Come Joins Us At Tekko 2017!

As some of you may already know I will be attending Tekko as a panelist again this year. I’ve got 5 panels…well 4 panels and a live show in one of the panel rooms. I welcome you all to attend and here’s the run-down of what I’m bringing to the convention this year:

-Friday, April 7th-

Noon Tekko Gakkou Room – Japanese Heraldry: The History of the Mon. We’ll discuss what Kamon are, how they were utilized, how they are still utilized, where you’ve seen them, and compare them to similar Western Ideas.

2:00pm 18+ Panel Room – How To Write MORE Dirty Stuff. All you adult-y type folks interested in writing, or simply laughing at me comment on sexy gifs, can join me in the 18+ Panel Room for a lesson on Writing Dirty. We’ll address purple language again briefly before touching on setting up a scene, fore and after play.

11:00pm Panel Room 1 – Samurai Gaiden Presents: Live Rakugo! My first ever live Rakugo performance (totally *not* nervous, BTW… 0_0 ). I’ll be giving some information about Rakugo, what it is, and how it works in between my three chosen stories: Xiahou Dun’s Eye, Botan Doro ‘Peony Lantern’, and the Gyurokushujo Monogatari ‘Tale of Orihime and Hikoboshi’.

-Saturday, April 8th-

1:30pm Workshop Room – The Art of Renga – Linked Verse Samurai Poetry Workshop. Come join us and make poetry with us! We’ll give a brief overview of Waka poetry, particularly the Tanka and Renga styles and then we’ll help you to produce Renga poetry together with us! Don’t have a pen or paper? Don’t be silly; free pens and notepads will be provided for the workshop at no cost to you.

4:00 pm Tekko Gakkou Room – Waka – The Classical Japanese Poetry of the Samurai. Did you know that poetry was one of the samurai warrior’s favorite pastimes? Come learn about the poetry of Japan including Tanka, Renga, Bussokusekika, and we’ll even touch on the redheaded step child of Waka: The Haiku.

If you aren’t already going to Tekko this year, maybe considering taking a trip this weekend and visiting with us in between panels. Also a surprising request was made of me this year: I *will* autograph copies of my book if you have one and approach me with it (between panels, of course).

~Rich

Do Not Shop at Best Buy; Don’t Use BB Credit Card!!

Note: I had originally written this last year, but shelved it because I wanted to cool down a bit from the initial issue and make sure I wasn’t just venting.  But no, you folks deserve to know what Best Buy is doing and I hope I can save you all from having the same issue.

This is a warning to anyone who shops at Best Buy. I’ve done lots of shopping there, myself. I bought my Hauppage, most of the computers and laptops I’ve owned in the past decade, and numerous cables, cords, and hookups.

I recently bought a whole new computer system there: Laptop, Desktop, the Hauppage, and all the accouterments that were necessary. While checking out the awesomely helpful worker there offered us the chance to get a Best Buy credit card. We normally say no, but he sold us on the idea of the 5% cashback in store credit.

We were buying like $1,500 worth of stuff. Now, keep in mind that we have a credit card with rewards points that give us 1 point per dollar spent. We can get merchandise (we got a free Keurig a few years back from it), gift cards (1,100 points get $100 gift card), or cash back (6,000 points gets $50 in cash).

Because of the holiday season they were running a special where you’d get bonus points for purchases made during the time we were shopping. You got a $5 Best Buy gift card for every 250 points you acquired, which would normally require $250 in purchases. But with the bonuses they were running, we would get almost 7,000 points. We would only get 1500 points on our own credit card, enough for a $100 gift card…and not much else. But the points we would get from the Best Buy Credit Card would equal out to $135 in gift cards. Sure they were all from Best Buy, but there were a few things we planned to pick up from there in the future, anyway.

Our plan also included our usual trick: Pay the card off at the end of the month so that we don’t have to pay any interest. It’s a good trick; builds credit and gets you bonuses.

So we get everything home and put it all together, happy days. We went back and used the card again to buy a few more parts that we needed a couple weeks later, even. Then the bill comes. I try to log onto their website to pay the bill off…no go, there site is currently down. No problem I’ll try it again tomorrow.

The next day I try to log on; good news it’s working. I try to create an account…won’t let me. My password isn’t good enough. I spent over thirty-fucking-minutes trying to make a password that it found acceptable. I finally had a 38-character password with numbers, letters – both capital and lowercase, punctuation marks and thought I had finally achieved victory!

Password: “Wh@t do you want from m3 you stupid organization?”

Nope, sorry…your username isn’t strong enough.

Browser closed, I’ll do it tomorrow.

So after a couple of days to get my brain back in order and gather some holy artifacts from the Vatican, Mecca, Sri Lanka, and the ruined tombs under a Temple of Ammon-Ra, I kidnapped some virgins to sacrifice and after another 30-plus minute tirade of tries I managed to create a password and username combination that it finally found acceptable.

