Thursday, December 14, 2017

Marvel vs DC: is one really better than the other?

Last week I discussed the differences between Star Wars and Star Trek. Today I will post a comparison between DC and Marvel comic book characters. This is another polarizing debate which has fans of both fighting angrily between them about which comic is better. DC was founded in October 1935 and is currently owned by DC Entertainment which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros, which is owned by Time Warner. The first characters featured in their comics were Doc Occult and Superman. Marvel was founded by Martin Goodman in October 1939 and is currently owned by Marvel Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. Their first characters were the Human Torch and Namor. They added Captain America during World War II. What are the similarities and differences between the two comic book giants? Why is there such a heated debate between fans?

There are many similarities between DC and Marvel comics.  First, they both feature superheroes with extra abilities. These abilities are either naturally occurring or are caused by a freak accident. These individuals usually have to conceal their true identities to protect their friends and families (Badgett, 2016). Marvel introduced the mutants of X-Men in 1963 while DC introduced the metahumans in 1986. Second, both comics features the heroes teaming up against a threat or villain. Marvel has The Avengers and X-Men to name a few and DC has The Justice League, Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol. Third, both comics have similar characters. It is common knowledge that the comic writers created characters who were similar to characters from the other comic. For example, DC’s The Flash, who was first introduced in November 1985, is similar to Marvel’s Quicksilver, who was first introduced in March 1964. Another example is Marvel’s Deadpool, who was first introduced in February 1991, is similar to DC’s Deathstroke, who was first introduced in December 1980. What makes these characters similar is their abilities and the idea that they “steal” from each other is evident in the character’s first appearances. Deadpool, whose real name is Wade Wilson, is known as the Merc with a Mouth, an antihero is a mercenary and assassin. Deathstroke, whose real name is Slade Wilson, is a mercenary who is completed the contract his son started. According to Deadpool co-creator and writer, Fabian Nicieza gave Deadpool the real name of Wade Wilson as an inside-joke to being "related" to Slade Wilson/Deathstroke. Rob Liefeld, co-creator and artist, designed Deadpool and was also a fan of the Teen Titans comic in which Deathstroke appears.

As there are similarities, there are many differences. First, DC’s characters reside in fictional cities which resemble real cities. For example, Batman fights crime in Gotham City. Superman saves the day in Metropolis and Green Lantern operates in Coast City. While Marvel characters are live in real locations, New York City being the most popular location for many characters: The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, The Defenders and Spiderman. Second, the abilities of DC characters are often seen as gifts or blessings which calls them to action and they do their best to embrace it (Diedrick, 2016). The powers are usually developed at a young age or gifts. For example, Superman developed his powers as he grew up under the yellow sun of Earth and Wonder Woman receives her powers as a gift from the gods. In the Marvel universe, the abilities were from freak accidents or a product of evolution which are seen as curse and causing the individuals to be outcasts or seen as monsters and thus becomes a burden. For example, Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk after a lab accident and people fear the monster he becomes. Daredevil loses his sight after an accident with a radioactive substance. Upon losing his sight, he gains heightened senses. There are DC characters who receive their abilities from accidents: The Flash, Green Lantern or even a thirst for justice: Batman or Green Arrow. However, these characters are still treated as godlike figures (Diedrick, 2016). What makes the Marvel characters different is they still deal with real life issues like money, balancing responsibilities (Quora, 2014) or having a jerk of a boss (, 2016). Marvel characters have been featured in dealing with the aftermath of real events, like 9/11 (, 2016). Third, DC has cornered the market with their animation like Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) and movies like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), and Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) just to name a few. While Marvel has found gold in the live action movie market with the massive hit of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which DC is desperately trying to catch up to.

While there are many fans of both the DC and Marvel comics, there are many fans who deeply feel you cannot be a fan of one, if you are a fan of the other. Why? To find out, I read different message board threads and the number reason people consistently agreed with is because people get strangely territorial. Look at the different rivalries, which are simply opinion based but because a personal insult when someone challenges that opinion. Coke vs Pepsi, Ford vs Chevy, PC vs Mac, Xbox vs PlayStation, the list can go on and on. According to the individuals who posted on these threads, the majority of comic book fans like both DC and Marvel, although they had a general preference of one over the other, however, not enough to keep them from reading both. One individual said the people who force others to pick a side are either newbies, fanboys or both. These individuals are using wiki as their source material instead of the actual comics. Another individual said fans discuss, fanboys argue and when you don’t share their opinion, the argument usually leads to insult which is how you can distinguish a fan from a fanboy. FYI, a fanboy is a male fan who is obsessive about comics, music, movies, etc. and there is also fangirls too. These fans are known for their complete lack of objectivity and will usually argue in a circular logic that they refuse to acknowledge. With the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the struggling DC Extended Universe (DCEU), the debate between some fans has become more polarizing than ever before.

