Saturday, September 28, 2013

Nitpickery: Faith and Religion

Hey y'all.  So religion and faith.  These two words get thrown around so much that I'm not sure if they have any meaning left at all.  People use these words, but I don't get the sense that they are understood, especially when they are used by worldly folk.

Let's start with the word faith.  One thing I've noticed as a believer is that this word is used about twenty times more by nonbelievers than believers.  And I don't just mean nonbelievers in Christianity.  I mean people who don't believe in anything, or who claim that all religions are the same and thus feel nothing for any of them.  Those of us who are Christian mention faith very rarely, usually when we're just quoting the verse about the mustard seed or the mountain, and when a pastor is giving a sermon.  In our day to day existence, we almost never say "faith".

As opposed to those who don't believe, who use it as if it held some power.  You know, how there will be some smarmy crap on television when they're trying to be mystical, and they'll say something like, "you just need to have faith".  Or when a non-believing writer tries to give a pastor character something to say, and that pastor will say some crap like "if you have enough faith, it will happen."  Let me tell you here and now: I have never in my life heard a real pastor say that.  Maybe in California or somewhere they have smarmy pastors that say it, but I have a really hard time believing that.  I've been exposed to a few different denominations, and not one of them ranted and raved generically about "the power of faith".

That, of course, is the heart of the matter.  Certain people presume that faith itself is a superpower of some kind.  It's as if just having faith in something mystical automatically makes a person more powerful and smart.  Thing is, if that were true, those atheistic or nonbelieving (there is a connotative difference in attitudes) would "have faith" just to get power for themselves.  Or is that humanism?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weirdo Science Fiction -- A Spell for Chameleon

Hey y'all.  So I was at work, and I noticed a book with a guy talking to a lion/scorpion thing.  I turned it over to read the back cover, and it said this --

"For the lack of a spell, Xanth!  That was the enchanted land where magic ruled -- where every citizen had a special spell only he could cast.  It was a land of centaurs and dragons and basilisks.  For Bink of North Village, however, Xanth was no fairy tale.  He alone had no magic.  And unless he got some -- and got some fast! -- he would be exiled.  Forever!  ....Be that as it may, no one could fathom the nature of Bink's very special magic.  Bink was in despair.  This was even worse than having no magic at all...and he would still be exiled!"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Protoss of Starcraft: a Leadership Allegory -- Aldaris

Hey y'all.  So now we come to one of the most hated characters in Starcraft, the ever arrogant but oh so delightfully brazen Judicator Aldaris.  It's no secret I find him highly entertaining, but this blog is not about what I think of him, but rather how he has been portrayed in Starcraft, with both his strengths and weaknesses.

The trouble with analyzing Aldaris' leadership type is that, like Zeratul, he made lots of bad choices.  Unlike Zer, he didn't show his good side.  This is due in part to Aldaris' narrative purpose.  Aldaris actually serves as sort of a wall; the other personalities bounce off of him so well, and much of my analysis of the other characters comes from how they react to Aldaris, the wild card of the Protoss.  Seriously, the dude's nigh on unpredictable.  However, he does get enough time in the plot to show his personality, so he's not impervious to analysis.

Aldaris was not a good leader.  Like many of the more obvious leaders in Starcraft (Mengsk, Raszagal, the Overmind, DuGalle), he represents one aspect of how a leader can go wrong: not being open to others.  While we get a sense of what Raszagal would be without her particular failure, it's not exactly obvious where Aldaris belongs in an ideal Protoss society.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p16): Dirt

It never takes me long to set things up. The model projector Aldaris has is a pretty good one, easy to work with, and it was already plugged into an outlet outside the stranger's house. I felt bad, though. The projector, as wells as all that random stuff that got beamed up on Charlie's ship, had to have come from somewhere. I just hoped that he didn't take anything important from someone that's poor. I made the mistake of looking back at Charlie as I thought of this.

"Bethany." growled the massive Protoss sitting behind me. "I thought I told you not to ascribe to me that human name."

"I didn't say it. I was just thinking about it."

"There is little difference. " he retorted. "Would you enjoy it if I replaced yours?"

"Are you kidding me? I'd love a Protoss name! That would be so cute! I...."