Well apparently one of my sacrificial virgins wasn’t untouched enough, because when I tried to log on…site froze. Crashed my whole browser. I’ve only got a few more days to pay the damn bill. I’ll try one more time…nope, site’s down; crashes and won’t let me log in.

Fuck it, I’ll do it the old person way – I mean, the old fashioned way.

I write them a check and pay it off it in full. Mission complete, plan success. Now just have to wait until I get the e-mail with my gift cards in it. I was told they would be e-gift cards, that was no problem.

They didn’t come. Also started getting weird phone calls, people calling several times a day…no actual messages, just heavy breathing and the occasional bit of background chatter between people on the line. Looked up the number…a few people claim it might be Best Buy credit services. Most people claim that doesn’t make sense, because they don’t have a Best Buy credit card; number has a 65% scammer rating.

Then another number starts calling. Same thing, they claim to be Best Buy credit services, but this one has an 83% scammer rating online. No go, fellow. Then a third number starts calling, same thing as the other two.

I need a cable or something else small and electronic, so I head to Best Buy and pick it up. I could use a new microphone for the Samurai Gaiden videos, too, want to see if they have lapel mics; they do not, by the way.

I figure I’ll use the credit card again. Come to find I have a balance on it. It matches the same amount as we spent on those couple of little things I bought a couple weeks after we got the computers. They must not have been on the first bill.

No problem…I’ll pay it when the bill comes. We got the card in October, it’s now November, I’ll get another bill either late this month or early December. Hmm…no bill in December. Come to think of it…no gift cards, either. Better go into the store and see what’s up, right?

No problem, because the holidays have a super-long return policy it’s delaying everything. You see, the holidays have a 90-day return policy instead of just the normal 30-day policy, but if they let you have the gift cards after 30 days like normal…you could buy $4,000 worth of stuff and get hundreds of dollars in gift cards and then return all the stuff you bought for a full refund and then keep the gift cards.

Try logging in the website again to see what the balance is, maybe? Yeah sure, I’ll try that. Site’s down, it freezes up and locks everything up. Maybe I should try another browser? Good, the other browser doesn’t lock up the whole system…it just doesn’t go anywhere. Hit the log-in button and it just sits there and has a spinney icon on it for twenty-straight minutes. Well, beautiful, their site is a piece of shit. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow?

December…January…February…maybe I should head back in to the store and see what I can do there? I seem to remember the salesman telling me that if all else failed I could pay it off in the store. Go in there and the nice lady at customer service gives me a blank fucking look and says, “Sorry, the card is actually issued through Citibank, you can only charge on it here, you have to go into a Citibank or call them to get any issues with the card sorted out. Our you could go on to their website.”

“There website is down every time I try it. It just freezes and locks up, I’ve even tried different browsers on different computers.”

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to call them. I can give you a number. But since it’s Friday afternoon, they’re all gone and you’ll have to wait until Monday, I’m sure.”

It is now mid-march and I have just finally gotten the damn thing sorted out. They never sent me a bill, they reported me to credit agencies for not paying these nonexistent bills, and they charged me hundreds of dollars in late fees and interest! They also apparently sold my number to a bunch of scammers, because I now get called several times a day by these scam numbers. I finally got the website to work just long enough to get everything paid off.

And now, finally, at least I can use my gift cards now that I’ve got all that fixed up. The customer service lady told me I can go onto the Best Buy website and see them, even if the e-mails aren’t showing up.

Okay, lets see how many gift cards we’ve got. Let’s see what the website says…

“I’m sorry, your $135 in gift cards have expired. You currently have one, single $5 gift card…but if you spend $1,500 more dollars in the 2016 calendar year, you’ll become an Elite member!”

Fuck you Best Buy. Fuck you and your deal with Citibank. Fuck you both. I will never do business with you again, I will advise everyone I know not to business with you, and I will do everything within my power to keep people from doing business with you. You are a shitty company and I wish I had never shopped at your establishments. And I’m going to make damn sure I never make that mistake again.

You fucked me, hard; it won’t happen again.

~RCS

I can’t tell you exactly how many hundreds of dollars they charged me in interest and late fees, because when I alt+tabbed over to my word processor to start this post the site auto-logged me out. And I don’t intend on ever logging back in.

No Priced Books?

So last weekend Rich and I were out and about in Robinson and decided to stop at Half Priced Books. Why, you ask? Well, that’s a silly question, it’s easy, you can never have too many books!

 

tn-books01

 

So we made our way to Half Priced Books, giddy and excited about the possibility of finding new tomes filled with enlightenment. And maybe some yaoi manga, too.

 

Who doesn't dance at the thought of new yaoi.... I mean new books. Yeah, totally was gonna say new books.

