Friday, August 23, 2013

Unico In The Island Of Magic! Part Two!!

When we last left off, we were halfway through a movie and the following events had occurred:

1) A talking cat demonstrated the ability to coerce birds and frogs to sing in harmony after putting them in a pair of headphones.

2) A guy named Toby working for Marty Feldman circa Young Frankenstein turned a whole bunch of people into "living puppets" and used them to build up a castle/keep/estate into something bigger.

3) Our heroes (Unico and Sheri) were eaten by a steampunk dragon before being turned into dolls by Toby and stored in a wall for safekeeping, however they were then later used by Lord Kuruku (the boss I refered to above) in a huge musical play number.

4) Toby is Sheri's older brother in what was one of the worst kept secrets of the whole film...and yet, they managed to get that big plot reveal out of the way within the first 45 minutes of the film instead of leaving it to be an obvious reveal later.  Kudos, film.

So let's continue down this trippy adventure, and keep in mind that as bizarre as things are so far, they're gonna get stranger.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Unico In The Island Of Magic: Part One!

If you're currently reading this, then you're obviously aware that I decided to make this Unico Week in this blog.  Well, that's unless this happens to be the first post of my you've ever read, in which case welcome to Unico Week here at Erik At The Gates.

We're at the second movie, which I have a much stronger emotional attachment to as well as much more vivid memories surrounding.  There were things in this film that just stuck with me through my life, to a point where, a few years ago, I was trying to remember the movie with "that unicorn and the people who-" well, I won't give any spoilers, but I will say that everything I remembered originally came from this one movie.

Well, almost everything.

Man, that thing still freaks me out.

So let's look at the second movie featuring a brave little unicorn, and prepare to have your minds blown with how crazy animation from Japan was in the 1980s.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Fantastic Adventures of Unico! Part 3!

When we last left off, a baby unicorn has been kidnapped, befriended a demon, almost drowned, kidnapped again, met a singing cat that he turned into a human girl, and licked a monkey back to health.  The girl-formerly-known-as-a-cat, meanwhile, met a mysterious dark stranger, fell deeply in love, and ate a berry that made her heavily intoxicated as dark magic guided her to a mysterious mansion.

Will Unico safe Katie The Girl Who Isn't A Cat Anymore?  Will the forest return to normal?  Will he ever see Beezle again?  Does any of this make any sense to anybody who hasn't been watching this movie?

Can things possibly get any weirder?

You better believe it.

Let's get into the third segment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Fantastic Adventures of Unico! Part 2!

Yesterday, in order to celebrate my 200th post since I initially created this blog and failed multiple times to get it going worked on hammering out the bugs in my idea of what to post, I decided to take a break from a cartoon show that only a sugar-addled child would enjoy and look back at a show that I loved when I was a child, one that not even the advance of time could destroy my appreciation of.

So I dug out Unico, the most heartwarming and bittersweet combination I can think of in an animated form.

So let's dig into the second part of the first DVD and get ready for big smiles and moments that make you just want to hug a stuffed animal punch things and be manly.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Nnnnnnnnnh!

Finally.  After weeks of watching one of my childhood joys stick a knife into my side and twist as I could do nothing but scream, I've come to the end of this torture.  After this week, I can go on to any kind of programming I want to review.  I could pull up something I enjoyed that probably still holds up, like Mighty Max or Gargoyles.  I could look at an established classic like X-Men or Batman.  I could even start reviewing movies or programs I never watched before.

But first I have to get past one more episode, and I'll be completely finished with this insipid, lazy, worthless program for good.  Just. One. More. Episode.

Hold on, let me do some quick math here.

Let's see, I did this many episodes of My Little Pony, I did my movie breakdowns, I have the posts from way back in the old days...

I think this is my 200th post.  Huh.

Forget Mario, then, I'm going to do something I'm going to actually enjoy to celebrate this pointless event because of how long it took to make it milestone.

I'm taking this week to review Unico.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Top Eleven: Openings From Anime

I've gone on before about theme songs in shows and how important they are.  Something I hadn't originally considered is how difficult it must also be for shows that are going to be transferred from one country to another.  Do you dub over the voices with new words?  Do you leave it as it is and just add subtitles?  Or do you simply have no words at all and let the words speak for themselves?

This became more apparent the more I thought about a lot of the programs I watched from Japan, and which ones had me hooked just by the theme song and which ones pretty much lost me right from the get-go.

So, in honor of that, here's my completely self-absorbed list of my eleven favorite themes from anime.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

From Erik's Kitchen: Salmon, Spinach, and Beans!

Ever want to make a simple dinner that only takes five minutes to cook?  Well, now you can!

More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty!

Normally here I fill in the standard two paragraphs about having a vault of useless information and positing some questions of which two tend to be ones that require thought and the other is something completely random.  However, seeing as how this is my thirtieth "Ask Erik" it feels a bit like a milestone.  Maybe it's because my "Ask Eriks" are officially approaching middle age.  Maybe it's that I'm also just three posts away from my 200th post since I first created this blog.