In conclusion, I like both DC and Marvel. Both companies have been around a long time and with that time have borrowed from each other (one company has borrowed more than the other). My knowledge of the characters are from the 90s cartoons I grew up with and the current movies. I never enjoyed reading the actual comics but I enjoyed the characters. I’ve been a Superman fan since the 1990s show Lois and Clark (1993-1997) and more so with Smallville (2001-2011). I especially enjoy watching Henry Cavil as the current Superman. However, I have immensely enjoyed the MCU films much more than the DC films. But is Marvel better than DC? No, I think both comic books have their merits with different takes on the characters and stories. Most people I know who enjoy comic echo the sentiment I read in the message board threads, they like both but they are more likely to read one verses the other.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Seasons of the Moon: one man's journey through life

Seasons of the Moon by Julien Aranda (translated by Roland Glasser) is the one man’s story through life. Beginning with his birth, Paul Vertune was the youngest son of a farmer on the Brittany coast of France. From the very beginning, it was clear that Paul was not destined for a life as a farmer. From the age of 6, he dreamed of becoming a sailor and seeing the world. However, the world had other ideas. Soon World War II breaks out and his village is under German occupation. After a brief encounter with a German solider, who shows a young man in love mercy, Paul gives a promise that would he was determined to fulfill. He promises this German soldier to tell his daughter he loves her. At 18, Paul is drafted and spends his enlistment at the hands of a cruel drill sergeant. After his time in the army, he marries his childhood sweetheart, Mathilde, and sets out to fulfil his dream and his promise. Will he be able to find the German soldier’s daughter? Or will she be lost to the chaos in the aftermath of war?

Seasons of the Moon is a deeply retrospective, emotional story about the endless possibilities of life and finding the beauty in it all. While the book was slow in parts, I enjoyed reading Paul’s journey through life as he experiences life altering events which teach him that life is precious despite its hardships. It is a beautiful story of one man’s journey through life and his determination to fulfill a promise. I also enjoyed how Mr. Aranda used the phases of the moon as Paul enters a new phase in his life. I recommend Seasons of the Moon.

Seasons of the Moon

is available in paperback and eBook

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Star Wars and Star Trek: there is a difference

Actually, Penny*, there is a difference and as a fan of the Star Wars franchise and a casual watcher of the Star Trek franchise, I say there’s a world of difference. I grew up watching Star Trek. My father is a big fan of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) while my brother is a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). Even my best friend loves Star Trek especially The Next Generation and Voyager (1995-2001). While I’m drawn more to Star Wars as is my husband. While I am not writing to argue which franchise is better because both have their merits, I am writing to distinguish the differences between the two.

First, Star Wars is a dramatic epic rooted in legends like Beowulf and King Arthur, mythologies, world religions and ancient and medieval history to tell a story of a galactic society in conflict. The importance is not on believability of the science but on the characters and the moral choices they make while Star Trek has “ham-fisted dialogue and Gong Show-caliber acting. But the fictional science has always been brilliant” (Herzthe, 1998). Star Trek is rooted in a greater existential dilemma in which an idealistic, utopian prospect of the future human society is explored and debated. Star Wars focuses on the ethics of good vs evil and against totalitarian government systems. Star Trek features the morals of exploration and interference, how to properly confront and ethically resolve situations. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, is said to have been inspired by morality tales like Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Second, Star Wars, essentially, focuses on the individual’s power to do good. It is the struggle with feelings of powerlessness and how an individual responds to that feeling. There is a strong connection to faith, mythology, or the Force within the individual and trusting yourself and others. It is about individuals breaking free from governmental oppression (Bedinger, 2015). The Original Trilogy avoided explicit political messages while being anti-authoritarian, the prequel trilogy is clearly a commentary on imperialism and warmongering. Star Trek focuses on a commentary on social structure, defining a society’s obligation to humanity, the world and the galaxy. Star Trek operates within a stable government, The United Federation of Planets, and spreading enlightened values throughout the galaxy (Bedinger, 2015). Each of the Star Trek television series focused on a central worry. For example, in the original show, the central worry was Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner) losing his command and the fight against anything undermined his command. In the Next Generation, Captain Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) was focused on choosing the wise path and being a responsible leader (Anders, 2016).

