Spiderman versus Wonder Woman

Spiderman Wonder Woman

Spiderman and Wonder Woman

Recently, two critically acclaimed superhero movies came out from competing studios.  I’m talking about Spiderman Homecoming and Wonder Woman. Both have iconic comic book heroes coming to life on the big screen, breathe new life into their cinematic universes, and have received great reviews. But is one better than the other?

Such a review is obviously subjective and they’re hard to compare. But let’s look at the categories where each shines. Spoilers ahead. And before you think I hate the whole DC universe and am a Marvel fan, take a look at this.

Heart

Both movies have something a lot of movies are lacking: heart. They’re earnest and want to share their message. In fact, I’d say this is what has been missing from the DC universe films until now (which admittedly only consists of Man of Steel, Batman Vs Superman, and Suicide Squad). Wonder Woman defies the anti-hero doom and gloom and makes you want to believe in her goodness and purity. She inspires instead of brooding, acts instead of whining. It’s completely different than Superman as portrayed in this universe but similar to how he is portrayed in the comics. 

Spiderman also has plenty of heart, more than most Marvel films. Peter Parker is enthusiastic, wants to help people out and make a difference. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out so well for him, but he doesn’t give up.

Which film has more heart? I’d say it’s a tie.

Humor

Wonder Woman also has something the other films in her universe don’t. Humor. I’m not sure there was a single joke in Batman vs Superman, unless you count the unintentional ‘Martha!’ But Wonder Woman uses Diana’s naiveté and Steve Trevor’s wit to inject plenty of humorous moments so the tone doesn’t get overly depressing. 

Spiderman, however, is probably one of the funniest Marvel movies, and that’s saying something. At times the humor can take away from the seriousness of the situation, but for the most part it is spot on.

While both are funny, Spiderman wins this category.

Profundity

Wonder Woman touches on a lot of themes, from inspiring others, going out and selflessly doing what’s right, and the nature of war. That last one is particularly interesting, as Diana is convinced Ares, the God of War, is behind World War 1, while Steve Trevor thinks it’s just because men are screwed up. Personally, the way it played out, though, wasn’t very satisfactory. It turns out that Ares did cause the war, basically, and then Wonder Woman defeats him, which begs the question: who caused World War 2? The Korean War? The Vietnam War? The War on Terror? History tells us Steve was right, while the movie takes the simpler approach. It felt like the studio forced the director to abandon her themes from before in order to have a big final battle. But I was literally trying to stay awake during that fight, whereas before, in the trenches, I was literally trying to hold back the tears. This video pretty much sums up my thoughts: 

Spiderman’s themes are about proving oneself and taking responsibility for your actions. Though it is never said in the movie, the phrase ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ weighs down on Peter Parker. While showing the consequences better than other Spiderman movies, it isn’t anything new.

Even though I feel Wonder Woman wasn’t quite true to the ideas brought to the table, it still brought up a lot of deep and interesting questions, so I’ll give this one to her movie. 

Relationships

Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve Trevor is based on mutual respect, not passion or hormones. He’s no dude in distress, but has his own strengths that complements Wonder Woman’s superpowers. I feel this is a more mature approach to relationships than seen in superhero movies. 

Peter’s relationship with Liz is more tell than show. In fact, every chance he has to spend time with her he turns down to play Spiderman. So the reveal at the end, when he finds out that *SPOILER!* the vulture is her father could have been more powerful if we actually believed he loved her. And when she announces she’s moving away, he offers pity but doesn’t seem too affected. And she does play the obligatory damsel in distress once in the movie. I think Peter’s relationship with Karen, his suit, was more interesting. This is possibly one of the weakest aspects of the movie, especially compared to the earlier ones. Tobey Macguire and Kirsten Dunst were good, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were even better (the only saving grace of Amazing Spiderman 2). That being said, Peter has a nice bromance with his buddy Ned.

This one goes to Wonder Woman

Villain

Neither DC nor Marvel has done good villains up to this point, especially when compared to The Dark Knight’s (not in the DC universe) Joker. I’ve already mentioned my complaints about Ares. He would have made a better idea than a physical being, a phantasm that tempts men that Diana has to counteract with persuasion instead of brute force. And he looked silly with his mustache. The reveal was pretty good, though, with him in the glass. If only he’d stayed there.

Spiderman’s villain fares a bit better. The Vulture is more down to earth, running an underground criminal organization to support his family. And when we find out that he is Liz’s dad, that ramps up the tension. Now we wonder if Spiderman will kill his girlfriend’s dad. And there’s no magic moment he turns to evil, unlike the first two Spiderman films. I just feel they could have done more with Michael Keaton.

This one goes to Spiderman.

