Monday, July 13, 2015

Patrick Stewart's 75th Birthday!

Today, July 13, is the birthday of two of Geekdom's biggest celebrities: Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford.

That's right, it's Captain Picard's birthday today! (Make it so.) It's Han Solo's birthday! (I know.) It's Professor X's birthday! It's Indiana Jones' birthday! And then there are the characters we don't talk about as much. (Side note: It's also Colton Haynes' birthday. Arsenal from Arrow.)

Personally, I've always been a bigger Star Trek fan than Star Wars fan. I'm not gonna go into the whole "Why Star Trek is better than Star Wars". For starters, I could just as easily list reasons why the opposite is true and not feel like I'm betraying my fandom.

However, out of the four iconic pop culture characters represented by actors with today's birthday, I gotta say Captain Picard is the best out of the four.

Han Solo is a cavalier man who got women on and off screen to fall for him. Indiana Jones is a cavalier man who got women on and off screen to fall for him. (That sentence sounds familiar.) Professor X is a great character for people to look up to as he fought his former best friend and longtime nemesis, but no one really fell for him.

However, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is an authoritative man with a big heart hidden under the thickest skin possible who to this day probably has one of the biggest group of people with a mancrush on him.

Now let's be fair. Star Trek: The Next Generation had 7 years on the small screen, a decent movie, a great movie, a movie that should have been an after-school special, and a movie that should have been rewritten so that it didn't exist. But still, there was far more time for Captain Picard's character (and his awesomeness) to be fleshed out.

There are so many classic episodes (and even ones that aren't defined as classic but are still noteworthy) that I think it's worth giving them a look.

Season 1: Episodes 1/2: Encounter at Farpoint: This episode is quite noteworthy as it is what brought Star Trek back to the small screen. If "mon capitain" wasn't nearly as awesome as he was, this show would've certainly flopped. Picard showed us who was boss as he commanded his limited crew in court against Q. He stood up for what he knew was right and played the game well enough to prove how good of a mediator he is.

Season 1: Episode 12: The Big Goodbye: Picard's first holodeck attempt. This "story" will show up again and again. But it was a great episode to give us the question of sentience and intelligence.

Season 2: Episode 9: The Measure of a Man: Going back to this sentience and intelligence question, Data is on trial. But Picard is forced to defend him with Riker forced (yeah, cause it'd happen that way) to prosecute his friend. Picard and Guinan have a great discussion on what Data's rights are. And rights for a race are in general.

Season 3: Episode 19: Captain's Holiday: Like The Big Goodbye, Picard is taking a break, this time on Risa. Besides our first look at Risa and a pre-Deep Space Nine Rom, it's also our first meeting of Vash. The "romance" between an archaeologist and a thief builds here. And it's enjoyable to see Picard on something besides a command mission.

Season 3: Episode 26/Season 4: Episode 1: The Best of Both Worlds: Arguably the best episode of all time for this series, Picard is turned into a Borg, one of his greatest enemies. He loses all of himself into a different creature and when it is all removed and he recovers, Picard is no longer the same man.

Season 5: Episode 2: Darmok: Words are interesting. Especially when they don't make all the sense in the world. Communication between two people who don't speak in the same format is almost as difficult as of that for two people who don't even speak the same language.

Season 5: Episode 25: The Inner Light: What many writers deem the best written episode of all time. It is one of the most beautiful episodes in my opinion as well as one of the saddest. But still, no one can deny it won a Hugo and it'd be hard to argue against it. This is an episode where Picard lives out the life of another man and watch as his world prepares for extinction.

Season 6: Episode 15: Tapestry: There are 3 episodes to feature Q that do not contain the character's name. This is one of them. And it is probably the best of all Q episodes. A what-if this didn't happen to Picard episode. And the whole episode teaches Picard a valuable lesson of who he is.

Season 7: Episodes 25/26: All Good Things...: Let's look at the past, the present, and the future. A crazy-seeming Picard goes through a whole ordeal and ends up resetting time so that nothing that happened actually happened. But Picard showing what he's learned in his 7 years as Captain of the Enterprise is a great close to the show. And more amazing is him not shutting up about what the future looked like.

Star Trek: First Contact: One of the best Star Trek movies of all time. Easily arguably the best TNG film. Picard's fight for humanity's future harking back to The Best of Both Worlds is well-told. He refers to justice vs revenge in a way that shows how easy it is to cloud the two.

Well, that's that. My homage to Captain Picard for Patrick Stewart's birthday.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Post-Steam Summer Sale-retrospect

Bastion-a game I heard was fun
I don't even want to know how much I spent this summer on the Steam Summer Sale, where half the games on my wishlist drop down to $1. All I know is that I have a pile of new games and like a kid after Christmas I don't know what to play with first.

When the sale started, I noticed that I had nearly 50 games on my wishlist (modest compared to some I know), but about half of those were games that I had no idea why they were on there in the first place. I'm sure more than a couple came from watching "Games you might not have tried" videos those nice folks over at Extra Credits like to make, but as I watched the sales my wishlist started dropping down both from buying things AND kicking them off.