Either way, today seems like a good day to do something special, so I'm going to answer two questions, both of which were given to me on Facebook.  Two questions so nerdy, I might spontaneously grow tape on the bridge of my glasses.

Let's rock.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Shadowrun, Sega Style!

Having spent much of my childhood in Washington State, I obviously have a fondness for Seattle and its outlying regions.  Some of it might be through rose-tinted nostalgia glasses of trips to see the Mariners fail to get to the World Series, visiting the Pacific Science Center, and regular trips every year to see The Nutcracker performed by the ballet.  But there's so many other things to the city to fascinate someone like me, whether it's the looming figure of Mt. Rainier overshadowing the city, the distant reminder of the threat of Mt. St. Helens, or the history of the underground city, the whole area seems designed to capture the imagination of children.

So when I heard that there was a futuristic fantasy world that took place primarily in Seattle but allowed for elves, dwarves, trolls as well as both fancy future technology and magic spells, it seemed like someone had taken everything I loved growing up and threw it in a pot to see what insane concoction emerged.

What came out, of course, was Shadowrun.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Eight

Two episodes left.

I'm now almost completely convinced that if I could go back in time and meet my younger self, I would have so much advice about things to do and things not to do.

Things to do:  Invest in Apple back when the stock was ridiculously low and the company was almost going under.  Hold on to this list of strategically timed lotto numbers.  Write this book series I'm handing you called "Harry Potter."  Use a fake name if you have to.

Things to not do:  Don't take that huge hill getting home from your job in the future at a movie theater, the light is hard to see.  Don't tell the girl you tutor your freshman year you like her, she won't talk to you again.  Don't attend the new learning program at George Mason University, it'll go defunct in a year and you need a year off anyway.  Never watch a cartoon based on Mario and his friends.  EVER.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Says You!

Word games, to me, are some of the most fun people can have.  Trivia, puzzles, puns, stories, they all stem from the core attribute of a civilization: a shared language.  No matter what your interests, you tend to express your enthusiasm and appreciation through the use of words similar to everybody else, so when something is willing to take something that everybody shares and has a natural experience with and breaks it down into its own source of enjoyment, I love it.

That previous paragraph was a fancy way to say that one of my favorite things in the entire world is the radio program Says You!  It airs on NPR stations across the country (but, sadly, not the one I get to listen to here in Maine be- whoops, almost went on a rant).

Hosted by Richard Sher, the program started in Boston but frequently shows up in cities across the United States.  He has a regular panel of contestants who have been long time friends of his (with one exception, Carolyn Faye Fox, who they met on the first day of auditions and whom Richard calls "the best break the show ever got."  It shows, with a level of familiarity with each other that can only come from not just performing a regular show together for at least fourteen years, but for having been friends for years before.

The contestants/panelists themselves are an eccentric and fascinating group, with each having a history that somehow ties into language.  Whether it's a history of performance, broadcasting, or writing, each manages to bring an educated and appreciative view to the game, and seem just as eager to learn the answers to the questions as they are to attempt to puzzle them out.

Each show consists of five rounds, three of which can consist of anything from "definitions and derivations of words and phrases" to games based off of whatever Richard and his crew can put together.  Rounds in the past have included such things as "what's the first song on side A of the following albums," "what's the difference between the following," "name the local town from these terrible clues," and my personal favorite "odd man out" where Richard presents a list, and the contestant has to figure out what all but one have in common and pick the one that doesn't belong.

For instance, if you were presented the following list: Comet, Cupid, Pharaoh, and Pip, would you know that all but Cupid was the name of back-up group members of rock and roll bands?

Or how about if you got: life, heart, toes, and underwear, could you figure out that toes is the only one you can't have "a change of?"

Or how about if you got Adam's apple, tin ear, spare rib, and water on the knee, tin ear is the only one not part of the board game Operation?

The other two rounds consist of attempts of one team of contestants to bluff the other team by presenting multiple definitions of a word, only one of which is correct.  I've learned so many new words (and laughed so hard at fake definitions) that the show has already become invaluable in my life.

For example, I'm not proud to call myself a "nelipot" since that's a person who walks around barefoot.

A tuzzy-muzzy is a small garland of flowers.  To "hoon" is to drive recklessly and without concern for others in Australia.  Hoove isn't a failed heimlich maneuver (as was presented by one contestant) but is in fact a disease in cattle.  Orgle is the sound a male llama makes when...well, "copulating" is the best way I can think of describing it.

I try to use these in daily conversation whenever I can.

I encourage everybody to check out the program's website.  You can even go to the store and download a free hour long episode for your own enjoyment to see if you like it.  Sit back, spend some time with a group of friends who not only love to have each other around, but help you feel like they're your friend as well with the intimacies and personal facts they share.  You might learn something.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thor! Again! But not really!

