The Dark Watchlist: May 2017

Greetings friends,

This is one of my favorite albums of the year thus far. I foresee it being in my top five if not top three albums of the year. The album is solid pretty much all of the way through. Their other albums had some tracks here and there that stood out but damn they brought their A game for this album. If you like classic rock, progressive rock, and being taken on a musical journey then I highly recommend this album to you. One of my favorite tracks from it is Gemini which is posted below. Some of my other favorite tracks include Midnight Flyer, Sad State of Affairs, Domino, and Something Mysterious.

May the force be with you. I’ve always loved Star Wars and re-watch them from time to time. This month I took the time to watch all of the currently released Star Wars films. Yes, even the prequels. Much to my surprise the prequels were better than I remembered them being. They still aren’t great by any means but if you subtract pretty much everything that involves Jar Jar and the entire romance between Anakin and Padme then they aren’t as bad. I re-watched Rogue One which is awesome! I loved that stand-alone film, especially K-2SO and Chirrut Îmwe. The original trilogy of course is classic and I am lucky enough to have the unedited versions that Lucas didn’t mess with. Every time I watch the original trilogy there are new things for me to take away from it. One of my favorite quotes this time around was from Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” The marathon concluded with The Force Awakens which I thoroughly enjoyed as well. I have also discovered that there are many psychology and philosophy books that are inspired by Star Wars, I have added some of them to my wish list: Star Wars Psychology: Dark Side of the Mind, The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy: You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned, The Dharma of Star Wars, and Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful than You Can Possibly Imagine.

This cream soda is awesome. It tastes sort of what I imagine butterbeer tasting like. The only thing that I have tried that might be closer to butterbeer is Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer. The Boylan creme soda I can get at my local Kroger. I have seen it at Elevation Burger and Jungle Jim’s. It is by far my favorite drink from the creme soda class. It is actually one of my favorite drinks period. The Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer I have only spotted at Jungle Jim’s.

Recently I found myself in dire need of a new device for transferring videos from VHS. I am one of the designated techs of the family and there were some important family videos that needed transferring. In the past, I used a device made by Diamond. However, it would not work when I tried to use it. Upon further research, I discovered that the Diamond device does not play well with Windows 10. Some people have had good luck but I was not one of those people. I had access to a Macbook Pro that I tried the Diamond device on, also to no avail. Enter the Vidbox for Mac. I wasn’t real happy with the price tag but in the end it paid off. I have never had an easier experience converting from VHS. The software that the Vidbox uses is way more user friendly than the software that came with the Diamond. I am hoping that the Vidbox will not suffer the fate of being too out of date when and if the time comes again for me to convert from VHS. If you need a device for a VHS converting project and have a Mac, then this is for you. They have a Windows version as well but I cannot say whether or not it works as well.

It has been on my list to check out some of C.G. Jung’s books. He is pretty much a must read for those that enjoy studying Psychology. I had some Amazon points that I traded in for The Undiscovered Self. A visit to Half Price Books added Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and Man and His Symbols to my collection.

I was looking for another book by Philip Zimbardo called Man, Interrupted. However, I stumbled across The Lucifer Effect instead. I went ahead and bought it because it sounded interesting and I have been interested in checking out Zimbardo’s work. He is primarily known for the Stanford Prison Experiment.

It has become apparent to me that I need to read more book by Alan Watts so using some Amazon points again I traded them in for The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. Thus far, I have not been disappointed by any Alan Watts book I have read and have gained many insights as a result of reading them.

The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am. The title alone was enough to warrant purchasing this item. My love of philosophy is icing on the cake. Lately I have been playing the Zelda games as part of my “studies” and I believe that this book with be a valuable primer to complement those studies.

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries

Top Ten Favorite Songs Based On Comic Book Characters

Greetings friends,

In honor of today being Free Comic Book Day 2017 I am posting my top ten favorite songs based off of comic book characters! I have also taken the time to provide an analysis of the song. The analysis is of course my opinion of what the song could mean. There are some songs where I have more input than others. Many artists leave songs open for interpretation so that the listener can form their own relations or opinions of songs. Feel free to comment below with your opinion of the songs or to share some of your favorite songs that are based on comics books. I have limited each artist to one song in order to prevent an overabundance of songs by certain bands. There are many bands that have released companion comics such as Soilwork, Within Temptation, KISS, Alice Cooper, etc. but these are songs that are not based off of comics and often times the band bases the comic off of the songs. There are some songs that have become synonymous with certain characters (looking at you Iron Man by Black Sabbath) but the song is actually independent of the character. These are also songs that I personally enjoy and from genres that I normally listen to.


10. Our Lady Peace – Superman’s Dead
This song was of course inspired by Superman. It also takes a hard look at bullying, societal expectations, and media messages. I love the grunge feel of the song. Multiple times it broaches the subject of ordinary not being good enough. Superman is dead according to the POV of the song and thus he unable to save us from ourselves or from others. Perhaps we will just have to laugh instead, laugh in order to keep from crying. The lines, “are you worried about your faith, kneel down and obey” seem to bring attention to the idea of religions pushing their agenda and expecting their congregation to follow unquestioningly. The ending, “doesn’t anybody ever know that the world’s a subway” could be relating to the idea that on a subway everyone fends for themselves. Another way to take the ending, which correlates with the idea of the song exploring dark media messages is to take into account the amount of subway advertisements there are. I don’t live in a city with a subway but during some of my travels I see a lot of billboards trying to sell us sex, gambling, materialistic obsessions, etc. I can only imagine how one might be bombarded with these messages when a ton of advertisements like those on billboards are crammed into a subway system.


