Friday, February 28, 2020

Donna Noble: The Most Important Woman

Donna: "Well, what d’you keep telling me for? What am I supposed to do? I’m nothing special. I mean, I— I’m not… I’m nothing special. I’m a temp! I’m not even that. I’m nothing."
Rose: "Donna Noble, you’re the most important woman in the whole of creation."

I recently finished re-watching Season 4 of modern Doctor Who. It’s easily my favorite season, largely because of the Doctor/Companion combo. I loved the Tenth Doctor’s era in general, but his chemistry with Donna just makes it that much better. Not only is Catherine Tate a professional comedian who plays off David Tennant so well, but Donna’s character development over her story arc resonates with me so much.

In her first episode, Donna gives us a well-rounded character, right from the start. “The Runaway Bride” starts off with Donna being an obnoxious, naive bridezilla. However, as she realizes that the Doctor is her best chance of surviving Christmas, she softens up. Later, when she learns that her fiance has been using her, you can see her innocence and her genuine soul. With how raw she ends up and how shocked she feels after her traitorous fiance dies, she declines traveling with the Doctor. But that’s not the end of Donna.

Over a year later, Donna and the Doctor reunite and she brings a refreshing, non-romantic feel to the TARDIS. After two seasons of romantic tension in Doctor Who, it’s nice to have a break from it and for the Doctor to just have a best friend for once. So for the first several episodes of Season 4, we get the witty back-and-forth of David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s comedic chemistry. In many ways throughout the season Donna acted as the Doctor’s moral compass and she frequently gave him a much needed fresh perspective. Towards the end of their journeys, it gets deeper though.

During “Turn Left” (one of my favorite Donna Noble episodes), she gets an It’s a Wonderful Life experience, seeing what life would be like if she’d never met the Doctor. As the world falls apart at the hands of the Judoon, the Titanic, Miss Foster, and the Sontarans, Donna’s family and her self-esteem slowly fall apart. At a low point, Donna’s mother even straight up says that she’s given up on her. How heartbreaking is that???

Everything comes to a point as dimension-hopping Rose approaches Donna over the years, promising her that she’s the one that can fix the whole mess. Despite Donna’s insecurities, she goes back in time and fixes everything, only moments before the Daleks steal the Earth and mess everything up again. In the end, Donna overcomes her insecurities and saves the Earth and the universe, bringing everything back to normal. But it comes at a cost. The Doctor has to sacrifice Donna’s memories and character development in order to save her life.

For a moment before her memory was taken away, Donna knew how important she was. For just a moment, she knew it. As a generally insecure person, this resonates with me. Since we live in a fallen world, I get the occasional boost from the Holy Ghost reminding me who I am. However, those spiritual experiences have a half-life. What would life be like if we could always remember our divine potential? What if we could always live in a way that we magnified our gifts and our callings from God? That’s what Donna got (in a sci-fi kind of way) when she was the DoctorDonna. In real life, we can have that too. It involves continually seeking the Spirit and drawing close to God. Through His word and His light, we can keep that spiritual self-esteem boosted up. We can transcend this fallen world as we seek to fulfill our divine potential.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Unpacking the Man-Child

The dinner party nears its end when the conversation at the table turns to the latest trends in Magic the Gathering. The men begin asking me what the new sets are like when two of the wives stand up and say "We'll be in the living room. Come ladies, let's leave the man-children to their games."

I have to suppress my shock as well as several unpleasant things about to come out of my mouth. 

The term man-child refers to an adult male who disregards his responsibilities for fun and games, or in other ways acts childish. The common image is the 30 year old man living in his parent's basement, playing video games and not bathing on a regular basis. 

A fine description until it gets thrown around near me.

Geeks Are Not Man-Children

The issue I have with the phrase is when it's applied to geeks in general or any male who expresses passion outside of going to and from work every day. I've heard it pulled out and used to apply to anything from fathers playing with their children to a man who lovingly restores cars. It seems that any time a man allows themselves to indulge in something they enjoy they are immediately called out for being childish, disregarding the fact that they may have a successful career, a loving family, or be a responsible priesthood holder. 

The labeling of men who have passion as man-children begs the question: What is expected of men if not to have passion? I've met men of prior generations who have devoted their entire lives to throwing themselves at work in order to support a family. The expectation to be the sole provider for the family and nothing else killed any drive to do or become anything else. These men would then come home exhausted and watch TV until bed, only acknowledging the family when they became annoying to him or disturbed his respite. 

