State of my Short Stories

So, this past Sunday I put another one of my short stories up here. And while I haven’t heard much reception, I’ve heard people close to me say that I need to be careful when it comes to putting my material up here basically letting people read it for free. Going through this blog, I have published just about five short stories, and altogether I’ve written less than ten. If you ask me, that’s not enough short stories to do anything with.

That being said, I guess that if I have any short stories that anyone with something resembling professional clout could consider “good”, I could go down the route of selling my stories to magazines and the like, and then put them here once it’s painfully clear that publishing them on my blog is the only way I can hope to have my short stories exist somewhere other than my hard drive. Even then, my blog is currently in a state where the only audience I have to speak of is mostly family and friends.

So, where do I go? If I have an idea for a novel or a feature screenplay, that’s not going up here because of just how much effort I have to put into it. Exceptions are:

  • If I write a short story and I post it here to gauge interest in the prospect of the concept being expanded further.
  • If I start a long work based on a short story I write, and the long work differs drastically from the short story. The amount of difference is at my discretion.

This isn’t me saying that I’m stopping the posting of short stories here. I’d say it’s me saying that short stories are probably going to appear here probably less frequently.

Thoughts?

 

Fairy Tail: Looking Back

So, It’s over. It’s all over. After eleven years, Hiro Mashima’s manga Fairy Tail has published its final chapter. I started watching the anime adaptation of this title during my junior year of college, and once I finished all the episodes that were available for watching at the time, and then I read the manga volumes that the Free Library of Philadelphia had in circulation. Something that took me to three different branches because some volumes were only in one branch. And I fell in love with these characters. I followed this story week after week after week until this final week.

So what is this about? Fairy Tail takes place in the Kingdom of Fiore and follows the adventures of the eponymous guild of wizards (some usethe word “mages” to describe the Fairy Tail characters) and their adventures and mishaps. The first chapter introduces us to our two main characters Lucy Heartfilia and Natsu Dragneel and it ends with Lucy heading to Fairy Tail to join the guild. And what follows is adventure. The following story arcs introduce us the many other members of Fairy Tail, the other guilds in Fiore, and story arcs that deal with loss, redemption, adventure, and friendship. That’s the big word when it comes to Fairy Tail: friendship. Reading Fairy Tail, there were a lot of times when it seems that all hope was lost, there would be a speech about friendship and the power they have from their friends believing in themselves that would seemingly give them some sort of powerup to defeat the villain of that arc. Especially with this final arc, it had this as well as the display of Fairy Tail wizards taking out enemies in one shot. If you were in the subreddit r/fairytail,  you would have found discussions and comments calling out what could be seen as an absurdity. At least you can say that Fairy Tail has a fanbase willing to call out flaws.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. Why do I love Fairy Tail? What made me want to read this manga on a weekly basis? For one, I’d say that the big thing was the sense of unpredictability. Every week, there was this sense of “what’s going to happen this week?” that I haven’t felt in anything in a long time. The Fairy Tail wizards always had this sense to get into mischief in their quests and while the stakes got higher as time went on, their was still a sense of innocence. Also, the fights. They were freaking awesome. The reason I say this is because of the different types of magic that were used by all the characters. It’s just something about the fact that very few wizards are similar in they fight, so the ice wizard Gray Fullbuster will be totally different from Erza Scarlet, who’s never seen without a sword in battle. It’s totally different from Dragon Ball Z where it’s just seemingly beams and punching.

Also, it’s pretty funny and lighthearted. Something about Fairy Tail always makes me smile. And I found something that made me happy with every arc. Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s just the song that’s used as a theme song for the anime that I bought off iTunes, but there’s something about Fairy Tail just puts a smile on my face, and it always has, and now it always will. It has its heart in the right place, and I think Hiro Mashima is a great guy and a great part of the manga industry.

As for a score, what should I give it? Well, I’ve given all my positives in the above paragraphs, so why don’t I acknowledge its flaws? the whole “friendship” thing can get hammered in at times, and defeating in one shot may get old for you after a while. In addition in the last arc, stakes may get high for some characters, only for them to come back down again, and some things are brought up and aren’t really addressed with the proper weight and gravitas. That’s all I’ll say without getting into spoilers.

