The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #222: Reading Choose Your Own Adventure 88 – Master of Kung Fu

Episode #222: Reading Choose Your Own Adventure 88 – Master of Kung Fu

https://archive.org/download/podcast222_201911/Podcast%20222.mp3

This week, I take a trip back to 1989 in reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book – Master of Kung Fu by Richard Brightfield and illustrated by Frank Bolle.  It’s a real blast from the blast – a true mish-mash of 80s Asian tropes, including most of the stuff that permeated martial arts films at the time.  Some of it is truly, well, cringeworthy, like some of the 80s kung fu and ninja flicks back then … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I thought these books were the bee’s knees in 1989 so I’m going to try to suspend, you know, reality (at least in an adult sense), and appreciate this with the mind of an elementary school age child (which makes it awesome again).

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By the way, speaking of kung fu and ninjas, yes, they’re both in this book.  Yes, I know it’s talking about China and kung fu and white lotus societies.  There are still ninjas (suspend judgement, suspend judgement, suspend judgement, ok?  Ninjutsu has some roots in Chinese martial arts, and it all goes back to India and Tibet, anyway, so … you know, just go with it).

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Yup, straight out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – totally not joking … one of the more cringeworthy parts … product of the times.

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Basically sums up the 80s ninja craze – stick ’em everything! Especially wearing the black PJs in broad daylight, since you know, that blends in so well. It all made more sense in 1989.

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There are now Thirteenth Hour toys!  If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThirteenthHourStudio) and get them there.

If you haven’t checked out “Arcade Days,” the song and video Jeff Finley, Brent Simon, and I finished last winter, click on the link below to do so!

You can find more pictures and preview clips of “Arcade Days” on IG as well as this podcast’s FB page.

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #164: Readings from Zen in the Martial Arts, Ninjutsu History and Tradition, and The Thirteenth Hour – the Kiai

Episode #164: Readings from Zen in the Martial Arts, Ninjutsu History and Tradition, and The Thirteenth Hour – the Kiai  

https://archive.org/download/Podcast164_201809/Podcast%20164.mp3

Today, we’re taking a short break from 80s movies to talk about something found in many martial arts – the shout.  In Japanese, it’s called a kiai (kihap in Korean). The character making up the term make the most sense in traditional Chinese characters (qi4 he2 – although I’m not sure if that term is actually used in Chinese martial arts or in Chinese at all):

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On the left, the topmost radical is used for “steam” or “gas” usually.  The star shaped character underneath is the character for rice.  So the steam coming off cooking rice is essentially “energy” or “spirit” and a whole host of other more esoteric things, though in the practical sense, if one thinks of rice being the lifeblood of an agrarian region like ancient China, it makes sense that food = energy.  The character on the right means “together.”  The roof like part of the character is very similar to the character for person.  The one below is “one” and the box on the bottom is the character for “mouth.”  Though I’m not sure it’s explained this way, I think of it as “person or people with one mouth” – i.e. “people expressing one voice” (Chinese doesn’t necessarily have to distinguish between 1 person and many).   Notice there isn’t actually anything about shouting, though that’s how it’s often used practically.

So there are two readings from two martial arts books that discuss this idea of tapping into the universal energy that binds living things: Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams and Ninjutsu: History and Tradition by Masaaki Hatsumi.  We end with a section from The Thirteenth Hour where the main character uses this idea in two separate ways, one defensively, one offensively.

In a way, this episode may be prep for next week’s (likely) episode on Big Trouble in Little China.  The podcast now has a page on Facebook, so head over there and to Instagram to check out some scenes from the film over the next few weeks.

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Between Two Worlds, the synth EP follow up to Long Ago Not So Far Away is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

The bonus track, called “Flight of the Cloudrider” has a 80s movie mashup music video (see if you can identify all the movies!) which is available on youtube.   This app was largely created with the iphone app Auxy.

between 2 worlds EP cover 2

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hourplaylist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #151: The Five Elements (“Godai” or 五大) and the Imperial Rangers

Episode #151: The Five Elements (Godai or 五大) and the Imperial Rangers

https://archive.org/download/Podcast151_201807/Podcast%20151.mp3

After my brother and I finished the D and D campaign we’d been playing for the past few months, I started thinking about other elements of Thirteenth Hour lore that I’d largely edited out (mostly in the interest of brevity).  This episode is about the Imperial Rangers, the group of 8 special forces soldiers that are specially trained and tasked to find the answer to eternal life for King Darian IV, who nearly gets assassinated in the recent campaign.  While we know the most about Logan, the main character of the book, the others are also important despite having only brief mentions since they serve as contrasts. I did have other scenes planned that I ended up cutting, so the original idea of having each Ranger with a special ability fitting with their unique personality and physical makeup was only hinted at, never really fully developed.

