bLog Date: 3 January, 2017

Hey there everyone, it’s me again! Hope everyone had a good holiday! Sorry if my updates were a little, uh, nonexistant these past few weeks. I had figured that very few people would be paying attention to my dinky little blog while they’re spending time with family or however they choose to celebrate the holidays.

So what can we look forward to in the year 2017? More interesting old stuff I dig up, more recent releases in movies, more reliable updates and just more stuff in general.

I also want to hit a goal for my blog this year. So at some point this year I want to double my follower count. Rounding it up because I like nice round numbers, my goal is 350 followers! Like I said in earlier ones of these I’ll be doing YouTube content again at 200 followers and introducing monetisation once I hit 500 followers and I’ll be doing something special once I hit 500.

Tomorrow we’ll get back into business and I’ll upload another Retroactive Review, this time of a little French book filled with optimism and newfound inspiration.

Retroactive Reviews: Black Lagoon

This show will kick your ass. The brainchild of Rei Hiore, Black Lagoon is violent, brutal, unrelenting in its action and atmosphere and has enough explosions and cussing to make both Michael Bay and Quentin Tarinino blush.

And it is awesome.

Black Lagoon.jpg(Here there be monsters, bitch.)

This story follows possibly the unluckiest salary-man ever, Rokuro Okajima (AKA: Rock) as he is kidnapped by pirates, later learns that he was kidnapped for basically no reason, gets involved in a bar shootout before fleeing the scene before his boss calls him and basically just tells him to die in the ocean so he can be forgotten about before an attack helicopter starts trying to hunt him down and kill him. And this is all within the first episode mind you. It only gets more intense and crazier from here on out.

Black_Lagoon_e11.jpg(♪One of these men is not like the others♪)

The animation is excellent especially when you consider the year the show was produced. The backgrounds especially are absolutely gorgeous. It’s a stunning backdrop to the violent and bloody life of the show’s main location, the fictional Taiwanese city of Roanapur. Speaking of the action, it is absolutely visceral and extremely satisfying, especially when coupled with the fact that nobody can stop swearing. Especially not our female lead Revy, who by all accounts is one grade-A badass and one of the craziest gunslingers on the planet.

do47I5K.gif(Does this loo like the face of mercy to you?)

Speaking of the characters of Black Lagoon there are a ton of entertaining and well-rounded characters. I’ve already mentioned the hapless Rock who despite being involved in such intense scenarios always manages to pull through in the end. Then there is also Dutch who is by far one of the coolest people in the show simply by virtue of being fucking awesome. Benny is the radio operator who provides fantastic comedy relief and is an all around cool character to boot. There are a ton of great and varied side characters in the show as well, from the terrifying mute Sawyer, to the world’s least pious nun ever Eda and the imposing leader of Hotel Moscow, Balalaika. The show overall has a lot of strong female characters, both figuratively and literally as a good portion of them are genuinely terrifying. However the most imposing I would have to say is Balalaika as she radiates an aura of confidence in both herself and her soldiers and takes absolutely no shit from anyone and is absolutely as charismatic as she is intimidating.

Balalaika.jpg(Having your own army also helps too.)

Bringing these characters to life is an excellent cast of voice actors for the English dub and what I’ve heard of the original Japanese voice cast isn’t too bad either. Personally I would pick the dub as the quality is excellent and it feels more satisfying to have the characters scream obscenities in the language I speak.

The themes of the show seem to vary a bit. It can switch from being adrenaline soaked, blood-pumping action and excitement before slowing down and pulling back, showing how people become like this and what pushed them to do these things. It’s a solemn look and is genuinely depressing, especially when you reach the midpoint of season one and the twins Hansel and Gretel are introduced. They are simultaneously the most frightening and depressing part of the show.

The show does nothing but improve in its subsequent seasons, but therein lies the main problem. While the manga is still ongoing the show however seems to have stopped being produced after the Roberta’s Blood Trail OVA, which is personally very disappointing.

