Monday, August 26, 2013

Momma's Boys

The Book of Mormon has a great story in it about being a good ol' momma's boy. Of course, I'm referring to the 2,000 Stripling Warriors aka the Army of Helaman.

For those that don't recall/know the story, let me just quickly tell it to you. The men of the People of Ammon having been former war-loving Lamanites,  had buried their weapons upon following Ammon's gospel teaching. They made a covenant to never shed blood again as they had done far too much bloodshed in their lives.

When the Lamanites began attacking the Nephites, inciting another war, the men of the People of Ammon wanted to end their covenant to help protect the people who had spent the last decade protecting them. Instead, their sons decided to form a battalion, requesting that Helaman be their captain. Helaman led these boys (as Helaman himself refers to them as "young") into battle with the Lamanites. And Helaman had this to say (Found in Alma 56:45-49):

46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will anot suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
 47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the aliberty of their bfathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their cmothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
 48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their amothers, saying: We bdo not doubt our mothers knew it.
I find this to be an awe inspiring moment. Especially verses 47 and 48. The earlier verse there mentions that they had been taught by their mothers. And the second idea of "We do not doubt our mothers knew it" is just priceless.

This is actually a topic I've been thinking on lately. In my family, I was definitely the momma's boy. I'm the youngest, the baby. My mom did indeed give me preferential treatment as the baby. However, I also always did things for my mom. I rarely recall a time my mom actually got her own glass of water. When I got my license and because of her cancer and such, I was the one that would drive her everywhere. Despite my dad thinking I was just being lazy, there were days I didn't go to school so I could take my mom to a doctor's appointment. Yeah, I did like not going to school, but my mom had a strong fear of driving for some reason. She even wrote me once while on my mission to tell me that she drove herself.

And that leads me to what got me thinking on this topic. For those who don't know, my mom passed away over 11 years ago now from cancer. I was on my mission at the time. I did have some warning. And sometime between the time I found out she was going to pass and the time she did (just 10 days later), I decided to mail a box of letters I'd received to my sister. At the end of last month, my sister found that box and sent it to me as a nice surprise.

Last night, I finally took time to sit and go through them. They are date from February 2002 until July 2002 (about 4 weeks before she passed). I decided I wanted to read them in order and out loud with my wife, as my wife has never had the opportunity to meet my mom and only knows her from the few stories my family and I tell when we get together.

Despite the TMI my mom seemed to share about things, the second letter I read was the one that was the hardest to get through. My wife and I were both crying as my mom talked about how I was her baby and she would always worry about me. It was a great reminder of how much my mom loves me.

So even though I was mocked for being a momma's boy growing up. Even though so many people look at momma's boys as wusses and horrible for society (sometimes, not all the time). I say I had a good relationship with my mom and I don't care what anyone else thinks. And the next time someone thinks your relationship with one of your parents isn't the most socially cool, they don't know how long you may have with that parent. And neither do you.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Geeks and the "Milo Complex" - A Guest Post by Casey Winters


My name is Casey Winters, and I grew up on a healthy diet of Star Wars, Zelda, and nerdy cartoons: Batman, X-Men, Ninja Turtles. I still play with action figures. And before I was married, I slept beneath my parents' stairs Harry Potter-style.

I graduated college last year with a degree in English/creative writing, and I also became a dad. I work as a book editor for a publishing company, and I'm currently writing a book for young readers. Feel free to check out my blog, where I talk about robots, beards, and never growing up.

I found Mormon Geeks a few months ago, when I was thinking about the effect my love for escapism was having on me, for good and bad. With a dash of Google and a few pounds of divine intervention, I stumbled upon Stephen's 2012 post, Escaping Escapism. His post is spot on, and I've re-read it multiple times. This post takes inspiration from that one.

If there is one book that encompassed my childhood, one book that I was compelled to read every year, it was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I think we all have one story that we feel is our own. The Phantom Tollbooth is mine. Its play on words and phrases is perfect for the budding language geek, and its growth of the main character, Milo, is something I've carried with me since the first time I read it.

But he can't grow without a weakness:
"When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in." 
I wouldn't call Milo an escapist or geek until the end of the story. In fact, he's mostly bored with life rather than over-stimulated, but there's still a connection here. Milo exemplifies a weakness I believe many geeks face if our escapism isn't kept in check—the disregard of the present. I like to call it the "Milo Complex" (because it sounds official).

