Sunday’s Wisdom #231: Maintenance is Required

“‘Needs no maintenance’ is a lie.’”
– Petey, Schlock Mercenary
Book 19: A Function of Firepower – Part IV, by Howard Taylor
(Apr. 17, 2019)

What Petey, the nigh-godlike AI, is referring to is a system in a space station. He likes things that have moving parts and require maintenance, rather than things which ostensibly don’t, because when things need maintenance regularly, there is a vested interest in keeping them maintained. If not, then people get complacent, they forget all about how the system works, just assuming that it always will, and when something breaks, when entropy eventually “exposes the lie,” nobody remembers how to fix it, resulting in the absolute failure of the system. In space, that means everybody dies.

An outcome preferably avoided, no?

Somehow, that line, and its entropy-based implications, simply resonated deep in my heart, reverberating through my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how it applies to… everything.

Machines? Yes, of course.

Equipment? Certainly.

Buildings? Absolutely. There are entire industries based on this.

Roads? Yes. Unless you want them all to crack and crumble and be little more than collections of rocks and potholes.

Cities? Um, yes.

Countries? Oh, very much so.

Armies? Absolutely. If you want it to remain effective, that is, in doing its job.

Governments? Heck, yeah! I point you to every abuse of power, abuse of the law, abuse of human rights, abuse of people, and every great nation that fell from the stagnation of its rulers. On which note:

Civilization? Yes. Every civilization will crumble to dust when it is not properly maintained.

Relationships? Yes. How much suffering has resulted from neglected relationships between couples, families, friends, coworkers, colleagues, leaders and followers, and more? All of them need maintenance.

Religion? Definitely. Times change, circumstances change, the challenges to our souls change, even when they stay the same.

Philosophy, science, education? Yes.

Our bodies? Obviously, yes.

Everything needs maintenance in order to continue… being.

The spirit of maintenance is the spirit of attention, focus, and love, and it requires discipline. Without these things, applied regularly, even constantly, everything stops. There is no more progression, no development, and so everything stagnates, rots, and decays until it simply breaks and is no more. It’s gone, as if it never was.

Maintenance is, and must always be, required.

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This Week on TV, Apr. 20, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

Endings are tricky, and Gotham seems to be going the way of the anticlimactic “just because” route. And they didn’t even touch on Man-Bat! Wat a waste of a tease in last season’s finale!

But Cloak and Dagger picked up the slack, even if it’s still a bit disorienting every time they go with overlapping Ty and Tandy’s scenes, back and forth, back and forth.

Gotham

5.11 “They Did What?”

The morning after the bombing run, the army has orders to invade, destroy the city, and kill everyone. One officer says, “No.” Bane assumes command and kills him. And the rest of the soldiers, instead of shooting the man who just killed one of their own, meekly fall in line. Just because.

Refugees are pouring into the GCPD from all corners, with the army not far behind. They set up a blockade and Gordon gets every able-bodied refugee into the basement… instead of armed and on the wall and holding the army off. Is it just be, or should that one be a no-brainer?

As Gordon wants to run off to the Sirens, looking for his baby, her mother, and his wife, Selina goes instead, so Gordon can hold down the fort. She finds Lee just coming to, and beholding the utter destruction of the Narrows, so she goes to the precinct to help with the injured, by telling the people giving medical care what to do.

Penguin and Riddler are on the verge of leaving, but Penguin turns back. He still feels for the city, even if he was about to leave it in ruin. But leaving is one thing… leaving and watching it get burnt to the ground, then rebuilt by people who have no connection to it, that is not quite the same. So, he turns and goes back, leaving his dog in Riddler’s hands, because this is him listening to his heart.

Bruce has some toys from Fox, little things that might buy a little time, and one needs every advantage in war. One such: a radar-cloaking device that apparently excites certain animals. Gee, I wonder which animal that would be.

Gordon and Penguin have a moment where Penguin waxes eloquent, convincing Gordon to bring him into the fight with him, and then Riddler shows up to join as well, as the sub takes two people to function anyway. Cue dramatic walk of central cast people through the precinct and to the blockade. They completely ignore the opening scene of the season, but I suppose a lot of things have gone by the wayside already. It felt a bit like we’d gone back to the quality of those very first few episodes, which I did not entirely like.

A few dozen ragtag cops against several hundred trained and armed soldiers, and the cops don’t actually want to hurt the soldiers. They focus their fire on Bane and his cronies. And they’re overwhelmed within moments, including Penguin losing an eye to a grenade. But they still manage an orderly retreat well ahead of the encroaching army. Just because.

Bruce has an idea to buy them a little time, involving taking the core of Jeremiah’s generator and using it as a bomb to bring down the Wayne Enterprises and a few others to block the army’s path. It goes splendidly, and even has a moment where Bruce talks about what this means as a sacrifice for him. Then they turn the bomb on and Bruce says, “We run!” So they run, get out, and the building comes down. Time is bought (though the army gets to the GCPD practically in the same moment that they do).

Bane shows up, intent on death. Bruce and Selina hold their own for a bit, but Bane gets a grip on her neck. But he talks for a moment, giving her a chance to stick him with his own knife, and Bruce uses the radar-cloaking and bat-agitating device, attaching it to Bane. Bats swarm him, and he is defeated, though he just has a few scratches in the next scene and is still leading the charge.

Gordon goes to city hall to take his daughter back. He and Barbara manage to deal with Nyssa’s goons easily enough, but she’s too formidable a fighter. But, with such a clear gap in skill, Gordon gets crafty, cuffing himself to her at their wrists, hindering her, and letting Barbara get in a strike with the knife that she used to kill Ra’s. But Nyssa gets away anyway, and uses the info Barbara gave her to find the sub and leave, with Penguin’s fortune and his dog.

Gordon and what’s left of his men make one last stand in front of the GCPD, to buy time for refugees to escape through tunnels below, which, they probably should have started that earlier. Gordon sends Lee to lead them, and she gets them going and turns around to stand with Gordon, entrusting the refugees to Barbara, who leads them back out to also stand with Gordon, like they probably should have in the first place. Now faced with so many innocent and ragged men, women, and children, including a baby, and with only Bane himself and one of his men still surviving, the army listens to Gordon and turns their guns on Bane, like they should have done in the first place.

Seriously.

So. Much. Just because.

