Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Multiverse of Agency


SPOILER ALERT!!!!

"If you knew there was a universe, where you were happy, wouldn't you want to go there?" Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

If your life has gone exactly how you thought it would when you were a kid, I’d venture to guess you’re in the minority. Life has its twists and turns (violent twists and turns at times). Things go right. Things go wrong. Take mental health concerns into account and the whole situation only gets messier. 

There are a few twists and turns in particular that I wish hadn’t happened in my life. Like coming home from my mission early (a story for another time). If I’d have done it differently or gone for a service mission afterwards, maybe I’d be happier now? Maybe my mental health issues wouldn’t be so paralyzing. 


In Multiverse of Madness, Wanda spent all her energy trying to recreate her fantasy life. I went into the movie thinking Wanda was going to help Doctor Strange to make amends for the events of WandaVision. Instead, we saw her tearing the multiverse apart to get what she wanted. She only saw two options in her life: take over the life of her doppelganger or go through life miserable. What a miserable dichotomy! 

There’s a temptation to look for another life where life is grander and happier. The phrase goes “the grass is always greener on the other side”. But we have the power of agency to change and choose happiness. Our agency doesn’t give us power to change our past wounds, but it gives us the chance to choose where we go from here. Do I wallow in the pain and stay stagnant? Or do I keep pushing forward and trying, even though it’s painful at times?


"From our experience, the greatest danger to the Multiverse, it turns out, is Doctor Strange." Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic

But is change even possible? In this great “Multiverse of Madness” there hadn’t been a Doctor Strange that the Illuminati could trust. His fate in their minds was predetermined by the past experiences they had with others like him. They didn’t even give him a chance to react differently than their Strange and as a result they died. 

"This Stephen is different. He is. It doesn't matter about all the other Stephens. They're not like him." America Chavez

While our Stephen did end up reading the Darkhold, he didn’t let its darkness control him (at least not that he saw). He chose to be better than his predecessors. As we study the Old Testament this year, I hope I’m doing better than my predecessors too, Doctor Strange was able to stop Wanda’s rampage through the multiverse. Because he wanted to be better. 


“Every time you opened a portal, you sent us exactly where we needed to go." Doctor Strange

My life has not gone how I’ve planned one bit. I wanted to go to BYU, go on a mission, get married, start a family, and start my career directly out of BYU. Instead I came home early from my mission, I didn’t use my degree from BYU, I didn’t get married at BYU, and my wife and I have struggled with infertility. 

Ever since I was a young adult, I’ve loved a scripture in Words of Mormon: “And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” (Verse 7)


Repeatedly during the movie, we kept hearing referenced Christine's question to Doctor Strange: "Are you happy?" I had a patient say something similar to me recently and it got me thinking... Life hasn’t turned out how I planned. I still struggle with all the what-ifs (that's a completely different aspect of the MCU multiverse). But each step along the way, I’ve felt a witness that “the Lord knoweth all things” and it’s for “a wise purpose” that my life has gone the way it has. When I look at my wife, my daughter, and my friends, I’m grateful in my little corner of the multiverse. 

"Sometimes, I do wonder of my other lives. Yet I remain grateful in this one. Even with each tribulations." Wong

Monday, May 16, 2022

10 Movie Moments that Live Rent Free In My Head

 I love movies. 

I went to school to be a film critic (Didn't pan out-turns out nobody was hiring) and if you get me on the topic of movies I will talk your ear off about actors, lighting, history, costumes, anecdotes from sets and anything else that is completely useless in a zombie apocalypse. 

I want to share with you now 10 movie moments that I think of often and love with all my heart. 

Spoilers, probably. 

10: The Posession (Beetlejuice) 


From the moment Catherine O'Hara opens her mouth and "Deo!" comes out I am laughing and invested. Honestly this entire movie is living in my head rent free, and the musical is moving in. No matter how many times I've seen this movie, the jump scare at the end with the weird shrimp cocktails always gets me jump. 


9: Cuban Pete (The Mask)
I promise this isn't just going to be a list of musical moments, but this one has to be mentioned. 



Back in the 90's Jim Carey was one of the biggest actors in Hollywood. I loved his movies, and my favorite to this day is The Mask. This scene is ripped right out of Looney Tunes, and frankly if I was a cop I would be dancing right along, spell or no. 

8: The T-Rex Appears (Jurassic Park)

I was about 7 when the OG Jurassic Park hit theaters. Already wanting to be a paleontologist, I was captivated by the idea to see real dinosaurs on the big screen. To this day I have nearly every shot memorized of the T-Rex emerging from her paddock and attacking the jeeps. 


Two fun facts about this scene: 
1: The glass on the jeep's skylight wasn't supposed to cave in but the animatronic broke through on the kids so their screams as they try to keep the glass between them and the Rex are real. 


