Laid Back Camp

Laid Back Camp

I’ve only been camping a couple of times in my entire life. The first was in high school, where the freshman class was invited to spend the weekend at a campsite (with amenities like cabins, bathrooms, a cafeteria, etc.). My introverted self didn’t have the greatest time there, I couldn’t get comfortable in my cot, I knew basically no one, and I was too awkward and shy to make friends. The most memorable thing about that weekend was, for me, the bizarre taste and texture of the powdered eggs we had for breakfast. I quickly decided that camping wasn’t for me. And that was that.

Fast forward a decade and change, and my trip to Lake Tahoe and a run through of the Rubicon off-road trail with the SO and a bunch of his friends. I didn’t know what to expect. Compared to my high school experience, we were going to be roughing it. I had to buy a sleeping bag. We slept not in a fancy cabin but in a tent that we had to set up beforehand. We ate burgers and easy, add boiling water meals like ramen. We spent the days puttering through the offroad trail in a Jeep, and we spent nights huddled around a campfire.

After that trip, I realized that I actually did like camping, because I was spending the time with people I actually liked spending time with.

And this is basically the premise of Laid Back Camp, an anime series about a group of high school friends who go camping together in the areas in and around Mt. Fuji. I’m by no means an expert on  moe (the cute girls doing cute things genre) but I’ve watched a heck of a lot of it and I think Laid Back Camp is one of the best I’ve seen. I’d say it ranks up there with K-On. The show celebrates female friendships and youthful enthusiasm for new interests. The girls support each other no matter what, and their love for their shared hobby (camping) is so acute and palpable that it made me want to dig out our tent and go camping myself again.

Laid Back Camp also extolls the advantages of going camping solo. One of the girls, Rin, likes going camping by herself. She spends many a weekend and many a school break puttering to a far away campsite on her moped, and many of the episodes follow her adventures as she goes off on her own, meeting cute dogs, eating delicious food, setting up her tent in remote sites, and enjoying the views (and the isolation). What I love about the anime is that the show makes it clear that Rin isn’t lonely. She’s doing this because she wants to. She loves the freedom of being a solo traveler. I also like that even though the other girls want Rin to join them on their camping trips, they never punish her for saying no.  As someone who adores being alone, it was kind of nice to see this sort of behavior depicted as normal. Rin’s self-reliance is considered an asset, and when she shares her camping knowledge with the other girls, they’re grateful.

Laid Back Camp is a feel good anime series that, like many slice of life shows, doesn’t have much conflict in it, but that’s where the appeal lies. Sometimes I don’t want to see characters come in conflict with each other. Sometimes I just want to watch a couple of friends making a hearty stew out in the middle of nowhere and eat it in the middle of winter, with steam billowing up from their bowls.

That’s comfort. That’s home. That’s a warm blanket on an icy cold night.

Beast Player Erin

Beast Player Erin

I’m in the middle of watching this anime series (available on Crunchyroll) after not quite knowing what it’s about. All I knew was that it was about a young girl who befriends a strange creature which might change the course of history in her world. What felt most surprising about this title is now unknown it feels, considering it has a female protagonist, no fanservice at all, and it’s from the same author who made one of my other favorite anime series Moribito. The Wikipedia page says that this anime was released in 2009 and yet this is basically the first I’ve heard of it. Bad me. And bad internet for not hyping this show more.

Granted, the story feels slightly geared towards younger audiences (it originally aired on NHK, the Japanese equivalent of public broadcasting) but it’s the YA-ness of the story that appeals to me. The story follows the main character, Erin, from the age of ten and goes through two timeskips (at least, I’m on episode 35 out of 50 episodes) and we follow this young girl as she comes of age and finds her way in the world after circumstances force her to leave her village and everything she’d ever known. I’m really enjoying it so far. The story doesn’t shy away from tragedy (this poor girl goes through so much in her young life) but her hard work and empathy are often rewarded with surprising friendships. I’m fascinated by the story and the world it’s set in (there’s some Game of Thrones-ish political intrigue going on in the royal palace happening in tandem with the Erin plot) and I’m really curious to see where this leads. I’m so invested in Erin and her friends and I really want to see her succeed and overcome her earlier tragic life. I’ll probably have more to say about it once I finish the series, but so far so good!


