Living the Good Life, Episode 16 (August 12, 2016): GUNZ

Yet another good week, and an exciting one, too! Da lowdown:


WATCHAN:

Berserk 6 and 7, Jojo 19 and 20, OPM dub 4, Macross eps 17, 18, and 19

Berserk 6:Hmm…A lot of my friends said this episode was much worse than the previous, and while I’m not sure I’d go that far, I did notice a lot of problems. The animation was noticeably bad, and a lot of the scene breaks seemed very abrupt. Also, there’s a decently-sized scene right after the credits but before the next episode preview that seemed to me like it belonged in the episode proper but they couldn’t figure out a good way to place it–which of course is pretty amateurish. Maybe the director for this series isn’t very experienced…

Berserk 7: Uuuugh…well, the animation remains poor and they’ve gone back to using CLANG whenever Guts slices through something. On the other hand, Luca’s speech was pretty cool and they got one of my favorite scenes from the manga down pat. I found Isidro’s antics to be funny, but your mileage may vary :p

Jojo 19: NOW they get into a real fight…and, once again, it was pretty entertaining. Fights in this series revolve around these sort of phantasm things called “Stands,” and while those controllable phantoms usually have powers like “punch very fast and hard,” in this episode, the antagonist had a stand that operated more like a swarm of mosquitos, so it was definitely fun watching our heroes try and figure out a way to beat it! Once again, I’m quite happy 8)

Jojo 20: Jojo’s version of the Cinderella fairytale! No fighting, no action in this ep either, but Cinderella with Stands sure was entertaining 😀

OPM dub 4: This was…OK. Saitama’s English voice was great as usual, and the antagonists (the bald dude and the superfast ninja) were OK, but I’m not 100% sold on Mumen Rider’s voice. However, he had like one sentence, so maybe he’ll grow on me as well, hehe.

Macross 17: Mostly singing rather than action in this ep, but we finally got a clear revelation about what was up with the protag’s father, which I expected.

Macross 18: What an action scene! And (again no spoilers) there is DEFINITELY something up with Mikumo, we all suspected it but this episode confirmed it.

Macross 19: No action here, this was mainly a recap/infodump episode, summarizing all the previous Macross series (the original SDF Macross, Macross Plus, Macross 7, and Macross Frontier, with a brief mention of Macross Zero). Man, I loved seeing all the previous series again…talk about nostalgia!

PLAYAN:

Honestly not playing much this week. I gave up on Vindictus, even though I was starting to get good with Delia, because I wanted to buy something in-game with IRL money, but then I stopped and thought…how much money am I spending on this “free to play” game? The item I wanted was 24,000 NX, and if 1,000 NX costs 1 dollar, 24,000 is 24 dollars! That is a *lot* of money for just one item! I could get a whole game on Steam for that much! Ooof…well, I understand it’s how free to play games make their money, but still not something I was comfortable with. Maybe if I have a lot of cash to throw around I’ll come back, but until then…eh.

So yeah, at least giving up on Vindy gives me more time to work on other stuff :p

TIMAN:

Finished up Ep. 22 of Dragonar! Check it out here:

https://msubsreleases.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/metal-armor-dragonar-episode-22-orders-to-destroy-the-giganos-fortress/

READAN:

The Sick House by Ambrose Ibsen. I liked his other book I reviewed a couple weeks ago (Transmission) and I liked this one as well. To summarize without spoiling too much, a down-on-his-luck detective receives a case to investigate a missing person–a doctor who disappeared on a trip to a closed-down asylum that holds many dark secrets and seems to be haunted–the titular “Sick House.” Upon arriving at the terrible place and the blighted town around it, our protagonist quickly learns that the rumors surrounding it are terrifyingly true.

