10 Anime to Watch if You’ve Never Seen Anime Sep22

10 Anime to Watch if You’ve Never Seen Anime...

Anime is the neglected stepchild of geekdom, a category widely considered nerdy, but one that many geeks don’t know much about. If you’re interested in the rich, cartoon worlds Japan has to offer, but don’t know how to make the transition from geek to otaku, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten anime series that will speak to your nerdy soul. 1. Big O A millionaire playboy defends a shadowy city under the cover of another identity; he’s also assisted by a butler and working together with a city law enforcement officer. This may sound and look like Batman, but this is Big O, where the main character, Roger Smith, operates a giant robot instead of the Batmobile and uncovers the secrets of an amnesiac city. Smith’s aging butler also has an eyepatch and wields massive machine guns. Take that, Alfred. 2. Fate/zero Few hallowed, nerdy franchises is as beloved in Japan as the Fate series, in which mages compete to attain the Holy Grail. In Fate/zero, a prequel which is the most stunning and best of the Fate anime, magicians battle one another by using famed warriors from history and legend, including a bulked-up Alexander the Great, villainous Gilgamesh, and female King Arthur. It’s a violent battle royale that is as heart wrenching as Game of Thrones. 3. Noein: To Your Other Self Here’s a cool idea – instead of just some entity time traveling to the past to alter a timeline, what if two entirely different timelines were warring with one another both in the present and the future? Noein puts a unique twist on the apocalypse with characters in the current timeline meeting soldiers from the future, including possible versions of themselves, who are desperate to save their timeline from Noein, a powerful...

The Danger of Valuing Principles Over People Sep20

The Danger of Valuing Principles Over People...

Growing up, I always tried to be the “obedient kid”—the one who followed all the rules and stayed out of trouble. Coupled with the fact that I usually kept to myself, this made it very easy for me to look down on those who didn’t abide by the same rules I did. I’d engage with people, but I always carefully judged them against my standards. As a result of my constant judgment, I pushed myself further and further into isolation, always keeping my distance from those who didn’t live up to my values. This mindset became very toxic in my mid-to-late teen years. As I got older, my standards grew higher and higher, and I found myself mentally denouncing just about everyone around me. Church groups, circles of friends, school activities—I saw what I believed to be major flaws in all of them, and I used these as excuses to disassociate myself from many of these people. The two main characters of the anime Death Note, Light and L, both adhere strongly to their own ideas about what’s right and wrong. They also each possess the ability to impose their philosophies on the world around them: Light has a notebook with which he can kill anyone just by writing their names, and tries to purge the world of crime by killing convicted criminals. Meanwhile L, who is heralded as the world’s greatest detective and has access to many of the world’s law enforcement resources, views Light’s actions as murder and begins hunting him down. Viewers often take sides with one of these two characters; after all, they’re both driven by seemingly noble goals. Yet, they also share the same crippling flaw: they value their principles more than they value people. They each believe themselves...

Zombies Among Us: iZombie Chows Down on Dehumanization Sep18

Zombies Among Us: iZombie Chows Down on Dehumanization...

In iZombie, zombies aren’t just mindless, shuffling corpses with skin rotting off their bones. Not if they have access to a regular supply of brains, anyway. The series’ main character, Liv Moore, is a member of Team Z, and she does the best she can, not only to survive in her new life but also to help others. She gets her meals by working at a morgue where she can sneak brains into her stuffed gnocchi on a daily basis. And because eating a brain allows her to see the dead person’s memories, she helps a police detective solve crimes by chowing down on murder victims’ cerebrums. As iZombie progresses, though, it becomes apparent that Liv isn’t alone. Seattle’s zombie population is surprisingly high, though most have learned to hide their presence (and ghoulish appearance) with hair dye and spray tans. This is a fact that Liv’s ex-fiancé, Major Lilywhite, learns through a traumatic series of events that ends with a zombie attempting to murder him. “I wasn’t crazy,” he tells Liv. “Zombies are real… And don’t worry, ‘cause I’m gonna kill them. I’m gonna kill them all.” Major automatically assumes all zombies are evil, and you can’t really blame him when brains are the main item on their menu. After hallucinating that Major accepts her zombie status, his announcement of a zombie hunting spree is shocking news to Liv. She continues to hide her true nature because she’s afraid he will hate her for it; she’s afraid he won’t think of her as a person any more. Not surprisingly, he’s less than happy when he does learn the truth. Read the rest of the article on Christ and Pop...

