Monday, July 28, 2014

Mormon Geeks Episode 5: John Cleaver

T.J. and Stephen discuss all things John Cleaver (well, minus the new novella, which T.J. still hasn't read yet, but is going to.) This is a book series by Dan Wells including the books I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don't Want to Kill You.

Please have a listen and enjoy.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Jellyfish Conundrum

A few months back I came across a meme that basically switched the genders of the characters of the Big Bang Theory in the first season.  Instead of having a gorgeous looking girl that becomes friends with three socially awkward guys it was a gorgeous looking guy who becomes friends with 4 socially awkward girls.  The caption basically said, "A situation comedy that would never get made."

Well, guess who's laughing now?  The creators of the hit anime Princess Jellyfish more or less follow the same idea in their titular series.  And you wanna know something?  It's fantastic.

Princess Jellyfish is about an 18 year old girl named Tsukimi who moves out on her own into Tokyo.  Tsukimi is obsessed with all sorts of different kinds of Jellyfish and is an otaku girl.  (Or a nerd/geek girl.)  She moves into a house style apartment home with 5 other girls who are socially awkward and also otaku.  The girls tend to stick with one another and try to avoid social situations because of the dreaded "stylish."

The "stylish" are the young and socially adept of Tokyo life.  They are confident, wear nice clothes (if sometimes gaudy), and tend to overlook anyone who isn't part of their social sphere.  The otaku girls are completely intimidated by them even if one means well and actually tries to care.

Things change for Tsukimi's life when a stylish girl helps her save a jellyfish from an oblivious pet shop clerk.  The stylish girl decides to become Tsukimi's friend and a series of events causes the stylish girl to spend the night at Tsukimi's place.
Tsukimi freaks out when she finds her new friend is a 'he.'

Now I know what you're thinking, "This isn't like the big bang theory.  The pretty one should be a boy in this situation not a girl."  Yeah... about that... Tsukimi wakes up the next morning to step on a wig--totally expected with the stylish culture--and sees not a stylish girl but a young man not much older than her.  His name is Kuranosuke and he cross dresses for fun.  (He's not gay, just likes women clothing.)  What then begins is an unlikely friendship and comedy of errors involving political families, doomed apartment buildings, and awkward dinner conversations.

The great thing about Princess Jellyfish are the rounded and complicated characters.  Kuranosuke motives for cross dressing are both endearing and painfully sad.  Much like Tsukimi's obsession with Jellyfish and how it connects her to her mother.  The girls she live with are much like real characters with painful and relatable insecurities.

So why would a guy like me find interest in a show like this?  It isn't just the good writing and storytelling.  I found a connection in empathy before that I hadn't before.  See, I've been aware of insecurities and fears that I've seen from my female relatives but never understood.  The fears that real-life women would tell me about I just couldn't see as rational or even understood why they existed.  Watching Princess Jellyfish actually changed that for me.  Suddenly, I didn't just know of the fears and insecurities but actually felt them!  Seeing these girls act the way they do around Kuranosuke spoke to me in a way that no other show has before.

I would definitely recommend giving Princess Jellyfish a shot.  It can be seen on Netflix.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is social media the new journaling?

You know what’s weird for me? When I see a “Like” or a “Comment” come up on my Facebook alerts on something I said or did ages ago but had forgotten about until a friend or relative who rarely uses Facebook gets on and likes or comments on it. This can be kind of fun too because then I look back and see that thing I said and wonder why I said it.
After going back through my Facebook feed for the last few months I found a few posts I had forgotten I had made:
Recently I posted this while on my honeymoon. I still forgot I had said it. 

This was after I saw Patrick Stewart speak at Comic Con

It's still true.

I have a problem with math...

This honestly nearly killed me. 

What I’ve realized though is that I write on Facebook more than my journal, and since Facebook will theoretically hang on to my posts forever, has Facebooking become the new journaling?
My niece, Bella. She just turned 6.
It’s certainly become the new way to communicate with friends. I have literally hundreds of friends on Facebook I would never know anything about if it wasn’t for what they post, and vice versa. I have no idea how people stayed in touch with so many people before social media. Either they wrote a billion people a month or they just forgot about everyone they've ever met. 