The way Ibsen reveals the history behind the Sick House and the town, along with what I suspect are a few nods towards Lovecraft (there’s a character named Tillinghast, who seems to be named after the professor from Lovecraft’s From Beyond, and there’s also a scene reminiscent of Shadows Over Innsmouth), was a very well done slow burn, and the first and last encounters with the supernatural entity (and its true identity) were quite shocking. I think I definitely got my money’s worth with this book 😀

The second book I polished off this week was Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. This one had a very interesting premise: In the town of Black Spring, located in the idyllic Hudson Valley in the U.S, a witch lives among the populace…a witch who’s supposed to have been sentenced to death three hundred years ago! Her spirit still menaces the townspeople, and indeed prevents them from leaving by killing them if they stay too long outside the town boundaries (people either die of heart attacks, strokes, or become determined to kill themselves), but…other than that, she’s surprisingly tolerable. An exorcism ritual not long after her spirit started showing up sewed her eyes and mouth shut, which seemed to seal off the majority of her terrifying powers. By the time the novel takes place, the only thing the ghost can do is wander around town, generally being creepy, but otherwise harmless (unless, again, you live in the town and try to leave). The town leaders, particularly the religious fanatic Colton Mathers, still don’t want to risk provoking this supernatural entity (and surely not unsewing her eyes and mouth, which would lead to the utter destruction of the town), so they try to keep her existence hidden from the outside world as much as possible, discourage “Outsiders” from settling in Black Spring, and keep residents from provoking the witch through an intrusive system of hidden cameras and Internet surveillance. But some town citizens, particularly young Tyler Grant, begin to chafe under these restrictions and invasions of privacy and try to reveal the existence of the Black Spring Witch to the rest of the world…which sparks off a firestorm of supernatural horror in which the 21st-century American townies resort to torture, lynchings, and other forms of medieval barbarity in a futile effort to stave off her wrath!

I found the opening passages and general setting of the story to be its strongest aspects. It seemed to me to incorporate aspects of “magical realism”–that is to say, supernatural events being incorporated into people’s lives as if they were nothing out of the ordinary. The townspeople have, over the centuries, learned to live with this creepy undead witch just wandering around town, and we first see her in the opening pages of the novel interacting with the townspeople, who treat her as just another everyday nuisance to be dealt with. I haven’t seen many horror novels that do this, and I really liked it.

The other thing I really liked was the climax. I won’t spoil anything for any readers, but suffice it to say that it’s *really* bloody, frenetic, and just plain crazy. So much happens, but the author still manages to make everything clear and very scary. An excellent, horrifying finale!

Aside from those, however, there were a lot of things I disliked. First, I found the young protagonist, Tyler, to be annoying and contrived. A lot of his dialogue (and blog entries) made me think Heuvelt was making a stock “rebellious and naive but goodhearted teenage boy” character without any clear memories of how teenage boys really talked and acted. Tyler just seemed so cutout, like many other characters I’d read of in books of less quality. Second, and this is mildly spoilery, some of the plot points were either quickly dropped or nonsensical. Other reviewers on Amazon have mentioned how a new family comes to town for seemingly the sole purpose of providing an opportunity for exposition about the Witch, and then are never seen again. My own gripe is that they were even allowed to enter in the first place–later on in the book it’s revealed that some government authorities were aware of what was going on in Black Springs, so I see no reason they shouldn’t have passed a quiet exemption to fair housing laws or whatever to ensure that nobody else could ever buy a house in the town and thus be exposed to the curse. Finally, a major theme of the book is how human malice and cruelty can be even deadlier than a witch’s curse, and while I think that’s a good point to make, Heuvelt is kinda preachy about it–he “tells” rather than “shows” on a few occasions, suffice it to say.

Still, the strengths of the book outweigh its weaknesses, so I’d still give this 4 out of 5 stars–you can knock it down to 3 if you’re so inclined.