2: When the Rex steps onto the road the paddock is level ground, allowing the Rex to walk through, but when she knocks the jeep into the paddock there's a cliff. Stephen Spielberg said to keep it in despite the discrepancy because the action was more important than keeping the shots consistent. 

7: Piggy and Joan Rivers (Muppets Take Manhattan) 

Muppet movies get big name guest appearances, all happy to play character roles with their favorite Muppets. One of my favorites (I could make a Muppet list all on its own) is Miss Piggy with the legendary Joan Rivers. The usual dirty talking Rivers tones it down for this scene, but is still happy to give Piggy relationship advice to lure back her frog. 



6: Nightcrawler vs Secret Service (X2: X-Men United)

Before we had the whole MCU and DCEU craze, we had the X-Men movies. On our second outing to the X-Men universe one of my favorites made a stunning cinematic debut by single-handedly taking out the entire Secret Service at the White House to assassinate the president. Luckily he got his mind back before he could, but the sequence is still one of the best superhero fight scenes in cinema-even including all the Marvels. 

Yeah, I said it. 



5: Ain't got no body! (Young Frankenstein)

A scene that always cracked me up as a kid, Dr. Frankenstein is exploring his grandfather's legendary labratory. Looking at replicated heads on a shelf, they come across the freshly dead sample being Igor, the doctor's assistant, who breaks out into song. You don't want to know how many times I've put my head on a shelf/counter/table and done the same thing. 



4: Duel of the Fates (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) 

Yeah come at me, but this scene rocks. 



3: Part of Your World reprise (The Little Mermaid) 

About time Disney made it on this list (Though I could also make a list of just Disney movies). Here we have this beautiful moment when Ariel just saved Eric and they're together on the beach. The sunlight shines through the storm clouds as Ariel sings the reprise, musing whether they'll ever be together forever. It's Disney animation at its finest, beautiful, mesmerizing and just a nice time. 




2: Spider-Man Returns (Avengers: Endgame)

I was not okay at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. In Endgame, Hulk uses the Infinity Stones to get everyone back, which is amazing in and of itself, but the real emotional blow comes when Spider-Man reunites with Tony Stark on the battlefield. Spider-Man is doing his normal adorkableness, while Stark stares at him in awe, realizing that after five years it worked. He's undone his greatest failure. The hug gets me every. Single. Time. 



1: You can call me... Joker (Batman)

This scene has defined my life. Ask anyone and they'll tell you I have an obsession with villains, bad guys and monsters and I can trace it all back to here: The introduction of the Joker. Jack Nicholsen starts out in silhouette giving us a hint of what's to come, playing it straight faced until he steps out into the light revealing that grin and that laugh... Heath Ledger was good but man... This scene tho...



I could honestly make the same list for Disney, horror, super heroes, TV, anime and musicals. All I need is a reason. 

-JOE

Friday, May 13, 2022

The New Classics: Movies

When do recently made movies become classics? What makes a movie classic? What movie you predict would be become classic? In this post I will go over 5 movies that has come out since 2000 that I believe should become classics. This is my opinion on what movies will be (if not already) classics. If there is a movie that I missed leave a comment. 

Lord of The Rings

When I think of the best movie I have seen I think of Lord of the Rings (LOTR). No fantasy movie has come close to how well LOTR did. I am not the only one that thinks this out of 24 Oscars that LOTR was nominated for it won 17 of them. Even though they left out one of the best characters, Tom Bombadil, the movies were successful and amazing. When I watch the series, the extended editions are the only way to view its beauty. The practical effects were spot on, Boromir’s death was sad, Sam is shown as the hero, and so many fans have quoted Gollum's iconic lines in his voice. If these movies have not been deemed a classic, then they will.

The Avengers

This movie success helped expand the MCU and it is my favorite Avenger movie. This is the first movie that mixed iconic superheroes (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk) into one epic movie. Its success comes from having individual movies for these heroes prior to this movie and hinting towards a combined movie. There are classic lines like “Doth mother know you weareth her drapes” when Iron Man meets Thor or “There's only one God, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that.” when Captain is conversing with Black Widow. If there was one Marvel movie that I am only allowed to watch I would choose this movie.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

With Disney having no competitors with animation they have become idle using the same format for all there movies. Even though each animated movie is beautiful, its not memorable because they are not improving. Then in 2018 Sony brought us Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. I thought it would be a flop, but after watching it I can say this movie is the best Spider-Man movie. The animation is something that hasn’t been done in theaters. The characters were well developed. Miles is awesome, and should have been introduced before. He is different than Peter Parker and it comes across funny. I laughed so hard when he climbed a high building to practice his newfound ability just to climb down and search for a smaller building because of basophobia. I liked that he has a good family relationship something that most superheroes don’t have. Both of his parents are alive and care for him. I honestly believe this should become a classic.