I don't mean to critique a hard working man who provides for his family. I don't even blame a man for being exhausted by his job and just wanting to come home and have some peace. What I'm saying is that if a man does not fit into that mold and has the time, energy and resources to pursue a passion or hobby he shouldn't be chastised for it and compared to a child. 

The Power of Words

It may not seem like such a big deal. "I call him a man-child out of affection!" one might argue, but the problem is that words are what shapes how we think about a person or group. While the mainstream popularity of Dungeons and Dragons, Marvel and other properties formally kept to the back of the comic book shop have skyrocketed over the years, geeks still struggle to be taken seriously by the media and culture in general. When we call someone a "man-child" just for they express joy in something or because they want to talk about their favorite hobby, we're saying that their interest is not okay in our eyes, which then tells other people that expressing the same passions are not okay either, leaving them to maybe abandon something they once love in exchange for a perceived concept of normalization. 

The next time you refer to someone as a man-child, stop and think why you're using that term. Is it truly childish to love something so much you get excited over it? Is it childish to spend money on a hobby when it doesn't take away from time and expense with the family? Would you want something you love to be considered childish and told you couldn't do it because you had to be more of an adult? 


Monday, February 24, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog goes too fast and runs out of steam too quickly

I really wanted to like this movie. I enjoyed other video game adaptations (like Angry Birds and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and other movies that mixed CGI and live action characters (like Detective Pikachu and the 2016 remake of Jungle Book). I truly enjoyed playing Sonic as a kid, and I even have two pairs of Sonic socks! And my son used to be the fastest runner in his class and we would call him “Sonic”.

An improvement?
But this movie was not good, people. Not good.

I was impressed that Sega and Paramount listened to fan feedback and changed Sonic’s appearance, and I think it was an improvement. But Sonic’s physical design was a symptom, not the actual problem. Fixing the teeth and the eyes was a good gesture, but there’s an underlying misunderstanding of the character; the real problem is a desire to make Sonic look “real”. And this problem informs every aspect of the production, unfortunately.

What really got me was the story. Every major plot point seemed to be shoehorned into a story to serve the purposes of adapting a video game (with practically no story) into a film (which I guess also had practically no story). Was it a buddy road trip movie? An alien sci-fi movie? A fish out of water movie? A bad guys chasing the good guys movie? The director couldn’t decide, and neither could I.

The rest of the movie needs an overhaul also. I like Jim Carrey -- like, I genuinely think he’s a very good actor, and a really funny comedian. But Carrey was lackluster in this film. He was very one-note (I guess you might appreciate him if you enjoy the “always angry” method of acting), and was doing goofy schtick when it really wasn’t necessary, or frankly even that funny. (Tell me again why he was dancing in that one scene?) I did enjoy some of Dr. Robotnik’s tech, even if the drones were a little Spider-Man: Far From Home-esque.

James Marsden was decent -- likable and charming, he did his job as the straight man. Tika Sumpter was appealing and enjoyable. Adam Pally brought all the best of his quirks, and it’s always fun seeing a Happy Endings alum! But don’t get me started on Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic. Jean-Ralphio was annoyingly funny in Parks and Recreation when he was presented in small doses, but giving this loudmouth actor a leading role was a mistake. Schwartz thinks he’s funny, but most of his lines just don’t land. I can’t blame him too much; the subpar writing didn’t help his case much.

But in the end, my 13-year-old son, a huge Sonic fan, really enjoyed the movie. So I guess if you want to see a movie that appeals to 13-year-old video game fans, then this is the movie for you.

Meh, give me Flash or Quicksilver any day.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Agency: Palpatine or Skywalker?

"Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Nephi 10:23)

So I finally made time to go see Star Wars. It’s not easy to do when you have a newborn. I really enjoyed it, so I don’t really know what people’s complaints are about. But this isn’t about that. I’m not doing a review. We’ve already done two of those. I want to talk about the concept of agency.

Throughout the sequel trilogy, Rey was haunted by her heritage and why her parents left her and why they never came back. Among everything else that perspired during the trilogy, this finally came to a point in Rise of Skywalker.

I had seen some spoilers about her being related to Emperor Palpatine, but I didn’t think it would be revealed quite so early in the movie. I thought it was just going to be a plot point in the finale. But instead it was an important part for like half the movie.

Throughout the whole trilogy, Rey was tempted by the Dark Side on and off. I don’t think it was really until she learned about her heritage that she really felt that temptation strongly. What I take from her inner battle is about rising above who we are.