Then I devoured Ronald Malfi’s Welcome to the Night Parade. Mr. Malfi is one of my favorite authors–his Skullbelly short story is probably my favorite horror piece ever–but I didn’t like this one as much. The summary is that humanity is being wiped out by a mysterious diseases called Wanderer’s Folly, which makes the afflicted lose more of their memory and mental functioning until they finally die of strokes or cerebral hemmoraghes, and has no cure or even clear vector (inmates in maximum isolation prison are getting it). The protagonist, a former college professor, is on the run with his young daughter because his wife seems to be immune and the government took her away, leading (he thinks) to her death. His daughter has the same immunity, so he flees because he doesn’t want the government to get its hands on her. But as the story goes on, and they both have their share of scary experiences, it becomes apparent the daughter has stranger powers…

As you can tell, this is pretty derivative–of Stephen King’s The Stand (a disease wipes out humanity except for a lucky band of survivors) and Robert McCammon’s Swan Song (Nuclear war wipes out most of humanity, except for a young girl who may be our salvation). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Malfi doesn’t do much to separate himself from his predecessors; the story beats are pretty predictable, and the ending is no real surprise to anyone who’s read Swan Song. Still, his writing and characterization are top-notch, and the protagonist’s mental decline as it’s revealed he has the disease too is extremely well portrayed. So I’d still give this 4 stars in the end.

Better, IMO, was The Fisherman by John Langan, which is a solid 5 out of 5 stars. The tale is framed as coming from an old widower who’s taken up fishing, and how he lost his best friend, another widower who shared his pain and his love of fishing, at a terrifying place called Dutchman’s Creek in upstate New York–one which doesn’t appear on any map and, according to the locals, for very good reason! Our widower’s tale–and by extension, a tale someone told to him, as he relates it to us–eventually spirals down into the depths of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, though thankfully, this is Langan’s own cosmology, not Lovecraft’s–he doesn’t use spooks like Cthulu or the Innsmouth folks, the similarity is in the sense of terrible forces lying just outside the edges of our puny human comprehension.

This story is kind of a slow burn–I’ll admit I found the opening parts, where the protagonist introduces himself, his background, his wife, how he lost her, and how he made friends with another widower at his workplace and started going fishing together–to be kinda boring. But the payoff, which is teased by the narrator describing the monsters he saw, along with a terrifying dream he has, is well worth it. His friend asks him to go to “Dutchman’s Creek,” which was also calls Der Platz das Fischer, or the “Place of the Fisherman,” and when they arrive, a local tells them how many folks have disappeared there over the years, and why it has the bad rep it does. No spoilers, but suffice it to say the tale, spanning from the late 19h to the early 20th century in an immigrant construction camp, involves an evil black magician fishing for something far bigger than anything you could imagine in waters far deeper than any you could fathom–waters that are out of this world, literally, and filled with very scary creatures. Again, I really enjoyed this for the reasons described above–it’s like Lovecraft, and there are shades of Innsmouth there, bu8t the nature of the creepy crawlies is very different from Innsmouth’s “bad breeding” fishies, and the relationship of the cosmic horror to our world is different than Cthulu’s or Dagon’s. Then we’re taken back to the present day, figure out the real reason our protag’s friend wants to visit the creepy creek, and watch the terrible events that unfold once the monsters from the old local’s story make another appearance.

It’s all done masterfully, with just enough being slowly revealed in every section to keep you hooked after the boring introductions are out of the way. The writing is great and the characterization wonderful, you really feel for both the protag and his friend. I think I noticed a couple of small errors–there’s “bought” instead of “bout” in one place, I believe–but other than that, wonderful stuff all around. I highly recommend this and plan on reading more from Langan!

The final story I read was Noctuidae, by Scott Nicolay. This short story was…OK. Very OK. A Korean girl adopted by Americans, Sue-Min, goes on a hiking trip to an Arizona canyon with her boyfriend, Ron, and her boyfriend’s friend, Pete, who’s a sexist jerk she hates. After being warned away by some suspicious ranchers and encountering some strange designs (like rocks laid out in spiral patterns and moth wings spread across the floor of a cave), they open their sleeping bags and settle down for the night in a cave…where things go to hell. They’re woken up in the middle of the night by Ron’s disappearance, and it seems like something outside killed him–something that shouldn’t exist in this world, and that they can’t even comprehend!

