Podcast Spotlight — Anime Addicts Anonymous

Dedicated to making your anime addiction worse, the AAA podcast has stood the test of time in my gallery of weekly podcasts. Now a regular listener for nearly four years, I’ve seen a handful of hosts come and go, each contributing their own flavor to what the podcast would eventually become in the present. In my opinion, the series is as strong as its ever been. As one of the longest-running and most popular anime podcasts in the world, they’ve had plenty of time to come up with fun, interesting segments to engage the hosts and audience, as well as streamline the format into something digestible and concise.

Each of the hosts goes by a Japanese moniker (because, you know, weeaboo trash and such). This isn’t to preserve secrecy as much as it’s just fun. Mitsuki (also known as the Anime Pope within their thriving Discord channel), is the founder, moderator, and most consistent host presence on the podcast. He is the “old man” of the group, which is as endearing as it is occasionally annoying. He’s still a very fun person, and could probably bench press me into the ceiling. Kazuo is the resident goofball. They’re all different brands of goof, but if they were stuck in a horror movie, well, he’d die first. Mandi (that’s both her real name and host name) is the manga enthusiast and essayist of the group. She goes into the greatest detail in her reviews and lines of reasoning. Enzo rounds them out (also his real name) as the one who is arguably the most sentimental of the group (maybe) and thus engages listeners most on an emotional level. Mandi and Enzo are the two newest hosts, both starting at the same time about a year and a half ago, and each of them have personalized segments in “Mandi’s Manga Minute” (you can probably guess what that’s about) and “Enzo-Senpai’s Notice Me Corner” which has Enzo reading out a listener-submitted positive-report about things that are going well in their lives and requests for continued support. Both of them are some of my favorite segments in the podcast’s history.

The best segment is obviously “Does Mitsuki’s Mom Know?” But that only shows up every once in a while, which is fine, otherwise the novelty would wear off.

Every episode generally consists of a topic of discussion, submitted by the fan community, a weekly anime review, two news breaks, two pieces of trivia (in which you can win actual prizes), and otherwise a ton of natural shenanigans. There will occasionally be special interview episodes or guest hosts or any number of other variations, but what I listed above is the most common formula for their episodes, and it works like a charm. The AAA podcast is one of only two podcasts that I listen to as soon as it comes out. I can be in the middle of an episode of tv, a song, another podcast, whatever, and I’ll immediately stop and change to them. It is a consistent, reliable comfort in the growing bleakness of our modern landscape. Maybe I’m just getting old and jaded. Either way, it’s an aspect of the podcast I can’t overstate enough. They (and the Discord) make you feel welcome and at peace, for just a little while.

As for where to start, I’d suggest you listen to episode 466, wherein the entire cast is present to discuss their Spring 2019 anime selections to review. It is a recent example of an episode that holds all of the charm that defines this podcast’s popularity, and if you’re new, would be a good place to pick up the show. If you end up liking the hosts (which I suspect most people would), you can entertain retroactively exploring their older episodes and reviews at your discretion. Or, you can become a patron, as I have, and enjoy the bonus episodes of their After Parties and Hobby Addicts episodes, which are both a blast (THEY’RE AT THE BEGINNING OF A NEW D&D CAMPAIGN). There’s another tier for their Hentai episodes, which I suspect are hilarious in their own right, but that’s not my speed. To each their own.

If you like podcasts and you like anime, you can’t sleep on the AAA podcast. It offers the best of both worlds, quality and geekdom. The personalities are brilliant, the show is meticulously crafted, and the fun times show no sign of stopping.

Thank you for making my addiction worse.

The BBC on “Grave of the Fireflies”

The late Isao Takahata left us with many endearing and/or morbidly insightful tales, using real events and emotions extracted from the world around us. He was a visionary who sought to wield anime as a tool to capture the pestilence and resilience of the human spirit. Among his body of works, none capture that cocktail of ambitions quite like the Studio Ghibli classic, “Grave of the Fireflies.”

In 2018, the BBC ran a retrospective on this landmark film, following Takahata’s passing, wherein they explore the heartbreaking and vaguely heartwarming events of two orphaned brothers amidst the bombs and blasts of World War 2.