You might be born that way or this way. You may have grown up with abusive parents. You might have genetics that put you at risk for disease or depression. That’s all part of living in a fallen world. The natural man embraces all these flaws and makes excuses for them. But the gospel and the atonement give us the opportunity and the blessing to rise above the natural man. Do you want to follow the gospel? Or do you want to be who you’ve always been?

Are you a Palpatine? Or are you a Skywalker?

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord..." (Mosiah 3:19)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Best Board Games of 10 Franchises

Board games have replaced video games in the thing that franchises tack their names onto for a cheap cash grab. Rather than making a Dark Alliance clone with Superman or a Age of Empires knock-off with Star Wars now they just make endless versions of Monopoly. However, from the bog of board game cash grabs some true gems have surfaced that not only enhance their franchise but enhance the board game scene in general to a whole new level.

Without further ado, here are some of them. 

Fair warning: Most of these are going to be "Insert Franchise Here-The Board Game", but don't let the lack of creativity in the title fool you: This is The Walking Dead. Based off the original comic of the same name, you have to find survivors, supplies and a safe place to live while the zombie hoards close in around you. There's a feeling of tension when you are facing a challenge with a zombie and have to decide weather to use a bullet to win the challenge and potentially attract a zombie Mardi Gras to you or lose a valuable ally to the hoard. 

I've argued for years that nobody wants to be Harry Potter, they just want to be in the wizarding world as a wizard... wizarding... This game puts a hairline fracture in my theory though as you get to be the titular wizard and his friends taking on the challenges from the books year by year until the ultimate confrontation with ol' Rhinoplasty himself. This is a deck building game that gets incrementally harder as you advance, making this game a must-have for board game enthusiasts and Potterheads alike. 

Based on the books (Don't worry-nudity not included) players get to take on the heads of the various lords of Westeros as they struggle for control of the Iron Throne. Playing like an advanced form of Risk, power and politics are huge roles in the turn-by-turn gameplay, keeping the victor a surprise till the very end. Remember when you play the game of thrones you win or you die. 

Making a board game based on the wacky adventures of Rick and Morty would probably be impossible, so instead you get a box where the wackiness is brought into our world through insane dares with the help of the friendly Meeseeks. The game is best played late at night with VERY good friends and under the promise that anything that happens in the Meeseeks box, stays in the Meeseeks box. I'm Mr.Meeseeks look at me! 

Fun fact: Before the movies Marvel was a massive comic book franchise populated by literally hundreds of characters and thousands of volumes. To reenact this we have Legendary, a game with literally millions of possibilities for scenarios. Choose your favorite heroes and villains from Marvel's vast catalog (Usually from having to purchase expansions), pick a scenario and off you go. Wanna recreate the Dark Phoenix Saga with the original X-Men that participated? Go for it. Wanna engineer a scenario where Kingpin is hosting a Kree invasion and Devil Dinosaur and Bucky have teamed up to stop him? Sure, why not? You can literally make whatever game you want. Literally. 

Interesting thing about board games with existing franchises: It seems that the pulling back on the characters and giving players the experience of the characters world is more fun than actually being the characters themselves and trying to have their adventures. Rebellion could have a complete makeover with different characters and pieces and it would still feel like Star Wars because the basic struggle is there. One side plays the Empire with the goal of hunting down and destroying the rebels and the other plays the rebels with the goal of hiding from the empire long enough for the galaxy to make the Empire give up. The films themselves are referenced and used as the assets but the players choices drive the game. Sick of the rebels gathering supplies from Tattooine? Use the Death Star to blow it up. There is nothing in gaming more satisfying than using the Death Star to take out a world, and I recommend it to anyone who's having a bad day. 

Of all the games on this list this one requires the most qualifying statements. DC Deck Building is the best as long as you play co-op. The base game is good mechanically. It's fun, fast paced, and easy to get into for anyone who isn't into board games BUT the DC ascetic doesn't add anything to the game.In co-op mode, where the players are trying to stop a group of villains, the game takes on its super hero identity and lets the players feel more like a group of heroes taking down a dastardly fiend (Or a group of villains taking out the Justice League if you buy my favorite expansion) and the game really takes on its shine. Pick it up if you love DC and board games but don't expect to get a happy marriage until you team up with others. Sadly, despite the qualifications, this is still the best DC board game ever made. 

Joss Whedon's magnum opus is done justice in this magnificent board game. This is another where the concept is more important than playing through the actual adventures from the TV show. Each player gets their own ship and crew and have to travel the 'verse to try and make a living without getting hit up by the Alliance or the dreaded Reavers. Do you take the easy routes with the steady pay and low risk, or do you try to cross the system with a ship full of fugitives for one big pay off? The choice is yours. Also there's space ships. 

