Dear Diary….I have some concerns (about my party)

I found some gold on the bandits we killed while Ezekiel was digging. It took him a half hour or so to get down to the stone underneath – six feet down. It’s smooth, cut stone, so obviously carved out of the ground here. I’m thinking the dirt was added as part of their crazy rituals.

We headed south, to check out the smaller doors on either side of the big warded one, but when we were almost there another earth elemental rose out of the ground – and a fourth one came at us from the side, flanking us.

Mikael and Corby must have been a little too far away from Yeti, because they both got smacked by the flanking one. I just glimpsed Mikael scoop Corby up in his arms and duck behind Yeti, chanting to her.

I decided to use my sword, since the last elementals were murder on my arrows. The others hammered away at the first one (Yeti, Raven, Ezekiel – and even Lydia, apparently) while I slashed away at the one flanking us.

I heard a great crack and rumble (apparently Raven smacked the elemental so hard it broke into pieces) and then they were fighting beside me. Raven did his fancy blow again, and the elemental crumbled before us.

While we waited for Mikael to finish his healing spell on Corby, and then cast one on himself, Lydia told me how she had hit the elemental with her staff and sent it reeling – twice! It’s not exactly in her usual skill set, so I can see her being excited when it works out.

Next order of business was investigating the doors on either side of the big, chained, warded one. We chose the one to the west first.

I nocked an arrow before we went inside, but there wasn’t anything living.

There was a padded bench – with seven human-sized sandals lined up underneath and seven human-sized brown cloaks hung on pegs above (they’re neat cultists).

Opposite was a wardrobe or cabinet, with eight sets of padlocks and keys (Ezekiel thinks they’re for the manacles on the pillar). Also a scroll in a bone scroll-case (Ezekiel thinks it’s Protection from Earth Elementals), an ivory bracelet, and some cups and plates.

The plates were weird, too, because they each had a different kind of dirt on them – red, yellow, brown, black, and pale grey. I hope Mikael or Yeti can shed some light on this…

Someone (I think Lydia) suggested we could use the cloaks as disguises, so we threw on some cloaks while Raven checked for secret passages (none).

As we got ready to open the door on the other side of the one with chains and glowing writing, Ezekiel was sure he smelled rotting flesh – which meant undead.

But when we threw open the door, all we saw was a big pile of dirt. We poked around, and sure enough, it was a pile of dirt and gravel – although there were also casks of oil for the lights in the corners.

Yeti was heading back out when he found a note on the back of the door – from the Water Temple to the Earth Temple, demanding tribute. Apparently the Earth Temple had scribbled what they thought of these demands underneath. Raven said he didn’t know all of those words…Lydia said she could teach him more words.

We were heading back toward the curtained entrance we first came in (the one to the north-east of the big room) when we heard a scream from up ahead.

Raven (being very fast) raced ahead. Shortly afterward, he grabbed the curtain and dragged it fully open, revealing a group of ghouls attacking a group of bandits (and two or three of them were already down).

Ezekiel produced his holy symbol, and even from that distance the ghouls must have seen it and crumbled to dust at the revulsion.

When we finally came up to Raven, he was speaking with a funny voice and saying, “Oh, so you really think you’re strong enough to join up?”

“Yes, Grand Master,” said one of the bandits (poor fool).

Ezekiel got his deep pretentious voice on, and asked, “What is your bidding, my master?”

And Lydia played with her veil, and told them they’d have to do whatever the master said.

I, of course, am horrible at talking to people (I have a pale mark under my ribs to prove it) so I said nothing.

Raven and Ezekiel decided to “test” their mettle with Ezekiel’s mace… I can still imagine their screams as they dropped dead from the purple lightening.

I mean, they were Evil, but they were also so clueless and helpless. It took three of them dying just by touching the mace before the last two ran away.

Ezekiel and Raven said, well, we finally scared them off. Lydia said we could have used them to fight other Earth Temple people, if we convinced them to be afraid of/loyal to us.

I just think this is why I fight orcs. I like things simple. Sure, when you’re fighting Evil people, things are going to get messy, but there are still rules of engagement, aren’t there?

Getting them to leave the Temple is great…zapping them to death, I’m not so sure.

Then we all realized that one of the men paralyzed by the ghouls wasn’t actually dead yet, so they lectured him about making good life choices and finding a party that won’t run and leave him for ghoul chow. Then, when it looked like he could basically move again, we let him go.

Poor sucker. I wonder how long he’ll last.

Well…we killed the Earth Elementals for him, anyway.

After that, we headed back to the corridor we’d been to before, with the big yellow triangles on the floor, and headed south (past the branch-off where we’d come from after the divining room).

[sketched map]

The first doorway headed east, and slanted a little way from the door. A library ran alongside the corridor, so we spent some time poking through there (and checking for secret doors, of course).

One of the titles was Trial of Earthly Terrors Awaiting the Foolhardy. Guess that about sums up what we just gave the bandits. There were a lot of books on “how to be Evil” – but also some books that seemed to talk about the “judgement of evil,” so I don’t get why anyone would want to join this.

On the other hand…I’m not sure what the party leadership is up to…

When we didn’t find any secret passages, we returned to the main corridor and headed south – where Lydia spotted a secret door in the side of the hallway. (She must have sharp eyes.)

Raven got it open, and we crept in. A short distance ahead was a chest, and Raven checked it for traps and such.

He must not have been super thorough, though, because when he went to unlock it, he yelped and pinched his finger – something had stuck it.

The passage turned south, and a tapestry covered the opening, so Ezekiel marched onward – since he had to find a place to care for Raven.

The room beyond was a neat little bedroom, and some kind of cleric was reading a parchment on the bed in the corner.

Ezekiel told him to keep quiet, and told me to keep him covered with an arrow – so we got him tied up without a fuss.

However, another guy in clerical robes (probably an underling) came through a tapestry across from where we entered. As soon as he saw us, he hollered over his shoulder for “Guards” — and then Lydia pointed her finger and I guess wrapped him up in the tapestry or something (she says that’s a cantrip).

The under-cleric snapped a word I couldn’t quite hear, but Yeti dropped to the ground and started whimpering and hugging himself.

Ezekiel whacked at the under-cleric with his magic mace, and the enemy collapsed at once.

Mikael had gotten Raven onto the bed, where Raven was drooling and saying, “Yeah, get him, Ezekiel! Get rid of the false Ezekiel!”

Hopefully Mikael can prepare Neutralize Poison in the morning…but first we have to survive the night.

And at some point I will have to figure out what my party is up to.


Find the previous entry here.

Start at the beginning of the Temple adventure here.

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The Gift – Yes, Gift – of Singleness

The Gift – Yes, Gift – of Singleness

Singleness wasn’t your plan, was it, girlfriend?

Yeah, me neither.

Feel it? The throbbing, gnawing ache that chews its way up through your heart?

Put it there, girlfriend. Yeah, me, too…it comes and goes.

A bad stretch? Your cousin’s getting married, now? Your childhood friend posted more kid pics?

We have lots of tissues — knock yourself out.

Listen, maybe you don’t want to hear this right now, but God’s plan is always –

No, I’m not going to be your aunt. Not going to quote the plaque your church gave, you, either. Yeah, everyone says it to me, too—

The Gift – Yes, Gift – of Singleness — Kimia Wood

Rub it in, why don’t you?!

God’s got a man for you somewhere out there.

So, how’s the “fishing” going?

Y’know, you’re not getting younger… Let me tell you about the wonders of marriage –

You know what the Bible says: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord –”

No, I wasn’t going to say that.

I was saying, “God’s plan is always good.”

Have another tissue, and I’ll explain. Continue reading

Dear Diary….earth and stone

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

It can’t have been more than ten minutes into our watch shift (Mikael and I) when I heard something coming down the hall…and smelled something I hate.

I signaled Mikael by pulling down the cover of my lit shield – just a sliver – for a moment, and he correctly interpreted it and came over. (Should work out some kind of system for signals…)

Of course we had put out or covered all our lights, so I couldn’t see anything – but I could hear the beasties growling and talking in their own language. With that and the smell, I was pretty sure they were gnolls.

I waited until they sounded near enough that I was pretty sure of hitting something, and launched my prepared arrow. A loud squeal and gurgle told me some beastie was probably dying.

Something clawed me, so I drew my sword and stabbed it (my sword glows a little, so between that and the smell and feel, I was sure it wasn’t Mikael. And it wasn’t; he’s fine).

Another of them slashed my arm, so I stabbed it, too. A crossbow bolt flew past the gnolls (presumably from Yeti), and as the last gnoll was backing away to run, I killed it.

With that done, I could focus on soft scuffling and grinding noises coming from the camp (behind the throne).

My companions seemed to have disappeared, so I crossed the room to investigate. Lydia (and Raven) had opened the secret door we noticed earlier, and everybody else agreed to see if it was more peaceful sleeping in there.

