Friday, June 24, 2016

To shave or not to shave?

Beards are making a weird comeback in popular culture. Even the weird curly mustaches are starting to be popular, yet if you have a beard some church members will think you're an immoral Satan worshiper unless you take a razor to your whiskers.

Let me back up: I'm not in any way criticizing the church, church policy, or the gospel, and frankly, outside of the mission field and BYU honor code, beards are not against any standing church policy. In fact once upon a time missionaries were encouraged to grow beards in order to look older and more mature, which isn't such a bad idea. Have you seen the 18 year olds going out? I sometimes wonder if they're just dressing up Sunbeams...

But I digress.

So if anti-beards aren't in the scriptures, church handbook and haven't been brought up in a conference since the 60's, what's the problem? Well the problem starts in the 60's, when beards were no longer seen as a professional and mature symbol, but as a symbol of deviance and counter-culture. Not having beards made elders look different and more dignified.

The First Presidency at the time said that the policy was fluid, not doctrine, and is based on the culture at the time. In 2016 the beard has become more mainstream, as a more casual look has become the new adult. So if someone wants to have a beard and has a job where it's seen as perfectly acceptable, are they unworthy?

The answer is no. In no way shape or form are they bad because they have a beard. It is facial hair, let's get over it.

Now I'm not going against any bishop or stake president who says that beards need to go for their specific areas. I'm  just some guy with a blog and a lot of free time. But I hate it when culture and doctorine get twisted together and good people doing what's right take on shame and anger because someone is stuck in the wrong age. Bishops and stake presidents, I implore you. Are you acting based on the spirit, or based on a tradition you grew up with?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mormon Geeks Coloring Book!

Hay folks,
Coloring has become so hot among adults the United States is actually having a colored pencil shortage! Not one to be behind on trends, here is the official Mormon Geeks Coloring Book. Most of these were combed from Pinterest so we don't actually have rights to distribute for profit beyond the wild west laws that govern the internet, we just compiled them for free. So here you go, have fun, make cool coloring books for your kids, and send in your coloring projects. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Part 3

Welcome back! I had a little hiatus with working so much overtime, but now I’m here today. I’ve got a chunk of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to cover and this part is really great because it’s when the universe starts expanding outside just the movies and the four Avengers solo movies we’ve seen so far.

Avengers Assemble!
The Avengers
We start out with Nick Fury arriving at a SHIELD base to find out that the Tesseract (remember that mystery cube from Captain America and the post-credit scene from Thor?) is misbehaving. It ends up opening a portal letting Loki through and he proceeds to brainwash Dr. Erik Selvig and Clint Barton/Hawkeye with his staff. Fury and Agent Hill manage to escape and they finally decide that it’s time to reactivate the Avengers Initiative. It starts as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow escapes from a hostage situation (which she had completely under control) to recruit Bruce Banner/Hulk. Meanwhile, Agent Coulsen is recruiting Tony Stark/Iron Man to the cause and Fury is getting Steve Rogers/Captain America to help.

Once Cap and Banner are on the Helicarrier, Banner is able to track the gamma radiation from the Tesseract to Germany, where Captain America and Black Widow take on Loki and captures him with the help of Iron Man. While still in transit, Thor drops out of the sky, causing a raucous before they can convince him to help them get the Tesseract before hauling his brother back to Asgard. However, as SHIELD’s secret plans for the Tesseract start to come out (thank you, Tony Stark) the Helicarrier gets attacked, which leaves Iron Man and Cap busy trying to repair damages to the ship. Meanwhile, Banner has turned into the Hulk and starts fighting Thor and Black Widow.  Hulk ends up falling to the earth below while Black Widow is able to knock some sense into Hawkeye (literally). After Loki gets out of his cell, Coulsen attempts to stop him from escaping, only to have the Chitauri scepter stabbed through his heart.

By the end of the fight, the only ones left on the Helicarrier are Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. They realize that Loki is opening a portal for the Chitauri warriors to come through in NYC. These four rendezvous with Thor and Banner (who willing turns into the Hulk) and take on the invasion. Easily the team is overwhelmed (though they do an amazing job) and it’s about this time that Iron Man gets a bit distracted, having to intercept a nuclear missile, which he throws into the wormhole as Black Widow destroys the portal. With everyone alive, though worn out and ready for some shawarma, the Avengers apprehend Loki and he’s taken back to Asgard. They part ways, but we know they’ll be back together again soon.

Random Trivia/Connections:
  • Coulsen mentions the Destroyer in New Mexico, having witnesses Thor’s battle with it in the movie “Thor”.
  • Loki mentions all the dark energy that Odin would have had to use to send Thor to Earth, since the bifrost was destroyed.