Third, the debate between the fan bases can be polarizing that it’s hard to image someone being a fan of both. Some fans believe that you cannot be a fan of one, if you are a fan of the other. This sentiment is also reflected in the statements made by the actors in each franchise. William Shatner argues that Star Trek is superior to Star Wars because “Star Trek had relationships and conflict among the relationships and stories that involved humanity and philosophical questions” (Emami, 2015). Tim Russ, who played Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager claims that Star Trek is better than the two because it is set in "our" galaxy and therefore people can relate better to it, whereas Star Wars takes place in another galaxy (Forbeck, 2011). He acknowledged that he could be biased (yeah, you think! LOL). Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars trilogy. He is a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series. He argued that while both franchises are popular, Star Wars comes out as the superior, for its soundtracks and special effects (Forbeck, 2011).

Why does Star Wars seem greater in popularity than Star Trek? And yes, it does. Star Wars has a franchise revenue of $42 billion (as of 2015) while Star Trek has a franchise revenue of $10 billion (as of 2016). While both have large fan bases with fiercely loyal fans, Star Wars seems to speak to the American identity as the rebels, the revolutionaries fighting against an evil empire while Star Trek speaks more to the American political superpower we’ve become with unparalleled military and economic might (although there is some debate if this is even still true). Star Wars plays into the national fantasy as the righteous underdogs and Star Trek portrays our national reality and the moral question as to how to use that power. In a UK program for the Star Wars 20th anniversary, Patrick Stewart said “A belief in one’s own powers; especially one’s own powers to do good because the underlying morality of Star Wars is a very, very positive one.”

In conclusion, while the two franchises are similar in that they depict societies of multiple planets and species, they promote different messages. A philosophical message verses a political message. The story and its characters verses the reality of the science. The individual and his or her role in the galaxy while verses society as a whole. I prefer Star Wars because the characters are relatable and the action adventure is entertaining. I often find the dialogue in Star Trek to be difficult to follow at times. Is one better than the other? It’s simply a matter of choice and nothing else. Both have had a great impact on pop culture that cannot be ignored.


*The Big Bang Theory “The Weekend Vortex” Season 5 Episode 19 originally aired March 8, 2012. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Coco: a review of the newest Disney Pixar film

This past weekend, my husband and I took our daughter to see the new movie, Coco. Knowing only the basics about the film and not reading any reviews about it, I went into the film with high expectations, it is Disney Pixar after all. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. Normally, for a review, I discuss what I liked, what I didn’t like and what the critics had to say. But for this film, I liked everything. There was nothing I didn’t like and I don’t care what the critics had to say. So I will discuss the different aspects of the film that I loved.

First, the story itself. Based on the Mexican festival of Dia de la Muertos, it is a story about family, remembering those who has passed, and forgiveness. The movie begins with 12 year old Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) telling the story of his Mama Imelda Rivera (played by Alanna Ubach), the family matriarch. She was the wife of musician who left her and their daughter to pursue his career and never returned. Angry, she banned all forms of music in the family. Miguel desires desperately to be a musician, he steals the guitar from the tomb of the village’s superstar, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt). When he does so, he has placed a curse on the family and he is transported to the Land of the Dead. He must now find a way to lift the curse so he can return home. He is helped along the way by Hector (voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal) who is desperate to get to the Land of the Living before the end of Dia de la Muertos. The story has everything: laughs, tender moments and very sad moments. I cried at the end. So be warned, there will be tears!

Second, the music. The movie is filled with wonderful music. It features the wide range of Mexican music. From mariachi to salsa and bolero. From flamenco to pop and Mexican son (folk music and dance). The music was heartfelt and entertaining. After the film, I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack. The main song is “Remember Me” which helps carry the theme of the film. However, my favorite songs were “Un Poco Loco” (written by Germaine Franco and Adrian Molina and performed by Anthony Gonzalez and Gael Garcia Bernal) and La Llorona (a traditional folk song performed by Alanna Ubach). “Un Poco Loco” is a fun and upbeat song about how the singer’s love drives him a little crazy. “La Llorona” is a soulful and beautiful song about a weeping woman and love. The instrumental pieces are beautiful too. I love music in film especially when it is used probably to enhance the mood and the events of the particular scenes. The music in Coco did that and more. It carried so much emotional that you were crying just by the strumming of the guitar.

