Monday, September 20, 2021

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a ton of fun to play with friends.


A little over a week ago, I started playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order on the Nintendo Switch. I'm "late to the game" on this one, but better late than never, right? I heard about this game only because I hadn't used my Switch in over a year, and my friend Meg expressed a desire to continue to play a Breath of the Wild game she'd started about a year earlier. So, as I watched her play the game, I looked online for anything that might play more to my interests. I've always liked cooperative games (games you can play with other people in the same room as you) to ones that you play alone on a computer or a game platform like the Nintendo Switch. And that's when I discovered that waaayyy back in 2019 (before Covid was even a thing...can you imagine?) this game came out and was rabidly enjoyed by its fanbase. So, I bought a copy and started playing it with friends. And I'm here to tell you that I've had SO MUCH FUN.

If you're a comic book fan, you really should give this game a go. You can play up to 80 characters in the Marvel universe, and like I said above...you can team up. Each character starts out with a pretty basic superhero package, but you can level your character up by performing cooperative missions called "Infinity trials" and unlock all kinds of nifty stuff. There's a whole laboratory section of the game that you can go into to further customize the synergies and power that your four person team can do. If you pick characters that have similar abilities (Hulk and Thor for example are both "heavy hitters") this allows you to synergy your attacks together for spectacular amounts of damage against the foes on the screen. The game also has a level cap of (I think) 300, and you start out at level 6. So...you can play for a really long time, and there's always more to explore. My friend and I have been playing a game for over a week now and we are like level 35 now, which shows you just how far we are into the game.

Right now, I'm alternating between Spiderman, a hero called Crystal, Wolverine, Captain America, and Nightcrawler. I've wanted to play Doctor Strange, so I'll probably play that character next, but we just unlocked Cyclops and Colossus so those are strong contenders for wanting to explore. If you think that most video games might be too complicated for you, and you are intimidated...I would say, "I think that this will not be a problem with Ultimate Alliance 3." The reason: both Meg and I are old fuddy duddies, and we don't have the best response time on the controllers. So we play on friendly difficulty level.

Aside from that, the strategy of playing comes more from timing, team composition, energy management, and just dodging enemy attacks. There are no fancy button combos to memorize or special attack patterns to use on the joystick. There are also some really challenging puzzles, and some mechanics that you must use in order to bring down bosses. One of the more difficult bosses that we faced was Dormammu in the Dark Dimension. You had to hit him with rocks that you picked up, but you needed to charge the rocks with Dormammu's own attacks before you threw them at him, or they would do no damage. So that was a lot of fun, once we realized what we had to do.

As for the story, it is a ton of fun. The big bad is Thanos, and he's trying to collect the Infinity Gems. In this alternate universe, the Infinity Gems are scattered through the cosmos and we are trying to get our hands on them before Thanos and his Black Order can beat us to it. I imagine that there will be a pretty incredible boss fight with Thanos before this is all over. There were also three expansion packs that are available for the game that I purchased and downloaded. These unlocked the Fantastic Four, some more game to explore in Doctor Doom's kingdom, and a bunch of new abilities and alternative costumes for characters.

Anyone else out there own a Switch? If so, have you played Ultimate Alliance 3? Please let me know in the comments.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Star Trek: Prodigy looks to explore even more of the Delta Quadrant in October with a hologram Janeway providing advice to a bunch of kids


There's a lot of new Trek happening on Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access). With Lower Decks solidly marching on with its second season, I'm also aware that Star Trek: Prodigy, the second animated series in the shared universe on Paramount+, is due to drop October 28th.

Star Trek: Prodigy's plot is going to have a pretty basic framework that can be built out as needed for some truly entertaining episodes. The crew (with the exception of the hologram Janeway providing advice) consists entirely of teenagers who find an abandoned starship and go flying around the galaxy in search of adventure. All of the characters are from the Delta Quadrant, and the show is set just a few years after the USS Voyager's return home.

The synopsis reads like this: five kids are incarcerated on an obscure planet in an uncharted part of the galaxy. They escape from their imprisonment and race across the planet to find a defunct starship buried in the planet's surface. They enter the ship, but are unable to make it work. With prison guards hot on their heels, they suddenly stumble upon an Emergency Training hologram in the form of Captain Janeway.

There's Gwyn, a 17-year old member of the Vau N' Akat, which is a new race to Star Trek. She was raised on her father's desolate mining planet and grew up dreaming of exploring the stars.

Next up is Jankom Pog, who is a Tellarite. Pog loves a good argument and regardless of his own opinion, he'll always play "devil's advocate" for the sake of hearing all sides.