Alfred was down for the fight, and he has a limp and a cane by the end, which explains why he doesn’t go into the field anymore once Bruce becomes Batman.

Barbara named her daughter Barbara Lee Gordon, so her name itself would tell her who she can trust in Gotham.

Gordon got to hold his daughter for the first time and he is named commissioner.

Penguin and Riddler are angry. They just lost everything they had, they get no credit for fighting for Gotham, and they are cast out. Riddler didn’t even feel anything for the people he was fighting beside. So they’ll start again. They’ll make Gotham theirs, and make its people tremble at their names. They could work together… but they won’t. They embrace, with knives ready to kill each other, but they don’t. They part ways, and that is that.

Bruce and Selina have a moment after the battle, where Bruce blames himself, and is haunted by Nyssa’s escape. Selina assures him she’ll always be there for him, which reminds him of his parents, and leans against him.

Afterward, Bruce leaves the city. He tells Alfred goodbye at the airport, the butler staying behind to rebuild what was ruined, and wrote Selina a letter. A letter. He’s supposed to be all grown up now, but sometimes I want to shake some sense into that boy! If he is so set on leaving, fine, but at least tell Selina about it in person! But no, he has to say it in a letter. Just because. Oy vey!

Gotham‘s final climax was a huge letdown, I have to say. They did excellently for four seasons, constantly better and better, with greater and greater heights of tension. But this one? They fumbled.

Well, I suppose there’s still the conclusion to look forward to. The series finale, which will apparently finally usher in the Gotham city we all know and love, wherein its dark knight takes flight.

Cloak and Dagger

2.04 “Rabbit Hold”

Sometimes hope is the light found in the darkness, and sometimes hope is the light that enters the darkness.

In the wake of last episode’s ending, we have… fallout. Fallout, fallout, and more fallout. The entire episode is trying to deal with it.

Tandy and Ty warp back to the church, and Tandy is sure they need to get Mayhem back out of wherever she went to, as they need her help to find the other missing girls. Ty doesn’t know if they can, and he certainly can’t seem to do anything about it himself, so Tandy will go in… after tapping into the fear that seems to stimulate the portal’s activation.

Now, this leads into a fascinating glimpse at Ty’s character. He knows Connors is in there somewhere, so he knows his only hope of getting his life back is also locked away in the darkness. He’s sat on that hope for months now, doing nothing about it, because getting what he wants means releasing his most capable enemy, the bogeyman of his childhood. If Connors gets out and goes after Ty’s parents or Evita, and Ty fails to protect them… well, that thought terrifies him. Truly terrifies him.

That’s the thing about love: it means being more afraid for others than for oneself. That’s what people like Connors simply do not get, and it is the lack of love for others in their hearts which makes them so despicable.

The terror of risking harm to his family triggers the shadow portal and Tandy goes in.

She finds herself in a great darkness, her shining dagger the only light to be seen. She stumbles onto a pile of pennies, then the gas station that Mayhem saw before. There, she meets someone. He looks to her like Ty when he was a young kid, but it’s not him, and he freely admits it. “He” is this entity with many names, including St. Peter and Papa Legbi. They seem to settle on calling him Papa Mystery. He guides her into the maze ahead, so she can help Mayhem escape. There’s a viewing stand to look through, which requires Tandy to give up her shining dagger, and it pops out a coin with a dagger on one side and a cloak on the other. She figures out it must mean Ty doesn’t have his powers either. Which, is very bad timing.

See, out in the physical world, the gears are still turning. Brigid is doing what she can to wrap up the case involving the Uptown boys and their victims. Which, pause for a moment here, but the cops are hardly doing a stellar job of it. That, however, is partially because of the rules they play by. In a sentence:

Prostitution is still a crime.

Meaning that these girls who are kidnapped, stolen out of their own lives, pulled into terror and despair, pumped full of drugs and pumped by anyone who can pay for it… are arrested for what was done to them. In short, the victims are treated like criminals. That is just wrong, on so many levels.

For one, it’s an impotent threat and a worthless bargain when the cops arrest a woman for prostitution and offer to drop the charges if she flips on her captors, who will kill her if she does.

For another, there is neither justice nor mercy in it.

And for yet another… it’s impractical, counter-productive, and just plain stupid.

I have no appreciation whatsoever for the practice of prostitution. I believe it is a vile, abhorrent, evil thing and it must be done away with, for the good of all and the improvement of our society. And I believe that morality must play a role in legality, or it will all be worthless rot anyway. However, the law, as it currently stands, makes criminals out of victims, making things all the worse for them, and I cannot say that it saves anyone in the process.

It is one of the most bitter ironies of life that morality in legalized form often leads to little more than suffering. To force one man’s morality on another leads to damnation for all.

Thus, while I hate it, truly, with a deep and abiding disgust for the practice and the sorrow for those caught within it, I must contemplate if things could be better if the law were altered. The point of the law, after all, is to protect the innocent, ensure their rights, and bring justice upon the heads of the guilty. If the law is proving to do more harm than good, then it needs to be changed.

If prostitution were legal, and regulated, then the balance of power would shift. If a girl were stolen from her life, drugged up, beaten, raped, or otherwise mistreated, then she could at least go to the police without being thrown into jail herself. If the law protected these women better, then their handlers would have to treat them better, and they would have to employ girls voluntarily. If their customers could get what they want from one provider without fear of the law, then they would be discouraged from going to less savory corners for the same. And any girl trapped within would have a safe way out.

It would sicken me to condone it, in any way, on any level, and I doubt the girls would suddenly have a wonderful life in their occupation… but if it helps those girls in any way, especially in saving their lives and letting them leave, safely, whenever they like… then how could I say no?

But I have digressed long enough. Back to the story!

While these gangsters are at the police station, they notice a wanted poster with Ty’s face on it. They get his name, pass it via a phone call to their colleagues elsewhere, who use it to get access to his home address… where his mother is. Brigid notices this and calls him, warns him.

Ty’s mother, Adina, is working on something big at the moment. She has files open all over the place. She wants to bring her son, Ty, home, but he’s wanted, and I think I can follow what she’s doing. To bring him home, he needs to be exonerated. Without Connors himself, she’s focusing on that night he killed her son. His uncle fixed that mess for him, so who’s his uncle, and how bad of a man is he? If she can bring down the uncle, she brings down Connors’ version of events that night, which shifts suspicion for an officer’s murder from her son and towards the people responsible, which exonerates him and lets him come home. Something like that, I imagine.