Based in the Forgotten Realms, which is based in Dungeons and Dragons (Follow that? Good.), Lords of Waterdeep takes the fantasy adventurer concept to a new level by making the adventurers little colored blocks. The players, representing the titular lords, hire groups and send them on adventures for their own glory, making the players the quest givers rather than quest takers. Wealth is then used to improve the city and hire better adventurers. The whole thing is an interesting twist on the genre and yet still feels like a Dungeons and Dragons game with adventures and twists abound. 

It was hard to choose between this and Star Trek Catan but in the end it was either a reprint of an excellent game or a flawed but unique game that had more Star Trek flavoring to it and this is definitely in the latter. Players take the roles of Starfleet captains, building their decks to defend the Federation from threats. The game is a bit more slow than most deck building games but after a while becomes quite intuitive. Now the best part of this game is the co-op modes, where you can either take on the Klingons, the Romulans or (my favorite) the Borg, each with unique challenges and each are a ton of fun to play. 

Have you played any of these? 


Monday, February 17, 2020

The Best Line from Every Hamilton Song, Act 1

This week marks the 5th anniversary of Hamilton's opening! And it's President's Day, to boot! To celebrate, here are the best lines from every single song from Hamilton. (For Act 2, see here.)

“Alexander Hamilton”
And me, I'm the damn fool that shot him.

It's a gut punch right from the beginning. The villain narrator is a fun twist that goes back to Pippin, Into the Woods, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

“Aaron Burr, Sir”
I may have punched him. It’s a blur, sir. He handles the financials?
You punched the bursar?

Great use of rhyme and humor.

“My Shot”
I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation, Every action’s an act of creation! I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow. For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow!
The whole song is a masterpiece, so it's hard to choose one line. But I love singing this particular section.

“The Story of Tonight”
Tomorrow there'll be more of us!
The whole song is great, and there's not much variety to the lyrics. But this particular line is just so full of hope and faith.

The Schuyler Sisters
And Peggy!
This just makes me laugh. And I love the gif! (See above.)

“Farmer Refuted”
Is he in Jersey?
I'm a New Jersey native. I approve of this.

“You’ll Be Back”
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.
First, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. Second, Jonathan Groff is a genius. Third, this whole song is genius. Fourth, this line is genius.

“Right Hand Man”
Hamilton, come in, have you met Burr?
Yes, sir. We keep meeting.
Solid characterization + Humor = Good entertainment

“A Winter’s Ball”
Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him. (That's true!)
What a fun and obscure piece of trivia to include! But more importantly, it still serves to build Hamilton's character as a tomcat, who prowls after ladies.

I’m just sayin’, if you really loved me, you would share him. (Ha!)
Funny. Cute. And it's a funny way of showing Angelica's love for Hamilton.

Peach fuzz, and he can't even grow it.
I just really like this line. 🍑

“The Story of Tonight (Reprise)”
You are the worst, Burr.
I would have chosen Hamilton's curse, but I didn't think that would be appropriate here. So I'm settling for this second best line.

“Wait For It”
I am inimitable. I am an original.
What a great line. I want a shirt with this lyric on it. (Maybe Burr isn't such a bad guy. See here for more on that...)

“Stay Alive”
I’m a General. Whee!!!
A funny way to characterize General Charles Lee. And fun to sing!

“Ten Duel Commandments”
You pay him in advance, you treat him with civility.
You have him turn around so he can have deniability!
I don't know, I just really like Leslie Odom Jr.'s delivery on this. It's funny, but it's also a practical part of dueling (I guess).

“Meet Me Inside”
Call me son one more time—
This is an intense line with an intense delivery by Miranda. He said it to the General, to Washington himself, to his mentor and the future First President. Hamilton always spoke his mind. Plus, the line is filled with Hamilton's backstory of being an orphan and growing up buckwild.

“That Would Be Enough”
And if this child shares a fraction of your smile or a fragment of your mind, look out world! That would be enough.
This is just a beautifully written lyric. It definitely captures the essence of a parent's love for their unborn child, as well as for their spouse.

“Guns and Ships”
No one has more resilience or matches my practical tactical brilliance!
Daveed Diggs is an extremely talented actor, singer, and rapper. This song (along with "Washington on Your Side") lets him shine. He just makes the lyrics bounce!