Inception

I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s Movies and in my opinion his best movie is Inception. One reason Inception is so good because of its use of practical effects. If you watch Inception, then Doctor Strange you will see a drastic quality of effects; even though Inception is older its effects are way better because of the lack of CGI. The buildings folding on top of each other, the rotating hallway scene were practical effects, and it was executed well. The second reason this movie should become a classic is because of the sci-fi story and ambiguous ending. Each person can have a different interpretation of the ending. Does Cobb end up going home to see his kids or is he dreaming? It’s for you to decide. I think Cobb is still in a dream because his kids are wearing the same clothes, they are the same age, and doing the same thing as they always do when he dreams about them. But you can have a different interpretation. The final reason this movie should be a classic is because of Hans Zimmer musical soundtrack. "Time" is one of the best soundtrack song I have heard.

Edge of Tomorrow

The last movie that I think should become a classic is Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise is a classic action star, and in this movie, he finds himself in a time loop failing to beat invaders trying to take over earth. It’s like Groundhog Day, but better. Instead of going to sleep and starting the day again Bill Cage, played by Tom Cruise, dies and starts the events over again. The audience sees the psychological trauma as Bill Cage lives through the same battle over again helping us understand veterans' PTSD. Even though the movie focuses on one event and loops through it many times the action and story are amazing and doesn't seem too repetitive. I did not get bored as I was watching the movie.

I will be honest of all the movies I have listed I believe Edge of Tomorrow won’t become a classic, but I think it should be for its creativity and how fun it is to watch.

There are a lot of great movies out there. Some of them may be on this list. Even though some of your favorite movies aren't classics doesn't mean that they are not amazing. If you had to make a list of movies you would want to be classics what would they be? What movie would you want to keep watching as you grow older? What movies would you want your family or friends to watch with you years from now? Those will be your classic movies movies. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Mountain of Aslan's Country

I wrote previously about how the move to Texas affected my mental health. Thankfully things have improved for me emotionally since I wrote that post, but I still take Anna’s words to heart, “Stumbling toward the light.” One place I have found that light and peace: the temple. 

Living in Utah for twelve years, I got accustomed to living near temples. Even when COVID hit and I couldn’t attend the temple, it was still possible to visit the grounds. Now living in Texas, I have to be very intentional to make time to drive into Dallas for the temple. 


Sometime after a particular temple trip last year, I was driving to work, listening to my audiobooks. I came across a portion of The Silver Chair that struck me:

“Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

It’s interesting that CS Lewis would use the mountain of Aslan’s Country as the setting for Aslan to give instructions to Jill Pole, who has stumbled into Narnia for the first time. In the church, we use “mountain of the Lord” synonymously with the temple. That’s literally what we’re looking at here in The Silver Chair!


Once we leave the temple, life gets complicated again and it’s instantly harder to stay focused on the covenants and impressions from the temple. Just like Aslan’s signs, if we don’t keep the gospel and the Celestial perspective in our minds, we will lose our focus and forget. The moment Jill stopped reciting the signs and keeping them forefront in her mind, they started being forgotten. 

In the temple, we can find “strength beyond [our] own” as we meditate and ponder on the experiences there. It’s so much easier to feel the “quiet and calm in my heart” with the outside world shut out. We can “feel heaven here” as we serve in the temple. And as we keep our covenants in focus, we can bring that feeling of heaven into the world as well. (lyrics from "Strength Beyond My Own" and "I Feel Heaven Here")

And if you can believe it, Aslan’s Country in The Silver Chair was even a poor representation of the final Aslan’s Country in The Last Battle. So if the temple is heaven on Earth, imagine the peace of real heaven!


If you live in the Washington DC area, check out the temple open house between now and June 11

Check out the virtual tour of the Washington DC temple by Elder Renlund and Elder Stevenson

List to "Follow Him" by John Bytheway and Hank Smith for their recent podcast episode (episode 19) about the Biblical Israelite temple/tabernacle

Monday, May 9, 2022

D&D Class Breakdown: Fighter

 For new players, it can be hard to choose your first class. For veteran players, it can be hard to choose a class and not fall into stereotypes everyone's seen a thousand times. So now I'm going to deconstruct the 5E Player's Handbook classes (Sorry Artificer, you'll come later) and talk about what works, what doesn't, and some interesting ways to play the classes. 

I won't be going into game mechanics as much as I'll be going into roleplay. 

Let's talk about Fighters! 




What is a Fighter? 
...What isn't a fighter? Historically a fighter is just anyone who makes a career out of knowing how to fight another human. Soldiers, mercenaries, guards, militiamen, cops, bouncers... The list goes on. Every society has needed someone who knows how to use a weapon to defend or attack. Specialized fighters, like the Spartans or samurai, are fighters but are focused on a specific form of fighting. The biggest focus is that the fighter is set to combat other humans, as opposed to animals, who they can still take on, or supernatural threats, which they can try and help but are usually left up to more spiritual leaders. 

