Monday, April 30, 2012

Geeks, Nerds, and Dorks

You know, I'm thinking I should win a prize for "Best Blogpost Title for 2012" or something. I mean, really, you know you're intrigued with a title like that. Much better than "The Hunger Games" or "Lord of the Rings." But below is the ultimate battle of definitions.

You gotta admit, that's an awesome pic. I wanna see those two wrestle in a WWE that age, not their current ages. Anyway....

I wanted to define these 3 terms. I thought it'd be fascinating to see what (my favorite website for when I'm writing my book, along with for word usage verification) had to say about these terms.

 First up: Geek

Geek - noun (slang)

1. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders).
2. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.

Hmm....I like that geeks pridefully refer to themselves, but it's derogatory otherwise. Also, they aren't likeable . . . and . . . bite the heads off of live chickens?

Now here's the kicker, we at Mormon Geeks have defined geek our own way, following modern trends with the term. Being a geek can be an awesome thing and we're dang proud of it. Geeking out over things like non-sci-fi/fantasy, non-computer world stuff is totally acceptable to us. It's our blog, we write about what we want to write about.

Anyway, on to Nerd

Nerd - noun (slang)

1. a
stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
2. an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.

So, based off my high school years, I think I defined nerd. No wait, I socialized. Yes! I still find offense at being called stupid, irritating, ineffectual, and unattractive. We all know I'm the best looking guy in the world. Women fawn over me wherever I go. (Don't freak out from the lies, it's called sarcasm people.) 

So, ready for dork?

Dork - noun

1. Slang . a silly, out-of-touch person who tends to look odd or behave ridiculously around others; a social misfit: If you make me wear that, I’ll look like a total dork! jerk, schmo; nerd, geek.
2. Slang: Vulgar . [Male reproductive organ]

I really like this "out-of-touch" thought. But I'm curious, out-of-touch with what? Society? Reality? Fashion? Movie times? Spaghetti? Doughnuts? And seriously, what is up with definition #2. I don't think I can call anyone a dork ever again. (Probably will, to be honest.)

Anyway....just some definitions and a reminder that we're the geeks, we'll say what we want about what we think is geeky and what we think is not. 

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Creature Feature - Pikachu

If you were a kid in the late 90's, you probably remember the international phenomenon which was Pokémon. Still around today, it's not nearly as popular as it was then. And at the center of all of it was the little yellow rodent Pikachu. The critter was on everything from pencils and backpacks to toothbrushes and underwear, and kids couldn't get enough of him. Why? Well let's take a look at that.

As my communications teacher once said, anything that makes $75 million dollars is worth talking about, and Pikachu did just that. When Pokémon Yellow, a Gameboy game based exclusively around Pikachu came out in 1999 it became the highest selling video game ever. Why? Because kids wanted to play with Pikachu. Why? Even we don't know. To be honest, Pikachu is cute but is kind of a nothing character. A brief explanation is that Pikachu is a Pokémon, a critter that, in his world, people called trainers spend their lives capturing and collecting. To date there are over 500 different types of Pokémon, ranging from cats and dogs to dragons and freaky ninja looking things. So Pikachu is actually just one critter among hundreds, many of which were way more powerful and way cooler then Pikachu ever was. Even his power isn't anything that cool compared to his Poke' brethren. He can shoot lightning. That's it. He can't manipulate it to do cool things like Static Shock, or is the master over all thunder and lightning like Thor, he's basically just an adorable taser.

There's also the matter of the TV series. Pokémon, of course, has a TV series useful in promoting their toys and games to the non-driving demographic. In it, Pikachu plays a main role as the protagonist's first Pokémon. At first Pikachu (the character now not the species. The thing never has a name so it gets confusing when referring between the species and the individual) is willful and refuses to go inside the little Pokémon capturing device called a Pokéball, and doesn't even really seem to like the main character that much, but after the kid saves Pikachu's life they become life-long friends. That's pretty much the only show of personality you get from Pikachu from then on, since afterwards he's always either frolicking wherever they are or in some intense battle shooting lightning bolts from his cheeks. Compounded by the fact that he can only say his name, he just isn't anything special as a character. Team Rocket, the show's main antagonist, spend nearly the entire series trying to steal Pikachu because they believe that he's unique and special, but along the way they constantly run into Pokémon far more interesting and stronger than the rat, but insist in the end on only going after Pikachu. So the series can basically be summed up to be about a bunch of people doing everything they can to be friends with the equivalent of somebody's cat.

Now I admit I was a HUGE fan of Pokémon back in the day. I still have toys from that era, and I even bought Pokémon Black a while ago and think it's pretty entertaining, but among my collection I only have one tiny Pikachu pencil topper, and I'm happy with that. Looking back now, I was never as interested in Pikachu as I was in the other Pokémon, even when I was into the show. What's really weird is I mentioned two weeks ago in my Creature Feature on Sky Bison that Appa never said a word and was rarely the focus of Avatar: The Last Airbender and I loved him. So where Appa speaks less, is less of a focus yet has a deeper character, Pikachu can't stop talking, has pretty much all the focus and has no character, yet nobody is going to trample anyone to death to try and buy an Appa the Sky Bison video game.

So in the end, I have no clue why Pikachu was so popular, or why millions found him to be so cool. It was an interesting phenomenon to watch, like leisure suits or disco. He's cute, but without depth he didn't last too long in our collective psyche, so I doubt he'll be making a revival anytime soon.