“History Has Its Eyes on You”
History has its eyes on you!
If you're just reading this, you need to listen to the audio clip. This line is repeated a lot, but the particular one I've chosen is the one that ends the song. The lyric is nice, but it's the closing harmonies that make this one shine.

“Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”
Immigrants, we get the job done!
I mean, this is a bold and inspiring lyric. It was so popular and got such applause that Lin-Manuel Miranda had to add a few extra notes after the line to account for the applause literally stopping the show.

“What Comes Next?”
Awesome. Wow.
Deadpan delivery. Anachronistic lyric. Instantly meme-able.

“Dear Theodosia”
My father wasn't around.
My father wasn't around.
The echoing sadness of this line is both haunting and reassuring. It's one of the first times we see an actual emotional connection between Hamilton and Burr. They both grew up without a father, and that spurred them to make a better life for their children. Plus it just sounds beautiful.

Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!
There are lots of great lines in the Act I closer: “I practiced the law, I practic’ly perfected it.” “Yo, who the F is this?” Burr's soaring “I’ll keep all my plans close to my chest!” along with Washington's soaring “History has its eyes on you!” Or Hamilton's pompously earned interruptions of “Treasury or State?” But we will go with the frustrated line from Burr, intensely delivered by Odom.

For the best lines from Act 2, see here.

The Best Line from Every Hamilton Song, Act 2

Here are the best lines from every song in Act 2 of Hamilton! (For Act 1, see here.)

“What’d I Miss”
Where have you been?
Uh, France?

Daveed Diggs is a master at line delivery. And a silly question from Madison deserves a silly answer from Jefferson. (For a defense of Jefferson's character, see here.)

“Cabinet Battle #1”
Hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you where my shoe fits.

It's fun to think that Lin-Manuel Miranda created the setup for this line ("Ooh, if the shoe fits, wear it") and this delicious payoff.

“Take a Break”
How cool is it to hear Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo just squeal with delight like little girls.

“Say No to This”
I wish I could say that was the last time. I said that last time. It became a pastime.
I would have chosen Hamilton's almost-curse. But maybe that wasn't appropriate for this blog. Instead, we're going with this tight rhyme.

“The Room Where It Happens”
Talk less. Smile more.
This is one of Burr's first lines, and sets up his character so perfectly. It's enjoyable hearing Hamilton make fun of Burr for it. (For a defense of Burr's character, see here.)

“Schuyler Defeated”
They don’t need to know me. They don’t like you.
I have heard this same sentiment said many times in our current political climate. Heck, I've even heard this said during the Super Bowl. "I don't care who wins, as long as it's not the Patriots!"

“Cabinet Battle #2”
“Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’s head?”
“Uh, do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”
This line is funny, plain and simple. But to see Miranda perform it, while imitating the severed head of King Louis? That's comic genius.

“Washington on Your Side”
I’m in the cabinet. I am complicit in watching him grabbin’ at power and kissin' it. If Washington isn’t gon’ listen to disciplined dissidents, this is the difference: This kid is out!
These are some tight internal rhymes. But it's also just another chance for Daveed Diggs to shine, and to show off his unmatched rap skills.

“One Last Time”
I’m stepping down. I’m not running for President.
I’m sorry, what?
Hamilton's shock and surprise is palpable.

“I Know Him”
<crazy laugh>
I would have gone with the King George's "This will be fun" line, but I thought better of encouraging him to use the Lord's name in vain. Instead we are going with this crazy laugh, hinting at King George's eventual demise into insanity. Clever.

“The Adams Administration”
Protean creator of the Coast Guard. Founder of the New York Post.
Inside Lin-Manuel Miranda's mind while writing: "I have all these great facts and pieces of trivia about Hamilton. How can I include them? Oh, maybe I'll just throw something random in here and there..."

“We Know”
Ya best g'wan run back where ya come from!
The better line is probably when Jefferson cuts off Reynolds's letter (to protect young ears, right?), but we will go with this awesome Caribbean-flavored line, reminding us that Hamilton is an immigrant from the Caribbean and was never really fully accepted as a citizen of the country he helped build. Sounds familiar.

I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.
This line simultaneously shows Hamilton as "a lot smarter ... a self-starter", as well as his incredible hubris. Plus, it's just well delivered.

“The Reynolds Pamphlet”
I’m not here for you.
Ouch! Want some ice for that burn? Ooh, speaking of burns...

How they perceive you. You! You! You!
This is an amazing song. And Phillipa Soo's frustrated anger as she points out Hamilton's self-centeredness is heartbreaking.