Unfortunately, that means she has to guard what she’s doing, the information she’s gathered, so she has to put the vital bits back into a safe, taking precious time, before they run. But when Ty tries to teleport them out, he can’t do it. It’s that exact moment when Tandy has forfeited her dagger, so Ty loses his cloak as well. He’s left powerless in a dire situation. Fortunately, his mother is equal to the task.

Adina leads the flight out of their house, triggering the alarm to call the cops, and stealing a car. It would seem, much like her husband, Adina has a past which her son knows nothing about. Parents are full of surprises that way. 😉

The pair flee, talk, and have mother-son dynamics of her wanting to protect him and him wanting her to see that he’s not a kid anymore, all at once. They take cover in an old church, rumored to be haunted by three-century-old vampire nuns, and they have a quiet moment to talk for the first time in months.

The vampire-nun story, it would seem, comes from the early days of New Orleans. The French king selected and sent a number of women to the area to help the men breed. The women didn’t know that the were being sent into sexual slavery, really, but the crossing was so harsh on them that their keepers began to feel for them. They were smuggled into the city under cover of night, and then, coincidentally, a number of caskets, which they were sent with, were delivered to the church. So, if I followed that story right, the men who were supposed to sell them decided to rescue them instead, with what they had on hand to work with.

Adina asks where he heard that story and learns about Evita, which makes her smile. She doesn’t like Tandy, the little thief who stole her badge, but she likes what she hears about Evita.

Their respite is interrupted, however, by one of the gangsters from the previous evening. This is the young man whose life Ty saved, by leaping in front of the bullets coming to kill him. The gangster holds them at gunpoint, but he has enough character left to be grateful, and he doesn’t shoot them, though he was torn about it. Ty manages to take the gun, and the gangster actually helps protect them from his gang. He tells his boy when they show up that cops are on the way, and Ty makes that true by calling them himself. Brigid gets a minute to come in and get Adina out, but the cops are ready to murder Ty on the spot.

…and, once again, the timing on Tandy’s part is crucial.

In the darkness, Tandy finds herself at a mall. She and Mayhem find each other easily enough, but finding the way out is trickier. There’s a hall of mirrors between them and the exit, and Mayhem doesn’t cast a reflection. Tandy does. In fact, she has several, and has to choose who she is, or something like that. Thus why Mayhem, only part of a person, doesn’t have one: she has no other sides of herself to come to terms with.

They find where Connors has been squatting, but he’s not there at the moment. Evidently, he is obsessed with Ty, hanging effigies of him all around his space.

They also find a record store with all of the missing girls cataloged, and Tandy’s own painful memories on record. She listens to then, and it tears her apart: when her father didn’t want to look after her because he was working, when she listened to music while they were fighting, when she stepped out a door while they were fighting… her pain is sharp, and she hasn’t really dealt with it.

Mayhem, now, while Tandy is busy, she goes to deal with the one she’s wanted to kill all this time: Connors. She gets him, starts hanging him, but Tandy interrupts. She uses her dagger, which breaks the rules, so the darkness swallows them up and casts them out.

That would be the moment when Ty was waiting, in dread, to be found by the police. He teleports away, to the church, and doesn’t land alone. No sign of Mayhem, if she was pulled out with them or not, but Tandy and Connors are both out, and Connors immediately makes his escape.

So, they’ve no idea yet if they managed to succeed, but they certainly managed to let their enemy out, and they nearly lost everything in the act. Oh, and now Connors knows where to find Ty.

Things are not looking good for our heroes!

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5 Anime “Ships”

How, exactly, did the word “ship” come to involve romantic couplings that the fans like or dislike? I have no idea.

It’s quite appropriate, as I think about it, that we talk about the relationships between characters right after we talked about the characters, be they child, adult, or even inhuman. I mean, we humans love to gossip, the moment we have someone to gossip about. And we all see different things in how they interact, often coming up with out own ships, whether be legitimate or not, but also almost always taking a side in whether we like a certain ship or not. I blame Archie for that, giving us the endless debate of Bettie and Veronica. Or was it Gilligan who did that first, with Ginger and Mary Anne? Either way, point stands. 😉

Now, it must be said, my criteria for this consisted only of 1) it being canonical in the anime and 2) not putting me off in any way. In other words, an official ship that I like, or at least don’t dislike.

So, while I hope to avoid kicking any hornet nests, here a handful of ships which I picked… pretty much just because I like them! 🙂

1) Seras & Bernadotte
Hellsing Ultimate

Not to start out on a morbid note, of course. 😉

Seras Victoria and Pip Bernadotte first meet when the latter’s mercenary company is contracted by the Hellsing organization to help fight vampires and guard their own pet vampires as needed. Step one: convince them that vampires are real. Cue the first meeting between these two, wherein Seras demonstrated her vampiric status via beating him with just a few flicks of her fingers to his face.

While Bernadotte was obviously freaked out, he had just met a very strong, beautiful woman, as exotic as it gets, and soon discovered that she was a sweet and innocent girl as well. Naturally, he really wanted to kiss her. I love the little relationship that exists between Seras and the mercenaries in general, but their leader was the one to actually go for it.

Their love story reached its crescendo very quickly, a seeming tragedy in the midst of a storm of blood, carnage, and death. Their first kiss was when they were at their lowest point, on the verge of death themselves, and there was definitely blood mixed in with that saliva. It’s a scene that made us feel everything as they kissed, and then Bernadotte laughed at having finally kissed her, and it only took her being blinded by their enemies to do it!

And then came the ultimate joining of their two souls. He died. She drank his blood and took his very soul into her being. Though that would normally mean he was gone forever, in truth, the two of them were bound eternally together. He became her shadow, never apart from her, always guarding and helping her.

As far as love stories among immortal vampires go, I imagine that’s actually one of the better ones! 🙂

2) Kyo & Tohru
Fruits Basket

No offense to fans of Prince Yuuki, of course! 😉

Between the endearing relationship of the first anime, and the impending romance of the true-to-manga reboot, I count these two as a couple, even though they’ve technically yet to couple up.

