Toku Tuesday Two Year Edition

Good evening, internauts.  I have no idea if I still have any followers after nearly two years of radio silence, but then again I never did this for the followers, or for recognition.  I did this to get down some thoughts and flex my brainmeats.

In the last two years, we’ve had a fair bit of Toku to Talku about (see what I did there?), but I’ve neglected to properly discuss any of it.

For example, Kamen Rider Drive came and went.  Kamen Rider Ghost began.  Ninninger came and went.  Zyuohger began.

For this particular post, I guess I’ll give you my (super late) postmortem of Kamen Rider Drive.  Following the adventures of Tomari Shinnosuke, a police detective working with the Special Crimes Unit, Kamen Rider Drive was – in my opinion – one of the best seasons of Kamen Rider we’ve had in recent years.

Sporting the same head writer as Kamen Rider W (namely Riku Sanjo), Drive features an ensemble cast of similar size, with three total heroes by the end of its run.  The similarities in tone are clear between W and Drive, so if you liked one you will very likely enjoy the other.  Both seasons feature relateable protagonists, quirky side characters, the occasional goofy humor, and greater depth than you’d expect.  Both seasons are ultimately about a rookie hero finding his way in life through a series of trials that are increasingly more dire.

Another common theme between the two seasons is the idea of compatibility.  In Kamen Rider W, Shotaru and Phillip needed to achieve a certain level of compatibility before they could access their ultimate form as Kamen Rider W.  Shinnosuke experiences a similar situation in Kamen Rider Drive.  As new forms are introduced, Shinnosuke finds that he must be within a compatible mindset in order to access those particular forms.  While this particular issue becomes less relevant as the show progresses, Shinnosuke’s mental state continues to have a direct effect on his strength while transformed.  If his head isn’t on straight, you can be sure that he’s not going to win that fight.

Ultimately, Kamen Rider Drive is about emotions.  Just as Shinnosuke’s emotional state can strengthen or weaken him, his enemies – the Roimudes – each exemplify a certain emotion.  Each Roimude seeks to experience the very height of their individual emotion, and through doing so can evolve into a new form with far greater power.  If enough of the Roimudes accomplish this evolution, it essentially spells GAME OVER for humanity.

It’s my personal belief that beneath Kamen Rider Drive’s primary narrative and tone, there is a strong undertone about depression.  At the start of the show, we see Shinnosuke slacking off more often than not, plagued by the death of his father and his own perceived failings as an officer of the law.  It’s not until Kiriko, his friend and partner, forces him to get off his ass and do his job that he ever accomplishes anything of substance.  When his brain is in “top gear”, you can tell that he loves his job and loves what he does.  Why then does he so often seek to avoid it, seek to be by himself?  Personally, I think he’s depressed.

As the show progresses, he moves further and further from that behavior.  He’s constantly reminded of the value of friendship and human relationships, he begins to feel important and useful.  Once he solves the mystery of his father’s death, that specter no longer looms over him.  By the end of the season, he’s like a new man.

I may be projecting, but Kamen Rider Drive being the story of a hero overcoming his clinical depression sounds pretty damn cool to me, and fits with another overall theme of the show – each of the supporting cast members has their own emotional trauma to overcome.

Kiriko has to overcome her feelings of powerlessness after nearly being killed by a Roimude prior to the events of the show.  Gou has to overcome the guilt of being the son of the man who created the Roimudes, while also contending with the idea that maybe not all Roimudes are horrifically evil.  Chase has to overcome the conflict of choosing between his people and his friends, and struggles with difficulty in expressing himself and his emotions.  Other cast members battle loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and other very relateable emotional problems.

As a show about overcoming one’s emotional demons, I’d say Kamen Rider Drive is a solid 7-8/10.  It suffers from being a kid’s show about karate bugmen, and thus the emotional traumas are relegated to background issues.