Third, the imagery of the film is absolutely breathtaking. The colors of the Land of the Dead are stunning. Marigold flowers, known as cempasĂșchil, are central to the festival and they are everywhere in this film. Marigolds are among my favorite flowers and the animators captured the flower’s brilliant orange color and the delicacy of its petals. Brilliant colors bring the Land of the Dead to life and are very vibrant and reminiscent of the colors have seen in Mexican art. The details in the animations bring you into a world and you sit in wonder at it all. The amazing talent and hard work it took to bring this story to life shows in every detail. I also loved the image of the Mexican family portrayed in this film. With my experiences with Mexican families, I laughed at the antics of Abuelita, Miguel’s grandmother as she enforces the no music rule in the family. There’s a scene where she offers Miguel foods and he politely denies, the look she gives him reminds me of many Mexican grandmothers I’ve known and love.

In conclusion, Coco is the best Disney Pixar film so far. It is definitely among my favorite films. It has everything. A great story, great music and great imagery which comes together and transports you into another world and leave you with a great lesson about love, family and forgiveness. I highly, highly recommend seeing Coco in theaters. You will not regret it! 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

What is cultural appropriation?

This past Halloween, I read a comment on a celebrity’s Facebook page that accused the girlfriend of the celebrity of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is a term I have not heard before. After a quick search, I was intrigued to research it more due to the massive debate about whether or not it is wrong or not. This post will be longer than usual as there is so much information that I want to share to make sure this topic is covered. While I may not cover it all, I want to give enough of an overview that I do not leave anyone confused. I will discuss what it is, the arguments for and against and how we proceed.

First, what is cultural appropriation? The official definition is a term from Sociology which deals with the adopting of elements from one culture by members of another. It is often portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective property rights of the originating culture. In most cases the adoption of the cultural elements are by a dominant culture from a minority culture. Many sociologists feel cultural appropriation is avoidable as multiple cultures live among each other the exchange of cultural elements will occur. These elements may be borrowed and applied by the dominant culture against the wishes of the minority culture and the original meaning of the cultural element is lost or distorted and seen as disrespectful. While some view it as inevitable and a contribution to diversity and free expression.
Examples of cultural elements:
  • Food
  • Fashion, hairstyles, makeup and body modifications
  • Art, iconography and adornment
  • Religion and spiritual symbols
  • Technology
  • Language, including slang

The debate about cultural appropriation is deep and greatly divides people who fight against it and those who feel it isn’t as big a deal as the social justice warriors (SJWs) believe. The proof is in how people define the term and the examples they use.

The opponents of cultural appropriation are deeply passionate about it and argue with which fervor will leave many feeling shame that they would use these cultural elements. Opponents believe it is wrong when the minority culture is subordinated in social, political, economic or military status to a dominant culture or a history of ethnic or racial conflict. The views of colonialism, context and the difference between appropriation and mutual exchange are a part of their main argument. According to many opponents, cultural appropriation is different from acculturation (the cultural modification by adopting or borrowing) and assimilation (the process of taking in and fully understanding information or ideas). The main argument is that the cultural element is taking out of context and is often misapplied. For example, Native American sweat lodges and vision quest ceremonies are being used and run by non-Native Americans who do not understand the significance or the dangers when someone doesn’t know who to perform the ceremonies properly. Another example is the bindi mark which appeared at Coachella in 2014. The bindi is a traditional Hindu head mark with religious significance. Many Hindus were highly offended by those who wore the bindi as they did not fully understand the meaning and it was more than a beauty mark. One strong argument against cultural appropriation is when someone can or will enjoy an aspect of a culture, like the food, but still be prejudice against the people who brought the food to this country. “Cultural appropriation shows that you don’t have to like a person or respect their identity to feel entitled to take from them” (Johnson, 2015). 

