Monday, April 13, 2015

T.J.'s Sci-Fi Faves

Yeah, I have a cold. I've had one since Saturday. So why am I blogging about it? I'm not....I'm just being whiny. Sheesh, calm down.

And I'm finally steering away from religious posts (for now) and talking about something geeky.

I'd like to think I watch a lot of TV (maybe that's not as positive as I think it should be). Then I talk to a co-worker and realize I really don't. Over the last few years, actually, I feel like my television watching has gone down.

But today, I'd like to go through a list of TV shows in the sci-fi realm of things (includes non-animated comic-based shows) that are my favorites. I'm going through my top 8. So a shout out goes out for Lost and Sliders. I have never seen Firefly for fear of disappointment that it doesn't continue on. Gotham is too dark for me and I can't decide if I want to continue watching it. And I haven't watched enough of Farscape or Fringe or Warehouse 13 to give a fair comparison.



7T. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Out of the three 24th century Star Trek series, DS9 was sometimes hard to follow. Not to say I didn't like it. There were some great episodes (Bada-Bing, Bada-Bang has to be one of my favorites). There were also some less than stellar ones (The Visitor bugged me.) DS9 was a good space opera full of a few good continuing storylines. My problem with it is its ending. Sisko deserved better.

7T. Star Trek: Voyager Yes, they made it home. The "happily ever after" concept was met. Which is why I liked Voyager better than DS9. But marginally better. It has a lot of issues that bugged me. How many times can Janeway go against the Prime Directive in one episode and then follow it to a T in the next? It's hard to decide between DS9 and Voyager. One day I'll do a better comparison between the two. But for me, it's easier to call it a tie.

6. Batman (1966) Holy classic television, Batman! Campy style. Awesome (not really) puns. Many, many near-death-experiences-that-are-solved-by-employing-deus-ex-machina. When I was a little kid, this show was barely 20 years old when I was watching it. It's been almost 30 years since I became a fan of the dark knight and boy wonder, but in that time, this TV show still holds a place in my heart.

5. The Flash (2014) To be honest, I'm two episodes behind and will probably be three by tomorrow night. But that doesn't mean my wife and I don't intend to get caught up soon. The Flash has been the "calmest" show in the current wave of comic-based shows. It's got a great episodic feel with an overarching storyline that isn't too frustrating to follow. Grant Gustin's Barry Allen is well-written. Iris? Not so sure. But we'll talk about my favorite CW DC character in a few.


Now....2-4 (or 4-2) are hard to compare. And sometimes, it'll depend on the day. There's nostalgia, storytelling, characters, Emily Bett Rickards, Felicia Day....Anyway...all I'm saying is that it's hard to decide between Captain Picard, Felicity Smoak, and Dr. Holly Marten....

4. Eureka Do you know what TNG and Eureka have in common? Wil Wheaton. Where I wondered when Wes was gonna blow chunks when he was tired, I loved the "villain" he portrayed in this under-loved show. Its 5 seasons weren't enough, but the show did a great job in tying up its loose ends and giving the audience a well-rounded sci-fi story full of mystery, romance, and humor. There were many times I hated this show (Season 5 Episode 2) and still loved it (You're mostly forgiven, but that was awfully mean!) Eureka is classic show that just couldn't stand well on a station that I question what it's doing.


3. Star Trek: The Next Generation These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise....to watch Tasha Yar die unnecessarily, to see Musical Engineers followed by Musical Medical Staff, to see Tasha somehow change history, to meeting the failed Ferengi (they were meant to be a vicious race, but greed wasn't vicious enough), to see them replaced by the Borg (they may sound Swedish, but they're not), to see two spin-offs, to finally see it end in the way it began, with one of the best villains in Q. I was addicted to this show and somehow I don't feel like I've seen every single episode.

2. Arrow Yes, I jumped on this bandwagon. And no, I'm not sorry. Arrow is a great show. Its acting can use some help, unless we're talking about Felicity, maybe even Diggle. Stephen Amell is fun to watch when he's kicking butt, but when he's delivering lines to Laurel...or she's saying them back....blah. Not that I'm an acting expert. But I just don't believe the characters sometimes. Still, Deathstroke and Malcolm Merlyn have been awesome villains for the show. Add in Ra's Al Ghul this season and I gotta say that Arrow's villains are what has made this show great.

1. Doctor Who Am I referring to the modern Doctor Who with David Tennant and Matt Smith? Yes. Am I referring to classic Doctor Who with William Hartnell or Tom Baker? Yes. I love this show. Old. New. I don't care. For a while, Patrick Troughton was my favorite doctor. After watching more of Tom Baker, though, Troughton has slipped to 2nd. Sorry....would you like a Jelly Baby? And I must say that Clara is probably my most favorite companion. Sarah Jane gets second. Only being a Whovian for 15 months doesn't mean I know nothing about the show. Believe me, Wikipedia, Netflix, plus many many websites and of course, fellow Whovians give me enough knowledge to go for a bit more than your average "Tenant's the best" fan.

Okay, there's some reminiscing geekiness for you.

Alien abductions are involuntary but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Geek cross stitch-an old art gets a new shine

Normally here I would write something about Easter or General Conference, but frankly I spent most of the last weekend doped up on cold medicine and relearning to breathe since everything that is capable of creating pollen in Utah currently is and decided to kill me.

So here's what I was doing in my moments of coherency.

