Weekly Upload 03/26/22

I had Spring Break! It was great! We took a trip to Seaside for a couple nights, and while our timing was very poor (it rained the entire time we were on the coast), we still had a lot of fun walking the beach and curling up in our ocean view hotel room. It’s always super wild to realize that pretty much the sole source of stress and anxiety in my life seems to be work. Go figure, education’s a stressful field.


I don’t have any new art to showcase this week because I only did one piece over vacation, and it was intended as a gift for a friend. I’ve spent some time thinking about the nature of working digitally, what with the fact that my work only exists in a virtual space and there are barriers to making a thing, if not unique, meaningful as a piece of work for an intended recipient. I’ve never been commissioned to do art for someone, so I don’t know what all the norms are around presentation of a piece. Given the current hoopla around NFTs (may they die a quick and violent death), I think this question of how we assign value to nonphysical works is interesting stuff. Because the piece that I did was intended as a gift, I figured that it would be best not to publish it myself until I had a proper chance to present it to its recipient. Consequently, I spent some time this week exploring print on demand options (there are a lot of them), and ordered a print of my piece for my friend. That’s an unusual thing in itself, since I’ve not bothered to get prints of any of my work before now. I still think of myself as a student, so much of the work I do is ephemeral by virtue of being stuff I don’t want to look at again once my style and technique have grown into something different. It doesn’t make sense to spend money on a print of a thing I’m going to cringe when I see after another few months of practice. For a gift that, if it gets displayed at all, will be put somewhere that I don’t have to look at it on the regular, the ordering of a print feels like a nice way to invest value into the work. “I made this thing, and I also paid to have a physical copy made” suddenly creates a sense of weight about the endeavor that doodles on my iPad typically don’t.

That’s all a long winded way to say that I’m not posting any new art this week because I’m waiting on the gift to be delivered. It’s a fun piece, and I’ll probably talk more about it when I do post it because I played around with some layering stuff that I’ve considered but never actually tried before. It’s all very technical and probably not interesting to anyone but me.


I already shared my thoughts on X Lives/Deaths of Wolverine on Twitter this week. To sum up, I thought it was an event that was perfectly missable if you don’t generally care about Logan stories (I don’t, and I have read enough of them to be very confident in that assessment of my own taste). The moments with Logan’s kids were great because they never get enough spotlight time, and Moira’s transition to full villain was fun with a fair bit of dread sprinkled through. It felt a bit like the X-Office knew they had to get Moira to her new status quo before the launch of the Destiny of X phase and they had a Logan event on the schedule, so they just decided to mash the two together instead of running a separate miniseries for Moira.

Saga #57 came out this week, and after reading it I got this absurd idea in my head that Bombazine, Alana’s new employee in her drug smuggling business, might have appeared somewhere briefly earlier in the series. I’ve spent the last three days re-reading the first 54 issues to see if he pops up anywhere. He doesn’t, and now I’ve stuffed my head with all the pathos of this kitchen sink universe again. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that the series holds up! I’m all torn up about the Phang arc again though. That whole story is just awful from beginning to end.


We watched Luca this week, which catches us up on Pixar’s most recent noteworthy movies aside from Turning Red, which at present is still a Disney+ exclusive. I’m not sure what there is to say about Luca as a movie other than the recent context of Disney’s aggressive heteronormativity in its storytelling decisions makes it easier to look at the movie in a kind light despite the queer relationship between Luca and Alberto being left entirely subtextual.

Spending time at the beach in a hotel meant that Rachael and I got to indulge in one of our favorite vacation pastimes: watching terrible cable TV. We decided to branch out from HGTV, which is a channel that seems designed to induce rage, and instead spend some time with the Food Network. We discovered the massive, byzantine world of the Fieriverse, and I honestly can’t say that it wasn’t a nice place to park the brain. The food looked tasty, and the bullpen of repeating personalities all seemed very pleasant in a way that’s not always guaranteed when you’re talking about food reality TV. If you’re job’s going to be on a cooking show, Rachael and I feel pretty strongly that it must be obvious you enjoy the food you’re working with (this is typically more a problem with judges than with contestants, but the Fieriverse apparently blurs that line as a matter of course).

In the more conventional television landscape, we watched Is It Cake? on Netflix, which is a delightfully stupid show based on an out-of-date meme in the same vein as Nailed It! but with contestants who actually know what they’re doing. The show’s decision to cast a pool of contestants and have them all be present throughout the season regardless of whether they’re competing in a given episode is actually a very refreshing formula. I’m sure it was a pandemic innovation to give the impression of a studio audience without actually having a bunch of people present, but the dynamics it creates among the contestants as they take turns cheering for each other is really sweet. It’s nice to see competition shows where everyone seems to genuinely like each other.

The last big thing we watched this week (Spring Break is TV time, okay?) was the rest of Sex Education Season Two. It sticks the landing pretty well, and Rachael and I have jumped into Season Three now. We’re hoping the quality increase continues, because it’s very fun and the writers did a solid job of giving space for Eric and Adam’s romance to grow believably out of some bad history.

