Two-time Liebster Award Winner!

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I just found out that I have received the Liebster Award for a second time! My first time was with my anime blog, Lobster Quadrille.  Thank you, Video As Life, and welcome to my blogroll!

As part of receiving this award, I must answer the following questions and nominate blogs I read. I must also make up questions for them as well.

  1. What was the last movie you saw by yourself? Man of Steel.
  2. If you could go anywhere in the movies, where would it be? Well, Narnia was in three movies so far, so I guess it counts. I’ll choose Narnia.
  3. What was the first animal you hit with a car? I don’t drive. I don’t think I could trust myself behind the wheel.
  4. Watching Foreign films: Subtitles or dubs? It depends on the quality of the dub, whether animated or not.
  5. If you could be any animal, what would it be? A platypus.  I just love the fact that God created such a strange, yet beautiful animal. When he created this animal, God was purely showing off.
  6. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure movie? Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  7. What movie should have won Best Picture, but didn’t? I’m a firm believer that It’s a Wonderful Life was cheated out of this nomination.
  8. How do you watch The Wizard of Oz, with or without Pink Floyd? As much as like both Oz and Pink Floyd, I’ve never considered combining Oz with Dark Side of the Moon. I’ll have to do it sometime.
  9. Remakes: Friend or Foe? Remakes are evidence that Hollywood has become a creative wasteland. Not one remake has ever improved on the original.
  10. What movie do you regret seeing? Oh, so many! But the first that comes to mind is Starship Troopers. Which is a farce of a movie, especially if you’ve read the book, as I have.

I nominate the following blogs:

  1. Annah’s World, a blog for a trilogy in progress. I am friends with the blogger, Clay Gilbert.
  2. Vampire Syndrome, like Clay, this blogger, Daven Anderson, is a friend and writer of the Vampire Syndrome series. He’s also an advocate for those with special needs.
  3. Behind the Masq, a budding anime reviewer! Very good approach to his reviews.
  4. Rat’s Right, a right-leaning news blog.
  5. Three Puzzle Pieces,A parent blogs about her three children, who are all disabled.
  6. Well-Spent Journey I just started with this blog, and I’m already enjoying it.

Here are your ten questions:

  1. What is the worst book you’ve ever read?
  2. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
  3. If you could own any fictional car, what would it be and why?
  4. What creature from mythology do you wish existed?
  5. What song do you think best describes your philosophy and why?
  6. What’s your favorite verse from the Bible and why?
  7. A time-traveller has offered to take you to any p0int in history, so long as you do not attempt to invoke the “butterfly effect”.  What event would you wish to visit, and why?
  8. Who are your favorite musicians?
  9. What is your favorite animal?
  10. Name three musicians you feel deserve a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who have yet to be nominated.

Okay, you bloggers know what to do!

My Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies and Specials

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It’s that time of year. The time TV decides to churn out Christmas stuff. Although a lot of the new specials seem more centered around the secular aspects of Christmas, I’ve found some movies and specials that I always enjoy. Here are ten.

10) Tokyo Godfathers (2003) Based on the American movie Three Godfathers, this is an excellent film by the man I consider the Stanley Kubrick of anime, Satoshi Kon.  He did a great job with this story. It’s about three homeless men who find an abandoned baby and decide to give him a family, by taking care of him themselves.  I really like the feel of this movie, and for a culture that certainly is not Christian, it actually does Christmas justice.  I should warn you, it’s not child-friendly–one of the men is a drag queen.

9. The Small One (1978) This Disney cartoon is the last one that Don Bluth did before he made his own studio and started making cartoons like The Secret of NIMH and An American Tail. It’s a story about a boy who has to sell his family’s donkey because it’s too old. Since it’s set in Bethlehem before Jesus is born, I’m sure you can guess who gets the donkey.  It’s very beautiful and the ending is heartwarming. You can find this on the Classic Holiday Favorites DVD from Disney.

8) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) This musical stars Judy Garland as Esther, the eldest daughter of a wealthy middle-class family.  She is dismayed to learn that her family has to move to New York and that she will miss the 1904 World’s Fair.  The best, of course has to be the scene where Garland sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, which has become a staple of Christmas music ever since. Garland’s voice is still as beautiful as always.