College Classes Taught by Your Heroes Sep15

College Classes Taught by Your Heroes

If you’re not looking forward to going back to school, here are some classes you may want to add to your timetables. 1. Steve Rogers – American History Not only is Steve passionate about his homeland, but living through much of its history is one of the perks of being 95. 2. The Tenth Doctor – Physics “Physicsphysicsphysicsphysics physics! I hope one of you is getting all this down.” 3. Galadriel – Astronomy She’s so good, she can put starlight in a bottle. 4. Yoda – Communication Difficult, it can be. 5. Hermione Granger – Literature The type of literature is irrelevant. Hermione knows it all—or if she doesn’t, she’ll stay in the library until she does. 6. Spock – Statistics Nothing illogical will be tolerated in this classroom. 7. Sherlock Holmes – Criminal Justice It’s elementary, my dear students. 8. Rumpelstiltskin – Legal Studies No one’s better at making a deal than the Dark One—just make sure your homework doesn’t include signing one of his contracts. 9. J.A.R.V.I.S. – Computer Science He knows computers inside and out. 10. Wonder Woman – Classical Studies She’s straight outta Greek...

Doing Nothing is Not Enough Sep13

Doing Nothing is Not Enough...

There’s always a reason to avoid helping someone. Finances, distance, capability, health, or other obstacles often stand between me and assisting a friend. Maybe they need help moving, but my sprained ankle won’t allow me to lift boxes. Maybe they’re having a rough day, and I can’t take them out for coffee because I’m out of town. Maybe they’re going through financial difficulties, but I have no money to spare. Standing by and doing nothing makes me feel worthless. What can I do when I’m prevented from offering something tangible to those in need? Granny from Summer Wars is intimately familiar with this problem. At eighty-nine years old, there’s not much she can do when a vicious virus breaks out in OZ, the virtual world that connects just about every facet of society. Some of her family are prevented from visiting her on her birthday because of traffic jams; others, because they are dealing with the crisis in their jobs. She could have easily looked at all the things she couldn’t do, and let the situation play out. She could have stayed put, bitter that this event occurred on what was supposed to be a special day. It’s not like there was anything else for her to do—she couldn’t drive out to help direct traffic or volunteer at a hospital. She could have easily looked at all the things she couldn’t do, and let the situation play out. But instead, she decides to encourage. After hearing about the crisis on the international news, she gets out her address books and starts calling everyone she knows who might be involved with the situation—emergency personnel, old friends, government officials. “Don’t lose heart!” she tells them. “This is something only you can do.” “You betcha you can!”...

How Portal’s Turrets Model the First Step to Empathy...

Because Portal is an iconic video game series within geek culture, I felt like I knew almost everything about it before I started playing. I already understood the concept—a young woman, Chell, wakes up in a testing facility, solves puzzles at the instruction of a demented A.I., and attempts to escape Aperture Science. My foreknowledge made the learning curve seem really shallow, and I already knew about GLaDOS’s personality, having heard so many of her lines out of context. While I enjoyed the game immensely, none of it seemed particularly new to me—except for the turrets. The turrets are the complete antithesis of GLaDOS. Whereas GLaDOS is out to get Chell, the turrets are just doing their job. GLaDOS insults; the turrets say please. GLaDOS lies and manipulates; the turrets are completely straightforward. When I encountered them, the turrets hadn’t been programmed to encounter test subjects. Instead of the military androids they expected, they got Chell, and they weren’t quite sure what to do with her. It’s a far simpler answer than I want it to be. I’d love something more complex that gives me permission to stay in a bad mood. As the turrets tried to fulfill their job with limited information, Chell dropped them from the ceiling, hurled weighted cubes at them, or just picked them up and tossed them, but their tone never changed from polite helpfulness. As they shuddered and died, I was startled and intrigued by their words: “I don’t blame you.” “No hard feelings.” “I don’t hate you.” “Why?” The turrets didn’t seem to take Chell’s attacks against them personally. Rather than get angry at her, they asked her to stop. And when she didn’t, they didn’t hate her for it. They weren’t offended by her actions, and...

In Case You Missed Your Hogwarts’ Acceptance Letter Sep08

In Case You Missed Your Hogwarts’ Acceptance Letter...

