The FANtastic Geek Gift Guide Nov25

The FANtastic Geek Gift Guide...

Christmas is coming, folks. And we know gift shopping can be a hassle. What to get your geek buddies that they don’t already to have? What to ask for because no one knows what to get you? We did a Gift Guide to Geek Art already, but thought you might be on the lookout for other ideas too. We did the research for you and have compiled a guide to satisfy every fan’s dream. For the Anime Enthusiast We know RWBY‘s not technically an anime because it’s American; calm down, folks! Calm down. Also, our Small-size editor’s wanted that Attack on Titan hoodie for a long time. Just sayin’. Attack on Titan Hoodie – $34.99 RWBY Ruby Figure – $34.95 Works of H. Miyazaki – $188.99 Crunchyroll Subscription – $6.95/month Princess Mononoke Art Print – $28 Eevee Earrings – $13.16 For the Tabletop Titan No one can understand why the board game organizer is so awesome unless they are a board gamer. Escape: The Curse of the Temple – $70 Dice Bag – $9.95 RPG Dice Set – $9.98 Dungeon Master Screen – $15 Board Game Organizer – $15-$50 King of Tokyo – $39.99 For the Comic Cavalier Marvel’s taking the Star Wars universe to great places… need we say more? Plus some other cool stuff. Star Wars Comics – $4.99 Inky Superhero Art – $30-$75 Superhero Fingerless Gloves – $25 Nimona Graphic Novel – $15.99 Ms. Marvel Comics – $2.99 DC Comics: A Visual History – $35 For the Fantasy Fiend That handmade Falkor, though! Lindsey Stirling album – $9.99 Elf Ear Cuffs – $27.75 The Name of the Wind – $10.79 Handmade Falkor – $131.83 The Grisha Trilogy – $36.53 Game of Thrones Dog Tag – $14.99 For the Sci-Fi Supporter The closest you can get...

They Can’t Stop the Signal Mar21

They Can’t Stop the Signal

Let’s talk about the F-word. No, not that one. The other one—the word considered by some to be just as dirty: faith. The way people talk about it, faith seems no more than a strong willingness to blindly believe something completely unfounded. And Joss Whedon would probably agree with that. I gotta hand it to Whedon for even touching on the issue of faith in some of his films and for doing so in such a compelling way. Whedon’s self-professed preoccupation with spiritual belief is interesting because he also happens to be a self-professed atheist and Humanist. In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, he admitted his fascination with “the concept of devotion” and his desire “to explore that.” However, for Whedon, it is not the object of one’s faith that is important but the strength of conviction that stands behind it. For example, in Serenity, Inara tells the crew that the Operative is not to be taken lightly, that “we have every reason to be afraid . . . . because he’s a believer.”  On another occasion, Whedon uses the character of Shepherd Book to remind Malcolm Reynolds about the need for faith. Mal: “Ah, hell, Shepherd. I ain’t lookin’ for help from on high. That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.” Book: “When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?” Later in Serenity, Book’s dying words to Mal drive home Whedon’s views: “I don’t care what you believe, just believe it.” Sounds pretty Zen, no? The idea that anything goes—what’s the problem with that? There is no denying the appeal of the seeming freedom and self-made meaning Whedon desires. So what if, hypothetically, Mal suddenly decided with great conviction to believe in something morally-reprehensible? Such as, that the behaviour of the Alliance Operative was right? Yes, the one who was responsible for Book’s death and the deaths of Haven’s innocent civilians. Would Shepherd Book really not have cared what Mal ended up believing in? Somehow, I doubt it. (Note to self: make sure my dying words are less vague than “Whatever, man. It’s all good.”) The idea behind Whedon implying that all beliefs are equally valid is called Relativism. One of Relativism’s problems is that regardless of the fervor of my belief—no matter how strongly I might declare that, for example, I am a 400-foot-tall, purple platypus bear with pink horns and silver wings—neither my wishing nor my confidence makes it so. A belief either conforms to reality or not. As a former Humanist, I totally get the appeal of Whedon’s faith in “people power.” Everyone says “believe in yourself!” And sure, that phrase has a nice ring to it. In Age of Ultron, Tony Stark’s bumper sticker in the cockpit of the Avengers’ jet that reads “Jarvis is my co-pilot” riffs off the popular “God is my co-pilot” bumper sticker and signifies that Stark has more faith in something he created himself than in a higher power. Ultimately, Whedon believes that the solution to the failings of the human condition—to the problem of evil and the meaninglessness of life—lies in the optimistic belief that people alone have the power to fix themselves. Whedon’s commitment to Humanism infuses his films through the dominant theme of having faith in other people. There is no denying the appeal of the seeming freedom and self-made meaning Whedon desires when we consider our broken world full of disenfranchised people  who have come to distrust any kind of authority. But if I’m brutally honest with myself about my own failings, the reality of betrayal and, well, humanity’s track record, I have to admit that G.K.Chesterton got it right: “What’s wrong with the world today? I am.” Unlike the illusory nature of Whedon’s Humanism, I believe that the power that lies behind the Christian worldview, on the other hand, is not the power...