I think what I like most about these two is how they complement each other. Tohru is a very nice, kind, considerate girl, perhaps a bit too considerate for her own good, really, a bit quiet, but with emotional depths and her mother’s wisdom to make her a strong support to those around her. Kyo is much louder and more aggressive, but always true, always genuine, and never half-hearted in his passions. She is a natural nurturer, and he is a natural protector. The two of them just… they feel right together. And they’re just so sweet to each other! 🙂

3) Lucy & Hasebe
Servant x Service

I mentioned this in my review, but part of what I really like about the show is how good the couples are for each other, and the two lead roles demonstrate this especially.

Forgive me if I repeat myself a little.

Lucy is a fine, strong woman, competent, capable, hard-working, etc. She’s mostly stable, but has one little issue which sets her off and colors the entire way she sees things. Hasebe practically invented the art of looking like he’s doing nothing, just taking it easy, yet he has surprising depths to his character. Oh, and the one thing that excites him, to the point he needs to maintain his usual composure, is Lucy.

In short, she benefits from his calming influence, and he benefits from everything about her.

I like this couple! 🙂

4) Baka & Luna
Level E

Prince Baka of the planet Dogura, and Princess Luna of it’s moon, Magura. A couple whose coupling will be a legend throughout the universe for the ages. 🙂

They were betrothed at an early age, and if that were all there was to this coupling, therein would my interest in them end. But Baka did not want to get married, wanting to be carefree and not at all caring for how properly Luna behaved. So… she tricked him!

This was no small feet, either! Baka was a genius, and practically a walking encyclopedia on how to misbehave. He loved toying with people, in every way he could imagine, which, as he was a genius, was considerably varied and unpleasant. But he finally met his match in Princess Luna, for though she was more compassionate and level-headed, she proved to be every bit as cunning.

It was by sheer chance that the opportunity fell into her lap. A rebellious faction sent agents to capture and impersonate her, hoping to gain legitimacy for their movement via absconding the royal marriage. But they failed, and Luna had the idea of using the same scheme to her advantage. She impersonated her impersonator, putting on a glorious performance for the prince she sought, and guessing in advance what he would do.

True to form, Baka decided to marrry the girl who, it seemed, was a rebel and a thief, much more interesting than some dull princess. The truth was revealed only after he had fallen for it and become her husband, and there is no question that he was impressed and fascinated. Luna tricked him, one of the most devious beings among the stars.

And, as it happens, their wedding hailed the widespread revelation of extraterrestrial life to the people of Earth. After all the fear they’d had at imagining what form their first contact would be, it was a happy, joyous occasion, both for them, and for the royal couple, and for the universe collectively, now knowing that the devilish prince had a firm hand on his reins, a beautiful woman who could match his every move.

And they all lived happily ever after.

…either that, or Baka and Luna absolutely laid waste to everything in their path. Whichever! 😉

5) Zaryusu & Crusch
Overlord

From the moment these two lizardmen met, I loved them! 😀

Zaryusu was driven by need to try and rally all lizardmen in a fight for their very lives. His first stop brought him to Crusch’s tribe, and the instant he sees her, he is struck as if by lightning. He is speechless, and when he manages to regain his composure, answering her question of why he’s there, the first thing he says is, “Marry me.”

It is a fantastic moment, an excellent beginning! His words and her reaction both had me laughing, and I immediately fell in love with their love story. The dire circumstance provides the tension needed to move things along, and the two of them just worked well together, ya know? They are both strong in their own ways, both distinct outsiders in their own ways, and both of them are leaders. The connection between them felt a natural as breathing and as touching to the soul as a campfire.

In short, they’re great together. 🙂

And that’s it! My five picks!

What do you think? Who would you have picked? What anime couples, or any other couples, are you a fan of, and why?

Posted in 30-Day Anime Pick 5 Challenge, Anime and Cartoons, Challenge Accepted | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Anime Review: Ouran High School Host Club

I had no idea what it meant by “Host Club,” or what hosts were, in this context. Going by what I saw, a host is someone who dresses stylishly and entertains people in luxurious settings, giving them a pleasant, satisfying experience. Thus, the Host Club of Ouran High, a most prestigious school almost entirely populated by the children of the super-elite upper class, is a group of handsome, popular young men who fulfill their obligation of participating in a club (a common requirement in Japanese schools, as I understand it) by entertaining mostly their female classmates. It’s an unusual premise, perhaps, but one which is invigorated by the arrival of a “commoner” among their ranks.

As a slice of life, reverse-harem comedy and drama, Ouran High School Host Club tell the story of Haruhi Fujioka and her experiences with the titular Host Club. An honor student, the only one to get into this prestigious academy by her own work, instead of by her money (she’s poor) or her status (again, poor), Haruhi is much more down to Earth than most others at this school. Indeed, she’s so practical that she doesn’t take much care in her appearance, leading to others confusing her for a boy. So, naturally, she becomes involved with the most absurd, ridiculous, over-the-top, and stylish club of boys in the entire school.

The Host Club is led by Tamaki Suoh, a handsome and eccentric young man, heir to a vast fortune, every bit as flighty as Haruhi is grounded. But, he has a way with people, and a surprisingly earnest desire to see them smiling and happy. He understands more than it seems at times, and possesses an uncanny ability to read people, to see what they need and give it to them. That’s how he recruited all the other hosts into his zany Host Club scheme.

Kyoya is the brains to Tamaki’s heart and soul, the financial genius who keeps the club running and subtly influences the others; Honey is an adorable little boy, but apparently so formidable that he is classified as a living weapon of mass destruction by the military, but, fortunately for everything except the budget, he devotes most of his time to eating cake; Mori is the gentle giant of the group, always looking after others, and especially taking care of Honey; Hikaru and Kaoru are mischievous twins who look, talk, and act all but identically and in unison, yet have their own cares weighing on them as well, behind those impish eyes.

Each member of the club, outside Haruhi, has been somewhat suppressed, no matter the apparent luxury which they come from, and, including Haruhi, they have all been harshly molded by their life experiences. That is what is so appealing about the club, and Tamaki: he gives them a place to be themselves, a refuge in which their souls flourish and they grow stronger together.

If central casts tend to be collections of freaks,
then these are the handsomest freaks of all.

Mind you, in Haruhi’s case, being confused for a boy at first complicates this a bit, in hilarious ways. Poor Tamaki is the one to take the revelation the hardest, and while it’s clear he has feelings for her almost immediately, for once he has no idea how to behave. He’s not the only one to like her, of course, and it’s up in the air who she’ll eventually end up with when the end comes. But, her common sense, sincerity, and insight make her quite popular, and even the boys’ fathers don’t seem to mind the idea of a daughter-in-law who has already stood up to them. But that’s a bit of a digression. The show is much more a slice-of-(extraordinary)-life comedy, with a bit of drama.