Random Thoughts about Jesus Christ Superstar

Random Thoughts about Jesus Christ Superstar

  • John Legend was serviceable as Jesus, even though it definitely felt like some of the notes were out of his range? He was fine and I’m sure a lot of people tuned in because he was playing Jesus so I don’t mind. I’m just happy that there’s gonna be people for whom this version is gonna be their first exposure to JCS.
  • Brandon Victor Dixon’s Judas makes me wish I saw his Aaron Burr because WOW Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas was everything, and I’m in the camp who adored Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdelene.
  • I guess I’m in the minority because I liked the dude who played Simon the Zealot.  Apparently he’s a Swedish heavy metal singer? Neat!
  • The ensemble were great but I really liked the guy who played Peter? He doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in the reviews I’ve read of the production, but aw Peter. Vying to be Jesus’ BFF but also being selfish and keeping his distance after Jesus was arrested.
  • DAAAANNNG THE PHARISEES. I dug their costumes. The black cloaks and gigantic hoods reminded me of the Nobodies from Kingdom Hearts. What a cool look. Also Annas is probably my favorite out of that group and Jin Ha was perfect in that role, but I can’t discount Norm Lewis as Ciaphas. Such great roles.
  • Um…Alice Cooper. Welllllll, I’m not a huge fan of his, but he was okay. Another piece of stunt casting to bring in viewers but Herod’s Song is sort of a silly, theatrical number that’s supposed to show off the buffoonery of the ruling class at the time so…yeah…it was okay…
  • Ummmmm…what else…
  • Oh! I think I recognized at least a couple of American Idiot musical folks in the Ensemble. I’ll have to look it up, but a few of them definitely looked familiar?
  • Ben Daniels (really??? Him???) was a great Pilate and I LOVED his outfit. But his poor voice near the end of his scene. 🙁
  • I know this is never going to be perfect but my gosh I wish the sound mixing was better.
  • And Judas’ glitter outfit vs. that original fringe outfit will battle for best Judas outfit in my head for all time
  • what i love about live theatre is that the source material gets reinterpreted every time there’s a new production so it evolves with humanity and i think that’s amazing. I mean, there are modern dress productions of Shakespeare…
  • So…overall, NBC’s production was decent, better than lots of the other live musical stuff that they’ve done, and hopefully a sign of things to come with live performance on network TV.
On Black Panther

On Black Panther

I know I’m late to the party and I only saw Black Panther this week but I imagine that one day Shuri’s at the outreach center and one of the kids goes up to her and tells her all about this one girl in his class whose always making these “science things” and Shuri asks him why he doesn’t bring her to the center because she’d love to meet her. The kid’s a little ashamed and a little scared because the girl’s bullied by some of the more popular kids and they call her names and those kids are just weirded out by her.

Shuri’s determined to invite this girl to the outreach center.

So one afternoon she waits outside the elementary school and then she spots this group of kids yelling something and Shuri can’t quite make it out just yet but as she gets closer the words become clearer: “Moon Girl! Moon Girl! Moon Girl!” And they’re yelling these words at a little black girl with pigtails.

And Shuri sees herself at 9 years old. Too smart for her own good. Teased by some of the boys. And carrying something she made.

And protecting that thing for dear life.

Shuri chases off the boys and immediately asks the little girl about the object in her hands.

“It’s nothing.”

“It is not nothing,” Shuri replies. “Because I can see it, observe it. It exists. So you can tell me what it is.”

The girl goes into a detailed explanation of how the thing works and Shuri’s just about on the edge of understanding the tech. It’s a device to send communications through hyperspace. She knows that in theory, it works, but there’s no way to power it. She doesn’t want to run it at home because it would probably shut down Oakland’s power grid.

Shuri has an idea.

They go to the outreach center and Shuri invites the girl behind the “Staff Only” door, into her exclusive development lab. She keeps a tiny stash of vibranium in the lab (for emergencies, she tells Nakia, and then Nakia rolls her eyes and gives a lecture on how much shit would go down if that stash ever got stolen). But Shuri is careful. She has biometric locks on everything and nothing in the lab works without her kimoyo beads.

Shuri asks the girl how much power the device needs and adjusts the vibranium accordingly. Meanwhile the girl’s staring at EVERYTHING. There are gauntlets with panther heads on one table. On another, a computer screen displaying plans for what seem to be nanites.

The device works! But the vibranium overpowers the communicator and it accidentally opens up a portal to a primeval realm, and something huge and scaly and red stomps out.

And that is how Lunella Lafayette gains Shuri as a mentor and also meets the Devil Dinosaur.

