Monday, May 20, 2024

LDS Geeks Podcast #18: Harry Potter on Max

Though not slated to come out until 2026, it's never too early for Potterheads to begin speculating about the series coming to Max. Instead of speculating, Kenton and I talked more about our briefest wish list for the new Harry Potter series.


Friday, May 17, 2024

Bandit is Why I Loved "The Sign"

So last month I asked Joe to review Bluey's extended episode "The Sign", and he did not disappoint. But as soon as I read his review, I knew I needed to write my own. This isn't a rebuttal to his post, at least not in the traditional sense, but I definitely wanted to share a different perspective on the episode and why, in contrast to Joe, I loved it.

I watched "The Sign" with my girls while we were visiting Utah for my brother-in-law's wedding, and in the midst of house hunting, so the wedding and move were topics I could already relate to. My heart felt for Bandit: wrestling through a seemingly impossible situation, trying to do the right thing for his family. 

Understandably for Joe and anyone else who had issues with the Heeler family cancelling their move in "The Sign", there was a lesson that was seemingly negated by staying. We learned from Calypso that things don't always work out the way we want them, and the ambiguous ending in the story of "the Farmer" left that point front and center for Bluey throughout the rest of the episode. To anyone who took issue with that abrupt turn of events, the change in tone and direction, I feel for you, and it isn't the only abrupt twist of events. Just look at Brandy! For the record, I agree that Brandy’s sudden pregnancy feels cheap after watching “Onesies”—mostly because she was just an Easter egg; if she’s gonna be pregnant finally, she deserves her own episode again. But I digress...

As a father, my focus in the episode was on Bandit. Compared to the kids and Chili he had limited screen time, but his time was impactful. It was obvious to me that, like any decent father, he wanted the best for his kids. I think he truly believed that the move and the better paying job would give his kids what they needed. But that's part of the problem here. 

As far as we can tell from three seasons of Bluey, there's nothing to indicate that the Heelers are in any dire financial hardship. Like many families, they probably have a mortgage and some debt, but nothing that precluded them from their basic needs and a little extra. So why was Bandit concerned about giving them a better life? Probably for the same reason I felt guilty using my time off to recover from a splitting headache. 

There’s something about being a father that’s simultaneously humbling and empowering. I think any good father has this near constant wonder if he’s raising his kids properly. Am I giving them enough attention? Am I listening properly? Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? I think this is what Bandit was dealing with (some have speculated he’s had this on his mind as far back as “Stickbird”). There’s a constant searching for all good fathers to give their kids enough and to make them happy. And I think sometimes we get the wrong idea about what will make that happen. 

Bandit thought a better paying job would give him the means to give his kids the best life. Maybe sometimes a move and a better paying job is best. Maybe sometimes planting roots is best. But what’s most important is to try where you're already planted. I know Yoda said “do or do not” but I believe trying to see the best and do our best as fathers will matter more than a high-paying salary. Cling to your Chili and do the best you can. Maybe ripping the sign out was the wrong move for Bandit; but if that’s the case, then he and Chili made the mistake together.

A line from Girl Meets World come to mind. It's when Maya confronts her birth father: “Your job was to stay.” That is a truly powerful lesson. The greatest thing as fathers that we can do, dads, is to be present with your Blueys and Bingos. Do as best you can. And if you’re ever feeling insecure, like you can’t measure up to a cartoon dog (we’ll talk about that on the podcast a little next month), or you feel you can't be the dad you think you ought to, please look at your kids and remember how much they love you (my therapist throws that trump card at me all the time)–and in the words of Wreck-It Ralph, “If that little kid likes me, how bad can I be?”

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Dragonsteel Nexus 2024

Prepare to step into a realm where imagination knows no bounds, for this December, the eagerly anticipated DragonSteel Nexus 2024 (December 5-7) at Salt Lake City's Utah Convention Center is set to transport fans on an unforgettable journey through the boundless landscapes of fantasy. Organized by the visionary author Brandon Sanderson himself, this event promises to be a celebration unlike any other, where fans from all walks of life come together to revel in the wonders of storytelling and creativity.