There's also a purple alien who race has not been released yet. The name attached to this alien is Dal, who fancies himself a maverick and holds strong onto his unwavering hope even in the toughest of times.

Murf is an indestructible blob with really good timing.

There is an 8-year-old Brikar (race), which is a hulk-like alien. The name of this character is Rok-Tahk, and they love animals. 

And there is a Medusan named Zero. From the original series, these are a non-corporeal and genderless energy-based life form known to cause insanity to any humanoid who gazes upon their natural form. Zero wears a containment suit to protect those around them.

Below is the first trailer for the show. I'm kinda excited about this one....

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Locke & Key season 2 trailer for Netflix seems to channel a bit of Sauron forging the One Ring.


Just in time for Halloween, the second season of Locke & Key is about to drop according to the shiny new trailer that aired online this week. I really enjoyed the first season of this show on Netflix (which seems like it aired a loooong time ago), and I believe it is from Joe Hill, who is the son of Stephen King and (honestly) a doppelganger for the aging horror author. As far as Joe's mind goes, well it seems to me that you can truly inherit genius (or insanity). Look (and for clarification) I wouldn't want to live in Stephen King's mind. However, I'm glad that someone does, because Stephen has been a great entertainer of people for generations. And now, Joe Hill appears to be carrying on that legacy just fine.

Joe's other offerings like NOS4A2 kept me on edge as well. I watched some of the series on Hulu, and I do intend to get back to it. But what I did see kept me wanting more. However, I'm not big on horror unless it also manages to combine fantastic elements (or science fiction). It's why I can watch Aliens type movies without feeling anxiety. But I can't (for example) watch Halloween or Malignant.

In the trailer (which I will link below), Dodge (played by Laysla De Oliveira) is in the form of Gabe (Griffin Gluck), and another demon in the form of Eden (Hallea Jones) forge what appears to be a dangerous new key. The scene reminds me a lot of Sauron forging the one ring in the fires and forges of Mount Doom.

People who have read the original comic book series by Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist) have claimed that the series has gone off the rails from the original source material, which honestly isn't surprising. I haven't read the comic book series. And that probably works in my favor, because I think the show is one of the best offerings on Netflix. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

There's a strange phenomenon of people with liberal values arguing for themselves and others to be okay with toxic abuse.

I've been noticing something lately on Facebook. Some of my liberal friends are putting up posts that say something similar to the following: "I care a lot that they (conservatives) get mad [at being targeted by business and people for their anti-vax stance]. I care about anger because mad customers who are directly adjacent to customer service workers quickly become threatening...Airline mask mandates while very sensible do mean stewardesses [they live in Idaho so forgive them if they don't know that this term is now outdated and should be replaced with 'flight attendant'] get assaulted. Healthcare workers routinely get assaulted...retail workers were literally shot and stabbed for informing customers that stores had mask mandates...." And the post goes on and on. The point is that this person (with liberal values) is arguing that others who are liberals should not do anything to antagonize angry conservatives and (for lack of better words) live with being abused.

Of course they use their education to draw upon words that sound specious in their goodness. They craft sentences like: "We have a growing cultural belief that it's okay to withdraw kindness or even start to be rude or threatening if you are the victim [the victim being the retail worker]." And then they go on to justify an argument that, "This is not okay because these angry people are human beings!"

Honestly...this argument that I see more and more from good-minded people is laughable nonsense. However, its a phenomenon that I'm seeing more and more as fear-driven liberals shaking in their boots are scared and traumatized by putting up what is (honestly) a healthy boundary. I have tons of boundaries, and I'm willing to defend all of them with extreme violence if necessary. Anyone that violates them beware. But as long as people respect those boundaries, I'm the recipient (literally) of "the kindness award."

At this point in my life (having just turned 50) I can honestly say that I'm as stress-free and filled with joy as I have ever been. It's a glorious time to be alive, and I appreciate every day I am given. But I didn't get here by just being lucky. I got here through years and years of efforts to decode the abuse I suffered from conservative bullies and living a lifetime in Idaho (the abuse did not come from family; it literally came from "friends"). Once I realized that I had been a victim of systemic gaslighting, bullying, dehumanizing, and narcissistic trauma at the hands of grotesque abusers that operated and played at game shops in Idaho (a place that should be a safe haven for nerds) and by employers who sailed upon the wings of LDS righteousness...I began to pity all of those people. I was able to let go of my hate and anger and see them for what they were. They are so systemically abused and filled with a lifetime of trauma from neighbors, friends, and employers who treated them like crap (little better than slaves in cotton fields), that their hearts are just filled with jealousy, hatred, and paranoia. Putting up boundaries against those people is the healthiest thing I ever did.