Maybe you’re not heading to Hogwarts or Starfleet Academy, but good news, everyone! There are some other amazing options out there. Jack Sparrow’s Colloquy of Sailing and Diplomacy Students at this prestigious institution will learn the basics of sailing in an authentic haunted vessel. Navigation is covered with special emphasis on using magic tools to find your heart’s desire. The basics of Caribbean diplomacy—including misdirection, bait-and-switch, and general skullduggery—are at the heart of our instruction. Whether you want to serve on a pirate crew or master your own vessel, Jack Sparrow’s school is for you! And, best of all, you can pay your tuition in rum! The Guy-in-the-Chair College Want to be part of the superhero scene without all the spandex, physical exertion, and danger? The Guy-in-the-Chair Academy is the place for you! You’ll learn valuable skills such as “looking things up on the internet” and “looking other things up on the internet, but on a different computer.” With particular emphasis on “finding the answer just in the nick of time,” our esteemed faculty include Wade Load, Chloe O’Brien, and Ned Leeds. Cypher, the founder of the college, is sadly no longer available to teach. The Hoban Washburne Memorial Flight School Tired of being stuck just watching all of those cool space maneuvers on screen? Want to get in on the action? Transmit your application today! Study the art and science of “On Time Delivery” and “Flying with Instruments” with Turanga Leela. Or spend some time on “Improvised Piloting” with co-instructors Poe and Finn. Gain real skills in “Evasion and Exposition” with Hikaru Sulu. The Winchester Institute of Monster Hunting Founded by the Winchester family, all courses at the institute are taught by Sam and Dean. Class sessions are held approximately whenever they are...

Why We Glorify School-Age Memories Sep06

Why We Glorify School-Age Memories...

Deep space is fun and fantasy worlds are neat, but my favourite setting for stories is a school. These wondrous places fill me with nostalgia and a romantic longing for youth, innocence, friendship, and learning. I never attended a school that evoked such feelings in real life—the schools I frequented were mostly mundane, brick buildings with minimal landscape design—but somehow, I travel to a past I’ve never lived when I see them on screen. In My Hero Academia, students attend U.A. High, a superhero school where they learn how to use their powers, called Quirks. Although there are hints of a darker storyline early in the series, much of that tension is relaxed by the high school atmosphere. The classmates, who bond over their shared abilities, become close friends by seeing (and sometimes competing with) one another so often. In Japanese schools, a class stays together throughout the day in the same classroom, and teachers are the ones who rotate in, so they learn and grow together. The finale of Season One, however, shatters the sense of wonder associated with the school when the students and staff are attacked within its walls. The aptly named League of Villains appears in force, and while the superheroes-in-training courageously fight back, they’re also very afraid. Kids battle against hardened criminals who are willing to kill. They aren’t in a controlled learning environment anymore; the danger is real. U.A. High is a school that feeds my dreams, led by teachers who are superheroes themselves. This span of episodes brought me out of my comfort zone. I’d fully bought into the goodness of U.A. High; it’s a school that feeds my dreams, led by teachers who are superheroes themselves. Even though the baddies are ultimately repelled, that warm, fuzzy...

The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering Sep04

The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering...

“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.” This is the creed of the gunslingers, a blend of old west sheriffs and holy knights, who have been charged with defending the Tower and the people of the realm. Their word is law and their bullets strike true. They wander the realm defending the weak, caring for people and championing justice—or at least they used to before they all died. The Man in Black, a malicious sorcerer, has made it his life’s goal to destroy the Tower and end the humans’ reign. Two things stand in his way: Roland, the last of the gunslingers, and finding a child with the perfect “shining” (telekinetic-type force of mind that can see into the past and future, defeat demons, and contact people telepathically). Roland, for some reason, is resistant to the Man in Black’s magic so the sorcerer cannot kill Roland personally. But as the Man in Black does the next best thing: kills everyone Roland loves. Roland is left wandering, alone and distraught. This is where Jake Chambers, the missing piece of the Man in Black’s master plan, finds him and hears him profess, “there are no more gunslingers.” Only when Roland truly embraces a vulnerable, loving heart is he able to defeat his foe. Roland has ceased to care about the world around him and is obsessed with destroying...

