Friday, November 29, 2013

Joe Reviews: Frozen

So after the holiday glut and the battle royal that is Black Friday, it might be nice to spend the rest of the weekend in the theater, if you aren't already in the emergency room. Disney is happy to accommodate the post-Thanksgiving need with its latest fantasy princess fest Frozen.
Frozen follows Ella and Anna, two princesses of the kingdom of Disney-Copied-Norway Land. As children Ella discovers that she has the power to create ice and snow, and while it's cool at first she accidentally injures her little sister with her power and is told by a pack of trolls that she must learn to control her powers. Her parents, who have apparently have not read any X-Men comics, decide to isolate her and pretend that she has now powers. They don't do this in a cruel way, there's no Fiona's dragon guarded ca
stle scenario happening, they just teach her that isolation would be best so she doesn't hurt anyone else. Years pass and a plot convenient storm wipes out the parents, because Disney is the greatest killer of parents next to a Black Friday deal on Poke'mon cards, and Elsa inherits the throne. At the coronation dance however, Anna confronts her sister about shutting her out their entire lives, Elsa gets upset, reveals her powers, and runs away into the mountains, all while accidentally setting off a cursed winter that freezes the land. Anna then has to head up the mountain and find her sister before the land turns into the last half of The Day After Tomorrow.

Okay, that all took place in the first 20 or so minutes and there's still a lot to go.

Here's the thing about Frozen: It's one of the most complicated Disney films I've ever seen, since I grew up and realized that Fantasia was several small stories and not one long strange story about dinosaurs protecting hippo ballerinas...
The film is complicated not just because of its story but because of its emotions and characters. Frozen explores concepts rarely touched on in Disney films, or even films in general, particularly why some people choose to shut others out and what happens to the people around the isolated. Anna truly loves her sister but at one point just can't keep putting energy and effort into reaching out to someone who has shut her down so completely. It nearly brought me to tears, though I cry at most Disney movies anyway (WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DIE, MUFOSA?!)
Conveying the complex emotions, like in most Disney animated films is of course the music. That whole plot piece I gave you earlier is conveyed almost entirely in song, which is kind of a double-edged sword. The songs themselves range from your average Disney "I want" song to a fun little love ditty I enjoyed, to a sweeping song about isolation and freedom that I'm downloading from Amazon as we speak. The problem is that by the time Elsa gets to the mountains I was getting a bit song weary and with the rest of the movie to go I was leery whenever someone opened their mouth for fear of yet another tune.

Speaking of fearing of opening their mouths, this film has a sidekick that's been smeared across the advertising like dirt on a white rug, a little talking snowman named Olaf. Whenever I'd see this character leading up to the film I cringed, remembering all the stupid Disney sidekicks I've hated in the past, like Pegasus and Zazu, and when I heard this thing got a song I looked for it like one looks for the serial killer in a horror film. Luckily, while Olaf does get tedious near the end, he has some legitimately funny lines here and there and he tends to stay
out of everyone's way most of the time so he didn't really get on my nerves. The sidekick the ads rarely mentioned was this reindeer they meet later on. The thing doesn't talk, but conveys so much personality from his big dopey eyes alone that I fell in love with him the instant I saw him.

So despite the annoying sidekick and the soundtrack that resembles Les Miserable, I highly recommend seeing Frozen. It's Disney not at it's best but actually striving to hit a new best, combining the fairy tale world with emotions real people deal with. Also you noticed that I didn't give a full plot synopsis, that's because there's an actual twist in the film. Yeah, a Disney film has a legitimate twist that's so important I can't talk about it because it would almost ruin the movie.

Well played, mouse. Well played.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews: Fluxx

Hi folks! Today I'm reviewing a game you can play between eating turkey and fighting Black Friday crowds! Remember to like and share this with your friends and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Peeta is no Girlfirend

Minor Spoilers Ahead for Catching Fire/Hunger Games

Catching Fire came out last week.  It's great.  I loved it.  I'm not here to review the movie unless you count the first three sentences of this blog post minus the spoilers disclaimer.  What, or I should say is who, I want to talk about is Peeta.