Now, the final part of the show was a little idiotic, truth be told. A girl comes in, ready to take Tamaki away, and his loyal friends refuse to let her infringe on Tamaki’s happiness, as he has nurtured and guarded theirs already. Thing is, this girl deals with this in an absolute all-or-nothing fashion, and she never bothers to tell Tamaki that she could reunite him with his mother, whom his well-t0-do family cast out long ago. I don’t know about you, but a more subtle, friendly, less demanding approach would have worked quite a bit better, I think. Maybe something like, “Hello, this is my name, I know your name, and I would like to get to know you better, and, oh, by the way, your mother is my maid, would you like to see her again?”

Seriously, they really stretched a bit to get some tension at the end.

Outside that, however, I generally enjoyed the show, and found it to be great fun. Funny, cute, wholesome, heart-warming, a bit heart-wrenching at times. It makes you smile, laugh, and cry in turn. If that sounds like your thing, then Ouran High School Host Club may be right for you. 🙂

It may not necessarily be a contender for my top favorites, but it’s not that far removed. 😉

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

Posted in Anime and Cartoons, Tuesday Review | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sunday’s Wisdom #230: Because We Care

“Why’s everybody giving me such a hard time?!”

“Because we care!”

– Cheetor & Optimus Primal, Beast Wars
Season 3, Episode 6, “Feral Cry, Pt. 2”

This is just a little snippet of conversation, really, but, as we were watching it together, I couldn’t help but tap my nephew on the shoulder and point and say, “See?”

Cheetor, at the moment, is trying to hide something new and unusual about himself, fearing what others will think. When his friend and superior presses the issue, out of concern, that’s when they have this little exchange.

It speaks to something I have long agreed with, and witnessed firsthand, and been on the receiving end of, namely that the attentions we so often resent, be they protective, disciplinary, or simply inquisitive, are often the result of genuine caring.

Yet I find that it is only now, with my responsibilities for my nephew, that I begin to truly appreciate it.

He is a brand new teenager, and he has all the attitude that comes with the hormones. He also has issues rooted in his past, and in our current situation together, which I’ll not elaborate on out of respect for his privacy. Getting to the heart of the matter, he often accuses us of not caring about him, usually in response to reasonable discipline. He doesn’t understand, yet, how we can punish him if we love him, but the reality is the other way around.

If we didn’t care about him, we’d do nothing. Nothing at all. What we do, we do for him, to try and help him, because we love him.

Have you noticed? People only put effort into things they care about.

Most people, outside a lucky few, go to work, and endure unending piles of crap heaped eternally on their heads, not because they love their job, but because they need to earn a living. They care about the survival and comfort of themselves and those they are responsible for.

Athletes and scholars and doctors and mechanics and everyone else puts countless hours into mastering their craft because they care about it.

Drill sergeants break down raw recruits in every possible way, and then rebuild them into soldiers, because they care about whether those soldiers come back from war alive. They can’t go easy on them.

Supervisors and managers are hard on those they lead because they care about what happens.

Investigators of internal affairs in police forces and armies and such, they do their jobs well when they care about the results.

Animal trainers use basic techniques, and a lot of time and effort, into… well, training their animals, because they care about the animal’s performance.

Shepherds and cowherds and such, they put tremendous amounts of effort into feeding, guiding, and guarding their herds and flocks, much as farmers do in tending their fields, because, being invested in such, they care about it.

And teachers, counselors, and parents monitor and correct a child’s behavior because they care about that child.

A human pays attention to another human when they care about that human.

Even when people are doing petty, stupid things, like furthering a feud, getting revenge, sabotaging, or whatever else, it’s rooted in what they (unwisely) care about. So, I’m not saying people “always” care in a “good” way, I just mean that they don’t put effort into things they don’t care about.

So, whenever my nephew, who has more greatness in him than he realizes, tries to tell us we don’t care about him, I can honestly point to everything we do as proof that we care about him more than he knows. 🙂

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This Week on TV, Apr. 13, 2019

Spoiler Alert!

I am looking forward to Gotham‘s series finale, and the next season of Agents of Shield, but, for this week, we just had the newcomer to the lineup, Cloak and Dagger, to regale us with tales of heroism and villainy, and a little blurring of the line between. Not bad! 🙂

Cloak and Dagger

2.03 “Shadow Selves”

After the last episode left off on a cliffhanger involving the display of two Brigids, this one begins with Mina Hess experimenting on a most unfortunate mouse. She exposes it to the whatever-it-is that turns people into mindless Terrors, is probably the source of Ty and Tandy’s abilities, and which Brigid was exposed to when she became two people. As the mouse runs a frustrating maze and Mina opines on tape how her funds are running low, a freak power surge turns the lights off for a moment. When they come back on, there are two mice, identical, right down to the mark she put on the first, in the maze. And while she’s busy being stunned by the appearance of a second mouse, said second mouse attacks and kills the first. (a very unfortunate mouse)

That is all kinds of disturbing, ya know? To suddenly not be alone, but have yourself in front of you, coming to kill you, by ripping you apart. That is rather unsettling just to contemplate, and Brigid has a front row seat.

Ty, Tandy, and Brigid find themselves facing this other Brigid, who I shall simply call Mayhem from this point on because they hit that one over the head enough times to cause serious brain damage. Mayhem talks about finding and saving all these missing girls, and they can join her, but they better not get in her way. As they refuse, not wanting to be party to casual murdering, Ty gets them out before they become casually murdered. The boy’s powers are growing, but it obviously takes a toll on him.

Tandy, fierce and freaked out, wants answers, and with present parties unable to provide, they go to Mina, with her mice. She’s been experimenting, and successfully replicated the results of earlier, and she only lost three more mice in the process. Evidently, exposure to the mysterious chemical combined with a bit of fear results in a split of one into two. Brain scans indicate that the original loses all activity in the rage center of the brain, while the copy has activity exclusively within same center. So, it’s like all the rage and aggression gets pulled out and put into a new body, identical in every way, including memories.

Brigid was literally made into two people: one with all the aggression, and one more docile.