5 Characters Who Made Bad First Impressions Sep01

5 Characters Who Made Bad First Impressions...

When I tell people I was homeschooled, they often ask if I was shy or antisocial as a child. When I tell people I’m a geek, they ask if I have a job and still live in my parents’ basement. When I tell them I’m Southern, they ask why I don’t have a strong accent. When people assume things about me, they often get a first impression that isn’t accurate. It frustrates me because they’ve attributed characteristics to me within the first few minutes, and I have to fight to counter a negative first impression when I shouldn’t have to. I feel hurt when people think they know me from a few stereotypes they heard through the grapevine. But I’m guilty of doing this too, with people I meet and with fictional characters. Sometimes I make up my mind about them before I give them a chance. Here are five characters I didn’t like at first, but changed my mind about later. For some of them, I grew to like them as they changed and adapted; for others, I started to like them because I understood them better. What characters would you add to this list? “GOLLUM =D” by speedportraits (speedportraits.deviantart.com). 1. Gollum (The Lord of the Rings) When I first saw Gollum in the movies as a child, I was terrified of him. I wasn’t sure of what to make of this “gangly creature.” He was an odd schizophrenic who seemed bent on doing anything, including murder, to get back the Ring. But as I learned more about his character and understood his addiction, watched his development I realized, like Frodo did, that he really is a creature to be pitied, not feared. “Cactus Love…” by Moni (moni158.deviantart.com). 2. Sokka (Avatar: The Last...

The Uncomfortable Racism of C.S. Lewis Aug30

The Uncomfortable Racism of C.S. Lewis...

Since childhood, I’ve had a strong attachment to C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. My aunt gave me a set of the books, which currently sit in a place of honour in my office. I’ve read and reread the series throughout my life with a sense of wonder and delight. As my critical reading skills developed, and as I began to understand systemic power dynamics, my naïve love of Narnia gave way to a more complicated and nuanced relationship with the stories. I realized they could be almost heavy-handedly allegorical at times. The characters, particularly in the final novels, are overly broad, almost parodic. And don’t get me started on Lewis’s class assumptions or Susan and Lucy’s exclusion from battle. But the most troubling aspect of the series came to light a few years ago when I was first teaching a class on Lewis and Tolkien. Most of the students, like me, had been introduced to Lewis’s novels as children. A few had passed the series on to their own children, even grandchildren. One student, however, had taken the class to fill an elective and had no prior knowledge of Narnia or Middle-earth. In our conversation about The Horse and His Boy, this student commented, “Well, I found this one a little bit racist.” The other students jumped to Lewis’s defense with well-meaning but well-worn excuses—“He lived in a different era with different attitudes about race and other cultures.” Too often we’re afraid to question ourselves, afraid that if we acknowledge something troubling we open the door to undermining our whole belief system. I, too, a lifelong fan, found myself parroting this same line of thinking: “We need to read this in its historical context.” After class, however, I went back to the text,...

Your Words, Your Voice, Your Story Matters Aug28

Your Words, Your Voice, Your Story Matters...

My voice is constantly drowned in a sea of noise. I’ve always been a quiet person. In the past, I would try to speak up at the dinner table and no one would hear me, so I would just stop talking and keep what I had to say to myself. At other times, I’ve felt like what I’ve had to say is somehow less important because someone has had it worse than me or they know how to say it better. If someone seems to lose interest in the middle of what I’m saying, I’ve let the subject die even if it means a lot to me. But I want to be heard. In the anime Terror on Resonance, the two teenagers Nine and Twelve pose as terrorists named Sphynx One and Sphynx Two. They plant bombs in different locations while taking no casualties as they lead Detective Shibazaki and the Tokyo Metro police on a trail to unravel a conspiracy—a conspiracy that wants to crush what Nine and Twelve have to say to the world. Talking about my past might make me feel vulnerable, but if it encourages one person, it’s worth it. Years before, Nine, Twelve, and twenty-four other children were handpicked from orphanages to participate in the Athena Experiment: an experiment to drug gifted children into become savants without the mental challenges. However, the experiment was a failure, so the government decided to erase the evidence of the projects’ existence; that meant destroying all the test subjects. Nine and Twelve were the only ones to escape. They were the only ones left to remember the suffering their friends endured. They don’t want the deaths of their friends to be forgotten, or the murderers to get away with their crime. They want...

Ms. Marvel Defines How to Be Yourself Aug23

Ms. Marvel Defines How to Be Yourself...

