This weekend, I got a new ninja plushie!
“What’s his name?” my daughter said, even though I never name my plushies because I am an adult person and an adult person would never do anything silly like name a plush.
“Uhhh … Shinobu,” I said, suddenly unable to remember the name “Sarutobi Sasuke,” which is what I wanted to say, because at least if I, as an adult person, am going to name an adorable ninja plushie, I want to name it after a cool ninja.
Anyway, now my daughter won’t let me change his name.
“He looks like a Shinobu,” she says.
When asked if her children would be dressing as zombies for Halloween, a local mother of three replied: “We don’t allow violence in our home, so they’re going to be a ninja, a Power Ranger and a Skylander.”
So, ever since the Writer’s Strike ended, there’s been an American Gladiators-shaped hole in my life.
I mean, everybody was complaining about the Writer’s Strike. “Oh, boo hoo hoo,” they said. “Whatever will happen to our favorite scripted dramas?” they said. “But they’re bringing back American Gladiators!” I said. “So what?” they said. “American Gladiators!” I reiterated, because that was answer enough.
I loved American Gladiators, what with all the ridiculous challenges and the costumes and the superhero-esque names and the way my favorite living pro wrestler was a host!
And then: it was gone.
Sure, I managed to get along, but I always felt like something was missing.
(No, Mom, I’m pretty sure it’s not a husband.)
And then: American Ninja Warrior.
My parents saw commercials for it. “You like those,” they said to me.
“Meh,” I said. “Seeing the word ‘American’ before ‘Ninja’ leads me to believe they’ll screw it up somehow.”
Not to mention, after I saw a commercial for American Ninja Warrior, I was all like: “Where’s the warriors? Where’s the ninjary? This is just an obstacle course.”
But, barring anything better to do (hey, I’d already done the yard work, made dinner and baked some truffles. Would do you expect me to do, write a Pulitzer-prize winning novel or something?), I sat down to watch it.
And I fell. Hard.
First off, it’s an obstacle course, sure, but it’s an obstacle course for Parkour experts (“What is Parkour?” said my mom. “It’s like being Spiderman, except without the superpowers,” I told her), all of whom had to submit videos of themselves Parkouring along all awesome-like to be considered for the competition. (As a matter of fact, there was one video of a volunteer firefighter jumping over stuff while wearing a suit that leads me to believe he’d be perfect for the new screenplay I’m writing about a guy who wears a suit and jumps over stuff.) (Oh, and a thing that does annoy me about the show is that it’s really set up for guys, even though they allow women competitors. There was this one awesome lady whose audition video showed her balancing on her elbow and doing, like, midair calisthenics, and she didn’t even clear the second obstacle because of her wee little womanly arms, like it’s a requirement you have to be at least six feet tall to play this game.)
PLUS! Plus so hard, you guys! It had! Evan! “The Rocket!” Dollard!, winner of American Gladiators!
And these guys were trying so hard to defeat this crazy obstacle course and it was all like triumph of the spirit and Go America! and whoooooo!
So I guess what I’m saying is thank God for summer television programming. Thank God for American Ninja Warrior.
The heavens rejoiced and a chorus of angels went “Ahhhhhhhh” because, you guys, I totally finally went to the movies for the first time in over a year this weekend!
And, yes, I saw The Warrior’s Way because what else was I going to see? Tron hasn’t opened yet!
So here’s my impressions, a.k.a. an actual movie review!
First off: I love Dong-Gun Jang a little. Especially when he’s wearing old-fashioned pinstriped pants, a trenchcoat and slaying his enemies with a sword. (Even if my friend I went to the movie with suffers from Asian-man blindness: he thought we were watching a Jackie Chan flick the whole time. “I wondered why he looked so good for his age,” he said.)
Secondly: The action scenes were exactly as awesome as I thought they would be, and some of them were, in fact, quite beautiful. I especially liked the way they would speed up some scenes to emphasize how fast our hero the master warrior was.
Thirdly: Holy cow, the baby in that film is totally the cutest baby ever. (“They probably grew it in a lab,” my friend said.)
Fourthly: I finally remembered who Kate Bosworth (the movie’s romantic interest/token fighter chick) is, and it is best explained via anecdote.
