Monday, August 30, 2021

Comic Con Bingo

With the pandemic and everything, it's been a while since I've been able to go to a Con (virtual conventions just don't appeal to me--meeting a celebrity online doesn't feel like actually meeting them). Cons are coming back though. Ryan went to one this month (he’s got another this next month) and I'll be at Dallas Fan Expo in a couple weeks (along with FanX happening that same weekend). Regardless of which Con you attend, there are always some consistencies. Enough so that I made bingo cards to help you enjoy the experience. So put on your favorite cosplay and save one of these bingo cards. Let's have some fun! 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Star Wars Workout

With The Bad Batch over and as we wait for the next season of The Mandalorian, some of you may be going through Star Wars withdrawals. Personally, I'm working my way through Clone Wars (I'll be done within the next week). Regardless of what you're watching, if you're trying to connect with the Force, you can get moving doing it. So put on an episode of The Mandalorian, a Bad Batch story, or (heaven forbid) The Last Jedi and enjoy a workout to the tune of a galaxy far far away.

Disclaimer: While I am a licensed physical therapy provider, I am not a personal trainer or a medical practitioner. Partner as necessary with your doctor prior to engaging in any diet or excise programs. If any of these exercises cause increased pain, stop the exercise immediately.
***Exercises updated January 2024 to account for what I've learned practicing physical therapy. This workout is intended to work without any equipment, but feel free to add small dumbbells or bands as you're safely able.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Scene Dissection: "Yeah, What a lucky girl"

I'm always trying to find interesting series to bring to the blog, some hit like our Friday Creature Feature, others fail like my videos doing board game reviews, but let's try this one:

This series will take a scene from a film, TV show, book, comic book etc. and dissect it down to its bare components and why it's significant to both the piece and to culture in general. This lets me flex my research muscles and get some use out of my degree as it sits rotting away in its frame in my den. 

With all that out of the way, let's talk about Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Setting the Scene

Who Framed Roger Rabbit takes place in a 1930's world where all our beloved cartoon characters are real and are hired by studios to make cartoons. How they come into being nobody says and that's not why we're here. Roger is a toon along the same lines as the old Looney Tunes/Tex Avery line, and his boss, RK Maroon is having trouble getting quality acting out of the rabbit. He hires our protagonist, Eddie Valiant, played by the late Bob Hoskins, to get some saucy photos of Roger's wife, Jessica, because this will chill him out... somehow... 

Later it turns out they were part of a plot to frame Roger, hence the title, but whatever. 

We find ourselves with Eddie in the Ink and Paint Club, a place where toons perform onstage to a human audience. After an absolutely BRILLIANT scene of Daffy Duck having a piano duel with Donald Duck, Eddie is ready to see this Jessica perform so he can follow her later and get his pictures. 

Just before Jessica's performance, Eddie runs into an old friend, Betty Boop. She's working as the cigar girl at the club (Okay, this job doesn't exist anymore, but it was a woman who sold cigars and cigarettes to patrons of night clubs. Kind of a lower end job). Betty tells Eddie that "Times are hard since toons went to color", before doing her iconic line and causing a mini Betty Boop craze that lasted through the 90's. 

Literally, it was this one scene that sparked it. 

The lights dim as the band starts up and men rush to the stage eager to see Jessica. Another patron, Marvin Acme, starts dousing himself in cologne and straightening his tie, Betty telling Eddie that "Mr. Acme never misses a night when Jessica performs." to which Eddie replies "Gotta thing for rabbits, huh?" 

Keep that in mind it'll become important later. 

As the music starts up and that sultry voice starts to sing, we get the reveal that Jessica Rabbit, wife of Roger, is a beautiful vixen with a voice that could melt butter. A stunned Eddie says "She's married to Roger Rabbit" and Betty says "Yeah, what a lucky girl." then picks Eddie's jaw up off the floor. 

Foreshadowing and Origins

Fun fact: Who Framed Roger Rabbit was originally a book named Who Censored Roger Rabbit?" In it we get the origin of Jessica and why she looks the way she does. In the novel, the toons are characters from comics, and Jessica is from a dirty pulp comic that was an early form of pornography. In the film they leave Jessica's origins out and just imply that toons the viewing public have never seen before exist in this world like her and Roger. 