Mayhem, we learn in flashbacks, was after Connors at first. Of course, the man having been taken into the darkness, she can’t find him. She tracks down his old partner, who vouched for him and supported his story. It was an accident, yes, but still one they ducked responsibility for, and Connors convinced him to support an outright lie in exchange for a promised favor. That favor was never repaid, and the man was drummed out of the force a year later. He’s regretted it, but only because of what happened to him. Mayhem picks up on that, on how he makes himself the victim as he tells the story, and it touches a nerve. Which, touching the nerve of a super-strong incarnation of rage who can slice throats open with her fingernails… not healthy. She’s angry, and without remorse, when she cuts him down.

Interesting detail there, her search for Connors took her in proximity of a meeting wherein Ty’s mother voted down a measure to have the police keep investigating something, I missed what it was about, but there’s clearly someone holding power over her. Perhaps by threatening her family?

So, Mayhem’s investigation took her looking for Ty, for help, which took her to his old adviser, the priest, who quits being a priest and becomes a drunk on the streets instead. She seems to use him as a confessor of sorts, someone to talk to about her troubles and get advice. It’s after a conversation with him that she gives up on Connors and starts looking for the kidnapped girls instead.

As that search is probably going to leave a trail of bodies, Ty, Tandy, and Brigid are playing catch-up, starting by going to her place. Brigid just needs to think of what she would do, and she picked out a place to hide out for awhile already. Mayhem went there, and apparently has the landlord cowed after a few months of interacting with her. They go in and find the maps and pictures and wanted posters all over the wall. Mayhem’s been a busy girl, it seems, and tonight is the crescendo of months of work. Brigid works it out with the playing-card trick she uses.

First it was the drug dealers in the club, who sell to the human traffickers so they can keep their victims subdued. Then it was the private ambulance company, who transport the girls all over the city, hidden in plain sight. Next up, it’s a shipping location, a pier that, at the moment, is on the news, in flames. Finally, Mayhem hits a strip club, a location where the sex trade can hide beneath a very thin veneer.

The trio in pursuit catch up to her as she’s wreaking… well, mayhem on the men inside, her targets. Brigid guards the entrance while Ty and Tandy go in. Now, they have abilities, which gives them a little edge, but they’ve never gone up against someone else with abilities, especially someone with increased strength. She basically bats them aside with about as much effort as it takes to brush aside a fly. Then she heads out and walks past Brigid, who, lacking her rage, is unable to pull the trigger.

There’s something to be said for rage, at certain times. When it rules you, you do terrible things, things you shouldn’t. But to lack it entirely is to lose one’s fangs. Any virtue taken to far becomes a vice. We are told we need to rule our rage, but that involves having rage to rule in the first place.

And for all that Mayhem is out of control, she got info, which she gave to Tandy, leading them to rescue a number of girls… after Mayhem had come, killed all their captors, and left, that is.

Tandy is conflicted at this point. Though she doesn’t like all the murder, Mayhem is getting more results, much faster, than anything they’ve done up to this point. Everything they’ve been doing is pointless if it doesn’t get the job done, which it never does. What if her victims deserve it, as those who traffic in other people’s bodies surely must? How can they argue against methods when it gets results?

Ty has a simpler view of it: shooting first and asking questions later, that is the attitude that got his brother killed. And for all the talk of helping people, the girls Mayhem “rescued” are not all right after seeing what she did. So, methods matter.

Now, this time, Ty and Tandy manage to get ahead of Mayhem a bit. When the girls can’t talk much, Tandy touches one, to find she has no hope, and then Ty touches her, entering the nightmare that tells him where they were taken. They go, and manage to quickly and carefully distract all the guards with a flash of light and get all the captive girls out. Brigid has her hands full seeing to them, Ty is getting exhausted, and Tandy… is almost captured. Having her step out like that felt like they were stretching things a bit, but, ok. Mayhem shows up in time to run the man over with a semi. Then she storms the place, slaughtering the criminals. But there’s one, barely more than a kid, really, who Ty chooses to save.

In that moment, he is practically darkness itself, a shadow that absorbs the gunfire and draws Mayhem into itself.

Tandy is just a little surprised by that.

Mayhem finds herself in darkness, approaching a gas station, I think, where she finds a fridge that has the corpse of her boyfriend in it, grinning and talking about pancakes.

This show does not hesitate to unsettle, ya know?

So, we have rescued girls, some of them in better psychological condition than others, dead or subdued criminals, complex questions about right and wrong and how best to save the world, Brigid divided into two, and Mayhem in darkness. Oh, and people are now seeing what Cloak and Dagger can do, and live to tell of it. That could get interesting!

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5 Non-Human Anime Characters

First it was scarcity, then it was overabundance, and now it’s… nuance. I mean, there is certainly no shortage of characters in anime who are “not human.” But if we want some diversity, then how rigid are the lines of division?

Vampires aren’t human anymore, but they were human, and they still have a human appearance a lot of the time.

Elves aren’t  human at all, but strongly resemble humans, indeed, they are widely portrayed as the most beautiful people humans ever see.

Much the same can be said of gods and goddesses.

There are characters galore whose species are basically humans with something bestial or elemental added in.

Even ghosts are still the same humans that they were in real life, just without a physical body to work with.

Heck, there are so many monstrous characters who actually are, or were, human that one could scarcely count them.

For a comparison: the mutants of the Marvel universe are all absolutely human… but many don’t exactly look it.

So, when picking non-human characters, the real question is how nuanced and diverse we can be here. As such, I wanted to pick characters who display some of the range of inhumanity to be found among anime.

So, without further ado, I present my picks for five non-human anime characters! 🙂

1) Delilah
Gate

Starting out just a short step removed from humanity, we have Delilah, a Warrior Bunny. That is, she is basically a human with a bit of rabbit added in, and her people are warriors.

Delilah is something of a strange favorite of mine. She’s not a major character at all in Gate, at least not thus far in the anime, but she gets the spotlight a couple of times. In particular, she is a sassy, cute character in the background who the soldiers consider a friend. Then she becomes an unwitting pawn in a scheme originating with one of her most hated enemies, quite nearly doing something terrible, and certainly harming a friend, because she was deceived.

