Earth Day, 2021

It’s Earth Day, a day to reflect on the planet we inhabit, the only one we can, and it’s a great day to start saving the environment for free, going carbon negative, donating to Trees for the Future, and taking even more action.

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, some of us are now immune, and the rest of us hopefully understand how to safely be outdoors by now. Without us for over a year, nature has begun to bounce back in some very impressive ways. Hopefully, as we begin to re-engage outdoors, we’ll keep that in mind.

If you can, try to spend some time outdoors today, and make sure you do it safely if you’re not already vaccinated. If you can’t be safely outdoors today, or you’d rather not, please enjoy this video.

Rewatch: Samurai Jack

Long ago in a distant land, Aku, the shapeshifting master of darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil. But, a samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose him. Before the final blow was struck, Aku tore open a portal in time and flung the samurai into the future, where his evil is law. Now, the samurai seeks to return to the past and undo the future that is Aku. He’s gotta get back, back to the past, he’s Samurai Jack.

Samurai Jack is a 2001 children’s animated series lead by Genndy Tartakovsky, starring Phil LaMarr as the titular Samurai Jack and Mako as Aku. The series ran for 5 seasons, though there was a 12-year gap between seasons 4 and 5, more on that later. To call it strictly a “children’s animated series” though is a bit of a disservice. Like with Batman: The Animated Series, some episodes definitely have a time-filler feel, but other episodes feature moments that can only be described as art.

Stranded in the future, Jack (taking the name the locals call him) immediately sets out to find time portals or magic to send him back to the past and prevent the future that Aku currently rules over. The show focusses on his journey as a whole. He’s always walking towards the next rumored solution to his problem, encountering new challenges, friends, and people to rescue along the way. Though Aku appears a few times each season, Jack spends most his time dealing with robotic minions of varying statures in Aku’s employ. With that said, Aku is perhaps one of the best villains in children’s animation, largely thanks to Mako’s unique voice and comedic timing. It’s truly a treat whenever he shows up.

Samurai Jack was canceled without a resolution after 4 seasons. The lack of resolution was intentional. The final episode is just another “someone needs help” episode, Aku isn’t even mentioned. Tartakovsky intended the viewer to simply understand that Jack will continue his journey. 12 years later, the show returned for a final season. Rather than being episodic and kid-friendly like the past 4 seasons, it had an overall arc and was darker and more geared towards the audience that grew up on the show. Sadly, Mako passed away in 2006, and Greg Baldwin took over as Aku. Regardless, the final season is an excellent end to Jack’s story.

Samurai Jack is an incredibly diverse adventure, it’s art much of the time, and it’s simply fun. It’s well worth watching. Since the first 4 seasons are very episodic, it’s safe to check out episodes XXXV or XL if you want just a taste first, and I’ve posted a few GIFs if you need an even smaller taste. You can stream Samurai Jack on HBO Max, or buy the whole series on Apple TV for $84.99, so maybe just get HBO Max for a month and stream it.

Happy New Year! the 2021 edition

2021 begins today, and while the new year is supposed to be about casting aside the bad things to focus on a bright future, it hardly feels that way in the midst of a global pandemic. But, writing these has been a tradition since 2013, and this doesn’t seem like a good year to break with any traditions.

Keeping with the theme, the top post here was Working From Home, written at the start of the lockdowns in the United States. I’ve been working from home for 10 years, and now most of us are, so I hope folks found it useful.

A quick list of favorites this year, I hope you enjoy them too:

This year especially, we’ll need more people sharing their voices and experiences as we navigate our lives during this pandemic, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one! If shorted content is your thing, take Tumblr for a spin. I didn’t think I was going to do much there, but now it’s a big part of my online presence.

If we work together and have empathy for not only one another, but also for those we lost along the way, we might just make it through 2021.

Rewatch: Kamen Rider Kuuga

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a rewatch for me. This was the first time I’ve seen this show, but I absolutely had to write about it, so keep reading to find out why.

Kamen Rider Kuuga is a 2000 Japanese tokusatsu series, following an unlikely hero’s struggle to stop an ancient race of evil monsters who see the killing of humans as a competitive game.

There’s a huge cast in this show, which normally I’d ramble off, but that would be a bit much. The show primarily focusses on our unlikely hero, Yusuke Godai, played by Joe Odagiri (with Kenji Tominaga as his suit actor), and his police partner Kaoru Ichijo, played by Shingo Katsurayama. As the Kamen Rider series tends to lean towards a more mature audience than the Super Sentai series, the show is packed with characters who all have meaningful relationships, contributing to the drama and realism of the show.