In the Game

Dungeons and Dragons fighters are the same way. They represent career warriors who are fighting for whatever reason. Usually the fighter is the class chosen by players who want to be in the combat without the complications of spells or a ton of special abilities, like sneak attack or transforming powers. Some fighter subclasses, like the eldrich knight or the arcane archer, utilize some spells and magic in their combat, but this is usually little more than extra defense or giving attacks specific energy enhancements to break through more specialized monsters. 




The typical fighter player is some sort of ex soldier turned mercenary, out for vengeance against whatever or whoever killed his (insert relationship here). Occasionally you get the grizzled Ronin who wanders with a sword and a need to set right what's wrong with the world, or the grizzled world-weary traveler whose been in the game long enough to know that adventuring isn't about saving the day, sometimes it's just about saving your skin as they light up another cigar and stare into the distance. 

Breaking the Trope

For a class with so much variation in real life, it's surprising that it usually only gets played as grizzled and ornery, like they all have to be stock cowboys. With the range of motivation people have to fight throughout history, here are a few ideas to make the fighter more than the soldier of fortune. 

Dad Fighter
Usually adventurers in general only have families to either die tragically before the game starts or to show up as a bad guy Darth Vader style later on. What if the fighter has a happy family somewhere-wife, kids, mom, whatever, and the adventurer life is a way to bring in money? There's good money to be found in dungeons and random monsters, and this is just his 9-5 job. He sends gold and trinkets back to the wife and kids, and bugs anyone he can with stories about how little Susanna loves carrots while he stops the big bad guy from flooding the world with evil. 

Geek Fighter
This fighter's goal is to see if they can fight one of everything in the Monster Manual. They are constantly out for that last piece of bone or that trinket to complete their collection. They have a bag full of swords from all the bandits they've killed, and a necklace full of teeth from all the wolves they've taken down. Saving the world is great and all but if they could just get that red dragon tooth, and hay, if they kill the thing the world is saved so win-win. 

Hero
To go down in legend, to be part of the bard's song, to be known throughout the world as a great champion, this is what the hero aspires to. They want to be admired, they want to be remembered, and they want to be a legend. They will do whatever they can to do so. Think Joxer the Mighty from Xena, Warrior Princess and for those not in their mid 30's think of Hercules from Disney's Hercules. 

Famous Fighters

Porter Rockwell
I don't think I've ever had a real life example on this series! Porter Rockwell was the bodyguard of Joseph Smith and later Brigham Young. He's quoted as saying "I never killed anyone that didn't need killing", and he reportedly killed a lot of people as the protector of the prophets. He knew what he was good at and did it to serve. 




Chewbacca (Star Wars) 
Anytime we see Chewie in a fight he's either driving something, shooting his laser crossbow, or yeeting people off the nearest cliff. While some may argue barbarian, he's never in a wild uncontrollable fury like his fellow countryman, Krrsantan from Book of Boba Fett, who got drunk, lost control, and tore a guy's arms off. Chewbacca has more control. 

Jayne Cobb (Firefly)
Jayne is the muscle of the Serenity. A thug who works for the highest bidder, his only skill he brings to any table is his ability to fight anybody he's pointed at. Jayne is an excellent marksman, knows how to brawl in hand-to-hand, and can take a hit without barely batting an eye, just by being meaner than whatever hit him. 

-JOE

Check out the other D&D Classes as well: BarbarianBardClericDruid

Friday, May 6, 2022

Moon Knight Recap!


     Well, Moon Knight just had its season finale this week so let's talk about it! 

                                            *Spoiler Warning for the Season*

    This has been one of Marvel's better shows, especially with the first 2 episodes. Oscar Isaac does a fantastic job playing Steven Grant, a very ordinary English vegan who works at the gift shop of the national museum. The suspense and mystery surrounding Steven's apparent insomnia and amnesia are done with just the right amount of pacing and "I dont know what's happening". The audience was able to keep up with what was happening to Steven's life, watching it fall apart without being able to see too far ahead into the story. We, just like Steven, are left wondering who "Marc" is, how long hes existed, and how much he’s keeping from Steven. The mystery/thriller aspect was done with good balance.

    I've always found cult-y leaders like Arthur Harrow to be compelling, if they're fleshed out well enough. A character who truly believes that the ends justify the means, and that theirs is a righteous cause. Like Jon Seed from Farcy 5, or even Negan from The Walking Dead. The villains that are so sure in their convictions, that these awful acts bring about a better world, are truly something to be feared.

    That being said, I would've liked to have seen him be a little more prepared for Khonshu's attempts to thwart him especially when it came to the trial in the Chamber of the Gods. It seemed like Khonsu said "He's trying to rez Ammit!" and Arthur was just like, "No, I'm not" and the other gods just straight up believed him and that was the whole thing. Was it because he USED to be Khonsu's avatar, and they know each other from that time? The show doesn't really tell us.

