Kubo and a Life Defined by Story Sep02

Kubo and a Life Defined by Story...

“If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to what you see no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away even for just one second, then our hero will surely parish.” These words, repeated throughout Kubo and the Two Strings, indicate the movie is all about story. Most specifically, the way that stories shape who we are. Kubo begins each day by telling tales of warriors, monsters, and quests to the villagers with the power of animated origami. But his story is tied to his wounded mother, a fear of his grandfather in the moon, and a father who gave his life to save him. While he has heard the stories of these things, he doesn’t fully believe them until he meets the people who stole his eye. Kubo’s Mother Kubo’s mother has a story as well. She was an assassin sent to destroy Hanzo, the brave warrior, who was searching for three magical artifacts that would give him the power to care for the people of the world. She was cold, calculating, perfect in her hardness, and her story would have continued on that way but for four simple words spoken by Hanzo: “You are my quest.” Her story is invaded by love and through love she is forever changed. Her sisters and her father think that love has made her weak, destroying the perfection of the porcelain life her sisters still live, but her love has made her strong and gives her the power to overcome, as well as to protect and defend others. Some say that we are the sum of our choices, but that feels like it reduces who we are to a mathematical equation. I have known love and it has changed me. My...

All About a Baby Aug19

All About a Baby

There once was an evil queen whose destruction was foretold in legend. The bringer of her destruction was to be an infant, and this infant would be known by a birthmark. And so, when the prophesied time had arrived, the queen inspected every child born in her kingdom. When the baby was found, she sought to kill her, but a good midwife placed the child in a basket in the river where it was discovered by a kindly halfling wife who, naturally wanted to adopt her. The baby’s innocence and vulnerability evoked compassion from the good woman; and so, to the dislike of her husband, Willow, the baby was taken into their home and given asylum. Until… Well, the story features unlikely heroes, alliances, conversions, epic battles, faeries, magic and monsters—you know—all the things that make a fantasy story great. The baby isn’t really a main character, because babies don’t do much. But, she is the main theme. Her safety, and the hope that she represents, are what spur the characters on. The baby is at first hated—the evil queen, Bavmorda, believes that if she kills the baby, her monarchy will remain intact. To end a young, innocent life is convenient and so she has no qualms about doing it. That’s the thing about evil, it has no concern for another’s welfare. It is devoid of nature, because our nature is to love. A few relatively powerless people get involved—first the midwife, then Willow’s family, and two silly sprites. But, it’s not power that will win here—power is what Bavmorda has. When the baby is at Willow’s house, Bavmorda’s scary dog creatures ransack his village looking for the baby. When he reveals that he has what the dogs are looking for, Willow is charged...

The Definitive Harry Potter Fan Art Collection Aug11

The Definitive Harry Potter Fan Art Collection

In honour of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child‘s recent release, feast your eyes on this collection of amazing fan art from the original Harry Potter series! Share your favourite piece on social media with a link back to the artist and the hashtag #SupporttheGeeks. And tell us what you thought of the play. Did you read it? See it? Hate it? Love it? 1. Back at Hogwarts by Alea-Lefavre 2. Harry Potter by HitoFanart 3. Harry Potter by tsulala 4. Winter Hogwarts by kissyushka 5. HP – Ginny Weasley by dido6 6. Harry Potter VS the Horntail by JoniGodoy 7. McGonogall by Lasse17 8. Hogwarts and the Whomping Willow by danidraws 9. Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy by auroreblackcat 10. Severus Snape =3 by speedportraits 11. The Death of Fred by viria13 12. Harry Potter VS Voldemort...

Being Earth, Wanting Air, Needing Fire Aug03

Being Earth, Wanting Air, Needing Fire...