Black Widow’s interrogation scene is one of my favorites. Just how easily she takes everyone down and how nonchalantly she handles getting a call while everyone else is just so confused. Funniest thing! I swear! Right up there with Darcy, Jane Foster’s quirky intern. I think it’s just how seriously she DOESN’T take her captors. She knows she has the upper hand and she ends up proving it.
Apart from Black Widow, there are plenty of other great moments. It’s hard to beat the team shot with all of the Avengers in New York City. Before I’d seen it, some people had made it sound like this movie was just a bunch of hitting stuff and things blowing up, but in reality there is great character building and the development of the Avengers team feels so natural. It’s the perfect culmination of the Marvel movies to this point and it set the precedent for lots of other great things that we would see in the future (including Avengers 2, Civil War, etc.).

Iron Man 3
After "the Mandarin" attacked Tony's house,
Pepper was left to believe he was dead.
Sometime after the events of “The Avengers”, Tony is having some post-traumatic stress after falling out of the wormhole. The stress keeps him from sleeping, so he’s now made dozens of Iron Man suits. Meanwhile, a terrorist called “the Mandarin” is causing bombings all over the country, one of which injures Tony’s bodyguard, Happy Hogan. Tony makes the impulsive decision to call out the Mandarin and basically invites him to bomb his house. Thankfully, Pepper makes it out and, while he seems to perish, Tony escapes as well thanks to the Iron Man suit and JARVIS.

After crash landing in Tennessee, Tony starts to track down some missing pieces of the Mandarin case with the help of Harley. Tony discovers that Extremis is unstable. So after fighting off a couple of Mandarin agents, he rushes off to Florida to confront the Mandarin, only to find out that he’s an actor. Turns out the real terrorist is Killian, a rival of Stark Industry, who has kidnapped Pepper and he’s injected her with Extremis to turn her against him.

So after Tony escapes captivity, he rescues Rhodey and the two of them work together to save President Ellis from an attack… but he gets kidnapped anyway. They go after Killian, securing the President, and rescuing Pepper using all of the Iron Man suits that Tony has made since the Battle of New York. Plot twist: Pepper is the one who ends up killing Kilian with his own Extremis formula. In the aftermath of the fight, Pepper is cured of Extremis and Tony finally gets that shrapnel out of his chest. At the very end, we find out that Tony was telling this whole story to Bruce Banner, who fell asleep at the very beginning.

Random Trivia/Connections:
  • The Extremis chemical is later used as part of Project CENTIPEDE in Agents of SHIELD.
  • We see many flashbacks of Tony’s fight during the Battle of New York, from the Avengers. As well, the movie gets referenced many times.
  • Thor is referenced when Killian talks about when the “big guy fell out of the sky.”
  • There is evidence that there is another "Mandarin" who is not pleased that Killian's actor-for-hire used his name. That story is told in "All Hail the King".

This was my favorite Iron Man movie. Maybe it’s just because of the difficult things that I’ve been through (some my fault and some not) that have caused me grief (for some reason I feel like trauma is too strong a word here), but for once I feel like I can relate to Tony. Usually with his arrogance and rudeness, I can’t relate, even though I enjoy his funny moments. However, in this movie, he seems to go through some intense development (not sure where that development went in later movies, but whatever). It was also very nice to see him fight someone who wasn’t in a metal suit. Just refreshing compared to Whiplash and Iron Monger.