Nerely Myself: Con Man and Identity Jan27

Nerely Myself: Con Man and Identity...

“Just be yourself.” This is the oft-quoted advice of a parent or friend before our first day at a new job or when meeting a group of new people. It seems like good advice, but whenever I hear someone give it, I get anxious. Which version of myself am I supposed to be? Am I the life-of-the-party version, trying to make everyone laugh? Do I find a group of people talking about Star Wars and weigh in with my thoughts on Rey ‘s characterization in The Force Awakens? There are a number of versions of “me” I could be, so which one is the right one? When I watched Con Man, I saw Wray Nerely struggle with the same question. Firefly’s Alan Tudyk plays Nerely, a character inspired and exaggerated from Tudyk’s own experiences with fandom and conventions. Famous for his role in a short-lived and much-loved sci-fi TV series called Spectrum, Nerely now lives on the convention circuit, signing posters and smiling while people shout his decade-old catchphrase at him—“I’ll see you in hell!” If I live my life by being who people think I am, I’ll be robbing myself of being who I want to be. Nerely loves his fans. Mostly. Sometimes. He knows he wouldn’t be where he is in life without them, but he resents the fact that they only want him to be the version of him they know from TV. While lamenting at an airport bar, Nerely runs into Sean Astin (or at least a fictional version of Sean Astin) who tells him to milk his mediocre fame for all it’s worth. “They think you’re a spaceship pilot. What’s wrong with that? That’s better than reality. Just be who they think you are.” Throughout the series Nerely can’t seem...

No Greater Good in the ‘Verse Jan01

No Greater Good in the ‘Verse...

I’m drawn to characters with complex morals. I don’t know why. I’m not talking about the Han Solo “kind of a bad guy, but with a good heart” type; I mean characters who have very strong belief systems, understand right and wrong, but make choices that are empirically bad anyway. That’s why I like playing paladins in RPGs. They’re sworn to a code of defeating evil and empowering good, but killing evil people along the way is part of the price they pay for justice. From a paladin’s point of view, murder is bad, but killing a murderer who won’t be stopped otherwise is an act of justice. If they hadn’t killed the murderer, another innocent person might have died. Their actions are always governed by a sense of duty to a greater good and not their own impulses; they are free from the moral weight of such decisions. Something about that idea of justice makes sense to me. But is that what I really believe about right and wrong? The danger of fighting for “a greater good” is that it allows someone to justify things they know to be wrong. The villain in Serenity, referred to as the Operative, illustrates my fascination with this complexity better than anyone. Consider this exchange between Mal and the Operative to see what I mean. The Operative: I’m sorry. If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. You should have taken my offer. Or did you think none of this was your fault? Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I don’t murder children. The Operative: I do. If I have to. Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Why? Do you even know why they sent you? The Operative: It’s not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself....

Why we named our son after science fiction characters Aug12

Why we named our son after science fiction characters...