As a show about karate bugmen, I’d say Kamen Rider Drive is a solid 9/10.  It can take a little while to get into gear, but once it picks up speed it doesn’t hit the brakes.  Some of the suit designs are a bit clunky – I’m looking at you, Type Technic – but more often than not the suits are solid, and Drive has the sleekest final form I’ve seen.  The script is solid, with enough depth to keep an older viewer interested, but not so mired in that depth as to lose a younger audience.  The battles are by and large well done, though many of Drive’s Shift Cars only get used a couple of times, if at all.  That said, the reason many of the Shift Cars don’t see use is because they’re just not practical or not that exciting.

Drive also has bonus points for having two of the best supporting Riders that I’ve seen.  Kamen Rider Mach is spectacularly fun when he arrives, and once his particular “bad times” arc is complete he continues to be a fun, showy fighter.  Kamen Rider Chaser is a solid homage to the classic Showa Riders, struggling with how different he is from those he cares about and dedicating himself to the protection of life and justice.

If you liked Kamen Rider W, OOO, or Fourze, I highly recommend checking out Drive.  While OOO and Fourze weren’t spearheaded by Riku Sanjo, there are a lot of similarities in tone between all four shows, and each of them are of a similar quality in regards to production, design, scripting, and casting.

Drive was great, yo.



Writing Wednesday

Once again it’s been awhile, almost a whole season in fact.  Three months, and what do I have to show for it?

A couple of chapters in my novel, that’s what.  Is it a lot?  Nah.  Is it more than I had accomplished in the 12 months prior?  Yah.

It’s important not to get wrapped up in the things you have yet to do (in my case, the rest of this novel, which may be another ten chapters, may be another fifteen or twenty WHOOOO KNOOOOWWWWS), but rather to focus on the shit in front of you.

Non-writing example:  I’ve recently received a metric fuckton of packages, as I’ve been ordering a lot of stuff online cuz I’m a big weeaboo nerd and packages are like midyear Christmas hooray.  However, I’m lazy as hell so I’d been just kinda tossing the boxes off to the side and saying ILL DEAL WITH YOU LATER CARDBOARD.

Well it piled up and when the time came to finally do the deed of cleaning, I looked at all the shit I had to do and was overcome by a palpable sense of dread.  It looked like hours, days worth of work that needed to be done.  I didn’t want to do it.  I went so far as to go hang out in my brother’s old room just to get away from the problem for a few minutes (like a half hour).  But eventually I went back in there, put on the teevee, and just grabbed one box.  The smallest box.  Took my box cutter, cut it up into a few pieces, and stuffed it in a big ol’ trash bag.

Then I grabbed a bigger box, and said FUCK IT I CAN USE THIS, and went into a cabinet full of stuff I needed to toss, and tossed some stuff into the box and wrote TOSS on the side and put the box aside to be disposed of later.

And so on and so forth until all but three of the boxes have been dealt with – one needs to be stored in my home somewhere, one needs to be presented to friends to see if they want anything inside before it is discarded, and the third is a big long fuckoff box that I have yet to decide what to do with.

Apply this to writing.  When I look at what needs to be done, and start worrying about the massive task ahead of me, I have a headache and run off to YouTube or Facebook or XVideos or something to distract myself.  However, unlike running to my brother’s room (which is small and kind of claustrophobic and really hot this time of year), I can spend all day running to those places and never look back to get the job started.  It’s super easy to just ignore the problem.

Some people solve this problem by using programs designed to block certain websites for certain amounts of time.  I’d considered it, but I’m more likely to just never use the program or turn it off early or something like that.  Some people solve this problem by only writing on a machine that isn’t internet connected.  I haven’t considered this because in my opinion the internet is a powerful research tool and I’ve found myself needing it mid-writing stream to find out if I’m talking (or writing) out of my ass.

How do I solve the problem?  Well, I don’t have a consistent, every-day solution, but a part of any solution I come up with is picking up the smallest box, grabbing my box cutter, and getting to work on the little things.  A paragraph.  A sentence, even.

Sometimes all I do is a bit of world building or rebuilding.  Sometimes I write a whole chapter.  It’s not quite consistent, but art never is.

