Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Life of the Warrior

I am at the end of my rope.  I just started a new job.  I have less then $40 in the bank.  I just recently got into a minor car accident that will just be a little over $500 in repairs.  I owe a little over $200 on my credit card.  I still have my monthly rent, food, car payments, and insurance to worry about.  Why do I tell you this?

I'm outside of my comfort zone.  Some of you laugh because you envy my situation.  Trust me, I know it can be a lot worst.  And yet, this part of life makes me stretch in the places I need to grow the most.  

I can publicly speak in front of thousands of people--no problem.  If I need to get a poster designed in 24 hours--no sweat.  I have no problem meeting new people.  But you put me in a situation where I owe more then $200 and I got my knees shaking and start sweating bullets.  I'm not comfortable and consider my situation miserable.
Yeah, they got shields and helmets.  Don't need much else.

The Spartans of ancient Greece thrived on basic needs.  They didn't have lavish camps, soft cots to sleep on, or fine foods to eat.  They were also some of the fiercest warriors in the history of mankind.  Their training was rigorous and brutal and not accommodating.  When we describe bare basic amenities we often describe them as Spartan.  (A "spartan" locker room for example does not have partitions to dress in or any sense of privacy.  No privacy for Spartans.) 

There's a story of a man that carries this large cross.  He is exhausted and it is quite a challenge for him.  The man carries this cross following a path to a land of promise.  Exhausted he seeks relief from his Heavenly Father, "Oh God, please deliver me from baring this cross."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes God, of course."
"What would you like me to do?"
After thinking for a moment the man says, "Send me a saw.  Let me just make this cross a little lighter."
"You wouldn't like that."
"Oh please, Father.  I just want a smaller cross to carry."
"Alright, the choice is yours."
A saw falls from heaven.  The man, relieved, saws away at his cross.  It becomes smaller and smaller until he's able to wear it across his neck.  Relieved, the man continues his journey to the land of promise.

I've often talked about becoming the heroes we idolize.  Reaching our full potential is impossible without getting outside of our comfort zones.  If we're always seeking to get away from the refiner's fire, how can we ever hope to reflect the metal smith, our savior, who refines us?

Here's my fully authentic feeling on my current situation.  I hate it.  I hate owing money.  I hate the anxiety of the future of wondering if I'll be able to pay for living.  I have the most trouble feeling peace despite how much of a spiritual man I thought I was.  I think, if I was really this spiritual guy I wouldn't be filled with so much anxiety as to what's going to happen to my future.

Which brings me to why I decided to write this: I needed to.  Why?  Because sharing my story and sharing my testimony that I know that I'll be okay is exactly what I need to say.  Guess what?  Things may get a little worse.  I probably won't meet my goals of being credit card debt free by the end of this summer.  But this is the life of the warrior, you have everything you need and just barely--maybe even a little less.  You're outside of your comfort zone so that you can become the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father you want to be.

I've been tested and been in trial before.  Being in school was outside of my comfort zone at one time.  Now I enjoy being in school--even with all of its bureaucracy and stress.  Now I have to take this opportunity to be thankful for and learn from the challenge presented to me.

Now let's get back to that man with the cross.
The man continued his journey but stopped.  He came to a large ravine impossible to past.  On the other side was the land of promise.  Heart broken, the man had no idea what to do. 
 A Spartan came carrying a cross as large as the one the other man once carried.  This Spartan came to the ravine and laid his cross across it.  He walked on his cross and pick it up on the other side when he happily continued his path to the land of promise.  This Spartan knew the sentiments of his Heavenly Father.  He valued his trials and because of his gratitude and patience he crossed the ravine and continued his journey.
My message to all of you and most importantly, myself, is that no matter how uncomfortable your trial you'll come out in the end if you just trust your Heavenly Father.  Yes, it might hurt like any surgery or any adventure.  But with a belief in ourselves and a belief in our God I know that anything is possible.  He gives us the choice to live the Warrior life at times.  I can promise you from my experience that we can thrive in this life.  We can enjoy it too, not just endure it.

I'm thankful for this opportunity to grow.  I know that I have the support of family, friends, and my Savior.

-Stephen

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What happened to LDS cinema?