“You named your son what?” You heard right. Ender Hoban Helo Rudge. That is my, now two-week-old, son’s name. I have always been fascinated by names. I love looking up name meanings. I love experimenting with which names go well together, and contemplating how my feelings about certain names are influenced by people I know. As a child, my dolls had to have extensive extended families just so I could name them all. Naming children though—you know, real live babies— well, the stakes are a bit higher. Not just any name will do. All three of these characters have a powerful story to tell. There is something beautiful about naming a child after a treasured family member or valued friend. I mean, my husband and I did that with kid number one! The problem with baby number two was that nobody had a name we liked enough to pass on. Plus we wanted something unique (not weird, unique). So we turned to the things we love for inspiration: science fiction, fantasy, video games, books, TV shows, movies. And when our son was born on July 27, 2015, we gave him his science fiction-inspired name. Here is why these three names made the cut: Ender In the book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Ender spends his childhood being trained to fight an alien race called the Buggers. Despite obstacles, he manages to win by obliterating the entire alien race during what he believes to be a training exercise. I am not saying our son will grow up to save the entire human race from alien invasion (although, hello, that would be COOL). But Ender was able to defeat the enemy because he understood them and he understood them because he loved them. If he had realized the training exercise was real, he would not have been able to do what he did because he truly loved the Buggers. This compassion is what also leads him to later become the Speaker for the Dead. Ender, as Speaker for the Dead, was also instrumental in shaping my husband’s thinking around how he sees other people and interacts with them. Hoban Hoban “Wash” Washburne (ironically, the character who hates his first name and so goes by a nickname—our son can thank us later that we put this as a middle name) is the pilot of the ship Serenity in the TV show Firefly. Serenity’s crew takes what jobs they can find, sometimes legal, sometimes not. These folks also live in a world where right and wrong are often muddled by simple factors like wanting to survive and eat the next day. Into this, Wash speaks as the voice of reason, often questioning decisions made by the others on the ship, including the captain. While he respects the authority of those in charge, he is not afraid to speak up against it when he feels the situation warrants it. Wash is also a character of compassion and integrity, as demonstrated when he shows compassion to the poor soul in “Bushwacked,” who witnessed a Reaver attack and went mad. Helo Battlestar Galactica is a show littered with a multitude of complex, dynamic characters. Most of them live within some shade of grey as they navigate ethical and moral dilemmas of epic proportions. In this world of grey, Helo shines as the moral compass of the show. His sense of right and wrong doesn’t waver and he speaks out when he senses that others are veering from what is right. You heard right. Ender Hoban Helo Rudge. Helo shows compassion to the Cylons, and is the first human to selflessly love a known Cylon. He changes everything when he and his Cylon partner have a baby. No longer can humans look at Cylons as “Toasters.” They are living creatures, breathing, bleeding, procreating. All three of these characters have a powerful story to tell within their mediums and have impacted me in profound ways. When the movie Serenity came out, I was...

Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. Jul23

Dying is easy. Comedy is hard....

These days, there is no shortage of funny movies on the silver screen or in your Netflix queue. But it’s occurred to me that while so many movies have funny moments, so few of them use the medium to its full potential. Let me explain. First, I am not a film expert by any means, but I am a comedy nerd. It seems to me that a huge percentage of popular comedies these days rely entirely on the dialogue and delivery to get laughs. That doesn’t make them bad movies, but it means they could be podcasts or plays and might be just as funny. Let’s break this down with some examples from some of my favourite geeky directors. Comedy and Dialogue You could scour the ‘verse and not find another director who has done more for mainstream geek culture than Joss Whedon. The creator, writer and sometimes director of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly is a creative force behind the camera. He is every bit a “writer’s director” in that his universes are given life by dialogue and character more than anything else. Let’s take a look at the way Whedon uses his style to set up and deliver jokes. No one has ever said the world needs less laughter. This joke is funny because we know Mal, and we already don’t like Atherton Wing (the guy he stabs). Though it doesn’t rely on the frame or any visual aspect to make it funny, it’s writer’s joke. Another example from Firefly is when Mal tells Simon that Kaylee is dead in the pilot episode. Now this one is a bit different because it uses a lot of filmic elements to support what is still, I think, a writer’s joke. The...

Jokes to make you laugh and cry Jul10

Jokes to make you laugh and cry...

What doesn’t Tara drink? She’s not a fan of shots. What show does Boromir never seem to catch? Arrow. How much did it cost Dr. Horrible to join the Evil League of Evil? Just one Penny. What is Sephiroth’s favourite food? Shish kabobs. How do Reavers clean their spears? They put them through the...

TV themes that we never skip May15

TV themes that we never skip...