I learned to cross stitch one stormy day while sick in my teens. It was something productive to do while I sat on the couch watching M*A*S*H*, plus it was cheaper than my Yu-Gi-Oh! cards so it worked out for everyone. I fell out of the art in my early 20's since, as much as I love flowers and little birds, I just didn't want to keep making them over and over again. I hesitate to classify something as "girly", but it really doesn't help when a decent dragon pattern cost over $200, and everything for a decent price looks like it came out of an old ladies living room.

Then came Pinterest.

I won't go on again about one of my favorite websites, but needless to say I discovered an entire community of people who had taken cross stitch to a whole new place-geek cross stitch.

Since then I relearned my old art and started making these:

Black Mage of Final Fantasy/8 Bit Theater

Bowser from Mario 3. I bet he's easier to beat when he's made out of thread.

Calvin and Hobbs-AWWWWW!!!

Gir-he likes tacos

Of course I've got to make a Harley Quinn. 

Mew was harder to choose colors for. I like how he turned out though. 

Stewie rules. 

Stitch took forever just because of all that stupid blue. 
This was a birthday gift for my mom- a little baby zombie! He'll warm your heart before he eats it!

I couldn't pass up Raven. 
Seriously, if you're looking for a new fun craft to do check out geeky cross stitch! You'll love it!
-JOE

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Wounded Warriors

Before you read any farther, this post contains some spoilers for last week's episode of Arrow, “Suicidal Tendencies.” I won't give away any major plot points for story arc that has been going through the current season, but I will speak about some of the plots in this particular episode.

So if you don't want to know what happens in this episode, be warned now: SPOILER ALERT!

But rather than starting at the beginning of the episode, I'm going to start at the end. At the close of the episode, David Ramsey, the actor for John Diggle in the series, made a public service announcement about the Wounded Warrior Project, which you can watch here: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/arrow/wounded-warrior-psa/?play=3759ed3d-6258-4633-81a9-e6611d39ef7c

David Ramsey makes a public service announcement about
the Wounded Warrior Project
As Ramsey said, the Wounded Warrior Project helps veterans who may bear not only physical wounds, but emotional or psychological wounds as well. To learn more, you can visit their website: findWWP.org

For those that have followed the last season of Arrow, as the title suggests, last week's episode featured the return of the Suicide Squad. Lyla, as the squad's leader, is in charge of the mission. As she was pulled in from her honeymoon for the mission, she is joined by her newlywed husband, Diggle, in addition to regular members of the squad, Cupid and Deadshot (a.k.a. Floyd Lawton).

Diggle, Deadshot, Lyla and Cupid working on a mission as
the Suicide Squad
Most episodes of Arrow show flashbacks of Oliver's time on the island (and other places he went during his five years away from home), but this week's episode shows flashbacks of Deadshot's life. Though showing flashbacks for a villain has been done on Arrow before (just a few weeks ago, we saw Malcom Merlyn's origin story), I found this particular origin story intriguing.

The first flashback shows Floyd Lawton returning home to his wife and young daughter after spending time serving as a soldier in combat. We can see that he loves his wife and daughter, and that he had a happy family life before he left, and they seem to be on track to return to a normal life together.

Floyd Lawton and his wife

Lawton's daughter, Zoe
But as time goes on, it becomes apparent that even though Lawton doesn't carry any physical wounds from the time he was deployed, he does carry psychological and emotional wounds, showing signs of depression, anxiety and PTSD. He isn't able to hold down a job or socialize, and he frequently loses his temper with his daughter and wife. His wife pleads with him to get help, but at one point when he pulls a gun on her, she calls the police and he is arrested.

Once in jail, being prevented from contacting his wife or daughter due to a restraining order and having lost hold of everything he held dear, he is offered the chance to be a mercenary assassin. Having nothing else to live for, and feeling that killing is the only thing he's good at any more, he accepts, and soon takes on the code name, "Deadshot."

Floyd Lawton; Code Name: Deadshot
Even though Deadshot has repeatedly been shown to be a ruthless cold-blooded killer, knowing where he came from humanizes him.

In the main story line, as the Suicide Squad carries out their mission, Deadshot comes to remember the family he still loves. He is inspired by Lyla and Diggle's determination to make things work in spite of their challenges. And when the squad gets into a situation where they would all seem to be facing certain death, he sacrifices himself to give Lyla and Diggle the chance to have what he had lost, and in a small way redeems himself. His last action is looking at a picture of him with his wife and daughter that he has carried with him over the years.

Although Deadshot's example and the choices he makes are obviously more extreme than is the case for soldiers returning home from combat, it does show the challenges of adapting back to normal life that many of those who have been in combat face. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other conditions are very real things that many experience.

In the past, very little help was available, as these seemingly invisible medical conditions weren't understood. Rather than a very real medical condition, those that suffered from non-visible wounds were often seen as having character flaws. In the past, the prevailing thoughts were that if they couldn't get over what they experienced, then they only had themselves to blame.

Fortunately, understanding of medicine and psychology have progressed over the years, and there are far more resources for veterans than there once were. Some still do slip through the cracks; some refuse to accept help. But thanks to organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project, more are getting the help, support and treatment that they need.

Like Deadshot, some of those returning from combat believe that either because of what happened to them, or because they can't get better on their own, that they are flawed, and they are at fault, as that was what many have been taught all their lives. Fortunately, that message is starting to change.

Though I have never served in the military myself, I hold tremendous respect for those who have, especially for those who have placed their lives on the line in serving their country and protecting our freedom. In the words of David Ramsey, “they've had our backs, now it's time we have theirs,” and give back to the brave men and women who have served.

To find out ways you can give back to those who have served and their families, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org

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.