Formula

Wonder Woman defies the DC universe formula, mostly because it has heart and isn’t afraid to have a superhero who stands for something. It injects hope into the universe that was beginning to feel hopeless. Let’s see if any of that can continue and if Warner Brothers learned something from it. Speaking of formula, Wonder Woman breaks many of the bad Strong Female Character tropes that I’ve mentioned before.

Spiderman, on the other hand, had the Marvel formula applied to it. Marvel makes good films, but not great ones. They are fun and enjoyable escapism, where we know the heroes won’t die, but they don’t go deep enough to truly stand out. The closest ones were the Captain America ones, but Spiderman plays it pretty safe. It is made by Disney now, which has sanitized the Marvel and Star Wars universes, for better or for worse.

Wonder Woman wins because it breaks the formula.

Importance

Both are good movies, a step above the movies that came before. But I think Wonder Woman’s impact will stay longer than Spiderman’s. The first Spiderman was important because it showed that superhero movies could be good. Wonder Woman is important because it shows audiences will see female superheroes and because it basically negates the gritty, depressing feel the DC universe has followed up until now (trying to copy the superior Christopher Nolan Batman films but not getting it right).

Spiderman: Homecoming is a good, fun movie, but it won’t impact culture like Wonder Woman did. 

Conclusion

Both are good movies. Both have good things going, as well as a few flaws. Neither topples my current favorite superhero movie: The Dark Knight, but both were enjoyable. I think Wonder Woman, although it stumbles, reaches closest to greatness, while Spiderman was a very fun popcorn flick. 

 

Fire Emblem: Awakening Review

Fire Emblem

 My First Fire Emblem

After years of wondering who the heck Marth was in Super Smash Bros, I finally decided to buy a Fire Emblem game. (Kind of. I gave my wife four 3DS game options for my birthday: Fire Emblem Awakening, Fire Emblem Fates, Super Mario 3D Land, and A Link Between Worlds. She gave me Awakening.) I know, it’s been out for a long time, but I haven’t had a 3DS, ahem, 2DS, that long. I have finally beat the game,  so I have the right to play as Robin and Lucina on Smash Bros.

While Final Fantasy Tactics had more, well, tactics, I liked this game for the relationship aspect. I liked it when characters married and had kids. In fact, that’s what I spent most of my time doing. From my female Robin and Chrom hooking up to create the most powerful royal family ever to Sumia and Fredrick, Miriel and Kellum, Nowi and Lonqu, Henry and Cordelia, and other interesting couples, I had more fun shipping characters than fighting with them.

Gameplay and Story

Fire Emblem
My female Robin Character

The story was not anything special but had some interesting time travel elements. Due to the option to have perma-death (a masochistic option at best, due to how easily a character can die), most of the characterization for the large cast only comes through the optional character conversations and sidequests. Having the future generation take part is interesting but there isn’t much point to recruiting them, storywise. And to grind them all to an acceptable level takes plenty of time. Probably too much time, honestly. The options for replayability are there, but for now, I don’t really want to take the time to go through the game again. I do admit curiosity as to how things would change, though. 

If you have a 3DS, this is a good game, but don’t expect Final Fantasy levels of story telling. There’s also a Free to Play mobile game out there with a lot of returning characters. I haven’t tried it out yet, but maybe someday.

Biology of Orcs

Orcs

Have you seen the Warcraft movie? Me neither. I don’t even play World of Warcraft. But I did play Warcraft 2 and 3. And the series as a whole has been concerned mostly about the conflict between humans and orcs. But what are orcs? In this series, they’re green. In Tolkien, they’re different. The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy had them as black. The Hobbit trilogy had them as white, even with the same director. Other series have borrowed from the concept of orcs and have their own versions. So let’s try to define orcs, inasmuch as possible. 

Origin of Orcs

Orcs were created by Tolkien as an alternative name to goblins. They share linguistic roots with the word Ogre. Orcus was latin for the underworld and then came to mean demon. So while Tolkien created what we know as orcs, they have been floating around in our mythology for a long time, just under different names. Some works even have them at the side of smaller goblins and larger ogres and trolls. But Tolkien unwittingly solidified them into their own separate race, since the Uruk’hai did not appear like the goblins of Myth.

Role of Traditional Orcs

In the majority of traditional works using orcs or other creatures of a similar vein, they fulfill the trope of Dark Lord’s armies. Basically, they are the faceless, evil, stupid, or all three. And while they might be physically intimidating, their only real strength is in numbers. If not threatening, then they are at least comic relief.. They are nothing more than an obstacle. And not even the main obstacle. They are the underlings of the true antagonist, like Sauron. They have no culture, no morals, no worth.

These orcs are that way so that the protagonists can have enemies they can kill without remorse. If Gimli and Legolas had to kill humans instead of orcs, they wouldn’t be boasting about how many they killed. Seeing your enemy as human makes them appear less like your enemy. That is why leaders go to such lengths to portray enemies as subhuman, as ‘Others.’ And attempts to make your own army more frightening by deemphasizing their humanity just backfires. See Stormtroopers, the orcs of a galaxy far, far away.