In a lot of ways, I'm Milo at the beginning of his story, not because I'm bored, but because I have a problem focusing on the present. I'm looking either backward or forward.

Is it possible geek life can compound this weakness? Escapism is arguably the biggest double-edged sword geeks face: it can be one of our greatest blessings, but it can also affect us negatively.

We spend most of our "geek time" within other worlds. With our tendency to be passionate about specific subjects, and to spend much of our time in introspective pursuits, we can easily lose our balance in reality and in the present moment. Escapism can affect our life negatively even when we aren't in that other world.

And lately I feel like I'm in this negative space.

I love both fantasy and science fiction. This means at any given time I might be escaping into some speculative world. But this can easily bleed into real life. At times I find myself thinking about a book I just read or a movie I just watched at the expense of the present conversation or activity. Or perhaps I'm always looking ahead, hoping for the next moment of free time to dive into one of these worlds. I am Milo.

I also get nostalgic easily. Every couple of months I have a “nostalgic trip,” where suddenly I'm on Facebook, looking at pictures of “the good old days.” Not only am I looking, but I find myself wishing I could go back. The worst part is my present life is not depressing. I have much to be grateful for. I know how foolish and sad it is to lose sight of the present. 

I'm ashamed that I would neglect my life and family in the present in favor of nostalgia of a long-gone past or in anticipation of a fictional future. But if I let it, the combination of living in other worlds and my natural disposition to daydream can be a spiritually and emotionally deadly cocktail.

I don't intend to say all geeks are like this. I'm merely using my life as an example of this inability to focus on the present. Chances are you face some similar weakness.

So what do we do?

I don't have many answers, really. In Stephen's post, he gives plenty of good advice for finding a balance. I do, however, have a possible solution, something that seems to be working for me. It's in the “trial phase,” so to speak:

A separate-but-related weakness I find myself sinking into over and over again is losing sight of my priorities. I forget to put God first. And I've been wracking my brain for ways to do it.

So, like any nerd, I made a list:

1. God
2. Family
3. Work
4. Hobbies (non-work-related geek stuff)
5. What else is left? Eating?

This list killed two birds with one stone. (Or, two mynocks with one laser? Sorry, had to.) In any given situation, I've asked myself what number the present moment falls into. And setting it up as a list magically reminds me what my priority is. For example, let's say I'm spending time with my wife and son. I think, "That fits into number 2." The real magic comes from realizing, "This moment is not number 4," which means I've turned off the pop culture-focused thinking. Instead I'm there, in the present.

This strategy is a work-in-progress. I continue to stumble. I don't remember my priorities in every situation every time. I still forget to live in the present. Yet when I do remember, it seems to work, despite (or because of) its simplicity. I'm losing sight of my Milo Complex. In a way, I've changed Milo's line to:
"When he was with family, he was happy to be with family, and when he was out, he was glad to be out."
A few weeks ago, with this post traipsing through the back of my mind, I accidentally stumbled upon an interview of Hugh Jackman. I admire Jackman's positivity in real life (plus he has a lot of nerd cred). The interviewer asked him something along the lines of, “What is most important?”

He said, “Living now.” Whatever you're doing, be present, give it all your attention.

Similarly, in October 2012, President Uchtdorf spoke about living in the present in his talk, Of Regrets and Resolutions:

"Doesn't it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?

"Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition.

"Do we say our prayers with only the 'amen' or the end in mind? Of course not."

I think this thought applies directly to this post in many ways. Do we live our lives ignoring the present because we can't wait to escape?

I'm not condemning escapism, nor am I saying geekiness is a switch that can be turned on and off so easily. In fact, I think this is what makes us unique. It's something we should embrace, as long as we find the right balance with reality. It's all a matter of focus.

So let me end on a positive note about all of this: We geeks are an important breed. We're the dreamers. We're the creators. We live in stories because stories are important. We escape to other worlds not only because they might seem better than our real lives and not only to run away. We escape because stories change us. We run away so we can come back as better people.

How does Milo overcome his own inability to live in the moment? He becomes an escapist and dreamer, but with the right balance. 

His escapism informs his reality, rather than replacing it.