Nestled in the heart of a vibrant metropolis, the DragonSteel Nexus serves as a nexus point for fans of Brandon Sanderson's expansive literary universe and beyond. From the iconic worlds of the Cosmere to the far-flung realms of epic fantasy and science fiction, attendees will have the opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of Sanderson's imagination, as well as discover new worlds and stories that capture the essence of adventure and discovery.

Patrons will find themselves immersed in a breathtaking spectacle of sights and sounds. Elaborate displays and art that bring to life the iconic locations and characters from Sanderson's novels, offering fans a chance to walk in the footsteps of their favorite heroes and heroines. From the towering spires of Roshar to the mist-shrouded streets of Scadrial, every corner of the Nexus is steeped in the rich lore and history of Sanderson's literary creations.

At the heart of this event lies a gathering place for fans and creators alike to share their passion for storytelling and world-building. Panels and workshops led by renowned authors, artists, and industry professionals offer insights into the craft of writing, character design, and world-building, providing attendees with the tools and inspiration to embark on their own creative journeys.

But perhaps the true magic of the DragonSteel Nexus lies in its sense of community and camaraderie. From lively debates and spirited discussions to impromptu cosplay meetups and gaming sessions, the Nexus buzzes with the energy of like-minded fans coming together to celebrate their shared love of fantasy and science fiction. Friendships are forged, memories are made, and lifelong bonds are formed as attendees unite in their passion for the written word and the power of imagination. 

If you want proof of the event's popularity, consider this: when ticket sales opened, it took less than an hour (50 minutes) for all 1,500 VIP and 10,000 general admission tickets to sell out. Hopefully, more tickets will become available, and I hope to see you there so we can celebrate the release of the highly anticipated Stormlight 5: Wind and Truth together.

Monday, May 13, 2024

That Person is a Child of God… Therefore What?

(Guest post by Spencer's dad)

Last month, I wrote an article called “I am a Child of God… Therefore What?” When we see ourselves and others as children of God, will we see them differently?  How would seeing them as children of God change how we interact?

At the conclusion of that article I wrote “Over the next ten days I will consider those questions. In two weeks I will write up some observations I made as I tried to see those around me ?”  Ten days was only the beginning of my re-visualizing the world. A month later I have three conclusions (so far):

1. We are all like the crooked tree we saw off the Old Alaska Highway.  As you look at the attached photo you can see that the top of the tree was bent at a 90 degree angle over the road. No other tree have this unique growth pattern.  No doubt a scientist could study “90 degree Tree” and conclude why this one is unique.   (It is already unique because I gave it a name)

Each of us (children of God) is as unique as 90 Degree Tree.  Our path of life has taken us to places we never imagined (both good and bad).   Our experiences and choices have brought us to where we  today.   It is easy to see how 90 Degree Tree is different than all of the other trees.  It is not as easy to see or accept how different we each are inside and outside.

2. Each child of God is as amazing as 90 Degree Tree. In the last month my eyes have been opened to how amazing each person is no matter where they are on the path.  God sees us as someone of worth. God does not define us by our current or life long challenge. The pine cone does not look much like a tree, but we know that each seed has the potential to become something much different.  We have potential to become something much different than what we have been if we allow God to nourish our seed of faith. 

3. Each child of God grows at different rates (in different seasons).  In our 16 months in the Yukon no one would have expected a tall pine tree to grow from seedling to tower over us. Steady long-term growth will bring that seedling to its towering potential. During spring and summer 2023 we saw flowers grow from seeds to full bloom.  Before we leave this month some flowers will begin their growth cycle. 

Our hope, as missionaries and as church members, is that we can help each other grow.  The gospel provides for us the spiritual nourishment to understand our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  Church meetings allows us to learn from each other and grow our flower.  The programs of the church give us the structure where we can put theory into action.   As we serve children of God we feel the Lord’s love for them (and for us).  

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Power of Kindness

As I finish off Digimon Adventure 02 and as it’s mental health awareness month, I wanted to highlight some of the best character development from the series. From Digimon Emperor to saving the Digi-Destined from Daemon, Ken went through his personal hell to get where he ended up by the end of it all. So let’s start at the beginning. 