They could have told me, though.

The secret passage is ten feet wide, and runs about forty feet before it ends in another mechanism. Raven explained that there’s a catch just above his head that can be manipulated from the other side, that should drop the “door” section of wall into the floor. He says the winches and sandbag-counterweights are designed to close the door automatically after the person goes through.

Well, finally the night continued peacefully – except that Lydia woke me up halfway through her watch because she wanted more sleep. I guess people just see me as a sucker.

I’m also tired and grumpy.

Finally, the others started to wake up, and we’re eating something.

Lydia explained she heard the guards we fought last night – and from something they said, they apparently thought we were Fire Temple.

So we’re in the “Earth Temple section” right now, but there are other places in this labyrinth.

Ezekiel wants to investigate the north door first.

We’d just better find a better camp spot tonight is all I’m saying.

****

The room outside the secret door is circular – about thirty feet across. There’s a ten foot basin or depression in the center of the floor, with a low seat running around the rim.

Everything is shiny – the walls and floor are polished black stone, and when the secret door closed automatically, you could see how it’d be very hard to notice it from this side.

The ceiling is a deep blue, with pinpricks of light that seemed to glow on their own. They look like they should be constellations, but none of us were sure from what sky.

Lydia discovered drawers under the bench or seat, and they found a collection of weird shaped objects…cones, cubes, that kind of thing – all carved out of bone, ivory, rock, or wood.

Raven thinks it’s a fortune teller kit. Lydia tossed one into the depression, but Ezekiel said we don’t really have any questions to ask (and besides we already know he “needs to stay away from snakes” and stuff like that).

A big arched door led out opposite the secret passage (at least twelve feet tall). On the north (outer) side of the arch is written “Exalted Chamber of High Augury”. Ezekiel and Raven say augury is for asking simple yes-or-no questions (“will X be good or bad for us”).

In the center of the north room is a smashed altar that looks like it used to be obsidian — and, of course, the ceiling also had the strangely glowing dots like stars.

It might be significant that the previous purgers of the Temple destroyed the altar, but didn’t wreck the depression in the first room. It also seems significant that these rooms are otherwise pretty clean and “cared for”-looking.

Across from the other doors, a door let out of the altar room into a hallway like the ones we’d traveled before…only the floor was a different color.

It slanted slightly before joining another passage – lit by torches (so, again, someone frequents this space).

We could see two doors in the north wall from the junction. One was a ways down to our right hand, and the door was inscribed with strange runes. Ezekiel made a note of them to figure out in his down-time, and we decided to leave that place alone for now.

The second door was down to our left, and beyond the passage branched into two areas. To the right, we found a strange triangle-shaped room, with the point of the triangle across from the doorway, and padded seats and couches lining the walls.

This place was also lit with torches, so obviously someone hangs out down here – but I can’t imagine why, because the plaster is covered with horrible ugly and disgusting pictures and sayings.

The worst, though, is a great big eye painted on the ceiling that seems to glare down at you no matter where you are in the room. There’s also a big triangle set into the floor – made of some kind of yellow/brass stone.

Well, we didn’t find anything in that room…and the other direction looks like it used to be a storeroom – before it was smashed. The whole floor is covered with bits of glass, pottery, pieces of shelves, and ingredients that I’m not sure I want to know what they are.

Ezekiel and Yeti found several bottles and containers that they think might be useful (the ones they didn’t step on, of course) – but it occurred to me to wonder why the previous purgers just smashed the room, rather than carting it all away if it really could be used for the forces of Good.

Maybe they were pressed for time? Maybe there was a big fight?

We returned to the main passage and continued west, where our corridor met with an even wider one – running north-south.

The floor is brown marble veined with black…but it’s arranged so that to the north it’s more of a beige, and then to the south it darkens to a more walnut or chocolate (Ezekiel hasn’t explained what that means).

More of those huge yellow triangles are inset into the floor, pointing north like they’re trying to lead us.

Ezekiel decided to be led so we followed the triangles as they rounded the corner and brought us to a doorway covered by a huge red curtain.

We readied ourselves, and Ezekiel pushed back an edge of the curtain to reveal a huge room – our shield-lights didn’t even reach to the opposite side – with a dirt floor and some kind of phosphorescent fungus growing on the ceiling, walls, and supports.

There’s some kind of pyramid in the center, and when Yeti moved forward to investigate, something rose up from the ground in front of him.

It was…huge, and rock-colored, and though it had arms and a body, you wouldn’t really call it human-like.

It swung at Yeti, and I dropped my arrow, and Raven charged it to try hitting it (but didn’t).

Mikael lit it up with faery fire, and Ezekiel swung his mace – and knocked a big chunk of it off.

Corby pecked at it – hard to tell if she was disturbed by it being made of rock, and not having eyeballs to peck.

The creature (if that’s the word) brought its huge fist down on Ezekiel – but as it came near Yeti, something like tiny white lightening ran over its arm, and it just bounced off Ezekiel’s helmet.

Yeti smashed a chunk off with his hammer, and Mikael muttered some things and pointed — next thing you know, the creature was crawling with bugs. (Maybe they hurt it by burrowing through it? Either way it looked creepy.)

(Must remember not to tick off Mikael.)

Lydia stepped forward and threw what looked like a ball of lightening (didn’t know she could do that) which sparked and crackled and split another section of the beastie off.

I finally got my arrows figured out again and landed two shots before Ezekiel turned it into dust and gravel with his mace.

He says that was an Earth Elemental, and he’s very glad Yeti (and his nearby friends) are Protected from Evil.

I call it an unnatural nuisance. Even Mikael agrees with me that the earth shouldn’t just go wandering around as it likes – especially not on this plane.

Well, while I stayed near the door and stood guard, Ezekiel, Yeti, and Raven went to check out the pyramid. Apparently it’s packed dirt, six feet tall, and topped with a stone column. You can reach it by stone steps on all four sides.

Three sides of the column have manacles anchored to them (said they were in good order, too, which I don’t like the sound of). The pillar also has the triangle symbol that we’ve been seeing everywhere.

There’s a bronze box on the fourth side of the column, and inside they found a bronze maul, knife, ewer, and bowl – well made and clean. (Again, disturbing.)

On the far side (to the south, opposite the entry), there are glowing double doors – like the ones at the entrance of the Temple, even to the point that only Ezekiel could even look at them. He says they’re covered in similar runes, and chained, and sealed with soft iron…so we’re leaving them alone for now.

When the previous purgers tried so hard to seal in something Evil, you’d better be really sure you can handle it before you let it out.

Apparently there are side doors, though, so those might be safe to check out.

Before we did that, Lydia pointed out that the rest of the Temple was carved out of rock, and that we should be too far underground for dirt to appear naturally. She reminded us that it’s made from dead plant and animal matter, so where did all this dirt come from?

It is indeed loose – not packed like the pyramid – and Ezekiel wants to dig it out with our camp shovels.

Before we did that, though, we investigated the north-west corner of the room – and found another curtained door in the same wall as the one we entered.

As we approached it, another monstrosity of stone and earth appeared out of the ground before us.

Mikael cast faerie fire on this one, too, and this time I had better luck, landing my first and second shots.

Yeti and Ezekiel hammered away at it (I’m pretty sure I saw tiny purple lightening when Ezekiel’s mace struck it, but maybe not).

Lydia called out her magic lion from the lion statue, and it charged the elemental – slashing with front and back claws and its teeth. (I’m more and more glad we didn’t have to fight it for real at the giant’s house.)

Corby scratched a fault line open in its “head,” so I followed up by driving an arrow into the gap. Another arrow split the creature into pieces at our feet.

(Another reason to dislike those things: they chew up arrows like you wouldn’t believe. They were all so splintered or snapped that I couldn’t reuse any of them.)

Raven went to peek behind the second curtain and make sure it was quiet – then suddenly grabbed the curtain and dragged it completely open.

Seven men stood there, in rough fighter gear. One in the front said, “Excuse me, sir — Holy Ula!”

I think I finally figured out why he said that. But only after Raven had killed one of them with a slap, Ezekiel had charged (but must have tripped on the threshold of the tile corridor, and fell), and Yeti had whacked a man with his hammer.

I took out three of them — then while I was pulling out my next sheaf of arrows, Raven smacked two more of them and Ezekiel pounded another one with his purple-lightening mace.

Anyway, they don’t have the triangles on their clothes of the acolytes – but they were probably looking to sign up (like that band Ezekiel warned into leaving).

Yeti, of course, is in the armor of his goddess, so they could plainly see that he wasn’t affiliated with this cult here.

I still don’t understand what could draw these poor saps down here. What could the deities of Evil offer them?

Well, I am on “guard” while Ezekiel and the others dig away at this dirt floor. I wonder what – if anything – we’ll find.