You might say, "Those people need help. They are mentally ill." Well...that's the rub now, isn't it? They do need help...but you cannot ever help the unwilling. They don't believe they are mentally ill. They continue to live within a web of complete delusion and they are so abused that they believe that their abuse actually counts as life experience, and that they are doing everyone a favor by abusing someone else so that they can walk the path that they had to walk to get to "Loserville." Idaho is some kinda mind trip I will tell ya. I lived there for 36 years, but I've only now come to know and see it for what it is. 

Anyway, it boggles my mind that people who may share my political values are so close to the fire that they don't see that boundaries are good. They are so afraid of losing whatever it is they have that they are literally begging people to not anger the conservatives anymore. "Get your vaccine if you have to...but please don't force others. They will get violent. You don't understand." It's like listening to an abused woman living in a house with a man that beats her every single night. "Please...I beg you...don't make my husband angry. He will beat me. He will beat our children. He's thrown my baby down the stairs. I beg you...you don't know what he's like!"

Is this what society is coming to? The liberal cowering on the ground and the conservative
holding the belt screaming, "Don't you dare force that vaccine on me! Do you hear me?! DO
I NEED TO SHOW YOU WHO HAS THE POWA?!!!"

And my answer: "Actually, I do know what that's like. There's only one language that this kind of person understands, and I speak it well. So do others. You will be way better off putting up healthy boundaries. We can show you how to do this. There are worse things in life than death. Repeatedly having your boundaries violated without your consent is wrong, and it is one of those things."

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Matrix Resurrections trailer is here to remind us all of how weird the original Matrix actually is.


The Matrix: Resurrections
trailer dropped sometime this week. You may have seen it. If not, I'll link it below. It got me thinking about one thing regarding The Matrix: it's a really unusual film trilogy. I mean...it really is...it's anachronistic. It didn't fit well in its era. There's nothing else like it. If I had to sum it up in a sentence to show you how weird it (and the circumstances around it) are it would be this way: the original movie is by two filmmakers who later became transwomen (or just women), and it's about an Asian American, a woman, and a black guy who team up to fight an army of authority figures who are all portrayed by white men. In 2021, there's nothing unusual about it. But the modern times are (if anything) a constant shit show. So The Matrix seems like a mirror to how uncomfortable our reality has gotten.

It's also weird that the original was co-opted by terrible people as an allegory for their suffering at the hands of woke culture. If you are unfamiliar with "Red Pillers," they believe that the original is about "Chads" and "Stacy's" waking up to the real world which is awash with traditional gender roles. This "waking up" process is swallowing the "red pill." Once they "wake up," then they advocate for "Men's Rights." Considering that we live in a patriarchy...it's weird to hear men advocating for "men's rights." As a man I can say we have a lot of rights, not including recent legislation in Texas (which is another kind of shit show).

As for the story, I have no idea how they are going to continue this thing. At the end of the last movie, there was a truce between humanity and the machines and the Oracle said that, "Anyone can leave the Matrix if they want to." And then the movie ended. We don't know if humanity tried to retake the surface world, and we don't really know what the "status quo" is.

However, and because The Matrix is really super weird, it's not a stretch to think that this December movie could also be a prequel. The Architect once spoke about one of the prior Matrixes that was the best possible environment. But it was too perfect, and it was rejected. Maybe the reason why things became destabilized is due to the Neo we know making his way back into that version of the Matrix and acting like a wrecking ball.

Side note==> Once again I give a golf clap to Grace Slick who sang the vocals for "White Rabbit," which is the song used throughout this trailer. I had a roommate in college (1989 folks) who was from Marin County, and Grace's daughter, China Kantner, had attended his former high school. He was completely in love with this woman, and he listened to "White Rabbit" over and over and over. I got so sick of it. So hearing it again? Yeah...I'm still sick of it. But, it was a good choice to convey those Alice in Wonderland vibes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

I'm optimistic that the Wheel of Time series will be both entertaining and accepted by Jordan's rabid fanbase.


"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning." (I think that this little tidbit appears on the first page of every book in this gigantic series)

I do have an admission when it comes to The Wheel of Time. I am a second-generation geek of long standing when it comes to these books. I have never read them for various reasons. The first is because people who had read them warned me that they liked them until about the 6th book (or so) and then it was just a chore to go from there to about the 13th book. To be honest...that is not really selling this series. Then there are those who say that they are not fans of how Sanderson finished them off (after Robert Jordan died), and that Jordan is verbose in a terrible way. I guess he was an author (like George R.R. Martin) who wrote himself into the weeds and couldn't find his way back. Additionally the shortest book is 650 pages while the longest is over 1200. Most weigh-in at over 800 pages.

