games that you may have abandoned, only to yearn for it again years later. Just so I know I’m not crazy!

A ten-dollar word worth its weight in gold

A ten-dollar word worth its weight in gold

Once in a while I like to take a break from delving into a video game or bothering you all about my life and talk about another one of my favorite things: The written word.

Unfortunately, this isn’t really an update on my Senior Honors Project. I have been working on that a bit recently, but not in any capacity to show something off.

Instead I wanted to bring back something that I haven’t really done since last summer. A ten-dollar word of the day.

Sometimes I just find a word that stands out for one reason or another, and it makes for some good filler content on a day when not a lot else has gone on.

However, today’s word isn’t quite as (from my point of view) underutilized as something like “proselytize.” In fact, you just might recognize it from my own recent lexicon.


Bonanza

Definition 1:

  1. Something that is very valuable, profitable or rewarding.
  2. A very large amount.
  3. Extravaganza.

Definition 2:

  1. An exceptionally large and rich mineral deposit (as of an ore, precious metal or petroleum while mining).

via the Merriam-Webster dictionary


Yeah that’s right, I’m pulling out that word from my post headline yesterday. Looking it up to see if it was the word I actually wanted to use was what inspired me to talk about it more, actually.

I re-ordered the list of definitions from Merriam-Webster here on my blog to put what I would consider the more common usage on top.

After all,  I personally happen to know the word “bonanza” in reference to something like an extravaganza, or simply something valuable.

But it threw me for a loop to see that the term apparently has roots in the mining industry!

Looking for some more information on that origin led me down an interesting little rabbit hole. I discovered a website called mining.com for example, which apparently covers news regarding different precious metals and their market prices. They also apparently do things like advertise mining-related novels, which is where I found the “bonanza” connection.

Another blog I found off-shooting the Collins Dictionary stipulates that the word came to be popularly used with mining successes as a result of its Spanish origin, where the term meant “calm sea” in reference to an expression of good news for sailors and fisherman.

The general “good fortune” expression wound up being used in the mining industry as well.

This all actually makes some sense considering the more modern usage of the word as being an extravagant event or a rewarding situation. It just comes off of a root that threw me off-kilter — enough to spent at least a little bit of time digging deeper.

Isn’t that the beauty of a language like English, with so many intermingling influences?

While looking for the definition of the term bonanza, I also happened to come across a totally different and interesting off-shoot of the term. One that might be a bit more recognizable for a crowd older than I am.

There was a television show that ran on NBC for nearly 15 years called “Bonanza” based on a group of cowboys tending to their ranch and the surrounding community during and after the Civil War.

This show apparently had 430 episodes, so I’m pretty surprised I’ve never heard of it! Especially considering how much of an old Hollywood fan my dad is.

The western was also popular enough to have a few continuation movies into the 80’s and 90’s according to the IMDb page on its producer, David Dortort.

So there you go! Bonanza. Parties, gold mining and cowboys. Romeo would probably be proud of just how much is in this name in particular.

You know, once he got over the fact that televisions are a thing that exist. Or electricity in general for that matter.


Featured image courtesy of Marshman via Wikimedia Commons

What did I just find?

What did I just find?

Oh yeah, I’m clickbaiting all you social media folks today.

It’ll be worth it. I promise.

After an interview fell through this afternoon, in order to not be a complete bum for the day I decided to finally put my full energy into another New Year tradition that I’ve been half-assing for a little while now:

Cleaning my room.

I’ve done an entire post about the subject in the past, and to be honest the overall appearance of the room hasn’t changed much since then.

It will sometime soon when I finally get this new computer together and put in a proper spot, but for now you can get the gist of things from that other post. All the decor is mostly the same.

Arguably the most notable thing I had originally wanted to talk about with this post was how nice it feels to finally clear off a usually cluttered surface.

Because just look at this:

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Especially with the new calendar, it’s looking pretty slick.

At least until you turn around and look at where all the stuff wound up…

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Slightly less slick.

Though I’ll admit it’s also satisfying to remind myself how much I usually put up without it looking too busy.

However, if you’re keen on picking up context clues with blog post headlines, featured images and past tense language in text, you know that I wound up finding something completely different to talk about.

Something much more whacky and interesting.

Hidden away behind my bookshelf in an unopened plastic casing was this astounding poster:

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You may be wondering why I decided to just put up a picture of the woman’s face instead of the full image for my Featured Image, and to be fair it’s 99 percent just to be funny clickbait.

But it’s also because that was genuinely my reaction when I first unraveled this thing.

Now you can’t just dig up something this bizarre and not try to do a little bit of research into it.

As the corner of the poster suggests, this was a promotional poster for “Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution,” a 2014 game released on the most notable last gen consoles besides the Wii U.

