Friday, February 26, 2010

Sample Short Story

Hi everyone! I thought I'd share with you a short story I wrote a few years ago and never published, in case it helps provide inspiration for your own stories you are currently working on. I posted it at Exploring Our Matrix. Your comments and criticisms are welcome!

Is Tom Cruise an Accurate Representation?

I agree that Tom Cruise's image is not what most religions would want to be representing them. I agree that his image can be overbearing, but I do not think that a religion should be discredited because of the image or actions of a single follower. Tom Cruise is just one scientologist and I am sure that not all scientologists carry themselves in the same manner as Tom. I am sure there are examples of people in other religions who are not "good" representations of what the religion stands for. Religions should not be judged by the actions or perception of one follower and who are we to judge a person anyways.

Scientology Endorsements

Today in class we talked about the fairly new religion of Scientology. I do not know a lot about Scientology. However whenever I hear about the religion I cannot help but to think about Tom Cruise. I believe that his celebrity overshadows the religion. I also feel that his endorsement makes me less likely to believe in the values of Scientology. I feel that some of the famous believers in Scientology make the religion less credible, because to me it feels like they are just trying a new "trend". Sort of like they try on the latest label for the red carpet. Maybe this is just me misunderstanding celebrities, but I am always skeptical of endorsements made by celebrities. Do celebrities really believe what they are saying, how much are they getting paid for making these statements, or when the cameras are off do they continue to live what they are preaching to the mass media? These are the thoughts that run through my mind when I hear Tom Cruise talk about Scientology. I am sure now that you are thinking about these theories as well.

Whatever your opinions on the theories are, I am sure that you have failed to notice one thing. Scientology. By having celebrities represent the religion, viewers are distracted by the celebrity and the ethics behind the endorsement. Try to watch the following clip with detachment. Try to forget that the narrator/host is Tom Cruise. Try to focus on the core values of Scientology that are presented. Let me know how this attempt goes. Maybe you will succeed, but I find myself criticizing and second guessing a lot of the topics he presents.

What is a true fan

One thing that I kept wondering is how big of a star trek fan do you have to be for it to be considered a religious obsession. The reason I ask this is some people who say they are religious do not even go to church on Sunday and actually only go to service around the holidays. Some of these star trek fan have been to more conventions in year than some people who have been to church in year. I mean to be considered a star trek fan do you have to seen every episode like these people. Also do you have to like every single part of star trek to be considered a true fan? People who are religious have different sects that match up with their beliefs. I wonder if this true of star trek are there some fans that only like the first series and say rest horrible or are there some fan that only like next generation? If there are different sects of star trek fandom than I think it is a lot more similar to religion then I thought. I wish Icould have seen people in the video how did not like every part about star trek and only liked one series.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scientology: Religion, Philosophy, or Cult?

After exploring I find its concepts interesting in it's deviations from other religions and yet it's use of other religions taxonomy and icons. For the only major religion constructed in the 20th century, at first glance the home page suggests a branch of Christianity with the cross in the title, use of the words "Church", and "God." Although later "God" is replaced with "Supreme Being," my first impression of this "new" religion was not of difference but of assimilation of many religions into one. The biggest difference between "conventional" religions and Scientology would be the focus or center of their religion. In Scientology, the center of the religion is the individual (Dynamic One), then family (Two), then society (Three), then species (Four), then the "Circle of Life" (Five), then the relationship of all living beings with nature (Six), then spiritual wellness (Seven), and finally Infinity (Dynamic Eight--the relationship with the "Supreme Being" and a sense of identity within the cosmos). "God" is last priority but the end goal. In other religions, the deity is the focus and man, family, and society conforms to the "wishes" of the deity. The views of scientologist can be seen in many current religions like Hinduism and Buddhism along with the current practices of psychology. The biggest question I have with Scientology: Cult or Religion? The foundation of this religion is based on other religions, scientific acceptable norms, and science FICTION novels written for to criticize current social times and entertain the readers. Maybe I should start a religion based on Star Wars? (Or is Star Wars and Star Trek already a religion?) Or even better, I'll start a religion based on another genre like comedies...laughter is the root to all happiness. When can you consider a philosophy about life a religion? Needless to say, although I believe in some of the Buddhist and Hindi views, responsibility for good works, and individual freedom...I'm still a skeptic due to its origin in entertainment...