I can imagine some disturbing things…

[sketch of latest exploration]


Find the previous entry here.

To start at the beginning of our Temple exploration, go here.

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You Are Here

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…and you like seeing the story of your beautiful Savior connected with everyday life…well, there’s a lot here for you to love. You’ll have your thinking challenged…you’ll be inspired…you might find something you disagree with. But I trust you will find Jesus in the middle.

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“My Hero Academia” (Seasons 1 thru 4)

"My Hero Academia" (Seasons 1 thru 4) — Kimia Wood In a superhuman society, these kids work hard to one day use their abilities as Heroes.

Anime has opened up a new world for me. After hearing My Hero Academia hyped enough on the internet, we checked it out…and, well, it made it onto my list of 27 things I like best.

The themes, world-building, and characterization are astounding, and the arcs they take the characters on are impressive, too. It’s not perfect – some story-telling choices are sloppy, and the main lead is insufferable at times – but it’s still incredible…and with only a few caveats, I can recommend it to everyone (even my mom, though she’s not into shonen).

(Note: I am only reviewing the anime…not the manga, any of the movies, or the video game – because, yeah, apparently there’s a video game. Who knew?)

The Super-Charged Cast

MHA accomplishes the remarkable feat of creating a large cast where each member is memorable, and has their own personality.

At the beginning, there are, say, four or five stand-outs that serve as our “power trio” (I know the math doesn’t come out – work with me), while the rest of the first-year class is a blur of unpronounceable Japanese names.

But after a season or two, every single member of the class has had a chance to shine…to display a personality quirk, reveal depth of character, or establish a stable relationship dynamic for us to remember them by.

Let’s start at the top.

Whiny Green-hair

Our young heroic protagonist is Deku, a boy born without a Quirk – this universe’s term for the unique superpower that 80% of the population is born with.

These abilities range from having a big tail, to being invisible, to cancelling gravity on things you touch, to shooting explosions with your hands.

But Deku was born without any Quirk. He still dreamed of being a great hero like his idol All-Might (the Number 1 professional hero – “saving everyone with a big smile”), and when the inciting incident gives him a Quirk, he enrolls in “hero high school” to train his abilities and join an agency one day.

Why did we give him the nickname “Whiny Green-hair” before we could remember his Japanese name?

Uah…He’s one of the three problems with the show.

Deku is earnest and selfless…but he’s also one big bundle of insecurities. Raised by a single mom and used to being the underdog, he’s a wheezy nerd who has indulged his hero fandom by analyzing fighting styles and brainstorming new ways for others to use their Quirks.

But all that means he tends to over-think things, and almost every encounter involves him mumbling to himself in a frenzy of anxiety.

Sure, it’s realistic considering his age, his upbringing, and his personality…but that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying when he wastes time wondering whether he can succeed instead of mapping out ways to succeed.

The first season is practically drowning in his angsty internal monologue…and my dad says the voice actor they got for the English dub is grating. (I guess his voice does have a tendency to squeak and whine — couldn’t they have gotten someone who’d already hit puberty?)

All that said…

What saves Deku (and the show) is the way he changes. As Deku grows and stretches his abilities, we see how his obsession with studying others and their abilities makes him a better team leader – better able to use the talents of his fellow students to get them out of situations.

Not only does he gain more confidence, but he’s forced to leave behind the weepy, abasing personality bit by bit. He’s still not a battle-hardened chill-dude who does what needs to be done without dithering…but he is a driven hero-in-training whose determination to help others is matched by the spine to stand up to opponents.

He cries way less than he did earlier, and he’s a much faster thinker in combat than he used to be.

And this willingness to take their characters’ personality crutches and rip them away is what raises MHA above the rest.

Speaking of which…

Lord Explosion Murder

Deku’s childhood best enemy is a Class A jerk, braggart, and violent borderline-psychopath. (The second problem with the show.)

His name is Bakugo, but when the class is coming up with Hero names for themselves, one of his attempts is “Lord Explosion Murder.”

His Quirk is nitroglycerin-like sweat that lets him fire explosions from his palms, and since his Quirk manifested about age four, he’s been praised and doted on for being so strong.

This twisted into an inferiority complex/imposter syndrome that displayed itself in Bakugo being a toxic bully to everyone – but especially to Deku, who somehow thought they were friends and that it was his own responsibility to reach out to Bakugo and “fix” their dynamic.

Well, a full discussion is probably beyond the scope of this review…so let me explain why this walking bomb doesn’t derail the entire show.

Well…he does get on my nerves…

But he also gets a slow, painful, subtle, yet powerful character arc.

TV shows are often high-lighted for their ability to tell long, drawn-out stories with more subtlety and depth than a short movie could squeeze in. MHA has used this strength on Bakugo.

Throughout the show, his hair-trigger temper and verbal threats of actual bodily harm make you wonder why he isn’t in a straight-jacket. Are the teachers and other adults in the show as idiotic as Deku? Sure, Bakugo is attending the Hero course, but his self-centeredness, pride, and domineering personality paint him as more of a Villain.

Then…you see the mastery of the delicate brush.

Bakugo builds friendships with people who are not Deku…and through clashes with villains, tests for school, and other plot arcs he is forced to realize his abrasive habit of lashing out is not who he actually wants to be.

Unlike Deku, he doesn’t prattle on in internal monologue, telling us exactly what he thinks about himself and why. However, just as much can be achieved with a few terse lines of dialogue, a few facial expressions, and the way Bakugo interacts with people who are not Deku.

Time will tell where he ends up…but the mere fact that he’s not allowed to be “the bully character no one feels bad for” but forced by the story to grow and change is…well, it’s why MHA is 100 times better than Avatar YES I SAID IT.

Adults Actually Adulting

MHA doesn’t just force the child characters to grow up and get spines, self-control, perspective, etc.

It has Adult characters that actually behave Grown Up!

The teachers are the most obvious example.

They aren’t just token adults to let the kids interact with no oversight or input. Oh, no.

These teachers actually know their jobs…their jobs being – not only to push the kids past the limits of their Quirks and make them effective fighters, but also – to forge the characters of the students into mature, thoughtful, other-focused, quick-thinking, big-picture Heroes.

My favorite is Mr.…er, his Hero name is Eraser-Head. His Quirk is the ability to cancel out the Quirk of anyone he stares at – until he blinks. This makes him a perfect choice for training students who are still getting a hold of their powers.

But he’s also brutally hard-core. He himself is a beast of a fighter, but he’s also ruthless in pushing his students to do their best. Several times, they come within an inch of being expelled because, after all, if they don’t have the mind-set to learn, adapt, and push themselves…then they’re wasting their time trying to become Heroes.

All-Might is the Number 1 Hero – the self-proclaimed “Symbol of Peace” – and Deku’s childhood idol. But he’s also joined the faculty at their Hero school, so he becomes a vital character of the show.

He’s not a one-note paragon, though. He has doubts, and weaknesses. As the show progresses, we see more and more of his back-story and struggles, and get a sense that even the grown-ups have things they can’t handle.

Though he has a special mentor relationship with Deku, he has made an impact on every character in the universe – from the students, from the Heroes who worked with him, to the villains, to the street-crawling thugs. His towering personality adds complexion and depth to a million other characters and relationships because of how each person views him – and his ambition to give civilians a “Symbol of Peace” to take comfort in.

"My Hero Academia" (Seasons 1 thru 4) — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Dualshockers.com

Everyone gets fleshed out.

Ally or antagonist – policemen, teachers, parents, villains, or dudes – everyone gets the extra brushstrokes to turn them from a talking head into a person with their own agendas and desires.

What’s more, the majority of the students are mature, quick-thinking, hard-working, cool-headed, and focused on the end goal of becoming Heroes who help others.

In fact, one of the reasons Lord Explosion Murder is sufferable is that he’s actually pretty intelligent – good at summing up a situation and seeing what needs to be done from a big-picture standpoint – and then actually doing what needs to be done – even if he’s grumpy about it and pretends he’s not really doing it for the good of those around him.

Whenever a side character gets a chance at the spotlight and we see some more depth and maturity to their personality, I giggle in sheer glee.

Finally, as of Season 4, the parents and teachers are firmly on the side of the students – backing them up, shielding them, and forcing them to grow so that they’ll be strong enough for the trials ahead.

In short, being real, big-boy-pants, dithering-free Grown-Ups. I love it.

Once Upon a Time: Quirks, All Over the Place

My Hero Academia is vaguely set in our world, far-future…so the occasional reference to real geography or literature pops up.

However, now there are superpowers…in fact, a majority of the population has superpowers.

While plenty of Quirks seem basically the same (during the school’s fight tournament, two students are frustrated to find their Quirks are essentially re-skinned copies of each other), there’s enough flex within the abilities of each individual to make each character stand out.