For that reason, I’ll give it an 8.5/10. It has some drawbacks stopping it from getting it into the 9-10 crescendo, but the feelings I get from it are great enough to make it one of the best manga I’ve read/one of the best anime I’ve watched.

Fairy Tail will always have a special place in my heart, and if I can afford it. I hope to buy all the Fairy Tail volumes and maybe the anime DVDs. This is a title worth having in your own two hands.

Making an Impact

This past Monday, I had the privilege to go down to Drexel and be a part of a luncheon held by the Drexel Autism Support Program, or DASP. It’s a great program and it helped me a lot when I was at school. So, of course, I was excited to jump at the invitation.

As for the lunch itself? It was the director of the program Dr. Rebecca Weidensaul, faculty members Dr. Jim Conell, and Jessie Day-Watkins, and current students or are involved with DASP. Great bunch. I saw their plans to help Drexel students on the spectrum by way of providing support and helping the students develop goals to achieve in their time at Drexel, whether it’s academc goals or personal goals such as making friends.

My thoughts as an alum and a past participant in this program? I think their path is pretty good. The thoughts I shared were that DASP should work to introduce themselves and their services to incoming students, such as being involved in Drexel activities such as New Student Orientation. I was lucky enough to get Rebecca’s card, so hopefully, we can stay in touch in the coming months and possibly years. For two months, September seems a long way away for some reason.

It feels great to be able to have something to support at your alma mater once you graduate. I think I found the way I’ll support Drexel.

Vampire Dinner

And here’s something special: The first short story I wrote after I graduated. It was just a few months after putting Drexel behind me and a month after I volunteered at the Philadelphia Film Festival. I think I got the idea for this story from checking the architecture and old feel I got from hanging around Old City for ten days as a result of being a film festival volunteer. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy.

 

VAMPIRE DINNER

 

Zach walked down the street. It wasn’t too bad; he was no stranger to the streets of Philadelphia. He knew which neighborhoods to avoid, and which parts of the city were seemingly asleep during the nighttime hours. It was just that the whole time he was walking, he was just lamenting that he could save some time and be on a bus if it weren’t for the birdcage in his hands, and the bat inside said birdcage. “What are you gonna do? Risk freaking out a bunch of commuters and risk incurring the wrath of SEPTA? Fucking bastards. ” Zach thought. Zach continued to walk down the streets adorned by rowhomes and illuminated streetlights until he found the one he was looking for.

“Is this it?” the bat asked. “Yep, this is the house,” Zach answered, inspecting the house. “Eagles flag, old Phillies flag, this is it.”

“Come on, Zach. You’ve been here too many times to count. You ought to know what the front of my place looks like.” Zach looked up to the voice that broke his inspection. It was Claudia, sitting on a broom, floating in the sky.

“How long have you been up there watching me?” Zach asked. Claudia looked at the streetlights. “About…five minutes, or however long you started walking down the block,” Claudia answered. She adjusted herself on her broom and flew down to the street, jumping off the broom as she was at Zach’s level. “Anyway,” she replied. “My mom and grandma are home. Hope you brought you brought an appetite.” Claudia looked at the bat in Zach’s cage. “You got a new pet? And you didn’t tell me?!” Claudia hit Zach on the head with the end of her broom. “About that,” Zach replied. “Can we go inside? It’s kind of cold.” The two walked inside.

Inside Claudia’s house, her mother Diana and grandmother Sarah were in the kitchen stirring a pot. The two didn’t flinch when Claudia greeted them with “Hi, mom. Hi, Nonna.” But when the two heard “Hi, Mrs. Agresta. Hi, Mrs. Dupont.” Diana turned off the pot to greet Zach. “Hi, Zach,” Diana said. Sarah eyed the bat in its cage. “So, Zachary, this is the bat you wanted to show me?”