Since May is our music-themed month, we will be regaling you with fun playlists every Friday. These are the geek television intros that we never skip, because the music is so good. Either that, or our love for the show is so great that we associate it with the theme. We’re not sure which. Futurama Not sure if the Futurama theme is awesome or super awesome. Firefly I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, no power in the ‘verse can stop us listening to this theme with nostalgia. Warehouse 13 This theme was nominated for an Emmy in 2010, but it would have been put on a shelf and ignored forever. The IT Crowd With all due respect, I have it on good authority that if you listen to this theme more than once, you can break the Internet. So please, no one try it, even for a joke. It’s not a laughing matter. You can break the Internet. Battlestar Galactica This theme music has happened before, and it will happen again. So say we...

Music inside the fourth wall May14

Music inside the fourth wall

While attending a film school in Norway, I was challenged with an assignment to film the same scene twice, with the goal to create two vastly different reactions from the viewer. There was a catch: music wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t impossible, but it was hard. Music is an easy (and powerful) tool to invoke a desired emotion. Taking that one step further—when the soundtrack is actually part of the story itself and not beyond the fourth wall—creates something as powerful as a Balrog in heat. From “Carry On My Wayward Son” blaring loudly in Dean’s ’67 Chevy Impala to the outright comical bane of Lana with Archer’s “Danger Zone,” there is no shortage of unique examples we can call upon. But there are only a handful of absolute masterpieces that not only add to the culture of the show but become pivotal and iconic pieces that completely encapsulate what the story stands for. The music is the duct tape that holds the universe together.Take the legendary work of Tolkien and “Far Over the Misty Mountains,” for instance. Peter Jackson’s interpretation of this song is a positively brilliant opening to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The dwarves sing it as a dirge; it is the mournful cry of a band of brothers, grieving over their lost kingdom. It also foreshadows the destruction that is to come, that not all would leave unscathed, and gives us the unique psychological insight into the dwarves. They knew some of them would die. They are haunted by this, but they all go forward anyway. Then there is the crazy backwater town, Canton, where Jayne Cobb is a folk hero. Our favourite band of spacefarers discover that he’s been pretty much elevated to godhood amongst the people. Fear and dread are instantly washed away and replaced instead with shock, joy and comedy the moment the lyrics pour out. “Jayne.. the man they call Jaaaayyynne.” That song represents a pivotal point in the character of Jayne. That is the moment when Jayne finally begins to question his own selfish intentions. The confused Jayne is forced to deal with selfless sacrifice and in his words, it “Don’t make no sense.” There are only a handful of absolute masterpieces that become pivotal and iconic pieces. In “Out of Gas,” the shuttle captained by Zoe returns before being recalled. Jayne’s shuttle does not. Jayne fumbles with his words trying to explain away why they did not return. If he was the same Jayne before visiting Jaynestown—he wouldn’t have cared. And in “Ariel,” Jayne finally understands who he is, and who is family is. This character arc all begins with the song in Canton. And, of course,“The Rains of Castamere.” How many reaction videos exist on YouTube to the now infamous Red Wedding? In that brief second after the first note is played and before the horrific slaughter, there is a moment of sheer terror. Everyone in the room knows exactly what is coming. As the audience, we feel that moment of terror in the same split second that the characters do. The event remains burned into the hearts, minds, and souls of every Game of Thrones fan, and the moment is scored beautifully with “The Rains of Castamere.” Sometimes I feel like film scores are trying too hard to manipulate me to feel a certain way, possibly to make up for mediocre storytelling. But when the production is amazing and when the story moves me, the music is the duct tape that holds the universe...

All I really need to know I learned from COSPLAYING May07

All I really need to know I learned from COSPLAYING...

Part of being in Geekdom House is participating in the geek culture and community. This past Tuesday (because Dawn always gets in trouble on Tuesdays) was an event that we simply could not miss: Sing-A-Long with Feeling, Once More! It began as a dream of one die-hard Buffy fan, Kendra Monk, and turned into something best described as a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing, except it was comprised of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog and the musical Buffy episode “Once More With Feeling.” The night was made complete with mini-PhD degrees in Horribleness (that we were given to wave around at the appropriate time) and paper hearts that loudly snapped when you broke them (to use during those times when Spike gets rejected). The event was a smashing success. Given the relatively smallness of the event (and the promise of prizes), I decided to give my first go at this thing called cosplay. My first idea—a cardboard adaptation of the Serenity ship combined with a long black haired wig and a name tag that says: “Hi my name is River Tam”—did not work out. Plan B: I thought I could pass for Wash and it was off to MCC Thrift Store and Value Village to make that dream come alive. Along the way I learned a few things about cosplay and about life: 1) Life (like cosplaying) starts with the joy of an idea. Joy in life starts with a day that has a specific purpose and direction. 2) Life (like cosplaying) is better when you’re not comparing yourself to others. It is bad to compare your outsides to other’s outsides but it is infinitely worse to compare your insides to other’s outsides yet for some reason we all do it far too often. You will always fall...