In regards to what she nearly did, she almost took an innocent life, and the moment of interaction she has with her intended victim was riveting, and displayed the core of both characters. And as for who she hurt… well, he takes full advantage of her responsibility and has her nurse him back to health, with obvious undertones. You really have to respect a man with enough balls to court the woman who nearly killed him, ya know? 😉

I’m really hoping for another season of Gate, or at least a movie or something, because I love all the characters, and I look forward to seeing Delilah again. 🙂

2) Zaryusu Shasha
Overlord

Now we shed the outer visage of humanity completely with Zaryusu, a lizardman, that is, an upright, bipedal lizard. (hmm, I wonder if humans would ever be described as upright, bipedal monkeys with no tails…)

I particularly like Zaryusu for two reasons.

Firstly, he shows that all the usual tropes of heroism are not limited to heroism. He’s smart, strong, something of an outsider, though not aggressively so, he’s journeyed and learned, and he helps his people. Not only does he fight for them, with everything he has, but he shares his knowledge to improve their lives through innovation. When all the clans of his people need to unite, it is he who proves himself worthy and rallies them together, though he has no notion of taking power and authority for himself. He is strong, but humble.

Secondly, and I will mention this again quite soon, I just love his whole relationship with Crusch! It is just so adorable! Even when I was laughing, I couldn’t help but nod in approval like, “good man, good man,” when the first coherent words out of his mouth the first time he saw her were, “Marry me.” 😛

More on that later! 😉

3) Tiger of the Wind
Monster Rancher

Leaving bipedalism behind, and reaching way back to my childhood, we have Tiger of the Wind. He’s a straight-up monsters, a wolf with horns and a lion’s mane.

Tiger is swift and strong, able to shoot lightning and roar wind. His is a noble soul, filled with honor, and he is on a quest to maintain his freedom, gain justice for his fallen comrades, and free his brother from the influence of a terrible evil. In short, he is awesome.

’Nuff said! 🙂

4) Haru
My Roommate is a Cat

Taking things even further from humanity, we have a straight-up unembellished animal: Haru, a normal cat. And let’s be honest, she absolutely is a character in her own right. 🙂

Easily the most recently-produced of this lot, Haru is an adorable stray cat. She stumbles onto a human who adopts her and the two of them together undergo a slow transformation wherein they become a family. She is clever, but, being a cat, does not understand human ways, because she does not think of things in human terms. Result: many hilarious misunderstandings.

Haru is lovable partially because of how she misunderstands things, partially because of her reactions to most everything, partially because she is just an adorable feline, and partially because her story reflects that of her human in some ways. She has known loss, as he has, and she is very uneasy around others, as he is. Yet, she grows close to him, and the two of them soon find that the emptiness of their loss has been filled with warmth.

You just gotta love that, ya know?

5) Chamber
Gargantia on the Verduerous Planet

And now the time has come, where we step so far from humanity that we shed physical form completely, in the person of Chamber, an artificial intelligence.

Chamber is a constant presence for most of the series. As a pilot assisting program, he (and I am going with “he” instead of “it”) does very well supporting the lead character in a variety of ways. His perspective, being outside humanity, provides for some interesting insights as well. And a little bit of the humans’ influence on him is shown in subtle ways throughout the show, but especially in the climactic finale. There are few things more epic than when a machine, without emotions, is able to not only reject the offer of another machine, but do so in a way which invokes emotion.

After being distant, separated from humanity by the simple fact that he isn’t one, Chamber goes out with a display of how close he is to them, how strong his connection to them is. In essence, he sides with the feeling, so-called “illogical” part of humanity, against that cold, ruthless supposed practicality which leaves nothing truly “human” in its wake.

And that’s it. My five picks for non-human characters, those who show us what humanity is really all about.

How about you? You got any favorite non-human characters?

Posted in 30-Day Anime Pick 5 Challenge, Anime and Cartoons, Challenge Accepted | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Haven’t You Heard? Sakamoto is Hilarious!

Take a sip every time you hear that jazzy little theme and, depending on what you are drinking, you will either be very well hydrated or completely smashed long before the end. In other words, yes, it’s a bit repetitive, and a bit monotonous in the latter-middle, but it’s still so much fun!

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto! That’s the title, in English, translating from Sakamoto-kun, desu-ga?! For brevity’s sake, I will just say either “Sakamoto” or “the show.” 😉

The show is a slice of life comedy and follows it’s titular character through a number of zany adventures, wherein he overcomes every problem with absurd levels of style! That is his thing: style! Everything he does, he does with style! I realized early on that one had to toss out all the rules of believability when dealing with Sakamoto and his style during the first episode, when they had him rescuing a flailing bird in a storm by flying upwards with an umbrella. That drove home, very nicely, that there was going to be no logic whatsoever to his superhuman deeds, he was going to get things done with style and make us laugh the entire time.

The goal of this show has nothing to do with realism, only laughter.

Sakamoto himself is, of course, entertaining. Nothing, and I mean nothing, ruffles him or his style, yet he demonstrates a capacity to quietly care for others which makes him all the more focused on what needs doing for their sake. His presence shines in glamorous style (have I emphasized that word enough yet?) and his deeds elevate those around him, or, rather, help them to elevate themselves. One classmate learns the value of hard work and fighting to keep what he has earned; another makes friends with other girls, instead of focusing only on wrapping boys around her finger; another becomes more open and healthy in her admiration of him, instead of lurking around like a creepy stalker. And so it goes.

The show actually deals with some important life lessons, in that sense, but it makes us laugh all throughout.

“Laughter is good for the soul,” he stylishly says.

Now, it must be said, it does get a little monotonous and repetitive. Whatever the problem, it is solved, and with style, the moment Sakamoto hits the scene. His inhuman abilities and endless “secret techniques” get a little old by the end, as does his jazzy theme song. The plot obviously goes nowhere, we can safely and accurately expect everything to work out perfectly, there’s not much tension to be found. Which makes the ending all the more strange.

Though Sakamoto has dealt with a few detractors and opponents, it’s not until later in the series that an actual antagonist appears. Said antagonist makes very little sense in and of himself, as do his unnatural abilities of persuasion. But he is overcome, again with style, and sent on his way to go waste his life elsewhere and leave good folks be in their happiness. With that done, it ought to be a happily ever after, as per usual. Yet… when Sakamoto leaves, it seems to be forever, and nothing about it is ever truly explained. The show, which has almost never had much plot or tension in the midst of all the laughter, ends on a somber note, and we don’t know why.

It’s a little frustrating, to be honest. The antagonist and the ending both feel out of place and befuddling. The happy note one would expect the show to end on just isn’t there. I’m not sure what they were trying to get at, but whatever it was, it has been entirely lost.