I love thinking about what sort of character I would be in another universe. I’m pretty sure most geeks do, and we love talking about it—whether it’s retelling a recent exploit as a rogue in Dungeons and Dragons, choosing a lightsaber colour, or picking our backpack in Pokémon Go, we are fans of character specialization and creation. Therefore, after watching an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender at one of Geekdom House’s Bible study nights, I was immediately intrigued by the question, “What kind of bender would you be?” It didn’t seem like a very in-depth question for study, but I was immediately too busy customizing my personal avatar (see what I did there) to focus on that. I hadn’t thought about this one before, and my answer was unexpected. My first inclination was water, and it’s true I do have some waterbending traits, like a calm personality and a desire to keep the peace. But then my mind went to earthbending and I realized that had to be me. Like all other bending, earthbending comes with its pros and cons. Recognizing them, being more aware of my personality traits, tendencies, and habits, can help me be a better friend, worker, leader, and God-follower. I can be incredibly stubborn and I don’t like change. I can dig in my heels when I don’t want to do something (which can be good if it’s something that is bad for me, but less good if it’s something I need to do). I face problems head-on, not because that’s my natural response—I’m more inclined to Aang’s trying to find different paths around an issue—but because I make a conscious choice to do so. I don’t like my tendency to indirectness, to hinting at an issue, to passive-aggressiveness,...

Call Me Treebeard Jul01

Call Me Treebeard

Call me Treebeard. Hrum, Hoom… If I lived in Middle-earth, I’d be an Ent. Like Treebeard, my motto is “Do not be hasty.” But, also like Treebeard, I might take you for a small orc and step on you if I don’t first hear your voice. I’m also cautious—if I’m going to develop a relationship, I won’t rush into it, and I prefer to ask the questions rather than reveal a whole lot about myself before I know who I’m dealing with. And to make matters worse, I’m a Christian—and not just any kind of Christian, but the slowest of all Christians—I’m Catholic. And nothing is slower than the Catholic Church at making decisions. The language of my faith is “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking the time to say, and to listen to.” If you don’t believe me, go to a Catholic Mass. Or read an encyclical. Or an exhortation. Like the Ents, we take forever to make a decision—the Church will “room tum, room tum, roomty toom tum” for years and years before we change anything. I recently participated in a three-day meeting as part of a process in my diocese to re-imagine the way we “do Church” on a parish level. It was a response to declining numbers in all things Catholic because, no matter what was going on around us, we were doing the same stuff over and over, hoping for a new outcome. Many of our trees are getting sleepy and less Entish… But, getting Catholics (clergy and laypeople) to think about doing things differently—even when it’s a matter of self-preservation—is like convincing Ents to storm Isengard;...

Becoming Stone May25

Becoming Stone

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel emotions at all. Sure, the good ones are great; who doesn’t want to feel joy, hope, satisfaction, or delight? But the bad ones terrify me. Grief, fear, regret, loneliness… no, thank you. In the Song of the Sea, Ben begins his life as a happy child with a loving father, Conor, and a gentle mother, Bronach, who loves to teach her son stories and songs. One of her many fantastical tales is about the Owl Witch Macha. Long ago, Macha’s son endured a great tragedy, plunging him into despair. Because Macha couldn’t bear to see the pain in her son, she turned him into stone. However, she didn’t stop there. On Halloween night, she sent out her owls to cleanse faeries and humans of their emotions. Soon after telling her son this story, Bronach dies while giving birth to Ben’s younger sister, Saoirse. Years later, Ben has grown bitter and jealous of Saoirse. Negative emotions surround him—from his own jealousy and terror of the sea that surrounds their lighthouse home, to a grieving father, to a cynical granny. I imagine there were many times he wished he could be turned to stone like the faeries in his mother’s story. It is when Granny takes Ben and Saoirse to the city that he learns his sister is a selkie and that she has the ability to play a shell that releases faeries from stone prisons. His mother’s story is true. After Macha captures Saoirse and Ben, he confronts her. The Owl Witch feels that she needs to rid the world of “nasty emotions” because “nobody needs them,” that they make everyone “feel awful.” So deep are her ideals, she even draws the good and bad emotions out of herself...