Geek-surrection Apr02

Geek-surrection

The death of a character can be a powerful storytelling mechanism. From the death of Fives, the murder of Aerith, or Boromir’s sacrifice, death shows that there is always a price to pay and ultimately we do not emerge from our struggles without scars. However, what does it mean when storytellers defy death and bring character back from the dead? Resurrection is dangerous territory for a storyteller and needs to be handled wisely; if someone’s death needs to mean something then perhaps their resurrection needs to mean that much more. Leave it to Joss Whedon to kill off his lead not once, but twice Sometimes, resurrection is confused with other plot elements, so let’s begin by defining what resurrection isn’t. Resurrection != Respawn (or multiple lives) Most video games fall under this category. Should you actually “die” the clock is reversed and you have the chance to redo what you did (or didn’t do). The overarching story is completely unaffected by whether or not you died. Resurrection != Reanimation Zombies are reanimated, not resurrected, beings. In stories that involve reanimation (like that one episode of Star Trek Voyager where Ensign Lyndsay Ballard is reanimated by an alien race), it’s usually clear that what makes a person human goes beyond their memories, mannerisms, and corporeal being. Resurrection != Adding to 0 HP Take the latter Final Fantasy games or even Dungeons and Dragons; just because you fall to 0 HP does not mean you’re actually dead. So when that Phoenix Down hits you or your cleric finally gets their act together, it’s more realistically described as going from incapacitated to capacitated. Moving on, here are a few powerful examples of true resurrection found in geek culture. The Cylons come back, the very next day Toasters die only to wake up with all their consciousness intact in a completely new body. The cycle of death is broken through the blood of a pure innocent.To Cylons, their bodies are completely expendable and their countless “suicide” missions highlight that. Resurrection is a literal way of life for them, but take away the safety net of a resurrection ship and each Cylon has a deep crisis of faith. What it means: The intangible and unexplainable of what make us human is worth more than any physical form. Buffy dies and dies again Leave it to Joss Whedon to kill off his lead not once, but twice (and I’m not even including her “death” in Season 1, because I’m not sure it really counts as resurrection). Season 5 is a different story, however. Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn and she is dead. Like, dead dead. After being ensconced in the after-life, Buffy is unceremoniously ripped from heaven and returned to the land of mortality by her friends. She returns broken. Her friends write it off as damage from the after-life (thinking she had been in Hell) but the truth is, Buffy had a taste of heaven and her mortal life now seems like hell in comparison. What it means: Life after death is greater than we can comprehend. Drogo returns While Whedon seems to prefer quality deaths over quantity deaths when it comes to killing of major characters, Martin’s tactics are the exact opposite. That isn’t to say his characters’ deaths carry no weight—I mean, who wouldn’t want Ned Stark brought back? No Stark is returned though. Instead, it’s Khal Drogo who is brought back, and his resurrection is anything but celebratory. Drogo becomes a fraction of who he once was and the cost of his return was great. Daenerys wanted it all, and instead it cost her the life of her unborn child as well as Drogo’s sanity and self. What it means: The cost of life and death must be paid. Harry Potter rises above death Hit with the killing curse from Voldemort, Harry finds himself between life and death in Harry...