“Blow Us All Away”
Everything is legal in New Jersey...
This is the second time New Jersey is the butt of the joke. And as a New Jersey native, I love it!

“Stay Alive (Reprise)”
Is he breathing? Is he going to survive this? Who did this, Alexander, did you know?
A mother's desperation. Gut-wrenching.

“It’s Quiet Uptown”
She takes his hand. It's quiet uptown.
The lyrics aren't anything special. The delivery is excellent. But the truly powerful part of this is the very act of forgiveness, the small gestures we take to forgive others, like simply taking somebody's hand. And if you're watching the show and not crying like a baby, what is wrong with you?!

“The Election of 1800”
Can we get back to politics? Please?!
After the one-two emotional punch of Phillip's death and the Hamiltons' reconciliation, this is a welcome comedic moment. And who would have thought that politics would be a much needed break?

“Your Obedient Servant”
Here’s an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements.
I edited out Burr's next line, but his reaction to Hamilton's detailed exhaustiveness is relatable.

“Best of Wives and Best of Women”
Hey. Best of wives and best of women.
How sweet. And how sad.

“The World Was Wide Enough”
This man will not make an orphan of my daughter.
This is an orphan determined to not let another orphan turn his daughter into an orphan. And Odom's delivery is perfectly tear-jerking.

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”
Oh. Can I show you what I’m proudest of? (The orphanage!) I established the first private orphanage in New York City. (The orphanage!)
Why does this hit so close to home? We are reminded many times of Hamilton's status as an orphan. References to him growing up without parents are sprinkled throughout the entire show. Burr, too. So we have an emotional connection to Hamilton as an orphan, but it has been created subtly throughout the entire show. So when Eliza says that she is most proud of the orphanage (which yes, still exists today), it really hits us in all the feels.

For the best lines from Act 1, see here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Father/Daughter Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! I could spend this post talking about more awesome TV couples, but I’m gonna take a twist on it. While growing up, my wife loved that her parents made Valentine’s Day about more than just romantic love. This continued through college and then into her professional life, as her elementary school students give her cute little Valentines. And now that we have our little girl Lucy, I definitely have more on my mind than just my wife (make no mistake, I’m still getting my wife something for Valentine’s Day). So with Valentine’s Day today and Lucy’s baby blessing this Sunday at church, I’ve got father/daughter relationships on my mind. So in no specific order, here are some of my favorite father/daughter relationships in fandom.

Pete and Rose Tyler (Doctor Who)
The original Pete died when Rose was just a baby, as seen in Father’s Day. When the Ninth Doctor and Rose traveled back in time to see him, she ended up saving him and messing up the timeline. But then Pete made the greatest sacrifice a father can, literally giving his life for his daughter’s life. Later on when an AU Pete arrived, he saved Rose from oblivion and basically adopted her as his daughter in his universe.

Alan and Maria Jackson (Sarah Jane Adventures)
This Doctor Who spin-off had an interesting take on a father/daughter relationship. In the first episode, Maria and her dad moved in across from Sara Jane Smith after an interesting divorce. Throughout Season 1, Maria dealt with her mom, who is a bit of a narcissist. Her dad supports her and loves her throughout the whole ordeal, even after he discovers that Maria has been running around with Sarah Jane fighting aliens. He even helped a bit, all the way up until they moved to America. It was refreshing to see a good dad during a messy divorce, just trying to do his best.

Noah and Claire Bennet (Heroes)
“The Company” may have coerced Noah into the adoption in the first place, but Noah became an ideal father for Claire over the years. There were definitely times that their relationship was strained, usually when Noah started lying to his family again and again. But Claire and Noah always reconciled. When it came down to it, Noah’s priority was definitely his family, even to the point of going on the run from “The Company” to keep Claire safe.

Emma and Charming (Once Upon a Time)
Being the same age post-curse, Charming didn’t exactly have a lot of opportunities for traditional parenting. That being said, he definitely made those moments happen still. Typically it came out when it pertained to Emma’s romantic life (especially with Hook) and her grief (losing Henry or Neal’s death, but some of my favorite father/daughter moments with Charming and Emma were when she was hurting and her father was the one who rushed to comfort her. Also, let’s just talk for a second about how awesome it was to see Charming fight to save newborn Emma.

Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyme (Ant-Man)
After the death of her mother, Hope’s relationship with her father was immediately strained and it never really recovered until after he told her the truth during the events of Ant-Man. Between the events of that film and its sequel, Hank and Hope obviously reconciled and pooled their intelligence to rescue Janet from the Quantum Realm. Seeing them work together so flawlessly in Ant-Man and the Wasp was a beautiful sight. I love that movie in general, but the father/daughter relationship was definitely a highlight among the rest of it.