Ken and His Brother
Exact dates and years are unclear, but as a young child Ken constantly compared himself to his older brother Sam. Who could blame him? His parents and neighbors frequently praised Sam and Ken felt forgotten. Even when the Digivice appeared to Ken, Sam claimed it was his. How could that not affect his self-esteem? So when he ventured to the Digital World, fought Millenniummon, and was infected by the Dark Spore, there was already plenty of trauma and darkness in his heart for the Spore to feed on. Wormmon warned him that people would try to take advantage of his kindness and he couldn't have known how right he'd be.

The Dark Spore
This feat of dark engineering would feed on a child’s innocence and potential that would make them a Digi-Destined, according to Oikawa. You could compare it to depression, anxiety, addiction, or any other mental health issue. With our world as broken as it is, I believe all of us have “mini traumas” that have shaped the way we look at life. These traumas big or small are like the Dark Spore, feeding on everything good and bad in our lives.

Losing His Brother
Maybe it was the Dark Spore at work or maybe it was some dark coincidence, but the resentment in his heart got Ken wishing his brother would disappear, so he could have the spotlight for once. After his brother’s passing, he felt responsible for it, so add that to his traumas. So when he was drawn to the Dark Ocean, the darkness and self-loathing in his heart overtook him. 

The Reign of the Digimon Emperor
Trying to escape from the traumas of his life, Ken retreated to the Digital World, as his grades and athletics rose to new levels. He had all the adulations he’d ever wanted, but it was never enough. And somewhere along the line he grew to believe that the Digital World was like a video game and his actions were inconsequential there. He could rule and conquer to boost his ego and get that dopamine hit. 

Reality Check and Wormmon’s Rebirth
After his defeat at the hands of the new Digi-Destined, he came back to himself, realizing how real the Digimon were, just in time to see Wormmmon die. With the Crest of Kindness in hand, he walked off from the others. The soul-searching that came afterwards took him through memories of his brother and the Dark Ocean, eventually leading him to return to the Digital World where he reunited with his partner. With the forgiveness of his Digimon, Ken was finally able to begin the process of moving on and making restitution for his wrongs.

Ken's Redemption Story
In the second half of Adventure 02, Ken becomes an integral part of the Digi-Destined team. Eventually the whole team, even Cody, forgive him for his actions as the Emperor. However, multiple events would still occur that would trigger the trauma of what he'd done, including slipping into the Dark Ocean with Kari, facing off against Daemon, and allowing himself to be taken by Oikawa. Even with all the good he'd done for the Digital World to repair his wrongs, he was still haunted by his mistakes. 

A Lesson in Treating Yourself with Kindness
I think the best thing for me that came out of my recent re-watch of Adventure 02 is the less in self-compassion. Interesting since his was the Crest of Kindness. Mention was made multiple times through his redemption arc of the irony that the ex-Digimon Emperor would have that crest; he Digimon was anything but kind. However, even when he changed his ways and was outwardly kind, we never saw his crest glow (and oh how I wish we could have seen Wormmon's ultimate form). Maybe it was because there was no tag. Or maybe it's just plot armor. But equally likely, in my opinion, is how unkind he was to himself during his redemption.

I could reference the confrontation with Daemon (and it's a good one) to illustrate how Ken had to be kind to himself and forgive himself, but I think what proves my point even more is when the Digi-Destined faced off against MaloMyotismon. When the reborn villain cast his illusion over the children, TK had his family back together, Kari saw harmony between both worlds, and Cody and Yolei were presented with fantasies without much previous build-up. However, instead of a fantasy of his brother reborn or of a happy Digital World, Ken's insecurity-based illusion involved him being punished by the Digimon and taken away by his brother (to the afterlife, I guess). It illustrates a level of shame and self-contempt that was not present with the other Digi-Destined. It took the support of Wormmon and his friends to pull him out of the shame-based illusion.

