Luigi’s Mansion 3 For Nintendo Switch – A Few Thoughts

If you follow my writings, you may remember that I returned to video games last January after taking a twenty year hiatus. I started with Link’s Awakening, then took on Super Mario Odyssey, and finally found the courage for Breath Of the Wild. I heard the news that another favorite property of mine is due to release in October — Metroid: Dread. As I anxiously await that moment, I thought I’d tackle a highly recommended game called Luigi’s Mansion 3.

As I stated with Super Mario Odyssey, I wasn’t a big fan of Mario and Luigi growing up. I was never particularly good at Super Mario Bros. Of course, Odyssey proved an absolute blast and showed me the waywardness of my thinking. If Luigi’s Mansion 3 proved half as fun as Odyssey, I’d have a great time.

And the truth is — I had a great time indeed!

I won’t say I liked Luigi’s Mansion 3 as much as Odyssey, but I certainly had a ton of fun playing it. I was totally unfamiliar with Luigi’s Mansion, so, if you’re like me, you may need a bit of catching up. Luigi, Mario, and friends are headed to a beautiful hotel. It is suddenly overrun by ghosts. King Boo takes Luigi’s friends and family hostage. Luigi, who is completely terrified throughout the game, must use some cool inventions given to him to clear the hotel of ghosts, level by level, until he can finally rescue his loved ones.

Honestly, it’s a little bit Ghostbusters, a little bit Casper, a little bit Haunted Mansion, and a whole lot of good times. The ghosts were super creative throughout the game, especially each level’s main villain. You might get a jump scare here and there, but, for the most part, the game is pretty funny and lighthearted. The graphics are crisp and the gameplay is both intuitive and fluid.

I especially liked that it’s not a particularly hard game. I had to look a few things up on the Internet, but overall, it’s a quick, breezy game that doesn’t demand too much commitment from you. After Breath Of the Wild, that was very much appreciated!

The game actually keeps track of how much time you spend playing it, which I thought was a really cool feature. I beat it in about 25 total hours. Keep in mind that I’m the guy constantly searching for coins, gems, and those kinds of things. I’ll pull down every curtain and flip every garbage can in search of treasure. That sort of thing eats up a lot of time, but I love the exploring aspect of video games.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 only cost me $40 (it was on sale), and I didn’t regret buying it for a single moment. If you’re looking for a fast, enjoyable, lighthearted game to pass the time, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is for you.

Stitch Fix For Men – A Successful Experiment

I recently started a new career in the corporate world, one that allows me to be a bit more daring than my previous profession in education. As a teacher, I always tried to dress rather conservatively. I didn’t want to stand out too much. It’s daunting enough to face down 150 teenagers every day–I didn’t want my clothing to be a topic of their interest.

However, while I knew I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe and expand my style, I didn’t know where to begin. I’ve never been great at shopping, making outfits, or seeing the possibilities in clothing. Most of my outfits came from Kohls, Target, and sometimes Amazon. While they were nice enough, they were fairly bland and similar to what every other man in my community wore.

Somewhere around the time I accepted my new position I saw an advertisement for Stitch Fix For Men. I knew of Stitch Fix. My wife had tried it several years ago. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t aware they had a division aimed specifically at men. I visited their website and saw great potential. The outfits looked good, fit my desired style, and would be sent right to my front door. It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

As I filled out my profile questionnaire at their website, I was able to describe my tastes, my wants, my dislikes, my preferred fits, my texture preferences, my favorite colors, and so much more. I was even able to detail the fact that I was starting a new job and wanted a focus placed upon business casual. I told them I would like blazers coupled with business casual shirts, pants, and shoes.

I got an email from Stitch Fix For Men showing me what my stylist, Caitlin, had chosen for my first “fix.” I had a list of about ten items and I could choose up to five. If I only saw three that I liked, I’d have to accept her judgement on two choices that I wouldn’t have a chance to review. In this particular case, I easily found five items I liked from the provided list.

A bit later, my first “fix” arrived right on my doorstep! Caitlin hit a homerun. Everything looked great; everything fit great. If I didn’t like any of the items, Stitch Fix For Men provided a prelabeled envelope to return those items in. However, if you stick with all five, you get a big discount. In fact, you don’t even pay until after you receive the items.

So far, out of four “fixes,” I’ve kept all five items per “fix” that Caitlin picked for me. My only slight complication arrived when I received a shirt sized too big for me, but the exchange for the proper size could not have been simpler.