    The reveal of Khonsu and Moon Knight was fun to see come together. The first time we see Marc in the Moon Knight costume, DANG, so cool. And the fact that Steven gets a SUIT suit for himself is pretty funny. What is he supposed to think when everyone keeps telling him to "summon the suit"? And it helps us distinguish which personality is in control of the body.

    One thing I did appreciate about the show, was how many easter eggs and hidden goodies it had for itself, as opposed to ties to other Marvel properties. It got to be its own show, and tell its own story without bringing in a ton of references to Marvel media we already know. I liked that.
    We can see things hidden all over the place, from the background music having lyrics tied to the characters, to Khonsu and Egyptian imagery scattered throughout the setting. It's very apparent during the scene in the psych ward where we see lot of secret images all throughout.
    One big difference we saw in this show, was really the way the character of Moon Knight was portrayed. In the comics and most other media, Moon Knight is on a lot of drugs, is self-aware almost to the point of 4th wall breaking, and is full of quips and one-liners. I'd call him a Deadpool/Spiderman hybrid as far as his internal monologue and humor seems to go. Not quite as explicit as Deadpool, but more adult than Spiderman, with his fair share of pop culture references. That was something that was missing from the show, but I can respect that they decided to take the character from a different angle. Marvel has LOTS of comedic characters, and sometimes their timing can undercut an otherwise serious or emotional scene. I'm alright that Moon Knight was kept a little more serious. Who knows, maybe he will develop more of a Deadpool-y nature and humor as time goes on, like the evolution of Chris Hemsworth's Thor from Thor 1 to Thor Ragnarok.

    Now, if you missed the post credit scene of episode 6, the season finale, you'll have missed the big payoff of the THIRD personality, Jake Lockely. They tease at a potential 3rd person inside of Marc/Steven, and we finally see who it is that goes full beast mode on people when Marc or Steven really black out. It was Jake who stabbed those guys they found, it was Jake who kept the amulet safe by un-aliving Harrow's people, and it was Jake who finally put an end of Ammit, while Khonsu watched from his limo seat looking fresh to death. Call Khonsu "Ranch", cause he be dressing!

    There's a lot to break down and appreciate from this show, it was worth the watch for me, for sure! I don't believe that a second season has been announced or confirmed at the time of this article, but I'm down.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Kenobi Binge List


Less than a month until we get the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Prequel fans have been itching for more Ewan McGregor in his titular role. I just finished Clone Wars, Rebels, and the original trilogy this year, which makes me extra excited for this series. So if you're itching for some Star Wars in preparation for Kenobi, check out these Obi-Wan stories.

Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Still a Padawan alongside Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan was sent on a diplomatic mission that didn’t exactly go as planned. You all know the story: rescue on Naboo, stranded on Tatooine, pick up Anakin Skywalker, and cut Darth Maul in half. Despite being the fourth installment of the franchise, this is where our Skywalker Saga (and Kenobi Saga) begins.


Episode II - Attack of the Clones

While his padawan was gone protecting/romancing Padme, Obi-Wan set off after a mystery in this movie. He followed the clues to Kamino, where he met Jango Fett and discovered the clone army, and he followed Fett’s ship to Geonosis. On this barbaric planet, he was sentenced to death by the Separatists alongside Anakin and Padme. With the help of the Jedi and the clones, they fought Count Dooku and escaped. And thus the Clone Wars began…

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

There are plenty of Clone Wars episodes featuring Obi-Wan, but only a handful that focus on him as a main character (as opposed to being along for the ride with the clones). The episodes listed below feature his story arc with Duchess Satine and Darth Maul, but if you want some extra Clone Wars episodes, check out a story about Kenobi’s rivalry with Count Dooku (episodes 1.11-1.12) and with Grievous (episodes 2.09-2.10).

Season 2, Episodes 12-14

This story arc introduces Duchess Satine of Mandalore and Death Watch. With how involved we’ve become with Mandalorians in recent years (i.e. Mandalorian, Book of Boba Fett, Bad Batch, etc.) it’s fun to see where Mandalore started–though I’d love to see more history on the people. This is the first time we see the obvious chemistry and romance between Obi-Wan and Satine, mirroring Anakin and Padme. We see the couple facing off against Death Watch, a Mandalorian terrorist group that’ll come into play later.


Season 4, Episodes 21-22

After his apparent death in The Phantom Menace, we learned that Darth Maul wasn’t killed so easily, as revealed in the Nighsisters arc (episodes 3.12-3.14). These episodes only feature Kenobi lightly, but the story arc sets up Maul’s desire for revenge on Obi-Wan. That’ll be important later. So watch these two episodes to see Savage complete his quest of rescuing the long-lost brother Maul.