It's pretty well known that I'm a huge movie snob. The older and more obscure the film the better. What truly saddens me, besides the wreckage that is the Transformers franchise, is what happened to LDS cinema. There is no reason there shouldn't be an LDS section on Netflix peppered with Oscars, but what do we have? Ugh...
It started in the 70's with a bunch of weird BYU productions about trading women for cows and some guy's lament for some Christmas thing I had the unfortunate experience of seeing on my mission (Thank you Elder Gotchy). They can be kindly described as existential and unkindly described as Looney Tunes bananas. Besides them we got Saturday's Warrior, a musical with a budget about the same as an early episode of Touched By an Angel about a giant LDS family... doing... stuff... or something...
Now I'm not talking about films produced by the church, like the missionary tools over at Temple Square. Those are actually pretty decent, even though I still don't understand why, since the Book of Mormon is full of heroes, Testaments had to make a bunch up out of nowhere. The Joseph Smith one makes me cry though.
Anyway, nothing came out for a while until 2000 when we hit a little Renascence with the release of God's Army. Here we had a film that took an uncompromising look at missionary life, arguably without breaking any LDS standards (Argument can be made for the toilet scene). It's only flaw was that having most of the missionaries either end up dead or leaving the church didn't make it too conducive to Family Home Evening.
Disney enters the story at this point, with The Other Side of Heaven, an interesting true story about Elder Groberg's mission in the South Pacific. It's only problem is the fact that with most of the spirituality pulled through the Disney safety ringer, it ends up like trying to sell the story of Noah as an adventure on the high seas. Close but they missed the point. At least it gave families something to watch for FHE.
The real crux of the Renascence came with the release of The Best Two Years. It was a sunnier version of God's Army, lighter on the whole death and leaving the church stuff, but somehow kept the same authentic tone God's Army had going for it. Honest but safe, funny but emotional, and it even had some spiritual points, it could've been the sounding call to an incredible wave of LDS filmmakers to forge a place in the market with great work...
But then...
What came next was a disaster. Film after film came out in the following years, each more awful than the last. Stuff like Single's Ward and the RM made tired jokes on LDS culture, while piles of reinterpretations of classic literature, and even Beauty and the Beast of all things, all with an awkward LDS setting shoe horned in as badly as a chair through a TV flooded the shelves at Deseret Book. An even darker age then before had settled in.
People tell me that they're are good LDS films out there. I've heard encouraging things about 17 Miracles and A Good Man, but at this point I feel like a survivor of the zombie apocalypse. I hear rumors that Hill Air Force Base is still open, or that there's a stronghold in Heber, but I've seen too much carnage and have had my hopes dashed too many times to believe any of it now.
What's really sad is that, while we've been messing around with remaking Pride and Prejudice, those who are against the church have been busy collecting Golden Globes, Tony's and film festival awards for their contributions. As blasphemous as Big Love, Latter Days and The Book of Mormon musical are, at least they're cinematically well made! This is definitely not a sign of encouragement. In a time when the world has been looking pretty closely at us as a people, and we even have a member running for the White House, do we really want the only people telling our story be the guys who made South Park?
I know that good LDS movies can be made, I've seen it happen once upon a time. I know we have brilliant LDS entertainers with standards, like Russell Kendall and David Archuleta, so why can't we put together a decent film? You know what would look better than one of those tacky Moroni replicas on someone's mantle? An Oscar!
-JOE

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Wizard - A Oldie But A Goodie

Growing up, I was a pretty avid love of video games.  I remember (somewhat fuzzily) at about 5 years old, coming home and finding that my family had acquired a Nintendo.  I was immediately fascinated and later became quite hooked to the machine.  I enjoyed many a fun game on the system: Super Mario Brothers (1, 2, and 3), Star Tropics, Exodus Ultimate, Battletoads...ah, being able to punch out your ally had quite an appeal when your little brother was playing with you...but I digress.

One day in Blockbuster, I was looking through the movies and stumbled across one called 'The Wizard'.  Also being quite fascinated with mages and wizards, I wondered if it would be a movie about magic.  It turned out that the movie was about a wizard...of sorts. (An FYI, I watched this movie years ago, so most of the details I'm pulling from Wikipedia).


The Wizard (1989) revolves around a young boy named Jimmy.  After a tragic accident in which his twin sister dies, he suffers from a serious mental condition.   He hardly interacts with those around him, builds things out of blocks, always caries a lunch box with him, and only says the word 'California'.  After Jimmy is placed in a institution, his older brother, Corey, breaks him out.  Corey eventually discovers that Jimmy is a wizard at playing video games.  Corey and Jimmy team up with another girl to get to California, all the while trying to evade pursuit from a crazy missing child hunter.  Corey eventually enters Jimmy into a video game playing contest.  After winning the contest, Corey and Jimmy are reunited with their family and the mystery of Jimmy's obsession with 'California' is revealed.

As a child who loved video games, I loved this movie.  As an adult, I realize that it was a little cheesy and contained a lot of blatant product placement by Nintendo.  Still, I find the story to be heartwarming and an interesting tale about following your dreams.  I give the movie a B+ rating.

Friday, May 25, 2012

When the Staff Shatters


By guest author Jeff Bennion
There is a fantastic scene in the final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy when the wizard Gandalf comes face-to-face with a Nazgul (the Witch King of Agnmar), who has been terrorizing the city of Gondor. He raises his staff to challenge the Nazgul. The Witch King throws off his cloak to expose his crown of fear and raises his sword of flame. With the barest of effort the Witch King shatters Gandalf’s staff.
Gandalf is taken aback, momentarily stunned. He has wielded his staff to thwart much evil and destruction, it is the repository of much power. But it fails him here. What will he do next? Will he just crumple up and die, as the Witch King says he is about to?
No, he doesn’t. Taking advantage of the arrival of the cavalry from Rohan, Gandalf gets up and continues to rally the citizens of Gondor to the defense of their city, exhorting them to hold strong in the defense of their city, even in the face of a terrifying and merciless assault.

