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Category Archives: Random

Things that are happening this week:

Captain America: Civil War (Spoiler-free review coming soon)

Free Comic Book Day (Check out your local comic shops/libraries)

Reading/reviewing Joe Hill’s new novel The Fireman (With utmost gratitude to William Morrow for the Advance Copy)

I’m also working through a heap of holds from the library. My to-read list is ridiculous. Thankfully, I’ll be putting some vacation time to good use. The weather’s getting warmer, and the small ones enjoy time outside, so I’ll try to make the most of it. Reading outside counts as exercise, right?

 

 

 

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. It’s also believed to be his birthday, based on the recorded date of his baptism. Historians will likely never cease to debate this.

It’s no secret that I love Shakespeare. It’s not just a love of his writing, though. It’s a joy to hear his work performed, to see the incredible understanding that he had of the world around him. He was a man who embraced the differences in cultures, who invented words and phrases that have become commonplace, and who has influenced countless writers over the centuries.

I’ve seen and read a lot of Shakespeare’s work. It’s sort of a thing about earning an English degree, but it started long before college. My English teachers in high school had us read at least one Shakespeare play each year. I attended travelling performances that came to my town as part of a program called Shakespeare on the Plains (one cast included my future theatre professor). I own a few different copies of the complete worksk, and I’m most proud of an annotated set which belonged to one of my high school teachers. I have yet to read any of them in their entirety. And you know something? That’s okay too. He was an incredibly prolific writer. You don’t have to have memorized every sonnet and soliloquy, or even know what those things are, to appreciate Shakespeare.

My absolute favorite Shakespeare play is The Tempest, though sadly, I’ve never managed to catch a live performance. Several years ago, however, a new film version of it was released, starring Helen Mirren as Prospera (a very clever casting and genderswapping of the role of Prospero). This is probably my favorite production of the show, and is absolutely phenomenal. Djimon Honsou co-stars as Caliban, with Felicity Jones (soon to be starring as Jyn Erso in Star Wars: Rogue One) as Prospera’s daughter, Miranda. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

And a couple of notes on The Tempest. It’s the show in which I feel the greatest connection between one of the characters, Prospero, and Shakespeare. In Act IV, Prospero has been using his magic to perform a little show for his daughter and the young man who is wooing her. When he realizes that the time has come for the act to end, he says:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex’d;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb’d with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I’ll walk,
To still my beating mind.”

He’s done with his life as a writer, it seems. Tired of his life of creating illusions for the people, Shakespeare is voicing his exhaustion through Prospero. The time, it would seem, has come for him to focus elsewhere. There’s a tragic beauty in it. Since The Tempest is believed by many to have been Shakespeare’s final play (or at least the last that he wrote on his own), Propsero’s dialogue at the close of Act V has always felt like a farewell message from the Bard himself.

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.”

How’s that for an epitaph?

And so, while I may have missed the actual date by a couple of days, I would like to reiterate my love for the writing this man accomplished. Shakespeare will always be one of my favorites. Happy birthday, Will. 400 years after you died, you work lives on.

I promised non-sports-related content, and here it is! Brace yourselves, because this is going to be a fairly long and photo-heavy post.

We had a local convention over the past weekend, and I decided to take the time to reflect on my past as a cosplayer and to muse about my goals for the hobby as well. I’ve been cosplaying for almost seven years now, since my first NDK in 2009. While I always loved doing costume stuff for Hallowe’en or for the various school plays I did in high school, it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to attend anime and comic conventions. Since then, my technique has improved drastically. My earliest cosplays were purchased outright, because frankly, I didn’t have any sort of skill when it came to crafting. Now, thanks to many of my incredibly talented friends, I’ve learned to read patterns (and draft my own), operate a sewing machine (my little sister once taught me how to hand-sew), and assemble my own custom costumes. Combine these skills with the Makerspace at my library, and suddenly lots of new possibilities are coming to mind.