When Milo returns from his great adventure in another world, he finds himself missing it already. He's on the cusp of returning to his depression, not because he's bored like before, but now because reality seems less exciting than the magical world:

"And yet, even as he thought of all these things, he noticed somehow that the sky was a lovely shade of blue and that one cloud had the shape of a sailing ship. The tips of the trees held pale, young buds and the leaves were a rich deep green. Outside the window, there was so much to see, and hear, and touch—walks to take, hills to climb, caterpillars to watch as they strolled through the garden. There were voices to hear and conversations to listen to in wonder, and the special smell of each day.

"And, in the very room in which he sat, there were books that could take you anywhere, and things to invent, and make, and build, and break, and all the puzzle and excitement of everything he didn't know—music to play, songs to sing, and worlds to imagine and then someday make real. . . .

"'Well, I would like to make another trip,' he said, jumping to his feet; 'but I really don’t know when I'll have the time. There's just so much to do right here.'"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stephen's Game with Ender

So, as many of you know I have become addicted to reading and as soon as I finish one book I just have to go and consume another.  The book I just finished has been a staple in geek culture.  The book is also by the LDS author Orson Scott Card.  It is none other than the classic called Ender's Game.

This post isn't so much a review as it just a collection of my thoughts on the book.  I've found that books and movies I'll read will often line up with things going on in my life.  When I first saw the movie Kung Fu Panda I was dealing with a lot of aspirations and doubts of becoming a famous animator someday and joining the heroes I idolized.  What was interesting about reading Ender's Game is that I felt like I could empathize with Ender much more than I thought.  More on that later.

First, a brief summary of this book.

Ender's Game is a story about a young boy named Andrew "Ender" Wiggin who is accepted into a military Battle School at the age of 6.  He is the youngest in his family of 3 kids.  He's also very shy.  I was also a pretty shy guy when I was a kid.  I did almost a 180 and became pretty extroverted when I hit 8th grade. (A miracle when you consider the nightmare of 7th grade.  *shudder*  Who actually likes 7th grade?)  I still have introverted tendencies and this allowed me to feel more connected to him.

Anyway, so Ender goes to the earth-orbiting Battle School in order to prepare for a future invasion of an alien race nicknamed "Buggers."  Buggers have invaded the earth twice now with a devastating toll on the earth's civilization.  Ender is one of many children who are trained at a young age to prepare for possible future invasions.  In Battle School, Ender is manipulated by adults to be the best commander he could possibly be and bring out his killer instinct.  What happens to Ender at Battle School would make the CPA send a SWAT team for a quick extraction and then complete destruction of the Battle School.  Ender is isolated and allowed to be tormented by his older peers.  Ender rises above these challenges and begins to investigate a conspiracy in a controversial and taut ending. (SPOILERS AHEAD!!)
"Hey Ender, you're a genius so we're going to make everyone hate you."

The fascinating thing about the story is how perfect Ender is.  He's a bright military strategist child prodigy who overcomes any and every trial thrown at him.  The real conflict Ender faces is in the loneliness he feels as a genius/commander and being controlled by the adults.  While reading it I thought to myself, "Card is breaking all the rules.  Ender has no weaknesses... at least not in his talent.  Why is this book so engaging despite that?"  I'm not 100% sure but it seems the conflict of Ender trying to face his inner demons and the conflict with the teachers is what makes the book engaging.  He's a genius and incredibly gifted.  How do societies treat these people?  Like Gods?  Like tools?

In my life right now, I actually feel like there's a lot of great things happening in my life.  My future and internship actually look pretty promising.  I'm even one of the best employees at my call center job.  What's interesting is that I've also been facing a lot of isolation like Ender.  Ender struggles with his killer tendencies that the human race needs to bring out of him in order to be protected from annihilation.  Thankfully, I'm not experiencing all that pressure.  My reasons for solitude are, of course, quite different.

Still, I could definitely relate to Ender.  Ender really wanted to connect with his soldiers and his peers at battle school.  Externally, the teachers of Battle School have set up emotional and logistical situations to cause him to be isolated.  Internally, Ender quietly battles with accepting his killer instinct and keeps students at arm's length probably not feeling worthy for such connections.  He narrates that he must be seen as a commander and not as a friend.  Even then, I feel the deeper issue for him is that he doesn't believe he's worthy of connection.

There's an interesting commentary on friendship within Ender's Game.  There are friendships that form from a common enemy, friendships that form from being in a minority or being outcasts, there are friendships that form from assignment, and friendships formed from a common goal.  Orson Scott Card doesn't say if one is more important than the other but explores how these relationships exist in Ender's world.