With these orcs, the hero is shown as awesome for defeating them, without the moral stains of spilling blood. Because orc blood is green goo. It’s not a sin to slay them.

Role of Revisionist Orcs

Modern revisionist orcs have taken on a different tone. Where in the first few Warcraft games, they resembled Tolkien orcs in purpose, by Warcraft 3 they were given culture and turned into another trope: the noble savage. They are a mishmash of different tribal cultures, not less intelligent than humans but not as advanced technologically as the humans they fight against. The conflict is more a conflict of cultures than good versus evil, and they are sometimes even portrayed as more righteous than humans, especially when it comes to ecological concerns. They are more connected to the earth. In essence, they are more green than humans, in every sense of the word. 

As a side note, I’ve never liked the Noble Savage trope. It always seemed too patronizing and simplified. Native Americans, for example, were just as complex as the Europeans that invaded their lands, having both good and bad things about them. They may have respected the earth a bit more, but that would have probably changed if they had discovered metal forging on their own. They were humans, just like everyone else.

Biology of Orcs

Generally portrayed as humanity’s enemy, they may be humanized or monsturized, but they are not human. Or are they? That depends.

First of all, are orcs mammals? Most accounts point to the answer being yes. We generally don’t see them laying eggs. They often have hair. When there are females, they are shown with breasts. Seems like mammals to me.

The only thing against them being mammals is the color of their skin, when it is green (which probably only exists because people painted their Warhammer orc models green to distinguish them from other armies). That makes them look more reptilian, since there is no mammal we know of that has green skin or hair. But everything else points to them being mammals. See the video below as to why it’s hard to have green skin as a mammal, but not necessarily impossible:

Aside from their coloring, the biggest difference between orcs and humans are their faces. Orcs generally have upturned noses and sometimes tusks. What does that remind you of? Pigs. Warthogs. The Welsh word for pig is Orc. Orc rhymes with pork. The thing that seems to unite all versions is this: they’re pig men (as if men weren’t already pigs). Just like it’s hard to create something completely original, so people have just been combining animals and humans to create their monsters, orcs are basically human pig hybrids. Pigs are disgusting. Orcs are meant to be disgusting, so you don’t feel sympathy for them.

So orcs don’t appear to be human, but some sort of distant cousin to them, not only because they are portrayed as a hybrid, but because they can often interbreed with humans. Any two species that can interbreed can’t be too far apart. Maybe they are green neanderthals.

Super Powered

The Warcraft orcs are bigger than humans, wielding massive weapons. It’s interesting that they are built so blocky (because of the original overhead view on the computer screen) as they would need to be more blocky to survive at that size. Even at 7 feet tall, with their bulk, they would weigh several hundred pounds, looking more like gorillas than humans. Could something that big survive? Maybe. They would have to eat a lot to sustain that weight, which would be hard as carnivores. But it would make them a lot more powerful than a human. So powerful any fight between them would be unfair. Yet for some reason the human hero always wins.

Future

So were do they go from here? Will they no longer be used as much, because audiences no longer want such simple enemies? Will the noble orcs be replaced by human noble savages? Is there a new branch of storytelling for them to follow, something different than what came before? Will they ever get a chance to be taken seriously, as a real threat to humanity in and of themselves, and not guided by a dark lord? I think that if they do continue on, it will be in a reinvented form that rejects the two mentioned above. Maybe they will be truly alien instead of pig men. There’s the potential for more, or the potential for them to disappear. Only time will tell.

More info about Orc tropes

New Portfolio Site

New Portfolio

My New Website

As I have been working on my masters degree in UX Design, I have been given the task of creating a portfolio piece. So I thought I would take it a step further and create a new website that showcases my graphic design work as well (my old site will be taken down soon. Check out my embarrassing student work and manual coding before it goes). And I wanted to take this post to talk about what I’ve been doing with my life.

Graphic Design

I studied graphic design and graduated 3 years ago. Since then I have been working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has been great. Most of my work displayed on my portfolio site is from this job. My old site has my college projects. I’ve always loved art and now I’m getting paid for it.

UX Design

I have come to realize that graphic designers are getting replaced by user experience designers, though. So to keep up with the times, I am now studying for a Masters degree in UX design, which will hopefully give me an edge before my job is replaced.

Personal Projects

My all consuming project has been this, Sage Eyes, first conceived around the time I was ten, although in a very different form. Simon was a wizard in training whose magic kept messing up. Tiffany (then Tirany) was a warrior princess. The original story didn’t get very far, but elements have stuck around and morphed into what I have now. I’m finishing up editing the book, and I’ve spent time illustrating and animating characters, creatures, and other things from the book. Below is the trailer if you haven’t seen it.