Who doesn’t dance at the thought of new yaoi books. Yeah, totally was gonna say new books.

 

So you can imagine our despair when we noticed that the big Half Priced Books sign had been removed from the building. When we parked and got out, we saw that there was a note on the door stating that they had closed on September 3rd. Everything inside was packed up in boxes.  It was a sad, sad day.

 

rsz_sad_ross

We didn’t think it was possible to be sadder than a sad Ross.

 

Ͼ-Mimi

Songs That Just Don’t Hold Up.

I had another day where I had to listen to the radio. I happened upon a country station which was actually playing a that song I liked. When it was over they played an oldie from Travis Tritt that I remembered from my youth.

Half way through the song, I realized that the song was no longer topical. It did not match up with the current-day technology. The song’s main line goes, “Here’s a quarter; call someone who cares.”

Twenty years ago…that made sense. But someone half my age might not even understand the reference at all. When was the last time you saw a pay phone for a quarter?  For that fact, when was the last time you saw pay phone on the corner here in America?

I figure that since we’re updating Mark Twain to be politically correct (a travesty, by the way), we can update Travis Tritt, too. We should make him go back to the studio and re-record the song with the line, “Here’s a Cell Phone; call someone who cares.”

All in all it made me start thinking of other songs that just didn’t stand the test of time thanks to technology. The first was an old song about a girl leaving home, called 26 Cents by The Wilkinsons. It had a line something to effect of, “Here’s a penny for your thoughts, a quarter for the call, and all of your Momma’s love.”

What can this get me? Nothing? Okay, that's cool.

What can this get me? Nothing? Okay, that’s cool.

Sweet, right? But not very topical today. Once again, how and where will she call for 25 cents. Not to mention a penny doesn’t go very today, so the thought wouldn’t be worth listening to. And if her momma really loved her, she’d take her to a Cricket store and get her a cell phone, too. Apparently she needs to call someone who cares, and it ain’t momma.

Then this song made me think of another one which wouldn’t work out in today’s world! The Desert Rose Band had a song called, One Step Forward.

The line from the older song says, “One step forward and two steps back; a dance like this can never last.”

Well of course not! Not in a world where a few years ago a school decided to close the winter dance because students were refusing to go. Why did they refuse? Because the school’s rules prohibit the ‘grinding’ style of dancing. School rules state that at all school functions students must face each other when dancing. So students realized that meant that grinding would not be allowed…so they refused to go to the dance. Then they all got worried that prom would be canceled, or even worse…boring! Because of the grinding ban.

I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, the school’s telling the kids how they are and are not allowed to dance? What is this Footloose?

On the other hand…the kids won’t dance because they’re not allowed to dry-hump their girlfriends in public? What is this, Nevada?

Hell, I think both sides should come together and compromise. The kids can grind at the dance…but only in guy/guy and girl/girl combos. My wife would really like that first one.

They both look super-confused about what's happening right now.

They both look super-confused about what’s happening right now.

Oh my god! What about Singing a Song of Sixpence? How much is six pence even worth nowadays…? Ungh!

~RCS

No, really…Mimi would love to see a bunch of guys dirty-dancing together. She’s suggested a video submission contest. I vetoed it.

Game Grumps Remembers Old Songs

The wife and I are big fans of the Game Grumps. Through watching them we became associated with two of our favorite musical acts: Starbomb and Ninja Sex Party.

Both of the guys behind the show, Arin and Dan, are technically musicians (they are Starbomb, along with Brian – the other half of Ninja Sex Party) and because of that they talk music a lot – Dan in particular.

So on a recent episode – Katamari Forever Episode 19 to be exact – they were talking about a song that had been stuck in Dan’s mind for years. He knew it was from a game he had played as a child, but he hadn’t been able to place it in all this time. They posed the question to twitter, asking what the song was and eventually discovered what it came from. Go twitter peoples!

"Did you know I'm also on twitter?"

“Did you know I’m also on twitter?”

That got me thinking about a few songs that I hum/sing a lot. I had been humming along to the music in my head for years, but really had no idea where it came from. Three tunes in particular had a pretty constant loop in my brain, but I didn’t know if they were actually from anything.

The first one I figured out in my late teens/early twenties when I got back into retro gaming. After spending years being the Playstation generation I remembered that I was actually the 8-bit generation and got back into playing a bunch of my old NES, SNES, and Genesis games.

One of those games, of course, was Street Fighter II. I hadn’t played II in years, although I somewhat regularly played the Alpha series and III with my buddy. So there I am playing Street Fighter II, Championship Edition on the Genesis like I used to do all the time in my early years. And I come across a song that is very familiar to me.

Guile Theme

That’s right…one of the songs I had played in my head for years without remembering where it came from, was the theme song to my number-one character’s stage in Street Fighter. Replaying the game was the only way I was able to remember that one at such a young age. You see Youtube wasn’t nearly as big and popular as it is now – not ten years ago.