The battle of cute and deadly Mar27

The battle of cute and deadly

Tired, old Yoda was strolling along through the Dagobah swamp like nothing was wrong when suddenly Mega Gnar popped out of the mist and pummeled into Yoda with his great, big fist Yoda force-shoved him back, Gnar landed on his feet Gnar leapt away through the air as they both felt the heat of a lightning bolt crashing between them on the ground and Pikachu came tumbling through the air with the sound of “Pika!” he cried as he zapped Gnar away then “Kupo!” Mog the moogle chose to join in the fray for a moment there was silence, when from out of the fog sinking teeth into Mog’s ear was the Rabbit of Caerbannog Then River Tam, Skull the Troll, Reepicheep, Krtek the mole, Mogwai Gizmo, the Duck of Doom, May Chang’s panda and Rocket Raccoon shouted “for Narnia!” and “Bring the pain!” and “I can kill you with my brain.” Killua Zoldyk sauntered in with a sigh dodging every strike like it was easy as pie Gizmo tried with a leap to jump on his head Gnar was standing by a tree and looking kinda fed Nibbler toddled in, confusion on his face Skull the Troll aimed to smash his head in with a mace Then Nibbler bared his teeth, they were ready to rend And he gobbled up the group entirely. So satisfied. The...

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal Mar18

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal...

The best kind of traitor lives in a world of grey. They are not just evil for evil’s sake, but they have motive, they have passion, they are doing what makes sense to them. Even when I want to throw the TV remote at Jayne’s head when he betrays Simon and River during their heist on Ariel in Firefly, I can’t help but understand his desire to leave the cruddy life of space piracy to find a tropical planet to live the rest of his days with the reward money (or, more likely, spend it on his own ship, Vera upgrades, and “other” services). The conflict in him is obvious throughout the show. He’d grown attached to the Serenity’s crew. This was a hard decision. It was possibly made easier because Simon and River were relatively new and they weren’t a part of Mal’s crew. Not to mention he didn’t really like either of them. I don’t think even Jayne could have turned Kaylee in to the Alliance if she was a wanted convict. It is only when Mal shoves Jayne out of the airlock doors that we begin to see the true measure of Jayne’s character. Mal: “I should’ve shot you the second I found out what you did.” Jayne: “That would’ve been the right thing.” Could our scruffy-looking, loot-loving, gun-toting criminal actually be sorry for what he did? When Jayne realizes he’s going to die, he doesn’t plead for his life. He doesn’t try to explain his actions. He says to Mal, “Do me a favour… Make something up. Don’t tell them [the crew] what I did.” This. “I could either move forward or stay in the past. But the only way to move forward was to forgive myself.” This is why...

Companions and the ‘verse Mar02

Companions and the ‘verse...

Prostitution—that delicate word that you don’t bring up unless you’re debating Canada’s new law on the subject. It’s a topic that’s dealt with pretty openly in Firefly, though, as one of the Serenity’s crew is a registered Companion. From watching the show, I get the notion that being a Companion is an elegant and respected occupation within the Alliance, though Mal doesn’t seem to agree. Inara: “You have a strange sense of nobility, Captain. You’ll lay a man out for implying I’m a whore, but you keep calling me one to my face.” Mal: “I might not show respect to your job, but he didn’t respect you. That’s the difference. Inara, he doesn’t even see you.” Mal, in fact, spends a lot of his time trying to protect Inara and takes the chance to detour from her requested destinations as much as possible. Though it seems Inara has quite a high social status, as demonstrated at the end of “Shindig.” The Alliance has made prostitution as safe as possible for Companions, it would seem. Atherton: “Well get ready to starve. I’ll see that you never work again.” Inara: “Actually, that’s not how it works. You see, you’ve earned yourself a black mark in the client registry. No Companion is ever going to contract with you, ever again.” Do we impose the morals of society at large onto those who do not agree with them? This status differs completely for prostitutes who are not protected by the Guild, as we see in “Heart of Gold,” where the crew of Serenity answer a distress call to help out a prostitute. The woman is pregnant and a powerful man named Ranse Burgess has threatened he will take the child if it’s his. It’s apparent the prostitutes deal...

The Wandering Minstrels of C4 Feb25

The Wandering Minstrels of C4...