I have also taken time to create an infographic about the Greek Gods, and then do a video about them, just because they’ve been an interest of mine ever since I saw the Disney movie Hercules. I’ve let it live on Youtube and it’s grown respectfully since then.

As you can see, creating things consumes my life. It’s what gives me the most satisfaction. Hopefully it can give other people enjoyable experiences as well.

Also, another site with most of my work is Behance. Check that out, too.

Thanks!

 

Is the Secret Identity Passé?

Secret Identity

Pre 2008, there was one thing all super heroes had in common, despite their differences in powers or lack of them. It was something they held sacred. A secret no one could ever know. It was the secret identity.

Sure, sometimes it was ridiculous (here’s looking at you, Superman), but no self respecting hero would be caught without it. But that all changed when Tony Stark sauntered in and had to ruin it for everyone in Iron Man, announcing to the world at the end his identity. And since then, secret identities have gotten lax.

Steve Rogers aka Captain America makes no effort to hide his identity, maybe because he was lost in time and his old identity means nothing now. Thor never cared. And in Man of Steel, Superman left a trail that let Lois Lane figure out his identity with ease. He might have donned on some glasses at the end, but from the Batman v Superman trailers, it seems he’s not fooling anyone, especially not Lex Luthor nor Bryce Wayne. And in this era of facial recognition software, putting on some glasses ain’t gonna do it.

But even more evident than the movies, the TV shows care even less about secret identities. Green Arrow’s list of people who know his secret identity has grown to pretty much the entire cast. And I recently picked up The Flash, who is doing the same thing. Last night on an episode, he was asked the question if everyone except the girl he liked knows his identity, and he said, “Pretty much.”

So why did the secret identity even exist in the first place? And why have we effectively gotten rid of it for the major superheroes nowadays?

There are four main reasons for superheroes to keep their identity secret. First of these is that it is to protect their loved ones from harm. The super villains might use them against the hero. This is evident in the original Spiderman movies, with Mary Jane as the damsel in distress whenever the villain figured out Peter Parker’s identity. On the flip side, Tony Stark doesn’t seem to care about anyone, especially in the first installment, so he doesn’t mind telling every potential villain who he is.

The second reason is that the secret identity is to keep the hero humble. We can identify with Peter Parker because he goes through struggles in school, work, and love, all without (usually) using his powers to his advantage. If a hero got famous because he boasted of his powers, he’ll alienate his fans. Of course, Tony Stark is already a billionaire, so telling everyone he’s Iron Man doesn’t change much there.

The third reason is that the secret identity serves as a symbol. Batman Begins went into the most detail with this, since the bat as a symbol of fear and the night was more powerful than billionaire Bruce Wayne running around with cool gadgets. Tony Stark, however, wants people intimidated by his intelligence and ability to make those gadgets.

The fourth reason deals more with us. We get some measure of entertainment and satisfaction knowing something the other characters don’t. This is nothing new. Shakespeare did it with plays like Twelfth Night. We want to be in the know. So when everyone knows, it’s not as satisfying.

So if there are these four, and possibly more, reasons for keeping identities secret, why the shift? Maybe because we’ve started to lose the concept of privacy. With cameras, facial recognition, DNA testing, and other technology surrounding us, we subconsciously realize that keeping a secret identity in today’s world would be practically impossible. It would take more superpowers to defeat security cameras than defeat evil.

The world has become a more complicated place, and superheroes are beginning to reflect that. For better or for worse, things are changing, including the once sacred secret identity.

So if you’re a loved one of a superhero, watch your back.

Strong Female Character: Where They Go Wrong

Dance

I’m a man. I’ve never been a woman. But I like to write (hence this site). And my writing just happens to be set in a world where there are two sexes, men and women. In an effort to represent one half of the population, I have some female characters, several of whom I want to portray as a strong female character. Now the trick is, how do I write them well, not being a woman and unable to read minds?

I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Part of it is from a shift in society, where women have taken a larger role in the workforce, leadership, and getting an education. So the clamor is for a strong female character to be portrayed realistically, or at least how people want to see them portrayed.

Once upon a time, women were designated to roles such as damsel in distress, loving mother, or spiteful stepmother. Now that was pretty limiting, as they were all pretty passive. Even the fairy tales about women didn’t have them actually do anything. In Disney’s Cinderella, the mice did more for her than she did for herself. She was valued for her kindness, hard work, etc, but above all, for her beauty, something she was born with and didn’t earn. And of course, her stepmother was jealous of her, because of her old age and loss of beauty, and Cinderella’s beauty in contrast to her own daughters’, whose ugly faces resembled their personalities. Now we can look at that and see so many subtle but demeaning messages.