There’s some good in this story–Sue-Min and Pete are both strongly characterized in a short amount of time, though neither is likable, IMO. Sue-min struck me as sort of grating and high-strung, while Pete was a boorish moron. However, this makes it easy to see why they’d hate each other, which is good, since that’s half of the story’s conflict. The other half? The supernatural threat is never clearly explained or even described, which is also good, since the mystery there is where the reader gets the sense of weirdness, strangeness, and mystery that’s the engine of a weird tale. There certainly are some creepy moments where we can see the effects the creature has on some local wildllife, hiving us frightful implications of what happened to Ron. And the ending…well, I won’t give too much away, but lemme just say that just when you think they’ve escaped, everything goes south again. :p

 

WRITAN:

A few emails. First, I sent one to Duke asking for reproductions of a bunch of stuff, but I also sent one to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History concerning Martin R. Delany. TL;DR: Back last December I found out that one of the footnotes in Dr. Tunde Adeleke’s book on Delany was incorrect, and he was having surgery soon so he couldn’t check his notes for me. But he recommended I contact that South Carolina place. So I did, and it seems they had the right reel in their collection! Quite a success, though I’ll have to see if it really is the right one. I think I may be paying them a visit soon…

SHOOTAN

Today was a momentous occasion for me, friends. I’ve finally began to take my first step…into da world of gunz.

A bit of background: My name, Gunlord, was inspired more by the Gundam anime series than anything else (not quite, but it’s a longer story). I never actually was part of the ‘gun culture’ or had much of an interest in the second amendment. That’s been changing, recently. I may make a separate post about this, but essentially, all the stuff I’ve heard about mass shootings recently has made me think I’d better take self-defense more seriously, or at least educate myself so I’ll be better prepared to participate in, or at least comprehend, debates on gun control.

As you might be able to gather, I’ve no previous experience with guns IRL. So to begin rectifying that, I decided to take a “Firearms and the law” course offered by a local gun range. After all, I don’t wanna get arrested for owning a weapon without the proper permit or anything—my state’s gun laws a pretty strict! So I figured a law class would be a good place to start.

My suspicions were correct, I had a great time and learned a lot. First, to clear up any misconceptions: When I arrived, I didn’t promptly enter into any nest of “right-wing extremists” or any of that nonsense. Despite my dark skin and “ethnic” name, the gun guys there were glad to see me and treated me with respect. Heck, the class itself was taught by a Jewish lawyer who described himself as a staunch supporter of the ACLU and the NRA, since he thought the first and second Amendments were both important. And in terms of composition, there were a lot of women taking the class with me, including a black lady, and while the white guys there tended to skew older, they were personable, laid back, and didn’t have any problems with me or anyone else. So yeah, despite the bad rep gun folks get as “right-wing racists,” the people I met wouldn’t have been out of place in some liberal paean to interracial and intercultural harmony 😀

And what of the class itself? Well, despite his commitment to the 2nd A, the lawyer made clear that my state’s laws about self defense were even more draconian than I thought. He mentioned one case that didn’t even involve guns: A woman was getting the shit beat out of her by her boyfriend, and stabbed him to death, but the court put her in prison because she had been beaten before and they thus concluded she “wasn’t in fear of her life.”

A lot of folks might say that wouldn’t sound right, but that’s the law, at least where I am. The lawyer used this to emphasize strongly that if you want to use lethal force—whether shooting someone or stabbing someone—you absolutely have to be in grievous fear of your life and pretty certain you’re gonna die. The jury in that case held that if the lady was beaten before and didn’t die, she shouldn’t have feared death in that last fateful beating, and therefore shouldn’t have used deadly force. The lawyer said that was unjust, but he also said knowledgeable gun owners ought to know what they’re up against so they can avoid situations like that.