But a few years after that I did start to frequent Youtube more and more often, as it was becoming more mainstream. No longer was Youtube just the place to put up odd videos for your friends and family members to see. No! Now you could actually go to Youtube with a purpose…try to find something in particular.

And that thing I wanted to find was the Robocop Theme. Which I found…and then that linked to the Terminator 2 theme. Ooo, nice; what’s next? The Indiana Jones theme? Geez, it’s been years since I saw those movies, I don’t even remember what the theme song sounded like. I hadn’t watched Indiana Jones since I was like…ten or twelve, maybe?

The song starts up and realization dawns on me within seconds. This is song #2 in my head’s jukebox!

I loved all three movies as a kid! The fourth movie doesn’t exist, I like to imagine Indy had a stroke and the fourth movie is just images played in a random sequence as he dies; it’s less tragic than the actual movie.

Personally my list of best Indy movie to least best: Last Crusade, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Temple of Doom.

The last song, however, would take a bit more to scrounge itself into my consciousness. It was a mixture of both the internet and actual retro gaming. I had been watching a video on Newgrounds, which was basically Youtube before Youtube even existed. One of the parts of the video had song #3 on my mental jukebox. But it wasn’t attributed in the credits (douches!) so I wasn’t sure what it was from. I took a few cues from the video to deduce it may have been a sonic game.

So I got a few Sonic games up and rolling and started playing them through. Lo and be-goddamn-hold! The boss theme from Sonic the Hedgehog 2!

Sonic Theme

So the internet has made a lot of things easier. Like figuring out classic songs from our youths, apparently. And if you’ll notice none of them had lyrics for me to be confused about.

~RCS

Did I mention I’m on twitter?

Did I mention I'm on twitter?

Sometimes I say profound shit, too.

Inconsiderate Couponers

I don’t usually mind the crazy couponers too much, I totally understand trying to get the most for your money. And it feels pretty awesome when you can get something you want/need for less than full price or, even better, free. It’s when these couponers are utterly inconsiderate of the people around them that pisses me off. I’ll give an example…

Rich and I went shopping one night, it was around 11 p.m. or so (before the new job change), so we had to go to Market District because it’s open 24 hours. We didn’t get too much – milk, bread, pizza bites, and hand full of other random things. Once we got everything we needed we headed up to the only register open. We ended up behind just one lady, so we thought it wouldn’t take too long…

Scrubs-Wrong Wrong

Boy, were we fucking wrong. As the cashier was trying to finish bagging this lady’s overflowing cart full of groceries (of course no baggers that late at night and this lady didn’t bag a single fucking thing, herself) that’s when she pulls out a WAD of coupons! Not a nice neat stack, a fucking wad! At this point we had already been there for about five minutes or so and I checked my phone for the time, 11:45.

tumblr_inline_noxot8ig7U1sh6kg8_500

The cashier finished with the wad, occasionally trying to ask about some of the coupons and the lady either not knowing what the coupon was actually for or just “Oh, I definitely had that” or some shit, after five or ten minutes of listening to them babble on I was just trying not strangle this lady. And then the lady pulls out another fucking wad of coupons! Rich and I both look at each other, both of us trying to control the urge to strangle this bitch.

im not saying strangle bitch

And finally, fucking finally, she finishes up. We were behind this lady, this one, single lady, for at least twenty fucking minutes! Remember those pizza bites I mentioned? Totally fucking thawed! So, the lesson to learn from this story is…

DON'T FUCK WITH MY PIZZA BITES, AAARRRGGGG!

DON’T FUCK WITH MY PIZZA BITES, AAARRRGGGG!

Seriously though, if you have a metric shit ton of coupons – first of all – keep them neat. It will make things go so much faster when the cashier isn’t trying to unfold and organize a wad of coupons. Also, if the coupons get too mangled they get hard to scan, which also takes time. Second, if there are other lanes open, and someone gets behind you when you have your metric shit ton of coupons, just give a little heads up. Not that it would have mattered for us, since the store only keeps one register open late at night.

Ͼ-Mimi

Lyner, Even You Can Excel! Eh?

You know, for a man my age, who has been called a ‘scholar’ of various subjects and topics…I find it alarming how many things I don’t seem to research. Mostly trivial, I hope, but still.

This point was driven home like a nail to the brain just yesterday, as I was sitting in traffic and listening to the radio. Why would I listen to the radio? I was tired of the CD in the CD player and I couldn’t reach my CD case. I also don’t have much music on my phone, because the game I play on my phone takes up too much space.

Pokémon no go...

Pokémon no go…

Now let me bring this important point up. I know the words, in Russian, for both of the Origa songs used as the openings for the Ghost in the Shell anime series. I also know the words, including English translation, for the song Dragonstea Din-Tei by the Romanian band, O-Zone (y’know, the Numa Numa song).