Now seeing Betty Boop wasn't just a random happenstance, Betty is significant to Jessica. Old Betty Boop cartoons sit at an awkward point between the slightly dirty comics and the wacky cartoons that were being made, with Betty usually portraying the naïve innocent but scandalously saucy female. Like Jessica her appearance was partially for male audiences to have something to look at that was a bit naughty while the kids watched the fun cartoons, so for her to be at the introduction of Jessica foreshadows what we're about to see. 

Remember the line Eddie said about Acme having a thing for rabbits? Up until now we've had no idea what Jessica Rabbit was (the film was made in 1988 so I know most of us NOW know what Jessica looks like but bear with me). All we'd met in new toons were Roger, his foul talking baby friend, and an octopus in the background of the club. The implication to the audience was that Jessica Rabbit would be like Roger, a zany cartoon rabbit that would be a living migraine to work with, but instead we get a sultry vixen walk onstage. 

For the rest of the film Jessica is constantly subverting expectations, making us think she's a concerned wife, a seductive temptress, or even the villain at points. Her first subversion is with her simple existence, not being what the audience would envision when they think of the wife of a cartoon rabbit in red overalls. 

Why She's Lucky

Betty's line and the title of this piece is an idea that comes up a few times throughout the film: People envy Jessica for being married to Roger. Toon logic seems to dictate that the more wacky toons are the more popular ones, with Roger gushing over Goofy and generally unfunny toons getting low paying jobs. Roger then would be a highly sought after rabbit in the Toontown dating market, while in the human world Jessica's beauty and singing talent might be the more appealing piece. In yet another subversion of expectation, we see that most of the toons see Roger as a highly respected actor, while the ones who chase Jessica, like Acme and for a moment Eddie later, are all human. 

Jessica meanwhile, is a toon, and is deeply in love with Roger. When asked all she says is "He makes me laugh," as though that's all he'd need to do. She was willing to seduce and kill anyone who she thought would harm Roger, and take the fall if necessary to save her beloved "honey bunny".  Jessica is one of Disney's best written female characters for the subversive elements she brings to the film, and it all starts with one reveal, that she is married to Roger Rabbit and that she's a lucky girl. 


Monday, August 23, 2021

All That Matters Is How You See Yourself: Awesome Con 2021!

I went to the awesome Awesome Con in Washington DC. Yes, it was awesome. The first in person Awesome Con since the pandemic. One of the panels I attended was called “Cosplay Is Limitless”, hosted by the Philadelphia Avengers. I wasn’t expecting much from this session, just some fun cosplay tips and ideas. 

But what I got instead was a powerful lesson about self identity and colorblind acceptance. The group showed the meme above, of a little boy wearing a cardboard box and holding flashlights, but his shadow is Iron Man. The meme says, “All that matters is how you see yourself.” 

The Philadelphia Avengers, especially Lady J, shared how they dress as whatever characters they want, regardless of their race, gender, body type, or whatever other “social norms” might usually prevent them from wearing the costumes they want. Even more amazing, the cosplay group admonished the participants to respond with kindness when trolls make fun of them for not looking exactly like their characters. Your weight, your gender, your ethnicity — they shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do.

What a powerful message. Not just for cosplay, but for life. We are all working to improve ourselves and to self actualize. This concept was further emphasized when we went to the Pride Squadron session and they talked about their philosophies of cosplay, which mirrors their mantras in life. Live your dreams! Be who you want to be! Make your life whatever you want it to be. And all that other good juju stuff. Everything is AWESOME!

To celebrate diversity and self actualization, here are some fun cosplay highlights from Awesome Con 2021!

All that matters is how you see yourself.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Can Superman teach me to be a super dad?

If you haven’t watched Superman & Lois, you’re missing out. Season one just finished this week, and I’m already feeling the loss that comes from a show ending. Hear me when I say this-- If the entire Arrowverse existed solely to bring us this version of Superman, it was all worth it. I definitely had tears in my eyes more than once. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it all on The CW for free, or until it moves to HBO Max or Netflix… Feel free to read on, and I’ll tell you when the spoilers start after I get out of Episode 101.

I fell a little bit in love with Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman the moment he and Supergirl saved the Venture plane together. He only became better when we got to watch the ever stoic Cat Grant pine over him, with Clark being full aware of his ‘sway’ over her to the point of laughter. I realized quickly he was the best Superman out there (not to say it’s a contest, but if it were he’d be winning). He’s happy, strong, clumsy, and sincere. I also really think the entire cast is strong. There aren’t any weak players here. 