It is a foundational movie for the committed anime enthusiast, but its personal take on war (drawn from Takahata’s own childhood experiences), is meaningful on its own worth.


The Scrappy, Little Owl

I recently lost my job. Considering I spent eight months working to get it, and lost it in two for reasons outside of my power, I did not take to this development especially well. A lot was riding on that position. By it, I’d intended to pay off what remains of my embarrassingly large credit card debt and, since it was a remote job, transition seamlessly into a move I’m planning for July, wherein I’ll be driving vertically across the entire United States.

Yet, though this blow was pretty demoralizing, I must admit it didn’t hit quite as hard as many other tough life events to date. It helped that I still had a part-time overnight job, so I wasn’t completely sunk in terms of income, but more importantly, I had recently, finally, articulated something resembling a life ambition. I don’t like calling it a dream. Dreams are flights of fantasy, and subject to be discarded without much permanence. But it was as if a dozen small, unconnected ideas that had been germinating separately for years had at long last collapsed together into a coherent, meaningful project.

I immediately crystallized the idea in words, then plans, then bullet points and timelines. It felt good, finally having some semblance of a direction, after what felt like years of trying to figure that out.

But I still had to get a new job, and deal with episodes of depression along the way. Working at the gym was an easy side-gig for a little extra money, but it would not be able to carry rent, let alone all of my other payments or paying off my credit cards.

I’m going to talk about this debt openly for the first time. Its continued existence and growth both is and is not my fault, and I’ll be the first to admit, much of this could have been avoided if I hadn’t been so naive. I like trusting people, but that is rarely left unabused by strangers. For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep things short, as I’m not going to occupy this post with five years of misgivings. There was the problem of falling for a scam when I was trying to buy my corgi (who was her own separate issue. Good life decision, bad financial one), which cost me about $300. If that was the extent of it, it would hardly be an issue, but a couple years later I fell for the same goddamn scheme, but lost $1,450. Those? Those are on me. Those are the consequence of an ignorance which I have since tempered.

What isn’t my fault is the rest of the list. I had to pay a couple months of rent for a roommate, only partially recovered, and only after interest had accumulated. I was promised $2,000 schooling reimbursement after a year of work by a behavioral health job who went back on their word because I was in the wrong position (despite my having the packet from orientation that said it applied to my job as well). The student loan help program that I was reluctant to accept, but was eventually convinced to join because of trusted sources, ended up costing me $5,500. That smelled of a scam, but I don’t remember the details of how it was sold to me. All I know is that the company responsible has been caught out and shut down, and I was only one in a long line of people who were duped. None of this is even to mention my continued, egregiously-priced student loans that I am continuing to pay off.

The above are a list of financial setbacks, because they are the most tangible to discuss, but the last several years have seen what feels like no shortage of complications. Nearly every attempt at self-improvement, or actively trying to better a life circumstance, has been met with a negative consequence of equal or greater weight. And if they were isolated incidents, perhaps my emotional state would be more stable and resilient in the face of each, but as I am now I feel like every new transgression against my forward momentum, real or perceived, is a critical loss or personal failure. It’s a toxic mentality that is hard to shake.

Yet, as I said before, I’m feeling particularly scrappy right now. I’m still going to move across the country. To Texas, specifically, because when you see as many -50 degree winters as I have, you’d hate winter, too. Winter is godless, but that’s another topic. If things go poorly on the job search in Texas, oh well. I’ll be homeless in Texas before I spend another year enduring the all-consuming, death-freeze of the North.

Speaking of the job search, I did get another job after losing the one mentioned in beginning. It’s not glamorous, nor fun, but it works, and allows for overtime. Right now I’m putting in about 60-65 hours a week, not counting my continued dedication to physical fitness and writing. Between work and those two things, I do almost nothing else right now. Someday, I will resurrect my other passions and hobbies, but that day will come once I’ve learned more about myself and better understand where I’m going. I’ve never had career ambitions, and only ever fabricated some to shut up the people around me. I don’t know what I want to do. Hell, I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that high school and university did an awful job of helping me learn what could be done. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve learned the names of maybe 300+ jobs that I could not have told you what they were called before, or that they even existed. I feel like I only ever had a knowledge of 1% of my options, and those options all required college. I wish I could tell my younger self that, lo, this is an illusion, but hindsight is a bitch and such.

