Metropolis Maria

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Geeky Childhood Influences

On a recent episode of the podcast The Sci-Fi Christian, the hosts (Matt Anderson, Daniel ‘The Other Guy’ Butcher and Koby Radcliffe) spotlighted their “Top 5 Childhood Influences.” It was a pretty cool episode and got me reminiscing about some of my favorites from my not-quite-misspent youth.

I list them below, honorable mentions first, followed by the top five, ranked from five to one*:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: The prototypical steampunk adventure movie. It was also my favorite ride at Disneyworld.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Spielberg's classic movie about an alien invasion that turn out to be benign.

Incredible Hulk: This was the second superhero series I saw. I think the recent movies (except for The Avengers) fail to capture the pathos of the character.

Mission: Impossible: I loved this uber-cool spy series that relied a lot on misdirection.

Six Million Dollar Man: The series about transhumanism before transhumanism was ever in the public consciousness.

Space: 1999: Yes, I know that the physics were improbable, the plots were often silly and the effects were occasionally dicey. But the designs of the Eagle transport ships were iconic, and still remain among my favorites.

Star Trek (TOS): This was probably the first live action science fiction series I ever saw. 'Nuff said.

Super Friends: More superheroes, I got exposed to other characters I might not have otherwise.

The Wild, Wild West (TV series): Another espionage series. It merged the iconic American Western with the British spy genre typified by the James Bond series. It also can be considered a proto-steampunk series as well as a good example of the Weird Western. It just missed making my top five list.

Wonder Woman I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This was the first live-action superhero TV series I ever saw, and loved the character.

#5 Tintin: When I visited my grandmother, she had copies of a kids' magazine that had serialized adventures of Tintin. I always found the stories to be rollicking good fun.

#4 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Like Space: 1999, Buck Rogers was cheesy good fun, but it had the distinction of being the first current SF series I could watch. It also helped that it connected me to sci-fi's history.

#3 Starlog Magazine: This comes toward the end of my childhood. Starlog was perhaps the first SF fan magazine that really opened m eyes to the breadth of fandom.

#2 Robert A Heinlein juvenile novels: I really got hooked on the possibilities of space travel and the fun inherent in sci-fi by reading Robert A. Heinlein’s novels like Have Space Suit Will Travel, The Rolling Stones, Rocket Ship Galileo, Space Cadet and Between Planets.

#1 Star Wars: And by Star Wars, I mean (for all you whipper-snappers) the original 1977 George Lucas-directed film that you all know and love as “Episode IV: A New Hope.” This was the one that sucked me into the glories of geekdom.

*For the purposes of this list, I am defining “childhood” as middle school and below.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spiritual Lessons from The Tick

I am the wild blue yonder. The front line in a never-ending battle between good and not-so-good. Together with my stalwart sidekick, Arthur, and the magnanimous help of some other folks I know, we form the yin to villany's malevolent yang. Destiny has chosen us. Wicked men, you face The Tick.

Just the other day, I recently watched the entire series run (minus one episode) of the live-action version of The Tick, starring Patrick Warburton.  I was not familiar with the character, and had never seen either the original comic, the animated series or this version.  My initial reaction was unprintable; not because it contained bad language, but because I couldn’t find the words.

In short, it is a funny, silly take on the superhero genre.  I loved the absolutely blithe innocence that the title character has. He has only one drive and that is to fight crime, wherever he finds it. Along with his trusty sidekick partner, Arthur. Arthur, whose moth-inspired costume gets him confused with a rabbit, hasn’t quite figured out his cool superhero name yet.  In addition, the Tick also partners up with two other characters, Batmanuel, a Latin hero who would rather be a lover rather than a fighter, and Captain Liberty, a feminist do-gooder who is employed by the government.

The eight episodes I watched was an entertaining deconstruction of the superhero genre. They focused on themes like how would superheroes function in the real world, how should superhero teams function (i.e., sidekick or partner?), the question of identity, and many others.  Another fun feature is the Tick’s habit of monologuing everything, functioning as the omniscient narrator of a comic book. His tortured metaphors and simple observations of morality are a joy to watch and listen to.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the themes and how they could resonate within the context of Geekklesia.  Our true identity is one we cannot run from. We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and we were created for the purpose of glorifying God (I Corinthians 10:31) and to do good works in His name (Ephesians 2:10). We are not expected to ‘go it alone’ (Genesis 2:18a), but to work in union with other believers (I Corinthians 12:20, 21, 25) to accomplish God’s ministry of reconciling the world to Himself (II Corinthians 5:20).

If you want a superhero series that is silly fun, you could do worse than the Tick, and I would encourage you to think about the themes outlined above.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Snow Queen

Let me begin by stating up front that I am not a ballet guy.

One reason I started this blog was so that I could explore the themes and tropes that I find in in the stories within the geek culture and see how they relate to what Tolkien referred to as “the True Myth.”  So I enjoy speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy and the like.  Those themes are indeed present in many, if not most of the great stories – redemption, self-sacrifice, heroism the overwhelming power of good over the seductive yet ultimately self-defeating temptation of evil.

Speaking of Tolkien, he found much of the inspiration for his great masterpieces from what he called “fairy stories,” tales told and retold by Andrew Lang, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson.  One Anderson story, The Snow Queen, has been adapted by a troupe called Ballet Magnificat, a group based in Jackson, Mississippi by Kathy and Keith Thibodeaux. Kathy is the 1982 Silver Medalist at the II USA International Ballet Competition. Keith is a former child actor who played ‘Little Ricky’ on I Love Lucy and was the drummer for the band David and the Giants. Keith and Kathy see Ballet Magnificat as a way to glorify God through the arts.

This was my second year to see  Ballet Magnificat’s presentation of The Snow Queen. At this point, let me state once again that I am not a ballet guy. Having said that, Ballet Magnificat tells an engaging, scripturally rich tale of good versus evil, the commitment love and friendship, sacrifice and redemption.  This is an adaptation of the Anderson tale, but it is not as loose an interpretation as you might think, and the visuals they use to communicate the message as stunning.

Still not a ballet guy, but I would see this again.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Goals and Resolutions

This is a list of the things I’d like to accomplish by the end of this Year of Our Lord, 2013:

1.  Lose at least 15 pounds.  In order to do that, I need to pay more attention to my diet and get off my rumpus and move (i.e., exercise);

2. Read through the Bible this year.  I will be using a reading plan and Rob Lacey’s edgy Word on the Street paraphrase. Yes, I know its cheating, sort of, but I gotta start somewhere, right?

3. Be more creative.  I like to write some, and I’m drawn toward fiction. I’d like to write some short stories for the Ranger Co. X setting that has been recently published by Asparagus Jumpsuit. I’ve also started what was known in the pulps as a ‘novellette’ featuring my favorite characters from three of my favorite Old Time Radio series, Rocky Jordan, Chandu, the Magician, and The Ghost Corps. I really want to finish this one this year as well.

Also, when I was back in high school and college, I used to kitbash models of spaceships and the like using a hodge-podge of model kits and other bits of plastic. I’ve sort of been itching to do that again.

4. Take the Princess Bride off on a dream vacation. Namely, we have been talking about going to Ireland. We just need to do it. This year.

5. Lastly, but even more importantly, pay better attention to my relationship with Jesus. I have allowed myself way too often to become distracted.  I plan to use Jonathan Edwards’ “Resolutions” as well as John Wesley’s questions for self-examination and William Booth’s Eleven Questions.