P.S. I uploaded my novel to Google Docs and I write at work sometimes.  I close my department and I’m alone for up to 2 hours at the end of each day so when it’s not busy I have plenty of time to write.  Sure, sometimes I spend that time on forums or making blog posts, but sometimes I get the spark and write.  I can’t officially recommend this as if my manager found out my balls would be ground into a fine paste and sold as animal feed, but if you’re down to take the risk give it a shot.

Writing Wednesday

HEY GAIS, welcome to a special late-night edition of Writing Wednesday, with your good friend Cypress.  Last time on Coming Up Cypress, I talked about how I was finally gonna get back into the swing of things and start posting more and writing more and getting up early and being a REAL HUMAN BEING THAT DOES SHIT AWWW YEAH.


Then, as evidenced by the lack of those things having happened, I promptly didn’t do those things.


It’s not that I didn’t WANT to post, didn’t WANT to write, didn’t WANT to be a real human being that does shit awww yeah – I DID want to!  I still want to!  I wanna be the very best like no one ever was.


Instead I was waking up about an hour before work, looking at some funny pictures on Imgur, and then showering and going to work.  Then, I’d come home and have dinner, look at more funny pictures on Imgur, maybe rub one out and then go to sleep with the intent of getting up the next day bright and early and accomplishing something.  Never happened.


I started to wonder why, and started to come up with excuses – posting here is HAAAARD, I need IDEAAAAAS!  Writing is HAAAAAARD, it’s been so long I need to go back and remind myself what I’ve been DOOOOINNG.  Waaaaaah wahhhhhhhhhhhh boo hoo.  It wasn’t until today that I kinda came to a realization.


I don’t know if i mentioned this in my last post, but I’ve been going to the gym the last couple months.  Not a ton, only once a week (fatty mode), but I figured that’s better than nothing.  This week, for the first time, I’ve gone twice.  Today was the second time.  And as I’m there, being harassed by my trainer not to quit because I’m the coolest (paraphrasing), for the first time I kinda didn’t feel like I was gonna die.  I walked out being glad that I went.  First time for everything.


I got in my car and I went “waaaaait a minute.  I’ve been avoiding this for years and making up excuses and hating every minute of it until this week when I expected to hate it the mostest…what changed?”  What changed is that I’ve been moving.  I’ve been exercising.  I’ve been getting stronger.  My body and my mind are becoming better at handling this set of tasks, taking to them more readily and recovering from them more quickly.


It’s the same motherfucking thing with writing.  Some people will say “your brain is a muscle, flex it!” or some bullshit, but the BRAIN IS AN ORGAN NOT A MUSCLE DON’T SPREAD YOUR LIES.  However, the sentiment is the same.  If you write regularly, you’ll be more productive and you’ll retain more and more of what you’ve been writing in your next session.  It’s been proven that regular mental activity will increase your mental acuity.  


That’s right, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.


When I was unemployed, I was writing damn near every day, and by the time I got a job, my work was really shaping up both here and in my novel.  My writing “muscle” (I feel a little sick just using the term BUT ITS THE EASIEST WAY TO MAKE THE POINT) was well-toned and ready for action.  Sure, I needed a little pick-me-up (read: Vyvanse) to get started, but the rest was all me baby.  I consider the ADD medication to be the equivalent of workout supplements like protein powder and other terrible things serial exercisers put in their bodies.


So what’s my point?  My point is that if you don’t write enough, you’ll eventually just stop writing altogether.  You’ll be the author equivalent of a couch potato, sitting at your laptop eating bonbons (or whateverthefuck) and reading fanfic or something going “MAN IN MY DAY I COULD HAVE WRITTEN LIKE THAT”


Don’t become the Al Bundy of writers.  Get typing, asshole.

Fearless Friday

Hey there, true believers!  It’s been a little over a year since my last blog post, and I feel awful, truly terrible about letting this thing go for that long.


The truth is, the job I mentioned in my last post?  More time-and-energy consuming than originally anticipated.  They also put me on a shift different than advertised in the interview.  What I thought was going to be an afternoon/evening gig turned into a morning gig, at least for the last year.  I gotta say it was pretty grueling at first, as I’ve never been much of a morning person to begin with.