Nerds may not be the long-suffering social group they used to be, but I still don’t feel like I fit in any place where Star Wars isn’t a useful conversation starter. Hanging out at a bar isn’t fun for me. Fashion doesn’t intrigue me. I get more excited about a new superhero movie than a famous singer coming to town. I find working out boring, and I don’t even like the taste of coffee! But if I think I stick out at Starbucks with my hot chocolate and Boba Fett hat, I need to remember Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel, and how drastically different she feels from everyone around her. Kamala is a second-generation Pakistani Muslim teen living in Jersey City. Sometimes her heritage isn’t a big deal, but as a 16-year-old, she’s fed up with restrictions. Her religion means she eats different foods, dresses modestly, and celebrates holidays most people are unfamiliar with. Her parents want to keep her away from boys and wild parties, but she claims they won’t let her out because she’s a girl. Plus, her nerdy interests distance her from her straight-laced family and draw ridicule. She spends her time drooling over bacon sandwiches, writing superhero fan fiction, and questioning traditions at her mosque—such as why women have to sit separately from men. She imagines that if she became a hero, she’d take a page from her role model—Ms. Marvel, now rebranded as Captain Marvel: “I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.” It’s fun to spend a few hours pretending to be someone vastly different from me. Whether I’m cosplaying or playing a roleplaying game, I get to put on a mask and act in ways I otherwise wouldn’t. I...

Beren, Lúthien, and Overcoming Prejudice Aug21

Beren, Lúthien, and Overcoming Prejudice...

Ages before the romance of Aragorn and Arwen, Middle-earth was home to a Man named Beren and an Elf maiden named Lúthien Tinúviel. The story of their romance became one of the pillars for J.R.R. Tolkien’s history of Middle-earth, as well as a foreshadowing of the love between Aragorn and Arwen. The most well-known version of the Beren and Lúthien story exists in The Silmarillion, but Tolkien wrote several versions of the tale—not all of them complete—and this past June, these versions were released in a single compilation, edited by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. In the earliest version of the Beren and Lúthien story—entitled “The Tale of Tinúviel”—Beren is not a Man, but an Elf of the Noldor race. Like Aragorn and Arwen, much of the tension in the Beren and Lúthien story we know comes from the fact that he is mortal, while she is immortal. You would think that, in a version where Beren is immortal, Lúthien’s father wouldn’t mind Beren courting his daughter. Think again. As it turns out, being immortal doesn’t help Beren’s case at all. Long before his time, the Noldor Elves made the journey from Middle-earth to Valinor, but later betrayed the Teleri (another Elven clan) in order to steal ships and return to Middle-earth. Luthien’s people, the Sindar, are related to the Teleri. By the time “The Tale of Tinúviel” takes place, solid prejudice exists between the Noldor and the Sindar. Lúthien’s people thought the Noldor were “treacherous creatures, cruel and faithless.” In turn, “the lies of [Morgoth the Dark Lord] ran among Beren’s folk so that they believed evil things” of Lúthien’s people. These two clans should have been allies, but instead, they mistrusted each other, hardly better than enemies. In my own life, I’ve seen prejudice...

Anime’s Racial Representation Aug18

Anime’s Racial Representation...

Racial representation is a very hot subject in Western media. There has been many an uproar about Americans and other western countries misrepresenting ethnicity by whitewashing characters or stereotyping. On the flip side, Eastern media, particularly Japanese, sometimes portrays race in unusual ways. The infamous satire Hetalia portrays just about every race under the sun in the most exaggerated style, but I want to take a look at anime that is taking these racial portrayals seriously. Japanese: In most anime, Japanese characters are animated with a variety of hair colours, as opposed to the realistic sole black (with the exception of hair dye). Kallen Kōzuki in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion has red hair, Light in Deathnote is blonde, Amu in Shugo Chara has pink hair, and so on. However, in shows such as Terror on Resonance and Psycho-Pass, characters with hair outside of black or brown are rarer, possibly because they are targeting older viewers. Chinese: In Black Butler, there are two Chinese characters—Lau and Ran-Mao. Lau is portrayed with black hair and small eyes, while Ran-Mao has larger eyes and black hair. Both are always seen in authentic Chinese garb, though this may also be due to the Victorian time period. Other Chinese characters include: Code Geass’s Xingke Li, Darker than Black’s Hei, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s Ling Yao and May Chang. Vietnamese: In Young Black Jack, the show takes place during the Vietnam War. At one point the characters travel to the Vietnamese front where they encounter many Vietnamese citizens including their translator Phan. The citizens are shown with darker skin as is accurate, but for some reason any Vietnamese spoken is muted then translated by Phan into Japanese. Other Viatnamese characters include: Sakura Wars’ Coquelicot. Indian: Also in Black Butler are the characters Prince Soma and Agni. They are shown...