One day, at work, the telephone rang, and it was Margo Kidder on the line.
“This is Margo Kidder from Livingston,” she said.
“You mean Margo Kidder from Superman,” I corrected her.
Margo Kidder: “Yeah, sure, whatever.”
Me: “You’re Lois Lane! Superman’s girlfriend!”
Margo Kidder: “Er, yes.”
Me: “You were a much better Lois Lane than Kate Bosworth.” (I didn’t actually say it in bold, though, I just put it in bold so you guys would get that was the point of this anecdote.)
Margo Kidder: “That’s very sweet.”
Me: “And true!”
Margo Kidder: “Anyway, I was calling about this editorial your paper ran…”
Me: “So is it true you’ve gone completely wacko?”
Margo Kidder: “… Can I speak to your supervisor?”
(Note: portions of this conversation, mostly that last bit, were probably made up for dramatic purposes. Especially that last bit, ’cause I would never insult Lois Lane on the phone, unless it was the Kate Bosworth one. Then she deserves it, ’cause she sucked.)
Fiftly: There was, I thought, a lot of unnecessary exposition and dialogue. (“Less talkin’ and more stabbin’,” I said to my friend.)
Sixthly: They totally cut the “Ninjas. Damn.” line, so don’t go in expecting to see that part. ‘Cause you won’t.
My overall impression is that it was a good movie, but would’ve been better served by being watched at home so I could fast-forward past the boring, boring talking scenes and repeated the pretty, pretty fight scenes.
So, right off the bat, you know The Warrior’s Way is gonna be awesome.
‘Cause it starts with a duel between two men. And one of them is dragging is sword along the ground. He’s dragging it along the ground! The best sword fights always start with one guy dragging his sword along the ground! This will be awesome!
Then the narrator chimes in and says: “He was a legend. Born on the battlefield,” in this deep, meaningful voice, and all of a sudden, your brain is filled with visions of a baby with swords or a toddler swinging a mace.
But it gets better! My God, does it get better!
You’ve got ninja leaping out of everything! Water! Snow! The sky! I mean, blink, and you just missed 20 ninja leaping out of stuff! Oh my god so awesome!
And then! And then Dong-gun Jang doesn’t kill an innocent little baby and takes off all Lone Wolf and Cub style … to the West!
And that’s where the cowboys come in.
Yeah, you heard me.
I’ve always dreamed of making the big time. Or at least, being fabulously, fabulously wealthy. Like my hero Dorothy Parker said, “I hate rich people. But I think I’d be darling at it.” She was a wise woman, she was.
Anyway, here’s a list of the ways I won’t being making the big time whatsoever.
1. Selling my screenplay about ninja who are also zombies (or vice versa). For one thing, I’d have to write my screenplay about ninja who are also zombies (or vice versa) and I just don’t see that happening.
2. Eccentric millionaire falls for me. “Hey, baby, I love comic books and the flat-chested, tattooed chicks who love them too.”
3. Getting bitten by a radioactive spider and going into pro wrestling. I’d probably just die of cancer. Or not trip a robber or something, and then he’d go and shoot my Uncle Ben. Not Uncle Ben! NOOOOOOOOO!
4. Getting “discovered.” I’m getting a little old for it now, and I think if I had any talents that were “discovered”-worthy, they would have shown up at this point.
5. Winning the lottery. My dream is to someday be that person who’s like, “I never bought a lottery ticket before. I can’t believe I won the $100 million jackpot!” And then not get murdered by my coworkers who buy tickets weekly.
6. Through perseverance and hard work. Sometimes I laugh hysterically at myself for even thinking that’s a possibility.
7. My acting career taking off. Once, I was in a play in college and somebody flubbed a line, so I ad-libbed in response. That is the best acting thing I have ever, or will ever, do. Done. Crap.
8. A wealthy relative suddenly dying and inexplicably leaving everything to me. Actually, I do have some wealthy relatives, but they’ve all got kids of their own. Plus they like my brother better.
9. Becoming a high-paid assassin. First, I’d have to get in shape. Then, I’d have to train. Then, I’d have to get past the whole empathy thing. Plus the “I hate blood” thing. Maybe I’ll just be that assassin who quietly poisons people and runs away.