All the Whelms

All the Whelms

I’m unpacking and finishing up the last of the laundry from the trip, and I wish to chronicle a bit of my adventures from the past week.

Disneyland was as it always was, a bit of a homecoming. Lots of construction made navigation of the park more difficult than years past, but serviceable. I know which things I wanted to experience and I managed to do all the things. California Adventure had great people-watching, as they were in the middle of Lunar New Year celebrations and the park seemed filled with Chinese tour groups on vacation for the biggest holiday of the year. It felt bizarre, sitting on one of the benches in front of the pier, listening to Chinese music (both traditional and pop) and seeing how…global this whole thing was. Capitalism strikes again, but it was so interesting. Go figure.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Here’s hoping for a kickass new year to rinse the terrible taste of 2017 from our collective tongues. 2017 was a trash fire. We have a president who doesn’t care about the majority of the American people. We’re probably on the brink of some new crisis. Puerto Rico is still struggling with power issues from Hurricane Maria. Flint is still without clean water. There’s still going to be a wall that separates us from Mexico. But a few good things happened this past year for me personally that I want to focus on.

  • I continue to have an outlet for my peculiar brand of geekery, thanks to the wonderful Fangrrls. I hope to focus more on this site in the coming year.
  • The Wonder Woman movie came out and kicked so much ass
  • I got to see so many of my favorite things live: Hamilton, Green Day, and MST3K.  (Oh! And MST3K came back with a new cast and new riffs on Netflix.) This was a year to remember for live stuff for me. And I barely go do live events, so this year was extra-special
  • I went on my very first camping adventure. Hopefully it won’t be my last.
  • The Last Jedi gave us the Asian female character I needed to see in Star Wars
  • A boba tea place opened 5 minutes away from my house and I’m happily addicted now

Some things I’m looking forward to in 2018:

  • The adventures of the first female Doctor!
  • Black Panther!
  • Disneyland!
  • Gallifrey One!
  • Infinity War!
  • A Wrinkle in Time!
  • Ocean’s 8!

I realize that these are mostly movies, but eh. We have to look forward to things that excite us. Otherwise, what else is there? In the end, I wish for peace and hope for 2018.

And don’t let the bastards get you down.

Darkness rises, and light to meet it.

Be the spark.



NaBloWriMo Post 12

NaBloWriMo Post 12

Green Day has released a new greatest hits CD compilation called God’s Favorite Band (a riff on when they appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show and God introduced them as such) and, naturally, since I’m a huge fan of the band, I ended up pre-ordering the CD, along with a bunch of other merch because the only way to truly judge one’s level of fandom is with STUFF.

Along with the CD, this pre-order package came with a sweatshirt that called to mind uniform sweatshirts from parochial schools. I’m still in awe that they managed to capture the insignia style of Catholic schools so well, even while making reference to Warning, Dookie, and American Idiot.

For reference, here are the emblems for both my elementary school and high school:

There’s also a t-shirt with the iconic trio and patches that reference the albums in a stained glass style:

And prayer candles, which is perfect for my Roman Catholic upbringing as well as the holiday season. I am definitely going to set these up along with the rest of our annual Christmas display.

Nothing but respect for MY Three Wise Men.

NaBloWriMo Post 11

NaBloWriMo Post 11

I’ve been dealing with a headache for most of the day, so it’s been kind of difficult trying to concentrate through the pain. I’ve also managed to get through a little bit more of Frozen Wilds, which is about as delightful as it can be. I loved Horizon Zero Dawn as much for its story as for its gameplay, and it looks like Frozen Wilds will be more of the same mixture of challenging battles with mechanical beasts as well as world-building in this post-apocalyptic landscape. One of the most affecting things in the game for me was the plethora of recorded messages from people who are long since gone from the current game world. And you’re building a story with those recorded messages, experiencing them just as Aloy is, and considering Aloy’s own personal connection with the past, it feels like those messages could also give her a bit more context to world her ancestor inhabited. And, not to spoil too much about the plot of Frozen Wilds, but it seems like building on the revelations of the main quest in the game, and what exactly happened to the Earth to cause the apocalypse. Good stuff.