I kinda learned how to play D&D 3.0 from this game. 
Fast forward to Monday when the sale was over and I looked over my games library and found five or six games I flat out didn't recognize, as well as several games I had once upon a time spent a lot of money on but never played past the intro. I honestly felt bad, sitting here with a massive pile of games I never play but just sit there on my Steam list.

So why on Earth did I spend an embarrassing amount of money last week?

Talking to friends I've found I'm not the only one with a back catalog of unplayed or underplayed games. I'm starting to wonder if Steam has become the new toy box for adults, we scream and we beg and we budget to get the shiniest newest game, or in Steam's case, early access to what will hopefully become a shiny toy, then we forget about it three hours later, letting it sit forever on our Steam library gathering digital dust.

Looking at the old Seam library now I can count at least 20 of my 71 games I haven't put more than ten hours in, which ten hours may seem like much for any normal activity but for gaming these days it'll barely get you to the main story. All of them I want to play with, almost desperately, but sadly with a full schedule of school, work, writing musings for this blog, and cooking Costco meatballs, finding time for these guys is becoming harder and harder.

Just for a lark, here are some games I have spent less than an hour with:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Small World 2

Jurassic Park: The Game

Breath of Death VII


Half Minute Hero

Icewind Dale

The Ship

Space Farmers
I complain a lot about Star Wars but this may be my favorite
part of the extended universe, and occasionally trumps the
original films when I'm in a bad enough mood. 

Now granted, some of these I've played before just not on Steam, but then why do I have them?

Okay let's do something interesting besides listen to me whine about having too many games and be a complete first world gravy balloon. Have you ever played any of these? In the comments below tell me a game from this list that you've played and tell me weather or not it should become my new obsession. If anything turns my fancy I'll do an entire Mormon Geeks post on that game.

Also, what's on your Steam list you've yet to get around to playing?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Podcast Episode 16: Spelled and the Wizard of Oz with Betsy Schow

T.J. finally gets to sit and discuss Spelled with Betsy Schow along with the many variations/stories within The Wizard of Oz universe. It's hilarious. Also, shout outs to Jessica Guernsey and Karen Pellett who let us use critique group time for this.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Top 5 Video Games coming out this year

The game industry is finally making reconciliation for three years of lousy sequels, prequels and the squalor of awful games that made the next gen consoles almost not worth buying. Gamers favorite franchises are finally getting the sequels they deserve, and here are the five best coming out this season. All these games will be available for X- Box One, Playstation 4 and PC.

5: Disney Infinity 3.0
Han Solo judges you.

Since the first Disney Infinity launched two years ago, they’re has been talk of Disney adding the Star Wars franchise to their popular game/toy collection, and it looks like fans are getting their wish this November. It’s a wonder why players haven’t had a chance to use Chewbacca to beat the fairy dust off of Tinkerbell already, till we remember that this is Disney we’re talking about, the king of merchandising and fan-baiting. All previous figures will be compatible with the new set, so at least Disney isn’t completely evil, just mostly evil.
XCOM 2: Electric Boogaloo

4: X-COM 2

Technically this is X-COM 6 or 7, if you count the 90s PC games, but since nobody does we’ll just call it X-COM 3: Sorry for The Bureau: X-COM Declassified. The franchise came back on the scene a few years ago to glowing success, and X-COM 2 looks to bring the series back to that, only with next gen graphics. For the uninitiated think of playing chess with guns against aliens. Turn-basexd combat hasn't been this much fun since Final Fantasy Tactics on the Playstation.
 This is also the only game on this list that isn’t either an adventure game or first-person shooter, which in the current market is a badly needed change of pace.

3: Fallout 4

"I'm just going to stand here in my rain coat and
let the attack helicopter get me....
Fallout: New Vegas could’ve been one of the greatest games to ever been made, if not for the game crashing glitches. It took several updates before the game was even playable, and by that time the Fallout fanbase was looking for another post-apocalyptic wasteland to explore. Fallout 4 will be bringing the series back to the east coast, using Baltimore as its base location. As long as this time players can get through the game without being paranoid about getting stuck in a wall, the franchise could finally be revitalized.

2: Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman gets robbed by better Batman
Arkham Knight isn’t an apology for a sequel but for the prequel Arkham Origins and follows after Arkham City and the Joker’s unfortunate demise. Players who preorder the game get the opportunity to play as villains Red Hood and Harley Quinn, and the makers have already hinted at multiplayer mode with Robin, Nightwing and Batgirl. Players were already excited for a more open world than Origins as well as the opportunity to drive around in the Batmobile. This looks like the game fans have both needed and deserved.

1: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

I love the guys at the next table over. "What are you people
staring at? And young man, sit in that chair properly!"
For some reason it seems that the historic revisionist series with secret organizations controlling history works better when it’s taking place in historic settings and not actual historic events. Assassin’s Creed 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity took place in the American Revolution and French Revolution respectively, and both bombed faster than an all children’s production of Pulp Fiction. However, fan favorite Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag just took place during the time of pirates in the Caribbean, and the first game was during a little known crusade in the Holy Land, and both made more money than the Templars could ever dream of. Syndicate takes place in Victorian England, vaguely around the time of Jack the Ripper, and while the game hasn’t directly said that it will have Steampunk elements, with top hats and corsets already in a video game it won’t surprise if a robot made of brass and smelling like tea will show up at one point.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

NovaTees-Awesome tee shirts you need to have!