9. Black Lab – Learn to Crawl
This song is inspired by Spiderman. It was featured on the soundtrack to the Spiderman movie starring Tobey McGuire. I believe that it specifically is about Peter Parker’s infatuation with Mary Jane. He is in love with her and in a way, it was a love at first sight which relates to the lyrics, “I could feel you like the spider sting”. In the same way that Peter is learning how use his powers responsibly he is also coming of age and exploring a relationship with Mary Jane. At the start, Peter mainly kept his distance from Mary Jane and watches from afar with admiration (or like a stalker depending on how you want to look at it).


8. Charles Fox – Wonder Woman Theme
This song was the main theme to the 1970’s Wonder Woman TV series. It is a great mix of rock and funk. Yes, it has the lines, “In your satin tights, fighting for your rights” but that is one thing that comics are equal-ish on is that heroes and heroines wear satin tights. Albeit they usually portray the women in comics with more skin revealed. It is almost a testament that Wonder Woman just might be the only character on this list that gets an almost sexism debate. Overall I still really enjoy the song though! Even the latter half of the line reference above calls out Wonder Woman fighting for women’s rights which is unfortunately something that women still have to do today because of the society we live in. Wonder Woman as an icon today is a great proponent in the battle for women’s rights. I love the lines in the song, “Stop a bullet cold, make the axis fold”. Wonder Woman has a history of fighting the Nazi’s. The Nazi’s and the Axis of Evil were quite possibly the worst of humanity. Wonder Woman in contrast is one of the best of humanity or would it be super-humanity? Either way I think we can all agree that Wonder Woman is awesome! As the end of the song goes, “You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman!”


7. 3 Doors Down – Kryptonite
This song is inspired by Superman. If you know of Superman then you probably know of his weakness which is the mineral from his home world of Krypton, commonly known as kryptonite. I absolutely LOVED this song when it came out. I would have probably put it higher on the list but it fell victim to the radio effect (incessant overplaying to the point that the next time the song plays it has the effect of kryptonite or igniting a Hulk-like rage). The first part of the song goes like this, “I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind, I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time, I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah” I believe this to be from the POV of a hero but it could theoretically be from the POV of anyone struggling with coming to terms with the state of the world. The latter part suggests a feeling of helplessness as to whether or not anything they do can actually help. Now I want to explore the lines, “I really don’t mind what happens now and then, as long as you’ll be my friend at the end. If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman, if I’m alive and well, will you be there holding my hand. I’ll keep you by my side with my superhuman might, Kryptonite”. The POV character is coming to terms with their inability to affect the outcome sometimes and feels like they will be ok as long as their friend is with them through it all. They pose questions to their friend asking if they will there for them through the times when the POV character feels insecure or losing their mind and if the friend will be there for them when things are going great as well. The POV character further expresses their desire to have the friend by them through thick and thin by stating that they will keep them by their side with their superhuman might. The POV character then in my opinion calls the friend Kryptonite as if to say that their relationship with them is a form of weakness for the POV character but they don’t mind.


6. Queen – Flash’s Theme
This song was made for the movie Flash Gordon. Queen was actually responsible for most of the soundtrack to the movie. I am not real familiar with the source material and I have never seen the movie but I did really like theme that I stumbled across whilst listening to Queen’s discography. I am a fan most of Queen’s music, especially Bohemiam Rhapsody, The Show Must Go On, I Want to Break Free, etc.


5. Drowning Pool Featuring Rob Zombie – The Man Without Fear
This song was made for the movie Daredevil. The movie sucked. God, it was awful. However, the soundtrack was good. Especially this song by Drowning Pool which is a band that I kind of like and Rob Zombie who is a legend. My favorite lines are, “Everything was shapeless, is clear now, I visualize with a drop of sound, I am the man without fear”. The lines are of course referring to the accident where Matthew Murdock lost his sight and gained his ability to visualize practically everything around him with sounds. He becomes hyper-aware of his other senses and uses those abilities mixed with training to fight crime. The Netflix series does a much better job of capturing the character and is why I chose the video above featuring scenes from the show instead of the movie that the song was made for.


4. Megadeth – Holy Wars… The Punishment Due
This song is inspired by The Punisher. The beginning of the song chronicles a war, possibly a war that Frank Castle was involved with. I’m not sure if that was the intention of the writing of the song but that is how it feels to me. By the end it evolves into the classic characterization of The Punisher where he wages his own war on organized crime and especially those responsible for the death of his family. One of the lines is literally, “Killings, killings, killings, killings” which is apt for character who in the name of vengeance kills, kills, kills, and kills.


3. Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy – X-Men Theme Song
This is one of the greatest instrumental tracks of all time. Your childhood was not complete if this song wasn’t a part of it. There are too many shows that they have done to list here but some of the notables are this one, Dragonball Z, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, etc. The flow of the song captured the action theme of the series perfectly.


2. Danny Elfman – Batman: The Animated Series
Danny Elfman has been involved with many movies and series over the years. One of the best of which was his composition of the Batman: The Animated Series theme. This was an instrumental piece that captured the character. The theme was dark like the Dark Knight himself. It would give me chills down my spine sometimes. The series itself was one of the greatest animated series of all time and it definitely helped that the score was up to par with the quality of the show. This was another theme that made my childhood. When I heard it start up I knew it was Batman time. If it was Batman time, it was time to shut the fuck up.