In Ender's first year of Battle School he is bullied by another boy in his group named Bernard.  Bernard teases some of the other boys in their group and this give's Ender an advantage in forming friendships with the other boys mocked and abused by Bernard. One of those boys is Shen.  Though the quality of friendship isn't very strong, Shen is a solid friend for Ender up until he's promoted.

Petra is a friend that Ender makes because she is the only girl in the Salamander Army.  Both of them are gifted outcasts that learn from one another.  Like his other friends in the Novel, Ender questions the validity of his friends when he becomes a commander and is forced into isolation once again.

After graduating early from Battle School, Ender goes to Commander school and is assigned a mentor and war veteran named Razer Mackhem.  Razer tells Ender that he is not his friend and must remain his teacher.  The dynamic is that Razer actually is Ender's friend.  Razer will not comfort Ender or is ever a listening ear to him but few characters understand Ender better.  Both Razer and Hyrum Graff are commanders and mentors to Ender that show compassion by challenging him.  Though they have the appearance of being enemies and in some ways were "assigned" to be Ender's friend, they are probably some of the most important.  I think as a church people we forget how important home teachers are for this reason.  Sure, they may have been assigned to be our friends and support but that doesn't make their love for us any less sincere.

Alai is a friend that Ender finds when he presents his ideas to practice battle maneuvers.  Alai becomes a very close friend to Ender and has a deep emotional bond.  This bond comes from the two knowing one another in a way that only comrades could know one another. They are both simultaneously scared and determined.  They're on a spiritual wavelength and quality that is only seen in friendships like King David and Jonathon or Frodo and Sam. What breaks my heart about this friendship is that Ender describes it as the word "we" coming more readily than the word "I" right when an emotional wall forms between himself and Alai.  Ender speaks of them as two trees with intermingled roots separated by a wall.

The wall that separates Ender from Alai comes when Ender is made a commander of an army and cannot practice with Alai anymore.  Alai isn't in his army and they will have to compete against one another.  One could argue that before they competed with one another and not against.  Ender is hurt and feels alone when this happens.  He wonders if he'll ever be friends with Alai again.  At this same point in the novel, Ender questions the loyalties of Petra and some of his other friends as well.

So, what's the point of building friendships with these people if it's only for a moment in Ender's life?  Why put forth the painful effort in being vulnerable if your heart is simply doomed for heartache?

I don't know if Orson Scott Card has an answer for us.  He seems to imply that many of these friendships, if they're true, never go away.  Ender at the end of the book finds himself surrounded by his friends.  Yes, they do acknowledge and respect him as a commander but they also know he is their trusted friend.  He also implies that we can find friends in unlikely places.  Throughout the entire book, the human race perceives the bugger race to be the enemy and is hated.  At the end of the book, Ender receives a message from the buggers and finds that they weren't the enemy thought to be.

Heartache, pain, fear, sadness, anger, it's all a part of growing up.  I've found that solitude is healthy from time to time but isolation destroys me.  It's painful to reach out beyond my comfort zone especially when I've been hurt before.  What I've learned from Ender's Game is that it takes courage and it is not without it's losses.  Despite that, it's always worth the risk.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Civ 5: Brave New World

Hi I am Tracee McClellan, I am 30 years old and married to a wonderful geeky man named Mike. My specialty is speculative fiction books. But, I also dabble in other areas such as gaming (table top, computer, and platform games)and movies. I also have a degree in history but I don’t know if that counts much toward geek cred. My favorite book changes from week to week, but currently the author I have been binge reading is Dan Wells. Usually I just pick an author and then read everything they have out. As for a real world job, I am a graveyard zombie at a manufacturing plant.

So on that note, I want to talk about Sid Miers Civilization V's recent expansion.

First of all I want to make it clear I am obsessed with Civilization, I have played all of it's versions except for the very first one. This new expansion has added back some of the complexity that I remember from the previous version, Civ IV.
This is an example of a painting.  It's kind of cool that they show the actual thing.  The music ones play the actual piece when you get them.

The thing I like about this new expansion is it's new definition of cultural victory. They have added Tourism as a way to boost one's cultural output. They have also added items to boost culture as well, you can even find items by using an archaeologist in late game play. You can also use a leader to create an item. Slight warning with those Items, they will show you either the picture that goes with the item or play the music that the musician has created. I’ve only seen one piece of racy art, it was a Picasso so just be aware you might have to click out of those depending on your definition of aesthetics, and the appropriate. 