Phil Coulson and Daisy Johnson (Agents of SHIELD)
From the very beginning, Coulson had a special relationship with Skye/Daisy. As things progressed, especially in Season 2 as Daisy met her parents, Coulson definitely became a pseudo-father to her. With how Jekyll/Hyde her birth father was, it only made Daisy cling harder to Coulson. After letting her father go, she didn’t have a father anymore per se, except for Coulson. So it was natural that when Daisy needed guidance, she ran to Coulson. Unfortunately, that also meant that Daisy was the most heartbroken (except maybe for Agent May) when Coulson was dying.

Wilf Mott and Donna Noble (Doctor Who)
Donna had a great father growing up, from what we know. However, after her father, Geoff Noble, died, her grandfather Wilf really stepped up and became the prime father figure to her. Despite her mother’s taunting and criticism, Grandpa Wilf never ceased to encourage Donna to follow her dreams and her passions, even when it meant that she traveled with the Doctor to potentially life-threatening worlds. It was also Wilf who was there for her after the Doctor wiped her memory, watching out for her since the Doctor couldn’t.

Quentin Lance and Laurel Lance-2 (Arrow)
Two years after the death of his daughter Laurel on Earth-1, Quentin was “reunited” with a version of her from Earth-2. This alternate-universe Laurel was a villainous lackey when we first met her. However, over time with her new “father” she changed. Even after Quentin’s death, Laurel-2 continued to honor his memory by fighting the bad guys and continuing to change, even when the world thought she was a lost cause. Her new father’s encouragement changed her for the better and made her into a new hero Laurel.

Shawn Hunter and Maya Hart (Girl Meets World)
When we left off Shawn Hunter at the end of Boy Meets World, he was single and living life. When Girl Meets World picked up, Shawn was nowhere to be seen, but when he came back into Cory and Topanga’s life, she quickly took a liking for their daughter Riley’s best friend Maya. At first it was just a matter of affection, as Maya’s family life reminded Shawn of his own. Later on, as Shawn got to know Maya and her mom, it became about family, as Shawn married Maya’s mom. As a pseudo-father or a step-father, Shawn was amazing with Maya, treating her as though she were his daughter. Eventually that happened, as he adopted Maya in the series finale.

Honorable Mentions:
There are so many other father/daughter combos that I wish I could include. This post would be forever long if I included them all. But here are a few honorable mentions. Cory and Riley, Rory and River, Joe and Iris, Jack and Monica, Tony and Morgan, Scott and Cassie

I hope you have a great Valentine's Day, however you spend it. Personally, I have an 8-week old date that I can't wait to snuggle.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

How to make a fandom toxic

Ever wonder how so many fandoms get their toxic fan bases? Ever want to feel the rush of superiority knowing you've destroyed beloved characters and stories for someone else? Are you tired of always ending every discussion on a positive note that strengthens your relationships with others and makes you a better person overall? Then here's how to turn your favorite franchise completely toxic for yourself and everyone around you!

For today's example I will be using The Andy Griffith Show

1: Always Take Time to Flaunt Your Superior Knowledge

Did someone just misquote Aunt Bee's description of the Nazi tripwires in episode 16: "Barney's Sidecar"? Now is a great opportunity to correct the perpetrator immediately. Make sure they know they're wrong, even if you need to pull out your phone and show them the scene at full volume wherever you are. Remember that as a true fan your duty is to snuff out ignorance wherever it may rear its ugly head. 

2: Seek Out and Destroy Any Fan Art, Fanfiction, and Cosplays that Are Not 100% Accurate to the Source Material

Remember that The Andy Griffith Show's 249 episodes and subsequent spin-offs and movie are all sacred text, and cannot be altered or reinterpreted in any way. The Barney Fife cosplayer doesn't have one bullet in his front shirt pocket? Shame him! That portrait of Opie is missing several freckles? Make sure to dislike their post! Someone wrote a story about how Andy's wife died as a way to express their own grief over the loss of their own parent? Destroy them! Make sure they never want to write anything in public again! How dare they take your fandom and warp it to their own ideals. They have no right to destroy something you love! 