Today there is a hunger to see women in a much more active role, like Katniss in the Hunger Games or Rey in Star Wars. Instead of constantly being saved by a man, they can save others. Seems like a good thing, especially for girls who look to them as role models, right? For the most part, yes. But there are some scenarios where the strong female character isn’t done well. Here are a few categories:

The Sex Symbol

More used for the love interest of the male hero, but still can apply to protagonists. This is where the woman’s primary value comes from being beautiful, sexy, etc. Romance stories might have this, and female villains are often sexually manipulative. Video games, if they choose to have a girl as the playable character, will often do so just for the eye candy effect, not because having her as a woman changes the story in any way. But this doesn’t help the cause of women anywhere. Both boys and girls need to see that women are valuable for more than just their bodies. We, both men and women, can get so judgmental of someone for something they were born with and can’t completely control.

Male in a Female Body

This can overlap with the first point, especially in video games. But it is seen in other media as well. Basically, the protagonist acts, speaks, and thinks like a man, but has a woman’s body and is attracted to men. This caters to men again, giving them eye candy and someone they can easily understand as well. She’s usually a kick butt warrior, somewhat silent, and a loner, or at least pushes everyone away. She’s no nonsense, what men tend to value in other men, and skilled in some type of ‘masculine’ skill, usually fighting, sometimes mechanics or other similar fields. Pornography does this all the time, basically making a woman as lusty as the men who watch her. The problem with this portrayal is that the woman is only a woman superficially, with the outside body parts matching but the inside thinking and feeling completely divorced from how real woman think and feel. This sends the message that women can only be valuable if they imitate men and not for what makes them uniquely feminine.

The Mary Sue

The Mary Sue is perfect in everything. Rey from Star Wars gets accused of this, because she can suddenly wield a lightsaber and use the force as powerfully as Kylo Ren. The problem with this is that stories are inherently about growth, and if the protagonist is already perfect, then how can she grow? This portrayal is used because the writer is afraid that if the female protagonist has weaknesses, the writer will be accused of sexism. Or the writer just doesn’t know how to make a good protagonist. It’s all right for a hero to have some preexisting skills, otherwise they might be uninteresting, but they should still learn new things and struggle through difficult situations.

The Strong Female Character who doesn’t do anything

Sometimes an actual strong female character is put into a story. But if she’s a secondary character, she might not actually do anything to drive the plot. She’s just…there. Hiccup’s mom in How to Train Your Dragon, Trinity in the Matrix, Hope in Ant-Man, and others, they all have the skills to do whatever the hero does, but they have to sit back and do nothing, except maybe train the hero, because he’s the ‘Chosen One’ and she isn’t.

For more reading on this, check out this article.

The Enlightened Woman

This woman is ahead of her time, standing up against oppressive men because she was born for this century, not the 1800s. Unfortunately, while there have been women who have stood up to men in history, it is rare and was never as much as feminists these days would have liked. We are all products of our culture and can’t completely escape that. So those women in stories feel out of place. In a hundred years, people will look back at us and our culture and call us unenlightened and ignorant in how we treat and portray women.

Strong Female Character is now becoming a derisive term because it no better represents women than the old stories who dismissed them did. A truly strong female character has all the aspects of a real women, both the good  aspects like nurturing, communication, and intelligence, as well as the bad, like self doubt, not as physically strong as her male counterparts, and falling prey to her emotions. She doesn’t have all the answers, just like the rest of us in this world, nor is she born with all the skills she needs. She is, above all, a human being, with some facets of her personality influenced by her biology and the cultural expectations of whatever era she lives in. What makes a woman strong is refusing to let her weaknesses keep her from fulfilling her objective. In that aspect, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz is a strong female. She may not be a butt kicking warrior, but she unites people, defeats two witches, unmasks a phony, and leaves Oz just a little bit better.

Shouldn’t that be a good role model for girls?

 