In this episode, we use a bit of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism as an analogy for the explaining the different alignments the Rangers had. I’m not sure that’s what I had in mind when I originally wrote the story (the idea of different elements was definitely there, since it’s referenced in games like Ironsword and shows like Voltron and Captain Planet – I was familiar with those when I wrote the initial draft of the story at age 19.)  But the godai, literally “big five” from the Japanese esoteric tradition (referenced in texts like A Book of Five Rings) sums up what I was trying to convey more accurately.

Below you can see a quick sketch/watercolor showing the eight Rangers. Their names are color-coded to correspond to their elemental alignment. As you can see, there are five categories: earth, water, fire, wind, and void. There are plenty more details about this philosophy in the book Ninja: Spirit of the Shadow Warrior by Stephen K Hayes; however, here’s a quick rundown.

Earth personality qualities are stable, traditional, and rooted. Water is flowing, changeable, and reactive. Fire is energetic, driven, and explosive. Wind represents growth, freedom, and open-mindedness. Lastly, the void is any one of those four elements that best fits a particular situation and typically goes with creativity, imagination, and things in our experience that we understand intuitively but are difficult to explain – such as spirit, soul, and consciousness. There are more details in the episode about the individual qualities of each ranger and how he fits the elemental color coded in the picture, so I won’t repeat myself here. But the fifth element, often (somewhat problematically) translated as “the void” is the most abstract and amorphous, just like how in the book the fifth “corner of the world” was actually the dream world where the mysteries of life and death finally made sense. Logan is the only one of the eight to make it there and due to his particular makeup, is the one most aligned with the formless form that characterizes the void.

Ironically, as the youngest and physically smallest of the group, Logan ends up having trouble with much of the training and has to spend more time on basic skills than the other seven. As a result, he ends up never really having the time to pick up a specialty, though the flip side is that he actually becomes more well rounded at basic ranger skills than his teammates just due to repetition. I’d originally envisioned a ceremony scene where each ranger was presented with his weapon of choice based on his special talent (I guess the soldier equivalent of finding out one’s spirit animal), and Logan isn’t given anything, which disappoints him and gives his teammates yet another thing to tease him about. In the end, I ended up not including that scene (maybe it will become a short story one day), but the essence of it, that having a special sidearm was less important than utilizing one’s inborn gifts to their fullest potential, was hinted at in the book in a few conversations a confused Logan has with the wizard, Wally. For the other seven men, the weapon served as an extension of themselves, but for Logan, whose greatest assets were creativity, imagination, and persistence, none of those qualities really fit a weapon. In fact, one might say another career choice would have made more sense. Or, another interpretation might be that those qualities didn’t need a physical reminder. However, although those are all things an older Logan would have been able to appreciate, I always imagined that the eighteen year old Logan would have been somewhat jealous that his teammates got something special, and he ended up having to do the same old drills over and over 🙂

An Imperial Ranger “class portrait” showing each ranger with his special talent and weapon of specialization

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Between Two Worlds, the synth EP follow up to Long Ago Not So Far Away is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

The bonus track, called “Flight of the Cloudrider” has a 80s movie mashup music video (see if you can identify all the movies!) which is available on youtube.   This app was largely created with the iphone app Auxy.

between 2 worlds EP cover 2

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hourplaylist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #79: The Firebird and Lazy Man’s Snow Shoveling 

Episode #79: Storytime Reading of Firebird and Taijutsu Shoveling 

https://archive.org/download/Podcast79_201702/Podcast%2079.mp3

Since this week’s episode takes place in Russia, where snow is not uncommon, part of it was recorded outside, where there was a lot of snow.  Since I had my daughter strapped to my back, I could adopt my usual hamfisted approach to shoveling snow (which, to be fair, is a whole body workout).  So instead, I decided to try of a variant of the ninja sweeping method I talked about a few weeks ago.  I’m calling it ninja snow shoveling:


You basically just shift your hips forward and back to load up some snow (steps 2 and 3).  To dump it (step 4), you lean forward, quickly shoot out the shovel like a pool cue while giving it a simultaneous turn so the snow flops over onto the ground (or wherever you want to put it).  There’s some arm action, but not much, and your back and shoulders stay pretty much neutral.  Result? A ton easier!

