Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness: My Favourite Moments and My Biggest Pet Peeves


This post has been so long in coming for two reasons; one, I didn't want to spoil the movie for anyone, and two I was waiting to see it a second time, in the cheap theatre. :)

I realized I'm being really hard on Into Darkness because I expected SO MUCH from it - don't get me wrong, I think it's very good, especially when compared to a lot of other movies, but there were a few things that could have made it even better. I saw it opening night in 3D and when it was over I just sat there gasping like a beached fish because EVERYTHING happened so fast I almost wasn't sure what had happened. And after about an hour of amazed silence, the more I thought about it the more a few things annoyed me.

And they still annoyed me the second time, but I think I understood the characters, at least Kirk and Spock, a little more. I still jumped out of my skin when Khan popped up off the floor where he was supposed to be stunned unconscious, and the friend I was with, who was seeing it for the first time, grabbed my arm. :)

One of the most entertaining internet things about Into Darkness has been all the crossover graphics, some of them combining Sherlock AND Star Trek AND Middle Earth, which I find highly amusing.



See? Fangirl fodder galore.

As for the movie itself, there were lots of things I really like about it.

Scotty's facial expressions are brilliant. Simon Pegg's Scotty needs his own movie. BUT I was disappointed that he actually left the Enterprise. It turns out there was a job for him to do, so it wasn't pointless, but I didn't really think he'd actually gone, and when the warp drive failed and Chekov was sent to fix it, I expected Scotty to pop out from behind a console and safe the day. After keeping him apart from the crew for large chunks of both of the first two movies, I really hope he's more present in the third one.

Which brings me to Chekov, who's now probably all of 18 years old? Just a baby, really, and he's ADORABLE. His accent and his puppy eyes - I just want to pat his head and tell him he's wonderful. :) It's also sad that he's exiled from the bridge for a good chunk of the movie, because he's such a wonderful character. I guess that's the problem with such a big cast - there just can't be enough screen time for all of them.

Sulu does an excellent turn as acting captain, which is one of my favourite moments in the movie, as is Bones' response.

Bones gets the best one-liners of maybe any franchise ever. But what I didn't like was the fact that he just happened to have a dead tribble on hand, and he thought that injecting it with the blood of a super-human they knew little about was a good idea. (facepalm) I get that they were setting up Khan's blood as a cure for Kirk's radiation poisoning, but that had already been done in the sequence that introduced Khan at the beginning of the movie. I just though that was really lame. And does that mean that there are now super-tribbles infesting the Enterprise?

This is one of my favourite moments...

I didn't really buy the relationship between Spock and Uhura, just because it doesn't seem to fit with what I know about Spock. I don't dislike it, it just didn't seem that convincing, but it made for some really funny moments. When they actually talk on the shuttle to Kronos, then it started to make more sense to me. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it in the third movie.

But I think my favourite part of the movie was Uhura standing up to the Klingons.

There was a job she could do, and she did it, and it wasn't blowing things up, but simply using her linguistic skills to try to complete the mission. It almost ended horribly, but not for lack of her trying. Her bravery was amazing.

For me the movie's biggest flaw was lack of character development. I've never seen the original Star Trek movies (except for the Voyage Home), and I didn't realized that Into Darkness was going to follow the same general story arc that the original movies did. I BELIEVED J.J. ABRAMS WHEN HE SAID THAT BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH WAS PLAYING JOHN HARRISON AND NOT KHAN. I think that's what ticked me off the most - he didn't need to lie, he could have just not talked about it. So lame! I was looking forward to a totally new bad guy, and given what little I do know about the original series, I was thinking of someone along the lines of Gary Seven. Alas, it was not to be. :(

Anyway, lack of character development... I felt like the movie relied too much on character development that I assume had been built in the original series rather then building its own. Kirk and Spock's friendship was rocky, and the crew's loyalty didn't seem to have much of a basis when Kirk was acting like a spoiled brat for the first half of the movie. He was just going to blow up a city on the Klingon home world, and then he (tried to) beat the crap out of Khan - I just expected more honour from the character, so I was really disappointed. It was hard to root for the 'hero' when I wanted to give him a good lecture and a time out.

Don't even get me started on the epic lameness of Quinto's Spock calling Nimoy's Spock for help, and how despite his vow, old Spock told him what he knew about the Khan from his timeline, when there was so much scope to do something new with the character. Spock says that Khan's goal is genocide of anyone he thinks is inferior, but the character doesn't actually display any of those traits - he seems like a straightforward eye-for-an-eye type guy, and in that moment when Kirk and Khan were waiting to space jump to the dreadnaught, I really thought Khan was going to get his happy ending. Crushing Admiral Marcus' head with his bare hands, in front of his daughter, was a bit sickening, but then the Admiral was a manipulative bad guy...