“To love and serve the nerd and geek community.” That was our small group’s mantra and with Central Canada Comic-Con (C4) less than half a year out, we were frantically brainstorming service ideas. We settled on a plan that used many of the talents present in our small group  and formed the team who would eventually be called “The Wandering Minstrels.” The idea came to me when my wife and I remembered attending one of the coveted pre-screenings of Serenity back in 2005. Full disclosure: we arrive at the movies remarkably early to ensure that we get the primest of seats. So there we are, fifth row from the top, dead centre, and ready to witness what we believed would be cinematic gold. My favourite parts of the day were when someone was brave enough to request a song from us, or even more brave, to come up and sing with us. Even though we were surrounded by other Firefly flans, we felt alone. Sure, there was plenty of conversation happening around us, but it was all contained within small clusters of people. Perhaps it was out of boredom or from being punch-drunk on the anticipation of space cowboy drama, but after a quick whisper, my wife and I broke out into song. “Jayne.. the man they call JAAAYNNNNNNE!” What unfolded was truly a sight to behold (or something to earhold – is that a thing? Spell-check says no). The entire theatre joined us, erupting into song for our favourite loveable, untrained ape. The results were even more remarkable. Exhorbitantly priced snacks were being shared from the top row to the bottom, compliments of fandom t-shirts and cosplay were thrown from one side of the theatre to the other, and these former strangers suddenly found...

Let’s be bad guys! Or good guys? Feb19

Let’s be bad guys! Or good guys?...

I am a flan. I won’t deny it. And no, that wasn’t a spelling error (“flan” roughly translates into “hardcore Firefly fan,” due to a fortunate slip of the tongue by Nathan Fillion). It was no surprise, therefore, that a few of my “loving” friends recently sent me the Cracked.com video “Firefly Crew Were the Bad Guys.” The video and a variety of discussions on the internet about it, some overly profane and some not, raise a lot of great points to their cause: the Alliance are the good guys. *Collective gasp* Here are the basic points of the argument: Zoe: “Preacher, don’t the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killin’?” The Alliance creates order throughout the galaxy by establishing space stations, maintaining a military presence and distributing medicine. Those outside of Alliance “control” tend to be quite unsavoury. Mal and Zoe are biased sources, so their perspective of the “evil” Alliance is skewed. The Alliance has established “freedom of religion” and “safe and legal prostitution.” (Personally, I am not sure the latter is a plus, but that’s just me.) The Alliance has created a strong enough economy that a preacher and a companion can afford space-rent. The Alliance’s treatment of River could be seen as acting as the greater good for society. Here’s the problem with the premise of these arguments (and the beauty of Firefly): humanity is far more complex than simple archetypes of good guys and bad guys. The Firefly crew and the Alliance are all bad guys… and good guys. That is what makes Firefly so grand. We see ourselves in these flawed characters, in the good and in the bad. The world of Firefly swims through the fog of moral grey areas with a relatable grace. Book: “Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat...

The key ingredient to incredible friendship Feb17

The key ingredient to incredible friendship

Good stories require good characters. Great stories require great relationships. Take The Lord of the Rings for example. The fate of Middle Earth depends on the characters and their choices, but what do we talk about most after the story is over? The incredible friendships formed in the crucible of the unexpected journey. Frodo and Sam, Legolas and Gimli, Denethor and those cherry tomatoes—all bonds that the audience gets to watch form and strengthen. While every friendship—from our favourite fictional pairings to our own relationships—looks different, true friendships all have something in common. What is this crucial ingredient, you ask? Read on. The Star Wars universe has no shortage of memorable friendships. C-3PO and R2D2 toe the line between best friends and a feuding married couple. Obi-Wan and Anakin behave like bantering brothers. But the one friendship brought up the most is probably between Han and Chewbacca. Some friends fade in and out of your life, others play pivotal roles for season, and a rare few shape you into the person you are. Han and Chewie bring up a popular dynamic used in the Star Wars canon—the life debt. Chewbacca is a Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk and their culture is built upon a strong reliance on honour. If someone saves a Wookie’s life, that Wookie is honour-bound to pledge their life in service to their saviour. Wookies take this vow incredibly seriously, and to disregard a life debt is to disregard their entire culture. Han was an imperial pilot when he met Chewie, and refused an order from his commander to kill him, later rescuing the Wookie from slavery and sacrificing his career in the military. Chewbacca then becomes Han’s co-pilot and owes him a life debt. But it’s clear that they’ve become something more than obligated partners in a business transaction—they’ve become best friends. They’ve put their lives on the line for one another countless times, forming a bond that runs deeper than any Wookie law. Not every fictional universe has a carefully thought out mythology to a life debt, but this same type of bond between friends exists everywhere. John Watson doesn’t owe Sherlock Holmes his life out of some religious sense of honour, but he still follows the detective into any situation without hesitation, usually at his own peril. Pumba doesn’t save Timon from a rampaging hippopotamus (well, not that we know of), but the inseparable pals still have each other’s backs through lion attacks and rounds of Hakuna Matata. We know true friendships aren’t just about the good times. Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity, doesn’t make friends easily, but when someone earns his trust, it runs deep. When he and Wash are held hostage and tortured, Mal starts to list all sorts of things that he would do with Wash’s wife if they get out alive. Understandably, this gets Wash pretty worked up. We learn later that Mal was keeping Wash conscious by keeping his mind off the excruciating pain. Best friends aren’t just there for the sarcastic banter or the musical number; they’re there for when you’re strung up and electrocuted too. Sometimes a real best friend has to be the “bad guy” and tell someone something they don’t want to hear. How many times did Hermione pull Harry’s and Ron’s butts out of the fire? If not for her obsessive desire for magical knowledge, her wisdom and forethought, the boy who lived would have been killed more than once in the first book alone. Sometimes a real best friend has to be the “bad guy” and tell someone something they don’t want to hear. Hermione not only shows what an awesome friend she is by forcing important but uncomfortable conversations and knowing when to shout, “I’m not an owl!” to inform Harry that he should get over petty squabbles, she gives up everything to help Harry stop Voldemort. Remember that time that...