Video Games

I’m still plugging away at NEO The World Ends With You, although I’ve realized that the button mashing I praised the last time I mentioned this game is also causing discomfort in my hand. I don’t know that I’m having complicated feelings about this development, but it’s a weird topic to discuss in general. Video games are such a couch activity, and one that I’ve had since I was a kid, that it’s kind of baffling to recognize my body doesn’t like certain kinds of stress so much anymore. Like, that’s a thing I’m sure athletes go through (I’ve had these same kinds of thoughts about my knees and running), but it almost feels farcical to say that I should move away from certain kinds of games because they make my hands hurt.


Because we went on vacation this week, I took the opportunity to throw together a road trip playlist. I haven’t done that in a few years, and it was a lot of fun to comb over new music I’ve found and curate something for the drive. I was listening to my playlist while doing some yard work the other day and I realized that I apparently have a taste for songs about anxiety. It’s an interesting observation because I see enough actual anxiety at work and among various friends to get that the real experience of it is relatively prosaic and aggravating for the person going through it. Still when songwriters find a good hook for expressing their own insecurities I apparently sidle up and whisper, “Tell me more, please.”


That thing’s still going on. It’s nice that for the most part, folks in my area seem to be pretty nonjudgmental about people who are still masking in public. It’s nice to reflect back to the early days of the pandemic and remember that one of the long-term hopes Rachael and I discussed was a normalization of people wearing masks for health concerns regardless of the potential presence of a debilitating/life-threatening virus. It’s a nice thought to hold on to as people not masking in public is going to become more and more normal going forward.

Coffee Shops

I went to a coffee shop and got a to-go order of chai lattes while Rachael and I were on vacation. We sipped our drinks in our hotel room, enjoying the view and pretending we were actually at a cafe noodling around on our computers. It was nice.

Weekly Upload 03/19/22

I’m on Spring Break this week! We’re going to the beach! Much fun, so excite!

That’s looking forward though. Looking back on the week, things were aggressively fine. The mask mandate ended, and there was not massive social upheaval at work as kids and staff quietly divided themselves up into the done-with-maskers and the nope-not-yet crowd (as well as a smaller third group I think of as the contextuals who let the present moment dictate whether they were masked up or not). Apparently the messaging about witholding judgment of other peoples’ decisions worked well enough. Hooray. We’ll see how things look after a couple weeks and there’s been time to track whether we see a rise in infections coinciding with dropping indoor mask requirements. Otherwise, work was fine, I did some fanart that I like pretty well, and we’re finally opening up into spring time after the long winter.


I finished a comic page, and it looks pretty good, but I haven’t shared it yet because I haven’t written the rest of the story that it goes with. Given how slowly I produce pages, I’d rather not put out an unfinished thing when there’s still a lot of planning and writing left to do (let alone actually drawing the thing). The stuff I have shared this week is all fanart based on the new Hellfire Gala looks that dropped in anticipation of the big one shot they’re doing at the end of June. Wolverine’s look is the obvious banger of the set, and I rushed to get a piece together based on the main cover preview before Marvel revealed the piece with a full look at her outfit. There are some front details that I missed because they just weren’t visible in the reference I worked from, but I think I did a strong piece. I’m doing my best to remain proud of my work without despairing over it only making a small splash on Twitter. The algorithm hates everyone, so I’m keeping in mind that it’s not personal. Also, I’m very much not a professional artist, so I constantly have to temper my expectations against the reality that I can’t produce stuff as flashy as what other folks who get paid for their work do. I also did a portrait of Magik that was fun (I got a specific compliment on the eyes, which was satisfying since that’s an element I tried to do better than normal), although as I’ve complained on Twitter, I’m just not super into the all-black Alien bodysuit thing. Anyway, here’s my work on Twitter.


Setting aside anticipation for a thing that happens in three months, I felt like it was a pretty fun comics week. I read the two latest issues of Eternals, which continues to do exactly what I want Kieron Gillen books to do, and I’m slowly getting excited about the “Judgment Day” event that’s going to happen over the summer. I don’t usually care one way or another about events, but it’s Gillen doing his thing with X-Men and Eternals, so I’m sure it’ll be a blast. Also probably upsetting. Never get too attached to anyone in a Kieron Gillen story; they will probably suffer horribly and then you will have to deal with the psychic damage.

My primary reading for the week was to finish the Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti run on Harley Quinn. I had heard for a while that it was a good run that does a lot of rehabilitate the character into a lovable anti-hero, and I’d say that overall it hits those beats pretty well. Having finished it now, I’m not sure if it was entirely my thing, but it was a fun diversion from the usual superhero melodrama I typically enjoy. It was a shame that their last arc is collected in a trade with the beginning of Frank Tieri’s run, so I ended my reading with some stories by him that are significantly less good. He seems to get the emotional core of Conner & Palmiotti’s version of Harley, but he’s also the kind of straight male writer who clearly has no problem throwing in casual homophobic jokes and hiding behind the fact that he’s writing a book that’s supposed to feel grimy as a defense. Final takeaways for me are that it was a fun detour into material for a character whose mainstream presentation has been kind of shallow in recent years (aside from the animated series, which is truly a gem), but there’s not enough there to keep me coming back.