Oh, don't give me that!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Movie Review: Secret World of Arrietty

It should be noted that Hayao Miyazaki is one of my animation heroes.  His work as both a storyteller and as an artist has captivated me at every age.  He helped found Studio Ghibli in 1984.  Since then, he's been heavily involved in animated works and is critically acclaimed.

On Tuesday I went to the discount theaters to see The Secret World of Arrietty, a Studio Ghibli movie based off the book the Borrowers.  Sadly, this was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  It is directed by newcomer Hiromasa Yonebayashi.  I've never read the borrowers so I can't make a comparison to the book.  Although Arrietty doesn't quite meet the expertise of Miyazaki's films it is a good story with rich animation and smart directing from Hiromasa.

The Secret World of Arrietty is about a young boy named Shawn that travels to the home where his mother grew up.  He has a heart condition and will be getting an operation in the coming days.  Shawn heard his mother tell stories of little people that lived in the walls of the home.  Eventually, we are introduced to Arrietty.  Arrietty is a young Borrower girl living in the foundation of their house.  On the night of her first borrowing, a rite of passage for young borrowers, she is seen by Shawn when trying to nab a tissue.  Arrietty's parents decide they must now move because they've been seen by a human.  Arrietty eventually develops feelings of friendship with Sean and must decide how to handle her situation.

The story is simple but it is heartfelt.  The feelings Arrietty develops for Shawn is believable though they do develop a little quickly.  The characters are interesting and atypical.  I would have liked some better voice acting from the character Shawn.  The other characters do a good job.  Amy Phoehler and Will Arnett (real life husband and wife) are great as Arrietty's parents.

The part of the movie I loved the most (surprise, surprise) was the animation.  The attention to detail was impressive.  The small characters perceive the movements of the giant human beings as massive and slow.  The sounds for them are loud.  Scenes that close up on the borrowers show liquid behaving in ways it doesn't for us.  The painted backgrounds are also very beautiful and colorful.

The story also flows very well with good pacing.  Long scenes involve characters with little to no dialogue.  In some ways this helped the movie.  In other ways, it made you feel a little disconnected as a viewer.  Still, I appreciate Hiromasa's effort to tell a story without relying on dialogue.

All in all, this is a great movie to see with the family.  It's heartfelt with a great message of endurance and moving forward.  It's content is wholesome and completely true to it's G rating.  I recommend.
Concensus: The Secret World of Arrietty is a great story of endurance appropriate for the whole family.  My rating: B

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fanboy moment-Harley Quinn

It's a simple fact of the universe: Batman is cool. He's got the suit, the martial arts, the millions of dollars worth of gadgets, but one of his key coolness factors are the villains he has to face. They can range from being tragic figures to silly gimmicky characters that Robin can beat on when Batman doesn't care. The best known of these characters is his arch nemesis, the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime creates a stark contrast to Batman's Dark Knight image by being the loudest, most colorful, and most dangerous of all of Batman's villains. So, what could make this clown even more interesting? Give him a girlfriend/sidekick. Hence the birth of Harley Quinn.

Of all of Batman's villains, Harley Quinn is probably one of the least dangerous. Usually assisting her "Mistah J" in his evil schemes, she's usually either overlooked or quickly dispatched by Batman or his own sidekicks. But as a character, she deserves much more. Having grown up on the Batman Animated Series myself, I fell in love with the Joker's favorite henchgirl, with her bubbly, almost naive personality, big smile and giant hammer, she won me over instantly.
If you're not familiar with the character, you may be thinking back to The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's Joker and wondering "Who on Earth would want to be his sidekick, much less date him?" The answer is as sad as it is brilliantly written. Harlene Qunzel (Comic book names, I know) was once a fresh young psychiatrist starting new at Arkham Asylum. Wanting to write a tell-all book about the super villains housed inside, she began working very closely with one particular inmate-the Joker. Seeing not only an opportunity to cause trouble but a chance to have some fun, the Joker began confusing and manipulating the poor girl during their therapy sessions, until she was convinced she was desperately in love with him. The cartoon says it was a break out, and the comics say it was during the earthquake in Gotham City (Don't ask, it's complicated), at one point though Dr. Quinzel ditched the sane world, donned a red and black suit, called herself Harley Quinn, and the rest was history.
What's really interesting about this character is how and where her psychosis runs. Where with Two Face you get a split personality disorder, or the Joker with just being beyond insane, Harley is basically just in a bad relationship where things have gone too far. It's something that a lot of people have either seen or been in, which makes it a lot easier to relate to. At different points in both the cartoon and comic she finds herself taking a serious look at her life and how the Joker truly treats her. As mentioned before, he doesn't really love her but just drove her mad for fun. He's usually seen as abusive, physically, emotionally and psychologically, and will happily use her as bait to lure the cops and Batman off his tail so he could get away, leaving her to rot in Arkham until he returns. The only times he seems to be happy with her is either when he needs her or when they're current scheme is going to plan. During Harley's brief moments of relative sanity, she's sometimes able to break away from him and try to have a different life, even if it's just teaming up with Poison Ivy or even Batman on occasion. But like any bad relationship, no matter what's happened in the past, she always goes crawling back to the Joker.