“Yeah,” Zach replied nervously. He put down the cage gently on the floor, opening the door on the cage. The bat let its claws off of the cage bar, flew out of the cage door…and transformed into a girl before the eyes of the four people. “H…hello.” The girl said meekly. Sarah and Diana were mesmerized by the girl’s blonde pigtails, red eyes, and the small fangs protruding from the top of her mouth. Diana moved in front of Rachel, staring at the girl. “What is your name?” she asked. The girl shook where she stood, feeling the eyes of the short Diana stabbing her. “My name is Rachel, I’m six years old,” she answered. Diana looked further at Rachel, focusing on her eyes and fangs. “You’re not telling me everything.” She said. “Who are you really? Where is it that you hail from? What clan do you belong to?” Rachel began to look down at the ground, heart racing and on the verge of tears. “Mom, that’s enough!” Sarah interjected. Diana backed away from Rachel, and Sarah took her place and crouched down to be at eye-level with Rachel. “I’m sorry about my mother. What she was trying to get across was that we want to know some more about you so we can find out how we can help you get home.” Rachel looked up to Sarah. “You can trust me.” Rachel exhaled. “My name is Rachel Paoli Desrosiers. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am.” “What kind of name is that?” Diana asked. “ Are you some sort of Main Line girl? Does your have a secluded place in Rittenhouse Square?” Sarah shook her head and grabbed Diana’s arm, asking, “Why don’t we focus on dinner?” as she dragged Diana into the kitchen, with the short woman sternly replying with “Is that how you’re going to treat your own mother?”

Rachel turned to Zach and Claudia in confusion. “What does the short woman mean by Main Line and Rittenhouse Square?” she asked. ” The Main Line’s the place where people who got money live if they wanna get out of the city,” Zach answered. “And Rittenhouse Square is where rich people live if they wanna stay in the city. They also got some nice restaurants, a library, and a Barnes & Noble.”

“It’s basically Philadelphia’s Central Park,” Claudia added. Sarah popped her head out of the kitchen. “Zach, Rachel, would you two like to stay for dinner?” she asked. “The Phillies are playing tonight.” Zach lit up, and the next words were “Sure. We’d love to. I’ll just have to call my mom first and let her know I’m here.”

Sarah went backed into the kitchen and rejoined her mother at the stove. “Great, now you’re inviting her to eat with us?” Diana snapped. “What is with you?” Sarah retorted. “What drives you to scare a little kid? Why can’t you lighten up?” With her finger, Diana summoned a wooden spoon and hit Sarah in the head with it. “Ah! What was that for?” Sarah asked while rubbing her head. Diana simply answered with “Don’t ever question or backtalk your mother.”

Zach and Rachel sat down on the couch, seeing Claudia come to the living room with TV trays. “I don’t need any help with anything,” Claudia said. In response, Zach walked up to the TV, flipped through the channels until he saw Tom McCarthy and Ben Davis on The Comcast Network welcoming everyone to Citizens Bank Park. Zach muttered a simple “Got it.” before striding back to the couch, nearly hitting one of the trays. “Hey, watch the setup!” Claudia protested. Rachel simply observed and replied with, “This is a strange group of people.” The vampire serenely focused on the images ranging from shots of Philadelphia that signaled the beginning and ending of commercial breaks to the antics of the Phillie Phanatic. Her concentration was broken with Claudia coming onto the couch telling her to scoot over and Sarah putting plates on the trays. “Hey, Rachel, I hope you like Chicken Parm.” She said. Rachel thanked Sarah for the meal and looked at the plate, taking a sniff of the chicken and the spaghetti. “What’s wrong, little girl?” Diana asked. “Afraid garlic will get stuck in your fangs? Afraid you’ll get something?” Sarah looked at her mother with a glare that read, “Mom, please, for the love of God, don’t start.” which caused Diana to back off. Zach moved toward Rachel and told her, “Hey, if you eat garlic now, you can develop immunity to it. How much would it scare people to see that their repellant is ineffective?” Rachel pondered Zach’s statement, cut into the chicken, putting a piece into her mouth. After a cough and a breath, she took another bite. And then she smiled as if she was thinking, “Take that, nonna.”

Together, the five ate dinner and watched the Phillies play the Tigers. Midway through the game, Sarah asked Zach, “So, Zach, how’d you end up finding Rachel?” “Um, interesting story that,” Zach answered. “I found this bat twitching on the ground, so I took it home to see if I could nurse it back to health enough to a point where I can get it either take it to a vet or release it into the wild like some 90s movie.”