10 Cloverfield Lane: Monster vs. Saviour May23

10 Cloverfield Lane: Monster vs. Saviour...

I sit a helpless bystander watching the dysfunction and horror play out on the screen. I am a powerless observer of a tiny underground bunker, bearing mute witness to the horror of humankind. I watch a young woman named Michelle move about an environment less and less safe, while her “saviour” Howard seems to become a monster; my suspicions are reinforced by his quiet little voice and pathological lack of emotion. I can’t offer escape, I can’t yell for help, I’m a bound observer to a monster sitting in front of me masquerading as a protector. He speaks nice words and presents his case in a fair way. He’s saved Michelle from death; there had been an unknown attack on the outside world and he was keeping her safe. So he’s a little old fashioned, a bit unusual, somewhat reserved… wouldn’t anyone who had the forethought to build a bunker in case of the apocalypse be a little less normal? Maybe he’s just misunderstood. I mean, he’s got a family and a story and good reasons for all that he is doing. Is it wrong to expect a little respect for saving everyone from death? You can’t blame him for being a little closed off, after all he doesn’t know them very well. For all he knows, they are the psychopaths in the room… Yeah, we’ve all heard that one before. We’ve seen this story play out time and time again. Oh sure, he doesn’t mean to get angry, he’s just passionate. He doesn’t mean to lash out, he doesn’t mean to scream, he doesn’t mean to cause so much damage… except as time goes on, the excuses wear thin and you realize he does intend harm. He does mean to hurt. He does...

The Sacred Texts of Geek Culture May11

The Sacred Texts of Geek Culture...

There are certain texts (and I am using the word “text” here to encompass TV shows, movies, books, and games) within geek culture that have achieved “sacred” status. Some of these include The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Firefly, Chuck, The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Offer any critique of these texts and the fandom takes up arms, calling for the heads of those who dare to say a bad word about them. But can’t I critique something and love it at the same time? Engaging a text critically means asking questions about characterization and representation. How are women, people of colour, and body types portrayed? Do the female characters have agency? For people of colour, how many of them appear in the text? Do they have meaningful dialogue, or are their lines just filler? (See these videos of “Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in ‘Harry Potter’” and “Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in ‘The Lord of the Rings’“). In terms of bodies, what types are included; are fatness and ugliness signifiers for evil characters? “Critical” also means being aware of the privilege and biases you bring to a text. For example, I recognize that, as a white person, I will read any character as white unless they are assigned a specific race. This is because “white” is my bias, and “white” is also the default race in the majority of books and films. But can’t I critique something and love it at the same time? Big Ideas vs. Subtle Codes I recently had a conversation with a friend about how the portrayal of women as weak in early sci-fi contributes to the larger problem of misogyny in geek culture, and his response was that...

Zuko’s Prodigal Mom May09

Zuko’s Prodigal Mom

When I found out that there was a trilogy of graphic novels, The Search, that told the story of Zuko’s Mom from Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was desperate for it. The relationship between Zuko and Ursa appeared to be very tender and very formative of Zuko’s young life. I was intrigued by her character and was dying to know what happened to her. The Search takes place after the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai and the establishment of Zuko’s reign. Things are pretty peaceful in the Fire Nation, so having received some info on his mother, Zuko decides to go looking for her, leaving the kingdom under the watch of Uncle Iroh. He takes along his friends and Azula (who is completely nuts and seeking revenge on her mother) with him. Before Ursa had disappeared, she had been in some of the worst circumstances a woman could find herself—forced to marry a cruel and abusive man she didn’t love and required to publicly play the part of a princess that she never wanted to be. She attempted to protect her children from her husband’s tyranny and ultimately had to abandon them for their own sake. So much of motherhood is forgiving and being forgiven, forgetting and choosing not to forget. After she runs away, Ursa goes back to the town she grew up in and reconnects with the man she wanted to marry, Ikem. Having rediscovered her true love, she also becomes aware of a spirit called the Mother of Faces. The Mother has the ability to change the appearance of anyone, which seems like a good idea for someone being hunted by the Fire Lord. Ursa is conflicted with whether she should stay away or watch her children from afar. Ursa: There’s so much about my life in the royal palace that I want to leave behind…but I’m a mother now. You understand? I can’t leave my children behind. But, if I got a new face… a new identity… maybe I could return to the capital city undetected! Maybe I could at least see my children again… make sure they’re okay! Ikem: But what then? Would you stay in the city, hoping to catch a glimpse of them from time to time? Watch them grow up from afar? What kind of life is that? Ursa: You don’t know what it’s like. They’re always here. A part of me wonders what they’re doing… wonders if they’re happy or sad or in pain… always. It’s torture. The Mother of Faces offers Ursa a new mind, as well as a new face. She will have the opportunity to forget all of her painful memories. I’ll admit—I’ve spent my whole life wishing for a different face, and the idea of forgetting everything and starting over is, at times, extremely attractive (I have not been above threatening to run away from home from time to time). But I know because of the crazy love I have for my kids, I couldn’t actually go through with it if I was offered the opportunity. Ursa, on the other hand, makes the choice to forget herself and her children—she takes on a new face, a new mind, and a new name. Zuko and the gang are successful in discovering Ursa (now named Noriko) and when she is confronted with the story of who she really is, her memory is recovered. She is able to be reconciled to who she is, and to her son who never stopped loving her and never gave up on finding her. I believe that his selfless love, in part, made her able to embrace her true self—to become who she was meant to be. In their recovery of one another, they are both healed in memory—not losing it, but being restored to joy by accepting it. The idea of forgetting everything and starting over is, at times, extremely attractive. Motherhood is...