Season 5, Episodes 14-16

What better revenge on Obi-Wan than to destroy his heart, Satine? Well, Maul and Savage team up with Death Watch to take control of Mandalore. With Satine in custody after the coup, it’s only natural that General Kenobi would come rescue her. Unfortunately, his rescue attempt doesn’t go as planned. Bring tissues.


Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

The last two times I’ve watched this movie, I’ve interspersed it with the last four episodes of Clone Wars (Episodes 7.09-7.12). For our purposes with Obi-Wan that isn’t entirely necessary (though it is enjoyable). General Kenobi appears briefly in the first two episodes, but the story of Darth Maul continues here from where we left him after Satine’s death. So while Ahsoka took care of him, we had the fall of the Republic in Revenge of the Sith. In the last days of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan and Anakin take down Dooku and Grievous… only for Palpatine to finally step forward and take young Skywalker as his apprentice. Enter Darth Vader and his massacre of the Jedi Temple. Here we have Order 66 and the genocide of the Jedi Order. And as you know, Ben Kenobi’s story here ends with his fight against Anakin on Mustafar and his choice to go into exile on Tatooine. And that’s where we expect to find him during the Kenobi series.

Star Wars Rebels

Season 3, Episode 20

Rebels might take place after the upcoming Kenobi series, but if you want a little extra Ben Kenobi, I recommend this episode. It brings the Maul/Kenobi conflict to a conclusion (if you want more Darth Maul, just want the whole of Rebels). Without giving too much away, a vision leads Ezra Bridger on a rogue mission, looking for Master Kenobi, despite claims by Senator Organa that he’s dead. We get good interaction with Ben in this episode (Stephen Stanton does an amazing job sounding like the original Obi-Wan, the late Alec Guinness). So check out this story to get some Ben and to see a glimpse of teen Luke Skywalker).


Episode IV-VI - The Original Trilogy

With Princess Leia’s cry for help pulling Ben Kenobi back into action, we get him speeding off Tatooine with Luke, C-3P0, and R2-D2. Roping in smugglers Chewbacca and Han Solo, they get stuck on the Death Star. Here the team rescues Leia and Obi-Wan faces his old pupil, Darth Vader. You know the story, as Ben Kenobi dies and becomes one with the Force. Despite his apparent death, he still manages to come back as a force ghost for years to come.

And now we wait. What are you hoping to see in Kenobi? Personally, I'm hoping to see ghost Qui Gon teach Obi Wan (as was suggested in Revenge of the Sith). Maybe some minor interactions with young Luke (instead of just from a distance). But it's safe to say things won't be simple if Obi-Wan is present. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Five Reasons Marge Simpson is the Mom We Need

 I did this for Homer for Father's day I figured it's time Marge got a turn. 

If you haven't seen the show, Marge Simpson is the mom on the Simpsons, the wife of the infamous Homer and mother to Bart, Lisa and Maggie. In comparison to the rest of her family, Marge usually plays the straight man, being the normal person in a world full of oddball characters, her giant tower of blue hair notwithstanding. Being the most grounded person on the show doesn't mean that she doesn't have her moments to shine or that her episodes are any less good, it just means that when she gets into wacky shannegains they're made even more funny by her having more normal sensibilities than the rest of her family. 

Above all else though, Marge is a wife and a mother, and she is devoted to each with every once of her being.



5: Patience of a Saint

It would be one thing to have to put up with just one source of crazy in a family, Marge has three and an infant to boot. She takes care of her families eccentricities no matter what they may be that week and rolls with whatever punch she's thrown. Sometimes it's being ready to clean barbecue off the roof after Homer uses the chimney as a smoker. Sometimes it's remembering to check Bart's pockets for sling shots and frogs before church, and sometimes it's making sure Lisa's lunch is vegetarian despite Bart and Homer demanding meat. She takes it all in stride. Not to say that she doesn't occasionally need time to recharge. Marge takes time off to read a book, get her hair done, or go on a week long vacation whenever the stress of the family is getting to her, but she always comes back ready to take care of her families' sometimes extreme needs. 



4: She Accepts her Family

Along with her patience is accepting the kooky eccentricities of her family and loving them for being different. For Christmas she makes two sets of cookies for the kids, a set of Christmas trees for Lisa and bloody spear heads for Bart, both using the same cookie cutter. She knows what Bart likes and doesn't try to force him to be more traditional. With Lisa her relationship is a bit more complicated. Marge is the traditional stay at home mom, interested in making the perfect meal and cleaning the house, where Lisa is an outspoken feminist, wanting to educate herself and become more than a housewife which she sees as inferior. The two have clashed over expectations they have for each other, but Marge is always willing to listen to Lisa's opinions on the world, even if she doesn't agree with them. Marge and Lisa have learned a lot from each other, both willing to see each other's point of view and without having to make drastic changes to make the other happy. 