This dichotomy is sick and twisted, but it forms this weird romantic sense to it, like Romeo and Juliet or Bonnie and Clyde, like two criminals who fell in love due to their life of crime. It's a tragic love story in it's own sense of it. If nothing else, it gives you something to look at and say "At least we're not as messed up as those two, aren't we, dear?"
In the brilliantly written Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, Harley is portrayed as a much tougher character, exchanging her clown outfit for something a bit more revealing. In Arkham City, criminals loudly worry that if Joker dies Harley will take over and that she at times seems even crazier than the Joker. That's certainly a frightening thought, that Joker may have actually created something even worse than him through his games.
So there she is. Creepy, cute, romantic, or sad, however you see Harley Quinn you can't deny that she adds her own special brand of crazy to both the Joker and Batman's lives. She's the evil clown you can't help but love, in the relationship you can't help but watch.
P.S. In case you're wondering, that's me and my girlfriend Katie Ecker as Joker and Harley Quinn for Halloween. To answer your questions: No, we're not as messed up as they are; Yes we really are that cute; and No, you and your significant other can never be as cute as we were in that picture.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Geeky Ways To Build The Kingdom

I'd like to start off this post on a bit of a personal note.  I'm an introverted person (I'm sure some of you can relate).  I generally don't feel comfortable sharing things with complete strangers, especially something as personal and valuable as the gospel.  I've often felt ashamed about the fact that I don't 'share the gospel' or help build up the kingdom by giving out 100 pass along cards or a book of Mormon a week.  I recently realized that there are ways for an introvert like me to help build up the kingdom.


Indexing is something that I started doing about 4 years ago.  With indexing, someone has taken a digital picture of a document, and they want the information from it captured into text form.  For instance, Family Search Indexing is currently indexing the entire 1940 US Census.  They've taken the pictures, and all they need is an army of volunteers to come, read, and enter in the data that they want from the documents.

How does this help build up the kingdom? The information from these documents is then used for genealogical work.  People can use the information from the documents to learn more about their ancestors.  Personally, most of my genealogical work has been done.  Helping with indexing makes me feel like I'm helping other people find their ancestors.

And now for a totally shameless plug, Family Search Indexing needs a lot of help with that 1940 census!  Indexing isn't too terribly difficult nor does it require a super fast computer.  You can learn more about it by clicking here. profile is a website dedicated to helping people who aren't members of the LDS church to learn more about the church.  They've added the ability for members to create a profile about themselves, to share how the gospel has influenced their lives, and to answer questions about what they believe in.  Creating a profile can help another person feel like the church is made up of 'real' people rather than a bunch of crazy people.

Social Media

One other way that the gospel can be shared is through social media.  Articles on can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.  By sharing about the church and its teachings, more people can be reached.  It also could help out another member who is struggling with their faith.


Another option is to start a blog.  A blog can be a great way to share about a person's personal beliefs or their journey through life.  I've found that using was a rather easy way to start writing a blog.  Chances are that someone could be touched by personal experiences that you have to share.

All in all, helping build up the kingdom through technology is important.  It's also a good idea to balance sharing through technology with sharing in-person with other people.  Sometimes sharing the gospel is as simple as living it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Captain America

Some of you may have noticed that I did not post last week. Some of you may care to know that I did not post because my wife had given birth to our 3rd child. And then there are those of you who couldn't care less and are yelling at me to "get on with the post already!"

When I first started writing for Mormon Geeks, I explained that I was the least geeky out of the 4 of us. I don't really play RPGs that often. I don't really read comics. I haven't even seen The Dark Knight, Iron Man 2, or X-Men First Class.

I like to think of myself as a "slow geek". And I don't mean slow in intelligence, but slow in when I can indulge my geekiness. After almost 2 months of having the disc, my wife and I finally sat down this past weekend to watch Captain America: The First Avenger.

So, this isn't really a review of the movie itself, as it is to look at the storyline. So, if I'm a slow geek, this was a slow movie. What I was expecting was an action-adventure movie with a lot of fights, but decent storyline. What I felt I got was a rehashing of some WWII facts mixed in with a side storyline.

(SPOILER ALERT: I will be revealing specific things about the end of the movie.)

At one point, the movie made me feel like Hitler wasn't nearly as scary as Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull. Not only that, but the way Captain America "defeats" Red Skull made me feel like he just got lucky. Captain America also "sneaks" into a Nazi camp earlier in the film. It was at this point that I really started to suspend belief.

For an author / writer, the goal to keep the audience interested in the story is to make sure the reader doesn't get a chance to suspend belief in the what is going on. Rogers' invasion of a Nazi camp, even for the character, didn't seem plausible. Yeah, there were some cronies killed, injured, whatever, in Captain America's invasion. But really, it really should have been a little more difficult for him to get through an entire Nazi troop.

I did, however, like it as an alternate WWII movie. That really did fit the film's style. It did get me excited for The Avengers. That is a movie I'm really hoping doesn't disappoint.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Creature Feature - The Borg

Political strife and war are no strangers to the Star Trek universe, with enemies like the Klingons and Romulans to give the Federation trouble, the phaser banks are constantly being used. The difference between them and the Borg though, is that where the Romulans can be reasoned with and the Klingons can become allied, there is no reasoning with the Borg. There is no real alliance with the Borg. There is no peace with the Borg.