Peeta is the leading male role in the Hunger Games.  He's picked at the reaping for the 74th and then volunteers for the 75th Quarter Quell.  (They take the pool of tributes from existing victors.)  Peeta has genuine feelings for Katniss though she only allows herself to be more or less indifferent to the boy.  Their romance is only to help them get sponsors for the games.

My roommate and I were talking about how Peeta is more or less the perfect boyfriend.  Katniss really lucked out by having to be stuck with this guy for the rest of her life because if she wasn't, her actions in her first Hunger Games would have been seen as a revolution.  Then, the Capitol would be in trouble and kill all of Peeta's and Katniss' families.  I mean, Peeta gives Katniss a locket of her mother, sister, and Gale. (His competition.)  Peeta does so much for Katniss because he loves her despite the fact that she only lets him in emotionally in small amounts and never returns his affection.

I mean, dang, what is Katniss' problem?  What more could she possibly ask for?

The other day I read this post on NPR that called Peeta Katniss' girlfriend.  They're totally right too.  Katniss is more like a knight in shining armor than she is a damsel in distress.  Katniss is cynical with a watchdog mentality.  She is emotionally detached from killing and does what she needs to in order to survive.  Gale is the stereotypically more manly of her two suitors.  Gale even kisses Katniss just because he feels he had to.  Peeta is often the one needing to be saved in the Arena.  He's also an artist and bakes bread.  (Contemporarily speaking, effeminate jobs.)  So yeah, Peeta is the perfect boyfriend and also the contemporary movie girlfriend.  Weird.

So why does a masculinist like me love Peeta?  Why do I like this guy that does not reinforce traditional gender roles?  Shouldn't I, an avid proponent of masculinity, hate this guy?

No, a character like Peeta is exactly what I think men and boys need to see.

Peeta may be rescued by his girlfriend but he's still a hero in the comfort he gives her. That's a man to me!
Peeta is actually quite masculine.  He's not masculine in our contemporary understanding of masculinity.  He's masculine in the archaic understanding of masculinity.  Peeta is masculine because of his virtues.  He's patient.  He's hard working.  He's loving.  He isn't stoic and expresses his emotions but at the same time doesn't let them control him.  The said cannot be same of Katniss.  Though Katniss is Peeta's superior when it comes to combat (when she has a bow) and survival skills, Peeta has an emotional resiliency and initiative that Katniss does not have.

It seems from about the 1960s that boys have been taught to not cry and to not show emotion.  Somehow, culinary and visual arts were also labelled as effeminate.  I remember in elementary school that I was teased for being artistic which was seen as girly by my peers.  This would be after class when learning that in Michelangelo's time, all artists were male.  Were they even paying attention?  Peeta may not be the sports guy.  He may have a great build and can throw a huge weight and then be rescued by his girl from time to time.  That doesn't make him weak or effeminate.  (And effeminacy is definitely not weakness.)  To me, it's obvious that Peeta is masculine in what masculinity really is.

We need more Peetas in the world.  Peeta would have never written a sexist blog post I read a week ago that argued that skinny women with eating disorders made great girlfriends.  (I will not link you to the blog because they don't deserve the pageviews.)  This blog post reinforced objectification of women and shallowness in attraction.  It furthered stereotypes of men being cheap, shallow, arrogant, and unintelligent.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  The rest of the blog just finished a "fat shaming" week in which they posted hurtful posts pointed towards overweight women.  (They didn't even focus their attention on overweight guys.  The irony.)  They called anyone that went against them fat-enablers.

Is obesity a problem in the United States?  Yes.  (My opinion on obesity for another day.)  Is shaming overweight people the answer?  No!

Shaming has NEVER been the answer.  Peeta never shames Katniss for being emotionally shut off.  He expresses how he feels and asks to at least be friends but he never shames her for being a bit of an ice queen.  The sad thing is that there are guys out there who cling to hatred, objectification, and prejudice of women as what masculinity is when women don't even come into the definition of what being a man is.  (Though will often be a reflection of it.)  They cling to shallow ideas of masculinity like multiple sexual conquests, athletic performance, beer consumption, and beard length.  They may not even necessarily be bad things but shallow and untrue ideas.