Overall I would highly recommend Black Lagoon to anyone who is looking for intense and thrilling action, a memorable cast and strong female characters beating the shit out of each other.

bLog Date: 1 December, 2016

Well… Damn. That’s a bigger number than I expected.

blog-175-milestone(This happened)

So, yeah. This kind of snuck up on me. Over 175 followers! Nice. I could’ve waited until 200, but that would make my reaction not genuine. Then again genuine reactions are kinda hard to express over text.

I think it’s kind of expected to do something special once you hit certain milestones for followers and that sort of thing. So, I’ve decided that once I reach 200 followers I will get back into doing YouTube content. I’ve also decided to bump up the whole monetisation idea to 500 followers.

This is a very exciting time for me. Thanks for getting me to this stage guys, let’s see how far we can take this!

Tiny Tales #5: Last Stand at Stonegate Fortress

Back for another Tiny Tale I see. Well, I hope to never disappoint. Hope you’re in the mood for some dark and gritty fantasy! Enjoy!

bone_dragon_by_meago-d9yw0xa.png(Bone Dragon by Meago)

Dragon!

The call went up moments before the ones who made it were burned to cinders. Green flames swirled around me as I clutched tight to my crossbow, my kettle helmet absorbing  heat from the hellish blaze only to be instantly cooled by the pelting rain and hail. My teeth chattered not from the cold but pure fear, the sound of the crashing bone and heavy rain almost drowning out the roars of the Sergeant.

“Retreat! Back to the fortifications!” he bellowed.

The unit swarmed back to the stone fortress like ants scurrying from a flood. I dared to look up to see the shadow overhead had looped around. It was coming back for another assault.

“Sergeant!” I screamed. The beast was directly bearing down on us.

“Hell’s bells. It’s coming right for us! Scatter!”

The men of the unit did just that. The dragon breathed its infernal flame again, the blaze incinerating those too slow to move. I had only just managed to dive out of the way in time, crashing into the muddy plain before rolling over with my crossbow at the ready. The dragon had already soared by, denying my chance to shoot back. But it was not as if my attacks would be at all effective against this foe.

The dragon was unlike any I’d ever seen. As a guard of the Stonegate Fortress I had helped my fellows fight no less than three of the giant fire-breathers, but this one was nothing like any of the ones before. It was purely skeletal yet still moving and somehow flying. Where its heaving belly should have been a great orb of vivid green flame was burning, the same colour as the fireballs that served as the creature’s eyes. Normal dragons were an abomination of nature already, but this? There was something terrifying and wrong about a titanic skeleton such as that held aloft by its own foul will, breathing hellish flame into the sky and roasting men and women I had served with for months to nought but a black smear in the mud in an instant.

“Come on, get up! You’ll never get out of this if you wallow in the muck!” the Sergeant belted again, stirring me from my position as I took off running once more.

The dragon’s fire was still blazing, even with the rain. In fact it was causing the rain to turn to mist and fog, obscuring the battlefield and the dragon even more than the dark clouds. But the fortress of Stonegate loomed large in the mist and dark, standing defiantly above the craggy ground below and before the sheer cliff of the mountain. Its square towers and intimidating ramparts protecting the lands of the king and all his people for hundreds of years against the constant threats from the dragon lands. Along the ramparts giant ballistae stood at the ready, trying to draw a bead on the menacing shape when out of the mists their target sprung and smashed a ballistae with its mighty ivory claws. Men screamed as they fell against the smashed rock and were crushed under the wood and iron of the destroyed ballistae.

The other ballistae crews took aim at the great beast but they were not fast enough. The fearsome skeleton had disappeared back into the hail and mist, leaving them quaking in anticipation and cold. My feet thudded against the paved stones of the fortress as the iron portcullis crashed down behind me. I bent double, coughing and wheezing from the effort as I tried to breathe.

“You’re out of shape.” the Sergeant said beside me, similarly out of breath but hiding it better than the other men whom he turned to address. “Alright men, it’s looking bad out there. But have no fear! You are the king’s best men, every last one of you! I expect you all to be worthy of such a title!”

The men were still shaken. Afraid and cold, their morale was in danger of being shattered with their nerves. The Sergeant took another breath of air as he continued his speech.