First, the World

Human beings are twisted, selfish beings. When you randomly sprinkle superpowers onto them, you’re going to get villains.

The world seems to be pretty stable right now (from the perspective of our teen protagonists), but it becomes clear that this is the work of All-Might (Earth’s mightiest hero, etc.).

In the past, super-villains ran free in the streets – and even now, the government-sanctioned Hero Agencies fight a constant battle against street thugs and organized crime.

And that’s not even counting the villains slowly emerging from the shadows, who’d like nothing more than to see the world burn.

It’s also pretty realistic that using Quirks without a Hero license is outlawed.

While I’m personally all about self-defense and letting the man-on-the-street defend himself, there are also some examples of why it’s a good thing there are designated “do-gooders” to help those in need.

After all, with so many crazy abilities in the world, physics itself could get pretty unpredictable pretty quickly.

Speaking of Crazy Abilities…

There are 20 students in Deku’s class. There’s also a second Hero Course class, not to mention all the teachers, the rest of the school, the parents and families, the dudes on the street, the villains, organized crime –

In short, you’ve got a lot of Quirks to figure out, especially if they all have to be at least slightly unique.

At first glance, this leads to a few lame Quirks. One girl can make her hands grow to the size of her body. Deku’s mom can levitate small objects – small objects, from a short distance away. Another student can voice control small animals.

But, as the teachers use their classes and obstacles to drill into the students, it’s not what your Quirk is – it’s how you use it.

And part of the joy of MHA is seeing all the creative ways people use their Quirks.

Deku is one of the most obvious examples, since he didn’t even get his Quirk until the start of the show, so he hasn’t been experimenting with it since childhood. However, it’s also a powerful strength Quirk, and so a lot of his struggle is working to control it without destroying his own body in the process.

(One of the reasons he’s such a popular protagonist with the internet is that every single victory is an uphill battle…and even then, he often doesn’t conquer – at least on the first try.)

The out-of-the-box thinking – and the obvious fun the creators had in coming up with new ways to bend the rules of Quirks – make this element one of the best in the show.

Caveats

The show isn’t perfect. A couple story-telling choices hold it back, and some inappropriate humor might make it unsuitable for some audiences.

Non-Linear Story-telling & Repetition

The third biggest issue with MHA is the pacing, and the times when they don’t trust the audience to get the point.

I’ve pointed out above that MHA excels at building elements over several episodes, painting characters through repeated actions – not just dialogue – and then paying off great character development that we didn’t even know they were setting up.

Which makes it so frustrating when the show uses flash-backs to constantly go over material we already know.

I haven’t seen the manga, so it’s possible this is an issue with the anime specifically – possibly to fill out episodes while they waited for more plot content. But it’s frustrating.

Deku, especially, has a tendency to lapse into flash-backs of his childhood, the dramatic circumstance of him getting his Quirk, previous conversations (sometimes conversations from this very same episode), pervious interactions with different people, dramatic declarations (“I will be a hero that saves people with a smile—”)…

Not just that, but the beginning and ending of each episode is usually a recap or a teaser, respectively…one of which is material we already know, another is material we could know by just watching the next episode.

Y’all know there’s this thing called binging? We aren’t actually waiting a week between episodes…we just stream it from our favorite service over the internet, and – there it is.

Even if we did have to wait – we’re intelligent adults! We can remember things and make connections and get references to previous conversations without you having to constantly replay the same clips over and over again!

The very fact that not all of their story-telling is so ham-fistedly blunt proves that the creators have better skills than this — several of the side characters and minor villains, especially, are expertly sketched and fleshed out without the need of this mind-numbing repetition and exposition.

Perhaps the creators will eventually grow enough confidence in their craft to leave the copy-paste flash-backs behind. It would tighten and streamline the episodes immensely.

That’s not the only kind of confusing flash-back, though.

I don’t even know what to call this narrative device, but once in a while the show will skip over important information, then pause in the middle of the action to go back and show it.

This can be done well, as where Deku makes a clever plan for the group of friends to escape a situation — then, as we watch them act out the plan, we hear his voice-over directions to them, explaining how it should work. That compresses the narrative and lets us experience the action while still seeing how clever Deku was to plan it all out ahead of time.

When it’s badly used, it throws the characters into a confrontation, then jumps back to the characters discussing their plan of attack, then jumps ahead to what they’re doing…and that’s an example dealing with an actual physical confrontation.

Sometimes characters have conversations, but they’re chopped up – and we don’t get to see the more dramatic or meaningful moments of the talk until a flash-back from one of the participants later on.

This is all just frustrating – making it feel more like the authors withholding information for maximum emotional impact rather than letting us experience events smoothly with the characters.

I mentioned how nice it is that the villains get fully fleshed-out motives and personalities?

Yeah, only to a point. When we get to the point of stretching about one episode worth of conflict out across three episodes, padding the run-time with extensive flash-backs of information we either 1) know already, or 2) could pick up from a single facial expression…that’s just bad story-structuring. (YES, I’m looking at you, Gentle Criminal!)

Slowing fight scenes to a crawl so we can explore the backstories of each of the bad guys through flash-backs is also not the best way to handle it.

Yet…for all my complaints…the show still made it into my top five of all time.

If they fixed some of these issues? One Punch Man might be in danger of losing its crown…(not big danger, because Genos, but still…)

Sexual Humor

My Hero Academia is blissfully romance-free. One of Deku’s classmates has a crush on him, but she is currently channeling it into trying to be as hard-working a Hero as he is…not angst. And that’s exactly what actual real love is built for – to draw us out of ourselves and inspire us to be better, not to gratify our own desires!

The writers seem more interested in growing the characters into mature Heroes – not pairing them off…which is delightful. (They’ve also avoided falling into the trap of LGBTXXX-posturing, which is so refreshing.)

But nothing is perfect – not even MHA.

One of the students is girl-crazy (it’s like his single biggest character trait), and the humor department gets a lot of milage from his pathetic attempts to see their curves. There’s a scene where the boys and girls are bathing (separately) and he tries to climb the wall that separates them to get an eye-full. He fails…but the audience sees some naked back-sides (both genders).

Several of the female Hero costumes are…not appropriate. And one girl’s Quirk involves her being naked from time to time (though we don’t see any of the “essentials” that a bikini wouldn’t cover).

The show mostly plays it for humor – or as a realistic portrayal of female heroes using their “qualities” to boost their own PR – but it means I can’t blanketly recommend MHA to all the younger siblings out there.

Yes, girls have anatomy. Maybe we need to acknowledge that fact from time to time. But not everyone is ready for that.

Region 1 DVD Set Pretty Please!

You can come for the cool fights with different super-powers…the writers know that’s what you want, and serve up plenty of that.

But you can also come for long-form relationship development and character growth…growth focused on taking selfish, unsure, inexperienced children and turning them into strong, responsible, chill, kick-butt Adults.

I really, really hope the later seasons don’t go off the deep end…and also that they publish a reasonably priced DVD set soon.

Until then, head to your favorite anime streamer and queue it up! Yes, they have the “continuing story” threads that you’d expect from a series…but they also know how to close each separate story arc with cathartic resolution! Kimia-Hater-of-Cliffhangers approves.


Cover image credit: Newsweek.com

The brother and I watched it on Funimation. You can also find it streaming on CrunchyRoll, BestDubbedAnime, YouTube, and Hulu, plus I’m sure lots of other places. (Obviously you’d have to subscribe to whatever service you want to use. I can make no recommendations.)

Amazon does offer some DVDs (apparently so does AnimeCornerStore) but each season is split up for some reason and CHECK YOUR REGION BEFORE YOU BUY (also make sure it’s in a language you speak!).

Dear Diary….another bad night

We’re going to be ragged in the morning.

We hadn’t even settled in yet when I heard (and smelled) some kind of ogre coming down the passage. (There was another sound, too…like a grinding, buzzing whine or growl. Very unpleasant.)

Well, I moved around the giant throne thing so I could get off a shot as soon as it came into the room.

My shot hit a good shot – despite the fire being behind me – and by the time Mikael lit it up with faery fire, Corby had clawed a big, ugly scratch down its face.

Raven hurled two daggers into it, and Ezekiel raced forward to finished it off with his mace – sending off what seemed like sparks as he bashed it to the ground.

Well, Ezekiel and Raven took over the first watch, so the rest of us settled down to try and sleep.

It wasn’t too long, though, before Raven was shaking us awake.

A party with torches was just approaching the main entrance, muttering together: “See, there’s a fire there.” “Is there supposed to be a fire there?” “Maybe that’s where the priests are?”

I nocked an arrow and hid in the shelter of the throne, while Raven slid along the shadows by the wall to try and hear more of what they said.

When the group (seven armed men) came into the center of the room, a light shot out from the throne, and Ezekiel’s voice bellowed, “Who comes?”