10. Inventing something awesome. I just thought of this great invention: the “phone signal.” It would be like the bat signal, except the spotlight would shine on my hand in a fist with the thumb and the pinky sticking out. “You have a call!”
It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top Ten list. I chalk that up to many things. Most of which include the word “laziness,” so whatever.
This list honors my undying love of Eric Elbogen and his music. At least it’s undying for now. In high school, I wanted to marry the Smashing Pumpkins (yes, all of them), so I might change my mind. But currently, I plan to become a ninja, marry Mssr. Elbogen and train him in the way of the ninja, and then we will commit a series of daring daylight heists. Call me, Eric Elbogen! We could make this work!
By the way, this list of songs by Say Hi that I really love is in no particular order because don’t make me choose.
1. These Fangs from Impeccable Blahs. There’s a definite drum machine vibe to this song, but I don’t mind, because Eric Elbogen is awesome and I love him. I also love the line “I don’t mind if you wanna hide your fangs too.” This is from the album that’s all about vampires, back before they sparkled.
2. Laundry from Discosadness. It would turn me off a little that Eric Elbogen waits until his laundry is dirty enough to give him high-fives before he heads down to the laundromat, but he is Eric Elbogen, and thus, awesome in every way, so it doesn’t bother me. Favorite line: “I put it off, but they were alive. When I’d walk by, they’d give me five.”
3. Northwestern Girls from The Wishes and The Glitch. Eric Elbogen had moved from NYC to Seattle for the making of this album, and he thought all the northwestern girls were really nice and wrote this song about them. Technically speaking, I am also from the northwest, even if I’m a few states over, so this song is also about me. The line I love the most is “It must be in the air here.”
4. November Was White, December Was Grey from Oohs & Aahs. Eric Elbogen hates winter as much as I do! Eric Elbogen hates winter as much as I do! Between this and the geekiness, I sense that we are soul mates. Bestest line? “For these three months, I’ve been inside the house. My pacing’s worn all of the carpet out” would win, but for these words: “I’ll feel better when the winter’s gone.” Gods, it’s so true, Eric Elbogen. It’s so true.
5. Blah Blah Blah from Impeccable Blahs. I believe I have written of my love for this song before. In fact, I’m certain of it. It’s not only about vampires, it also quotes the Borg. Y’all can see why I love this guy, right? Plus, after I listen to it, I run around singing, “I am going to drink your blood. And I just wanna drink your blood.” But my favorite line is (of course): “The trains stop for you and so do the boys when you run your fingers through your hair. But … Resistance Is Futile.”
6. Let’s Talk About Spaceships from Numbers & Mumbles. Eric Elbogen also hates talking about relationships! We are so meant to be!!! The whole song is about him trying to avoid talking to his girlfriend about his relationship, saying things like, “I should’ve paid attention in algebra.” and “Don’t look now, but there’s a spider on the wall behind you.” Actually, those are in the same stanza, and in exactly the opposite order I listed them in. But my favoritest bit is “Let’s talk about spaceships or anything except you and me, OK?”
7. Toil and Trouble from The Wishes and The Glitch. In this song, Eric Elbogen is making a love potion to woo some chick. It’s just because he hasn’t met me yet. “She’s gonna love me, oh yes she will.” Oh, Eric Elbogen, you don’t need a love potion. If your awesome isn’t enough to win her over, she doesn’t deserve you. My favorite line is actually when he says “Oh yeah” repeatedly, not due so much to any clever use of lyrics there, but more for the tone of his voice, which makes me happy.
8. Back Before We Were Brittle from The Wishes and The Glitch. The Wishes and The Glitch might be my favorite Say Hi album. Or Impeccable Blahs. It’s so hard to choose! This song seems to be about superheroes who are a little less powerful these days. Best bit: “Remember when we could save kittens from trees? Or have lunch on skyscrapers. Bring the villains to their knees.” Man, those were great days!