I never played the game, and in fact I don’t think I’d even heard of it until right now.

So where the hell did this poster come from?

Well, according to this Reddit post I found from way back in the day, it was a promotional item given out at GameStop for pre-ordering Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution.

But after a while, employees just started to give them away with anything. I must have picked it up alongside some totally different game and forgot about it.

I shared this rare finding with my friends and together we did a bit more fun elaboration into it. For instance, my friend Nina (who lives in Japan and is studying to be a translator) gave us a bit of insight into exactly what it says:

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Knowing this is basically like a cheesy B-movie poster is kind of fascinating, honestly.

Then my friend Jonathan went out to YouTube and found us some footage of Mecha Naruto in action.

It’s uhh…

It’s something else.

Probably the most beautiful nightmare fuel I’ve seen in a long time.

Just look at his ultimate jutsu. I’m dumbfounded staring at such a glorious spectacle and frankly want to go thank anyone who was involved in the executive decision to include it in the game.

It’s just that good.

I’m absolutely putting this up on my wall tonight. Probably right up next to my Mega Diancie poster.

Gotta fit that call to action in here somewhere, so let me know what kind of weird stuff you’ve found while cleaning up around the house! This is probably one of the more strange things I’ve ever dug up, so I’d be curious to know if any of you have some similarly unexpected items hiding away.

Bands under the Bob Cole banner

Bands under the Bob Cole banner

As promised last night, here I am to talk about sitting around in Long Beach all day.

Except today there was a much more pertinent reason for me to be there! Instead of just bumming around laughing about how much the campus at Cal State Long Beach looks like an F-Zero track, I got to enjoy the:

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Cue dramatic choir build-up!

That’s right, after an intensive weekend of frequently driving back-and-forth between Redondo Beach and Long Beach repeatedly, it was finally time for my sister’s official performance with the honors band.

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There she be.

This was actually, from what I can tell at least, a relatively prestigious little event that she applied for.

Of course I only say that because the bare minimum that I know without further research is that the four-year-old concert featured a few guests with pedigrees including the L.A. Phil Harmonic and John Williams movie scores, as well as the fact that kids apparently applied from as far as Alaska.

So you know. Either it’s a prestigious event or some folks were real desperate to get away from Sarah Palin.

Jokes aside, it was a pretty awesome hour-and-a-half show in a very lovely auditorium. I decided to be that guy who went around taking pictures of the lobby just to let y’all feel like you were there too.

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If that’s the kind of thing you like.

The stage itself was also very nice, enough to be my Featured Image. Not only were the acoustics resonant for the entire audience, I would also argue it’s nicely designed from an aesthetic point of view.

A nice mesh of dark grey and maroon, with the panels of the wall specifically made to be a surprise when some of them were revealed to be doors.

At least I thought it was a cute little surprise.

Now, I’m sure you’re all expecting me to delve into the content of the show itself. I will, but not in quite as much detail as I originally expected to when planning to write about her show today.

I wanted to take a photo of all three groups that were performing, maybe even include some video of the songs. The grand finale that Aly’s band performed certainly would have been bombastic to show off.

Unfortunately they did not allow photography or video of any kind.

So… Threw that idea in the dumpster. Which is a shame considering Aly was basically right in the center of the front row as a second chair flute.

But that’s the writing business for you, I suppose. Adaptation is required.

Instead of a more in-depth catalog, here’s just a brief synopsis of the show’s bands:

  1. The Choir. A very nice set of performances that only helped reinforce the idea in my head that all choirs seem to perform is churchy religious hymns and such. Also helped me realize that my 21st century urges to be doing literally anything with my hands comes out strong when all I have to look at is a bunch of kids standing on stage singing for a half hour.
  2. The String Orchestra. Subjectively, I’d argue this group was my favorite if for no other reason than string orchestras with that keyboard clatter in the background always remind me of medieval castle interior themes. Thought it was really funny that two of the performers were in blue and pink dresses because I believed they just didn’t get the memo about dressing in black, but it turned out they were special guest soloists. Whoops.
  3. The Big Band. Objectively the best group of the night… And I’m not just saying that because it’s the group my sister performed with. They were the most complex and developed in terms of sound because they were a mix of many instruments instead of just one musical theme, and there were tons of nice environmental mood-setting pieces as a result.

Not so lustrous without visual or musical accompaniment I know, but hopefully I can make up for that by sharing these obligatory family photos we took after the show.

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Mostly trying our best to cover up the missing “S” on the Conservatory sign.

Extra shout out to the man who took our full group photo before taking a selfie of himself. Don’t know who you are, but you’re a real G.

Overall, I’d say I was really impressed with the show. Considering it involved 100+ high schoolers all meeting each other, learning 4-7 pieces each and practicing them over the span of two days, it was actually phenomenal how well-done all the music was.

