Recently in Geek-dom: Carl Sagan’s Lecture Notes

Good morning Isaac, Arth, Elliot, Kendra, et al. It’s Friday. This blog post is like Darth Maul’s corpse: it comes in two parts.
Part One: this series.
“Passion is great for being a superhero.”
“But not so great for being a reporter?”
– Supergirl and her friend in a recent episode of her show.
Unlike most journalists, I’m assigned to write opinion pieces for this journalism class I’m taking. I’m encouraged to get passionate about stuff. My nerdy interests and my faith should be things I get passionate about, hence this new series to satisfy the new assignment.
But this assignment also made me wonder about that passion. I feel like I’m taking the middle road between wholeheartedly recommending fandoms and tearing to shreds anything that a Christian might find questionable. As a result, my passion is undermined by an effort to see things from both sides. I’ve been trying to figure out how to fix that.

Part Two: the news.
In recent news, the Library of Congress released digital versions of Carl Sagan’s course notes from when the scientist taught at colleges like Harvard. In addition to educational materials and challenging test questions, Sagan included commentary that encouraged critical thinking and discernment in learning about scientific observations; after all, the Tobacco Institute apparently ignored the health hazards of smoking in their research.
Christians can and should study science, but with that same discernment, as many otherwise brilliant scientists make observations with the assumption that God does not exist.

This critical thinking is the key to my middle-road dilemma. I’m trying to encourage viewing nerdy fandom stories with discernment; they may threaten a Christian’s faith otherwise. But that doesn’t mean a Christian can’t enjoy these stories. As Isaac and I continually point out, there are lessons to learn and Christian themes to draw from them.
So what is the point of this blog? Perspective. We add to the already passionate conversation about these nerd-geek concepts. Ideally, our Christian worldview adds something new. At the very least we make you think. That may be the best we can do, and as long as it satisfies the Persuasive Writing assignment, I’m happy.
Isaac, I’ll hear from you on Wednesday.


How Logan Could Change R-Rated Superhero Movies

Last week, I wrote about Assassin’s Creed in light of the new trailer drop. Apparently, I missed the memo that there were a bunch of other trailers dropping. I bring this up because, last week, we got our first look at the next—and possibly final—X-Men movie, Logan.

Since it was announced, Logan has been hyped up to be the movie where we finally get an R-Rated Wolverine. However, many spoke out about it trying to emulate Deadpool.

And I admit, Deadpool is probably one of the first R-Rated Superhero movies. If you ignore Blade, Watchmen, Spawn, and (pardon my language) Kick-Ass, all of which predated the Pool’s onscreen appearance by three years at minimum.

So, what are my opinions on Logan in light of the increase in R-Rated superhero movies?

To be honest, I’m looking forward to this movie. While Deadpool billed itself as a comedy, thereby having the potential to attract a younger audience, Logan looks more like a drama piece. And a sad one at that. I think the budding R-Rated superhero genre needs to have more dramatic pieces, as the rating allows for more creative freedom and even realism. It has been used to fill the screen with violence-for-the-sake-of-violence and raunchy humor in movies that have little-to-no lasting value. Logan looks like a movie that could last.

Sure, Wolverine is certainly more popular than Deadpool and has been marketed to kids as well, but he’s always been darker and edgier. Yet, despite being darker and edgier than most others, he still has a good moral compass. Wolverine doesn’t go around picking fights; if my memory serves me well, he’s always been a good guy, just one who has twelve-inch retractable claws.

But, I won’t really know until the movie comes out. These are just my initial thoughts. I will say, though, that I plan on being in the theaters opening weekend.

Next week, I plan on doing a review of the recently-released Battlefield 1.

Let’s Connect:



Squad Goals, or What Makes Amanda Waller a Villain?