That said, there’s still a great deal about the show to enjoy. 🙂

If you want to just kick back and have a good time, laugh at some absurd antics for a few hours, or for twenty minutes at a time, with some humble life lessons couched amidst that laughter, then you have found the right anime in Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto!

“Your words, they flatter me, sir,” he stylishly says.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

 

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I Will Marvel at Cloak and Dagger

I was a little late to the first season of Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, but I am catching the second season as it airs this time. I’ve decided to add it to my weekly lineup for commentary. It’s seasons may be shorter, but it’ll fill things out for the moment, and I enjoy it. 😉

Cloak and Dagger follows the adventures of Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson in their corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through a not-entirely-explained series of events and happenstance, they gain superpowers. Tandy can make daggers of light, and Tyrone can teleport about in a cloak of darkness. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the basic, Level One explanation. The two of them are quite different from each other, but there is a strength that they share, and they bond over their individual and shared experiences, which often mirror one another. Basically, they complement each other quite well, though there is always friction between them.

The idea behind the show, as with the comics, is that this is, overall, their love story. They’re not diving into that immediately, though, which is nice, but you know it’s going happen eventually, so long as the show lasts long enough for it.

Instead, they focus on what these two teenage heroes are trying to accomplish.

Tandy spends most of the first season trying to redeem her father’s name and bring justice to the powerful company which dirtied his name, let its own workers die, and is still putting the entire city in grave danger just for the sake of profit.

Tyrone similarly wanted to redeem his brother’s name, and bring justice to the corrupt officer responsible for his death, and for a great deal of other suffering.

Once both quests are fulfilled, they turn their attentions, in the new season, to serving justice and mercy in general throughout their home city of New Orleans.

Alongside these two are Tandy’s mother, Tyrone’s parents and first girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s mother, the latter two also providing voodoo-based guidance for Tyrone’s part off the journey. Most of all, however, is Brigid O’Reilly, a female officer fresh from New York. She is a capable, stalwart ally, but something of an outsider even within the police force and possessing a dangerous edge.

That, it turns out, seems to be part of the second season’s subject matter. It would appear that, in a show about two people coming together almost as one, O’Reilly has somehow been changed from one person into two. Now that should prove interesting!

All of this, however, is just surface stuff. The real meat and potatoes of the show is how it continually delves deeper, into who these people are. Tandy and Tyrone, for instance, have the ability to enter people’s minds, one to see their hopes, and the other to see their fears. They see what lies beneath the surface, and they see it while they themselves wrestle with their own demons and desires. They’re learning, again and again, that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want, and even when it does, it might not be what you imagined.

In short, they’re a pair of young souls trying to survive, and do good, but find it a much more difficult and harrowing experience than they ever imagined.

All in all, it’s generally a riveting, suspenseful, emotional experience.

But I wonder a little about how much direction the show really means to go in. For one thing, it feels very far removed from the rest of the MCU, much like the Defender-themed shows of Netflix and especially in light of the unfolding events of Infinity War and Endgame. For another, after a rather capable build-up towards last season’s finale, the climax felt rather… anticlimactic. There was so much drama going on, and the end just felt like it didn’t so much release it so much as just drop it and let it roll away.

Still, those points notwithstanding, I like the show fairly well thus far, and with the first season’s setup done, I’m hoping for something even better this time around. 🙂

Rating: for now, 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid B.

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May I Ask a Favor?

Could you, my wonderful audience, be my sounding board for a moment?

I have a little idea turning over in my mind, and I’d appreciate any feedback you might share.

Short version:

I am considering compiling and publishing the first five years’ worth of Sunday’s Wisdom as an ebook.

Good idea, or no?

Long version:

From the moment I stopped wanting to be an astronaut, Power Ranger, and Ninja Turtle, all at once (hey, a five-year-old doesn’t care how difficult it would be to be multiple things simultaneously), I have always wanted to be an author.

I fell in love with stories early, and I fell in love with writing the moment I wrote my first story in the first grade. All through the grade school years, when others groaned about how long our writing assignments had to be, I was excited about how long it could be. Perhaps that’s been my weakness: never learning how to trim things down so I could just write it, finish it, and publish it. Still, I’ve never quite stopped trying, even when I’ve practically given up.

A few years ago, I made a promise to myself, that I would write something, really work on it, and, come the end of this year, I would send it in for publication, no matter what it was or how it was. A huge step for a would-be author. Probably doomed to failure, but a huge step.

Maybe that’s what got me thinking about this.

I also have been pondering the future quite a lot as of late. I can’t keep doing what I’m doing forever, so I need to figure something out. Naturally, my attention turned to my blog, and looking for ways to monetize it. WordPress has some helpful hints there, but I’ve yet to gain the traffic needed make ads profitable, or to affiliate with Amazon, and I don’t have any actual goods or services to sell. All I really have is my words. My perspective.

That actually reminded me of some of my fellow bloggers, who I have seen publish their work in. But I ask myself, what could I publish? My reviews might be nice, even useful in their way, but not in a compiled format. I’ve hardly anything else at all that I could actually market.

Then it slowly dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, an answer was literally right in front of me.

Sunday’s Wisdom has often surprised me in its relative popularity. I may be a bit prone to pontificating, but I always strive to look for what stories can teach us, and that, I think, could be of enduring, if also modest, value.

An ebook could also be more palatable to a reader. Instead of having to come onto my site and trudge through my archive and directory, they could peruse it anytime, anywhere, even if for only a moment or two.

It could also give me more publicity and drive more traffic to my humble blog here.

And, let’s face it, if my hobby could start paying a little, even if it’s just enough to pay for itself, that would be a plus. 🙂

Obviously, I would need to put some work into this, putting it all together, refining it, figuring out how to even publish an ebook at all, etc. It is no small thing.

And, quite honestly, given the wide range of material I draw my quotes from, I am somewhat… I amend that, I am absolutely terrified of everything to do with possible copyright infringement.

So, there are things for me to consider, and that is why I would like to ask you, my audience, for your thoughts on the matter. I know, it’s selfish of me, but I would appreciate any insight you might offer this humble amateur. 😉

A poll, for people to cast their votes quickly.

And if any of you who want to say anything more substantive, I will appreciate your comments below.

And thank you. Thank you for any input, and thank you, very much, for being my audience.

Have a great day!

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