Along comes Superman & Lois. Not Lois & Clark (oh wait, they did that already..) Not just Superman, or Superman and the twins. Superman & *Lois* - I wondered about the reasoning here for longer than I should have, but I really think it’s about bringing the humanity out in Superman. 

In Episode 101 we get to see Clark and Lois’ relationship, only to find out that they now have twins - two teenage boys. One of the boys is Jonathan. He’s popular, athletic, and seems to have the perfect teenage life. The other is Jordan, who’s edgy, dark, and deals with Social Anxiety Disorder. He’s difficult to connect with, too. 

And so the story begins. Superman has the super game in the bag at this point, but parenting teenagers is a different story. I’ve literally never heard anyone say that’s easy, but imagine having to have a full-time job, be a good husband and father, AND be Superman to the entire planet. He would have to miss things, and he does. When the boys find out about their dad, they feel like they’ve been lied to their whole lives (you know… because they have been, even if it was the right call.) In one of my favorite clips from the series, Clark reveals himself to his sons.

Jordan: I understand. I understand all the excuses. All the times you were gone, you lied to us. You both did!

Lois: He was saving lives, Jordan!

Jordan: That doesn’t make it less true. You lied to protect his secret! All the things I’ve been feeling. You made me think I was crazy! They put me on pills!

Jordan then tells him he wasn’t sent to Earth to be a father. (ouch...) To be fair, when your father or mother misses something important to you, it still hurts, even if it was important. So, can Superman be a super father on top of all of the other things he’s doing? That’s a good question. It definitely doesn’t seem that way at first. 

But that’s kind of the point. No father is perfect, and each will definitely fail at points. It’s the effort, time, sacrifice, and love that does matter. 

I know a good man named Spencer who pointed out Superman symbolism, which is really about connecting to our Father in Heaven. He comes from a far away place, feeling like he doesn’t quite belong here. Over time he begins to try to find out who he is and goes to his Fortress of Solitude to *commune with his Father*. There his father (Jor-El) teaches him, trains him, empowers him, and sets him on a quest to save the world, serving, learning to love the people of this planet, and to find that love within himself. (I could literally teach a Sunday School lesson about this, and it would be so fun! I mean, the name El was used because it means God!)


That example is quite starkly contrasted in the latter half of the season as we meet Tal-Rho’s holographic father Zeta Rho, who was abusive to Tal-Rho (Morgan Edge) from day one. Not only was he verbally abusive, he basically tortured the poor guy until he could withstand a great deal of pain. Should we be surprised when he gives in to that pressure? Abuse stays with you until you can be free of it, and heal from it.

The series just continues to focus on these father relationships:

  • Lois with her father Sam, who she tells at one point to leave her family and not come back!

  • Clark being a father to a son with powers, who struggles with them. And to somehow be a father to a son that doesn’t, who desperately wants to fit in with the two superhuman men in his life. 

  • Kyle’s strained relationship with Lana and his children, who know he’s been a drunk but is really trying to figure himself out. He really blossoms in the last quarter after he begins to see how much he’s hurt his children.

  • John Henry Irons, Steel, who happens to be from a parallel universe (I thought those were all erased… oh, well, this was fun). He happened to be married to Lois in that parallel universe, only to watch her be killed by Superman. His relationship with Natalie was beautiful, until he somehow got stuck in our universe and left her behind.

  • It just keeps going! I mean, I had to make a chart to understand this:

I am focusing on fathers here, but Lois (Elizabeth Andrea "Bitsie" Tulloch) just shines. She’s the one that points out to Jonathan that they are a super family, doing super things even when half of them have powers and half of them don’t. She’s also the one fighting for Jordan with his anxiety and helping him work through that. 

At the end of the series, after things have calmed down, Clark’s family holds a funeral for Jor-El’s crystal, which was Jor-El as far as Clark knew. With the crystal destroyed, they bury the crystal and talk about fatherhood to wrap it all up.