That said, I don’t mind working, and I will do everything I can or need to do in order to realize something more for myself. I’ve worked in security, housekeeping, hospitality, fast food cooking, fast food driving, grocery stores, movie theaters, mental wards, those awful people who try to sell you useless shit in CostCo, a cushy desk job (which was honestly one of the worst), in-home mental health assistance, among about half a dozen other things. I’ve worked overnights on and off for what totals about 7 years. I am no stranger to 18 hour work shifts. I am currently working 60-65 hours a week just to make ends-meet and relieve debt. That’s not counting the time I dedicate to my ongoing physical fitness or writing, which together qualify as another job, minus the income. I must think of them as jobs, otherwise they will be abandoned, and I can’t afford to do that.

Again, I’m feeling unusually scrappy right now. A scrappy, little night owl, who in spite of some less than fortunate tides of life, now feels more determined than ever to strangle my fears and doubts and shortcomings to death through hard work and the audacity to believe, for the first time, that I could make something good.

So, here’s the plan. I’ll leave out the bullet points and timelines, as those are soft numbers and fragile like most human plans are. These aren’t necessarily in order, but there will be some overlap between a few of them:

1. I’m going to establish at least 4 streams of income. I hate talking about money, and have almost no entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever, but I’ve recently come to realize the magic of passive income. I have no intentions to ever stop actively working in some form, but if I can do something that allows me to work on things I at least vaguely enjoy without the stress of making my rent for that month, I’ll call it a win.

2. I’m going to pay off my credit card debt. If all goes the way I want (which it won’t, but at least my expectations are grounded), this will be entirely, or mostly paid off by July when I make my move. If I get it down to sub-$1,000, I won’t sweat that too much. That’ll mean I killed almost 90% of it in a few months, which will be a great feeling.

3. I’m going to network with and learn from other freelancers and entrepreneurs. While their goals are likely very different from mine, these types possess an untapped wealth of resources and knowledge that I have until now been both ignorant of, and ignored. Even if I don’t aspire to become them, I find it hard to believe I won’t learn something useful from their means of doing things.

4. I’m going to establish a distinct brand and work for myself. I know, this is the hot, Millennial thing to do right now. I hate the word “brand” on an almost gut-level. But the changes of this already reflect in my website and the environment around me. Both aesthetically and philosophically, I am striving to make everything I do have intention. So far, it seems to be working.

5. I’m going to get a book traditionally published and present it to Christina Grimmie’s grave. This is a bit of a dead horse at this point, especially to the uninitiated, so I won’t go any further than to say it would be the fulfillment of the greatest promise I’ve made in my life. Considering that my steadfastness to my promises is one of the only things I’ve always liked about myself, I’m not about to let that slip.

6. I’m going to cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who believe in character-centric, emotionally intelligent storytelling, and create a publishing company that showcases those merits in our works.

7. And ultimately, I’m going to create a not-for-profit that unites the geek community to raise funds for awareness and treatment of emotional and mental wellness. Kind of like Patrick Rothfuss’s Worldbuilders, except for depression, anxiety, etc. I was thinking of calling it, or the publishing company, the “Dark Blue Owls.” We’ll see.

Again, it’s a soft plan, and I fully expect things to go awry no less than a thousand times between here and the end goal, but I’m going to do everything I can to stick to it.

And if I chance upon joy, love, family, or a place to call home between now and then, I don’t think I’d have any complaints.

“Just Keep Writing” – An Emerging Podcast

“A podcast for writers, by writers, to keep you writing.”