In past years, I’ve cosplayed the following characters:

1.) Shikamaru Nara. Shikamaru is the “lazy genius” character from Naruto. A brilliant tactician, he’s far more content playing shogi than conducting battlefield operations, but equally skilled at both. This was a purchased cosplay, but one that I can still return to easily, due to its relative simplicity. It was also the reason I first dyed my hair (I prefer to use my own hair for cosplays whenever possible, as I feel it’s more authentic than using a wig, though sometimes practicality interferes). shikamaru nara shippuden

Shikamaru

2.) Kimblee. Solf J. Kimblee is a state alchemist in Fullmetal Alchemist. Having seen both anime adaptations and read the manga, I much prefer the personality that Kimblee shows in the manga and the Brotherhood series, being far more philosophical and less outright psychopathic. Note that as a character capable of converting literally anything around him into a bomb, he’s no less dangerous, no matter how he’s acting. He’s great fun to play, and very popular at cons. I purchased a state alchemist’s costume (officially a Roy Mustang costume) and utilized the pants and arming skirt, modifying a t-shirt and putting a pair of Renaissance Festival boots to use. I use a sharpie marker to do the palm tattoos for his transmutation circles, and I carry a bunch of cherry Jolly Ranchers around with me to use as philosopher’s stones for photos. Kimblee

Kimblee 2

3.) Grell Sutcliff. Grell’s personality in Black Butler is generally pretty close to that of Kimblee, and so it was an easy transition from cosplaying one to the other. Grell is a Grim Reaper, a harvester of souls who has a tendency to overstep his bounds and get into trouble with his superiors. He also absolutely loves Sebastian, but then, who doesn’t? While initially seen in disguise as Madame Red’s rather clumsy butler, Grell shows his true colors soon enough. This cosplay was the first that I assembled myself. Due to his costume design, he was easy enough to dress as with clothes that I already had on hand. I commissioned an artist online to make his glasses for me and bought a wig (the only one I’ve ever used as a cosplayer), since his vibrant red hair color is hard to reproduce accurately with dye, and my own hair was far too short at the time. Grell

Grell and Madame Red

4.) Ruby Rose. Ruby is the main character of Monty Oum’s Rooster Teeth project, RWBY. This costume was a major step for me for two reasons. It was the first costume that I put together completely from scratch, and it was my first crossplay. Ruby’s very outgoing, and presented a great challenge when it came to staying in character. For this costume, I worked with several of my friends to find the right patterns and fabrics. I even learned to draft a pattern for an underbust corset, which I then made. I also had my hair professionally cut and dyed, as it was a difficult blend of black and red to attempt on my own. Ruby

Ruby 2

5.) Pirate. While maybe not technically a cosplay, this is a costume I’ve assembled over the years I’ve been attending the Colorado Renaissance Festival. It’s one that I’ve worn to conventions as well, just for the sake of something different. This is a constant work in progress, as I add new pieces every season.

Pirate 2

6.) Capitol Resident. The Hunger Games series has inspired countless costume designs, especially for the idle rich of the Capitol. My friends and I would host fashion shows as a group called Colorado Capitol Couture. This particular design was based on my asymmetrical haircut at the time and a pair of shoes that I’d found online, and was a combination of modified clothes from Goodwill and some crafting. The idea in my head was that most of the residents of the Capitol would be above such things as our society’s current gender norms, and the result was a blend of men’s and women’s fashions. Over the last two years, I’ve done several fashion shows and photo shoots for this costume, and it’s always a blast to see people react to the shoes. Capitol

Now some of my aforementioned friends are professional or paraprofessional cosplayers. These folks get to spend some of their time putting together new costumes for big events. One of my friends is Batman. Another is a rising star in the European cosplay scene. Other people I know are designers as well as cosplayers, and create costumes for others to wear. I’m nowhere near the skill level of these folks, but they inspire me to work on new ideas even when budget and time don’t allow for the followthrough of crafting.

So, I’ve got a few ideas of costumes I’d love to put together in the future. There’s no particular ordering to this list, and none of them will really take priority over any of the others, though some will obviously be suited to certain weather conditions.