What Makes a Good Monster

Roc Monster
Monsters don’t exist, just in case you were wondering. You’re free to look under your bed now.
But why don’t they exist? What makes something a monster?
In old India, surely they thought of tigers as monsters who would take down anyone that wandered out of the safety of the village. Sailors seeing whales for the first time probably thought them monsters. But are tigers and whales monsters? No. They are animals, more specifically mammals. No matter how fierce, dangerous, or powerful they are, they can’t be monsters. Why?
Because they’ve been classified.
They’re no longer a mystery. They’ve been studied. They’ve been placed into zoos and aquariums. We kill many more of them than they of us. And they present absolutely zero threat to human civilization at large.
So again, what makes a monster? The mystery.
In some fantasy worlds, there are fantastic creatures, powerful, scary, and even threats to humanity. But many of them wouldn’t be monsters, because they’re too well known. So orcs and dragons may or may not be monsters, depending on how well they’re understood. On the other hand, in a sci-fi story, if aliens come to invade and we have little knowledge of them, they would be monsters. Frankenstein and Dracula are monsters because no one really understands them, and they’re not a species of animal.
There’s the old cliche that we fear what we don’t understand. While not really true in all cases, in some things, our lack of understanding gives it power over us. The best horror movies leave whatever paranormal creatures in the shadows, not fully understood. Their motives are alien, their biology uncertain.
But what happens when we create monsters out of each other? When we talk about serial rapists as monsters, it’s not just about the heinous acts they commit, although that is a big part of it, but because most people don’t quite understand what drives someone to do those acts, to bypass all moral constraints we’ve had in place since our childhood.
Sometimes we make a whole people we don’t understand into monsters. Muslims, Communists, Nazis, Native Americans. All these groups had both good and bad people (even the Nazis, who were mostly convinced that everyone else, and especially groups like Jews and homosexuals, were the monsters).
Many of the grand scale atrocities in history came because one group dehumanized another, making them ‘others,’ or a monster, and pitting us against them. George R. R. Martin even calls his monsters the Others in the Game of Thrones books.
So ignorance isn’t bliss. Naivety might be, but ignorance is just fear. Fortunately, we have so many resources with the internet that ignorance is willful as well. If you’re ignorant, it’s your own fault. So get out there and try to understand other people, customs, religions, and politics.
And if you’re writing horror, keep us guessing, don’t reveal too much about your monsters.

Why Fantasy Worlds Suck if You’re Not the Chosen One

Chosen One
At the heart of many fantasies is the idea of the Chosen One, one who is prophesied to destroy evil, bring balance, etc, etc. Harry Potter, the boy who lived, is one famous example. Anakin Skywalker is another, albeit with a twist. Then there’s Aladdin, Neo from the Matrix, Katniss, Rand al’Thor, Garion, the Pevensies, Richard Rahl, Eragon, Thomas Covenant, Percy Jackson, Emma Swan, King Arthur, Link, Sora, and others who fulfill (or sometimes subvert) this trope. Even Kung Fu Panda does it. Here’s a more complete list: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheChosenOne
There’s also another trope in fantasy: you’re either born with magic or not. Not every story does it, but a lot do, which is strange in a way. What abilities in real life are people born with that other people can’t do? Sure, some people seem to be more talented, but practically anyone can learn any ability (just not all of them). Yet in fantasy worlds, that’s not the case. Maybe because it would be hard to imagine a society full of magic users. Either way, it makes a tough life for the characters who are neither the chosen one nor have magic.
But then again, we never think of these characters, because we are meant to identify with the chosen one. Because the biggest fantasy in the fantasy genre is that we are somehow special. That’s one of the main motivators in reading/viewing fantasy. The idea of magic, at its heart, is of being special. In science fiction, there can be technology that’s so advanced it appears magic. But it’s available to everyone (might need some training, though). Magic takes you to an exclusive club, you might even be the only one with it, even if it takes training to master. It is much more about the individual than a society.
This is true even without magic, per se. Superpowers are the exact same thing, just usually in a more modern context. And then there are the people who get sucked into a new world *cough* Narnia *cough* that they have to save, even though they have no expertise, no knowledge of the area, no magic, nothing qualifying them for the task at hand, but they have to do it, just because. And of course they’re successful, even if they didn’t really do anything. Frodo had to sneak into Mordor because…for some reason, only he could resist the ring’s lure? Not some super stealthy ninja, just a hobbit.
So how do you think that makes the Chosen One’s friends feel? Suddenly Mr. Nobody is Mr. Hero because…no real reason. Either he was born with some power and is just now manifesting it, or he got chosen by…prophecy? Who exactly is in charge of these prophecies in the first place? It’s not very fair. They didn’t actually do anything to earn their place. And even if they go on a big, scary adventure, they’re the chosen one, they can’t die (or if they do, they come back to life).
Now you may argue that they’re like Christ figures, if you’re a Christian. He was chosen before birth, given a special destiny. But the characters in these books aren’t perfect (or if they are, they’re boring) and Christ earned his chosen status through his perfection. The Chosen Ones in stories are doofuses.
Either way, the Chosen One is usually not very qualified (Harry vs Hermoine), not the most powerful (Frodo vs Gandalf (or anyone)), and is usually pretty boring, aside from occasionally being able to provide snarky commentary or gallows humor. Yet they are chosen, while the rest of the world languishes without magic or destiny, serving only as orc fodder when the dark lord tries to hurt the hero by striking at their home.
So to all those non-Chosen Ones out there, who are stuck in dead end jobs, bad relationships, poverty, and bad health, and who don’t get a magical break from their sad lives:
It sucks to be us.