Doctor Who is my saviour Feb10

Doctor Who is my saviour...

Personally, I miss the days of Battlestar Galactica’s supremacy on TV, but I cannot deny that allure and magic of Doctor Who. Either way, it was my love for Science-Fiction and linking it to things deeper than “who is the best doctor?” that caught the attention of an Anglican mission in Winnipeg, St. Benedict’s Table. Geekdom House was asked to come kick-off their relaunch of ideaExchange. As the title would suggest, ideaExchange is an exchange of faith-based ideas not typically addressed from a pulpit on a Sunday morning. After meeting with Jamie Howison, a priest at St. Benedict’s Table, we came up with the idea to watch, study, and discuss the episode “Vincent and the Doctor.” The episode stars the eleventh (and my favourite because of this episode) doctor, Matt Smith. However, due to technical difficulties the episode could not be played on the night in question, and instead what happened was a semi-improvised discussion about geek culture, community, faith, and why Star Wars episodes 1,2, and 3 were comparable to poorly made Christian films (of which there are a number of examples). Here is the podcast in its entirety, and if you’re interested in listening to more ideaExchange talks, you’re more than welcome to check out the St. Benedict’s Table podcast on...

Unlikely Friendships that Should Have Been Feb05

Unlikely Friendships that Should Have Been

We all know (and love) the many friendships that are exhibited within a variety of shows: Han and Chewy, Frodo and Sam, Mega Man and Rocket, Blanka and your face, you get the idea. But sometimes those friendships are just not enough and we need to reach outside their respective genres for the friendship matches made in heaven. Here are our top 10: Calvin & Chewbacca “You know, Chewy, some days even my lucky Millenium Falcon underpants don’t help.” Hermione Granger & Twilight Sparkle They’ll form a group called S.B.E.W. (Society for the Bookworms of Equestria and the World). Edward Elric & Gimli Sometimes dynamite comes in small packages and can explode at anytime, especially if you mention anything about being short. Tony Stark & Tali-Zorah “Testing rocket boots, Day 11, Test 37, Configuration 2.0. For lack of a better option, Tali is still on fire safety.” Arya Stark & Toph Beifong We just want to see these two take on an army together. Master Chief (John-117) & John the Baptist “But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, one who wears the spartan helmet of salvation and wields the energy sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Sephiroth and Scar Scar would get some much needed perspective—“You wanna be king of a rock? Well I wanna destroy the world with a giant meteor”—and Sephiroth can stop being jealous that he doesn’t have a pet lion like the other side. Mal Reynolds & Doctor Horrible So Doctor Horrible can’t be friends with Captain Hammer, but he can darn sure be friends with Captain Tightpants! Caprica Six & Seven of Nine Separated from the hive collective with a strong desire to gain some form of humanity. It’s kind of true for both. Although Seven of Nine definitely has better taste in men. Jayne Cobb & John Casey “Do you know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I go and get to beat you with until you buy this washing machine.” Certainly we missed a bunch. Which unlikely friendships would you...