1.) Trafalgar Law. Law is a pirate captain in the manga/anime One Piece. Nicknamed “The Surgeon of Death,” he’s a rather heroic figure with a tragic backstory (like many characters in the series). The coat makes this one a great winter cosplay, and allows for varying levels of completion, since I could wear street clothes under it until I was able to finish the rest of the outfit. The tattoos on his hands will be a fun experiment, as they’ll require a little more work than the palm tattoos I’ve done as Kimblee.

Trafalgar Law, Post-Time Skip

Trafalgar Law, Post-Time Skip

2.) War Boy. The  War Boys are the main troops serving under Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury RoadTrained as drivers, mechanics, and fanatical soldiers, they pursue Max across the wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia for the promise of reaching Valhalla after death. There are numerous War Boys in the film, and it would be easy enough to piece together a look inspired by the group without aiming for a specific character. This one’s already in progress, having acquired goggles, gloves, boots, etc. I also got a Nerf crossbow to paint up as a prop weapon. I’ve been looking into tutorials for bald caps, because I’d hate to have to shave my head when I’ve got so many other long-haired cosplays planned.

Nux. No spoilers. Just watch the movie.

Nux. No spoilers. Just watch the movie.

3.) Untitled CharaCouture Costume. As a sequel of sorts to the Colorado Capitol Couture costume above, I’m planning a CharaCouture outfit as well. CharaCouture is our group’s new focus, shifting away from The Hunger Games now that the film versions have all seen their theatrical releases. The concept is still to design couture fashions, but with a new emphasis on our favorite film/video game/cartoon characters. I’m currently thinking about something Link-inspired, because the Zelda games are amazing and I look good in green. Incorporating the Hylian crest would be easy enough, thanks to a belt buckle I purchased when Twilight Princess came out. Capes or half-capes are fun, too.

It's a starting point.

It’s a starting point.

4.) Star Wars. With two more main-series films (and several spin-off projects) coming to theatres over the next few years, it seems to me that it’s high time I put a Star Wars costume together. This is one that could vary wildly in terms of complexity. The obvious move to me is to craft a simple robe and carry one of my lightsabers with me. Brown robe with green or blue lightsaber for Jedi, black robe with my red lightsaber for Sith. On the opposite end of the cosplay spectrum would be a full suit of armor. If I did this, I’d likely look to the local chapter of the 501st for a snowtrooper (hey, I live near the mountains, it’s a legitimate option) or to the Mando Mercs if I felt more like displaying my love for Boba Fett and his ilk. The Mandolorian armor would give me a far greater range of customization, but it’s definitely more labor intensive. Seriously. Mad props to the folks who do either of these. You rock.

While I love the First Order designs, the classics feel a little more timeless.

While I love the First Order designs, the classics feel a little more timeless.

5.) Haku. Haku is a ninja from Naruto, and shows up as one of the first major antagonists of the series. He fits into a category of fictional characters that control ice, and is therefore automatically added to my list of awesome people. Despite being a villain, he’s critical to the protagonists’ growth beyond the concept of ninja as tools rather than people. Since my first ever official cosplay was a Naruto character, it would be a fun nod to how far I’ve come.

Best part? No ice puns.

Best part? No ice puns.

In addition to all of the above, I’d love to add to or update several of my older cosplays. Kimblee, for example, rocks a white suit in the latter portion of the manga. Kimblee Suit

Ruby wears several other costumes, including a school uniform. I’d also love to actually put together the Crescent Rose, the scythe/rifle she carries.Ruby uniform

For Grell, I could add the coat and chainsaw. There are lots of options for improving, now that my skills have improved. Grell 2

It’s been a great journey as a cosplayer throughout the years, and I look forward to many opportunities to add to my catalog of characters. Many thanks to all of the other cosplayers out there who have served as inspiration and instruction. Remember that everyone starts somewhere.Beginner

 

The Broncos won. This makes me happy, as both a native Coloradan and a lifelong fan of the team (I’m not the biggest fan, but I appreciate it when the Broncos win). Peyton Manning got another Super Bowl win, which makes me happy as well. When you’ve worked that hard for that long, it’s nice to have that achievement. I’d wanted him to have the same sort of finale to his career that John Elway did. Now he can.