3: She Loves Being a Mom

There's something about the pure joy Marge finds in being a mom that makes the Simpson house feel like somewhere that would be nice to visit or grow up in. Weather it's her humming to herself as she makes lunches or how eager she is to flex her considerable cooking or sewing skills, Marge revels in her home and families happiness. While she does get annoyed when the house is destroyed by someone's misadventures, she's happy to try again the next day. Again this doesn't make Marge a pushover. Whenever she feels that her good nature is being taken advantage of she has no problem making the rest of the family pitch in and help clean up their messes, but whenever she's gone the family is always grateful to have someone who loves to take care of them. 



2: She Stands her Ground

Marge lets her family be themselves and lets them make her own decisions, but they're are lines that will not be crossed on her watch. When Homer bought a gun and was using it irresponsibly she told him that it was the gun or the family, because she knew that it would not be safe in her house and would not accept anything less than complicity (We'll ignore that when Homer did throw the gun away Marge picked it up, saw how cool she looked in the reflection, pursed it and strutted away). No matter how much easier it would be on everyone she refuses to give up on Bart, insisting that he gets an education even if she has to teach him herself, and when she did become his teacher he learned. With Lisa she will not let her think less of herself because the world tells her to, she makes sure that even if they don't agree on something that Lisa knows that she is special and is loved and that even though she might not be appreciated by others now she will be one day and teach them all a lesson. 



1: She Stands Up For Her Family

Marge's soft-spoken nature falls by the wayside as soon as anyone starts talking bad about any member of her family. She has defended Homer to her own family, telling them off on numerous occasions for discounting him. She has told off principals, teachers and other students in defense of her kids. In the early 90's then first lady Barbara Bush publicly said that The Simpsons was "The stupidest thing I have ever seen". Marge (AKA the writers of the show) wrote a polite but firm response to Barbara: 

Barbara then wrote back! 


This is the mom you want- one that will clap back for you against the wife of the president of the United States, so hard that she writes a letter back apologizing! 

That's a good mom!

-JOE

Friday, April 29, 2022

A Wound, a Stink Spirit, and Some Gold


If you are the parent of a toddler or two, chances are you’ve encountered your fair share of #%*£?~@:&!!&#% (insert name of horrible kid video on YouTube here). The amount of times my son has asked for “cars toys!!” or “hickory dickory dock hippo!!” only to respond “NO!” every time I ask if I have found the correct video would be enough to make me pull my hair out… if I actually had any.


Anyway, you can imagine the utmost joy I feel now that my kids actually let me show them some Studio Ghibli films. It all started with Totoro. For the first time since they got sick of the Cars films, they will actually sit (or chase each other around like Mei and the little Totoro) for the entire length of the film! It’s amazing. Life goals right here.


So I’ve been introducing them little by little to some of the other entries in the Ghibli repertoire, most recently Spirited Away. Side note and fun fact, the Japanese title is 千と千尋の神隠し (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi), or “the spiriting-away of Sen and Chihiro”. Kamikakushi means to be hidden by the “kami”, which can be translated as “gods” or “spirits”. I wondered how my boys would do with the film, and though it took a few tries they actually watched it with me.


So let’s talk about the scene with the Stink Spirit. Everybody in the Onsen knows that something is up. Before that point everybody had been complaining about Chihiro’s stench as a human, but they quickly forgot when they smelled the foul odor and saw the mass of sludge and giant pustules, leaving a wash of vile liquid in its wake. Intent to give Chihiro the most difficult job, Yubaba commands her to show the Spirit to his bath.


Chihiro bravely situates the spirit, calling down to Kamaji for another herbal soak. As the water pours she notices what she refers to as “a thorn” sticking out of the spirit’s side. With the help of Lin, Yubaba, and a bunch of the other employees, Chihiro successfully pulls the thorn out, only to find that it’s actually a bicycle handle, connected to a mangled deluge of metal garbage that had somehow been hidden within the spirit. It was fascinating to see just how much gunk had been stuck inside, but once the final bit was pulled free, Chihiro saw him at last for what he truly was: not a Stink spirit at all, but a Luck spirit.


How often do we find ourselves bogged down under the weight of so much gunk? Whether self-inflicted or perhaps to result of circumstances beyond our control, how much garbage are we carrying within? Do we go along with the descriptions, perceptions, or labels other people place upon us, when the truth is that we are so much more than we might appear? The true nature of the spirit was only revealed after a LOT of effort, at the hands of multiple people… Sometimes we need help from others to get to the bottom of our wounds, and sometimes it just takes a moment of courage to get in there and discover what is keeping us bogged down.