Clark: Growing up I always felt different. Alone, in some way. (How are you not already crying by this point?! The strongest man on the planet, literally the man millions look up to, is talking about feeling different and alone!?) I had so many questions about who I was and why I was here. All that changed when I met him. He taught me so many things, about my home world, about my family, about myself. But the greatest thing he ever did for me… was just being my dad. (I’m like 99% sure this could have been an Elder Uchtdorf talk) - I also really believe that some dad's are adopted, as mentors, as father figures, or other men in our lives. We don't all have a father here, or maybe not a father that's able to be that person, but the good men in our lives can change us for the better.

So, Dads - Go be your own version of Superman. Your kids need it, even if that just means you being there for them when they aren’t ready. One day they will be, and they’ll be so grateful for someone who just wanted to be their dad.

- Garrett

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Saviors on Mount Anime: Volume 1


“… I’ll bathe in blood. If that’s what it takes to protect my friends, I’ll take it. All the hatred, the disease. I’ll take it as my own and end it.”

These words were uttered by Shu Ouma towards the end of Guilty Crown. Do they sound famiIiar to you at all? Someone bathing in blood to protect his friends? Someone who offers to take all the sickness upon himself to end it? Yeah, that sounds kind of like what Christ did for all of us. I should probably mention a few things while introducing my topic here: 1. The savior metaphors I reference here are my own opinions and observations, and may be not at all what the original authors intended. 2. I’m not trying to be sacrilegious by comparing anime characters to Jesus Christ, I really do see his likeness in some of the imagery. 3. I will be back later on with more examples to share.  And 4. This post will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Guilty Crown and Puella Magi Madonna Magica (or just Madoka for short). So if you are planning on watching either of these masterpieces and don’t want some of the key parts of their stories spoiled for you, back away now…

A Brief Japanese Language Primer

When I served as a Missionary in Japan, I saw little hints of the gospel everywhere. Now you may be thinking, “but Paul, Japan is a mostly Buddhist and Shinto country… what do you mean that there are hints of the gospel everywhere???” I’m so glad you asked, let me share an example. Take the word  示す (shi-me-su, “to show“) for instance. The kanji used seems to depict an altar with a sacrificial offering on top, and two drops of blood falling to either side. Not convinced? How about this one: the kanji for demon or evil spirit 魔 (ma) includes radicals that mean “garden”, “two trees”, and “devil”. Wouldn’t you say that sounds like a very famous story involving a woman, a man, and a serpent in a garden with two significant trees? I thought so.

Guilty Crown

Okay Japanese language lesson over, let’s get to the crux of my post already. Going back to Guilty Crown, I noticed a few overt symbols of Christianity throughout the anime. The first opening sequence shows a character set into a cross, singing lyrics that give off heavy Savior vibes: “Even if someone calls you a liar and tries to hurt you with heartless words. Even if the world forces you to wear a crown of thorns without even trying to believe in you…” Not to mention that one of the characters wears a cross… Up until the ending, I felt these items weren’t really up there in your face; they were more subtle nods to Christianity. Then, when Shu manifested the ability to take upon him the entirety of the apocalypse virus in order to save everyone, it felt much more conspicuous. I’m not sure if the author belongs to a Christian faith, or if he was just fascinated by Christian imagery, but I appreciated the hopeful overtones.


Let’s move on to Madoka. I remember feeling dubious when my roommate showed me the first of thirteen episodes. Apparently there is a whole 魔法少女 (ma-hou shou-jo, “Magical Girl”) sub-genre of anime, and some of the artwork of Madoka was very “cute”. Well, I kept watching and was very impressed by how deep and dark the story turned out to be. Basically you have these teenage girls entering into contracts with a being from the cosmos where they receive special abilities along with a granted wish of their choosing in exchange for the duty to fight a whole slew of “witches'' plaguing the world. Hmm… this almost sounds like the principle of covenants and how we receive power from on high as we promise to uphold certain requirements…? Anyway, at the end of the show the titular Madoka enters into the contract by making a very powerful and selfless wish. It turns out that witches are actually transformed from the very mahou shoujo that are trying to fight them. She asks for the power to prevent all mahou shoujo past, present, and future from ever breaking and becoming witches. That whole sequence is full of beautiful artwork depicting this Savior taking the pain and suffering of all the mahou shoujo throughout time, including the friends that Madoka lost along the way. She did for them what they could not do themselves.