1. Iced Earth – Question of Heaven
This song is inspired by Spawn. Spawn (Al Simmons) is my favorite comic book character of all time and imagine my surprise when I found an entire damn album based on the character. Iced Earth’s Dark Saga album is inspired by the character and has Spawn on the cover. The entire album is great but the standout song in my opinion is Question of Heaven. Spawn is stuck in a war between Heaven and Hell. Hell creates hellspawn by making deals with the deceased. They wanted Al Simmons to be a general in their army but they deceived him with lies that he would get to be with the love of his life again. He gets to see her, but she has moved on after his death. If he had known it would be too late to reunite with his love then he would have never taken the deal. He would rather just be completely dead but he is denied this due to his status as a hellspawn. Instead of following Hell’s orders he goes off on his own often playing the role of a anti-hero. My favorite part of the song is, “I did what I thought was right, all for the love of my life, I know it’s sad but true. Something is very wrong, condemned to suffer so long, for a love so true. The question that lies within, is so hard to understand, it still tears at me. And in my dying breath, my heart holds no regrets, I wouldn’t change a thing. My spirit, begins to rise to the heavenly skies, just to be shunned away by you. Now all I want is to die, no streets of gold in the sky. And I wash my hands of you”. Spawn feels betrayed by both sides. He knows that he hasn’t made the best choices and hasn’t lived a perfect life but one thing that he has always done consistently is loved. He doesn’t want entry to Heaven, he just wants it all to end. Finally he asks the question of Heaven, “Why won’t you let me die?”

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries

The Dark Watchlist: April 2017

Greetings friends,

This post is going be my version of things that I was really into for the month. I was inspired by Youtuber Nikki Limo and her videos about Shit I Really Like Right Now. I encourage you to check out her Youtube channel.

I was also inspired by a video I watched a long time ago featuring Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer doing a bit about What’s In My Bag.

When I was remembering it, I remember it being closer to the theme of Nikki Limo’s lists but it is actually more of a what they were buying from a particular store at the time. In that vein, I have decided to include a short What’s In My Bag list at the end of the Watchlist. Without further ado, please see the list below.

Starbucks DS + Energy

It should come as no shock that to anyone that I have a coffee addiction. My favorite type is Death Wish Coffee but the is this pesky thing involved with it where right after brewing it is really hot. So, instead of drinking as much Death Wish or any hot variety of coffee, lately I have been mixing it up with a chilled Starbucks drink so that I can get the initial boost to get me going without losing any taste buds in the process.

Mingua Jerky

I have my one of day job colleagues to thank for this. He introduced me to the jerky by sharing a bag that he had and I have been getting it for myself ever since. It can be found commonly at Circle K. Thus far I have tried three different varieties: Cajun, Sweet and Hot, and standard Mild. My personal favorite is the Cajun. It is spicy but I wouldn’t call it overboard by any means. If you like spicy things then the Cajun should be nice for you. I would say it is close to the spiciness of a slice of pizza that has been seasoned with crushed red pepper.

NES Classic

The NES Classic is awesome assuming that you managed to get it for the list price of around $60. Luckily, I happened to spot one sitting on a shelf in a Gamestop one day and snagged it. Prior to that I had been trying to hunt one down with no success unless I had $200+ to shell out for it. In my opinion it would not be worth that. I love having access to so many of the games that I grew up with. Lately I have been playing through the original Zelda games that are on it. I hear that there is a way (probably not legally) to rig up what is called a cherry pie with emulators but I just don’t feel like trying to pursue that method.

Five Guys

Recently our city opened up a new Five Guys, “But Five Guys is so expensive.” If I hear that line one more time…

Yes, it is more expensive than McDonald’s. You know what else, it is infinitely better than McDonald’s as well. Plus, even with a regular fry you get pretty much a bagful. The quantity and quality in my opinion make up for the price difference. I’m not rich, I’m not poor either and I’m not saying to eat there every night (doing so with ANY fast food restaurant is bad for your health) but if you frequent Chili’s, Wendy’s, Culver’s, etc. then Five Guys relatively isn’t that bad. Also, on a slightly related note here is a hilarious video with John Cho and Karl Urban.

In Treatment – HBO

I was doing a search on the Google for a show that was like House but with the protagonist being a psychologist instead of medical doctor. It lead me to the HBO show In Treatment. There aren’t as many side characters but I can see why the specific search led me to it and I am loving it so far. It is mainly from the perspective of a psychologist that is treating patients and focuses on the struggles of the individuals and some of the personal struggles the psychologist is having due to factors within and outside of the therapy sessions.

Alan Watts

I just finished reading The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. Holy shit, reading it was a psychological and philosophical trip that I haven’t experienced since I discovered the works of the psychologist Dr. Sheldon Kopp. I’ve also read his book The Way of Zen and although I enjoyed it, it did not have as significant of an impact on me. In my opinion Alan Watts is one of the greatest contemporary philosophers. I believe that The Wisdom of Insecurity may be the most important book that I’ve read this year and possibly one of the most important books I’ve read in my life.

I am an avid reader of philosophy and discovered that this magazine exists. It was a bit difficult to find and come to find out, it is a British magazine which is part of why I struggled to find it in the United States. Thanks to Ebay, I was able to procure it and am glad that I did. It was worth the price of the magazine just for introducing me to the philosopher Derek Parfit. Derek Parfit wrote a book in 1984 called Reasons and Persons. In it, he explores the idea of what if we had the technology of teleportation. The transporter works by copying you, recreating you at your destination, and destroying the you that was copied. However, what happens if the transporter malfunctions and fails to destroy the you that was copied? Now, there are two of you that exist in the universe. Who is the real you?

This magazine was fascinating. It opened up a world of thought. One of my favorite articles in it was about a FBI agent that was responsible for shutting down one of the largest spy rings in history. It goes into detail how the agent used psychological methods to capture the initial spy and then used him to branch out and bring in the entire web. There was also some great book suggestions and an awesome section that broke down the different psychology careers.