9. Sweet Sweet Heartkiller from Impeccable Blahs. This song makes me think of that episode of Homicide where Kyle Secor’s character hooked up with some chick and I think they had sex in a coffin. Which seems uncomfortable to me, especially since he’s 6’5″. Maybe she just slept in the coffin. I don’t know. Anyway, the chick in this song is actually a vampire, so it makes sense that she sleeps in a coffin, because that is totally a thing that vampires do. Best line? Any time he refers to Ginsu knives: “Her winks cut through me like a Ginsu.” “She bites through necks like a Ginsu.”
10. Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh from Oohs & Aahs. I always lose count of the number of “ohs” in the title of this song. Also, it was apparently on an episode of Gossip Girl. Good for it! Lovely line? “If the devil was a girl and she wore a yellow tee, it would be the spitting image, but that’s all right with me.” Although I also appreciate the way “it’s the sound of her verbs,” because I can totally relate to that. Please marry me.
Oh, Ninja Assassin. Could someone have made a movie more awesome than thou? (Thee?) You have ninja! And also assassins! You have Korean pop stars! (Who also spurned the hell out of Megan Fox, by the way, which makes them the most awesome pop stars ever. I really should have gone to the singular by this point. Whatever.)
You have glorious action sequences! I’m pretty sure something exploded! There’s more ninja! There’s more ninja.
What could possibly keep me from seeing this movie, other than wild horses and other catastrophes? (Like a tornado and there are wild horses in the tornado and also a house lands on me.)
Oh, you brought in J. Michael Stracyzinski on the script and he finished revisions in 53 hours? Is that what he was doing instead of finishing some of the comic book series he keeps starting? Stop tempting me to boycott you, Ninja Assassin. You seem perfect in every respect otherwise!
Oh, you’re produced by the Whatever their names are brothers? Who also produced Speed Racer? And, for some reason, cast Keanu Reeves as the lead in a trilogy of movies, leading millions of moviegoers to confuse his dead-eyed stare for the character’s dead-eyed stare and think he was actually acting or something? Those brothers?
Damn you, Ninja Assassin. Stop telling me these things. I want to love you! I want to love you so much. I mean, you even have a character named “pretty ninja”! That’s my name! I mean, you know, when I cosplay or whatever. Or dream. Whatever.
Is there anything else you want to disappoint me with?
Very well, then. Try to win my love back, why don’t you. Try to —
Oh, right. The action sequences.
I love you, Ninja Assassin. I want to be with you forever.
I haven’t been watching much TV lately. Reruns of Leverage on occasion, the occasional Biggest Loser episode. (I’m an addict! I can’t stop myself! I feel so unclean!) Mostly, I’m just biding my time until Chuck returns (NBC didn’t bring it back early and no one told me, right? RIGHT?).
But I’d heard about this show, White Collar, right? And it’s got Bryce Larkin from Chuck, right? And he’s playing this con man who works for the FBI. I’m like, hey! Con man, FBI? The explosions are practically guaranteed.
Sadly, after watching two episodes, I saw there was only one explosion and it was really lame. Also, it was telegraphed from 20 miles away. As. Was. Everything. Else.
I went into the show expecting some fun times. A little con here, a little gunplay there, a little Bryce Larkin doing cool spy stuff.
Wrong. Damn. Show.
There was no conning. Well, hardly any conning. No interesting conning, anyway. No gunplay. I mean, it is called “White Collar,” which is like, what, business crimes? But still, guns!! And did Bryce Larkin do anything interesting??! No! He moped about his girlfriend who is a trapped in a really boring season-long side arc/his lameass motivation and smirked a bit.
And, to add insult to injury, the pilot featured that guy. That guy has been in episodes of my favorite shows (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice, Leverage) and I didn’t like him then! What made White Collar think I would like him in a much, much weaker show? Look, I know you Fireflyers/Whedonites have a soft spot for that guy, but he always plays the same smarmy guy, which is fine and hooray for finding a niche, but stop being on every show, Jesus.
Plus (and this was really annoying), White Collar cast Tiffani Thiessen as the boring FBI guy’s boring perfect wife, and so the whole time, I kept going, “Hey, when did she drop the -Amber?”
I was considering watching a third episode to see if things picked up, but then I decided no, because if a television show can’t do a fashion week episode and make me care, then what could they possibly do to improve it? Zombies and ninjas can’t save everything, you know.