Journey Beyond Star Trek

I thought I'd share the link to the clip from my presentation in case someone wanted it.

Star Trek & Religion vs. Spirituality

I found this handy dandy article published by a writer for Smithsonian magazine about Star Trek as a religion. It quotes several of the articles we've read in class about Star Trek, actually.

The comparison of Star Trek to a religion doesn't seem as convincing to me as the comparison of Star Trek with a worldview or even a spirituality. It seems a number of people in the U.S., at least, describe themselves as being more spiritual than religious, which is understandable, since spirituality tends to be more open-ended than religion, which often has a defined structure. While Star Trek does have a structure within its own world (and indeed, various religions), no one tries to force a worldview on another. At least, no protagonist does. These are the ideals touted by Gene Roddenberry, imbued in his baby.

The community of Star Trek fandom often centers around these ideals, as illustrated by the Trekkies excerpts and various articles we've read in class. The way a person keeps these ideals, however, is up to him or her; people are not penalized for failing to keep Star Trek ideals or shunned across the board for it (perhaps certain individuals might behave that way, but not the entire body of fandom). Also, Star Trek fandom lends itself to a symbiotic relationship w/ a variety of other, terrestrial religious beliefs. Unless Star Trek directly conflicts w/ a set of religious beliefs (and even then, I can only think of a few...perhaps some Menonites might object to the reliance upon technology?), it seems that Star Trek is capable of enhancing a person's understanding of his or her faith. It's like reading the Church Fathers to better understand the Bible, or the Talmud to better understand the Torah.

As a humanist, Gene Roddenberry had a deep belief in the goodness of humanity and all of which it might be capable. I see no reason why reinforcement of the goodness of man should not be a supplementary message to a religious path. I am not saying that Gene Roddenberry is a prophet. If he is, I don't think he represents the "Church of Trek." But every now and then, I have met people in my life who make me want to be a better person. I think Gene Roddenberry was trying to inspire people to be the best they could be w/o giving them a dogmatic code. What could be more spiritual than that?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Computer Exorcisms

Given the problems on Monday I thought that this tool might prove useful.
Use this page to exorcise random demons from your computer. You will be assisted by shamans from various societies.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Force is with Us!

The following link is to a toy that should be massed produced by toy companies everywhere!!!

Although the concept of this toy is hysterical, it can be said that there is deep symbolism behind the Force's meaning and that correlations can be drawn with faith.

This post is going to be short and sweet and to the point:
The Force is like Faith because to have both you have to look inside yourself and find what you believe. Only through personal reflection can you discover your moral foundations.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Klingon Woman

Thought some people might want to see an image of the look that apparently has quite an appeal in Star Trek fandom, especially among woman according to the reading. Quite a snarky attitude in those Klingon's that's for sure...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Religion and Culture

In much of science fiction, especially stories that are told in the distant future and contain multiple alien cultures, the primary unit of social organization is the planet and not the nation. In these visions of the future this results in an entire planet becoming a cohesive culture which includes a more or less unified planetary religion. Likewise there is little variation amongst a particular alien race, all aliens from planet X think, behave, and believe the same way. I wonder if this is plausible. Just based on our own experience it seems like it is not possible to unite an entire planet under one shared culture. However, globalization has already spread ideas and material culture around the world so that we have much more in common with a person on the other side of the globe than we would have in the past. It seems likely that this trend will continue and that this process would be hastened if we suddenly found ourselves as one race among many. We might start to think of ourselves as being from planet Earth instead of from the United States, Brazil, or Turkey. Supposing this happens what would be the effect on religion? Would religions meld together to create something completely different, would we have fierce religious battles, or maybe religion would simply fade even more into the background, making it an even more private affair than it already is.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Religion or Science do we have to choose one or the other?