He then went on to what’s called a “duty to retreat;” that is to say, unless you’re in your own home (and only inside your own home; he made clear that the “castle doctrine” which allows folks greater leeway in using guns in self defense only applies to the house proper and not, say, a detached garage or front yard), even if someone starts beating up on you so hard you fear for your life, you need to try your best to escape the situation before even attempting to use lethal force, and a gun is always considered a lethal force. His forceful example was when he asked m,e to stand up in front of the class, making sure the door was behind me, and pretended to be a criminal preparing to bash my head in. If I had a gun, he asked, would I be justified in shooting him? No, was the answer, because the door was behind me, so the “duty to retreat” meant I had to GTFO first before even brandishing my weapon. If he was standing between me and the door, then I might be justified in shooting since my means of exit was blocked. This duty to retreat doesn’t apply if you’re in your own home, again, or if you’re trying to defend your kids or another family member.

You’re technically allowed to use deadly force to help a police officer in danger of dying or someone else who seems in danger of dying, but in practical terms, the lawyer advised against it. Unless you’re a really good shot, in a panic situation you’re as likely to hit the cop as you are his assailant, and in other typesof situations…well, let’s say (his example) you see a guy chasing a woman screaming “I’m gonna kill you!” so you shoot him. But when you think you’ve saved the girl’s life, it turns out her husband was “just angry at her” and wasn’t actually gonna kill her, meaning you get sued! So the lawyer advised us not to shoot to save anyone else’s life unless it’s one of your kids, another family member, or a very close friend.

That’s just one instance where being technically allowed to shoot doesn’t work so well practically–there are many others where good practice is a little different than what the law might lead you to think. For instance, that in practical terms, if you shoot someone, you want to shoot to kill, because if the guy survives, he’s going to testify against you in court or sue you in civil (rather than criminal) court, which is even worse! And it might not be a good idea to open fire even in an *active shooter* situation because people might mistake you for a shooter. He mentioned one instance in a police academy setting where a guy with a knife ran into a classroom, and later on the police students–who were better trained than regular civilians!–later said the guy was anywhere from 5’5 to 6’5, black and Asian, and even couldn’t agree on whether he was male or female! So in a situation where everyone’s panicking, people might not be able to tell you (the good guy) from the bad guy. D:

After that, we discussed some of the vagaries of open carry laws (if you open carry, you’ll be held to a higher standard, so you need to have a “very thick” skin: Even if someone spits on you, you have to just walk away because if you get into a fight and end up needing to shoot, you’ll get reamed in court), where you can and can’t carry in my state (don’t bring heat into a bank or municipal building unless your a cop or military policeman, and, thanks to the SAFE act, can’t carry at public schools), while most cops are pro 2nd-A, if you meet one who isn’t, don’t give him trouble if he or she is mean to you, just stay cool and complain to their supervisor later, but obey the cop while you’re still pulled over or whatever.

So then the lawyer turned things over to an experienced (30+years on the force) cop and the NRA instructor, who gave us some more advice. The cop provided some advice on making sure cops (in general) are on your side: If you have to shoot someone, make sure you call the ambulance and say you had to shoot someone, so they’ll send a cop over too and know you’re not trying to hide anything. He also told some scary stories about how guns won’t make you absolutely safe either; there was one case in the 1980s when it took the FBI 14 bullets to put a criminal down, and the guy was running only on adrenaline (no drugs or anything!). The NRA guy gave us some advice about training: If you get a pistol permit and then a handgun, train as much as possible, because your weapon will be useless in a stressful, life and death situation unless you know how to use it so well it’s been burned into your muscle memory. He also told us you have to have the proper mindsent: What is a human life worth? Since you can’t use lethal force unless you or someone else is in immediate danger of dying, you have to remember that your property and even pride is not worth it–you can’t fire on robbers or even someone who insults you. Finally, he recommended some books from Massad Ayoob to us (“In the Gravest Extreme”) and also warned us to make absolutely sure that a pistol permit we might get in one state is valid in others.

And with that–after 3 hours, 6 to 9 PM–we were all sent home.

So yeah, definitely productive 😀 I’ll be coming back next week…hopefully to actually fire a gun! I’ll be taking a firearms familiarization class, so I can learn which parts of the guns are which, and actually shoot one. XD Wish me luck! And after THAT, it’s off to South Carolina…~_~

That does it for this week. See y’all the next~

 

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