The Borg are a species who melded their technological advancements with their own bodies, creating an entire race of cyborgs. They've also linked their individual collectivness into a singular hive mind, making them all think and act exactly alike. Among the Borg there are no individuals, no families, no artists, no musicians, no heroes and no villains. They are just Borg. Their goal is to expand their galactic empire by capturing or killing every other sentient species in the universe and adding their technological advancments, as well as their populations, to their own. They can link any species and any person into their collective making that person Borg. They've been called the zombies of the Star Trek universe, but where zombies are mindless killing machines, the Borg are actually incredibly intelligent, using their vast stolen technology to disarm and defeat any enemy that crosses their path.
The species first showed up in Star Trek the Next Generation, being used by the Q to show Picard and the crew of the Enterprise that the galaxy was too dangerous for humans to continue to explore. Barely escaping with their lives, the Federation plowed on. Probably one of the most important encounters with the Borg happened when they abducted Picard and made him their "liaison" to humanity, Locoutis. The Enterprise was able to rescue the captain and turn him back, but not before the Borg tore through the Federation like a hot knife through cheese.

The storyline carried over into the Star Trek film First Contact, where they actually encountered the Borg Queen, their collective leader. The Borg travel back in time to try and assimilate the Earth long before the Federation is in the picture, and if not for Picard and Data they would've succeeded. It's arguably the best Star Trek movie they've made thus far all because the villain is such a threat.
In Voyager they had to fly through Borg space to get home. During their trip, they picked up a Borg they named Seven of Nine. Formerly human, she was assimilated as a child and has spent most of her life as a Borg. Because of that, she had no idea how to be a human, and became an interesting perspective on humanity through the eyes of the outsider, much like Spock, Data and to a lesser degree Odo were. It didn't hurt that she could fill out a skin tight one piece like nobody else on Star Trek could.
If this post isn't as funny as some of my other Creature Features, it's because there really isn't anything that funny to say about the Borg. They're probably the darkest part of the entire Star Trek Franchise, showing up covered in alien technology with that blank, robotic look on their faces and that cold Mr.Freeze voice. There a frightening and awesome addition to an already colorful and amazing universe.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Escaping Escapism

The real world is unfair.  I got my first speeding ticket in my entire life a few weeks ago.  Because of this, I spent $90 to pay for the citation and now my insurance rates have gone up 20 or so dollars a month.  I feel taken advantage of as a student worker at my University and know the posters I've designed are worth a lot more then what I've been paid for.

This is why video games are so great.  In Hyrule, I don't have to be Stephen Larsen.  I can be the Hero of Time.  In a session of Dungeons and Dragons I can be a level 8 tiefling druid that lets all emotional issues just roll off his back.  Why stay grounded in reality when the weather in Narnia is so nice this time of year?

Escapism is often central to many a geek's past time.  They will play a game, read a book, or maybe watch a movie to just step away from reality for a few hours.  This can be really healthy or it can be spiritually destructive.  Being a geek must be a balanced life.  The pleasures of our life must compliment our lives not destroy them.  Escapism is found a number of different ways, both healthy and unhealthy, but how do we find balance in the experience of our alter realities?

What is escapism?
Escapism is using a form of entertainment to distract oneself from harsh reality.  This can be idle or destructive or a form of wholesome recreation.  Escapism may not necessarily be bad depending on how it is exercised.  Plenty of people that aren't considered "geek" will read books, play video games, or watch a movie to escape.  In fact, movies during the 1930's and 1940's were often the perfect distraction from the harsh realities of the great depression or World War II to help people stay sane.  The messages could give them hope.  The time away gave them time to breathe before returning to the challenges they faced.  So when does escapism become unhealthy?

Why do we escape?
Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything bad with enjoying your experience of being in a different world by way of entertainment.  A geeky activity can be a wholesome form of recreation.  For me, I love the creative outlet that I can get from Dungeons and Dragons.  I love being able to act and draw the characters.  I love the interaction and being someone else to appreciate myself better.  Playing games is also a great stress relief.  Different stories in entertainment can expand our imaginations.  The healthiest reason to escape is when we really connect with ourselves and get to be ourselves.
Geeky pastimes can be wholesome recreation for
friends and family.

I feel that being yourself is an important spiritual principle often overlooked.  We can still be Christlike and obedient to our Heavenly Father's commandments while retaining our personality.  One of my mission presidents once told us in a zone conference, "Don't let anyone take away your personality because that is what makes you like your Heavenly Father."  This resonated with me.  When we enter the spirit world my Heavenly Father will not ask me, "Why weren't you John Lasseter?" (John Lasseter is an animation hero of mine.)  He will ask, "Why weren't you Stephen Larsen?"  A good, healthy escape can be a great way for us to be ourselves.

Escapism can also be abused and can be a breeding ground for idleness and other spiritually destructive behaviors.  In our weakness we will sometimes escape for validation.  We play games to feel powerful because we don't feel powerful in real life.  When that power is threatened we can turn into anal gamers and poor sports.  (Athletic people will do this too.  They do it playing sports.)  If we are unsatisfied in our life, we will turn to games for a false sense of accomplishment.  We will also turn to entertainment to avoid responsibilities.  If there's something painful that we are experience, then we will seek to numb our feelings and suddenly our escapism becomes an addiction.

"I love it too Bill. ...Bill, it's been 10 minutes.  Let's go."