Stitch Fix For Men is the perfect situation for me. I get a variety of styles that mix and match well together. My stylist is sending me things specifically filling my needs, and I even get the opportunity to provide feedback on fits, cuts, and styles. They also provide cards with each clothing item you receive showing you how to pair it with other styles that might be in your closet.

Finally, you can set the frequency at which you’d like to get your “fixes.” I go about once a month, but you can alter your schedule according to your needs or budget.

As you can see, Stich Fix For Men is the perfect “fix” to my current situation. Though I would love to, I’m not sure I’ll stick with it perpetually due to cost. However, in terms of providing an almost instant wardrobe, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. In fact, I’ve included snapshots below of everything that I’ve received so far.

If Stitch Fix For Men sounds like a good fit for you, check them out at this address: https://www.stitchfix.com/men

HBO Max’s All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star – A Few Thoughts

HBO Max continues to air shows from BBC, this time with All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star. We picked this show to watch as a family. Like with Full Bloom, The American Barbecue Showdown, Blown Away, and The Great British Baking Show, we are fascinated by makers making things and being very nice to one another while doing so.

All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star isn’t something I initially thought I would enjoy. I honestly brought it up to my daughters because they are crafty and what could be more crafty than making jewelry, right? However, as soon as they started their first task, I was hooked. As I watched, I realized I had no idea how jewelry got made–I always took it for granted. Seeing the process proved fascinating. I couldn’t get enough.

Best of all? Like with the above mentioned shows, all of the contestants are both very talented and very cordial. They support each other, encourage one another, and conduct themselves respectably. I won’t spoil the ending, but my favorite contestant actually won, and I also believe this contestant to be the most pleasant of all the very pleasant people.

Each show is broken into two parts. The first part is a “Best Seller” challenge. The jewelers are given a brief, and then they must craft a piece of jewelry that both fits that brief and would be a bestseller in a jewelry store. This can be a difficult task because while the piece must be skillfully made and original, it also has to be mainstream enough to appeal to the masses.

The second part of each episode is always my favorite, and it’s called “The Bespoke.” In this portion, the jewelers must create a sentimental piece specifically made for a special person. Seeing the joyful reactions of the recipients, as well as the winning jeweler’s emotional response, is always a moment guaranteeing the feels.

I understand that on paper this show may not sound like your thing, but trust me when I tell you that it is well made, the participants are engaging to watch, the pieces are exquisite to behold as they evolve from nothing into heirlooms, and the whole tone of the show is simply a joy.

You can find All That Glitters: Britain’s Next Jewelry Star on HBO Max.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of the Wild – A Few Thoughts

You may remember that I recently got back into video games. I started with The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I then moved on to Super Mario Odyssey. After beating both of those games, I decided it was time to take on the one game that seems to be everyone’s favorite on the Switch – Breath Of the Wild.

I’ll admit that I was initially intimidated to play this game. I don’t have a ton of patience when it comes to video games, and I’d heard that Breath Of the Wild takes hours upon hours upon hours to learn, much less beat!

What I didn’t realize was that all that time spent learning the game would actually be an amazing experience. Breath Of the Wild teaches you how to play it incrementally and subtly to such a degree that you don’t even realize it is happening. You’ll go from having no idea what to do next to suddenly having an instinct for each new move you should make.

Be aware that the game is epic. You are freely roaming a landmass that – I’ve read – is equal to about 26 miles. However, as you’re walking through prairielands or following a forest trail or climbing a mountain, you’ll marvel at the sheer beauty of the graphics, the intricacy of the details, and the ease of gameplay.

Furthermore, this is not a button-masher game. You will learn strategy, and you’ll use that strategy. You have to find and cook food to restore health. You have to both buy and sell goods in order to replace supplies. You’ll even have to collect every weapon you can find because almost every single weapon you have will eventually break with prolonged use. I even bought and furnished a house in the game!

If you think you’re an impatient gamer, like I thought I was, do not be alarmed. Though that all may sound tedious, it’s absolutely quite fun.

Believe it or not, I actually beat the game. Of course, if you personally know me it will come as no surprise that I did so by total accident. I was simply exploring the area where the final challenge resided and suddenly found myself face to face with the supreme villain. I opted to just go for it, and, to my own surprise, managed to defeat him.

If you have a Nintendo Switch, I wholeheartedly recommend The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of the Wild. You will spend weeks – if not months – playing it, and you will love every minute.

P.S. I absolutely used the Internet to figure out some aspects of the game. The teenagers in my life told me there’s no shame in doing so. If you’re a causal gamer returning to the fold like me, use those tools the Internet provides.