“And how did…well, you know,” Diana asked. “Hang on, I was just getting to that part,” Zach replied. “The bat was moaning and groaning, and when I put the cage away from the window, it just…stopped. And at about 7:00 that night, I hear this faint voice saying ‘Please open the cage’. So I do. And then…the bat flies out, and Rachel transforms and hits my floor.” Rachel looked down to cover her face after the last part of the story was said. “ And I gave her some snacks to nibble on to do something to get her strength back, but she just said that being away from the sun would be enough for her. All I gotta do is cover her cage with a blanket when she has to sleep during the day.” Zach composed himself. “And the reason why I’m here tonight is to ask if Rachel can stay with you guys.” Claudia, Sarah, and Diana all stopped in shock. “Why would you wanna do that?” Claudia asked. “What’s wrong with your place?”

“Well”, Zach replied, “I’m not sure how long I can keep Rachel under wraps from my mom. And I’m not sure how she’ll take a vampire being under her roof. And I know that you guys have the attic that doesn’t get sunlight that only requires a good sweeping to not get stuffy. And two out of three of you seem to have already taken a liking to her.” Zach got blank stares, and Claudia would go on to break the silence, asking “Why are you worrying that your mom won’t let you take Rachel in?” “Because,” Zach answered nervously, “I think that, like your grandma, she’s worried that Rachel will bite her or me.” “Would you like me to help you?” Rachel asked. “It’s bad manners to just bite somebody if they don’t want to, and I’ve heard that when I get older, there are times when I really want to bite someone or something..” Claudia looked at Diana. “Nonna, does that make you feel any better?” Diana only replied “Baby steps. Go to your mother, and then there’s a chance we can talk, Zachary.” Claudia looked at Zach “You hear that? You got my grandma on the path to liking a vampire. I think that you can convince your mom that Rachel won’t be a menace.” Zach sheepishly smiled. “Thanks,” he replied. “Now weren’t we watching a baseball game?” With that reminder, everyone refocused on the TV and cheered wildly at the ensuing Phillies home run. As cheers and high fives went around, Rachel simply focused on the illuminated Citizens Bank Liberty Bell as it rocked back and forth, back and forth. Back. And forth.

When the game ended in a 5-3 Phillies win, Rachel had turned back into a bat and was in her cage and Zach was ready to head home. “Well, guys, I’m off to try to convince my mother why having a six-year-old vampire won’t be a terrible thing.” He said as he picked up the cage. “Well, if you keep Rachel in the cage, you could spin it as convincing her to let you keep a very special vampire bat as a pet,” Claudia replied. Zach simply smiled and gave Claudia a simple “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” And with that, Claudia, Diana, and Sarah wove goodbye as Zach and Rachel walked out the door into the Philadelphia night, with Sarah telling Rachel to come back soon, and that hopefully, she could convince her mother to let the attic be open for her.

As Zach and Rachel walked home, Rachel hummed to herself in her cage, comfortably in her bat form. “Your friend and her mom are really nice,” she said. “Glad you think so,” Zach replied. “Sorry about Grandma Diana, and I think that maybe either I or Claudia should have warned you beforehand. You’re not too upset about that, are you?” Rachel shook her bat head. “No, I think I’ll be fine. Hey, remember when you said that if I eat a lot of garlic, I’ll develop immunity to it?” “Yeah,” Zach answered. “Do you think that there’s any truth to it? Because I know that garlic can’t kill a vampire, only keep them away.” Zach looked at the moon for a moment. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But I can get some food from the restaurants in Little Italy and test your theory. If you’re right, you can really scare the socks off of Claudia’s grandma.” Zach brought the cage to his face so his face could meet Rachel’s. “But if you’re wrong,” he added, “I don’t want to deal with a severe case of vampire indigestion, okay?” Rachel. Hanging from the bar inside the cage, only answered with, “No promises.” Zach simply sighed, put the cage back by his side, and walked home with Rachel.

I think we’ve gone off the deep end with the anger toward Vince

(Note: I also submitted this as a fampost on CageSide seats as a fanpost. Check it out there if you want. There’s great debate and banter over there.

 

So, Talking Smack was canceled (technically, now it’s just after PPVS, but going by the reactions, you’d think it was gone forever). And the two hosts weren’t told in advance of the news dropping  And Vince is the reason why. Apparently, he didn’t like the unscripted nature of it all. And once again, the chairman of WWE takes away something the fans love. The FUCK THIS COMPANY GIF is in the comments section of this site. CM Punk’s pipebomb seems to make him be pro wrestling’s version of Nostradamus.