All of this boils down to beliefs we have about ourselves.  We think, "I'm not pretty," "I'm not powerful," "I'm not manly," "I'm fat," or "I'm not brave."  It's these beliefs we must change about ourselves before we escape to the world of Warcraft, Hyrule, Panem, Forks (Washinton), or some other faux-reality. Playing these games, watching these movies, or reading these books won't change these beliefs.  Believing that they will when we don't turn to the Atonement for comfort is idol worship.  Beliefs like this must be changed if we're ever to find true happiness.

Spending too long in our escape can also cause delusion or unrealistic expectations.  A book about sparkly vampires can create unrealistic expectations in both men and in relationships.  Spending so much time leveling your character in Skyrim can lead you to think that you've leveled up in real life. This doesn't necessarily mean an actual belief you can cast fireballs.  It may mean a sense of pride and over identifying with the world you so frequently visit.  This can be a belief that you're above people with whom you play or even work.

How do we escape escapism?
So we recognize what escapism is.  We can even differentiate between what is healthy and what isn't.  But how do we escape unhealthy escapism?  Sometimes the realities that we create are so comfortable we find it difficult to leave them.  If an addiction has fostered then it may even feel impossible.  Reconnecting to reality can be made possible by socializing, filling your life with healthy activities, and changing beliefs about yourself.

Socializing is probably the most obvious way to reconnect to reality.  I'm not talking about talking to friends over the internet, texting them, or calling them on the phone.  The proper and most healthy socialization you could participate in is face-to-face.  Look people in their eyes when you talk to them.  Make an effort to really connect.  Doing this will ground you in reality.

The next thing we can do to overcome escapism is to fill our life with healthy activities.  Get outside to soak up some sun.  A good hike is healthy and reminds you how beautiful this earth is.  In addition to hiking there are plenty of geek friendly athletics you can participate in.  These healthy activities can even be inside.  The point is that your healthy activities should take you away from whatever your outlet is to have escapism.

Really, the end all of really grounding ourselves in reality is changing the negative beliefs about ourselves.  I can't stress this enough because this is exactly what I needed to do growing up.  Growing up, I used video games and online roleplaying to be someone I really wanted to be.  I didn't like how I looked or who I was.  I wasn't thankful for the body my Heavenly Father gave me.  I was prideful not humble.  Being humble means that you embrace yourself in all of your imperfections, putting faith in the atonement, and forgiving yourself of your shortcomings.  Pride is not forgiving yourself and believing that you're too bad for the atonement.

So how do we change these beliefs about ourselves?  Things that helped me was setting life goals to help me stretch.  Doing this helped me see that I could do it!  I could work towards getting what I wanted out of life.  Even if I didn't get that internship, or move to where I wanted to live, I grew into a man that I liked being.  I started to see that the improvements and the growth I experienced was real.  It just couldn't be measured in whether or not I had a degree or even good grades.  Why should we measure our self worth by someone else's standards?

Setting goals took me outside my comfort zone.  I had to do and face things that scared me.  I did stuff that was insane--like buying a plane ticket to Southern California for a job interview.  I didn't get the job but became more dedicated in meeting my goals.  I became more dedicated to being the man I wanted to be and not trying to be that man in Skyrim, The City of Rapture, or the Kingdom of Hyrule.  When we stretch ourselves to prove ourselves we become our own heroes!

None of this advice will really help you unless you involve the savior.  Share your goals with Him, your feelings with Him, and your struggles with Him in mighty prayer.  Embrace your weakness that you can fully embrace His strength.  Ammon from the Book of Mormon gives us a perfect example of this attitude.

Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. (Alma 26:12) 
We can’t change these negative beliefs by ourselves. We have to allow the power of the atonement to work in us through prayer, fasting, and exercising our faith in our savior. Thankfully, He is with us every step if we let him in.

I can honestly say that my failures have made me a better man.  I love who I am now.  I love that my relationship with geeky entertainment and past times is much healthier now.  I know that my relationship with my Heavenly Father is at a better place too.  No, I can't bend the earth beneath my feet with kung fu moves.  No, I haven't saved any princesses lately.  Yes, I'm still a skinny twig that can barely lift a weight.  But I'm a child of God and that's more than good enough for me.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Buffy the Vampire Slayer-the show with the soul