I’m also anxiously awaiting the delivery of the new greatest hits album from Green Day, God’s Favorite Band, which includes many of the band’s most popular songs over their storied career, and also a couple of new recordings. I’m more excited because of the on-the-nose marketing, which relies heavily on Roman Catholic imagery. As a recovering Catholic myself, and as a product of the parochial school system, I’m quite excited for the prayer candles featuring the band. Idolatry at its finest, I say. I’m rather a cynic when it comes to religion itself, frankly. I realize that for many, religion is a crutch, a way to steady one’s morality. I’ve decided that if the only thing keeping you from doing morally reprehensible things is the threat of divine punishment in an afterlife, then that is a crappy way of living. It’s fine, I think, when one is young, to use religion as one’s moral compass. As one grows older, one should question the reasons for morality, and look deep inside one’s heart. Are they a good person because they are good, or are they a good person because they fear retribution? I’d say, just be a good person regardless of your belief.

And that was a really roundabout way to say that I really love the religious imagery of the Green Day marketing for this greatest hits album. Being in a fandom is just like being in a religion. You share beliefs with other people, and perhaps the band did even to change your life. Green Day certainly changed mine. And, again, the cynic in me can see the ridiculousness of religion and belief, and I don’t see the marketing as blasphemous at all. I’m rather surprised that there’s not a hint of a backlash for this marketing campaign. But I do wonder whether the time of the power of the religious right has long since passed. Back when Monty Python’s Life of Brian came out in the late ’70s, there was a huge backlash against the comedy from religious leaders who did not see the comedy for what it is, a satire on those who would use religion to take advantage of other people. I sort of expected Fox News to clutch pearls based on the title of the album alone, but there’s basically nothing. Perhaps Green Day isn’t relevant anymore? Or perhaps the religious right doesn’t have much power anymore? Or perhaps the right is trying to focus on more important things, like getting a pedophile elected to Congress.

But I suppose when your President is a sexual predator himself, it’s hard to find one’s moral compass. I guess some people do need to find Jesus.

NaBloWriMo Post 10

NaBloWriMo Post 10

I’ve got a few things to discuss, so let’s separate them with some useful separating lines:

There is something patently ridiculous about proclaiming Blake Shelton People’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2017. I imagine that country music is having a moment, in as much as country music is allowed to have moments. I’m not a big country music fan, and I didn’t even realize that Blake Shelton was still a thing other than his turn as one of The Voice judges. It’s hilarious to see that most of the Internet is outraged as the Internet gets with absolutely everything that has to do with an opinion and has resoundingly proclaimed this declaration a load of bullshit. In a world where Moonlight gets the Best Picture Oscar (after Lala Land nearly overtook the honor thanks to some weird backstage envelope shenanigans), where Mahershala Ali exists, heck, where Idris Elba exists, where Chadwick Boseman exists, where Taika Waititi exists, where Oscar Issac exists, and Ricky Whittle, and Diego Luna, and John Cho exists, where every manner of men of color exists, that they still ended up falling back on a country music star. White America, apparently, wants to have a comeback.

Which is…disconcerting. But with a white man back in the White House, I suppose they wish to take back some degree of power.

Ryan Reynolds is clearly living the best life. I love that he’s embraced the role of Deadpool as eagerly as RDJ has taken on Tony Stark. The Deadpool 2 teaser released today, in which the titular anti-hero gets to channel painting legend Bob Ross with great gusto and irreverence. There’s a lot of blink and you’ll miss it moments in the video, and at least the movie will have the same degree of ridiculousness, rahnchiess, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead:

Such a fucking delight.

I’ve started on The Frozen Wilds, the new DLC for Horizon Zero Dawn, and it is all that I’ve ever wanted it to be, but returning to playing Aloy after 8 months of not playing the damn game was more than a little disconcerting, especially since I’d completely forgotten how to do everything in the game within those past 8 months. I’d forgotten what weapons I had, how to craft new ammo, and what powers I’d already unlocked for my stalwart outsider. I was sort of hoping for a gentle easing back into the post-apocalyptic world of the game. But no. One of the first battle encounters you get in the DLC is with a new type of predator which has been corrupted, but corrupted in a completely different way than the other corrupted machines. It took me multiple tries and a quick read through of the relevant Reddit thread before I was able to defeat that first machine. So. Much. Death. But that first victory felt so damn sweet and I suppose it reminded me how fun and challenging the game was. Figuring out the right strategy for each machine is important, and after a few weeks of running around as Lara Croft, I’d forgotten that there was something bigger out there in the videogame world than misguided vigilantes to fight. But man…that scorcher. Let’s not do that ever again.

Oh wait, I still have an entirely new area of the map to explore. Gah.

Looking forward to it though!