Bookworm: Insurgent (Divergent Trilogy Book 2)

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Last month, I reviewed the first book in the Divergence trilogy by Veronica Roth, called Divergent. I’ve now finished Insurgent, so I’ll give you my thoughts on it as well. Here there be spoilers, folks. I enjoyed this book just as much as the original.

In the previous book, we knew next to nothing about the Amity faction. In this book, we learn that it administers a “peace serum” to its members and those who visit its counseling facilities.  To me, they seem like futuristic hippies, and this disappointed me. They were the faction I was most fascinated with. They’ve traded peace for fake euphoria.

We also learn the Candor faction is downright scary.  You’re not supposed to have secrets. When you’re initiated, you’re given a dose of truth serum.  I don’t like this at all. A society can’t function without secrets.

We now find that the Erudite have stepped up their simulations on the Dauntless, and are even subliminally cause them to commit suicide.

Tris is kidnapped by the Erudite and subjected to tests in the hopes of removing what makes her a Divergent. I won’t tell you how that turns out.

I have yet to read the final book in the trilogy, but when I do, I will review that one as well.

 

The Avatar Chronicles: Season 1

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Sometimes I really hate about children’s television is how increasingly idiotic it seems. The general consensus believes that because children will watch anything, you don’t need effort.  Fortunately, there are some programs that believe otherwise. One such program is Avatar: The Last Airbender. It lasted three seasons and has spawned a sequel: The Legend of Korra.

The show takes place in a world where people can bend the elements to their will. Where the Fire Nation has risen up to subjugate the world under its boot. And a boy named Aang must master all four elements in order to restore the world to balance. Helping him are Katara and Sokka, two siblings of the Northern Water tribe, and his flying bison named Appa.

I like this show because it takes its audience seriously. Its world-building is unparalled, and the writing is top-notch. The animation is very fluid, and influenced greatly by anime.  This is a show that both adults and children will enjoy. I highly recommend it.

I’m planning on a four-part discussion of this series. Part two will delve into season 2. Part 3 will be about season 3 and I will post that as soon as I buy it. Finally, I will count down my top 10 favorite episodes.

 

50 Years of Doctor Who: the David Tennant Era (2005-2009)

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You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on. Alone. That’s the curse of the Time Lords.
With Eccleston gone, a new actor was chosen: David Tennant. Within one or two years, he became the most popular actor of the revival, almost beating Tom Baker’s status in the Classic period.

About David Tennant

Tennant was born to Essdale Helen and Rev. Alexander “Sandy” McDonald.  Like Colin Baker before him, David was a lifelong fan of Doctor Who and cited it as the reason he wanted to become an actor. At sixteen, he attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. During this thime, he changed his last name to Tennant, inspired by Pet Shop Boys’ lead singer Neil Tennant (they’re his favorite band.)  because the Equity Union already had a David McDonald.  He starred in an episode of Dramarama. He joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre in the 90’s. He also became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also played Barty Crouch Jr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of FIre. His most recent role was in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.

Changes

  • Beginning with “The Runaway Bride”, a new opening was used, complete with a slightly new logo.
  • “School Reunion” and “Doomsday” both started spinoffs. “School Reunion” started the Sarah Jane Adventures and “Doomsday” started Torchwood.
  • First appearance of the Ood: “The Impossible Planet”
  • Four of the Doctor’s adventures were solo, for the first time since Tom Baker’s “The Deadly Assassin”.
  • First appearance of the Judoon: “Smith and Jones” (although the Judoon have yet to appear again, they have appeared in a Sarah Jane Adventures episode.)
  • First appearance of the Weeping Angels: “Blink”
  • John Simm became the seventh actor to play the Master in “Utopia”

Conclusion

David Tennant is my favorite revival era Doctor.  He is the most romantic of the Doctors, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. He was a fun character anda  welcome change from Eccleston’s depressed attitude. He was very energetic. While he didn’t beat Tom Baker in my favorite Doctor rankings, I still think he was a great choice and I was sorry to see him go.