This graph shows your cultural victory progress

Cultural victory is achieved when you produce enough influence over your neighbors that you are basically overpowering their own culture. To paraphrase the leaders of the other groups, “We buy your jeans and listen to your Rock and Roll."  And of course it is accompanied by a sad faced slightly irritated computer animated leader.

They have also put greater emphasis on trade and on diplomatic relations with other cultures. How that has translated to game play is that the AI can be a little more aggressive when you are in a weaker position.   The AI has ganged up on me on more then one occasion and once you have three civs at war with you at once, you are going to lose if your not more advanced.
Caravans have been added.  They can be used to trade not only for gold but you get science bonus’s and luxury resources from whomever you are trading with. Trade is nice but your not the only one who benefits so you have to make sure that the trade from the caravan is more beneficial to you then to your opponent.

They have also added ideologies in for late game. These will give you advantages in how your civ operates. Ideology’s are paid for with culture. They operate similar to the way that religion functions in game.

All in all I love the new options. My only regret about the expansion is that now I have to work my way back up to the prince setting I was trying to challenge, there is always a learning curve with a new expansion in any game.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Girls Not Allowed?!

So, I saw this video recently that some geek girls made about the sexual harassment they get because of being a girl in the geek community.  With this male dominant community of males finding safe haven of being unusual and a zealous love of interests, it would be easy for many of them to be threatened by new comers.  That said, I'm really surprised and pretty embarrassed that these girls have gotten this kind of treatment.  Many geeks and nerds have been the target of ridicule and abuse, it makes me sad to know they've treated a girl this way.

(Some slightly explicit written language in the video.)
Also, these guys are totally shooting themselves in the foot!  I would love to have a girlfriend/wife with the same nerdy interests as me.  A girl that can hold her own in Magic: The Gathering and knows what I'm talking about when I talk about the X-Men is really attractive.  One of my friends, that is a girl, really likes Star Trek and I find that it is one of her more interesting quirks and quite endearing.  If these guys acted like gentlemen they could find a great romantic partner for them.
Felicia Day is the iconic geek girl.

Girls totally belong in the geek community.  In fact, I don't know if I would like the geek community without the feminine influence.  Some of the best cosplayers at conventions tend to be girls with high quality costumes.  Look at Felicia Day.  Felicia Day has pioneered online television and has been a voice for geeks around the world.  She's also a great example of balancing work and play and moderation in all things.  Felicia Day was at one point in time very addicted to World of Warcraft and had a very unhealthy attachment to it.  After seeing a counselor she kicked her addiction in the butt.  She didn't quit being a geek or games.  She just found a healthy balance and opened up creative outlets by making the Guild and later making Geek and Sundry.  I'm really glad she's so involved.

Another geek girl I love is my sister.  My sister Ashley is one of my closest friends.  We would play Dungeons and Dragons together growing up. We were even part of the same DnD group before she moved to Arizona.  (We had Tiefling brother and sister characters.)  It's so awesome to have a sister that understands my language when I talk about nerd stuff and shares the same interests as me.  Ashley even plays more video games than me.  In some ways, she's way more nerd than I am.

So with all of these awesome nerd girls in the community, why would guys not want them around?

Well, I think it's because guys like having an exclusive place to be with other guys.  Girls actually like this too and finding that is easy.  I know I've totally been one of those guys that feels threatened by a girl entering in an all male club.  Even though, I love DnD more with at least one girl in the group, I've also felt resistant to women entering a up-until-this-point male space.  What I've found is that an exclusive male space is okay to have.  It's normal for a guy like me to want that.  Girls want exclusive female groups and spaces too.  It's normal for them to have and want it as well.  Just look at all the female only gyms you have out there.

So is it okay to organize an all male DnD group, book reading club, or Magic tournament?  Yes.  State that when you first set up the group.  I get and understand why it's important to have a male space.  But would any of you guys really want to miss out on the joys that come from having women at comic con and FNM?  I know I wouldn't!  So guys, organize your male spaces and then when you go to Hastur's, Blakfyre, Dragon's Keep, Epic Games, or the Salt Lake Comic Con.  Be gentlemen to the ladies there.  They've gotten enough trash from the world outside and are there to have fun.  Don't just be civil, be welcoming and get to know them.  You will definitely find great friends among them and maybe even something more.