It’s the feudel Japan era. You’re a feudal Japanese farmer. The pay’s not good, but at least you’re not that guy who collects poop, right?
One day, as you’re farming (probably in a rice paddy or something), the daimyo approaches you.
“Look,” he says. “I know farming’s your thing, but have you ever given thought to becoming a killing machine?”
Like any redblooded person, yes. Yes, you have. A lot of thought, in fact. You rush to show the daimyo your drawings (you know, like fan fiction, only without the internets) of yourself as a killing machine, soaked in the blood of your enemies.
“That’s all right,” he says. “I’m looking for a new breed of warrior. Like the samurai, but without all that bushido crap. Someone who will fight from the shadows. Someone who gets the job done without the hassle of honor.”
Yes, you nod enthusiastically. That description fits you to a tee.
“I’m thinking of calling them shinobi, which will be called ninja by Western countries, because it’s easier to pronounce or something. Are you in?”
“Oh, Mr. Daimyo, sir, I am in like Flynn,” you say. Except you say it in Japanese, because in this story, you are a Japanese farmer.
So now you’re a shinobi (or ninja, because that’s the one you’ve heard of). All you have is your wits; your intense drive to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women; and your farming implements. So … what kinda weapons you gonna use?
1. Katana. Yes, you will use the traditional sword. Why? Because they’re readily available. However, you aren’t down with that bushido crap. (Go to hell, samurai, you say, except in Japanese.) So do you respect your sword and honor it as your soul? Hell, no! A sword is a tool. A tool for killing, a tool for climbing on, a tool for scratching that itch on your back if you have steady hands. Yeah, you’ll use a katana. And your enemies will pay.
2. Kama. Now this is more like it. The sickle. You used a sickle for reaping your crops. Now you will use it for reaping your enemies’ lives! This is a great weapon, and you couldn’t possibly make it more perfect. Or could you? (Like, maybe by putting a chain on it or something….)
3. Kusarigama. Ohhhh, yeah. That improves the sickle. A chain with a sickle at the end? The only downside is you might cut yourself. But not to worry.
4. Manriki-gusari. Because for the less dextrous ninja, there’s the weighted chain. All the benefits of chain, none of the deadly deadly effects of the sickle. Plus you can hide it in your ninja utility belt (dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-NIN-JA!) and whip it out at your enemies at a moment’s notice. Sure, it doesn’t cut quite as good as the kusarigama, but you know what? Once your enemy has been knocked unconscious by your weighted chain, you can take all the time you like.
5. Neko-te. This one’s for all you kunoichi (Female ninja)! What’s better than using your own fingernails for scratching out an opponent/target/braying jerk’s eyes? Using iron fingernails.
6. Ono. No relation to Yoko (ha, ha, ha … ahhhhhh), this battle axe is roughly the size of two samurai. But seriously, folks, you’re using this four-foot-long axe for knocking down castle gates, smashing skulls and, according to the definition I linked to earlier, “totally destroy anyone attempting to fight with a lesser weapon.” Awesome.
7. Shuriken. Throwing stars? Sweet! Although, as a ninja, you know that all shuriken aren’t actually throwing stars. Some of them are actually throwing knives. All of them, however, can be dipped in poison.
8. Tessen. You know what’s more awesome than unplugging your portable fan and beating someone to death with it? Beating someone to death with one of those little folding fans. Especially if it’s made of iron.
9. Tekagi. Being a regular old ninja’s not bad-ass enough for you? You want to be more like that Marvel killing machine Wolverine? Well, then, you, sir (I assume you’re a man, or else you’d want to be like Lady Deathstryke), are in dire need of the tekagi. The four sharp spikes of this weapon are described as being “clawlike.” Snikt. The tekagi could be used for climbing trees, but dear God, why?
10. Mizugumo. Not actually a weapon, these water walkers allowed you to, as the name suggests, walk on water, like Jesus before you. An episode of Mythbusters supposedly “busted” this ability (along with arrow catching and naked-hand blade catching), but we can only assume that is because the Mythbusters guys aren’t actually ninja and therefore are just not that awesome.