In class yesterday we were asked which characters in the story we felt the most connection. While at first glance I didn’t really identify with any of the characters after looking it over again I have to say identify more with the aliens themselves. I don’t mean to say that I feel like a frog like creature or that I’m going to go around crucifying people just to see miracles. The aliens in this story only really have two options they either have to fully believe in science or fully believe in religion. Garth the man of science in this story does not allow the creatures any room to have more than one belief. He tells them to always use the scientific method and the scientific method always bring about the right answer. In a way he is blind towards science since everything can be explained by it and he can find all of the answers by using the scientific method. This is no more different than the priest who can find all of his answer by looking at religious readings. The man of religion in this story does not allow any room for science. The aliens in this society are put in to the age old debate of science vs. religion. Instead of being allowed to experience both they are force to choose between one or the other. At times people in our own society might feel this way that cannot be religious and scientific at the same time. However, if the aliens were allowed to choose between what they wanted to do they might not have killed the priest? Instead of pushing their beliefs both characters should have found out more about the alien creature culture than assume that their human culture would even be able to relate to the alien creature.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Outsiders Looking In

Today in class we talked about how both the outsiders in Harry Harrison's "The Streets of Ashkelon" are unable to really connect with the alien society.

I feel as if this concept always applies when one visits a foreign land or culture. Can one ever really go into a new culture with a completely open and unbiased mind? Or will the native customs and mannerisms always stay with one throughout his or her life? In the case of the short story, Father Mark takes a patronizing approach to the amphibians on the planet. However, I have to question why he takes this approach...why does he feel that his intelligence is superior to the alien's? Father Mark holds the belief that he must educate the aliens with the word of God, but he never leaves any opening for them to decline his belief. Obviously other cultures hold different beliefs, but who decides one belief or moral is right over another? On the other hand, Garth, the other main character of the story takes a disconneccted approach to the aliens. At first I thought Garth was respecting the beliefs of the aliens. However, the reality is that Garth does not even attempt to learn from the aliens. He sets himself apart and does not acclimate himself to the native customs, because he believes that his standard of living is superior. Garth and Father Mark butt heads, but in reality they are exactly alike. Both of the men need to realize that they need to learn from the alien culture, as much as they need to teach the aliens.

I feel that this concept would be good for society. Everyone always seems to be trying to trump one another. When there is no need. People should listen to one another and share as much as they recieve. Only through this method can any foreigner really benefit from visiting another society.

All Dogs Go to Heaven

After Monday's discussion about souls and their nature, I was reminded of a fake church feud that popped up on the internet a couple years ago. Click here for the link.

We talked today a lot about human souls and one person even mentioned that interfering with other humans is considered bad because the human soul is considered bad because the human soul is considered sacred, but what about other forms of life? In the story that we read, the fire balloons are on a on a higher plane of physical existence than humans, but they seem to have souls.

What do people think of non-humans having souls? In Eastern religions (esp. Hinduism), other living creatures on earth are assumed to have soul, and reincarnation allows for those souls to go to other physical bodies at the start of a new life cycle. Christianity can be vague about this sometime, with one camp saying that all living things have souls, and the other saying that only humans due and we're tasked with "having dominion over" all living all living creatures."

The church feud in question focuses on whether or not dogs can go to heaven. One church believes so; the other doesn't. Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Failure in Prime Directive

Do we humans have such low self-esteem that we cannot imagine future contact w/ aliens w/o our screwing it up by the impositions of capitalism and/or religious fervor? Well, of course we can, b/c we have Star Trek. But it does seem that sci-fi set in the very near future has a cynical view of mankind. I am sure this only bothers me b/c I am a pessimist, and I want the literature I read to prove me wrong about my own species rather than reinforce my deepest fears.

Nevertheless, I think that both religion and science are at fault in the story of Fr. Mark and Garth. Both forgot a key policy in dealings w/ alien peoples--the prime directive. Fr. Mark obviously sought to share a specific worldview/universeview w/ the people of Ashkelon, but in so doing, failed to explain the workings of his theology beyond a literal reading and also introduced the concept of a painful death to the Weskerians. Garth, however, is as much at fault for intruding on the lives of the Weskerians. In Garth's exchange w/ Singh, we learn that he has "been in more jails than cathouses...exploiting this aboriginal pesthole" (179). First of all, Garth clearly associates with people who look down upon the Weskerians (perhaps non-humans in general) and furthermore know that he is a dishonest person prone to law-breaking. With these things in mind, Garth has just as much potential to introduce harmful knowledge to the Weskerians as Fr. Mark. Conveniently for Garth, the cleric just happened to get there first. After all, Garth slams a door in the faces of the Weskerians and snaps unkindly at Itin for his childlike, literal way of interpreting his statements.