I acknowledge that perhaps I’m just seeing what I want to see. Perhaps my experiences in the church frame the media I take in, allowing me to make connections that might not be there. Regardless, I’m grateful for these pieces of artwork that help remind me of the Savior I believe in. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Why I Loved Korra

This may be a cardinal sin of geekdom, but I didn’t watch Avatar growing up (but I wish I had) so I didn’t watch Korra when it came out. As I went through college, I was exposed to enough of Avatar and Korra to know I’d enjoy it. So when it hit Netflix during quarantine, I knew I had to watch it.

I recently finished watching Legend of Korra. To be honest, I don’t understand the hate it gets from Avatar fans (at least the most vocal of Avatar fans). I liked that each season was its own story, unlike Avatar. And the abbreviated seasons made for a wonderful lack of filler episodes. In my opinion, each season had a great message for real life.

Book One: Prejudice

The first season of Korra had the task of doing world-building. Even though viewers were familiar with the world of Avatar, because life had changed much since Zuko became Fire Lord, there was a lot for viewers to become accustomed to. In the midst of world-building, Book One set the precedent of benders vs. non-benders. Amon (secretly a bender) spread animosity towards benders, which set benders against non-benders. I swear this is exactly how the world is today. Republicans vs. democrats. Black vs. white. Us vs. them. Doesn’t matter who the two sides are, as long as there are sides, no one will win.

Book Two: Tradition

A lot happened in season 2 between the spirit portals’ opening, the conflict between Korra’s father, her uncle and her, and learning the origin of the Avatar spirit. Book three was called "change" but this is where the changes begin; Korra’s friendships change, her relationship to the spirits change, and the world changes. What was good for the world in the time of Wan isn’t the same as what the world needed in Korra’s time. Times change and that’s okay. People change and that’s good. If we stop changing and if life stops changing, we stop growing.

Book Three: Free Will

Coming into the third season, we got an influx of air benders after Harmonic Convergence. One of these was Zaheer, leader of the Red Lotus, who wanted to overthrow the governments and create a “free” world. I could go into something about agency, free will, or the commandments, but when it comes down to it, we need some sort of order to fully express our free will. Even if we just look at the fact that (based on many studies) kids thrive on a routine and a feeling of stability. Without rules or structure, there would be no stability.

Book Four: Trauma

At the end of Book Three, Korra was spiritually violated and nearly killed. That would mess anyone up, but also take into account that Korra is basically supposed to repeatedly save the world. That’s a lot to put on anyone’s shoulders even without the trauma. Even with the most patient and compassionate of therapists, working through hurt and pain is as hard as it gets. Instead of a compassionate therapist, Korra had Toph, who’s anything but compassionate. Naturally Korra was scared to face her demons, but things couldn’t get better until she did. It was painful and scary, but she did it. And she became stronger through it all.

Korra might get the short end of the stick when it comes to the love of Avatar fans, but she deserves respect. Perhaps her greatest lesson was during that last season and it’s a lesson we all need: Compassion.

"I needed to understand what real suffering was, so I could become more compassionate to others."

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Next Right Thing with Depression

“I've seen dark before, but not like this
“This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
“The life I knew is over, the lights are out
“Hello, darkness, I'm ready to succumb.”

Last year was rough for many people around the world. Thankfully, my wife and I managed to avoid many of the trials that others faced; my wife finished out the school year teaching from home, I graduated on schedule, and we both got to spend extra time at home with our new baby girl.

Instead, 2021 has been our roller coaster year. Only a month in, I lost my new job because I’d failed my licensure exam (that’s the short version of the story). Without another job to take me on, my wife and I had to move across the country to live with her parents while I studied and passed my licensure exam and while I got a new job. My in-laws are great people, but even with the best of in-laws it doesn’t feel good to move in with them.

During the six months since I lost my job, I’ve had to deal with the anguish and hurt that comes from being unable to provide for my family. I know it shouldn’t, but there’s been a shameful, emasculating feeling that’s accompanied all that my family has been through. Instead of being guided through life, we’ve felt pushed and prodded along the path.

“This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
“But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
“You are lost, hope is gone
“But you must go on
“And do the next right thing.”

I lived in Utah for twelve years (and my wife for six years). We had a life that we enjoyed with friends and family. Even being in Texas with her parents and sisters has left us confused about where our life is headed. Will we ever move back to Utah? What will our lives in Texas look like? 