As much as there is passion against cultural appropriation, there is an equal fervor by those who think it is simply today’s oversensitivity. Take one definition posted by a user on Urban Dictionary, “The ridiculous notion that being of a different culture or race (especially white) means that you are not allowed to adopt things from other cultures. This does nothing but support segregation and hinder progress in the world. All it serves to do is to promote segregation and racism.” Another user posted: “The idiotic conflation of culture with racism. Essentially the absurd belief that the cultural exchange that has served to enriched humanity throughout all of human history is wrong because racists exist.” And lastly, “A pile of SJW bullshit stating that its racists to indulge in foreign cultures.” Of all the user definition posted, the majority were negative like the ones I’ve quoted. Proponents of cultural appropriation view it as benign or mutually beneficial. It is mutation, product diversity, technology diffusion and cultural empathy. For example, George Lucas borrowed elements for Star Wars from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress who borrowed from Shakespeare. John McWhorter, a professor at Columbia University and contributing editor at the New Republic, wrote “The idea that when we imitate something we are seeking to replace it rather than join it is weak.” The concept has morphed from the original idea to a parody. According to McWhorter, people get angry simply when whites happily imitate something minorities do as if imitation is a kind of dismissal rather than a sincerest form of flattery. Another article expressed concern over the fervor against cultural appropriation as “unchecked by reason, therefore unworried by hypocrisy, snowflakes creep closer to actual violence” (Wakefield, 2017). The fight against cultural appropriation is seen as simply anti-white sentiment.

So what do we do? I’m not sure where I read this but someone made the comment that social justice warriors and “snowflakes” (a term for an extremist liberal offended by every statement ot belief that doesn’t exactly match their own. I see this behavior with conservatives too but that’s another post), are trying to reinstate an apartheid, a complete separation of cultures, after decades of fighting to remove such separation. In a way, this statement is correct, however, in my opinion, I see both sides of the coin. In many terms, cultural appropriation is bad and even insulting while others are simply the passage of time that it has become a part of both cultures. For example, an element from a culture should never be a costume or the butt of a joke which perpetuates an ethnic stereotype, according to Jenni Avins of The Atlantic. Just as a sacred symbols should not be worn as accessories. For example, in the last decade, individuals started wearing the Catholic rosary like one would wear a necklace. A rosary is not jewelry, it is a tool of prayer. It is not a talisman for protection. In her final words of her article, Maisha Johnson said “I am encouraging you to be thoughtful about using things from other cultures, to consider the context and learn about the best practices to show respect.” This statement makes sense to me, when respect is shown, I see no problem when someone of one culture borrows from another culture; however, the problem is someone may think they are being respectful when they are not or you may have some who, no matter how respectful a person may be, is insulted when someone outside the culture uses an element. This is when I feel the fight against cultural appropriation goes too far.

In conclusion, we live in a society in which we must walk on eggshells especially when you are white. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “not bad for a white woman” when I’ve cooked a delicious meal of traditional Mexican food or other ethnic foods. As if the color of my skin hinders my ability to follow a recipe and cook. On the other side, there are other aspects of different cultures that I would never feel comfort wearing or participating in, simply because I am not a part of that culture. Bottom line, if you are going to borrow something from another culture, be respectful and give credit where credit is due. I would want the same consideration if someone wants to borrow from my culture. What are your thoughts?


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Zechariah and Malachi: the last of the Old Testament prophets

I’ve come to the end of the Old Testament. The minor prophets, Zechariah and Malachi, have powerful messages and lessons that we can heed today. Zechariah’s messages came from visions of powerful things to come and instructions on how to live. He was speaking to the people who had just returned to their land after their captivity in Babylon. Zechariah is the most apocalyptic of the Minor Prophets as his visions detailed coming judgment. He also speaks of the coming Messiah. His purpose was to give hope to the people with the messages of the coming Messiah. Malachi’s message first focused on the sins of the priests and then the sins of the people but ended with a message of hope for those who remain faithful. His purpose was to confront the people with their sins and to restore their relationship with God.