In 1992 a strange little movie came out about a girl destined to be a vampire slayer. It was cheesy and kind of stupid, full of cliche'd lines and the average stereotypical 90's teen movie slang that no real child ever used, and it was pretty much expected to be forgotten forever. Then Joss Whedon had an idea to take the strange little story and turn it into an entire TV series about a blonde trying to defeat the undead and still manage high school. This show could've easily been just as big a flop as the film, with the exception of the magic touch of Whedon's writing and the awesome characters he created. This of course, was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The premise was simple, Buffy Summers, an all-American high school girl is chosen by destiny to be a super hero against the forces of the night. She happens to move to a little town called Sunnydale California, which just happens to be located on a portal to Hell, and her mentor, a watcher named Giles just happens to be the librarian there. She makes friends and has monster of the week adventures for several seasons. Along the way Buffy meets her on-again-evil-again boyfriend, a vampire with a soul named Angel, played by a young David Boreaniz. What really made this thing come alive was the spectacular characters Whedon wrote these people to be. Buffy is a sarcastic teenager who wants nothing more to live a carefree life but has nothing but worries and cares as she's constantly being tasked to save the world. Throughout the series she creates a  fantastic juxtaposition within herself between trying to maintain the innocence of youth with the responsibilities of being an adult.
Surrounding Buffy are her best friends, Xander and Willow. The pair are lifelong best friends who meet Buffy when she moves in and join her in her quest against evil, being nicknamed the Scoobys. Xander has actually been a subject of study in college level gender studies classes, since his character is just an awkward teenage boy from a low income home trying to become a man despite being constantly overshadowed by women, namely Buffy, who are stronger than him. Willow goes through what's probably the most dramatic character shift throughout the series, starting out as a shy and introverted computer nerd and progressing to being a full fledged witch and lesbian. Homosexual tones aside, She's a perfect example of finding oneself as well as learning to adapt to one's mistakes, since at one point her witcheness gets out of control and she becomes the villain for several episodes.
Of course, nobody can forget the infamous tragic romance that is Angel. The vampire was cursed by gypsies to regain his soul, which seems like a stupid idea for a curse, except that it causes him guilt for all the evils he committed as one of the world's cruelest vampires. It also makes him a good guy, there to help Buffy defeat the many evils she must face, and easier on Buffy when she falls in love with him. Unfortunately the curse has one nasty little side effect that nobody ever tells him, should Angel ever feel a moment of perfect happiness, the curse will break and his soul will be removed once again. The reason why someone should've told him this is that he experiences that one moment of happiness when he sleeps with Buffy, a plot point emphasized in every horror movie since forever that as soon as the teenagers have sex the monster will come to eat them. Buffy ends up having to kill him, but before that his soul is restored, but then he comes back and they have this whole thing of we-shouldn't-be-together-but-we-love-each-other that puts Edward and Bella's to shame, and he goes off and stars in his own spin-off. Whedon was able to write this soap operaesque romance in a way that actually gave it emotional weight. You know you're watching a show about vampires falling in love with teenagers, but it somehow get's pulled off right. It probably helps that Buffy is a fully realized, fleshed out character with more back-story then "She's from Arizona", or the fact that when Sarah Michelle Gellar, the actress playing her acts she actually puts fourth effort, but that's probably just a mystery for the ages.
Despite the title, Buffy and the gang fight a whole wide variety of different monsters and villains throughout the course of the series. Everything from plot convenient demons, rogue slayers, the aforementioned allies turning evil, and some science gone wrong Frankenstein critters show up throughout the series. Even some of the vampires they run into are pretty unique and fun to watch. One of my person favorites is Drucilla, a vampire driven mad by Angel back in his darker days. She's cruel, weird and just unsettling. She feels more like an Anne Rice character then a character on a teenage melodrama, and it works really well.
So if you aren't a die hard fan, or you've been burned by the recent attacks by shiny vampires, don't let it stop you from checking Buffy out. It's a fun adventure with a lot of heart and witty dialogue that keeps you laughing as you fall in love with the characters and remember what it was like to be young, in love, and a stake in your hand.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Trail of Flames - My Travel Log Through Skyrim

I've decided to post a brief (and very incomplete) travel log of my experiences with Skyrim.

Expect heavy spoilers, exposure to my pure train of thought, and use of capital letters.  You have been warned!


La de da.  Character creation.  I don't remember a whole lot here, except that I picked being a Breton.  They have magic resistance after all!  I can't even remember why I picked them.


Wow, I'm in a wagon, look at the people with me.  What, we're prisoners?  Wow, this place is pretty.  What are these guys even talking about?  Where is that place again?  I can't say I've heard of it before.  Wow, these houses are sure realistic looking.  Look, the people are watching us!  People look kind of creepy.  Wow, that execution was gruesome.

I DON'T WANT TO DIE! I haven't been able to kill any monsters yet. :'(

HOLY CRAP! A dragon!

Running around now.  I have a sword and shield!  When do I get to use magic?  Oh, a spellbook.  Wait a second, I had magic from the start?

(At this point I restarted my character from the beginning)


Burning this with flames is fun!  Although this seems kind of weak.  Yeah!  I leveled up!  What is this perk thing?  Oh...interesting.  Flames, frost, or shock.  Hmm... (analysis).  Flames seem to do the most damage for the least magic.  I'll go with them.


(After leaving intro area)

Hmm...can I kill this guy I was just traveling with.  Hmm..

(commence 5 minute long battle where I spent most of the time running away, throwing a few brief gouts of flame and quaffing every last potion in my inventory)

Yeah!  I win!  Wait a second, he's only kneeling down.  Do I get to finish him?  (I applied more flames).  Maybe I need to use a sword to get one of thsoe awesome finishing moves! (tries sword) Wait..why didn't that work?

(Guy stands up and starts attacking me) Whyyyyyyy?!?!

(At this point I restarted at a save before I went on the rampage) Low blow, game, low blow!


Hmm...Riverwood is such a quiet town.  I've finished all the quests to do here.  I wonder what happens if I were to go on a rampage.

(Commends 5 minutes of running around shooting flames out of my hands at people)

What, you can't kill children?! (Yes, I actually said that)


Whiterun is a pretty nice place.  Oh, I have a quest to go pick up this dagger somewhere near Riverwood.