It’s easy to feel lost and confused during all of this. I’ve had days where the world seems dark and my depression feels worse than it should. I’m definitely not the best at handling the uncertainties. I like to have things planned out. Case in point: You should see the spreadsheets I have with plans for this blog.

But it seems the Lord has other plans for me. Even my gospel study apparently agrees, as I recently caught this line from President Eyring:

“As you live worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Lord can direct you to safety even when you cannot see the way. For me, He has most often shown the next step or two to take. Rarely has He given me a glimpse of the distant future, but even those infrequent glimpses guide what I choose to do in daily life.”

I’ve heard it said in twelve step groups before that part of turning “our will and our lives over to the care of God” includes trusting His plan. Even though I have a good job now and we’ve moved into our new apartment, I still feel lost sometimes. How do I make this new place our home? How do I face my new reality? All I can do is put one step in front of the other, like Anna in Frozen 2

“So I'll walk through this night
“Stumbling blindly toward the light
“And do the next right thing
“And, with it done, what comes then?
“When it's clear that everything will never be the same again
“Then I'll make the choice to hear that voice
“And do the next right thing.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Children of Eden

There is a local theater near me based out of St. James Lutheran Church, headed by the incomparable Karen Dundore-Gulotta. I had the chance to sit down with Karen, who is equal parts passionate and compassionate. Karen and I talked all about her latest production, Children of Eden. In 1991, Stephen Schwartz (who also wrote GodspellPippinThe Prince of Egypt, and Wicked) wrote Children of Eden, a musical that tells the story of Adam and Eve in the first act, and the story of Noah's family in the second act.

Latter-day Saint Geeks: How does the story of Children of Eden compare to the actual events of the Bible? 

Karen Dundore-Gulotta: I try to live my life in a way that is an example to others. Love other people, whether they are like me or not, no matter what they look like, their sexual preference, their beliefs, none of those things matter. I try to love all people the best I can. So I have a hard time conceiving that the story of Noah's Ark even happened, that God would wipe out so many children from the earth. I don't know what actually happened, but it helped me to think about the story as being symbolic rather than literal. Indeed, the story of Children of Eden doesn't exactly follow the Bible version of events, anyway. So we aren't here to argue what's factual or not, we are here to tell a story about parents and children. 

Latter-day Saint Geeks: What are some of the lessons we can learn from Children of Eden

Karen Dundore-Gulotta: We learn about parents and children and family relationships. We also learn about forgiveness. For instance, the character of Yonah (who has the Mark of Cain and is doomed to die in the flood), doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She forgives Noah for telling her she can't be on the ark, and she forgives the family for treating her like she was "less than". The musical states that "the Mark of Cain rose up in all of us, but it never rose up in you". There's also forgiveness in Eve's character. She forgives her son for killing Abel. Adam forgives Eve for disobeying The Father when she eats the fruit. I think there's a lot of lessons about forgiveness. You can ask for forgiveness from God, or within your own community, family, or circle of friends. We also learn that parents never give up on their children, even when they choose a path that isn't what we intended for them. The Father never gives up on Eve, and comes to her in a truly touching scene before she dies. Adam and Eve never give up on their children, even if they make big mistakes. 

Latter-day Saint Geeks: How do the characters grow in Children of Eden?

Karen Dundore-Gulotta: There is repetition in the show, with lines and situations that are similar even though they play out differently in various family groups. It seems many mistakes are made over and over again. The horrors of the holocaust happen over and over, and we don't seem to learn from it. One of my favorite lines is in the end of the musical: "Our hands can choose to drop the knife. Our hearts can choose to stop the hating." I wanted the audience to feel that they were part of something bigger than themselves. They are part of a community. We can put down the knife and move forward even when we disagree on things. There is a character, Yonah, who has the "Mark of Cain". I knew I had to be careful with the mark I used, because at various times throughout history, people thought the Mark of Cain could be different things. People thought the Mark of Cain could be those who were disabled, or had a birthmark, or were disfigured in some way. People even believed that African American people had the Mark of Cain. So we made the Mark of Cain into a birdlike shape. In the play (not in the Bible), it's Yonah who releases the dove. So the dove AND the Mark of Cain became symbols of hope for us. 

Latter-day Saint Geeks: Any last thoughts you want to share?