Sci-Fi Science (or not)

Alien science

Humans have wondered for a long time if they are the only intelligent, sapient life in the cosmos or not. That has become the basis for much of science fiction. But much of science fiction is just that: fiction. That’s my problem with sci-fi. Fantasy owns up to being completely untrue. But sci-fi pretends to be realistic, even though a lot of it isn’t based on science, or even if some parts are, there is usually one assumption that puts everything else into disbelief.

To Infinity and Beyond Science

The problem in most sci-fi novels, television, and movies is that faster than light travel is not possible. In order to get around the light speed limit, things like hyperspace, a higher dimension, are made up. But there really isn’t any scientific evidence for theories like hyperspace. So because of the light speed limit, most interplanetary sci-fi is grossly improbable/impossible.

The movie Interstellar tried to stay true to science, but it featured a conveniently placed wormhole and at the end delved more into theories. So Interstellar really offers no practical insight on how to get to another world to colonize it. The book and movie The Martian tries to stay closer to hard science. It highlights the difficulty of survival on a desolate planet, plus the expenses just to send a few people to one of Earth’s closest neighbors.

If we wanted to escape the solar system, the closest star is Alpha Centauri, 4 light years from here. That’s about 17,000,000,000,000 miles. To imagine the space just between planets in our solar system, go to http://joshworth.com/dev/pixelspace/pixelspace_solarsystem.html Then imagine the length to go much farther to get to Alpha Centauri and beyond. Some probes go about 17 kps, or 38000 mph, which is about .08% of the speed of light. It would take a current probe around 52000-70000 years to get to Alpha Centauri. And there’s no indication yet that life could exist on any of Alpha Centauri’s planets. With solar sail technology, acceleration would be slow but could theoretically get up to 10% of the speed of light. The journey to Alpha Centauri would then only take 45-200 years. So far that technology is only for tiny probes, not for something that could take humans through the stars. And it would take a lot of work for humans to survive that trip even if size weren’t an issue. Even reproduction would be an issue in space, as well as bone deterioration, gamma ray exposure, and a multitude of other issues.

So the first manned mission to an exoplanet probably won’t occur for a few hundred years, if ever. And that’s if we don’t destroy our current home planet before then.

If we barely got clear photos of Pluto, imagine how little we know about exoplanets. Right now, we can only find exoplanets when they cross in front of their star. We guess at their atmosphere by aberrations in light.

Faster than Light Travel

Ever since realizing the vast distances in space, people have looked for ways to defy the maximum speed limit of the universe, the speed of light. But it’s all fiction or hypothetical right now. In 2011, some scientists believed neutrino particles had gone slightly faster than light. It turns out they made a mistake in their measurements, sending up jokes through the internet.

The most promising way of cheating the light speed limit involves compressing and expanding space. Using negative energy, a ship would compress space in front and expand space behind it to push it forward. This is basically a warp drive. Doing this wouldn’t technically break the speed limit. But what is negative energy? How can you harness it? And how much is needed? And it brings up the question, is space a thing, if you can warp it? Does that make time a thing, too, since they exist on a continuum?

Existential questions

According to scientists, there was nothing outside or before the singularity that turned into the big bang. All space, time, energy, and matter of the universe were crunched up into that singularity. When it first started expanding, the universe expanded much faster than the speed of light. Time is sometimes defined as a measurement of entropy, or disorder. Entropy only goes in one direction, like time. But how did the universe start out in a state of order?

If we could travel into the past, some think the only way to get around the paradoxes seems to be creating or journeying to a new universe. Humans think in cause and effect, so they look for the cause of everything. But that gets hard when going back far enough. Did something cause the big bang? If so, what caused the cause of the big bang? Was it all God? And what caused God? If God is the only self-existing being, does that make us His imagination? Can we act independently of God? Why does matter or energy even exist? Why is there something instead of nothing? This type of questioning is called infinite regress, and really gets us nowhere, because we have no way of knowing. But people have been thinking about infinite regress for ages. It’s nothing new. According to big bang theory, if there was something before the big bang, it doesn’t matter, because everything was reset and no information made it past the singularity.

Evidence of life elsewhere

People have been looking for aliens to come to us. Maybe if they’re more advanced than us, they could travel between the stars. Some scientists look for what they call a Dyson Sphere as evidence of alien life on other stars. A Dyson Sphere is a theoretical sphere constructed around a star to absorb all it’s energy output. It is supposedly a sign of an advanced civilization, but an analysis of different galaxies could find no signs of a Dyson Sphere.

People have been listening for radio waves and other communications from outer space, but radio on our planet has existed only around a century. If we could communicate with an alien race, most likely generations would pass before we could get their reply.

Then there’s the issue of seeing whether any aliens we encounter are hostile or not. Because if an advanced civilization decided to wipe us out, it probably wouldn’t happen a la War of the Worlds or Independence Day. We would be pretty helpless. And no species would travel the light years to get here and conquer if they weren’t prepared to utterly destroy us.