The leader stammered something about they were looking for an “Earth Temple.”

Ezekiel asked them who sent them, and the leader said some person calling himself “Wag” told them there was loot to be found, and caravans to rob, and food and shelter from the wet, if they came and talked to the “head priest” or cleric of the Earth Temple.

Well, Ezekiel got his pompous act on and told them there would only be Death for them here (which considering the ogres and stirges and undead, sounds about right)…that Judgement had come to this place once before, and was coming again, and they’d best clear out (which kinda explains who we are to anyone with enough deductive skills).

Well, the men must have been enough dazzled by the lit shield and the booming voice that they kinda looked at each other and crept out again. (Here’s to hoping they don’t just turn bandits once they get outside…though I guess if they do they’ll get what’s coming to them.)

Ezekiel came down from the chair, and I said I couldn’t believe they fell for it – and Lydia said she didn’t think they were the smartest around.

I certainly can’t imagine voluntarily marching into a place as twisted and nauseating as the Temple – unless I was here to purge it and kill Evil, which I am. Those guys must be strangely desperate if they came down here for loot and a bandit hideout.

I’d think they meant the Drow Cleric, except that he wasn’t really “earth” related. At least it’s clear they’re some of the “mortal tools” the Lady Bad is trying to gather to herself. Poor dupes.

Well, Raven put out the fire, and Ezekiel covered all the shields, so we wouldn’t broadcast our presence quite so much. (It’s chilly down here, but not as cold as it might be. The earth protects us from the winter weather outside.)

They tell me some snarly voices passed in the corridor (probably some humanoids) but left us alone…but I didn’t hear anything more until Raven woke up Mikael and me.

He said it was almost time for our shift, but first there were footsteps at the door and the jingle of armor.

We heard voices, too, and I gather that whoever it was sent a man in to “check the door”…and he hugged the wall to avoid the “bloodsuckers,” so they were familiar with this place.

They had also left their lights behind, so all we knew was the clanking and rustling of a man making his way along the west wall.

I wasn’t confident of my ability to shoot anything in this darkness, so I held onto my sword – since it glows when I draw it, and I have more chance of knowing what’s right next to me. (Also since I’m running down on arrows. I’ve been recovering them, but they do tend to snap sometimes or get lodged in guts so that you really can’t pull them out.)

Well, the walking stopped, and next thing I knew, there was a sound of cloth and feet as someone lunged.

The nearby opponent yelped, and there was a burst of light and stark shadows – I guess as Ezekiel uncovered his shield and faced the enemies at the door.

A crossbow bolt hit the wall as a bunch of men shouted in surprise.

Raven aimed a kick at our poor scout by the secret door, while Mikael swung at him with his staff.

Seeing that was covered, I rounded the big chair to back up Ezekiel. I must have been dazzled by the light of his shield, because I dropped my sword.

I heard Yeti give a war shout behind us, and Corby dove out of the shadows to peck at the leader’s eyes (you could tell he was the leader because he had nicer gear).

Raven and Mikael must have finished off their opponent, because they came running around the throne to join us. Someone shot a crossbow bolt at Raven, but he deflected it away from his face – almost getting his hand torn off in the process, though.

Yeti charged in from behind us to help Ezekiel against the leader, so I decided they had that covered and turned to the subordinates.

They…must not have had much training. Decent equipment, but almost no experience. I almost felt bad for them as I hammered through their defenses and took them out.

Raven and Corby took down their opponents, and as the last man dropped his weapons and charged for the exit, Ezekiel leveled him to the ground.

I’ll behead orcs and ogres all day long…but I wasn’t built to slaughter other humans. I hope this ends soon.

They all had chain armor, with tabards with a brown and black triangle. The leader also had a bronze medallion with a raised triangle around his neck.

We took their money (mostly silver and electrum, with some platinum and gold), and returned to our “camp.”

Lydia asked (yawning) what they wanted with a “Fire Temple” – apparently she overheard them say something during the fight.

Sounds like there’s a whole system of temples underneath The Temple…and this is only our first night here.

They’d just better not all barge in here, is all I can say. I’m all in favor of a quiet watch, and then a quiet watch for Yeti and Lydia, and a decent morning where we’ve all had some sleep.

Ezekiel covered his shield again, but I had an arrow ready while I watched the main door. It would only take a second or two to drop the bow and draw my sword if the case required it.

It had better not, though, because I’m extra grumpy when I’m tired.


Find the previous entry here.

Find the start of the Temple adventure here.

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“The Sunday Philosophy Club” by Alexander McCall Smith

"The Sunday Philosophy Club" by Alexander McCall Smith The back cover copy introduces us to Isabel Dalhousie: middle-aged spinster who’s “too inquisitive”…and when she witnesses a young man fall to his death from the balcony of the concert hall, she wonders if there’s more to it?!

Then we open the book, and…turns out she’s actually a fourteen-year-old with ADHD…and has the detective method of a spring-addled squirrel.

Harsh? Let me elaborate on The Sunday Philosophy Club…which, incidentally, features no over-arching philosophy, no club whatsoever, and about as much detective content as those gummy vitamins contain sugar. Continue reading

Dear Diary….mosquitoes worse than undead

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

[rough sketch of corridors and rooms]

Finally a chance to get down my notes in some kind of understandable fashion.

Let’s see. Ezekiel, Yeti, and I went into the room with the harpies – but probably should have put something in our ears, since we all were…stunned? when they started singing.

Fortunately, the ghouls that came in to attack us didn’t want to get too close to Yeti (he says it’s the careful cultivation of a virtuous life), so Ezekiel had time to shake himself awake and dust them.

When we’d dealt with the harpies, Ezekiel checked out the little room where the ghouls came from – but besides the old clothes and filth they’d been “nesting” in, all he found was a chain-mail shirt about the size of an elf (they pointed out it was too small for anyone except me, and I said it wasn’t that funny).

As we were examining the borders of the room, the grate rattled and raised itself back up automatically…so that’s handy.

Raven checked out the part of the floor that must be the trigger for the mechanism, and he thinks the grate isn’t activated until someone steps off it into the room, so we could all join up in the harpy room as long as we were careful.

Corby flew up to one of the pillars where the harpies used to perch, but she didn’t find anything “shiny” in the dirty nest up there.

There was a door at the north end of the room, and as soon as Ezekiel opened it I spotted a ghoul and launched my ready arrow at it. The ghoul spotted him, too, and slashed at him with its claws.

Yeti and Mikael also got hits in before Ezekiel could wrestle his holy symbol out of its pocket to turn them (he thinks there were four total). (Never hurts to be prepared to act.)

A chest against one wall had a bunch of old clothing, plus hefty load of copper, silver, gold, and platinum coins.

Yeti opened another door in the wall where we’d come in, and we found an anteroom with the remains of upholstered furniture and pewter tableware. It would have been a comfortable place before it was trashed and filled up with undead…although the frescoes on the walls are obscene and deserve to be smashed. Maybe if we find time heavy on our hands.

Yet another door led out across the room, and Yeti insisted on opening this one, too (he says he’s sturdier than Ezekiel is, and Ez shouldn’t have gotten scratched by that ghoul).

Beyond, we spotted two pale, shriveled figures – when Ezekiel did his thing toward them, they didn’t crumble into dust immediately, but shrieked and cowered.

I tried to shoot an arrow, but smacked myself in the face instead. I’m just glad I didn’t break anything.

Raven showed off and bounced one of his daggers off the wall before it skimmed past one of the undead. Then when he threw a second dagger into it, Yeti followed up – driving it in with his hammer.

I nailed the other one through the throat (which is apparently lethal even for undead like these).

The remaining undead scampered away and scrabbled at a wall sconce, opening a secret door to escape through…but Raven ran after him (he’s very fast, after all) and even though he started gagging at the undead’s smell or something, he distracted it enough for me to nail it with an arrow.

Ezekiel calls these creatures “ghasts.” I just wonder what the world needs with so many different kinds of undead!

Well, the secret door led out into the harpy room…so we’ll be glad these creatures didn’t decide to join the skirmish outside. The ghast room must have once been a bedroom, as it has a collapsed bed among the other broken furniture. The walls here, too, are covered with horrible, ugly pictures…Yeti says they’re in an “earth theme,” and I guess I can see what he means if I think about it (which I don’t want to).

Ezekiel dug in the wall at the head of the bed and found a loose block with a huge gold cup filled with gold coins and three onyx gems. The cup is covered with disgusting engravings, and I tried not to look at it while we put it in the bag of holding.

Well, with that done, we used the harpy bodies to weigh down the pressure plate by the door to help us all get safely out the gate…and then we spent a smelly, tiresome half hour plucking the harpies.

Harpies really are ugly creatures…never trust something that looks too-human and not-human-enough at the same time.

