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Isaac Sher
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www.threatormenace.com -- Threat Or Menace, A Geek Editorial/Review Site!
www.threatormenace.com -- Threat Or Menace, A Geek Editorial/Review Site!

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I haven't written an #IsaacWritesABook post in weeks, so let's fix that.

I hit a major wall of writer's block in November, brought on by a couple of things. First, while I had a largely completed rough draft, I was intimidated by the amount of rewriting I needed to do to polish this. The rough draft made things far too easy for the protagonists, and had little to no tension or ongoing conflict, because any conflict that arose was resolved almost instantly with very little struggle.

Second, I'll be honest, the election results really shredded me in a lot of ways. Completely blindsided me, had me struggling with depression for awhile, and made it hard to concentrate on much more outside of work other than basic abnegation to unwind after work. Games, media, stuff like that. Breaking open a manuscript and rearranging its guts was more than I was capable of at that time.

For awhile, I thought about putting away the Romance story I've been working on for the last six months, and starting a new project. But to be honest, I worried that if I did that, that I would never come back to this ever again, and I really didn't want that.

So tonight, I've started writing again, rewriting scenes and making corrections and additions. I have a nagging feeling that I'm going to be easily adding another 20k words to this thing (even after certain parts are deleted), and that I'll need to trim it down again after this pass, but that bridge will be crossed later. I have to get to that bridge first.

Thank you again for your support in these last few months as I've been working on this. I've made more progress with this project than I ever thought possible, and it still boggles my mind that my first semi-completed manuscript would end up being a romance story of all things, rather than a sci-fi/fantasy or space opera or superhero adventure story. But hey, I'm having fun, and these characters are still very much alive and vibrant in the back of my head, so we'll see where this goes. Wish me luck.

It's funny what habits we develop.

Over three years ago, I hit upon an idea for a writing project. Inspired by Kevin Murphy's book "A Year At The Movies", where he attended a movie in a theatre at least once a day every day for a year, and wrote about the experiences and his thoughts about film and the film industry, I thought I might try something similar, but with anime. "A Year Of Anime", I called it.

I vowed to watch at least one hour, or two half-hour-minus-commercials episodes, of anime every day, and write about it.

I started off strong with the writing part, putting together a few essays that I felt really good about, talking about my thoughts on certain anime genres, how I became an anime fan and how I nearly fell out of love with anime for a time, and other topics besides.

But after three or four months, the fire dimmed. The topics to write about under this subject stopped flowing.

And yet... every day since January 1, 2014, I have successfully watched anime EVERY DAY. I have kept up my quota -- usually by watching one or two episodes of something on my iPad mini while eating lunch at work. One year became three and a quarter years. And I've documented every episode on a massive spreadsheet on my Google Docs folder. I still love to watch anime, but on more than one occasion, I've thought to myself, "well, I'm not in the mood to watch anything new right now... ahh, I'll dig up something old to meet my quota." Or I'll contemplate stopping this self-imposed requirement, since I haven't written anything substantial on this project in forever... but then I keep coming back to it anyway, thinking that MAYBE I'LL COME BACK TO IT SOON. Hooboy.

I mean, if I do come back to this project later, I could always just start from scratch, with a new spreadsheet.

I guess I'm saying that I'm thinking I may cut if off here. I'll watch if I'm in the mood, like when I watch episodes of THE FLASH or whatnot, but I shouldn't force it out of some quota for a project that fizzled out over a year ago.

On the other hand, part of me wants to inquire if maybe there is a reason I should feel compelled to continue the quota. It's very strange.

Watching "Cosplay Melee" put me in mind of some various shenanigans I encountered in my role as the MC of Anime Central's Masquerade for a decade.

In particular, there was one group from 2000 that really made me roll my eyes. Prior to the con, this group had been fairly active on the whatever message boards or mailing lists we had at the time, and talked a lot about how eager they were to take part in the Masquerade. All well and good, no problem there.