Father Mark may be misguided, but at least he is kind to the Weskerians. His mistake, of course, is a failure to engage in more logical-process dialogue w/ the Weskerians and failing to take their literal approach to texts into account (let alone the ethical problem of evangelism in itself). I did not feel that Fr. Mark deserved his unhappy end in the story, but nor did I feel that Garth deserved to escape the planet scott-free. Both were very much at fault.

Alien Eden

I could not help but that todays reading, "The Streets of Ashkelon”, bore an uncanny resemblance to the preface of Avatar. The idea of innocent, often depicted as "tribal", natives living in a virtual paradise seems to be a common theme in literature critiquing our cultural trends. This however seems to have created its own cultural swing. Harrison's short story, published in 1962, seems in many ways to be pointing towards religion as the corrupter of innocence. This trend falls in line with the general sentiment of the original Star Trek and many other works of science fiction being published and aired at that time. To my eye however, it appears that the pendulum has swung back and now we have movies such as Avatar and District 9 etching a view that seems to depict progress has the great destroyer. In these movies, enterprising scientists are in essence thwarted by the progressive notion of capitalism, and capitalism is basically depicted as greed. But see, I think the problem here is that religion and science are often at odds with each other, even though they are both harmless in their basic form. It is only when you use one or the other as a means to achieve an end based in greed that either ideology has its innocence corrupted. The textbook example of extremism in either are rooted in greed...religion's blemish of the Crusades was a war for territory and wealth much more than for religion. The nameless atrocities of Joseph Stalin's self-proclaimed atheistic and scientific state were merely attempts by him to consolidate his power. This is why I find the storyline of Avatar to be much more plausible than that of “The Streets of Ashkelon”...I don't think religion, or science for that matter, would have robbed an oblivious alien of its innocence. However, I do think if you taught the aliens to care for no one but themselves than you might indeed corrupt them.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Religious Affiliation of Superheroes

GakuseiDon left a comment on my blog with a link to this fantastic, fascinating and apparently comprehensive list of the religious affiliations of superheroes. I think this will certainly give our class things to talk about!

Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon?

The blog TheoFantastique has quite a lot of useful and interesting stuff in connection with the themes of this class, but today there is a post that is specifically on a topic we'll be looking at later in the semester: Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon.

"Fire Balloons" & Agnosticism

I really liked "Fire Balloons" also. I had kind of wanted to write my own sci-fi short story about something like that--a missionary to another planet who is him/herself completely transformed by the inhabitants of the planet. But now I've got to come up w/ something different, b/c there's no topping Ray Bradbury. I was interested by some of the information presented about him by the other xerox as well, how in his later years, he thought he would have made a good minister despite his Agnosticism. I once read a bumper sticker that read "Agnosticism: I don't know and neither do you." While perhaps a little heavy-handed, I thought it had a fair point to make about not having empirical evidence about the truth of one faith over another (or none at all). I think what Bradbury seems to really get at in his short story is the importance of asking questions and being open to truth, no matter how it expresses itself (even as non-humanoid glowing orbs, as he suggests). Perhaps that is the mark of a good minister/priest/sheikh/guru/rabbi/imam/leader of any kind: not being afraid to ask questions, and most of all, not being afraid to be wrong, or at least not right in the way you thought before. That was one thing I thought Bradbury achieved brilliantly through making his alien life forms into orbs. That small detail already put his audience in a frame of mind in which they didn't know how to relate to the aliens at all, since their "bodies" were nothing like human bodies. In Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasley tells his daughter Ginny, "Don't trust anything if you can't see where it keeps it's brain." That certainly does not end up being the case in "Fire Balloons," b/c more important than brains, perhaps, they seem to exist as eternal, transcendent souls (wisdom over knowledge, as it were). Again, any of our human knowledge about life forms is challenged by Bradbury's story, and we are as astonished as his two missionary characters by the story's outcome.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aliens look like...