The first half of the book of Zechariah is filled with powerful visions, many visions of things to come. I will discuss two which stood out to me. First, the vision of the Lampstand in Zechariah 4:1-14. He sees a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, seven channels of light to the lights and on either side of the lampstand is an olive tree. An angel of the Lord tells him that the vision means that the lampstand is fueled by the Lord’s Spirit. Verse 6 says “Not by might, not by power, but by Spirit.” The lampstand is kept burning by an unlimited reservoir of oil. It is a vision to remind the people and us that it is only through God’s Spirit that we will succeed, not by our own might and resources but by the pouring out of his spirit. Second, the vision of the four horses and chariots in Zechariah 6:1-8. The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot had black horses, the third had white and the fourth had dappled (spots or patches) (verse 2). The horses represent the four spirits of heaven who go out into the world (verse 5). The chariot with the black horses was sent north, the chariot with the white horses goes west and the one with the dappled horses goes south (verse 6). It is interesting that the chariot with the red horses isn’t mentioned specifically. In verse 7, Zechariah sees the powerful horses go out, “straining to go throughout the world” does this include the red horses as well? Was the chariot with the red horse held back? The Bible is silent about this and I’ve read different commentaries with no clear answer. I'd like to think the chariot with the red horses were held back for some reason, a reason God did not reveal to Zechariah. 

The second half of the book of Zechariah was written approximately 38 years after the first half and contains prophecies of the Messiah. Some have been fulfilled with Christ’s life and death and others have not yet come to pass. In Zechariah 9:9-13 is a specific prophecy concerning the Messiah. Verse 9 -10 states that the king will come to the people, first, riding on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 22:1-11, Luke 19:28-38 and John 12:12-16) and second as a powerful ruler. The Messiah will proclaim peace to the nations and he will rule from sea to sea. Zechariah 10:4 speaks from Judah will come a cornerstone, a tent peg, a battle bow and a ruler. The Messiah will be a strong, stable, victorious and trustworthy. In Zechariah 12:10-14 is the image of mourning. “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (verse 10). This mourning can easily describe the crucifixion of the Messiah. Verse 12 states that the land will mourn as well. Lastly, Zechariah 14 describes the eventual triumph of the Messiah over the earth and his reign on earth. The Feast of the Tabernacle, the feast of thanksgiving, will be celebrated with the king (verse 16). It is the only feast that will be celebrated. The other feasts are no longer necessary as they were fulfilled through Christ. The Passover with his death. The Day of Atonement with acceptance of salvation through him. The Feast of First fruits with his resurrection.

The first half of Malachi focuses on the sins of the priests and the people. First, In Malachi 1:6-14, the Lord speaks to the priests for their use of blemished sacrifices. In Leviticus 1:3, the Lord instructed that burnt offerings must be a male without defect, however, the priests were allowing people to offer offerings with defects. Blind, crippled and diseased animals were offered as sacrifices to God in clear violation. God tells the priests by allowing this violation to occur they were dishonoring him and showed him contempt. They were offering sacrifices as they wanted and not as God commanded. Second, in Malachi 2:1-9, God admonishes the priests for setting their hearts against him and thus breaking the covenant he made with their ancestor, Levi. He calls them to follow Levi’s example. Levi spoke with “true instruction” and “nothing false was found on his lips” (verse 6). He walked with the Lord “in peace and uprightness and turned many from sin” (verse 6). Because they have turned away from this covenant, God has caused the priests to be despised and humiliated before the people (verse 9). Lastly, God turns to the sins of the people in Malachi 2:10-16, specifically to the kingdom of Judah. Judah has broken faith with Israel and married “daughters of a foreign god” (verse 11). The people also weep and wail that their offerings are no longer accepted by God (verse 13). God tells them is it because they have broken faith (divorced) the wife of their youth (verse 14) and failing to raise godly children (verse 15). He tells them to guard themselves in their spirit and keep the faith their wives (verse 15-16).

The second half of Malachi is a message of the Lord’s coming and the attitudes of the people. In Malachi 3:1-5, the Lord tells the people he is sending a messenger who will prepare the way for him (this part is understood to refer to John the Baptist) and the Lord will appear like a refiner’s fire (verse 2). He will sit as a refiner and purify of silver and gold (verse 3). This is the image that God will remove the impurities of our hearts and souls like a refiner does with silver and gold in order to make them pure. As the refiner purifies gold and silver with fire, God will refine our hearts and souls by using the difficulties and storms of life. In Malachi 3:6-15, God accuses the people of robbing him from his proper tithes and offerings (verse 8) as well making harsh statements against him (verse 13). Verse 14-15 is particularly meaningful to me as it reminds me of current attitudes toward God. It states “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” Wow! Sound familiar? These verses point out the selfishness of this attitude. It’s about “what did God do for me? What good did it do for me?” instead of “what did I do for God?” It is the same attitude of those today who turn from God and deny his existence. Often times when I met someone who doesn’t believe God exists, it’s because they treat God like a genie who grants wishes and that someone didn’t get what he or she wanted, then God must not exist. Lastly, God speaks about the faithful few in Malachi 3:16-18. He calls them his treasured possession (verse 17). Those who revere his name will be healed with the rising of “the sun of righteousness” and they will be freed like calves free from the stall (Malachi 4:2).