Galadriel and the Long Defeat Apr27

Galadriel and the Long Defeat...

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. Those are Galadriel’s words at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. I recently re-watched it and, as with every re-watching, something new struck me. First, how awesome it is that the first voice in a movie dominated by men is a woman’s. And, second, that it is actually incredibly fitting for Galadriel to be the narrator, to fill the audience in on all the events that have contributed to the Ring’s birth and rule. A Brief Portrait Not much of Galadriel’s story is told in The Lord of the Rings. For that, readers have to dig into The Silmarillion, several volumes of The History of Middle-earth, and a few of Tolkien’s letters (there’s also a good summary of her life here. Some of the main details: Galadriel was born in Valinor (Tolkien’s word was “awoke”). Her father was Finarfin, youngest of the three sons of High King Finwë.  She defended her mother’s people of Alqualondë against Fëanor and his sons during the First Kinslaying. She made the incredibly difficult journey over the Helcaraxë (the Grinding Ice) into Middle-earth. She settled in Doriath, where she met Celeborn and learned the mystical arts from Queen Melian. She survived the fall of every Elven kingdom in the First Age. During the Second Age, she and Celeborn lived in in Lindon, then Eregion (where the Rings were forged) and then Lindórinand, which became Lothlórien. She is the keeper of one of the Three Rings, Nenya. There are two reasons why I mention these details. One, it is important to know just...

The Heart of a Girl on Fire Apr25

The Heart of a Girl on Fire...

Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire, is a symbol in her dystopian world of Panem. In the story, she touches the hearts of the districts, yet I’ve often heard people who’ve seen the movies describe her as calloused, mean, and even heartless. How can someone with those descriptors be a positive emblem of hope for a fictional nation and millions of viewers across our globe? I believe that despite Katniss’s harsh exterior cultivated by her background, she has a compassionate heart that surpasses even Peeta Mellark’s. Self-Sacrifice in The Hunger Games Katniss volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Prim, in the Hunger Games. This is the catalyst of the entire story, but she furthers this sacrificial nature in her protection of Rue during the Games. Katniss doesn’t even know Rue well, but the District 11 girl’s innocence and similarities to Prim spur Katniss to fight for her. This movie brings out Katniss’s sacrificial nature the most. The scene where she decorates Rue with wildflowers after her death is her way of showing her love for a girl she barely knew and rebelling against the Capitol. Compassion in Catching Fire When the Peacekeepers raid District 12, Katniss notices the elderly Greasy Sae is injured. Katniss takes the old woman aside and gently uses a cold cloth to help her eye. During tribute training in the Capitol, Haymitch and Peeta urge Katniss to ally herself with the bigger, stronger victors. Who does Katniss choose? The rejects and the elderly. She connects with these “lesser” individuals—namely, Mags, Beetee, and Wiress. She sees past their seemingly weak exteriors and recognizes their skills. More importantly, she values them as human beings. Amidst the 75th Hunger Games, Wiress is in shock after enduring a trap that coated...

Cheat Taxes, Not Death Apr15

Cheat Taxes, Not Death...