I just finished reading the Fire Balloons story and it got me thinking. In the story the aliens are floating blue orbs, but when we think about aliens we tend to imagine just a stranger version of us. However it seems entirely possible that if alien life forms do exist they might not resemble humans at all. They may be piles of purple ooze, orange flying squirrels, or invertebrate sea creatures. Appearances aside they may have other significant differences, they could have only 1 sex or three or more sexes, they might not communicate verbally, their family and social structures may be entirely different from ours. If we did encounter aliens who where so completely different from ourselves in appearance and practice that we might even have trouble recognizing them as intelligent beings I think that this would significantly change the way we think about them in the context of religion. I would imagine that it would be significantly harder to work up enthusiasm to convert piles of gelatinous ooze than it would be to convert a aliens with a more humanoid appearance. Ideally the urge to convert would stem from real concern for a beings soul/well being but those feelings are largely dependent on being able to identify with a person, something that might be hard to do if aliens are indeed alien to us in every way.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Junot Diaz

I don't know if anyone went to the VWS last night, but Junot Diaz was the speaker. Besides the fact that he is amazing, as a person and a writer, his book "The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" reminds me of this class. If any of you are real sci fi fans you'd love it and those of you who could not care less about sci'd love it too! The main character, Oscar, is an overweight nerdy dominican-american boy who is obsessed with all things sci fi. There were so many references to comic books, movies, tv shows, and books of the science fiction genre. From the Watchmen to Dr. Who to LOTR to Dune the references are endless. Diaz also was asked last night if, since he knew so much about sci fi (enough to put in a million references and write entire passages in what called "nerdish") and he said that his next book, whenever he got around to it, would be science fiction a few years in the future in a city like new york+mexico city that mysteriously gets destroyed and a girl who lost her parents in that city tries to piece together what happened by talking to witnesses etc and he said, although that doesnt sound completely science fiction, there would be characters who see the future, who are telepathic, among other things. Anyways, I just thought it was interesting and I really really recommend Diaz's work especially Oscar Wao--but it does have some swearing and mature content so if that offends, I would not recommend reading it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jesus Gone Bad

This past weekend I embarked on the journey to watch the first 3 episodes of Star Wars. Unfortunately, due to the continuous exertion demanded from the hours of entertainment, my DVD player overheated and my quest was postponed. After the purchase of a new DVD player, I have endured the 3 episodes of the "Pre-trilogy" and have made many interesting connections between young Anakin Skywalker and Jesus.

[in case the video does not embed,

Many people are familiar with the video clip i posted above from Mel Gibson's The Passion. Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His arrest. We see He is very much capable of human emotion, but does not let it consume Him. He asks God to spare Him from His fate if possible, but if it is not possible, than let God's will be done. Satan senses His moment of weakness and encourages Him to stray from God's will. In the end, Jesus is not swayed, rejects Satan, and willfully walks from the garden towards His eminent death.

It is said in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was tempted three times in the dessert after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. The first temptation played on Jesus' humanity and hunger. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread" (Matthew 4: 3). The second temptation implored Jesus to test God. The devil took him to the holy city and on the highest point of the temple he said, "If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'" (Matthew 4: 5, 6). The third and final temptation plays to humanly greed and power. The devil took him to a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said, "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me." To all these temptations, Jesus resists. He denies his humanly thoughts, emotions, and wants to obey God and follow his will.

But what if He did not reject Satan? What if on the peak of the great mountain He said to Satan, "OK, I'll rule the world and worship you." ? What if Jesus fell from grace and embraced the Dark Side?

In a way, the Star Wars saga is answering these questions. Anakin Skywalker is Jesus and Darth Vader is Jesus fallen from God's grace.
Many similarities between the story of Jesus and Anakin has led me to this conclusion. First and foremost, both were immaculate conceptions. Jesus, Son of God, was created from the Holy Spirit. Anakin, Son of the Metachlorians, was created from the Force. Both men spent their adolescents engulfed in their "religion." Jesus studied the scriptures while Anakin trained in the Jedi arts. Anakin becomes a very powerful Jedi and Jesus, referred many times as Rabbi, becomes the pentacle of his own religion: Christianity.
A more straightforward comparison is that of Darth Sidious and Satan. The Sith Lord is the evil master of the dark side. He is manipulating and persuasive. As chancellor Palpitine, he manipulates the Senate and as Darth Sidious he manipulates his apprentices. In pertaining to biblical texts. Darth Sidious exploits Anakin's human emotions and his lack of control over them. He offers Anakin the power to save his wife, Padme from dying in childbirth, in return for pledging his allegiance to the Dark Side, and consequently Darth Sidious. This can be seen as symbolism of Satan's temptations offered to Jesus in the desert and in the garden. However, unlike Jesus, Anakin cannot control his human emotions and gives into his desires and makes a deal with the devil. So, what if Jesus conceded to the third temptation in the dessert?
If Anakin is Jesus, Darth Vader is Jesus gone bad.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Extraterrestrial Christian Poetry

Hi everyone. I thought I'd share links to online resources, as well as uploading readings on Blackboard.

