Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The five best quotes of Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion Lannister, as played by Peter Dinklich
My wife and I spent our spring break on an extended road trip to my mission and back last week. On our road trips we like to read to each other to help pass the time. This trip's book was none other than Game of Thrones, by George RR Martin. Reading it out loud this time gave me an appreciation not just for the writing itself, but for one of my favorite characters, Tyrion Lannister.

A little background for the uninitiated: Tyrion is what we would call today a Little Person. In the book they call him a dwarf but they are not referring to the same kind as Gimli, if you get my meaning. His family is the richest family in the land. His sister married the king and his brother is a (questionably) noble knight, but Tyrion doesn't really have a place except as a lech, drunk and occasional troublemaker. He finds himself swept up in the entanglements of the drama almost accidentally, and becomes a key player in the world around him where usually he would just stand by and mock.

What I love about him is he never lets what others would see as a disadvantage get to him, instead he uses it to get past people's guards and get what he needs for his purposes. Tyrion is clever, smart, and always has some sort of handle on his situation.

I'm not even going to bother to put his quotes into context, except to say that in the Game of Thrones world the word "bastard" refers to someone born out of wedlock and is usually seen as a point of shame.

“Why is it that when one man builds a wall, the next man immediately needs to know what's on the other side?”

“My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind...and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That's why I read so much Jon Snow.”

“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.”

“Would you rather be called the Imp? Let them see that their words can cut you and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name take it make it your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore.”

"Remember this, boy. All dwarfs may be bastards, yet not all bastards need be dwarfs."

-JOE

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More Deep-ish Thoughts

First, it's fellow Mormon Geek blogger Adam's birthday today! Be sure to wish him a happy birthday. He loves it when people dress up as scary clowns and sing happy birthday to him. Slowly.....

And now to your regularly scheduled randomness from T.J. on the spiritual side of things

The topic of "spiritual self-reliance" came up recently in discussion with a friend recently. I remember a really long time ago (i.e. 20 years ago) my mom talking about someone relying on their parents' testimony. What she meant by this was that there comes a point in time when a person has to find for oneself what to believe and put faith into. The LDS church teaches the importance of a testimony. My mom explained what that meant further and how it applied to the person she was talking about. Honestly, it made a lot of sense.

Fast forward to today. I've had the topic of relying on someone else's testimony on my mind. Not that my beliefs have ever really been questioned. But my actions because of them have been slothful. Then I became friends with someone recently who reinvigorated my positive attitude. I realized earlier last week that I had relied on this person's testimony for the better part of the last year. And it was time to stand on my own.

And that's where I am. I have my footing and I'm trying to make sure I stand where I am. I love the scripture from Ether 12:27.


"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

I love this scripture for a few reasons. But the one that some people seem to ignore is that weakness is God-given. Yes, Satan sees our weaknesses and will do what he can to exploit them. But the weakness itself was given to us for a specific reason: to be humble. If we had no weakness, we would have no reason to try to better ourselves. We would be vanilla. (In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of that term and feel it gets overused. But here, I cannot locate another term.) Our lives would be boring. We wouldn't know good from wicked, only existence. 
My testimony wasn't necessarily weak. But when I look back at a few years of my life, it was hidden. 

In discussion with my friend on "spiritual self-reliance", he pointed out two different prophets. He explained Joseph's statement that faith can be inherited and passed down. And then he pointed out Alma's experience. His testimony had to be his own, standing on his own two feet. Only hearing the words of Abinadi and getting chased out of his judgment seat for believing. But he stood on his own at first. I'd go as far as saying he was the one that others depended their testimony on for a time.

Update: I just found out my friend meant Alma the Younger. To be fair, that's who I thought he meant at first, but I do like seeing Alma the Elder's intuition as well. In Alma 32, Alma the Younger hits on this topic. It is a wonderful scripture on faith and standing on one's own feet. It will be in my studying in the near future. 

One day I'll write a more geek-based post. But today, this is what I feel was important to share.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Sims-Joe's favorite game in the world

My current house on the Sims 3
You ever notice that all Buzzfeed.com seems to be is just a group of lists?

