Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An awesome song by another Mormon Geek!

I was very excited to receive this message a few weeks ago from one of our fans! This video is awesome and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!


"When I was married in the temple, my little brother, Jacob Lee, wrote me a song that he performed at our wedding reception. In 2013, seven years later, he was married in the St. George temple. I wrote a [somewhat geeky] song and made a [somewhat geeky] music video to celebrate the occasion." -fellow Mormon Geek Benjamin Lee. 


-JOE

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mega Man

Every few years, I rediscover that Mega Man is my all-time favorite video game character. I may have blogged about it before, but oh well. For some reason, he's on my mind to speak about again.

One of the things that I think makes Mega Man sow awesome is this bosses. For some reason, I'm nerdy enough to love lists and organization. So the above pic hits my nerdar very well.




The very first Mega Man game was released in 1987. More than likely, I was still 5 years old. We didn't actually play it for a few years. But it was certainly an awesome game.

The bosses for Mega Man were okay. Guts Man and Cut Man were the most popular ones, as they found their way into the cartoon most often. Elecman and Bombman were very annoying, if memory serves correctly.

Although it wasn't the most popular game out there, it was popular enough to warrant what I deem one of the best NES games ever.


If memory serves correctly, in 1990 my brothers and I discovered Mega Man 2. My older brother did really well at the game and I loved watching him play. Mostly because I hated that I kept dying and that he was much better at the game than me.

I really like the bosses in Mega Man 2. You've got Bubble Man with his bubble shooting ability that gets annoying (but most importantly, it's what beats Dr. Wily at the end of the game). Air Man had one of the most annoying abilities. Quick Man with his stupid boomerangs always annoyed me. Heat Man, who looked like a demented lighter, had a "meh" ability. Wood Man with the wood shield was a fun boss to tackle. Metal Man's flying blades were nothing to take lightly. Crash Man's bombs killed me more often than any of them. And of course, Flash Man, who was named because of how long it took to kill him) ("in a flash" if you didn't get it), was a great way to start the game.

Mega Man 2 is before Mega Man could slide. All he could do was shoot. And maybe power up (it's been a while since I've played it). This game will always be one of my favorites though (whether or not I've beaten it is debatable. I really don't know if I have or not, even with a Game Genie.)

The coolest thing that I learned about, while doing some research on this game, is that, according to Wikipedia, Mega Man 2 was released on December 24, 1988. First, 1988 is numerically my favorite year (meaning 88 is my favorite number.) Also, 1988 is the last time the Dodgers won the World Series (which just made me sad reminding myself of that awful fact.) And finally, Christmas Eve is my birthday. So I now have an even stronger appreciation for this awesometastic game.

As Mega Man 2 was very awesome, my brother and I were kind of disappointed when it came to Mega Man 3. It was a decent game and he could now slide. But Mega Man just wasn't as awesome as he was in the first sequel. Still, it was a better game than the original. (You know, kinda how Star Trek II was way better than Star Trek I, and Star Trek III, though not great, was definitely better than Star Trek I.)

Thankfully, however, reviewers really liked Mega Man 3. So there was a long list of Mega Man games to follow with semi-reincarnated robots from the previous ones. I think they had a hard time coming up with random robots for Mega Man to face.

Mega Man X was created for the Super Nintendo system. Although similar to Mega Man, he was updated for the new system. The levels were a little more difficult, with mini-bosses. And the bosses he does fight were anything but reincarnations of the original series. They also weren't Mega Man's size even (although, Guts Man did stand a little bigger than Mega Man, none of the others seemed to do so.)

To this day, Mega Man has...well...more games than I can count. Sadly, I have not played them all. One day, I hope to be able to get them again. I did have them once, not sure what happened to them.

Regardless, Mega Man is my favorite video game character/series. Definitely prefer him over Mario and Sonic. (Although both the Mighty Mustached One and the Blue Hedgehog of Awesome are worthy video game characters.)

With my fascination of decorating cakes lately, I've decided that this year I'm going to make my own birthday cake and it will be a Mega Man cake. I've already began looking at other cakes for an idea of how I want to decorate it. (It's getting the right color for the frosting that's gonna be difficult.)

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Harry Potter wrap up... For now...

So when I went to film my critique for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, my lighting equipment (AKA the old as dirt lamp I keep on my nightstand) short circuited. So for now I cannot make videos of me whining about Harry Potter movies.

I do want to say a few things about the franchise before I move on for a while though. First off, some people have asked me if I just plain hate Harry Potter, and honestly the answer is no. I
started reading Harry Potter when I was 14 so I kind of grew up with it. I simply adored the books, the characters, and the adventures Harry and his friends had. The thing is that now I'm 27 years old, the Harry Potter craze is over, and I now study movies professionally. My goal was to go back and analyze what worked and what didn't in the series, and as much as I loved the series there were some things that just didn't work. I feel like the films especially weren't well thought out and that the translation between book and film didn't work well until the fifth film.

Now I'm not the kind of guy who says that the book is always better. I think the Lord of the Rings films are BETTER than the book. I found the books boring, and that may just be me who was used to modern fantasy as opposed to the book that started it all, but I enjoy the original novels of Frankenstein and Dracula, so it may not be that. I also thought that the Hunger Games film was just as good as the book, same with World War Z (Although for Z the book is way different, I still had a good time at the movie).

The part I enjoy most in the Harry Potter story, both in the books and one of the few things the films got consistently right, was the opposition between Harry and Voldemort. My favorite part about both of them is how firmly they are on their own sides. So many writers try to make their hero flawed by having his morals be in question or ambiguous, while trying to make their villains justified to be evil. Here we don't get much if any of that. We follow Harry for seven years of his adolescent life, almost entirely from his point of view, and we know that while he wanted to, not once did he shirk the responsibility of being the hero, even down to sacrificing himself in the end. In storytelling this is known as a Christ analogy, where a character mimics the Savior, and is usually looked down upon. The problem with the Christ analogy is that its usually forced quickly that this person will save us all (Not to be blasphemous, but halfway through Man of Steel I thought the analogy was so forced that Zod was going to nail Superman to a cross). Harry it's subtle and gradual that he's going to be the one to do it. Everyone in his world even does everything they can so that Harry doesn't have to bear the burden alone, and do everything possible to stop Voldemort beforehand, so when it comes down to Harry vs. Voldemort outside of Hogwarts it feels like the natural conclusion of events.

Of course if Harry is Christ Voldemort is Satan. We even get his not so subtle serpent analogy throughout the piece. The story gives Voldemort some background and a bit of reasoning behind his actions, but the reasoning isn't justification, and at the end the only reason Voldemort does anything is because he sees the obtaining of power as the ultimate goal and anything that opposes him is just an obstacle to overcome. He's evil because he doesn't care about what's right and wrong anymore, just what he wants and how to get it.

Ironically one of the biggest critiques of Harry Potter is one of my favorite things: the fact that at the end of the day its the power of love that's stronger than Voldemort's magic. I love that love is a part of magic in their universe, that Lily Potter's love created a charm to destroy Voldemort, and that Harry's sacrifice creates a charm to protect his friends. I'll admit this is one step away from the Care Bears showing up and shooting rainbows out of their stomachs, but I still like it. I like the fact that strip away all the characters, the plot holes, the magnificent world, and the magic and what you're left with is a slug-fest between good and evil and good wins.

We live in a world where that's going on now, where good and evil are having it out, and thanks to the teachings of the prophets, we know who's going to win. In a world though where it constantly looks like evil's going to rule, it's really nice to see something to remind us that at the end of the day it's all going to work out.

-JOE

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inherited Cake Skills

This is a little less geeky post than usual. But hey, it's a post. Be happy about it. However, it's still an LDS post, so it fits half the concept here.

This past weekend, my oldest turned 7. For her birthday she wanted a rainbow cake and she wanted a Hello Kitty cake. I don't know where her obsession with Hello Kitty came from. (One theory is I think my friend Casey is using telepathy to get my daughter to be obsessed about Japan's famous cat just to annoy me.)

So, there are a few ways people do birthday cakes. There's the "let's go buy the cake from (Walmart/Costco)" idea that is most assuredly the easy way out. There's the "let's go buy the cake from a (baker/private baker)" concept that is kind of an easy way out, but it is definitely paying for perceived quality.

And then there's my way. I bake the cake from scratch, make my own frosting, and pray I have the patience to fill decorating bags with the frosting and dab it neatly onto a cake. This is the result of that.


Yes, that is my attempt at Hello Kitty. Yeah, I know she doesn't look perfect. But you know what, she was about 1/4 the cost of going to the store and buying a cake. And my daughter loved it a lot.

On the same token, I am extremely surprised I was able to make this cake (from scratch) and make it look as good as it does.

A few months ago, for my son's birthday, I did this one.


It was a little easier as my wife and I had purchased the pan for the dinosaur. But still, the arms and body were not easy to decorate as you lose sight of the lines with one missed dab or because the cake didn't form in the lines the way you expected. Regardless, my son loved his red dinosaur cake.

Baking a cake, for me anyway, is pretty easy. I'm still working on figuring a few things out, but I have no problem throwing things together and getting a cake together. Decorating a cake, on the other hand, is still a practiced art form I'm working on.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering what this cake decorating has to do with the title of the blog post. (If you've forgotten what the title was and are admiring the cakes, then that's cool too.)

Well, let me start with this. My dad is awesome in the kitchen. Okay, maybe not as much as he was when I was younger. It helps that his wife is a professional chef who loves to cook, so he doesn't need to do it as much. But I see my dad's ability in the kitchen or with food in general as split between three categories: BBQing, Winging-it in a Skillet, and Baking.

Well, my oldest brother has the awesome BBQing skills. He loves to BBQ. I don't know when that trait got past to him, but he got it. And believe me, he's good at it. I've heard people request my brother do the BBQing for church functions and whatnot.

My older brother is able to cook in the kitchen with whatever he finds, it seems. Now, I haven't seen this happen as much over the past few years, but I remember being a teenager and having him cook. My dad did this really well too. (I never ate it cause it wasn't PB&J, but he was good at it.)

And then there's me. My dad taught me how to make cookies when I was eight. I also know that he did cakes like these when I was really young. (We had a Batman and Superman pan that he used for my brothers' bday cakes. His patience was gone by the time I was old enough to ask for one.)

When my dad called me (or rather, my daughter) this past weekend, he told me he was glad to see that one of his sons got his baking/decorating skills. I pointed these things out to him. I'm the baker in the family.

For me, this is something that bonds me to my dad. I know he was good at doing this, but he didn't have the patience for it. Believe me, when I started doing that Hello Kitty cake, I wondered if I had the patience as well. I doubt anyone in my family would believe I do either.

But I've learned two things about this. One, I have made 2 cakes this year for my kids, who have absolutely loved them. They were both excited when they saw the finished product. (All the little girls at my daughter's party thought the cake was so cool.) When one of the girls started talking about how their mom and their friend's mom bought their cakes from a certain bakery, my daughter piped up how "well, my dad made an awesome cake." Made me happy to know how much my daughter was proud of me. And second, I'm glad I get to honor my dad in one of the gifts I inherited from him.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are schedule.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

'Korra' Album is Music Deliciousness!


This past Tuesday I got something in the mail.  What did I get?  The new “Legend of Korra: Music from Book 1” CD.  Woohoo!  I haven’t bought a CD in ages.  I think the music is available for digital download but I think it would have been cheaper for me to buy the CD as a pre order.  Meh, whatever.


Naturally, I’ve already ripped the music to my Google cloud and the CD is currently in the CD player of my car.  I’ve listened to the whole album and added some tracks to my “Epic Songs of Effin Epicness” playlist on Spotify.  Needless to say, this soundtrack for The Legend of Korra is wonderful.

“Music from Book 1” consists of 26 instrumental tracks.  The songs feature traditional orchestra instruments and sweeping movements to evoke emotions of anxiety, sadness, excitement, hope, and love--all that good stuff you would expect in an epic.  The great thing about the music in both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra is the combination of western and eastern sounds.  You’ll hear the symphonic violin along with the claps of oriental drums.  It’s a beautiful and complementary mix suggesting something familiar and something foreign.
"Best score on TV: Legend of Korra. Clever stylistic mash-ups, great orchestration & luscious melodies. The sound is fantastic too. So artfully done and helps create such a believable world. Congrats Jeremy Zuckerman & Ben Wynn!"Bear McCreary, Composer (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead)
The composers, Jeremy Zuckerman and Ben Wynn, had to step it up a little bit from when they worked on the original series.  Since Korra takes place 70 years into the future, that meant new kinds of music.  Some of the more fun tracks on this album remind me of charleston or very early jazz.  The eastern flavor is still consistent without falling into boring repetition.
The different tracks can range from fun, epic, haunting, silly, to romantic.  They music can be great for a Sunday afternoon, background music for a roleplaying game, or something to listen to while studying, reading, or writing.  The only real complaint I have with this album is that there are a few tracks I wish were a little bit longer.  
Take the song “Fresh Air,” which is basically the main theme for Korra.  It starts off quiet with low moans of violins/cellos.  The strings then speed up into a beautiful and exciting rhythm.  A hopeful and sad melody starts to play and eventually crescendos into a full orchestra.  It’s all wonderful and then it just ends. … Well, darn.  It’s great stuff, great build up, it’s there, and then it’s gone just as quick as it came.  That sort of thing is expected in television scores though.  And, really, the longer tracks are some of the best on this album.    
In the end, this new soundtrack for Korra is worth every penny.  I would recommend going to Amazon to get your copy or listen to it on Spotify.  I’m glad this album has been released.  Now that Nickelodean has seen all these sales, here’s hoping they will release an Avatar: The Last Airbender soundtrack!
Consensus:  The Legend of Korra: Music from Book 1 is hauntingly beautiful and epic despite having some short tracks.  5 stars.

-Stephen

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Too Many Games!

Hello fellow Mormon Geeks.  This is Andrew here.  I haven't been the best at posting regularly on this blog.  Why?  Well, I've been pretty busy with too many computer games to play, working on a YouTube channel, callings, home teaching, and having a full time job.  For my YouTube channel, I actually have 11 subscribers!  I'm pretty excited about that.  My Rogue Legacy series seems to be going very well.  (My YouTube channel can be checked out here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Beutimus).  Note, not all of the games I play are G-rated nor is all of my language.  Just a word of warning.



So, why so many games?  Steam is having their annual Summer sale.  Basically, it's the annual-my-wallet-starts-to-bleed-money sale.  I've purchased a small number of games, many of which I haven't had a chance to play yet.  Some examples are The Binding of Isaac, Borderlands 2, Rush Bros, Baldur's Gate, Organ Trail (not Oregon Trail), etc.

The Binding of Isaac is a very enjoyable Zelda-esque game.  It is rated at least teen level due to the level of disturbing imagery.  It is a twisted version of the story of Abraham and Isaac.  Instead of Abraham, Isaac's mother watches Christian broadcasts on the TV all day.  Eventually, a voice speaks to her, telling her that she needs to prove her devotion by sacrificing her son.  Isaac, terrified of his mother, escapes into a trap door that takes him into the basement.  He starts out armed with only his tears (yes, he shoots his tears as a weapon!) and a single bomb.  Along the way, he finds many different items that upgrade his fighting and defensive capabilities.  There is quite a bit of variety in the items.  Overall, I've quite enjoyed the game.  It might not be a good one for everyone.

Rush Bros is an interesting platformer game.  All of the stages react to what music is playing in the background.  Sometimes, the traps will move erratically because the beat of the music is erratic.  I still haven't quite determined what the game 'listens' for to determine the beat.  The game is G rated.  It might be frustrating for younger players.  The game is very fast paced, and the visuals can be overstimulating if played for too long.  The game also has an option to race with another player.

Borderlands 2 is a first person shooter RPG.  It is a very fun game, but definitely M rated due to language and the violence in the game.  I haven't played it all that much, but I have enjoyed what I've done so far, once I got past the annoying inventory controls.

I haven't had a chance to play Baldur's Gate or Organ Trail yet.

Other than that, the one non-Steam game that I've been playing is called Cube World.  It is an action/adventure game where everything in he world is created from cubes.  The water, the terrain, the characters, the weapons, even the attack effects.  I haven't seen a single rounded surface since starting up the game, even the water droplets from splashing are cubes!  Currently, the game is in its alpha development and can be purchased for $20.  The combat is fast and very fun.  I'm sure hoping they add in a bit more 'structure' to help guide players to interesting content and/or more types of 'missions'.  I've found the game to be quite enjoyable.

Well, that is quite a mouthful.  Like I said, it's been keeping me very busy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The "Other" Geek Definition

A while ago, I did a post where I defined the differences between "geek" and "nerd" and whatnot. Anyway, there are plenty of things that don't fit the original definition of geek. Like the phrase "geeking out". That really is more akin to "fanboy/fangirl" moments than a technology-based thing.

But really, what constitutes "geeking out"? Well, here's what I've come up with on that phrase. (This is my opinion, solely my opinion. Not agreeing with my opinion means you are human and have the possibility of thinking differently from me. Congratulations. Agreeing with my opinion means you are human and have the possibility of being extremely awesome.) To me, there are three pieces to being able to "geek out": 1) fanship 2) living 3) conversing

"Geeking out" requires being a fan of something, geek-related or not. To veer away from sci-fi/fantasy, I'm gonna use the TV show FRIENDS. (Will Ross and Rachel ever swallow their pride long enough to make a relationship last or even get into a relationship with one another? Meh, I care more about what Phoebe's gonna randomly say next.)



Now "geeking out" to me is defined by living/breathing/sleeping/eating/dreaming about your fan topic. Since "geeks" are deemed to be very knowledgeable, "geeking out" is being able to hold a discussion on (in this instance) FRIENDS without worrying about having to be a poser of any sort. You can admit not knowing the random episode here and there because "I don't really like that episode." Example: despite being really knowledgeable about this show, there are some episodes I really don't like. These include about half of the third season episodes, the Eddie episodes from season 2, and a small portion of the tenth season. But I can still refer to the episodes.

And finally, you need to have other people to geek out with so you can converse about this topic. One of my longest friendships is with my friend Casey, with whom I went to high school. She and I are both big FRIENDS fans. As much fun as it'd be to play Friends: Scene-It together, I bet it'd be something akin to World War III if we disagree on anything in the 10-year run of the show. But as she and I have random chats or text messages, we will throw in at least 1 Friends reference a week, easily. (The average is probably much higher.) Saying something like "Pivot. PIVOT. PIVOT!" or "My eyes! My EYES!" is not unheard of between us.

Now, there is a difference between "geeking out" and having a "fanboy/fangirl" moment. See, geeking out generally takes place away from any of the physical representations of what you are a geek on. Meaning: if I were to run into Lisa Kudrow or go to the Warner Bros. studio where there's a Central Perk replica and be as excited as a little kid at Disneyland (or some kids at Toys R Us for that matter), then I'd be a fanboy.

Okay, that's it for my nerdy knowledge/opinions for today.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Digital Librarian: A Love Letter to eBooks

December.  It was the year 2012.  My phone with Cricket had an exposed battery for over a year now.  It was time to get a new phone.  I wanted to get an iPhone but discovered I wouldn't be able to get the kind I wanted with the memory I wanted.  I looked at the android phones and saw the Droid Razr HD.  It's screen was pretty big and small enough to fit in my pocket.

It wasn't long before I quickly spiraled into app addiction.  Soon my life was organized down to a tee.  I checked in random places and instagrammed random things.  Though some of these interests died down there is one that has risen above the rest and is here to stay.

Reading.

Yep.  The timeless past time has stood the test of time and is still enjoyed at this time--err, day and age.  My phone has a large enough screen where I can read without hurting or squinting my eyes.  Sure, I'd prefer a tablet but this is still pretty awesome.  I absolutely loved reading my scriptures on my phone and other books as well.

The thing is books are expensive and I don't have all this money to buy book after book.

Enter Overdrive and Pioneer: Utah's Online Library.

A book club I joined was going to read the book Ready, Player One.  I wasn't able to get my hands on a hard copy but found a digital copy on the online library.  I read it.  Loved it.  Needed something new.  I looked online and found digital copies of sequels books I hadn't been able to read.  I'm now 3/4 of the way through Partials by Dan Wells.  I'll be looking through the library once again to find another book to pass time by on a roadtrip to Colorado this weekend.

What I love about this is that my love for reading has been reawakened.  I'm seeing just how healthy it is for my brain and how it relieves a lot of stress from work and school.  Unfortunately a lot of people don't read anymore.  Language and words is so beautiful.  It's a shame that books and reading doesn't get much attention.

The nice thing about eBooks and checking them out from your local library online is that it's really easy.  I don't have to go to the library and take hours searching for a new book to read, I can instead take a few minutes to find something new online.  I don't ever have to worry about losing the book.  I don't even have to "return" my eBook.  The file can simply expire and everything's good.

If you have a compatible smartphone or eReader.  I would definitely recommend checking out eBooks from your local library.  Read away!

-Stephen

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets-a video review by Joe

I review Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in another web video! :)
Remember to do the usual internet stuff, share, comment, like, you know what to do. 
-JOE


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independance Day!

Hey Everyone!

Hope you all have a great 4th of July!  I'm going to take advantage of my day off and enjoy my own personal independence! But don't worry, I've made a wallpaper for you Assassin's Creed Fans out there!


-Stephen

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I know how much you all look forward to reading my psychotic rants ever week, well today you can watch me rant in all my geek glory!

And what better way to watch then through a Youtube video I made about Harry Potter!

If this goes well this will be the first in a series I'll be making on the Harry Potter franchises. Let me know what you think of it!

Click here for Joe's analysis of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 

Enjoy!

-JOE