One of the manliest guys I knew was a district leader in my mission named Elder Hyde.  Elder Hyde was so cool.  He had a scar that went over his head from extreme water sports.  He hunted, rode bike, and did crazy things.  Elder Hyde had a sense of wildness about him that could only be admired.  All that was cool but that wasn't what made him a man. For the last district meeting he bore his testimony.  He said in tears, "Elders.  Being a man isn't about doing crazy stuff or macking with girls.  It's about the testimony and love that you have of the savior."  His words stuck with me ever since because I realized how manly I am like I hadn't before.

Beowulf, Captain Kirk, Wolverine, and Batman are manly characters, for sure.  These characters aren't bad at all.  (Well, they have character flaws like anyone.  Depending on which story you read they can vary in scale of manliness.)  The reason why characters like Peeta and Simon Tam from Firefly are great is that they show you don't need to be a cigar chomping, emotionally constipated anti-hero, in order to be a man.


Monday, November 25, 2013

On Finishing

Earlier I posted that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo). For a quick refresher, the goal is to write at least 50,000 words during the month. In years past, I've tried to start this, but I end up too buy and/or too sidetracked--I just noticed the comic on my board. It's funny. You should...oh wait, I was saying something else, wasn't I?

Anyway, I seem to have a problem finishing a lot of things in my life. It has always been easy for me to say "I give up" instead of saying "Gotta see this through." But this year, I wanted to finally complete NaNo.

I'm happy to say that I actually did it. Not only did I write 50,000 words. But I actually hit over 60,000 words in 25 days before I can honestly say my book is done from beginning to end.

You'd think I'm done, right? WRONG!!!!! (where's a buzzer?)

Sadly, there are so many people who think "I wrote it, now I can publish it right?" The likelihood of the books written during NaNo to be level with publishing standards are as high as me going to Vegas and winning and $23 million dollars.

I have this author friend, Betsy Schow who wrote this book, Finished Being Fat. It's an awesome book (that one day I'll read.) It's not exactly a weight loss book, although it is the story of how she lost a fair amount of weight. It is, however, the story of finishing. Most people get discouraged and don't finish.

Well, I've had times when I was tempted this past week to not finish through the skillful art of procrastination. There was one day when I discovered I only had about 8,000 words to go to hit 50,000. So I thought "You know what, I can do that later." Then I figuratively smacked the back of my head and said "No, I'm hitting that 50k ASAP!"

The goal isn't to write a quality, five-star book. The goal is to write a book. After I hit the 50k, I thought "Well, I'll get to say 'The End' later." Once again, I hit the back of my head, still figuratively. I reminded myself that I will not finish it 'later' because more than likely, I'll never finish it.

Then I got to the point where I said, I've only got 1 or 2 more chapters to go. I can just let it wait until I do other things. (You can guess what I did to myself...figuratively.) So I'm pleased to say my book is done. It's over 60,000 words, which I was afraid I'd barely hit 50k. So I'm really pleased with myself there.

Is it quality? No. It is a quality story in my mind. One that will be worth trying to publish once I revise. But the goal wasn't quality. Now I have to force myself to take a break before I become burned out and/or obsessive. But I have a date as to when I will get back to it in mind, if not sooner so I can start revising and adjusting so I can feel like I'm submitting my best work to agents and not some junk.

So yeah, I finished the one goal. Now it's time to look at the other one seriously. I couldn't before now because I wasn't ready yet. I want to finish revisions, but I can't do them all at once. I will do that one at a time and over time. When I'm done, it's submitting time and gearing up for rejection! I mean, acceptance! (But there will be rejection and it's okay.)

Anyway, that's all for now.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Child's Journey

The other day Joe showed me a comic called Something Terrible that struck to my core on the website UpWorthy.

Before you read on, read the comic first.


Okay, read it?  Wow.  Pretty powerful stuff, huh?

Dean Trippe is a comic book artist who has done work for Oni Press.  He created the comic Something Terrible to deal with the childhood trauma he dealt with as a child.  He isn't alone in experiencing childhood trauma but survivors of sexual abuse can often feel alone.  It's scary stuff to express these emotions and for him to do so is remarkably brave.