In the short time I’ve followed WWE (just before Money In The Bank 2016), and in reading about the superstars of past and present, I don’t think I’ve heard anything positive impact Vince have had on the product, and any good things he may have done in the past have been acknowledged in a “that was good, but he’s outlived his usefulness and he needs to let some new blood take over” way. And that’s not even touching the feelings people have toward his perceived right-hand man Kevin Dunn. Reading these opinions article after article, have made me realize something. Something that I haven’t fully realized until these past few days and this cancellation:

There are people waiting for Vincent Kennedy McMahon to die.

It’s morbid, it’s probably an extreme, and it’s probably not suited for this site. Sue me. I really think that there’s a section of fans that are waiting for Vince to croak. And if we aren’t at that point already, I think we’re getting dangerously close to that point with every little thing that comes out regarding Vince. He’s 71, he’s made it pretty damn clear he’s not going to retire or sell, so it makes sense that one would wait for Father Time to come and kick Vince’s ass until he moves on. It seems to some that Father Time got the better of The Undertaker with some hoping he’d just retire and enjoy his legacy before he does something in the ring that’ll severely affect his life.

What comes from Vince dying? I can think of two things:

1. HHH takes over.

It’ll be like this long coup (or boardroom takeover) culminating in The Game taking control of the whole company he’s dedicated the better part of his life toward. Think about it: become one of the biggest names in the company’s history, marry the boss’s daughter, get your own little project that gets beloved by the masses BECAUSE it’s something different and not unlike what your hated boss is doing, and when the boss croaks, you take your rightful place at the summit. I don’t care what the field is, that is a takeover plan that George R. R. Martin would be proud of. Also, if HHH is in charge, that means that the NXT stars that people have come to love like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and The Four Horsewomen would be treated properly on the main roster and all the work HHH has done won’t go to waste in things like whatever Bayley’s doing. I wonder if that’s why the monster known as Asuka hasn’t been called up yet.

2. WWE is sold to someone outside of the McMahon family.

This one is simple: Either Stephanie or Shane inherits the company, and they get an offer they can’t refuse and they sell out of the family and they write their memoirs or do a podcast or do shoot interviews on the backstage politics and operations of WWE like so many wrestlers before them. What good can come from selling out of the family? There’s a chance that you get someone that actually listens to the fans. The prospective new owner may not give them their fantasy booking, but at least there’s a better chance there’s a Roman Reigns heel turn and the monster push will come to an end with said owner in charge instead of Vince. Why do you think there was that massive pop when Shane came back and why do you think so many were behind Shane when he feuded with his father going into WrestleMania 32? Because he represented the potential that things can be different. That there can be someone that can actually challenge Vince McMahon and his decisions on how things should be in WWE.

And that points out to another thing I feel when it comes to Vince and WWE in general: when someone gets beloved or over, it’s probably because of meta reasons. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wondered if the reason Braun Strowman gets so many chants and pops is because he’s feuding with Roman Reigns and some of his bigger moments come from beating the tar out of him. Those chants of “You deserve it” and “Thank you, Strowman”? Those are the fans thanking The Monster Among Men for sending the message that the Roman push is a failure to them and Vince needs to end it and start pushing people like Finn Balor and Sasha Banks, those with the potential to be superstars if they weren’t handled by someone that’s been out of touch with what’s popular among wrestling fans for the better part of a decade, if not longer. Why is Daniel Bryan’s win at WrestleMania 30 so beloved? To me, it’s probably because Daniel Bryan, the fan’s choice for a star, defeated those handpicked by The Authority, the most despised higher ups that have been on WWE programming in years. And the CM Punk chants? That guy is still beloved, people think he wasn’t made to be the star he was meant to be in WWE, and to many, every word of his pipebomb is equal parts sermon and rallying cry to wage a never ending war against the McMahon establishment. A war they are sure to win someday.

Am I wishing that Vince McMahon will die someday? No. Am I upset that the booking I want to see hasn’t happened and future fantasy booking will probably not come to pass? A little. I guess the reason is that in the last few days, I think I’ve stared into the abyss and  I’ve seen the end result of the fans and their anger toward Vince McMahon. I’m kind of worried.