I was contacted by a friend the other day letting me know that he's working with a new up-and-coming geeky tee shirt store, and more than happy to help out a friend I checked out his store's site.

Yeah... I need all of them... is at first reminiscent of, except when I went to NovaTees website my computer didn't have a seizure. Selection is slimmer than Teeturtle, but quality is certainly not lacking. Based out of Provo Utah, the new company is off to a good start with variety and fan combinations that make even my jaded heart squee with glee, plus none of the tee shirts are the least bit inappropriate, which in the geek world is becoming fewer and further between.

If me raving about them isn't enough, here are three of my favorites directly from the website:

Hate to say it, but I called him Zelda until I was like 15. 

One Ninja Turtle in Smash Brothers... That's all I ask...

Follow these folks on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and Instagram!
Buy buy buy!!!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Mormon Geeks Podcast: Episode 15: Friends

It's been a while since I (T.J.) have done a podcast. But since my friend Casey was visiting with her husband this past weekend, I took the opportunity to talk about one of the things we both frequently quote with one another: Friends!

It's lengthy, we were tired, and it probably could've gone on for 24 hours at least.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saying goodbye #andamovie

It's no secret that Community is my favorite show. It has been ever since it's premiere in 2009. It's clever writing and quirky characters won me over pretty much right away. It's equally hilarious and heartfelt. The TV series has had a troublesome history with the looming sword of being cancelled hovering over it's head for many seasons. Fans, cast and crew rallied with a campaign of #sixseasonsandamovie.

What's awesome is that despite poor TV ratings the campaign really did get the show six seasons! The sixth season had it's finale this past tuesday. The finale was emotional, hilarious and heartbreaking. It was saying goodbye without knowing if it really is a goodbye or not. Everyone is moving on to a new chapter of their lives. In a literal sense, whether or not Yahoo renews another season is up in the air. It was an almost satisfying end to the series.

I still want a movie.

That's right. I went there. Feel the heartache.
There are plenty of TV shows--and video games, cartoons, etc--that I love that have a premature end. Firefly is the obvious one. Glad we got a movie with that one and some closure in the follow up comics. Another favorite is Young Justice which cartoon network cancelled after 2 seasons. It was a brilliant show with brilliant animation and writing. Ugh. Dollhouse only ran for two seasons as well. They got to have an actual ending though unlike Firefly.

There are other parts of my life that I felt had premature endings: my childhood in Maryland, friendships I shared growing up, dating relationships, job experiences and amazing adventures in far away lands. When a dating relationship fizzled out I wouldn't want to date for months. I remember I had the opportunity to visit my cousin in Colorado but I didn't want to go because I knew I would only get a few days and have to say goodbye again. I didn't want the heartache.

Oh gosh, it hurts. Stupid Disney.
You could say I'm allergic to goodbyes. Tears will come to my eyes. My nose will start to run. The only remedy is complete detachment and that has some pretty awful side effects. I think the toxicity of numbness and loneliness aren't the best trade offs. They prevent you from making new connections and finding a quirky new TV series to fall in love with. The coincidence is that being "too attached" has the same effects. Holding on to something because you miss it so much? It can be easy to not move on because your mind is still on what's left.

So what's the solution?

Well, understand that heartache is to be expected. It always will be--even in a small amount. It has to be if the connection and attachment was real. The other thing to remember is that letting go doesn't mean detaching. I can let go of Community and Firefly but still love the series. I can let go of an ex-girlfriend and still appreciate the connection we shared. No, she may not be part of my life anymore and that's okay. I may even try to reconnect with her from time to time. That's okay too. Letting go means that I don't let the attachment rule my life and prevent me from enjoying everything else I have going for me. Letting go means I do not allowing the premature end stop me from developing new friendships, relationships and passions.

"There is skill to it. More importantly, it has to be joyful, effortless, fun. TV defeats it’s own purpose when it’s pushing an agenda, or trying to defeat other TV or being proud or ashamed of itself for existing. It’s TV, it’s comfort.
It’s a friend you’ve known so well, and for so long you just let it be with you and it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day or phone in a day. And it needs to be okay for it to get on a boat with LeVar Burton and never come back. Because eventually, it all will."
Abed Nadir (Series Finale)
I still want a Community movie. I want to say goodbye to these characters I love in the best way possible. And if I don't get it, I'll be alright. I'll remember the good times. I'll re-watch favorite episodes. I'll revel in the fact that we got six seasons! Don't forget about the good times and good friends. Don't close the door on them either. Such things may or may not be absent from your life but never your heart. Some things may have to come to an end, say goodbye. New things will come in to your life, let them in. Try something new. Familiar things may return, embrace them and help it renew.