When the con started, they showed up, and they were all dressed as characters from STEAM DETECTIVES, a relatively obscure work by Kia Asamiya, who was more famous for other projects like GUNHED and especially SILENT MOBIUS. This group was just oh-so-pleased with themselves, and strutted like peacocks backstage, taking on airs with the other cosplayers about how they were "the cosplay elite" -- and that's an actual quote, said without any irony whatsoever.

They went on about halfway through the show. They did a skit that wasn't especially interesting, and made no sense to me at all -- I suspect that one would've had to be very familiar with Steam Detectives to get the "jokes" involved. The costumes did indeed look like the source material -- but it was just trenchcoats with weird half-spheres attached in places. Not exactly breathtaking craftsmanship.

The crowd was indifferent at best. The group's smugness and "Aren't we clever and wonderful" vibe was on full display, and that never, ever goes over well.

They didn't win anything, not even a Judge's Choice award.

The queen bee of this little group actually confronted me afterwards, demanding to know why they'd been snubbed. I politely noted that I was only the MC, and not a judge myself, and that the judges (mostly voice actor guests of honor) were free to vote on who they thought was best -- and that it seemed that they liked other people's costumes more than this group's. And while I didn't say this next part, it was pretty obvious to me that there were plenty of other groups who DID do better work, not to mention had a better attitude.

"But we're cosplay elite!", the queen bee crowed. I then politely pointed out that Steam Detectives was not a popular title, and that picking a costume that's beloved and known to audiences, as well as being well-crafted and performed, is definitely a factor in winning contests like this. She acted as if I'd just kicked her in the tit. "WELL, we won't be coming back to this con, then! These people are just too stupid to appreciate REAL quality!" It was blindingly obvious that she desperately wanted me to suddenly go on the defensive at this point, and beg and plead with her to relent and to continue gracing us with her troupe's presence.

I just shrugged with a smile. "Well, I don't think it's nice to call the people here stupid. I guess you'll just have to do what you feel you must."

Enraged and deflated at the same time, she finally stormed off -- and true to her word, I never saw her back at the convention ever again. Ah well.

Thankfully, most of my experiences with cosplayers over the years have been much more positive overall.

Just watched the first episode of COSPLAY MELEE, and I am definitely enjoying myself, and will keep watching it.

I'm not normally into reality/competition shows, because most of them seem to be about "shrill people are shrill and dramatic and sniping at each other", and I could care less about that. This show is entirely focused on the the construction techniques, the psychological aspect of cosplaying, and the love of the shows and movies that inspire it.

It's a competition, but it's a friendly competition, and there is no engineered interpersonal conflict or other such crap. When one person wins, the others are happy for the winner. The judges give thoughtful and reasonable critique, the hostess is engaging.

One worry I had is that a show like this could delve into one of two extremes -- either "man, check out these wacky nerds, such weirdos" or "let us honor that most moral and perfect of ethereal creatures, the venerated cosplay angel". Both of which are bullshit. Thankfully, this show manages to avoid both extremes. The tone is definitely positive and encouraging, but not so fawning that it makes non-cosplayers (like myself) roll their eyes with annoyance or feel like they're dealing with elitist self-proclaimed gods.

+Curt Thompson, I think you'll really enjoy this, since you're an avid consumer of positive-tone reality-competition shows.

I've just discovered a new show, and I'm going to be MAINLINING it.

It's called "Samurai Gourmet", and it's on Netflix.

It's the story of a man in his sixties, who has just retired from a long career as a corporate Salaryman, and has no idea at first what to do with himself. On his first monday without having to go to work, he finds himself wandering through his neighborhood, discovering paths and sights that he never noticed before on his rush to and from work.

He comes upon a small old-fashioned diner, and decides to grab some lunch -- because at work, he always ate the exact same meal from the corporate cafeteria, every day without fail, and he's thinking that he should try something new.

He orders an interesting-sounding meal -- eggplant, bell peppers, and pork, stir-fried with red miso, with rice and pickled cucumbers on the side, along with the ubiquitous white miso soup cup. And as he sits waiting on it, he spies a poster showing that cold bottled beer is for sale. It's a hot summer day, and he thinks to himself how wonderful a cold beer would be just now... but then hesitates, thinking that it would be shameful to have alcohol midday -- would the other patrons of the restaurant think ill of him for boozing it up?