I got around to watching Suicide Squad the other day. Isaac wrote about it once, but he hadn’t seen it. He considered the question of bad people doing good things, like the armies who punished Israel or Pirates of the Caribbean. I found another application.
Let’s talk about Amanda Waller. She thinks she can manipulate exceptionally talented criminals to be anti-heroes. From that description, Waller could just be a misguided government agent. Why is she so obviously a villain for comic book fans, even casual ones like me? The answer is a little complicated.
It’s commonly understood, particularly in superhero movies, that people fear what they don’t understand. The mean people with superpowers can use that fear to rule the world. The people without powers with not-so-nice agendas can use that fear to enact crazy plans. Lex Luthor does that in Batfleck vs Superman because he hates Superman (for various reasons, including insanity). Suicide Squad doesn’t suggest that Waller hates or fears metahumans; initially I thought she was preying on the fears of the rest of the government. But that’s not what she does, either.
Why doesn’t Waller use her connections to help Batman put together his dream team (besides the fact that that plot would be too much like the Avengers)? Easy. She uses criminals because she can control them. At least, she thinks she can. She can certainly control them better than she could control the other superheroes. While she maintains control of them she can take advantage of their superpowers. That’s the basic plot of the movie in more ways than one.
Human nature wants control. Fear is our usual method of achieving safety, which is control of our immediate surroundings. But when we pursue greater control, we tend to do things that make us “villainous.”
This reminds me of Jessica Jones. In Marvel’s second Defenders series, David Tennant plays Kilgrave, a man who can control people just by speaking. It’s strongly suggested that he only becomes villainous because no one has said no to him since he was seven. This suggests that, due to human nature, anyone would be a villain if they got whatever they desired. Amanda Waller proves that you don’t need superpowers for that to happen.

Let’s Connect!

Coming Soon: A New Series
I’m starting another class that requires blog activity. This one is geared toward persuasive writing, so this Friday I’ll be starting a new series of opinion pieces. I’ve written posts containing my opinion before, but now I’m going to try to focus on being critical when necessary and arguing my opinion well. I’d be open to suggestions if you’d like to hear what I think about anything in particular.

Fandoms Ruin Death

By the end of Season 1 of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Arthur Darvill had successfully made me forget about Rory Williams as he portrayed Captain Rip Hunter fantastically. There was still a whiff of Doctor Who, of course, because Rip is a Time Master charged with fighting evil throughout history. In the Season 2 premiere, he truly channels the Doctor by *SPOILER ALERT* leaving a recorded goodbye hologram for his team before crashing into an atomic bomb.
One problem: we all know he’s not dead. There’s no evidence that he’s alive, but we didn’t see a body either. And thanks to almost everyone else on the Legends team, Rory Williams, Sherlock Holmes, Nick Fury, and so many other characters in nerd-geek fandom, we just know he’s not dead. Even if he is, he’s important enough to the story that someone will find a loophole – probably related to time travel – and bring him back.
Many nerds and geeks are understandably frustrated with the impermanence of death in our stories, especially because it makes us pretty ambivalent toward death.
Stories about zombies and vampires are interesting because death is both permanent and impermanent. People can come back, but they’ll be different. In the movie Life after Beth, Aubrey Plaza’s character dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Her parents and boyfriend feel the intense weight of the loss. It’s very sad. But then she comes back, and everyone is happy again…until she deteriorates into a zombie. Although it’s a comedy, the movie portrays the emotional roller-coaster that everyone goes through fairly well.

I’m blessed to have all my close friends and family alive and well. I haven’t felt that intense and depressing burden of loss. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized the significance of what Jesus did. He was dead. He stayed that way for three days. And then he wasn’t dead anymore. He did the same miracle for other humans.
That power over death is what gives our Christian faith meaning. It’s far more important than any fictional character doing it. It shows that Jesus can save us from anything. Although our physical bodies will expire, we can have more life in the time we have, and our afterlife will be awesome.
Don’t let fandoms ruin death for you.

Thoughts? Let’s Connect.

Coming Soon: a new series, and not even from Isaac. More on that on Monday (plus a bonus post).

The October Deadzone and My Thoughts on Assassin’s Creed

So as I prepared this post, I started by scoping around for big releases this month.

My results were, among other things, inconclusive, partially due to my own lack of involvement. We got a new Godzilla movie, Shin Godzilla, which I have heard lots of good things about, but haven’t gotten the chance to see. The big video game release of the month is Battlefield 1 (and Sister Location, but I covered that already), and nothing new for anime has crossed my path.