Kirk's death scene was unfortunate, and I actually didn't even really see it coming. I figured, given the demonstrated potency of Khan's blood in the opening fifteen minutes of the movie, that they'd get Kirk injected with it BEFORE he died. But even when he did die, I knew they weren't actually going to kill off Captain Kirk, so I was actually a bit bored. Apparently in the original, it was Spock who died, and he stayed dead for a whole movie? But I didn't know that, and the hero appearing to die is such an overdone trope that it left me cold. Not to mention the fact that ever since I saw K-19: The Widowmaker the whole idea of radiation poisoning grosses me out beyond words - I find it scarier then zombies or vampires.

And finally, other then the poor character development, my least favourite thing was Carol Marcus' underwear. I mean really, was it absolutely necessary that the camera take a long, slow pan down her body? Seriously? Her and Kirk's reactions to the situation are interesting, and I read a good blog analyzing it, but her state of undress could have been hinted at in order to achieve those reactions. It felt cheap, and quite frankly I expected more from Star Trek then 'sex sells'. I sincerely hope that they avoid anything like it in the third movie...there was a bit of it in the first one, but I don't think it was as gratuitous as this was. Her character is really great and has a lot of potential - she sees things that she can do something about and she does them - and I hope they make good use of her character in the next movie.

I'm only hard on it because I love Star Trek so much. I really, really, really hope that the next movie spends more time on character development, and that breaks away from the established storylines. When it was first announced that J.J. was going to be doing the new Star Wars movie, I was really excited, but Into Darkness has made me a little bit more hesitant. I love the action/adventure stories, but if they don't have good characters, I don't feel them, and that's a problem that plagued the recent Star Wars expanded universe stuff, so I hope the lack of character I'm feeling in Into Darkness doesn't creep into Star Wars as well.

Of course, that won't stop me from buying Into Darkness, or seeing the third movie, or seeing the Star Wars movies... :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Touring Nova Scotia - The Lighthouse Route

This is part two of my series on Nova Scotia. You can read post one about Halifax here.

For ease of touring, Nova Scotia is divided into seven regions and ten scenic travelways. I don't think we had the seven regions when I was a kid, just the travelways, because simply seeing each scenic logo on the map makes me feel like I'm about ten years old again! Anyway, if you travel clockwise from Halifax, the next region over is called the South Shore and the route is the Lighthouse Route, which stretches from Halifax almost to Yarmouth. The most famous tourist attraction in this region is almost certainly Peggy's Cove.

My dad and I near the Peggy's Cove Lighthouse in 2008

I heard a rumour that the lighthouse is up for sale and that it's in danger of being torn down if no one buys it. My information is kind of out of date, so if anyone has heard anything more recently, please let me know! But I would say that if seeing the lighthouse is on  your bucket list, you should probably go sooner rather than later. :)

The Cove is about an hour from Halifax, and it's a great place to stop for lunch. The tiny community is full of shops and whatnot, but the most famous is the Sou'Wester restaurant and gift shop. It's been there as long as I can remember, and the food is reliable Nova Scotian fare.

From Peggy's Cove, continue up around St. Margaret's Bay until Peggy's Cove Road meets up with St. Margaret's Bay Road. There you have the choice of following SMB Road as it winds along the coast (beautiful!) or continuing a bit further to the 'new' 103 highway. It's about an hour and twenty minutes to Mahone Bay from Peggy's Cove taking the coastal route through Chester. If you skip Chester and take the highway, it's only an hour.

I've never explored Chester, known as a sailing hub, but plan to go next time I'm out there. If you go during Chester Race Week, you might see my brother lurking among the sailboats!

About half way between Chester and Mahone Bay is the infamous Oak Island. When I was a kid the popular theory was that the island was the hiding place of the pirate treasure of Captain Kidd. Since then, probably thanks to the invention of the internet, wild theories abound. It looks like tours go there now in the summer to view the "money pit" (which was originally called that for the pirate treasure, but now has the irony of also being a bit into which modern people sink money in the hope of finding something at the bottom of it...) and I would love to go on those one day.

Mahone Bay is another one of Nova Scotia's top must-see locations. Famous for its skyline of three churches, it's also the home of Amos Pewter, and they have a Pirate Festival in early August, which I'd love to check out.