Well, the Metallica song Enter Sandman came on the radio. I was bored and stuck in traffic, so I figured, “Hey a good song for once…” I cranked up the volume and starting singing along. It was as this point that I realized…I didn’t actually know the words. This song’s older than I am, I’ve listened to it dozens of times, and I never really thought to figure what the lyrics were.

I was yelling out stuff like, “Excel Liner, prayer for night! Take my hand, off to never never land.” And one verse I even tried “Exce-elle-ent! Excel Nigh-aye. Take my hand…” Only today did I get a chance to look up the lyrics.

Exit Light, Enter Night.

Really? I was way off. And what is an Excel Liner that I actually thought I was close to the real words?

C'mon Lyner, you can do it! Excel Lyner...Excel!!

C’mon Lyner, you can do it! Excel Lyner…Excel!!

Oh well…

~RCS

Memorial Day – 2016

I am so ridiculously busy.  Too many things to do, not enough time to do it all, and even less motivation to get it all done on top of that.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep moving when it feels like your outnumbered, outgunned, and the whole world is out to get you.

But you know what I always have time for?

Memorial Day is a holiday to cherish the blood lost for our freedom and our nation’s ideas.  This year is an election year and we will most likely have the choice between a rat and a fink; which makes it just like every other election year.  But one thing we must always remember is…no matter who sits in that oval office, no matter who bickers in the Capitol halls, no matter what asinine robed monkeys slam gavels in the hallowed halls of our courts…there are brave soldiers fighting at home and abroad to make sure that the fight never makes it home.

My military record is not what I had wished it to be when I signed those enlistment papers…cripes, thirteen friggin’ years ago!  Nonetheless, I still call those men my brothers.  I may not have had the opportunity to serve alongside each and every one of them in the fields of Afghanistan, to have their back at Fallujah, or even to shovel papers across their desk at Norfolk (the only one of those three I’ve even been to).  But I work with them in the civilian market every day, and every day I know that they did what I wasn’t allowed to – defended our nation, whatever the nation may have been or may become.  Luckily most of the jarheads I signed those enlistment papers alongside made it home.  And to the ones who didn’t…that’s what this holiday is all about.

I might not have a military record to put any pride in, but thanks to those who do I have the luxury of sitting on my stupid ass and writing for a hobby and maybe eventually for a legitimate living.  The least I can do is offer up a story, right?

I’m not saying its good, I’m not even saying it’s worth your time.  But it’s what I came up with in the heat of the moment and it will give you something to pass the time while the hotdogs are grilling.  It goes best with Peter Hollen’s rendition of I See Fire from a few years ago, since I had it on repeat while I wrote it a year ago.  You see I had shelved the idea, because I didn’t think it was good enough to warrant the thought behind the holiday.  But then I figured…nothing I could possibly do with a keyboard would amount to what the men and women who sat beside me and signed those same papers promised to do.  So why not just suck it up and give ’em something to read, right?

Here it goes…

“13 Hours of Fire”