I’m still plugging away through The Somebody People, and I finally got through the first part the other night. It was kind of rough doing about two hundred pages of “so this is where we are now” with the characters that survived from The Nobody People. I was surprised by how refreshing it felt to reach an interlude about Kevin Bishop and Raymond Glover; it honestly felt like a completely different story for about fifteen pages before the casual existential horror set back in. On the bright side, it’s Spring Break, and I need a beach book, so I think I’ll make some good progress on this one.


Rachael and I watched Soul last weekend as the latest in our ongoing Pixar catch up project. It was good! I’d say its primary appeal is visual, although the story was sweet, and probably a little more memorable than Onward was.

We finished watching the second season of Space Force, which was definitely better overall than the first season. I think pivoting into a more Parks & Recreation vibe where everyone is generally competent and likes working together was a good choice. If it gets a third season, I’d enjoy spending more time with these characters now.

While we’re in the process of giving old shows another chance, we’ve also begun watching the second season of Sex Education. This show’s deeply strange because it does a lot of really good work presenting the current state of what good sex ed looks like in charming ways, but it also seems to have a big problem with not going to the queer tragedy well for Eric’s subplots. We’re only about halfway through the second season right now, and both Rachael and I are not thrilled with Eric getting romantically involved with the boy who bullied and assaulted him in the first season. I’m hoping the show understands that we shouldn’t feel good about this development, but we’ll see where it goes.


I think I actually put most of my thoughts about this in the intro this week. Hard not to think about it when much of the meat space trend seems to revolve around trying very hard not to think about it. Don’t think about pink polar bears, yeah?

Coffee Shops

I have not been to a coffee shop this week.

Inktober 2019 Day 11

First, it’s a long weekend, so I’m really excited about that.  Second, today’s drawing is an homage to a panel from a random issue of Wolverine in the middle of a story I don’t remember that well (I don’t remember most of Wolverine’s stories that well because Logan by himself bores me).  Third, this was absolutely done in the twenty minutes before I had to go sit through six hours of professional development yesterday with no opportunities to tune out and work on something a little more interesting.  Fourth, I’m still really happy with yesterday’s drawing, and I’m going to ride that feeling until I get tomorrow’s done (I still haven’t figured out what it will be as I’m writing this).

Anyway, here’s a picture of Wolverine standing on a balcony shouting about drugs.


Reading “Healing Factor (2 of 2)”

The move is coming along nicely (we’re out of our current place as of Saturday morning!), and since most of what we’ve needed to accomplish to make everything happen successfully, I want to take a little bit of time to continue looking at Ms. Marvel.  I don’t think this will be an especially long or detailed review, but the fact that I went on hiatus in the middle of a two-part story has felt immensely itchy for the last month, and I want to do something about it.

Wolverine’s not really this grumpy in the issue itself, though I do wish Kamala actually got a selfie like this. (Cover by Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson)

In terms of major plot developments, Ms. Marvel #7 is relatively light.  The entire issue revolves around her adventure in the sewer with Wolverine with a short stinger at the end that involves Medusa finally getting involved in Kamala’s development as a superhero since the girl is actually an Inhuman and not a mutant like Wolverine initially believed  (I’m a few years behind on current Marvel events at this point, so I don’t know what happened with Inhumans vs X-Men, but I sincerely hope that Kamala avoided all that hullabaloo).  There’s no family stuff (I am disappoint) or mention of high school drama, which makes this issue extremely conventional superhero fare.  We do learn that the Inventor is actually doing something with the teenagers who have been disappearing from Jersey City: he appears to be using them as energy sources for his experiments like in The Matrix (complete with nutrient baths and fetal positions).  That thread will get spooled out in more detail in the next arc, but that’s for another time.

This advice is a little skewed, but it fits in with Wolverine’s lived experience. (Artwork by Jacob Wyatt, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

The centerpiece of this issue (besides Kamala punching out a giant alligator) is the impromptu mentoring that Wolverine bestows on her during her first official team-up.  This sort of dynamic is a really delightful one because it plays on one of Wolverine’s greatest strengths as a character: his affinity for acting as a mentor figure to young up-and-coming female superheroes.  Yes, this trope typically applies to newer members of the X-Men (this might be why Wolverine assumes that Kamala must be a mutant; the meta-story of his mentorship always follows a certain pattern), but it’s mostly a story that he knows well, and he gets what his role is supposed to be.  It’s kind of funny to realize that Wolverine is the answer to the need that Kamala expresses to Sheikh Abdullah in the previous issue, but it works really works in a four-color book like this one.  Experienced Marvel readers know that Wolverine is a character who has a remarkably varied portfolio of stories in his background, including stories that go to very dark, very gruesome places.  Seeing a character with that kind of background interact with Kamala, who is a very inexperienced, very idealistic young hero is so much fun just because you can see Wolverine trying to balance between teaching her about the harder realities of life and shielding her from the ugliness of it (I love the moment when Wolverine catches himself from cursing in front of Kamala; it’s exactly the kind of thing an adult like him would do).