I was sitting in class the other day trying to stay awake and scrolling through Pinterest, which is where I usually access Buzzfeed, when I came across "23 unforgettable things about playing the Sims".

It honestly nearly made me cry.

For the uninitiated, the Sims is the human simulation video game where you build a dollhouse and populate it with little people you can either watch succeed or or torture for your own amusement. The franchise is up to it's fourth installment, and twenty some-odd expansions. You can customize the entire community down to the tiniest detail and build a twisted network of love, enemies and broken hearts.

The Sims is the game I've dumped hundreds of hours (and sadly, hundreds of dollars) into. Throughout the years I've built all of my friends, the X-Men, Batman, the casts of Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seinfeld, the Simpsons and Family Guy.

Why you ask?
Baby Charlie and I. 

You ever seen those zen gardens? Monks spend hours meticulously combing the sand and grooming the plants in a belief that the simple act will bring them closer to spiritual enlightenment. With me it's kind of the same thing. When I play the Sims it's like I'm tending to my own little zen garden, building an extension onto this person's house or getting these two to fall in love. The game has no ending and no real goal, so it is just one big peaceful meditation on life in general.

Our kitchen. 


My wife Katie, who is an inept spy. 
Baby Charlie in his toy box. 
Our living room with my Harley Quinn couch. 
I... I don't even know... 

...in which you can make the neighbors fight to the death for your amusement.

Hay, you find zen your way, I'll find zen mine.

-JOE

What game have you dumped hundreds of hours into?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pride

Yesterday in Elders Quorum, our lesson was on repentance. That is a beautiful topic, in my mind. Repentance, whether religious or not, is healthy. A more secular term would be "apologizing." Or even just saying "I'm sorry, how can I make it up to you?" Honestly, I respect people more when they own their mistakes. I respect myself even more when I own mine.

But one of the references in the lesson, took us to Alma 5. If you're not LDS or don't recall, this specific chapter is on pride.

Some people automatically discredit pride and say it's the biggest evil. And I agree with them, to an extent. As I learned more about French and Spanish, I've learned that those two romantic languages have two different words for pride. I know the French ones way better than the Spanish ones so I'm gonna use those for this topic.

In French,  you have "orgueil" and "fier".

Fier, in my opinion, is a healthy pride. From my perspective, it's a just pride. From the personal side, I can be proud of my accomplishments. To me, this means, I appreciate what I've done. I look at the drawings I've done and, even though they're not the best drawings in the world, I am glad that I took time to do them.
Another example of this kind of pride is to be proud of a loved one's accomplishments. I don't care what people say, but to hear my father or my wife or those closest to me tell me how proud they are of me, it means a lot. It's self-affirming and sometimes a needed self-esteem boost. To let my kids know I'm proud of them means a lot to them and it can even mean a lot to me.

Orgueil, is kind of the opposite. Fier can be found with humility. Orgueil cannot. This is the pride that is scriptural and generally disliked. A proud person who doesn't see past their nose or only sees his or her way. 

I'd love to say I've only experienced the fier kind of pride. But I know better. Sometimes my orgueil kind of pride gets in my way. It's what prevents me from moving forward. But fier helps me feel good about what I'm doing and gives me motivation to keep going.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Operation Underground Railroad

When I ran in Salt Lake Comic Con's Hero Dash last October, I spoke about several charitable organizations that proceeds from the race went to. One of these organizations is Operation Underground Railroad.


Many people believe that slavery is a thing of the past, that it ended with the American Civil War one hundred and fifty years ago. In reality, slavery still exists today. Human sex trafficking exists in countries all around the world, and those that engage in it prey upon those that are the most vulnerable, children.

Just as the Underground Railroad helped people escape from slavery in the 1800s, Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) was created to free children from slavery and to prosecute those that participate and profit from human trafficking.

OUR rescue teams consist of former CIA, Navy Seals, special agents and others, who work with local law enforcement to rescue children in the sex slave trade, arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

OUR is not a government agency. It is a non-profit organization that relies entirely on donations to fund the important work they do.