What I love about the comic is it describes exactly why I love geeky stuff like superheroes and comic books.  For many of us, things like Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, and DC Comics are escapes or coping mechanisms to heal from childhood wounds.  It's why well-developed characters in these stories last with us to when we are grown ups.  You could say that these are some of our lifelong friends.

There are lessons that are learned from heroes.  Superman doesn't just give the people of Metropolis hope.  He gives us, the readers, hope. I'm thankful for characters like him when facing my own struggles.  I'm thankful for healthy creative outlets to help me heal from childhood wounds.

Like Dean Trippe, I'm also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  I even told my story in the form of a comic.

For me, I'm actually quite lucky.  My childhood abuse was a one time event.  Though the abuse did lead to other trauma for me, I've found that the consequences of my abuse have been as much as blessing as they have been a trial.  I've discovered strength I never knew I had.  The journey has brought me closer to my Savior.  I'm lucky because I barely even think of the actual abuse anymore.  It isn't a nightmare that is relived when I'm going to sleep.  It's a journey that I've been on.  The storm is over now and it's just summer breeze and broken clouds scattering sunshine.  I still have plenty of trials and wounds to heal from but in terms of my abuse I simply find peace.

I definitely want to add my voice to Dean Trippe's.  Survivors of child abuse are not doomed to become abusers themselves.  I remember hearing at a scout meeting that survivors of child abuse will try to recreate the abuse on other children.  Our boy scout leaders also said that if we were ever touched or abused, we could come to them and our fathers to talk about what happened so we could get help.  I was very afraid of the idea of talking to my father or any of these men.  I was even more afraid of potentially being a predator.  It was at that time that I told myself that what happened to me when I was four was a nightmare and didn't happen.  It was just a weird dream.  I couldn't handle the thought of me being a monster.

In addition to the atonement, my art and geeky pursuits helped me through my childhood and putting my childhood trauma on a shelf.  My childhood was great.  I made great friends and had wonderful experiences.  My abuse didn't become something I looked at until I became an adult.

Please don't make the mistake in thinking that trials like these are simple matters for adults.  Though many other adults may find it strange or a waste of time for grown ups like myself to play Dungeons and Dragons, sometimes it's those experiences for me that are so therapeutic.

One of the favorite characters I've ever role played before is my Tiefling Druid Indifference or "Indy".  Indifference has an evil demon father and was raised by elves.  He looks evil but he is completely good.  Indy wants to do what is right and wants to be good even if it seems like he doesn't care.  What I loved about playing Indifference is the fact that for all intensive purposes he should be the bad guy but chooses not to be.  He has to deal with his very nature being chaotic and sadistic.  The world he swears to protect does not accept or trust him.  Indy may be imaginary but became a great friend to me.  He helped me accept myself as I played him in his journey of self acceptance.

Even if you don't deal with childhood trauma, I hope that you take advantage of the good things in life that uplift us and give us the strength to carry on.  We all have different demons and trials.  I'm thankful for my art, my nerd loves, and for the atonement to help me deal with mine.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews: Firefly

I know we've talked about Firefly a lot on this blog, but it's only because this thing is one of the most awesome things ever. Now I review the board game.
P.S. what board games have you played that are based on a TV show or movie that you've liked?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Joe Reviews: Thor the Dark World