Kamala gets Wolverine’s point. (Artwork by Jacob Wyatt, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Wolverine’s general advice to Kamala comes down to a single important notion: to be a hero, you have to understand that someone will usually get hurt when it comes to conflict, and your job is to try to make it sure it’s you whenever you can handle the pain (of course Wolverine’s basic philosophy of superheroics revolves around pain management).  The underlying principle of self-sacrifice is classic superheroing, and Kamala takes to the lesson admirably.  Wolverine stresses that it’s about knowing your limits as well (since he’s working without a healing factor in this story, he has his own struggles with slowing down and letting Kamala do the heavy lifting at different points in the adventure); if you’re going to try to generalize life lessons from a superhero book, it’s worth emphasizing that point.  Superheroes go above and beyond in their missions; regular folks just trying to be better people shouldn’t kill themselves over it.  Kamala gets it pretty well, and that’s a satisfying end to this little outing.

Reading “Healing Factor (1 of 2)”

This issue of Ms. Marvel has the good fortune of being the first issue after the conclusion of Kamala’s origin story (we can split hairs over what beats necessitate an origin story, but I’ll maintain that the origin isn’t over until the superhero has developed their costume and beaten at least one bad guy; things which Kamala doesn’t succeed in doing until issue #5), and that status allows it to begin by giving us a sense of what Kamala’s life is like now that she’s settled into her role as Jersey City’s local superhero.  She discusses how she’s been managing the influx of spiderbot attacks since her showdown with the Inventor’s hooligans, and we get to see that Kamala is growing more comfortable with her powers (though she still makes mistakes and gets caught in an explosion for her trouble).  We also hear that she’s continuing to sneak out of the house (it’s tough keeping super villain crime in check), and so her father is making good on his promise to send her to speak with Sheikh Abdullah.

Kamala taking a selfie while punching out a bank robber is delightful, though probably a little bit advanced for her skill level in this issue. (Cover by Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson; image credit: Comic Vine)

Way back in the third issue, I made some observations about how I liked that Sheikh Abdullah entertains discussion in his youth group even when he obviously disagrees with the points that Kamala is trying to make.  It’s probably fair to recognize here that my positive disposition toward Sheikh Abdullah was colored by this scene where he gives her advice on superheroing (without her ever actually telling him that she’s superheroing).  It’s fair to say that Abdullah comes across as stuffy in his first appearance, and he is annoyed with Kamala there, but I totally get that annoyance; he’s trying to give a lecture and Kamala’s questions, while certainly important, aren’t quite on topic.  If you’ve ever taught a class where you had students who would just go off on tangents, you can relate to that annoyance.  It’s the feeling of an impending headache as you must explain for the nth time that you need to stay on topic because this is important.


I do love this drawing of Kamala; it’s very much her, but in a way that’s distinctly different from what Adrian Alphona would emphasize about her. (Artwork by Jacob Wyatt, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Sheikh Abdullah’s advice is incredibly compassionate and understanding; he knows how teenagers are, and he recognizes the futility of telling them not to do something they’re dead set on doing, so instead he encourages Kamala to try to do her extracurriculars in the most upright fashion possible.  This is… not the message you would expect from Abdullah given what we previously knew about him.  Still, it fits; when you work with kids, you tend to absorb what approaches are more effective to positively influence them, and you figuring out very quickly that coming down hard against a thing that they’ve been doing consistently isn’t going to get you very far.  Abdullah trusting that Kamala is telling the truth when she says she’s helping people goes a long way towards building the rapport that he needs to have with her if he’s going to be an effective mentor figure in the future.

Of course, if you’ve read the issue you know that the Abdullah conversation is just a way to segue into the actual meat of this story, which is that Kamala is going on an adventure and she’s going to get to team up with Wolverine.

This is original recipe Wolverine for anyone following along at home; this issue was published in that weird intermediary period between Logan burning out his healing factor permanently (and consequently adopting an armored costume with its own claws built into the gauntlets so he wouldn’t hurt himself) and his death by adamantium dousing.  This is a significant plot point since the cliffhanger at the end relies on Wolverine being incapacitated so that Kamala finds herself facing off against a giant sewer gator alone.  It also sets up the emotional arc that was foreshadowed earlier in the Sheikh Abdullah conversation: Kamala needs a mentor, and now she has one in the form of the grumpiest, most ubiquitous character in Marvel’s publishing lineup of the last couple decades.  It’s obviously a standard play with a new comic book to have guest appearances by more popular characters in order to entice new readers, but I have to respect the way this story is constructed.  Wolverine’s appearance is sort of random, but he fills a central role in the plot, and he’s not inserted in obnoxious ways (you don’t have him featuring on the cover of this issue, and he doesn’t steal the spotlight from Kamala).

