To a World of Gods and Monsters!


by Michelle “Ms. Geek” Klein-Hass

(originally written for TOKYOPOP social media, not used)

It’s the Justice League, but they’re not the good guys. Batman isn’t Bruce Wayne, he’s Kirk Langstrom. In another universe, he was the villain Man-Bat. This time he’s the Batman…and he’s got a terrible secret. Superman isn’t Kal-El, he is the Son of General Zod. And Wonder Woman is Bekka, ex-consort of New God Orion, wielder of New God power, and as ruthless as the rest of the League.


The only reason why people would call the Justice League for help, is that the villains they fight are more vicious, more ruthless than they are. Harley Quinn is as depraved and crazy and murderous as The Joker. Braniac is out of control. And these are only the forces of evil that we have already encountered so far in the series.


In short, this is not the DC Universe that Bruce Timm brought you a generation ago, in Batman: The Animated Series, and Superman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm is indeed directing and producing the shorts which are out now, and the Original Video Animation Gods And Monsters: Justice League, to be released at the end of July. Machinima has put all three shorts out, and you can watch them in a single binge view. We’ve conveniently embedded them at the end of this article.

So, what do you think? Is “going dark” on the animated DC Universe a mistake? Or is this an interesting take on a group of characters that, while sentimental favorites, are a bit stale and long in the tooth? Weigh in with a comment if you want to.

Gods & Monsters Chronicles Episode 1: “Twisted”

Gods & Monsters Chronicles Episode 2: “Bomb”

Gods & Monsters Chronicles Episode 3: “Big”



Otagenki Project presents: Sakura Ride 2015, 3/14/2015, 2pm, Lake Balboa, CA


A ride to honor the victims, the survivors, and the heroes of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It has been four years, but the people affected by the Earthquake, Tsunami and the meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-Ichi are still far from recovered from the tragedy. It’s not over for them, so we should continue to help. There will be no entry fee but there will be a collection for JEN-NPO, a charity that has been on the ground in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest hit areas of those affected by the event, since 3 days after the incidents. They continue to serve the people, who are still mostly in temporary housing.

Temporary housing row houses in Ishinomaki. Photo: Japan Times.

Temporary housing row houses in Ishinomaki. Photo: Japan Times.

Here’s a link to what JEN-NPO has been doing for Miyagi Prefecture.

The ride will be a family-friendly fun ride, roughly 6.5 miles, at a gentle pace. We will stop so that we can enjoy the flowering cherry trees around Lake Balboa. There are 2,000 of these trees in Beilenson Park, the park that contains the artificial lake that gives the neighborhood of Lake Balboa its name. 1,000 were planted by a Japanese audio equipment manufacturer during the building of the park complex, and 1,000 more were added by the Japanese Consulate to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gift of flowering cherry trees to Washington, DC by the Emperor of Japan. They are a special hybrid that is suited to warmer, drier climates than those native to Japan. Non-hybrid cherry trees tend to bloom early in our Mediterranean climate here in LA, closer to January and February.

The ride will start at the Balboa Orange Line Station. There is park-and-ride space there so hopefully there will be ample parking, and it will also serve those who are using public transit to get to the ride.

Here’s the map:

And this is the chart which shows elevation change. The course is not entirely flat but it’s fairly flat, with a few small rolling hills.

Map on Map My Ride

We are hoping to time the end of the ride so that we can pause for the sunset and pay our respects to those who lost their lives on 3/11/2011.

If you are a Facebook member, please RSVP to the ride here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tour pour Tohoku: getting out and riding to benefit Northeast Japan recovery!

Tour pour Tohoku course video

On March 11th, 2011, the world changed for the people of Tohoku. It’s been almost 3 1/2 years, and aside from the clearing away of debris and mud, it hasn’t changed back. While the Japanese Federal Government and Prefectural governments dither over how to rebuild the region, and localities are starved for funds to actually step in and rebuild, non-governmental entities are having to pick up the slack. One of the NGOs that have been on the ground since three days after the tsunami is JEN-NPO. There are many others, but they are doing particularly good work.

In June of 2011, right after I got my Associate of Arts degree from Los Angeles Valley College in Media Arts, I began working with Stu Levy as part of the Post-Production team on the documentary Pray For Japan. I was happy to finally be able to do something concrete to help the people of Tohoku. I remembered when my Twitter blew up about the 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, only the second largest in recorded history next to the Indonesian tsunami. I felt powerless as the news rolled in. I spent a sleepless night watching news feeds online. Pray For Japan attempts to give voice to those whose voices weren’t heard much during the crisis: the people who survived the tragedy, and the volunteers who came to their aid. In my opinion, the attempt was successful.