Best Ever Seen

So, I posted recently about my plan to revamp the things that’ll go into the review section of this little blog I have. And I talked about how in order to get at least a 9/10, what I talk about has to be super special, enough to call it “the best I’ve ever seen. But I think I may have been too vague. What do I compare it to? So I think the idea is to compare it to the rest of its field. So, I’d compare an anime to an anime, a film to a film, and a TV show to a TV show.

As for animated vs. live action? I don’t think animation is lesser than live action. In fact, I think that animation is capable of doing great things. That’s one of the reasons I like DEATH BATTLE!  However, I think I have to because if it’s just film, it’d be too much of a big pond. And then there’s genre. Clearly, a comedy is worlds away from a crime drama, so what do I do there? I’m not sure yet. I think I may just go with the idea of “movies in general” mainly because I don’t watch enough movies nor do I watch movies on a regular enough basis to get into conversations about a genre.

As for anime/manga, I think I’m comfortable enough in that field to give definitive rankings. I mean, I don’t have a YouTube where I talk about the bigger themes of particular titles, but I think I’m comfortable in my skills to talk about titles and get my opinions across.

What do you think of my methodology?

So, Let’s Talk about Scoring.

On this blog, I have a section called “Martin’s Reviews”. It’s basically me talking about different things I encounter and my thoughts about them. There’s one thing though: There’s nothing about it that screams “review”. So, that’s where I hope to change things in the probably never ending mission of mine to make this blog look something like I made something out of my college education. And with that, I will introduce a new element: scores!

Yes, I’m bringing in a scale that pretty much every single respectable critic in a field would have to make me talking about things have something resembling weight. So, how am I going to do this? How about a 10 point scale? Everyone else does it. Hell, I do it on the website MyAnimeList, which helps me to determine my favorite anime and manga.

Here’s the anime list I have on MyAnimeList, and here’s the manga I have on MyAnimeList. Fair Warning: If it looks shitty, I’m sorry. I don’t watch anime or read manga as frequently as some other people, so updating it is kind of on the infrequent side. And here is the scale they have on MyAnimeList:

10: Masterpiece

9: Great

8: Very Good

7: Good

6: Fine

5: Average

4: Bad

3: Very Bad

2: Horrible

1: Appaling

Another scale I found comes from a Tumblr blog that focuses on reviewing old video games. Here is that blog, and here’s what the blog is all about and the methodology.

And here is that blog’s scale:

1 (Abysmal) You should avoid at all costs. An exercise in masochism.

2 (Terrible) A really bad game that nostalgia cannot save.

3 (Awful) An objectively bad game that a select few people might like anyway.

4 (Bad) A game that sucks that may still have value for fans.

5 (Okay) Neither good nor bad or a healthy mixture of both.

6 (Decent) A fun game that’s held back by some of it’s negative aspects.

7 (Good) Was fun to play and will be enjoyed by most people

8 (Great) An exceptionally good game that should be near the top of your to do list

9 (Amazing) One of the best games ever made

10 (Perfect) A game so good it’s in a league of it’s own.

I’d say that my scale would be a mix of these. The only difference I’d make is that rather than “best ever made”, I would rather say “best I’ve ever seen” because my Film & Video degree kind of causes me to think of technical makeup and composition when I see the words “best ever made”. The other reason I like these scales is that it kind of spells out what can get a 10/10: things that go above and beyond and give you a true experience that’ll make you change for the better once you finish. As for 10/10s I have the following in that rare air:

  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (The series, not the Rebellion movie, that gets a 6)
  • The Rocky series
  • Samurai Champloo
  •  The Death Note manga (the anime adaptation would get a 7.5-8)

I hope that this scale and explanation is to your liking. It’s to my liking at the very least. Though I really feel that a rewatch may be needed for something to get at least a 9, mainly because it’s hard to say something is a classic upon watching it a first time. And if you’re wondering why in the future you’re reading about something I watched on Netflix or HBO, that’s why. Anime and manga may not have this problem because a lot of the stuff I read will have the bulk of the episodes or chapters at my disposal, if not all of them.

Anyway, this begins the new era of the reviews section of my blog. This’ll be fun.