I have a friend, and I wish he was the only one, who recently decided to leave the Church and forsake his covenants after yet another dating relationship ended. He had put all his faith and hope in himself happily married with children, and after this particularly painful breakup, he lost that faith. It had happened too many times before for him to keep the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. He didn’t want to remain single in the Church the rest of his life, and he had no remaining hope that he could be anything but that. His staff shattered. He had a choice then. I could pick himself up and fight on with what remained, or he could say, “Well, that’s done for then. I’m outta here.”
This is just one example of many I could choose. There are people who go off the rails after a divorce, or after the physical or spiritual loss of a child, or after a financial disaster. There are those who leave after being gossiped about and lied about. None of these things are fair, or deserved.
The tragedy, of course, is that my friend’s desire to be married and have a family were good things. So is reading our scriptures, having regular meaningful prayer, studying the words of the Prophets, obedience to the Word of Wisdom, the Law of the Fast, the principle of tithing, and so on with the many wonderful gospel principles. But none of these, not even all of them together, is always going to work They cannot prevent misfortune, death, disease, emotional torment, isolation, or failure in any of its many forms.
My title here isn’t if your staff shatters, but when. I believe each of us will be faced with a moment (or perhaps more than one moment) like this. We are told that good is stronger than evil, and that good will prevail. I believe that, not because of any preponderance of evidence, but because I choose to believe it. There will be times when good won’t look stronger than evil, where what in the past you have used with much success will shatter and have no effect. I say this because this has been my experience. It is at this point when enduring and continuing adherence to the gospel will not seem like the sensible or logical choice. That is when I faced my greatest choice. Will I continue, diminished, to fight on the losing side, or will I switch sides and try to negotiate a separate peace?
Faith is a power, but before it has any power for us, it is a choice. And that is where its greatest power is as well. Choice is the only thing we have true power over. We can say yes or we can say no. Such a little thing, but it makes all the difference. Faith means choosing the good even when evil is vastly stronger. Faith means fighting on even when the cause is lost. Faith means picking yourself up and fighting on even when your strength and power have failed you. It is insisting, against all evidence to the contrary, that there is light, even when all around you is darkness.
What is your staff? What would you do if it fails you in your hour of greatest need?
You can see the scene I refer to here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCwVBBLx7dE. Note to Tolkien geeks: I am aware that Gandalf’s staff shattering and momentary collapse isn’t in the book. For the reasons elaborated above, I like Peter Jackson’s movie portrayal anyway.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chic Geek #2: Canvas Kicks

For my post today, I'd like to talk about something that I really like: shoes.  It sounds weird to say it, but hey, I like shoes.  There just isn't more to it than that.  I'm quite secure in my masculinity so I got no problem owning my love for shoes.


When it comes to buying shoes there are a lot of options available.  Many men will go out and buy some sort of multi-purpose shoe that they can wear hiking, athletics, or the work place.  Although that will save you money those shoes also tend to look their best in whatever attire you're meant to wear with it.  Hiking boots generally look great with khaki shorts or jeans.  Basketball shoes also look good if you're dressed accordingly.  If you're not hiking or playing basketball though, it may look a little out of place.


My favorite kind of kicks are canvas sneakers.
Plaid is rad.  Don't forget it.  Also, the color Brown rocks--it's my favorite.
What I love about canvas sneakers is that they look simple in their design without overloading your eye with "too much."  I mean, look at these athletic shoes to the right.  By themselves, they are designed... okay.  In some basketball shorts and an under armor shirt they may look awesome.  But outside of that it would look completely out of place.

Not only that, but there's just a bit "too much" going on here visually.  In many ways, these shoes draw too much attention to themselves.  The canvas shoes above are much more subtle.



When it comes to the canvas sneaker I generally can't look past Converse or Vans.  They tend to feature some of the best designs and look great.  You can always count on better quality as well.  I find that Vans are a bit more comfortable and are a little better looking in their designs.  Converse can look great if worn with the right shirt and pants.  They can also get a little complicated but with good reason.


Look at that.  Just comic book art printed on canvas, the rubber sole, nose, and laces.  No need for any extra frills or gizmos to add to the shoe.  It understands that it is art and though it does draw attention to itself, it does so with unashamed finesse.  Shoes like these would go great with a graphic tee in a complimentary color featuring the same character.

The thing about shoes is that they can get a little expensive.  You can get a great t-shirt for as little as 10 bucks.  A quality shoe can be as little as 40 bucks.  It may require a little bit of hunting at Zappos or Shoebuy.com, but deals can be found.  You don't have to always blow a hole in your bank account or wallet to get your feet in one of these shoes.



When you decide to wear your canvas sneaker, pay special attention to what you're wearing with it.  Matching styles and colors can really make an impression.  Don't try to be exact in your color tones--that can quickly look tacky.  Just make sure that they are either close or complimentary.  (I'll have to do a post on choosing colors in the future.)  For example, the shoes at the top I would wear with a brown or hunter green shirt and dark shorts or pants.  I'd probably wear a plaid shirt if possible but not plaid bottoms as to create a sense of visual rhythm.

Finally, canvas shoes are great ways to show your inner geek.  Many styles feature comic book or cartoon characters printed on them.  They also come in a variety of colors to easily match tees, shirts, and even ties.  The canvas shoe with the right tie can be pulled off in business like settings.  I've worn my black and purple checkered Vans along with my black and white checkered tie to church and a job interview before.  (I got that job, too!)

Zachary Levi (Chuck Bartowski) is a great example of a Chic Geek.
If you're in the market for some new shoes.  I recommend picking up a pair of canvas kicks.
-Stephen





Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I love Superman

I am of a very endangered breed of geeks who will proudly say that one of my favorite super heroes is Superman. I absolutely adore the Man of Steel. I had a complete fanboy freak out when Lego revealed that they'll be making a Lego Batman 2, featuring Superman, and immediately ran out and bought the Superman/Luthor/Wonder Woman set. If it's got an S on it, I'll buy it.
The disappointing part is how alone I feel sometimes in my love for the Last Son of Krypton. Whenever he's brought up in conversation it usually turns into either "He's too overpowered" or "Batman could beat him". Occasionally the argument comes up that his villains are too stupid, or how could people be so dumb as to not see through his disguise as Clark Kent, or how everybody in the world seems to have easy access to Kryptonite, and I sadly withdraw from the conversation, knowing that it'll most likely end with me making a nasty comment about somebody's mother. Well today I want to address some of these arguments as well share my own geekiness as to why Superman rocks hardcore.
First I want to talk about him being overpowered. It's true, he's a flying impervious super-strong alien that can see through walls, shoot lasers out of his eyes and blow freezing breath, but to me all this does is up the stakes on how bad the bad guys have to be. Batman is cool if he busts a warehouse full of gangsters, but I'd love to see him against a bunch of Darkseid's demons, or invading robots from space. Superman is big, thus he takes on the big threats. In the DC Universe, which has Earth painted with a giant bulls-eye on it for any would-be alien conqueror, there is a constant need for those who can stand up to the worst of the worst.
Probably one of the biggest issue people have with Superman though is that he's a "goody-two-shoe". There is no darkness in this hero. He shows up on the scene from the sky with a bright red cape billowing around him in matching bright red shorts, says something about how he'll help save the day, does it, then flies away, waving and smiling at the amazed populace.The argument is that it's inauthentic, nobody is that nice and shiny. The heroes people follow are guys like Batman, Wolverine and Spider-Man, characters with a damaged past who occasionally have to make hard decisions against twisted villains. Superman is a relief because he can be the epitome of good. Superman isn't about how bad to the bone he can be, he's about there being someone who's willing to fight the good fight, both in stopping the bad guy and just being whole sale good, thus becoming a beacon of hope in a dark world. This is exemplified by Jerry Siegel, one of the original creators of Superman. Before his creation, Siegel's father was shot to death in a botched robbery. Two weeks later, his son wrote a story about a man who could stop bullets and saves people from criminals.   He saw the need for there to be a purely good force in the universe so he created one. 
An interesting connotation to Superman is how affected he is by his own tragic background. Though he doesn't remember Krypton, he does know that if it were to exist he would fit in. Contrary to what David Carradine's character says in Kill Bill, Superman dresses and acts like Clark Kent because that's who he wants to really be. He grew up on a farm in Kansas, so at core he's just a farm boy with simple American values who just happens to be able to fly around the world at a thought. The best illustration of this was in the comic book and Justice League Unlimited episode "The Man Who Has Everything". In it Superman is put into an illusion where he can live the perfect life, and for him it has nothing to do with being a super hero. His illusion puts him as a farmer on Krypton with a wife and son. No powers, just being normal. He could've chosen to stay in his illusion, since the only way to break it was to willingly step out, but he didn't. He said a tearful goodbye to his son and came back to reality, his heart broken. 
Some other great illustrations of the Man of Steel's true character come in Alex Ross's works, namely Kingdom Come and Peace on Earth. In Kingdom Come Superman must take on the responsibility of leading a futuristic army of heroes in a campaign to stop super villain violence once and for all, a role that the Last Son of Krypton is not comfortable filling. In Peace on Earth, he tries to feed the entire planet for one whole day, but is defeated by the greed and hatred of man, thus demonstrating that with all his amazing powers he still can't save humanity from themselves.
Superman of course wouldn't be the hero without an equally challenging opponent, namely  Lex Luthor. Not as colorful as villains like the Joker and Bizarro, Luthor stands alone in his own brand of villainy. All he really wants is to do is either control or own everything he can, and his biggest beef with Superman is that he can't own him. Being human he can't go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel without a robotic suit, but that's not where he's the threat. His greatest ability is that he's smart. Not only can he invent terrible devices to attack, he can twist whatever plan he's scheming so that it doesn't lead back to him. To the world at large, Luthor is a millionaire philanthropist, comparable to Bruce Wayne. This becomes one of Superman's biggest problems because it's nearly impossible to prove Luthor is a villain and have him put away, leaving Luthor to devise a new plan to defeat the Man of Steel. 
So that's my two cents on Superman. America's first super hero, an inspiration for generations, the Man of Steel holds a special place in my heart as a hero that I can look up to and feel safe in knowing that in the end he will stand for truth, justice and the American way. 
Look! Up in the sky! 
-JOE

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Wonders Of Light

So, I admit the idea for the blog post came to me in a rather unusual way.  I was pondering the excellent post that T.J. had put up about Intelligence and Wisdom.  I was trying to think of something geeky I could talk about that would also have a spiritual significance about it.  After a few moments, I found myself reflecting on what science knows about the nature of light (pun not intended).  Then I realized that there are also some very good scriptures about light.  So, I decided to make this blog post.  I apologize if it gets a little to scientific.  I'm a bit of a science nut.

Science: On Light and Color

Visible light is a very interesting beast.  First off, white light is actually composed of three basic colors that blend together to create white light.  The three basic colors of light are Red, Green, and Blue.  When all three of these are mixed together in equal amounts, we get white light back.  The sun appears to be white because it gives off all different colors of light and our eyes perceive it as white.  Often times, the colors of light are called the 'additive colors'.

Now, on the other hand, we have what are called the 'subtractive colors'.  Remember in primary or kindergarten where we learned about the 'primary colors'?  Red, yellow, and blue.  The way that these colors work is that they selective reflect light.  In other words, they subtract from the white light and give off only a certain color.  For instance, a red object absorbs green and blue light, but reflects red light.  A white object absorbs hardly any light and reflects all the colors evenly.  A black object absorbs all the colors of light and reflects nothing.  In essence, black objects eat all the light and give off nothing.

Some other interesting things about light, specifically the suns light:
  • The sky appears blue because the sky scatters blue light more than the other colors.  That means we see more blue light from the sky
  • The sun actually gives off more green light than the other two colors.  That is why our eyes can see more shades of green than any other color.  That is also probably why plants don't absorb green light and reflect it instead
Visible light also belongs to a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.  It belongs in a larger group of things that include:
  • Infrared light (carries heat)
  • X-Rays (for looking at bones)
  • Gamma rays (they turned Bruce Banner into the hulk, and the rest of us into cancer)
  • Radio waves (the ones that let you listen to the radio)
Electromagnetic radiation has a dual nature.  It acts as if it was a particle and also as if it was simply pure energy.  All electromagnetic radiation is composed of particles that transfer energy.  Light actually is a form of energy that our eyes can pick up and use.  We can feel the effects of infrared radiation as heat.  Antenna can respond to radio waves which our radios translate into sound.