However, just a couple of weeks ago I accepted a promotion (gasp!) at this job, which necessitated a change in shift from the 8 am to 4 pm to which I’d become accustomed, to a 12 pm to 8 pm to which I will have to adjust.  I’ve been on this new shift since this Monday, and while it’s going to take some getting used to, I think it will help me in the long run.


I’m hoping that this shift allows me to get back to writing and creating, rather than just going with the flow like I’ve been for the last year.  While unemployed I had really gotten into this whole blogging thing, and my novel was really starting to pick up steam – a steam that’s all but been lost to the daily grind.  But now I’m in a shift that I think suits me more – I can stay up much later into the night, allowing me to not only see more of my friends but also burn more of that precious writer’s resource, the Midnight Oil (I feel like that would be a really cool item in a video game or RPG, like maybe it raises your intelligence or something).  It also gives me the chance to get up a couple of hours before my shift and get some blogging done.


Here’s what I’ve decided to do in order to help me get my proverbial shit together – I’ve turned all of my works in progress and resource documents into private Google docs that I can access from anywhere.  This will allow me to write whenever, and wherever.  If I’m at work on lunch and don’t feel like going out for an hour?  Git ‘r done.  This also works as an additional means of backing up my files.


I’ve also decided to put together my finished short stories into a small collection and try and get it self-published on Kindle and Nook.  Call it a test of concept.


In any case, I’m calling today Fearless Friday because I wanted some alliteration but also because it’s a quality I need to learn.  It’s also the name of the Youtube Channel I’m still a part of and the games company that we want to turn that channel into.  So maybe I’ll do more Fearless Fridays going forward, with the idea of doing like…motivation posts about overcoming fear, or like…gamistry (hell yeah makin’ up words).  WHOOOO KNOWWWWWWS

Writing Wednesday

Sorry for the silence last week, I just started a new job.  It’s gonna be a full-time gig, so I’m still working out the logistics of when I’ll be able to make posts here during the day.


That said, I wanted to use this post to sort of address the very problem I’m now experiencing.  See, before I was either unemployed or only employed part-time, and had all sorts of opportunities to write (many of which were squandered).  Now?  Now by the time I get home my Vyvanse is on its last legs and I’m tired and I don’t give a fuck about my characters and their lives and I just wanna have a beer, watch some Kamen Rider, and maybe spend some time with the girlfriend.


This of course just won’t do.  I want to actually FINISH my novel, and I’ve got a writing contest coming up soon too.  Just because I’m gainfully employed doesn’t mean I should let myself get complacent and give up on what I really want to do.


Sure, I could write on weekends, but I’ve got myself set up on a specific schedule with my Vyvanse, and I don’t take it on weekends.  I have a lot of trouble writing anything significant -with0ut- the Vyvanse, and I don’t feel I can adequately do my job without it either so changing my schedule there doesn’t work.  THANKFULLY, once my training is over at this job, I’ll have Mondays off (I’ll be working Saturdays though :/).  What I’m going to try is keeping my Vyvanse schedule to Monday-Friday, and hope that Saturdays at work are doable without it.  This way I can spend Monday writing and editing and doing all the stuff I love while the people I love are all at work.


However, until then I still need a solution.  My current idea?  Well, I live close to where I’m working so it’s not impossible, or even difficult for me to come home on my lunch breaks.  So that’s what I’ll do, a couple of times a week.  I’ll come home, write as much as I can before I have to go back to work, and when I get home hopefully I’ll have built up some steam while on lunch.  I could also just bring my laptop with me to work and write there if I want to save the gas.  I may use this alternative once I move into my normal shift.


This all comes back to my post on finding the time to write, way back in like…what, August?  But what also comes into play, that I hadn’t considered at the time, is working out your priorities.  With my now-limited time, I need to decide what projects and activities are most important to me, and assign them their own timeslots of a sort.  This may not seem like news to a lot of you, but for me?  FUCKIN REVOLUTIONARY.  I’ve never worked a full 40 hour a week job before, so this will be a whole new adventure.  I’m sure I can handle it, though, and I’m sure anyone reading this can handle their own time management solutions as well.