You can find the lyrics to "Every Star Shall Sing a Carol" by Sydney Carter online, and this YouTube video seems to be the only place to listen to it online for free. The text of Ray Bradbury's "Christus Apollo" is also available online. So too is Alice Meynell's poem "Christ in the Universe."

Do Aliens Exist?

As we discussed in class it seems likely that aliens do exist simply because the universe is so vast that it would be more unlikely that there wasn't other life forms out there. It occurred to me that the only way that I think that someone could reasonably suggest that there were no other forms of life in the universe would be to give a religious reason and suggest that God simply did not make other forms of life. I am not saying that a religious person would say this, a person can easily believe in God and believe in the possibility of aliens. Rather I am suggesting that if you are not a religious person and believe that God had no hand whatsoever in the making of humanity it would be almost impossible to believe that aliens don't exist out there somewhere. Whether we will ever find them or be able to communicate with them is another question. I am one of those people who wants to believe that there are aliens out there, probably because I envision it like some sort of Star Trek episode where it all works out in the end and our intentions are always noble, but when i watched Avatar I thought that scenario was probally more likely. Money and greed for resources combined with our own inflated sense of self importance would not lead to an idillic relationship between us and our new alien 'friends.' If a sistuation like Avatar was ever to arise I wonder which conflict would be greater; conflict over money and resources or conflict over culture and religion?

Space to Christianity

I really liked "The Word to Space." It was a refreshing change of pace to think of a planet that was interested in converting Earthlings in trans-planetary mission work. Even more interesting was the idea that a Jesuit priest would be the one to suggest fomenting a holy war on Akron in order to point out to the Akronites that their religion will not work on Earth (and also to get them off Earth's back). I wonder if there was no ethical conflict for Fr. Moriarty in regards to the fact that he started a war in which beings were killed, possibly innocent ones. He definitely did not seem to consult a superior for permission to do that, so in that sense, he seems a bit like a rogue cleric. On the other hand, Akronites seemed to be getting killed anyway, as there was already religious persecution on the planet. Did any alternative kind of action exist for him?

In response to the Murphy article, along the same train of thought, I was wondering why the existence of aliens would really pose much of a problem for Christianity (the article only briefly addressed other monotheisms, let alone other faiths, unfortunately). It seemed to me that the possibility of E.T.s was only threatening to Bible literalists or people who chose to take the Bible alone, sola scriptura, w/o accepting any other religious text as valid in assisting w/ its interpretation. That's just what I got out of it, but if someone else had a different take, please comment.

In light of recent discussion, I thought this was interesting.

So....I'm a pretty huge Lost fan, and will subsequently pretty much go with whatever J.J. Abrahms and is LSD hooked band of producers come up with while on one of their acid trips. However, I am not particularly prepared for the flood of answers that will presumably come this season. For the entire duration of the show, questions have been answered by simply posing more questions. And I'm not entirely sure that the writers of the show can actually dig themselves out of the mystery shrowded hole they have written themselves into...

Here's the official 40 minute recap of the show...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Judo Lesson from Captain James T. Kirk

In my secret life I'm also a martial arts enthusiast. Well I happened across this clip at Sensi Strange's blog and just had to share it with the class!

Nothing like a judo lesson from Captain Kirk! Funky tights aside, I have to give the stunt coordinator credit. Much of what is being taught is basic judo techniques that are still found in judo, karate, and some forms of tae kwond do.

