Monday, December 23, 2013

It's My Birthday! Tomorrow!

T.J.'s Birthday Poem (a day early)

So tomorrow's my birthday, thirty-two I'll be.
And what presents I'll get, oh yes, we'll see.
A whole lot of nothing, I can almost assure you
But that's okay, I don't need more to do.

 See there's three children in my house,
Who will not be quieter than any mouse.
But ready for a holiday, with presents to open
From a good night's rest, their parents they've woken

And from this nerdy birthday boy,
Here's a list of the geeky things I do enjoy
Let's start in the Stars, liking Trek over Wars
And getting to Narnia through wardrobe doors.

Maybe I'll go to Hogwarts on an awesome Firebolt,
Or watch how Sheldon will Bazinga a dolt.
Or visit Shannara with Terry Brooks,
Or read one of Sanderson's awesome books

Whether I'm playing my favorite Magic: The Gathering
Or stupidly asking a Dragon, "What's happening?"
There is always something to do that's geeky,
Even if the proper British would call it cheeky.

Oh maybe I'll play a game of Mega Man
Or watch some Muppets and keep being their fan
If there isn't anything I'd like to do,
Maybe I'll start watching good ol' Dr. Who

I could enjoy an X-men film or six,
Or the Avengers as I play pick up sticks
Maybe Batman versions one or two
Or a Superman movie, oh what to do

Oh there's my Power Rangers with worn off paint
As well as my wrestlers who always want to feint.
For a gift, one collection I could complete.
But really, I just want to win the lottery of sleep.

Perhaps I'll have a marathon with Friends
Enjoy HIMYM, the show that never ends.
Or rather Eureka and it's awesome humor
Maybe watch J.D. on Scrubs spread a rumor.

So tomorrow, I'll be sipping some Chamomile tea
As I get things ready for what's not about me
And so on my birthday, one thing is for sure,
The next day will be Christmas, once more

But as you know, you can never be wary,
that alien abductions are involuntary.
And now that this poem is well fueled,
Know that probings are also scheduled.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Geeky Christmas Song

So, the other day, I stumbled on a video made by a local radio station show called The Browsers.  It was probably the first truly geeky Christmas song I've ever heard.

I'll share it here.  Anyone have any good geeky Christmas songs?

Monday, December 16, 2013

You Have My Permission to be Childlike

Well, it's not like you need it.

And let's look at the word I used. I said "childlike" and not "childish."

So let's look at the definition I'm using.

Childlike: (of an adult) having good qualities associated with a child.

For this post, I'm looking at "childish" of being "bad qualities" as opposed to just acting appropriate for a child. Both are true toward the definition.

I'm also look at a few terms that I see as defining the "good qualities" to make up Childlike. The main ones I see are teachable, humble, and grateful. Now, there are children that don't always exhibit these (take mine for example.)

My children are also helpful. Oh sometimes they're not (like when it's time to clean their rooms.) But when I need to make cookies in the kitchen or my wife needs to clean the bathroom, they are always wanting to help. It's not a chore, it's fun. Yeah, I agree that making cookies or cupcakes can be fun. When I'm trying to decorate a cake like these, then it's not as good.

Sometimes I think I'm a big child. Oh, on occasion it's because "wow, did I really behave that selfishly?" But sometimes, it's "oh, I wish I could just ignore the world and play with my old Power Rangers or WWF/WWE Wrestlers."

For the record, through old boxes I've gone through in the last couple years, I actually have both a set of my old Power Rangers and WWE Wrestlers in my home now. My son loves playing with my original series Rangers while my youngest actually likes hitting my wrestlers together.

I've always been somewhat of a hoarder/collector. And when these two sets of toys came back into my life over the past two years, there are pieces missing to the collections I've always wanted to acquire. For the Power Rangers, it was from a McDonald's set of 6 for their first movie. As you can see, I'm missing 2 of them.

For the Wrestlers, I received the original 12 for my birthday in 1990. (On the 24th of this month, that'd be 23 years ago.) Over the next few years, I got a bunch more and out of those 12, I am now sadly missing 5. But I still want them. And one day, eBay will be my friend in purchasing them.

Sharing this 'want for toys' isn't to show you how childish I can be. It's more to express a piece of me that I know is childlike and that I love. See, for me, these aren't just toys. They're memories. They're a reminder of who I once was.

For me, being childlike is something no one should lose. Drop the bratty child bit, that's okay. But that wonder and awe. That love of simple things. That enjoyment in learning. That permission to build a world out of toys. That permission to even live in that world for some time.