I love sea food, so much so that while eating I resemble a killer whale.
I appreciate it for planning events. Nearly all my events are now planned exclusively through Facebook, though that’s for better or worse. The friends I have who don’t use the system (And yes I have a few, my sister being one of them), tend to get overlooked when fun things are abound and shennegains are afoot.
But aside from that, are we going to be remembered for our Facebook posts?
His family was away that weekend so I spent the night. Yay bro dates!
I remember a few years ago when President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk on keeping a journal and then journaling became almost like a fad in the church. Everyone talked about how they would be read for generations to come, so I wonder if one day people’s Facebook or Twitter feeds will be kept in big granite vaults along with pioneer journals and artifacts, and you know what?
I like it.
Just laugh it's funny.
I know a lot of people see Facebook as a waste of time and empty but I see it as a reflection of our digital age. I like the idea of my hypothetical grandkids reading my posts on Captain Picard and how I did on my finals with a smile because that’s who their ancestor was in that time. I want them to see my wife and I flirt with each other in our early relationship and how my friends and I would banter online.
Of course it’s not all roses. Ownership laws have yet to catch up with the tech, so it could easily come into dispute as to who owns the rights to Great Grandpa Joe’s Facebook feed down the line, and what level of editing has it gone through since the initial rant on the lines at the post office. And while the vaults are a good concept, how big of computers would be required to store millions of people’s Facebook, and for that matter Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest feeds as well after they’ve been added to for decades. I think that if lost or tampered with it would be a loss to mankind as a whole, since this is the first time in history where a majority of the culture is literate and has the freedom to express themselves however they want.
I don't often get poetic, but this hit during a particularly annoying
bout of studying. 
To me what we have here is a unique way to express ourselves that can be saved for future generations like never before. Working for a genealogist I have seen people who the only things we know about them is what was written on a few ledgers 200 years ago, and usually that was their name, occupation, age, and what they attended. I’ve worked on whole families where all we have is a birth record, a marriage record, and a death record, but who were these people? What did they think? Who did they love? What stories did they have?
Maybe our ancestors won’t have those questions. Maybe they’ll look at our old Facebook quotes and know who we were and how we were, and maybe that’s an amazing thing.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Random Minecraft Pictures

So, I forgot that I needed to write up a blog post today.  So, I'm posting some pictures from the Minecraft world I was playing on last night.  Hope you enjoy! Come back next week for more Mix Up Your Minecraft.

Silk worms working (from the Ex Nihilo mod)
My first shack and now it's my mine shaft. (drying racks on the right are from Tinker's Construct)
A small house for my Tinker's Construct work.  You can see the Smeltery on the right.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Top Ten most annoying Disney sidekicks

We haven't discussed Disney in a bit, let's try something a little controversial.
Contrary to popular belief, I don't love all Disney characters, particularly the side characters. Sadly, it's almost a requirement for every Disney movie to have a few talking clocks or thinking snowmen just to sell more toys and add some comic relief. But for me sometimes these characters aren't just annoying, they take away from the quality of the movie. So here's my list of the top ten most annoying Disney sidekicks, and this time they WILL be in order.

10. Cogsworth and Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast
These guys weren't so annoying until I saw a first cut for Beauty and the Beast where none of the furniture could talk. After that every time I saw these two eat up screen time bickering I just got increasingly angry. The only reason they land so low on my list is that "Be Our Guest" is a good song. 

9. Tantor from Tarzan
A scaredy-cat elephant voiced by Newman. He serves no purpose in the plot and that voice just grates on my nerves. Baby Tantor isn't any better, just a higher pitched annoying elephant. I'm just glad this guy didn't get popular, though I would've loved to see the thing get eaten by a Dilophosaurus. 

8. Skippy and his friends from Robin Hood
Here's a great idea: Let's take an awesome high-action idea like Robin Hood done with animals and waste 15-20 minutes messing around with annoying baby critters. All their scene with Maid Marian adds to our plot is that Maid Marian likes Robin Hood, something we could've figured out from knowing that the film was about Robin Hood. 

7. Owl from Winnie the Pooh
I know that his long-winded stories are played for laughs, but every time Owl's on screen I want to hit fast forward. When you have so many fun and high-energy characters bouncing around on screen, slowing down the story for this wind bag makes me want to mount him on my wall. 

6. Pegasus from Hercules
I feel like this character could've been beautiful and elegant like Aladdin's Carpet, but instead we get this weird bro-horse. Pegasus is always laughing or making a face or getting its butt jammed into things, which is supposed to come off as fun but for me it just comes off as Hercules's frat buddy. Maximus from Tangled could be funny without looking hideous. Zeus would've been better off just making Hercules a nice Ford rather than an annoying flying horse. 

5. Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King
This is probably one of the more debatable choices on this list since so many people love these guys, but for me Timon and Pumbaa are just empty comic relief. Even their song that is so popular with the masses is the worst advice they could have given Simba. There's a story of a prince who was captured by criminals and denied earthly pleasures because of his princely heritage, and honestly these guys are the antithesis of that story. They take Simba away from his birthright and tell him to stop caring about anything that matters. That's a great message to teach kids. 