Incidentally, the story of Charlie X depicts how a 17-year-old struggles with his God-like powers. Definately worth a watch if you can find the entire episode!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Science fiction the reality of now

In class on Friday we talked about how science fiction at times can be used to explain what going on in the present or it can be used as a way to look towards a brighter future. For example in Star Trek it seems like all of mankind gets along. The time period of which the original Star Trek was going on was the Cold War. It interesting to see that there was a Russian officer serving with captain who was from Iowa. During this time Russia and the United States were not getting along in fact both countries were trying to outdo the other. In the show Battlestar Galactic the issue of what going on in culture now can be seen between the two different religions of cylons and the humans. There are a lot of parallels between the fighting of cylons and humans and what is going on between some extremist who are Muslims and between the United States. By having it appear in a TV show it makes it less real making it easier for people to try to deal with their problems. One thing that I find interesting is that religion is all about offering hope in the future. In some science fiction the future of everyone living together and getting along is in a way similar to the goal of religion.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Classifies as Science Fiction?

Today we touched on the subject of what actually can be classified as science fiction? Is it something that is impossible in the present but plausible at some point in the future? Is it something far removed from our realm of reality and the world as we understand it? While I was home last month my mother dvr'ed "Joan of Arcadia". I found it fascinating that the reruns were playing on scifi...or I guess "syfy" now (a name change which I find ridiculous but that's beside the point). I talked to my mother about this and she said "yeah, it's weird; talking to God is not science fiction--if so, the Bible is a sci fi text written by a bunch of crazies". I had to keep my mouth shut so as not to laugh or offend but it was at that point I realized science fiction is all about perception. To me, and to the powers that be on the sci fi network, the plot of "Joan of Arcadia" is impossible and can be classified as science fiction. To my mother it was just very plausible fiction. Basic point of this babble: Sci fi is in the eye of the beholder.

For your amusement

A couple of Dark Knight spoofs in light of our discussion today. ^_^

And a second clip, that it won't let me embed:

Why Would a Supreme Being Even Care?

Our discussion today concerning Superman's invulnerability reminded of a theme I've seen time and time again: the notion of a once human (or humanoid) being that achieves so much power that said being starts to lose touch with humanity. In no particular order, here's where I've seen this theme:
You also see aspects of this theme in science fiction and fantasy adventure. Three that come to mind are:
In class we briefly touched on the fact that one version of Superman portrays an almost all-powerful being that always does good, and always tries to protect humanity. However, if you really think about it, does this model of super being have to follow the Superman philosophy? Is it even realistic? I'm going to argue probably not. Remember: we are coloring this tale with a very "human" perspective.

A recent example is the Watchman's Dr. Manhattan--as he becomes more God-like he soon starts to lose his concern for humanity.
"A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles. Structurally, there's no discernible difference. Life and death are unquantifiable abstracts. Why should I be concerned?" - Dr. Manhattan

Galactus (and not that non-canonical version that you see in the last Fantastic Four movie) is another prime example:
"Beyond good and evil, forced to destroy entire worlds to survive, Galactus is intimately tied to the nature of the universe. He believes it is his destiny to ultimately give back to the universe much more than he has taken."
Now the next question I'm about to pose could run the risk of offending some of you who are close to your faith tradition. Offense is not my intent. However, I do think that the intersection of science fiction and religion is a perfect place to ask this question so here goes!

Why would a supreme being aka a "God" even care about us? From said being's perspective we are less than ants in the grand scheme of things. Some of these comic book and science fiction characters skirt the question but I'm asking it straight out. Some entity that is all-powerful and all-knowing (or, at least, more knowing than humans on a factor of at least 10,000) would probably not even notice us.

I've heard some religious figures try to answer this question by stating that this only shows how great God's love is. Unfortunately that answer only ducks the question, too.

So, I'd be very curious to hear how some in class would attempt to answer this question.


Lost: The Beginning of The End


I was pleased with the first 2 hours of season six!! There was only one thing I knew was certain going into the season, that it would raise more questions, anything else could happen from the ending to season 5. The writers obviously succeeded in raising more questions. The writers have now created two timelines, one where Oceanic flight 815 never crashes and another where the survivors of flight 815 are still on the island. This brings up the question of what reality are they living in? Did their flight land safely? Are they still on the island? or both? Also in the reality off the island, it showed the island had sunk and was underwater. Another question to explore.
Jacob's nemesis is another interesting topic. Has he always been on the island? First as himself as the man in black, then as the black smoke, now taking the appearance of John Locke who can still turn into the black smoke. How then is Jacob's nemesis able to shape shift? as he has appeared in the past as Yemi to Mr. Eko.
Juliet told Miles after she died that, "It worked." What exactly does she mean by it worked? I had the idea that if it worked there would be one reality where Oceanic flight 815 landed safely. If the explosion did work, then why are they still on the island? Are the possibly in an alternate universe?
Why is Hugo chosen by Jacob to save Sayid's life? Why is Sayid's life so valuable to Jacob that he would help save him? Interesting that Sayid was seemingly dead, but then was revived/resurrected somehow, as I always say no one is dead in Lost until they are buried in the ground for at least a couple of episodes. What do the Temple Dwellers want to talk to Jack about?