Facing the Dark Spores
Later, as MaloMytotismon fed on the hopelessness of the Dark Spore kids. I've already compared the Dark Spore to the darkness of mental health struggles and it's apparent here. The kids have lost hope and have forgotten their dreams (or told their dreams were worthless). Through the encouragement of the Digi-Destined the kids latch onto their hopes again, even just a little bit. Even just that little bit of hope and self-compassion helped the darkness lose control. How powerful would it be if we could all do that? It's like casting a patronus; you need to focus on the hope in life for any chance of fighting the powers of darkness. 

Sometimes I feel like I've got that Dark Spore in me. By no means have I done anything as atrocious as the Digimon Emperor, but like anyone I have my regrets. Practicing kindness and forgiving myself for mistakes I've made is rough. I think TK said it best in the Adventure 02 epilogue:

"The darkness has not been conquered, and it will continue to fight against the light forever. But as long as people remember to follow their dreams, evil will be kept at bay. And on days like today, it's hard to see any darkness anywhere. Now it's up to our children, and to children everywhere, to follow their dreams. Who knows where they'll end up... But the only way to find out is to take the first step into adventure..."


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Why I Want to Watch Pokémon Horizons

 In today’s rapidly evolving world, fostering meaningful connections with our children is more important than ever. Shared experiences, particularly those that blend entertainment with valuable life lessons, can create lasting bonds and shape perspectives. Pokémon Horizons stands as a prime example, offering not only captivating storytelling but also invaluable lessons about friendship, determination, and personal growth. In this exploration, we delve into why embracing this animated series with your children, specifically daughters can be a transformative journey, enriching their lives and strengthening familial ties. I haven't watched the series yet, but this is what I learned from my research and one day I when my daughters are old enough I will watch it with them.

Empowering Representation: 

Pokémon Horizons boasts a diverse cast of characters, including strong, independent female protagonists like May, Dawn, Serena, and Lillie. These characters serve as empowering role models for young girls, showcasing courage, resilience, and ambition. By witnessing their journeys, daughters can glean inspiration and develop a sense of self-assurance, realizing that they too can pursue their dreams and overcome obstacles.

Fostering Collaboration and Friendship: 

Central to the Pokémon ethos is the importance of teamwork and camaraderie. Through Ash and his friends’ adventures, children learn the value of collaboration, empathy, and understanding. Watching Pokémon Horizons with your daughters provides an opportunity to discuss the dynamics of friendship, encouraging them to cultivate meaningful relationships built on trust and mutual respect. 

I like the idea of being able to start fresh with Pokémon with new protagonists that isn't Ash. I like that the main protagonist is a girl named Liko that my daughter may connect with.

Building Lasting Memories: 

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, moments of genuine connection with our children are precious. By making Pokémon Horizons a shared experience, parents can create cherished memories that will be treasured for years to come. Whether it’s cosplaying as favorite characters, engaging in Pokémon-themed activities, or simply snuggling on the couch during marathon sessions, these shared experiences strengthen familial bonds and create a sense of belonging. We can bring the nostalgia from our childhoods to our children lives with this new series.


In essence, Pokémon Horizons transcends its status as a mere animated series, serving as a catalyst for familial bonding, personal growth, and shared discovery. By embarking on this journey with their children, parents have the opportunity to shape not only their children’s worldview but also the memories they will carry into adulthood. So, gather your Poké Balls and embark on an adventure filled with laughter, learning, and love – for in the world of Pokémon Horizons, the greatest treasures are the bonds we forge along the way. 

Have you watched Pokémon Horizons? What are your thoughts on the new series?

Monday, May 6, 2024

LDS Geeks Podcast #17: The Future of Star Wars

Ever since Disney acquired Star Wars, it's been a world of controversy. Mando and Clone Wars have generally been considered successful. The Sequels and Kenobi have come under criticism. And yet Disney still has more plans for Star Wars. So please join me and Ben, our latest guest geek, as we discuss the future of Star Wars.