Darth Vader and Beauty’s Beast: Loving the Unlovely Aug16

Darth Vader and Beauty’s Beast: Loving the Unlovely...

I missed the original release of Star Wars by a decade and the first printings of Beauty and the Beast by several centuries, but both stories have marked me with their retellings and reiterations. Fairy tales are famous for being re-imagined, but “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” has more in common with “once upon a time” than one might expect. The same stories keep getting retold despite an endless appetite for novelty. I believe it’s because people ache to be rescued; humanity keeps telling stories about how we can be saved. The stories of the Skywalkers, Belle and the Beast evoke a slippery mixture of loss and longing that is difficult to articulate but all too easy to identify with. Much like Darth Vader, the Beast lives in a tortured silence; neither is what they once were and each lives a half-life. Vader is the emperor’s weapon, more machine than man, and the beast hides in angry shame. Both villains live with longing, and so Vader disobeys orders and spares Luke’s life while the Beast risks his life to save Belle from ravenous wolves. At the heart of both stories is a tale of redemption, about how the unlovely can be loved better—and become something beautiful. In both cases, these villains choose redemption, not because they were heroes all along, but because of sacrifice. Growing up, I naturally identified with both Luke and Belle. I was an imaginative, bookish kid who longed to go beyond the backyard that was my moisture farm, my little provincial town. As I’ve read and lived more I realized I wanted to be them not because I saw myself in them, but because I wanted to see myself in them. Ever since I discovered...

Stuck Between Two Worlds Aug14

Stuck Between Two Worlds...

Anime is by no means a diverse art form. I sometimes remind myself of this, because when I watch anime, I see diversity. I see characters that share cultural similarities with me in stories taking place near the country where my mother was born. But I also recognize that anime characters are predominantly Japanese; it takes animators who are willing to challenge the norm, like Shinichiro Watanabe, the genius behind Cowboy Bebop, to explore race in media that typically shies away from it. Perhaps that’s why Kids on the Slope, Watanabe’s tale of jazz-loving teenagers in 1960’s Japan, is so easily able to demonstrate diversity sometimes comes with discomfort, a theme that resonates strongly with me. Kids on the Slope features the story of Kaoru, an honours student and gifted pianist, and his budding friendship with Sentaro, a known delinquent and skilled drummer. The two bond over Sentaro’s love of jazz music, and as Kaoru invests in his new friend’s life, he discovers that Sentaro is an incredibly kind and compassionate young man whose troubled life is rooted in mistreatment from his grandmother and adoptive father. The reason for his abuse? Sentaro is biracial, the son of a Japanese mother and a white American sailor. Being taunted as “slanty eyes” or asked if I understood gibberish intended to sound like Chinese drew attention to me. I don’t carve the same big, muscular figure that Sentaro does, nor was I a delinquent, but I am the son of a white military man and an Asian mother. I, too, had to navigate both worlds growing up. It was sometimes confusing. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my Asian features, which are more dominant than my Caucasian ones, and even though I adopted many practices...

Avoid Stereotypes with your D&D Character Aug11

Avoid Stereotypes with your D&D Character...

Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular tabletop RPG on the planet and offers a nearly endless list of races, classes, and adventuring archetypes to choose from. And because certain races offer certain bonuses, there are a lot of common combinations that you’re likely to see at a tabletop near you. Half-elf paladins, wood elf rogues, and half-orc barbarians are great builds that maximize the strengths supplied by their lineage. But why not do something more interesting? Here are a few examples of characters that play against their racial typecasting and offer a whole new world of heroic story options. Jebeddo Ningel  – Gnomish Barbarian Barbarians are often created to be colossal meat shields: soaking up and dealing a ton of melee damage. What about a character whose physical size isn’t that impressive, but finds their power from another source? Jebeddo had lived his whole life in Springwood Forest. For generations, his family has acted as guardians of the secluded wood, keeping the spirits of the forest in harmony and dealing with whatever minor threats would occasionally bare their teeth. Jebeddo wanted nothing more than to be a druid like his grandfather, Darmic, and spent countless hours meditating with the spirits of the forest in hopes of forging a bond with them. During one of these sessions in the serene surroundings of the Springwood, a towering bear spirit crashed through the trees and spoke of a coming danger—an orcish horde bent on harvesting the forest into firewood and instruments of war. The bear spirit offered itself to Jebeddo to aid in the defence of its home. “At last!” He thought. His moment as a druid of the forest had finally arrived. But instead, the spirit caused an eruption of strength to course through his...