Writing Wednesday

One of the most common pieces of advice writers are given by other writers is to “write what you know.”  I may even have mentioned it in some way in a previous Writing Wednesday.  I, like so many others, believe this nugget of wisdom to be absolutely paramount in writing – that is, at least, if you want your work to be any good.


I may anger a lot of people for this one, but let’s compare two pieces of literature (and the term is used lightly for one of them): Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  Unfair comparison?  Kind of the purpose of this exercise.


In this corner, Don Quixote, widely considered the first European novel, and one of the greatest works of fiction ever penned, about an old, retired landowner in 15th Century Spain who decided to don an ancient suit of armor and become a knight-errant, righting wrongs and just generally being the Dos Equis guy.  Written by Miguel de Cervantes, the real-world Dos Equis guy.  Seriously.  The guy’s life was crazy.  I’m just gonna copy and paste here:

“In 1569, Cervantes moved to Rome, where he served as a valet to Giulio Acquaviva, a wealthy priest who was elevated to cardinal the next year. By then, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment and continued his military life until 1575, when he was captured by Algerian corsairs. After five years of slavery he was released on ransom from his captors by his parents and the Trinitarians, a Catholic religious order. He subsequently returned to his family in Madrid.

In 1585, Cervantes published a pastoral novel named La Galatea. Because of financial problems, Cervantes worked as a purveyor for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector. In 1597, discrepancies in his accounts of three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Seville. In 1605, he was in Valladolid, just when the immediate success of the first part of his Don Quixote, published in Madrid, signaled his return to the literary world. In 1607, he settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. During the last nine years of his life, Cervantes solidified his reputation as a writer; he published the Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels) in 1613, the Journey to Parnassus (Viaje al Parnaso) in 1614, and in 1615, the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses and the second part of Don Quixote.”

For those of you who don’t want to read all that, the short version is that he saw a lot and experienced a lot of shit in his life.  Just this brief, brief summary of his existence calls out to the Don Quixote character.  Cervantes’ military and religious background give him the license to write about morality, justice, and honorable combat.  His time in prison gives him license to write about injustice, corruption, and the underbelly of the world.  Cervantes took parts of himself and molded them into the hero La Mancha needed.  Don Quixote is so popular because the character, despite his outlandish and somewhat unrealistic choices, feels organic and real, backed by the knowledge and experience of a man who’s been there.


In the other corner, Fifty Shades of Grey, recent explosive bestseller, about a young virgin woman who enters into a contractual BDSM relationship with a young, handsome, tortured billionaire – like some kinky Bruce Wayne.  Written by E.L. James, an ex-television executive who initially wrote fanfiction under the name Snowqueen’s Icedragon.  Not even lying.  Look it up.  I’m going to copy and paste, the same way I did with Cervantes:

In 1963, Leonard was born Erika Mitchell, to a Chilean mother and Scottish father, a BBC cameraman.[9] [1][10] Raised in Buckinghamshire, Leonard read history at the University of Kent, before becoming a studio manager’s assistant at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield.[11]

James initially wrote fanfiction under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”, with her most notable work being a Twilight fanfiction that eventually developed into Fifty Shades of Grey.[12][13] James has spoken of her shock at the success of the book. “The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise” she said.[14] James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy as “my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.”[15] She did not start to write until January 2009, as she revealed while still active on as Snowqueen’s Icedragon: “I started writing in January 2009 after I finished the Twilight saga, and I haven’t stopped since. I discovered Fan Fiction in August 2009. Since then I have written my two fics and plan on doing at least one more. After that… who knows?”