“Now I don’t know where this monster has come from. All the beasties that’ve attacked us up ’till this point have been fleshy enough for our crossbows to work. But that just means we’re going to have to change tack. Remember lads, with the wall at our backs we can never be knocked down! Sigmund, Berthold, Chelsea! I want you three on the net trebuchet! Knock that infernal thing out of the sky!”

I saluted with the other two guards. Berthold and Chelsea were good soldiers. I’d served with them since I was enlisted in the army. The three of us turned and ran for the towers as the Sergent barked orders at the rest of the unit. Our feet fell heavier than the rain around us as we ran, the chaotic cacophony of battle echoing against the impassible granite face of the mountain. The trebuchet tower was the tallest spire of the fortress, the large wooden machine of war permanently fixed into the tower to launch giant nets at the dragons that menaced civilised lands.

“By the king’s quivering thighs why do there have to be so many stairs?!” grunted Berthold in frustration.

“Shut up and keep climbing!” Chelsea said, her own exhaustion coming through in her voice.

Despite the stairs and the grunts and colourful oaths of exertion from the others we made it to the top. The roar of fighting and the roar of the beast hastened us as we loaded the net into the sling. I took lookout while the others worked, gripping my crossbow tighter than ever. I heard something above me and I saw the beast whoosh by overhead, a dark shadow in the rain. It landed on a lower tower to the trebuchet, its claws pulverising the ancient stonework as it clung like a skeletal gargoyle. It reared its mighty head towards us and I felt my innards droop.

“Get down!” I screamed as I dropped behind the ramparts.

Dragon fire seared overhead. It lasted only a few moments but it felt like an eternity of heat and smoke. The rain turned to mist before falling once more as if trying to pin me to the floor. Despite that I got up and looked behind me. My crossbow slipped from my grasp. Berthold, Chelsea and the trebuchet were no more. From the waist up my friends, my companions I had served with since the beginning, were nothing but ash and char. The once mighty trebuchet was now black embers and half-melted bolts. I suppressed my grief, but my anger and despair broke loose and flowed hot through my veins. I drew my sword and looked to the dragon preparing to take flight once more. It was going to pass directly under the tower.

That would be its last mistake.

Without a moment’s hesitation I leapt from the tower, as did the dragon. I fell as heavily as the rain as the skeletal dragon soared underneath me. I crashed into its ribcage, grabbing a hold of one of its spines for stability. The blaze within its ribcage scorched my skin despite the cold, but that mattered not. I saw the wing beating furiously as the dragon looked behind itself at me. It would try to shake me off if I gave it a chance. That chance would not come for it.

With a furious yell I thrust my blade through the storm into the dragon’s joints, where the wing met its titanic body. Lightning tore across the clouds as we fell, the dragon’s cry an ear-splitting shriek and mine a defiant scream.

I was one of the king’s best men. I was a guard of Stonegate Fortress. And I would never let a dragon burn the lands I swore to protect.

bLog Date: 29 November, 2016

Hey everyone! Just a quick update for you all.

So I’ve been thinking a bit about my Spotlight segment and my reviews and that having the recent releases bundled in with the older material might not be for the best since it could cause confusion. So here’s my idea. I’m going to split the segment into two. The more recent releases are still going to be reviewed under Spotlight, but older material will be part of a new segment called Retroactive Reviews. Because I like alliteration.

So yeah, that’s pretty much all I wanted to say. Have a good day!

Tips, Tricks & Tropes: Keeping it Up

So you’re writing and everything’s going great. You’re having fun, you’re planning the story as it flows and your characters are coming to life before your very eyes. But then you go to bed one night and the next morning you stop. It could be for really any reason, all of them valid. And you say you’ll start again but you just… don’t. And if you don’t realise it quickly it’ll have been weeks or months since you last worked on your project. This is a different problem from the notorious writer’s block, when you just can’t think of what to write. This is a problem of motivation.

Sadly a problem like this isn’t quickly fixed, but it can be relatively easy. And it can be done so in a number of ways. Be sure to use them or the guILT IS SURE TO DRIVE YOU MAD.

Let’s begin.

Method #1: Return to your inspiration.