You can visit OUR's website here: https://www.ourrescue.org/ At the website, you can become an Abolitionist by signing up to give a monthly donation, or you can start your own campaign (or join someone else's) to raise funds to rescue children. It also gives ideas on how to spread the word and shares success stories.


A friend of mine, Ty, recently started his own campaign. His goal is to raise $5000, the cost to rescue five children, by March 20th. You can donate to his campaign here: https://yourrescue.org/projects/tikkun-olam-healing-the-world/


And finally, OUR has produced a video that shows what they do, as well as the impact it has on the lives of the children they rescue.



I first became aware of OUR when they presented a similar video at a panel at Salt Lake Comic Con's FanXperience last year. I was impressed with what they were doing then, and I'm excited to see how their work has been growing since that time.


In closing, I encourage you to give what you can to this worthy cause.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Digimon: The poor little franchise that was

Don't you hate it when you your evil plots fail?

You notice you don't see anyone cosplaying as
any of these people...
My original diabolical plan was to watch Friends on Netflix, then get on here and bash on how it doesn't hold up because it's a ball of mid-90's cheese that doesn't age well. So then I sat down and started watching Friends, an activity I haven't done in years, and got ready for the headache. 

Then I couldn't stop laughing and realized that I was completely wrong. 

So then I switched to an easier target. 

You lucked out Friends... For now...
If you were a kid in the 90's you'll remember how big Pokemon was. Pikachu was our generation's Elsa for a while, where you couldn't swing a dead Meowth around without hitting the little electric rodent on a shelf in the store. Naturally when something gets that big competition will rise, and the only thing that even tried to take on Pokemon was Digimon. 

I remember watching this thing as a kid and falling in love with the action and design of the Digimon, as well as laughing at what I thought was hilarious dialogue, so when it showed up on Netflix I was looking forward to a fun trip down memory lane. 

Three episodes in and I was looking for the Tylenol. 

For the uninitiated: Digimon is about a group of kids who get sucked into the mysterious Digital World, a world that's supposed to have been created by the vast network of computers sharing data, where they meet the Digimon, a group of animals who can of course talk and fight. Digimon when they get enough energy can digi-volve, which means evolve into some higher form thus completing the ripping off of Pokemon, but when that energy runs out they go back to their previous forms, because you know, if you get a chicken tired enough it'll turn into a tyrannosaurus. The children's job is to provide energy to their Digimon through... something that has to do with their Tomagatchi's... and save the digital world from the evil that threatens to destroy it. 

So what's the problem? Besides doing it's hardest to rip off Pokemon without a lawsuit, our basic problem is the same issue I had with the Hobbit: they're are just too many characters on screen. We have 7 children and each has a talking sidekick for a total of 14 mains, plus whatever villain or helper they have in the episode, and the writing has each character contribute to each conversation, which is usually an obnoxious quip or just stating useless information. I don't know if you've ever tried to have a serious conversation with toddlers present that keep showing off their vocal skills by saying random things, but that's what it feels like. 

He's still the coolest of them all. 
Animation wise, it's anime, and even the worst anime can usually stack up against most American cartoons, but here I hate to say it barely holds its own. Character design is decent, some of the Digimon you meet later look like goths are trying to play World of Warcraft, but some are decent if not actually cool looking (Despite my post of ranting I still love Angemon). When they move on the other hand the whole thing falls apart. I get things have to change to dub over the American actors, but it leaves us with a lot of still shots throughout each episode while the characters spew their poorly written lines. Pokemon used to have the same problem but we're talking three or four characters compared to over a dozen. It just doesn't work. 

Did I mention the entire premise doesn't make sense? At no point does the show stop and explain to the audience what the digital world is, or how seven random kids managed to get in there. I could kinda go with the whole human turned into data thing, since I've seen my share of Star Trek, but then later the Digimon enter the... I don't know... real world? Human world? And are able to digi-evolve and fight and nonsense just the same so how does that work? Later seasons make the series even worse by not bothering to continue with the main story, but instead start their own continuity with different characters and rules to the world that are even more poorly explained. 