These were just my initial few (well maybe more than a few) questions after just watching the start of the new season. If anyone has any theories or possible answers to these questions I would be more than happy to discuss them on here! I can't wait to see what happens next week.
I'll See ya in another life brother,


Women and Their Portrayal in Comics/Female Superheroes

During today’s class session, we discussed female superheroes. It’s funny that something I watched years ago has so much of an effect on our daily culture. Female superheroes perpetuate the gender roles that have been present in our society for years. For instance, it was mentioned that Jean Grey (the X-Men character) could be interpreted as a representation of the burden that women carry. Women are often seen as the nurturers who are also expected to deal with stressful situations with grace and ease. Also, it was mentioned that Mystique (another female X-Men character) propagated the less flattering female stereotypes. She was seen as an evil seductress in the movies. I really found this class discussion to be interesting – hopefully we will continue to explore how women are seen in science fiction.

Also, here’s another nut for you to chew on here:
I have:

The 5th Element
Galaxy Quest
The Island

Granted, Contact and The Island are the only ones I have on DVD...

All Good Things...

So, full disclosure: I'm a huge Star Trek fan. I've seen all of the movies, many of the episodes, and I'm currently working my way through all of Deep Space Nine.

Last night, an episode of The Next Generation was on that I'd seen before ("All Good Things..."), but it was very interesting in light of the discussion we'd had on Monday.

To make a long story short...The episode deals with one of the series' characters, Captain Picard, experiencing odd frequent jumps in time among three periods: the current time, 25 years into the future, and a few years in the past. Each of these time periods features the same people and same ship, and oddly enough, they are all investigating a space anomaly, but they don't necessarily understand/believe that he has been traveling through time. Throughout the course of the show, Picard learns that it is a anti-time anomaly that started in the future and will eventually grow to a size that wipes out life on earth in the past. At the end of the episode, Picard learns that each of the ships from each of the three time period must all go into the anomaly and create a static warp shells, possibly killing themselves, in order to stop it.

Here's what intrigued me. Picard tells his crew to go into the anomaly, and one officers asks him why they should follow his orders when he hasn't explained what's happening. He gives a stirring speech tell them that he would say the same if he were in their shoes, but that he wants them to take a "leap of faith, and trust me."

It left me thinking about our discussion on Monday about belief vs. facts and what I would have done in that situation. Patrick Stewart's wonderful acting aside, my first thoughts were "where is the empirical evidence?" What gives the captain the right to put his crew in danger when he can't back up his orders with reasons? What if his plan had not worked out in the end, and humanity had been destroyed?

Lucky for the crew and humanity, everything works out in the end, but I still think that it opens the door for a lot of other issues that could come up (a la Captain Ahab). Lucky for me, the franchise explores that in other installments.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

SciFi Movie Binge

I perused through Target yesterday and bought tons of movies (prob more than I should have). I wanted to post my new SciFi Film Library in case anyone wanted to borrow any of them or if there was any real interest in a group getting together to view them. Just send me an email if you're interested in any of these:
The Day the Earth Stood Still
X-Men III: The Last Stand
Star Wars Prequel Trilogy:(3 DVDs, ONE case)
*I-Phantom Menace
*II-Attack of the Clones
*III-Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars Trilogy: (3 DVDs, ONE case)
*IV-A New Hope
*V-The Empire Strikes Back
*VI-Return of the Jedi
Double Feature:(ONE Case)
Underworld: Evolution
Triple Feature: (ONE Case)
The Day After Tomorrow
i, Robot
Independence Day
4 Film Favorites: Blade Collection (ONE Case)
Blade II
Blade Trinity
Blade house of Chthon
4 Film Favorites: The Matrix Collection (ONE Case)
Matrix Reloaded
Matrix Revolutions
***Feel free to add your SciFi movie collection to this post so we can have a class collection library going!***