This one is a fairly straightforward solution. Usually you write best when you’re operating with your head in that sphere of what you’re writing about. Your project is bound to be inspired by a whole lot of things, so see if you can remember what those thins are. Go back and give them a look again. Enjoy them, savour them. And once you’re done you’ll realise that you’ve come up with a whole lot more to write about while you were watching, reading or listening. For extra points be sure to write them down when they come to you so they don’t fly by you.

Method #2: Retrace your steps.

This one is another easy method which is very similar to Method #1. Just going back to the start of your project and giving it a read through is good for building up enthusiasm for your project. It also gives you time to comb through and pick out little grammatical errors or reflect on if a scene really works for you. Then once you’ve found yourself back at the beginning, you might want to keep writing so you can read more of your own story. And once you’re done then everyone can read your story!

Method #3: Preventative measures.

This one is a little trickier but doing it can prevent a lack of motivation from being a problem altogether. Just writing for a period of time every day can help your productivity a great deal. Stephen King gave this exact advice in his book On Writing (what a clever pun) and I can definitely see its merits. King has written more books than I have living family members and that’s no small feat. Even if you physically can’t write on your project that doesn’t mean you should stop writing. Make a short story about a bear lost at sea. Scribble up a first-person exploration of a sunken ship on paper under a shady tree. Make a haiku using fridge magnets. Write upon the walls like a crazy person!
All of these (well, except maybe that very last one) can help boost your productivity as a writer and in doing so also hones your skill. Practice makes perfect, to drag out a tortured phrase.

And there you have it. Three little methods that might give you a hand if you’re having trouble getting back into the swing of things. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back with more plot next time!

Spotlight: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is a Marvel movie. You know it’s going to be good. So the question is how good is it? Especially seeing as it takes such a bizarre shift in focus from the movies Marvel Studios has put out so far. I can tell you that Doctor Strange does not disappoint in the slightest and excels everywhere it needs to.

 images.duckduckgo.com.jpg(Do you believe in magic?)

The plot for the movie is actually fairly standard and follows the template that most other Marvel movies seem to follow. We get the main lead’s origin story, supporting characters are introduced, a big name villain is brought in but not one that’s too much of a threat then we get the big climax and tease the next few dozen movies. It’s not to the movie’s detriment that it follows this template or really many of the Marvel movies since each of these movies brings its own unique spin to the story. Ant-Man was a heist movie, Captain America: Winter Soldier was a political thriller, Guardians of the Galaxy was an 80’s disco space war. Doctor Strange however is an absolute spectacle of twisted reality and special effects.

Everybody who worked on the special effects of this movie need to be given some serious credit as the shifting dimensions and constantly changing visuals. The entire sequence where Strange is catapulted through so many different dimensions is disorienting, beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It really is worth the ticket price alone to see these moments where the world fails to follow its own logic and turns into a kaleidoscopic dream world.

2.gif(Inception rip off? Bitch please)

The extreme CGI also allows for some amazingly creative action scenes which admittedly are sometimes hard to follow in the beginning but it becomes much better as the movie progresses as you get used to the insanity. You can tell how much fun the choreographers had with this movie from the sheer creativeness of the scenes, with one of my favourites being the fight taking place entirely in the astral plane.

This movie also teaches another lesson that I’m finding crops up more and more in various media these days, humility. However to discuss that in any detail I’d have to spoil the movie and that’s not something I want to do here. So I’ll cover all of that in another post.

Benedict Cumberbatch is also pretty much perfect for the role of the titular doctor bringing believable emotion, charm and wit. However it does at times feel like he’s a bit of a different flavour of Tony Stark, not helped by the fact that his apartment before going on his pilgrimage already looks like a superhero lair.

The writing is again what you’d come to expect from a Marvel movie. The dialogue is human and believable as well as some clever wordplay thrown in that’s bound to get a couple of chuckles from the audience. But there’s also a lot of exposition that isn’t integrated that smoothly into the plot since magic of this variety is an entirely new concept to the MCU. Sure we had the Asgardians and Scarlet Witch, but those didn’t really count in my eyes since the Asgardians are literal gods and Scarlet Witch was portrayed as a mutant in everything but name.
There are a few holes in the story here and there, one of which I think might just be the movie setting up conflict for the next movie where Strange makes an appearance despite placing much importance on that character’s strength of will despite him doing pretty much nothing in the final climax. There were also a few other inconsistencies and pointless twists that don’t really detract from the movie over all but they are noticeable and distracting, like yet another plot-centric artefact turning out to be an Infinity Stone. It’s almost like they grow on trees at this point.