Mare Of Easttown – A Few Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoy listening to Chris and Andy from The Watch, and they immediately lauded Mare Of Easttown as soon as they could–before it even debuted, if I’m not mistaken. Because they were so excited for it, my wife and I made sure to catch it as soon as the first episode aired.

We were instantly hooked.

I promise not to spoil anything when I say that Mare Of Easttown is about a small town detective who is personally battling difficulties even as tragic events continue to unfold around her. There are two major mysteries to be solved in this series, which may or may not be connected, yet the show is more about Mare and her fellow Easttowners than anything. These are people who have grown up together, laughed together, cried together, lived together, and died together. The story drives relentlessly forward with the mystery plots, but it also gracefully takes the time to reveal nuggets of history among all of these characters. Yes, the show does indeed reveal the solution to both mysteries, but, perhaps more importantly, it offers a resolution for Mare and her fellow cast of characters.

Speaking of characters, everyone is superb on this show. Kate Winslet plays Mare as tough, plain, damaged, and charmingly unlikable. However, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, and Evan Peters also deliver expert performances. In fact, everyone–and I do mean EVERYONE–truly makes every piece of dialogue count. This is a show performed by talented professionals.

I won’t lie–Mare Of Easttown is sometimes hard to watch due to violence and gore, yet it never crosses the line. It never veers into the gratuitous, nor does it become blatantly distasteful. It is a show for grownups, though, so be advised.

Mare Of Easttown initially flirted with the Broadchurch method of making everyone seem like they could be guilty from episode to episode, but they relaxed that tendency as the show progressed. In fact, many viewers were probably surprised by how quickly things started wrapping up by episode five (of seven).

If you’re looking for a satisfying show that has real heart as well as an interesting story, I strongly recommend Mare Of Easttown on HBO. In fact, you can watch the first episode for free HERE.

Netflix’s Jupiter’s Legacy – A Few Thoughts

If you take a look at Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that critics have quite a different take on Jupiter’s Legacy than does the audience. I’m here to tell you, in this case, the critics have it wrong.

I’ll admit, Netflix almost lost me on the first episode of Jupiter’s Legacy. It seemed a little too preoccupied with style, self-importance, and actors caught in waters too deep.

But then a funny thing happened.

Let me pause a moment and say that I enjoyed this comic book series several years ago. It was written by Mark Millar who is something of a Hollywood powerhouse in that Hollywood loves adapting his works into feature films. For example, Captain America: Civil War is based on a book by Millar. The Avengers largely borrowed from his real-world take on the Avengers called The Ultimates. Old Man Logan became the movie Logan. Wanted and Kick-Ass were also works by Millar. It just makes sense that Netflix would try to snatch up his original catalogue for screen adaptions beginning with Jupiter’s Legacy.

Okay, so I knew Netflix’s Jupiter’s Legacy would get better, and, in my humble opinion, it did.

For me, I had to adjust to the large cast of characters and invest in their personal relationships. The premise is that a closely connected super team, active since The Great Depression, are still alive and kicking, but now preparing to hand over the reigns to the next generation. Two of the most powerful young heroes happen to be the son and daughter of the two most iconic figures, and they both carry a lot of baggage as a result.

Though the original heroes now appear old and gray, there are many flashbacks to how they initially gained their powers, and that’s where the show really shines. The Great Depression era is a show-within-a show, and this aspect of the plot is where you really connect with the icons.

However, the younger generation also have their standouts, particularly the daughter. She wants nothing to do with being a hero, which results in her becoming more and more interesting as the series unfolds. There are also several younger characters who are introduced and then become more prominent as the series continues.

Josh Duhamel is the lead actor. He plays The Utopian. I’ve never thought of Duhamel as a particularly deep actor, but I have to say that as this series moved along, he really showed a lot of range. In fact, he very much changed my opinion of him as a performer. Watching both the young and old versions of his character proved fascinating. Additionally, I never realized Duhamel is so tall. He’s listed online as being six feet, four inches tall.

Furthermore, Matt Lanter amazed me with his performance as well. I only knew Lanter as the voice of Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars cartoons. He and Duhamel, along with their friendship, made this show special. I honestly can’t quite figure out why Lanter hasn’t had more live-action roles. He seems made for Hollywood.

Ben Daniels was completely unknown to me, and he plays Duhamel’s brother, Walter. Their troubled relationship struck me as very true, and I daresay Daniels is the best actor on the show. Walter is incredibly complex, as you’ll see, yet Daniels plays him with both arrogance and vulnerability.