So Ladies, great job on being geek despite the backlash you may or may not have received.  Be patient with some of these guys.  Be understanding in how important male space may be to them.  (Or they may simply have insecurities about themselves and that results in them being douchey.) These guys are sometimes jerks to each other too so their actions aren't always because you're a woman.  Even if it is, that's their problem and has nothing to do with your self worth and contribution to the geek community. (Which I, definitely appreciate.)

In the end, if you need guy's/girl's night then go for it.  No one is stopping you from finding that.  When you go to the comic book store, play magic, or go to the midnight showing of Star Trek, there's no need to feel superior in your nerdness because you're a man that knows Vulcan.  The people around you, male and female, know what it's like to feel socially awkward and love unusual things.  They may have also been the targets of ridicule.  You're surrounded by friends at these events, would you really want to put up walls just because of their gender?
Yes, it will be this awesome.
This September 5th, 6th, and 7th will be the Salt Lake Comic Con.  Yours truly will be there.  I have plenty of guy friends that share my interests and some will even be at the con with me.  There will even be speed dating events I plan to get involved with.  Sure, women can be pretty intimidating sometimes but it's them I'm looking forward to meeting.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Batman vs. Superman movie: Joe weighs in

People have been asking me what my thoughts are on the Batman/Superman movie that was announced at Comicon.
And my thoughts are… Eh?
Then I heard that the heroes will be adversarial. And I thought… Eh?
Batman and Superman have been the biggest super heroes in the world for decades, arguably until the Avengers film franchise came out, so the question of who would win in a fight is anything but new. The debate in most comic book stores between fans ends in one of two ways: Either Batman employs some sort of bat-gadget, usually utilizing Kryptonite in some way, or Superman occasionally smashes Batman’s head into the moon.
Either way, the fight doesn’t take long.
Comic book writers have endeavored to make the fight last longer, usually coming up with contrived reasons to hinder Superman, which is usually counterproductive to the contrived reasons they have as to why Batman and Superman are fighting in the first place. It’s hard to justify why Superman would be turned evil enough to take on his best friend but not evil enough to kill him.  As interesting as some of these comics get, nearly all status quo has to be restored by the end so nobody actually dies or ends up horribly disfigured. This usually makes the fights seem more like an episode of Jerry Springer than an epic battle.
All that being said, I am glad that they’re doing the super hero equivalent to a buddy cop movie instead of blatantly ripping off the Avengers… to a point. Since the Avengers ripped off the Justice League in the comics in the first place it’s nice to see the cycle finally end, but maybe DC could’ve taken at least a look at Marvel’s book before starting on the next project.
My biggest problem is Batman. Why do we need another anything with Batman in it? Since 1989 there have been seven Batman films released in theaters, eight if you count the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. We’ve also had six animated series in that time that featured Batman as a main character, seven if you count Young Justice. That’s a lot of Batman!
If DC should copy anything from the Avengers it should be their willingness to introduce the general public to some heroes they may not be familiar with. How compelling would it be if Superman, while flying around the world, landed on Themyscira and met Wonder Woman? In the comics they’re currently going out, so it would be relevant, and I think a story about superman having to choose between a near-immortal like himself and the vulnerable Lois would be a far better story than yet another awkward bromace between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.
So at the end of the day I put a weary thumbs up for a Superman vs. Batman movie, with the hope that after this we can finally move away from Gotham City and make the real hit movie: Superman meets the Harlem Globetrotters.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Nephi: Book of Mormon Superhero

Hello, all,

My name is Michael Young and I wear so many hats in life that I should probably start millinery (a.k.a. hat shop).  Most days I put on my instructional designer hat and develop online world language courses. On Sundays and Thursdays, I put on my choir hat and sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Every night, I put on my creative hat and work on creative writing projects and music composing projects. I also wear the fatherhood hat--I've got a great wife and two young sons. And that's just getting started.

You can read more about my writing at and my music at

Did any of you see the “Book of Mormon Movie”? Not the ones put out by the LDS Church. The one that actually went to a few theaters. I think it watches more like a comedy than the drama it purports to be.  I’ll never forget when Laman turns to Lemuel after hearing about going into the desert and says “This is an abomination!”