So you have my permission for being childlike.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mormons Are Mutants

"We have awesome powers, my X-Men. It is our birthright. . . . And, perhaps, our burden."  —Charles Xavier

I'm shy. Just thinking about talking to someone I don't know very well makes me shaky.1 If you know what I'm talking about, you know such a weakness makes going to church difficult. Essentially, I have an appointment with social anxiety at least every Sunday.

And my shyness makes me question my worth as an individual. Without getting too existential, I worry about weird things: I worry I'm not Mormon enough.

We hear stories all the time about nonmembers calling members of the Church cheerful and always kind. Countless converts have joined because of the simple kindness and friendship of a member. Whenever someone mentions the Mormon reputation for friendliness, I can't help but cringe, because I'm not a cheerful or chatty person. Well, let me amend that slightly: I'm not a cheerful or chatty person in public. At home, I'm usually fine. But in any other situation, I'd rather not talk to anyone. Yet I know how cold and aloof this makes me appear.

And it's not just socially that I feel unfit for the Church—I don't consider myself particularly knowledgeable when it comes to gospel topics, and I didn't serve a mission. Sometimes I feel like an outcast, not because of any way I've been treated by fellow members, but simply because of how I feel about myself. My fears make not acting like an outcast difficult, my inadequacy possibly self-imposed.

So what about me and people like me? Where do we fit in in a Church that is known for its friendliness, cheerfulness, spiritual intelligence?

I've been mulling over this question for a long time, and then President Uchtdorf gave me an answer in this past conference, which I don't believe was coincidence (and you can imagine the uplifting joy I felt from Elder Holland's talk, "Like a Broken Vessel"). President Uchtdorf says:
"Some might say, 'I just don't fit in with you people in the Church.'
"If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. You might be surprised to find that we have yearnings and struggles and hopes similar to yours. Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church . . .
"If these are your desires, then regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us! . . .
"If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here."
So while I might feel like an outcast, I'm probably not alone in feeling inadequate.

Although I often forget it, I think the Church needs all of us, as individuals. I'm reminded of Mere Christianity, where C. S. Lewis says:
"God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body."
I imagine the Church would falter if its members lacked uniqueness. While the Church "body" surely needs those really important, front-and-center organs—the empathic "heart" members or the scriptorian "mind" members—I think it needs every organ for its purposes, even a strange, shy spleen like me. Okay, the metaphor is getting out of hand, so let me shift to another.

You see, the Church is like the X-Men. Mormons are mutants.

The power of the X-Men as a narrative is that mutants can be symbolic of any minority group, any outcast. Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing any persecution Mormons have faced to any other group. I don't have the aptitude or education to make such a comparison and/or contrast. But, as I said, the beauty of the mutants is their ability to stand in for anyone, even Mormons. Mutants are misfits, outcasts, strangers as compared to the world. Mormons and mutants are both in the world but separate.

The power of the X-Men as a team lies in the uniqueness of its individuals. The mere fact that each mutant member has a different power from his brother or sister is what makes the team so effective, so prepared for any dangerous situation. A team of only Wolverines might seem fierce on paper, but the team would quickly devolve into a grumpy, rebellious, incorrigible joint personality. And what good would a world of Rogues do, stealing each other's ability to steal abilities?

I think we all wonder at one time or another why God made us the way he did, why he gave us our own personal "mutation." Why do I have to be introverted and shy, afraid to talk? Why is it so much easier to shrink, to hide in the corner, to go through the spiritual motions?

I expect the answer rests in positivity (not something that comes naturally to me). Why focus on my limitations when I have other talents to share? God doesn't care that my strengths are different than someone else's, or even if I only have one talent to share, as opposed to five. Because his plan for me is unique to me. And it's important.

X-Men plays with this dichotomy between strengths and weaknesses often. Some mutants see their mutation as a weakness, others as a strength. It all depends on how they use it, for good or evil. It all depends on perspective.

I'm not sure what strength or talent lies in my social anxiety. I can't see that yet. But I'm willing to look for it. Because God needs my talent. And yours, whatever it may be. As Charles Xavier once said:

"You, my friend, are a mutantand I have a need of mutantsdesperate need!"