Scriptures: On Light and Truth


Many different scriptures refer to light, especially the Light of Christ.  One of my favorite scriptures on light comes from the Doctrine and Covenants 84: 45: "For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ".  I find it fascinating that the scriptures would say that truth and light are basically the same thing.

Jesus Christ also refers to Himself as the light of the world (See D&C 93:2 and John 8:12).  He is the light that lights the life of every person that comes into the world.  Other scriptures even say that all of the universe is governed and given life by the Light of Christ (See D&C 88:6-13).

Parallels

Here are some interesting parallels that I was pondering as I was thinking about what I knew of the science of light and the spirituality of light.  Most of these are a simple man's musings and are not doctrine (as far as I know).

First off, I realized that the sun is the source of all life on the planet.  Nothing could live without the heat and the light that the sun provides us.  The sun's light enables to plants to grow which gives animals food.  As humans, we eat of both the plants and the animals.  The sun's light helps our bodies to function correctly.  The heat from the sun heals keep the earth from turning into a cold planet.  The heat of the sun also allows for weather which gives us the precious water that we need to drink and for the plants to grow.  Essentially, the sun is the source of all life.  On the spiritual side of things, all life and truth comes from Heavenly Father. Not only did He create us, but He also gave us life-sustaining truths.  Those truths sustain us both physically and spiritually.  His truth teaches us how to take care of our bodies and spirits.  They also give us light so that we can see things clearly.  In essence, His light is the source of all life.  All electromagnetic radiation serves to carry energy from one place to another.  Spiritual truths also carry weight and energy with them.  They inspire us to move and give us the strength to follow Heavenly Father's will.

I noticed a few interesting things number wise as well.  Light essentially has two natures: it is a particle and a wave.  We are also beings with two natures.  Also, there are three primary colors of light.  There are also three members in the Godhead.  I don't really know if these parallels mean anything, but I found them interesting.

The additive nature of light is also very interesting to me.  It reminds me that all truth will work together and combine into one great whole.  Pure truth will work with truth.  If something isn't truth, it won't resonate with the other truth.  There was also the subtractive side of light.  If we start taking away from the light and truth, we eventually have darkness, where we can't see anything.

Well, that is enough musing from me for this post.  Feel free to comment and share away!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview With Iron Man

Yeah, like I really interviewed Iron Man or Tony Stark. And no, I didn't interview Robert Downey Jr (although, that would be pretty awesome if I did.) No, this is an interview with my friend/neighbor Chase Palmer and his extreme awesome costume making skills: specifically, his Iron Man costume.

When I went to Chase's place to learn about how he made this costume, I was hoping to get a little information about how he went about doing it. Instead, I got a great deal of information that I hope will not bore you too much.

First, Chase isn't even your average geek. He works as an account manager for Security Metrics. But he does exhibit something with which I can relate. His movies were in alphabetical order by type (DVDs were separated from Blu-rays.) Who cares? I do! Seriously, my movies are alphabetized. My books have to be in order. Anyway, enough about who Chase is...onto the process.

Chase showed me this special software he uses. (In the 40 times that he must've said its name, I never once wrote it down.) This program has a bunch of user-submitted designs for 3D projects. The first thing he showed me actually was a Batman cowl, which woul be awesome to build. However I do not have 1) the time, 2) the patience, or 3) the skill necessary to cut a straight line in a piece of paper. (Chase used a paper cutter; but still, the one at my works hates me enough that it will never cut remotely close to a straight line.)

What this software does is it prints out an "unfolded" version of the object you are building, in Chase's case, Iron Man. He had various versions of the helmet in his home.Voila!

From right to left, we have a smooth cast, liquid plastic version. Next is a purchased fiberglass mold. The next one is the same thing with something called "bondo" on it and reinforced with smooth cast. The furthest to the left is the completed thing: cast and smooth cast.

You can kinda see in this view the liquid plastic shining at us from the inside.

Yeah, if I even attempted to take the project this far, it wouldn't have looked half as good as this.

Chase was also kind enough to not think I had cooties or anything and let me try his helmet on.

Can you tell I'm smiling under the helmet? No? Oh well. Come on, you know I look tough.

But wait, the eyes are glowing. That's pretty awesome. How are my eyes glowing?

Look at that! Awesome led lights, electrical tape, etc. And you can see the little slits at the bottom giving the wearer the ability to see while wearing the thing.

Now, onto the body armor.

Chase used some foam mat he got from a hardware supply store. 2,000 pieces were used (that's how many were cut out from the foam he bought, not sure how many pieces of foam he actually bought) in order to create the costume. Here's a look at the chest plate.

You can see the foam in the upper pic. In the lower is another light to give that "true" Iron Man look.

So, I bet you're wondering how long it took and how much it cost. I asked those questions. According to Chase, it took 6 months after he REstarted the project. And it cost nearly $300 in materials and supplies. Not to mention his wonderful wife who spray painted the red suit and such. All for this:

 Yep, that's the finished project. So I asked Chase if he had anything interesting about the experience of wearing the costume.
 He said an amazing feat was to actually walk downstairs wearing all this.
But he definitely doesn't want to walk in a parade. He did go to the Avengers premier wearing this awesome costume. I'd be dying from heat exhaustion, personally. But Chase did it.