Living in the Fire Nation Aug09

Living in the Fire Nation...

Imagine that you lived in a world where all nations got along. Then, your nation suddenly attacked the rest of the nations, attempting world domination. According to the opening of Avatar: The Last Airbender, that was what happened in their world. The Air, Water, Earth and Fire Nations lived in harmony, “then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.” Now, a world that didn’t know strife was in need of a saviour—an Avatar, a master of all four elements. It takes a special kind of person to think that world domination is a good idea; and I don’t mean special in a good way. It’s an expensive proposition—it costs lives, money, comfort, safety, and identity. More importantly, it costs your soul. Because, if you are so full of hubris that you believe your way is the only right way, that you are so much better than everyone else, that you should rule all, that other people’s rights and dignities are negotiable according to what suits you… if you have placed yourself in the position to judge others, then you have set yourself up as God and that’s always a losing proposition. We are emperors of our own little worlds, oppressing others not by force, but by indifference. When Firelord Ozai gathered up an army and sent them to take over the world, there must have been some confusion among the people. I have often wondered how the average citizen in such a regime would feel about what was being done in their name. What did the average Roman feel during the rise of the Empire, or the Canadian and American settlers as indigenous people were being relocated or wiped out? Did they believe the Manifest Destiny (or whatever that particular group called it) rhetoric,...

With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography Aug07

With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography...

“I’m offended.” This phrase has become emotionally laden, and all too often used in North American culture to gain unearned power over whatever or whomever has caused the “offense.” But if I’m offended by someone, does that give me special rights? If anything, being offended confers responsibility: responsibility to address the source of offense, to explain my point of view, and, perhaps most importantly, to listen to the other perspective. That’s a lot of work, however; no wonder the path of least resistance leads to Internet trolling and flaming tweets instead. So, here am I; I’m offended. I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming in theaters and loved its portrayal of a kid struggling to understand what it means to be a hero. The next day, I read a review by Ben Kayser, Managing Editor of Movieguide, the self-described “Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment,” which not only described the film as poorly written and badly directed, but also took issue with a single line that the headline claimed “might have ruined” the entire film. Kayser took offense at the line “I was… looking at… porn?” Peter Parker’s friend Ned says this during the climactic battle when he’s providing logistical support in the school’s computer lab. Doing his best to assist his buddy as “the guy in the chair,” Ned gets busted by a teacher who demands to know what Ned is doing. Not wanting to betray Peter’s secret identity, Ned offers this plausible but shameful excuse.  Kayser found this “irresponsible and frustrating,” believing the line to be an attempt to render porn consumption “normal and acceptable.” I stewed over this for a couple of days before I finally worked out why I was irked: Kayser was offended.  Reading his article and review, I realized that he was offended that Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t measure up to his values. This is illogical because the only way to ensure that any artistic endeavour measures up to your values is to produce it yourself, by yourself. As any artist will attest, the moment another person becomes involved in your project, compromise begins. I don’t agree with Kayser that people of faith have to compromise anything in watching this film. Despite Kayser’s offense, porn consumption is normal, or at least it has become so in our society. Most famously, Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal had to restructure his  study comparing men who consumed porn with those who hadn’t because he couldn’t find any control subject in their twenties who had never consumed porn. On this point, I agree with Kayser: this is not acceptable, for a variety of reasons. I don’t agree, however, that it’s a cause for hand-wringing and finger-pointing, or throwing rotten tomatoes at an amazing film. I suggest, rather, that this is an opportunity, a chance to have a discussion. Porn users are not a proud bunch. We might be willing to acknowledge and detail usage in an anonymous Internet survey, but none of us are going to list it as an accomplishment on our curriculum vitae. There won’t be any “Porn Pride Parades” coming to your community anytime soon. You might know someone who is upfront and casual about using porn, but for the rest of us, it’s a source of shame and we are only as healthy as our darkest secrets. If nothing else, Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. I took my eleven-year-old son to this movie, and I will be using this moment to have a frank and open discussion with him about pornography; where Kayser takes offense, I see opportunity. My son wants to be like me; I want him to be better. Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. Kayser also doesn’t seem to understand that acknowledging that something is occurring is not the same thing as condoning it. If...