In "Pilot", before offering her a job, Coulsen interrogates
Skye, who they have captured after she hacked in.
Agents of SHIELD (Episodes 1-7)
Agents of SHIELD brings together a group of misfit SHIELD agents (as well as a hacker who should be their enemy) to track down and handle supernatural and potentially alien phenomenon across the globe. The team is led by Agent Phil Coulsen, who we saw die in “The Avengers”, but was somehow revived (we’ll get to that in the second chunk of SHIELD episodes). This series incorporates the action of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the action of “Thor: The Dark World” (which I’ll highlight in the nnext MCU post) and “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (which we’ll look at another time). For now, here’s a little summary of each episode in this segment.
  1. Pilot: A synthetically super-powered man, Mike Peterson, is approached by a freedom-fighter hacker known as Skye. Before she knows it, Skye is enlisted as a consultant for a specialized SHIELD team, put together by Agent Hill and Agent Coulsen. The team consists of Agent Melinda May (kick-butt fighter and expert pilot), Agent Grant Ward (tactical specialist without many people skills), Agent Leo Fitz (SHIELD engineer), and Agent Jemma Simmons (medical specialist). Skye helps the team track down Mike Peterson, who has been a subject for Project Centipede, and they’re able to sedate him before he causes too much damage.
  2. 0-8-4: The SHIELD team and Skye fly to Peru to investigate an 0-8-4 (an object of unknown origin). They track the 0-8-4 to a pre-Incan temple. However, after they get the 0-8-4 into the air and out of Peru, their supposed allies turn on them and they nearly blast themselves out of the sky to keep the dangerous device safe.
  3. The Asset: Dr. Hall, a SHIELD scientist, gets captured and Coulsen’s team is sent to Malta to track down Ian Quinn, who is the prime suspect in the capture. So Skye sneaks into his home during a party to help Ward and Coulsen to get in to rescue Hall, who unfortunately has been persuaded otherwise by Quinn. By the end of it, Hall has been sucked in by his own experiment and Quinn has escaped.
  4. Eye-Spy: In Stockholm, Akela Amador, a former SHIELD agent, steals diamonds from some masked men. The SHIELD team comes after her. After Akela trades the diamonds, the team discovers a video feed coming straight from Akela's eye, making them realize that she's doing someone else's work. May and Coulsen capture Akela and the team manages to take over the signal in her eye, in order to keep her handler from killing her. Ward (with the hijacked signal) goes to Akela's destination, while Fitz and Simmons remove the mechanical eye. With Akela safe and in SHIELD's hands, the team moves on.
  5. Girl in the Flower Dress: A pyrokinetic named Chan Ho Yin is approached by a mysterious woman called Raina. As Chan was on the Index, the SHIELD team gets involved and they suspect that Skye leaked his location. Skye tries to win their trust back by tracking down who really leaked the information, leading to Miles, an old flame. Turns out that Miles leaked the information for some money that Raina promised him, leading them to Project Centipede. Raina manipulates Chan into helping them stabilize the Extremis in the Centipede Serum, by making him think he's becoming a super hero. SHIELD breaks into Centipede to rescue Chan, but he rejects their help and ends up burning the place.
  6. FZZT: The team is brought to the site of a scout leader’s floating dead body. During the investigation, another dead body ends up floating, after an electro-magnetic disturbance. Skye discovers that both men helped after the Chitauri attack on New York. Finding a potential third victim, the team discovers that they are dealing with an alien sickness, spread by a souvenir Chitauri helmet, but not before Simmons is infected while on the Bus. Having been unable to develop a cure, Simmons jumps out of the plane to save the rest of the team, just as Fitz finds a cure. So Ward jumps after her and saves her.
  7. The Hub: After an exciting mission, the team goes to The Hub for a briefing on a new mission that Ward and Fitz have been assigned to by Victoria Hand. While Fitz and Ward are gone, Simmons and Skye get panicky about their friends, leading them to hack in and find out that there’s no extraction plan, meaning their friends are set to die. While Fitz and Ward continue their mission, Coulsen leads his own rogue extraction team to get their team members, just as Hand had predicted.
In "FZZT", this is about where I
started shipping Fitzsimmons
Random Trivia/Connections:
  • Multiple characters from Marvel movies appear in the series. In this portion of the series we see Phil Coulsen, Maria Hill, Nick Fury, and Agent Sitwell.
  • The events of “The Avengers” is referenced multiple times, including references to Coulsen’s death, the Chitauri invasion, and the Battle of New York.
  • Centipede uses Extremis, last seen in Iron Man 3.
  • Thor’s hammer is referred to as a previous 0-8-4.
  • It is established that SHIELD has a list of enhanced individuals, called the Index.
  • We are told that Coulsen, after his miraculous recovery, spent time in Tahiti.

Agents of SHIELD had a slow start. These first few episodes definitely built characters, more than plot. Multiple episodes, including “0-8-4” and “The Hub”, show the team growing closer together and learning to work together. As a mismatched group of people, this really proves important later on in the season, especially after Captain America: Winter Soldier. If you want to watch these episodes (which I definitely recommend), just binge them. I was “fortunate” to watch the first two seasons of Agents of SHIELD over two grave shifts, so I got through them fast enough to appreciate them, but I can see how they’d drag on if you watched them one at a time. As we draw closer to Winter Soldier, it starts to get a bit more exciting, but I’ll save that for next time.