Overall, Doctor Strange might be one of my favourite Marvel movies to date. Maybe not my absolute favourite but it’s definitely up there. The movie makes me want to learn more about the good doctor and that’s a good sign for me. I can’t wait to see him turn up later down the line.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be pretending I have Doctor Strange magic for the next few weeks. I’ll be back with more plot next time!

Ruminations and Reflections: The US Presidential Election

This post is important to me. I say that because I don’t like politics. I don’t like American politics in particular. I feel like it’s an unstable pillar of mismatched agendas headed by a single entity with all the power of a high school student council president. And I’m not talking Kill la Kill here. I won’t lie, I am fearful. But I’m not scared of Donald Trump. He’s too much of an idiot and a failure as a businessman to be afraid of. But I’m afraid of what he’ll do to the world.

This is bigger than America. This is bigger than even the world. This is us. Our species. Nothing to do with meaningless symbols and ironic memes, no news outlets, no websites, none of that. Sit down Pepe, you’re not needed here. This is about the apocalypse. I realise that this sounds awfully doomsayer-ish. We survived Y2K. We survived 2012 and its god awful tie-in movie. We’ve survived every hopped up natural disaster foretelling that we’ve come up with. But this is the one that’s really got me worried. Because this time it might actually happen.

This is not a new idea, the world falling to nuclear fire. The Fallout series is entirely based on this premise. America’s already done this dance before in the Cold War that some people seem to think still isn’t over. But do you really want the harbinger of the nuclear apocalypse to be some asshole named Donald?

Now this might be unrealistic to some, yes. Am I stupid for thinking this might happen? Possibly. But is Donald still a good idea for a leader, even if all the red tape nets put in place will hopefully hold him down? HELL. NO. The man has made his fortune lending out his own name and plastering it all over other companies, so many of which have failed and gone into bankruptcy like some bizarro-world King Midas. Just what do you think is going to happen if you let him take control of an entire country? And as this failure of a human being as a figurehead for an entire country, what do you think will be the reaction of every other wannabe world power? America just got over being the laughing stock of the world when Obama came to power. But hey, at least if Trump does come into power it’ll prove that anyone can be a US president! Even the rich white CEOs that everyone claims to hate!

But there’s one thing I find absolutely deplorable about not just Donald but a lot of politics in general. He’s against so many things. Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Mexican, Anti-this, Anti-that. I’ve seen this at my own university too with a group that was more or less named the “We Hate Pauline Hanson Group”. Now I’m no friend of Pauline Hanson. One Nation Australia is just a few steps away from being White Australia. But the way I see it, hatred is never an acceptable platform to base your argument on. This is politics! We as people are meant to be rational, to have a clear head and a clear mind when we decide the fate of our countries, our lives, our world! To fall for the pointless and loud bluster or the avalanche of false promises that come with every election campaign is to be swept up in campaigning spin and all that other shit that advertisers burst out like a shotgun spread into the public.

But honestly, what do I care? I’m an Australian. If worst comes to worst and nuclear war does rain hell on the earth, the worst that would happen is we in the land down under die of whatever nuclear fallout blew our way on the trade winds. After all, what’s the point in nuking Australia? That or the ozone layer being torn away from our planet like the shell of a soft-boiled egg. So while everyone in the northern hemisphere gets lit up like Christmas time on Sydney Harbor Bridge, all we in the land down under have to deal with the slow death of radiation or weather destruction and some dick in a steel gimp mask calling himself Lord Humongous.

I just hope I’m completely wrong on all of this. Hopefully the world’s still here for me to post again and maybe someone will listen. Hopefully I won’t see World War III in my lifetime. Hopefully I won’t be crying as I spot a thousand tiny puffs of smoke on the horizon, knowing that millions of people are dying in the blink of an eye, and there’s nothing I, or anyone, can do to stop it.