So why didn't Digimon survive like Pokemon has? Even more stupid and complex things seem to still be culturally relevant and are even making comebacks, so where's Digimon? Well unlike their rival Pokemon Digimon never had a good tent pole. Let me explain: Pokemon had the show, which was decent and is still on, but they also had the amazing video game series that is still making more to this day, and doesn't only sell to children but appeals to fans who grew up with it, such as yours truly, because the game itself is still solid and fun, even though we don't watch the show. 

Once upon a time this creature ruled the world...
Sad to say the best part of Digimon was this show, which as I explained doesn't hold up. They released a string of games to try and milk Pokemon's success but they were cheaply made, badly written and just an obnoxious grind to get through. The best was Digimon: Rumble Arena which was a side-scrolling fighter in the same sense as Mortal Kombat, but that was just pick your two favorite Digimon and bash them against each other for a few minutes. They attempted a card game, again in the same vein of "Pokemon did it", and that failed miserably, mainly because it tried to follow the logic of the show, which is like following a cat into a landfill after it's just taken LSD. 

So in conclusion, sad to say, can't recommend Digimon to anyone of my age group. If you liked the show back then, keep your fond memories because trying it again will only taint them, and if you have kids let them watch Pokemon or Batman Beyond, or really anything else on Netflix, because we don't need more disappointed fans of this train wreck. 

Did you ever watch Digimon? Who was your favorite? 

-JOE


Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy 1960
On February 27, 2015 we lost an icon, but Leonard Nimoy was more than that, he was a hero. Those of us that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s first met him as Mr. Spock on Star Trek, the half human, half Vulcan science officer onboard the USS Enterprise. However, I also remember him as different characters throughout different television series that my dad watched all the time. Bonanza, Sea Hunt, Rawhide, and even Get Smart. The one thing that all of his characters had in common was that he was believable. He was never the handsome heart-throb. He was the man that told you how it was, like it or not.





As Mr. Spock, Leonard gave hope to those who felt different, looked different. He showed that differences could be bridged through friendship and by trying to understand the feelings and opinion of others even if you didn’t share them. He never judged Jim (William Shatner) for being a he-whore, or McCoy for being as over-the-top emotional. He didn’t care that Ohura was African American or that Chekov was Russian (we were in the middle of the cold war). And that Vulcan eyebrow didn’t raise a bit when America experienced its first inter-racial kiss between Kirk and Ohura!
Throughout the years, Leonard was never able to shake the Mr. Spock persona even though the series only lasted 3 years but he used it to his advantage. He was able to play the same character in three different mediums, the first to do so. Star Trek the original series, Star Trek the animated series, and all of the Star Trek movies.

In many interviews since the beginning of Star Trek (1966), Leonard Nimoy has recounted the origin of the Vulcan salute, which he introduced into the series. In one such interview (with The A.V. Club in July 2010), he explained, "The gesture that I introduced into Star Trek, the split-fingered Vulcan salute, we'll call it... that came from an experience -- I'm going all the way back to my childhood again -- when I was about 8 years old, sitting in the synagogue at high holiday services with my family. There comes a moment in the ceremony when the congregation is blessed by a group of gentlemen known as Kohanim, members of the priestly tribe of the Hebrews. And the blessing is one that we see in the Old and New Testament: 'May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause His countenance to shine upon you', and so forth. When they give this blessing, you're told not to look! You're supposed to avert your eyes. I peeked, and I saw these guys with their hands stretched out - there were five or six of them, all with their hands stretched out toward the congregation - in that gesture, that split-fingered gesture. Sometime later, I learned that the shape that hand creates is a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the letter shin, which is the first letter in the word Shaddai, which is the name of the Almighty. So the suggestion is that they're using a symbol of God's name with their hands as they bless the congregation.".


Leonard, as you begin your journey into your final frontier, may your spirit “Live long and prosper” for you will be in our hearts forever.

-Tammy