“Just Keep Writing” is, at the time of this writing, a fledgling podcast that boasts a modest five episodes. I don’t expect this number to stay low for very long. Listening to the podcast, you can tell that the two hosts, Marshall and Nick, are both incredibly passionate about elevating their amateur writing hobbies into bona fide career opportunities. Between the two of them, they cover an impressive swathe of life experiences and motivations, with previous podcasting history under their belt, and connections within the writing industry. The fruits are ripe for a long-term podcast.

Even this early in the lifespan, the podcast has gained a decent following, with an active Discord channel where fans and fellow would-be authors can communicate and learn from one another. The highlight for me so far was their interview with guest Maurice Broaddus, author of many a fantasy and horror novel, including the upcoming steamfunk adventure, Pimp My Airship (which might be one of the best novel names I’ve ever heard). In the episode, Maurice gave us some insight to the inner workings of his daily grind, as well as explored his passion in community development for the black community. If this is the standard for guest episodes, then I have a hard time believing that Just Keep Writing will be anything but successful, especially if the regular episodes keep bringing the quality writing tips and challenges as they have insofar.

If nothing else, they have at least one new fan in me.

Hard Friendship – Cowboy Bebop

I recently came across an article from the Bebop Attic (linked below) which explores the topsy-turvy, sometimes painful discourse of friendship that is the main cast of Cowboy Bebop. Being a long-time fan of Watanabe’s work (and CB, in particular), I am always delighted when I find a new angle on this classic anime. For all their casual disregard and generally laid-back, easy-going nature, it’s important to remember that Spike, Faye, and Jet are, at the end of the day, hardly more than active shells of the people they used to be. They are walking walls, keeping everyone around them at arms-reach, yet inexplicably can’t pull themselves apart from their meandering life together exploring the cosmos.

Take a look at the original article for more detail. And if you haven’t seen Cowboy Bebop yet, or it’s been a while since you last explored space with the crew of the Bebop, I encourage you to rectify that as soon as you have a chance. It ages like your favorite wine.


“Each and Every Phantom” Now Available in Paperback!

Checking in really quick just to say that my short story anthology, “Each and Every Phantom” finally had its paperback version go live on Amazon. Below is a synopsis and link. 🙂

“From the classic ghost story to a team of toys that defend the dreams of children, “Each and Every Phantom” explores tales rotating around different kinds of spirits. Within these narratives can be found the dreams of the dead, a haunted ship, the echo of a suicide, a family who struggles to stay together even after death, and more.This debut anthology is perfect for a little kick of Halloween in Winter, with pockets of adventurous whimsy and emotional turbulence woven throughout.”

Featured stories include:

“The Priestess”
“Dream Brigade”
“The Fangs of March”
“Brother, My Brother”
“The Stardust Mirror”


“Area of Effect: Wisdom From Geek Culture”

Published by Mythos & Ink, “Area of Effect: Wisdom from Geek Culture” checked a lot of my boxes. Using pop culture and the wider community of geekdom as a vehicle, the writers within challenge the quagmire of life with subtle excellence. Regardless of what media is most endearing to you—whether it cinema, novels, anime, video games, etc.—there is bound to be at least a handful of insightful deductions that make you think, or personal tales that make you feel.

I know a small handful of the collaborators involved in this book. I worked with most of them, in one way or another, during my time as a writer and editor at Geeks Under Grace. But Area of Effect afforded me an opportunity to learn new things about each of them, both in their opinions on various stories, as well as formative events that shaped their lives. I think what was most impressive about this compilation, however, was the consistency of ‘oh‘ moments I had. I was challenged to think in new ways (I’d never considered what it must have been like to be an average citizen in the sociopolitical climate of the Fire Nation when Sozen decided to siege the world), and I’ve never understood the appeal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until two or three different chapters addressed aspects of its story. Now it’s at the forefront of my list (along with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).

There’s something for every geek in this series of articles and essays. Do you like anime? Plenty of that within these pages. Marvel films? There are at least four topics around those. Video games? Galore. Lord of the Rings? But of course.

I think it takes a unique frame of mind to connect the fiction we read to the lives that play out before us every day, and something even greater to learn from that connection. If you appreciate good dialogue on the merits of your favorite pieces of fiction, I implore you to pick up this book, available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. I suspect you will not be disappointed.