4. B.E.N. from Treasure Planet
Okay so not a lot of people have seen this movie, which is a shame because the animation, character designs and overall tone for me just seem to work perfectly together. However, the obnoxious robot we have to meet in the third act, B.E.N. is basically a delayed Jar Jar Binks. One of his character traits is that his memory board is missing so he constantly "Acts crazy" because he's malfunctioning, but even when they do find his hard drive or whatever he still acts like an imbecile. Just throw him off the boat and let the vacuum of space deal with him, please. 

3. All the mice in Cinderella
I know mice are part of the original Cinderella story, but Disney decided to take them one step further and give them songs and a major role in the film. Couple that with their high pitched voices and the fact that they devolve a large section of the movie into an episode of Tom and Jerry and you get some universally awful characters. What's sad is that we have a main character that is severely underdeveloped in this film, namely our nameless prince, who could have become a major piece in the story if the mice were dropped. The same thing happened with Snow White but the dwarfs are so entertaining they get a pass, but really, does anyone care about the plight of "Gus Gus"?
2. Dr. Jumba Jookiba from Lilo and Stitch
This guy is almost classified as a villain if the movie hadn't decided for us that he was too weak and replace him with that giant whale man. The problem with Jumba and his weird little buddy is that this film didn't need them to drive up tension. We already had a major obstacle to overcome in the form of Bubbles the social worker threatening to break up the family. Honestly we didn't even need to know that Stitch was a lab experiment and not just an alien. This film could've been like ET and just been about the development of relationship and the meaning of family, but Jumba just has to sit there with his forced conflict and get in the way of our favorite blue alien.

1. The gargoyles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney made a bold move in trying to adapt this Victor Hugo novel into a fun movie for the whole family, and while so many parts to this film work, the gargoyle sidekicks to Quasimodo do not in any way shape or form. First, they don't make sense in the context of their own reality. We don't see any other evidence of magic or talking things that aren't supposed to be talking in the entire movie, and while the film hints that they are figments of Quasimodo's imagination, in the final battle it's extremely clear that they are helping defend Notre Dame and are real. Second, they have arguably the worst song in a Disney film. Here we have our hero already established to have shame and sadness around his hideous appearance and these three sing a song about how he can get the girl despite being ugly, while still reminding him of how ugly he is. Not only is this incredibly mean spirited, but Quasimodo doesn't even get the girl in the end anyway. So the gargoyles from Hunchback get the worst Disney sidekick award by me for not only annoying me but by putting the final nails into the coffin of the film they were in. I hope that gives them a sense of accomplishment as they remember that people would rather hug a stuffed Quasimodo than any one of them anytime soon. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mix Up Your Minecraft: Mo' Creatures and Biomes O' Plenty

Are you tired of fighting the same zombies, skeletons, and creepers?  Are you tired of the same old vanilla Minecraft biomes?  Are you tired of feeling like your Minecraft world is desolate and empty?  Well, this post might have some mods for you!

I'm going to go over two mods in this post (I have to make up for last week, right?).  The first one is Biomes O' Plenty.  Biomes O' Plenty adds approximately 80 new biomes and 12 new sub-biomes.  You heard me correctly: 80 new biomes!  Redwood forests, wastelands, and wetlands just to name a few.  And it doesn't just add them to the 'overworld'.  New biomes show up in the Nether as well!  Also, the mod adds in a whole new dimension called the Promised Land.  The Promised Land represents the sky lands that Mojang almost released instead of the End.

The other mod is Mo' Creatures.  Mo' Creatures breathes new life into the Minecraft world.  All sorts of beautiful, crazy, and dangerous creatures are added into the world.  There are bugs, birds, and snakes.  There is the fast and deadly silver skeleton.  There are the incredible dangerous werewolves.  There are also the peaceful ents.  In all, Mo' Creatures adds in 30+ more mobs.  I would personally recommend reading up on the mod before trying to play with it.  The number of new creatures can be very overwhelming!

Here's a brief video of a world a friend and I generated.  A number of different Biomes O' Plenty biomes and Mo' Creatures creatures are shown.  In the end, we ended up junking the world for the other, but it might be fun to watch me freak out when a snake attacks me.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Podcast: Episode 4: FantasyCon

I have Stephen as my guest discussing many aspects of FantasyCon, which was awesome, by the way.

Listen to our latest podcast here.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.