Note the differences.  E.L. James’ life was modern and uneventful and fairly normative.  Is there anything wrong with that?  Fuck no.  But look at that quote in there, about her work – “my midlife crisis, writ large.  All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.”  Nothing of her experiences or her expertise, of her knowledge or of her life.  Only fantasy.  Was there fantasy in Don Quixote?  Absolutely.  But it wasn’t in there, by itself.  You, dear reader, have certainly had a fantasy or ten in your life.  It happens to us all.  But what happens, nine times out of ten, when that fantasy becomes reality?  It’s nothing like you imagined.  Reality gets its grubby mitts all over the fantasy, and sometimes that can be really disappointing.  However, it is that same process that tempers a fantasy into something real and believable and organic.


What I want you to do, if you’re still on the fence here, is discuss Don Quixote with any retired military men you may know.  See how they feel about the piece.  Then I want you to discuss Fifty Shades of Grey with anyone you may know who is in a BDSM relationship.  See how they feel abut the piece.  I suspect there will be vastly different results.


This is because E.L. James didnt’ write what she KNEW, but rather what she HOPED.  It’s not so different from reading a child’s story, in which the President can tell vampires “NO!  Go home!  Stop being vampires!” (THIS IS AN ACTUAL EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING I WROTE AS A CHILD) and the vampires fucking listen.  That would absolutely never happen if vampires and the President were in the same room.


Where am I going with this?  Well, now that I’ve broken down the concept of writing what you know, I want to tell you to LEARN.  There is no excuse for a writer not to constantly broaden their horizons.  A writer should be one of the most educated people any of us know.  A writer should be the guy/girl who, when a topic comes up, can lean forward and say “Oh yeah, I spent some time doing X in Y.”  This can be difficult in this day and age – school is expensive, and many of us have families or jobs that keep us from just up and running off.  My suggestion?  Creative use of vacations, and hobbies.


I cannot stress the importance of hobbies.  I want you to think of all the things you do in your spare time.  List them off.  How many fingers is that?  Here’s my list: I read, I paint, I sculpt a bit (not very well), and I’m learning to carve.  My goal by the end of this year?  Get onto two hands worth of hobbies.  I don’t need to master them this year, hell I don’t need to master them in this LIFETIME, but I need to give them a shot.  This way, when I’m writing, if I decide to write someone who does one of my hobbies professionally, I’m one step ahead of someone who’s never held a paintbrush/book/carving knife/bullwhip/longbow/violin/objectofhobby.


There’s a reason “Renaissance man” is a compliment.

Writing Wednesday

Get by with a little help from your friends.


That is to say, both you and your characters should be willing and able to consult those around you/them when things are unclear.


For example, I recently send a friend and colleague of mine what I have of my novel manuscript.  I’ve been concerned about the pacing, primarily, but I also just found myself at a point where I needed to know the answer to a very important question: Is this shit any good or am I wasting my time?  She has since gotten back to me, halfway through what I sent her, very much enjoying it.  This has given me a new zeal to continue writing and hopefully FINISHING the damn thing, whereas had I not sought her opinion, I may have just let it go.  I expect that she may have more to say once she’s finished it completely, and I’m eager to hear her opinions.


Incidentally, I got the idea when my main character essentially did the same thing.  He was stuck in his investigation, and decided to seek the advice of his friend and colleague.  He got a little more than he bargained for but it’s set him on the path to the rest of the goddamn plot.  Thankfully.


Human beings (or human-like characters in my protagonist’s case) are social creatures.  We thrive off of community, whether we like to admit it or not (I’m looking at you, tough guys!).  It’s why society even exists, as fucked as it can be sometimes.  It’s also why we even HAVE friends.  Ever wanted to slap your friends so hard they can’t pronounce the letter ‘t’ anymore?  I bet you have.  Do you still hang out with them?  I bet you do.  Like it or not, you need them.  But it’s okay because they need you too.  No man (or woman) can be an island for long, and denying yourself community will only limit your growth.  Imagine trying to live life based entirely on your own decisions – even the hard ones that you hate making!  Not having people to go to for advice just feels wrong, doesn’t it?  We all have a confidant.


So too should your characters.  Someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to offer a fresh perspective, and even someone to tell them “You’re flat-out fucking wrong you miserable turd, stop being such a shitwizard.”