Once upon a time I was a film critic. Due to the flow of life I am sadly no longer a film critic, which is a shame because after seeing Thor the Dark World all I want to do is tell people about this film and analyze what happened to give us…
So without further ado, I am reviewing Thor the Dark World.
When people ask me how Thor the Dark World was I find myself having trouble answering. Was it a good film? I guess, I was entertained. Was it a bad film? Well, no. The best I can say is that it’s a weird film. A very weird film.
The plot takes off from both the end of Thor and Avengers where Loki is locked up on Asgard for trying to invade Earth, and Thor’s love interest in the form of Natalie Portman is hanging out on Earth still broken up that Thor had to return to Asgaard and never returns her calls.Here's where we get my first problem with the film: According to Portman's wacky friend she's been spending most of her time moaping around and eating ice cream, the typical stuff women do in movies when they're heart is broken. THen later Portman tells Thor that she hadn't seen him in two years, so apparently Portman's been so emotionally distraught over the guy she met and dated over a weekend is never coming back. 
That's not romantic people, that's an unhealthy obsession. 
Anyway, we find out through the means of flashback that an evil race of dark elves once tried to destroy all light in the universe with their magic space goo and that the leader of these space elves is going to try and do it again, because now is the time of the great alignment between worlds where they’ll all be connected and he can destroy all light easily but then Natalie Portman accidentally absorbs the goo and Thor has to get it out of her before it kills her…
The film’s biggest problem is the plot.
The problem here is that the film is trying to keep both a magical Lord of the Rings feel while at the same time tie that to the science fiction Marvel universe stuff. I know it’s generally believed that magic isn't real and that what many considered magic in the past was actually just science, but trying to explain stuff that we would call magic now using science is confusing at best and annoying at worst. ***Spoilers*** We spend a majority of time in the first two acts on Asgard and other non-earth worlds and at the beginning of the third act we get back to Earth for a showdown with the dark elf guy when we meet up with Portman’s buddies who conveniently tell Portman that not only have they invented devices to stop the elves but that they know exactly where to find them because the ancient people built some sort of map. This is explained faster than it took you to read this sentence. Then off the heroes go to have this wacky Benny Hill style climax with the bad guys involving world travel and teleporting. These scenes have no context and were barely built up in the beginning of the movie, so the climax just feels like the film went off its anti-psychotics.
For what it’s worth, besides the mess of a plot, most everything else in the film works. The characters are fun if not incredibly deep, the dialogue has some funny moments as well as some serious stuff, and the scenes of Asgard and the other Norse worlds are epic and spectacular. We also either get treated to fanservice or disgusting pandering, depending on which side your on, to both Loki being Loki and Thor running around for three minutes for no reason whatsoever with his shirt off. 
At the end of the day, Thor the Dark World is not the worst movie I've ever seen, far from it, my complaints is that this is the first Marvel movie I’ve walked out of not eager to see it again anytime soon. I still say see it once if for nothing else than for the pure nonsense it delivers, but this is not a film that wants to feed your super hero need, or even really what else the Marvel universe has to offer. This is a film that wants to have fun, almost to spoofing levels, and where it fails in overall plot it makes up for in everything else. So check it out, it can’t hurt, right?
If you've
seen the film write in the comments below your thoughts on it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Learning from the "Other"

There they are.

They may wave a rainbow flag.  They may wear heavy eyeliner, dark make-up, and black clothes.  Maybe they sit quietly to themselves, read books, and wear nose piercings.  Maybe they smoke or drink beer.  They may not be mormon or they may have not been to church in years.

Who are they?

Sometimes we may think of them as the other.  We may not see them as children of our heavenly father but some sort of other species all together.  We may love them but from afar.  Many times we are afraid of them, whoever "they" are.

I'm guilty as anyone as judging others outside of our cultural comfort zone.  Even with my views that I feel challenge the mormon culture social norms, I'll still be afraid of others.  I'll be afraid of being hurt by their opinions and lose myself to inactivity.

I did something different this week.

I thought, "I know where I stand on things.  Would it really hurt to get someone else's perspective?  Am I really afraid of being corrupted?  Isn't to love someone to know them?"

So I read two articles this week.  One was a blog post by a gay gentlemen and the other was a blog post on a male feminist ally.  I was afraid of what I would read even with the confidence I had in my stand in my own opinions.  Funny enough, I actually learned something.  And you want to know what?  I did come to have a feeling of love for these authors just by stepping out of my comfort zone.

I didn't agree with everything I read but I found a lot of common ground with these authors.  The gay author, more or less, argued and warned against codependency in family relationships--especially in romantic ones.  I thought this was actually a great thing to talk about since it is rampant in our society.  The feminist ally talked about things that can be done to become an ally to women.  He talked about great stuff like not objectifying women.  I was afraid that we wouldn't agree on views of masculinity but I found that he had many of the same views that I did.

I learned from someone else's opinion.  I didn't really change my own opinions.  If anything, I actually felt like I was strengthened in them.  I saw how valuable a different perspective was and then I realized how valuable my opinion is.