This is a purchase based on a recommendation by Alan Watts in The Wisdom of Insecurity. He stated that the book was out of print. Using the tools available to me in today’s technological world (Ebay) I found a copy of the book that was published in 1932 and promptly bought it. It should come as no surprise that I am also a lover of vintage books.

This is also a purchase based on a recommendation by Alan Watts in The Wisdom of Insecurity. He stated that this book was out of print as well but it was easier to find than Trigant Burrow. It was published in the 1950’s. Most of the copies I found were expensive or possibly in a different language but once again Ebay came to my rescue.

Iced Earth is one of my favorite bands. They are probably tied at the top with Nightwish now that I think about it. They have a new album releasing in June and they released the pre-order information for the album this month. I ordered the limited edition because I wanted access to the LP and the exclusive art book photos and information. The artwork was partially completed by the owner of a tattoo parlor that I have had all of tattoos done at and where I plan on getting all of my future tattoos done. Here is the lyric video for the first single released from the album.

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries

Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2016

Greetings friends,

I would like to share with you my top ten favorite movies of 2016. These are movies that had to be released in theaters in 2016.

10. The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan was a huge surprise for me. I didn’t go into it expecting anything special and it delivered on an epic scale. Alexander Skarsgård gave an awesome performance as Tarzan. Margot Robbie performed extremely well as Jane. Prior to this film, I had hardly seen anything with them in it. Samuel L. Jackson was hilarious and as always sometimes ended up stealing the scene. Christoph Waltz played the main villain and has cemented his title in my mind as one of the best villainous actors. Djimon Hounsou played an additional antagonist that had some history with Tarzan. The action scenes are top notch, the visuals of the jungle are great, and overall I had a fantastic experience with the film.

9. Ip Man 3

There is something about seeing Donnie Yen beat the shit out of people that I will never get tired of. He doesn’t want to beat the shit of them, but they make him do it. Master Ip is for the most part peaceful. I have watched most of the Ip Man films and although this one isn’t the best, it is still a solid entry. If you love martial arts films then you have probably already watched this, if not then go do it now! After watching the earlier Ip Man films of course. This film also deals with the struggle of Master Ip’s wife being ill. Another rival opens up a school and tries to challenge Master Ip during this time. Master Ip decides to spend time with his ailing wife instead. In the end, there is an epic rematch with the rival. Mike Tyson makes an appearance in this film as well and has a cool battle with Donnie Yen.

8. Don’t Breathe

This was a great entry in the home invasion genre. It tells the story mainly from the point of view of the invaders. They break into the house of a blind man in order to rob him. They forget to take into account the blind man has lived in the house for years and knows it better than them. The intensity of this film is hard to describe, I found myself holding my own breath during parts of it. There is a reveal that shows that the blind man may not be as innocent as he seems.

7. Passengers

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence? I’m there! Chris Pratt shined in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jennifer Lawrence shines in pretty much everything she touches so I was stoked for this film. It did not disappoint, me. I read some other reviews where people felt betrayed by one of the big reveals in the movie because of the conflict that it caused but I thought that made it a better film. It depicts how the characters grow from that conflict and overcome what at first seemed like an insurmountable issue. For most of the movie there are only about 2-4 characters. It was awesome to see a movie deliver so well with so few characters.

6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Okay. Let’s start with what we can agree on. That Batman scene where he takes down the criminals when saving Martha is badass! I felt that most of the movie was badass. There were parts of the film where it did feel like they were trying to cram as much into it as possible. There was the whole Martha thing and the fact that Lois couldn’t have heard them in order to explain it (I have not seen the extended version so maybe it was a victim of editing). The birth of Doomsday was kind of weird. Everything with Lex Luthor Jr. was kind of weird, he was not a very well thought out antagonist. The battle scenes between Batman and Superman were well done. Hopefully the extended version has more of Wonder Woman in the final fight scene. Contrary to the thoughts of many, I really enjoyed the nightmare scene. If you have read the comics, then it makes much more sense where they were headed with that aspect of the story.

5. The Wailing

This is horror as it should be. The events that unfold and the pacing of the film are perfect. The depictions of the forces of evil and their intensity are done amazingly well. A policeman is investigating a case of various murders tied to an underlying disease that results in the infected eventually dying after murdering those around them. The disease appears around the same time as a strange man in the area. The policeman’s daughter is eventually infected and he does everything that he can to try to cure her of the disease.

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane

The main thing I remember about the first Cloverfield movie is the damn shaky camera. Luckily 10 Cloverfield Lane did not suffer from shaky-cam-syndrome. This is another film with few characters and few locations that tells a hell of a story. I would say that 95% of the movie takes place in an underground bunker. The main character is in an accident and wakes up in the bunker where supposedly an attack has happened that has made it unsafe outside. The host of the bunker is seemingly nice but suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and potentially another or multiple mental disorders. There is another guest in the bunker as well who hits it off with the main character. This movie made up for the shaky camera in the first film and was a surprise hit for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

3. Doctor Strange

Mads Mikkelsen and Benedict Cumberbatch? I’m there! They are two of my favorite actors. The fact that this is a Marvel movie and part of the overarching Marvel Universe of films is icing on the cake. The special effects in this movie are stunning. I love the M.C. Escher style. Doctor Strange bending time and space might be the closest we get to Benedict Cumberbatch playing THE Doctor. I guess at least he is still a Doctor in this. Mads Mikkelsen plays the main antagonist and does a damn good job. Ultimately in the end it suffered from the wipe the villain slate clean effect that Marvel is good at but at least Mads Mikkelsen made his villain memorable even if the big bad was someone else. I didn’t feel as cheated by their depiction of the big bad as I did when Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer gave us a damn cloud as Galactus. The post-credits scene was hilarious. Also, the real star of the movie is the cloak!