This show has depth, I can’t state that enough. To be honest, I watch these shows because they’re usually ridiculous and fun, and that’s what I was expecting here. That’s not to say this show isn’t fun. It is fun, but it’s also very good, shockingly good. The production values are very high for the year it premiered, the acting is great, and the characters are so grounded that you can’t help but feel for them.

In particular, Godai is absolutely the ideal hero. When we meet him, he’s simply a self-proclaimed “professional dream chaser” who wanders into his friend’s archeological dig. The dig uncovers the evil Grongi, and the Arcle, which will eventually allow him to transform into Kuuga. When his friends are attacked, the Arcle calls to Godai, and he puts it on, transforms, and fights off the Grongi without hesitation. Godai declares that his mission is to “protect everyone’s smile,” and that’s exactly what he does.

We’re all used to selfless heroes, but even our favorite heroes have moments of “Oh no, I’m going to miss my date,” or “I’m so tired from last time.” That is not the case with Godai. He relentlessly thinks of others first. Nothing in his backstory sets him up to eventually be a hero, he just accepts the responsibility and gets to work. That is not to say he doesn’t have a life outside of this. He works at his surrogate father’s restaurant and volunteers at his sister’s school, but if a Grongi is attacking someone, Godai is either fighting to stop it or still in a coma from the last fight. He also makes no effort to hide his identity. He’s always printing Kuuga’s logo on his clothes, painting it on his bike, and if he transforms in front of you, he’ll just give you a thumbs up. On the other hand, he makes no effort to tell people he’s Kuuga and capitalize on the fame. Godai is simply fighting because if he can’t stop the Grongi, people will stop smiling.

At the beginning, the police see Kuuga as another threat. Over time, lead by Ichijo, a whole team of officers, scientists, and a doctor are formed to support Kuuga. To be clear, the police are not simply here to be Worfed. They hold their own in a fight against the Grongi often, and their science team is constantly coming up with weapon advancements. Since the Grongi are playing a game to see which of them can kill the most humans in the most creative way, the police are often charged with determining the motive and method for the killings, locating the Grongi, and paving the way for Kuuga to finish it off. Throughout the series, the team, and Ichijo in particular, go from not trusting Godai to practically becoming family.

I cannot state enough, this is a good show, it is a shockingly good show. It’s easy to care about every character, and though the formula is often “monster appears and is defeated,” you’ll find plenty of engaging content between the margins.

You can stream Kamen Rider Kuuga for free on Shout! Factory TV. If you want to try one episode, check out Revival (the same episode embedded first in this review), which is the first one, because no matter which episode you start with, you’ll keep watching. If you need a smaller taste before diving in, I’ve posted several GIFs, mostly because Godai is so GIF-able. I was really expecting something ridiculous and fun with this show, but instead I saw something very good and fun. I hope you’re just as surprised as I was!

Rewatch: Tenspeed and Brown Shoe

Tenspeed and Brown Shoe is a 1980 detective series that is simply a joy to watch. Perhaps best know these days for starring Saturn Award-winner Jeff Goldblum in his first lead TV role, the series also stars Tony Award-winner Ben Vereen in his first lead TV role.

The series followers Vereen’s E.L. “Tenspeed” Turner and Goldblum’s Lionel “Brown Shoe” Whitney as they start a detective agency in Los Angeles. Turner is an ex-con, working off his parole as a detective. Whitney is an ex-accountant, enamored by detective novels. The two are a perfect fit for each other. Whitney often takes the most dangerous cases, seeking to claim the glamour of his fictional detective hero, and Turner constantly comes to his rescue with his far more experienced people skills. In a sense, Turner is the brains of the team while Whitney is the heart. Without Whitney, Turner would be happy to chase down missing pets and run background checks, never doing anything as daring as saving lives. And, without Turner, Whitney would probably be dead by now, walking into a gun fight or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. The two quickly build up a solid detective agency and become the best of friends.

Besides the characters being clearly written to go well with each other, the actors have great chemistry too, and it’s very clear that they were having the time of their lives (so far, of course). Vereen really gets to flex his acting chops by playing a ton of fake identities to get everyone out of tough situations, and Goldblum is really just himself. It’s hard to describe, but he’s unmistakably Jeff Goldblum, and he clearly loves it.

The series only ran for one season, it just couldn’t hold up against the amount of already established similar shows at the time, but it truly is a fun show to watch, and it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.

You can stream Tenspeed and Brown Shoe for free on Shout! Factory TV. If you only want to try one episode, check out This One’s Gonna Kill Ya (there isn’t any overarching story to this show, so it’s ok to watch out of order), and if you need just tiniest of samples, I’ve posted a few GIFs. I hope you enjoy Tenspeed and Brown Shoe as much as I do!