What were your favorite Agents of SHIELD moments? Who’s your favorite agent? I’ll definitely admit that I’ve got a crush on Skye, so she’s my favorite (though not technically an agent at this point). I liked Ward for a while, until stuff happened (spoilers). Come back for another post next week. I’m thinking either Classic Doctor Who or something random.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

In Defense of Digimon

I don't know who made this fan-art, but I love it!
So I never did get around to that Once Upon a Time rant. I was calmed enough by the season finale that I let it go… for now. We’ll see how I feel when I watch the most recent season and/or when the next season comes out. For today though I have something else in mind. Time for a trip to my childhood: Digimon. I swear I still hear people commenting on how Digimon wasn’t as good as Pokemon. I love both franchises. They are my childhood. I still enjoy both of them. However, Digimon did not get enough credit. There are probably some things that Pokemon did wrong (I’ll touch on those, but that’s probably a discussion for another time), but there are definitely things that Digimon did right that were underappreciated. I was going to recap briefly the different seasons of Digimon for a quick refresher, but it got too long (nobody has time to read all of that). If you need a refresher, I suggest going to the Digimon Wiki.

One of the biggest things that sets the Digimon and Pokemon animes apart in my mind is the writing. For a children’s show, Digimon was very well written. Using Season 1 as an example, though Tai, Sora, and Matt probably got the most screen time, all eight of the Digi-Destined children got a pretty decent amount of screen time and each of them fleshed out and each of them get character development. This is actually pretty true of each of the seasons I’ve watched.

After he stopped being the Emperor, Ken had to fight the
darkness each day. That's what I call character development
A wonderful example of the character development is Mimi. She started out as a spoiled, annoying princess, but throughout the season she softened up and realized that there was more to life than shopping and keeping up appearances. In fact, she’s the one who in some ways has the biggest heart when some of their friends start dying. We see that continue into Season 2 when she is actually quite mature in how she teaches Yolei about being kind to people. Then there’s Ken in season 2. He started out as the Digimon Emperor, but when he learned that the Digital World was real and he was hurting innocent creatures, who had real feelings, he went through a huge redemption arc, struggling to find forgiveness for the horrible things he had done.

Other points on the story-writing. While it’s a little annoying as the viewer to be jumping between
It is possible to age your characters properly, as seen in
Season 1, Season 2, and Digimon Tri (released last year)
parallel world to parallel Digital World each season, it is refreshing because it’s new. One thing that Pokemon has done wrong is that they’ve stuck with Ash the whole time. Ever since the Pokemon anime started in the late 90s, Ash has been the star. His traveling companions have changed over time, but to this day, Ash looks exactly the same as the day he got Pikachu (am I to believe that almost two decades’ worth of adventures happened in less than a year?). It’s difficult to age a character on an animated show, but they could have possibly done more characters or mixed it up. That’s what my understanding is of the Pokemon manga. They have new characters each generation, like the games. Anyway, we’re not talking about Pokemon. We’re talking about Digimon. I would have preferred it if they kept their story to one world, like they did with seasons 1 and 2 and Digimon Tri (15th anniversary series), but all the same it’s refreshing to see new faces. It keeps the story from getting stale.

Can we just talk for a second about how awesome this was?
I have one more story-writing point: a cohesive plot. To my knowledge, the Pokemon anime doesn’t really have a cohesive plot, other than get badges, catch Pokemon, and the occasional criminal team story arc. On the other hand, each Digimon season has a cohesive story. I think the best example of this is Season 2: The children fight the Digimon Emperor, who reforms and helps them fight Arukenimon and Mummymon, who are working for Oikawa, who was possessed by MaloMyotismon, who orchestrated all of it to get power over the Digital World and the Real World.

Tangent: Seeing the Digimon Movie in theaters was epic
One of my biggest issues with television shows is that they want to go on indefinitely. That’s what was killing LOST in their third season and that’s what’s killing Once Upon a Time right now (that’s a rant for another time). However, while some of its stories are weaker, Digimon delivers what it promises and it doesn’t go on forever. They tie up loose ends almost 100% (other than that one time…). They don’t have near as many seasons as Pokemon, but thank goodness. I’d rather have less seasons with better stories than infinite number of seasons with stories that all feel the same (how many times is Ash going to fall for Team Rocket’s disguises?).

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. I think this turned into more of a rant than I intended, but it happens. Did you watch Digimon growing up? Give me your thoughts on what you liked about Digimon and/or Pokemon. 

One distinct criticism about Digimon: MagnaAngemon was SEVERELY
underused. Probably because he was too powerful, but still.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Spoiler-Free Captain America Civil War Review

Happy Civil War weekend! Or, as one coworker put it, happy Marvel Christmas! This was easily one of the most hyped movies of the year (the other was Batman v. Superman, but we won't talk about that one... Primarily because I haven't seen it). I'm going to do my best to do a spoiler-free removes, but seeing as different people will define a spoiler slightly differently, this is the only thing I can say 100% sure without chance of spoiler: if you enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe, go see this movie. The flow of he story is beautiful and you won't regret it.