If nothing else, I suppose this is proof of how great Aly’s going to be once she gets out into the workforce of quick turn-around performances!

“Hey Siri…”

“Hey Siri…”

I’ll be honest, it has been a little hard to get motivated to do much of anything today. Last night there was a shooting at a bowling alley called Gable House Bowl in Torrance, which hit pretty much all the big news outlets.

Shootings like this are always a tragedy, but this one hit pretty close to home for me.

Gable House is and always has been a big name amongst basically everyone I’ve grown up with. Countless birthday parties and hangouts have been hosted there and at the laser tag arena just next door. Plus the local business makes itself known in other ways that have just become regular parts of life for me, such as through an advertisement that always plays before features at a nearby AMC movie theatre.

As far as I’m currently aware, I didn’t know any of the people involved in the shooting. But I did drive somewhat close to that area on my way home last night, so you know how the mind wanders with those kinds of situations.

It has been hard to distract myself considering all of my group chats with locals have brought the tragedy up at various times with similar pits of dread.

But distract we must. Because as much as I’ll give my condolences to anyone who was involved, I just can’t let it rule my mind all night.

I’ve partially done so by watching two new video series on YouTube that have frankly offered a huge amount of interesting, unorthodox video game-related content.

First is the “Region Locked” series by Did You Know Gaming. I found it for their episode on Mother 3 after binge watching a play through of that series not too long ago, but stayed to take in a ton of trivia all about bizarre or cool games that were never released officially in the United States.

Then I’ve been watching the “Boundary Break” series by Shesez, which is so fascinating that I find myself constantly staring slack-jawed at the screen. This series looks at games of all creeds and pedigrees with a ‘magic camera’ so you can see the inner-workings of how different titles are designed. For someone who just loves video games, it helps me appreciate the work that goes into making such iconic titles way more.

I’ve also — and don’t judge me for this — been trying my hand at the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online again.

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What can I say, I had a craving for a new card game with Duel Links falling a bit out of favor. The artwork on some of these cards are just… SO good.

Thinking about making a whole separate post about this stuff if I can get past it being so lame. Let me know if you’d be interested in that, I suppose.

But then the biggest distraction of the day would, of course, have to be the thing that I headlined the post with. Our new Apple Homepod.

Apparently this was my mom’s very belated birthday present from her parents, even though I’m personally not 100 percent sure why the one person in the house who is more hard of hearing would be so interested in a glorified speaker.


Dara’s Corner:

“It actually listens to me when I talk, which is a good thing considering I have a history of yelling profane things to Siri on my phone!”


She’s really happy with it though, so who am I to complain? Until it starts to refuse turning itself off like HAL 9000, anyway.

Setting the thing up has been a bit tricky because of how it interfaces with various iPhones in the house and other devices like our Apple TV. But that trickiness has provided at least two very funny moments.

The first most notable moment happened when my dad attempted to ask it to play Netflix, which resulted in the device playing the explicit rap song, “Netflix,” by 2 Chainz.

We got about as far as finding out that he smoked a blunt for breakfast before someone managed to turn it off in that flailing, unexpected manner.

Then later on we attempted to figure out how to make Siri text someone through the speaker alone. When we tried to get mom’s phone to text dad, there was (no joke) about a five-minute period where Siri listed off every single phone number and email that could possibly get him a message. Only to have the same list repeated about halfway through with another attempt later.

He has a few too many emails, apparently.

With that said, hopefully this post didn’t come across too scatterbrained for you all. I mostly just tried to do whatever I could to get past my funk, which wound up meaning ‘talk about a bunch of random things’ and recounting funny moments. Because we all need a little humor in the face of tragedy.

But now it’s starting to rain outside and I have to leave to go pick up Alyson from her Bob Cole thing.

Though you’ll likely hear more about it tomorrow when I may or may not write about her actual performance.

The strange psychology of a Korean BBQ dinner

The strange psychology of a Korean BBQ dinner

I’m officially convinced my pursuit of a Psychology minor has ruined me forever.

Context. After dropping Aly off at Cal State Long Beach this morning (the genesis of this Tweet that made me laugh):

I wound up going out to dinner tonight with a bunch of people from high school. A pretty diverse range of people at that — from those I’d consider good friends I hang out with regularly to some that I literally haven’t seen since graduation three years ago.

There were about 10 people there and I was right in the middle between two Korean BBQ hot plates.

On the bright side, I got to take food from both.

On the not so bright side, pretty sure I got whiplash trying to split my time between two totally different conversations. If not more considering those two major groups were further split into a number of subgroups.

That said, being somewhat ephemeral in each different conversation gave me time to reflect on other things. As I stipulated at the very top of this post, a lot of the things I wound up thinking about were concepts I’ve learned in my psych classes coming up in reality.

For instance: Right when I arrived, half the group wasn’t there. Long story short they were waiting for one person who was apparently out watching Into the Spider-Verse and didn’t realize the timing or something. They wound up being an hour late.

As I’m sure you all know by now, I wouldn’t say he made the wrong choice necessarily.

Though we wound up being at the restaurant for three hours as a result so… Maybe it was the wrong choice from a utilitarian social standpoint?

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Me incidentally bug-eyed while checking my watch, with Nina caught in the background. Seemed like a good enough place to slip this in.

I’m here to talk about psychology though. Not philosophy.

This one girl and I thought we knew each other from something, but for the longest time all we knew was that we went to the same high school. We couldn’t figure out exactly HOW we knew one another.

It was a very ‘tip of the tongue’ moment up until I finally got just the primer I needed.

Found out that she was studying creative writing, and that pretty quickly translated to my realizing we must have been on the newspaper together at one point. And we were!

Long-term memory retrieval via priming. Classic.

But wait, my nerdiness gets worse.

See the Korean BBQ place we were at in Gardena had a call button for the servers:

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My friend Nina got pretty obsessed with the button the longer the night went on. Whenever any of us even considered getting more food or water, she immediately hit the button.

It let out a very distinctive chime, like two doorbells ringing in sequence.

After the third or fourth call, one ring seemingly didn’t work. The servers were just busy helping other tables, but Nina seemed to get visibly distressed that the call hadn’t served its purpose.

For everyone else? This was pretty much nothing.

But for me? All I could see was a conditioned response being slowly extinguished by the removal of a response to the conditioned stimulus.

Pavlov would be proud.

I swear, this was 100 percent what was going through my head all night. No idea why, but it definitely happened.

That said it isn’t like all that school leaking in ruined the night. I actually had a great time catching up with some people I haven’t seen in a very long time, and I imagine I’ll probably go out with this particular group more often in the future!

Plus there were some extra added benefits. We actually ran into a totally different group of people from high school who I haven’t seen in years that just so happened to be eating at the same place.

The boba we got after wasn’t half bad, too.

That essentially sums up my day overall. Since it sparked this particular conversation, I guess it would be pertinent to ask all of you in the viewing audience if you’ve had any times where something you learned in school viscerally leaked into an everyday experience.

I’m sure someone has a fun story with that. As fun as school-related stories can be, anyway.

Working for the new year

It has been a few days since the ball dropped. For the most part I’ve spent the early moments of 2019 chilling out — sleeping, spending time with friends, writing about silly things like my Naruto fan animation, etc.

But today I really started to kick myself into some kind of working gear.

A source I’ve been talking with at HTC Vive finally got back to me with some responses last night, so progress is being made on my next piece for Gladeo.

Plus I sent out a few other emails and messages while at the same time trying to start cleaning my room. All while listening to some YouTube videos and podcasts in the background, trying to catch up on that media I’ve fallen a little behind on while doing other things like play Smash Bros.

Because for some reason I only thrive when I’m doing a million things at once. Always have.

I wound up having kind of an opposite day to my sister as a result, as she spent the morning out at breakfast with her friends and then went to a party with totally different friends later.

Quite the social butterfly, as opposed to my more introverted personal time sensibilities. Ironic considering the line of work I’m studying into I know, but I can turn on the talk when need be.

I guess to be fair there are two caveats to that. I did spend all night last night with my friends, and I have a dinner thing tomorrow, so it’s not like I’m not doing anything with other people. Plus she goes back to school next week and I still have a few more weeks of winter break to follow, so she has to squeeze it all in where she can.

That being said, it was still funny how I really wound up kicking work more into gear while she was out being social. Just came to mind when I was driving her to that second party earlier.

In terms of working, I should go to the gym again, and also get started on my Senior Honors Project stuff. I think I might try to do some research for it soon, and could even talk about it here if I find some good stuff.

Though tomorrow I might focus more of my time on trying to find a new wall calendar for my room.

This last semester I discovered the true benefits of having all my scheduled appointments available on the wall right next to me.

That’s about all I have to say after a fairly long day of not a lot happening. Got started on a lot of work, with my next Gladeo piece and maybe even novel research to look forward to sometime soon. Otherwise, for the most part I pulled this together simply so I wouldn’t miss a committed blog writing day this early into the new year.

Before I go, however, I think it’s also worth mentioning that Alyson never finishes Pokémon games. Because she absolutely adores it when I bring up video games in a way totally unrelated to what I had mentioned her for.

But also, also, that mention could become related to what I mentioned her for if I tell her that we best finish Let’s Go, Eevee before she goes back to school and leaves me Macaulay Culkining here.

Consider that a challenge if you actually read this far into a dumb post of mine, sis.