2. Star Wars: Rogue One

This movie earns its spot just for the badass Darth Vader scene! If you have seen it, then you know the one I am talking about. This is also the second Mads Mikkelsen and Donnie Yen movie on the list. I love those two actors and although their roles aren’t the largest in this film, they are still very important. In addition to the aforementioned Darth Vader scene the rest of the movie is enjoyable as well. We finally get the full details of the rebels gaining the intel of how to destroy the Death Star. My favorite characters were K-250, Chirrut Îmwe, and Baze Malbus.

1. Shin Godzilla

I’ve been a fan of Godzilla ever since my childhood. I grew up mainly knowing the late Showa era movies that depicted Godzilla as an ally against other monsters. Shin Godzilla is not like those at all. It walks the path that Godzilla 1954 and 1984 walked before it. Godzilla is more of a God incarnate, a God of destruction that has appeared as a monster to collect on the sins of mankind. The sin of trying to play God themselves by messing with the laws of nature. The movie overall has an anti-nuclear/anti-war message but that is basically what Godzilla has always been. Radiation is after all how Godzilla is created. Godzilla has forever cemented his status in pop culture as a cautionary tale against the horror of mankind using nuclear weapons and their effect on everyone and everything around it. Politics play out as close as I can imagine them playing out if the situation in the movie happened. The risk assessment and possibility of having to drop a third bomb on Japan is handled with the criticism that you would imagine.

“Man is more frightening than Godzilla.” – Hiromi Ogashira

Here are a couple of interesting Godzilla related links that I stumbled upon while doing some research:

GODZILLA: The Embodiment of a Living Atomic Bomb
Godzilla: Through the Ages

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries

Top Ten Favorite Books Read In 2016

Greetings friends,

First off, I apologize for neglecting the blog for a bit. My day job has been very demanding since the last post. Moving forward I will try my best not to let as much time pass in between posts. In 2016 I attempted to complete a reading challenge based on Popsugar’s yearly reading challenges. It was for 50 books in various categories. Unfortunately I did not finish, but I did have a lot of fun trying. I would like to share with you my top ten favorite books that I read in 2016.

ready-player-one-book-cover

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 5/5

Wow. Just wow. This is one of my new favorite books of all time. My childhood was brought to life within a wonderful story of science fiction and fantasy. I loved the dystopian themes as well. This book is nostalgia porn at its best that definitely ends in a nerdgasm of epic proportions. I look forward to the film and hope that it does the book justice, however I don’t know how they will get around all of the licensing that will be needed. Although I have never read any books by Patrick Rothfuss I kept imagining him as Ogden Morrow. I have been in attendance at many panels that he has spoken at though, perhaps that is where I got the image. Anyways, I highly recommend this book especially to anyone that loves the 80’s.

in-the-hand-of-the-goddess

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce 5/5

This is a spectacular book that continues the story that began in Alanna: The First Adventure. This book takes some of the elements of the first story and explores them further. It also adds in plenty of new trials for the squire. One of my favorite things about this series thus far is the boundaries that Alanna has challenged by pretending to be a boy so that she can become a Knight. Alanna continues to grow up and as she gets older she starts getting pulled more into two directions. She struggles to balance her identity as a young woman and as a young Knight whilst keeping the fact that she is female secret from most. I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.

The Hanged Man by Sheldon Kopp 5/5

The Hanged Man by Sheldon Kopp 5/5

Once again Sheldon Kopp has managed to give me a swift kick in the psyche. I can’t stop reading his books. No doubt I will continue to review them for the remainder of my life. To date, the only other author that I can think of in the self-help/psychology genre that has had this much impact on my thought processes is Brené Brown. I don’t practice Tarot reading or have much faith in it but I do find myself obsessed with them from time to time. This book does a great job of exploring your personality and ego with help from the major arcana.

Raise Your Right Hand Against Fear by Sheldon Kopp 5/5

Raise Your Right Hand Against Fear by Sheldon Kopp 5/5

I discovered Sheldon Kopp via the TV show Fringe when they featured his book: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him: The Pilgrimage Of Psychotherapy. That book was awesome and got me interested in checking out his other works. Words cannot express how grateful I am for the help that If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him: The Pilgrimage Of Psychotherapy has given me and for the help that this book has given me. In my opinion his works should be required reading in place of some of the other books on those lists. These books are fantastic if you are looking into exploring and deepening the understanding of the self. Unfortunately a lot of Sheldon Kopp’s works are not currently available for e-readers. I intend to do some research and find out why. Luckily, I have managed to track down most of his bibliography and bought them fairly inexpensively from third-party sellers on Amazon.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown 5/5

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown 5/5

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is in my opinion one of the most relevant epic tomes of this day and age. I am not easily moved to tears but I found myself with wet eyes at various times whilst reading this book. Shame and vulnerability are no easy topics especially when viewed through a lens of the self and this book helps to walk you through the journey thereof. It will no doubt be a book that I keep coming back to in order to inspire myself to dare greatly as the name suggests.

Forgotten Colors by David Forés 5/5

Forgotten Colors by David Forés 5/5

This book is amazing. It is full of many inspiring tales. Some of my favorites are about the characters Bella and Griselda, Chew Wang, and the futuristic tale. I almost cried a couple of times. The creative endeavor that went into the genesis of this book is phenomenal. Bravo!