The best part of this panel is the Inventor’s smile while explaining his convoluted backstory. (Artwork by Jacob Wyatt, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Besides Wolverine’s guest spot, this issue also gives us the first face-to-face meeting between Kamala and the Inventor (well, it’s via alligator-mounted hologram, but whatever), and it’s suitably weird.  What we learn about the Inventor here is that he is a clone of Thomas Edison who was contaminated with cockatiel DNA when his assistant Knox was making him (the fact that Knox created the Inventor should be a pretty big tip off that something’s weird about this whole set up, but Thomas Edison was a glory hog and an idea thief, so we’ll let it pass for now because it makes a weird kind of sense; still, keep an eye on Knox).  What I love most about the Inventor’s concept is that all the individual parts are bonkers enough to be a little too out there (a clone of Thomas Edison? a genius humanoid cockatiel? a sewer dwelling super villain with trained alligators that are decked out with assorted technology accessories?), but when you throw them all together the end result is so absurd that you just throw up your hands and go, “Comics!”

I have to make a note about the art on this issue just because it’s the first one with an artist besides Adrian Alphona.  All the Ms. Marvel I’ve read impresses strongly on me that this is a book that takes its unique character from the combination of G Willow Wilson’s writing and Alphona’s art; he’s such a quirky artist that he makes Jersey City seem weird in the best way.  Given all that, I tend to subconsciously compare other artists doing arcs on the book with Alphona, which isn’t really fair to them because I’m not sure of another artist that has a style comparable with his.  Still, if you can manage to set that aside, Jacob Wyatt’s art on this issue is really good.  He favors really clean layouts (contrasted with Alphona’s love of just letting panels overlap each other haphazardly on the page) that help you focus on the central subject of each panel.  His backgrounds aren’t as jam packed as Alphona’s, which works fine for this more action heavy issue where you want to be focused on the motion and poses of the figures (there’s a panel where Wolverine flips himself over Kamala’s shoulders to keep from hurting her that’s particularly nice).  Wyatt’s mode of expression for characters focuses much more heavily on body language over detailed faces (when he zooms out to show Kamala geeking out over getting to team up with Wolverine, she looks adorable, and Wolverine looks befuddled).  Bits like Kamala worrying over an alligator that just tried to eat her hit their story beats perfectly, and can easily elicit a laugh.  Wyatt’s art succeeds in being different enough from Alphona’s that it doesn’t ever feel like he’s trying to imitate a style poorly.

Kamala looks super cartoonish in this panel, and I don’t care because it totally sells her dismay at having injured a giant sewer gator. (Artwork by Jacob Wyatt, colors by Ian Herring)

Some Stuff That’s Nifty (5/18/14)

Sorry for no link round up last week; we had friends in town and I didn’t spend my usual lazy Saturday morning poring over the internet for cool stuff.  No fear though!  That just means I have two weeks’ worth of links to share today.


1. Life in Aggro is a regularly featured webcomic on Kotaku‘s weekly webcomic, and for the past month it’s been running a story recounting what I’m assuming is one of the authors’ experiences playing through the game.  It’s a beautifully drawn comic, and this series has been particularly good.  The final part of the four part story just went up yesterday, so you can see the whole thing on their website.  Here’s the link to the first part of the story.

These Watercolors Distill Superheroes to Their Very Essence

Black Widow in Watercolor. By Blule. (Image credit: i09)

2. I don’t use ComiXology to buy comics.  When I do buy comics, I prefer to purchase physical copies (the one area where I feel like a luddite is digital purchasing; I just struggle to get over the hump of not having a copy of the content that I can store and maintain how I like).  Even so, this article is a fascinating look at ComiXology’s business model and how their recent decision to remove in-app purchasing from their iOS app impacts both their business and the consumers who use their service.

3. Because it needs to be said again (it always needs to be said again), there needs to be more to female superhero design than sex appeal.  Here’s a wonderful article from Lauren Davis explaining why (if for no other reason, read it for the plug that the new Ms. Marvel series gets; that book is fantastic and I want to read more of it like now).

4. Though I have a passing interest in comics history, I’m not really into comics from the Golden and Silver Ages.  Apparently that’s a mistake, at least for Golden Age stuff, because it was a diversity wonderland before the Comics Code came along and whitewashed everything.

5. I generally think of myself as more of a Marvel fan when it comes to superheroes, but I have to admit that I do agree with pretty much everyone on this list of in-universe jerks.  And yeah, Professor X just keeps getting worse and worse.  Cyclops, on the other hand, has always seemed like a justified jerk, and I love him for it.  Namor’s debatable, because I’m not sure you can classify the level of egotism he displays as necessarily jerkish so much as “I’m the King of the Ocean.”


1. Candida Moss explains what professions were not recommended for Christians in the third century by St. Hippolytus of Rome.  The list is, unsurprisingly, filled with jobs that Christians nowadays not only do, but often aspire towards.