7. The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (1985) Based on L. Frank Baum’s classic book.  This is the story of a boy cared for by a Wood Nymph named Necile. (The boy is named Claus. Get it? Necile’s Claus?)  According to Baum, this is the boy who would become Santa Claus.  Okay, it says nothing about St. Nicholaus but I still enjoy this story. It presents the Christmas spirit in a unique way and the stop-motion animation is spell-binding (this is from Rankin-Bass, the same studio that made the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town cartoons that still play every year. I looked on Amazon and there’s lots of DVD collections of their specials, including this one.

6) A Christmas Carol Which one, you ask? Yes, there’s been lots of movies done on this classic Dickens story, from Disney to even the Flintstones (which to me makes no sense when you really think about it).  I think the best ones are: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), the one with Patrick Stewart (made in 1999 for TNT), and the one starring George C. Scott in the 80’s. There’s even a modernized version called Scrooged starring Bill Murray (it’s a bit darker than it should be, but I thought it was a nice twist).

5) The Polar Express (2004) This is just beautiful. Robert Zemeckis is a brilliant filmmaker, whether he’s doing cartoons or live-action (or maybe I’m just biased because I still think the Back to the Future movies are excellent).  It’s a story about children who are taken to the North Pole by train before they become too disillusioned to believe in Santa.  I love the way the movie addresses the issue of faith.  Whether in 2-D or 3-D, this is a joy to watch.

4) How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) It’s just not Christmas without Boris Karloff as the Grinch.  This is such a fun story and I just can’t stop watching it every year.  And no, I will not watch that awful Ron Howard version.

3) Miracle on 34th Street (original: 1947, remakes in 1955, 1959, and 1994) This is a classic story about Santa Claus that I feel it’s just not Christmas without.  I actually like the 1994 version better, but the original is good too. I’ve heard people complain about Mara Wilson’s performance, but I’ve seen worse child actors. And besides, she’s adorable.  Richard Attenborough is excellent as Kris Kringle. My favorite bits are when he does sign language for a deaf girl and the end, where the court scene is ended by someone bringing in a dollar bill. The idea is if we put “In God We Trust” on our currency (which I sincerely hope we never stop doing) to indicate a belief in God, then why can’t we believe that Santa exists.

TIE: 2) A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) I LOVE this cartoon! I  still watch this every year, unlike Rudolph (which I’ve outgrown) and Frosty the Snowman (which I now despise). I find it so disappointing that this is the only secular special that actually quotes the Bible.  (although I hear they tried to cut that part out originally, and Schulz insisted that it remain) Like every Charlie Brown cartoon or comic, it has a sense of honesty and innocence that I just love. And how can you not identify with Charlie Brown.

2) The Nativity Story (2006) It’s not a big budget movie but its heart is certainly in the right place.  Everything about this movie is well-done. I love the attention given to Joseph’s dilemma, the performance of Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary, and the comic relief provided by the three Wise Men.  I really can’t recommend this movie enough. It really deserves more attention than it initially received.

1) It’s A Wonderful Life (1945) Frank Capra directed this excellent movie. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is a loveable hero who discovers how much his hometown Bedford Falls would suck if he wasn’t around to keep the heartless Mr. Potter in check.  I’ve not found one person who disagrees with me how great this movie is.

Why I Am A Christian

By now, you’ve probably noticed I’m unashamed of my Christianity.  It’s time I explained why.

I’m what you call a “cradle Catholic”. It means I was born into my faith. But that doesn’t mean I’ve never doubted or wavered.  If your faith is never tested, it never truly grows.

To be honest, during my teen years, I began to question my faith.  I realized that being a Christian only to keep out of Hell was incorrect. I’d also heard of all the horrible things we Christians have done, like the Inquisition. But I started reading about the saints, I realized a reason to be Christian. If Christianity had inspired so many people to become heroic, it can’t be that bad.  I also realized I owe a debt to Jesus. He did a lot to save me.

Now, I’m not about to tell you that you should a Christian too.  I know I can give you all sorts of reasons, but in the end, it’s not me. I’m just opening the door. God does the rest.

Now I know what some of the arguments are. I will offer some rebuttals.

1. How can I profess a religion that is responsible for bloodshed? Atheists aren’t so pure either.  Allow me to quote Answering Atheism: If Christians have to answer for the Inquisition, Atheists have to answer for Stalin.  Evil is part of human nature. Christianity has nothing to do with it. Everyone who has ever done evil in God’s name has done it through misinterpretation.  Besides, Marxists like Stalin and Lenin believed in their convictions probably as strongly as any Christian. Christians have also done good in God’s name. Besides the saints, there are missionaries who have taught children how to read and write. We have lead charities. We oppose tyranny.