(going to pick up dagger) Why is she shooting FIREBALLS at me?!  This is so unfair! (commence taking cover and trying to counter with my own weak spells)

Oh, now that I've returned the dagger, some guy wants to follow me?  I have to keep him alive?  Grrr.  (after about an hour or two of trying to do other quests with this guy and keep him alive, I get frustrated at how easily he dies)  Why do you through yourself into the fight when you can't fight?! (finally I decide to do his quest)

Ah, here's the cave I need to go in.  And NOW a dragon attacks?!  I'm not keeping this guy alive anymore. Into the cave we go!

(Thankfully, he didn't die after that)


Finally, the Impact feat!  Wow...this feat is pretty strong.  As long as I don't run out of magicka, I can keep casting spells and keep people from attacking me!  (Sadly, I run out of magicka before enemies run out of health)


I want to go to Winterhold.  I think I'll travel up the eastern coast with my new horse.  Sure is snowy.  Wow, lots of bears.  Ack, wolves! (horse dies).  Nooooo!! Oh well (loots horse)

Finally, after so long of traveling through the wastes, I can head to Winterhold!


The fireball spell sure is fun!

(fires, misses, enemy emerges intact from the fiery explosion) Eeeeek!  (more running in fear)

(in another dungeon)  Ha!  This fireball should finish him off, eeeek! (dead body lunges at me)  Oh, when I kill people with fireball, sometimes the spell impact can send them in odd directions (this leads to much entertainment and terror.  Having newly defeated monsters lunge at me is not my idea of fun, watching them fly across the room is!)


Ah, finally I get to the famous Solitude.  Hey look, an execution.  Lots of people here.  Hmm... (throwing fireballs around, making town guards angry).  Oh, I'd better heal, I'm about to- (dies)  Well...that just happened.


Oh, my enchanting skill is getting kind of high.  I guess I can enchant some things.  (browsing enchantments) Wow, I can stack these enchantments that make my fireballs cost less magicka to cast, and I can improve my carrying weight!  (makes some new items).  Wow, cheaper fireballs is soooo nice!

(several hours and more enchantments later) Wow, free fireballs are soooo nice!  This so breaks the game.


Being able to stun lock things near infinitely with my high level fire spell is getting kind of boring.  Hmm...

Hey Ulfric, you're some great hero, right?!  (casting fire magic of Ulfric, who "dies" in one hit).  Well, that was disappointing (this is said while dancing around his throne room, decimating his guards)  Well, that wasn't satisfying at all!  (running around throwing fireballs everywhere, including into the kitchen just to make all the objects in the room scatter)


Yeah!  I've maxed out my Destruction magic skill and now I can get the Master level spells!  (after some Google searches and some effort, I acquire the highest level magic skills)  OK, these should be...well, this is a bit disappointing.  (I found the fire and ice spells to be a bit disappointing, unless they were used to start fiery rampages).  Now, the lightning one...holy awesome!  Lightning chain gun!!!

(tries Master lightning spell in dungeon, dies) Well...those are useless.

Sadly, The Master level fire spell is not this epic.


Ah, Solitude, we have a rematch! (after five minutes, all the people that can die, are dead, and I'm mostly running around getting bored for lack of new things to burn)


OK, time to finish the final quest line.

Wow, that's pretty cool.

Whoa, epic.

Holy awesome!!!

Fire raining from the sky!  That was an awesome final boss fight! (even though I "broke" the game)


Well, Skyrim was a pretty awesome game.  I obviously have at least a hundred hours more of game play to put in it, although after I figured out how to cast fireballs for free, the game got incredibly easy.  Only archers were annoying at that point (especially because they were so hard to hit!).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lego Awesomeness

Our normal Monday writer T.J. is busy celebrating the birth of his new baby! We wish him congratulations and all the best with new baby Hannah! :) So I'm taking over today.

Today I want to showcase the coolest toy ever-Legos! I personally have a massive collection, including Hogwarts, The Black Pearl and the Death Star.
I would love to go on about how I've collected Legos my entire life, how much they've helped shape my creativity and imagination and helped make me into the person I am now, and how awesome I am for just having them in my possession. But unfortunately I have finals coming up. What I will share though is some of Lego's new products coming out soon.
First, is the new Avengers and X-Men Legos. If anyone is wondering, I would give my arms for the Magnito/Deadpool/Wolverine set.

The second makes every cell in my little geek heart tingle. It's Lord of the Rings Legos, people! Find something more awesome!

Oh, and just because I like showing off, here's Hogwarts.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Creature Feature - Sky Bison

With Avatar: Legend of Korra coming out tomorrow, I figured it was time to write something on that big beloved animal from the first series, Appa the Sky Bison. He never had any lines, rarely fought, and only has one story arch all to his own in the series, but he's a beloved character just as much as anyone else on the show. So let's take a look at Sky Bison.

I know last week I said that you can't judge an entire species on the one character, but Appa in Avatar the Last Airbender was, then, the last of his species. So in order to explore Sky Bison we need to look at Appa. The series liked to create its own special creatures by combining different animals together, hence why we see lemur bats, platypus bears, and badger moles. Sky Bison seem to be a combination of a buffalo, beaver and some sort of insect considering their six legs. Standing at about 12 feet tall and about three times as long and despite not having wings the creatures can fly. Throughout the series, Aang and company use Appa as a ride in their journey around the world, so the creature is half support character and half plot device.