2. Fred Clark is a straight white male.  I am also a straight white male.  If you want to read something not written by straight white males, then check out Fred Clark’s recent list of blogs that are written by people other than straight white males.

3. Richard Beck answers reader questions about his book The Slavery of Death.  There’s some really interesting thoughts going on here.

4. Zach Hoag: “The Christian faith, rightly understood and practiced, is both syncretist and separatist all at once, and in different ways. In fact, syncretism is at the core of Christian identity, as the very definition of the faith is the expansion of first century Judaism to include Gentiles without requiring total change to their religious practice! It was an honest to goodness combining of Greco-Roman religious practice with Israelite religious practice, seen through the lens of a new Messianic identity. Christianity IS syncretism!”

5. A breakup letter to John Calvin (I’m not sure I was ever in a relationship with him, but I think it still sums up my feelings about his theology rather nicely).

6. I don’t typically post articles from i09 in my faith section (mostly because their articles that touch on religious subjects tend to have a bit of an anti-faith bent), but this article from Mark Strauss is thoughtful and nuanced in how it approaches the problem of creationism.

7. More from Fred Clark (remember, I have two weeks of material to sift through), this time about the phenomenon of mondegreens and their relationship to interpretive differences between Christians who disagree about the Bible.  Don’t know what a mondegreen is?  Then go find out.

8. Rachel Held Evans, Tony Jones, Matthew Vines, and Jay Bakker had a talk this week discussing Vines’s new book God and the Gay Christian.  It’s an hour and fifteen minutes of good dialogue about the issue (complete with lots of technical difficulties!), and I’d definitely recommend watching the video of it.  Fortunately, Tony Jones has posted the talk on his blog.

9. Samantha Field at Defeating the Dragons wrote a post this week coming out as bisexual.  I’m really happy for her.


1. I’m not the most educated person when it comes to speculative fiction.  Most of my knowledge has been acquired by proxy of Rachael, so this essay, which seems pretty impressive and persuasive to me, may be a bunch of hot air.  Nonetheless, I think it does raise some interesting questions about the relation between contemporary speculative fiction and literary fiction.

2. The Star Wars Expanded Universe is dead.  Nonetheless, it did give some good stories.  Here’s a list of 10 particularly notable ones (as an aside, I’ve begun watching the Clone Wars cartoon now that the whole thing is on Netflix, and being only halfway into season 1, I think it’s great; it’s a wonder what can be done with the prequel-era setting when George Lucas isn’t pulling all the strings).


1. For all my criticisms of various movies that I see, I like to think that generally I’m a pretty easy to please viewer.  I have an overly developed fondness for superhero movies (even the ones that don’t deserve it), so I’m really a poor judge of which big movies are not so great (case in point: I really liked Man of Steel except for the ending, but everyone else I talk to thinks it was the worst Superman adaptation ever conceived).  This article and subsequent conversation in the comments does a pretty good job of elaborating on why certain superhero movies get really positive reactions from viewers while others don’t.  It’s all speculation and opining, but it’s interesting speculation and opining if you like to think about superheroes and the movies we make about them.

2. For your enjoyment, a comic explaining why DC hasn’t started production on a Wonder Woman movie yet (as an aside, I first came across this comic through Kotaku where a conversation in the comments erupted where one very obtuse fellow began complaining about how everyone’s constantly calling for movies featuring female and minority superheroes just irritates him, and we should all shut up because it’s going to happen anyway; except, y’know, it’s not going to happen if no one says that’s what they want to see).

3. I like animation.  I also like live-action.  I get a little wary when animated franchises get live-action adaptations.  Apparently so does Jason Krell.


If Disney Characters Were College Students

Of course Quasimodo would go to art school to be a sculptor. By Hyung86. (Image credit: Kotaku)

1. I wish I had space to display a four-foot wide drawing of an imaginary megacity that features iconic buildings from all the most famous cities in the world (and throughout history).

2. Did you know that the number of Nicolas Cage movies in a given year correlates with the number of people who drown in swimming pools?  Neither did I, but here you go.  Have fun.

3. What about Zoidberg?

4. And just in case you prefer real cephalopods to imaginary ones, here’s an octopus unscrewing a jar from the inside.

5. Someone invented retractable metal claws.  It’s pretty adorable to see how excited he is to be able to tear stuff up with them.

6. It’s not often that I see discussion of Breaking Bad where someone reads Walter White as so adamantly sympathetic.  For my part, I gravitated more towards Jesse as the emotional center of the show after the end of Season 3, but to each her own.  Here’s a post from Scribalishess where Susan Pigott discusses her experience of watching Breaking Bad for the first time.


1. For what it’s worth, I’m still not tired of jumping and punching in video games.  I spent the last week of school this year playing Street Fighter II and Super Mario Bros. 3 with my students as a way of passing the time after we turned in our final grades.  Nevertheless, this is a good article wondering about the seemingly interminable popularity of first person shooters and whether gaming is due for a new golden genre like the platformers and fighters of the ’90s.