Now into content that some may deem spoilery. If you're super sensitive to spoilers (I'm considering anything in the promos to be non-spoilers at this point), this is your stop and I'll see you on Tuesday for a nice little rant about Once Upon a Time. For the rest of you, let's get into Civil War.

Still with me? Ok. Let's get moving. Like I said earlier, the flow of the story was great. With all of the advertised character returning (Iron Man, War Machine, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, etc.) and with all the new heroes they were introducing (Black Panther and Spider-Man) that it would feel choppy for forced. In fact, until the last week before he movie, I wasn't sure we'd see Black Panther out of his costume. However, I was actually very impressed with how they introduced him. It flowed perfectly for the story and it actually got me excited to see his movie. Still have to wait two years for that one though.

Now I have one caveat to what I just said about the flow: Spider-Man. I enjoyed seeing Tom Holland as Spider-Man and I think he did a good job, but unlike Black Panther, I felt like Peter Parker's introduction did feel forced. That being said, I'm still willing to give him a chance when his movie comes out next year. Though I am tired of Spider-Man reboots... But that's a rant for another time.

I liked the inclusion of Agent Sharon Carter. Though her role in "Captain America: Winter Soldier" was somewhat limited, she was wonderful in this movie. I hope we see her again in the future. I think she'd be a wonderful addition to "Avengers: Infinity Wars" or maybe we could see her working with the CIA (which we saw that she was doing at the end of "Winter Soldier") in Wakanda in "Black Panther".

If you read my second MCU post, you'll know that I mentioned General Ross in my synopsis of "The Incredible Hulk". Well, the annoying general returns and he's just as annoying and arrogant as ever. I won't get into that right now, as to avoid spoilers, but I'll just say that he did a good job of making me hate him anew.

Overall, I'd recommend seeing this movie (in fact I'm seeing it two more times in the coming week). Some movies that I'd recommend watching in preparation would be "Captain America: Winter Soldier" (to get set up on Bucky), "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (to get some backstory on the New Avengers), and "Ant-Man" (to get his backstory). Or if you have the time, just watch the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don't have the time and I'm doing it.

What were your thoughts on Civil War? Do you agree with my analysis? Keep the comments spoiler-free, in consideration for the poor souls who haven't seen the movie yet (I'm looking at you, Joe). That's all for now. I'll be back Tuesday with hat little rant about Once Upon a Time (unless this week's episode is extremely good).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New tees from Novatees!

May the 4th be with you!
What better way to celebrate then with some new amazing Star Wars tee shirts!

When last we visited Novatees they were a small starter company with a handful of amazing and unique geeky tees.

Since then this company has become a significant presence at several Comic Cons, each time with a thick crowd around them reminiscent of a swarm of geeky bees. I've personally loved my Pikathor and Teenage Mutant Ninja Zombie shirts, and with as often as I've worn them they've yet to wear out like most of my shirts from other distributors, so quality and geekery!

What makes this company so popular? Let's take a look! Remember to sign up for email alerts so that you can get great discounts on these fantastic tee shirts.

Boba Fett
Part of the Dark Side collection, we start with the titular bounty hunter in all his bad-to-the-bone glory. Blaster in hand with just a splash of red for the visor, this is a fanboys dream, and a certain smuggler's worst nightmare.

Darth Vader
Here we get both aspects of the legendary Sith warrior. On the left the dark helmet that struck terror into the citizens of the Empire. On the right, the eyes of a father looking at his son for the first time with his own eyes. It's cool, its dark, it's moving, and it's the perfect prize for lovers of the classic Star Wars and the dark side.

Support the Troops
A play on the classic saying, here's another salute to the Dark Side with a First Order Stormtrooper. Take down the New Republic in this slick tee from The Force Awakens and maybe you won't get harassed the next time your moving illegal droids through Tattooine.

Team Stark and Team Rogers
Along with May the 4th this week we see the opening of Captain America: Civil War. Support your side of the battle with your team's tee. Both done in identical style, these tees make it very easy to know who to beat up after the movie.

The Game is Over
Last but not least is Deadpool sitting on the Iron Throne with Vader's helmet underneath his boot. If anyone would be crazy enough to take on the Empire and Westeros and win I would bet on Deadpool. This tee shirt is hilarious and a great mash-up of three different medias.