One final interesting story. There's an autistic neighbor boy who really believes that he's Tony Stark. I bet that makes the kid feel pretty awesome. Chase's co-worker's nephew also tells all his (co-worker's nephew) friends that he knows Iron Man so they better not mess with him. That's pretty awesome in my opinion.

Well, that's it for this. Don't mess with Iron Man. Special thanks to Chase for teaching me why it is I could never build my own costume.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Team Twilight Fans Vs Team Hates Shiny Vampires


        By guest writer Nate Gotchy       

  Back in 2005 an unknown writer had her first book published with a fresh take on the fictional creatures known as Vampires (as well as Werewolves). This series took a while to gain popularity often being spoken about, almost as if it were a great secret, by groups of mothers and young women. Soon you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about the revolutionary love founded between a human named Bella and a Vampire named Edward. Soon after that Twilight became a household name and has hit popularity akin to Harry Potter (though not quite as lucrative). During the years it started to burst in popularity, I happened to be away from it; forsaking all media outlets like TV, computers, and entertaining literature. When I had returned the first movie had just come out and I saw a frenzied battleground of those that love the twilight series and feel they need to spread that love like a new founded religion and those that believe vampires are evil blood sucking monsters that shouldn’t be shiny and that twilight makes a mockery of all that is Vampirism. Seeing the body’s strewn hitherto one mangled soul grabbed my pant leg. She was part of the former group and with her last ounce of strength thrust the cursed book series for which this battle raged into my arms. Then she was gone... she said her kid was done with soccer practice and headed to her mini-van. So I found a quiet fox hole to read this series. After finishing, forming a personal opinion, I began to talk to my friends about what they had thought. My friends consist of literary hipsters (a fancy term for book snobs ;-) , those that grew up on Anne Rice and Buffy, and those that simply hate things that are mainstream. Hearing both their intelligent and silly thoughts on the series I formed another opinion. Both sides had good points. Here is what I have gathered:
Team Twilight is great!

·         A new concept on Vampires and Werewolves as well as their lore and physical makeup’s
·         Bella: a 2D character with a very vague personality, but an uncommon strength and carries a strange ability to not freak out when surrounded by supernatural beings (as long as they are gorgeous). Contrary to belief, how she was written was genius. She was written in such a way that the majority of the female populace (the exception being those women that read lots of literature or are involved in a lot of fantasy in some way) were able to place themselves in the shoes of this vague Bella girl and picture themselves being in the entanglements that come with hanging out with mythical creatures.
·         A wonderful love story both enthralling and (if given a chance) has the ability to really pull you into the plight of the characters.
·         One of the few if only mainstream vampire novels written with a squeaky clean overall story; no over the top gore, graphic sexual encounters, or anything reaching over a PG-13 feel. Let’s be honest, married couples will have sex at one point and there was fear that all the sexual tension being built throughout the series would be swept under the rug when Bella and Ed were married, but at the same time they didn’t want to be overwhelmed with a overly graphic scene akin to what is, sadly, popular in today’s media associated with Vampires. But Stephanie Meyer wrote that part of their relationship very tastefully that really went well with the audience that follows her works.
·         Characters that are well built with rich backgrounds
·         Shiny Vampires: This is very well done whether you think so or not. Vampires have always been written as hunters. Stephanie simply took this concept to a whole new level gleaning certain elements of allure from sources like the original Dracula, Sirens of greek mythology, and even Phantom of the Opera rather than taking the forceful approach found in Anne Rice, Buffy, Underworld and various other Vampire outlets today. Nature has made the vampires in Stephanie’s works  the top of the food chain; having all the lures  (good looks, charm, strength, speed, even the intrigue of shininess drawing humans in with curiosity) needed to be the greatest predator of what used to be the deadliest prey; Man.  
·         The Twilight Rifttracks
Team Twilight has ruined vampires FOREVER!

·         Stephanie Meyer is obviously a new writer using a lot clich├ęs in her attempts to describe everything from the physical to the feelings between characters. Overall her writing is that of a young writer of her first series; unable to write things she doesn’t like but are needed (battles for example),  unable to let go of characters (For example, forgoing an all-out battle at the end of the series, making the things she was writing in preparation for the battle useless and burying all the tension she built, all in fear of knowing she would have to kill some main characters and instead left us with an unfulfilling ending and thoughts of what could have been),  and the only real personal knowledge applied to her characters were mainly applied to Females leaving the males missing a few key components. Making many of the characters seem not as well rounded as they could be.
·         Not a huge fan of Bella’s breakdown when Ed left. Really? You’re going to have a mental breakdown for months over a guy you barely knew when you have a sexy friend with more abs than seems humanly possible who wants to help you back on your feet? Girl, you gots to get some respect fo’ yo’ self…
·         Going with the pervious bullet point, it can put a negative light on women and their personalities. Often making apparent ideology that women will be attracted more to men that will push them away and keep them at a distance rather than men who will be there for them and lift them up whether or not either party is extremely good looking. This can make women seem self destructive and weak. I am more a fan of characters that will build the reader rather than give them misconceptions on how they should act.
·          The Vampires were a little over powered even with the application of Werewolves being the vampire hunters of the story. They seem to be on par with Superman. The werewolves being Batman. Batman can take out Superman given the proper prep time and equipment, but taken by surprise he would be toast and this makes things a little strenuous having the only real threat to the vampire world being other vampires. Honestly the series would have been really different is these were the case:


·         There were a few loose ends that seemed like they were going somewhere and dropped off; preparations in case anything should happen in the last battle that never got used, the actual history of the vampires, the difference between Jacobs werewolves and the werewolves that were described like werewolves from other literature, as well as hints that there were other factions other than The Cullens and The Volturi out there; just to name a few. Honestly if Stephanie could get over her aversion to battle and killing her characters she could write about an ensuing war that could bring a whole new element and flavor to the Twilight universe.
·         This one is directed to Stephanie Meyer herself. I have begun writing a novel myself. This has allowed me to understand a little on how important a story is to its author. That being said, the fact that you cancelled “Midnight Sun” because a friend leaked what you had allowed them to read seems a little childish. Many negativities people may have with the original series maybe dispelled if you brought out the first book again through the eyes of Edward. I’m honestly interested on how that would play out seeing as how the Male element of your series seems lacking, but getting angry over this set back and punishing your fans is ridiculous. That is all
·         The Twilight Rifttracks

Conclusion and Final Opinion
All things considered, I believe, if given a chance as a standalone work of fiction without trying to tie it to other works, it is a well written supernatural love story with a rich plot and character development by a young Author. Though the series is more catered to this central demographic:

·         Average moms and Housewives

·         Average Teen Girls

·         Simple minded followers of all that is mainstream just to feel involved

·         Lonely and bored women (which may also include the first three ;-D)

Rather than those that actually make up the majority of the Twilight Haters front:

·         Those that don’t think vampires should ever break the rules set down through literary history or think they are vampires themselves and are appalled by their portrayal.

·         Literature Hipsters that will attack anything that is mainstream and not a perfectly written masterpiece (sometimes even then because mainstream is usually all they need to be enraged against something) whether they have read it or not.

·         Man haters (inadvertently, “romance involving men” haters). Believing that romance between men and women is often a portrayal of feminine weakness

·         Most men (I say most to avoid an assault from male Twilight fans. They’re vicious and will fight for their fandom till the end)
That doesn’t change the fact that it is a pretty good series to read.
The biggest problem people hate the series for is because they think Stephanie has ruined the concept of vampires. I for one thing think this is ridiculous. Vampirism has gone much further than simple fandom and has become almost a religion for people. Vampires have a rich history and people believe that all of them should adhere to a set of certain rules where few exceptions apply (Daywalkers being vampires that can walk during the day for instance), but Stephanie decided to rewrite the whole template and I am fully behind that. Why should she be destroyed because she decided to push a famous storybook creature from its stagnated position with a new and fresh take? If we snuffed every new insight that came along we would still be wearing furs and driving cars made of rocks that we propel with our feet. I mean we all know that Vampires became big because of one person in history who lived in a castle and walked around like he owned the place. The Count from Sesame Street… or maybe some warlord or something… either way it’s the inventive minds of writers that keep us from getting bored and reminding us that we can try new things and not have to live in ruts.
 For instance, what if I decided to make a story where vampires give of a black smoky aura and get evil red eyes when they went into the sun and instead of sucking blood they simply absorbed it with their eyes. They are deathly afraid of grasshoppers and can’t touch metal but can pass through everything else. They can rip your soul from your body and control the owner with it and can be temporarily blinded by the color blue or when you hit them in their chest too hard. They can only be destroyed by a ray composed of metal filigree and Necrofibromatics. Oh did I forget to mention that this all takes place…IN SPACE! Actually that sounds kind of cool, but that is a random direction on Vampires. There is no right and wrong to it. As long as they take in blood for sustenance they are vampy.
All in all people who hate Twilight should realize that they should be thanking Stephanie Meyer for opening the minds of a huge group of the populace,  who never saw supernatural fantasy as a medium they would be interested in, to a whole new world. It may just be a gateway to Rice, Buffy, and even Bram Stocker. Also if you hate it so much then why put in so much energy hating. In battle there are 3 forms of control; fear, caring or desire, and anger. Twilight has a hold of you and if you really hate it then let it go and put your energies toward more worthwhile endeavors (and that goes for other things you spend entirely too much time hating). As for those that are fans of Twilight, realize that it isn’t the greatest literary work ever written. It is simply a series you enjoy and possibly obsess over. Please stop trying to make everyone like it and accept that people will have negative thoughts. Also allow it to open your mind to other books and series within that realm. If you don’t know any ask a hater. They have a list…trust me. All in all, hate it or love it, but leave those feeling on the shelf. People really don’t need another reason to dislike one another.
And for your final amusement for both fan and hater alike; Twilight as written by Dr. Seuss:

Jake likes a girl. Her name is Bella.
Bella likes a different fella.

See this vamp? This is Ed.
Ed is pale. Ed is dead.

Ed saved Bella from a van.
Ed must be a special man.

Ed won't kill boys. He won't kill girls.
Ed gets fed on deer and squirrels.

This is James. He's a tracker.
He's a sort of vamp attacker.

James hunts Bella for a thrill.
Will Ed kill him? Yes, he will.

But James gave her a little bite.
Will she be a vamp? She might!

Edward fixes Bella's cut.
She won't be a vampire.
But...

She becomes one. Read some more.
She's a vampire in book 4.



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chic Geek #1: Introduction

I've decided to write a series of posts on dressing well while being geeky.  A lot of geeks and nerds have this stereotype of dressing like eyesores and being unapproachable.  Men in general usually don't like to shop, try to find clothes, or simply rely on their spouses or moms to dress them.  Finding new clothes that you like doesn't have to be impossible to find or blow a hole in your wallet.  My goal is that throughout this series you'll develop an eye for good design and want to be presentable.  This series will mostly be directed to men.  (Sorry Ladies, I'm sure there's better resources then me that you can look to for dressing good.)