It was late afternoon when we came in here, so it must be pushing evening by now. We decided to leave the horses in the care of Yeti’s amazing warhorse, and look for a defensible room here to hole up in (but not any of the undead rooms because none of us could possibly sleep with that stench).

We continued along the passage to the north [see sketch] until we came to another right turn – which Ezekiel took. That led to a hexagonal room, with a ceiling so high we could barely reach it with our lights.

Ezekiel and Raven checked for any sign of a grate across the doorway, then advanced with the others while I waited with my bow in the doorway.

Well, we should know by now that something is always waiting to drop on our heads. This time, it was mosquitoes-from-hell also known as stirges. We fought some in the marsh on the way to Explictika Defilas’ lair…but that was only three of them. They are much more irritating in large numbers.

I had an arrow ready, so I knocked one out of the air right away…but it felt like a drop in the bucket when at least four of them latched onto Lydia and a few others got their icky tube-line mandibles in our other companions.

Lydia smashed an egg down on the floor, and a green cloud billowed out from her, spreading as far as the doorway where I was.

I coughed a little, backed up, and worked to line up my shots while the others fled the cloud…except for Raven, who was on his hands and knees gagging, and Lydia, who was weighted down with a collection of the huge bloodsucking beasts.

The stirges started glittering and flashing as Mikael cast faery fire, and as I sniped a couple off Lydia, one of the stirges who wasn’t overwhelmed by the gas made a swipe at my head (and missed).

Lydia came coughing out of the cloud to join me in the doorway. She pulled a flask out of her pack and threw it, splashing a pool of what looked like oil.

Ezekiel charged across our field of vision, grabbing Raven and dragging him out of the cloud.

I caught a glimpse of Corby chasing after a stirge.

And then…Lydia lit a torch and tossed it, the oil ignited, and the remaining stirges popped and sizzled in death.

(Except for the one buzzing at my ear, and I grabbed my sword out to slice it in half.)

Well, with the excitement over, Mikael could take his time healing the wounded (Lydia and Raven were the worst off) while Yeti “laid hands” on Corby.

Well, the room has six sides, and the only furniture seems to be a big throne of brown marble veined with black. Both arms are broken off, and it looks in bad shape.

Yeti went around the room “detecting Evil” (useful thing to be able to do) and while Lydia was still by the wall resting, she found a ring with comets or something etched on the outside.

Ezekiel thinks it’s something to do with the “Far-Wanderer,” and the magic users who revered him. Once he said that, Lydia remembered hearing about a ring that lets you cast certain spells like Light, Lightening, and Faery Fire.

(I pointed out it wouldn’t let me cast those, and we all agreed she should probably hold on to it.)

While Corby was chowing down on a nest of baby stirges (she brought me one, which Raven says is a thoughtful thing to do), Mikael cast Detect Magic to help us find anything else in the room…but pretty much the ring was the only magical thing we noticed (though we found some copper pocket change).

When I made a fire behind the throne (plenty of debris on the floor to keep it going) we spotted what seems to be a secret door…so Ezekiel said we have to keep an eye on that, as well as the main door.

We’re keeping watch in shifts, and I get the third watch with Mikael (was really afraid I’d be assigned Lydia for a minute there).

She said she was sorry for casting the stink cloud on us all, and we all said you gotta do what you gotta do, and it all worked out (and she got hurt the worst, anyway) but I’m not quite comfortable with the way she keeps setting things on fire.

Ezekiel says dying made me paranoid, and I said what else is death good for – but really not ready for that discussion.

I wonder what else lurks in this labyrinthian place.


Find the previous entry here.

To start at the beginning of our adventure in the Temple, go here.

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My 27 Happy Birthday Things

Today – April 27 – I turn 27 years old.

(That’s right, isn’t it, Mom? Right? [math]…okay, yeah.)

My day-job is still on quarantine shut-down – along with most things in my state – but I figured I could still have fun by coming up with 27 things that I like.

Read on to: 1) find some things you might like to try; 2) rejoice that something you like is enjoyed by someone else; and 3) find out more about me! (Because who wouldn’t want to!)

1. Jesus

He’s the most wonderful Person in the history of ever. Not only does He put up with me when I’m being a selfish, petulant baby, but He rescued me from my own selfishness and is going to marry me one day.

(In a spiritual sense, of course. It’s not weird…talk to Him about it!)

2. My family

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

The famous brother!

Well, a whole lot of things have to tie for second place. But I think the cake has to go to my parents and my kid brother.

(Just kidding! I eat the whole cake myself!)

While they’re far from perfect, I think my parents’ success can be boiled down to two basic parenting choices:

A—They boldly lived their Christian walks in front of us kids

…the times they doubted, the times they came up short, the times they didn’t have the answers. They communicated their love of Jesus – not only in their words – but in the actions and decisions they made every single day.

B—They took us along for the ride.

We were never excluded in a little box of “innocence,” and they never made us feel like the adult world was some boring place we didn’t belong. Whether visiting the OB floor where my mom worked…or sitting around with our church-friends talking heavy theology stuff…or going over math sheets together…or taking two weeks for an “American Government” field trip on the East Coast because homeschooling lets you do that!…we were always included, valued, “one of the guys,” and shown the “adult world” as a place we absolutely belonged.

And my brother…well, I could talk all day about this complicated and precious dynamic we have.

3. Dorothy Sayers

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Amazon

She had to come sooner or later.

If I were to list only one author whose work I would want with me on a desert island, it would be the lucid, intellectual, witty, and soul-searching novels of Dorothy L. Sayers.

She doesn’t just write mysteries…although they are such clever, twisty, and satisfying mysteries.

Each of her works is infused with a philosophical bite, a keen insight into human nature, glorious British banter, colorful flesh-and-blood characters…

I could go on, but I’ll just recommend my personal favorite: Unnatural Death.

4. One Punch Man

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: One Punch Man Wiki

Another tie for 2nd place, this anime blew my mind and skyrocketed to the top of All Things Amazing in my life.

Yeah, probably don’t show it to the kids (there’s sprinkled coarse language and borderline male nudity), but there’s so much else awesome here!

Genos! Saitama – a noble (though bored) hero with the Daddy-like power to crush any bad-guy! Crazy monsters, and truck-loads of professional heros. Genos! A snotty telepath chick who kicks Captain Marvel in power, attitude, and characterization. Simple plots with deep themes – oh, such themes! Heroism! Self-sacrifice! The harsh reality of mob mentality, attacking the very heroes who saved their lives! Genos!

Enough already. Just go read why Genos is totally adorable, then maybe find it on YouTube or your favorite streaming service (or even buy the DVD and a t-shirt to match!).

5. Baking

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Pixabay

When I was a kid, I always found baking frustrating because it took so much time and energy to produce something that…would be consumed and gone before you could turn around.

Now, it still takes time and energy…but I just need those chocolate cookies, man. Whatever method delivers my hit.

Oh! I’ve also figured out yeast-bread. For the longest time, breads with yeast were always frustrating because they took longer, you had to get your arms all flour-y with kneading them, and 90% of the time they wouldn’t even rise!

Now, though, I have a few secrets:

a) Use yeast that’s not old and kaput. b) Knead on the kitchen table (which is just the right hight to be comfortable for my arms). You still have to get flour all over your hands, but if you knead it long enough the dough goes all soft and squishy and elastic and it’s lovely. c) Arrange the dough beside and above a ROARING WOOD-STOVE to rise!

Now…well, my baked goods still seem to disappear shockingly quickly. But I’m having enough fun experimenting with the process that it’s not so terrible when I only get one or two rolls.

(ALTHOUGH I STILL WANT MORE THAN ONE ROLL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.)

6. My coworkers

I like my day job. I really do. Yes, it’s work, and yes, it’s makes me tired and frustrated…but that’s what adulting is about.

And part of what makes it all worth it is the great people I get to work with! They really are like family 🙂

7. YouTubers: Lindsey Ellis, Filmento, Overly Sarcastic Productions, Literature Devil, The Closer Look

I watch way too much YouTube. One of the reasons I’m always baking (or washing dishes) is it gives me an excuse to watch.

My pattern over the past year or so is: I find a video I like (usually on story theory, movies, or human nature) and then I go obsessively watch the creator’s entire back-list.

I forced myself to narrow it down to just my absolute favorites. Go check them out…maybe you’ll discover some new content you love!

(And one of these days I absolutely need to put something in their Patreon tip jar, ’cause – come on! – I want them to keep eating and keep making content!)