I turned back to get his reaction, and that was a mistake. What greeted me was the most crinkled, ugly face I'd ever seen, and for a moment it looked like Aldaris would sic the dog on me. I laughed out loud.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ten Things I Like About Star Trek V

Hey y'all.  I've recently rewatched Star Trek V, the infamous "bad" entry to the Star Trek movie collection.  People have hated this movie since its release, and it's an in-joke among the Trekkies that this is so.  However, I disagree with this assessment.  Is it a great movie?  Certainly not.  There's just too much that didn't get fully thought out, and it goes too goofy.  However, I find it mildly entertaining.

Why?  Well, it means a lot to me.  I had it on VHS as a child, along with IV and VI.  It was something I watched back in the day, and you know what?  It holds up a lot better than a lot of the nonsense us kids watched then.  Sure beats the old Mega Man cartoon.

The thing is, I just don't understand why this movie gets so much hate.  It's not wonderful or terribly thought-provoking, but it's also not the worst thing in the world.  In fact, there are several things I like about it.  Here are ten of them.

Ten good things about Star Trek V:

1.  The characters in the film feel like themselves.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Protoss of Starcraft: A Leadership Allegory -- Raszagal

Hey y'all.   It's time to get to Raszagal, a character that didn't really get enough time to show off her real talent.  We don't know much about her, and the little time we got she was in Kerrigan's control.  Thus, we don't see much of her true nature.  However, I like to believe we got to see some glimpses of it.  Raszagal was a kindly soul, and since usually Kerrigan's words are pretty obvious when she speaks them, we do have a sense of how she normally speaks.

Actually, we learn a lot about Raszagal through Zeratul.  Not only does she say she's a kindly soul, but his past of being a wanderer speaks volumes.  Raszagal apparently saw little reason to restrain Zeratul or ask him to stay on Shakuras to fill some sort of authoritive position.  She thus is showing perception by not putting Zer in a position he can't fill, and also kindness and a relaxed hand by letting him go where he wants.  In a clear parallel to the Conclave, she doesn't demand people follow strict guidelines.  The Dark Templar in her command more or less do whatever pleases them, as long as peace is maintained.

This makes Raszagal a very peaceful type of leader: the Steward.  The Steward's key word is maintenance -- keeping things the same way as the Steward envisions.  Unlike the other leadership types, the Steward is primarily past focused.  The Steward is not as dynamic as Visionary, and isn't about going toward some golden future, nor is the Steward necessarily ready to step to the plate for emergencies like the Strategist.  All the Steward really wants is a peaceful life, for herself and for her people.

This is shown in Raszagal's comments about Aiur.  She's glad that the Dark Templar and the Khalai Protoss have the chance to be united again, and she looks back with longing on her memories of Aiur.  Yet, at no time in the years prior to Starcraft has she ever advocated either going back to Aiur and taking a part of it by force, or establishing some sort of diplomatic mission to reach out and reunite with the Khalai 'Toss.  Granted, neither might have been possible, but Raszagal shows no sign that she wanted to take either path.  Her focus was more on caring for her people, rather than taking risky action in an uncertain endeavor.  In fact, given that the Dark Templar are living on a planet where a Xel'Naga temple is, they're staying there just to study the past, rather than looking forward.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Protoss of Starcraft: A Leadership Allegory -- Zeratul

Hey y'all.

Zeratul is not a leader in the same sense as Tassadar and Fenix.  See, when we say "leader", we think of people steering by their own vision or those that make plans to see these visions through.  We don't think of people whose authority is limited to a narrow field.  See, potentially anyone can be a kind of leader.  There is always an opportunity or situation where you or anyone else can take charge, even if it's something as simple as a school group project.  What we call natural leaders are those that can take charge without extenuating circumstances, or can find a place for themselves in authority.  However, just because someone isn't a natural leader doesn't mean they're not a leader.

This is where Zeratul comes from.  A lot of fanfiction writers, but not all, have guessed that Zeratul would become Patriarch in Raszagal's place (the ones that don't pick Artanis, that is).  This is natural, what with Ras' comment on asking him to protect their people.  This, however, is the exact wrong place for Zeratul.  He can possibly fulfill his promise, but not as a Patriarch.  He's not that type of leader.