The game was not a particularly spectacular one. There were some great moments, but for the most part, I didn’t feel like I was watching two of the top-rated teams in the NFL. I felt more like I was watching a lot of people who were too tired to keep doing this much longer. This happens when you’ve got defense-focused teams. Von Miller was at the top of his game, and deserved the MVP award. The Broncos played pretty much exactly as I expected them to. The Panthers, sadly, disappointed me. I was expecting more of a team with only one previous loss in the season. Still, I look forward to watching Cam Newton’s growth as a player, and hope for the best for him and his career.

Now for the rest of the Super Bowl-related things. The commercials and the half time show. The commercials in and of themselves mostly fell flat with me. I loved the sheep singing to Queen, though I question the need for a pickup with a stereo system in the bed, especially for ranching purposes (honestly, do you want to be loading feed and manure or what have you on top of your stereo equipment?). Coke did a great job with the Hulk/Ant-Man chase too. The half time show was amazing, with the exception of Coldplay. Bruno Mars? Great! Beyonce? Great! Coldplay? Eh.

Anyway, I return you to your non-sports-related content until the 2018 World Cup, unless the Broncos get back into the Super Bowl next year.

 

I have a snow day today.

I’m not sure how I feel about this, considering that I was only on the schedule for a substitute shift (meaning I don’t get paid).

Still, I intend to make the most of it. Right now, I’m finishing up Grant Morrison’s brilliant Multiversity and Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: Lost Stars. After that, maybe a quick revisiting of Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy (because honestly, Séance is the best).

Sadly, I can’t watch a whole marathon of Doctor Who, because Netflix has currently pulled it from their streaming lineup. I mean, yes, I have the latest season on DVD from work, but still. It’s just not the same, and I really hope it comes back soon.

How do you like to spend your snow days?

I’ve got a lot to look forward to this year.

I’m going to get caught up on Welcome to Night Vale. I’m only about a dozen episodes behind right now. That’s not too shabby for only having started listening to the show back in February. I’m also reading the novel, which I received for Christmas. It’s proving to be just as much fun as the show itself.

My high school class will be holding our ten year reunion this summer. Despite most of us still living within a few hours of our hometown, we haven’t spent a lot of time together since graduation. It’ll be good to see old friends again.

When you’re a part of it, Ren Faire is always just around the corner. This year is the 40th anniversary of the Colorado Renaissance Festival, and to celebrate, we’ll be open for nine weekends instead of the usual eight.

I found an amazing book challenge via one of my facebook friends. Take a look. I’ll be working through this checklist as I work toward my goodreads goal of 100 books.

2016 Reading Challenge

I’m looking through potential titles to read for all of these, and I’m not going to allow a single title to fulfill multiple requirements, even though some certainly could.

I’m going to learn Numenera. I bought the boxed set last summer, and I’ve been wanting to really get into it. It seems like an absolutely incredible RPG, and I love learning new systems. I’m also hoping for some more stuff from Wizards for 5th Edition D&D.

And there’s my goals for this year.

I’m pretty damn excited for 2016. I look forward to having you along for the ride.

I can’t begin to describe the importance of Star Wars in my life. One of my earliest memories is of watching The Empire Strikes Back on VHS at my grandparents’ house, surrounded by my sisters and cousins. The Battle of Hoth, Luke’s encounter with Yoda, Lando’s betrayal… These are powerful moments in one of the most masterful science fiction films ever made. I would jump at any chance to watch the trilogy, since when I was very young, we didn’t own a VCR (we would rent one from the local Radio Shack or Video Den every few weeks, as a special treat).

I don’t remember how old I was when I picked up my first Star Wars book. It was the novelization of Return of the Jedi, and I loved it. I still own it, in fact. Just came across it earlier this week.