From Mahone Bay it's about fifteen minutes to Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site, one of five in Nova Scotia. My favourite thing in Lunenburg is the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The Fisheries Museum is part of the Nova Scotia Museum system, so considering getting a pass to all 27 museums if you're going to be going to several of them.

Go aboard the ship docked at the museum for a clean look at shipboard life

Lunenburg is the home of the Bluenose, the sailing ship pictured on the Canadian dime, although it's not there very often. Here's a bit of the history of the Bluenose. It's an absolutely beautiful and scenic place to stop.

About half an hour on from Lunenburg is Bridgewater. Honestly, I'm not sure that I've ever stopped there - when I was a kid it was just a place we drove through on our way from point A to point B, but I'll stop next time! It's home to one of Nova Scotia's museums, the Wile Carding Mill. It's also where actor Donald Sutherland, who was born in New Brunswick, grew up.

The most important thing about Bridgewater is that if you don't want to go all the way around the very southern tip of Nova Scotia, this is one of three places where you can cut across the interior and get to the Bay of Fundy. I don't recommend it unless you're extremely pressed for time and in a hurry to get to Wolfville. At the very least, I would go (and have gone) another half an hour on to Liverpool and then across the interior to Annapolis Royal on the Bay of Fundy from there. Next time I'm going all the way around the end though, and that's what we're going to do in this post.

About half an hour from Bridgewater, Liverpool is home to the Perkins House Museum of the Nova Scotia Museum (Simon Perkins was a privateer...), Privateer Days, and Fort Point Lighthouse where Champlain landed in 1604.

Another half an hour on is Thomas H. Raddall Provincial Park, with campsites and walking trails if you need a leg-stretch on the arduous 45-minute trip to Shelburne. :)

I haven't been to Shelburne since I was about five, but it's on my list of places to go again. It's the home of two Nova Scotia Museums - Ross-Thompson House and the Dory Shop. It's also the home of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, a fascinating and often-overlooked piece of Canadian history. There used to be a small military base there, starting during the second world war, which closed in 1995 and is now apparently decaying, and I'd LOVE to go see it. Apparently a German U-boat surrendered there in 1945, which sounds super interesting.

From Shelburne it's half an hour to Barrington, which is apparently the lobster capital of Canada. It too is home to two Nova Scotia Museums - the Woollen Mill and the Old Meeting House. There's also an independent museum called the Western Counties Military Museum. I don't think I've ever been to Barrington except to drive through, but it looks historically fascinating.

Cape Sable Island is about fifteen minutes from Barrington, and there's a causeway linking the island to the mainland. The pictures make me think of Florida...

You'll now cross the border between the South Shore region and the Yarmouth and Acadian Shores region, but it's still the Lighthouse Trail until you get to Yarmouth.

Pubnico is the first stop in the YaAS region, and it's about half an hour from Barrington. You'll find the Nova Scotia Museum called Le Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. I want to go there very badly. It's one of the places where staff in costumer go about the daily business of life in the Acadian era. So fun!

The Église Ste-Anne Church is the oldest Acadian parish on mainland Nova Scotia, and is a beautiful wooden building. It's about fifteen minutes on from Pubnico and looks like a beautiful place to take a few photos. Another five minutes down the road is the Argyle Township Courthouse and Gaol, Canada's oldest standing courthouse.

At this point it's another fifteen minutes to the town of Yarmouth, which we'll keep for another post. It marks the end of the Lighthouse Route and the beginning of the Evangeline Trail, which, if I HAD to pick a favourite part of Nova Scotia, would probably be it. :) Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to track down ideas or answers for you!

I just realized that this post took about three hours to write. Please don't let my labour be in vain - visit Nova Scotia today! :) And we're having a massive thunderstorm that made the lights flicker, so I'm posting this quickly before I lose all my hard work! If there are any typos, please don't let me know...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Top Five Must-Read Books for (Lutheran Youth) Leaders

You may have noticed that my dedication to weekly blog posts totally lapsed since the flood! I spent almost a week out of town at a youth conference in Winnipeg with some kids from church, and that totally threw off my groove. :) I'm still recovering from spending one night on a hot church floor, four nights in a non-air conditioned Manitoba-summer-hot dorm, and one night on a bus, but we had such a good time. Two of the youth were new to our group, 'adopted' from a smaller nearby church, and it was a joy to spend time with them, get to know them a bit, and watch the entire group gel.