When Joe and I started this blog 20 months ago, I didn't know what it was going to be about.  I knew I wanted to talk about the silly geeky thoughts I had during Sunday School.  I knew I wanted to talk about geek culture and mormons in geek culture.  As I've written posts for this blog I've come to see how passionate I am about Mormon culture as well.

The LDS culture is very xenophobic.  I don't think we even realize it.  We place such a huge emphasis on the family and we are all about protecting the family.  The thing about this is that fear is a huge part of it.  We are so afraid of anything outside of our bubble that it prevents us from doing missionary work and even living commandments.  Yes, we need resiliency to be faithful but we would be missing out on learning so much if we didn't step outside of that comfortable bubble we've come accustomed to.

This goes both ways too.  Many less active or inactive brothers and sisters still have a very strong relationship to the savior and testimony.  They may have been hurt before and left the church not so much because of the doctrine but because of the culture.  They may be afraid to come back to church because they don't want to be hurt again.  For many of these brothers and sisters, their emotional wounds can go very deep and be very traumatic.  They need our support and love even if they don't come back to church.

Think of the sons of Mosiah.  They went on a mission to the Lamanites.  The Lamanite people had a culture vastly different from the Nephites and had developed a new religion.  If they had always thought of the Lamanites as the "other" they would have never gone to their countries to preach the gospel.  The sons of Mosiah took a very dangerous risk but because they did, thousands came to the gospel.

There may be gays that support gay marriage.  There may be feminists that support safe sex to be taught in schools in addition to abstinence.  There may be a democrat in your ward.  (Gasp!)  But these children of God are not some other species.  They are your brothers and sisters.  Hear them out.  Listen to what they have to say.  Have lunch with them.  Invite them to a game night.  Get to know them and you will love them.

"But Stephen, what about our children?!" some of you may say.  Exactly!  What about our children.  Do we want to raise them to be bigots and make fun of anything different?  Do we want to raise them to be swayed with anything new and to be seduced by wicked traditions and lack resiliency in the outside world?  My cousins were raised in New York City.  They are some of the most loving and accepting individuals I know.  I've trusted them with knowledge about myself before telling the rest of my family.

My younger sister and brother didn't have many rules growing up.  In some ways it made me a little undisciplined but it also showed me that my parents truly trusted me.  They taught us correct principles and we governed ourselves.  It's a scary thought to expose our children to environments and peoples that seem strange to us.  To me, it is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and I'm thankful for this gift given to me by my parents.

Let me conclude by saying that I'm thankful to have different people in my life.  I see these beautifully imperfect souls who remind me of my own humanity.  They humble me with much I don't know and have given me a gift to serve them with the knowledge I can share.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews-Bananagrams

I review another board game... And Stephen taught me how to embed videos! :D

Monday, November 11, 2013

National Novel Writing Month

Every year November is National Novel Writing Month. I have failed at participating. Oh I start, but I have yet to complete it. This year, on the other hand, I am intent on finishing. So I am using every free moment I can grasp to get this completely knew and awesome and idea in a Word document. As of yesterday, I was on track to finish. But now I'm behind again. And I'm taking precious time to say hi. Oh and here's a pic of an adorable baby elephant.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's Okay to Ask for Help

Hey friends,

Today's post will be short.  I talked to my manager today because I've been performing great at work but have been consistently late.  (Not professional on my part.)  We talked about it and I told my boss how I've been doing emotionally and that it got into my sleep and effecting my studies.  After talking with her, she reassured me that if I ever needed help to simply ask.

So I asked for a day off this next week to catch up in the heavy work load I have.

It made me realize that I don't ask for help very often.  Sometimes I'll hold on to a silly belief that I need to be stronger and independent.  Really, being independent doesn't mean you don't take care of yourself.  It's okay to ask for what you want or need.  It's okay to ask for a break.

So if you're having a hard time, ask for support.  It will give you the help you need and someone else an opportunity to serve.

Love and Peace!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews: Dominion

It's Wednesday, and you know what's easier to do than write a full post when you have two jobs and go to school full time? Film yourself geek out over board games! So check out my latest board game review of Dominion!
Check out my review below! :D