Overly Sarcastic Productions—My favorite of their videos is their series “Trope Talk” on various commonly repeated story elements/tools/building blocks, like this video on Paragon Characters (language caution for this one)—official site

—Literature Devil—His series of videos on “Is #ComicsGate Wrong?” asks the question: “Should comics focus primarily on Telling Stories, or on Politics and Social Issues?” Entertaining and thought-provoking!—official site

—Lindsey Ellis—I first found her channel through her ruthless critique of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake. She may be a woke lib chick from California, but even when we don’t agree I still find her arguments interesting and thought-provoking (LANGUAGE cautions, though!)—her channel homepage

—Filmento—This guy has an adorable little accent – I mean, also he analyzes movies from a story-telling and craft perspective…like this video where he explains why Captain America: Winter Soldier is amazing (language caution)! He’s also good because, when he critiques a movie, he gives suggestions for how it could be done better – like in this video for how the Men in Black reboot could have been stronger!—his Patreon

—The Closer Look—I first found this guy because of his video on how pushing a political viewpoint in a story alienates your audience…though I also like his video that discusses the unique immersion opportunities video games have versus other forms of media—his channel homepage

8. Wadjet Eye Games

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Gemini Rue

Maybe should have gone higher on the list but I refuse to overthink this.

This outfit consistently puts out amazing, high-quality point-and-click games.

The puzzles are intuitive (most of the time) and make you feel clever.

The stories and powerful, emotional, and feature jaw-dropping twists.

The voice work is top-notch, the music is addictive, and the graphics range from retro low-res to beautifully evocative.

How much do I love them? I finally bought one of their games NOT ON SALE! (Okay, it was a Christmas present from my brother, same difference.)

If you are in any way interested in point-and-click indie games, then checkoutmyreviews, and then give them your money so they can keep doing this!

9. Visiting nursing homes

It’s…strangely fulfilling and addictive. Of course, I haven’t gone to see my little friends for at least a month…but I’m still praying for them, and can’t wait to get back at it!

You, too, can visit nursing homes and brighten someone’s day!

10. Pretty yarn

My work-place has started carrying these super cute skeins that have multi-color swirls of different colors, and they look so adorable all wrapped up (and feel so soft and fun when you touch them) that I’d have a hard time actually using any of them.

But they’re still super adorable.

11. Columbo and Mission: Impossible

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: marketwatch.com

Tied for 5th place (don’t try to make the math come out…I’m not) are two amazing TV shows.

Columbo is a knuckle-biting (and sometimes humorous) murder mystery starring the smartest, frumpiest police lieutenant to ever be perpetually underestimated.

Mission: Impossible is packed with suspense, intrigue, slow-burn plots, keep-you-guessing double-agents – all held together with amazing teamwork!

If all you know of M:I is the movies…you’re missing out and you need to see the TV show!

12. My Hero Academia

My brother and I only recently cracked into this show over quarantine…and, well, I guess it lives up to the hype.

I know I put it after Columbo and M:I, but it might actually be my #2 favorite show. (It’s way better than Avatar: The Last Airbender YES I SAID IT.)

I really need to write a full review. Suffice to say that it handles a large cast expertly, builds slow-burn friendships and character arcs deliciously, offers pay-offs on things you didn’t even know they were setting up…all while exploring the explosive concept of a super-human society with creativity, humor, and plenty of action.

Perfect? No. But 100% worth $5 for a month of streaming from whatever service you can find it on. (And maybe when they finally come out with full-season or multi-season DVDs we can get those, too.)

13. Buckeyes

For those not in the Midwest, these are basically half-and-half frosting and peanut butter – rolled into balls and coated in chocolate. (Although they also work just plastered on a cookie sheet and chopped into slices.)

Chocolate and peanut butter. The only downside is the calorie price-tag.

14. Our dog and cats

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia WoodTied for 5th place (just give up…I have) is our dog (Border collie mix) and cats (our current ones are all-black American short-hairs).

My family never owned a dog until we moved to the country when I was…well, over 20 – and now I don’t know what we did without him!

Wag wag SO FLUFFY wag snuffle *stroke ears*

15. Knitting

I’ve been trying to rotate lately, to cut down on hand pain (really hoping this isn’t early-onset carpel tunnel), but I love knitting.

Probably especially since I can do it while doing something else (reading, watching a movie, talking with people) and feel like I’m being productive (or “extra productive”).

I’ve been knitting since age 12, and have made countless hats, scarfs, afghans, sweaters, shawls, doll clothes –

My bad. The doll clothes I’m thinking of were crocheted.

I also do cross-stitch, am getting into sewing, and have done embroidery in the past.

I probably like knitting the best, but it depends on the situation. (And I’m constantly having to talk myself out of picking up a new project.)

16. Research

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Mike Popovich on Unsplash

Part of the fun of being an author is researching stories!

Back when I was writing Sons of the King, I lived to hunt through all the obscure websites about castles, swords, poison, and other info about pre-Conquest Great Britain.

Hayes and Hayes, of course, required me to learn A LOT about the Drug Enforcement Administration, gangs, and meth. (Reminds me of a funny story from Sociology class…also I wrote a Statistics paper about meth-rehab clinical studies!)

And of course, White Mesa Chronicles let me dive head-first into societal collapse…what urban environments might look like after 50 years of neglect…home-steading…prepper culture…how you could rebuild Western civilization with a 3D-printer in your basement (ahem – you really can’t, but having 50 other families with 3D-printers in your neighborhood is a good start)…parasite epidemiology…I lose track.

Ooh! And if you grab my latest release (Transmutation of Shadow, publishing TODAY!), you’ll find out why I researched jails; the CIA headquarters at Langley, PN; the strength tolerances of bullet-proof glass; when Dunkin’ Donuts opens; and other cool stuff like that!

(It’s so much fun sometimes you don’t write the actual book…*cough cough*!)

17. Fire escapes and sewer grates

That reminds me. I have an unnatural attraction to fire escapes.

Not like I want to do parkour or anything… Maybe it’s just the draw of the forbidden.

Like those “Staff only” and “No entry” doors, and the little packets at stores that say “Silica gel Do not eat Throw away.”

What would happen if you ate one?

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: es.Valve.wiki.com

As for the sewer grates, I’m pretty sure that’s 85% to 90% of me worried a head-crab is going to appear at any moment.

18. Halo and Half-life 2

How could I call this a “list of things I like” and totally forget two of the greatest games to ever grace the digital world?!

While I have written about how, in some ways, Halo is superior to Half-life 2…they both played huge, HUGE roles in my development – mental, emotional, and creative – and I will always owe them a great debt.

(Honestly, though, the Master-chief beats Gordon Freeman. Totally.)

19. Steve Taylor

My favorite singer/songwriter ever.

My family teases me that you can’t understand a word he says…but if you take the time to dive into the lyric sheets, you’ll find words that cut deep to the soul of humanity – and then stake that soul out to roast on the solid rock of Biblical Theology.

He’s also sarcastic, which is delightful.

20. Kristen Lamb

This Texan lady is a blogger on story structure, author business, marketing, the publishing industry, inter-personal social dynamics…

She’s so very different from me. She’s aggressive. She’s a go-getter. She calls it like she sees it, and doesn’t care what extra characters (@#%&) she uses in her posts.

She’s also remarkably right about a lot of things…and I find her call-to-arms inspiring.

My favorite post is probably this one, talking about how content providers (authors, singers, artists, performers) actually do deserve compensation for the services they offer.

Check her out! Maybe even buy her books (or check out her tip jar if you really like her stuff).

21. Magnolia flowers

Every spring, the tree in the front yard blooms, and my heart sings.

22. also Tulips and Daffodils

Everybody talks about how wonderful roses are, but tulips are gorgeous and amazing and come in so many different colors and have such a pleasing shape! (Also our property is coated with rose bushes that are all thorns and will grab you at the most unexpected times but I digress.)

23. Marvel movies

My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Image credit: BrianOverland.com

My favorites are Thor: Ragnarok and Captain America: The Winter Soldier!

My mom’s favorite is Avengers: Age of Ultron because of the scene on Hawkeye’s farm. She could probably just watch that scene over and over and be happy 🙂

24. RWBY soundtrack

I think I might like the music more than the show itself, even! As I said in my review, it’s like cinematic orchestral smashed with rock with a smattering of ballad…and also jam packed with clever words and emotion.

(Note to self: buy the CDs one day in case YouTube is down…)

25. Cleaning things

Sounds weird, I know. I think the fun comes from the visual progress of seeing dirt and grime peeling away and being magically replaced with clean surfaces.

(I also have a perfectionist streak, so whenever I start cleaning something, I get wrapped up in doing it all.)

26. Our D&D campaign

My dad and brother have gotten more “into it” than I have (which is strange, since re-launching our campaign was kinda my idea), but it grows on you. (Maybe dying has a way of increasing emotional investment?)

It has taken over my blog in some ways. Or rather, it’s kept the blog alive during some dry creative patches!

Go ahead – check out the Ranger Journal (at “Season 1: the Cult of the Reptile God,” “Season 2: the Village of Homlette,” or the in-progress “Season 3: the Temple of Elemental Evil“).