That being said, I was briefly excited when The Wheel of Time trailer from Amazon Prime dropped last week. However, after watching it a couple of times, I have thoughts about what I saw. My comments fly in the teeth (of course) of true fans of the series. I hope that I'm proved wrong. On second watch, the series looks like something from the CW with a slightly bigger effects budget for the landscape shots. The actors are attractive but expressionless and the trailer shows them on sets with CGI laser spells and sky-beams. Additionally, the indoor stuff looks like it was shot in a converted high school gym. I'm honestly getting a Shannara Chronicles vibe, but without a person wearing yoga pants.

However, I'm still going to watch it. Maybe it won't be just another derivative fantasy offering? It seems to me that it is super easy to make fantasy projects look cheesy. I'm not sure how Lord of the Rings avoided this trap, but they did. So did Game of Thrones. I hope that the people behind this project have studied the success of those two franchises for clues, because the fandom surrounding The Wheel of Time honestly is a bit toxic. It's almost like a religion, probably helped along this road by the fact that Sanderson is a Mormon and was a professor at BYU. And since a lot of people in Hollywood are artsy, and hence...liberal...I fear that people who have liberal views are probably going to try and change some of the subtext of Jordan's work to make it more woke. They need to not do this under any circumstances. We live in a time of severe polarization in politics, and I think that meddling with a story that is so gendered centric that there is gendered magic at its core...would be a huge mistake. It will anger the trolls, of which there are millions.

Amazon must be very excited to have two of the biggest fantasy franchises in that genre's history. As Spider-Man has often said, "Those with great power have great responsibility." I guess we are going to see soon how well Amazon handles that responsibility. Below is the trailer for the first season of The Wheel of Time in case you haven't seen it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The September Insecure Writer wants to know how I define success when it comes to writing.


Yay, I made it through the summer. Well, it's almost over, but the summer of 2021 wasn't the kind of summer that I remembered in my youth. Summer used to be my favorite time of the year. But now, the temperatures are just blistering every day. Here in Utah, there has been no relief from drought and wildfire smoke that has put our AQI over 200 a couple of times. Seeing red skies and being able to just look at the sun with the naked eye because there's so much smoke in the air that it's just a dull orange spot is weird. At least I'm not having to deal with hurricanes or flash floods. Those appear to be things that people in other areas of the country are dealing with, and I think these changes are here to stay.

As I write this blog post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I finished eating a perfectly ripe pear and a perfectly ripe avocado. I paused for a moment thinking about these two fruits. They really were the best that they could possibly be, and that's unusual enough for me to take note. So, I'm feeling lucky today.

If you have not heard of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, it rolls around every month on the first Wednesday, and it was started by author Alex Cavanaugh. It's also frequently abbreviated IWSG. Below are some more details lifted from the sign-up page, which you can find HERE.

What is the purpose of the IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

What do you post, when, and where?: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The Twitter handle for the IWSG is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, the IWSG announces a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

September 1 question - How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

My answer: Success as a writer is just finishing something. If you have the wherewithal to finish, congratulations, you are a writer in my opinion. Success as an author is a different story. Success as an author (to me) means that you can live comfortably on the income from your published works. There are a variety of ways one can accomplish this, including the traditional path and the self-publishing path. I suppose you could even accomplish it by only writing one book and then get the majority of your monies that you live on from public speaking (I've known a person or two who have managed to do this based on Olympic medals they have won). As a caveat, I do not consider myself a successful author by any means. I do consider myself to be a successful writer. So I'm full of all kinds of advice on the act of writing, including the number one thing that has been useful to me: **learn to type**

But "typing" isn't as important as it used to be, with speech-to-text options available. Additionally, editing isn't as important as it used to be either, as most people don't seem to care about grammar and spelling anymore. I regularly see misspelled words on news broadcasts, in official government correspondence, and in periodicals that shouldn't have misspellings in them. The only periodicals that don't have these anymore are the best in the industry...things like The New York Times or The New Yorker. But I see misspelled words practically everywhere else. My conclusion is that no one cares enough anymore about the written word. My own personal take on this has been to adapt. Rather than to tilt at windmills and try and correct all the spelling errors, I've just accepted them. I don't make a fuss and just read on, letting go of the things that used to irritate me. I think this is good, because I see mistakes everywhere, and I just don't want to be that unhappy all the time.

Thanks for visiting.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!