It's beautiful.

It’s beautiful.

If memory serves, I found it by chance at a book sale at my hometown library. It may even have been the first novelization I ever read, I couldn’t say for certain anymore, but it was the starting point. I quickly tracked down the remaining novelizations and read them, eventually buying copies for my collection (one of my elementary school teachers had copies in her classroom, and I loved her for it).

It wasn’t long after that that I discovered Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s Young Jedi Knights series, focusing on Jacen and Jaina, Leia and Han Solo’s children. This was my first foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and I couldn’t get enough. By jumping in to a story that was set over fifteen years into the future (post-ROTJ), I was introduced to characters and concepts that I’d never seen in Star Wars before. I had to find out more, and I set out to find copies of books like The Truce at Bakura, Heir to the Empire, and X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the others were all still around, having all kinds of new adventures, and it was a chance for the minor characters like Boba Fett and Wedge Antilles (and newcomers like Winter and Mara Jade) to shine. Decades pass, and new enemies rise and fall. Heroes are born and live bright lives before they die. It isn’t all perfect, but it’s amazing to see the sheer amount of content produced within the years since the Expanded Universe began.

Some time ago, it was announced that the Expanded Universe would no longer be a part of the official Star Wars canon, being shunted into a parallel universe of sorts. The EU (no, not that one) will continue to exist as Star Wars Legends, but no new material will be created within it. All new Star Wars material will be written to align with the film canon. I’m torn on my feelings about this. I hate to see the work of so many talented writers be seemingly thrown out (except as possible inspiration for characters and events), but I’m thrilled that there are so many new opportunities for writers like Kevin Hearne and Chuck Wendig to get to write official Star Wars novels. I read Hearne’s book, Heir to the Jedi, a few months ago. I was intrigued by a chance to get a first-person perspective from Luke after the events of A New Hope, and I was not disappointed.

Last week was Force Friday, the officially launch date of the merchandise for The Force Awakens. It also marked the release of Chuck Wendig’s first Star Wars novel, Aftermath. Reviews on amazon have been overwhelmingly positive for the first new-canon post-ROTJ book (with the exception of reviews posted by bigoted/homophobic trolls who can’t believe that diversity can exist within a sci-fi universe). I can’t wait to read it and write a review for you. For now, you can track down your own copy of Aftermath, or read any of Chuck’s delightful fiction or blog posts. Check him out here.

The new canon of Star Wars is moving in very positive directions, toward a more diverse and inclusive galaxy far far away. While I am going to miss the Legends characters, I know that they’ll still be where they’ve always been, waiting for me to pick up their books. The Star Wars universe you love is not going away. It’s just giving new people their well-deserved time in the suns.

 

Question: Ever have a conversation that goes something like this?

 

“What’s the obsession with secret passages?”
“Huh?”
“In stories, every old house has a secret passage hidden away somewhere. Why’re people so preoccupied with something so impractical?”
“Dude, did you ever play CLUE as a kid?”
“Yeah, once or twice. My brother and I were really too young to understand the actual rules, so we mostly just played around with the little fake weapons that came with it.”

 

Answer: NO! No one questions the awesomeness of secret passages.

Now, questioning the practicality of secret passages is another matter altogether, but that’s not why I want to talk about them. The secret passage is a staple trope in fiction, and is surprisingly common in real life, depending on the location of a building and the era in which in was built. Case in point: the more literal aspects of the Underground Railroad. Hidden doors and tunnels crop up everywhere. Even Alexander Dumas was subject to using them in his work, even if it meant using only a partially accurate location to describe an existing tunnel. “But Dumas was not a man to waste a good subterranean passage.”