We spent one afternoon helping clean up along the banks of the Seine River, joking about wildlife such as gators, killer rabbits ala Monty Python, and killer deer. I learned today that apparently in Winnipeg there's a law against provoking alligators...does that mean there are actually some there?! Glad I didn't know that at the time... :P

Our group at Grand Beach, Manitoba

At the youth gathering, there was a bookstore. It  prompted a post I've been thinking about for a while, and a sequel post I hope to do, which will be about materials that should either be avoided, or read with great caution, discernment, and simply for research purposes. For today though, here are five indispensable books for anyone who wants to make sure their church is teaching solid theology. Children and youth are not the future of the church, they are as much a piece of the church now as any adult, and all elders, pastors, teachers, and volunteers should be aware of these resources.

NUMBER 1: The Lutheran Study Bible (LSB)
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Lutherans value the teachings of Martin Luther over the teachings of the Bible. Actually, while I suppose some misguided Lutherans might do that, really what we, or I specifically, since I can't speak for all Lutherans, value are Luther's explanations and teaching of Biblical theology and parts of Christian doctrine like the Creeds. The LSB is a wealth of information brimming with footnotes, prayers, historical information, a checklist for reading through the Bible cover-to-cover, and extra resource pages. For instance, if you want to know why Lutherans believe what Lutherans believe about communion, turn to the page between Revelation chapters 19 and 20 in a copy of the LSB, and you will find a whole page on communion, cross-referenced to the applicable Bible verses. SO HANDY! Anyone in leadership should have this valuable resource, and read it regularly to explore all of the helpful explanations.

The rest of the books are all in no particular order because I think each of them is as valuable as the others, and they're all different enough that I highly recommend reading them all.

Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Pastor Jonathan Fisk
Read this book and then figure out who in your youth or young adults' group needs to read it, buy a box full, and hand them out like candy that won't rot their teeth or their souls. Beautifully illustrated with steampunk-esq sketches and sprinkled with Star Wars references, Pastor Fisk details seven dangerous trends in North American pop culture Christianity and firmly squelches them with scripture. I've been watching his videos and reading his blogs on Worldview Everlasting for quite some time now, I enjoy his geeky, sarcastic, theologically-sound teaching, and his passion for sound doctrine. When you go to the CPH website to order your copy of the LSB, make sure you pop at least one of these into your cart...

Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer
Last fall we gave a copy of this book to each of the youth groups that came to our retreat, and all of the leadership at our church read it. It's published through the excellent ministry 'Answers in Genesis' and while it discusses some deep stuff, it's fairly small and the print is fairly large, making it not too intimidating for people who don't really like to read. Go prayerfully read it now, please! Another excellent book by Ken Ham is The Lie: Evolution, which explains why it's so vital to know and understand God as Creator, and how/why the world tries to undermine Him. It helped me get through geology in my first semester at university, and now there's a revised edition, which I'll have to add to my wishlist. :)

Eutychus Youth: Reaching Youth on the Ledge by Dr. John Oberdeck
Another great resource from CPH, including a study guide, is a dense, well-written, super informative book. The youth gathering actually brought in Dr. Oberdeck to do sessions for the leaders, although they were the same as the one that Trevor and I went to at the LCMS youth symposium in California a year and a half ago, I still picked up a few things that I either hadn't hear last time, or had forgotten. :) Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a dangerous thing that is undermining Biblical Christianity. So, so, so good. I even have an extra copy that I'll lend you if you're around here...

The Creation Answers Book by Batten, Catchpoole, Sarfati, and Wieland of Creation Ministries International
This handy little book doesn't really need to be read in order - it can just be pulled out and referred to when a specific question about something pops up. Chapter titles include things like "How did the animals fit on Noah's Ark?" and "How did all the different 'races' arise?". It's an brilliant resource to have on hand, and I can't recommended the work of Creation Ministries highly enough.

Bonus book for Alberta Residents!
Tour Guide: Royal Tyrrell Museum by Margaret Helder of the Creation Science Association of Alberta
I haven't read this myself yet, but I have it on very good authority that this is an excellent tool for countering the evolutionist propaganda that is fed to hundreds or even thousands of Albertan school children every year. We're hoping to take a group of youth to Drumheller in the fall, perhaps in conjunction with this event that Creation Ministries is putting on, and are planning to use this book as our tour guide. Check out the book and let me know what you think!

Well, hopefully this suggested your reading list for the rest of the summer! :) If you've read all of these already, then please comment, because I'd love to hear from you! I hope that these suggestions deepen your faith, grow your desire for solid spiritual food, and equip you as a church leader. Youth ministry is my baby, and I'm passionate about doing everything I can to make sure that our kids are getting the best spiritual nourishment they possibly can get. Enjoy!