2. How can I believe something science has claimed doesn’t exist? Science can neither prove nor disprove God.  Science can only prove what is tangible.  I feel that religion is proof that there is something beyond the material world. Shakespeare said it best: “There are more things in Heaven and Hell than dreamt of in your philosophy.” If there weren’t anything beyond the physical realm, then why would so many religions exist.

These are my reasons for believing in God. I feel that it is my answer.

How I Became a Brony


In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new phenomenon in the Internet. Let me back this up. In 2010, Hasbro bought the Discovery Kids channel and turned it into The Hub, a new children and family-oriented network. To attract an audience, they decided to reboot several of their most popular (and not so popular, in the case of Strawberry Shortcake), one of which was My Little Pony.  To do this, they talked to Lauren Faust, an animator whose previous works include Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Power Puff  Girls. (both of which she co-created with her husband Craig McCracken).  She had actually come to them with a pitch for a cartoon she wanted to do called Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls. When this was leaked onto the web, many people criticized the show, but others decided to try it out.  This created a new periphery demographic: grown male fans called “bronies” (female fans are called “pegasisters”).  When I heard about this, I blew it off.  I taunted some of the bronies who were on Christian Anime Alliance (where I post as rocklobster), mocking them as not being “manly.”

Now, I have to explain something. I’m not against cartoons for girls.  I’ve enjoyed two girl-themed anime Sailor Moon  and Princess Tutu.  But I liked these cartoons because once you took away the girl stuff, you actually had a good story.  So why did I blow off this one?  Because I’d seen the previous versions.  When it was on in the 80’s version was awful. Sure it had a nice fantasy backdrop, but the potential was wasted.  The voices were horrible and the characters were cardboard. I never gave it a second glance.

Then my curiosity got the better of me. I decided to watch a couple episodes, just to see if I could stand it.  Surprisingly, I liked it.  What impressed me?

First, it was the voice acting. There’s quality work here, not cringing, high-pitched voices like the original.  I think the best voice work is from Tabitha St. Germain and Ashleigh Ball.

Second was the animation.  I’ve seen Flash animation before, and except for Homestar Runner, Iw asn’t impressed because it’s so simplistic.  Here, it’s done so well, you overlook the simplicity. Everyone is so expressive, I feel like I’m looking at classic Looney Tunes cartoons.

Next was the characterization and writing.  At first, everyone seems like stereotypes: the obsessive nerd (Twilight Sparkle), the Southerner (Applejack), the diva (Rarity). But as you watch, you start to see the complexities.  They have both positive and negative traits. The point of the show is that the cast is learning about how to improve social interaction. I think the fact that the characters actually have flaws shows children they have to accept their friends’ traits, even the negative ones.  And then there are the morals. Now yes, there’s the standard stuff: racism is bad, cheaters never win, etc. But some also have morals I certainly didn’t expect. The episode “A Friend in Deed” teaches that not everyone has to like you.  “Feeling Pinkie Keen” teaches that it’s okay to believe in things that can’t be explained.  Other episodes I recommend are “Dragonshy”, “Chronicles of the Cutie”, “Suited for Success”, “Winter Wrap-up, “The Best Night Ever” and the epic season 2 finale, “A Canterlot Wedding”. I mostly like it for this image:

So, I’m now new officially a Brony.

My Top 10 Favorite Writers

Note: in case you can’t tell, I’m officially a brony. Expect an article about that soon.

I love to read. I learned how to read at a very early age, thanks to my mother.  She read to me often and encouraged me to read on my own for fun.  Through her, I learned not to see reading as a chore, but as a source of entertainment. So I will now present my favorite writers. With each one, I’ll even provide my favorite book by that writer.

10. Neil Gaiman I’m slowly getting into Neil Gaiman. I love his imagery and the way he blends into fairy tale within the trappings of his stories.  He takes the familiar and makes it new, modernizing folklore for a whole new experience.


Best Work: Coraline–This story is excellent. Here’s a child who wishes she had better parents. But when gets them, she realizes they don’t really love her.  They just “want” her. She realizes her parents actually love her and their restrictions are a good thing.  This knowledge shows her who truly loves her. It’s the kind of story children need.