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past 3D Papercraft Map

The overworld map of Legend of Zeld: A Link to the Past as papercraft. By Wuppes. (Image credit: Kotaku)

2. Gilbert Gottfried is famous as the voice of Iago from Disney’s Aladdin and as the guy who did that video for the internet where he reads excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey.  We can now add to his impressive resume the fact that he made a video where he reads some of the most famous lines from video gaming.  “Holy hell is it erotic!” indeed.

3. Nobody likes trolls.  I’m not sure anyone really understands why they do what they do either; not even the trolls themselves.

4. Minecraft‘s pretty much the best thing ever when it comes to creating interactive online learning experiences.  The world’s fully customizable, and it’s a lot of fun to build stuff with friends.  So using the game as a lab for teaching Japanese sounds like a wonderful idea.

5. Jason Schreier has crowdsourced from the Kotaku commenters a compilation of good entry-level games in the JRPG genre.  I agree with much of the list (I’ve played a lot of them myself), so if you have any interest in that most quirky of story-driven game genres but don’t know where to start, this is a good thing to look at for ideas.

6. People like to play as characters who are not themselves when they’re gaming.  This article talks about what it’s like to play a character who also happens to not be the same sex as the player.


1. Cartwheeling spider.  That is all.

2. Kidney disease runs in my family.  Just last year my mom received a transplant that she had been waiting on for three years, and the donor was, unfortunately, someone who had died.  We don’t know who the donor was, but it’s weird to think that my mom had to wait for someone else’s misfortune just so that she could get the kidney she needed.  It’s an objective fact that a live donor would have been better all around; kidneys from live donors last much longer than kidneys from deceased donors, and the donor’s still alive when the procedure’s over.  Of course, it’s a scary thing to donate a kidney; you’re voluntarily giving up one of your organs.  This article explores this topic more in-depth and considers some potential solutions to help incentivize the donation of kidneys, since there’s a constant need.

3. Scientists have engineered a strain of e.coli that contains six base pairs instead of four in its DNA.  This is kind of a big deal.

4. I donate blood on a regular basis because I think it’s an important thing to do if you meet the guidelines for eligibility.  One weird quirk of the experience that I’ve always wondered about was the fact that I’m always asked multiple questions about whether I’ve ever had sex with a man.  Seeing as I’ve not had that particular experience, I always answer no and move on with life.  It never occurred to me before that answering yes would prevent me from being able to donate.  What the heck, FDA?

5. So how would people react if we were to discover extraterrestrial life?  For my part, I’m pretty psyched about the possibility, but this article from i09 suggests that in general, people of faith tend to be poorly psychologically equipped to deal with aliens.  I’d like to counter that if you have religious beliefs, especially of a Christian variety (I’m not going to speak to any other traditions because I just don’t know well enough to say), and you’re still engaging in anthropocentrism as part of your faith practice, then you’ve probably missed the point Jesus was making about dying to the self; that’s not just a personal exhortation, but a fact of communal living that you have to accept things are bigger than what you see around you.

6. Neil deGrasse Tyson said that philosophy was a useless field to study.  Many people on the internet disagreed.

7. Hurray for advancements in prosthetics!


1. “How Misunderstanding Disability Leads to Police Violence”

2. I think this one’s already been all over the internet, but here, for anyone who hasn’t read that awesome Slate article about Phineas Gage.

3. We interred over 100,000 Japanese-Americans in camps during World War II.  That’s an important thing to remember.  Fortunately, Ansel Adams helps us out with that through these photos (here’s a link to the full online collection at the Library of Congress) that he took of the internment camps during the war.

4. I find it doubtful that China’s actually collaborating with Russia, Canada, and America to build an intercontinental rail line.  Still, it would be really cool if this does happen for reals in a few decades.

5. My students have an unhealthy fascination with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.  You can imagine my childlike glee when I read this, because it means that I’m now justified in telling them that their taste in headgear is not only ridiculous, but also appallingly bad from an audiophile’s perspective.

6. H.R. Giger passed away this week, and i09 saw fit to post a collection of some of his assorted works in commemoration.  Giger’s work is extremely fascinating, and highly creepy (he did design the look of the original xenomorph in Alien).  Go check the gallery out if you’re interested, though keep in mind that one of Giger’s favorite subjects was the interplay between humanity and technology, and he tended to use lots of sexually evocative imagery.

7. Deaf culture is a complicated thing.  The introduction of cochlear implants into the deaf community a little over a decade ago was pretty big news; not everyone received the new technology with enthusiasm, because it was seen as a threat to Deaf identity (for a really good documentary exploring this issue, look up Sound and Fury; it’s available to stream on Netflix, or if that’s not your style, you can find the whole thing freely available on Youtube, along with its follow-up from 2006).  This article from The Atlantic discusses some of the issues surrounding a new type of cochlear implant that has no external component.

Some Stuff That’s Nifty (4/6/14)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so forgive me if I’m rusty.