Why Dress Well?












Remember that commandment our Heavenly Father gave us to not judge others?  Guess what, we all break that commandment and we all break it constantly.  When we first see someone we make judgments about them based off how they look.  Everyone does this.  This is why we dress nicely when we go to church, serve missions, and go to job interviews.  How we dress usually communicates to others how we take care of ourselves and what we think of ourselves.

Really we shouldn't care one bit about how others think of us.  The thing about how we dress is that it often does reflect something about ourselves.  Dressing poorly, inconsistent hygiene, often reflect beliefs we have about ourselves and judgments we reserve against others.  However, dressing well can increase confidence in ourselves and help us connect with other people around us.

It's not Hard

In my opinion, dressing well is like any good design.  You don't have to be a designer or artist to appreciate good design and looking good.  


For example, take a look at Ryan Gosling in this picture. He looks fantastic, right?  Yes, he does have good looks but let's look at another actor who is a bit more of an everyman.

Here's Jack Black.  Jack Black is 5' 6" and is a healthy weight.  (Yes, he's fat and he wears it well.  Sheesh.)  Point being, is that there isn't anything terribly extraordinary about his appearance.  Sure he's handsome but he's no Brad Pitt and is your average guy.  Check out this picture from the movie The Holiday.  He looks just as classy as Gosling!  Wait a minute, if he can look good, why can't guys like us look good?  Guess what?  We can!

Looking good isn't hard.  We can even look good in casual, business casual, classy, or formal attire.  Dressing well also shows that we care about ourselves and we like who we are.  With a little bit of effort and guidance, it isn't all that hard.

When to Dress Up

Okay, so I have a confession.  I don't dress up everywhere I go.  The other week I went to Wal Mart in beaten up Nike shoes, a University of Utah orientation t-shirt, basketball shorts, and a Dakine hip pack.  I hadn't showered and I looked like someone from People of Wal Mart.  My message for you isn't to go back to the 60's and dress nice all the time and never be seen looking trashy.  My message for you is to simply be conscious of how you're looking and look for opportunities to dress up.  Dressing up may not be practical for when you're trying to move.  That said, there are lot's of opportunities to take the time to look great.

Ready to turn some heads?  Great!  I hope you find this series of posts helpful in your fashion adventures.  I'll update this post with links to other posts in the Chic Geek series.  Until then, stay classy my friends.

-Stephen

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aladdin and boy Disney

As a kid I got to experience a very interesting change over with Disney. Now growing up I was a HUGE Disney fan, in fact to this day at the drop of a hat I can sing "Under the Sea", "Sing Sweet Nightingale", "I Wanna be like You" and "When you wish upon a star". I have also decorated my bathroom in Disney, just because I can.
When I was little though I did notice something very disturbing: Disney was not very boy friendly. Men, and princes in particular, tended to be shallow stock characters with so little personality they sometimes didn't even get a name. Honestly, without looking it up, what's the name of the prince from Snow White? Sleeping Beauty? Cinderella? If they had a personality it usually matched the girl's, just wanting a life different then the one they had. The only time we ever got an interesting male character was when they were animals, like Robin Hood, 101 Dalmations and The Jungle Book (And don't tell me Mowgli was interesting, he was a whiny naked annoyance that Bagheera should've eaten when his bones were soft). The closest we ever got was arguably Peter Pan, but his masculinity is always undermined by the fact that he's usually played by a woman in a short haircut.
Then in 1991 the change began. Disney released the blockbuster hit Beauty and the Beast, featuring a male character with more depth than a tea spoon. Beast was a tortured soul, cursed with the impossible task of trying to find someone to fall in love with him while being in the body of a monster. This is such a huge jump from nameless prince who for some reason doesn't want to get married that it made people's heads spin. Even Belle is a decent character, being a woman who dares to think and read rather than swoon over the village idiot. I really think the best part of this film is when he first abducts her and there strong personalities clash against each other in some spectacular dialogue. My issue is that for me it all falls apart in the end when Beast ends up becoming the nameless prince from all the rest of the films. I'm sure the king and queen of fictional France didn't name their child Beast. I still love this movie and get's a A for effort but the flick that came out the next year really took it to "A Whole New World"(Ah, you see what I did there?)

In 1992 the world gave us Aladdin, the first Disney movie with a real three-dimensional human male character. When we first see him he has this whole song about how he lives by ducking guards and stealing bread with a monkey while he parkours around a happy version of the Middle East. Directly after that though we get a glimpse at his sorrow for having to live by the skin of his teeth and stepped on by the upper class. His cool lifestyle of lying and trickery even messes him up when his lies become too much for him to handle while he's trying to keep the princess interested and keep his promise to the Genie. His whole story arch is how he realizes that he doesn't have to live vicariously through lies in order to be happy. Cheesy yes, but to this day it's still one of Disney's most compelling story archs.
After Aladdin the sky was the limit. Male characters kept being interesting, cool, and they always had names. Disney became more comfortable focusing films on the guys, including Hercules, Tarzan and The Incredibles. Even the non-humans stepped it up, in films like Lion King and Wall-E the guys stole the show. It became a golden age to be a boy and a Disney fan. My music repertoire now includes songs like "Be a Man (Donny Osmond, for a nice LDS tie-in)", "One step Ahead", and "Go the Distance".
This time didn't exclude the ladies. Like in Beauty and the Beast, the female characters got a boost to personality as well. Characters like Esmeralda, Megarah, Mulan, Tiana and Elasti-Girl have given girl power a new meaning and became classics almost overnight.
So who's your favorite Disney guy?
-JOE