He then has a vivid imaginary sequence, where a ronin (masterless samurai) walks into the restaurant -- and suddenly everyone else in the restaurant is from the samurai era as well. He orders a bottle of sake, and drinks it down with relish, fearlessly staring down anyone who would dare think less of him for doing so.

Emboldened, imagining himself to be something of a ronin now as well, he orders his beer without fear... and it's good. It's so good. The light makes the beer look divine and delicious, even to a non-beer-drinker like myself. His relish is palpable... and then we see his food being prepared, and served to him.. and it's delicious, and goes perfectly with his beer. It is the most pleasure he's ever had in his life -- and he realizes that his purpose now is to seek out such experiences, to really live life for the first time... through FOOD.

What really struck me about this, is that it's something we don't see often enough in our culture. We're chock full of coming-of-age stories, but we rarely see BEING-of-age stories, of what it's like to be in the latter half of your life, to discover something new when you're no longer new yourself. +Jerome Comeau and +Curt Thompson and I have talked about this previously, so I want to suggest this show to them in particular, but really, I'd endorse this to anyone.

And in other news relating to my MASS EFFECT 2 replay...

Dear god, the cut-scene director was freaking obsessed with Miranda's ass.

It's serious male-gaze city on the Normandy. If it's not Miranda's ass, then it's her breasts and the overall effect of her spandex-sheath outfit, complete with pseudo-choker along the neck for maximum "yes, I know you're staring" stopping power.

And for bonus points, ever time you have a conversation with Jack, the camera fills your screen with side-boob in shadow.

I mean, I like looking at pretty women, sure, but I feel a little guilty playing this. I'd forgotten just how male-gazy it could get. I suspect that once the Asari justicar shows up, it'll be Cleavage City. Hooboy.

I have a theory/hope about Wrestlemania.

Right now, they're building up to a match between Shane McMahon and AJ Styles. This is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Shane isn't a believable threat to AJ in the ring, any more than he was to the Undertaker, "guts and refusal to give up" notwithstanding.

So here's my dream scenario for this. AJ enters the WM ring first, ready to fight, but not at all concerned. He's got Shane's measure, and the announcers could even play up a bit or refer to a past vignette where AJ didn't even feel the need to warm up properly, that he's going to pin Shane in his sleep.

Shane's entrance music hits, and he comes down to the ring, mic in hand. He steps inside, but gestures to the ring announcer to wait before getting things started. He cuts a promo about how he's been studying tapes of AJ's fights, and how the more he watched, the more he realized that taking AJ on was sheer folly, that AJ is just too damn good. A bit of grudging acceptance and acknowledgement that AJ would definitely take him in a straight-up match. This could be emphasized further by having Shane receive some sort of kayfabe injury the week before -- his arm in a sling, perhaps.

Shane concludes by saying that watching all those old tapes of AJ's matches over the last few years, including those in Japan, gave him an idea. Just because he acknowledges AJ's skill and power doesn't mean that he thinks AJ should get away with any of this. So instead of facing AJ himself, Shane called in... a specialist.

Cue the music of SHINSUKE NAKAMURA.

Crowd loses its goddamn mind, and Nakamura enters, possibly with an army of hot violinist redheads at his heels, getting the full-blown Wrestlemania Moment treatment, on par with Rusev getting a Russian Tank from a couple years back. Ranallo is losing his mind on commentary, gushing about the battles that Nakamura and Styles have fought in Japan, the stuff of five-star legends... and then AJ and Shinsuke proceed to steal the show.

That's how I'd book it, anyway.

If you are even a little intrigued by really neat fight choreography, and the phrase "pro wrestling mixed with telenovella soap opera" makes you raise an eyebrow in amusement, then you really need to check out LUCHA UNDERGROUND. The first two seasons are now on Netflix.

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I think I may have the ultimate example of "Go home, Netflix, you're drunk" on my screen right now:


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...How is it that I'm just learning today that there's a tv show based on the so-called "Texas Gothic" novels by Joe R. Lansdale, called "Hap and Leonard"? And that it's on Netflix?

*jumps for the Netflix app*
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