What Would The Muppets Look Like As Humans?

If the Muppets were human. By Nick Hoffman (Image credit: http://mr-book-faced.deviantart.com/art/The-Muppets-443630982)


1. My friend James maintains his own blog which he updates infrequently.  The reason he updates infrequently is because he tends to write posts that exceed two thousand words and require a good bit of research.  This does not mean that he is not worth reading.  He frequently makes jokes about the absurdity of white middle class American culture while explaining complicated issues related to education and the economy, and those jokes alone make him worth your time.  I always enjoy reading his stuff, anyway.  This week he posted this wonderful explanation of why all millennials are pretty much screwed in regard to their retirement prospects.  It vacillates between funny and depressing, but I think the takeaway (that Social Security is not a broken system and should not be treated like one if we hope to keep it intact into the future) is worth considering.

2. John Scalzi posted a twitter conversation he had this week discussing how people own up to their own bigoted (racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc.) actions.  He used an example of his own sexist actions, which struck me as a fair assessment of problems he sees in his own behavior that need to be addressed and corrected where possible.  It’s also pretty self deprecating to own up to the fact that you more easily remember people you find attractive.  It’s worth a quick perusal if you’re interested in this topic.

3. Samantha Field wrote a two part post this week about why purity culture doesn’t seem to have any real conception of sexual consent.  It’s a good post, and I think it’s useful for elucidating why folks in the evangelical community may have difficulty in addressing problems of sexual assault and rape.


1. There’s a new X-Men movie coming out this summer.  I am mildly excited about it.  This excitement has virtually nothing to do with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but I do get tickled at the disparity between Jackman’s work as an angry killer mutant with an unbreakable skeleton, and his career as a stage actor who does musicals (I’m not knocking musical theater; I’m rather fond of it).  So, y’know, video of him singing a parody of a song from Les Miserables that talks about what it’s like being Wolverine is all kinds of fun.  Not quite as good as Wolverine–The Musical!, but at least this time it’s really Hugh Jackman singing.

2. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV these days, but when I do, I like to watch stuff that’s good.  Enter this set of charts that plot general audience opinion about individual episodes of multiple sci-fi series.  These are great!  They can help you gauge when a series went downhill and whether it’s worth sticking it out (also, where a series got way better and it’s worth jumping onboard).

3. Recently I’ve been digging back into Minecraft a little bit, which has been great fun because I’m doing that most dangerous of Minecraft activities: playing on a publicly accessible server.  Of course, I’ve not built anything this impressive, but that’s okay.  I can see stuff like a giant steampunk turtle and think to myself, “I could build that someday.”

4. I don’t know why I even care about this, because it’s a movie that’s produced by Michael Bay, which means it will be unquestionably awful.  But here, because the internet loves to complain about things that we all expect to hate anyway, here’s some screenshots of the turtles in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  The official screenshots are the ones where they have lips.  Yes, lips.

5. It is a complete and total myth that people only use 10% of our brainpower.  That’s bad science, and it should be taken out and shot as an excuse for sci-fi stuff to happen in stories.  There is absolutely no reason to use something so broadly understood to have no basis in reality.  On the other hand, this trailer for Lucy looks like a lot of fun (directed by Luc Besson, who made The Fifth Element).

Maybe I’ll go back to doing the link round ups regularly, maybe not.  For now, enjoy these things.  They are nifty.  Some of them might even be, objectively, the best things.

Some Stuff That’s Nifty 7/21/13

In my regular link roundups, I usually pull from things that I’ve saved in my newsfeed.  This works alright, except that it doesn’t catch stuff that other people share on Facebook or what I spot through my WordPress reader.  So, here’s an extra edition of Some Stuff That’s Nifty to help rectify that!


1. Excellent thoughts from Defeating the Dragons about the problem that the “playing hard to get” narrative creates for everyone.

2. Relating to the court decision in Iowa that I wrote about in the last SSTN, here’s the take on the whole situation from Bodycrimes.


1. Via John Scalzi, who I mentioned in a SSTN a couple weeks ago for establishing his anti-harrassment convention attendance policy, here’s a post by Chris Kluwe talking about his new book.  I’ve seen Kluwe’s name before wandering around the internet, but I’ve never read his work before; I just knew that he was a writer and a professional football player.  I’m impressed by his writing here, and I like the ideas he’s getting at.  Also, his book has a photo of him riding on a carousel horse on the cover.


1. I got reblogged over at MMA, Wrestling, Comic and Gaming News!  Go check it out for some other nifty stories about nerd-related topics.


1. Morgan Guyton at Mercy Not Sacrifice posted a great meditation on how the disciples in the early Church came to the realization that being a Christian didn’t require adherence to Jewish law.  It’s a good read, and has some very encouraging implications for issues that we’re dealing with in the Church today.


1. From my friend Becky, via Facebook, this video.  It celebrates the release of The Wolverine with a musical history of the character.  They really did their research, which makes me all kinds of happy.