Richard C. Shaffer

          Mortars rained down on our position for thirteen straight hours. It got to the point that we actually cherished the bombs dropping almost on top of us. We knew their mortars had a range of five-hundred meters. And we were six-hundred meters away from them. We were also surrounded one two sides by them and two other sides by cliffs. On top of this stupid, useless, pointless hill.
          “Well sure, a thousand years ago it would have been pointless, but now we have radios.” That Rutger, a mind like an encyclopedia. He couldn’t shoot straight, but hell most Riflemen can’t – ironically enough. Nah, that’s not true, the Ready-boys are just the easy targets. Rutger’s actually a great radio guy.
          “Save it, Rutger!” I’d never tell him that to his face, though; don’t want the kid to get a swelled head or anything.
          “Shut up!” When the Squad leader tells a group of marines to shut up after thirteen straight hours of bombardment, you know damn well what the other eleven marines do.
          “Why, you can’t hear the ear-shattering explosions over us chit-chatting?” That’s right…in a group of eleven jarheads, at least one of them will have a smart comeback. In this case it was Santoro. Actually it’s always Santoro. Santoro wasn’t born with a mouth – he was born with a sphincter on his face: It just always spews out crap.
          “That’s the thing…the bombardment stopped.” Sarge was right, his name was Steven. No, not Stevens with an ‘s’, just Steven. He always said it was a typo when his family came through Ellis Island six generations ago. Apparently the guy jotting down his grandfather’s name got almost all the way through Stevenson and then his pencil broke.
          “Did they run out of ammo?” You can always hand it to Jan – pronounced like John – to ask the stupid question. Only guy I knew who we all called by his first name. Probably because nobody could pronounce his last name. I mean, really though, who can remember Lance Corporal Mahajan Krishnamurti? I’m lucky if I can remember my own name, much less all that.
          “I find that highly dubious.” Seriously Rutger, who uses a word like ‘dubious’ in regular conversation?
          “I have a strange feeling they’re getting ready to charge the hill.” Gutierrez at it again, he’s never the bearer of good news, or good ideas for that matter. He was the one who convinced me to wear my drawers into the shower the first day of Basic – told me that’s how everyone did it.
          What an ass I was, walking in there, getting my underwear wet and then a whole crew of naked dudes walk in and give me ‘that’ look. You know the look! The one where nobody wants to laugh, in case you’re a little special in the head and they don’t want to be offensive, but where if they don’t laugh they’ll have an aneurysm.
          Yeah, that look.
          “We laid traps all the way up both accessible sides of the hill.” Finally! Some good news – thanks to Martinez, of course. Second in command for a reason, that man!
          “Rosen, see anything coming from the west?” Sarge asked our best marksmen to poke his head out the nearest window. You see we were in a twelve by twenty-three foot half-bombed out old radio tower.
          That’s why we were here. We were trying to get a good enough signal for an Evac. We got caught up in a firefight we couldn’t handle and pulled out of the engagement this morning. Now it was after midnight – so I guess it was technically yesterday morning.
          “Nuttin’ to da west.”
          “Shepherd, anything to the south?” Sarge asked.
          “Shepherd!” Sarge’s voice was even angrier than usual.
          “Shepherd, seriously…if you’re going to narrate our last few hours alive, could you not talk aloud while you write in that stupid journal?”
          “Oh, yeah, sorry Sarge.” I said, feeling ever the ass I usually did. I glanced out the window just above my head and saw something I really didn’t want to.
          “Two light sources, five-hundred meters out. Moving this way.”
          An explosion ripped through the night in the distance and I watched several flare ups of rifle fire around it. One of Martinez’s mines. I turned back to the group with a dumbfounded smile. “Correction, one light source now.”
          “Those traps won’t hold them forever.” Martinez was fiddling with two rifle magazines – the last two he had – as he spoke.
          “But they will buy us time.” Sarge plopped down to his knees and patted Rutger on the shoulder. “Any signal, yet?”
          “Weather’s cleared up some, but they say its still thundering over the carrier.” Our resident radio man gave a solemn shrug. “The wind’s too strong for the choppers to fly.”
          “No point in killing a whole flight crew to save twelve marines, right?” The hero in me wanted to agree with Gutierrez – the coward in me wanted to swat him in the lip. I chose to remain stoically silent.
          “We’ve got three wounded and twelve total bodies to evacuate.” Sarge summed it up pretty well. “We’d need two choppers, three maybe.”
          “They wouldn’t be able to pick us up here anyway.” I said…wait I said that? What was I saying? That’s terrible news; that’s Santoro’s job!
          “Shepherd’s right.” That was not the thing I wanted Martinez to agree with me on!
          “Between the mortars and the RPGs any chopper that sits still is going to join us on the ground.” Sarge gripped Rutger’s shoulder tightly. “Jets can fly in the rain, see if you can get them to drop something on our friends down there.”
          “Drop what?” Asked Rutger.
          “Something unfriendly.” Gutierrez, you clever dog you!
          “I expect we’ve got about twenty minutes before they get within range to cause us problems.” Rosen fiddled with his rifle. He’d fallen when he tripped over a piece of rubble and landed rifle-first. Something cracked inside and he was stuck firing single-shot. Pull the trigger, rack the bolt, pull the trigger, rack the bolt. Not fun in a firefight against an AK-47.
          “Just enough time to have a last meal.” I said as I pulled an MRE out of my side pouch. It had been breakfast, but I only ate the main course.
          “What you still got?” Asked Gutierrez.
          “Poundcake, some cranberries, and ‘cherry powdered fruit drink’ which all sound less delicious than the last.” I shrugged and tore open the cranberries.
          “I’ll trade you for the poundcake.” Gutierrez offered.
          “What ya got?” I was open to trade – why not, wasn’t like I was going to get the chance to digest it.
          “Twelve bullets.”
          “What am I gonna do with twelve bullets?” I asked.
          “I dunno, but that’s all I got left.” Gutierrez shrugged.
          “Aah, what the hell. Take it.” I was feeling generous. That and I was really digging the cranberries for some reason. “My canteen’s empty, anybody want to split some with me? I’ll share my delicious cherry fruit drink.”