Anyway, that doesn’t much to do with today’s episodes, which is a version of the folktale, The Firebird.  However, back in episode 61, I talked about the video game The Last Express, which has the tale of The Firebird woven into its plot.

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This is a children’s book version of the ballet version.

As always, thanks for listening!

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  • Listen to Long Ago Not So Far Away, the Thirteenth Hour soundtrack online at: https://joshuablum.bandcamp.com/  Join the mailing list for a digital free copy.  You can also get it on CD or tape.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #47: Guest Conversation with Justin Part 1

Episode #47: My Friend Justin Joins the Show Part 1 – Gymnastics, Breakdancing, Martial Arts, Learning New Skills, and Not Giving Up

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/Podcast%2047%20Justin%201.mp3

Get ready for a massive interview spaced out over the next two weeks!  One of my best friends from college joins me for a walk down memory lane as we reminiscence about the years we spent training in gymnastics, breakdancing, and martial arts.  If you have any interest in those topics, you’ll likely find something of interest in this week’s episode.  Some of the topics covered:

-Trying to learn breakdancing by watching old, grainy VHS tapes of pioneer bboys like Crumbs, Ivan, and Storm

-There was only one or two digital video clips we had access to in the beginning (no Youtube).  We watched this unnamed guy doing windmills in his garage countless times and must have dissected it hundreds more – whoever you are, late 90s windmill guy, we are grateful.
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-The bboy crew Justin and started with two other college friends, Sherwood and Tim, Sympoh, is still around and continues to amaze us.

-The freeform aspect of hip-hop/beaking vs. the emphasis on doing things a certain set way in gymnastics and many martial arts

-How doing gymnastics is involved in learning your limits and conquering fear, applicable to other aspects of life (i.e. “there are no dumb gymnasts” per my high school coach)

-How to reconcile the “stay tight in the air” philosophy of gymnastics with the “relax in the air” philosophy of martial arts (we don’t actually resolve this, but it’s an interesting contrast)

-If you were two college kids who wanted to be ninjas, what do you do?

-How we found ninjitsu training

-You can still buy this grappling hook online (though you may not want to)

SZCO Supplies Grappling Hook with Cord

This series of explanatory ninjitsu books by Stephen K. Hayes were the ones I recall most vividly from childhood 

-Unlike in our childhoods, you can now easily find ninjitsu books by Stephen K. Hayes and his teacher, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumu, on Amazon.  The man who taught Justin and I years ago, Jack Hoban, now has training videos, referenced here.

-We spend a fair amount of time touching on the process of learning new skills, e.g.:

-What’s the Dunning Kruger effect?

-What’s the Feldenkrais method?  And how can slow, deliberate movements done with good form in optimal conditions counterintuitively help learn new skills faster?

-We debate whether innovation can/should be taught from the get go or should fundamentals be stressed first

-The beginner’s journey – even as a “master,” hopefully you are still continuing to learn (symbolized by the journey from white belt to black back to white again as the outer coloring of the belt gets frayed with time).

-The importance of not giving up too early – fitting given the meaning of the characters for ninja (忍者 – “one who endures” in Chinese)

-We discuss how martial arts and these other skills have shaped us as people.

There was a natural breaking point here, so I’ve split the interview into two parts for ease of listening.  Justin will return next week with more discussion on fitness and healthy eating.  In the meantime, check out his blog at

 https://dietisa4letterwordblog.wordpress.com/

In other news, since Instagram changed the amount of video they will allow to 60 seconds, I’ve been trying to distill songs that influenced the soundtrack and writing of The Thirteenth Hour down to 1 min in synthesized form.  There are also a few snippets from the soundtrack itself there – all at the Instagram account of @the13thhr.ost.

-E.g.: The Thirteenth Hour Theme, heard in the intro and outro of these podcasts

As always, thanks for listening

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  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
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  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #40: Martial Arts in The Thirteenth Hour

Episode #40: Martial Arts

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/Podcast%2040.mp3

Last week’s episode on the influence of gymnastics on the writing of The Thirteenth Hour leads to today’s episode which focuses more on martial arts.  Although I’ve alluded to other martial activities on this blog and in the podcast before (like archery and knife throwing), I figured it was time to devote more time to martial arts itself.  My experience since I was about 13 was with Eastern martial arts, so I borrowed elements of those arts in the style of unarmed martial arts Logan and his Imperial Rangers comrades learn and practice in the novel.