The Companions

Rose Tyler

It’s always interesting seeing how a new Doctor changes the dynamics. With the ninth Doctor, Rose helped him overcome his survivor’s guilt. With the tenth, he seemed more willing to express his love for her (the friendly kind anyway)

Mickey Smith

With the Tenth Doctor, Mickey finally got the respect he deserved. He was far from Mickey the Idiot anymore.  I thought this was a great change.

Captain Jack Harkness

Despite only appearing twice in the main show, Harkness continued to be busy, thanks to Torchwood. His relationship with the Tenth Doctor was a bit softened, and they seemed to be better friends.

Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman)

(Note: because Donna doesn’t join until after Martha’s departure, I put Martha first)

First Appearance: “Smith and Jones”

Last Appearance: “Last of the Time Lords” (returns in “The Sontaran Strategem” and “Journey’s End”)

Martha is a wonderful and pretty companion. I loved her relationship with the Doctor and the sense of wonder she expressed. She is also the only character from the main show to appear in Torchwood, besides John Harkness of course.

Donna Noble (Catherine Tate)

First Appearance: “The Runaway Bride” (does not officially join until “Partners in Crime”)

Last Appearance: “Journey’s End”

I loved Donna! She was so much fun and was the shot in the arm the Doctor desperately needed.  I loved how she freely spoke her mind when she objected to what the Doctor was doing,which seemed like every story.

River Song (Alex Kingston)

First Appearance: “Silence in the Library”

Most Recent Appearance: “The Name of the Doctor” (with 11th)

Ah, the enigmatic River Song. What a confusing, but enjoyable, character you are. I think I should really hold off until next time for her.

Best Stories

“The Girl in the FIreplace”

The Doctor learns just how terrible time travel can be in what I think is one of the saddest stories ever.

“School Reunion”

How could I not like this story? It brought back Sarah Jane! It was great to see her again, and her spinoff series is excellent, especially for a kids show. Why Netflix doesn’t have it is beyond my understanding.

“The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit”

Doctor vs. the devil? Yes, please!

“Fear Her”

A story about a little girl who can trap people in her drawings. Very weird, but I enjoyed it.

“The Shakespeare Code”

The Doctor and Martha meet William Shakespeare himself! This was a real treat for a Shakespeare buff like me.

“Human Nature”/”Family of Blood”

The Doctor gives up his status as a Time Lord and becomes human in this story inspired by a novel.  This is my favorite Martha story

“Blink”

The first appearance of the Weeping Angels. Moffatt at his best!

“Utopia”/”The Sound of Drums”/”The Last of the Time Lords”

While I still think Roger Delgado was the best Master, John Simm certainly was great in this version.

“Planet of the Ood”

Any time you see the Ood, expect a great story. This was a great commentary on humanity’s tendency towards exploitation.

“The Unicorn and the Wasp”

As an Agatha Christie fan, this was a real treat for me. The Doctor meeting another one of my favorite writers. Now all we need is one where he meets Tolkien.

“Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”

The Vashta Narada need to make a comeback. They are too scary for just one story.

“The Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End”

It was about time Davros showed up in the revival.  Bringing back all the companions meant the TARDIS was rather crowded (in fact, this story sets the record for most companions), but thankfully, the story gave them enough time.

“The Waters of Mars”

Ever wonder why the Doctor doesn’t want to mess with fixed points? This episode gives a very good reason: because it gets worse.

Worst Stories
“Love and Monsters”

What a disgusting story! The Absorbalon is a terrible master. And the ending: no, just no.

“Daleks in Manhattan”/”Evolution of the Daleks”

Note to anyone writing a Doctor Who episode: The Daleks do not need lackeys. It never works.

“Voyage of the Damned”
I really wanted to like this episode. An outer space version of the Titanic actually sounded interesting. But there were so many problems and the climax just wasn’t very satisfying.