          “I can do you one better.” Carmichael sat up from his spot on the side of the room. He was one of our wounded – took shrapnel to the leg from a rocket. Rutger and Sarge carried him half a mile to this bunker – more like a tomb now, with what we all knew was coming.
          “Oh?” I was curious what could be better than stale water and cherry-flavored kool-aid. “What ya got? C’mon now, I’m a business man.”
          “Somebody do me a favor and reach into my left ass pocket.” Carmichael struggled to roll enough for Jan to pull out a small metallic flask. He held it up with a raised eyebrow. Carmichael beamed with pride for smuggling the booze on campaign. “Eight ounces of the best, cheapest, grain-alcohol I could trade a pack of smokes to a local for.”
          “You don’t smoke.” Noted Jan.
          “That’s why it was a fantastic deal.” Carmichael winked, then winced from the pain in his leg. “I was gonna wait and open it when we got back for a celebratory shot. But I figure no point in wasting good, terrible booze, right?”
          “What do ya say, Sarge?” Martinez snatched the flask from Jan’s hands.
          “Toss it here.” Sarge caught the flask and opened it up, sniffing the contents. He shuddered and looked at Carmichael with the most incredulous look I’ve ever seen him summon. “You sure this is booze and not antifreeze, right?”
          “Eh?” Carmichael shrugged with a laugh. “Same thing, if you get desperate enough, right?”
          Sarge pulled out his canteen and dumped the contents of the flask into it.
          “Hey! Don’t ruin my hooch with your disgusting water!” Carmichael huffed as he laid back to rest his leg.
          Sarge opened the canteen and sniffed it again. Martinez walked over and took a whiff. “What do you think?”
          “I think if we drink this, they’re gonna find twelve dead bodies when they finally get up here.”
          “Shepherd, toss me that pouch!”
          “Cherry-bomb incoming!” I soft balled the drink flavoring to him and he added it to the canteen.
          Sarge gave it one last shake and then offered a canteen cap full to each one of us. We all stared at the pungent liquid with a mixture of unease and tranquility; disgust and desire; want and wanton disinterest.
          “I’ll give it the first taste.” Carmichael was gonna die of liver failure by the time he was forty anyway, he might as well have been the the first to die from his own blood-red poison. He quaffed the capful and shuddered as it spread through his system.
          “How’s it taste?” Rosen asked.
          “Not friggin’ cherries, I’ll tell ya that much!” Carmichael coughed and licked his chops. “Seconds, barkeep?”
          Sarge chuckled and poured the final few drops into Carmichael’s cap. I stood up, just a step away from the window so as not to attract unwanted bullets, and raised my capful. “A toast then, gentlemen. A toast as we sip our last snifter of wine?”
          “What ya got, writer boy?” Santoro sniffed his capful and shook his head in disbelief.
          “Well…” I summoned every ounce of skill I learned in High School Journalism class and gave what we all figured would be the last speech of my life.
          “If this it to end in fire, then we should all burn together. America’s sons, America’s daughters.”
          “Ain’t no girls here, Shep.”
          “Rutger counts.”
          “Hey, I got two older sisters, you think I’ve never been forced to wear a dress before?”
          “I know things about you I never wanted to, Rutger.”
          “You’re welcome, Sarge.”
          I continued… “And if we should die tonight. Then we should all die together. Raise a glass of wine…for the last time.”
          “Should we die…we’ll die together, as brothers.” Sarge raised his cap and emptied it into his mouth. We all followed suit. Never mentioned to them I stole half those lines from a movie’s soundtrack. They either didn’t know or didn’t care. We loaded the last few rounds we had into our guns and came up with a plan.
          We would offer up a fighting withdrawal as we dragged the wounded to the cliff-face and rope down while the enemy was still preparing to rush us. It was stupid, it was deadly, but it was the best idea we had. Martinez and Gutierrez set up their last two mines at the doors of the bunker and we all crept out into the darkness.
          “Stay low, stay quiet.” Sarge ordered as he sent the first man down the cliff, then the second. Then we started hoisting the wounded three down to them. It was straight into the water, but there were some rocks to cling to. We didn’t have much to keep us afloat, but we had a better chance of floating away than we did surviving the impending assault.
          We were half down when it was my turn. I handed my rifle to Gutierrez. “In case something happens, I’ve got a full clip.”
          “Happy trade, Shep.” Gutierrez handed me his half-empty rifle and I strapped the rope to my waist. I was just about head down when one of the mines at the shack went off. We all looked up as the flash of light and smoke lit up the sky.
          The shrubs near the makeshift radio tower lit up like torches; a deathly auburn color. Realization dawned on us about the same time it dawned on them – we could see each other now. Martinez brought up his rifle and opened fire into the group, taking three of them down before they could return fire.
          Gutierrez popped two rounds to the right side of the shack and then tossed a grenade around the left. All I could see were the shadows of limp bodies flying off the side of the eastern cliff. I brought up my rifle, but Sarge stepped in front of me. His eyes shone of fearless protection, like a mama bear with a hunter in her den. “Get going!”
          I felt his hand on my chest as he pushed me off the side of the cliff. It took me a second to realize what had happened before I grabbed the line and slowed myself. It was too rough though, I slammed into the cliff-face and dropped into the water.
          The world moved in slow motion, and to the soundtrack of that damn movie no less. I couldn’t remember all the words as the water lapped over my face and I felt myself sinking.
          Should my brothers fall – then surely I’ll do the same.
          That was close…close enough, at least.
          “I got you Shep!” Santoro’s voice pierced the vale of darkness as my head came back above the water. I gasped for air as he wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “Can you swim?”
          “Y-yeah.”
          “We gotta go.” We made the swim out into the dark waters. It was a rough night, but we were a lucky few. We got spotted by an air crew an hour after dawn. We were rescued.
          Twelve men sat in that bunker, twelve men shared a brotherly toast, and eight made it home. Steven, Gutierrez, Martinez, and Rosen. They were the reason any of us made it home. They are the limbs we walk upon every day. They are the beats of our heart, the air in our lungs.
          They were our brothers. Through the fire, through the night. Brothers, always.