I suppose I should thank you for sticking with my insane ramblings, trying to make sense of the world that looks like it’s about to start disintegrating before my very eyes. I’ll leave you with a little music. First is a song by the Crown City Four, written all the way back in the Cold War. And yet today I fear that its poignancy has never been more relevant. But if you’re seeking something a little more current then I’d recommend this one by Gorillaz. It’s a different story but the effect and message is much the same.

Whatever the case may be, this is the last post I ever want to make about politics of any kind. Good Night, and Good Luck.

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bLog Date: 30 October, 2016

Hey guys, this is just a quick update segment on personal stuff that goes on in my life. I called it bLog Date because it sounds like Log Date and I’m a massive nerd. Anyways, onto the thing I wanted to write about.

I finished all my assignments for the semester!

YES.gif(Yes.)

So what does that mean for my blog? Hopefully more stable weekly posts, more “quality” content and… well, I’ll let Peridot explain.

Peridot's Memes.png(Artist: http://drawendo.tumblr.com/)

Yeah, that.

Really that’s all I wanted to say. I’ll be back with more plot next time!

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Spotlight: Mob Psycho 100

And now we’re back to our regularly scheduled programing. I think it’s time I cover something a little more recent. The first season for acclaimed series Mob Psycho 100 has come to a close, so I wanted to give my thoughts on it. Spoilers: It’s fantastic.

 Mob Psycho 100.jpg(Get your tinfoil at the ready people. It’s about to get weird.)

Created by the near universally acclaimed ONE of One Punch Man fame, Mob Psycho 100 takes a look at young high school student Shigeo, AKA Mob, who has incredibly badass psychic powers. He’s been taken in by a fake medium by the name of Reigen (who by the way is one of the best characters in the show) and together they banish spirits under Reigen’s sham business. Of course there’s more to the plot than that, but I don’t want to give too much away.

First of all, the style is striking and unique. ONE’s style of art had started out as some pretty amateurish sketches at best, but with him at the helm of this show he proves just how far he’s come in the art department. The animation is flat out gorgeous, especially in the show’s opening and ending credits as well as the trippy psychic battles and spiritual escapades.

images.duckduckgo.com.jpg(Why are you not running yet?)

What’s even more impressive than the show’s animation is the story that we’re shown. Mob’s life is one that’s more on the lonesome side. Emotionally muted, he doesn’t have very many friends at school. He’s shy and quietly pines after the prettiest girl there. The usual stuff. One might think that Mob could easily be popular, famous even, by showing off his powers or even just using them in public. But it’s Mob’s humility that really sets him as a truly great character. Of course he has his own emotions just like any human might. Heck, Mob not knowing how to deal with his own emotions is one of the show’s major plot points. But the fact that he chooses not to rely on his psychic abilities due to his weakness in basically every other area shows that he recognises his own flaws and works to overcome them. In that way he’s a more compelling character than the closest comparison I can think of and that is another of ONE’s creations, Saitama of One Punch Man. Both are extremely powerful and seemingly invincible, but neither of them allow it to go to their heads and show more humility than any person has any right to have.

Another thing that helps the show is the fact that it’s friggin’ hilarious.

Veggie.jpg(It’s good that the cast of VeggieTales is still getting work.)

Almost every episode is chock a block with fantastic comedy, subversions and occasional flat out weirdness, as one might expect comes with having psychic powers.  Reigen in particular is one of the show’s highlights and the ‘techniques’ he uses to dispatch ghosts and rogue spirits are always funny, especially with the dry narration explaining his ‘techniques’. The Redraw Reigen hashtag on Twitter has also spawned some truly amazing things. Mob’s blase reaction to things most people would find terrifying is also frequently glorious. Almost every character in this show has some moment of comedy gold which cements it as one of my favourite shows of this past year.

Really I can’t say much else without spoiling some of the best jokes and plot twists of one of the best anime of the year. It’s just something that has to be seen for yourself to believe. It can be streamed for free on Crunchyroll in its entirety for most countries if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back with more plot next time!