When I was young, I wanted to live forever. That would be so cool, I thought. I could use all that time to learn languages, read all the books I ever wanted to read, see all the movies I wanted to see. Let me be clear here. When I talk of immortality, I mean physical immortality. As in NOT dying. I’m not talking about an afterlife or heaven. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to hang around on earth and continue living this life. Now, obviously my definition of “cool” left much to be desired, but I think there is something quite profound about my childish wish to live forever. Though I didn’t realize it at the time (I hadn’t gotten around to reading all those books), the desire for immortality is at the heart of various myths, legends, and stories: from the Gilgamesh’s question for immortality in the epic that bears his name, to the quest for the Holy Grail, to the stories of alchemy and the mythical fountain of youth. Many people have told stories about the search for a method to cheat that most mysterious of all human experiences, death. And I think that it’s that very thing that makes death so important: it’s something we all go through. They say the only two certainties are death and taxes. Well, some people have been able to cheat on their taxes. No one I know has cheated death. In an attempt to live forever, Voldemort loses his human life. And I don’t think my younger self was out to cheat death. I can’t remember thinking that. Certainly I am not aware of an experience of death that would have triggered that kind of response. I just felt there was so much...

Of Mice and Words Apr13

Of Mice and Words

It all started with a mouse. No, not that round-eared rodent in red shorts and yellow shoes. A much meeker mouse in a green novice’s habit and over-sized sandals. A mouse whose simple courage sent him on a quest to find an ancient sword (because what is fantasy without an ancient sword quest?) and who saved his abbey from an army of evil rats. His name was Matthias and he taught ten-year-old me that even the smallest person could change the course of the world if they were willing, kind, and brave. The Redwall series—a literary franchise where gallant woodland warriors overcame evil vermin invaders—not only kickstarted my love for fantasy (and furries), but also built a safe-haven for me to learn and grow in. Author Brian Jacques was like a grandfather to me and a household name to my family. I’ll never forget volunteering at my local library the day after his death, reverently sorting his books in the YA section and thinking that the world would never see another of his magnificent novels. He wrote for blind children, and as a result also reached children-at-heart and cynics who had turned a blind-eye to better things. Fifteen years after picking up my first Redwall novel and inhaling the musty smell of its pages, Jacques is still my favourite author. That’s more than my nostalgia talking. A part of me feels indebted to Jacques and his woodland warriors. Like Aesop of old, Jacques used familiar animals to express big ideals in a way even the smallest person could grasp. Mice were his favourite. They weren’t as tough as badgers, as skilled as hares, or as agile as squirrels, yet Jacques most often chose mice to inherit the famed sword of Martin the Warrior throughout...

Always: The Immortal Love of Severus Snape Apr08

Always: The Immortal Love of Severus Snape...

“Always.” It’s a word that we overuse. (“I always say ‘thank you.'” “You always eat all of the cheese sticks.”) Most people, in reality, don’t do things so consistently. But when Professor Severus Snape said “always,” not only did he use it correctly, truthfully, and lovingly, he used it in the most perfect way possible. It was a most profound statement that I believe resonated with readers everywhere. For Harry Potter fans, this word has become something of a mantra—particularly when the man who so amazingly portrayed Snape in the movie series, Alan Rickman, passed away. For me, finding out that the actor had passed was like experiencing Snape’s death all over again. He was a great actor and his roles meant a lot to many people, but he will especially be Severus Snape to me for all time. The “always” that Snape says is a testimony to his unending love for Harry Potter’s mother, Lily—but the word only has meaning because of how he chose to live after her death. Snape loved Lily from the moment he met her, loved her through the years that she dated the man that bullied and tortured him, loved her through her marrying that man, and loved her through her death and beyond. She had not chosen him and, in her death, the certainty of her never being able to choose him became a reality. “But this is touching, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Have you grown to care for the boy after all?” “For him?” shouted Snape. “Expecto patronum!” From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded...

Let’s (Not) Start at the Very Beginning: The Origins of Jessica Jones Mar25

Let’s (Not) Start at the Very Beginning: The Origins of Jessica Jones...