Friday, May 3, 2024

Friday Creature Feature - Dobby

(Guest post by Russell)

Our first introduction to the house elf, Dobby, comes in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He is overzealous in his attempts to “protect” Harry Potter from bad things that are to occur at Hogwarts that year. Under Dobby’s “protection”, Harry is sent a letter of warning about using magic, even though he didn’t use magic,  suffers humiliation at not being able to get through platform nine and three quarters, crashes into and is attacked by the Whomping Willow, and gets hit by a rogue bludger and subsequently has all his bones removed and then subsequently regrown. Sorry for the spoilers. Needless to say, Dobby is not very good at “protecting” Harry. 

Nevertheless, even after all these “protective” acts, Harry grows to love Dobby and does in fact orchestrate Dobby’s release from the Malfoy family. Again, sorry for the spoilers. I have come to develop a great affinity for this overprotective house elf. He is reminiscent of various people that we may encounter in life from younger siblings, to well meaning friends, to loved ones who try to “protect” us and end up causing some sort of harm. While we encounter Dobby over the course of the Harry Potter series, I want to fast forward to the end.

I was a missionary when the 7th Harry Potter book came out. To be honest, I still have never read the book, but I have listened to the audiobook (Jim Dale is great!) countless times. I remember painting my sister’s room in the days after arriving home and having the chance to listen to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As best I can remember, my mom and I were painting the ceiling when it happened. Stop reading now, if you don’t want another spoiler. Bellatrix’s knife found it’s mark and Dobby met his doom. I stopped painting and let out a cry of agony. It felt as if a good friend was gone. It took a few minutes for me to get back to painting.

Only later did I discover the irony in Dobby’s death: in spite of Dobby’s poor attempts at protecting Harry early on in the series, he does a great job of it at the end and ultimately sacrifices his life to save Harry’s. 

I hope that none of our younger siblings or friends or loved ones are ever in a situation to sacrifice their lives for you, but I do hope that the next time they try to do something well meaning, you think of a  well meaning house elf and Luna Lovegood’s fitting tribute to him.

“Thank you so much, Dobby, for rescuing me from that cellar. It's so unfair that you had to die, when you were so good and brave. I'll always remember what you did for us. I hope you're happy now.” 

Read more about Dobby and other house-elves in another Creature Feature

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Third Doctor Revisited: Spearhead From Space

Finally finished off with the Second Doctor era (and the head-canon following) so we're onto the Third Doctor era, as TJ and I continue to make our way through Classic Who. And I had enough random thoughts or tidbits to make a blog post. So here we go!

This was also my first exposure to the Third Doctor, over ten years ago, when some friends and I did a marathon of sorts before the 50th Anniversary Special; we had one story from each of the eleven Doctors of the time. Possibly one of the best things I did in college.

As the Third Doctor appeared, this was the first color episode to appear as well. I gotta wonder what it was like to watch the First and Second Doctors and then move into complete color, a novelty at the time. It's like a whole new era of Doctor Who. And not just because of the color.

With the Doctor grounded on Earth, unable to fly the TARDIS and working with UNIT, this episode (and this era) stretched the idea of who qualified as “companion” to the Doctor. Typically, Liz is considered the companion of this season, but she doesn't travel in the TARDIS any more than the Brigadier or other UNIT staff. In some lists, including my own, sometimes I'll even include recurring UNIT personnel, but I always include the Brig.

This story also brings up a lot of details that end up running through decades of Doctor Who. Let's start with the fact that this is the first time the Doctor's referenced to have two hearts, one of the few specific things we know about Time Lord anatomy. His allegiance with UNIT made him the organization's primary scientific advisor, which has continued over decades of canon, as recently as the Fourteenth Doctor.

As the second post-regeneration story, it was new territory for lots of themes and running gags. Lots of long time threads of regeneration began here. For example, the post-regeneration coma first happened here with the Third Doctor, but it would come up again with the Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth Doctors, while the others showed no sign of problem. The Third Doctor was also the first of the Doctors to steal hospital clothes for his outfit, followed by the Eighth and Eleventh Doctors. 

The silly moments in this story also showcased the wonderful character of the Third Doctor and his comedic timing. I still can't get over the Doctor cuddling his shoes and escaping in a wheelchair. Can't wait to see more of him as I continue through the Third Doctor era (and I can't wait to see Sarah Jane again).