~RCS

Tekko 2016 Review: Saturday

We’ve talked about Friday at Tekko 2016, but what about Saturday?  Well that’s what we’re talking about, today!

Saturday started around noon for us, after checking in with Con Ops we hit the lounge to fuel up for the day. We caught the better part of Nancy Kepner’s “How to Explain Anime to Your Parents”. One of the funniest selections from her routine was talking about her conservative religious aunt telling her, “Your Grandmother would be so ashamed of what you’re doing!” because in her song ‘Sexy Asians Dancing’ she uses the line, “Oh my God, sexy Asians!

So once we were done fueling up and Nancy’s show was over, we headed to our home away from home, the Tekkou Gakkou room for our final panel of the weekend: Samurai Mythconceptions. In it we discussed the common tropes of the modern media portrayal of a samurai as well as various myths associated with samurai. If you were there for that and liked any part of it, you will definitely enjoy our Samurai Gaiden series on YouTube.

Once that was all said and done we dropped off our gear since we were done running panels and we hit Jimmy Johns again, but unlike the first time…this time they were packed. The line wound around the interior of the building and you had to pass the line in order to get to the end of it.

But Jimmy Johns is incredibly fast and we were trough the line and had our food within ten or so minutes. We headed back to the convention center and ate in the Premium Lounge, watching the opening portion of the masquerade on the lounge’s closed-circuit TVs. We got to see the fantastic Castiel cosplay that the young lady with the extendable wings; that was pretty cool to see. Aaron Fristik of Snap-Fit Comedy’s final Masquerade stand-up was about the last thing we saw before heading out from the lounge and headed to the what would be our first panel that we planned to attend and only the second panel of the weekend we attended.

What panel was it? Games to Film: Issues of Adaptation run by the guys who do the Inciting Incident podcast. They recorded the panel live and you can find it on their podcast here (the panels starts at the 32 minute mark). They discussed some interesting points and were pretty entertaining; seemed to know what they were talking about as well.

I really enjoyed their deconstruction of the old Super Mario Brothers movie and how they were able to look at it with an entertaining way and deduced the problems that created it. One thing that was interesting was how they were able to critically cite the flaws and issues with various video games movies, even though they liked them (their comments on Street Fighter is a great example).

We then went to the Game Room and watched a few people play some pachinko and arcade games before checking out the table games on the other side of the room. It was nice that they expanded the game room this year; I can’t wait to see what it looks like next year with even more stuff to fill the room.

The wife enjoyed watching some of the Japanese games that looked flashy, even though she couldn’t read enough of it to have any idea what the game was or what the hell was going on. She did get a kick out of the Taiko Drumming game. But we didn’t stick around long enough to play anything and never made it back to the room with everything else going on.

The final panel we attended was the Japanese Mythology in Anime and Games 101. They had some interesting information, although the girl leading the panel had a problem with her countenance at first. When the panel started out she was clearly trying to hide how nervous she was, because she couldn’t complete a sentence without stammering and repeating herself. She would start the sentence…she would start the sentence and then stammer…she would start the sentence and then stammer a bit before being able to finish her thought.

But to her credit she seemed to smooth the problem out by the mid-way point of the panel and was able to talk in a more confident style and the panel improved a bit there. They had a few bits of trivia that I’d argue were incorrect, but the overall information was good.

Unfortunately at that point we hadn’t eaten in about five hours and couldn’t contain ourselves for the rest of the panel and headed out to scrounge up some food. We spent the rest of the night sitting around, watching the Sleeping Samurai stuff and chatting with the guy who owned it while he was making a foam sword.

~RCS

Tekko 2016 Four Classic Novels Part 2 Live!

Once again, with the coming of this fine day we have now released the second part of the Four Classic Chinese Novels panel from Tekko 2016.  Enjoy!

FourNovels-Opening

~RCS

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