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Jones 5/5

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Jones 5/5

This book is fantastic. I loved the magic throughout and the interactions between the characters. I actually have not seen the film by Hayao Miyazaki so I was able to be introduced to the story prior to watching. I am really looking forward to watching the film now and I have faith that Miyazaki does it justice because of the quality of his other films. But back to the book, I chose to read it on a whim after another book fell through on a reading list that I am working on. After reading this it makes me wish that I was a Wizard like Howl or at least had houses and a moving castle like he did. He can keep the spiders but I would love to be able to travel to different places just by turning a knob on a door a certain way. There is a nice twist in the book involving the Witch of the Waste and part of her source of power that I didn’t see coming even though I probably should have. I want a Calcifer of my own as well.

1984 by George Orwell 5/5

1984 by George Orwell 5/5

This book is fantastic, especially if you are a fan of dystopian and/or totalitarian fiction. George Orwell has painted a picture, albeit a daunting one, of a future that could still be relevant today. Fiction such as this should serve as a warning to society to be careful of what you become. Be warned, this tale does not come with a happy ending. It does however send us an awakening message. I shall write no more in this review for fear that Big Brother could be watching.

Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! by Terry Brooks 4/5

Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! by Terry Brooks 4/5

It might be better for me to review this book in halves. The beginning half of the book moved pretty much at a snail’s pace and there was a lot of reluctant autopilot emotions going on with the protagonist that almost made him come across as fairly wooden. There is a reason, he had lost his wife in an accident and that would definitely throw the emotions out of balance. Deciding that he needs a change he buys a Magic Kingdom in a magazine and it turns out that it is legit. However, the Magic Kingdom isn’t in the best of shape so he has to harden his resolve and do something about it. Partially because the person that sold him the Kingdom isn’t as trustworthy as he made himself out to be. It takes pretty much the entirety of the first half of the book for him to finally decide that the magic in the Kingdom is actually real. Granted I can understand his skepticism coming from a world without magic. I tried to give him the benefit of a doubt the best I could for this situation. Enter the second half of the book when he makes the decision that he is indeed going to stay on as King of Landover and he is going to do the best damn job he can to take care of the bad things that are happening. By then most of his supporting characters are established and have grown on me because they finally get a chance to be something other than beggars pleading him to stay. He meets another supporting character that also becomes great in her own right. One of the more powerful scenes of the book for me is when he is forced to face some of the ghosts that are haunting him. This actually in a sense validates the beginning of the book and I am glad that I pushed through the beginning and made it to the very well created end. I look forward to checking out the rest of the books in the series!

Alanna by Tamora Pierce 4/5

Alanna by Tamora Pierce 4/5

This is a great fantasy book no matter what age you are. I would have given it 5 stars but it started out a bit slow for me. After the first third of the book I flew through the rest of it. My favorite characters are Alanna the protagonist and George the King of Thieves. The attention to detail in the story is fantastic. If you enjoy stories with an interesting and powerful female protagonist then I highly recommend this book! I can’t wait to start the next book in the series.

I am also happy to announce that I am taking part in Popsugar’s 2017 reading challenge including the advanced section. Click here to check out their page!

Here is my currently planned list:
2017-reading-challengeMy lovely fiancée took the time to convert the list into a friendly Excel format which in my opinion makes planning much easier. Click here to download the Excel format for your own use.

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries

10 Life Lessons from Final Fantasy

Greetings Kupo,

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RPG’s are one of my favorite hobbies. I’m sure eventually I will probably do a blog post on my favorite RPG games of all time. That list will no doubt contain multiple titles from the Final Fantasy series. Below are ten life lessons that I have learned from my experience playing them.

1. Sometimes it is better to walk than to ride a Chocobo.

Chocobo’s are great, now you can finally travel through the desert or plains without it taking an hour or more to get where you need to go! Plus, most of the time they are cute. Who doesn’t want to mount a giant chicken like a horse and ride it around? However, sometimes much like in reality we can become lazy. If we rely on the faster transportation methods, we may miss out on treasures along the way. We may get out of shape and not be at the level we need to be to tackle the next challenge that we are presented with. Getting from point A to point B quicker may save us time which may be good for certain times, but other times we may need to weigh what that time savings is actually costing us. Perhaps whatever we may gain from a slower journey where we are able to take things at a slower pace is worth it.

Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX

2. Side quests aren’t always a waste of time.

Recently while playing Final Fantasy XII I caught myself cursing at the length of one of the side quests. I had to kill a cactus for this guy, take the flower to his wife so she could make some medicine, go back to the guy to pick something up that his wife wanted from him for more medicine, and now his wife is trying to send me to some cliff to gather some more shit for a different kind of medicine. Sure, it is nice that I am able to help out the person that must have been practically dead but damnit, I just want the experience points for finishing the quest! After a few deep breaths I calmed down and was able to realize that perhaps the back and forth isn’t such a bad thing. Do I think that the guy should be able to run his own damn errands? Yes. However, I have gained much experience from defeating enemies along the way and was able to come across a rare enemy and defeat them for a much larger reward than normal. If I hadn’t been trying to complete the quest I may not have come across the possibility for the higher reward. Sometimes in reality I have a habit of falling into this kind of thinking as well. Is it really the end of the world that I have to take a different road because they decided it was a good idea to start construction on another part of the city? Who knows, I may end up finding a new coffee shop or some place that inspires me.

Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XII

3. Know your limitations.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
Odds are that most of the time in Final Fantasy you are aware of the level that your characters are at and what abilities they have. If possible, before trying to overcome enemies (especially bosses) do some research on them. If not possible, make sure to save the game before fighting them and study their fighting pattern during the battle just in case it doesn’t end well the first time around. Perhaps you can find a way to exploit a weakness. Maybe you just aren’t at the right level yet. I have a guide book for some of the games that I refer to in order to see what the recommended level is for certain areas. I try not to read too far ahead because I still want to be challenged and I don’t want too many spoilers. In life it pays off to know what level you are at for various situations and whether or not you can handle certain things. With the internet we also have a valuable tool at our disposal that allows to do better research to know what we are getting into before we make the decision to do something. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times that we are thrown into a situation beyond our control, but at the very least we can try to make it happen less often.

Final Fantasy XIII - Libra

Final Fantasy XIII – Libra

4. It is possible to be vulnerable and strong at the same time.

One of the characters in my party in Final Fantasy XII was acting as an AI and my control of him was limited. I was not able to switch out his items or upgrade his stats or abilities because he was just a guest. However, he was a higher level than most of my other party members and his strength was off the charts. This allowed him to hit hard during battles with the enemy but I also had to heal him the most often because he had the weakest armor. There were also some enemies, especially elemental enemies that may be strong as well. However, In the case of a fire elemental I discovered that I needed to just use water in order to extinguish them. A lot of times most of us try to put on a strong façade when face to face with others but inside struggle with demons such as anxiety and depression. Maybe we aren’t comfortable being in touch with our feelings. Maybe we have that one trigger that causes us great anguish. The hard part when you have a vulnerability is admitting when you have one. This is when it can be a show of great strength to ask for help. In the case of the AI character above, his health revealed to me his distress and I supplied a potion in order to heal him. It was a good thing that he had others around to help him or he may not have made it.

Final Fantasy XII - Basch

Final Fantasy XII – Basch

5. Keep leveling up.

All of the Final Fantasy games I have played have been driven by a leveling up system. This usually results in being able to wield better weapons, wear tougher armor, and use stronger attacks as you level up. Don’t try to face too much too soon or you may regret it. Try to be prepared for what you will have to face. There is a section of Final Fantasy XII that comes to mind when I tried to kill a T-Rex while I was at a low level. I didn’t know it at the time but apparently you need to be stronger to kill it. After dying a few times very quickly I was able to figure out that the T-Rex was above my current level and that I would need to keep leveling up in order to match him or overcome him. Don’t give up after beating the T-Rex either, there is nothing wrong with maintaining the thought of trying be a better person today than you was yesterday. Keep setting goals and keep striving towards them. Level up your life. If you need help getting started I recommend checking out Nerdfitness. Steve Kamb literally wrote the book on leveling up your life.

Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX

6. Today’s boss battle is different than yesterday’s and odds are it will be different from tomorrow’s.

The boss battles in Final Fantasy take on a different form than the boss battles in reality but don’t let that fool you. A boss battle is still a boss battle. Yesterday in Final Fantasy you may have beaten the Materia Keeper but today you may have to face off against Sephiroth. Yesterday in the office you may have had to deal with the deadline for the new design project but today you have to deal with a presentation about the direction of the department and you can already feel your throat drying up. Do your best to be prepared for the boss battle but even if it doesn’t go flawlessly the main thing is that you keep trying. If you lose the fight, learn from it and try harder the next time assuming you still have the option to respawn (meaning that you weren’t fired). If you were fired, then that will more than likely be tomorrow’s boss battle. The thing about Final Fantasy is that it is never really final. Boss battles are a part of living.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII “Where are the TPS reports?” – Sephiroth “In Hell, where you’re going!” – Cloud

7. Don’t be afraid to open treasure chests but be prepared for what you find.

Treasure chests are another Final Fantasy staple. They contain various amounts of loot that aid the player on their quest. Opening chests and looking for loot is probably the second most time consuming thing about the games after leveling up the characters by grinding. However, sometimes the chests aren’t as they appear to be. Sometimes the chests are beasts called Mimics in disguise. Other times the game makes it so if you open certain chests then you may lose out on a greater reward later (such as the ultimate weapon in Final Fantasy XII). The equivalent in reality would be finding money on the street, winning a contest, or winning the lottery. I’ve found money on the street before and kept it when it has been smaller amounts if there is no one else around. I have won other smaller contests like getting to hang out at a radio station with a band I enjoy and an action figure from Toonami. I hear that some of the larger rewards sometimes come with a price such as having to claim them on your taxes and then pay taxes on the rewards. This can sometimes cause someone to have to give up the reward. Anyone can find a treasure chest, it’s what you choose do with what is inside that really matters. Another way of looking at this is all of the treasure chests inside of ourselves that we choose to lock away our emotions within. Sometimes in order to move past something we have to unlock these treasure chests or if that fails then hammer the damn lock off. Self-exploration also carries with it the chance of great rewards or the risk of it being another Mimic that will try to bite our head off.

Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX

8. Save points are your allies.

When you come across a save point in Final Fantasy, please for the love of God save the game! They are usually in important places and a lot of times you encounter one before major boss battles. The last thing you want to do is to rush into a situation and then lose all of progress you had made since the last save point. All of the loot, all of the experience, and the time it took to get there can all be for naught if you don’t save when you should. In reality I think of saving as creating points in your memory for certain events, physical pictures and home videos, journals, etc. My father died in an accident in 2012 and it hasn’t been easy dealing with the grieving process and it will more than likely be a process that never ends. It has become a boss battle. Luckily with time I have managed to level up so that it has gotten a bit easier to deal with than the first few months and then the first year and so on. We have many pictures and videos of my father that I can look at or watch anytime. Plus, I have many valuable memories that I hope I can keep a hold of moving forward. It does suck that he is gone, but he will never be forgotten.

Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XII

9. Ultimate weapons are for ultimate heroes.

When you start out in Final Fantasy you are usually given basic weapons that you then upgrade throughout the duration of the game. Ultimate weapons are a common occurrence in the series as well. Usually you are limited in what range of weapons you can use by your level. This mimics reality in that you should train with a certain weapon before thinking that you can get the strongest version of something and be a master at the beginning. Odds are if you do that then you will make a fool of yourself or hurt someone. For example, I love swords but I would not want to engage in an actual sword fight with someone at the moment because I lack the skill to do so effectively. If I was to begin training I would more than likely start with a wooden sword and then work my way up to metal. Final Fantasy ups the ante by imbuing many of their weapons with magic that gives them additional abilities or increases the amount of damage caused by the weapon. We all tend to have our own profession as well. There are certain tools for vehicles that I would consider ultimate weapons for mechanics and I wouldn’t dare to begin to think that I could just wing it. I would more than likely end up breaking something or hurting myself. There are other tools that a beginning mechanic would not know how to use but a seasoned mechanic would be quite effective with.

Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X

10. Phoenix downs and reality.

Phoenix downs are an item in Final Fantasy that revives a KO’d member of your party. There may be times in life that you feel like you have been KO’d by something and someone might give you a hand, this is similar to having one of your party members use a phoenix down on you. Likewise, you may have the opportunity to use a phoenix down to help someone else out. Sometimes being KO’d doesn’t have to mean actually being unconscious. It can be feeling stuck and thinking that there is no way out of your current situation. Sometimes the act of using a phoenix down can be as simple as just listening to someone vent about their day. Other times it can actually be taking care of someone that is actually unconscious.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries

Five Things I learned From Watching The Newsroom

Greetings friends,

x_tdy_emmy_daniels_130918

1. Take pride in what you do and make sacrifices where you must.

Most people want to contribute to the world in some way. Some people work so hard at this that they exhaust all of their energy and risk their health as a result. You can’t be everywhere at once and there is only so much time available in a day. Burning the candle at both ends is no way to live a life. If that is how you are making ends meet, then hopefully it only a temporary setback. One of the things I would like to avoid is working myself into an early grave. However, I still want to make valuable contributions to the world and to society. I have an ever-growing to-do list. Sometimes I make the mistake of getting overwhelmed by said list and end up not making any progress. Other times I get quite a bit done but still feel like I accomplished nothing because there is so much stuff left on the list to do. This applies to both my work life and my home life. Lately I have been trying to look at it a bit differently and take pride in the things that I do manage to accomplish. The other things on the list are still there, but they will get accomplished in time. If somehow I managed to get everything done, what would I do then? I probably wouldn’t know what to do with myself. It is inevitable in life that a sacrifice will have to be made at some point. Perhaps it is that you want a thing and can’t afford a thing because you have to make sure to cover the bills for the month. Perhaps it is sacrificing some time with your family in order to get a big job done at work or vice versa maybe you need to spend a little less time at work and more with the family. Life is a form of give or take. If you are able to wake up every day, get dressed, take a deep breath, accomplish something, and take deep breaths when necessary then be proud of yourself.

the-newsroom-season-3-episode-5-thomas-sadoski

2. If you think you are the smartest person in the room, think again.

There is nothing wrong with being proud of being intelligent. However, if you are an egomaniac and think that you are so smart that you can’t learn anything from anyone then you are an idiot. I have learned things from people that I would have never expected to learn anything from and my hope is that people have learned something from me as well. There is always something that we know that we can teach to someone else and there is always something that someone else knows that they can teach us. Strive to be proud and to be humble at the same time.

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3. Sometimes people fuck up, including you.

Look at the person closest to you; have they ever done anything to hurt you? Have you ever hurt them? If you don’t have that kind of relationship with the person, then maybe you know of a mistake they made at one time or another. Take some time to think about the mistakes you have made in the past. Now take the time to let it go, since they are in the past they cannot be changed. All that we can do with the mistakes that we have already made is seek forgiveness from the party that the mistake was made against and most importantly seek forgiveness from ourselves. More often than not, we are our own worst critics. If someone is legitimately seeking forgiveness from you consider their position, if you have been at the end of a similar rope then who are you to hang them? Likewise, if you are being overly harsh on yourself then lighten up. Learn from the mistake and then move forward. You can’t spend your life looking at the past behind you and expect to notice what good things may lay ahead in front of you.

bal-the-newsroom-recap-oh-shenandoah-20141208

4. Chase your story.

You are the author of your own story. Only you know what you want out of life and only you can take the kinds of steps necessary to achieve the things you want. No one else is going to write your story for you. You might find someone to share it with, but you aren’t going to find someone that will do everything for you or hand you everything. One of my favorite quotes from Fullmetal Alchemist is by Edward Elric when he says, “You’ve got two good legs. So get up and use them.” I understand that not everyone is fortunate enough to have the means to do everything that they want or everything that they want right now. The point is to figure out what you want to chase and chase it. You’re not going to get where you want by letting everyone else walk for you.

thenewsroomarmytshirt

5. Check your sources.

The staff of the Newsroom does not air any stories without first having some reputable sources. Who do you get your information from? Who do you trust to not tell you false stories? Try to surround yourself with honest people and eliminate the dishonest people in your life. Also to look at it a different way, what are the things that you consider sources of happiness and what would you consider sources of despair? Perhaps you need to focus more on the sources of happiness and get rid of the sources of despair.

sam-waterston-charlie-skinner-2

Thank you,
Jake Jeffries