So, we’re not likely to go out and find new life, nor is it likely it will find us. I think there’s life out there, because the universe is just so big, but because of the immensity of space, we might not ever detect them, nor them us. There’re just so many hurdles to overcome. Still, it’s fun to think about.

10 Easy Ways to Become a Millionaire

Millionaire
Ever see mansions or Mercedes-Benz and wish that you were a millionaire and could buy those things? Do you scoff at the old saying that ‘Money can’t buy happiness’? Do you want to not only keep up with the Joneses, but leave them eating your dust? If so, thank your lucky stars because you’ve just found the perfect article!

The 10 Steps to Become a Millionaire

Below are ten easy ways to become a millionaire. They are fast, require little work, and are guaranteed to make you rich.* So stop feeling sorry for yourself and go get ‘em, tiger!
*Some conditions apply.

1. Go for the gold!

Literally, go find some gold. I mean, it’s worth a lot, so it will make you rich in no time flat. Why do you think California is the richest state in the union? The gold rush of ’49, of course! Helpful items when searching for gold include, but are not limited to: sifters, metal detectors, and pirate treasure maps (silly pirates, they should have just put their money in a bank and let the interest accrue). Once you have your gold, sell it immediately! We all know that shiny metals have no intrinsic value, but the stock market analysts seem to have other ideas. Show them how wrong they are!

2. Start up your career

Mark Zuckerberg’s baby is probably richer than you are, and Mark’s a college drop out. So what are you waiting for? Drop out of college, get some investors to back up your awesome tech idea, and get ready to roll in the dough. You don’t actually need to run a business, just have a simple idea. Hire analysts, business majors, accountants, and social media experts to do all the work for you. Stop wasting time wherever you are and get out there, now!

3. Inherit the riches of the earth

Face it. Your parents are holding back on you. How much money does it take to stay alive these days? Not much. Why? Because the government will take care of you. Not you, you, but your parents. Now I want you to demand all the money they have saved up for retirement, and transfer it to you posthaste. They’ll be fine, but you won’t if they don’t. And frankly, they owe it to you. I mean, who made those cute faces and said adorable nonsense? You, as a baby, that’s who. You just can’t hire that kind of talented entertainment. But did they pay you anything for that? I don’t think so! What kind of horrible people are they, expecting pro bono work all the way up till you turned 18? That breaks so many child labor laws, you could sue them. And do it, if they don’t cough up the cash. Just make sure your parents aren’t dirt poor already. Get some that have lots of money.

4. In it to win it

Now what are you doing, sitting at your phone or computer, reading this? Get up and get to your nearest gas station! Do you know how much money the power ball will get you? Enough to buy a small island, that’s how much! It’s like a no-brainer. I don’t know why the millionaires out there don’t go and buy up as many tickets as they can, but their stupidity is your luck. Now go out, buy your ticket! Or you could get down to Vegas, stay in a fancy hotel, and bet, bet, bet like your life depended on it! Bring the whole family so you can cover more ground! What place is more family oriented than Las Vegas, anyway?

5. Just do it!

Those people at Nike, they’re geniuses. No wonder all of their employees are millionaires with mad sports skills. Get a job with them. But if you don’t make it past the first interview, never fear! Buy a pair of their shoes and become a pro-athlete! They make the big bucks! Michael Jordan, in retirement, still makes more money than your whole extended family. So be the rich, eccentric uncle/aunt you always wished you had, and spoil those nephews and nieces (just watch out for your own kids, see #3).

6. Sing your heart out

#5 not working out for you? Then upload a video of yourself singing in the shower and you’ll be contacted by recording studios in no time! With auto tune, they can make anyone into a superstar! Just look at Justin Beiber.

7. Pot of Gold

Live in a state where marijuana isn’t legal? Then there are citizens clamoring for an untapped market. Or you could choose any other drug. The important thing is to give the people what they want. That’s what I call community service.

8. Kickstart your career

The internet makes these things so easy. Just go to Go Fund Me and make up a sob story like your rosebush having cancer. Then wait for the money to flow in. You’ll be a millionaire in no time. ‘Nuff said.

10. Know thyself

What could be more important than knowing your own identity? Stealing one, of course. Think of all the money you could make when someone carelessly leaves their computer open, their cellphone on the bench, their taxes in the mail, or uses a silly password like 1234? You can make bank while still teaching someone a valuable life lesson. It’s win-win.

 

Wondering where #9 went? Ask Microsoft. I’m still waiting for Window 9. But while we wait, start implementing these suggestions to be a millionaire. And if they work out for you, don’t forget the source of your wisdom. I’d love a cut of the profits. After all, this article did take a ton of research (and so far, nothing’s paid out yet). Thanks for reading.