Also of note, as water drained away from the scene, many specks of gold were left on the ground, washed out with the released muck and garbage. When we actually address the thorns in our side, what gold do we find? Further understanding about ourselves and the circumstances we are in? A greater sense of compassion for others who may experience similar thorns? An increased capacity to empathize with or support those around us?


Whatever the case, I hope we can learn to deal with our thorns in healthy ways and not let them fester. May we take courage like Chihiro did, and face our thorns and problems head-on.

 



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Kingdom Hearts I: Summary

With the announcement of Kingdom Hearts IV, I decided to replay the games to understand the story better. I don’t have a PlayStation, but Kingdom Hearts is currently available for PC on EPIC Games. If you are interested in playing, there are sales that happen throughout the year that makes the game cheaper.

I played the game as a kid, and I thought the idea of having Disney and Final Fantasy mixed together was awesome. However, I remember the story getting very confusing when I played Kingdom Hearts II. I learned as I grew older that there were games in between Kingdom Hearts I and II that you should play to understand the story. But in order to play them you had to own different game console, Nintendo DS. With Kingdom Hearts IV being announced, I decided to give the series another chance and play them all to gain an understanding of the story. I recently finished playing Kingdom Hearts I and, in this post, I will summarize the main story. 

Kingdom Heart I Main Story Summary

Sora (the main character), Riku (his best friend and rival), and Kairi (Sora's love interest) are leaving destiny island to explore new worlds. As they are about to leave on their raft they are attacked by the heartless---enemies that steal hearts. While this was happening Kairi is taken by a robed figure (Ansem) because she is one of the seven princesses of light that can open a hidden world (end of the world) that leads to the door of darkness where Kingdom Hearts is located. From this invasion Sora gains the keyblade to fight against the heartless while Riku decides to follows the darkness believing that he is stronger than the darkness, that it won't have the ability to corrupt his heart and give him a chance to leave this island. Riku invites Sora to follow him, but Sora refuses and they fight each other. By the end of the fight Sora is teleported to Traverse Town, another world. 



At Traverse Town he finds many iconic Final Fantasy characters that were driven out of their home (Hollow Bastion) and finds refuge on this planet. During his time there he runs into Donald and Goofy who was instructed by King Mickey to find the Key bearer, in the realm of light (the universe that they live in). Mickey at this time is off on his own adventure in the realm of darkness to find the other keyblade there, in order to close the door between both realms. Sora, Donald, and Goofy team up to fight the heartless.

As Sora goes from planet to planet sealing away the heartless (each planet has a keyhole that can be locked by the keyblade) he finds journal entries from King Ansem, ruler of Hollow Baston where Final Fantasy characters reside. These notes explore the paradigm shift from Ansem seeking how to remove darkness from people’s hearts by studying the heartless to becoming corrupt by the darkness. Ansem eventually desires to go to the realm of darkness to find Kingdom Hearts “the place where the world’s hearts connect”. Ansem recruits Disney villains to help him in his quest of getting the seven princesses by promising them what they desire. Through their aid the princesses are all captured and brought to Hallow Baston.


Sora goes to Hallow Baston to save Kairi, who has been comatose since leaving destiny island, and the other princesses. While he is there, he runs into Riku who, like Ansem, become corrupted by the darkness. Even though Riku has been working with the darkness to save Kairi the method to save her is wrong. Riku attempts to take Sora’s Keyblade but is unworthy and Sora and Riku fight. Riku uses the keyblade of heart to fight against Sora, even with that keyblade Sora wins. After the fight Riku’s body is taken over by Ansem and Riku spirit goes to the realm of darkness, where Mickey is. Ansem opens the end of the world by using seven princesses he has captured and leaves to open the door of darkness. Sora goes to Kairi and gains a revelation that Kairi's heart has been with him this entire time while he has been on his adventure. So he takes Riku’s keyblade, the keyblade of hearts, to release Kairi’s heart from him so she can be awakened.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy go to the end of the world to stop Ansem. They are told if they stop him the universe will reset causing Sora to never see his new friends again *Plot hole: we never see this happen in the game so it’s very confusing*. After numerous of trails Sora and the gain find Ansem and fight against him. After defeating Ansem he opens the door to darkness to gain power from Kingdom Hearts to beat Sora, but as he does Sora emphasizes the true nature of kingdom hearts, that even though it dwells in the realm of darkness it is light. The light from Kingdom Hearts coheres with Ansem, destroying him. As Sora, Donald, and Goofy close the door of darkness (to make sure the heartless doesn’t escape) they find King Mickey and Riku helping from the other side to close the door. Riku can’t leave because he was reformed in there and Mickey stays to lock it from that side (he might possible be dead because we don't know how he got to that realm). Sora promises to rescue Riku and King Mickey as the door is closes. King Mickey and Sora use their keyblades to lock the door from both sides preventing the heartless from going to the realm of light.

The story ends with Sora, Donald, and Goofy searching for Riku and King Mickey.

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