Jessica Jones has done something unique in terms of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Peggy Carter, the show is connected to the world of the Avenger films. However, it works as a mature (and I can’t stress that word enough) stand-alone creation, developing its own individual characters and stories. Perhaps more interesting, Jessica Jones complicates the usual superhero narrative arc we have come expect and might suggest how future Marvel stories should be told. Even though Jessica Jones does not have the name recognition with the general population as Spider-Man, the Hulk, or Captain America, the show doesn’t spend much time explaining who she is, how she got her powers, or why she feels the need to use her abilities to help people. But in terms of Kilgrave, the show’s villain, origins are very important and his origin story is used to develop further the true terror of his powers of manipulation. Kilgrave uses (a version of) his story to evoke sympathy and to manipulate Jessica, as well as the audience. Origin stories have an important place in comic books. These narratives serve the functionary role as a necessary prologue for the real adventures of a hero. And it’s only expected that those narratives would be featured in film and television adaptions. Filmmakers continue (often unwisely) to return to origin stories when making superhero films, often shoehorning that narrative into a large story. Many were justifiably annoyed that the producers of The Amazing Spiderman opted to rehash the well-trod details of Peter Parker’s transformation into the friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, particularly as Sam Raimi had covered the same material only a decade earlier in Spiderman. What we say about our own origins and how we frame our origin stories shape the...

The First Avatar Mar18

The First Avatar

The Avatar was born from two desires: to change a circumstance and to right a wrong. Ten thousand years before Korra and Aang, there lived a man named Wan who was not content to live in poverty while others hoarded their wealth. His story is told in two episodes of The Legend of Korra Season 2, Spirits. In “Beginnings,” Parts One and Two, we learn that, during Wan’s time, humanity is fractured and at war with the spirits. Humans live in cities built on the backs of giant lion turtles, who protect them from the Spirit Wilds. Benders as we know them do not exist; people receive the gift of whatever element their lion turtle possesses only when they need to venture into the Spirit Wilds to hunt for food. Upon returning to the city, they are required to give the element back. Wan, however, ends up befriending the spirits. Not willing to accept his poverty, he devises a plan to change his own life: he joins the next hunting party to the Spirit Wilds and receives the gift of fire. When they get to the Spirit Wilds, Wan pretends to be too scared to go on and the hunting party sends him back. But, he does not return his fire to the lion turtle and, instead, uses it to lead a rebellion against the wealthy folk in the city. The rebellion fails and Wan is banished. He accepts this, but asks the lion turtle to let him keep the fire so that he can protect himself in the Spirit Wilds. The lion turtle agrees. The spirits are wary of Wan at first. But, after he rescues a cat deer from hunters, the spirits accept him and he spends the next two years living...

A Prince of Amber’s Curse Mar16

A Prince of Amber’s Curse...

Corwin of Amber is a main character I struggle to like. He’s a selfish prince in a constant battle with his own brothers for the crown. There isn’t much else to say, though because the story is told from his perspective, I have to follow along with his problems. Generally, I wouldn’t care about Corwin’s plight. Yet there is one fleeting moment in Roger Zelazny’s fantasy novel Nine Princes in Amber where I do envy him, one moment where he seems particularly human. It is the moment he sets out for revenge. Corwin has been captured and tortured by his brother Eric after trying to overtake the throne. Corwin’s attempted regicide fails and he pays the price; Eric leaves him to rot in a dark dungeon deep under Amber. Here, Corwin meets some well deserved misery. However, Eric treats him so badly (humiliating him in front of the royal family and blinding him, among other things), that it’s hard not to feel sorry for him at this point. In this pitiful state, Corwin takes out vengeance on his brother. Trapped, he unleashes a curse. This is a power all princes of Amber have, but most only unleash it right before death. However, Corwin is so angry and in so much despair that he is able to strike out at his brother using this magic power. He doesn’t know exactly what it will do, but he knows it will make his brother miserable: “I knew that Eric would never rest easy upon the throne, for the curse of a prince of Amber, pronounced in a fullness of fury, is always potent.” Corwin’s curse perpetuated violence; Eric’s curse, hurled against their common enemy, sought a restoration. After that, he escapes from prison and flees into the shadow worlds (every other world is but a reflection of the...