The intent of Pray For Japan was also to raise money and awareness. Last Friday, we were able to donate the first proceeds of the film over and above expenses. Here’s a pic of Director/Producer/DP Stu Levy giving the check to Keiko Kiyama, the Managing Director of JEN-NPO.


So what does this have to do with the Otagenki Project, and our goal to get Otaku off the couch?


On Sunday, September 14th, 2014, at 5:30pm, a group of cyclists will take a 6.22 (3.11 miles out and back) mile ride along the Los Angeles County coast, from Playa del Rey to Manhattan Beach. The ride will begin and end at world-famous Dockweiler State Beach. The ride is timed so that we can see a glorious Pacific sunset at its end. As there is another event in Japan going on during the same day, Tour de Tohoku, this event is called Tour pour Tohoku. The course is almost completely flat, it is buffered from traffic as it’s part of the Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail, and the distance and pace will be newbie friendly. There is a bike rental facility at Dockweiler, run by Perry’s, which will have bikes available to rent for the event.


There will be a raffle for a Huffy Nel Lusso step-through frame Eurostyle cruiser bike after the ride. All proceeds from the raffle will be able to go to JEN–NPO, because the bike was given to Otagenki Project by Huffy. As you can see, this is a very stylish ride, and is reminiscent of the kind of bikes favored in cycle-friendly towns like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Utrecht. Valley Bikery in Van Nuys, CA will provide assistance in assembling and fitting the bike for the winner.

This ride will be coinciding with an event going on in the Tohoku region of Japan, the Tour de Tohoku. Also occurring on September 14th on the calendar, this is a much longer course and geared more towards experienced riders. Here is a video giving a taste of what the event looked like last year.

It’s not over. Tohoku still needs our help. This way, we can help and have fun at the same time, with a ride that should be friendly for most riders. You can get more details and RSVP for the event here on Facebook. There is no entry fee but we are asking people to give donations to JEN-NPO on the honor system, and to enter the raffle.

Three stories about activity and children: Connecting the dots and asking questions

I really feel for the current generation of kids. The climate of fear really is keeping kids housebound and inactive. If children were raised like they were in, say, the ’70s, when parents would tell their kids “go out and play” after they finished their homework, there wouldn’t be a need for efforts like the Otagenki Project. The children of the parents who wrap their kids in bubble wrap will one day need to relearn how to play. It’s sad.


Story 1: How Overparenting Makes Kids Overweight

A study just published in the journal PLOS One is the first to prove a link between helicopter parenting and obesity: Between ages 10 to 11, the researchers found, maternal overprotectiveness “was associated with a 13 percent increase in the odds of children being overweight or obese.”

Warning: Story contains awful photo of fat kids enjoying food, watching tv, sitting on the sofa. Because we all know thin children never do that!

Story 2: Why I Walked to School Alone and My Kids Never Will

It’s no secret that raising kids today is nothing like it was a decade or two ago.

In fact, many moms say there’s no way they would let their children do what their own parents gave them free reign to do as kids.

“I remember taking the city bus with friends and riding to downtown Atlanta when I…

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Another Otagenki report: Northridge ride!

This was a bike ride that CICLE, Valley Bikery and CSUN Bike Collective put together a few months ago, and I’m just now putting it up. This was a total blast…a group ride is something you have to experience. Lots of fun, lots of support, and this ride was designed for noobs. You should try this in your neighborhood.

Otagenki Report 2: Fit Expo 2014

I really was not expecting to enjoy myself so much at Fit Expo 2014, because Fit Expo 2013 was such a lame experience. I don’t know if the people who run the show read my piece on my personal fitness blog LessFatChick, but this time it was a big difference.

It seems like a new, and very welcome IMHO trend is REAL FOOD. Yes, you now can get a fair choice of nutrition bars and other fitness goodies that have ingredients you know and can pronounce. The only food like that you could find last year was at the Ralphs booth, and from a small company that sends a box of organic produce to your house every month. Yes, the frankenfood peddlers were still there, as were some very questionable supplements, (Ephedra? Oh really?) but there were a lot more items that were labeled organic, and a lot more with identifiable ingredients.

Another difference was a lot more experiential stuff…a lot more exercises to try, and mini-classes. The exhibitions were more interesting too, including some amazing feats of strength by professional athletes and very well trained amateurs.

So yeah, here’s another Otagenki Report. This doesn’t have any commentary…my goal with the Otagenki Reports is to tell the story with footage, not with words. I want to create something universal, that’s understandable in any language. I’ve always loved video essays and photo essays, they’re a real art form, and narration sort of breaks the mood.