It doesn’t surprise me that there are times of the year when the powers that be stop releasing things, either because they are busy working on the next thing or they already released it in September. I guess you could draw a connection between this lull and the Sabbath which we are commanded to keep, except I am not that well-versed in the topic.

So, instead, I’m going to talk about something I know: Assassin’s Creed.

We recently got a bunch of trailers for various movies this week, including Assassin’s Creed, the movie about a group of hooded flippy-flippy-stabby-stabby people in ancient times, and a modern day…prison break from Abstergo?

This is where I have my concerns. I’ve only played Assassin’s Creed III, but I am quite familiar with the other games in the franchise. At least, I am familiar enough with them to know that nobody likes the Desmond missions. (Those missions being the points where the character leaves the past, returns to the present, and runs around for twenty minutes.) Those parts of the story do not make an AC game; the game where you play as a citizen of a designated historical time period. And it seems like Ubisoft is trying to sell the Desmond missions to us as the main plot.

Personally, I had plans to go see Assassin’s Creed this December. Note my use of the past tense.


Let’s Connect:



Last Week in Geek-dom: Luke Cage

I touched on racism once before and I felt like I might step on a landmine. I’m walking with the same trepidation today. The question: is Marvel’s latest Netflix show Luke Cage about racism?
For this show, Harlem acts as a microcosm of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Luke Cage is like the Avengers, loved by some and opposed by others. That microcosm happens to be populated with black people.
It’s a good show, but it’s my least favorite of the Defenders series because I found most of the villains boring. Most of Marvel’s other stuff, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones, have spectacular villains. Luke Cage has exactly two interesting enemies, and they’re both minions. They’re also the only two Caucasians in the main cast. But I can’t tell what that implies.
Cage faces clear racism in prison, in his backstory, but the main show is in Harlem where everyone is black. On the other hand, most of the bad guys are stereotypical black gangstas. The Big Bad looks like he’s trying to be the most stereotypical Georgia boy possible. “Can you dig it?” “Bye Felicia.” “Negro please.” “N***a please.”
That’s the other thing: there are a lot of n-bombs in this show. I only counted one F-bomb and maybe five scantily clad ladies, and there’s very little graphic violence since bullets bounce off the superhero, but I was surprised by all the n-bombs. But they’re all black people saying that to other black people. Is that less racist? See, this is why I’m confused.
Consider Supergirl. That show is about a girl trying to get ahead in Superman’s world, but that’s never the primary focus of the show. Similarly, Luke Cage is not about a black superhero trying to get ahead in Captain Blonde-Hair-Blue-Eyes-Perfect-Teeth’s world. He’s just a superhero who’s black. And I can’t tell if Marvel is being clever or crossing a line or shying away from the line.

You may notice that the question isn’t “is it racist?” It’s about racism. That’s an important difference. So many people are nervous about talking about racism, including me. I think we get it confused with actually being racist. But talking about it should be a very constructive thing. If we don’t talk about it we can’t hope to fix it.

I’m genuinely curious what our readers think about this. Let’s Connect.


Sister Location: You’d Think I’d Be Mad

Last Friday, October 7th, Scott Cawthon dropped his latest game, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location. I honestly forgot about it the week before it came out, probably because for once he didn’t release it early.

You’d think that I’d be mad that the horror game franchise has once again returned, this time with a polished chrome exterior. The horror lives on, terrifying our children, that kind of thing.

But, I would like to point out, my chief issue with the franchise was not with the games, it was with the merchandising. Make an R-rated movie, M-rated game, or similar and I won’t have a problem. Market it to children, and then we have issues. To be honest, the same problems I had with Five Nights are the same problems I had with The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Yeah, that one. The Tim Burton musical. I watched it when I was in high school, and I was put off by it. I was able to respect it as a surreal movie and as a musical, but as a kid’s movie? No. No-no-no-no-no-no-no. No.

So, what does this have to do with Five Nights? Well, I sat down and watched a Let’s Play of the game (specifically, Markiplier’s) to get a good idea of the new game. I like the story-driven-ness of the game. I would probably put this game in its own category, apart from the other games.

And…that’s all I have to say this week.


Let’s Connect: