Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Tunes!

Happy Halloween everyone!

For today, I thought I would share 5 awesome songs for Halloween.  These are some tunes I love to listen to because of how scary or moody they may be.  You may find that they are great songs to play in the background of your Halloween party.  They are in no particular order.  There are some songs that are givens like Thriller by Michael Jackson or the Ghostbusters Theme that does not show up on this list.  Of course I'm not going to put those classic hits here.  They're classics!  These are tunes that may not immediately be thought of but are pretty much perfect for Halloween.  So, here we go...


5 -- Disturbia (Radio Edit) Rhianna

This song was really popular a few years ago.  I really like it because the song in and of itself is written to just sound disturbing.  The music video does some really cool stuff to fit the scary vibe too.  (Though I won't share it here because of some immodest dress.)  The irony is that most people don't even think of this song when making their Halloween playlist but I think it's essential.  It's scary and got a great beat.

4 -- No One Believes Me Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi performed this for the Fright Night remake that came out a year or two ago.  This one has a steady beat and feeling of impending doom.  Kid Cudi does a great job with brooding type of music as seen in the Hunger Games soundtrack.

 

3 -- Came Back Haunted Nine Inch Nails

This is a newer song that kinda has the same feeling as Kid Cudi's.  Trent Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails is probably one of my favorite musicians.  He can create really atmospheric songs that also really connect with the listener.  I love his cover of Immigrant Song that he did with Karen O for the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie.

2 -- This is Halloween Marylin Manson

That's right.  Disney got Marilyn Manson of all people to cover the famous song from the Nightmare Before Christmas.  But really, could they have gotten anyone better for this?  Manson has done a ton of questionable and offensive material so it may seem weird that family friendly Disney would let something like this fly by.  For me, I actually think it's great when an artist is encouraged to do something a bit more wholesome.  Anyway, Manson's cover is just so grungy and devilish I can't not include it in my Halloween playlist.


1 -- Do the Hippogriff The Weird Sister

The Weird Sisters are a hit band from the Wizarding World.  They actually even performed at the Yule Ball dance at Hogwarts one time.  Thought this song isn't scary by any means it belongs in any Halloween playlist when the dark and dreary is too much.

There you have it.  Some good songs to add to your Halloween playlist.  Thanks for visiting us today.  Be safe out there.

Happy Halloween!

-Stephen

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Joe's Board Game Reviews: Carcassonne

Hay folks!
I figured I'd brush the dust off my webcam and give videos another shot. Tell me what you think and if there's anything else you'd like us to make a video about.
Thanks for watching! :D
-JOE


Don't forget to find us on Facebook and on Twitter at @mormongeeks
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Candy Box 2




So, I was in the chat room of my Guild Wars 2 guild, Mormon Batallion, when someone simply messaged a link 'http://www.candybox2.net/'.  I clicked on it, and was presented with a very simple game.  Every second, I got a candy.  I thought it was cool.  I didn't feel like eating all my candies so I waited, and soon started off on the most fantastic journey and probably one of the most enjoyable games I've playing in a long time.

I don't want to spoil too much, but the game is basically one giant puzzle/RPG.  And it feels like a puzzle/RPG done right.  There are many different secrets, strategies, ways to approach things.  Overall, it is a very enjoyable and entertaining game.  If you have a few minutes to spare, take a look at it, and don't forget to save! (I did a text save to make sure I didn't loose anything).

Remember, eating candy is good for your health.

Enjoy!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Top 5 Reasons Why Mormons are Drawn to Dr. Who



November marks 50th years since the original episodes of the time traveling show Dr. Who premiered in the United Kingdom. Though it did stop for a while, it has returned in a modernized version of the series that is still going strong.  The secret is having a main character who can regenerate after he is fatally wounded and comes back looking completely different. If one actor is done with the role, another one can pick it right back up.

Since moving to Utah, I’ve found that many of my LDS friends were huge fans of the show. I hadn’t watched a single of the hundreds of episodes, and I actually started with the newer version. It took a season or two, but now I’m a card-carrying “Whovian.”

As I’ve watched the series, I thought “This is a pretty great series for LDS families.” And I think there are many reasons for that, so here are my top 5.  

1. It can be suspenseful and scary without resorting to buckets of gore and dismembered limbs. (They can even make giant pepper shakers with plungers sticking out of them seem scary)
2. You can dress up as a different Doctor for Halloween for 13 years (and counting)  using stuff you can probably find at D.I.
3.  They keep the language to a pretty PG level. (Though I don’t understand all of their British expressions.)
4. The Doctor always tries to solve his problems non-violently, tackling things with no more than a (sonic) screwdriver.
5.  We always sing about if we could hie to Kolob. He could probably actually do it. In fact, he goes many places and times, so that the show is an interesting blend of science fiction and historical fiction.  You might actually learn something!

If you want to celebrate 50 years of the doctor, the BBC is broadcasting a special 50th anniversary episode in November, even going so far as to showing it in some movie theaters. You can find the closest one to where you live here: http://bbc.in/NorthAmericaCinemasTDOTD

If you are just getting started, you can watch Dr. Who on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.


Allons y!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Note from Stephen

Hey Everyone!

Our Facebook page now has over 200 likes!  Wow!  Very humbling.  Thank you for all the support and faithful following of our little blog.  We have big plans for the future of Mormon Geeks and I'm so thankful Joe approached me and said, "Hey, let's start a blog together" a year or so ago.  It's been an incredible blessing to me and something close to my heart.  Thank you.  Thank you for reading and being a part of this.

I unfortunately have a lot going on right now.  I'm writing and directing a short 8 minute film (which will be lots of fun), designing a small 3D video game, and working on 5 seconds of animation of characters speaking dialogue.  Yeah, I'm a little insane.  Please expect a more fleshed out post next week.  Until then, I share with you some animation sequences I've been working on this semester.  (FAR from perfect.  It's alright for an animation student but my craft continues to improve.)

video
Here is a run cycle.  I didn't add a tail because they're something I'm still trying to grasp.  I wanted to try something new with this so I did everything rough at first and went over it with cleaner lines.

video
This splash is far better than the first one I did.  That said, it could use some work with the second part of the splash.  The timing is okay but I feel like it could be broken up a bit more.  Anyway, hope you like it either way.

Much Love,

-Stephen

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Legend of Korra's redemption


Legend of Korra all is forgiven.

Stephen beat me to the punch on writing about this seasons Korra and probably for the best because I would’ve been much less kind to it than he was. My feelings in a nutshell: while I get why Korra is acting so out of character I think a little more exposition or something as to why would’ve made her more sympathetic, that and the fact that I feel that the plot this season was rushed, a bit messy and contrived to me made me question last week whether or not I still wanted to follow this thing.

Then Friday happened.

I’m going to say spoilers but I’m also going to say that if you can head to nick.com right now and watch Beginnings parts 1 and 2 right now if you haven’t yet. It’s okay they’re short. No I don’t care of you’ve never seen Korra or Avatar the Last Airbender, go watch this now because it’ll be one of the best things you do today I guarantee it.

You back? Okay.

First off let me talk about the art. Avatar has always been big on its Anime influences so the art has always been spectacular, but these episodes the artists went with a traditional Japanese watercolor style for most of the backgrounds and bending. On top of that we get to see a ton of spirits with designs that look straight out of Myazaki films (Howe’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke). If you’re at work just watch it with the sound off and enjoy the visuals.

Next we hit the story. In 45 minutes we get the origins of the Avatar, bending and the conflict between the spirit world and the mortal that really pulls the rest of the series thus far together and builds towards the rest of the season. So this wasn’t just a fun aside with Wan the first Avatar but an integral piece of the story that adds context to the season thus far.

My last piece is Wan’s death scene. When you see it or if you have I want you to think of this painting by Arnold Friberg of Mormon and Moroni on Commorah. In both images we have great warriors whose ultimate goal was peace at the end of their lives in presumable failure. But a higher power reassures them that their mission isn’t over and that all hope is not lost. For me to see a piece in a TV series focused on Asain philosophy touch on a piece from my own spiritual world that I’m so familiar with, that takes the show to a whole new plane of emotional depth and wonder.

So I am happy to say that as a person losing his faith in the Avatar I have recovered from my own fan crisis and found a new piece of spiritual insight in one of my favorite franchises.

-JOE



Monday, October 21, 2013

More S.H.I.E.L.D.

To start, I'm just gonna write "SHIELD" from now on. The periods are annoying.

Okay, SHIELD has now hit 4 episodes. Four is an important number. Most people will give a new TV show four episodes before deciding if it is or isn't worth it for them. (I honestly remember reading this figure, but not sure where other than possibly TV.com.)

Regardless, last week was SHIELD's 4th episode. And I finally felt like the show started doing something right. For me, the first episode established a couple of things that seemed necessary. (Like a place for Cobie Smulders to go post-HIMYM.) But the following 2 episodes were filler at best. As much as I love stand-alone shows, SHIELD is not something that takes place in a stand alone universe.

Star Trek: The Next Generation thrived on not being episodic. It didn't need to be. Deep Space Nine was a very episodic show, but it made more sense. They weren't exploring. The carryover of stories from the beginning to the end (yes, there were a lot of stand alone episodes) is something that kept Deep Space Nine interesting for me.

Changing genres (slightly), even before SHIELD started airing, I thought it should mimic Deep Space Nine's semi-episodic plot device. And now that it seems to be, I'm not sure it was the best choice.

FYI: At this point on, I will be spoiling things about the episodes.

The first episode leaves us with a missing villain. Odds are, it's possible that this villain will return. However, it may be a while. The second episode also has a living villain. But she isn't worth bringing back. In a way, we have 2 villains in the 3rd episode. One "dies" and one escapes. If they don't both return, this was a useless episode. It marginally moved Skye's character forward. And it continues the annoying "We may have Skye and Ward hook up. What do you think about that?" (I'll come back to that.)

But in this past episode, we finally get something worth working with. We don't know who the real villain is still. Perhaps it's the doctor from the first episode (which would make sense and work well.) This isn't such a Skye-centric episode that it makes us want to shoot her just to get her to stop annoying us. And finally, we have a hint to what is going on with our main character, Coulson. Really, the first one since the premier.


If Skye and Ward hook up, it may just ruin the show. If Fitz and Simmons hook up, it would be obvious, but acceptable. Why them and not Sky and Ward? Skye and Ward have no chemistry. Yeah, their characteristics supplement each other, but the characters do not complement each other. It's sad to see the writers forced attempts at trying to mimic what's happened on Castle, Bones, and Psych.

Regardless, this 4th episode finally hit a Marvel feel. No, Wolverine didn't claw around. Thor didn't throw the hammer down. Captain America didn't appear in his armor. But it at least gave me a glimpse of hope that this show isn't going to go nowhere. We also got to see a decent chick fight, always a plus.


As a pre-published author (no, no book deal or anything, but maybe one day as I try), I can see a lot of ways to take this story to make things match up and tie out. Hopefully they'll hit some of them, but still find ways to surprise me.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Finding Balance with Korra

Legend of Korra has started this new season a little slow.  The conflict is subtle with increasing tension in the plot and characters.  Something that sets the characters of Korra apart from the original team Avatar is the average age.  In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the average physical age was 11 or 12.  (Yes, I know Aang is 111 years old.  I took off 100 years because he's basically 11.)  The average age in Korra is closer to 16.  Because of this, you have a lot of unexplained teenage angst and emotions.  Although this is probably a weak point of the show, it is also realistic and raises a few thoughts.

I remember when I was a teenager I used my hormones and emotions as an excuse.  "I'm feeling depressed, it must be hormones."  "Dang, she's really mean today, she must be on her period."  Never mind the stresses of finding yourself, high school grades, navigating the social sphere, and other possible challenges like discovering same sex attraction or domestic trouble.

Anyone notice a character change in Korra this season?  I can't help but feel like she's stressed out, overly emotional, and far more illogical then how she ended the first season.  So is she just being a normal teenager with the pressure of being the world's Avatar or is there a deeper issue for her?

Let's look at the ending of the first season and the first few episodes of this season.

Korra defeated Amon, she unlocked her ability to airbend after he took away all of her other bending powers, her powers were restored in full by Aang's spirit, and she entered the Avatar state for the first time.  The first few episodes we see Korra misusing the Avatar state and seems to be a weaker Avatar state then what we saw with Aang.  Korra can practically access the Avatar state at will but not to same level of power as Aang.  Which makes sense because Aang's strengths were in the spiritual side of being the Avatar.  Korra's strengths lie in the actual physical performance of being the Avatar.

The reason why Korra has been doubtful and emotional lately is because she's still not fully connected to her spiritual side.  She's taken the sacred and immense power of being the Avatar and has used it to win a race.  She'll enter into the Avatar state without fully understanding it's purpose.  She feels out of balance in her soul creating walls between her and Mako.

I've noticed that a big theme in Korra is connecting to spirit.  Korra is impressed by Unalaq's ability to pacify dark spirits and sees him as a spiritual guide for her.  Unalaq debates for true ideas about spirituality while at the materialistic Glacier Spirits Festival.  Imagine her hurt and confusion when she sees Unalaq's true intentions.  The irony is that Unalaq wants good things.  He wants to spiritually restore the Southern Water tribe but in a very manipulative and evil way.

The southern water tribe get's help from Verrick, a water tribe business mastermind, to fight back against the powerful northern water tribe.  Mako discovers manipulation from this end as well.  Verrick is motivated by money.  He's also a filmmaker with a typical fake Hollywood attitude.  At first, he's charming and likable.  We soon discover his true intentions and what the civil war of the northern and southern water tribes is really about.

It's a war between materialism and spirituality.  It's a war of external power and inner focus.  The southern water tribe has grown accustomed to wealth and modern conveniences.  Just watch a few episodes of the original series to see the difference between now and 72 years ago.  The southern water tribe never had a palace and now they do.  This is the same war going on inside of Korra.  She isn't just dealing with being a teenager.  She's trying to find balance with her spirit.

For me, I've found that my life has been out of balance.  I'm finding that I have the same battle that Korra is having.  Getting my life back into balance has meant deactivating my facebook account for the time and refocusing on school.  This absence is only temporary.  Tools like facebook, the internet, television, and blogging are wonderful tools to give me a recharge, relax, and even share the gospel.  If I focus too much on school, I could neglect my own needs and spirituality.  If I focus on my social needs, I could forfeit the future of my career.  If I focus too much on my spirituality, I could become prideful and fanatic.

Balance is difficult to achieve.  It may mean taking a break from regular activities, friends, and good things.  I've seen that it can even mean sacrifice for me.  In the end, only we can know what can give us the balance we need.  What have you done before to help you find balance?

-Stephen

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The call of the new game

I’ve been faced with a dilemma this past week. For those who don’t follow gaming closely, last week we saw the launch of Nintendo’s 2DS, which is essentially it’s 3DS with the 3D element stripped out for cost.
For those still not following me, the new Game Boy came out last week.
With it came out the latest Pokemon games, Pokemon X and Y.
If you’re unclear as to what Pokemon is, click here.
Let me explain something before we go on: I never buy new consoles when they first release. Upon hearing the announcement of the X Box One memories of my friends original X Box in high school flashed through my head, as it would overheat so badly trying to run Halo we nearly tried cooking a steak on it. Considering I went through NINE X Box 360s before finally finding a model that wouldn’t die because I had the gall of trying to play games on it, I’m not all that excited for most of the next gen stuff.
Speaking of games, I will rarely buy games on release day either. I will get one maybe two games a year the day they come out, but that’s only after I’ve done extensive research on them, the company, their development history, and criminal background checks on their programmers. Reason being I’ve been burned way too many times by glitchy, useless games I thought were going to rock my world. Fallout: New Vegas became a game of “How long can you play before the game freezes permanently” instead of an epic post-apocalyptic roadtrip, and Saints Row III decided that allies are for wusses, and ditched all the NPCs I had picked up as companions, including Burt Reynolds.
So my usual plan is to wait.
Usual.
And then last week.
There they were, sitting on the shelf, taunting me to try them. Pokemon Y and a new 2DS. Whispering soft secrets of times we could share together. Meanwhile, the sensible part of my brain was screaming things like “You bought a $200 Windows Surface last week!” and “You stopped playing Pokemon when you realized a majority of the players were still in grade school!”, all sensible arguments. Yet there I was, staring, wanting, and wishing.
I didn’t buy it. Not because I couldn’t afford it, but because I realized that my logical brain had some good points and that some consumer research at the very least would be helpful, yet with all the logic my massive space brain could bring up I still wanted Nintendo’s latest cash cows. The dilemma allowed me to ask the existential question: Why?
I consulted some friends on the subject, each giving me a different answer. My beloved fiancĂ© pointed to the impracticality of the exercise, what with our wedding in 7 months and the fact that I had just bought a tablet. My friend Stu pointed out that waiting like I do on other games and consoles was indeed wisdom, and that I should see what happens in a few months, even after Christmas. Both extremely validating and right in their own ways, but the ultimate council that snapped the song of the Pikachu siren was my friend Neil. In bringing my dilemma to him he simply said “Why don’t you just play a game you haven’t played in a while?”
I know the siren statement was a joke but I honestly felt like I had been slapped to reality. Could that be it? Was my problem just that I was bored with what I was playing now, and this new game and toy simply offered me something new?
I looked at what I’ve been playing recently, namely Diablo III and Disney Infinity. Diablo III I’ve found to be extremely fun, especially on my X Box, but the challenge in single player skyrockets at a point that my poor little thumbs just can’t keep up with. Infinity has an opposite problem: After beating all the playsets I own and the next one not coming out till Saturday, I had nothing to really do in single player.
 I was honestly bored with my video games.
This realization leads me to the conclusion that boredom is not a very good reason to buy a brand new and expensive game and console. Neil was right, though I suspect part of his suggestion was just to get me to play WOW with him again, which, yes that worked, but I just needed to do something different. Not necessarily new but different.
So I went through my CD case and I plugged in Skyrim, and I’d switch between that and a new Minecraft world I made on the X Box while chilling out during fall break. Just to satisfy my shopping need I also picked up Just Cause 2 for $8, just to say I had a new game. And you know what? It worked. The desire for Pokemon and a new 2DS is still there, but it’s now with my desire for an Assassin’s Creed hoodie and that Complete Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I’ve been eyeing at Barnes and Nobile. Yeah I want them but I don’t NEED them, and I’m not going to run out and get them right this second.
This reminds me of Paul when he visited the people of Areopagus, a people who “aspent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). It’s implied that they for the most part rejected Paul’s teachings because it was the same thing they’d heard before and thus mocked or dismissed it. That’s pretty much how large chunks of our society work: the best things we are told are the newest, and therefore we must have them. I’ve had droves of people tell me, upon finding out that I’m a gamer, say “You probably wouldn’t like what I play. It’s just Mario 3 or Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega.” What? Those games rock! I’ll play those all day long, just as much as I’d play Left 4 Dead or Grand Theft Auto 5.
Here’s my final thought: I let myself get taken in by the shiny new glitter Pokemon and the 2DS have to offer because I didn’t stop to think what I was really wanting and whether or not I could get it without giving even more money to Nintendo. Now that I have, I’m revisiting games I haven’t played in forever and loving it and I didn’t have to fork over $160 to do it. I’m getting my video game itch met and I didn’t spend a dime, how cool is that?
-JOE
P.S. What games do you love that you haven’t played in a while? Reply in the comments and let us know what’s kicking around in your CD cases!





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Lord Will Hasten His Work

I'm not one to really wax spiritual in blog posts.  I just have had some interesting discussions with co-workers and with my dad about how the Lord has hastened his work.  In D&C 88:73, the Lord said "Behold, I will hasten my work in its time."  Back when the church first started, the Lord used what technology that was available to spread the word.  There was the printing press, boats, and peoples legs.  Later on He introduced inventions like the train and planes so people could move around even faster.  Later, He introduced computers and the internet.  I was amazed at how powerful of a tool the modern computer is and how quickly information can be transmitted globally through the internet.  Why would the Lord put out such a wondrous invention?  To hasten His work.  Missionaries can now have "face-to-face" conversations with people who would normally feel too scared to let two strangers into their home.  Members can pull up genealogical records and see pictures of tombstones from the comfort of their living rooms.  They can also pull up scriptures on their smart phones and tablets.  It's incredible.

The best part?  We are probably just scratching the service.  What if there were programs/games that could help train new missionaries to preach?  What if there were games for helping new members learn about the church and about doctrine?  I could see ideas like that having a huge impact on the church's growth.  And who knows what marvelous inventions the Lord will be putting out to allow the work to spread even faster?

Keep your eyes open.  Great things are coming.

-Andrew

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mawage (Marriage)

Preface note: Sorry, I forgot to put pictures to this. Meh, I'll live.

To quote one of my all-time favorite films, which I have not watched in over nine years because my wife does not like it, "Mawage. Mawage is wod bwings us togeder today." (Or "Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today" if you do not know The Princess Bride.)

Why am I talking about marriage....well...in a way I'm not, but the topic is what started me on this thought that I will be sharing later. First, I have a co-worker getting married soon. And even though I haven't given my oft-stated advice yet, I'm sure it'll come up in conversation later.

A while back, a friend of mine was getting married and asked his friends for advice. So I thought for a moment about it. And I said to him: "Well, you're an accountant. And you know how in accounting cash is king, right?" He said, "Yes." And I added, "Well, in marriage, communication is king." Since then I've added to it. "In marriage, communication is king and honesty is his queen."

By no means am I perfect with this advice. I like the scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:33, which states, "...evil communications corrupt good manners." To me, this is stating that poor communications will not edify a relationship. There are plenty of times when I don't communicate. And I'll admit that on occasion I will keep quiet about something. But on the same token, I know that when I am having open and honest communication with my wife, we are happier together.

One of my favorite songs in Just Give Me a Reason. It is sung by Pink and Nate Reuss. To me, it is a unique song in that it's a true duet. The lyrics speak of a woman who feels that her relationship has lost something. But she doesn't want it to end so she asks the man for a reason for them to stay together. The man, not seeing what the woman sees, reminds her that they are fine but that she is correct, something in their relationship has changed. No, they aren't starting over. They're just seeing that they both want their relationship to continue. But it took speaking to that want to realize that the other wanted it as well.

Why am I talking about this in Mormon Geeks? Well, I am LDS. And I am a geek. And geeks do get married. But even then, this concept doesn't have to apply only to husband and wife. This can be true for parents and children, siblings, and friends.

Now, when I say "open and honest communication" I do not mean "Bare your soul to the whole world." In my viewpoint, there are levels of trust. I trust my wife more than I trust my co-workers. So I will tell her more than I will tell them. But then I've heard an argument on "Why not be that open to everyone?" My answer to that is simply that not everyone is the same. And below, I'll expound on it a bit.

I am not the king of communication. But when I communicate, I try to look at two things: what needs to be said? And what do I want to say that may hurt more than help? Colossians 4:6 adds: "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."

Let me present this example that illustrates my point: my child has just done something that is poor behavior. Whether they've hit a sibling, broken something, or said something mean, it is something that needs a discipline moment. But what is it I need to communicate to this child? They need to understand that what they did was in some way harmful. They need to understand that there is a consequence for their action. If my kids see anger or disappointment, that's okay to me. But I don't want to be overbearing in my anger. Well, I may want to be, but I don't need to be. I don't need to get my kids scared of me. So even though I could express everything in that moment, it's better for me not to share every little thing about how Daddy feels about breaking a toy.

So, I suggest trying to be more honest in your communications. I know it's a goal I am trying to keep.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thoughts on the Priesthood Quorum

A few weeks back I read a blog post on men groups in christian churches.  It fascinated me because I could see how closely it related to our LDS culture.  I've studied and written a lot about masculine ideas in todays society and how they have changed over the years.  There are some incredible correlations with the decline of male friendships, exclusively male societies, boys failing in schools, and even the national average levels of testosterone with an increase of homosexuality, male college and high school drop out rates, divorce, and date rape.

The question many sociologists ask today is, "Where are all the men?"  What do they mean?  What they say is the idea of what a man is today is not what he was to our grandfathers.  We have a lot of guys and boys masquerading in the bodies of men but few men indeed.

In history, masculinity was measured not by how well of a provider you were, how strong you were, or your number of sexual conquests.  It was measured by your virtue.  The word 'virtue' actually comes from the Latin word vir meaning man.  The opposite of manhood is not womanhood but boyhood.  Brett McKay wrote "Women and men strive for the same virtues, but often attain them and express them in different ways. The virtues will be lived and manifested differently in the lives of sisters, mothers, and wives than in brothers, husbands, and fathers. Two different musical instruments, playing the exact same notes, will produce two different sounds." (Manvotionals, pg. 3)

Holding onto the idea that femininity and masculinity are opposites of one another presents a very superficial idea of what masculinity is.  It presents anxiety in men that often look to others to ensure that x, y, and z are manly because they may also be enjoyed by women and men may also enjoy them. (pg. 2)  Unfortunately, I feel that this is the definition held on to by the general priesthood body of the church.  Such a shallow definition of what it means to be a man creates shallow connections and complacency.

That's what we find in priesthood quorums.  It is rare to find a priesthood quorum that embodies the camaraderie of the mission field.  We rarely find quorums where men are real with one another and truly support one another.  If home teaching is ever done in a singles ward, it is usually only the sisters visited, not the brethren.  I am curious to know if there is a gender divide in active and inactive church members.  I would not be surprised if there were more inactive men than women.

So how is this issue resolved of disbanded brothers?  After giving some thought, I've come up with a list of things I would do.

1. A two word check in priesthood meeting.

Very few quorum members will know more than half the names of the members of their quorum.  After announcements, the opening prayer, and opening hymn, going around and checking in with each member would get the men to know one another by name.  It wouldn't be complicated--a lesson still needs to be discussed.  It would be something like, "I'm Stephen. I'm checking in with joy."  Or it could be, "I'm Joe. I'm feeling troubled and happy."  This gives the opportunity for men to see one another on a deeper level that is needed for us to grow together.

2. Use i-statements in priesthood meeting.

Why use an i-statement?  It's a simple but powerful change.  Instead of speaking with the generic 'you' in a sentence, I would have the men change it to 'I.'  Instead of saying, "You numb your feelings to the spirit when you look at pornography" the man would say, "I numb my feelings to the spirit when I look at pornography."  This makes the man own his issues.  It's brave.  It's manly.  It's beautiful.  A man that recognizes his weaknesses and is vulnerable in a priesthood body because he's willing to trust them is a true man to me.  This isn't about shame of the man owning his own stuff.  This isn't about taking care of the tender feelings of someone that would take it personally when "you" was used in a general sense.  This is about a priesthood holder owning his own ideas and feelings.

3. Sit in a one row circle or U shape in priesthood meeting.

This is another very simple change.  I would do this because it would allow each man to look the other in the eye.  If the teacher needs to use a visual or a board, he can use a U shape with the same effect.  It requires a man to be vulnerable.  He cannot expect to get connection without being vulnerable.  I can't be in a unified quorum unless I am vulnerable along with the other men.  (See what I did there?)  There wouldn't be any men hiding in the back row playing Angry Birds.  There isn't a back row.  There isn't a front row.  There's just a circle of men that have come together because they want to be better men closer to God.  That's a real quorum to me.

4. A father and sons or men's outing once a quarter.

Each quarter there would be a planned father and son's or men's outing.  It would be best out in mother nature as a camping trip.  Getting in touch with nature this way is spiritual.  For me, it connects me to my roots and causes me to ponder on my ancestors.  It makes me feel like a real man.  All digital devices (with the exception to the necessities) would be required to be shut off on this weekend trip.  The men can bring a book, board game, or even a football.  The idea behind this would be to get away from the isolating activities and connect as a community.  The men would naturally and maybe slowly open up at this point and actually get to know the other men on a deeper level.  They may go on this trip as warm acquaintances but leave knowing names and having made not just friends but brothers.

5. Menrichment nights.


Why should the relief society get all the fun?  If I could influence a quorum, I would organize bi monthly nights for men to interact and connect with one another.  There would be a short lesson and then an activity.  It may be a sport, learning to start a fire, or even a nerdy game.  I would encourage the men normally interested only in sports to expand their views and try Magic: The Gathering.  I would also encourage (don't you love how 'courage' is in there?) the quieter, geekier guys to try the sports.  I'm really thankful that I participated in sports in High School and at my singles wards.  It's allowed me to be well rounded and connect with men that have become a huge blessing in my life.

6. Other Stuff

I would also implement some guidelines for the men in the quorum.  I would tell the men that if they don't know something or don't know how to help in a situation with another man to not pretend that they do.  When an addict or someone struggling with depression comes to me to talk about how they feel, it's easy for me to want to fix their situation but that's not what they are looking for.  Furthermore, different issues are experienced and healed differently among God's children.  What may have worked for me when I was depressed may not work for someone else.  To show real love and support is to show understanding.  A man looking for support doesn't need to hear, "Well, you should do this."  What he does need to hear is, "I get it."  Or, if I don't understand what I can say is, "I don't understand, I wish I could."


I honestly believe that the priesthood quorum can be a huge blessing to the lives of all members of the church.  To have a more unified quorum would mean better husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.  It would mean better home teachers and stronger, more unified families.  Men need men.  I think following these simple ideas would increase activity and even missionary work.  Quorums like this will never be found but they can be built in your own wards.

-Stephen

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Top ten best villain songs


It’s about time we had a little bit of Halloween around here, and one thing that’s become intertwined with Halloween is villains.
Yeah, that’s a strong enough premise to do this.
As usual, I can’t be asked to do this in order, so here’s my top ten best villain songs in no particular order.
10: Be Prepared from The Lion King
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08-uyfp2iPM
Scar singing about killing kings and making hyenas goose step is one of the best parts of the Lion King. Also, is Scar Earthbending?
9: Oogie Boogie’s song from Nightmare before Christmas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw0aoVpFCDw
It’s the Boogie Man saying that he’s going to torture or eat Santa Clause. He’s not exactly clear on what he’s going to do to St. Nicholas, but it will be bad.
8: Brand New Day from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along blog
This show is the ultimate revenge fantasy for anyone who was a picked on nerd by a chisled jock. Here the evil Doctor has decided that his archenemy has to die by his hand, thus ensuring his entrance into the Evil League of Evil.
7: What you feel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2vihYpsE1Y
A demon has put a curse on Sunnyvale which makes everyone sing- and he wants Dawn! Of course Whedon is going to show up multiple times on this list, between him and Disney they make the best villain songs.
6: Ruler and the Killer from The Hunger Games
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IggTtq8hpzQ
Not a song from the movie, this song was written in tribute to The Hunger Games’s evil government. The song is dark and has a great beat, and shows the overwhelming feeling Katness feels as tribute.
5: Hellfire from Hunchback of Notre Dame
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3NoDEu7kpg
One of Disney’s least liked but probably one of its best made films has this compelling song about temptation and of all things Hell. It’s great animation with great writing.
4: The Imperial March from Star Wars
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bzWSJG93P8
Let’s face it: Whenever you hear this one you get chills. It’s the perfect tune for this Sith Lord to go marching around to.
3: Gollum’s Song from Lord of the Rings


Another tribute song off the soundtrack, this song emphasizes the pain Gollum goes through. It’s a fantastic little ditty that shows the true tragedy of a great character.
2: Mother Knows Best from Tangled
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi8kYcl2Y38
Mother Gothel is one of Disney’s best villains. Not only is she evil, but she is just such a mom. Her song is the best mom guilt song ever.
1: Poor Unfortunate Souls from The Little Mermaid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyFVG4VfPmg
Okay this one is an exception to my rule: This song in my opinion is my favorite and probably the best villain song. Where it gets its high marks from me is the fact that this song isn’t just singing about the character’s tragedy or that they’re evil, but the song is Ursula manipulating Ariel to take her deal. Thus this song is Ursula doing evil.
Oh, Halloween…

-JOE

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Andrew "Reviews": The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

After the Steam Summer sale (a.k.a. my wallet weeps in pain after I buy lots of games), I decided that I needed to finish the games that I did own before I went on to buy even more games.  While examining them last Saturday, I noticed "The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing".  I'd played it some before with a friend of mine but the multiplayer was still laggy and buggy, so we both forgot about it.  I picked it up, and then started to notice that they had a new class that you could play as.  I immediately started a new game with the new class, and then went on the play through the whole game.

The Adventures of Van Helsing was published on 22 May 2013 by Neocore Games.  It is available on Steam currently.  The game is an action-RPG that plays very similarly to Diablo 3 (that was the most recent game that it reminded me of).  The player takes the roll of the son of the famous vampire hunter, Abraham Van Helsing.  He sets out in response to a mysterious letter to the fictional country of Bargovia.  On the way, he faces hordes and hordes of monsters.

This is a 'small' horde of monsters
Overall, I really enjoyed the game.  The game is beautiful.  There's no other way to say it.  The hordes of monsters could be quite terrifying at times (when about 50 monsters started rushing me at once, I seriously doubted my survival).  However, the skills available to the player always leave me feeling like I could come out of the top of any fight, provided that I used my skills and 'tricks' correctly.

There's nothing more satisfying than being the last one staning
There are two available character classes: the Hunter and the Thaumaturge.  The Hunter is a classic monster hunter.  They can use a variety of swords or ranged weapons and get access to some magical abilities ranging from a lightning bolt to being able to add fire to their sword swings.  The Thaumaturge plays more like a mage or a wizard in other games.  They start out with a simple energy bolt spell that shoots out two small balls of lightning.  Later then can throw ice, conjure small blizzards, confuse enemies, boil their blood, mind control enemies, summon columns of raw energy, and create void spheres.  Needless to say, I quite enjoyed the Thaumaturge class.
Thaumaturge using Energy Spool and blizzard
Both classes have access to 'tricks' and 'auras'.  Auras are basically passive effects that help boost the character.  For example, I used one aura that would heal my ghost friend whenever I channeled my rage into boosting my spells.  I had another that would protect me from ranged attacks.  Tricks ranged from my throwing down an area of effect heal, to short term invulnerability, to calling down meteors from the sky.  There are even 'perks' that the character can unlock and use throughout the game.  Perks were very flavorful passive bonuses for the character.

Even more recently, they added in something called 'Glory'.  By complete max level scenarios, the player can earn glory points.  When they earn enough, then earn  glory level which gives them points that they can then apply to all of that player's characters.  (It reminds me of 'Bad Ass' ranks from Borderlands 2).

The games difficulty really started to hike up near the end.  If I didn't pay careful attention, then I could find myself dead really fast.  The final boss was no exception.  I made the mistake of not dodging his attack, and I died right afterward.  On the other hand, I felt like I was cheating at the game.  I could regain health by hitting monsters.  I could summon a void sphere that would hit multiple monsters.  I would then stand in melee range, summon a sphere, slowly kill the monsters while healing all the damage I took.  It was kind of fun, yet also felt kind of cheap.

One thing that I didn't like about the game was how the end game felt.  I felt like I hit max level at about the right time.  After that, it felt like my progression in the game came to a grinding halt.  I no longer earned any more skill points or ability points.  I was limited to 10 perks (which are permanent, there is no way to undo them!).  Also, I had no idea what to do once I beat the final boss.  At least in Diablo 3, there were harder difficulties that I could replay the game on.  It felt like there was nothing really to do except scenarios to gain glory.  Unless I wanted to restart with a brand new character.  Also, I had a real hard time finding new gear at that level.  In fact, I had a level 5 head piece that I was still using at level 30 (nothing better came up).

Basically, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was a beautiful, fun adventure, yet one that I probably wouldn't do again.  The game is fun to play, especially if you can play with a friend.  However, there doesn't seem to be very much replayability as far as I could see.  The game felt short.  I started playing it Saturday, and finished it Sunday evening.  I played about 15-18 hours from start to finish.

Monday, October 7, 2013

INKtober

Hey Everybody!

Do you know what month it is?  It's Inktober!  Inktober is when a bunch of artists will draw or create something using ink for every day in the month of October.  So being an artist I naturally joined.  I also remember this one time that Joe challenged me to do a 30 Day Drawing Challenge with him.  So I decided to tackle two birds in one stone.  I thought I would share some of the artwork that Joe and I have been doing with all of our readers on Mormon Geeks.  Enjoy!



Joe's self portrait in his boy Harley Quinn costume. Love it!

Joe likes bats.  They're pretty cool.  Let's be honest.

Joe's favorite food? Spahghetti!

Are we really surprised this is Joe's favorite place?

I was so flattered!  Joe drew me and his fiance for his best friends!
Does that mean I get to be Harry Potter in this trio?

Mavis Freestone from the In Death series.

We're not surprised this is Joe's favorite word.

Self portrait. I currently have a mowhawk right now.

My favorite animal is the red panda!

Favorite food? Shrimp Pad Thai noodles!

I have so many favorite places but went with the Columbia River Gorge.

I also have many people I consider my best friend. Went with Joe for this one.

I LOVE this character from the book I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells.  Don't worry, he's a good guy.
I haven't done Day 7 yet.  (About to do that now.)  Be on the look out for future drawings as we take on this 30 day challenge!  Keep on reading friends!

-Stephen