Appa himself is Aang's spirit animal, and his best friend. He was frozen with Aang in the South Pole, and escaped the extinction of his species with the Air Nomads. In the third season Aang reveals that the Air Nomads learned Airbending from the Sky Bison, thus young Airbenders are given Sky Bison pups (Calves? Kittens? Young?) to train. So Appa and Aang knew each other almost their entire lives.
Besides transport, the most significant part Appa played in the show was strangely enough when he wasn't there. During season two, Appa is kidnapped by a tribe of Sandbenders, so for several episodes Aang and the crew have to walk to wherever they go. Aang, a normally level-headed and peaceful person, comes completely unglued when he finds his beloved Sky Bison lost, going straight into Avatar mode and nearly obliterating the kidnappers. Eventually it's revealed that Appa was sold to a circus where he was abused, then bounced around between enemies and general bad people until he ended up with the Kyoshi warriors. Recognizing the Avatar's bison, they clean him up, nurse his physical and emotional wounds, but abandon him when they're attacked by the Fire Nation. Appa is eventually captured by the Di Li, and is freed by Prince Zuko and Iroh to be found by Aang. It's one of the emotional highlights of the series to watch both Aang and Appa's anguish over losing each other and their pure joy to be reunited.

A new species of Sky Bison has been discovered in Legend of Korra, so we conviently have them back in the series. They're not going to be as big as Appa was, but it'll still be nice to see the iconic creature in the show. Overall they're a really cool animal, and it's nice to see something that wasn't blatantly ripped off from The Big Book of Myths. Sky Bison are flying six legged giant cows, what more could you want?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Avacyn Restored preview

Just a quick shout out today to the new Magic the Gathering set, Avacyn Restored. Here's a sneak peek at the new card, Avacyn Angel of Hope.
Just to let you know, this is NOT fan made. This is the real deal from Wizards of the Coast. I'm so excited to get my hands on one of these! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Daria-Good Clean Fun

So once upon a time, in the days where MTV was more than just a place to showcase reality TV and bimbos on parade, there was an extremely popular show called Bevis and Butthead. The show's crude humor was all the rave with teenage and college boys. Now when someone pitches a spin-off, it's expected that the spin-off will be essentially the same thing, IE Angel, or at least with one of the main characters, IE Frasier. Bevis and Butthead's spin off, though, is about a minor character and has nothing to do or even references it's original work. Daria is so far removed from Bevis and Butthead it actually surprises people that they're related at all, and that's probably the best idea the writing staff had, besides the brilliant storylines, dialogue, characters, story archs, and the overall show.

Daria follows the life of Daria Morgendorffer, a high school student trying to survive her teen years with a level head and a sharp tongue. Described in one episode as the "Anti-Teen", Daria is not interested in looks, clothes, boys or popularity, but is instead interested in viewing the world through sarcasm colored glasses. The show centers around her and her best friend Jane being forced through the ridiculous hoops of high school and life while looking at it through the perspective of the outsider, and as outlandish as most of the other characters are, there's a piece of truth to be found in every episode.
If that description wasn't enough to separate it from Bevis and Butthead, the fact that the show is pretty much clean should seal the deal. For the most part the jokes focus more on observational humor, sarcasm, and play on words. On the rare times when they have a more "dirty" joke it's always done in good taste and without crudeness. The storylines are never about who's sleeping with who or who wants to sleep with who, in fact the only time sex is addressed is in one of the last episodes, tastefully done, and, spoiler alert, they end up not having sex! Imagine a story about teenagers that don't sleep together!
So what are the stories like? Well one example is one of my favorite episodes, "I Don't", Daria and her family attend the wedding of her cousin. Daria, who can never catch a break, has to be in the brides maids line even though her dress doesn't hang properly and can't be tailored to do so. As the festivities continue, Daria's mother get's drunk and picks a fight with her aunt, the pastor gets into a fist fight with Daria's sister's escort, and Daria and her favorite aunt have to flee the carnage. Once they're safely at a local bowling alley, Daria asks if life is just going to be one endless line of stupidity forever, and her aunt tells her that though it can feel that way, it doesn't mean you have to put up with it.
Another classic is the episode "Arts and Crass". Daria and Jane are forced to join a school poster contest, with the theme of student life in the new millennium. Jane paints a beautiful picture of a teenage girl staring into a mirror and Daria couples it with a poem about bulimia. The concept wasn't to offend, but to show that the main stream pretty high school girl shouldn't necessarily be the ideal one should look to or expect. The school administration love the poster but hate the poem, so they steal it, change the poem and display it. Daria and Jane then sneak into the presentation to deface their own work. This actually creates one of my favorite scenes in the series. Jane's brother, Trent, drives the girls to the school for their heist.
Trent: Okay, I'm going to sit here with my gas on the pedal for when you guys come back out.
Jane: Trent, go pull over there and turn the car off in case you fall asleep.
Trent: Plan B. Cool.
So the girls get in trouble and inevitable their parents are called. Daria's mother, who originally opposed the poster almost as much as the administration, is called first and in a very awesome scene of mother bear/attack attourney where she tells the principal exactly how illegal what she did was, and how if she doesn't want legal reprocussions to let the girls go. It's an awesome scene and I highly reccamend it.
Most cartoons made for adults are just that-adult. But they're only adult in the sense that they are stuffed full of sexual references and crude humor. Daria proved that adult comedy could just simply mean a bit more of a high-brow approach to things, as well as taking a realistic look at the stupidity that life is sometimes made up of. This is definitely one to check out if you have the chance.