 

 

 

 

One Faith, Many Paths: Davidizer 13

This is an interview I meant to do earlier this year, but lost. Thankfully, my subject was willing to re-send it.
1. How long have you been a Christian?
As long as I can remember. I was raised in a Sabbatarian church (more on that in a bit), and continue to live happily within its shadow. I haven’t ever thought of myself as anything but a Christian. However, in the last couple years I’ve rethought how I define what being a Christian means in my own life. I’ve toned down my stance on straight biblical literalism, started looking into where and how the Bible was built; I’ve also broken politically from the conservative Christian lockstep (not that I was in that lockstep much in the first place). Nowadays, I believe that my role as a Christian is to bring justice and comfort to the world. Something like that.

2. What would you say is proof of God’s existence?

I don’t believe the existence of God is something that can be proved, the same way you can prove, say, the Pythagorean theorem. For me, the reasons I believe in God have been more experiential than logical. I believe I’ve felt the presence of God, maybe even had Him speak to me once or twice. In the end, though, I can’t prove for sure it was really God, but I don’t see any better explanation. Besides that, I see evidence for something beyond naturalism in abiogenesis (the beginning of life from non-life). While I believe that evolution – real macroevolution, no Creationist “microevolution” dodge about it, because I see them as the same process – occurs, the biochemical conditions for evolution to occur, especially genetic inheritance, are incredibly complex and interlocking, and I find it hard to see that coming about by chance reactions.

Additionally, there’s these incredible geochemical balances and controls that interact to keep conditions in balance for life – for example, as we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, more gets dissolved in the ocean, reacting with water to form carbonic acid. This is bad because the oceans get more acidic, which dissolves things with calcium carbonate skeletons like coral, shellfish, foraminifera… But as atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, so does global temperature, and as temperature increases, the solubility of carbon dioxide in water decreases, so less can get dissolved in the ocean, and less acid is formed. At the same time, the dissolved carbonate ions in the water from the animals neutralize the acidity. The increased temperatures would potentially increase plant growth and consume the excess carbon dioxide, keeping temperature in check. It all works together so well! (At least, it would if we didn’t dig up every carbon sink available and dump it back into the atmosphere…) Almost like there was some sort of design behind it, no? I’m not sure why more creation scientists latch on to this – maybe because that’d acknowledge that global warming was a thing, and that would be dangerously close to actual science…

3. What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

I rather enjoy Micah 6:6-8:

” With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”

God is not interested in the quantity of our religion, how many good deeds we can do in His name, or the amount of money we can give him. God is only interested in our devotion, doing what’s right out of love for Him. (And this right after I argued we should take a more proactive role in the world, doing good deeds – it’s a heart check, I guess.)

I’m also a big fan of Job 28. It’s about rocks.

4. Tell me about your childhood.

Background-wise, I’m just about as middle class, white bread, all-American as they come. I’m the oldest of three, and my parents are still together; we were pretty well-off. Like I said, I was raised in the Church of God (7th Day), spent all my life in it. My grandfather was the pastor of my home church up until last year, my mom plays piano pretty often, we went to regional meetings a lot, and I’m related to quite a few of the members in the northwest (it’s a small denomination). The people I met at church ended up being my friends for the long-run – we’re still really close.

From a pretty young age, I was a smart kid. I was reading the newspaper by five, got disappointed when we weren’t going to learn long division in kindergarten, I blew through elementary… That is, until 5th grade.

The school I was at was trying something different, something about trying to transition us into middle/high school type shifting between rooms for different classes. One of the teachers really rubbed me the wrong way, and I ended up making a Powerpoint about how I was going to take over the school with Molotov cocktails. (I wasn’t, of course.) I got suspended for a week for that little escapade, and it forced my parents’ hand, because they were planning to put me into high school correspondence courses. That ended up happening sooner than we expected.

So from then on, I was homeschooled, plugging through high school courses at the ripe old age of 10, and ending up a year or so ahead of the game going into Running Start at 15, which is theoretically for juniors, but I had nearly all my high school work done at that point.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Back when I was around 9, I started going to this camp down in southwest Oregon every year; at first I was just there to have fun like everyone else, but when I got moved up to the teenagers’ camp, that’s where I started connecting spiritually with God. The camp pastor was a great guy, he’d been doing it for years (still doing it, as far as I know), and one night after fireside, I felt the presence of God. Not a speaking in tongues type thing, just this feeling like I needed to go off by myself and start worshiping. Next year, I came back, got a taste of the same feeling (it wasn’t quite as strong this time), and got baptized without consulting with my parents; I just went ahead and did it – it’s easier to apologize than ask permission, as they say.