The Thorns In My Side Feb26

The Thorns In My Side...

The moon in the sky is setting in the west. We’re only a couple of days away from the new moon and what is visible above, to quote my daughter, looks like someone tried to use a hole-punch in the sky and failed miserably. We are also a little more than a month away from the longest night of the year on the winter solstice.  More time is spent in darkness than it is spent in light and I wait impatiently for the long days of warm sunshine to return. For whatever reason, human beings have found darkness undesirable. Of course, this may be because our eyes don’t function well in the dark and we get a lot of our cues about sleep, meal times, and periods of activity from the amount of light we receive during the day. Light is so very important to us. By “light,” I refer to the physical manifestation, but also the happy moments in life—the birth of a child, the achievement of a life goal, the marriage to a spouse. These things I’ve experienced and I treasure these memories greatly. But life also has darkness—failure at a job, the illness of a loved one, the sudden death of a family member. These are dark times. In our minds, we suppress these, we avoid talking about them, and, when we do discuss them, we get it over with quickly. We love the light and avoid the dark times in our lives. But the fact is, we need the darkness. I need the thorns in my side. In the book series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams, the theme of darkness, especially darkness of winter and cold, is prevalent.  The story starts innocently enough in times of light and warmth but,...

Leaves from the Vine Feb10

Leaves from the Vine

When I think of all-encompassing love, three things that come to mind are Pai Sho, sage advice, and copious amounts of tea. Uncle Iroh isn’t an obvious character, one that stands out at first. He’s not the protagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender and neither is he the main antagonist; those perspective titles belong to Aang and Zuko. Rather, Iroh is a supporting character, and for the first season of the show, he seems to be relegated to the position of comedic relief. He is more often the cause of Zuko’s anger than not. As viewers, we’re too busy laughing at him ogling over gaudy statues in a pirate’s ship to see that there’s perhaps more to him than his rotund physique. His story unfolds slowly, but Uncle Iroh is nothing if not patient. We don’t learn much about him in the first season because the show is laying the groundwork for Zuko’s story; he’s the one pursuing Aang, and he’s the one we need to worry about. Iroh tags along and gets in Zuko’s way. It’s not until Season Two that we learn that Iroh lost his son, Lu Ten; that as the eldest, Iroh should have been the next Fire Lord but his brother overruled him; that he has suffered just as much pain and loss as Zuko. Without Iroh’s steady, unwavering, constant support, Zuko would have been consumed by his anger. What I find endearing about Iroh is that he endeavours to be what Zuko needs, no matter how often his nephew pushes him away. Iroh is Zuko’s unwavering support. We see this in small ways at first: he defends Zuko to the crew when they think he’s being reckless and selfish. When Zuko attempts to kidnap Aang in the North...

A Misunderstood Redhead Feb08

A Misunderstood Redhead...

A wizard who doesn’t yet know how powerful he is, a genius witch who does, and a poor, often befuddled redhead. One of these people is not like the others; can you guess who it is? I have been rereading (and rewatching) the Harry Potter series lately; inspired in part by a friend of mine who has never seen the movies and by the lack of fiction in my life since beginning my academic studies a few years ago. As I travel through this narrative again, I feel much more attached to the Weasleys, especially Ron, than to any of the other characters. I was a bit surprised when I began feeling this way. In the past, I’ve liked Harry’s personality. I’ve admired his bravery, his dedication to develop himself in his craft, and—later in the narrative—his humble leadership. As well, I naturally connect with Hermione, particularly her drive for academic achievement and her ability to problem-solve. Ron’s more than willing to put himself second to others and to do all that is within his power to help them. Ron doesn’t shine. He doesn’t stand out, except for his flaming red hair. His family is poor and generally looked down on by the magical community. His academic achievements are all thanks to Hermione, and he’s consistently brought along kicking and screaming with Harry and Hermione on their adventures. When you stand him up beside Hermione, the muggle-born witch who is top of her class, and Harry, the Chosen One, Ron doesn’t seem very heroic. He’s not much to aspire to. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Ron is the very kind of person I want to be. Imagine for a moment that Ron and his family never existed,...