As I mentioned, the two iconic heroes have a daughter, who is named Chloe. Elena Kampouris plays Chloe. Though she is very unlikable at first, her character, after being given some room to breathe, becomes one of the stars of the show. There are big things in store for Chloe, and I think Kampouris is more than capable of handling the evolution.

Finally, Ian Quinlan plays Hutch, and I think he may be my favorite character on the whole show. Quinlan is slowly introduced and, at first, doesn’t seem all that important. He becomes important, though–very important. Best of all, he easily captured the charm of his comic book counterpart.

Jupiter’s Legacy is definitely slow to start and perhaps initially too heavy on the gravitas. However, the pacing moves faster and faster with each episode and the stakes get higher and higher. There are two major plot lines developing, which, to me, were quite engaging. One of those plots mostly wrapped up and opened the door for the next phase. The other plot ends on a cliffhanger which, truthfully, makes me very excited for the next season.

Though there are definitely similarities to characters from both Avengers and Justice League, Jupiter’s Legacy dives deeply into the interpersonal relationships of these characters and all the messiness embedded within. Most of the characters are either related to one another, friends of several decades, or former friends with bad schisms. Yes, the show does take itself too seriously at times, but the fact that it feels as though all bets are off, that anything can happen at any time, makes it a captivating experience. Of course, I have the advantage of having read the source material. If season one surprised you, just wait and see what happens next.

Though the critics may disagree, I highly recommend Netflix’s Jupiter’s Legacy.

First Sketch of The Celestial Spetatrix from Souls Triumphant

celestialspetatrix.jpg

This is my first sketch of a Celestial Spetatrix.  They are the opposite of the Celestial Knights because their duty is to simply observe and record the life of their assigned human. 

For one specific Celestial Spetatrix, her task was a sorrowful one because she had to watch the worst “human” of all – the Fallen One.  You can read about this particular Celestial Spetatrix and her plight in my novel Souls Triumphant.

(BE WARNED!  If you click on the image and read the notes written next to the sketch, a MAJOR plot revelation will be exposed.)   

These characters and sketches were originally conceived for a short story back in my creative writing class at Illinois State University.  The above notes are from the 1998 journal I used in the class to flesh out ideas.

Oh, and if you look very closely at the sketch, you’ll see the Celestial Spetatrix holding a pair of “goggles.”  At one point, these “goggles” were going to be a major plot device, but I cut them out in order to make the Celestial Knight’s sword more relevant.

Derry Girls – A Few Thoughts

A friend once recommended that I give Netflix’s Derry Girls a try and, frankly, it didn’t do much for me. I watched the first episode and didn’t get it.

However, we then saw several of the stars appear on The Great British Baking Show, and they were hilarious. I decided to try the show again and, this time, my wife wanted to see it, too.

I don’t know if I was in the wrong frame of mind the first time I watched Derry Girls or what, but I loved it on the second attempt. In fact, my wife and I powered through the first two, albeit very short, seasons and can’t wait for the third.

The show follows five close friends, four of whom are girls, as they tackle their teenage years during the Nineties. The fifth friend is a male cousin from London who is allowed to attend their all-girls Catholic school for the sake of his own safety. As you can imagine, he is the relentless butt of never-ending jokes. The girls are flawed, misguided, mostly well-intentioned, and more than a little self-centered. However, all of them are, in their own way, extremely lovable.

Amidst the bawdy humor, foul language, and ludicrous plots, Derry Girls subtly tackles the very real conflict occurring in Ireland during the 1990s. Sometimes it is more overt than others, but the potential for violence is always there, always lurking, always on the adults’ minds. It is a fascinating juxtaposition, and one that is handled very well.

Not that those adults are any less humorous than the girls, by the way. The featured family’s grandpa, father, and mother are an absolute roar (especially the grandpa).

If you’re looking for a short, hilarious, mostly breezy comedy to enjoy, I highly recommend Derry Girls. You can find it on Netflix.

(By the way, the Irish accents are thick, so you might want to enable closed captioning.)

Super Mario Odyssey – A Few Thoughts

You may remember that I had a great time playing Link’s Awakening. I had such a positive experience with that game, in fact, that I then searched the best overall games for the Nintendo Switch. Some of the games struck me as a little too juvenile, while others seemed a little too … intense. But then I saw him–my old friend, Mario.

Of course, we were never really friends.