From then on, at the ripe old age of 15 I was a college boy, living at home and taking the bus to the local university. First I wanted to get into geography – from a really young age, keeping up with world politics has been a hobby of mine, and somewhere along the line I qualified for three state Geography Bees – but my parents sort of talked me out of it, suggesting I take some general education classes first. Looking for another major, I found environmental science, something else I’d been into for forever. Then I took a geology course as part of that degree; the envi-sci program made it easy to take a double major in those, so that’s what I did, and over time, the geology aspect subsumed the environmental science aspect, geology being a more developed program than the other, which mostly piggybacked on the rest of the science departments. Anyway, I got bachelors’ degrees in environmental science and geology, got a job the next year, and that’s about the end of it.

5. Tell me more about this job.

Until very recently, I was a geologist at a copper/silver mine up in northwest Montana. I work on the exploration side of things, working with core drillers, logging drill core and stratigraphy in order to find more ore and extend the life of the mine. To do this, we take a drill rig up the mountain, stick a diamond-studded cookie cutter on the end of it, make thousand-foot holes in the ground with it, and pull up the rock as we drill through the strata.

The best analogy I can give for exploration geology is a game of Battleship. With the first couple shots you make, you’re mostly guessing, based on what you know of the person you’re playing against, or maybe following some pattern, like aiming for the center first. With enough shots, you’ll build up a pattern of hits and misses, and you can predict where you’re going to score a hit again. Now imagine that it takes two to three weeks, thousands of dollars, a couple experienced core drillers and a collection of heavy machinery every time you make a shot, and embed the targets in multiple levels of rock a couple thousand feet beneath the ground, and that’s about what we do.

My role in all this was as a spotter for our shots – I looked at the minerals and rock types in the core we drill up, saw if we hit the good stuff or not write it down, and tried to guess where it is in the target formation based on the other holes we’ve made. It’s time-consuming work, spent alone in a core shack, just you and the rock, but somehow it stayed exciting for quite a while. It’s a gambler’s thrill, I guess, waiting with bated breath for your next sight of the tiny purple and yellow specks that tell you you’re in the money.

6. Favorite Biblical figure and why?
I went through Samuel/Kings lately, and pretty much everyone in there’s pretty cool, but the one who really sticks with me is Joab, David’s army commander. He gets the job by killing off the last one in a fit of revenge, and David’s just like “OK, whatever.” 

He pretty much wanders around killing people, no matter how counterproductive or messy it gets, and yet David keeps him around for the entire time. It seems like David to get rid of him after the incident with Bathsheba, picking a replacement, but then Joab comes back and kills that guy too! Then when Absalom revolts, David sends him after Absalom, telling Joab explicity not to kill him. And not only does Joab kill him, after David finds out Absalom died, he’s the one that comes in and slaps David out of mourning for the guy he just murdered! It’s amazing what David put up with with Joab – he was this necessary evil, so much so that David couldn’t bring himself to deal with him while David was alive.

Besides that, I also like Amos. Out of all the minor prophets, he’s the most interesting to me, the things he says and the way he says them. Amos is rough, uneducated, and best of all, completely ticked off. He starts railing against all of Israel’s enemies, leaving nothing back…or so it seems, until he finally turns against the sins of Israel and launches into a fury of poetic passion that makes everything else he just said pale in comparison.

7. Who have you met that inspires you to be a better person and why?

I’ve got a friend named Jonny I’ve known since I was pretty young – we met each other at the church we both still go to. Over time I’ve seen him grow from a wild child/idea man who pushed the gang into crazy plans he thought up, into a level-headed, devoted husband and would-be youth pastor pursuing a masters’ degree in divinity. We’ve spent a lot of time lately tossing “inconvenient” ideas about theology and the nature of the Bible back and forth, and we’re finding how much we agree on these things.