9. Rick Riordan–Rick Riordan makes mythology fun. I love how he asks what if all the myths were actually true. I believe there is nothing wrong with exposing children to mythology. He shows that the ancient world is still alive and well.  We cannot do without the influence of paganism. If we do, we lose a huge part of our culture.

Best Work: Percy Jackson and the Olympians–I’m gonna cheat and count the whole series. I can’t pick one book from the series because they’re all  good. I like how he re-imagines the Greek gods and even gets Hera right!

8. L. Frank Baum–If the only thing you know about Oz is what you saw in The Wizard of Oz movie, you’re missing out. That movie only scratched the surface.  If you were to go deeper and read all fourteen of the books he wrote, you’d see a whole world rich in imagination. A world where all the rules are well thought out. You’ll meet Princess Ozma, who actually has responsibilities. It’s not just a title to her–she takes her royalty.  I urge everyone out there who loves the Wizard of Oz–check out the books and read what you’ve been missing. You won’t be disappointed.

Best Work: The Lost Princess of Oz–Here is Ozma at her best. Against a villain who has studied her and magic and meets her as an equal.  The Nome King, her usual nemesis, is a pushover compared to this new villain.  The Oz books aren’t cute, flowery books. They are awesome!

7. Lloyd Alexander–Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain gave us an excellent take on the King Arthur mythos.  Taran is a boy on a quest to become a great hero, but does not realize where true heroism lies. In each book, he comes closer to true heroism, but every time he gets a shortcut method, it’s lost.

Best Work: Taran Wanderer– The fourth book of the Chronicles of Prydain is Taran’s coming of age story. In this story, he meets the people of the Free Commots, whose life is their craft.  These people sort of become an extended family for him and through them he learns many life lessons he didn’t learn on his farm.  I especially love the encounter with Annlaw.

6. J.K. Rowling–Unlike some people, I actually gave Harry Potter a chance before forming an opinion.  I’d get into a long diatribe about how Harry Potter isn’t evil or anti-Christian, but that’d be going off topic.  Instead, I’ll just say approach her books with an open mind before forming your opinion.

Best Work: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–I was already a fan of the Harry Potter books when I got to this book, but this book really cemented the series for me.  This book caused a major change from bright and cheerful to downright dark.  The stakes were raised much higher than they were in the previous books.  I also like how J.K. Rowling actually expected her readers to grow with Harry.  I’ve seen very few franchises actually take children that seriously.

5. Douglas Adams–For years, people have been telling me how hilarious the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series was.  Then I sat down to read the books and discovered how right they were (well except for Mostly Harmless).

Best Work: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–If you don’t laugh at least once while reading this book you need a new sense of humor.

4) Isaac Asimov–Asimov was one of the architects of modern-day sci-fi. He came up with the three laws of robots, which we still use today. He also blended genres, came up with great post-apocalyptic stories, and more.

Best Work: Foundation series. It’s basically the Roman Empire…but in space. With robots.

3) J.R.R. Tolkien–Come on, do I even need to explain? If you haven’t read any of his stuff, you should.

Best Work: all three Lord of the Rings.  If you’ve only seen the movies, you’re missing out. Sure, he takes a real long time to read, but it’s worth it.

Number 2 is a tie.

2a) C.S. Lewis–I love what he has to say about Christianity. His journey from atheist to Christian is fascinating.

Best Work: The Screwtape Letters–This is an excellent example of unreliable narrator, but then, it’s demons writing letters. At the same time, it made me realize how easily I’ve been tempted at times.

2b) Roald Dahl–He started out writing for adults and then decided to write for children. And best of all, he knew the best way was to write at their level, without talking down to them. He was scary, but then kids actually like being scared.

Best Work: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–If you’ve seen the movie (and I’m talking about the one Tim Burton didn’t make), then you probably already know how good it is. The book is even better!

and now for the finale:

1. Mark Twain (a/k/a Samuel Longhorne Clemens): Don’t believe those claims that he was racist. He was actually the exact opposite. I love his sense of humor. My favorite line from him has to be “I have been on the verge of being an angel all my life, but it’s never happened yet.”

Best Work: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–I was so surprised when I learned why he wrote this book. He actually was a supporter of the abolitionist movement. Even though we no longer have slavery in the United States, I still think this is a book that can teach us.