I think I’ve mentioned that while I beat The Legend of Zelda and Metroid as a kid, I wasn’t a very good gamer in general. In fact, I’ve always been ashamed that I am the only person from that era in time who did not beat Super Mario Brothers.

So when I saw Super Mario Odyssey, I initially kept on scrolling. But then I consistently saw it on on various “best” lists. This prompted me to read a few reviews. Frankly, they were all glowing. I decided to take a chance on it.

Honestly, if you’re not a serious game and just want something fun to play, you can’t go wrong with Super Mario Odyssey.

First of all, the game immediately offers to give you directions throughout in the form of arrows on the ground telling you where to go. Of course, I accepted that offer. Secondly, while the actual gameplay is a little challenging, almost any age can handle it. It’s not ridiculously easy, but it’s pretty close. Third, the game simply looks fantastic. It is beautiful. Cartoony, yes, but gorgeously so. I’m serious–parts of this game looked stunning.

The premise is that you have to travel across the planet in a kind of hot air balloon in pursuit of Bowser, who, as expected, has kidnapped the princess. However, you have to stop at several different locales in order to collect “moons,” which power the ship. Each location is unique unto itself and a real blast. You can also collect tokens at these locations which enable you to buy different outfits for Mario, stickers and souvenirs for the ship, and even moons! Once I got the hang of the outfits and souvenirs, I wouldn’t leave a location until I had bought everything available.

Best of all, when you finish the game, a whole new challenge begins, which allows you to buy even more outfits and souvenirs!

I finished the game in a matter of weeks, and that’s with only playing a little bit at a time. You could probably finish this game in a few days if you really wanted to. It was so fun, I really wanted to make it last.

Even though I intended to play the secondary storyline of the game, I lost interest after a bit because it felt more like a treasure hunt than anything. I’ll probably return to it at some point, but, at that moment in time, I wanted to move on to another game.

If you’re looking for a family friendly, beautiful, fun game for the Nintendo Switch, I highly recommend Super Mario Odyssey.

Receiving the Second Covid-19 Vaccine Dose: My Experience

You may remember that I wrote about my experience receiving the first Covid-19 vaccine dose. Yesterday, I received the second dose. I’d like to chronicle the event for those who are interested.

Due to no fault of their own, the McLean County Health Department had to twice cancel my appointment because of weather. Of course, this was quite distressing. To their credit, however, they were very good about emailing me and keeping me informed.

Although it seemed to take forever, I eventually got a date and time assigned to me. They urged me to try to make that particular date and time, and I was more than happy to comply.

I finally received the second vaccine dose yesterday morning, once again at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, IL. Because the MCHD had several days of missed appointments to make up, there were many more people present than during my first visit. Fortunately, the MCHD once more kept it well organized and moving as quickly as possible. Though I had to wait in line several times, I never waited more than a minute or two until things started moving again.

Just like last time, I made my way down the stairs to the floor of the arena and soon sat at a technician’s station. I may have had the best technician in the world because I barely even felt the needle. I actually wasn’t totally sure she’d even given me the shot.

Again, I waited a few moments in a holding area to make sure I didn’t have any immediate adverse reactions before making my way back to work.

Because I know of several people who had a very rough time after receiving their second dose, I made sure to be as prepared as possible. I had several bottles of water and Gatorade waiting for me at work and sipped on them all afternoon in order to stay hydrated.

After coming home, I made a point to try to keep to business as usual. I didn’t sit down and rest much: I kept active and stuck to the typical routine. Though my arm was a little sore, I didn’t feel any negative symptoms other than being tired. Of course, it had been a busy day, so I might have simply been … tired. Around 7:30 p.m., I laid down on the couch for a few minutes and took a quick nap.

My wife and I watched a few shows, and by the time I went to bed around 10:30 p.m., I still didn’t feel all that different other than having a sore arm. To be honest, I fully expected to wake up feeling sick because that seemed to be the case with many people I know.

I’m happy to report that when I woke up this morning, I felt pretty much fine. At this point, I still do. I received my second dose well over twenty-four hours ago, so I don’t expect any side effects at all from here on out. My arm is still sore, I’m still drinking lots of water and Gatorade, but I think I was fortunate enough to escape the fever, chills, headaches, and body aches others seem to be enduring.

My sincere thanks to the McLean County Health Department. This is a gargantuan task they are executing. Yet, from the arena workers to the technicians, everyone I encountered were friendly, cordial, and professional. Other than the initial sign-up process, everything pertaining to the operation has been exemplary.