Karen Dundore-Gulotta: I believe that every person who is born has a purpose for being here. And that's what I try to convey to the kids in the show when I'm directing: no matter who you are or what you believe, we each have a purpose for being here. We can use our purpose for good or for evil. Remember, "Our hands can choose to drop the knife." The knife represents our opinions of people, especially those who are different than us. We can put down the knife. We can live and let live. Support each other. Forgive each other when we make mistakes, big or small. I think that's the biggest takeaway from the show. 

Latter-day Saint Geeks: Thank you Karen. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Harleen - Harley Quinn Done Justice

I was going to review The Suicide Squad, but after 20 minutes of burial hardcore violence, I decided I may need to take a different direction (I still absolutely LOVED it, but I can't recommend it to anyone with any kind of sensitivity; I'm just a monster.). So instead I'm going to review another Harley Quinn work, DC's Black Label Harleen

The Darkest Label

For non comic readers, DC's Black Label line are comics that are specifically not suitable for children. The authors are given  free reign to go as dark, gory and naked as they want. For the most part this has given writers an excuse to go berserk with content, usually with mixed results. Harleen is an example of what a writer can do without restraints with a character, but is not an example in excess. The book itself is like the film Joker, where the R rating gives permission to go into disturbing topics but it's not used for a gorefest. 

So to summarize it's like how some people will watch The Patriot or Saving Private Ryan despite them being R because they're historically significant and just really good movies. 

Okay, onto the comic. 

Fleshing out Dr. Quinzell

Harley Quinn as a character has been explored extensively through film, TV shows and comics, but we usually only get snippets of the woman Harleen used to be before she met her Puddin'. Harleen starts before Harleen has been hired at Arkham Asylum and builds until she runs away with the Joker. Harleen is a psychiatrist with a theory that violent psychosis may have a common brain defect that, if treated, could deter criminal behavior, if only she had more funding for research. On her way home from a lecture she is accosted by an escaped Joker, and witnesses a battle between him and Batman firsthand, an event which will haunt her throughout the story. Given a grant by the Wayne Foundation (Yeah, THAT Wayne), she begins researching in Arkham. 

We get from the comic a more complete picture of Harleen. She's brilliant and hopeful, if a bit naïve believing that she could cure psychotics with a single treatment. She has a broken past, finding out that in college she had a romantic relationship with one of her professors, something that was only hinted at before, but that the relationship didn't work out and despite that she still graduated with honors. 


Harleen's first confrontation with the Joker was extremely traumatic for her, which leads to her psychosis throughout the comic. Remember, the Joker in the DC Universe is a terrifying monster, despite not having any super powers. He has the highest body count out of all the Batman villains and his method of killing with his body changing Joker gas is a terrifying way to die. One of my favorite parts of Harley Quinn is that her villainous origin has nothing to do with superhuman nonsense. She is a person in a toxic relationship that has infiltrated every portion of her life. Her PTSD from her first encounter is exacerbated when she has to start studying and interviewing the Clown Prince of Crime, aided by the Joker's own mental manipulation. 

As Harleen's research continues, her fear of the Joker slowly turned into an unhealthy obsession, which then became an unhealthy attraction. Joker knows this and plays it like the master manipulator he is, but the comic hints that he may be falling for Harleen as well, making the relationship even more fascinating as it is unhealthy. 

Where's the R

Harleen earns its Black Label status from a generous use of swearing and sexual innuendo. The scenes between the Joker and Harleen tastefully fade to black while the swears are usually fewer and further between, but because they do exist the comic does require a discerning eye. 

If however, you want to see a compelling story about how a person slowly broken down by a literal toxic person and see it all beautifully illustrated, pick up Harleen.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Pokemon Nicknames: Harry Potter (Gen IV-VII)

We were out in Oklahoma staying at a cabin with family last month. With my daughter occupied by her cousins, I finally pulled out my Harry Potter book again, which I hadn't read in weeks. So with more Harry Potter on my mind, so are Harry Potter Pokemon names. So here are the second half of my Pokemon nicknames. If you missed the Gen I-III names, check them out

Glameow (or Purrloin) as Crookshanks

Serperior as Salazar

Sawsbuck (or Stantler) as Prongs

Galvantula (or Ariados) as Aragog

Braviary as Rowena

Froakie (or Politoed) as Trevor

Pyroar as Godric

Trevenant as Willow

Dartrix as Hedwig

Lycanroc as Moony