You know what? I think Nephi’s story instead needs to be made like a superhero movie. Think about it. Nephi-large in statue, a master of disguise, heart of gold, handy with a bow, he’s practically a superhero. He’s like Captain America before there was…America.

A superhero movie, however, is only as good as its cast. The question is, who to cast as the protagonist. Here are a few thoughts:

Chris Hemsworth

Could Thor put down his hammer and pick up a bow? He has already shown his ability to play big, epic characters and surely passes the “large in stature requirement”. He doesn’t look very Middle Eastern though.

Jeremy Renner

We already know that this guy knows his way around a bow and sneaking around cities unobserved. Both things you need in a potential Nephi.

Naveen Andrews

Not only does he better look the part, but he spent most of his career wandering around in the wilderness in LOST. He also proved he could both intense and kind, a combination which Nephi would need.

Just a few suggestions. Who would you add to the shortlist?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gratitude and the Inner Batreaux

While playing the video game The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword I guided Link through a graveyard to try to find a lost little girl.  Turns out this lost little girl was just playing with her demon friend.  The demon introduces himself as Batreaux.  Batreaux says that he can turn back into a human if enough Gratitude Crystals are formed.  Gratitude Crystals are formed when good deeds are done and people feel appreciation for the good deeds done for them.

Batreaux the demon is... a strangely happy demon.
What's interesting is that while Batreaux is still a demon, there are many dangers in Skyloft at night.  The domesticated Remlits (cat creatures) are aggressive and territorial at night.  Bats will attack you and so will glob creatures.  When enough Gratitude Crystals are collected, Batreaux turns back into a human and the dangers that once plagued Skyloft are gone.  Even the Remlits become docile and friendly.

In my own life, I've come to see how I need to express more gratitude to get rid of the spiritual dangers in my life and keep my own inner demons at bay.

The challenge for me when it comes to expressing gratitude is that I want to give my negative emotions a voice.  If I'm disappointed, sad, or angry about something, I want it to be known.  The thing about whining or murmuring is that the viewpoint is focused on negativity and it's prideful.  When I whine, I want my viewpoint and pain to be known and I want to share my misery with someone else.  I'll feel cheated if someone else doesn't see it how I see it and refuse to feel better because of it.  I used to think that any expression of pain and negative emotions had to be murmuring.  Thankfully, I was wrong.

What I've found is that negative emotions and pain is important to be felt and expressed.  What makes mourning different from murmuring is that there's a greater perspective in place.  Mourning loss acknowledges any hurt feelings I may have.  When I mourn I'll allow myself to cry and yell without judgment.  I let the feelings take it's course.  What I've found is that when I allow my feelings to be heard, I'll have peace and that's the perfect time for me to choose to express my gratitude.

It's easy for me to feel like the world is against me and that the cards are stacked against me.  The thing about gratitude is to recognize my trials as blessings and express gratitude even for the smallest blessing in my life.  About two years ago, I got into a card accident that totaled my 2006 Scion tC.  I love that car.  The car was affordable and pretty hot too.  I was so sad that I lost the car.

Human Batreaux looks... the same.
Looking back, I can definitely see how it was a blessing in my life.  Since then, I got a bigger and more practical car that has been wonderful to me.  My Toyota Matrix helped me to move up to Utah with all of my stuff.  If I still had my Scion I would have had to sell most of my artwork and get rid of most of my stuff.  At the time, I was very unhappy that I lost an awesome car.  Today, I'm thankful to even have a set of reliable wheels and made the smart decision to buy a reliable vehicle.  There's a lot of students and people my age that don't have any wheels at all.

Like many of the more inspirational posts that I write, this post is almost more for me than it is for you, the readers.  In Zelda, Batreaux just wants to connect with other people but won't be accepted in his demon form.  In some ways, murmuring puts walls between us and other people and denies us real connection with them.  Expressing gratitude and thankfulness for what we are blessed with in our life humanizes our inner Batreaux and allows us the freedom to make real connection.

I have a lot to be thankful for.  I have a great internship, a solid job, a promising future, and loyal family and friends.  Yeah, I can have a bad day from time to time.  I'm grateful for the opportunities those days bring to help me appreciate the good days and things in my life.  I hope you find some inspiration to find the blessings in your life and change your own inner demons.

 Verily I say unto you my friends, afear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give bthanks; (D&C 98:1)