1. Unless it's a geeky topic. I can talk to anyone about that.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews: DC deck building game

Hi folks! Last week I picked up some new editing software so today's video is kind of an experiment. See there's this style affectionately called Zero Punctuation, started by the Escapest's Ben "Yahtzee" Crowshaw and his video game review show Zero Punctuation. I'd recommend you check it out but it's extremely vulgar. Good news is that the style was also copied by a group called Extra Credit, who talks about the video game industry as a whole and they're pretty awesome so check them out. Anyway that's the style I was going for, feel free to leave me feedback even if you didn't like it, I'm always open to criticism.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Black Dog: A Video on Depression

I just saw this video, and figured that I would share it.  Millions of people experience depression (often times for no explicable reasons).  This video gives some interesting insight into how it can affect people's lives.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Reason for Conventions

I'm quickly spiraling my way to becoming a convention addict.  It all started when I got really excited about the Legend...(wait for it)....dary Salt Lake Comic Con.  Oh wait, there was also LTUE.  That was a lot of fun too.  Okay, so it started with LTUE but let's talk about the Salt Lake Comic Con.  I knew how much I wanted to go to the Comic Con in San Diego.  I knew I wanted to network with creative professionals and get my work critiqued.  I even wanted to let my inner fanboy run wild.

But this post isn't for the fanboys, though you are loved.  This is a post for people like me.  This is for the artists, animators, illustrators, and authors.  Let me tell you the real reason for conventions.

While at the Salt Lake Comic Con, I could have chosen many different panels to go to.  Yeah, I let my fanboy go to panels like Kevin Murphy of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Nicholas Brendon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  But I also tried to make it to panels like Business and Comic Books, Making a Successful Webcomic, and Making Money from your Indie Game.  Conventions are fun.  Absolutely.  But for aspiring creatives like me, they are great ways to network.

I've already seen a lot of opportunities from networking and I'm only a Junior...ish in my program at UVU.  When I did two semesters at Weber State University, I met my friend David Powell.  Through David, I met a filmmaker named James Cawley with potential to get paid doing storyboard, animation, and design work.  I've seen David at both LTUE and the Salt Lake Comic Con.  It's great to show the work I've been doing and to see his work as well.

While at Salt Lake Comic Con, David introduced me to Peter Lyon.  Peter Lyon made all of the hero swords in Lord of the Rings.  David said, "Stephen is an amazing artist."  Amazing?!  Wow.  To Peter Lyon of all people!  I definitely feel like I have big shoes to fill with a compliment like that.  I doubt Peter will remember me since it was a very brief visit.  No, this one encounter will probably not land me a job as an animator, character designer, or illustrator for Weta Workshop.  Though, that would be an experience far more amazing than any artwork I've produced.  The point of this story is that you get many opportunities to meet masters of the trade at conventions.  They're fun  Absolutely.  But if you're an artist or creative, you'll miss a lot of networking opportunities if you don't go to the panels and booths where you can get work critiqued and meet professionals.

I'll save tips on networking for a different day.  Until then, just remember how many opportunities conventions can provide.  Even if it falls under the guise of being a pure fan boy celebration there are still many professionals to meet, learn from, and possibly find mentorship from.  A classmate of mine actually has many contacts that critique his work from attending BlizzCon.

One such upcoming convention is Fantasy Con.  Despite what you may read on their facebook page or website, this convention will actually be held in none other than the Salt Convention Palace the weekend of July 5th, 2014.  And yes, you will be seeing the contributing authors of Mormon Geeks there.  (I know the guy in charge of it through, you guessed it, networking!)  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what this convention will bring.  It definitely seems to set itself a part just from the plans of how they want the convention to visually look.

Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews: Run for your life Candyman

Hay folks! With Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us, Christmas is approaching faster than a speeding bullet! So here's an idea for a carnage hungry cookie lover in your life! Enjoy! :D

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What could be geekier than a bunch of golems?

So, I've been missing in action from Mormon Geeks for a week or two now.  Part of that is because I normally post on any new video games I've been playing recently.  For the last few weeks, I've been playing a lot of Guild Wars (both 1 and 2).  Guild Wars 2 is currently in the middle of World vs World Season 1.  In World vs World, 3 different servers are pitted against each other in a giant player vs player match.  Sometimes fights can include as many as 30-40 players on each side.  I really wanted to get the illustrious title of 'Veteran of the Mists' so I was working on it pretty hard up until Thanksgiving this last week.  Thankfully, I earned my title, and I'll probably be playing less World vs World.

I wanted to share with you a small bit of footage that I uploaded.  I have my own YouTube channel where I comment on games as I play them.  Most of it is me explaining how the game works.  Most of the time, I'm quiet and just enjoying the game.  This footage is when a bunch of players built seige golems and started to rampage around the world vs world map called the 'Eternal Battlegrounds'.