In conclusion, as the words of the prophets come to a close, we are left with the same warning. Turn back to God, keep the covenant, and prepare for his coming or prepare for his judgment. Zechariah’s message was filled with visions of the coming Messiah and the end times. His prophetic messages were a blending of present, near future and end time visions. His message is clear that our hope is only found in God and his Messiah who are in complete control of the world. Malachi’s message gives us a practical guideline to serve our commitment to God. Give him the best we can, be willing to change from our wrong way of life and welcome God’s refining process in our lives. Malachi was the last of the prophets. When he died, the voices of God’s prophets became silent. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok a film that has it all

Thor: Ragnarok is the fifth chapter of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is also the first Thor film which takes place in the other realms besides just Earth and Asgard. When we last saw Thor in The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), he left to find the remaining Infinity Stones as four have now turned up and he senses a greater plot afoot. The official synopsis reads: “Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his home world and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.” There are many things I liked at the film, a few things I didn’t and I will respond to a few of the critics’ issues with the film.

First, what I liked about the film. First, the cast. Every actor filled their role very well. Chris Hemsworth as Thor as always brings the God of Thunder to life. In this film, Hemsworth was allowed to show more of his comedic side as well as the dramatic and action packed sequences. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was great. I knew very little about the character when I saw the film and I was pleased to see how she fit in the story. Thompson brought great heart and depth to the character. Cate Blanchett as Hela was amazing! She seemed to be tailored made for this role. Her portrayal of Hela is definitely an improvement in Thor villains over Malekith in The Dark World. Second, the story with all the humor (there were a few laugh out loud moments), the drama (which I will not discuss in case you haven’t seen it yet) and the action from beginning to end kept me entertained and on the edge of my seat. The movie didn’t feel like it was over two hours which is good. If I watch a movie and I am aware of how long it is, then it didn’t hold my attention. I should be so engrossed in the story that I am unaware of the passage of time and Thor: Raganrok did that. Lastly, the music. I loved the use of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song which fits perfectly with the Viking/Norse mythology which inspired Thor and his adventures.

Second, there wasn’t much I didn’t like about this film. However, what I didn’t like about the film were a few of the comedic scenes which were uncomfortable to watch. I cringed like “ewww really?!?” There is one joke in particular which features how Thor returns to Asgard and every time they said it, I cringed. I was glad when he finally returns to Asgard and this particular joke could stop. These types of jokes are so juvenile and unnecessary. They belong in a different comedies like Dumb and Dumber. Thankfully they weren’t the majority of the jokes in the film. While Jeff Goldblum is a great choice for the Grandmaster, some of his scenes were a bit tedious and cringe worthy. However, these awkward scenes were really few and far between so it’s something I could overlook when enjoying the film.

Third, many critics both professional and viewers had quite a few things to say about this film. One criticism I read is that the plotline of Ragnarok was an afterthought and wasn’t central to the film. I didn’t see that at all. While Ragnarok isn’t discussed at length in the film, it is Thor’s motivation to free himself from the Grandmaster and return to Asgard and defeat Hela. So I feel Ragnarok was not a side plot especially in the final act, when you see the final you may understand what I mean. Sometimes I think people wanted the Ragnarok storyline to be used to bash the audience’s head and remind them over and over that the end was coming. Not necessary. I think it worked in the film as they portrayed it. Second, many critics had a problem with the humor. There was too much. While I enjoyed the majority of the humor and didn’t enjoy some of the jokes, I don’t see why a superhero film can’t have humor. Iron Man did. Both Avengers films did. Captain America: Winter Soldier did. Maybe not to the extent of Ragnarok but it was there. Looking back on the first two Thor films, there were quite bit of humor in those films too.

In conclusion, I loved Thor: Ragnarok. It had great acting. The story was good and for the most part the humor fit. Despite finding some of the humor awkward and hard to watch, I look forward to watching it over and over again as part of the MCU. In my opinion, every movie will have flaws. No matter how much they try to cover all the bases, mistakes will be made and ideas will falter. However, this film is a great film which its flaws can be ignored. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.