I’ve always loved tunnels and caves. Kind of a claustrophilia, if you will. When I was growing up, I would dig tunnels in snowbanks during the winter. When a wind storm created a massive pile of tumbleweeds against the trees at my local park, my sister and I (along with some of the other neighborhood kids) dug in and built an enormous tunnel and fort in them. When we got a new refrigerator, I was thrilled to get the cardboard box it came in. I cut a doorway and windows in it, put it over the top of my bed, and turned it into a Calvin and Hobbes-esque spaceship. My older sisters and I shared an adjoining closet with a bookshelf separating the two halves, and we could sneak into the other bedroom by climbing over or around the shelf. When we were installing a new center pivot sprinkler on one of our fields, we had to install the power cables and such in pipe that was going to be buried underground. This pipe was in two sections in our shop for a portion of the winter, a ten-foot length and a twenty-foot length. At fifteen inches in diameter, it was just big enough for me to crawl through. My little sister and I took turns making our way through them.

This is what I think of when you say sprinkler.

This is what I think of when you say sprinkler.

In college, I learned that I could fit through the campus housing office’s parcel boxes. Suffice to say they ceased use of them, since it meant that people like me (read: skinny bastards with too much free time) could access staff-only areas through said parcel boxes.

In my mind, every one of these things was a special pathway. It didn’t matter if the tunnel didn’t lead to Narnia or Hogwarts. Even if somebody else knew about the passage, I didn’t care. I was thrilled that I had something I could do that not everyone else could.

I wanted the stories about secret passages to be true. I wanted to live in the CLUE mansion, because it had not one, but TWO secret passageways. I’ve researched sites like these and dreamed of building a house complete with at least one hidden doorway. Now that my sister is an architect, I might be one step closer to that dream. It may not end up being like House of Leaves (though I’m totally okay with that, I don’t need a sentient house [at least not a malevolent one, anyway]). I’ll settle for a hidden closet, or secret writing room. Until then, I’ll read more, and I won’t question anyone else who loves secret passages as much as I do.

 

 

 

No, it hasn’t been a writing day. However, I’m getting caught up on lots of other things today. Paperwork is already done for both “real” jobs. I finished the last of my Christmas shopping (and all of my Christmas shipping) just in time. Everyone else on the list is getting a homemade gift, which is ready to go but requires packaging. That’s just fine, as it can wait until just before the holiday to hand out. There’s still gift wrapping to be done all around, and some finalizing of plans for the day to still take place, but I’m effectively ready for Christmas.

And I went to go get my tires checked, because I’m an adult, and it’s winter, and I’m trying to be somewhat responsible about things. My car is far more content with me now, though, since I bought an outdoor extension cord for the engine block heater. No more cold starts!

I’m rewarding myself by going to see The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and having dinner with forgottenmoon after work, and then maybe drinks at home. Because again. Adult.

So, September totally got away from me. I had August under control, with bills paid early instead of on time, lots of writing done, and so on and so forth. September? Well, I thought I was ready, but looking back at the last four weeks, it’s pretty clear to me that I was not. So, a little recap to get back up to speed before I start dropping microfiction and poetry on you again.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending my sixth Nan Desu Kan. NDK is held in Denver every September, and was the very first convention I ever attended. My girlfriend and I have gone together every year, and as always, we had a fantastic weekend. There was cosplay (of course), meeting randomly with famous voice actors (hooray for encountering Sonny Strait several times over the course of his first ever trip to NDK), supporting local artists (Sariochan, thank you for coming back every year!), entering the balcony decorating contest for the first time, and great times hanging out with friends.

The rest of September was a great big blur. I finished reading Saladin Ahmed’s The Throne of the Crescent Moon, knocked out a bunch of comics I’d been working on reading (including the first trade edition of Pretty Deadly), and watched a lot of anime. I watched all of Gurren Lagann for the first time, dug through Death Note again, and started on Knights of Sidonia and Deadman Wonderland. I also finally saw the first season of True Detective (lots of mixed feelings on that one).

Now it’s October first. NaNoWriMo is weeks away. I’ve got a Colorado Capitol Couture fashion show to do a little design/modeling for before the end of the month, and lots to continue to read. It’s October. I’m going to read Horns. 

I’ll be back soon.