One of my original blog posts was a look at the movie Thor, which I liked but felt was not as good as it could have been.  Recently, however, I managed to pick up a copy of the Thor video game for the Nintendo DS and decided to see how its story manages to interact with the movie's story, and find out where it ranks on the list of "mostly terrible video game/movie collaborations."

Seriously, a way for me to know that I shouldn't pick up a video game is to hear the words "based on the movie" anywhere in the synopsis.  The only ones that really got it right for a long time were some of the Disney-based video games (Aladdin and The Lion King come readily to mind), a single James Bond-based game (Goldeneye), and one of the most underrated games of all time for the PC (Blade Runner)., Blade Runner.  I've gotta dig that game out and do a post on it, because not enough people know about how awesome it is.

Where was I?  Oh, right.  In recent years this trend of most games based on movies being terrible has changed, no longer simply being a cheap way to slap a character likeness on a standard "jump the platforms" game or first person shooter.  The world certainly doesn't need more of some of the worst games ever.  Now a game might still be a rip-off of another popular game, but they'll at least design the world and controls around what you have...for the most part.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Twenty-Nine

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies and TV shows, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries.  When will they be able to make medications without side effects?  How do we find the perfect balance between the sense of identity of a person and the fact that we're all essentially skin wrapped around skeletons with some squishy organs on the inside?  How would a dreamcatcher know which dreams to "catch" anyway?  Do they have filters like my email?

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Let's Talk: Being Outgoing

This post has a pretty big "about me" towards the end, so it's going to ramble a bit as I work up the nerve to say it.  Strangely enough, I feel more embarrassed about it than talking about depression.


As I write this, I'm sitting on the grass at LL Bean listening to The Head And The Heart play through Lost In My Mind.  As they play, I find myself doing something I regularly when I'm somewhere that has a crowd: I'm watching the audience with the same fascination I watch the group.  There's a ridiculously young couple near me, he showed up early this morning to place a blanket down so they were guaranteed a good seat.  Behind me is a group of- oop, hold on.

Sorry, the song was picking up before the finish and everybody was standing cheering, so I figured I should, too.

There are teenagers behind me who brought a picnic with them, and I listened to conversations through the day ranging from the difference between a ratchet and wrench, how terrible Shia Labeouf's acting is, and prom hijinks.  There are couples in the crowd leaning against each other, friends standing on the harder surfaces dancing, children sitting in laps being gently rocked, and at least two photographers running around like maniacs taking pictures.

What does this have to do with being outgoing?  Well, to begin with, it's a wonder I'm even here.

I don't do things on my own very often.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Seven

Over the weekend I wound up with an extremely bad sunburn on my back.  It actually hurts to sit up straight in case my back touches the back of my chair.  I'm looking forward to being able to remove an entire layer of skin from my backside in one pull like I'm trying to pull the tablecloth out from under a family's dinner.

But in the meantime, because my suffering hasn't reached any actual extremes yet (though I do feel warm all the time, I wonder why sunburns do that), I've decided to continue my reviews of episodes of the Super Mario Brothers Super Show.

Because the sooner I get this over with, the sooner I can move on to something else.

Three episodes left, including this one, so let's see if the bar can get any lower than the last one's terrible retelling of a Shakespearean classic.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Nintendo World Cup

The first video game system I personally owned was the original Nintendo Game Boy.  In fact, I still own it, it still works, and I still bust it now and again to play some classic games.  The games released for the Game Boy weren't always great, though, and a few were downright bad...but a few seemed terrible until you unlocked the secrets simmering just under the surface.

A brilliant example of that last one is World Cup.  It's not a good game, by any means, but man is it fun.

How can a game that isn't good be fun?  Because once you stop worrying about winning, you realize it's possible to murder the other team.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

What's wrong with you, FOX?

I'm old enough that I remember when FOX first started airing prime time animation shows (read: The Simpsons).  It was crazy enough that nobody really knew what to make of it, whether it was okay for children to see because it was "a cartoon" or if it was completely obscene.  Parents hated it, children loved it, and phrases like "Don't have a cow, man" and "Eat my shorts" became common phrases tossed around school yards.

The thing was, The Simpsons was also really funny.  It had a brilliant cast, well developed characters, and plots that at first seemed to simply be purely done for humor but would make you stop and think afterwards as you realized what it had in common with other things happening in the world.  To be fair, there was almost no ongoing character development unless something huge happened, such as a character's death or a wedding or a child being born.

But that was part of the charm.  Whenever we heard Mr. Burns say, "Simpson, eh?" or had Homer learn something important just to forget it the next episode, it managed to have a charm unique to it.  It was a world like something from the Twilight Zone, stuck forever in the same year, everybody forever remaining the same age, and living the same life forever.

And then things got weird.