 

Tribute to My Mother

Since Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I thought I’d make a special post all about my stepmother.

My biological mother pretty much didn’t want to play a part in my life. She felt that having a child would “tie her down”, so she and my father divorced.  Sometime after that she tried to kidnap me, which resulted in a custody battle  and she won.  However, her desire to be free-spirited often meant that she would just drop me off at dad’s house. Eventually, dad persuaded her to give him custody and I’ve lived with him ever since.

It was during the “back and forth” period that dad met the the woman who would become my stepmother.  She would care for me while my dad worked as a bricklayer (which he still does today). By the time I began to talk, as far as I was concerned, my stepmother was my mother, and even today, I don’t call her “stepmom”, I call her mom.

For those who are wondering, yes, I have met my real mother.  The first time was when I was eight.  Because of when she kidnapped me, my father and stepmother didn’t trust her.  While she was with us, she tried to win me over, as I reflect on it.  She brought a book of sheet music because my parents had told her that I play the piano and even “promised” to take me to a Bon Jovi concert.  Like many aspies, I was (and still am) naive and willing to trust people too easily, so I believed her. But I never went.  The second time occurred during college.  It’s not that I want nothing to do with her–she has made little to no effort to be a part of my life.  Seldom have I received a Christmas card, a birthday card–not even a phone call.  I don’t even have her e-mail, Facebook, whatever. Does this bother me? Very little. God has given me a better mother.

Why do I love my stepmother so much? It’s mostly for the time and energy she has put into raising and guiding me.  She can be harsh and strict, but I need the structure she provides.

My stepmother fought for me throughout most of my schooling. When I was in kindergarten, I was the first in my class to learn to read. But my teacher felt I was not ready for first grade.  I wasn’t tired enough for nap time and I was clumsy with my lunch tray, among other problems.  But my mother disagreed, beginning the first of many battles. I was eventually taken for evaluation and it was discovered that my mother’s approach was working, so she was told to change nothing.  This meant that I was in special ed, but by high school, I was finally mainstreamed.

I learned the hard way just how much I needed her structure when I went to college.  During my first year, I had made both the Dean’s List and the President’s List.  This inspired my parents to let me live on campus.  I took full advantage of this newfound independence and spent very little time studying. Naturally, my grades suffered. I did eventually pass some of my classes with my mother’s help. But because I had refused to apply myself, my parents decided I would no longer be allowed to live in the dorms.  I did eventually graduate and she pushed me every step of the way.

I am grateful to my mother for her willingness to sacrifice her time and energy to raise me properly.  True I haven’t been a “model child”, but I love her.
So, let’s hear it for all the mothers out there who shape and mold us into what we are supposed to be.

Hey, what do you expect? I was an 80’s kid.

 

Bio of an Aspie Catholic, Part II: What is Catholicism

Now I want to close my intro by explaining the basic tenets of Catholicism.

Here is how the Catholic church defines itself in the catechism.  (the catechism is sort of “user’s manual” on Catholicism.) The word Catholic means universal. There are two senses to this. First, it is catholic because Christ is present in her. She receives Him “the fullness of the means of salvation (Eph 1:22-23) Secondly, the church has been sent out on a mission from God to bring His kingdom to Earth [Catechism paragraphs 830-1]

The Catholic church sees the sacraments as signs of God’s grace on Earth, not mere symbols, as most Protestant denominations do. There are seven in all: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance (confession), Anointing the Sick, Holy Orders (joining the priesthood), and Matrimony. [Catechism 1113]

The Catholic Bible is bigger than most Protestant Bibles. The following books are included in the Catholic Bible: Tobit, Esther, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees. (for more info, go to this site: http://www.beginningcatholic.com/books-of-the-catholic-bible.html

At the core of Catholicism is the Eucharist–the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is called “transubstantiation.” We Catholics believe that Jesus is present in both the bread and the wine, but the bread and wine remain the same in appearance.

So, why have I chosen to be Catholic? Actually, I’m what you call a “cradle Catholic.” That means I was baptized as an infant. There are many things I like about being Catholic:

1. The communion with the Saints.

2. The actions required for the Mass.

3. The fullness of the traditions within the church.

In fact, most of the times I have visited Protestant churches, I have felt awkward and out of place. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against Protestants, far from it.  I just feel so uncomfortable because they celebrate Jesus so differently from what I’m used to.