When it’s less about rolling dice – and more about creating a story as friends – it’s more fun!My 27 Happy Birthday Things — Kimia Wood

27. Blogging

Tied for #10, I love my blog.

Though I started it to promote my author career, I have fun jabbering about whatever I care about, formatting it prettily, then PUBLISHING it for all the world to see!

It gives me a place to process things I want to think about, and encourages me to articulate it in a way that makes sense to other people.

So…look around, make yourself at home – and maybe find something that entertains you and makes you think!


My 27 Happy Birthday Things — Kimia WoodKimia Wood turns 27 today!

She was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and currently lives with her family somewhere in the American Midwest. She’s bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

If you like lovable characters, gripping action, siblings who would die for each other, mysteries, questions, emotional adventures, and asking “what if?”…then you will enjoy any of her books!

Her latest novel just PUBLISHED TODAY, and features a lovable “Jason Bourne Jedi” – who works as a government assassin – finding out some of his targets weren’t on the approved list! Give me a birthday present and grab yourself a copy 😉 😀My 27 Happy Birthday Things! — Kimia Wood

Dear Diary…not my day

Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “The Temple of Elemental Evil”

We arrived back in Homlette in time for Needfest. Mikael is very excited to get to collect mistletoe (apparently collecting it this time of year helps it be more potent – Druid thing).

The inn was pretty crowded, but Master Osler had no trouble getting rooms for us. It’s nice to be liked.

Noticed a tall fellow in travel clothes with a bow and long sword; also several merchant caravans have stopped here for the duration of the festival.

Ezekiel says it’s a good chance to “live a little” – whatever a Cleric means by that.

****

So. This is going to be hard to write.

We were in the common room at the Welcome Wench. I remember that.

The tall guy beckoned me over him, and since Ezekiel is always saying “If you don’t ask you won’t know,” I went over to talk to him.

He said he had a “message” from my “friend down the road” but he couldn’t give it to me there, so we went outside – and yes, I told Ezekiel where I was going, and he said something like “you don’t need me to hold your hand.”

I remember the one full moon, and the cold.

The man said our “adventures had attracted some powerful enemies.” I remember that part.

And then…then I remember I was on a stretcher, and it was hard to breathe, and a Cleric of Pholtus was shining a light in my eyes and saying words that didn’t make much sense.

Well, finally my breathing seemed to get easier, and then Ezekiel and Raven showed up and Ezie was thanking the High Cleric with all the pomp and bowing he could muster. And the High Cleric said it was a pleasure to serve a Ranger of Ehlonna, but especially since Ezekiel had offered them such a valuable scroll.

Anyway, they tell me Ezekiel found me dead in the back yard, and hauled everybody over to Verbobanc to find a Cleric with enough standing and learning to raise me.

I can still feel a mark, if I push just under my rib. I’ve never felt such a mixture of rage, humiliation, and amusement.

Whatever else, there’s no way “eighteen inches of steel” would have gotten me out of this (unless I suppose I was wearing it from my eyes to my knees…though probably not even then).

Something tells me I should not be alive again…but I will focus on being grateful that Ehlonna is not done with me yet. And that Ezekiel cared enough to shell out to bring me back…

Although I will never forgive myself for ignoring my One Single Personal Rule: NEVER TRUST ANYONE.

Ezekiel thinks “someone” connected me with the death of the Drow Cleric, but the closest I ever came to “talking” to anyone was admitting to the merchant that we rescued some prisoners from some “bad guys” (never trust a man who price-gouges like that).

Raven says that, before they left town, he had a talk with Master Osler, who said the tall man showed up while we were in Celene and called himself “Strider” (don’t they always?).

I just think that if they wanted to take out the deadly power-house responsible for the Drow’s capture/death, it should have been Ezekiel! (Maybe not fair – he’s already been dead once.)

And, true, Ezekiel points out that no one else can nail orcs or chop up rats the way I can, and I suppose that’s likely true.

Still furious (the man had the audacity to speak in Lawful Good to me!), and still determined to never talk to anyone ever again about anything unless I’m covering them with my bow.

Raven is out doing some shopping while we’re in the “big city,” and we’ll return in the morning.

Because Ezekiel is right about one thing…if they wanted to scare us away with this, well, they guessed wrong.

It at least tells us we’re barking up the right tree.

****

Got back to Homlette with no problems.

Ezekiel told me to “keep a low profile.” I told him I’m the shortest in the party and just what does he want me to do?

Master Osler says the so-called “Ranger” hasn’t been seen since that night.

If we head to the campsite tomorrow, we can go from there to the site of the Temple and arrive early enough in the day to get some exploring done (sure is nice to have mounts of our own!). We’re also bringing the cart because, after all, we might find something we want to haul away (like rescued prisoners or something).

Oh – when Yeti came back from training with his Paladin higher-ups, he brought this huge, muscular war horse that seems to understand whatever he tells it. He says it’s like Lydia and Grumpsh (the toad) or Mikael and Corby…they are “best friends” in a professional sense.

Must be nice to have an animal companion.

****

Notes on the Temple of Elemental Evil

-sent Corby to scout from the air; saw a couple ravens hanging out by the tower (NW corner) but the tower top is completely sealed up, though ruined; no getting in and out through the roof, looks like

-Corby spotted a gate in the western wall, so we could get the horses into the inner court; so glad the poison oak has finally died

-leaving horses in the charge of Yeti’s war horse…apparently he’s smart enough to protect them/lead them in a retreat if necessary; very useful

-ruined out-building in the north-west area of the courtyard; burned, tumble-down, surrounded by twisted usk trees

-staircase on the W side, but the lower steps collapsed; dark hole at base

-huge rat nest! However, Raven talked with them and bribed them with rations to tell him that “lots of people” have been coming through here “all the time.” Not super helpful, but definite confirmation is good. Also we’re on the right track so far.

Ezekiel charging head-first for the Temple because of course he is…

[rough sketch]

So ugly!

Three doors – west, south, east. West and east are locked, and barred from the inside.

South…is unnatural. The huge door seems covered with runes that light up, but I can’t really look at them. It’s too horrifying.

Ezekiel and Raven say the chinks are filled in with soft iron…and that suggests to me that someone really, really doesn’t want anyone/anything opening this door (specifically anything evil).

R picked the lock on the east door, then L knocked on it and the bolt undid itself (or something like that).

Inside is quite nauseating. Floor is reddish brown slate, and the walls are covered with ugly images of horrible tortures and murders and other Evil things. There are narrow stained glass windows high up in the walls, but the light only makes the whole place look sickly and diseased.

Unbarred the W door (in case we need a hasty retreat toward our horses) and continued up the nave.

-floor is actually divided into several huge squares, each with different colored tiles

-about a third down, two side passages branch off, and there’s a line where the tiles change color

-center has pillars of some kind – white marble veined with red. There’s a seven by five altar.

-west branch of “sanctuary” (if you can use such a word for this place) – sandstone; hard to see in failing light

-east: green pillars and floor; Ezekiel went here first

-circular dais in the middle, almost two feet tall

-altar on dais, Ez says there’s a depression with blackened liquid, seashells, and a broken bronze knife

(Clues for the “key pieces”??)

-side room opens from SE corner of this wing…vestry with broken trident, moss green robe (filthy of course) and other broken items; also red floor and stairs down

Ez decides we’ll go down, even though it’s getting toward evening.

Try to keep arrow nocked.

[sketched map]

Two right turns. Corridors here are lit with torches, so obviously someone’s been here.

Approached a room and could smell the refuse; maybe that’s what tipped Ez off. That and the high ceiling, and the bones on the floor.

He was sure something was on the ceiling in this room (we have had bad luck with things dropping on us) and Yeti pointed out a harpy in the corner.

At my suggestion, Raven and Lydia plugged their ears with cloth while I tried to hit the harpy (I guess I wanted to be able to hear Ezekiel’s instructions).

I winged it, then we spotted a second one…so Ez had us move in together to get an angle on it while the other three stayed by the door.

As soon as we moved away from the door – clang – a grate dropped down (that’s getting old) and the harpies began to sing.

(I remembered that they had terrible voices – except maybe terrible in a beautiful way – or maybe just because it’s so strange you just have to listen –

Anyway, what I do remember next is a ring of ghouls – standing around us in a perfect ring around Yeti – and crumbling into pieces.

Ezekiel tucked away his holy symbol again (keeps it in a pouch on his belt, now that he’s in full plate armor). Yeti pulled out his crossbow, and I managed to take out the two harpies (though Ez had already wounded one of them).

Note to self: Paladins are so very useful.

Lydia says harpy feathers can be very valuable. (Also tried to dig at me for “falling in love” with the harpies’ song, but got no time for that nonsense.)

[hurried sketch of harpy room, with secret door where ghouls emerged]


Find the previous entry here.

Read the start of the Homlette adventure here.

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