Here, he talks about how sparring sessions would typically go for him:

“… at this fledgling state in my career, things would progress something like this. In a somewhat paradoxical concern for safety, the instructors had us tie cloth pads around our shins, feet, hands, and head in an attempt to prevent injuries and simulate body armor but said that donning groin protection was “unrealistic” because no one walked around wearing it in daily life. Well, I’ve never seen anyone walking around boxing gloves or pads on their arms and legs either, but hey, that’s just me.

At any rate, then we’d each take a stance and start beating the living shit out of each other. Our trainers strictly informed us “don’t kill each other” since this was just supposed to be practice. “You have to help each other,” they said. Well, that was a load of bullshit if I ever did step in a pile.

Inevitably, the matches would revert to the following: your opponent, in an effort to impress the instructors, would throw a really hard shot, and if it connected, you would show your manliness by getting pissed and creaming him. Unless, of course, you happened to be me. I generally didn’t stand an ice cube’s chance in hell against those older guys.

Maybe the instructors noticed my incompetence and felt I needed more practice, or maybe it was just a punishment, but it always seemed that I had to spend twice as much time on fighting drills as anyone else, part of which involved more time with the practice dummy …”

Logan may have just been more honest about his shortcomings, but actually his isn’t an uncommon experience for folks.  Of course, consistent practice takes care of a lot.  Eventually, though, Logan learns enough to defend himself quite well.

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Logan kicks!  He wouldn’t be doing these kicks prior to his training – guess it paid off.  These high kicks make for flashy pictures, but I mostly envisioned he and the other Rangers spending most of their time practicing more utilitarian low and mid range strikes as well as those that utilize the body’s naturally hard spots (like knees and elbows – which he uses in the final fight).  

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Pixelart animation of Logan doing a sliding side kick.  This was from The Thirteenth Hour game that didn’t get finished.

As always, thanks for listening!

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  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and @the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #38: Knife Throwing

Episode #38: Knife Throwing

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/Podcast%2038.mp3

Today’s episode is all about throwing knives and other pointy things, like screwdrivers.  It refers to a few past posts:

https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/logans-everyday-carry-edc-from-the-thirteenth-hour/

-A section of The The Thirteenth Hour where the main character, Logan, finds a pocketknife and contemplates fleetingly whether it would make a good throwing knife as well as the ending fight, where he lobs a large sword.

https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/ever-wanted-to-throw-knives-like-chuck-norris/

-A previous post that discusses no-spin knife throwing, inspired by Ralph Thorn’s teachings.  The post step-by-step how to perform the technique.  Includes many links to references as well as a few video clips, like this one, where I’m throwing a screwdriver and a large cut-down nail:

 screwdriver and spike

 

That post also formed the basis for the short how-to article for The Backwoodsman magazine, a bi-monthly outdoor publication (where to get it).  The article came out in the most recent (May/June) issue, and you can see a picture of part of the article on this past Thursday’s instagram posting.  I didn’t realize this when I recorded this episode, but the magazine is also available in digital format as well.  I encourage you to see if you can find the article through the magazine to support the folks that put it together (plus, there are lots of other great DIY articles).  But I know not everyone will be able to find a copy.  So … mailing list subscribers can get a .pdf of the article I originally submitted to the magazine, so check out the link below to join if you haven’t already if you’re interested.

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In other news, The Thirteenth Hour soundtrack has a new song!  “Song of an Unsung Hero” (which takes its name from a poem in the novel, The Thirteenth Hour), has lyrics here and was released on Friday.  You can find more tracks on bandcamp plus previews and discussion of music and movies that inspired the soundtrack on Instagram @the13thhr.ost.

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Thanks for listening!

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  • QR code email signup Signup for the mailing list for a free special edition podcast and a demo copy of The Thirteenth Hour!
  • Follow The Thirteenth Hour’s instagram pages: @the13thhr and @the13thhr.ost for your daily weekday dose of ninjas, martial arts bits, archery, flips, breakdancing action figures, fantasy art, 80s music, movies, and occasional pictures or songs from The Thirteenth Hour books.
  • Website: https://13thhr.wordpress.com
  • Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1VhJhXY
  • Interested in reading and reviewing The Thirteenth Hour for a free book?  Just email me at writejoshuablum@gmail.com for more details!