Monday, April 29, 2024

The BIG Problem with Bluey's “The Sign”

No, this is not clickbait. I am about to tear into everyone's favorite cartoon. 

The Plot

In the 20 minute Bluey episode The Sign Chili's best friend Aunt Frisky is getting ready to marry Bandit's brother Rad, a relationship we saw begin in the episode Double Babysitter. Meanwhile, Bandit and Chili are getting ready to sell their house and move to another city, following Bandit's opportunity for a higher paying job. Bluey of course is distressed by the idea of having to move away, and Chili isn't thrilled by the idea either. Bluey's teacher, Calypso, reads her a story about how everything will work out in the end and Bluey believes that means that they won't have to move if she can just find a way to stop it. She gets in her head that if she removes the "For Sale" sign in the front yard that the house will no longer be for sale and they won't have to move. 

Meanwhile Aunt Frisky and Rad get into a fight and Aunt Frisky decides to call off the wedding and runs away, leaving it up to Chili to pile Bluey, Bingo, Muffin and Socks into the car and chase after her. Since Aunt Frisky was going to remove the sign for the wedding Bluey believes that if the wedding is off that the sign will remain so she's doubly invested to find her and get the wedding back on. Needless to say Chili finds her best friend through a series of coincidences (Including a very illegal break of confidentiality from a cop) and the wedding is back on full of dozens of cameos from previous characters (We'll talk about that later) but Chili explains to Bluey that the house has already been sold and that taking down the sign wouldn't stop that. 

Later, just as the Heelers are pulling out of their driveway for the last time, Bandit gets a call telling him that the couple who bought their house has backed out, which as the audience we learn that it was due to the nonsense that happened during Chili and Aunt Frisky's chase. Bandit, knowing how much his family doesn't want to move, steps out of the car and pulls the sign out himself declaring that they are staying. 


My Issue

So why am I here complaining about all this? Bluey got her happy ending, the status quo has been restored, and all is as it should be, right? 

That's the issue. 

For years now children's entertainment has been challenging the idea that everything has a neat "happily ever after", moving more towards the idea that things happen that we may not like, even bad things, and teaching how to cope and understand those bad things. Bluey was no exception, even hitting a little harder than most other shows with some of its topics. The perfect example is the controversial and temporarily banned episode Onesie, where Chili's sister Brandy is subtly hinted that she wants children but for some reason can't have them. When Bluey finds out that Brandy wants something she can't have she states how unfair that is and is told that it's how life goes sometimes. At the end of the episode Brandy is still without children and is making steps to cope with this loss, including coming to visit her sister and her insane daughters, one of which turns into a cheetah and mauls her. 

During the wedding cameos in The Sign we see, without dialogue, Chili hug a very happy and very pregnant Brandy, meaning that whatever she had going on was fixed offscreen. That's the problem though: That one cameo undid the lesson and emotional investment we got from Onesie by saying that "Hey everything works out the way you want in the end!". Unfortunately not, in real life some people who want children can't have them and sometimes you have to move even if you don't want to, both of which were lessons that were completely lost in this episode. 

As a person who has dealt with similar issues both as a child and as an adult I find the entire "Everyone gets a happy ending" insulting. To me this isn't what Bluey is about and it isn't a lesson I want to be teaching children in a show that has done so well in teaching harsh life lessons in such a beautiful and understanding manner. 

A Deal's A Deal

I made a deal with another writer here, Spencer, that if I was going to rant about Bluey that I had to say something nice about it too. So here it is: 

The entire chase sequence with Chili and the girls is nothing short of comedy gold. Everyone shines as this stressful road trip is compounded by having four little ones along for the ride. They do as children often do: get in the way, cause more issues than necessary, and are in general not helpful, until they are. They are the ones who ask the questions, no guile in sight, that help them find Aunt Frisky in the end. Socks even spots Aunt Friskie's car while they're at a roadside bathroom (Good eye) and keeps the chase going. This is classic Bluey comedy and I was rolling when they were hot on the trail and Muffin needed to go to the bathroom stopping the chase in its tracks.