3: Never Let Anyone Have a Different Opinion Than You

Of course Gomer Pyle is the Jar Jar Binks of Mayberry. How could he be anyone's favorite character? The fact that he got his own spin-off means nothing, he's the worst character ever and anyone who disagrees needs to be proven wrong outright. Compile a list of reasons you can pull out that you can go over in detail whenever someone brings up Gomer. If need be have it written down somewhere on your person for reference. Remember you're not being rude or obnoxious, you're educating them on how wrong they are so they can change their favorite character to a more appropriate one. They'll thank you later. 

4: Use Hate Speech When Others Won't Listen

So no matter how hard you've tried, your friend simply will not agree that hands down Otis Campbell is a Shakespearean level tragic figure. He keeps arguing that he is an alcoholic that was sending the wrong message to kids when you know for a fact that he only drank to mask his inner pain. There's only one solution: Start using racial slurs against him. Mock his religion, his family dynamic, sexuality, ethnicity, whatever you can do to make him listen and acknowledge that you're right. If you only know the person by their internet profile, then even better! After all there are no repercussions from internet bullying. People who have their feelings hurt are just weak and shouldn't have played with the big boys in the first place. 

5: Let No Others Enjoy the Fandom Except by the Approved Methods

Anyone who does not own a complete box set of The Andy Griffith Show with audio commentary and interviews from the actors cannot call themselves a true fan. Some filthy casual who only watched the show when they were at home sick or when they hung out with their grandparents can't truly understand the subtle relationships and brilliant humor the show offers. Casuals have no rights to call themselves fans and should feel ashamed for trying to compare their love to your obvious superiority. 


**Also Gomer Pyle is a total gangster and I love him and everything he was in**

Monday, February 10, 2020

My First Comic Con Experience!

I had never been to a comic convention before. When I used to work for NBC, I was offered tickets every year to the San Diego Comic Con ... but when you're a poor teacher with a family of 6, a plane ticket to the other side of the country so you could dress up and buy comic books didn't sound like the most practical idea. (And yes, I know there's a lot more to a comic con than buying comics  they also sell Funko Pop figures!) So when I read about my buddy Spencer's many trips to FanX in Salt Lake City, I was inspired to go to my own comic con.

Meeting Ja'Siah Young
On February 8, I went to the Lehigh Valley Comic Convention in Allentown, PA, about an hour from my home. They hold four conventions a year, and next year will be their 20th anniversary. It's a small operation compared to the conventions held in San Diego, or New York, or even Philadelphia. But smaller means more intimate, and more opportunities for innovations and intimate connections with people.

There were five panels at this con, and we attended four:
  • Name That Tune Deluxe: Every song was either from an anime or video game. And my interests are not anime or video games. Yet somehow we came in third place, winning some candy, a Star Wars poster, and some Star Trek coasters! (Thank goodness I remembered that one anime episode of South Park!)
  • Meet the Mandalorians: This was just so awesome, to see two guys from the local chapter of the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club (that exists?) talk devotedly about what they love. They brought all their gear and told us how they made their cosplay. Hearing people talk about things they're passionate about is MY passion. 
  • Raising Dion Panel: We watched Raising Dion as a family, and we loved it. And it was really enjoyable to hear Ja’Siah Young talk about his life since starting as Dion. He's a pretty chill 8-year-old. My kids really enjoyed hanging out with him, doing backflips together, dancing, and exchanging phone numbers. Yup, really. 
  • Creating Voices for Cartoons: My kids enjoyed meeting Ja’Siah the most, but I was most taken with Erica Schroeder, a voice actress who worked on Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a ton of other fun shows. Erica just had this really incredible energy and spirit about her. It was refreshing. 
  • Transformers: In the Beginning: This just wasn't our thing, so we walked around instead and acquainted ourselves with the weird and wonderful world of comic cons. 
Cosplay Dating Game
The after party was by far the best part of the evening. Held at a nearby hotel, there was delicious food (complimentary), karaoke, an elaborate Dungeons and Dragons game, a cosplay dating game, and a pool party. I'm learning that this is pretty standard fare for the Lehigh Valley Comic Con, but a little unusual for other conventions. That's fine by me, I'll keep going to Lehigh Valley, where I can sing my heart out in a rousing karaoke rendition of “Let It Go”, my boys can feel included and accepted playing the best game of D&D of their lives, and they can take a dip in the pool with the star of a Netflix original sci fi show!

So this geek is now sold on comic conventions, and my family can't wait for the next one. Until then, we will keep calm and comic con.
Cosplay Aang meets Funko Aang
Doc Ock was incredible!

Aang and Black Panther
Dion and Aang, just being kids
D&D was epic!

Meeting Mystery Science Theater 3000
Water Bender
Mega Man and the gang